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He drew the inspiration first from the Jewish tradition - intended for them as a means of authenticating one’s desire for conversion.

Hannibal likes to think his own reasons are much the same.

On the first request, he doesn’t answer. Lets the call go to voicemail, takes down the name, number, and general tone of the message, and does not respond.

On the second request, if there is one, he still doesn’t answer but he returns the call at a later point when it is sure to go to voicemail itself. He explains that he’s too busy to take on new clients right now, but perhaps he’ll consider the offer in the future. He does not consider it, but updates his previous notes.

On the third request, he answers on the third ring - all things in symmetry, of course - and begins to make arrangements.

It serves not only to suit his sense of whimsy, but also to weed out the passing curious, the disingenuous, the risky and those without the drive to make his time worthwhile. Persevering to a third call with two unminded shows a deliberate interest that Hannibal appreciates, and allows him to tell a great deal about how the person on the other end of the line comports themselves when they encounter resistance.

In short, it makes him feel prized, and he wants little more than that.

And the dowry that accompanies winning his attention, anyway.

After years enough in this line of work, more than he cares to admit at only seventeen himself, Hannibal considers himself a good gauge of character through his particular methodology. He knows when someone is calling with false intentions. He knows when someone is too nervous to make spending his time worthwhile. He knows when someone means him ill. But every now and then he finds himself pleasantly surprised.

And he did not expect this particular caller to make it to three.

“Hello Will.”

There is a pause, long enough that Hannibal wonders if, perhaps, the underestimation had, initially, been the correct path to take, before the caller swallows, lets out a breath.

“I didn’t think you would pick up,” he says, though there is no blame or anger there. If anything he sounds as exhausted as he had the first time he had called this number, had left a message asking simply for company.

“I had a message memorized and everything,” Will adds dryly. “You’ve thrown me off my game.”

“Are you playing a game?” Hannibal asks, in a lazy drawl as he reclines himself across his couch. He’s found that it affects an even more disaffected tone when he does.

“No, but you are.”

Hannibal doesn’t deny this, but arches a brow. There’s no rancor in the man’s tone, nothing to indicate that he’s angry - it’s more an exhaustion, and Hannibal wonders what has caused it. It’s late, but not so late that the call comes at a worrisome hour - Hannibal has learned not to take any calls after midnight, and Will has just slipped beneath the wire by thirty minutes.

Too late for dinner, for an arranged evening together, but just late enough for someone to begin to doubt their own doubting, as the night’s darkness deepens.

Hannibal allows a smile to catch the corner of his lips, just enough to carry the sound of it in his words. “You can tell me your message anyway if you like.”

“But will it win your favor or entertain you?” Will muses, and Hannibal cannot help the smile that narrows his eyes before he checks it.

“You would be surprised how infrequently entertainment is used to garner my favor.”

“What usually is?”

“Is this your message?”

“Hardly one-sided.” There is a sound of a cigarette lighter being flicked on, three, four, five times before it takes and Will exhales just past the receiver. “No, my message would have been entirely simple. ‘I hope you earned his company as he earned yours, Hannibal, have a pleasant evening with him’.”

Another exhale, like wind catching too many dry leaves at once, and Will clears his throat.

A smoker, then, but not often by the sound of it. When he’s tense, perhaps, when the hours grow long after an even longer day, his throat roughened by the long drag he takes, unused to the burn. He is nervous, and Hannibal can all but smell it on him.

“It almost sounds as if you’re jealous,” Hannibal considers.

“Almost,” answers Will, “doesn’t mean that I am.” He pauses, wetting his lips with his tongue, and bristles, just a little. “This isn’t very professional.”

“Have you had experience with professionals before?”

“Real ones, but not those in your particular field.”

Hannibal sits up a little, propped onto his elbow now. “Then let me assure you that I am entirely professional.”

“Is this fun for you?”

“Which part?”

“Teasing me.”

“You’re not on the clock yet,” responds Hannibal, easing into a stretch before letting his feet slip to the floor again to stand. “I’m allowed to enjoy myself.”

“You don’t enjoy yourself on the clock?” The question plays entirely into Hannibal’s own script in his head, with this, but the interesting thing is that in this case, Will knows it. A deliberate tilt in the right direction. “I thought you smarter than that, at least.”

“You’ve thought of me?”

 

“Not a moment after considering dialing thrice,” Will replies, and there seems to be a smile in his voice, now, though the sharp exhales of the smoke still appear to be less self-soothing and more in self-punishment. A moment more, another, and Will lets out a breath. “What do you want?”

At this, Hannibal pauses, toes against the rug where he had started to move to the door to turn and come back, stuck midstep. “You ask what I want?”

“It is entirely your game,” Will reminds him, draws a breath in between his teeth. “So I am asking, yes.”

“Company.”

“Easy answer,” snorts Will, but not without that smile that Hannibal can still hear lingering.

“An honest one. If it were not, I’d not have answered,” Hannibal murmurs. “What do you do, Will?”

“I’m a teacher,” Will answers, after a moment of consideration.

“Of?”

“Forensics.”

Hannibal hums. He knows then, in all likelihood, the laws that surround what they’re conscientiously not discussing. He is paid comfortably, but not so much that this would not be an indulgence for him. Something doesn’t fit right, and what it is Hannibal isn’t yet sure the shape of, but nothing in his senses prickles in alarm.

Hannibal wanders towards the bedroom of his flat - appointed as well as he can, and still a miserably cheap rental. Luxurious furnishings surrounded by walls with water stains older than Hannibal himself. He narrows his eyes at the largest of them as he passes, to instead focus on his closet, and the carefully chosen assembly of suits there. Only a few, but interchangeable, to allow for variation with repeat clients.

“Who shared my number with you?”

A hum, a tone to suggest just the briefest indulgence in that particular secret remaining his own before Will deigns to respond.

“Doctor Alana Bloom,” he says, waits for a reaction to the name he is certain Hannibal doesn’t know, before adding, “through a colleague of her’s, Bedelia Du Maurier.”

There is a long enough pause for Will to assume that that name, at least, holds significance for Hannibal. There is no tension over the line, just consideration perhaps, judging Will’s character by whom he knows and who, in turn, knows Hannibal this way. Degrees of separation that read like a book and present their own conclusions.

Characteristics that build up from multiple people to lead up to this one.

He hadn’t, after all, called late. He had, in fact, called thrice.

As though on cue, Will clears his throat again and speaks. “She suggested I might try to call, and gauge my interest on that alone. I called once in good faith, twice to see.”

“And this third time?”

Will makes a sound, a soft thing that suggests a smile and something deeper still. “Entertainment.”

The suit that Hannibal takes down is tastefully dark, nearly somber compared to what he would usually prefer to wear. From the patient exhaustion Hannibal can hear in Will’s voice, he imagines that one of the brighter suits would make too ostentatious an impression. “And are you?” Hannibal asks. “Entertained.”

“I’m curious.”

A genuine smile bares Hannibal’s teeth. “That’s seen to the death of many cats, you know.”

“But satisfaction brought them back,” Will finishes, and it’s enough to make Hannibal pause in his arrangements.

An educated man, clever and quick to not only respond to Hannibal’s games, but do so adeptly. Well-paid enough to consider this a viable option to relieve the weltschmerz that ladens his voice, and unlikely to risk professional acquaintanceship were he untrustworthy. He is, in a word, quaint, and Hannibal finds himself pleasantly intrigued.

At any rate, it’s already been a more engaging conversation that Hannibal shares with most of his clients, and so with an accepted mourning of the night he was to spend studying, Hannibal remarks, “It’s much easier to entertain in person, I’ve found.”

A laugh, then, soft, but entirely genuine.

“Perhaps for you,” Will agrees. “Personally I abhor being social.”

There is a moment where Hannibal falters, considers perhaps he misheard, considers perhaps he misunderstood, or Will had misused a word. Though that in itself is absurd. He licks his lips to reply, question, perhaps just let the phone drop from his shoulder to his palm and hang up the call.

“An interesting remark to make,” he tries instead, careful, tone neutral and calm as before. He hears Will hum, hears a door swing open, close with a slap against its frame.

“And yet, note, entirely truthful.” Will says, sighs. “I do not enjoy the requirements of being social yet like any human being I seek out and crave company of a particular sort.”

“Oh?”

“You play a clever game, Hannibal, but not a long one. Was the call long enough for you to gauge an interest?”

“I believe I made an offer,” the boy responds, a little slower as he finds his footing again, palm pressed against the suit laid out on his bed. “And it sounded as though you declined.”

“I declined an offer of entertainment,” Will corrects him, mildly. “I don’t need to be entertained.”

Hannibal unbuttons the jacket where it lies on the bed, fingers turning each one open. “Then tell me what you do need.”

“To sleep,” Will admits with a long sigh, before his tone turns once more, somehow more decisive, perhaps reassuring in a way only an exhausted teacher can be to students honed in on that particular sense of humor. “To allow you the same. And to seek company at a more reasonable hour, tomorrow.”

Hannibal can’t help the way his lips tilt, just so, just once, before he parts his lips to speak. “Tomorrow?”

“Dinner.”

“Seven?”

“Eight is better.”

Hannibal smiles. “Eight.”

“Is that when the clock begins?”

“I should begin it tonight, for the entertainment.”

“You suggested that was not part of the repertoire of your paid time,” Will reminds him, but with a sigh - a smile alongside - resigns himself to the inevitable. Mingling of two sets of rules from two different games.

“No,” Hannibal finally answers, a mild tease. “I said that my enjoyment was not.” This, finally, earns a breath of laughter, and Hannibal can’t help but smile at the openness of it - as if Will is surprised to hear himself make such a sound.

The suit is returned to the closet then, and for a moment Hannibal is remiss and grateful all at once that Will does not want to see him tonight. It would have been easy money, unlikely to be a repeat client but friendly enough on the surface at least that Hannibal might have even found the experience pleasurable. He supposes, finally slipping out of his shoes, that he will just have to wait, and make the most of a blessed evening alone.

Hannibal chooses the restaurant, at Will’s insistent apathy. He takes Will’s information, his credit card number, assures the man that he will not be charged until they are finished, though swift, thin fingers tap across his table to authorize the payment in advance. The rest of their negotiations will take place in person, at Hannibal’s apathetic insistence, and Will grows quiet but for single word answers.

The doubt sits heavy in his voice, and Hannibal unfurls his spine into a languid stretch, speaking softly. “Sleep,” he murmurs. “I anticipate a lively conversation tomorrow, and we will both need our stamina for it.”

He does not wait for a response, but merely hangs up, and takes aside the small notebook he keeps in the drawer beside his bed to mark down Will’s name for a rare fourth time.

---

Will, despite assumptions to the contrary, is never late. More often than not, he is early, seated in his car and allowing his mind to calm itself to a chaotic neutral. Enough to hold a conversation. Enough not to add his own opinion where it is unwanted. Enough, at least, to get out of his damned car.

He had not bothered to check out the restaurant before arriving, and thinks, now, that perhaps he should have.

The cars, alone, suggest a place where Will would rarely set foot, for no other reason than he had no desire to pay $30 for a breadstick, singular. His lips curl as he checks his watch, both amused, darkly, and nervous, genuinely, that his company would choose such a place for first - possibly only - meeting between them.

He supposes he should have guessed, from Bedelia and her preferences, from the way Alana spoke of her, that this would happen.

Perhaps it is another test, another game.

Will gives himself a moment more to linger, before getting out and locking the car, making his way to the front entrance. The table, he assumes, is under his own name, but does not risk a falter, so instead he stands and waits, hands in his pockets, glasses partially down his nose as his eyes remain open but see nothing. Meditative, quiet, oddly approachable by those who know what signs to read, Will stands. Will waits.

But there's no game now, not for this. Not when the meter is running and there's money on the line.

Contrary to whatever Will Graham might think of him, Hannibal Lecter is entirely a professional. His car is left with the valet - someone who passed his number to promising clientele early on in exchange for a taste of Hannibal's own services - and who knows to look out for the little auto if Hannibal leaves with another. Elegant fingers smooth flat the lay of his coat, a glance in the smoked glass of the restaurant’s windows assures him that every honey-blonde hair is perfectly in place, and conjuring the most ephemeral smile he can, Hannibal enters.

He sees Will instantly, despite how little he looks like one of Hannibal's usual clients. No French cuffs, no glittering tie tack, no drawing up of shoulders as if to heft the weight of his own masculinity. He looks in no part the powerful, wealthy people that Hannibal prefers to be courted by.

But he does look like a teacher, and it turns Hannibal's smile unexpectedly genuine. Clean and comfortable, a blue button-down beneath a grey blazer, a red tie knotted in a four-in-hand. Simple. Unassuming. Not at all unpleasant to look at, despite the unshaven scruff and tamed curls that still slip free for one to fall in front of his glasses.

“I hope you were not waiting long,” Hannibal murmurs to him, unshouldering his coat to be hung by the attentive maître d' who Hannibal turns his smile to in passing.

Will does not startle from his reverie but takes his time slowly gathering the information necessary to return to the now properly. He takes a breath, turns to the same voice that had so enjoyed tugging him into conversation the night before, and pauses, long enough that it would appear rude from anyone else, and it is hardly charming on the man but certainly curious. Certainly worth waiting through for the satisfaction at the end.

"I have found a way to occupy myself without incident," Will replies, swallows in a way that suggests discomfort not hunger, before holding out his hand, palm up, to gesture for Hannibal to enter the establishment first. He watches the young man smile, only partially a mask, at the maître d', state his name for the reservation. Their table is set towards the back, out of the way of the constant coming and going of waiters, close enough that they will not have to watch their food paraded through the entire restaurant.

A clever choice; he has been here before.

They are left to their comfort, take their seats, and Will allows his eyes to linger on Hannibal just long enough to take him in.

"You do not match your voice,” he comments, finds Hannibal’s only reply is a smile not quite wide enough to show teeth, though the intent is clear. He lets his own spread across his face, entirely unfelt, disingenuous. "You sound older."

“And you sound disappointed,” Hannibal chides, unfolding his napkin with a sweep of fingers to settle across his lap. “Usually the reaction is entirely the opposite.”

Will’s eyes twitch narrower, just enough, but Hannibal averts his attention to the wine list with a murmur of thanks to the waiter who brings it to them. “I was told that you’re an excellent conversationalist,” Will remarks, and at this, Hannibal’s eyes lift to him.

Dr. Du Maurier’s words, Hannibal knows, conveyed as if by a game of telephone, to be spoken by the man across from him instead of the elegant psychiatrist. She keeps Hannibal in her attention solely for that reason, with few exceptions that he has always been happy to indulge. A bright woman, in his intended field, willing to share her mind and her experiences and once in a while, her bed.

He is fond of her. As much as he is of anyone, anyway.

“I’ve been told the same, and assured them that it’s entirely false,” Hannibal answers after a moment, and in a fit of pique, he defers the choice of wine to Will instead. “There is a difference between listening, and speaking. Knowing how to balance in favor of the former is a valuable skill.”

“I find it hard to believe,” Will remarks, hand spanning across the menu, “that someone your age -” Hannibal arches a brow, the hint of a smile in his eyes enough that Will’s protests quiet and reroute. “I spend all day teaching students. I didn’t expect to be having dinner with one.”

The challenge in his words is intoxicating, a friction rubbing hot between them rather than the smooth flow of dialogue that Hannibal has become accustomed to. Spoiled by, perhaps, is a better way to phrase it, as he seeks to tighten his hold over the flow between them and adjust it more to his liking.

“Tell me about teaching,” Hannibal suggests.

The muscles beneath Will’s eyes twitch, just barely, and he almost welcomes the interruption from the waiter who comes to check what they would like to drink. Will, to Hannibal's genuine amusement, orders a beer, allows his eyes to settle on the younger man as he takes the menu himself to select a wine, one of the more expensive, as Will recalls. He wonders if that is a challenge or genuine desire for the taste.

He should call the waiter back, request he check ID for the drinks, as he should have, of the younger man before him. He should. See him quietly removed from the premises, soft requests to perhaps not, next time, choose this establishment. He should.

"You play a very intricate game, Hannibal, why?"

Hannibal settles back into his chair, a less welcoming posture than leaning ever so slightly forward as he had been. It is a game, really, down to each individual movement, particularly controlled. This allows space between them, for the man who watches Hannibal so narrowly, allows a feeling of pursuer and pursued. But the question lingers, spoken softly but aggressive in its phrasing, and Hannibal hums in thought.

“It is expected,” he answers simply. “Most seek out the experience as a whole, a fleeting courtship. They know that they will win, ultimately, so there is assurance that playing is not wasted effort. Still,” Hannibal muses, “the challenge makes them feel as though they have worked to reap the rewards.”

Hannibal accepts his wine with a soft smile, bringing it to just beneath his nose to take in the aroma before savoring a small sip. The price is incidental, but Hannibal has been spoiled enough to have developed a palate for the finer things, and the burgundy sits warm and rich against his tongue.

“You refuse to play the game,” the young man counters after a moment more of thought. “Why?”

"Because some of my students are older than you," Will points out, watching Hannibal grow that little bit more tense for it. It is strange, and entirely fascinating, watching this young man discover his age is not always an asset. But Will relents, takes a drink of his beer before setting it aside and bringing a hand to his eyes beneath his glasses.

"Teaching is comfortable," Will replies instead, careful. “Once in a while I come across a student who intrigues me and classes become more interesting, questions directed at them, discussions centered on their work."

"Playing favorites?"

"Natural selection." Will’s lips quirk, and this, at least, is genuine. He had wanted company, when he had called. He had not called with the intent to drag the man to bed, and certainly now that is entirely off the books. A pity. He can’t deny he finds the young man attractive. Interesting.

But it would hardly do for FBI to be caught in such a compromising situation, and Will is nothing if not cautious.

"Teaching is an easy fallback to return to."

An interesting turn of phrase that is no less deliberate than the rest of his words, intended to pique Hannibal’s curiosity further. A role reversal, perhaps, but Hannibal isn’t yet willing to play that hand. He lets the obvious question hang, files it away as information to be gleaned later, and like a cat turning towards a swath of sun, Hannibal eases up a smile to the waiter who appears, placing his order with a well-appointed accent sweeping lithe through the French names.

Will, to Hannibal’s delight, orders the same.

Though the man is an interesting anomaly among the mostly faceless others with whom Hannibal chooses to grace with his presence, what he desires - insofar as Hannibal can tell - is nothing new. Company, truly, someone unrelated to his fields of work or interest with whom he can share conversation, even if he does show a peculiar inclination to wanting to dominate the nature of it. An ego that Will himself would likely deny he has but still appears bright as day to Hannibal, a pride that needs to be massaged in feeling superior to another.

Hannibal simply happens to be the subject of it.

He hardly cares. It’s his money to make and Will’s to spend, however he prefers. A shame, though, that the potential to share more than that seems to have been quashed so soon.

He’s not at all unpleasant to look at.

“You’ve never done this before,” Hannibal notes, as the waiter departs with both their orders. “Why now?”

"Paid for company? No." Will shakes his head, takes up his beer again to cool his throat. He considers the rest of the question carefully, dissecting it as he would any of his cases.

"Indulging a whim, perhaps," he offers, shrugs, briefly meets Hannibal’s eyes with his own. "Curiosity," he adds. He sits back, as Hannibal is, the two mirroring each other in attempted avoidance, yet neither inclined to end the conversation, call the evening a failure and return to their lives. Not yet, perhaps. Not quite a failure, perhaps. "The potential for satisfaction at the end of it all, once we both cede certain prides, I suppose. A difficult feat for us both. In that, at least, we are similar."

"Satisfaction is a spectrum," Hannibal comments, finds Will’s eyes on him for it. Pleasant. Warming. A pity.

"Thankfully so. What aspect were you seeking, coming here? Merely sexual or following your own whims?"

Hannibal tilts his head at the question, and it requires a genuine effort to stifle his amusement. The dismissal of ‘mere’ sexual pursuits, from one who has - in fact - hired an escort, the assumption that Hannibal does this out of his own need for fulfillment and the goodness of his heart - it’s all very funny and, surprisingly, deeply charming.

“You called me,” Hannibal reminds him. “It would have been rude not to return the interest.”

“You made me call three times,” Will answers, a breath of laughter catching his words before he takes another sip and leans back to allow for their plates to be set.

“And you did,” smiles Hannibal, but he can feel it fading incrementally, a dawning frustration as their dinner continues aimlessly. He does not want to have sex, that much is obvious now, but he hardly seems to want the conversation. He resents it, and by proxy, Hannibal. It isn’t the first time that a client has projected their own dismay onto Hannibal, but he hadn’t expected it from this one.

More surprises, at every turn.

“I sought to provide a service,” Hannibal finally answers, when the waiter has stepped away. His tone flattens, just a little, but his expression remains neutral. “I have, thus far, attempted to do so to the best of my ability, but you are - admittedly - making it rather difficult for me to glean the nature of the services I should provide.” Hannibal slips his knife through the cut of steak seared but nearly raw upon his plate, and takes the bite delicately between his teeth. “It doesn’t matter what I want, in truth, but in order for me to make this worth the time and money you’re already spending, it would help me immensely to know what you want, Will.”

“I’m getting exactly what I want,” Will tells him, brows up in earnestness as he takes up his cutlery to start on his meal as well, though he is more interested in watching the young man in front of him hold his composure through obvious frustration. “I sought the service of your conversation, and I am rather enjoying it. What you find frustrating, I think, is that I am not allowing you at all to gain a baseline on me.”

Will tilts his head, takes his time setting the piece of steak between his teeth, curling his tongue over it, chewing slowly to savor the taste.

“So you we are at an impasse,” Will adds. “Not knowing anything about the other and refusing to give enough of ourselves. Though that, surely, is a frustration you face frequently.”

And there, that spark of dominance and pride that had flared before, in wanting to control the situation, the conversation, everything in even the smallest way. It is entirely enraging, crude, ridiculous, yet still the young man does not stand up and walk out, does not give Will the satisfaction of seeing him leave.

And in that, finds himself watching a brief flicker of relief, when he remains sitting.

It is no wonder he pays for company. He is, in a word, insufferable. In more words, smug and overbearing. Hannibal wonders how long it’s been since Will has had a night out with anyone, lowered himself to such mundane things as being sociable, thought anyone worthy of it who would indulge him in return. He doesn’t ask, of course, that would be unbearably rude, but merely chews in silence for a moment, before washing the steak - bleeding rare - down with a swallow of wine.

“To the contrary,” Hannibal considers, in earnest. “I find the people with whom I work remarkably willing to reveal themselves to me.” The pun earns a snort, and Hannibal’s smile widens before he can stop it. Slowly, though, he reels it back, though his words remain entirely genuine. “And you would be surprised in their revelations how little most mind me at all. I am a companion for them, in whatever they form they need, in collaboration or in conflict, affection or sex.”

Hannibal considers his words, and watches Will now, as he speaks - passing their impasse, he hopes, to meet in an agreeable middle rather than suffer through the rest of dinner in silence. “There are very few who know me as I am, who desire that at all. And I must, for my own well-being, consider them carefully before I move the mirror aside into which they project themselves, and let them see me. Know me.”

A pause, tongue pressing between his lips to savor the blood, the wine, that reddens them, and a smile curves sharp. “But you’ve no interest in that,” Hannibal reminds him, and though his voice is scarce above a whisper, his words are pointed. “What interest could someone such as yourself have in someone younger than your students? I do wonder.”

“I hardly find you interesting,” Will responds, watches the tension in Hannibal’s jaw tighten, relax, before his smile widens and he tilts his head, and Will, in turn, feels his eyes narrow in pleasure. “Now there,” he says. “I’ve given an inch, and you can tell when I lie to you.”

A moment to take a long drink of beer, nearly finishing the glass before Will sets it down again, takes up his knife once more.

“I admitted to being misled by your voice, by proxy your age, I didn’t think I would be having dinner with someone younger than a student. So my interest in you is yet unknown. I know you study, but I don’t know what. I know you did not lie about your enjoyment, this is a necessity, not a pastime. I know a lot by looking and reading you, but none of them are things you would tell me, so I cannot use them.”

He raises an eyebrow, takes another bite of his meal. “And I abhor being social,” he reminds Hannibal almost lightly. “People say I lack the skills for it. You are doing amicably, the wine is still in your glass.”

Hannibal accepts the praise with a tilt of his head, before he takes another sip, eyes alight. “As we’ve established,” he murmurs, “I am a professional.” He lifts his napkin from his lap, pressing it neatly against his lips before folding it onto the table, hands folded. “And you’re not the worst I’ve met.”

The older man grins, just a flash of teeth, at the light rejoinder. “No?”

“No.”

“But not the best either.”

“No,” Hannibal agrees, allowing his amusement to show now. He doesn’t see the harm in it, really - he’s making plenty tonight just from eating a good dinner and being mildly berated, from someone who has much more to lose than he does were it ever to come to light. Hannibal’s insurance, always, in his youth if not his choice of profession. “I am studying medicine. Surgery, in particular.”

“That would explain the fee you charged,” Will agrees, eyes on Hannibal as he finishes his beer, sets the glass down again and watches as Hannibal savors the liquid in his own glass. “Early,” he adds, raising an eyebrow to see if Hannibal would deny it, argue. He doesn’t. Will presses his lips together and parts them to take a breath. Around them, the place is filling up quickly, apparently popular further into the later evening. Will ignores them. Hannibal is aware of them but doesn’t turn to look.

“Do you enjoy it?” Will asks at length, curious, finds a small smile in answer.

“I would not work so hard for it did I not,” Hannibal replies, much to Will’s pleasure, watching him reach for his glass again, his own teeth set against his inner lip before Will lets it go and sits forward, just enough.

“Are you good at it?”

“I have yet to fail a paper.”

“Admirable,” Will responds dryly. “Not failing a paper is not the same as doing well in it.”

Dark eyes settle on him and linger, long enough to make clear his exasperation before he shrugs gently, a graceful motion. “I am within the first three of my class in every subject.”

“Better,” Will replies, sitting back as he was. “I would hate to be paying a delinquent and truant.”

He considers the young man before him, the way he has resigned himself to this being the closest to ‘friendly’ either would get this evening, considers how it truly is a shame he is so young, the hate sex would be well worth the hangover the next morning. Will presses his teeth to his inner lip again, holds for a breath, releases on an exhale.

“You’re done with your wine,” he tells him, as Hannibal reaches, once more, for it.

Quaint. The word keeps springing to mind and it makes Hannibal smile each time it does. They might have had a truly pleasant evening, all things considered, even if they didn’t wind up in bed together. Will is clearly intelligent, has experience alluded to but not yet illuminated, and Hannibal has found himself capable of upholding satisfying conversations about nearly everything - music, history, theatre, anything - with nearly everyone.

Nearly.

“I don’t believe I am,” Hannibal responds, brows twitching inward as he takes up his glass. “You see, there’s still more in the glass, which means -”

“That you’re done,” Will finishes for him, and Hannibal pauses in lifting it to his lips.

“I will be,” challenges the younger man.

“If it means I need to insist that the waiter check your ID, yes. You will be then. Or you are now.”

The forcefulness of the statement, the threat in it, plucks at something deeper in Hannibal. It’s familiar, this kind of control, but - as the night has proven time and again - wholly unexpected from the grumpy, grudging professor sitting across from him. And so Hannibal sets his glass back down, unfinished, and arches a brow.

Will offers little more than a blink, a brief tilt of the corners of his lips to suggest genuine amusement as he studies Hannibal in front of him. Then he considers his own glass, his plate, most of dinner eaten, partially enjoyed - usually he prefers his meat cooked - and the possibility of making them both suffer through dessert.

The thought alone draws a brief snort from him before Will sits up, gestures to the waiter for the check.

“You are very good, Hannibal, at your means to an end,” Will tells him, and there is something there beyond the sarcasm and dryness, something warmer, perhaps. Or maybe Hannibal is being too generous. The check comes and Will folds his card into it without a word, to be taken away again.

“And you are welcome for dinner.”

Hannibal’s jaw works in a movement he can’t stop fast enough, a blatant flicker of annoyance to have even this - a simple thanks - undermined by someone who apparently has little better to do than pay an exorbitant amount of money to share an unpleasantly terse dinner with a stranger. He should charge him again, out of spite, because no matter how many times Hannibal reminds himself he should be grateful for such a relatively effortless evening, the fact remains that he has gone out of his way to make this appointment, to spend his time here, and it was for little more than to be berated and disdained.

That, and enough money to cover his lab fees for a little while longer.

He forces his expression to ease, allowing it to fall to a sedate neutrality, to hide the bruising of his own ego. It never gets easier, this part, when a client is reminded of the nature of their interaction and uses their leverage to revile that which they themselves have sought. It is Hannibal’s fault, always, that they are in this position. Hannibal’s fault, always, for what he has chosen to pay for his schooling. Hannibal’s burden to carry another’s shame.

He does not bother to say thank you when it is so clearly unwanted.

They stand to go, and as Hannibal shoulders into his coat again and buttons it neatly, he chooses to ignore the blue-eyed gaze that glances over him again. Hannibal waits until they’re outside, then, and with as much disinterest as he can muster - it doesn’t take much effort to manifest at this point - he asks, “Are you seeking additional company, then, or are you satisfied with services rendered?”

Will raises an eyebrow, watches him a moment more before ducking his head and adjusting his own.

“I offended you.” It’s not a question, though Will makes no attempt to apologize for the obvious slight. He can see Hannibal standing straight-backed next to him, eyes away perhaps for want of any distance he can achieve, be it only partial. Ostrich with his head in the sand.

Out of sight, and all that.

A car pulls up beside them, simple little thing, and the valet hands Hannibal the keys with a smile, familiar, warm, before going on his way, back to his station. Will lifts an eyebrow as he lifts his eyes to Hannibal again. Valet. Dinner. A suit he is fairly sure did not come from his own savings. The boy did know how to enjoy himself. A poor thing beneath a veneer of riches.

“I won’t pull more emotional labor from you by making you pretend you want to spend the rest of your evening with me,” Will says, rolling his shoulders in his coat. “It would do us both a disservice.”

With a thin smile he makes to walk past the parked car, around it and almost to the lot before turning, perhaps thinking better of his parting words before adding, earnestly, “I did enjoy the company.”

Hannibal glances up, halfway into his car already, and affects a smile that does not reach his eyes. “I’m glad that I could provide,” he responds, before slipping into his car. “Good night, Will.”

The words are spoken in earnest, as Hannibal releases a long-held breath and settles his hands against the steering wheel, reminding himself as he goes of the payment now posting to his bank, and that all it cost him was his time.

Chapter Text

“Hello, Will.”

Hannibal cradles the phone against his shoulder, displeased enough that the man would bother calling him again at all, and of course - of course - it would be on a day that Hannibal has already been far too busy. Classes started at eight that morning, after a very long night and two stolen hours of sleep, lectures and labs throughout the day until five, and Hannibal now finds himself studying desperately in the scant hour he has to himself before he’s due to see a client at seven - one who will make his evening hell if he’s late or less than perfect.

And now, this. After a week since the most miserable dinner that Hannibal has experienced in a very long time... this.

Him.

“I’m glad that you called,” Hannibal continues, flat. “I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but I’m unable to take on new clients at this time. My apologies -”

“Displacement.” Will replies lazily, presses his wrist to his lips to stifle a yawn, though he’s fairly sure Hannibal hears it regardless. “You’re not angry with me.”

“I’m not angry,” Hannibal responds with a sigh, and he can almost feel the man smile at that. It’s infuriating. “And I am not taking on new clients.”

“I’m already in your book,” Will counters, though it is just as calm, just as lacking in force as their last phone conversation had been. “I am far from new, and I would suspect well beyond novel.”

Will allows the pause that greets him to take a breath, press his lips together, ask simply, “I’m seeking company.”

“It is unavailable.”

“I did not say for today,” Will counters. “I am amenable to negotiation.”

“And if I’m not?” Hannibal asks, tapping his pen against the book propped against his knees, back against the headboard of his bed. “It is, contrary to whatever preconceived notions you have, a two-way transaction. I choose my clients. I choose where I spend my time. And my time is no longer available.”

“To me,” clarifies Will, unnecessarily, but to push, and it rankles Hannibal into a frown.

“Not everyone is guaranteed a second chance, Will.”

“Was it so unpleasant?”

“Not the worst,” Hannibal echoes, setting his pen between his teeth. It’s already been more time than he wanted to spend on this - on him - and Hannibal glances to the clock beside his bed with a sigh. “You seemed to have little enough regard for what I do at the time, and at risk of overspeaking, I can’t imagine why beyond desperation you would seek me out again. Your curiosity has been sated, has it not? To try something new, to step outside whatever staid boundaries you maintain. To feel danger, perhaps. And you found me wanting in all measurable ways - my age, my services offered, beyond being a warm body across the table for you to berate.”

Hannibal pauses, cutting short his own tirade, unlike him entirely to show so much but with little time enough for himself today, his patience is thin. And grows narrower still when he hears Will laugh.

“I far from found you wanting,” Will tells him, amused, warm, despite the anger he can feel directed at him, the displeasure, the genuine hurt that Hannibal hides behind the other two. “Your age surprised me but your services were rendered without fault or error. I don’t think I have had a decent conversation without someone trying to butter me up for a better grade or easier lesson plans for months, before you.”

“I’m glad I could help,” Hannibal responds, brings a hand to his eyes to rub them, exhausted, hardly patient or forgiving. And yet he has yet to hang up, when it is entirely in his power to, to get rid of Will and that soft near-laugh in his ear.

“Did I truly berate you that much?”

Hannibal considers, jaw tense and book growing heavier against his knees. An irritation, yes, but it had not been a cruelty. Not like certain other people he hosts, not like some whose call he narrowly avoids.

“It was far from a carefree evening,” Hannibal comments. “I’m sorry, Will, my time is not free to give. Not today, not -”

“Tell me what you’re studying, now.” There is no pleading there, not a distraught man caught in a lover fantasy gone wrong. No, Will is as indifferent as he had been the first time, as he had been at dinner, and just as before, Hannibal finds he does not, really, want to lose his voice just yet.

“You were rude. And dismissive.”

“That isn’t what I asked.”

“You didn’t ask at all.”

“No.”

The word is like a sip of whiskey, heating Hannibal’s throat and gathering hot in his belly. He squirms a little, sitting more upright, and presses his lips together in thought. The silence between them isn’t silent at all, and Hannibal isn’t sure if it’s the hum of the call against his ear or his own pulse buzzing louder.

“Organic chemistry,” Hannibal answers, in as ambivalent a tone as he can muster, stopping the book from sliding from his knees with a careful hand. “At the moment, I’m not studying anything,” he adds, “because you called. Is that all you wanted?”

“No.”

The same warmth, the same fluttering indecision as Hannibal considers that he should just hang up. Lets his finger move to the button and just linger, caressing it but not pushing. For a moment more, there is nothing, before Will takes a breath.

“Touch yourself.”

It’s so blatant, so entirely without lead-in or subtlety that for a moment Hannibal just blinks, lips parted in surprise.

“What?”

“You’re taking no information in, your mind is not there. What you are doing is reading words and forgetting them. You’re not grounded.”

“So you want me to touch myself?”

“One sure way to blank the mind entirely when it’s already exhausted,” Will reasons, still entirely indifferent, almost lofty with what he asks and how. And Hannibal considers that in this, too, he didn’t actually ask. He told.

“I can’t afford to be exhausted,” Hannibal answers, a literal truth. His protest hangs - disregarded, ignored, or perhaps simply accepted without change to Will’s request. The hum in his ears seems louder somehow and Hannibal slips his book to the bed, tucking his pen inside the well-worn pages, marked with notes from past students who owned it.

Already the heat in his stomach has spread downward, lower across his belly to gather between his legs and bring him to half-hardness. Hannibal looks towards the ceiling and restrains a sigh - he won’t give him that yet - before working his pants quietly open.

“And if I don’t?”

“Then you don’t.”

Frustration pulls his brows in and Hannibal glances to the clock again. He has thirty minutes before he needs to leave, time enough - since he’s already been pulled away from any hope of studying - to at least pick up a little extra on the side.

Pressing his palm flat into his briefs, Hannibal murmurs, “You know I’m going to charge you for this.”

“And here I thought I was special enough for a free show,” Will murmurs, and there is that smile, that curve of it, that Hannibal can hear. “Are you charging by the minute or the word? Because if it’s the latter, I would pay to hear your voice break.”

A subtle click of the ‘k’, another humming silence after. Hannibal keeps his eyes on the ceiling, splays his fingers against himself but does not rub. Thirty minutes to please a man he does not want to please, who had called him, essentially, to hear him come undone through the phone. Because Hannibal would not see him.

The blame web grows tangled, sticky like the webs of sleep that tug at him still, too close, and with this even closer.

“I have no more than thirty minutes,” Hannibal tells Will, who hums his understanding, inevitably asks what will happen once the time runs out, and Hannibal finds himself answering before he can think clearly enough to come up with a lie, to even tell the man to mind his own business, when Hannibal is clearly none of his.

“I’m providing company.”

“Then I am providing your client a service. Perhaps I’ll put it on my tax return.”

“Write it off as a charitable donation,” the younger man considers, and when Will laughs, Hannibal curls his fingers around himself to tug just softly, to savor how he hardens against his own hand. A pleasure he rarely affords himself, in truth, when others will pay him for the opportunity.

He listens for a moment, the phone tucked warm against his cheek, to the hum of the line, the steady breath on the other side of it, the movement of air - wind, perhaps, or a fan. Closing his eyes, Hannibal tries to think of nothing at all, but finds himself instead recalling the particular slope of the professor’s hunched shoulders, the scruff clinging to the strong curve of his jaw. The way his eyes became ever so slightly darker when Hannibal returned his wine glass to the table, unfinished.

Because Will told him he was done.

“I won’t finish for you,” Hannibal tells him, without rancor. “One must reserve their energy when company is planned.”

“You’re young,” Will says, a tilt to his voice that is entirely too amused. “I’m sure you can recover.”

It should be infuriating. It is. Infuriating. To be played like this and yet Hannibal finds that his mind wanders right back to the man again, with his light eyes and tense lips, so much held behind a well-honed mask. He must be insufferable at work, must be entirely impossible to get along with. The worst teacher. The harshest marker. Wherever he works, Hannibal is glad none of their classes intersect or ever will...

“Tell me what you’re doing,” Will says quietly, and his tone’s dipped as Hannibal’s breathing had quickened.

Hannibal’s fingers curl tighter at the command, so softly spoken, no more sound in the room than the soft rustle of fabric as he shifts his palm against himself and those that come through the phone. He could fake this, he tells himself, but it isn’t entirely true. The tightness in his voice, the unintentional hitches of breath - they only sound right when he’s actually doing it, or unless the person on the other end of the line is drunk enough that it doesn’t matter.

And Will, with his carefully clipped words and thoughtful pauses, is as sober as a priest.

“I’m touching myself,” Hannibal answers, pressing his shoulders back against the headboard to arch a little, stretch and loosen more room for his hand to move as he hardens. It’s the most dissatisfying answer he can give and he grins a little, despite himself, in wait for the response.

“Of course you are,” Will murmurs. There’s a click, just gentle, like a tongue against lips as they part further. “Tell me how.”

Hannibal considers another generic answer, ‘with my hand’ perhaps, but finds himself answering more or less honestly. “Palm. Slow slide down and up again. Fingers curled.”

“Draw your nails up,” Will tells him, tone just the same. “Let your hand press to the head as you splay your fingers back down.” A pause. “Are you bare?”

He doesn’t wait for confirmation that Hannibal has done it, but receives it anyway as Hannibal draws a soft breath when his nails skim across the silky skin of his cock, sighed out roughly when he pushes his palm hard down the length of it. Hannibal’s knees spread open, tilting to the bed, and he feels his cheeks finally warm, flushed from the sensation of touching himself how he knows he likes to be touched.

How Will tells him to be touched.

“I was studying,” he finally answers, spreading his palm to push his cock downward again. He knows the response before he hears it, and adds, “No. Pants and an undershirt. Briefs.” A pause, and Hannibal adds with a mischievous amusement. “No socks.”

A soft snort from Will and another breath as he just listens to Hannibal touch himself, reluctant but obedient, beautiful in his personal struggle over this. He wishes he could see him, languid hands and quickening breaths, skin pinkening from this, lips reddening.

“Slip the foreskin back,” Will tells him, voice entirely unwavering, entirely unaffected where Hannibal feels his heart skid against his Adam’s apple listening to the words. “Touch.”

“I -”

Will hums. “I will have your voice break even if I make you touch yourself in every way to find what does it.”

“You won’t have the time.”

“Perhaps not tonight.” Will’s smile warms the words. “Touch.”

Hannibal wants to discount the instruction to a lucky guess, that Will would assume him uncut, but in the scant amount of time they’ve spent together, there’s been too many assumptions already that have hit uncomfortably close to home. It makes sense, he supposes, for someone who teaches forensics, but -

“Now.”

The word draws Hannibal’s spine up into a curve and pulls a moan from him before he can stop it. He obeys. Bringing his cock outside of his briefs now, with careful fingers he skims the tight skin back and bites off another sound, almost a whimper, baring the swollen, slick head of his cock to the air. He touches only softly, closer than he’d like to be, teasing a fingertip against the slit to spread the clear precum that leaks from it.

“Five minutes,” Hannibal warns him, but the strength has left his voice now and it sounds small, frustrated and helpless.

“Plenty of time,” Will says, voice just a little more breathy, but otherwise entirely steady, entirely unaffected. Hannibal wonders if he is, at all, or if he’s laughing at him on the other end of the line, if this is nothing more than one final fuck you. “Again.”

Hannibal does, swallowing, keeping words entirely from his mind as he obeys, refuses to let his words snap from this despite how good it feels, how it warms him entirely. He tries to not think of the way Will’s eyes had narrowed behind his glasses when he had counted tallies against his own personal victory, tries not to think of the flashes of white teeth he had seen between the snarls and smiles.

“Two minutes,” he sighs, doesn’t care if it’s entirely inaccurate, doesn’t care for anything but how close he is and how good it will feel when he’s granted release. And he will be, words or no, beyond a game the man controls nothing at all of Hannibal’s life, of his choices and direction of his thoughts.

“Slow,” Will tells him calmly, allowing it to draw the length of a breath as Hannibal’s hitches. As Hannibal touches. As the seconds tick away and his toes curl warm against the bed. “Stop.”

Hannibal stops. Touching, breathing, nearly the beating of his own heart seems to stop and hang on the word. The few times this has happened - a client gone away but lonely - Hannibal has been the one who spoke, they have been the ones who touched as Hannibal folded his socks or copied notes. It has been Hannibal in control, always, and the voice on the other end of the line far more eager than his own.

And now he hangs suspended, perched on a precipice that is dizzying, and Hannibal only stops his fingers from trembling just above his cock by pressing them against his thigh instead, breath held in anticipation.

For a moment, it seems neither breathes, before Will hums, a soft, warm note, and swallows.

“I believe you have a client to see this evening.” His voice is quiet, gentle, almost soothing, before there is a sound of fabric on fabric and the man stands, a slow exhale as he does. “I won’t keep you. That would be rude.”

When Hannibal finally releases his breath, it trembles as hard as the thigh he digs his nails into now. He wants to tell Will that he’ll finish anyway, to spite him not allowing it. He wants to tell him that not finishing is his own choice, not Will’s. He wants to tell him not to call again and that he’s going to block his number and that he isn’t certain the last time he was so entirely aroused by no more than a phone call.

Instead, Hannibal simply swallows, sticky in his throat, and pulls his hand out of his pants, wincing as he moves to try and stand. “You’ll see the charge momentarily,” Hannibal informs him. “My apologies that I’m unavailable foreseeably.”

“Foresight is overrated,” Will says, then waits on the line, silent, as Hannibal moves around his room, works through the transaction and finally just kicks his pants off so it’s not so distracting to stand - just stand. A moment more and Will laughs, genuine, warm.

“Prick,” he murmurs, almost fond, before just hanging up the call, and tapping a charge through for the same price as a night with Hannibal had been. He supposes, rubbing his hand against his face, smiling, that he deserved that, at least.

---

Hannibal has to press his lips taut to stop the curse that threatens to spill from them as he arrives late. It isn’t like him to ever - ever - show up late, but he’d needed to wait for his cock to soften again before he could dress in the sleek fitting suit that his company prefers, slick back his hair and shave smooth.

An extra minute was spent scratching out Will Graham’s name from his notebook, but that, at least, was a worthwhile delay.

In a suit of dark indigo checked with stripes of bright gamboge, Hannibal leaves the cab driver with far too large a tip, but can’t be stopped enough to bother with it. The night air is cold in his lungs, and he takes a moment to straighten himself, gather his wits about him, and - there.

There it is.

An effortless soupçon of a smile, eyes narrowed as if aware of a secret that no one else has ever heard.

Perfect.

He has to be.

The door is held for him and Hannibal inclines his head graciously, lifting his eyes from the toes of his shoes, unfortunately unpolished, to the gathering of society frills that span before him. He draws his cell from his pocket and doesn’t let the three missed calls lessen the glowing little smile he’s managed - somehow - before pocketing it again, and making his way towards the bar.

“Frederick,” Hannibal intones warmly, finding him just where he expected him to be.

The man is not tall, but holds himself to be taller. Perhaps because he walks with a cane, elegant and almost archaic. Why he does, Hannibal does not know, and has never gotten a straight answer when he has inquired, but it hardly matters when the man wears it both with honor and resentment. It is because it is.

He is here because he is.

Frederick Chilton is not a man of patience, and the sigh that greets Hannibal is entirely predictable, entirely practiced and adjusted to perfection. Just enough displeasure in there to cling to Hannibal's skin, enough sound to be noticed by others. He regards Hannibal with a brief look, enough to see he is well-presented, groomed, handsome as the boy ever is, worth his time and money to be shown and seen with.

"Late, Hannibal?" Is all he says, sits in such a way as to face Hannibal but not open his body to him, hand out to rest against his glass again before he takes it up for a sip. He regards Hannibal as the young man ducks his head in a quiet apology, a submission, that the doctor accepts with a hum and a gesture to the barman for another drink. Hannibal sits down and Frederick takes him in from closer up.

A pleased curl of his lips at the lay of the suit, the cut of it. A vanity, in a way, knowing he has a beautiful boy to show off. He lingers on Hannibal’s shoes, as the younger man shifts to casually curl his feet away against the stool, and a frown darkens his features. He says nothing more, though, continues to wait for Hannibal's excuse.

Hannibal wonders how long he can go without answering before the doctor becomes truly aggrieved. Better not to push it, he decides, and leans toward Frederick, as much to hide the view of his shoes as to offer supplication.

"I needed to ensure I was dressed to your liking," Hannibal tells him.

The doctor's brow raises higher, and he doesn't need to glance at Hannibal's shoes for his giddy displeasure to make itself clear behind the rim of his gin and tonic.

"I was held up studying," Hannibal adds, reluctant, not the whole of it, but not a lie. Never an outright lie, not when certain people are just as skilled at Hannibal as detecting them.

Dr. Frederick Chilton is one of those people.

His eyes squint sharper, as though just having caught the waft of something unpleasant in passing, but when he presses his tongue between his lips and parts them with a put-upon sigh, Hannibal knows he's given up the scent.

"You had all day to study," Frederick grumbles, and rather than correct him, Hannibal simply splays a hand across the older man's knee. He doesn’t presume to touch higher than that, nor for any longer than a stroke of reassurance. That he is here, that he is submissive, that he is Frederick’s pretty thing to be displayed and corrected when he asks trite questions and makes incorrect statements to allow the doctor to flaunt his own cleverness.

"And I have all night now for you," Hannibal reminds him, with just the trace of a smile as he sits back and takes up his glass. "How might we make the most of it?"

Some clients buy Hannibal for a specific sort of company. Bring him home, allow some short back and forth in conversation before the beautiful suits come free, and they explore the other aspects of Hannibal’s talent with company.

Frederick buys Hannibal as a foil, to use as a conversationalist, who doesn't overspeak his bounds, to use as a way of making himself feel stronger, more important than his everyday job makes him feel. He is never cruel, nor is he particularly demanding in more than his time. But nights could be spent going to lavish dinners and events, strategically planned to be seen and heard, before returning to the doctor's home.

Sometimes Hannibal leaves before midnight, other times he goes early in the morning and forgoes a cab home to walk his muscles loose.

"Drink," Frederick tells him, following his own advice and savoring the bitterness of the drink. "I have reservations. A colleague of mine is hosting a presentation I am very interested in discussing with him. It will be good for you,” he nods towards Hannibal, but hardly seems invested in his words, "to meet some of the people in the field. Understand how to cheat your way into their good graces."

“You’re very thoughtful,” Hannibal tells him, washing down the half-truth with another sip. He has no interest in conducting himself as Chilton does, in pandering and flattery, in manipulation and scheming, but it is a worthy lesson to see how a man like that works his wiles. Benefits well beyond what Frederick intends, of course, but Hannibal is nothing if not gracious. “Thank you for having me.”

“Thank you for finally showing up,” Frederick responds, before unfurling from the barstool to make his way into the restaurant. He pauses, though, tilting his head over his shoulder to murmur when Hannibal leans obediently near. “Shine your shoes next time, you look as though you’ve walked here.”

Hannibal says nothing but inclines his head in acknowledgment, and spares a thought to the man whose call prevented him from doing so. He ignores the fluttering sensation that ripples through his stomach at the thought of it, and follows Frederick in.

He plays the part beautifully, and needs no praise to tell him that he does. He knows it’s not forthcoming anyway. The conversation happens around him after polite introductions are made, Hannibal careful to order little and eat less as if in rapt fascination with the conversation that provides him relatively little insight into the field of psychiatry, and a great deal into the personal lives of the other doctors they discuss at length. Information stored away should it prove useful in the future, and a study of dynamics - how men of certain power and proclivities conduct themselves when they think themselves in safe company.

An insight into psychology, via direct observation, for which Hannibal does find himself appreciative.

But his thoughts wander, as he is plied with unnecessary drinks so that Chilton can flaunt his money, his control, as Hannibal picks at his food and straightens his shoulders to seem more attentive than he truly is. He does not take his phone from his pocket but imagines, for a moment, that perhaps Will called again. Left a voicemail, maybe. But Hannibal isn’t able to see the imagining through more than that, because he knows that Will knows he’s busy now, and that he wouldn’t interrupt.

Hannibal wonders why he cares at all and disregards the thoughts entirely, manifesting a smile as they stand, shake hands, and - in a pleasant twist - Hannibal is offered a card from the acquaintance of his own companion. He accepts it politely, and wonders as he pockets it if the man knows the nature of his being there, or is simply being gracious.

He chooses not to notice the look that Frederick arches towards him as they make their way to the car.

It is always an experience, going anywhere with Frederick, as much as he wants Hannibal seen, he detests when he himself is not. Hannibal is a bauble, a pretty thing but not the main attraction. He is not allowed to talk better than the man he is accompanying, he is not allowed to entertain - his job is to be. Just to be.

“He is a difficult man to impress,” the doctor comments, watches as Hannibal gets into the passenger seat of the car and carefully undoes one of the buttons on his jacket to accommodate the motion.

“He is a polite man, and I would think a very good colleague, for you,” Hannibal counters carefully, amicable smile and warm expression. Unswayed by anyone but the man near him, uninterested in anything but their conversation and their evening. Turning the conversation to the man’s favourite topic. “The card to me was an afterthought, a gesture.”

It seems to pacify the man for the moment, enough to start the car and peel from the lot. It is warm within the car, and quiet, no stereo or sounds from outside the vehicle so Hannibal’s mind wanders again, just briefly, to thoughts of the man’s voice on the phone, the calm there, how collected he had remained the entire time. He wonders if Will had hung up and touched himself, gone to his bedroom and imagined. He finds his lips tilting before he can stop it and swallows the expression and thoughts away.

The house is lit gratuitously, as it always is, when they arrive. A large thing of glass and stone, showy, expensive, secured against threats Hannibal is sure are entirely imagined. He leaves the car first, careful to hold the door for the doctor behind him, before bending to unlace his shoes.

“The card really was just a gesture, Hannibal,” Frederick tells him. “A show of good faith, inclusion of the element that doesn’t belong. I would not use it, nor call the number. Do not drop names, they will fall flat.” The tone is lofty, feigning indifference where a weight hangs beneath them, warning, perhaps, or a demand for reassurance.

A satisfying climax can only take place after a building crescendo, and so Hannibal turns to hang his coat. “What reason would I have to call?” Hannibal considers, resisting the urge to smile when he hears Frederick’s footsteps stop. “Perhaps only to thank him for the company at dinner.”

“He didn’t pay for dinner,” Chilton reminds him, and Hannibal turns towards the man with fingers set against the buttons of his own jacket, and finds his hands stilled with Frederick’s own. “Leave it on.”

Hannibal tilts his head, another gracious nod, and follows on silent socked feet across the cold tile floors behind his temporary companion. “The company alone then,” amends the younger man. “You’ve taught me a great deal about the importance of,” Hannibal pauses, tongue against the back of his teeth, and smiles, “networking.”

“It was a gesture,” Frederick responds, his words clipped as he turns to Hannibal, only slightly taller but Hannibal knows to duck his head to lose another inch. There is a tension rising in him, expertly conducted, of an animal who feels their territory is being encroached upon, but fears the greater foe. Not Hannibal, particularly, but the information that Hannibal holds. It thrills the man in a way that only dread can, frightened that with a single phone call, this important psychiatric busybody might be undone with a simple offer of company to another.

Hannibal takes Frederick’s hand in his and presses the man’s palm against his clean-shaven cheek. With his other, he removes the card from his pocket, and relinquishes it to the older man.

The crescendo reaches its peak, and Frederick’s relief is tangible. Power and control returned to him in an instant, a beautiful and brilliant boy subdued by him, and with dark eyes alighting from beneath a sweep of hair, Hannibal meets Frederick’s gaze and takes the man’s thumb between his lips.

Hannibal’s mouth is what had impressed the doctor initially in the boy, enough to call again for another evening together. A mouth that can speak on so many topics, remain contented being knowledgeable in only few. A mouth that can open so obediently and take so much. For now, it is just a gentle stroke over a hot tongue, deliberate motions that Hannibal quickly adapts to a rhythm.

The card is turned, placed alongside Chilton’s own in his pocket as he takes a breath that fills him, and exhales the tension that had crippled him not moments before. He will always be good. Always return unwanted things, because he gets enough of what he wants already.

It is the ideal arrangement, a boy he does not have to take care of but can have, at his beck and call, at any arranged time.

Frederick pulls his thumb free, draws over Hannibal’s plush bottom lip with his own saliva and curls his hand to settle beneath the young man’s chin to raise it.

“The importance of networking is in knowing when to do it,” he says quietly, “when it is appropriate, expected, welcomed. You will learn, in time. Your hard knocks taken by me, in your stead, so you don’t make fatal mistakes in a place you don’t yet belong.”

Altruistic, generous, everything and anything a student, any boy, would need, and he watches Hannibal’s eyes close softly in thanks, perhaps, submission, surely, and moves his hand once more to slide up into the dark blonde hair, enough pressure to bring the boy gracefully to his knees.

Hannibal’s hands spread down Frederick’s legs and come to rest behind his knees as he lifts his eyes, past where the doctor unfastens his pants to meet his eyes instead. “Here?” Hannibal asks, but his hopes of leaving without bruised knees are dashed when Frederick simply smiles in response.

Hannibal returns it, and unfurls his tongue obediently to take the older man into his mouth.

The hand in his hair tightens just a little, a harsh sigh gusting past Chilton’s lips as he eases into a slow rhythm, savoring as Hannibal curls his lips around him and bows his head to suck.

Touch yourself.

He considers it, the echoed words resonating into a twitch between his legs far more than the service he provides to the man standing over him. Frederick likes his control, but he isn’t a client who has particular mandates - or interest at all, really - in whatever pleasure Hannibal does or doesn’t take from their appointments. Lowering a hand from the older man’s leg, Hannibal presses his palm against himself, finding his arousal building quickly from being so denied earlier.

Draw your nails up.

“Eyes,” Frederick reminds him, drawling the word into a long curl of pleasure when Hannibal raises them, tilts his chin up to take the man deeper past spit-slick lips. He curls his fingers against himself, nails catching against the fabric of his trousers.

Let your hand press to the head as you splay your fingers back down.

The boy moans, spreading his tongue against the throbbing pulse of Frederick’s cock, and he pushes hard back down between his own legs.

It’s not new for the boy to be so enthusiastic in his work, he is hardly ever a chore to deal with, professional and good at it, but this is entirely different, entirely involved, and it is at once uncomfortable and addicting. Fingers squeeze in Hannibal’s hair to make him moan again, softer this time, though, as he continues to touch himself.

Frederick watches, head tilted, eyes barely open, the way the boy takes him deeper with a quick breath through his nose, holds, before pulling back. Cheeks pink and eyes bright. He is beautiful, wanton and exceptional, and Frederick shifts his hips against him a bit faster to feel the way Hannibal’s tongue uncurls around it, draws just the tip over the vein and the sensitive skin against it.

“Such outings always make you so hungry,” he sighs, pleased with how quickly Hannibal works him hard, contented to let the boy do anything to himself he wants, in the meantime. It saves him the effort, in the end, Hannibal knows he will get little from Frederick that the man doesn’t feel like giving him.

When Hannibal pulls free to catch his breath, he lifts his fingers from his own hardness to swipe away the trail of spit that joins his lips to Frederick’s cock. His voice rough, now, warm with his own pleasure, Hannibal murmurs against the side of the doctor’s damp dick, “Gratitude for good company.” His lips close along the soft skin, heated kisses dragged long, lips parted by his tongue that he curls around the shaft, tilting his head so that Frederick can see him.

Can revel in his own power over Hannibal, to win such favors from him.

All a game, but both are willing participants in it. Frederick has never been cruel to him - unkind at times, dismissive often - but he is not wholly unpleasant to deal with. He has never once chastised Hannibal for his services or, from what the boy has seen, ever felt any shame about it at all. Hannibal imagines that he goes to sleep feeling eminently satisfied with himself, as much as by Hannibal’s own ministrations, and thinks little of him until he wishes to use him again.

It is an amicable enough arrangement.

“Don’t tease,” scoffs Frederick, rolling his eyes a little even as a wry smile dances across his lips. Grinding his palm against himself, rough shoves to delight in the pressure, the friction there, Hannibal opens again to swallow Frederick deep.

Eyes flicker closed and Hannibal indulges in allowing his own to do the same, for just a moment, as he strokes faster, thinking of someone else before him now, instead, fingers softer, perhaps, or maybe harsher… possibly harsher, nails over his scalp to make Hannibal shiver as he swallows and opens his throat more.

Slow.

He slows, deliberate sucks, gentle hums and the occasional touch of teeth. Hannibal can feel Frederick allowing himself to come undone, allowing the rhythm he holds to waver to erratic, his breathing to hitch and pull sounds from him, that he will deny later and Hannibal will pretend not to remember. He won’t need to, making the sounds himself just at the memory of being told, of being used without being touched at all.

Too much, almost, and he blinks his eyes open, up, watching for the clear signs of the doctor’s pleasure reaching a peak. And there, after another slow suck, another hum just around the head, and Hannibal is held in place as he works his throat to swallow, his own cock twitching helplessly in his own hand where he continues rubbing gentle little circles.

Stop.

Hannibal does, with a whine, a soft shudder that has him leaning against Frederick’s leg trying to catch his breath.

The doctor indulges in a moment of gentleness, stroking Hannibal’s hair from his face to see it, slack in his own pleasure, lips parted and wet, eyes closed and dark lashes over his sharp cheekbones. A beautiful and clever thing. Easily bought, easily returned. Good company for as long as he stays here. Easy arrangement.

Hannibal draws in a deep breath, holds it to steady his heart, and pulls himself to stand as gracefully as he can manage, legs stiff from kneeling against the unyielding tile. Frederick tucks himself away and Hannibal leans to him, not in an embrace, but to press a kiss to the corner of his mouth. The doctor is one of the few who allows it at all - insisted it, when they first began - and Hannibal can’t help but think it’s so that he can taste the traces of himself from another’s willing lips.

Fingers brush Hannibal’s cheek, almost fondly, and he tilts a smile to the doctor, both choosing to ignore the fact that Hannibal is still visibly hard. “Thank you for dinner.”

“There is another event next weekend. I’ll call with the details.” Quick hands snap his clothing back into place, lips twisted into something between satisfaction and scrutiny as Hannibal slips back into his shoes and takes up his coat.

“I look forward to it,” answers Hannibal, obliging.

“Shine your shoes next time,” Frederick quips, his smile twisting wry again before he calls for the cab that will come to take the young man home.

It isn’t terribly late by the time Hannibal is there again, but his feet feel heavy against the stairs of his walk-up. Fingers gracelessly fumble for his keys as exhaustion catches up with him, but not - curiously enough - sleepiness itself. His body feels heavy, but his mind is alert, too many potentialities to consider, between study, booking another night with Frederick.

Him.

Hannibal checks his phone and is unsurprised to see that no calls have come during his appointment. He tosses it onto the bed beside his textbook before uncurling slowly next to it, stretching his back without yet bothering to remove his suit.

Touch yourself.

He does, and this time, he finishes.

Chapter Text

As if it wasn’t enough that his rent was raised.

As if it wasn’t enough that his rent was raised in an apartment one too-hard step from crumbling around him.

As if it wasn’t enough for all of that to happen when nearly every professor has decided to toss in a test that needs to be studied for.

No, it has to be that Will Graham lives over an hour outside of the city, in some backwater, and Hannibal had no choice but to seek him out for an appointment to make ends meet despite a dire need for the one resource Hannibal never has:

Time.

To study, foremost, to sleep if he can afford it after that. But every night not spent seeing to appointments is another slip backwards into debt for school and his flat and his car and every other thing that never stops costing him. This, now, costs him, and Hannibal frowns at the meter resting precariously close to empty before he slips out of the car.

His skin prickles as cool air rustles the trees and tall grasses around the little house. It’s far enough away from civilization to make him nervous, and Hannibal slides a hand across his pocket to ensure himself that his butterfly knife is there, honed and ready if he has somehow entirely misjudged the nature of this man. A mournful look is cast to his shoulder bag in the passenger seat, but he steels his expression as he makes his way to the house, lips pursed, and lifts a hand to knock.

He’s hardly touched the screen door before a cacophony of barks sounds the alarm for him.

It’s a surprise, honestly, that there is more than one, though only mild, considering how far out Will Graham lives. What is more of a surprise is that when the door opens, with soft clicks for the dogs to keep calm, and a murmured promise that they won’t hurt him, Hannibal counts seven.

“They are social on my behalf,” Will says dryly, smile curling his lips in an expression that is surprisingly genuine before, with another sound, the dogs are let loose to swarm the young man on his doorstep as Will leans against the doorframe and watches. Hannibal takes to the dogs well enough, staying stock still but not frightened, more astounded, confused, perhaps a little intimidated until a large orange dog nuzzles against his knee and earns a stroke behind his ears, and then they all vie for the attention.

Will calls them off with a whistle and sends them on their way to explore outside before gesturing for Hannibal to come in, giving him a brief once-over and pursing his lips in amusement.

“With an expression like that, I can only imagine how pleased you are to see me.”

It’s almost a relief, in some way, that Hannibal in no form feels compelled to put on an act for the man who has rebuffed every attempt he’s ever made at it. He removes his shoes by the door - habit - and shrugs up a shoulder. “I’m busy,” Hannibal admits. “But I made time.”

He takes in Will when the older man steps further into the house, a stolen glance to watch his stride, to confirm that he is - if Hannibal is being honest with himself - every bit as becoming as he grudgingly remembers. His attention shifts away before Will can catch him watching, taking in instead the rows of books upon the shelves, mostly nonfiction covering too many topics to tell Hannibal anything. Dog beds beside the fire. A piano, dusty. A bed.

In the living room.

A smile quirks the corner of Hannibal’s mouth but he doesn’t ask yet, instead pressing his tongue between his lips. “I was not aware it would be such a distance to get here. I will need to charge for travel expense,” he tells Will, folding his hands in front of him as he follows him further into the cozy house. “It must be a tiresome drive every day.”

Polite, enough.

Well-dressed, in a sweater and slacks - enough.

Just enough without endeavoring to be more, and grateful for the honesty that saves him that time, at least.

Will snorts gently, stops to gather a few things from his table, flip a journal cover closed over a pen with it, push everything aside so it’s out of the way.

“You charge me for breathing in your presence, Hannibal, the new expense is hardly a surprise.”

“Then why bother with the expenses for something you can predict?” Hannibal asks, tone quiet, tired, a sigh following the words as though he truly could not care for the answer. He catches Will giving him a look, brief scrutiny, before his eyes move away again.

“Because I enjoy the company,” he responds, allowing a smirk to tilt his lips for a moment. “Why do you come, when it is such a burden to?”

But he knows the answer, can read it in the curve of Hannibal’s shoulders, the bags under his eyes.

Because I have to.

The young man is exhausted, stretched thin between his obligation and his desires, the need and want to study, to work in his field versus the demands on his body to pay for it all. Will swallows, moves around the table again and leans his hips against it, arms crossed as Hannibal’s are, just as deliberately locked off, a comfort mirroring in a way. Reassurance.

“What would you be doing had you not come here?”

“It doesn’t -”

“Answer me.”

Hannibal’s jaw works, tongue pressed against the back of his teeth in annoyance - at the demand, at the effect the demand has on him no matter how hard Hannibal works to convince himself there’s no effect at all. It doesn’t matter, he reminds himself, how he feels about it. He needs to be here and he needs the pay.

So he’s here. And he might as well keep playing along.

“Studying,” the boy answers.

“For what class?”

“For all of them,” responds Hannibal. In a fit of pique, he unfolds his hands, and sets them against the hem of his sweater, to twist it off over his head. “What would you be doing, had I not come?”

Will’s eyes do not leave Hannibal’s face, though the boy is clear enough in his intent as he tosses the thing to the arm of the couch behind him around the corner.

“I would be marking my papers, but I decided I simply needed my weekly dose of unapologetic distaste from someone.” His jaw works a moment before Will stands up again, regards Hannibal before him in his upset, his tiredness. Will presses his lips together, takes a breath.

“Did you bring it with you?”

“My distaste?”

Will’s eyes warm with a smile. “Your work.”

“I don’t think it matters.”

“But you did,” Will confirms. “To catch glimpses of pages at the red light, when the traffic crawled in the city, yes?”

Hannibal watches him, jaw tight, teeth gritted, breathing controlled to a slow angry exhale.

“I have it.”

“Get it,” Will tells him, and just like that, the tension is gone, Will passes by towards the kitchen, does not turn to check if Hannibal obeys.

Hands stretch, curl into fists at his sides, and release slowly again before Hannibal follows after him. He lingers in the doorway as Will begins to make coffee, unhurried, without turning to regard the boy whose irritation must surely by now be tangible. A step closer then, as Hannibal forces himself to slough it off, another, shedding annoyance like a snake sheds its skin, inch by inch, until he can rest a hand on the counter beside Will.

“What would you like to do today?” Hannibal asks, tone softened. “I’m sorry for being short. I’ve no excuses to offer for behaving that way, and my matters are not yours to be concerned by. My apologies.” He ducks his head, almost winsome as he lifts his eyes. “The day is yours to spend however you would prefer it,” he murmurs.

Will turns, finds the young man closer than he had expected, perhaps had wanted, and just watches him, eyes down to meet Hannibal’s, lower still to where the boy sets his teeth against his bottom lip. Tempting, pleasant, and Will takes a slow breath before releasing it and returning his eyes up.

He is persistent, at least, determined to be this thing he has come to make himself known as. Will supposes that, at least, is admirable. He can’t fault him his professionalism.

“Back,” he says softly, tone warmer than before, softer, something that perhaps Hannibal is more used to hearing in his time with another. “Where you were. At the table.”

He watches something pass behind Hannibal’s eyes that could almost be displeasure, regret, but he stands to move back, obedient, quiet, a beautiful malleable creature to anyone who has the money for him. Will follows, enough to watch him set his hips against the end of the table and cross his arms again.

“Your shirt,” Will tells him, eyes down, back up to Hannibal’s again. “Off.”

He watches Hannibal obey, hesitant, perhaps, for the unexpected turn of the day, but he obeys. Will allows himself to take the younger man in, just briefly, before tilting his head.

“And your pants.”

With this, he does not let his eyes linger, resolutely against the young man’s chest, starting to slowly dust with hair. He does not look down when Hannibal removes his pants, his underwear, socks, sets them all on the couch. He looks just past him, up to Hannibal’s eyes when the boy straightens.

“Turn,” he tells him, watches the way Hannibal’s jaw works, the way there is just the beginning of color in his cheeks before he turns away. “Bend.”

There is a smug satisfaction, at least, in Will becoming who Hannibal had predicted him to be since the call that made Hannibal hard for fully a week after. Bossy. Domineering. Seeking control over someone to make up for whatever control he feels he lacks in his daily life. Will certainly isn’t the only client that Hannibal sees who wants to see the younger man perform to suit his whims.

And Hannibal can perform beautifully.

With a lackadaisical stretch, he bends forward to press his forearms to the cleared desk. Bending his back, he arches his hips higher, head ducked but dark eyes watching from beneath a drape of golden-brown hair. Hannibal allows a slight smile to tug at the corners of his eyes, as he displays. Presents.

He may be back to his studies sooner than he had considered, and with extra pay for his troubles.

Will closes his eyes on a slow inhale and opens them on an exhale, directed up above where the boy stands, beautifully bent over his table.

“Feet wider,” he says, waits for Hannibal to obey, swallows, adjusts his instructions. “Against the table legs. And eyes forward.”

He waits until that, too, is obeyed, before Will returns to the main room, moves towards the couch where Hannibal’s clothes lie neatly folded. He finds the keys easily enough, in his pocket, along with a little knife. For a moment he is still, considering the weapon, then he just leaves it where it is, and takes the keys silently into his palm before moving towards the front door.

“Stay still,” he commands over his shoulder, lets the screen door slap shut behind himself.

For a moment, there is no sound but the bubbling of the coffee on the stove, the wind outside, the occasional whine from one of the dogs that still happily meanders outside. Then the sound of a car door slamming, footsteps up the porch steps, the door opening and closing where Hannibal cannot see it.

Then quiet again, the sound of Will breathing, moving through his space. Preparing, perhaps, as Hannibal sets his forehead to the table and lets his eyes close, hands clasped lightly together. He wonders if it will be a fucking or a beating, what kind of man Will Graham really is when he stops pretending he hadn’t called Hannibal for this and this alone.

There is a sharp slap against the table and Hannibal startles, jerks back on reflex and opens his eyes to see his notes seeping across the table from their taped-together folder. More quietly, carefully, a mug of steaming coffee is set down at Hannibal’s side before Will puts his hands flat against the table and bends to meet his eyes.

“I would like to spend my day watching you actually earn the education I am paying for,” he tells Hannibal quietly, eyes on Hannibal’s, no lower, before his expression soothes, warms again, and Will swallows. “You will study. As you wish to have this session play out as I imagine so many of yours do, you will study as you are.”

Hannibal’s eyes lower to his notes, discomfortingly out of place here, with him like this. Now and then he encounters someone who gets off on the fact that he’s a student, but usually only in that it allows them to play teacher and he the naive schoolboy, which then only ends up with a cock in his mouth. Just like everything, really, but to see his paperwork here in an unwelcome overlap of lives jogs Hannibal’s heart a little faster.

He narrows his eyes, noting how Will avoids looking anywhere else, and a sharp smile appears in contrast to the softness of Hannibal’s words. “You’re not even going to look?” asks Hannibal, brow lifting.

“No,” Will answers, and Hannibal only just stops the shiver that threatens to rattle him from appearing anywhere but snarled in his stomach.

The boy’s tongue appears to dampen his lips, and he ducks his head with a breath of laughter. “My sessions,” Hannibal purrs, “play out with lips, and hands, and a ready body to be filled. Not with studying.”

Will’s expression soothes to a smile, though it doesn’t reach his eyes at all, like a mask, elegant and false. “It is hardly my place to judge your clients, or your taste in them,” he murmurs, in the same tone, just to watch the boy’s cheeks color at the feeling of it against him, “that would be ironic. Most likely unwelcome. So as you asked me how I wished the day to go, I will reiterate.”

Will sets one hand beneath Hannibal’s chin, just his knuckles curved against the warm vulnerable skin there. “You will study, as you would have had you not come here. You will complete the work until you feel satisfied in the efforts you have made today. You will do it bent and bare for my personal amusement,” Will’s eyes narrow briefly, “and your insistence on being a temptation. Once you have fulfilled that particular… service, perhaps I will think of more for us to do.”

Will brings up his thumb, just briefly to press to Hannibal’s chin before he lets him go and steps back, towards the end of the table unused, and unoccupied by a beautiful shivering boy. There he settles, with his own work, flipping open the ledger once more and retrieving the pen to slide across the table to Hannibal’s notes, should he need it.

He doesn’t even look up at the young man, just takes his own book into his lap, one leg crossing over the other in a comfortable recline.

“Begin.”

The word ricochets, gunshot loud, and leaves a buzz in Hannibal's ears. He strengthens his legs, stretching them long to shake the weakness in his knees, and works his lips between his teeth in thought as Will sets pen to page.

He could leave. Gather his things and go back to Baltimore, letting the screen door bang loud behind him. Write this off as a loss and scratch Will Graham out of his life, again.

Scramble to fill his car with gas.

Hustle to cover rent when he can barely make ends meet as it is.

Return the call he's been avoiding for weeks that he knows will pay, but will cost him dearly.

Just to prove a point, to satisfy his own ego before he has to debase himself for far more than the peculiar proclivities of a man who does seem, in earnest, content to just let Hannibal be.

It's a rare enough thing that the swallow needed to choke down his own pride is easier than Hannibal would have expected. He stretches to drag his folder close, the pen along with it, and wonders at what point he became so hard that his cock brushes the desk when he leans across it.

"What would you like me to study?" Hannibal asks, spreading his coursework before him.

“Whatever demands your attention,” Will replies, lifts his eyes just once with a clear look indicating he means Hannibal’s schoolwork. “However you usually work through your books. You have many hours with me. Use them.”

It is dismissive but not cruel, only in that Will already sounds distracted by his own work again, pen to paper as he makes notes, shifts some papers around to see them better before he continues. Hannibal wonders if perhaps the man is simply uninterested, in the way he’s bent, displayed, presented for him - if perhaps Will Graham is a man without sexual attraction at all. But he remembers the small breaths, the way Will’s jaw had worked to swallow, to force himself not to look…

Perhaps he is just a man of infuriating patience.

Hannibal sighs, reaches for his work and selects the papers closest to him. He is so behind on all of it that it hardly matters where he begins, just that he does. The smell of coffee draws him to take a sip, rich, thick stuff that is more than he can afford on a good day, and with carefully measured sips, he starts to work.

How long passes is hard to say, but Hannibal cannot stay still. Shifting as cool breezes lick against his legs from the door, as the table beneath him grows hard to lean on one way so he adjusts himself to lean another. Over and over he shifts and every time his eyes go up to Will, seated as still as Hannibal isn’t, spinning the pen between his fingers before he marks something else against his list.

He watches as Will stands, passes Hannibal without a second glance, towards the kitchen again. Tenses in the most delicious anticipation as Will nears him again, but he finds only that his empty mug is replaced with a full one, the other taken away. Then Will returns to his seat, as before, and sets his ledger to the table.

Hannibal watches him, from the corner of his eyes. He carries himself in an unassuming way - too large shirt, glasses perched on the end of his nose, still unshaven and sitting with shoulders curled ever so slightly - but there is more than that. It appears in flashes, a quick furrow in his brows, the movement of his mouth when he hesitates before marking with his pen. A masked determination, staid and solemn, of some fascinating fortitude that he tries to demure through his outward presentation.

Blue eyes catch his own, and Will intones, “Study.”

The boy can’t help but grin, holding Will’s gaze a moment more before smoothing his expression with a roll of bare shoulders, and ducking his head back to his paperwork, cheek resting against his hand. After a moment more, Will returns to his own work, and the silence resumes.

One subject becomes another, each set of notes poured over as if Hannibal were a starving man at a feast. After a few lines he lifts his eyes towards the ceiling to commit the information to memory - formulas and compounds both organic and inorganic, origins and terminations of anatomical structures, pathogeneses and symptoms. And only after the second cup of coffee is finished does Hannibal realize how sore his legs are, stretched tight where his hamstrings have been extended for so long.

He pushes up onto his hands, grimacing at the pull that spasms up his back, and holds himself upright, only barely bent, as he continues to read.

“Down.”

Hannibal has to blink himself back, understand what the word means before he looks up, finds Will just as determinedly staring at his own work as before.

“I gave you no permission to stand.”

Hannibal’s brows furrow, an indignation unfurling in his chest as surely as his cock stirs at the word. Permission.

“I don’t need your permission to stand,” he says, and finds Will raising his eyes to him slowly, a careful and deliberate blink before just watching, blue eyes clear above the frames of Will’s glasses before he parts his lips with just the tip of his tongue.

“Down,” he repeats, and although his voice is not at all louder, harsher, the tone is entirely different, and this one sends shivers down Hannibal’s back that he cannot control, curling his fingers against the table to stop them shaking. He spreads them flat, presses them hard against the warm wood where he’s leaned for so long already, and though every muscle in his legs, his core, his shoulders burns for relief, Hannibal bends.

Down.

The words in front of him are a blur, and though he can blink the sensation away, he cannot so readily ease the trembling in his body. Strain, arousal, frustration, everything all at once, but he holds. He holds because so little has been asked of him, but this. He holds because he has been treated not unkindly, and given time to do something of more value than simply being fucked.

He holds because Will did not give him permission.

Hannibal’s breath is unsteady, his pulse and his cock throbbing as intensely as his muscles, and he starts to shift a leg to ease it but stops himself when the solution becomes clear.

“May I stand?”

Will had followed the boy’s movement down, had watched his face twist in brief motions of pain. Had watched as Hannibal had so well obeyed him despite that pride of his curling fingers against his throat. He watches just a moment more before setting his ledger aside, his glasses atop it.

“You may stand,” he says, sitting back, fingers clasped together against his stomach. “You may walk and stretch, use the bathroom. You may take as long as you feel you need. And when you return, you will bend, set your legs, and hold that position until you ask again.”

A brief quirk of eyebrow to see if Hannibal understands, to see, honestly, that flush against his skin with the effort of holding still, with arousal. Then Will looks away again, stands, permission clear that Hannibal can do the same.

He manages, somehow, to make it as graceful as he can, pushing up right in a slow coil, rolling neck and shoulders in turn as if he were completely alone, shaking off a long day of classes and a bad appointment. Arching his back deeply he leans against the desk, chest out, and savors the feeling of freedom that teases pleasant twitches beneath his skin. Up onto his toes and flat again, one leg behind the other as he works his hips one way, and then the other, opening them.

It feels nearly as good as knowing how hard Will is trying not to watch the blatant display.

Slender fingers scratch gently across his chest, downward over the soft fuzz on his stomach, and Hannibal asks, polite once more, “Bathroom?”

He waits for Will to raise his eyes again before skimming a thumb across his own half-hard cock, twice, before folding his hands behind his back.

A swallow, perhaps deliberate, perhaps unavoidable, and Will points, a graceful gesture, over his shoulder and deeper into the house. He does not look down beyond Hannibal’s chest as the young man walks past him but when he has, Will’s eyes close and his jaw works, hands turning to fists against the desk as he slowly returns his composure.

Slowly, piece by aching piece, his outward indifference returns, and he takes up his glasses again to set against his nose, arches his own back in a stretch, hands above his head and groan withheld in case Hannibal hears it, misconstrues it for exactly what it is.

By the time he returns, Will is back to grading his papers, wondering if Hannibal will take advantage of the offer of free movement, wondering if he will find the boy obedient in the instruction to return; in his own time, but return all the same.

Will has always been a particularly good judge of character.

Bare feet click softly across the wooden floors as Hannibal makes his way across the house. Slowly, very slowly, studying his new surroundings as if he were a new stray to be added to Will’s existing pack. Hannibal is content, though, to trace a finger along a shelf of books, to tap a note on the detuned piano, to survey the bed that sits strangely in the center of the room, rather than the bedroom further off.

Will lives alone, certainly. Though the space is clean and host to its own particular sort of organization, there is nothing out of place that would speak of anyone but the professor who sits still grading at the desk. A single toothbrush in the bathroom. A shirt hung on the door handle. A dog toy half-chewed between the living room and the kitchen, where Hannibal makes his way to refill his mug.

Through the window he sees only long dry grasses and far off trees, shifting in the breeze that prickles across Hannibal’s bare, smooth skin when it comes in through the screen door. The dogs are at play or sleeping, and Hannibal cradles the mug and takes a sip.

“May I ask a question?” Hannibal murmurs, terribly amused with himself.

“You may.”

“You have a great deal of dogs.”

“That isn’t a question.”

Hannibal hums against the mug, teeth resting against the rim for a moment before he sips again. “Why do you have so many dogs?”

Will considers the question, eyes glazed as he looks through the lenses of his glasses before lifting his head and bringing his pen up to gently ease them up his nose.

“I enjoy the responsibility of caring for something living,” he says, and Hannibal finds that it is entirely earnest, no brush-off answer, no quick cheat of a jibe, no question with a question. “The dogs ask little of me beyond care. To feed them, to keep them warm, to give them affection. In turn they provide me with their own care. Genuine symbiosis with another living being. Would that people were as easy.”

Will’s smile is thin, but genuine. He turns to regard Hannibal by the door, blissfully bare and entirely beautiful. He commits it to memory, Hannibal standing there, for his own mind to render later to something else, a shift in weight perhaps, a turn and a smile before he comes closer, climbs back into bed, lays warmly there.

Will blinks. Hannibal hasn’t moved from the door.

He does not make him return to the table, in fact he says nothing about it. But he does turn his head down to regard his work again, lips pressing together before he releases them with a breath. “Why do you carry a knife?”

Hannibal turns to regard the professor over his shoulder, a genuine amusement narrowing his eyes as he strides slowly closer to the desk. “You didn’t ask if you could ask me -”

“No,” Will responds, eyes fixed on his work. It’s enough to give Hannibal pause in his movement, allowing the disallowance to sear hot between his legs. Not an equal footing, then, at least in instruction, but there are always other ways to play.

Will’s pen stills as Hannibal stands behind him, at his side, and rests the hand not cradling the mug against the desk beside Will’s own. He doesn’t touch, but hopes the older man can feel the heat radiating from bare skin so dangerously near, and Hannibal skims the paper with disinterest before turning his attention towards Will’s dark hair, curling down the back of his neck. Hannibal lets his gaze drift across the man’s broad shoulders and over well-muscled arms hidden beneath unflattering flannel.

“It would be foolish for one to go unprepared when strange men call them into the woods.”

Will turns, just enough that Hannibal can see the sharp line of his jaw, his throat beneath as Will swallows again, ducks his head a little to blink, consider his answer. He knows the knife is not for him. He knows the knife has seen use. He wonders, hopes, that Hannibal had not had it replaced, that this is not a new one when another had failed him.

“Certainly,” he murmurs, does not raise his head, does not move into the pseudo-embrace Hannibal has against him already, though he wants to, genuinely, exhale and allow himself to lean back, to feel Hannibal nose against his hair.

Fantasies.

Illegal pretty things.

Hannibal stretches back to stand straight, fingernails curling a little against the desk before he turns to lean back against it instead. Will is quick to tilt his head enough to lose Hannibal from his periphery, but the boy is not so easily forgotten as that. He rests the mug on his thigh, grasping it by the rim, and turns his wrist just enough to press his palm against himself, only once.

It’s enough to make the professor’s cheeks darken, and Hannibal’s smile widens, pleased and feline.

“May I ask another question?”

“You may,” comes the terse response.

“When you return to teaching,” Hannibal asks, “from what are you falling back?”

Will sighs, a slow release of air that lowers his shoulders and seems at once to straighten them. Relief, perhaps, or merely a patient indulgence of the young man now, because Will knows he will not leave on his own, and he refuses to command him to. He thinks of making up an answer, or denying his own words altogether. Thinks that it is entirely none of Hannibal’s business what he does or how, why he does it or who for. Yet when he lifts his chin to answer, he answers truthfully.

“I am an FBI profiler, I work cases.”

Hannibal seems surprised by the answer, his smile lingers but softer now, interested to hear more if Will is going to offer more. And he does, after another breath, after drawing one of his knees up a little, heel up against the leg of his chair.

“I see into minds of killers. And then I return, fall back," clicked consonants, tone suddenly tired, so tired, “into my own. And recall what I had seen to eager students who hang on every word.”

Strange, to see Will’s defense come up this way, back to sarcasm as Hannibal returns to his own pride. But it is not his work he is protecting, there is something vulnerable there that had blinked up before it was smothered again. When he turns to look at Hannibal again, as close as they had been in the kitchen, with Will seated and Hannibal curled where he sits to watch him, Will’s eyes narrow, a brief flicker of the bottom lids, but he does not move back.

Nor does Hannibal, not yet, regarding Will with greater consideration than he had any point before now. “That’s very brave.”

“It isn’t. It’s pattern analysis and forensics.”

“Not the profiling,” Hannibal amends, tongue against his teeth as he considers his words. “Letting them in.”

It is Will, rather than Hannibal, who cuts short the tension between them - finding his ground again from the uneasy place he found himself - and he watches Hannibal lift the coffee to his lips again. “How old are you, really?”

“My admissions paperwork says nineteen.”

“That isn’t what I asked.”

The snap in his tone twists a sound into the sigh that Hannibal exhales, cheeks growing dusky. He hopes, futilely, that Will didn’t hear it, but knows he did and averts his eyes now, instead. “Do you really want to know?”

“I asked,” Will replies softly, his voice an iron glove wrapped in velvet.

“Two years less than that,” answers the boy, hesitating before correcting himself. “Seventeen.”

“How did you pull off getting into university?”

Hannibal’s smile says it all, a jaded thing that doesn’t reach his eyes. He appears, for a moment, much older than the seventeen years he professes. Will sees it, and Hannibal knows he does, and it’s jarring enough to send him to stand. There is room to breathe now between them but neither do, not until Hannibal circles the desk and sets his mug against it. He affords himself one more stretch, arms above his head, and lowers them once more to the desk to resume his study.

For a moment more, Will remains entirely still, entirely quiet, eyes in the general direction of where Hannibal had gone but glazed, unseeing for the moment, thoughts working too quickly in his mind. The forefront of them all that Hannibal had obeyed, by himself, to return to how Will had set him, prone and uncomfortable, vulnerable and bare.

Then he watches Hannibal take up another set of notes, closing his eyes or directing them up to memorize a fact before returning to start another, and stands to leave the room, and the boy alone.

In the kitchen Will checks the coffee, cold now but still there, and pours himself the last dregs and winces at the taste. He had thought Hannibal young, but not that young, had thought the boy entirely desirable but now? A hand up against his lips, just breathing slowly before Will drops it. Perhaps he won’t see him again, forget he tried, once, to see. Forget he did, often, see, and what. He rubs his eyes, just beneath his glasses, a slow thing to stretch the skin and send stars scattering in his vision.

For all his wiles, Hannibal is a boy, a desperate, lonely, utterly determined boy, and as much as Will wishes to see him gone, spared this, if he allows Hannibal to write him off for good, he fears the other men that will find him, take advantage of his unwilling yet committed submission. He almost hates to use the word, for how inaccurate it is.

Will swallows another mouthful of the cold revolting coffee and leaves his mug in the sink, making his way back to the main room, allowing himself to look at where Hannibal is bent, how, beautifully spread and shown and shameless in it.

And obedient.

Will takes his time getting back to his seat, stopping behind Hannibal and watching the slow coil of muscles that presents, despite his put-on apathy, the young man’s nerves at being watched this way, stood so close to. Will reaches, sets his knuckles just soft against the inside of one thigh, drawing them up to where it curves, rounding, before Will splays his hand, fingers wide, and places a palm there instead. He moves it slowly over Hannibal’s skin, over his backside and up higher still, to the small of his back, fingers skimming his ribs and higher, higher up until he can curl them beneath Hannibal’s chin again, feel his pulse rocket against Will’s soft fingers.

He holds, just a moment more, and then lets go, returns to his seat to take up his work, to not watch the boy across from him as he knows he himself is being watched.

Minutes, hours, days seem to pass before Hannibal’s lungs ache and he exhales the shaky sigh that held itself there. His skin is warm, still, he imagines it would be anyway, if he touched it, traced the lines that Will’s hand followed over him - firm in his certainty, a tangible study of what Will has watched throughout the afternoon. Considerate, not to touch him between his legs despite how painfully stiff Hannibal’s erection now. Reassuring, in not taking even still what Hannibal has offered, but to instead touch so gently that it burns inside Hannibal’s chest.

“What -”

“Study,” Will answers, and Hannibal ducks his head.

Not ‘leave’.

Not ‘go’.

Not suck or spread or swallow or cry or any of the other countless commands that Hannibal has heard too many times to count.

Study.

And so he does.

Chapter Text

Usually, he manages to be more professional. More often than not Hannibal will prepare for a call, a glass of cold water, slow breathing to allow his mind to settle, to bring up the persona he needs available, just there, to answer on his behalf.

Usually.

With Will Graham he does not play with a persona, he merely adjusts himself to no longer hold his tongue when he is irritated. Or exhausted.

“I’m just confirming your desire for company tomorrow.”

“You’re yawning.” Will’s voice is not surprised but almost offended, though Hannibal knows, somehow, it is not at all aimed at him.

“Did you want -”

“Hannibal, when was the last time you slept?”

This makes the young man pause mid-sentence, throat clicking as he swallows his words and adjusts for new ones. A slow retrace of synapses from point A to point B until he comes up with an answer he knows Will is not going to appreciate. Perhaps he likes his voice. Perhaps it’s the first time he’s felt his heart calm in a week.

“When I slept.”

There is a sound on the other end of the line, a brief exhale and something else, a word perhaps, a curse maybe, but it’s unintelligible and Hannibal is far from caring enough to ask it to be repeated.

“Call a cab,” Will says, finally.

“I -”

“A cab, Hannibal, that will add to my usual expenses, and you will direct it to my house.”

Hannibal sighs and considers the time. By the time he dresses, finds a cab who will take him so far out, and actually gets to Wolf Trap, it will be no sooner than half-past midnight, and with the rest of the night yet to go.

In truth, Hannibal can’t answer Will’s question, because he finds himself unable to recall the last night he hadn’t spent keeping afloat of his studies or at an appointment.

Weeks, certainly.

Months, perhaps.

He pushes his tongue against his teeth before finally deciding. “Tomorrow,” Hannibal assures Will, his voice softer than ever usually lets it be. “All day, as you’ve asked. I will gladly share my company with you then.”

Will does not comment on the fact that Hannibal has, for once, not showered him with blatant indifference regarding his - possibly now standing - appointment. He does, however, gently lower his tone, soften it, tilt it to that timbre he knows makes Hannibal’s back unfurl rigid, at attention.

“Tomorrow begins in less than twenty minutes. I will not ask for you to reveal where you live, and I will not call a cab for you. But you will, and I will not ask you again.”

Hannibal’s first dozen protests die on his lips, parted slack and silent as goosebumps scatter like rain across his skin. He shivers, feet pressing a little harder into the bed where he sits. “I’ll have to dress,” Hannibal tries to explain, finding only silence and Will’s words ringing in his ears. “I -”

The boy huffs a sigh, not caring for the moment that Will can hear it, taut frustration in finding himself torn between what he wants and what he needs, and utterly unable to sort out which is which.

“It takes me an hour to get to Wolf Trap,” Hannibal finally relents. “I can’t be there in twenty minutes.”

“Try.”

The phone clicks off and it’s all Hannibal can do not to hurl it across the room in frustration, exhaustion like sandpaper against raw nerves. Money, he tells himself, he needs the money for this. He was only going to study tonight anyway and he can instead have an hour of sleep in the cab on the way there, on the way back again… two nights from now.

Hannibal hopes his laughter doesn’t sound as desperate as it feels as he unlocks his phone, and calls for a taxi.

---

He jerks awake only when the taxi driver shakes him, a gentle thing against his shoulder that stops as soon as Hannibal’s eyes are open, hands up as though in defense.

“You gonna pay the fare, kid?”

Hannibal releases a breath, quick, nods in quick jerking motions and seeks in his pocket for his wallet. The house before him is lit, almost too bright in the middle of nowhere, and Hannibal stifles another yawn against the back of his hand as he makes his way up the porch steps, dragging his bag up them behind himself.

He doesn’t knock, the dogs herald his arrival, and then Will opens the door before he can anyway, in another loose flannel shirt, but jeans today, casual outside of the week, not bothering to dress for Hannibal either. He regards him with dark eyes, a brief once-over, as the dogs bounce and slither around the young man. Then he steps aside to let him in, leaning against the door as Hannibal side steps through it and leaves his bag by his shoes, allowing the dogs to take their fill of sniffing both.

Will closes both doors with a click and checks the locks before turning to Hannibal again. There is no pity in his look, nor admonishment. He looks, perhaps, concerned. If Hannibal believed it was at all directed at him.

“When, Hannibal?” Will asks instead.

“When what?”

A beat of annoyance from the older man passes as Hannibal bends to pet the fluffy mottled dog who greeted him before, sinking his fingers through fleecy fur.

“When was the last time you had a full night’s sleep?”

“I don’t know,” responds Hannibal. “Does it matter to you so much? Truly?” It’s late, now, past one already and Hannibal can hardly stop from swaying as he straightens slowly, voice pitched with frustration. “I might have had one tonight, perhaps, and seen you tomorrow as agreed. But before you correct me again, I can’t tell you because I don’t remember. I can’t remember because it hardly matters.”

What few fuses are left pop dark by the heartbeat.

Hannibal pauses, and ducks his head. Color blooms rosy over his cheeks and he murmurs an apology for the outburst, spreading his hand down the shirt he managed to twist into. He is underdressed for meeting with a client. Unpressed shirt, yet untucked, hair scattered across his brow from sleeping in the cab - he is better than this, he knows he is, and he knows that clients expect him to be. He looks - as he hopes to never do - like a student.

An exhausted student, run ragged to near incoherency, gaze dimmed by the dark circles beneath them that swallow any light before it can reach his eyes.

“I did the best I could, on short notice,” Hannibal murmurs, ceasing his fidgeting to fold his hands behind his back.

Will watches him, exhausted and angry, and still, after everything, trying to please. Trying to be pleasing. And useful and beautiful and -

"Take it off," he tells Hannibal gently, watches the way his brows crease a little before he moves his hands to the front to obey. Will clicks his tongue, a gentle thing, and the dogs move obediently to the living room, each finding their bed or a couch of preference to drape over, contented to just watch.

Will watches Hannibal's fingers fumble with the buttons, but does not step up to help. And he wants to, wants to push the shirt down Hannibal's shoulders and kiss the skin there, soothe between his shoulder blades with a nuzzle, breathe the young man in. Hannibal discards his shirt and reaches for his pants, unprompted, working those almost angrily off before watching Will with sleepy, narrowed eyes.

Will points past himself to the bed, waits to see if Hannibal will obey, and finds that the boy takes just the two steps needed to get closer before kneeling at Will’s feet, a motion that would have been entirely graceful had Hannibal his wits about him. Will swallows, steps back, catches Hannibal's hands when they seek for him and he nearly overbalances.

"Bed," Will commands softly.

Hannibal’s nerves are frayed, his patience shot, and he shifts his weight from one bruised knee to the other. He tries to hide the grimace but it hurts, either way, and so he simply leans as if to nuzzle the front of Will's pants. Hands still held in Will's, the older man steps back, and Hannibal closes his eyes with a sigh when his cheek turns only against air. "Please. Here is fine -"

"It is also not bed," Will tells him, waiting, and Hannibal swallows roughly in the silence, consternation in his knitted brow. It's Will who presses his fingers beneath Hannibal's chin. Will who lifts it and brings Hannibal to stand, their eyes to meet. Will who parts his lips to speak again and Hannibal who stops him.

Rising to his toes, Hannibal gathers soft flannel in his fists and rocks their mouths together. Seeking something - a decision, an inevitability, his own pathetic need for nearness - their lips slide smooth against the other until Hannibal feels Will's body stiffen, and his mouth still. Old smoke and warm whiskey and resistance, as clear a taste as all the others.

And it's Will who frames Hannibal's shoulders and eases him unsteady back to his heels.

Stop.

Down.

No.

"Bed," Will reminds him. Almost tender. "I do not like to repeat myself."

Hannibal could laugh, and only after he hears it happening does he realize he already is. He loosens his fingers from Will’s shirt and takes a step back, another, before turning to go and choking his laughter into silence. Fingers spread across thin sheets as Hannibal presses them to the mattress and slinks atop it. Kissing makes him too human, he knows, too much like others that his clients may have genuinely cared about, but worth a gamble he supposes on this man who has made himself so entirely difficult to please.

He is unsurprised by the reaction, unhurt beyond a dull bruised ache that throbs in his sternum with every beat of his heart. Hannibal remains on all fours, but folds his arms beneath his head and lays his cheek against them. A smile dawns, slow and sleepy, as he thinks of how Will’s scuff felt unexpectedly soft against his skin. Eyes hooded behind the fine, clean hair that drapes in front of them, he arches his back a little deeper to open his hips, and waits with resignation for the fucking he does not particularly want right now, but will accept anyway.

“Like so?” Hannibal murmurs. “Or on my back?”

Will draws a hand over his face and wills himself patience. Hannibal is almost drugged, the way he moves, almost slurs his words, trembles from his body quite simply reaching its brink. And yet he is still playing that coy, desirous thing, still wanting Will to treat him just the same as others do. Because he simply expects that he will.

"On your side," Will replies, voice rougher than he would like it, but he can still taste Hannibal against his lips, still feel the warmth of him pressed close, and he wants him. He wants.

He watches Hannibal sigh, obey, slipping his legs to the bed and turning to curl on his side, face away from Will, hips still cocked just so to be inviting. And he is, truly he is, and part of Will wishes nothing more than to give him what he’s so determined to have and determined to hate, spread him and fill him, feel Hannibal's form tremble more, fingers splaying and curling in the sheets, sweet little sounds as he’s taken...

Will steps closer, watches Hannibal tense, and quietly, gently, sets a hand against his hair to stroke it from his face. The response is an almost violent shudder, though Hannibal does not move away. So Will keeps it up, carding fingers through his hair, over and over, to soothe him until all thoughts of being that thing Hannibal claims he is are gone, until his breathing hitches as it tries to settle.

"Sleep," Will tells him softly, sliding a few strands behind Hannibal's ear even as the other fussily shifts, tries to protest.

Tension curves Hannibal’s jaw for a moment, thins his lips, but they part again on a sigh when Will works his fingers deep through his hair. He has thought at length about what this man is after - a long courtship perhaps, to feel as though he’s earned the right to fuck Hannibal, some peculiar prurient interest with which Hannibal isn’t yet familiar - but the simplest explanation is the only one that fits fully with the behavior Hannibal has seen in him.

He wants company.

He wants control.

He wants to care for something, like his dogs, and feel as though his effort is not being wasted.

And he is willing to pay for it, to the tune of covering a semester’s worth of books, so far.

Hannibal does not protest the instruction, cannot in truth, as his eyes close heavily and his breath begins to settle, anxious tension dissipating with every sigh that he turns against the soft sheets where he lays bare. “When you start,” Hannibal murmurs, voice already thick, “I will feign sleep, still, if that is what will please you.”

"It will please me if you sleep," Will tells him, still just touching Hannibal's hair, down to where it barely curls against his neck, over and over until Hannibal's breathing has soothed, eased to rest, and when Will stops the gentle touches, he hears no protest.

Will takes a moment, flexing his fingers in midair before walking quietly around to the other side of the bed to see Hannibal sleeping, eyes closed and lips parted on slow, deep breaths as his body is finally allowed to rest. No interruptions from clients as Will has the weekend. No pressure to be a thing used, when Will does not want to use him.

A beautiful boy, pulled too thin by obligations he has set upon himself.

Will swallows, reaches to draw his knuckles over Hannibal’s cheek, to feel the heat of the skin there, but it does not stir the boy to motion again, even his eyes still beneath the lids where he is not even dreaming - too tired. Will’s exploration of the sleeping boy extends no further than to feel his soft breaths against the back of his hand before he leaves the room to go to the porch, keeping his dogs inside despite the soft whines of protest.

Outside, the air hits him cold, and Will leans against the door, head back and eyes closed. What is he doing with this boy? What is he cultivating? It would be so easy to play into his whims, do what so many others do to him. It would be an easy release, against the stubborn boy who would refuse an end if it would please you.

Will thinks of the way his lips had tasted, soft and warm against his own, he thinks of how hard it was to not open his mouth to it and accept him there.

He smokes his second cigarette of the night, careful to exhale away from the screen door, to burn away the taste of Hannibal’s lips spreading tenderly against his own.

When he comes back in, he’s careful to stop the door from slamming, careful too to quietly lock the other behind it. Hannibal has not moved, not to put his head on the pillow rather than resting on his folded arm, not to slip beneath the blankets though he lays bare in the chilly house. But he’s not waiting, now, as he did before with such calm acceptance of what he assumes, always, will happen - his breath is slow and steady, fingers curled beside his mouth, coiled small where he lays.

Gentled by sleep, without the proud narrowing of his eyes or the set of his jaw that ages him, he appears young enough that Will averts his eyes. He gathers the blanket at the foot of the bed and drapes it softly over Hannibal, lingering only to watch Hannibal shift and draw it around his shoulders.

He came, because Will told him to.

He stayed, because Will told him to.

He sleeps now, only because Will told him to, providing no such kindness for himself but accepting it, however grudging, like this.

Will shuts off the lights, and settles into the couch rather than his bed. Draping an arm across his eyes, he thinks of the gratitude of strays, when they’ve been found by someone who will ask for no more than to care for them.

---

Hannibal wakes only once, when his muscles scream in pain from how he has coiled himself. He stretches, turns to his other side and wriggles up to rest his head on the pillow. Blanket up over his shoulders, up to his nose, and he's asleep again, no mind or care or notice for the dog stretched at his side, the larger bed, the unfamiliar blankets.

In the morning, he wakes only because the light hits his eyes from the window, reaching across the floor - not his floor - to the bed - not his bed - to him. Hannibal stills, breath held and muscles tight suddenly. He can hear soft breathing in the house from many sources and it takes him a moment to remember where he is.

Not there.

No lined bunks and timed rest.

He turns very carefully and laughs softly, a helpless and surprised thing, when instead of Will beside him, he sees the speckled orange dog. It wags its tail, soft where it connects with Hannibal's legs still beneath the blanket, but doesn’t move, comfortable and well-trained. Hannibal reaches out, to feel the nuzzle of the cold nose and silky muzzle, hot tongue just once against his palm before he takes his hand away.

Besides the breathing, the house is silent. So far out into the country, here, he wonders if more than silence ever even happens. Hannibal seeks for his clothes, finds them folded on top of his bag - certainly not where he left them. A moment of consideration and he moves to stand, to get them, passing Will’s sleeping form on the couch as he does, pulling him to pause, to look, curious.

The man frowns even in his sleep. Brows drawn and lips thin, the same expression he holds when grading papers, when Hannibal doesn’t play according to the rules of asking before he asks a question, when Hannibal makes reference to his occupation even in passing. He wonders what plagues the man so deeply that even his sleep is troubled.

Pattern analysis and cold scenes.

Hannibal hums.

He slips into his briefs and pulls his shirt on, unbuttoned for now, before surveying the rest of the house, dogs kicking in sleep or beginning to stir with wide yawns as they regard the increasingly familiar young man who stands among them. Hannibal pads back to the bed, the blanket still warm from his own sleep, and takes it up to carry it back to Will. Careful not to touch the man, he drapes it over him as softly as he can, and takes a small pleasure in providing that comfort, at least, amusement in the thought that Will would only take comfort from him when he’s asleep.

Will barely stirs, and Hannibal makes his way to the kitchen to prepare coffee. He’s careful to put everything back where he found it, to open no more cabinets than necessary to find the grounds and set them brewing in the copper pot. A moment more of consideration, as the fluffy dog who shared the bed with him watches with a cocked head and wagging tail, and Hannibal sets to finding their food as well.

He is unexpectedly delighted to see that Will prepares his own dog food, stored in the refrigerator and marked with dates, and occupies himself contentedly with spooning it into the myriad bowls that litter the floor.

The dogs swarm just as they had the night before, entirely gentle things, affectionate, clever, controlled only to the point they need to be. They do not sleep outside, they are not cruelly chained or starved, not beaten, nothing. Seven dogs who eat home-cooked meals, who run free reign through the house and outside as far as the eye can see.

And they always come back.

Hannibal watches them obediently eat only from their own bowls, lick them clean and sniff around Hannibal's feet for treats, or maybe more food. He doesn’t try to understand, and lets them out, after a quiet fiddling with the locks, to explore where they want.

The house smells of coffee, and Will has yet to stir. Hannibal considers how humble this all is, considering the man spends enough on Hannibal alone to suggest a home like Frederick’s. He wonders if it is choice or necessity. Perhaps he just needs the silence, the space for all his strays to roam. Hannibal thinks of how Will has never raised his voice or his hand, how he had not touched him at all while he had slept, unlike so many others who would have taken advantage.

"It will boil over." Will’s voice is sleep-rough and entirely too pleasing in that timbre. He leans against the door to the kitchen and gestures with his chin towards the coffeepot.

It sends a scatter of goosebumps across Hannibal’s skin, and he’s hardly enough time to wonder why before his feet are carrying him back into the kitchen to remove the bubbling pot and switch off the burner. In an instant, without even needing to be asked, a honed skill for knowing when something is wanted and a desire - always - to satisfy that want.

Especially, for some reason, for him.

He stretches onto his toes to take down two mugs and tries to recall, fingers against his lips in thought, how Will drank his coffee when Hannibal studied there. His back aches as if in memory, a welcome sensation, and he pours both cups black before bringing one back out to Will. Long strides and a slow bend as he sets Will’s mug on the small table beside him, and cradling his own with both hands, Hannibal himself against the arm of the couch, at Will’s feet.

A moment more of thought, a fit of pique, and Hannibal brings his mug down to rest against his thigh, extending a finger to just brush the side of Will’s foot.

He wonders if he’ll be scolded for it - for doing, rather than asking to do - and the thought alone warms color to his cheeks.

“How would you like to spend the day?” Hannibal asks, if only to hear Will’s sleep-rough voice again and feel another frisson like fingers down his spine. “It is yours.”

Will considers the young man, his careful touch, his quick obedience earlier, working while Will had returned to the couch. It is rare he does much on his weekends, if it is warm he might fish, walk the dogs for hours in the forest nearby. If it is not, he reads, ties lures, listens to music, tries to remember he is real and whole and here.

He takes up the mug instead of answering, to give himself more time to, to distract his eyes from the bare thighs and unbuttoned shirt that rests tempting before him, so close.

It would be so easy...

"Did you sleep?" He asks instead, still gentle, still low. And he cares, the concern in his voice genuine, eyes studying Hannibal not as a thing but as a boy Will had brought here, it seems, for no other reason than to be allowed a reprieve from his life.

Hannibal watches his coffee, to let himself be watched without the worry of reading into the other’s attention. His smile is small, just a twitch of a thing, but entirely genuine. “Yes,” he answers. “Better than I have in many months.”

He doesn’t touch the man again but instead presses his thumb against the rim of the mug, slow circles back and forth, and wonders if Will sees him in the same way he sees his dogs - a lost little thing that needs to be fed and cared for, asking nothing more than receptiveness to someone else doing so. The thought should be more discomforting than it is, but the fact remains that Hannibal is - for once - well-rested, unbruised, no pull in his muscles when he sits to remind him of his place, and entirely content.

“It’s an unusual way to use your time,” Hannibal notes, glancing sidelong just to let his eyes drift down the length of the older man’s body, stretched long. He forces the words, but they fall softly. “Thank you.”

Will nods, finds a smile coming to his lips despite himself. The coffee is good, to have it in company is better still. It is rare that Will ever does. He can hear some of the dogs yip outside, enjoying their morning. Fed, as he had seen, touched and gentled and not ignored.

"I'm glad you slept," he says, shifting a little, sitting up a bit more before drinking some more coffee. "I hope the weekend is enough to rest you for school."

"Why?"

Will blinks.

"Why do you spend your money on letting me sleep? On letting me study? What satisfaction do you get?"

Will watches, listens, thinks of what is behind the words, the actual question there, and sets his teeth against the rim of the mug before replying. "The satisfaction in knowing my money goes somewhere worthwhile."

"What gauges that?" Hannibal asks him. "My worth?"

"Do you need me antagonized, Hannibal?" Will asks gently. "Do you need me to be the man you try and push me to be? I won't become him."

Lips pursing, Hannibal presses his tongue against the back of his teeth, still tracing the edge of his mug as he considers the questions, the tone of them - the intentions of the man watching him who for all Hannibal has thought of him seems to be entirely, painfully earnest. He takes a slow sip, and when he answers, it is with a tone that Will hasn’t yet heard from him - uncertainty.

“I know how to respond to that man. I know when to act as if company is enjoyed or loathed. Touches welcome or unwanted. I know how to be many things to many people, but,” Hannibal pauses, eyes narrowing at the coffee. “You are not, wholly, like any of them. And so I’m unsure how to respond. I’m unsure how to act for you. And every attempt to sort you into one of those archetypes that I understand has failed.”

His frustration is evident, a curve tightening his shoulders, tensing his words. Not at Will, but at the situation that has made him feel, for the first time in years, like a failure.

“I would sleep with you,” Hannibal says, brows twitching inward. “You’ve been kind to me, and I would enjoy it, I think. But you don’t wish for that any more than you wish for me to be clever or coy or sullen or sultry.” He presses his tongue between his lips, and sighs, “I don’t know why you wish to see me, or what you think I can do for you since you want, seemingly, nothing that I’ve offered.”

Will swallows, a careful thing, sets his mug against his stomach. "You have offered me a lot I rarely ask for, I have appreciated it. I enjoy it, and you." Will draws his brows up, raises his eyes.

"But there are a great many things I do not voice, Hannibal," he says. “It does not mean I don’t want them." Will thinks of propriety, of the wrongness of how much he wants a seventeen-year-old boy, despite him being wiser beyond his years, having seen enough haunting things to age his eyes if not his soul. Perhaps because of it.

Will takes a breath, releases it, tries to think of a way for this to make sense to them both. "I do not have to wish for you to be clever, nor coy, nor sullen nor sultry - you already are, as your mood swings. But you’re looking for something as much within this means to an end as you are in your life without it."

Whatever willingness is there, for company, for sex, Will believes it genuine but not without weight, too soon still from the time Hannibal had thought him there to want just that. Mere hours since he had sunk to his knees to offer his mouth. Mere hours since he had held himself like a soldier at ease waiting for something to happen.

There is a damage there Will wants nothing more than to understand, to heal, to help. But just as strong as that desire, so, too, is the desire for the boy to decide this on his own. Without coercion and the need to prove something. And Will is patient. Will can wait. A pointed look, careful, deliberate, and he curls his lips between his teeth briefly. "Until your own pride stops blinding you, I can’t give it to you."

"Why?" Hannibal frowns. To his surprise, Will smiles.

"Because I want you to ask for it."

Despite the jab about his pride, Hannibal feels it unfurl tight across his chest. “You’re the one paying me.”

“I know.”

“So you’re the one who should tell me what you want,” Hannibal reiterates, jaw working.

“I have.”

“For me to ask.”

“Yes.”

“For what?” laughs Hannibal, just a curt breath of it, fingers clenching around the mug. “For sex?”

“Is that all you’re looking for?” Will asks. “It seems as though you have it in spades.”

“Not with you.”

Will’s smile widens, but he doesn’t say anything. And regardless of how open the invitation sits, now, between them, Hannibal still can’t bring himself to do as Will wants for long aching minutes, a chasm between what he wants and voicing it.

Between coercion and submission.

He stands, and isn’t sure why he does but finds that it does nothing to ruffle free the tightness in his muscles, curling up his spine and pulling under his skin. The boy’s cheeks burn with heat, dusky darkness spreading across the bridge of his nose as he lingers, unmoving, eyes unfocused towards his cooling coffee rather than the man who lays beside him.

“If I don’t know what you’re offering me, how can I ask for what I want?”

“If you don’t know what you’re asking for, you’re not ready to have it,” Will tells him simply, and this smile is somehow warmer, different to the others. One Hannibal, to his own infuriation, does not yet understand.

Will pushes himself to stand, draws hands through his hair and seeks for his glasses on the floor. There is a strange vulnerability in that, seeing Will adjust himself in such a way, return the face that sees the world back to itself, show just the bare crack of the quiet man beneath in the little gestures before he stops them.

“Did you bring your books?”

“Which?” Hannibal asks, watching Will pass him, turning his head but not his body to listen as he goes down the corridor towards the bathroom.

“Whichever you need to study from.”

“You are the only person I have met who gets off on the concept of my studying, not the concept of my being a student.”

“Hardly,” Will responds, then pauses as the water runs and he rinses his face, brushes his teeth. Hannibal listens but does not go to him, gives him that space, and enjoys, oddly, that vulnerability of Will’s as well.

“It may be a pretentious, coined term but sapiosexuality is something a lot of people find themselves attuned to.” Hannibal lifts an eyebrow, and Will ignores it, passing by him to gather something from the living room, from one of the bookcases, before returning to the large table.

For a while, Hannibal doesn’t move, and Will does not command him to do anything. He doesn’t, in fact, tell Hannibal often what to do, more often he will tell him what not to do, and it is in that, that Hannibal gains his reluctant satisfaction. That strange shiver up his body from the word no.

“May I study at the table?” He asks after a time, setting his feet against the soft cushion of the couch.

“You may.”

Hannibal feels his lips tilt up in a smile.

“May I study at the table?” He adjusts, amuses himself with the length of time it takes Will to consider before he replies, as neutral and calm as ever.

“No, I believe we’ve established your study routine here, it would be a pity to break it.”

There it is, that word that untwists the tension from inside the boy. A word with certainty and meaning, with weight and substance. Do not. Hannibal lifts a hand, pressing the backs of his fingers cool against his warmed cheek, and his smile narrows his eyes.

In truth, he has little interest in forcing study right now. Too tempted by the bed that’s still so near - too fascinated by the man next to whom Hannibal sets his mug, removes his notes and separates them neatly by class. But he has an interest in what Will has obliquely offered to him, in the sensations that sing electric across his skin when he has made demands.

But Hannibal’s smile curves devious, as he folds his sleeves up his arms, barely clothed as he presses his forearms to the desk again, and bends. There has been no demand yet.

And so he waits. Waits with bated breath and a quickened heart, with pupil-blacked eyes and tongue pressed just visible against his incisor. And when the word comes, it’s like a whipcrack, sharp enough to rip a shiver down Hannibal’s spine.

“Study.”

Chapter Text

Two nights in a row of unviolated sleep.

Two days of uninterrupted studying.

Four meals, one shower, countless cups of coffee, and a clean pair of boxers to change into with a fresh undershirt above it.

Hannibal feels as if he should be paying for this weekend, rather than Will. Toes tapping bare against the floor, arms folded beneath his chest where he leans over the desk, Hannibal glances towards the clock. Approaching dinner, minutes dripping in seemingly speeding increments closer to when Hannibal will have to leave to get back to the city.

He ducks his head again, and asks softly, “May I be done for today?”

Will, too, checks the clock from his armchair, book in his lap. “There’s still time left.”

“That’s not what I asked,” grins the boy, to only bare amusement from the older man.

“Have you finished reviewing everything you needed?”

“Yes.”

“And your anatomy notes, again?”

“Yes,” Hannibal smiles, leaning over his arms a little more, pleased with himself. Pleased that Will is pleased with him, too, when Will relents with a nod.

Stretching out the wonderful burn in his legs by raising onto his toes, palms flat against the desk, Hannibal lengthens himself with a deep groan, twists this way and that, lifts his arms above his head in a feline movement and then lets them slip to his sides again. He pads away from the desk, leaving his notes for now in some thin comfort from seeing them there - as if he will return to them tonight, tomorrow, the next day, here, rather than return to find a late pay notice under his door.

“May I put on a record?”

It’s a fun game, asking, and Hannibal rarely forgets to do so now - every occasion seems to call for the boy to ask permission, and in nearly all of them that are not intentionally facetious, Will agrees. This time, too, Will murmurs that he may, and Hannibal bends at the waist, elegantly lithe, to trace his fingers over the thin ridges of cardboard record covers. He takes out one that’s upbeat and jazzy, the record itself older than he himself, twice over, and sets it to the spindle. The needle snaps and pops into place, and for a moment Hannibal simply watches it turn, before he turns to Will in kind.

The click of his bare feet on the floor herald his return as the music plays, and Hannibal drags his fingertips along the top edge of the armchair where Will now sits. Downwards then, touching Will’s sleeve just enough to unsettle the fabric, before he taps against the cigarettes on the small table beside him.

“May I have a cigarette?”

“You don’t smoke.”

“I get carded when I try,” Hannibal muses, smile widening.

Will considers this, considers the young man beside him who is entirely too full of energy after spending most of his day bent over the desk studying. Hannibal had grown to accept the concept of asking quickly, by the end of the first day he simply asked, for everything, learning slowly things which he did not need permission for and those for which he should seek it.

Will reaches into his pocket for the lighter and passes it to Hannibal, eyes on how close their fingers come to brushing before he himself retracts them.

“You may.”

Having Hannibal in his space has been oddly soothing, the company of dogs is one thing but a person is quite another. They breathe differently, move differently, seek different things and can get most on their own. Hannibal had spent time working, had curled himself into the armchair Will now sits in to read when the evening had grown dark and the dogs had started to snore in sleepy comfort by the fire. He has spent, as much as Will can tell, time relaxing - allowing himself, for a change, to feel a weekend pass him, not pressure him.

“Outside,” Will comments, as Hannibal puts a filter to his lips, brings the lighter up.

“Will you come with me?”

“No.” A smile from them both, slight, the word now a game in itself, the length of it, the timbre, the roundness, enough to suggest its very own language both are learning to speak.

“Am I to dress?”

“Go as you are.”

Hannibal smiles. “I’ll get cold.”

Will’s eyelids flicker, the bottom ones drawing up as his lips bow, hiding a smile.

“Then you will,” he says, watching Hannibal a moment longer before returning his eyes to his book.

Hannibal’s smile - faint but there far more often in longer than he can recall - lingers as he turns to go, accompanied by several of the dogs when the screen door opens. It is, as predicted, cold. The sun sets beyond the trees and pulls long shadows over the field, no more sound here but the crackle of flame to tobacco, the susurrus of wind across the grass, the music playing now from inside. Hannibal holds the smoke against his tongue before breathing it deep to seep into his lungs, his blood, humming now as it quickens his pulse just a little.

He remembers how it tasted on Will’s lips when he tried to kiss him, and his pulse speeds even more.

Will has made good on everything he has offered and everything he has asked of Hannibal. Company and obedience to his rules in exchange for time and care. An insistence not on stripping Hannibal of whatever he can before his time expires as others do, but on giving Hannibal room to recover from running himself ragged at every turn.

Hannibal taps the ashes from the end of the cigarette before slipping the stiff filter between his lips again, curled damp and warm as he inhales.

There is still, for Hannibal’s own self-preservation perhaps, a precariousness between them. What makes Will hesitate is unclear to the boy, but he knows that he, himself, is still waiting for the other shoe to drop. It’s hard to imagine that this truly is all the man desires when there is so much more ripe for the taking, and the longer they spend together the more Hannibal wonders how questionable Will’s inclinations might be if this is, in fact, a long con.

For now, though, Hannibal won’t press. He likes it here. He likes Will, despite his eccentricities. Maybe because of them. He wonders how he could ask for another weekend like this without it seeming manipulative, and can’t imagine a way it wouldn’t.

The thought turns his last drag sour but he sighs it out with the smoke, careful to stub out the remains in the ashtray near by before returning inside with a stretch.

Will is just where Hannibal left him, flipping a page in his book as the song in play strikes a swifter tempo than the one before it. Hannibal wants him. To touch, to feel close, skin against skin in a way that makes more sense to Hannibal than the distance that Will maintains between them.

And with nothing in his book for another appointment together after this, there’s no time like the present to ask with his body, perhaps, instead of his words.

Slow steps carry him nearer to the chair, a turn in his hips out of time with his steps that proves enough to lift Will’s eyes above his frames.

It is distracting enough that Hannibal is so close, lithe and beautiful, now rested and fed and without the stress of needing to catch up on his work. But this, with him taking his time to take a step, careful as he does not need to be on the flat floor, no obstacles, and yet -

There is a rhythm beneath the main line of the music that Hannibal has honed in on, that his body shifts to, not in a dance so much as a sway, a shiver, a stretch. It is - he is - entirely intoxicating. Will swallows and forces his eyes down again. He wants to do this and he cannot do it. Not with the boy still so wired with the thoughts behind the concept, consent, perhaps, but the damage beneath that is something Will has yet to figure out how to fix.

He knows Hannibal has come closer because the small hairs at the back of his neck stand up at the proximity, because his breathing draws shallower when he smells the tobacco - his brand - on Hannibal’s breath. He lifts his eyes to tell him, to ask, to ask so Will has a way to say no, but he finds that the boy already is, with every curve and bend of his body before him, beneath scant clothes.

Will’s clothes.

He manages to swallow the groan coiling in his chest, and sits back, book closing on his finger to keep the page, set in his lap for now. He doesn’t ask Hannibal what he’s doing, he knows well enough, he asks himself. What is he doing indulging the boy like this? With money and whims? What is he doing not asking him for the names of his clients to report them? What is he doing not talking to Bedelia himself about his, asking why her, why this, why any of it? Why this talented, clever, coy boy is here, now, entirely - for all intents and purposes - his.

Perhaps all he wants is this? Will thinks.

But there was such a deep resentment behind every motion, when he’d knelt, when he’s bent and spread himself. In everything there was a disgust, a detachment. That is what Will cannot wipe from his mind, from his thoughts. That is what stops him from setting his hands against the slender hips of the boy before him and sucking marks onto his chest.

Hannibal’s fingers slip beneath the hem of his shirt and curl it, up over his own palm, a flash of bare wrist before that, too, is covered up. It is a slick motion, but unpracticed, and Will watches, helpless, as Hannibal folds the shirt up over himself, over his head and lets it slide from one arm and just holds it with the other.

“You are beautiful,” Will tells him softly, and he means it, brows furrowed as Hannibal tosses the shirt aside, swallowing quietly as Hannibal takes another step closer to him.

Hannibal’s eyes narrow and close as his smile curves higher, basking in the praise like a cat in the sun, lips parting on a curled sigh as he pushes both hands back through his hair, soft now that - for Will - he needn’t tame it back. He is near enough to touch, now, near enough that he can put a foot on either side of Will’s, legs spread over the older man’s knees. The movement takes him, snares his body in unexpected ways and Hannibal abandons his own restraint to let it. Hips tilting, the developing muscles of his stomach taut as he twists for Will’s pleasure, for his own, a toss of his head to clear the hair from his eyes and a grin as it drapes back in front of them.

The youthfulness in Hannibal now is not an affectation, but a genuine boyish delight. Freedom to move however he pleases with no demands or grasping hands upon him. Knowledge that Will’s breath hitches short for him, for Hannibal only. Power to make it to do so.

Hannibal rolls his waist and curls his fingers into the waistband of the boxers that already sit so low, teasing inches of skin free with every turn of his hips until he feels Will’s hand against his wrist, holding firm.

“Stop.”

He does, but savors the way the word stumbles free. Straddling Will’s legs, Hannibal bends, sinuous undulations still curving from shoulders to legs, and when Will releases his wrist he sets his hands against the arms of the chair. Arching low, his words are soft against Will’s ear.

“May I touch you?”

Will swallows hard. “No.”

Resisting the sound that wants to shake from him in pleasure at the admonition, Hannibal tilts his head, just enough that he can feel the brush of curls against his nose. “Hands above the waist?”

Will’s eyes close, music just a white noise in his ears now, nothing at all coherent or logical or anything at all but the young man in his lap, so close, so painfully close… Will sets his book aside, losing the page and uncaring, avoiding brushing his hands against the skin before him, warm and young and smooth, paler than his own.

“Hands above the waist,” he relents, taking only the air he needs to keep himself conscious, it doesn’t matter otherwise if he breathes or not, he barely can anyway. The touches are exploratory, soft, almost as though Hannibal has never touched someone else before and Will imagines, for one fleeting hopeful moment, that perhaps like this, he has not.

Fingers over the fabric of his shirt, almost delicate, almost little, shifting it enough to feel, enough for the touch to be entirely too intimate for what it actually is. Will holds his breath, head ducked to watch Hannibal’s hands, to see the way his stomach bends, to see how he is stirring to hardness in boxers Will had given him to wear. Will swallows, parts his lips as Hannibal turns his head to nose against his temple.

“Quid pro quo?” Hannibal whispers, and his hands slip higher up against Will’s chest now, pressing the warm fabric close to his skin, feeling the way his heart beats hot against Hannibal’s palm. It is intoxicating, it is dizzying, and Will wonders why, why he is holding back still, when he can have this, right now, take the boy up and toss him on the bed and peel the last of his clothes away. Flailing limbs and seeking mouths and pink-flushed knees and cheeks, dusky-warm thighs, spread legs, hard -

Will skims his fingers down Hannibal’s side, relishing the way he twitches at the tickling, moves to splay his hand against Hannibal’s skin as he had the first time he had him over his table, setting it against his hip, warming to the skin there, turning his fingers just enough to gather the hem of the boxers beneath them, to feel the silky skin of Hannibal’s thigh where it curves to his backside.

He wants.

Hannibal sighs against Will’s cheek, eyes barely open, another undulation curls his spine and he’s hard enough now that his cock tents into the thin boxers, brushes Will’s belly when he leans closer still. The boy’s hand drops to catch Will’s that is yet unmoving and press it to his bare thigh, a rough shove of palm against soft skin. He draws a little breath, voice catching in a scarcely-there moan when Hannibal sighs again.

Will’s fingers press beneath the legs of the boxers, wrapping inward to tease Hannibal’s inner thighs and tickle the fine hairs. The boy moves, forward, needing more - wanting, genuinely, more, an unfamiliar sensation when normally this is all done dutifully at most - and Hannibal sets a knee against the chair alongside Will’s legs. The other follows in kind.

And Hannibal sits astride his professor, pressing through the soft scruff across his cheeks to smooth Will’s wild curls back from his face. A gyration brings them together, rocking steady and insistent, and a sigh breaks against Will’s brow where Hannibal’s lips graze.

“I like it,” he admits, his voice pitching higher, younger with the intensity of his own unexpected desire. “I like it when you tell me no. When you make me ask.” He wets his lips with the tip of his tongue and grins, crooked, down at Will as he eases his glasses from his face. “Guidance,” he adds, and ruts down against the older man before he can protest.

Will leans back, eyes briefly closed and throat working as he slips his hands back up to surround Hannibal’s waist, holds him gently but firmly back from doing that again. Breaths, just breaths, in and out, over and over, until Will can open his eyes and regard the boy atop him, just his eyes, brown and warm and hooded in pleasure, not lower, no, not lower again.

“You enjoy it because you want it,” Will tells him quietly, throat clicking as he swallows, parts his lips to breathe and finds Hannibal suddenly much closer to him, his own soft and pink and just there… just there. “So you’ve learned to ask more, to ask right.”

Hannibal gently bites the corner of his lip, swallows. “May I kiss you?”

And Will doesn’t care. He does not care.

“Yes.”

It is electricity and airlessness, a vacuum where nothing matters but the feeling of Hannibal’s lips against his own, the taste of him, the weight and realness of him. Will makes a sound, gentle, and Hannibal returns it in kind, parting his lips wider, shuddering when their tongues slip together, taste teeth and life and need.

Will wants. To draw a hand through Hannibal’s hair and tug it hard, to bend him back and mark him, claim him in the most primal way and let him go home remembering. He wants to feel Hannibal shudder beneath his hands again, muscles pulled taut and trembling. He pulls back enough to breathe and finds Hannibal’s lips closing softly against his bottom one before he bites, a sharp teasing thing, and kisses him again.

Where Will wants, Hannibal needs. Not for bills and not for classes, not to be the perfect mirror of what another desires, he needs this for himself. To have sex for pleasure, rather than on demand. To feel human again, kissed and held and wanted - not only for what his body can provide but for who he is. To discover who he is again, really, though he isn’t sure he’s ever known. Will seems to know, to find parts of Hannibal that he didn’t know were there, and even now stirs something hot and young and wild in the boy that Hannibal had thought long smothered.

Had tried, himself, to smother.

It comes alive in the rock of his hips that Will has to hold in place, in the laugh sighed against the older man’s mouth when he does, in the limber arms that curl over Will’s shoulders so that Hannibal can tangle his fingers in his hair. He catches Will’s lips again beneath his own, sucking softly against his tongue before tracing it with his own. Teeth snare on lips snare on sighs and Hannibal thinks of the few other times in which he’s tried to kiss someone himself, first, and how often he was chastened for presuming something so revolting. He thinks of the times he has been kissed instead, brutal smothering things to make him squirm.

In the knit of his brows the thoughts are seen and in the hand that lifts his chin to firmly force their eyes to meet, the thoughts are dispersed.

“Will you -” Hannibal begins, swallowing hard and attempting again, his cheeks darkening. “May I have sex with you?”

Will’s eyes seek between Hannibal’s, curls in his eyes where he can’t be bothered pushing them away, lips parted to breathe, to try and breathe, and managing only a sound, a helpless, weak little thing before his eyes close tight, enough to see stars bloom slowly behind the lids, and Will shakes his head.

“No,” he sighs, and the agony of the word reads in the tight lines of his body as he shakes his head, for himself, now, to convince, to remind, before his hands slip up Hannibal’s body, to his shoulders, to his hair and he kisses him again, works pliancy into his body from the tension of rejection. “No,” he breathes again, nose alongside Hannibal’s as he holds him close. “Not until you’re eighteen, Hannibal, I can’t -”

It’s a moment, so clear in its intent and weight that Hannibal’s breath stops against Will’s lips. A rejection for morals, for care, not for lack of wanting, not for lack of needing and aching and pleading.

“But then,” Will adds softly, fingers curling in Hannibal’s hair. “Then, if you let me then, yes, God yes.”

Good enough to torment and tease and touch.

Good enough to display and spread bare.

Good enough to pay.

Always on another’s terms.

Always the pieces, and never the whole.

Hannibal twists his head just slightly when Will tries to bring him closer again, taking the kiss against his cheek as he feels his body grow heavy. The record hisses quiet and Hannibal watches it spin in silence, the music long stopped, until he feels Will’s hands lower from his hair.

So much for asking.

“Thank you for the weekend,” Hannibal intones, polite and soft-spoken. He lifts Will’s hands from where they came to rest light as feathers against his shoulders, and sets them back against his own chest, before slipping free of the chair. “Is there somewhere I should leave the clothes?”

Will watches him, curling his hands into fists, one up to quickly press to his lips and away again, the other just resting in his lap, still. He doesn’t speak for a moment, breathing still shallow, eyes unfocused, mind spinning so fast he might be sick.

Change your mind.

Bring him back.

Will’s lips press together and he closes his eyes.

No.

“On the bed is fine,” he says quietly, spreads his fingers to still his lips from saying more, holding the words forcibly in, choking him, stifling him, pulling at his lungs and chest and throat. He wants him. To feed and pay for and care about, to touch and kiss and call his own. He wants him, bent over, on his knees, on his back, neck arched and lips parted and he wants to taste every inch of him.

“You didn’t come to me for this,” Will says finally, listening to Hannibal shift around behind him, where he cannot see, where he doesn’t turn to look. “Not initially, not now. So why does this drive you away?”

Why do you want it so badly now?

Because you do not know what you want yet. Not enough to ask.

“Didn’t I?” Hannibal asks idly. “Come for this.” He smooths the boxers flat, standing bare again, and folds the shirt atop them.

“No.”

The word does nothing, and Hannibal hums past the mirthless smile that it earns. He takes up his clothes and begins to dress. “You called me. You asked me to come, for a night and the weekend,” Hannibal says, his back towards Will to hide the trembling of his fingers as he buttons up his shirt. “I’ve done so, and done as you asked while I was here.”

It is, perhaps, just that simple. Another job, strange, but ultimately no different than the rest. A performance in which Hannibal lost his grounding, promises made in poor judgment that could not be upheld.

A reminder.

Hannibal takes up his phone and finds that the battery has died, pocketing it and turning towards Will. “May I,” the words curl sharp, “use your phone?”

Will just nods, he doesn’t even answer, but it’s enough for Hannibal, who steps past him again for the cordless, takes it up and walks away again, to the porch, to call himself a taxi as Will watches.

He can see, in increments, in tiny flashes of something he can’t name, how this path will lead Hannibal to destruction. Of himself, of others. The abuse he subjects himself to, mentally, physically, emotionally, will snap him, bend his beautiful mind to ill, turn his thoughts to blood and fire. He does as he must and finds himself desperate, enough to sell his body, his soul, slowly and piece by piece until the agony of it is too much for him.

And it will be, it will take its toll and Will watches the boy, now, and sees him as that monster, too calm, too quiet to be seen at all. Unknown to those he walks amongst, but the most dangerous for it.

Will would give the world to be able to tell people what he sees and have them believe him.

His eyes are glazed when Hannibal returns, fingers in a steeple before his lips as he just breathes, thinks, lets this wash over him and through him, away, as before, as always. Because it’s not his life to control, it’s not his choice to make, and even as it eats him, he will not tell Hannibal to stay, he needs him to come back on his own.

The screen door slams and Will just blinks, just once.

“I’ll pay for the fare -”

“No need. I have enough.” Hannibal regards him, lofty, again, as he had been on their first meeting, eyes down and chin raised. A lordling. A beautiful boy. Will nods, does not otherwise move. Questions and curses his choices but does not retract them. Presses his fingers to his lips to keep them locked away.

It is comfortable behind the mask. It is safe. Hannibal settles into the lax expressions of passing interest and winsome distance with only minimal effort. And behind it, another little death cracks inside of him. Le petite mort. He has never experienced it in the sense of a sexual orgasm, but in this way, enough times to know it. Another sort of climax in the release that spills hot inside his chest.

Disappointment, for being unable to predict another’s behavior.

Abandonment, for carrying expectations of anything else.

“You agreed to stay through dinner,” Will reminds him in a murmur.

Hannibal’s smile remains unswayed, a convincing replica of graciousness. “I will adjust the bill accordingly. Forgive me. One is not always able to do as they claim.”

Will sits a moment longer before the lack of motion pulls at his bones and he stands, sets his hands at his sides and flexes his fingers, over and over, until he can feel them again. He does not go to Hannibal, he does not ask him to go to him. They stand as two strangers sharing a space, waiting for the taxi that will take long enough for them to possibly reconcile, for them possibly to call it off.

But neither move.

“You are more,” Will says at length, “than a hole to fuck, for money.”

Hannibal merely adjusts his smile again, indulgent, warm, wide enough that it should touch his eyes but they speak of something entirely different. He accepts the statement without comment and turns towards the door, willing his escape sooner, needing, as Will is, to move and shift and rage and do something.

“Perhaps I will wait at the end of the road,” Hannibal suggests, taking up his bag, weighed down with his notes and books. He goes for the door, slipping into his shoes, bending to tie them.

Will watches, as helpless as he had been when Hannibal had kissed him, pressed to him, offered him everything both wanted before Will had rejected it, forgotten it, forsaken it.

“May I see you again?” His voice is very quiet, the closest to pleading, perhaps, that Will has ever gotten.

“No.”

The word rings hollow, settles over Will’s heart like lead. And Hannibal does not wish him a good evening, does not refer to him by name again. He merely turns the handle on the door and steps out, closing it quietly behind him.

Will watches his back disappear down the endless driveway, watches the stoop of his shoulders, the inelegance of his steps once he is only within general view of the house, though Will can still see him. He watches Hannibal return to his life and forget the possibility of this one. Without a word, Will sweeps his hand across the counter, knocking from it the mugs of the morning, small plates, cutlery. A need to move, to strike, to destroy because nothing within him will shock his system quite as hard as that one word had.

He does not clean up the shards on the floor. He takes up his cigarettes and goes outside.

Chapter Text

It has been, by Hannibal’s calculation, forty-four minutes since the last time he spoke.

It has been over an hour since the last time he spoke more than two words.

He draws a breath and holds it, an answer perched on his lips before Franklyn speaks through that as well, and Hannibal releases his sigh slowly through his nose.

Forty-five minutes.

Leaning forward, Hannibal reaches for the wine - he was smart enough to overfill it this time - and his fingers only brush the glass before Franklyn sighs.

“Are you bored with me?”

Hannibal blinks, still snaring his wine before he sits back into the couch, a leg drawn up beside him so that he can face Franklyn entirely. He manages to manifest a smile, before taking a sip of the wine and sucking it lightly from his lips. “I enjoy our time together,” Hannibal assures him, but the other man’s brows lift above brown eyes ringed dark with worry.

“I’m concerned,” Franklyn begins, and Hannibal tilts his head to stretch the annoyance from where it gathers taut in his neck.

“About anything in particular?”

“About plenty of things not particular,” the man snorts, with a dire laugh. “But I’m worried about us.”

Franklyn Froideveaux, in a fit of neurotic panic, had called Hannibal no less than ten times over his weekend away. It was once a quality Hannibal appreciated about the man, that although it is due predominantly to his own anxiety, he has an ardor for Hannibal’s attention that is unparalleled. He is, to date, the only client with whom Hannibal has engaged who considers him as more than he is, and their relationship more than transactional.

Or deludes himself into believing so, anyway.

And when Hannibal is as thin on money as he is right now, he is more than happy to indulge. The weekend wasted had cost him. Rent is past due, now, his credit card stretched from paying the cab fares to and from Wolf Trap. Hannibal had not charged him. Not for the cabs, not for the extra time, not for any of the time at all.

He does not want Will Graham’s money.

Which means he needs Franklyn’s money.

“How can I ease your mind?” Hannibal asks gently, feeling the wine warm his chest and wondering if it is too soon yet to take another sip. Bigger, this time. Before him, the man laughs, a nervous and little thing before he directs his eyes to Hannibal and tilts his head until Hannibal is forced to do the same, his smile plastic and pressed into his lips like wax.

“We don't have any secrets, do we?” Franklyn asks, finds Hannibal’s response to be a slow blink, a gentle reassurance of what they should both know to be an obvious lie. “I just… I fear, sometimes, when we don’t see each other as often as we’d like. I fear that you don't think about me, that you think of someone else, that you think through all we do and find flaws.”

Like I do remains unspoken, and Hannibal does take another sip of wine, then, to at least wet his throat before he prepares for another forty-five minutes of forced silence. But, strangely, the man stops, waiting for Hannibal to contribute, to alleviate his worries, reassure him of their pure bond, or whatever he has convinced himself they have, together.

Hannibal had learned, quickly, that Franklyn bought him for what was commonly referred in the trade to as a ‘boyfriend experience’. Hannibal was the epitome of the man’s desires, clever and beautiful, young and available, and at his beck and call. Franklyn’s fantasies extended far into the reaches of delusion involving the two of them in a long established mutual relationship. It was easy enough to play along - Franklyn, at least, was entirely harmless.

“I’m sorry,” Hannibal starts, sets his hands both against the glass to let his fingers brush together, drawing Franklyn’s gaze there for a moment, as he gathers his thoughts as to how to continue. “The weekend was so difficult with study, assignments coming quickly, now, as we near the end of the semester. I was sleepless, working. I did not notice my phone running through its charge.”

Franklyn sighs as though Hannibal had just told him the meaning of life itself, smile wide and eyes down for a moment in his own gentle self-deprecation. He shrugs, nods, lifts his eyes to Hannibal again, sitting closer and setting a hand over the back of the couch so it reaches close enough for Hannibal to lean against if he wanted.

He doesn’t want.

“I worry. For you and your studies, your work on the side, interning is never easy." Yet denial seems to be. Hannibal carefully brings his wine to his lips again. “You are so dedicated to every aspect of your life, Hannibal, it is admirable. I only wish that we had more time, to spend together, to talk about what we have in common, what we're feeling.”

A laugh, then, slightly less nervous than before yet somehow just as unconvincing. “It makes me sad that I have to pay to see you, when what we have is so much more than a transaction.”

Hannibal gives in, a brief sigh, before he steadies his wine and tilts his head enough to rest against Franklyn’s hand, watching his eyes widen in delight, his smile draw soft against his lips. In truth, he is easy to appease. But the emotional labor needed is utterly exhausting.

One does what they must.

Hannibal leans to set his glass down again, and presses into the couch cushions to draw himself against Franklyn, tucked small and skinny beneath his arm. It sinks heavy over his shoulders, to squeeze him near, and when Hannibal tilts his head to rest it against Franklin’s shoulder, a kiss is pressed against his hair.

“You aren’t paying to see me,” Hannibal tells him, spreading a hand across Franklyn’s broad chest. He closes his eyes and tries not to think of soft flannel spread across hard, heated muscle, and tilts his head upward. “You’re simply helping me to be able to attend my classes. To pay my rent.” A pause, and Hannibal adds, “To stay in Baltimore.”

“But isn’t that just -”

A breakthrough, nearly, but Hannibal lifts a brow. “ - what people who care for someone else do for them.”

Franklyn takes the correction in stride, as happy to remain blinded as Hannibal is to gently blind. He presses warm lips to Hannibal’s brow and sighs. “I want you to be comfortable,” he insists. “I want us to keep being friends. But -”

“But?” Hannibal curls his fingers, snagging them on the fuzzy wool of the man’s sweater.

He hesitates, stuck somewhere in his own synapses between what he wants to say and what he feels comfortable saying. Hannibal counts the beats of Franklyn’s heart with his fingertips, tapping once, twice, three times - “But I don’t understand why we couldn’t just live together then. I know I’ve asked before, I know, but then we could see each other all the time, Hannibal! You wouldn’t have to worry about rent and we could wake up together every morning!”

This conversation has happened before. Most of these conversations have happened before. Once in a while the fantasy of it is not enough and Franklyn attempts to add logic to it, attempts to bring the deluded reality to fruition by sheer force of neediness. Usually Hannibal can quell this with a brief look, a shift in posture, soft lips and a little smile but today it’s harder to dredge them up. He does not think of Will Graham, with his similar demands yet entirely infuriating way of not speaking them. He does not think of the same offer of care and companionship. He does think, instead, of the way his hands had felt against his skin, large hands, warm, strong. He does think of how Will had said no to him, happy to do everything to him but allow Hannibal that want for release.

Like he was a child in that decision alone, when Will had been happy to take advantage of everything else.

He doesn’t think of how Will never, in fact, took advantage.

Hannibal laments setting his wine aside and instead tilts his head to look at Franklyn from against his shoulder.

“You know the demands of my study, Franklyn, my need to be so close to campus, the rules of my scholarship, that I must use it on the accommodation made available to the students that go to that college.” It’s partially true, his accommodation allowance is to be used only on accommodation, but it hardly covers where he lives, and he hardly lives where students are allocated.

“I would love nothing more,” Hannibal adds, voice lower, brows drawing just enough, “than to leave that apartment, but I can’t, not until study is done, not until I graduate.”

Franklyn sets both arms around his boy now, to hold him closer as though it will change anything at all. Hannibal wonders, truly, if he is so professional that all the lies are so easy to swallow, or if perhaps the man’s delusion is so strong that he himself can no longer see anything but what he has made up for himself.

“Then the weekends, when you have the time,” the man insists. “I want to see you then, spend time with you, be there when you need a break from your studies.” The implication is made clearer with where the man’s hands slip. “You know I would do anything for you. I could speak to the accommodation office, explain the situation…”

Hannibal hums, the sound soft but enough to stumble Franklyn in his words. “You don’t think that would help,” the man clarifies, and Hannibal turns a gentle look to him, indulgent.

“I think it would raise more questions than anything,” Hannibal murmurs. He eases into a languid stretch, legs and arms pressed straight before he coils small again and draws his feet up beside himself. A wide hand slips to rest, intentionally accidental, against his backside.

“The weekends then. Friday night, you can stay, we’ll have breakfast and maybe go to a show in the afternoon,” Franklyn decides.

For such a simple thing - playing paramour - it is more unstable ground than Hannibal would like. He can hardly explain to Franklyn that he’d have to charge him for that, though somewhere deep in his thoughts he certainly must know, but to clarify would be to break the illusion that the man pays handsomely for already.

And to agree would find Hannibal with less sleep and time to study than he already has.

He feels the cool wind of Wolf Trap against his cheeks, belly full of simple, hearty food and body limber from rest, mind alight with the time to work on the things Hannibal actually cares about. His lips taste like smoke, and he presses his tongue between them before pressing his nose in feigned fondness to Franklyn’s cheek. Soft lips meet warm skin, a scratchy beard, the affectation of affection that Franklyn drinks down like air to a drowning man.

“The museum, perhaps,” Hannibal relents, no more agreement than that but enough.

And then the words are back, flowing and endless and entirely useless, and Hannibal listens, obedient and pretty, smiling when he should, laughing when he must, hands up against his hair, tapping his lips. Body curled and compact, enough that any part of him can be touched as Franklyn wants, and he will, Hannibal knows, as the night grows later and Hannibal begins to shift, check his phone, check the time, pout that he must go home.

Again, his mind wanders to Wolf Trap, how hard he had had to work to get any touch at all, what a game it was to have Will allow him the chance to touch him, to kiss him and feel their bodies flush together. It had felt earned, it had felt good. Hannibal thinks, reluctantly, as Franklyn continues his endless tirade about one thing or another - he’s hardly listening - of Will’s voice, the way it had cracked telling Hannibal no, as though it had been the hardest thing on earth for him to do.

Not until you’re eighteen, Hannibal.

An amusing show of morality when the man was purchasing Hannibal for his own pleasure. A pleasure of company and seeing Hannibal well, fed, rested… an entirely wrong approach to buying an escort, yet Will had never bought him for anything else.

Then, if you let me then, yes, God yes.

Hannibal reaches for his phone, finds there to be no messages, no missed calls. Barely half his battery.

“You can’t go already,” Franklyn asks, tone as much pleading as it is whining.

“Not yet,” consoles Hannibal, just enough distance in his tone to keep the man wanting. A reminder that their time together is finite, to which Franklyn’s voice pitches a little higher.

“I hardly get to see you as it is.”

“It is a shame,” Hannibal agrees, letting his eyes close as damp lips press against his neck. “This time is yours, Franklyn. We may spend it however you wish. I am, after all, here for you.”

The man is lonely. He wants a friend, he wants a companion, he wants someone who will listen to him and consider his thoughts worthwhile and valid. He is in no way a bad person, and so Hannibal reminds himself that this is what his job entails - to learn in inches how to forget himself, and become whatever the situation requires him to be.

His thoughts are yet his own, however, and he slips his phone back into his pocket with a dire satisfaction that he was right to lose his expectations.

And so Hannibal adapts. Evolves. Becomes a familiar person for Franklyn, an affectionate boyfriend who cares a great deal about him, who prizes his views of everything from the symphony to cheese plates. He slips closer still, not the spread of legs across lap like he gave to Will, not bent in half on his belly over knees as he has for others. He sits almost dainty in Franklyn’s lap, attentive and tender even as the man’s demands shift from being heard, to being felt.

It is part of the human condition to feel wanted. And as Hannibal shifts to allow his shirt to be removed, he finds sanctuary in knowing that once he purges himself of that need, he will be something more than simply human.

---

Water cascades hard against the chipped and browned tile and Hannibal ducks his head to let it slick his hair over his face. White noise as he stands under the shower spray, and for a good long while he is not wont to move from there. Sex is hardly ever about emotional connection for him, though he can fake it well enough. But it is messy, and he does relish in the cleansing heat of the shower while the hot water is still on.

He thinks, direly, how it may not be next week, unless he does something. Finds someone else.

Bedelia and Frederick always call him, he does not ever call them. He will not beg for money from people who seek him out on a whim. He thinks of Will.

He doesn’t think of Will.

Hannibal turns the tap off quickly, so the cold water has no time to sluice against his skin before he closes off the spray. Another turn, just enough to make sure nothing leaks, that none of his money drips down the drain because of a bad faucet. A quick towel down and a loose shirt, boxers and the extra moment to hang his towel up again instead of tossing it to the floor and Hannibal returns to his bedroom.

No missed calls. No new messages.

There is, of course, always another option. An option whose calls Hannibal has left unreturned for several weeks. An option whose calls Hannibal had hoped - as he stood on the porch at Wolf Trap and imagined future weekends there - he would not have to return again.

An option who pays more than any other, and still leaves Hannibal feeling as if he paid for the encounter instead.

Hannibal pushes his tongue against the back of his teeth, lips pursing, and tosses his phone back to the bed. He will answer immediately when Hannibal calls. He will want to see him immediately. He will want his services provided immediately. And immediately, whatever the personal cost, is when Hannibal needs money, now that he has removed Will from his book. He never charged the man for the weekend, for the taxis, and Will never followed up to ask why. Smart enough to know Hannibal’s intentions in rejecting him, as he had been rejected first.

He doesn’t bother with a suit this time, finding instead a wine-red button-down to tuck into dark slacks. It hardly matters at all what he wears, but for his own sake and the sake of what few nice things he has afforded himself, Hannibal learned his lesson long ago that finer clothes and white shirts would be ill-matched for these meetings.

Taking up the phone again as he passes by to find a pair of socks, Hannibal regards the dark screen.

No missed calls. No new messages.

He is fully dressed by the time he takes his phone up again, nothing for it. He could study all night, go to class the next morning, but if he has no money by next week he will be evicted. And this is simple enough, perhaps the simplest of all his encounters if only for the fact that he does not speak, does not have to think of interesting conversation, does not have to think of witty replies, does not need to do anything but take what he’s given.

And he owes, in a way, he knows he does. An unending debt the man will not quickly wipe clean.

He fidgets with his phone and decides on a message. It will be answered quick enough.

Fingers work over the keys and he checks the number before sending it. Just a simple thing.

Do you need me?

There is only time enough for the screen to darken before it lights again.

Need is a strong word.

There is a difference in doing what one desires, and doing what one must. Desire comes from wanting, and wanting must be driven out. Hannibal does only what he must.

I’m available.

He steadies the thud of his heart, little flicks of his thumb against the screen to keep it alight, until he receives his answer.

Of course you are.

Chapter Text

Hannibal is already halfway to Wolf Trap when he texts. A single message that takes him longer to force his fingers to write than it should:

Yes.

And through the dull ache that throbs in his body, Hannibal laughs, just a breath but it feels wild and weak as his phone alights.

Come.

The drive itself is a blur, trees striping in echo to the lines of the road that vanish beneath the front of his car. No music, no sound at all but the numb hum of his own body and that of the car itself. He doesn’t know what time it is. Doesn’t care. Has classes tomorrow and if he misses them it doesn’t matter. The amount that Hannibal has paid to afford them makes his efforts to be more than this - a hole to fuck for money - seem suddenly futile.

That is all that he is.

Will is on the porch, cigarette illuminating the curves of his face as he holds it between his lips, and he stands as Hannibal approaches, bag held at his side, coat pulled tight around the disarrayed clothes beneath.

Will does not help him, he watches, stubs the cigarette out in the ashtray and pulls the door open for them both to come in, Will backwards, Hannibal as he is, a slight limp, dropping his bag as soon as he can, leaning back against the door that closes behind him, throat working in a thick swallow before he looks at Will.

Will says nothing for a moment, can see the shadow of a bruise against Hannibal’s face, beyond that, the agony in Hannibal’s eyes is almost physical. He wants to reach out. He doesn’t.

“Take your coat off,” he says softly.

Though Hannibal’s eyes flare at the words, it’s all the fight he has left in him. He sets his jaw to stave away the grimace that threatens to appear, eyes closing as carefully he twists free of his coat. Shoulders work slow until it sloughs off and he hangs it, back to Will to finally allow a bare flicker of pain to appear once hidden from sight.

There is no relationship here, Hannibal reminds himself, forcing himself to stand taller to give the cages inside his chest room to erect their walls. There is no romance - here or anywhere - and there is no friendship. At most, a concern held at distance, as a teacher has for a student. As a man has for a dog.

For less than.

“May I use your shower?” Hannibal asks, willing his voice not to crack when he forces it free.

Will swallows, takes in the shirt barely done up for the lack of buttons on it, takes in the way it’s wrinkled, like hands had torn and tugged it. He takes in the way Hannibal holds his arms folded over his middle, not pressed to it, just against it, to protect, to allow himself space for his ribs to expand on a breath.

He steps aside and gestures gently towards the corridor, knowing Hannibal will go.

“Use the towel,” he says quietly. “It’s clean.”

Whether Hannibal hears him or cares is beyond Will, but he follows him as far as the bed before sitting on the edge of it, watching as the door is quietly closed, listening to the shower start up.

Hannibal peels out of his shirt, lips slack and brows knit, avoiding the mirror by turning his back towards it. He lets it fall to the floor, his pants pooling beside it, and draws a breath to hold as he bends to work down his briefs, tug free his socks.

Water hits cold enough to pull a gasp from him as he steps into the shower. He lets it warm against his skin, until steam fills the little room and his skin is red with heat. Only then does he take survey of himself, pale body mottled as if shadows hold there unmoving. The one across his cheek has paid for groceries, for a week if he is careful. The lilac blooms along his ribs have put gas in his car. Thighs spreading with darkness will go to his scant savings for when business is slow and bills are high. And the blood, still fresh and bright against his fingers when Hannibal soaps between his legs, enough to pay for the roof over his head.

He turns his face to the water and pretends the soap makes him clean again, until the water runs cold once more.

“There are clothes in my bag,” Hannibal asks once the shower has gone quiet, his body held together by the soft towel around him. “Could you bring them to me?” He pushes his hair back from his face without looking into the mirror, and rests his head against the closed door.

He hears Will stand, hears the sound of footsteps against the cool wooden floor as he moves past the corridor, then how they grow louder as he returns to the bathroom. Two knocks against the door and Hannibal presses his cheek to the cool wood a moment before swallowing and stepping back to open the door, to take the bag without looking at Will.

Will does not stop him closing the door again. He waits, though, just outside it, shoulders against the wall and head ducked to look just over the rims of his glasses. He sees nothing but the canvas of pain against Hannibal’s very being, beyond skin and sinew, into his bones, into his soul. This is damage far beyond the physical, this is damage that takes years to tell oneself one deserves, work to earn it.

Will doesn’t jerk when the door opens, but he lifts his eyes to Hannibal, regards him, before pushing himself to stand in front of him, blocking the direct passage out.

“Let me see.”

Hannibal shies at the words, just a bare twist of his head, as though he’s been struck. He tries to step past, but Will is unmoving, and Hannibal makes his voice steady. “No.”

Clad in sleep pants and a thick sweater, Hannibal takes solace in the fact that only the bruise on his face is visible, but as Will watches him, it’s as though he’s bare. Will does not relent in his words any more than in his body, and Hannibal does not have the energy, nor the interest, in anything so physical as pushing past.

“That,” Hannibal breathes, “is not for you to concern yourself with. It is not your business.”

“It is entirely yours,” Will agrees, “and you brought it to my doorstep.”

It is soft, logical, Will just as reluctant to make this a physical struggle as Hannibal is, but he needs to, has to touch, to check, to see. To remind or make Hannibal understand that when he comes here, Will is here to shoulder whatever burdens he brings through the door, that he will, regardless of Hannibal wanting it or not.

“I need to see what I can treat.”

“You are not a doctor,” Hannibal responds, gripping his rumpled clothes harder against himself. “And I am not one of your dogs.”

Will sighs, a soft thing, and his jaw works as he nods. “You are not even my boy,” he says, brows up briefly, “but I would still see you well.”

Will considers stepping aside, but holds his ground, raises his eyes to Hannibal again, then his chin so he can watch him through the lenses, now, properly. “Never once have I asked of you something you did not want to give yourself, and never once have I broken that trust, when you gave it. I will not now.”

No.

It stings as fresh as any bruise, as soft as when Will sighed it aching against Hannibal’s lips. The boy’s eyes sharpen, muscles beneath them drawing tight, as if in bitter amusement. “Then you and I have very different memories of the last time we spoke. Ask, and you shall receive,” Hannibal murmurs, nearly a purr, mocking and low. “Unless you ask, and do not. Arbitrary in enforcing your own rules as God himself.”

The words spit hot but it’s enough that the energy shifts, and Hannibal slips by the older man. He drops his things unceremoniously to the floor, and stands to face Will as if squared for a fight. “If that is what you insist on having,” Hannibal adds with poisoned honey, indulgent and toxic, “then you will have it. I would be very poor at my job if that concept were foreign to me. But do not patronize me by pretending to care.”

Without waiting for response, without mind for the screaming pull in his muscles, Hannibal strips again, body still smudged but not with dirt. His sweater, warm and clean, is discarded to the floor. His pants, soft against his aching skin, abandoned.

There is no respite for the weary, and so he stands, as if on display, his eyes speaking truths that the hard line of his jaw denies.

Will takes the pain in, like a wave as he does at every crime scene, the cool fingers of the memory of it against the corners of his mind, peeling away him, allowing him to see. He can see. He can see the way this punishment is both without reason and how quickly Hannibal had assigned it reason.

The bruises will darken, but nothing is broken beneath, there would be harsher swelling, darker damage, but still, Will steps closer, sets his lips together in a gentle motion before parting them on a breath. He turns his hand, fingers gently bent, and brings the backs of them against Hannibal’s face, hushing him when he flinches as though struck, as he had been struck, just as Will holds his hand now, but no pain here, just the cool hands of someone else, wiping away one memory, replacing it with a new sensation.

Another step and Hannibal moves back, Will’s voice steady when he tells him to stay still, steps again to be where he intends, close enough that he can feel Hannibal’s breath against his neck. Will turns his hand, fingers splayed, and draws it through Hannibal’s wet hair, instead, curling his hand to draw soft over his temple, to feel Hannibal lean into it despite himself. He does not touch Hannibal’s scalp, raw from the abuse of pulled hair and endless tugging, he just works it back from Hannibal’s face, lets his eyes meet Hannibal’s before he carefully removes his glasses, folds them, and passes them to the young man in turn.

Hannibal’s brows knit, but he holds the glasses carefully. His expression does not ease when Will’s fingertips stroke down the side of his neck, avoiding grasping the back of it. Over a bare shoulder, spreading flat down Hannibal’s arm. He can see marks where none are visible, when Hannibal tenses as his wrist is touched, where he was pulled to his knees. He can see them in the tilt of Hannibal’s head away when Will moves near enough to sigh against his neck, held by brutal fingers as his mouth was ravaged.

His body is a desolation, still strangely beautiful but made terrible by the wounds it shows in skin and memory. Hannibal watches Will, from the corner of eyes so dark they’re nearly black, observes with all the hard-earned wariness of a beaten animal every gesture and every touch.

He feels the ones that Will does not place against him as acutely as the ones he does.

And breath by breath, touch by touch, Hannibal begins to unfurl, until a sigh against his ear tells him that he is beautiful, and he leans roughly into the man against him.

Will gently sets one hand in Hannibal’s hair, the other against his side, just to hold, not to press or relive any of the pain the boy had suffered for his home, his schooling, his life.

Himself.

The self-flagellation for doing this, because he has no other choice.

Will holds him until Hannibal turns into him more, a soft sound there, not pleading but close, for the closeness without the agony, without the demand of something from him. Will does not ask if Hannibal will stay the night, he knows he will. He does not ask if he will be charged for this, he will pay the boy regardless of whatever this is. He will find ways, careful, gentle ways, to have him understand that being like a dog is not being vermin, that being cared for is not a weakness.

Will turns his head, just enough, and breathes warm against Hannibal’s skin, not a kiss, not that, but a reminder, a guarantee.

“Will you sleep in bed?” Will asks him quietly, the words implying enough: will you sleep at all?

Turning his head, Hannibal draws his nose in a gentle nuzzle against Will’s shoulder, against his neck, burying his face there for the heat of it, the darkness, the feel of another’s pulse that moves so sure and steady. Will’s hand spreads across his back, just a touch without the suffocation of an embrace, and Hannibal lifts his own to curl his fingers in Will’s shirt.

Terribly small and with all the weakness that he tries daily to burn out of himself.

Hannibal hates it.

Hannibal needs it.

And though his shoulders draw up and pull tight in dread anticipation, Hannibal’s voice is steady as he asks, softly, “Will you lay with me?”

Will hums, a warm thing, closes his eyes and breathes Hannibal in. “Yes,” he tells him, not letting him go until Hannibal moves on his own, a bare shift and Will removes the supporting cage of his arms. He gathers Hannibal’s clothes when the other ignores them, and takes them to the bed for him to put on, Hannibal slips into the pants, allows Will to pull the sweater over his head, lean in to press his forehead to Hannibal’s before pulling back.

He does not leave Hannibal long, long enough to check the locks and secure the dogs where they are, turn off the lights until just the moon is lighting the bed where Hannibal sits, where he curls to lie on his side only when Will returns and joins him, facing him and close enough to touch, before reaching out to trace Hannibal’s cheekbone, skim his fingers down his arm.

“You’ve exhausted yourself again,” Will tells him, and a smile warms his face a moment before it goes away.

Hannibal watches, hooded eyes tracing the moonlit curves of Will’s face, tracking the movement of his hand each time it runs down his cheek, or smooths his hair back again. He watches and he waits, and when after long minutes Will does not try to move closer, Hannibal does instead.

Just the slight shifts that his body will allow, stretching his legs beneath the blankets, reaching to slide the blankets over his shoulder, bare movements that draw him close enough to Will that their bodies press unmoving together. Hannibal ducks his head and brings it up to rest beneath Will’s chin, and his eyes drift closed.

“I tell myself that there is an end to this. That it is impermanent, as all things. A temporary arrangement until I can become who I am meant to be.” Hannibal’s throat works a rough swallow and when his lips part again he can feel Will’s skin warm against them. He smiles, wry. “And then I recall that I’ve three years left in this program. More yet in medical school, and in residency. Years and years.”

The smile fades, and Hannibal shivers beneath the hand that runs cool along his spine. “I don’t mean to exhaust myself,” he murmurs, as if in apology. “Would that I didn’t have to.”

Will sets an arm over the blankets, over Hannibal’s shoulders and holds him that way, now that they’re so close together with barely breaths between them. He wonders if Hannibal will remember this in the morning, if he will remember this tenuous trust they’re building now, if he will let Will this near again.

He wants to tell him he doesn’t have to exhaust himself .

He wants Hannibal to believe that. But he can only do that on his own, in his own time, by his own choice.

Will draws his thumb softly against the back of Hannibal’s neck, over and over in soothing strokes. “Let me -” protect you, care for you, take you away, hold you “- let me help.”

Hannibal makes a soft sound, doesn’t shift back. “I don’t want it.”

“But you need it.”

A pause, a sigh, and Hannibal brings his hands between them to curl gently in Will’s shirt. He doesn’t want to admit it, he doesn’t want to say anything, just allow the touching, the holding for now. Convince himself that he won’t need this, either, once he has had his fill of it.

But he had come back. After telling Will to not seek him again, after leaving on his own. He had come back on his own, and he is warm now. Safe, he knows. The older man will not force himself on Hannibal, will not seek to mark his bruises with his own hands - he will give no more than what Hannibal asks, when Hannibal can find the words for it.

When he can admit what he wants.

That he wants at all.

It has happened before, offers like this, and Will can feel the memory of it prickling like sparks over Hannibal’s skin. A necessary wariness of gifts too good to be true, though Hannibal does not tell the man - yet - that he is not the first to want to save him. Men - or women - who see him as a hapless thing in need of rescuing, a Dickensian waif who cannot save himself from his own tragic story. Men - exclusively - who imagine that by doing so, what remains of Hannibal’s heart and body will be theirs for the keeping, for Hannibal’s own good, of course.

Something to rebuild and claim, unable to imagine that Hannibal is more equipped than he appears to live the life he has chosen. Though there are, of course, exceptions, and as Hannibal shifts to ease his weight off a bruise, curling his legs through Will’s instead, it’s a hard argument to make at this particular moment.

“How?” Hannibal asks, carefully. “And for what in return? Nothing is without cost, and energy can only change its form.”

Will considers, still unwilling to give Hannibal the answers he needs to find himself. "I will not take your life from you. I will not possess you as a thing. I will never ask more of you than what you can or are willing to give."

Still too easy, still too good, and Will curls his fingers in Hannibal’s hair, stretches his legs around the boy’s own before continuing. "I want to see you, on any timetable you will give me. I want you to be honest. I want you to ask -" he hushes Hannibal quietly before he can interrupt "- if something upsets, confuses or does not make sense to you, and I will explain. I want to pay for the time so you have the money you need for your home and your schooling."

A possession of its own but by obligation only, not enforcement.

Will does not ask for his heart, his independence, his exclusivity. He asks for time, he asks for patience and honesty. He asks as a teacher would a student, not as a lover would another.

"I want your company."

Hannibal frowns in thought, turning the words over in his head, as he turns his cheek against the pillow and nuzzles absently to seek Will's warmth. What he asks is genuine, though Hannibal is wary of its evolution into becoming akin to Franklyn, but he has no reason to mistrust what Will states with such certainty. He has done no harm to Hannibal. Has hardly touched him, in truth, until now and only then with brushes of fingers gentle enough to prick shivers over his skin. He has taken him in now, without demand or expectation, and provided what Hannibal did not know he needed.

"I don't understand," he murmurs, smile curving as Will answers gently.

"Ask."

"You are handsome and intelligent," Hannibal considers. "More charming than you give yourself credit for, talented and comfortable in your life. I cannot imagine there are not others who would seek," he hesitates, "more with you. A relationship."

He leans back enough to regard Will from so near, studying the lines of his face and the truth laid bare. There is more, though, truths not yet made clear, and Hannibal hears the word as if it came from inside himself.

Ask.

"Why? What do you gain from this when better company is so easily found?"

"It is far from easily found, and I am far from an easy person to seek a relationship with. Some try, few try again," Will tells him honestly, smiles when Hannibal himself smiles at Will's admission, choice of words. "I have friends, I have people to engage with and share with. But I find you interesting, I find you worth my time, hope to be worth yours."

A shrug then, a simple thing, and Will brings a hand to his eyes to rub them, tired but contented, warm and close beneath the covers together.

"I gain good company. I gain the chance to provide, in any way I am allowed, and see someone benefit from that. I gain time with you, for personal enjoyment of it."

"Why do you not enjoy all of it?"

Will smiles, a laugh pushed from him, breathless, before he licks his lips, allowing the question. "Because I have not earned that yet,” he says, eyes meeting Hannibal's, narrowed in amusement. "And nor have you."

There is a challenge, and Hannibal has - to his occasional detriment - always sought to excel in any obstacles he senses before him. Making his way to the states, coercing admission despite his age, challenging courses balanced haphazardly - but balanced - against a difficult occupation. He waits, but no explanation is forthcoming, and pressing his tongue against the back of his teeth, Hannibal relents.

“And how does one earn it?” Elegant fingers trace the front of Will’s shirt where Hannibal’s arms are curled between them, gestures deliberate and absent all at once. “How might I earn what you profess to offer?”

Will brings a hand up to Hannibal's shoulder again, just touching against the softness of his sweater. "It is less a manner of how and more of when," Will explains, brows briefly furrowing before he swallows, smiles. “When you ask for yourself and not for something you feel you must voice. When it is not an obligation but a genuine desire, then I will consider."

"Consider?"

"If the choice comes before you are eighteen, I will consider," Will replies, brows up in reminder, in amusement. “After, I will give."

“Do you always speak in riddles?”

“Mostly.” Hannibal grins, tucking his head to rest his brow against Will’s mouth as the older man adds, “Keeps people on their toes.”

“It makes you difficult to please.”

Will slips his fingers through Hannibal’s hair, letting the strands fall soft between them. “It’s like I tell all of my students,” he says. “I am very easy to satisfy, so long as you do what’s asked of you.”

With a hum, letting the words rest between them - there is little enough space for anything else - Hannibal lets his eyes slip closed. Within only a few deep sighs, he sleeps, and the last thing he recalls is the brush of lips across his brow.

When Will stirs the next morning, it is to slide his arms free of Hannibal. He listens to the click of bare feet quick across the cold floor, the rush of the toilet and sink from the bathroom. Scrubbing as Hannibal brushes his teeth. Slower steps return across the room, with a stiff noise of pain as the boy stretches before he’s joined by a scuffle of paws and tapping claws, and whispers admonitions to the dogs to keep quiet as their master is yet sleeping.

Will drifts, somewhere between sleep and waking, curling into the warmth that Hannibal left behind in the sheets. Hannibal feeds the dogs. He prepares the coffee. Will hears him lift the cigarettes but set them back, and instead return to the kitchen. The house fills with a warmth that only a home-cooked meal can provide, as Hannibal prepares a serviceable French toast on thick slices of bread, dusted with sugar, and a quick - chilly - denouement outside yields a handful of fresh blackberries from the briar beside the house.

When he hears the table being set, he finally rises, resting a shoulder against the doorway and finding a cup of coffee extended towards him.

“I didn’t know I had berries,” Will murmurs around the mug.

“You didn’t,” remarks Hannibal, eyes narrowing in pleasure. He checks the table once over, and waits until Will moves closer to slip into his seat before Hannibal joins him. “I have considered your offer.”

Will’s brows lift, and he sucks the coffee from his lips. “And?”

“If I wish to stop,” Hannibal asks, hands resting on the table’s edge, “at any time, for any reason -”

“Then we will stop,” answers Will. “You just have to -”

“Ask,” Hannibal responds, pleasure spilling hot in his chest as Will nods.

He has been kind.

He has been honest.

He has expressed nothing that leads Hannibal to doubt his intentions.

And so Hannibal smiles, takes his napkin into his lap, and asks, “How do we begin?”

Chapter Text

It’s the little impatient things, the quiet that gets to him, sometimes, that cause Hannibal to tense with the need to do something. He could ask. He knows he could ask, asking he is very good at now, and in truth, asking gets him what he wants, more often than not. At least, an explanation if not the thing itself.

But he’s watching Will, now, reclining in bed with glasses partway down his nose, one knee drawn up to balance a book on, a report on top of that, another at his side that he refers to in his marking. Surely he’s not contented to just sit that way, apparently engrossed in his work, apparently entirely unaware of how Hannibal watches him from the table.

Unaware and fully aware. Hannibal frowns, shifts his feet against the floor gently before clearing his throat.

“May I stand?”

“If you wish.”

Still no raising of his eyes, no acknowledgement of the boy at all beyond how Will clicks his tongue and crosses something off, annotating the mistake in the margin of the paper. Bare feet against the bedcover, soft, worn jeans on top, another plaid shirt and hair he hasn’t brushed since they had woken together.

Will sets his tongue against his top lip in thought and directs his eyes down again, careful in what he counts as the correct answer on a paper. He must be ruthless, Hannibal thinks, not for the first time, in his teaching. In the end, this, too, finds itself to be an error, and Will crosses it off deliberately and moves to the next point.

“Do you need anything?”

Will doesn’t look towards him, used to the way Hannibal stretches now after bending over the desk in study. “Such as?”

“Anything,” Hannibal offers, a fleeting smile there and gone again. “Coffee. Something to eat. A shower -”

“Why would I need a shower?” Hannibal’s smile twists instead into a soft frown, and he huffs a little sigh. “Are you done studying?”

“For now,” Hannibal shrugs, but the half-truth draws Will’s scrutiny over the tops of his glasses. “One retains information better when they take small breaks,” adds the boy, long sleep pants dragging across the floor as he winds his way closer. “Is there anything with which I can help?”

“Nothing comes explicitly to mind.”

“And inexplicitly?”

Will gives Hannibal a slow look, finds the other pressing his lips together in amusement and frustration both. He knows what Hannibal wants, seeks regardless of Will’s apparent inattention to his needs for sexual gratification. He pays very careful attention, has heard Hannibal groan softly in the shower, his hand against himself and things Will has only allowed himself to imagine in his mind as he stroked. He has seen the boy wake hard and regard Will with plaintive neediness before accepting that without asking he would get nothing.

And he is yet too proud to ask properly.

And Will can wait until he does.

“Can I help with your marking?” Hannibal ventures again, stepping closer. “Or allow you a small break from it to -”

“- retain more information on the current project?” Will finishes for him, lips quirking, not needing to look up to see that Hannibal’s cheeks are flushed from being called on his own game. Will relents, with a sigh, enough to remove his glasses and rub his eyes with the heel of his hand.

“Perhaps,” he allows, setting his work away and stretching his legs straight against the bed. He turns to regard the boy with a slight tilt of his head, watching him fidget. “Undress.”

The word ripples up Hannibal’s spine and pushes it straight, but for the coy cant of his head towards one side. Frustration sits as a weight in his belly but Hannibal welcomes it, the knowledge that no matter how he is bared or bent, the older man will not allow him a base satisfaction. It is in the denial of it, now, that Hannibal takes quiet pleasure, and relieves himself by reliving it in private.

“Entirely?” Hannibal asks, fingers easing open the buttons of his shirt to reveal flushed skin and old bruises, the first promise of hair curling fluffy and pale.

“Entirely.”

The boy’s smile widens, not bothering to hide his satisfaction in being given something to do, and in not knowing what it will be beyond this first instruction. His shirt slips from his shoulders, and he folds it to set aside on the desk, before twisting his thumbs into the waistband of his briefs and pants and bending intentionally low to remove them.

His eyes raise first, watching Will watching him, his chin lifts next, and slowly his body uncoils to stand again, underwear set aside, and with a dusky-cheeked amusement, Hannibal folds his hands behind his back.

Will allows himself to take him in, a slow caress of his gaze from Hannibal’s toes to his cheeks, lingering just beneath his eyes before meeting them, tongue parting his lips to draw the bottom one partially into his mouth before he releases it.

“Come here to me.”

He doesn’t beckon, doesn’t reach, but Hannibal feels as though he’s being pulled to walk slowly close enough, for Will to tilt his chin to regard him, there, bared and willing and all by choice. Will soothes one hand down his thigh, to his knee and back up again before directing his eyes to his lap.

“On the bed,” he says, “all fours.”

Will leans back enough to watch, the way color floods Hannibal’s cheeks the way his eyes darken at the words and their potential implications. He merely raises an eyebrow when Hannibal doesn’t immediately move, and waits.

Ruffling, Hannibal draws a breath as if to speak, but whatever question or objection was behind it dies on his lips, and his throat works to swallow as he closes them. He lingers for only a moment more at the foot of the bed, before pressing his palms against the mattress, twisting to drag one knee up behind him, the other in kind. The boy’s hips shift swaying from side to side as he slinks closer, careful to avoid the papers that are spread there, closer, until he is nearly brow to brow with Will.

“Like so?” Hannibal sighs, and the question winds through his body, sinuous as rippling water, little movements to stretch his fingers, open his hips, arch and bow his back.

Will hums, pleased enough with this but still not moving further than to lift his face a little, feel Hannibal’s breath against his lips. “Across my lap,” he says instead, finding a coiling pleasure in seeing Hannibal falter for a moment at the command. Will draws up his knee, just enough to brush against Hannibal’s balls, over his cock, to feel him shudder pleasantly at the feeling.

“Move.”

Hannibal’s arousal tightens all the way up to his throat, and when he manages to exhale again it is tinged with a moan, spreading hot across his sigh. With careful movements, to disrupt the professor’s work as little as possible, and rather akin to a cat picking its way over uncertain terrain, Hannibal leans across Will’s lap. Hands on one side of the older man’s thighs, gathered tightly into the blankets, and knees on the other, Hannibal begins to ease himself down to lay. His cock no sooner brushes Will’s pants than Will clears his throat, and Hannibal freezes.

“I didn’t tell you to lay down.”

The boy fights back every urge to grind harder against the professor’s thigh, but can only smother his moan down to a frail little whimper.

“I said all fours,” Will says, his tone calm as a frozen lake and just as yielding. “Move.”

Hannibal does. Up to all fours again and settling, his sides heave with breathlessness that he tries to control but for now cannot. Smooth skin stretched taut over young muscle and ridges of bone, presenting himself obediently, and with his lips pressed thin in anticipation. His ears hum so loud that Hannibal can hardly hear at all.

Will shows no outward signs of pleasure, but his heart beats against his throat, his lungs feel wrung dry, emptied. Hannibal is beautiful in his obedience, and he is, entirely, obedient to him here. Quiet, gentle in his motions, careful to please - always careful to please. He wants nothing more than to touch him, reward the boy with a rough stroking and whispered words but he doesn’t.

He sits up a little, careful not to touch Hannibal at all, before ducking his head to softly nuzzle behind Hannibal’s ear.

“Good boy,” he whispers, parting his lips enough to take Hannibal’s earlobe between his teeth for a gentle tug. Then he lets him go, sits back, and reaches for his work again, catching Hannibal’s confused look with a smile.

“You wished to help me with my marking,” Will reminds him, carefully setting one book against Hannibal’s legs, its spine just behind the curve of his ankles, one side open against his thighs, just beneath his ass. The other he sets to Hannibal’s back, lighter, the paper tickling beside. “Stay still.”

Hannibal can hardly restrain the chill that the words send spiraling through him, but he does, admirably, a hard swallow and a twitch between his legs the only sign of the effect Will’s gentle commands have on him. Had he been told that he would be used as furniture, it would have drawn a derisive laugh - more if he had been told how much he would thrill at the sensation of it.

Only the scarcest shifting of his muscles as Hannibal settles, finds a posture that is comfortable to maintain - for how long, he doesn’t know - but the boy is nearly undone the first time he feels Will mark a correction against the paper on his back, and a breath of laughter escapes him and burns his cheeks bright. He imagines how Will’s students will never know that this is how their papers were graded, against the back of a willing boy who serves now as a desk for their professor. It is a perverse delight, and brings a grin that Hannibal strives to hide but cannot.

Every brush of fingers against his skin - to lift a paper from his back, to turn the pages in the book against his legs - pulls a tight twist of pleasure in Hannibal’s belly. He wants to rock his hips, even just against air, to ease the need coiling hot inside of him. He wants Will’s hands against him entirely, down his arms and up his legs, over his stomach and across his back. He wants, but he does not ask.

Not when doing as he was told is just as satisfying.

A buzz from the desk snaps his attention, though - his phone, back where he spent the morning studying, vibrating against the table. Hannibal fights the reaction to look towards it, to stand and fetch it, and his limbs tremble from his own resistance.

“May I -”

“Who would it be?” Will asks, voice lilting curiosity.

“I don’t know.” A client, almost certainly, but Hannibal presses his lips thin to stop from saying so.

“Someone important?”

Another mark is made, the tip of the pen tracing a long line over the paper, over his skin, and Hannibal shudders pleasantly. “It is unlikely,” Hannibal murmurs. Unlikely that any name he could imagine on that flashing screen would be worth his time away from this. Unlikely that anyone he knows at all could merit his attention so entirely.

“If you want to go, then go.”

The boy sighs, fingers splaying and curling, and eases once more.

Good boy.

The phone hums for several moments more and goes silent, and Will adjusts his position as he sets aside one more marked report and takes up another from the small pile on his bedside table. He watches carefully for any sign of genuine discomfort from the boy who holds his position so obediently, but Hannibal seems comfortable enough on the soft bed, knees supported, hands allowed to grasp and shift as he needs.

Another report and Will reaches to turn a page in his book, allowing his fingers to slip up against Hannibal’s thighs on the way back, to cup the curve of his ass and squeeze gently before letting go, returning to his work.

He wants to touch more, to make Hannibal earn every single stroke against his skin, every brush of lips that Will wants to press to it. But he doesn’t, just enjoys the shivers as Hannibal resists moving, enjoys how, without touching him much at all, Hannibal is growing hard from this alone, from the sheer action of obedience

“This is written well,” Hannibal says suddenly, and Will blinks himself back to the now, turns his head to regard Hannibal, who is calmly reading the report Will had just set down. “You’ve remarked the writing is stale, but it reads as a report should.”

“Like a textbook.”

“It is factual and well laid out,” Hannibal counters. “It is much better written than some of the things you’ve set down before it, and those you have graded better.”

Will hums, amused, and takes off his glasses as he leans back to see Hannibal better. “No one enjoys reading a textbook,” he says. “No one enjoys writing one.”

“You’ve written several.”

Will’s smile is genuine, wide, delighted that Hannibal had bothered to look, to check, to even know that he had. He inclines his head and sets the pen between his teeth for a moment before removing it, returning his glasses to his face.

“I’m a masochist, as clearly illustrated by this exercise.” He gives Hannibal another brief look, a soft tilt of his smile before he returns to the report at hand.

The word plucks clear as a harpstring in Hannibal and his smiles widens a little. He shifts his shoulders and straightens his spine, careful when he tucks one ankle over the other not to unsettle the book on his calves. Preening, for a moment, in the boyish pride he takes in quietly driving Will to distraction with no more than his presence.

His willingness.

His obedience.

And all given gladly.

Hannibal waits until Will has finished the paper and slid it from his back - fingernails grazing the ridges of his spine and teasing a slight turn of hips from the boy - before he speaks. “Is that part of this, then?” Will rests a hand on the inside of Hannibal’s knee and it’s enough to tickle Hannibal into a squirm, that he fights as hard as he can, muscles flickering movement beneath his skin.

“Masochism?”

“For you,” Hannibal amends. “To subject yourself to your own suffering through force of will, even knowing that you are capable of using it to force me, instead.”

Will considers the question, draws knuckles tickling up and down Hannibal’s leg. He is not, in truth, prone to masochism often, he is not one to delight in the pleasure of delay to that level, but here he finds it both a useful tool for himself and Hannibal both.

“I suppose it is for you and I both, to see this happen. A proof to you, a justification for myself,” he replies, drawing a hand through Hannibal’s hair and very gently grasping it to tug before letting it go, getting another paper instead. “I will not use force on you -”

“Unless I ask.”

“Unless you ask,” Will agrees, amusement crinkling his eyes as he sets his work to Hannibal’s back again. “And my own reasons for wanting your company will not come across as merely sexual.”

Hannibal, a student here just as much as in his classes, is quiet for a while as he contemplates the width and breadth of Will’s words. It is still, dogs at play and the wind through the screen door, Hannibal’s breath matched in time to Will’s own, the scratch of pen across paper and paper against skin. He waits, every time, for Will to finish before he makes minute adjustments, stable and motionless when the professor is working.

It should be time for Hannibal to think of many things, with nothing more required of him than this, but he finds that his own thoughts are hard to track. A meditation, rather than study, clearing his thoughts gentle as a breeze before he can snare them too tightly. His mind is, for the first time in a very long time, entirely at ease.

And all he has to do is stay still.

When Will touches him again, it is with a palm against his belly, not to adjust his back - though Hannibal does straighten it anyway - but simply to rub, fingertips teasing through the tufts of hair there. There is a rhythm to this - when Will is working, Hannibal is still and silent, and when he is not, signaled by a touch, Hannibal may adjust or speak again.

A language beyond words, though Hannibal not ready yet to relinquish those entirely.

“May I ask another question?”

“You may.”

“Do you enjoy telling,” Hannibal asks, “as much as I enjoy being told?”

Will watches Hannibal a long while before he looks away first, takes his hands away from tempting skin again to settle in to work on another paper, just two left after it before he can let Hannibal go to do whatever he wishes, again. Having helped. Having been useful, and Will profoundly grateful for it.

“Very much,” Will admits, turning to a new chapter in the book to follow up on a quote cited, impressed that it was used properly in context. “Perhaps that is what makes one situation work over another. When the things asked can be acquiesced to, when both the one telling and the one told get a satisfaction from their respective roles.”

Will adjusts his glasses carefully, for a moment returns to silence as he traces a comment over the margin, over Hannibal’s skin until the young man shivers from it. Will licks his lips at the motion, the tiny thing that he can feel more than he can see, and lets out a slow breath.

“I enjoy telling when I know that what I say will bring relief of some sort, to the mind or body or both.”

Tilting his head, Hannibal watches Will over his shoulder, and a soft smile suggests itself. “It does.”

There is a strange peace to the idea that give and take can exist in equality rather than overburdened towards one or the other. It makes far more sense now why the man struggles in finding companionship, and why other people would prove unsatisfied or unsatisfying or both, to one who finds his fulfillment in such a particular way. Hannibal’s cheeks warm again, full of a curious pride that makes his arms hold strong and his back keep steady.

A fulfillment that is not taken by force, but asked, and given willingly.

A fulfillment that Hannibal alone has been chosen to provide.

He remains as unmoving as his limbs allow as Will finishes his work, and when the man closes his book on Hannibal’s legs and removes it, he speaks before Hannibal can ask.

“You may stretch.”

Oh, and he does. With a deep groan as if he’d just slept for days, body sparking along stiff muscles now eased as Hannibal bows low over Will’s legs, arms spread long in front of him like a cat, and legs splayed across the sheets.

Will watches, takes his glasses off to set away with the other books as Hannibal takes his time allowing his muscles to twist back to how they were, to comfortably stretch and bend and hum with sensation. He watches Hannibal flex his fingers, splay his toes, roll his ankles one way and another and all that time so close, just there before him.

Will waits for him to return to the initial position, strokes fingers down Hannibal’s neck, from the tip of his chin to his collarbones, to watch him arch his neck that way as well, before curling his fingers beneath Hannibal’s chin and turning him to they can see each other properly.

It is an awkward angle but Will leans in anyway, lips just barely brushing Hannibal’s before pressing against his bottom lip in a lingering, soft little thing. “Thank you,” he murmurs, eyes barely open, down beneath the lids to watch Hannibal’s lips again before he leans in to kiss him properly.

With a shudder and a sigh, Hannibal lets his kisses be caught, responds rather than leads, parts his lips for Will’s tongue and turns their mouths together with a single, sweet sound. Though the memory of their last kiss presses against Hannibal as fingers do against a bruise, it is one that is healing, and only distantly felt. His mind is still clear, only a blissful white noise free of worry for the moment, free of the stress that waits outside these doors.

There is only now. Only here.

Only him.

He turns slowly, half-hard still and deeply sore from the day spent holding various strenuous postures, and does not let Will’s lips escape his own for more than a breath as Hannibal slides to sit in Will’s lap, legs curled alongside. He feels small, wonderfully so, when Will’s arms slip around his bare shoulders, and with his arms tucked between them Hannibal extends his fingers against the scruff of Will’s cheeks to keep him near.

It’s slow, deep enough to strike Will’s heart to beat quicker, after a day of resisting today, others before, when he allows this for himself, for them both, as a relief, a release. Will sighs, a long and heavy thing that spreads warm against Hannibal’s face before he brings a hand up to cup his cheek, press their foreheads together in a gentle nuzzle.

He can feel Hannibal’s heart hammer, so close to his own, in the pulse beneath his fingers when he shifts them just so, he can feel the trembling that is from tension and need both. He wants to be someone who knows what this boy needs, how often to give it, when to restrain from it to allow a lesson to be learned or because he needs something else. He wants to be that and can be, now, with the unspoken permission between them. Will smiles, hums softly and draws a knee up to let himself rest further back in bed, lying down, Hannibal up against him.

“You were very good,” he sighs, reassurances, promises against Hannibal’s mouth before he kisses him again, fingers sliding to Hannibal’s hair, cupping the back of his head to hold him close as his other wraps warmly, loosely around one of Hannibal’s wrists.

Though Hannibal allows his heart to flutter fast, the words steal his breath for an instant, a blow struck tenderly that forces him to draw away just enough for their eyes to meet. He has been called many things, in degradation and in praise, but never that - never like this. It is expected that he would be good at what he does, and no mind is given to how much it takes from him to do so.

He can’t swallow back the hum that catches between their mouths as he lays heavy against his professor.

Though his pride does not allow him to make manifest the words, he wants nothing more than for Will to praise him again. Nothing more than to hear that Will takes just as much pride in Hannibal’s actions - whether as student or as furniture - as Hannibal himself. Nothing more than to be very good, for someone who deserves it.

Who has earned it.

So instead, swallowing down air as their lips draw apart, Hannibal nuzzles adoring against Will’s cheek and sighs. “Thank you for allowing me to be.”

Will delights in the closeness, the softness of them both this way. Slow lessons, slow understandings; a situation like this may play out in anger another time, or not at all, if Hannibal does not obey, does not ask, does not do. It doesn’t matter. Then he will adjust his instructions and teach something else.

For now, he enjoys the soft breaths against him, the almost childish pressing against him that is entirely non-sexual, just seeking a comfort from holding a position for a long time, from doing it because he was told.

“Would you like to rest before dinner?” Will asks, drawing hands down Hannibal’s back, nails soft in dragging back up. “Will you stay for dinner?”

He nearly purrs at the scrape over sore muscles, one hand against Will’s cheek, and mouth tracing across the man’s jaw to his neck, where he tucks his nose against him. “For dinner,” Hannibal agrees, and lifts his legs one at a time to stretch long between Will’s own and lay curled against his chest. “I have class tomorrow, so after -”

“You will return home,” Will murmurs, kissing his student’s sleek blonde strands. “You will resist the urge to study, as you’ve assured me you have done all that you need. And you will sleep.”

“Yes,” sighs Hannibal. “Will you lay with me now? Until dinner.”

Will just hums, a low pleased noise, and shifts further still until just his head is against the pillow, Hannibal curled up against him, lips to his neck, hands comfortable on his chest. Will reaches to gather the blanket untouched from the other side of the bed and flip it to cover them, enough to be comfortable, to remain warm as they start to doze.

“Whenever you ask,” he tells him quietly, wrapping his free arm around Hannibal’s lower back to hold him close.

Chapter Text

The bar is, as promised, not as boisterous as most.

Most offices in the District closed hours before, any happy hours long since ended. Their work isn’t so steady, though, consistently inconsistent, and Will settles when he sees that only his co-workers at the Bureau have populated the little dive. He eases as he takes in dim interior, low lights reflecting off worn wood, a combative game of darts between Zeller and Price underway in the back, and their collective coats and bags deposited in a heap in one of the few booths.

“I figured you’d take off again,” Beverly chimes, sliding in behind Will. “You’re so quick to bail on us when we go out.”

"Must have taken a wrong turn," Will grins, ducking from the playful jab that comes his way. He stretches his arms over his head and sighs, taking off his glasses to rub his eyes. "Long day warranted a change in schedule."

"You live life by a schedule you'll never live it."

"Thanks, Plato."

Bev grins, arches back to see if anyone else is around worth tolerating or if she's good where she sits, and turns dark eyes to Will again.

"You don’t look as dead as you normally do."

"How are you still single with comments like that?"

“It’s a real mystery,” she muses. “One of the great unsolved. Probably just mark it as a cold case at this point.”

She approaches the bar first, leaning over her folded arms until she’s resting on the tips of her toes. “Two whiskeys, straight - cheap shit is fine.”

“Make it three.”

Bev glances towards Alana, pulling the door shut behind her with a grin. “Shit,” laughs Bev. “The whole crew’s here tonight.”

Alana sets her coat and bag aside where the others are piled, and runs hands through her hair to shake off the work day. “Didn’t expect to see you here,” she tells Will, who glances between her and Bev with the sudden sensation of an antelope watching two lions prowl through tall grass.

“Am I that bad?”

“Not bad,” Alana shrugs, a devious smile narrowing her eyes. “Just mysterious. Been busy?”

"Been occupied," Will replies, eyes narrowing in turn before he takes his drink from Bev and sets it to the table without taking a sip. "I fear I am about to be interrogated."

"Maybe gently prodded for information," Bev shrugs.

"Regarding?"

"Occupation."

"It's a hazard."

Alana snorts, joins them to sit and is the first to actually drink. Will follows suit quickly enough to already warrant a second, but being held captive with Bev on one side and Alana on the other he just sighs.

"Come on, it can't be that bad," Bev grins. "We're all adults here, we know how porn works."

"You think so little of me."

"Merely using tactics to get you to talk. Cutting out initial possibilities ‘til you either agree with them or discredit ‘em."

"I called Bedelia," Will tells Alana, smile too wide, rims of his glasses slicing his vision in half in his own tactical evasion.

“Dammit.” Beverly sighs, leaning back to free her wallet again. She tosses a twenty across the table to Alana, who snaps it with a sunny smile before tucking it away. Will’s eyes widen.

“You told her? I mean, anyone at all, but her?”

“I’m right here,” Bev reminds him, and Alana tilts her head, patting Will’s arm.

“Just a friendly wager. But look, I’m the one who had faith that you would.” She takes another sip, drawing her lips into her mouth to suck the sweet burn of bourbon from them, and raises a brow. “So?”

“Is he hot?” Alana glances to Bev at the question, and folds her arms against the table.

“He came highly recommended,” she adds. “Apparently just as good at providing company as, you know. ‘Company’.”

Will just stares, knowing his cheeks are growing warmer at the scrutiny and hating it. He needs another drink. Preferably more than one.

"He is an excellent conversationalist when he’s willing to swallow his pride a little."

"That's it?"

"What's it?"

"Conversation? Really?"

Will glares, taps his fingers against his glass before sliding it over. "I say nothing more without another one of those."

Bev cackles, drinking hers down in one before standing to order more as Will folds his arms on the table and buries his face in them.

"She should just tell him to keep ‘em coming," Will mumbles, knowing Alana will be smiling when he looks up. "I'll need several."

"Was it really that bad?" Alana's teasing softens, for just a moment, just this, and Will sighs again, unfurling himself to look at them both when Bev comes back, and taking the glass to drag it over.

"Define bad," Will suggests.

"Ate with his mouth open," Alana says.

"Dressed like a hobo fisherman."

"Funny."

Bev grins, shrugs. "Did he steal your shit?"

"No."

"Bite you when he sucked your cock?"

Will chokes, hand against his mouth and accepting the consoling pat against his back from Alana.

"Bev, what the fuck."

"I'm listing worst case scenarios."

"It's not, it's -" Will groans, sighs, finishes his drink and sets it aside. "He's younger than my students."

Bev and Alana meet each other’s eyes across the table, and it’s Alana who asks first this time, as Bev’s brows lift beneath a sweep of glossy hair. “Which students, exactly? You have a few levels -”

“All of them.”

“All of them,” Alana repeats. “As in -”

“Seniors, juniors, sophomores,” recites Will, voice echoing into his glass. “And freshman.”

Bev laughs, startled by the revelation, but then lifts a hand. “Sorry. Not funny. Entirely inappropriate. Actually kind of fucked up. The kid’s a pro already?”

“Will,” Alana says, voice quieting. “I didn’t know. God, and that means Dr. DuMaurier -”

"Could easily not know either." Will draws a hand through his hair. "He's very good at redirecting."

"But not with you."

Will just tilts his head, as though the question need even be asked, and Alana's lips press together in brief apology. And then they're quiet, all of them, and Will drops his head back with a groan.

"No,” he says, exasperated, catches their eyes as he sits properly again. "I told him no."

"He asked?"

Will’s expression and deliberate lack of explanation is enough of an answer. Then it clears and he shrugs, an almost helpless gesture.

"He's paying for school, with this. He’s barely functional half the time, he's exhausted."

"But you still -"

"I let him sleep and make him study."

Bev laughs again, brows up, and Will’s smile cocks briefly before he wipes it and turns away. It comes back, unbidden.

“That’s it,” she confirms, half-questioning, grinning when Will nods. “You’re paying him to spend time studying.”

“It’s what he needs,” answers Will. “He’s trying to put himself through medical school. Succeeding so far, but -”

“At what cost,” Alana finishes. Her scrutiny of Will gentles, but doesn’t wane entirely, fingernails drumming against her glass. “How old is he, exactly, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Seventeen.”

Bev whistles low, and sips her whiskey.

“As generous as this is,” Alana considers, choosing her words carefully, “and it is, extremely, kind of you, we should tell someone. I’m assuming his parents aren’t in the picture, but there are halfway houses for runaways, and those… people that he’s seeing outside of you, who aren’t as kind to him, it’s beyond illegal -”

Will parts his lips to reply and hums instead, gesturing towards the bar for another round - Bev having kindly told the man, apparently, to keep ‘em coming, as Will had wanted.

“You’ve worked with kids like this before, Alana,” he says, pausing as their glasses are removed and new ones brought up. “You know how trust works for them. They fall back to the most basic of instincts when it comes to that, if they feel someone is off, at all, on their radar, they don’t go near them. Building a trust with someone with that kind of history is like building it with an abused animal. Once you give them one reason to doubt you, they will not give you another chance to prove that you’re trustworthy.”

“Are you going to allow him to keep going?”

“I have no right to allow or disallow him anything,” Will says honestly, though he seems as displeased by this notion as Alana is. “I could tell him not to do this anymore, but then he will go to those who do not tell him that, and I can guarantee you they don’t pay him to sleep in a big bed alone and untouched.”

“Does he trust you?” Bev asks, cradling her drink. Will considers, finds he doesn’t know beyond the vague tugging hope that maybe.

Maybe.

“To a degree,” he says. “He trusts me to remain as I am, with him, and it’s as much a comfort as an infuriation for him, I think.”

“Stability can be unsettling to someone who’s so accustomed to uncertainty,” Alana suggests, but her expression has yet to ease. “You think it would do more harm than good to let authorities - doctors, specialists - work with him?”

Will slips lower in the booth, head resting against the back of it and eyes trained on the punched tin ceiling, reflecting his own face, distorted, back at him. “I don’t think it would do more harm,” he answers, “because he’d never go. He’s managed to get here, enroll himself in school, acquire an apartment, scholarships, and work this way for - for who knows long - and all the under radar of every authority figure he’s brushed up against.”

“He’d bail,” Beverly murmurs.

“In a heartbeat. He’s not stupid - he’s,” Will almost laughs, running a hand down his face, “he’s unfairly intelligent for his age. As soon as he caught the shifting wind, and he would, he’d disappear.”

Alana’s lips twist in thought. “And if Bedelia doesn’t know, then it compromises her, too, though that’s hardly the graver concern here -”

“So what are you going to do with him? He sounds like one of your strays,” adds Beverly, one arm folded over her stomach.

"He is certainly spoiled like one," Will replies, and catches the looks from both women before looking away. "I'm going to let him sleep and study. Pay ridiculous amounts of money for the privilege."

"You like him."

"I -"

"Will." Bev lifts an eyebrow. "Come on."

Will swallows, shakes his head, laughs. "I don't dislike him."

"How long have you been seeing him?"

"Several weeks."

"Weeks?" Bev grins. "Damn, boy."

“Nothing’s happened,” Will stresses again, and seeing Alana’s arched brow, sighs. “Nothing will happen.”

“At all?”

Will presses his tongue between his lips before swallowing the remainder of his whiskey.

“You’ve got it bad,” Beverly mutters, leaning forward over her folded hands. “I didn’t think you went for the barely legal types, Graham.”

“I don’t,” he mutters, lips drawing around his teeth at the burn. “I told him no, when he asked me. I’ve told him no every time he’s offered. Not until he’s legal. And maybe not even then. He’s bitter. Resentful. Prideful, despite all that.”

“Or because of it,” Alana considers. “Who can blame him? Just -” She trails off and shakes her head, lifting a hand as Will turns his eyes to her, watching with an arched brow over the rim of his glasses. “I won’t say anything else about it after this. Just be careful, okay?”

“I am.”

“Not with him, although that too,” she clarifies. “With yourself. If he’s like the ones I’ve worked with, that self-preservation can manifest in ways he may not even expect.”

“Like sending naked selfies?” Beverly asks, brow arching. “Almost naked, anyway.” Will’s phone is aglow in her hand, removed delicately from the table as he conversed, and on it, Hannibal. Pale stretches of skin that rise and dip like snowdrifts, a textbook spread across his lap, and a smile caught in the corner of dark eyes as he averts them from the camera’s gaze, amusement obscured beneath a sweep of golden hair.

“‘Will I see you tonight?’” Beverly reads. “Is it illegal if someone else sends it you?”

Will snatches his phone back, scarlet, a quick glance to the photo he immediately, reluctantly, has to delete. It must have arrived after he'd come in, phone on silent, unheard.

"It definitely isn't legal to take my phone to go through it."

"He's cute," Bev smirks.

"I know he is."

"He's seventeen."

"I know he's seventeen, Alana." Will rubs his hands hard over his face and sighs. "I know."

"Give the guy a break," Bev laughs, grinning at her friend. "He's suffering like a freaking martyr not touching that boy. It's Will. He'd sooner hurt one of his dogs than that boy."

Will directs his eyes away, brief and almost guilty, before fingering the empty glass in front of him. He already feels too warm, pleasantly light from the alcohol. He revisits the photo he had to delete in his mind, considers the soft skin, the curves of his body...

"Do you buy him things?"

"Just his education."

Beverly makes a doubtful sound, and Will muffles a dire laugh behind his hand, fingers running through his beard.

“And things he needs,” he admits. “A scarf, textbooks -”

“Sugar Daddy Graham has a nice ring to it.”

“Bev,” sighs Alana, shaking her head to hide a reluctant smile.

“What?”

“Don’t provoke.”

“He’s already provoked,” grins Bev. “Besides, so long as they’re not actually doing anything together -”

“I’m right here. I’m literally right between you both,” Will complains.

“- then isn’t it better someone without bad intentions looks out for him? You know what kind of creeps are out there - they wouldn’t think twice of making him do all kinds of sick shit, especially to someone so susceptible. Only a matter of time until he finds one - or one finds him, rather - who wants even more than that.” Beverly shakes her head, and shrugs a shoulder. “I don’t see a problem with it. And god knows we’ve seen enough cases where work like that goes wrong.”

“Do you think he’ll stop?” Alana asks. “On his own. And where are his parents in all of this?”

“Runaway,” suggests Bev.

“But he’s enrolled.”

“Johns Hopkins,” adds Will, and Alana’s eyes widen.

“Jesus,” she sighs. “The system is fucked.”

“No news there,” Bev agrees. “But he’s found someone safe, who’s good enough not to act on his depraved, wanton impulses, overwrought with lust for the lost little courtesan -”

"And you ask me why I usually bail on these things," Will mumbles. He has bought things for Hannibal, always with the intention to one day give them to him. Have him find them in his bag on the way home. Something tugs at him to hold back, in case the gesture is seen as buying him off, again, in another way.

But... to what end, in that case?

"You gonna give them to him?"

Will blinks.

"The books," Alana prompts. "The scarf..."

"I didn't buy them for myself," Will replies, a shrug, feigning casual, indifferent. He knows both see through him, even when neither is a profiler. It is one of the reasons he enjoys the company of them both. Easy. Fun. No excuses to get away with his bullshit as he can with others.

"I'm not sure how to go about it."

"Same way as you do paying for his classes?"

"Banks don't offer secure scarf transfers, last I checked," Will laughs.

Beverly considers, lips quirked in thought, and leans across the table. “Can you leave them somewhere for him? That way he’s just finding them, you’re not giving them to him, so he doesn’t feel like he owes you anything. God, this is all so Pretty Woman,” she laughs, as Alana groans. “What? It’s romantic.”

“If this is your idea of romance,” Alana remarks with a smirk, “it’s no wonder you’re still single.”

“See?” Will glances to Beverly as she sighs, eyes rolling.

“Second time tonight. You’re both cursing me. And don’t act like you’re any less solo than I am, Bloom.”

“I have,” Alana idles, “prospects.”

“Really?”

“No,” she snorts, smile widening. Her eyes dart to the phone as it alights, averting her eyes with a sigh as Will grabs it before either of them can.

You must be busy. And me, all dressed down with nowhere to be. Shame.

Will makes a sound in his throat, almost helpless, and reluctantly sets his phone down without replying.

"Hopeless," Bev sighs, smile devious as Alana just rests her cheek against her hand.

"You do seem utterly enamored of the boy."

"You said you would say nothing more on the matter."

"I'm not." Alana shrugs, amused. "I'm just observing."

"You gonna reply to him?"

"You gonna help me with the gift situation?"

Bev nods, vigorously and Alana lightly kicks her under the table. "I still don't see why you can't just leave it for him to find."

"Where, precisely, am I to leave it?"

"Get it delivered to his apartment."

"I don't know where he lives."

Alana blinks, for a moment surprised and somehow endeared. "Find out?"

"I won't be that guy."

"I mean ask him."

Will considers, licks his lip and wonders how that would go over. He could ask. In the end, a no leaves him just where he is. A potential yes...

He turns his phone over, smile curving at the message again, and sends just one word.

Study.

Chapter Text

Send me your address.

No.

Not so I can come there. I wouldn’t do that to you.

Then why?

Trust me.

Too much risk.

From me?

...

No.

---

It begins simply.

There is a box next to his door.

Just a box.

Hannibal lifts dark-ringed eyes, half-asleep where he stands after three nights in a row of dinners - two of which ended far after the dinner itself. A glance one way down the hallway. A glance down the other, and hearing nothing, he crouches.

Hannibal it reads. Just that.

His smile is sudden as he tucks it under his arm to carry into his apartment. Setting his bag aside, the boy shifts the parcel from arm to arm as he works out of his coat, and accompanies it into the bedroom just large enough to fit his bed and a nightstand. He drops onto his back, and works the tape open with a thumbnail, delighting in the loud zip as it pulls from the cardboard.

He tries to remember the last time he received anything in the mail beyond notices of payments due - or past due, as it usually goes - and is unable.

Rolling to his belly, Hannibal purses his lips in hesitation before prying open the package. He glances to his phone, but isn’t sure he can stand the thought of having to display pleasure at something like this. Better to see what it is first. The flaps slip against each other and beneath Hannibal’s hand, he feels knit stitches, so soft as to feel nearly intangible.

The boy draws his legs up beside him as he slides the scarf out of the box, smile widening. Delicate cashmere, nearly as long as Hannibal is tall, enough to wrap it twice over and still have it drape to his hips. Red, crimson really - like blood, like wine, or pomegranates. There is no receipt inside, no indication of cost - always conveyed in bold and underline whenever Hannibal has been given a gift like this - and no reason as to why.

With a narrowing of eyes, Hannibal loops the beautiful gift around his neck, scoots the box aside, and sprawls across his back to grasp the phone. Lifting it above his head, ensuring that his lips are turned just so against the fluffy scarf and his hair drapes across his eyes, he snaps a picture, and hits send.

It is not a long wait for a response.

Beautiful.

Hannibal feels the word as though it had been spoken against his skin, warming him as surely as the scarf does. He shifts to lie on his side, curled against the soft fabric, fingers quick on his phone as he dials, lies back to listen.

“It will go with your darker suits,” Will tells him, voice warm, as it always is, roughened by whiskey today, but not a cigarette, it has a silkiness beneath the words where the cigarette draws something harsher. Hannibal closes his eyes just to listen to him.

“Thank you.”

Will makes a sound, like a hum but softer, a sound that accompanies the tip of his nose against Hannibal’s temple when they rest together beneath the covers in the early mornings, or late afternoons once Hannibal has had his fill of study, if neither want to do anything more than doze until the sun sets.

“You’re welcome,” Will says, shifts to set something away, a book perhaps. “Do not study this evening.”

“And if I must?”

“Then you lied to me regarding your assignments being completed for the week.” There is no accusation in the words, a soft amusement, a teacher’s amusement, but no displeasure. Hannibal sighs, stretches his feet and relaxes them. “Do not study,” Will repeats. “I would like you to indulge this evening. Take the new scarf for a walk.”

Hannibal’s smile spreads wider still but he forces it away, to train an air of mild concern to his voice instead. “I’m afraid I’ve only just taken my coat off.”

There is silence, in response, and behind Hannibal’s closed eyes he can see the expectation in Will’s own, one brow raised high as it always does before he asks -

“Do I need to repeat myself?”

“No,” purrs Hannibal, twisting onto his side and bringing the soft ends of the scarf to his nose to breathe it in. He will engineer a way for Will to wear it next time they’re together, so that when Hannibal has it back again, it will smell of whiskey warmth. “It’s getting rather late,” he adds. “Where should I take it?”

“Have you eaten?”

“Earlier. Discussion runs long on Tuesdays, so I ate before.”

“Did you have dessert?”

Hannibal can’t resist a laugh at this, curling a little tighter in pleasure. “I did not.”

“Then you’ll take your scarf for ice cream. At least two scoops, one you’ve never tried before, and one your favorite. What is it?”

“My favorite?”

“Yes.”

“Vanilla,” Hannibal replies, amused by the snort of laughter he can hear in response to this. “If it’s made with real vanilla bean, rather than extract. The extract tastes of formaldehyde.”

“It should worry me how entirely unsurprised I am that you know the flavor of the latter,” Will says, and Hannibal hears him take his glasses off, the familiar click of them as he sets them aside, sighs in that distinctive way that suggests he’s rubbing his eyes, soon for bed. It’s strange to Hannibal that he can tell so much about him simply by sound, after several weeks of doing little more than studying and talking and sleeping next to each other.

“Go to seek it,” Will says at length. “Two scoops. You may have nuts but not syrup.”

Hannibal bites his lip. “Cream?”

“No cream.”

He shivers, just a little and nods, knowing his silence is acquiescence enough before he speaks the same.

“Yes.”

“Good night, Hannibal.” Hannibal can almost feel his breath against his ear before the line cuts, and sets his phone to the bed before him to just stare at before he finally, not entirely reluctant, he pushes himself from bed to follow his instructions.

---

It becomes more complex.

There are several boxes.

Several boxes by his door.

Hannibal doesn’t hesitate to scoop them inside, surprised that no one on the floor had taken them, more surprised that the postal worker bothered to bring them up at all. He is careful not to drop them but nearly does despite himself, when he tries to check the time as well. It is just past seven, the sun cresting the horizon, and Hannibal’s day has just ended. Or begun.

It’s all the same after a while.

Will texted earlier in the week that he had been called away, and would not be able to host Hannibal that weekend, and the apartment feels strangely alien now, the light somehow different than it used to be. Hannibal was able to book a dinner - he hopes only a dinner - for the night but for now, he leaves the books on the small coffee table that serves as dining table, study desk, and storage shelving and goes to shower.

He won’t open anything from Will when his skin still crawls with the touch of another, and he lingers in the shower until the sensation grows numb first from heat, and then from cold as the hot water dies out.

Towel looped around his waist, he starts coffee before returning to the couch and blessed silence but for patter of drip-brew against the bottom of the pot. The first box is worked open, and in it, to Hannibal’s great amusement, the textbook for his biology course, beginning next semester.

And to his shock, he realizes it’s new, no rounded corners and marked margins, no loose spine or missing pages. Reverent, he removes it from the box, and spreads his fingers across the glossy cover.

It has always been an unreasonable and unnecessary expense to buy new, despite the wear of used books, and with widening eyes, he scans the rest of the boxes, and stands to call Will, biology text held to his bare chest.

“You are exempt from reading ahead,” Will tells him when he picks up, tone displeased but strangely directed enough for Hannibal to know he had not interrupted, had not done wrong by calling. Perhaps just a bad moment. Will was away on a conference, playing social with people he rarely did more than look at.

“Will, this is excessive…”

“Up to date books are never excessive,” Will responds, turning away from the soft murmuring in the background to somewhere quieter, Hannibal hears him exhale, swallow. “Anything I can help cover for your costs, I want to do it.”

It would be worrisome, that Will knows which classes he takes, if the first three years of any medical course were not so generic. Despite that, perhaps because of it, the cost of books alone usually set Hannibal to working every day of his breaks to earn them, and even then, never new.

“Would you like me to return them?” Will asks at length, as Hannibal continues to pace, holding the book close against his chest.

He returns to the others, shaking his head as he asks, “You asked me to accept. Whatever care you wish to provide. Our agreement.” Will hums assent, eyes closing in relief. “Then I will do,” Hannibal laughs, overwhelmed, “as you ask. All of them, Will?”

“And their supplements.”

“Are you sure?” Hannibal sighs, so accustomed to being tightly strained by this that the sensation of being without a stress is dizzying. “That you can - that you want to - pay so much.”

“An investment,” Will murmurs after a moment, as he listens to the sweetly sundered boy on the line with him, “in a promising future doctor.”

“You know you needn’t,” says Hannibal, suddenly, and though his voice is serene now there is a tug to it.

To yield.

To submit.

“I see you because I wish to see you,” he tells his professor. “And for no other reason than that.”

Will sighs, and Hannibal can hear the smile in it, imagines Will ducking his head to hide it from no one in particular before licking his lips to return his expression to calm neutrality. “And I buy these things because I wish to buy them,” Will replies, tone just the same, “and for no other reason than that.”

They are quiet for a moment, before Will breathes quick against the phone, just once, and quickly excuses himself, setting the phone to his chest as he answers the person who had caught his attention at the conference. Hannibal just listens, to the way his words turn, the way he explains something, pronouncing every word properly as one would if they acted in theatre. When he returns to the phone, he sounds tense again, displeased.

“I very much look forward to your company, when I manage to escape this place, Hannibal,” he tells him, wishes him a good morning and lingers just long enough to hear Hannibal breathe into the phone, wish him the same, before hanging up.

Hannibal holds the phone close against his ear for minutes more, to steady his breath, to turn his cheek against it and sigh as he might if he were pressed to the man himself. When he lowers it, finally, it’s to cancel his appointment for that night, and he finds himself unable to suppress a smile as he pours himself coffee to spend the rest of his day pouring over his books, and wishing it were Will instead of pages beneath his fingers.

---

He nearly misses the call, cursing beneath his breath as he lunges for it, fingers caught in his tie and the other just snatching the phone from his nightstand before the call drops.

“Hello, Will,” he manages, glancing to the clock before he swallows down the tension from his voice, and returns to the mirror.

There is a quiet, the softness of Will’s breathing as he just listens to Hannibal’s, slightly stuttered as he fumbles with the tie, adjusts his hair, swallows and takes a breath.

“You’re nervous,” Will points out gently.

“I’m rushed,” admits Hannibal. “I stayed too long speaking with the professor, and -”

“You have an appointment.”

The statement is flat enough that it gives Hannibal pause, before he settles his tie and smooths it flat. “Yes.”

Will swallows, just a shallow thing, and for a moment says nothing more, allows Hannibal his time to dress, to prepare. “Do you want to go to it?” Will asks finally, and there is something in his tone that isn’t needling, that isn’t pulling for information or his own reassurance. It resonates. “Do you have to?”

The soft sigh that Hannibal releases says everything. It is nervous. Tense. There is an apprehension there deeper than just the admission that Hannibal is seeing another tonight. “Yes,” he responds. “I have to. It’s -”

He stops himself, but already he’s yielded more than he intended. Or perhaps just enough, in asking without asking.

“When this appointment is made,” Hannibal adds, softly, “it is best not missed.”

Will imagines the bruises again, the sharp motions and cruel hands that bring them forth, the anger behind them, and worse still the sick desire to keep giving them, to see that violence wrought on a living thing just to see it in pain. And there is a pull, so strong it’s choking in its own violence, that has Will’s breathing hitch, just once.

“Ask,” he says quietly, teeth gritted on the word.

It’s enough to force Hannibal to take a breath, enough to stop his preparations cold and enough that he has to press his hand against his stomach to steady his pulse, his nerves, his voice. He lets his eyes slip closed and thinks not of the man whose breath he can hear against his ear, but the other that awaits him, to make him earn his keep with brutal hands and manic laughter as Hannibal takes, and takes, and takes -

“Will,” sighs Hannibal, opening his eyes again to lift them towards the ceiling. He has never canceled on this client, he has never once thought of doing so, and dread sinks cold and heavy as an anchor in his chest. “He won’t allow it.”

“Ask, Hannibal. Ask me for what you really want.”

And that, in itself, is easy enough to discern.

“I want to be there,” Hannibal breathes. “With you.”

Will’s breath echoes Hannibal’s for a moment, a beat, sharing that together before his throat clicks on a swallow. “I will phone for a taxi,” he says quietly. “Bring whatever you need, and come here to me.”

There is a turn to his tone, just enough to be a warning, not to Hannibal but to that ‘other’ who wishes to claim him in bruises and blood. Hannibal has never heard it boil behind Will’s words before, never in a way that sent shivers over his skin, and this does. It is a protection, not a possession, but it is also more than that. It is more than just that.

“It isn’t wise -”

Will forces the words because he must, to break the cycle of Hannibal’s justifications that somehow, he owes this to his client. That he owes it to himself, in having somehow earned such savage punishment. “Do I need to repeat myself?”

The question is gentle enough that it rips a shudder through Hannibal, and the relief in his voice is tangible as he responds softly, “No.”

The call cuts and Hannibal watches Will’s name fade from the screen before he raises his eyes to the mirror again. Where moments before he wondered what mottled marks his face would wear when he saw it again - a split lip this time perhaps, a bloody nose - he now thinks of where Will’s lips will press instead.

Hannibal leaves his tie behind, and wraps the red scarf around his neck instead.

The ride he spends watching through the window. It’s growing colder but the weather is remarkably clear, he can see the stars and can smell the coming of rain when he opens the door to get out. He pays, knowing he will find that money and several dollars more in his account by morning to cover the expense, and takes his bag with him to make his way to the porch. The dogs bark but the sound is somehow muted, they’re not by the door. And when Hannibal knocks, the finds the door pulled open and familiar hands snaring in his scarf to pull him close.

“Scratch his name from your ledger,” Will whispers, pressing Hannibal against the door, forehead against his and eyes dark. “Never let him hurt you again, or I will do something necessary and regrettable.”

Before Hannibal can speak, Will’s lips are on his and he’s kissing him like he can pull his arguments from him forever, like he can validate every single moment of invalidation, like he can take away the appointments before this one, kiss those better, make it so that Hannibal never went.

Hannibal tries to soothe him, running his hands across the man’s hair, framing his cheeks, returning every kiss that weakens his knees and still keeps him pinned to the door. His protests are smothered into aching little sounds, and his skin raises goosebumps rather than the scratches that might have been there instead.

When Will gives him room enough to breathe Hannibal only turns his head enough to do so, pressing his forehead together with his professor, nuzzling alongside his nose so that their flushed lips brush breathless.

“I only go when I have to,” Hannibal whispers, a rush of words in hopes that it will ease the curl in Will’s lips, baring gritted teeth against his neck. He works his fingers through Will’s hair again, down to curl against the soft little twists at the base of his neck, and he slips both arms over the man’s shoulders, sighing roughly when he finds himself lifted by the thighs. “I’m here,” Hannibal reminds him, rubbing their mouths softly together.

“I know,” Will breathes, lips seeking still, teeth restrained but sharp against Hannibal’s skin, hands cling to remind, to hold and reassure, not to harm, though the strength within him is enough that he would damage, had he sought to.

Will gets them to the bed, allowing Hannibal to fall to it before pressing him to it with another kiss, with a rough rocking of his hips against Hannibal’s own. Quick hands gentle to remove the scarf and let it settle on the floor, to kiss Hannibal’s throat but still refrain from leaving marks. Will nuzzles to him and presses close, settles only once Hannibal’s hands find his hair again, and even then just enough for his voice, surprisingly weak, to be heard against their breathing.

“Stay,” he says. “Please, let me convince you to stay.”

“Stay?” Hannibal echoes, head tilted aside where Will’s mouth closes rough kisses against his skin. His brow furrows, gaze resting on the scarf where it lay, and it feels so insignificant now despite the comfort it had afforded Hannibal in the months since he received it. Every class, everything but his appointments.

Never around his clients.

They don’t deserve to touch it, but it is Will’s to give and Will’s to cast to the floor, his to pull and his to loop gently.

His.

Hannibal swallows hard and moans when Will rocks against him again, legs spreading for his professor, squeezing tight around sharp hips to keep him near, and his back bends to bring their bodies flush.

“I’m here,” Hannibal whispers again, searching Will’s eyes when their mouths crash together and break apart, rough against each other’s shores.

The roughness eases, if only for a moment, softens so Will can see Hannibal properly, so he can be as they are, not as others are, so he does not become the appointment Hannibal had missed at his behest. Because he had told him to. Will holds Hannibal’s face gently, elbows to the bed and thumbs stroking just beneath Hannibal’s eyes in gentle brushes as he kisses him, soft and slow, rubs their hips together in slow pushes as Hannibal arches up to meet each one.

He knows Hannibal’s answer is his choice, he is here because he wants to be, not just because Will made him come. He is here because he seeks the same comfort from Will as Will does from him, mirrors of each other, here, of protector and protected, asking and asked, needed and needing.

“You are,” he sighs, soft kisses to Hannibal’s lips, turning his head into the hands that seek to touch him. Will ducks enough to kiss Hannibal’s wrist, to taste his pulse there, strong and alive and aroused.

Will’s eyes close, his lips split to a smile, and he cants his head to the side, tongues against the corner of his mouth. “Ask,” he breathes, eyes opening to look at Hannibal beneath him, to smile at him, let his eyes narrow in his pleasure. “For things you know I can give you.”

The look, blue eyes made dark with pleasure, is enough to cut short the synaptic circuits snapping furious in Hannibal’s thoughts. Enough to let him forget - for now - what was just asked of him. Enough to let him savor the choice he made.

Of course he would rather be here than on another appointment.

Of course he would rather be here than anywhere else at all.

“Touch me,” Hannibal sighs, leaning in to kiss the corner of Will’s lips where his tongue traced. Another sucks the older man’s lower lip softly. Another traces the tip of his tongue against Will’s teeth before the kiss deepens.

He doesn’t wait for an answer - sees it clearly enough in the way Will’s jaw works wanting and primal - and Hannibal runs slender fingers down the back of his professor’s arm, following the taut muscles, the bend of his elbow, until he reaches Will’s wrist and holds their hands together. The boy shifts to make enough space between them that Hannibal can glide Will’s hand across his soft belly, lower, past the waistband of his suit pants, trapping his professor’s palm between his trousers and his underpants, to make him feel what Will does to him.

“Will you,” Hannibal moans soft, “please -”

Will does, curling his palm to stroke, to enjoy Hannibal shuddering so pleasantly from it. This request he knows is without burden of memory, without immediate association with another. This request Will fulfills for that alone. He rubs until Hannibal bites his lip and tenses, and Will removes his hand so he can undo Hannibal's pants, slip them a little further down his hips.

He convinces himself that he is keeping his own word. No sex, no penetrative sex, until the boy is eighteen. But even in the months they have grown accustomed to each other, developed a routine of study and dinner and sleeping pressed close and warm, hands have wandered, kisses deepened, desires coiled enough to drive both to want more, to want to try around the hard rule.

There is a strange duality here, Hannibal knowing the sensations from other hands, from his own, yet never once associating such warmth with it. It is a teaching and unteaching all at once. A new lesson in the pleasure they can share, together, as a partnership here, and a lesson in how different this is from the others. No cold indifference like Frederick, nor fumbling enthusiasm like Franklyn. Nor is this the cool caresses of Bedelia or the sharp strikes of -

Hannibal makes a sound, as Will works his fingers beneath the waistband of his underwear, grasps him properly to stroke. Will does not touch to tease then seek his own pleasure from Hannibal's body, he does not call for him simply to penetrate and toss away. Months, and his promise holds, of relenting for kisses and necking, touches and intimacy without sex involved at all. A slow training, a promise Will has not broken to him, not once.

Not now.

"Let me give you pleasure," Will sighs against him, eyes hooded and lips closing on the sharp corner of Hannibal's jaw. "Tell me to, if you wish it."

If you wish.

Always if.

A quiet sense of power untwists inside the boy, wonderment at having it but knowing, exactly, what he has done to earn it. He has listened. Learned. Followed instruction. Come when Will has called. This is his to claim, and though he spreads a hand across his eyes with a laugh, Hannibal arches to grind his cock against Will's palm.

"Give me pleasure," Hannibal sighs, the demand sweet and unfamiliar.

Moreso is the groan that Will presses into Hannibal's throat at the words.

Moreso is the way Hannibal feels to watch Will bend to him, a yielding subservience to one who has served gladly for months. Hannibal wets his lips with the tip of his tongue and his eyes drift closed when Will slips his cock from his briefs. His age, rather than his experience, makes Hannibal squirm when rough fingertips rub beneath the silky head, and work back his foreskin in little tugs.

A student, rather than a teacher, who wants nothing more than to learn everything Will would show him.

"Like before," asks Hannibal, pressing his hands flat against the shifting planes of Will's shoulders. He shivers at the strength of him, feels still Will's mouth pressed snarling against his skin and his back against the door. "Like before, when you wished to have me, alone. Convince me -"

To trust.

To stay.

That I'm yours.

The words pull a shiver from Will, commands so sweetly demanded and issued, from someone Will has always been happy to accommodate. He continues just touching, just a moment more, before ducking his head to take Hannibal between his lips, sucking just the head before taking him deep.

The sensation is novel only in that Hannibal has not had this given him often. Occasionally as a reward, but rarely with enthusiasm, occasionally for torture, to edge the boy to his limit and leave him later untouched. It hardly matters now, any of it, as Will kneels between his legs and relishes the response to his mouth, in the little sounds and hitched breathing, the twitches of Hannibal’s thighs beneath Will’s hand where he holds him spread.

Will moans, a low thing, as needy as the boy he's touching, and opens his eyes just to look up the length of him, to see Hannibal's lips part and tense, pulled between teeth and allowed freedom again. He pulls off just enough to hook his fingers beneath the waistband of Hannibal's pants and pull them down, taking a moment to work the laces on Hannibal's shoes and let those be pulled off to the floor as well, socks following, until he is entirely bare but for the shirt still clinging to his skin.

"Yes," he sighs, shifting enough to spread Hannibal's thighs further, lift his hips and press himself between the soft cheeks of his ass to suck kisses against the sensitive skin there, holding tighter when Hannibal squirms in his delight and surprise.

Hannibal’s thoughts go white, the same blissful empty hum as when he has held himself over Will’s desk despite his screaming muscles, as when he kneels to allow Will use of his back for grading, an utter void of any stress or reason or anything but raw sensation.

He laughs, just a sigh, and lets his eyes fall closed and his hips rise to meet Will’s mouth.

It is a far sweeter discovery than when Hannibal first felt the pull of his own sexuality. Later than most boys, stirred in him by unwelcome hands and made clear by rough demands for what it should be used. A part of himself with an ugly power over others, and he unwilling to use it for anything else - unaware that it could be, in truth, until now.

Until Will.

“More,” he pleads, fingers trembling as hard as his voice when he sinks them through his professor’s dark curls to hold him there. A shiver erupts and curls his spine from the bed when Will’s tongue slips inside of him, surrounded by damp lips and heat that pull open-mouthed kisses against his opening. He has never felt this before. He has never wanted this before.

And with a crooked grin, Hannibal tilts his head aside to watch and consider that this is his, now, entirely - whenever he asks for it.

He lowers a hand to circle his cock, lazy long strokes that let it fall hard back against his belly, dripping clear over his fingers when he rides the skin up high and squeezes before slipping it back again with a shudder.

Will continues, unrelenting. Devouring his boy as Hannibal's body works to understand this pleasure given it, and why. He savors every shiver and every twist beneath his hands, does not hold to restrain but rather to allow Hannibal the ability to shudder and squirm to push himself where he wants to be touched the most.

He thinks of how long he has waited to do this, until Hannibal was ready to accept it given, not until he had earned it; that, he had done long ago, with his patient obedience, his soft teasing and gentle questions.

Will thinks how proud he is that Hannibal asks, for even the smallest things, how happy he is to allow most of them. Thinks of how gratifying it is to issue a command and hear that little shiver in Hannibal's voice just before he accepts it and obeys. He thinks of how much he enjoys buying things for him, watching and hearing Hannibal enjoy them, gauging from responses which had been more welcome than others.

He hums, just to give Hannibal that sensation, and grins against him, pulling back enough to nuzzle Hannibal's thighs, give him a little reprieve to gather himself. Will turns his head to kiss and suck every finger stroked against him from Hannibal's shaking hand, entirely contented, sighing soft over wet skin before spreading Hannibal further with his thumbs and leaning in to tease again with flicking strokes of quick tongue.

Hannibal’s laughter nearly becomes a sob, feet digging into the blankets, caught beneath his curling toes as he bends as if to escape that blessed torment, only to push closer again and groan when Will’s tongue spreads flat across him instead. He tightens his hand around himself, not to stroke, but to stop himself from finishing already. He hasn’t asked for that, he will when he can no longer stand it, but to withhold himself from it bends the tightness in his belly so deep it nearly stops his breath, but for a hitched gasp as Hannibal holds.

“Will -”

A hum tickles against his skin in response and Hannibal’s grin spreads unsteady and bright.

“Your - your fingers, will you, please -”

Will reaches to spread a hand across Hannibal’s stomach, holding him in place with only a gentle touch, thumb skimming through the precum that has dripped damp there. He leans back a little, just enough to murmur, “No.”

“Oh,” aches Hannibal, the word sending sparks snapping hot through his pulse. “God, please - again -”

“No, Hannibal.”

The boy has to set his fingers between his teeth, trapping the pitched moan that catches on his breath, to stop himself from reaching his orgasm by that word alone.

He is so beautiful.

This way, any other, and Will is almost tempted to allow it, to press fingers in alongside his tongue and feel Hannibal stretch and clench around him. But he doesn't, not yet. Keeping promises so Hannibal knows he always will, especially to him.

Will shifts to stroke over Hannibal's hand wrapped tight around his cock, to get him to release himself, shudder when Will starts to stroke instead. Mouth and hand working in tandem to bring Hannibal to a state where he is sobbing his pleasure, begging with soft incoherent little words. More and more, an unrelenting gentleness until Will feels Hannibal’s body quake beneath his hands, and he pulls back.

"What do you want, Hannibal?" He whispers, warm against his boy’s belly, eyes up, pupil-dark and wide, just watching.

“You,” his student responds, lips parted panting, arm across his eyes because the sight of Will, doing this, doing this to him - for him - is too much with his release so close. Will remains silent, waiting, Hannibal can hear the echo of his teacher asking do I need to repeat myself? and rocks his hips harder to thrust into Will’s fist around him. “You - inside me -”

“No, Hannibal,” Will murmurs, his tone teasing and soft and Hannibal moans, tongue pressing between his lips.

“May I,” the boy gasps, “may I finish?”

"Any time you wish," Will assures him, a soft kiss to Hannibal's thigh and Will returns to tormenting him with his mouth, tongue quick and deep as he can push, humming soft to feel Hannibal come undone entirely from gentleness and patience dedicated to his pleasure.

With a high, soft sigh, Hannibal gives himself over to this, as this was given over to him. Not ripped from him, forced from him for another’s satisfaction, but he spills hot white streaks across his belly, body rigid with pleasure, for himself. Because he wants to. Because he asked.

Will does not yet stop, but slows, lapping long warm lines between Hannibal’s cheeks, each rippling across Hannibal’s skin in twitches of pleasure, each blooming in dusky rose across his face, reddening his lips. They part with a little plea, his teacher’s name, sighing gratitude as his heart begins to still and his release begins to cool where it sticks his shirt to him.

Fluttering fingers find their way to Will’s hair again, coiling through the loops and tugging them straight, watching as they snap softly back into place. Hannibal can think of no one else, not in the depths of his imagination, to whom he would want to give so much of himself. He can think of no one else he’s ever known who has worked for it, with patience, with kindness and sternness each in turn.

If he never saw another client again, he would not spare them a thought, so long as he could keep this.

Hooking his fingers beneath Will’s chin, across his cheek, Hannibal brings Will up the length of his body to meet his mouth with parted lips and twisting tongue. A languid, lazy kiss that pulls a smile between them when Hannibal tastes himself there, mingled perfectly with the taste of Will’s own mouth. His eyes open slowly, remaining heavy-lidded and serene, and he coils up against the heavy body over his own with a gentle little noise.

“Tell me,” Hannibal asks softly. “Tell me what to do for you.”

Will ducks his head to nuzzle against him, breathing heavy and eyes barely open, his own body singing with the need for release, relief, but he bites back the words he is certain Hannibal hears every day. He will not make this about anything but the boy beneath him. So, kissing Hannibal’s brow softly, he says only, “Lie back, legs spread. Try to stay awake.”

And with another soft kiss against him, Will pushes himself to stand, to move to the bathroom and gather a clean cloth to wet in barely warm water.

It would be easy to return to bed and make Hannibal open his mouth to take him. It would be easy to have his hands, to even just rut against him until Will finds his own release, but it would undo everything Will has been building with Hannibal’s understanding of himself. That he is more than a tool, that he is more than a thing, that there is more to him than giving to someone else and being left wanting, himself.

He presses a palm against himself where he stands, as the water in the sink runs quick and white with the pressure, and closes his eyes, head back, thinking how Hannibal’s lips had parted, how his eyes had blinked quickly, closed again, as the flush flooded his cheeks and made his hands tremble. He thinks of the minute little tremors that had run through Hannibal’s body, the way he had tensed and squirmed, begged for release and accepted it so openly when it was given.

He thinks of how he tasted, licks his lips. And with a groan feels his knees almost give in as he cums, into his hand, in his pants, like a teenager on his first date, and laughs quietly as his own inability to control, to maintain something so stoic when that boy is involved.

Will cleans himself before returning to Hannibal, finding him breathing slowly, dozing, arms spread and legs spread in bed, flush still just dusting his cheeks and smile on his face. He looks beautiful, young, entirely contented, and Will leans in to kiss him, to feel him wake up to it, before starting to wipe him gently clean.

“I tried,” Hannibal murmurs, voice thick with sleep, contentment as resonant in him as a cat’s purr. He watches Will’s hand carry the cloth across his skin, body shifting lazily beneath it to stretch, to feel the kind of care that he has never allowed, in those few times that it’s been offered. He is not a thing to be worshipped, not by them in their false praise and poisoned promises, but here, he feels important. Special.

Worthy.

He works free the buttons on his shirt, rumpled and skewed around his chest, shrugging out to drape it across the edge of the bed. Entirely bare now, he arches and sighs as Will touches so softly, and Hannibal’s fingers skim against his own thighs to spread his legs wider, wanting, still, and delighting that he cannot yet have.

“Eighteen?” He asks, lips curving into a coy smile.

Will makes a sound, eyes up to watch Hannibal as he ducks his head and presses hot lips in a kiss against the inside of his thigh before the cool cloth swipes the feeling away.

“Eighteen,” he agrees, squeezing Hannibal’s calf gently before returning to the bathroom to leave the cloth to soak - he’ll take care of it in the morning. By the time he returns, Hannibal is more awake, having pushed himself to the head of the bed and just beneath the covers, but still entirely tempting. Will takes up his shirt, his pants from the floor, and carefully folds them to set away.

His own undressing is not showy, a quick tug to get his shirt over his head, loose jeans unbuttoned and slipped off. Will stands by the bed folding his clothes and can feel Hannibal watching him with keen dark eyes. Will allows his own to slip to him with a smile and he raises an eyebrow.

“You could have let me take care of it,” Hannibal suggests, amused.

Will blinks, a mild surprise that Hannibal could know, but he simply hums. “I could have,” he agrees. “And I chose not to.”

“I’m very good.”

“I have no doubt,” Will answers, peeling back the sheets to slip beneath as Hannibal makes room, knees drawn up beneath the blankets. He waits until Will has stretched himself long, listens for the little grunt of contentment as he settles, and then eases himself over to sit astride his professor’s hips.

Slowly, Hannibal sprawls himself flat, heels hooked around Will’s legs, and lays heavy atop him with his head against Will’s chest. “Aren’t you going to ask me when my birthday is?”

Will’s lips quirk and he swallows before opening his eyes to regard the boy pressed so warm and heavy against him. He draws a hand beneath the blankets up Hannibal’s back, to his neck where he squeezes gently, before working back down.

“Must I ask?” Will purrs, pleased when Hannibal’s smile warms. “I had assumed you would tell me on your own but if you insist.”

“I like hearing you ask.”

Will makes another low sound, tilts his head, and this time when his hand returns up Hannibal’s back he tugs his hair lightly. “Demanding boy,” he praises, taking a deep breath to settle better in bed before asking, obedient all on his own. “When is your birthday, Hannibal?”

“One month and three weeks,” Hannibal sighs, skin prickling from the fingers in his hair, so wholly different than how it might have felt had his plans stayed the same, tonight, as first intended. “And two days,” he adds, tilting a grin against Will’s chest.

“You’re counting,” observes Will, eyes narrowing.

“As you will be now,” he answers. Curling his fingers against Will’s chest, he leaves pale pink lines in the wake of his nails, and soothes them away again with his palm, over and over. A breath catches with the jog of his heart, and Hannibal lifts his eyes upward. “Thank you,” he murmurs, “for tonight. For insisting.”

Hannibal’s lips purse in thought, tasting his words against the back of his teeth, and speaking carefully. “I avoid it - him - as much as I can, until I cannot. Rent is exorbitant so close to school, and if other expenses arise, it requires someone who is willing to pay more than an ordinary client,” he explains, as best he can, though the words are dry as ash against his tongue. “He demands that he have his money’s worth.”

Will listens, swallows his genuine distaste at the idea of someone paying a boy to be beaten by them, for their sick enjoyment. He wonders if the man has poisoned Hannibal’s mind into believing that what he does is submission, that what he does is what he is meant for, what he is good for, that he deserves it.

He says nothing, just caresses Hannibal against him until the other lies down, tense still from the thought of his client and the appointment missed, perhaps tense for the fact that Will now knows, that something like this is allowed to happen so Hannibal can live on his own and study on his own and do what he wants, and needs, on his own without help.

Will wonders if perhaps even a little, he has taught the boy that help is not a sign of weakness, that someone caring for you is not a sign that you cannot.

He wants to tell Hannibal that he should not go to him again, that he is not to. But he had promised to allow him his freedom and independence, to allow him his clients and lifestyle, and help only when Hannibal lets him. Will wants to tell him that he will pay for anything, do anything, to have Hannibal grow to the man he wants to be, but he knows how smothering that will feel for the young man, he knows how it will breed resentment unless Hannibal comes and asks on his own.

And he will not, until his pride is taught that asking is not begging, and receiving is not charity.

“You are worth more than the money paid to hurt you,” Will tells him instead. “Worth more than any money paid you. And you alone know your own mind on the matter of both.” He ducks his head, kisses Hannibal’s hair warmly, sighs against it, lies back.

The question hangs between them, as Hannibal looks onto the scarf folded neatly beside the bed, and remains unasked. He cannot, will not, ask for more than Will has already given, above and beyond what Hannibal would have imagined someone willing to do for him, for no other reason than that he is. Just that.

He stretches, grasping the end of delicate crimson cashmere, and draws it near. Tucking himself beneath Will’s arm, Hannibal loops the scarf around his own neck, bare but for that and the blankets that cover them, and he nuzzles deep, lips parted where Will’s heart beats steady.

The question hangs between them, and Will says only, “Ask.”

“Please,” breathes Hannibal, curling a little tighter against him. “Just for this month.”

Will says nothing else. But his arms wrap more securely around Hannibal and he lets one of his knees rest slack against the bed so Hannibal can press more comfortably against him. He buries his nose in the warm straight strands of blond hair and promises, with touch and kisses and gentleness, that he will. For this month and the next. And any other that Hannibal asks for.

Chapter Text

It catches Hannibal when he is between classes, just a feeling, but it paralyzes him where he stands in the corridor. He knows, immediately, who it is, and he can feel his throat tighten with the thought alone, so he walks, faster, to get to the sunlit quad where he can at least pretend that he can breathe easier.

People mill around, back and forth, between classes or skipping them, waiting for friends or enjoying the weather while it’s clear, though cold. Hannibal sets his hands into his pockets, feels his phone there, at least that security intact. He could walk, and keep walking, make his way to the main offices of the campus and pretend like he has an appointment there, a meeting with someone who would respond, at least, to one student stalking another.

He could.

And then he would never see campus again, never attend his classes, never get his degree. Would have spent so long bending and allowing for nothing at all. The thought makes him sick to his stomach, cold to his bones, so he stands, a moment longer, before pulling his phone from his pocket to dial, to at least hear his voice.

“You know, I am so glad that it works, Hannibal?” The voice beside him alone is enough for Hannibal to tense, and then his elbow is snared by a gloved hand and he doesn’t move at all. Does not unlock his phone. Does nothing. “I had worried, when you didn’t answer my calls, when you didn’t come to appointments. So unlike you to be so rude, you’re always so polite with me.”

Hannibal’s jaw works, to steady his voice, and turns to face him. “My apologies,” he responds, meeting watery blue eyes above wire-framed glasses. “My car would not start, and so I was unable to -”

“To call? Must be quite a lot of car difficulty for that,” Mason purrs, taking a step closer. Too close, now, nearly pressed against Hannibal, who stalwartly does not move back even as Mason’s eyes drift to the phone still clenched in Hannibal’s hand. “I would have sent my driver, you know, he’s very reliable.”

Demuring his eyes, affecting a smallness despite being taller than the older boy, Hannibal offers no excuse for not calling - there is none, truly, other than that he did not wish to. Does not, in fact, ever wish to. “I did not need -” The words cut short as Mason erupts in wild laughter, enough to draw looks from other students in passing.

You didn’t need,” sighs Mason. “Hannibal. Hannibal, Hannibal, Hannibal, are you very sure you didn’t? Because I am very sure you do.” He reaches up, to skim a finger beneath the scarf wrapped around Hannibal’s neck, and with a broad grin steps back. “Come along then. We’ll have our meeting now. You don’t have any more classes today.”

“Mason -”

“I know you don’t have any more classes today.”

The threat is clear and Hannibal glances aside, to the administration building that is at once so near and so very far away. With as much money as Mason’s father puts towards the school - to ensure his son will, eventually, graduate when he decides he’s finished with attending scant classes each semester, and fewer still actual attendances - they would hardly take Hannibal’s words for it. And too many truths, known only to the two of them and the administrator who via the clever workings of Hannibal’s mouth falsified his paperwork, would come to light.

He looks to the phone in his hand and considers calling still.

No option presented makes him feel any less sick.

“Yes,” Hannibal breathes.

“Exactly what I thought I heard,” Mason replies, moving to lead, knowing Hannibal will follow. If not today then another day. If not then, then whenever Mason feels like pulling strings on certain documents and certain people responsible for them. It will come to light soon enough.

Hannibal follows through the throng of people, wishing he could attach himself to a group of them and follow to another class on campus, entirely unrelated to his own. To economics, perhaps, humanities. Back to his art classes that Mason never bothers to ask about, perhaps has forgotten. It hardly matters, he doesn’t go. He climbs into the shiny black car where it waits, in the no parking zone just by the one-way street through the college.

It is silent in the car when it starts to move, and Hannibal keeps his eyes away, fingers still caressing the comforting weight of his phone.

“I have missed you, Hannibal, can you believe it?” Mason reclines in his seat, no care for a seatbelt, any lawsuit would be bulldozed should he be injured in a crash for his own lack of safety precautions. “I don’t often miss things. But there is something about that way you look at me, just when we start, and just when I get bored…” He clicks his tongue, adjusts his gloves with quick, flourishing gestures. “It will be good to play again. Maybe you’ve even forgotten some rules.”

Hannibal leans, just a little, against the belt over his shoulder. The glass is cold against his brow and he closes his eyes, focused on the count of his breath. “I always remember your rules, Mason.”

Do you? It’s been so long, I can’t even remember - can you believe that?” His voice pitches higher, wild with delight or anger or both. They appear much the same, in truth. “What if there are new rules, Hannibal, rules I haven’t been able to teach you because you’ve been gone so long. You won’t be able to follow those at all.”

Thumbing across the smooth glass of his phone, Hannibal rests it against his thigh, out of sight, and unlocks it. Will’s name is like a beacon and for a fleeting moment Hannibal considers calling him anyway. He’ll tell him where he is, Will would come for him, wouldn’t he?

I will do something necessary and regrettable.

He sends a text instead.

I miss you.

Without waiting for a response, he turns his phone off entirely, and slips it back into his pocket. “I’ll have to charge you,” Hannibal murmurs, eyes closed as Mason’s voice splinters sharp as glass.

“You think I don’t know that? Hannibal? Do you? Do you think I care? It’s a pittance, Hannibal, truly. And why does it matter to me when it lets me keep you so close.”

Hannibal tilts his head against the window, and thinks of warmer things.

A sharp kick to his shins is all the warning he has before Hannibal’s scarf is grasped in unyielding hands and twisted enough to start to choke him. He grabs for it, uselessly, and just watches as Mason sits closer, pulls him closer in the process. One elbow settles on his knee, his chin atop, the other hand twists the end of the scarf once more around his wrist.

“This is very nice. Very nice. It’s almost as though you’ve started to gain some taste, in your tastelessness, Hannibal, I’m impressed.” A careless tug to bring Hannibal’s seatbelt biting against his shoulder, his neck as it reaches its extension and Mason continues to deliberately pull until Hannibal unlocks the thing and sprawls on his knees in front of him.

“Good boy. Sit there until I find something for you to do.”

The implication is clear enough that being proactive will earn praise and anger both, clearer when Mason wraps another length of the scarf over his palm and Hannibal panics, briefly, over how he will linger on it, how the fabric will bunch and bend and no longer smell like Will the last time Hannibal had curled against him, steady heartbeat against his cheek.

He swallows, sits closer if just to release some of the tension against his throat, scarf twice wrapped there and both ends in Mason’s hands.

“Eager. Always so eager! You know, you can try forever to convince people you’re not made for this and no one will believe you. No one, Hannibal, when you look so damn hungry for it.”

Hannibal wets his lips and leaves them parted, hopes it’s enough to pull Mason’s attention elsewhere, and knows it won’t be. He is reeled closer across the limo floor, until he is between Mason’s legs, near enough now that at least - he hopes - he won’t be kicked again.

“Why else would you do it?” Mason muses, cruel whimsy in his voice. “It’s your calling, Hannibal, and it disappoints me that you would resist it so much.” The older boy leans over him, forcing his forehead against Hannibal’s own to tilt him back, and grins savagely. “A doctor,” he sighs. “Do you really think you’ve got that in you? Considering all the other things you’ve had in you already.”

Without breaking Mason’s gaze, he searches his eyes for something, any sign of what Mason wants from him besides this, and finds only ice, unyielding.

Answer me,” snarls Mason. “You’re so focused all the time, so dedicated. Do you honestly believe anyone would want your hands on them for anything but this? Do you truly think that a patient would listen to what comes out of your mouth if they knew what’s been dumped inside of it?”

Hannibal tries to swallow but the scarf pulls tight enough that he can’t, and he finally closes his eyes as he hears the fabric begin to tear and he breathes, “No.”

“No,” Mason coos back, turns his hand once again and watches as Hannibal brings his own up to try and pry the thing away from his throat so he can breathe. “But you still insist on the farce of trying. You still insist on going to classes and reading your books and sitting your tests. But always, always back to your knees after, always back to this.”

Hannibal chokes, nails digging into the fabric to tear into it, so thin and strong all at once. Mason just watches.

“It’s not nice to lie, Hannibal, not to the nice people who know what you are, and pay you such good money to do what you’re good at, that you pretend you are not this.” Further and further the fabric rips, Hannibal’s nails clawing against it until it splits to pieces, slipping from his neck and tossed aside by Mason’s uncaring hands once they’re no longer useful tethers. “Do you hear me?” The slap comes sharp, catching Hannibal unprepared so he stretches his hands to the side to catch himself against the carpeted floor “It’s not, nice, to lie, Hannibal.”

A flat hand becomes a fist after the second word and Hannibal hopes the blood he tastes doesn’t bring loose teeth with it, as Mason sits back with a deep sigh, hand to his own lips to rub there, eyes out the window as the city becomes ritzy neighbourhoods. Almost home. Almost worse. Hannibal doesn’t make the mistake of spitting his blood to the floor, and swallows it with a soft sound instead, eyes on Will’s torn scarf, discarded on the floor. He reaches for it, pulls it back to press into his pocket, even one half of it, just to keep there.

He starts to reach for the second but Mason moves his foot over it when he sees the gesture, and holds it beneath his toes. “Nice things should go to nice people, Hannibal.” Mason runs a hand through his hair, blonde strands sticking straight, and slumps forward with his elbows on his knees. “Are you a nice person, Hannibal?”

A beat, a breath, enough, and through the swelling of his mouth he answers, “No.”

“No,” Mason sighs, reaching low to twine his fingers through Hannibal’s unsettled hair. “You’re hardly even a person at all. You’re like a dog, one with an especially good trick.”

His foot twists, and Hannibal watches the remains of the scarf grind against the carpet. The half in his pocket is a blessed weight, something, something to keep of the beautiful gift Will gave him, expecting nothing, asking nothing but that he enjoy it. He tries not to think of how Will told him he was beautiful, every time he wore it. He tries not to think of ducking his nose behind it in class, to breathe in Will still clinging to the soft strands. He tries not to think of draping it across his bare body and sending images to Will, and the rough-voiced calls that would come after.

He thinks of everything.

He wishes he could think of nothing at all.

“Pick it up.”

Hannibal lifts his eyes, past black-gloved hands fisted tight.

“With your mouth. Like a good dog, since you’re hardly a good person.”

The driver does nothing, even with the window down between his seat and the back, the driver says nothing, simply pulls in to park and waits, idling, waits, listening, and Hannibal hates him as much as Mason, who twists his fist into Hannibal’s hair and shoves him to the floor.

The fabric is as gentle against his lips as it has always been, and rather than think of nothing, Hannibal simply wishes he could become nothing, instead.

He doesn’t get far before rough fingers force it further into his mouth and Hannibal chokes, mouth going dry, throat more so, the fibres tickling and unpleasant. Mason reaches to tug the longer end of it around behind Hannibal’s head and back to the front, tucking it in roughly to hold him gagged by his own gift.

“It’s a good color on you, Hannibal. You suit red,” Mason comments, allows a moment more of contemplation before opening the door and getting out, leaving it open enough in implication. Hannibal considers how he could just curl up, face the man’s wrath and be dragged from the car, along the elaborate gravel pathways and up the hard hewn marble stairs, through the unforgiving house.

He would be beaten by the time the door was even closed behind him to the bedroom.

Hannibal wonders if he will be allowed to lose consciousness or if he will wake in the cold shower stall like he has been forced to before.

He climbs from the car on his own, reaching back for his bag, a strange unnecessity, but a comfort. He thinks of the message he sent Will. He wonders if he replied. He can feel his mouth working to swallow, the gag dry and sticky against his face, and he doesn’t reach to remove it. It’s perhaps the only blessing he will get today, the only reprieve for his mouth.

Though he is not watched, he is noticed. Various keepers of the house are quick to leave to other quarters when they see Hannibal enter, shoved to stumble in ahead of Mason. Eyes turn away as if to shun him, something not to be looked upon should their fate become the same as his.

A monstrosity.

“Go.”

He does.

The room is decadent and barren, a juxtaposition of priceless antiques but only the furnishings necessary for living. A bed, a desk, a dresser, and little more than that. Hannibal turns dark eyes to the tile that he knows, hates as much as the boy behind him and as much as the servants who pretend not to see and as much as the driver and as much as himself, for still feeling anything at all.

He lowers himself, and waits.

“I really need to train you out of lying again, Hannibal. To others. To yourself. Kneeling for me like you’re good when you missed our appointment and had the audacity to not. Return. A call!

Fists first, then feet when it’s too much of an effort to reach. Chest, stomach, arms when Hannibal curls in on himself to stop it, back to make him uncurl again with a cry. He can barely breathe, the scarf oppressive and gagging him until he scrambles to yank it from his mouth, draw in a breath, press it to his face as Mason aims a sharp kick to it and catches his fingers instead.

“Did I tell you you could take that out? Did I give you permission to do anything at all? Put it back before something else takes its place, Hannibal, now.” Another kick, another, and Hannibal wonders if his fingers will move when this is over, if anything will. He bites against the scarf again, just holds it there until his hair is yanked and he scrabbles against the floor for traction to get away.

He isn’t sure if it’s a fist or a foot that winds him, but it hardly matters when he’s retching and trying to breathe, soft sounds of pain against the floor as the hand in his hair turns brutally, forces his eyes open and up.

“If you’re sick on this floor, Hannibal, you will eat it,” Mason tells him, voice deliberate, like explaining something to a child. “Now put it back and thank me for reminding you why it’s there.”

Hannibal’s eyes flash, a curl of his lip that hardly hurts where it’s broken open, when his whole body vibrates pain and his breath catches short where his body will not allow air. “I cannot thank you if it’s in my -”

A backhand, fist clenched, knocks the words from his mouth and nearly his teeth along with it. Only Mason’s hand stops him from falling to the floor, and Hannibal works his jaw only to feel that it isn’t broken.

With thoughts of Will’s fingers spreading the scarf across his nose, over his lips to keep him warm before he goes, Hannibal lifts it to his mouth and shaking places it against his tongue once more. He mumbles the words, lifting his arm fast enough to catch the blow that comes from not speaking clearly enough, and he enunciates, again and again and again, until finally Mason stops, and tossing Hannibal to the floor, steps past him.

Obedience.

Submission.

They see the same thing in him, and the thought turns Hannibal cold where he lays.

Perhaps he will break his teeth in this time. Perhaps he will shatter his orbital socket, and blind him. Perhaps he will crush his ribs until they tear through his chest, and his lungs fill with blood. Hannibal imagines the splitting of Mason’s flesh beneath his knuckles, under sharp fingernails, between his teeth, and only in this finds consolation. It does not last long, as the sound of a belt buckle clicking loose rings loud as a gunshot behind him.

Hannibal knows he makes a sound only because his throat is not yet numb enough to be without sensation. He hates that he does, hates that Mason pulled that from him, even despite the desolation of another’s promise between his teeth, soaking in the blood that barely darkens the fabric as it spills from Hannibal’s nose, from his split lip, bitten tongue.

He imagines that every thrust is a strike to Mason's face with something harsh.

Poker.

Plank.

Pipe.

Hammer.

Axe.

Skillet.

Brick.

Over and over and harsh enough that Hannibal can feel himself crying from it, biting his pain into the scarf, clinging to it when his fingers slip over the tile on the floor, slick with blood and smeared with tears and spit. He knows Mason is speaking, knows he’s hissing something or grunting it or yelling it, it hardly matters. Another sob and his head is driven into the ground in sharp rebuke and Hannibal hears little else.

He can feel his breath rattle in his lungs - still intact, for now - as he slides limp to the floor and tries to focus his vision on something that isn’t moving, but everything in the room seems to be.

“You’ve gone so quiet,” Mason tells him, voice rough from his release, from his personal pleasure in watching the boy shake uncontrollably at his feet. Still conscious, somehow, still here. “You know I hate it when you go quiet, I like when you talk to me - you always have such things to say.”

Mason crouches, pants still undone, belt loose in the loops as he reaches to pry Hannibal’s bruised fingers from the sodden rag between his teeth and toss that aside with a wince of disgust. He wipes his hands against Hannibal’s shoulder, lifts his chin with rough fingers.

“Come on, Hannibal, I buy you for the company, not just for fun.”

He has felt blood before, hot across his fingers. A very long time ago, in a place vastly different from this. A desolate building full of children large and small, and he alone amongst them. No one knew his name, because he wouldn’t speak it. Couldn’t speak it, no matter how much they beat him for his insolence. It painted him a target, pale and small and utterly silent, for bigger boys to touch and have their fun with. It painted him a victim, until he turned one night after so many just like it, and plunged his thumbs into the eyes of a boy who would never be able to look on Hannibal as a target, ever again.

Shoved a broken broomstick under the ribcage of another, when he was cornered during his chores.

Gushing hot across his face when between his teeth he held another’s throat in tatters.

He has felt blood before, but as he feels the numb pressure of Mason again rather than the stabbing agony, it is his own, trickling down pale skin.

And all the while, silence.

Mute.

“Not even a whimper?” Mason sighs, rolling his eyes towards the ceiling.

Hannibal brings his arms beneath him.

“It isn’t going to stop,” threatens the older boy. “It isn’t going to stop if you don’t speak.”

It doesn’t matter if the man offered him his own neck to snap, if Hannibal said one word for it.

If he only asked.

He can’t. He can’t.

He lies, eyes wide and breathing like an animal in pain, filling his chest so much he feels fit to burst from it. Everything hurts, all he can hear is the hum of his blood in his ears, all he can see is everything in stark relief. And he’s there, he’s there again, with the filthy walls and cold floors and too many bodies pressed together. He’s there again when he would open his mouth and nothing would come, and he can’t make it.

And for the first time in Mason’s care, he would be screaming, he would be howling, if only his lips would part and he could, if only his body would listen to him.

Mason says nothing as he pulls the belt from his pants and folds it, resting his wrist against his knee and letting it dangle before Hannibal’s eyes and he just watches, unblinking, tears pooling on the ground beneath him and he can’t stop those just as he can’t give voice for it to end. He can’t move. Not when Mason stands, not when he leaves his line of sight, not when he feels a line of fire down his entire body, not even then.

Nothing.

Empty.

Silent.

Still.

He is struck again, and there is no blood on his hands now.

He is struck again, and he is very small, and afraid.

He is struck again, and he tries to call for her to run back to him, but there is nothing.

He is finally nothing, scourged to empty darkness by the boy over him who howls like the winter wind. Beaten until his skin splits, Mason doesn’t stop until Hannibal’s motions still entirely, the wideness of his eyes and shaking little breaths the only sign that he’s still alive at all. And still she calls for him, and still he cannot answer back.

“I am getting bored, Hannibal!” Mason yells, voice filling the room as it always does, and not carrying any further through the house. Hollow. Not echoing. A dead voice with no others to answer back. “You know I’m not very nice when I get bored.”

The belt is tossed to the floor, coiling to stillness, and Mason moves to crouch before Hannibal again, the boy entirely still, silent, eyes wide and pupils blown and entirely unresponsive. The blond tilts his head, a slow, reptilian motion, and wonders with a frown if he’s finally killed him. Then Hannibal blinks, just once, and Mason pushes himself to stand with a groan.

“You never used to be so boring, Hannibal, you used to cry for me, I like when you cry for me. Was it something I said? Are you shy?” He watches Hannibal’s back rise and fall with trembling breaths, frighteningly shallow, and rolls his eyes, rubbing a hand over his face with a frustrated sound.

“You’re not even worth the measly fee you charge me. Hopeless.” Mason pads towards the door, yanks it open to scream down the stairs that he needs his driver. “Useless!” This for Hannibal as he walks back past him, aims another kick at his prone silent form just to see him jerk with a response.

Several moments, and Hannibal is collected, roughly clothed back to a semblance of cover, pulled back out of the room with his bag, and down the stairs to the car again. Mason doesn’t follow. Mason doesn’t care. Mason’s already shouting for someone to get in here and clean up the blood for God’s sake this isn’t a brothel.

Chapter Text

Placid as if Hannibal were a businessman rather than a boy with blood catching his shirt against skin, the driver asks him where he’s going.

Hannibal does not hear him.

The driver asks again, reaching back to snap for Hannibal’s attention, and Hannibal’s hands curl into fists. Were he able to move - sit, lay, anything but turn against his hip and breathe - he would break his wrist, but instead he closes his eyes.

His lips part, tongue dry against the split that leaks pale pink heat into his mouth, and he breathes.

He breathes faster.

The driver demands, now. He’s going to go get Mason to tell him. Hannibal lifts a hand and hears his breath, short, frenzied, tries to make it move the right way through his throat, and when his bloodied mouth opens again, all Hannibal can hear is her scream.

He’s going. He doesn’t have all day for this, and Hannibal does not pretend to imagine that he is distressed that a child sits hurt and trembling in the back of his car, Hannibal is sure he is only one of many, but he is frantic. If Mason has to come back out - if Mason has to see him again -

Hannibal rips open the zipper to his bag and snatches out paper, shaking so hard he can hardly form letters, words that are as void as the voice that dies in his throat, and he writes down the address of a complex one block over, to pass it forward.

It’s enough, at least, to keep the man seated, while he tries to decipher the shaking letters. He says the place aloud and Hannibal nods, swallows, takes the paper back and settles as deep as he can into the seat as the car starts to move.

It’s amazing how he now feels every tiny jolt over a manhole, every shiver as the car turns, his body howling in its agony and Hannibal silent in it. At least with fresh air he can work himself to a semblance of functional. He shakes his head when the driver asks, grudging, if he needs to carry him into his house as well. He waits against the wall of the building until the car drives off, then he waits more before moving, stumbling, somehow walking back to where he lives.

He gets looks, some surprised, concerned, others fearful and indifferent. Some don’t even look up at all, and it’s the strangest feeling of disassociation Hannibal has ever had with the world around him. He wonders if he’s even in it, if he’s even conscious, if he’s even -

He’s glad college is still running, most of his neighbours there, instead of watching him painfully crawl his way up the last flight of stairs and leave messy handprints on the filthy linoleum. He makes it to his door. He makes it inside. And with the lock secure behind himself he allows a choked breath, allows the burn of tears against his eyes again as he fumbles for his phone and takes several attempts to turn it on.

The screen lights, and slowly, silently, all his missed messages come through. Six missed calls. Texts unnumbered, all from Will. Hannibal swallows, and scrolls just to the last, concentrating as hard as his body allows, to type out just one word, just one.

Please.

The response is instant, a call, and Hannibal would whimper for it if he could. He hangs up, shakes his head. Tries again.

Please come over.

This time it’s just a word in return, no call, no seeking of information.

Okay.

He makes it to the bathroom before he is sick.

Over and over, on bruised knees, every heave tearing wounds open across his back, his mouth where he spits blood into the bowl, inside of himself where he bleeds from injuries that will heal and those that never will. Hannibal retches until there is nothing but bile, and his lips part on a silent cry as he sits back onto the floor, and slowly sinks to the cool tile to press his bruised cheek, his blackened eye against it for what little cold relief it provides.

He doesn’t know how much time has passed, slipping in and out of awareness as if a lighthouse turned its light on him and then faded away again and again. Only the sound of a knock on the door, quiet at first, is enough to pull him upward on shaking arms.

Another knock, louder than the first, jerks him to his knees.

A voice that only calls his name but in doing so insists he stand is enough to make him do so.

Hannibal fumbles with the lock, the use of his hands all but lost to him, and turns away as the door opens.

It hardly matters, Will can see the damage wrought on him. Without a word he closes the door, locks it again, and follows Hannibal into the apartment as he sets his own bag aside by the door, his shoes as well.

“Hannibal.” A touch to his shoulder and the boy flinches like he’s been struck, turns quickly to try and push Will away from doing it again and Will holds his hands up to show Hannibal, no threat, not from him. “I was worried.” It falls flat, something to fill the space as his eyes take in everything they can of the boy before him, bruised and bleeding, shaking, unsteady. Will wants to gather him close, hold him, take him to a hospital and make sure he’s seen, looked over properly, held for rest, for recovery.

“I’ll call an ambulance,” he offers, sees the immediate terror - the anger - behind Hannibal’s gaze and swallows, directing his eyes down and back up as his tongue parts his lips in resignation. No hospital. Fine.

“Tell me what happened, Hannibal,” he says, watches the boy look at him helpless, shake his head, step back when Will tries to touch him again, though he keeps his advance slow, entirely in Hannibal’s sight. “You told me to come, I am here, Hannibal. Tell me who did this. Tell me how to help you.”

Hannibal swallows hard.

A shunned thing.

A monstrosity.

Watched with wide eyes and apprehension now as before, when he was noticed at all. A monster, formed of pain and weak flesh, a useless creature with only parts to be used. Nothing more than that.

Nothing at all.

Hannibal swallows down the taste of sick from his mouth and pushes his tongue against the cut cloying and sticky inside his lip. He shakes his head again - there is no help for this - but doesn’t step back when Will moves closer once more.

Patience, as with any startled animal. Will holds his hand out, palm up, waits as Hannibal remains where he is, trembling, eyelids drooping when he blinks, exhausted from even holding himself up as he is. Will wonders if he can even sit, lie down, without pain, wonders why he won’t speak to him.

A moment more they just stand, before Hannibal sets his fingers against Will’s palm, just to brush there, before taking them away. Will takes a breath, very slowly raises his hand so Hannibal can see it and pushes aside the hair fallen to his face, some matted with drying blood, some just stuck to it where it’s smeared over his cheek.

“One question at a time, then,” he sighs, carefully, eyes down to Hannibal’s until the younger man meets them. “Tell me what happened. How did this happen?”

The touch is enough to cascade a shudder through Hannibal. He nearly draws away again but holds, trembling.

Stay still.

Eyes closing, so at least he can pretend Will isn’t watching him with such gentleness in his own, Hannibal tilts his cheek - swollen sickeningly soft and hot skinned - into Will’s palm. The boy, who behind his eyes sees stacked beds and stained walls and violence, was never touched this way, not there, and not after. The boy, scarcely standing now, draws a breath as if to speak, and silence falls.

Hannibal shakes his head once more, wetting purpled lips, air sucked deeper, and with force he says nothing.

He wonders if he ever will again.

Will’s brows furrow, just enough, the muscles under his eyes tensing as he narrows them. Beneath his hand, Hannibal rests with his eyes closed, in a place Will cannot reach him, in a place so far away it holds him entirely captive there.

“Hannibal,” he says quietly, watches as Hannibal just swallows in response. “Eyes on me, please.” This is obeyed slowly, a blink, another, and a slow raising of dark eyes to his own again Will turns his hand to stroke cool knuckles over Hannibal’s less swollen cheek.

“I’m here because you asked me to come, do you remember?” He waits for Hannibal to nod, a gentle thing, seek out with a hand for balance, that Will takes into his own, lets it rest against his palm so he doesn’t bruise it further. He swallows, does not take the damage in now, not yet, not until he can establish this.

“I am not here to hurt you, I want to help, do you believe me?” Another nod, brows furrowing, desperate, soft. And Will swallows, presses his bottom lip between his teeth before releasing it. “Tell me you understand, Hannibal, I want you to use your words.”

The words rip raw, so wholly different from the demands that were made of Hannibal only hours before - those he had to obey, and still was punished for it. These he wishes to obey, and cannot. All Will has ever asked of him - to speak, to ask, to accept - and in this, Hannibal had hoped, he could excel. In listening and learning and doing, he thought he could, and now nothing.

Silent.

Still.

A gasp tears as desperate as a scream, trapped between the splintering bones of Hannibal’s ribs, pushing outward and distorting what once was something he could call his own and now has lost, this too stripped from him. And spattered with bruises, clothes sticking to him and filth drying on his thighs, Hannibal knows, suddenly why his voice has gone.

Nice things should go to nice people.

And all Hannibal has done is pretend to be something other than he is.

Will watches, careful eyes over the way Hannibal’s lips part and nothing comes free, not even a whimper, no sound at all. It is a muteness from trauma, not by choice, so far ingrained in Hannibal’s psyche that he can’t control it, now that he’s in it again. He feels Hannibal start to shake, just against his hand, and gently brings his fingers to his lips to close them.

“Breathe for me,” he sighs, waits for Hannibal to do that, shuddering hitched little things but he’s breathing. “Good boy.”

And it is so different, so different to the snarled words of before, and Will waits to see if Hannibal will try again to speak, or will simply obey this command for now, just to breathe. He licks his lips, panic coiling behind his heart where he doesn’t let it spread, and leans in to very gently set his forehead to Hannibal’s.

“I don’t want you to talk, I will talk today. But I want you to tell,” he turns his hand beneath Hannibal’s own, splays his fingers beneath his so they mirror each other, gentle, just the same. “With your hands, when you can. I want you to take as long as you need, for anything I ask, and I will be patient the entire time. Do you believe me?”

Watching their hands together, Hannibal nods. Long minutes spent simply to breathe, as he was told, to breathe, as Will asked, the least that could be asked of someone but even now is a slow agony when Hannibal’s body feels too small to hold air and his throat is rigid.

When Hannibal’s fingers slip away it is deliberate, each step, deliberate, each breath, deliberate - down to the beat of his heart that Hannibal imagines he keeps time with by force of will alone. He hardly grimaces, no particular movement worse than any other, each and every gesture a sundering pain. With his head ducked, Hannibal slips his coat from his shoulders, and sighs as Will slips it from his back, where spots of blood blossom brown against his shirt.

A quick hand, though, stops Will from taking the coat away, and with the whites of his eyes flashing wild, Hannibal removes the tattered scarf from his pocket, eyes dark with apology.

Will says nothing, hangs the coat over the back of the chair and draws a hand over the scarf as he considers the bruises over Hannibal’s neck that are just starting to darken. He sets Hannibal’s hands against the soft material and leans in to softly kiss his forehead, an unnecessary - in his eyes - forgiveness, but one he can feel radiates to Hannibal’s bones.

“Will it be easier if I tell you what to do?” Will asks him quietly, watches for a nod, a headshake, to continue whatever line Hannibal chooses.

His knees are nearly weakened from beneath him at the question. The searching spotlight that passed by as Hannibal was swept to darkened seas finds him now, an illumination for the lost. He leans into Will, mindless of the bruises and the cuts, the blood and the bile, mindless of anything but the heat that presses into his skin when he rests his forehead to Will’s shoulder and nods, an aching little movement.

Please. Please come over.

Will sighs, a long thing, slow, and nods as well, for himself. He does not let himself wonder at the tightness in his chest at the immediate acceptance, it hardly matters now, what matters is the bruised boy in front of him who cannot speak, who needs to be washed clean, touched and treated and given rest and comfort.

“I need to see where you’re hurt,” Will explains to him gently. “I want you to undress. You don’t have to fold the clothes, just let them fall for now.” He leans back just enough to see Hannibal, to smile at him and watch his eyes hone in on the expression, gentle and genuine.

“Undress, Hannibal, set your clothes to the floor.”

Guilt pulls Hannibal’s brows in, embarrassment darkens his cheeks, but Will’s words drive Hannibal to take a step back, to find his shirt buttons with shaking fingers. He shakes his head when Will reaches to help, insistent that he will do this.

Because Will asked, Hannibal pales as his back twists to shrug his shirt to the floor, peeling it from the tacky cuts that the belt stripped long across his pale skin. Because Will asked, Hannibal forces his hands to his trousers, the fragment of scarf still twisted around his hand as if it were a talisman. Because Will asked, he lets his pants slip to the ground, and careful not to bend further than necessary, his briefs are pushed to his thighs, and slide to the floor. Because Will asked, Hannibal steps back from the clothes, eyes lowered to his socks, and with trembling grace, the boy crouches aching slow to remove these in turn.

Because Will asked, Hannibal stands bare, but for the cashmere clutched in his fist, and the scarlet shame that burns beneath his lowered eyes.

Will makes no sound when he sees the damage presented to him, and that only physical, the silence another, the memories of this another still. How often, he wants to ask, why do you let him? But he knows, or he knew, partially, why. And the guilt here, the pain here, it is not of one blatantly disobeying to see someone who hurts them this way. Perhaps the man had come upon him when Hannibal had been at school, perhaps by other means, but this was not Hannibal’s doing. This was not earned, it was forced and enjoyed on him.

Will steps to the side, just enough, and takes Hannibal’s hand again, just gently, soft. “Flex your fingers for me.” He watches for damage, not a doctor himself but knowing enough at least of abuse to be able to gauge what to do. He praises Hannibal after every small task. Bend your knee. Turn your head. Smile for me. Stay still, let me see. Good boy. Good boy. Good boy.

A lot of soft tissue damage, a lot of bruises that will take weeks to heal, but it seems Hannibal escaped broken bones. For that, at least, Will is profoundly grateful. He is careful not to pass behind Hannibal, always in front of him, careful to touch him in reassurance, where his skin is not mottled with bruises.

“We need to clean your skin,” Will tells him. “Wash your hair. You know more than I do the danger of an infection.” He smiles, is pleased even when he just gets eye contact for the gentle joke. “I would like to help, but I will let you decide if I do. Do you want me to wait outside the door?”

Hannibal swallows, shakes his head.

“In the bathroom with you?”

Another careful shake of his head, eyes up, cheeks dark and eyes bright. Will takes a small breath.

“Would you like me to stand in the stall with you, and help you wash?”

Hannibal reaches for the word, a little breath, but it isn’t there yet and he presses his lips together and nods. Held between fear and acceptance, not wanting to be touched but wanting to be touched by Will, not wanting to be seen but finding his only sanctuary now in how Will looks at him. There is no disgust or disdain, no question that Will wants to be here.

That he wants to help.

That he thinks, even still, that Hannibal is worth that.

“Cold?” Will asks, and Hannibal shakes his head. “Hot?” A pause, and a gentler shake. “Warm,” Will confirms, instead, offering another encouraging smile as Hannibal nods. He accepts with a sigh the kiss that Will touches slowly to his brow, and watches as Will goes to start the shower.

Terror gives way slowly to frustration, no less suffocating, when all Hannibal wants is to thank him and to whisper how he thought of him, for as long as he could, that he needs in him in ways he doesn’t yet understand. That he wants, as Will once said to him, to stay.

With him.

Only him.

But voiceless still, Hannibal shuffles closer and with hesitation sets the scrap of scarf aside. Will waits before touching his own clothing, asks Hannibal if he should remove them, and does so only when Hannibal nods, eyes averted but still lingering in the doorway, watching out of his peripheral.

Will pays little care to how his clothes are folded, though, to Hannibal’s mild amusement, he notes that he always makes Hannibal fold his own. The more he reveals, the more Hannibal realizes that he has never seen Will fully bared before; in bed he sleeps in a loose shirt and shorts, if Hannibal wishes for some they are provided him, otherwise he sleeps warm and naked against Will.

Now, the older man stands naked before leaning to check the temperature of the water. Muscle there, beneath smooth skin and some dark hair. He is well-built, strong, and entirely familiar, even with this being the first time he is fully seen. Will turns, tilts his head and beckons Hannibal into the shower first, careful with the curtain as he closes it behind them both.

He does not talk Hannibal through this, he is hurt, not stupid, and instead takes to the tasks the boy cannot do on his own; bending to wash his legs, with Hannibal’s permission, between them. Leans in to press his lips to bruises and cuts, gentle enough to be felt but not to do harm. He is careful to wash Hannibal’s back, to wash away the blood and not irritate the cuts there. They are cruelly dealt but shallow, they will heal quickly with care.

Will reaches for the shampoo only after Hannibal sets the sponge aside, working it through his fingers before he works it through Hannibal’s hair, careful to keep it from his eyes and setting his feet wider when Hannibal leans back against him and closes his eyes.

A trust, entirely and earnest, and Will bends to kiss against Hannibal’s cheek before he straightens him to rinse the suds from his hair.

Bruises still smudge him, but the cascade of lather rinses white to clear away the grime, the filth, from at least the surface of his skin. What lies deeper is not so easily removed, but every time Will’s hand rubs against his arm, it helps. Every time Will’s mouth closes unhurried, unwanting, against Hannibal’s shoulder, it helps.

Hannibal turns towards the spray to let it fill his mouth, to rinse the blood and stale tastes away. He rests an arm against the wall to spit, fills and swishes, spits again, careful not to reopen his lip then or when he turns to Will and touches his mouth to Will’s cheek. Grasping Will’s hands in his own, Hannibal slides them to his back and leans. His professor, his Will, holds his weight and lets Hannibal sink against him.

There is no stirring, driving need between them, and Hannibal’s chest fills with heat. Will is here because Hannibal asked him to be. Will is here because he wants to be. Will is here - right here, steady heart and strong hands - because Hannibal needs him.

Because he asked for help, and was willing to accept it.

“The apartment,” Hannibal whispers against his shoulder, voice cracking. “A mess.” Goosebumps gather along his skin from the crawl in his throat, and press him closer still. “Seems appropriate, now.”

Will breathes a laugh against his hair and brings one hand up to cradle the back of Hannibal’s head, turn his own against him. He does not praise Hannibal for his voice, he is proud of him that he found it but it is not a command he issued. Hannibal returned himself to himself, with incredible strength. Will leans further back against the wall and just holds Hannibal against him.

“It reminds me of my apartment,” Will tells him at length, as the water starts to cool, still pleasant, against them, and he reaches up to turn the water off. “When I first moved out. It had two rooms, a screen dividing the bath and toilet from the main room, the other was the bedroom, barely big enough for my bed and all my books.”

He speaks quietly, reaches to gather Hannibal’s towel from the rail to drape it over his shoulders, allowing Hannibal his own space and choice as to how to dry his injured back.

“When I moved to Wolf Trap I felt so free,” he sighs, finding another towel carefully folded beneath the sink. “I had space, I had freedom. I adopted my first dog and it’s been downhill since.”

He watches Hannibal smile, work his limbs dry, and bends to help him with his legs, to save him bending and hurting his back further. When Will stands he rests a hand against Hannibal’s face, feels the boy bring his own fingers up to peel Will’s away before he leans in to kiss him, and Will lets him.

“When I visit Wolf Trap,” Hannibal responds, “I feel much the same.” He nuzzles into another kiss, gentle little things with closed lips that trap warmth between them both, fleeting and soft and his to claim, again and again. Hannibal moves from Will only reluctantly, his lips stiff enough that he seems far beyond his meager seventeen years, ancient in his body and the aches that tighten them.

Will steps back, to gather his shorts and slip them back over his hips, watching from a distance as Hannibal finally turns to the mirror to overlook the destruction that was wrought on him. And despite the swollen lip, livid purple, he survives. Despite the tenderness in his nose, prodded with careful fingers, he survives. Despite the black eye that will swell by tomorrow and the ballooning of his cheek and the pain inside of him from brutal thrusts that tore tender skin, despite it all, he survives.

A destruction, but far from absolute.

“This is my first apartment,” says the boy, opening his cabinet to retrieve rubbing alcohol, and tip it against the end of his towel. “It is not my first time away from home. Most of my life I have been far from it.” He presses the corner of the towel to his lip and hisses between his teeth, holding it even as his eyes glisten from the sting. “It is irretrievable to me, and so this is the nearest thing I have now.”

Will watches, does not help unless asked. He folds the towel he used to hang on the rail, regards Hannibal through the mirror as he continues the careful dabbing. He stands tall despite the marks against him, and Will wonders again how often this has happened, how often Hannibal has come home in this state, and how often he has had to deal with all of this alone.

He runs a hand through his hair to slick it back, though curls still stand up at odd angles, as always. There is a fierce independence in the boy before him, but it was something that was thrown on him, almost forced on him, it was not taken.

"You have built a very good one," Will tells him, meets Hannibal’s dry look in the mirror and smiles. "You have a home," he lists, stepping closer, but not touching him. “You have things in it that are yours, that you do not owe to anyone else. You are studying, working towards an admirable goal, and you refuse, stubbornly, for help. Determined to earn your way without charity."

He turns his head against Hannibal’s hair and presses warm lips to it, soft and intimate, but his hands he keeps at his side. With a sigh, a breathing in of the tension traveling through Hannibal as the pain is, Will licks his lips, lifts his eyes to the mirror again.

"How old were you?" He asks.

Hannibal leans back, and finds that Will moves to meet him, supporting the slump of shoulders into his chest. He turns his nose against the older man’s cheek in a delicate nuzzle, not enough to cause himself pain, and lifts a hand as if he might rub away the feeling of petrification in his throat. His secrets have always been his own, but all that Will has seen already he has accepted with grace and understanding, an empathy that Hannibal has never seen to have limits.

He leans forward again, and offers the towel and rubbing alcohol back to Will, for the scrapes across his back that he can’t reach himself.

“Six,” Hannibal murmurs, hands pressed to the counter and head bowed to bare his back. Swallowing past the feeling of fingers around his throat that threaten to cut short his words again, he speaks in little more than a whisper. “We lived well. An old family with old comforts. I did not know what it meant to want for something. Neither did my sister.”

The first press of cold rubbing alcohol seems to sear his skin and Hannibal’s muscles jerk beneath his skin but he does not twist away, eyes closed. “There was unrest and we were forced to leave, just for a time, but with unrest comes opportunity for those who are not ashamed to seek it.” The words snap brittle between Hannibal’s teeth, and another press of damp towel clears his head and curls his fingers against the counter. “Men came. They took our parents first. I saw my mother, she tried shield him from them, though he had already been - and then she, in turn - ”

His voice cracks like ice, too long frozen and suddenly exposed to glaring sunlight. It would be a familiar discomfort at least to let it remain frozen, to allow his voice to fade again, and the silence reclaim him.

“They kept us for ransom, but had already killed the two people who might have come for us.”

Will is careful with tending the cuts, soothing Hannibal's trembling with soft sounds, a kiss to his shoulder. He wonders if Hannibal has ever spoken of this before, if he had been given appropriate care, ever, for the trauma he had suffered. He sets the bottle aside, turns the damp corner of Hannibal's towel to hold it on his waist and sets his hands carefully there to ground him.

It is clear, now, why Will sees the darkness that shadows Hannibal like a cloud. Where it comes from, what it means. The potential for cruelty within the boy is astounding and he has resisted it, reined it in and smothered it. But it festers beneath his skin and in his mind and with beatings like this and cruelty from outside factors, it starts to gnaw, and struggle, and remind the boy it's there.

"But they did not kill you," Will says, thumbs stroking soft over the curve of muscle against Hannibal’s hips.

Hannibal doesn’t move, hardly seems to respond to the touches at all, but a soft huff of breath escapes when he hears Will’s words. “No,” the boy answers. “They took my sister instead.” He doesn’t say her name, he won’t, not for Will or anyone, and though the chokehold against his throat seems to clench tighter, he whispers, lips curled over his bared teeth. “They took her and they butchered her as if - as if she were a spring lamb, and they ate her. She called for me,” he whispers. “She has never stopped.”

He turns to leave but Will is there, and though he steps back Hannibal only leans back against the counter to steady himself, fingers pressed against his eyes. It sparks shots of pain, bright as crackling flame, behind his bruised eyes and he holds them until he grows dizzy from it, and runs his hands along his face.

“I was left to starve,” he murmurs, matter-of-fact and distant. “I was found. I could not explain what I saw and so I did not speak. Not then, and not at the orphanage, and not to any of those who saw my silence as opportunity. It was years before I learned how again.”

“But you learned,” Will reminds him, soft, watches as Hannibal’s lips quirk without any humor behind it. Will does not tell him he is sorry, sorry will not bring back a dead family or reverse the horrors this boy has seen. He tells Hannibal, in truth, very little. He shows him. Will slides his arms further around Hannibal’s middle and holds him gently, careful not to lean too hard against the cuts on his back. “And you lived.”

He watches the mirror until Hannibal looks up again and then Will watches him. Dark eyes that are too wise for seventeen, yet still show vulnerability, still show caring and emotion and need. Still live, not just exist.

“Would you like me to stay?” Will asks him quietly.

His words are spent now, not by force but by exhaustion. Hannibal draws a breath as if to steel himself, to insist that he’s fine - he doesn’t need anyone, or anyone’s help. He never has. He doesn’t want it.

But the sigh escapes, tremulous and fragile, and Hannibal leans to rest his cheek against Will’s shoulder. He nods, allowing himself the childishness of the gesture, the helplessness of accepting help. Too tired now to do more than accept the fingers that stroke tenderly in his hair, too drained to resist the slow steps that carry him towards bed, Hannibal moves as Will does, a passing glance spared to the scarf he set aside, before he drags himself onto the bed on hands and knees, and with too much pain to lie any other way, he sprawls across his stomach.

Will follows, checks the lock again, perhaps from habit, before returning to the bathroom to open a window there, another in the main room to air the house as much as it can be before evening. He’s certain Hannibal will not sleep much without medical help.

The bed is small, enough for them both to lie in it but not sprawl, and with a bit of shifting, Hannibal finds himself pressing to Will’s chest, as he so often does at Wolf Trap. Will says nothing more, and nor does Hannibal. The words have been spent and absorbed, little things but important.

Will breathes soft against Hannibal’s hair but he does not sleep as the young man does. He watches the shadows play over the ceiling as the day grows later and cooler, walls warming orange as the sun begins to set. He doesn’t think of how he had left the academy, telling Jack tersely that he had an important matter to see to. That no, it could not wait. That yes, he would make up the time.

He doesn’t think of how sick he had felt with the silence after Hannibal’s message, how it had felt like a farewell without an explanation. He doesn’t think of how he just wants this, just this, the slow restful breathing against his neck, a heavy body sprawled on top of him, too tired to even shift in his sleep. He wants this, he wants him, and even still he will not ask, he will wait.

He will wait until Hannibal comes on his own, and asks on his own, and accepts what this is, now, and what it could be, soon. Not a taking of freedom, but an offer to take burdens, an offer to carry any weight, and to allow another sort of freedom in the surrender given him.

Will sleeps only when the room grows dark and Hannibal does not wake, and they both sleep through till early morning. Hannibal does not argue when Will tells him to pack his things, his books, and takes him back to Wolf Trap. He does not complain when ice is pressed to his face and he is told to stay in bed and study there as he wishes. He does not complain when he overhears Will call in to the FBI to let Jack know that for the rest of the week he will not be in.

Chapter Text

Hannibal makes certain to keep the night clear.

In truth, with nearly every weekend and many weeknights spent in Wolf Trap, Hannibal has almost exclusively whittled his availability down to his regulars. His rent paid for, in advance and without question, affords Hannibal room enough to breathe, to set money aside and cover what he can of his tuition, to pay for his daily expenses and keep him in gas enough to get back out to the woods, to the little house that lights the darkness like a ship at sea, to the dogs who know him now.

To Will.

Dinner tonight in Wolf Trap?

Hannibal sees Will’s answer when he leaves his last lecture for the day.

Yes.

They talk to each other daily, if only just in texts when Will is away on a case or Hannibal takes an appointment. Both are careful to keep things thinly veiled in innuendo, but just as often, Hannibal is simply happy to hear his professor’s grumbling about neglectful students and how the roof needs to be fixed before it snows, and he is happy to be heard - truly listened to - in kind. But what little definition has been outlined between them now stands to fade, as Hannibal watches the miles peel away and the city shrink behind him. What was understood will be unclear once more.

Hannibal grips the wheel tighter and forces himself to ease.

Will hears the car pull into the driveway, crunching gravel and setting the dogs to barking. Shouldering into his coat, he steps out to the porch, arms folded, and watches the tall blonde make his way across the grass. Faster, enough that he seems harried, his shoulders hunched perhaps in stress, perhaps against the stiff wind that pushes him, and his eyes are unseen as Hannibal ducks his head.

Will resists the urge to curse, grateful at least that even with devils at his heels, Hannibal does not appear - this time - to be injured. But he moves quick enough that Will glances over his shoulder, notes no headlights on the road beyond the highway lights glinting gold onto the pavement, and steps back into the house as Hannibal approaches.

He turns with a furrowed brow when the boy drops his bag, and opens his mouth to ask when Hannibal’s lips collide with his instead. Up, crashing into him, Hannibal’s feet clear the floor and snare agile around Will’s waist, arms around his neck.

Will catches him, used to the weight of his boy now, and steps back enough to lean his weight - their weight - against the counter, one hand beneath Hannibal’s ass, the other up between his shoulders and in his hair, holding him close, smiling despite his glasses being entirely askew as Hannibal kisses him again, hungry and tugging at his shirt as he clings.

Will pulls back with a hum, eyes hooded and down to watch Hannibal’s lips as the boy leans up to take Will’s glasses off his nose and set them aside. Will adjusts his grip, setting his feet so he can hold the boy against him, lean in to press their foreheads together and draw back in increments to make Hannibal lean in to kiss him.

“Another day of idiocy to wipe away?” He asks, amused when Hannibal shakes his head. “I envy you, I would quite like to wipe the idiocy from mine.”

“No,” Hannibal tells him, arching his back and pressing closer as Will just wraps his arms around him instead, comfortable, familiar.

“Are you going to make me make you say it?” Will asks, brow up, lips tilted.

“Yes,” grins Hannibal, squeezing his legs tighter and leaning his whole weight against the older man, enough to force Will to spread his feet a bit more, lest they both topple to the floor.

“Tell me.”

Hannibal now arches a brow, chin raised imperiously, and Will laughs.

“Tell me what you need,” he clarifies, and Hannibal plunges their lips together once more, pressing harder, higher, against his professor.

“You,” the boy purrs.

“Tell me why.”

The words are said just firmly enough that goosebumps scatter over Hannibal’s skin, up and down his spine like fingernails, and he rocks his hips, a languid undulation that twists the length of his body. Rubbing his cheek against the scruffy beard that Will wears, Hannibal sighs sweetly, his breath tickling soft over Will’s ear. “You haven’t been counting,” he murmurs, before a grin parts his lips. “Today is my birthday.”

Will pauses, feeling the warm body against him, humming with excitement, tense with it before Hannibal presses a kiss just behind Will’s ear. He hasn’t been counting. Since Hannibal had told him he had written it down, several times, had kept the page with him, had kept the note pinned at work, but had never looked at it again. Then cases upon cases, midterms for his students, Hannibal’s injuries…

“Is it?” He breathes, curious, warm, one hand up to stroke through Hannibal’s hair again, just to feel him curl, feline, against him at the sensation. Will turns his head and kisses Hannibal’s hair, warm, intimate, and entirely pleased. “Happy birthday.”

Eighteen. At least one aspect of their relationship now has become easier, more manageable. Perhaps he will no longer have to delete the pictures Hannibal sends him, in danger of them being found and him being arrested. There is a strange comfort in knowing they’ve reached this point together, months of sporadic meetings when either was available, a slow crawl to trust and understanding between them, Hannibal allowing himself to be cared for, preening with it and enjoying it for what it is - a care, a worship - not a disregard for his own work and his own independence.

Will tugs his hair, just enough to lift Hannibal’s eyes to him, pull him back to see properly before Will skims fingers down Hannibal’s jaw and sets them beneath his chin. “And what would my boy like for his birthday?”

He leaves his chin raised just as Will lifts it, held perfectly still but for the gentle writhing of his hips that he can’t control, and his smile widens as his eyes narrow. “Everything.”

Hannibal begins to lean close again but Will shifts back, holds Hannibal in place still, and beneath his fingertips can feel the rough swallow before Hannibal’s lips part, eyes dark as they search between the bright blue gaze of his professor. He can think of nothing but Will now - not the others he sees sporadically, more of duty than of need with so many needs met, not the others who have forced their demands on him with violence and cruelty. There is no obedience there, Hannibal has learned. Obedience can not be taken.

Obedience must be given.

“Teach me,” he asks, letting his heart beat faster, allowing his pulse to hum tripping until it buzzes in his ears and darkens his cheeks. “Teach me properly,” whispers Hannibal, “how to submit.”

For a moment, Will’s expression slackens in surprise, the pleasure there evident but the disbelief just as palpable, just as wonderful. He considers the request, considers the implication, wonders if Hannibal understands what this could mean. Will strokes his thumb over Hannibal’s bottom lip, presses it out of shape and parts his own in sympathy for the motion. Carefully he sets Hannibal to the floor again.

He leans in to kiss him, deep, long, deliberate, and sets a hand against Hannibal’s chest so he cannot step closer when Will leans back.

“Before I do, I want to know what you think it means,” he tells him, brow up, a professor standing at the front of his classroom, waiting for someone to impress him. But there is something warmer there, something entirely fond.

“Tell me what you think submission means,” Will repeats. “I want you to earn being bare, and being touched, with your answer.”

There is a flicker of disappointment, brows knitting, but it is not a denial. It is, in fact, exactly what Hannibal has asked for, and now a student in front of his teacher, Hannibal ducks his head in thought, and folds his hands behind his back. He is quiet for several minutes, and Will waits patiently as Hannibal considers his answer, and what he has learned already. His past experiences, and the ones that Will has shown him. His desires, and his needs.

Hannibal draws a breath. “It has been, for me,” he says carefully, “a matter of learning when to swallow my pride, and admit -” He pauses, the words difficult even now to say out loud, and sighs, “Admit when I need something. It has meant relinquishing enough of who I have been to learn that not all carry ill-intentions.” Pressing his tongue between his lips, Hannibal raises his eyes but not his head, quietly searching Will’s expression. “I have had to learn how to trust someone other than myself.”

Will smiles, proud, warm, and licks his lips before lifting his chin in consideration. “Jacket and shirt,” he allows, tilting his head. “Submission is an admission of need, it is also an allowance of trust.”

He watches Hannibal remove his jacket, work fingers carefully over the buttons of his shirt until that too is peeled away and set aside, and only then does Will move to him, draw a hand over his shoulder and bend to kiss it, tilt Hannibal’s head up with his own and lick over his pulse.

“Submission is power,” Will tells him quietly, knows that Hannibal listens, hears him and remembers. “Submission is allowing someone to take for you the things you fear facing yourself. Pride.” Will brings his hands down to Hannibal’s belt and works it free. “Personal fears.” It falls to the floor and Will’s fingers start on the button and fly, forehead pressed to Hannibal’s as he rocks them gently back and forth, eyes together, smile unwavering.

“Submission is permission. Submission is strength, and courage.” Will’s fingers slip Hannibal’s pants from his hips and he pulls back just enough to sink to his knees before his boy, careful to remove his pants without toppling him, folding them in his hands. “Submission is a promise, not from you, but from me, that I will care and not stifle, dote on and not control, protect and not defile.”

He leans in, eyes up, and presses his lips gently to Hannibal’s cock through his briefs, a lingering thing, a warm and worshipful thing.

“Submission makes me a willing slave to you, if you will let me.”

Though Hannibal’s breath draws sharp as Will’s mouth curves against him, only a thin barrier of cotton between them, he keeps his hands folded at the small of his back, fingers tightening together. He keeps his chin raised where Will had lifted it, denying himself the impulse to look in favor of standing as Will wished him to stand, guided him even without words. It tightens in his belly, spreading heat down between his legs where he hardens, twitching in time with his pulse, and every time that Will breathes against him.

“You make it sound so easy,” Hannibal sighs, a lilt of laughter curling up the end of his words.

“It can be,” agrees Will, and Hannibal hums in quiet consideration.

“It isn’t,” he finally says, words plucked carefully from his thoughts. “To trust. It is far easier to assume that a person has only their own well-being in mind. Easier still to imagine that no one might understand - might know - what one needs better than even they do.” A pause, and a faint smile appears. “That you might see my own interests more clearly than I myself.” He exhales. “Pride.”

Will hums, settles back and draws a hand up Hannibal’s thigh gently. “You may move as you like, Hannibal, I won’t stop you.” It’s permission, formed as an offer. It’s soft, and Hannibal does unwind his hands to reach forward to touch Will’s hair, feel the man turn into the touch like a cat.

“Pride is good, pride is another sort of power, but as all power it is blinding,” Will tells him, voice lower, warmer as he looks up. He will not subject Hannibal to lessons, not today, but he wants him to understand, he needs him to. “I do not presume to know what is better for you, but with your permission I can understand what is important, and help guide you there when you, yourself, are unable.”

He sits up higher, kisses Hannibal’s stomach. “In anger or upset, hurt, exhaustion, whatever hinders you in making a choice, I would like to help.” He kisses lower, for once entirely submissive to Hannibal, here, not Hannibal to him, and yet entirely as they always are, all at once. Will holds Hannibal entirely in thrall, just as the boy holds him. Give and take. Equals in this, in most.

“When I tell you what to do, it is with thought of your benefit, occasionally mine,” Will points out, and with a smile ducks his head to bite the band that runs the length of Hannibal’s briefs, sitting back on his heels to pull it looser, to start to pull it down.

Hannibal exhales roughly as his cock springs free, shivering at the cold air against hot skin, and curling his fingers tighter in Will’s hair.

“Then I will trust you with that,” Hannibal responds, head tilted to watch Will on his knees before him, this extraordinary man who for all of his brilliance, all of his distance from the sturm und drang of humanity, has chosen Hannibal to know so intimately. “For better or worse, you will hear it from me,” he adds with a slight smile, past the strain it takes for him to offer what Will asks of him, to agree to such openness as Hannibal has resisted for the whole of his life.

The first brush of lips against his bare length earns a moan, a fragile little sound that breaks beautifully from the boy. He rocks his hips forward, finds that Will does not immediately kiss there again, and the moan becomes a weak laugh.

“I do enjoy it, though,” Hannibal says, “when you ask me to act for your benefit.” His cheeks color a warm, dusky rose, spreading along the long bridge of his nose, across high cheekbones, and spilling downwards. “I trust you, in that as well. There is a difference in asking, and demanding.” He slips a curl of Will’s hair behind his ear, thumb stroking down the side of his face. “And when you ask, I want nothing more than to please.”

"You always do," Will assures him, smiling, eyes up, before he leans in to kiss Hannibal’s hip and slide his briefs all the way down. "When I stand, you will undress me, you will tell me what you want us to do, and I will give you everything."

In truth, Hannibal could not ask for more than this. He feels, in a word, safe. The thought of such protection - from his own admitted missteps made in haste and anger, from his misjudgments born from old wounds - is almost overwhelming. There has, for as long as he can clearly remember, never been a place for him that he has felt he can go when he is weak or wanting. There has never been a place for him where he can be cared for.

And as the older man slowly stands, Hannibal knows with certainty that place is with Will.

Though youthful fervency would make his movements hurried, an eager rush to feel himself made full by his own choice, for his own satisfaction, Hannibal keeps his hands steady as he works each button free on the soft flannel shirt that his teacher wears. Warm palms spread it from his shoulders, and peel the white undershirt to bare him. Each article is folded and set aside, and Hannibal lowers to his knees to unlace Will’s boots and remove them, waiting until each foot is lifted to slide his socks off and set them inside his shoes, and it is by sheer force of will that Hannibal removes Will’s pants in the same unhurried fashion.

Both bare now, to the other, Hannibal leans in just near enough to sigh heat against Will’s cock, to breathe him in as he has not been allowed to before. He wraps his hands around Will’s thighs and turns his eyes upward, and when their gazes meet, his willpower breaks.

“I want you to take me,” he whispers. “Hard.”

Will’s smile is barely there, but it is clear what the words do to him. A moment, two, and he blinks, tilts his head, swallows.

“Up,” he says, waits for Hannibal to obey, leaning in to sigh against his lips and not yet kiss him, smiling when Hannibal’s breathing shivers against his own. “I will take you,” he promises, “hard enough that your legs will grow weak, that your breathing hitches and you forget your own name.” Will grins, turns just enough to still be just out of reach, catching Hannibal’s chin with his knuckle again. “But you will certainly remember mine.”

He watches Hannibal respond, smiles a little more, as he blinks, slow, watching Hannibal mirror. “Tell me you want it.”

“I want it,” Hannibal sighs, trembling and close. Will rewards him with a gentle bite to his lower lip, drawing it out before releasing it for Hannibal to fold into his mouth instead.

“On the bed,” he tells him. “I will have you on your knees and spread for me.”

“Is that how you’ve been thinking about it this whole time?” Hannibal asks, eyes narrowing in coy pleasure.

Will returns the look, and says simply, “Go.”

Hannibal does.

With lanky strides and shifting hips he paces from the kitchen to the living room, listening as Will clicks to send the dogs outside, shivering as the door snaps shut, and nearly stumbling as he hears the door close behind. The snap of the lock pulls an achingly sweet sound from him, and he spreads his hands across the familiar bed, sliding his knees up slowly, to find the center of the bed and stretch himself forward.

He folds his arms beneath his head and turns his cheek against them, watching Will and all the strength he tries so hard to hide beneath unflattering clothes a size too large, thick powerful thighs and broad shoulders, hair spilling into eyes made dark with want. Hannibal’s knees skim outward, bunching the blankets beneath them, and he pushes his belly towards the bed to turn his hips higher, utterly wanton in presenting himself, entirely shameless.

And without a hint of the resentment that once gathered the corners of his eyes, replaced instead with a want that hardens him to aching between his spread thighs.

Will tilts his head to take the boy in, the way he bends and arches, the way he stays still though his eyes gather at the corners as he grins into the sheets beneath him. He is beautiful and strong, young and entirely his own storm. And he is calm, obedient, because Will asked him to be. Wants him to be. Wants him.

For a while all he does is look, until Hannibal shivers a little with the scrutiny and Will moves closer. One step, another, and he’s behind the boy, now, out of his sight but close enough that it curls his toes in anticipation, draws a soft noise when Will rubs a warm palm down Hannibal’s back and back up again.

“Don’t hold your voice,” Will tells him. “I want to hear everything, I want you to ask for anything you want, and I will give it to you.”

He leans in to kiss against the sensitive skin at the top of Hannibal’s thigh and parts his lips wider over it, sucking lightly, drawing teeth in a gentle line there. “Don’t hold your pleasure, either,” Will tells him, breathing warm against Hannibal’s hole, ducking his head to mouth against his balls, careful and gentle and enough to pitch Hannibal forward with a groan. “If you want to cum, cum. If I make you do it again, you will do it again.”

Will smiles at the response, relishes the shiver and curls his hands gently to squeeze against Hannibal’s thighs before taking his cock in hand with a gentle stroke and guiding it back to suck into his mouth. He hums, pleased, and spreads Hannibal with one hand, allowing him movement, and twisting and demanding of his need, moving to stroke fingers gently over his hole as he sucks.

Hannibal couldn’t restrain his voice if he tried. A low groan turned against the mattress, nuzzling beside fingers that clench tight into the rumpled sheets, he twists to try and watch, catching only the movement of dark hair and strong shoulders, and with a grin Hannibal buries his face again.

“Harder,” he purrs, spine coiling and unfurling in rhythmic waves. He tries to push his hips back, a wholly new sensation to thrust backwards, and finally he yields, reaching back instead to tighten his fingers in Will’s hair. “Deeper.”

His breath cuts short when Will slips his cock further over his tongue, the heat of his lips squeezed damp around it, and that same gasp exhales shaking when Will sucks him deep enough that his nose brushes the boy’s balls. Will holds him there, swallowing around him, and the pulsing pressure pitches Hannibal’s little sounds higher.

He could finish like this, readily, youthful impatience plucking dissonant notes through the roiling tension of his body, but he does not want to - not yet - and so obeys Will’s instructions. He will cum when it pleases him, and there is so much more that he wants.

“I want you inside of me,” Hannibal breathes against his curled fist, hair spilling into his eyes as he looks behind himself again. “Your cock, Will, please -”

Will hums as he pulls off, drawing his nose up against the warm cleft of Hannibal’s ass before licking a long line against him and sitting back. He’s hard, just from this, from touching the boy and wanting him, and knowing that he can have him now, for age, for pleasure, because Hannibal wants it for himself, and no obligation behind it. Will bends over him, biting softly against his shoulder with a grin, reaching for the second drawer of his bedside table. From within he pulls a bottle, a condom, doesn’t bother to shut it as he sits back.

Hands keep moving, over Hannibal’s skin and into his hair and breaths come short as he bends to properly kiss against him again, long deep things, leaving pink sucked bruises against him that Hannibal will see later, feel when he touches.

“Beautiful, tempting boy,” Will praises him, kissing further back as he drips slick on his fingers and warms it. “Do you know how much I’ve wanted you since the moment you thought me so rude at dinner?” He laughs, soft, leans in to tongue against Hannibal’s ass enough for the boy to shudder, moan for him, before replacing his tongue with his fingers and slowly pressing in. One finger, slowly two before Will twists them, curls them up, seeking.

“You are incredible,” he sighs, the belief confirmed when Hannibal squirms from the feeling, stretches forward with a moan and laughs into the sheets as Will continues to torment him. “Clever, beautiful boy, I adore you.” Will waits for the hitch in Hannibal’s body, trembling from how good it feels, how entirely overwhelming it is, before adding a third finger, shifting around to lick against Hannibal’s cock again, catch the drips that slide slick down its length.

The words make Hannibal squirm just as much as the hot press of Will’s tongue, as the stretch when he spreads his fingers wide to open him. Praise that raises warmth over his skin, pinks his knees, his elbows, his cheeks, and curls his toes helplessly. Praise that Hannibal has worked so hard to earn, not given out meaninglessly or with motive. Praise that Hannibal has sought for in all he does, for all of his life.

Will’s fingers twist and Hannibal all but spreads flat against the mattress, arching feline and fierce before pushing himself back to feel them just a little deeper. Moaning rough where he bites against the side of his hand, Hannibal buries his cheek against the sheets and reaches back with his other hand to hold his cock, and squeeze.

“Do I need to repeat myself?” Will teases and Hannibal can’t help but rock against his own grip, nodding weakly. He rubs a palm over Hannibal’s back to soothe him, and following it with his lips murmurs, “I adore you.”

Despite the snare of his fingers, Hannibal’s body jerks and he cums pulsing hard over his hand, dripping to the sheets below, an explosive moan in another language as his eyes squeeze closed to watch stars shatter behind his lids.

Will watches, smile wide, just enjoying watching Hannibal enjoy this so much. He leans in fingers slipping free to slide down Hannibal’s thigh as he kisses the back of his neck, his cheek, nuzzles against him.

“Good boy,” he sighs. When he sits back it’s to take the condom up, work the package open before slipping it over himself, slicking more lube over his cock before lining up against Hannibal, delighting as he wriggles back, sets his knees beneath himself again, arches his back for Will. He pushes in slow, enough for Hannibal to shudder, sensitive and aroused, enough to groan, himself, at the pressure of it.

Hannibal pants beneath him, no sounds of pain and all of them needy, greedy little things so Will doesn’t stop, not until he has pushed fully in, his knees spreading Hannibal’s legs where they’re stretched, drapes over his boy and brings one hand down to slip his fingers tight with Hannibal’s, squeezing and smiling at him when Hannibal turns to look.

“You feel exquisite,” he sighs, soft kisses to Hannibal’s cheek, to just behind his ear, tender, soft things, before Will nuzzles between his shoulders and pulls back to thrust back in.

And then it’s brutal.

A claiming, fast and deep and hard, growls and pleased words murmured against Hannibal’s skin as it grows sticky from the sweat between them. Will holds Hannibal’s hand beneath his own, feels the way Hannibal starts to return to himself, to hardness, hungry again as Will does exactly as his boy had asked of him. Taking him, teaching him that this is theirs.

Hannibal can do no more than keen, long and loud and low, as the bed shudders beneath him, as Will fills him again and again, as words scatter soft as kisses over him - growled or whispered, it doesn’t matter, they are his and he has earned them. This. Will. All of it his own.

His unsteady moans jerk staccato with every drive of Will’s hips against him, hand shaking until Will presses it tighter against Hannibal’s own belly to hold him firm. Hannibal tries to get his knees beneath him again but a sharp thrust splays them flat and Hannibal writhes beneath Will’s weight, leaning heavy atop the boy laid beneath him. Every thrust strums vibrant, resonating up his spine to curl sweetly from his lips. Every praise that Will pays him embeds itself beneath his skin, shivering uncontrollably.

Will wants it as much as Hannibal, the boy knows, he has smelled his musky release in the morning and at night when Hannibal is there, willing himself not to touch, to keep to the same rules that he laid for Hannibal. He has seen Will grow so hard when Hannibal spreads himself ‘studying’ over the desk that the man can hardly walk. He has caught sharp blue eyes lingering over him, followed by hands, followed by lips. A wild desire he might have satisfied at any time, but did not.

He waited for Hannibal to be ready.

He waited for Hannibal to ask.

The boy ruts shameless against the sheets, grinding his exhausted cock half-hard pinned between his body and the bed. He will ache from this, and stretch as many ways as he can to feel its memory echo through his body.

Will leans over him, head ducked and breathing unsteady, so close, now, himself, and drawing it out just a little more to feel Hannibal come undone again, to feel him shudder in that beautiful, involuntary way, make those sounds again. He slows, to small shallow things that pull Hannibal’s voice high, his body tense, fingers clawing at the sheets and around Will’s hand.

Surrender is trust.

Surrender is worship.

Surrender is power.

Will kisses against Hannibal’s skin like he has never, ever been with anyone more beautiful, and if he were to cast his mind back far enough, it would still be true. Beneath him is someone unpredictable and smart, wonderful and affectionate. Someone Will has not thought himself capable of being with, finding, being allowed to have, in this way.

“Up,” Will whispers, breathless, pulling back enough to allow Hannibal to shakily scrabble back to being on all fours. “Stay like that for me.” He kisses Hannibal’s neck, tugs gently at his earlobe before starting a slow, deep rhythm against him, angled enough to pull cries from Hannibal with every push, enough that Will himself starts losing himself to this, quickly, so quickly, as he breathes praises to Hannibal’s hair and tenses, allowing his release to wash over him with a groan.

Though his body trembles beyond his control, Hannibal forces himself to remain upright, forces his eyes to stay open, forces himself to turn and watch the way Will’s face goes slack, eyelashes falling long against his cheeks. He is beautiful, flushed and gentled and younger, as his release eases over him in diminishing waves.

Hannibal has hardly moved to lower himself when Will spreads a hand over his chest, and raises him upright again. Still softening inside his student, he reaches with his other hand and grasps Hannibal’s cock.

“Again,” Will tells him, leaning forward to rest his sweat-slick brow against Hannibal’s back, lips curving to taste the salt from his skin.

“Will, I -”

“You will.”

“I can’t,” pleads Hannibal, scarcely able to stop himself from sinking into the bed as it is.

“You will,” his teacher tells him again, and Hannibal can only laugh, shaking.

He is allowed enough movement to rest his brow against his arm, bowed across the bed, and he closes his eyes as Will’s skilled fingers work his soft cock back to a painful hardness. It is so sensitive that the scarcest grip firmer pulls a gasp from the boy, and all the while he shakes his head, and all the while he hears the words you will.

You will.

Hannibal does.

Will rests against him long enough to catch his breath, before slowly, carefully, pulling free with a groan, kissing his way down Hannibal’s body, whispering how good he is, how entirely, unbelievably good he is. Then Will stands, shaky legs and messy hair, and makes his way to the bathroom to toss the condom, clean himself up. He returns to find Hannibal grinning, pawing at the sheets like a sleepy cat, and kisses him, deep and long and adoring, before nuzzling him enough to turn onto his back so Will can clean him.

He will wash the sheets the next morning, make the bed up with new ones for now, but only when Hannibal moves on his own, exhausted and filthy and beautiful. Flushed skin and shaking limbs and soft little noises as Will carefully works the cloth over his skin.

He wishes, for a moment, that he lived closer to the city, that he could call for some awful Chinese take out and relax with Hannibal pressed warm and sleepy against him. As it stands, he will wrangle some of the food he’d started preparing when Hannibal had called, cold now, but easily warmed. He will feed the boy from his hand just to see him take his time to enjoy it, to allow him to relax fully from the day.

Will kisses Hannibal’s stomach and up his chest to his lips, one hand up to stroke over his brow until Hannibal blinks at him, sleepy and sated.

“Happy birthday,” he tells him.

Hannibal’s smile breaks wide, parts into a grin before he presses his nose up against Will’s palm and Will lets his fingers rest cool over Hannibal’s eyes. “Everything hurts,” the boy laughs. Never has he ached so much in such an entirely pleasurable way, and he digs his heels into the bed to push himself up and nuzzle against Will’s hand again, grasping it to drag over his mouth. He kisses Will’s palm, slender fingers curled around his wrist, and opens his eyes, drowsy, just enough to watch Will watching him.

He is messy, he is youthful, he is raw and he is lovely. The aloofness that Hannibal affected for so many months now seems as though it belonged to another person entirely, and perhaps, in some ways, it did. “I am certain,” Hannibal adds, voice muffled under Will’s hand, “that I have never had a better gift than you.”

“I will be sure to leave you as thoroughly exhausted next time,” Will promises, leaning in to kiss him softly, against the back of his hand, before moving to sit up on the bed, allow Hannibal to come back to himself at his own pace.

“I could warm up dinner,” he suggests, curling one leg beneath himself. “Would you like dinner?” He glances to Hannibal, eyes warmed with the pleasure of seeing him so entirely, pleasurably debauched. “What would you like to do?”

Hannibal preens beneath the praise, tilting a sleepy smile into the mattress before easing to his side, and stretching his long legs until his toes point. He relaxes and coils around where Will sits, and Will is almost surprised when Hannibal doesn’t begin to lick himself clean like a cat, tail twitching in consummate pleasure.

“I would like dinner,” he smiles, ravenous now despite the blissful exhaustion that weighs down his body. “And -” Hannibal pauses just long enough for Will to arch a brow, expectant. “Might we watch a movie? Anything,” he adds, watching Will’s expression sidelong from where he lays. “I can’t recall the last time I did so, without purpose.”

Will bends to press a kiss to Hannibal’s lips, chaste and soft. “I am offended that you would not attempt to seduce me during the film, Hannibal.” Another kiss and he stands, bending to take up his shorts to slip into before he goes to the kitchen, making a stop at the door to unlock it and whistle for his dogs to come back inside, most of which immediately clamber to the bed to greet Hannibal.

Will sets the chicken to reheat, rice set aside already, vegetables and sticky sauce in another flat pan beside. When Hannibal finally pushes himself to stand - to Will’s great pleasure, barely balancing before he half limps to the bathroom - Will returns to the bed to pull the sheets away, tossing them in a pile by the laundry basket before pulling a clean sheet from the closet, standing on his toes to reach. He makes it and tosses the blanket back, returns to the kitchen to catch the food as it begins to bubble again.

It’s a simple meal, spicy and hot, two bowls set to the counter before Will bends to gather the bowls from the floor to wash and fill those with their dinner as well. Everyone taken care of, everyone comfortable and warm, Will takes their meal to the living room before swinging by the bed again to loop his arms around Hannibal and half carry him to the couch, the other laughing and struggling playfully in the hold.

He flops to the couch, reveling in gracelessness, and tucks his feet up beside him. Will sets on a movie - an old noir crime drama that Hannibal confirms he hasn’t seen before - and no sooner seats himself on the couch than Hannibal tucks up close beside him with a few little shuffles across the cushions. They eat, and watch, and kiss, all in equal parts, affection that does not need words, strongly felt enough without.

Hannibal’s body is lax, a relief that settles all the way to his bones, exhausted and sore and spent and already thinking of the next morning - or perhaps again that night - when they will press each other into the mattress once more.

But it’s Hannibal who stands first, with a soft groan and a long stretch so hard that he shakes in pleasure with it, before taking up the dishes to return them to the kitchen. He washes them and sets them aside to dry, and in returning lingers for a moment in the doorway to watch Will, his sleepy gaze focused on the film. His brows are not furrowed, jaw not clenched in troubled thought, and the lines of his face have softened.

Pride, newfound and thrilling, fills Hannibal’s chest and steals his breath when he knows that the ease settling over the man is because of him.

Will moves aside to allow Hannibal room as he pads back towards the couch, but instead, Hannibal sinks slowly to the floor. Sitting contented, utterly and profoundly contented, at his teacher’s feet, Hannibal rests his cheek against Will’s thigh and wraps an arm around his leg, fingers curled across his ankle.

Will just watches, does not make Hannibal move, and drops a hand into his hair to work the smooth strands through his fingers.

The film ends, Will’s eyes barely open, stomach full and body entirely, blissfully relaxed. He rubs his eyes with a groan, shifts to stand and finds himself pinned still by the heavy, sleeping form against him, arms still around his legs, face pressed between the couch cushion and his thigh. It is so endearing, so utterly, sweetly endearing, that Will is at a loss, for the moment, as to what to do.

Carefully, he extricates himself from the lax grip, steps back and bends to pick Hannibal up from the floor, smiling when he immediately turns to nuzzle against him, not awake still but conscious enough to seek.

Will shoos the dogs from the bed, at least long enough for him to set Hannibal comfortably down, before he climbs in himself, turned to watch him, youthful and small, relaxed and contented in sleep. Will leans to kiss Hannibal’s brow, and buries his face against the soft skin joining Hannibal’s shoulder to his neck, to breathe his boy in as he sleeps.

Chapter Text

Morning crawls with steady warmth across the floor, closer to the bed and higher up against it, and tickles the bare skin it finds there. The dogs notice first, usually the first awake if not up, and there are six of the seven in bed with the two bodies lying close and almost tangled in the middle of it.

First one dog, then another, quiet padding to the floor and to the main room where it’s lighter, warmer and more enticing, though three do stay in bed, too comfortable to move, too loyal to the men on it to leave them, though the two hardly care. But it is Will who wakes first, just enough, with a quiet groan and a soft sigh, before he feels Hannibal against him and smiles, burying his nose in the loose straight hair at the back of the boy’s neck.

It is still too early to be up, to be awake, to do anything at all beyond what they are, and so Will doesn’t move, doesn’t shift enough to wake Hannibal in front of him, even resists the urge to touch him, just to watch his shoulders rise and fall in soft slow breaths of rest.

He is beautiful.

And, Will remembers with a smile he buries into his pillow, his. By choice, by his sweet and earnest asking, he is entirely Will’s.

The little movements - breath slow against his neck, lips touching just enough to brush ticklish skin - stir Hannibal to slow awakening, and he presses his limbs into a feline stretch, toes and fingers spread, and then coiling tightly again. A smile quirks the corner of his mouth as panic dissipates, that he slept somewhere he shouldn’t have, with someone he shouldn’t have - that he has made himself vulnerable.

The latter, at least, is true.

And in this case, entirely welcome.

With Will at his back and a dog at his front, he is wedged between enough warmth to keep the morning chill at bay. A pleased sound creaks from his throat when Will finally spreads a hand over his ribs, down to a sharp hip, and Hannibal takes the older man’s wrist in his fingers and slips Will’s hand between his legs.

Youth and morning both hold Hannibal already semi-hard, and Will nuzzles a laugh against the soft hair at the nape of his neck, lets himself be guided. An asking without asking. Will slips his other arm up beneath Hannibal’s head and curls his hand back to play with his boy’s hair as his other hand curls around Hannibal’s cock to stroke him slowly.

"It's still early," Will tells him, voice sleep-rough and pulling a shiver through Hannibal, all the way up his spine. "Still so early." And it is a tease, now, a gentle plucking of strings with words alone to feel Hannibal push back against him with a sleepy noise.

Will presses a hot, open-mouthed kiss to Hannibal’s shoulder, the hand between his legs still moving, still teasing.

Hannibal’s smile widens, parts over his teeth as he tilts his head up to chase Will’s palm, pulling a kiss there when he catches it. “And a weekend,” he agrees, voice furrowed with sleep, his accent dense. “Nowhere to be but here.”

He ducks his head and hoists the blanket higher, to watch Will’s hand curl around him, brushing thick curls of hair and gliding in languid pulls over velvety skin, growing taut with each touch. Bringing a hand down, Hannibal rests his fingers over Will’s own, to feel him touch there, simply because Hannibal wishes him to, and a mischievous thought occurs to him that perhaps, in his allowances for Will’s control, it is actually Hannibal himself who holds court here.

Releasing Will’s hand to stroke freely, hips rocking to push his cock into the loose grip of the older man’s fist, Hannibal slips his own back behind him, fingertips tracing the outline of Will’s cock, a stiffening ridge wrapped in a well-worn cotton.

“Nothing more to do than this,” the boy adds, almost idly, but he does not resist the urge to grin. “All day.”

"Perhaps not for you," Will groans, but it is far from dismissive, far from prohibitive. They have both waited long enough, and Will wants nothing more than to feel his boy squirm again, to taste him, take him deep and spread him wide, tease with fingertips until Hannibal smiled, just so, pressed his hand soft against his face to hide the blush there.

A kiss, another, pressed hot and more demanding to Hannibal's back before, with a groan of displeasure, Will lets Hannibal go, and stills his wrist against him.

"Stay," he breathes, kisses Hannibal’s cheek, and climbs out of bed, calling for the dogs to come to the door. He will feed them later, they can wait in the meantime, far from starved, any of them, and Will far from patient at this very moment to attend them.

He flicks the catch on the screen door to avoid any interruptions and brings his hands to his eyes to rub them as he yawns, turning to look at Hannibal as he sprawls in bed to stretch properly, shifting under the blankets enough to have Will’s eyes seeking, throat working in a swallow before he starts to walk slowly back to bed.

Hannibal is careful that in his shifting - arms reaching above his head, knees falling open - the blanket remains draped over his hips. His cock tents beneath it, concealed but visible, and twitching harder as Will nears him and Hannibal takes in the man from toes to eyes.

When Will’s fingers find his hair, Hannibal turns to his side and hooks a finger in the waistband of Will’s briefs. He tugs him closer, pleased when Will does not resist, and props himself up on his elbow to lean and sigh, smoldering, across the bulge that shifts in response to the nearness of the boy’s mouth.

He does not bare the man yet, but instead contents himself in mouth across the threadbare fabric, darkening where he dampens it with his tongue, his lips, sucking open-mouthed as if in a kiss across Will’s cock.

“How would you like me?” Hannibal asks, eyes uplifting. There is no resentment, no resignation to this, now, no more sullen looks or abiding body while his mind wandered elsewhere. He is consumed. He wants to consume. And there is no one he has met before with whom he has wanted it more.

Will makes a sound, deep and warm in his throat and rocks gently against the seeking lips. He wants Hannibal to touch him, kiss and suck him down, he wants it. He wants to splay his boy’s thighs and push into him slow enough to arch his back, to have him grasping with weak hands for any support he can find.

He wants him. Just him.

"Oh.” A sigh, long, and Will’s fingers find Hannibal's hair as he sets one knee to the bed to hold himself balanced. "I want you every way you can bend, and any way you let me," Will tells him, strokes down Hannibal’s cheek to cup beneath his chin, smiling. "Beautiful boy, will you put your mouth on me properly?"

"Are you telling or asking?" Hannibal asks, eyes crinkling in his pleasure.

"I am asking," Will smiles, lifts Hannibal's chin just a little higher and bends to meet him, drawing his bottom lip between his teeth before sighing the word against Hannibal’s mouth. "Please."

Asking means that Hannibal could say no. No, he isn’t in the mood for that. No, he’d rather do something else. No, just no, if he wished it. His cheeks grow rosy at the thought of it, that he could walk away, expect disappointment perhaps, but no violence or manipulation to make it happen. He is under no obligation here, and might do as he pleases, which in this case, happens to coincide with what pleases Will.

Hannibal sits up slowly, a glimpse of his cock dark-skinned and heavy-hard between his thighs as he turns to his knees and lets them spread wide across the blankets. He works Will’s briefs down, letting them slide to the floor when Will shifts his knee before setting it back to the mattress, and Hannibal’s eyes drift nearly closed as Will’s cock stands hard before him.

For him.

Only for him.

He tightens his fingers around the base, careful not to catch the coarse, dark hairs in his grip, and with a sigh he flattens his tongue slowly across the thick vein that pulses in time with his own, over the ridge of his head, enveloped in silky skin. He circles it, a show, knowing Will watches the boy not at work, now, but at play, relishing the acrid sweat and salty skin, wonderfully smooth as he presses just the tip past his lips, and lets it pop free again with a little moan.

Will shivers, back tensing in pleasure as he just watches, feels Hannibal hold him, lick him, just feel him. It feels so good,and he's done little more than tease the skin and breathe against it. It is beautiful to watch him so at ease, so entirely at ease just for himself, exploring Will with little licks and gentle lips before he taking him into his mouth deeper.

One hand finds its way to Hannibal's hair, but he does not force the boy closer against him, does not hold him still to ravish his mouth and take his own pleasure. No. His pleasure is entirely in the hands, the lips, the body of the boy before him, and Will surrenders entirely to him, for that. Willingly at his mercy.

He sighs out a curse as Hannibal takes him deeper and lets his head drop back before gentle fingers curl over his thigh and bring his eyes down again, to meet Hannibal’s, dark and wide and pleased.

"Beautiful," Will tells him, strokes the hair from Hannibal’s forehead and hisses in pleasure as Hannibal hums against him. Will forces himself to just take this, to enjoy it enough to bring his mind to numb whiteness but not further. No. He has more plans for the morning than quick relief by talented lips and tongue. Will’s lips part gently in sympathy as Hannibal takes him deeper still, and his throat clicks on a swallow.

Hannibal doesn’t doubt his skill in this, a necessary ability to relieve those who he would never take inside of him, but he has rarely ever enjoyed doing it. The smell of sweat is often dizzying, the taste too cloying, but every sound Will makes is a thrill, a reward, and Hannibal wants nothing more than to hear those little noises again and again. He tilts his head, to feel Will’s cock press against every part of his mouth, dripping slick against his tongue. Lips puffed from sucking, from the pressure of Will’s cock throbbing hard against them, shining damp, he closes his eyes and nuzzles deeply, nose tickled by hair as Hannibal holds Will as deep as he can, tongue rocking in waves as he swallows.

It is a pleasure, to give rather than to simply be used, to be allowed to taste and explore and please instead of simply becoming a warm wet hole to release into. He is, with Will at least, more than that, and it makes him want to give so much more in return.

He releases Will’s cock, though keeps it sucked stiff with hollowed cheeks, and runs his hand back over his own ass instead. Fingertips tease across the soft bud of his opening, holding himself open as he sucks, less for his own pleasure than for the display of it - his own wanting, presenting himself for the taking. And Hannibal knows, when he raises his eyes, just the effect it has, and his own narrow in pleasure.

Will makes another low noise of pleasure, swallows, parts his lips, closes them. Eyes barely open but watching, every shift of Hannibal’s hands, every bend and pull of muscle, every deliberately narrowed look. He is a temptation. Though, now, Will’s patience need only extend to pressing the boy to bed, not weeks and weeks of waiting.

"Stop," Will sighs, smiling at Hannibal as he blinks up at him. “Back," he grins, watching Hannibal pull off with a moan, knees shifting wider and his own fingers circling, stroking, to bring that sensation, those shivers, all over his skin. Will watches, hand down to stroke himself now as Hannibal watches him like a cat, bent and poised and playful.

Will tilts his head, almost a stretch of his neck before he does the same on the other side and watches Hannibal’s eyes hone in on the motion. He reaches with his free hand to stroke down Hannibal’s back, then up again, over and over until he curls his spine and makes a little noise of pleasure. Then Will folds his fingers through Hannibal’s own and gently spreads him wider, two fingers holding trembling skin, one rubbing against his hole until he makes that noise again, higher this time, and Will can’t resist their usual play.

"Tell me what you want," he murmurs, eyes narrowed.

Hannibal doesn’t tease, no reason to be coy now, with everything he wants so close to him that he can feel the heat of it against his skin, like summer sunshine after a too-long winter. He rocks back against Will’s fingers, his own still holding himself open for Will to touch over silk-soft wrinkles, so gently that it tickles and Hannibal’s cheeks glow the color of cabernet. He lets his eyes drift to where Will strokes, studies the way the older man enjoys touching himself, a turn of wrist across the head, less pull downwards, a tightened tug up.

Hannibal extends his tongue again and his eyes crinkle in pleasure as Will has to fight feeding him his cock again.

“You,” Hannibal purrs, lips slack as he rocks insistent back against Will’s fingers, despite that they do not push deeper. “Heavy, atop me. Between my legs, so I can wrap them around your hips and kiss you.”

Will makes a sound, little, and despite his boy’s displeasure, stops touching him. Neither go far, Hannibal sitting up to catch Will again, the older man setting both knees to the bed and drawing a hand through Hannibal’s hair before pressing their lips together, for the first time that morning, to taste himself, to taste Hannibal and the little sounds he feeds him. In truth, had Will only permission for this, today, it would be enough.

Carefully they shift, Hannibal unfurling to sit more comfortably and Will settling on his knees between spread thighs, before, with a grin, Will grasps Hannibal by his thighs and yanks him down the bed, bending to swallow the little yelp of surprise he makes.

It is dizzying, warm and soft, here, together, Hannibal shifting in the pillows, Will sliding his legs to lie flat on the bed so he can press closer to Hannibal, caress his legs with warm flat palms, up to the knee and down again, grasping Hannibal's ankles to spread him just a little further as Will rocks their hips together and groans at the friction.

Hannibal laughs, just a little gasp of sound, as they rub their bodies together. The soft fluff of his own chest against Will’s, strong and smooth. The meeting of their cocks, brush tender skin against tender skin, or against the other’s yielding lower belly. Mouths touching, if not kissing, lips scarcely touching but enough that it is warm.

It is wonderful.

It is entirely Will, who can give this to Hannibal.

Though the number of times Hannibal has shared a bed with someone would pale him to resolve, it’s never truly sharing. He is hardly even a guest, unless he is particularly lucky. He is a workman, no different than an electrician, who has come to repair the frayed wiring of another, in whatever way needs to be done. There is nothing in it for him but pay at the end, and to let himself be touched and moved however his client wishes.

Their fingers do not hold so carefully to the curve where his thighs meet his backside.

Their mouths do not move him to arching, bending into a moan that spills forth from his lips.

Their eyes do not send uncontrollable goosebumps scattering soft as a sudden spring rain across his body.

He does not love them. But he is certain that he loves Will Graham.

Soft kisses beneath Hannibal’s eyes makes him close them, and then more are brushed against his eyelids before Will kisses him properly again. Both need this, want this, contented to have lazy early morning sex just for the sake of having it. Because the other is there to share it with them.

Will pushes up, just a little, reaching for the lube again, a condom that he sets on the bed beside them. He ducks his head to breathe soft against Hannibal’s neck, reaching for the little bottle even as he draws his nose, tickling, against the taut muscle of the boy’s neck, up just behind his ear, tickling, warm, and he relishes the little twist, the breathless laugh he pulls from him that draws one from him as well.

"Squirmy," Will tells him, laughing quietly as Hannibal does it again, distracting himself as Will slicks his fingers, lines them up to slowly press in. He pulls back to watch the expressions write themselves over Hannibal’s face, and kisses his cheek as he adds a second finger, curls both, seeks, eyes barely open to watch Hannibal respond.

A stuttering gasp, so soft it might have been missed entirely, ladders up his spine until he curves from the bed, and exhales Will’s name as flowers bloom white behind his eyes. Will rubs, teasing the firm nub beneath his fingertips, and Hannibal in a cascade of shivers smears his laugh with a hand across his mouth. His cock leaks, jumping from his belly with every touch, joined to that tender skin on which Will slept by a thin, clear trail from where it pools.

The stretch is easy enough that Hannibal relinquishes his thoughts of others for now - the comparing, the bitterness, the grief that burns as a molten thing in his core for having spent his youth being everything but himself, using himself for everything but his own enjoyment. It slips away, a shudder across his skin, and he loops his arms around Will’s neck to hold himself against the older man.

“You,” Hannibal asks, eyes open just enough to memorize the perfect pinking across Will’s cheeks, little spots of color spread into a field of rich rose. “Let me feel you.”

Will hums, pressing his lips to blush-warmed skin before reaching to open the little packet with his teeth, shift to continue his deliberate teasing, to start working the condom down before small hands take over and Will laughs, a soft breath, and ducks his head.

It is easy, comfortable, allowed to be silly without the pressure to be perfect. Hannibal is perfect to him already. Will finally releases Hannibal from his toying torment and strokes himself instead, watching Hannibal draw his knees up, curl his toes, nervous in the most sweet way, despite this being perhaps the most normal experience in Hannibal’s working life.

"I am going to hear your voice break," Will promises him gently, smiling as Hannibal tries to kiss him, pulling just far enough away. “Going to see you coil and arch and fall exhausted back to bed."

"Yes."

Will grins, nuzzles against him as he lines up. "Then coffee," he promises, "breakfast... and then I think I will have you again. Just to hear you sigh my name and lie that you want me to stop."

The breach is easy, slow, and Will rests his forehead to Hannibal’s to share the closeness, the air between them.

Hannibal’s moan splinters into rock candy whimpers, sweet and jagged, melting beneath the body of his professor above him. It is something so simple, so wonderfully uncomplicated, that the thought of anything but this - every morning, every night - seems as far away as so many other past lives he has lead in so few years.

He doesn’t turn his eyes aside as Will pushes inside of him, a blissful stretch that tightens when Hannibal slips his legs over the older man’s hips to squeeze him nearer. Hannibal is all touch, skin against skin wherever he might meet it, lips against Will’s cheek, tongue across his shoulder, hands tucked against the plateaus of Will’s shoulders and toes tucked bent against thick thighs. There is no part of them, had Hannibal his way, that would not be touching, no part that should be separate from the rest.

Fingernails draw marks only a drop deeper than the pink spilling over Will’s skin already, down his chest, across a nipple, lower, reaching until he feels the ridge of latex where Will joins him, his opening hot to the touch, his cock issuing another thick drop of precum from where his foreskin gathers. Eyes flashing, dark as moonlit seas, Hannibal presses his lips together in a curve of pleasure and takes himself in hand, to revel all the more in being so breathlessly full from the only man - regardless of length or girth - who can make him feel that way.

Will rocks slowly, relishing the nails against his back, the way Hannibal presses them closer with every thrust, the way he allows himself to enjoy it. With a groan, Will slides his hands over Hannibal’s thighs again, not to uncoil him but just to see, to feel the way his muscles tense and move as Will turns his hips, adjust the angle and shallows his movements.

He catches Hannibal's moan against his own lips with a grin, holds him still and does it again.

It is the simplest thing, to give pleasure this way, to know when to move and how, to draw someone breathless, grasping, needing more. Will whispers only what he must, more? slower? deeper? ask... and gets his answers in soft sounds and gentle breaths, splaying fingers and tightening thighs.

Will catches Hannibal's fingers against his lips with a laugh when the boy reaches for him, kisses each one and his palm before nuzzling into it, contented and warm, growing closer and closer to orgasm with the way Hannibal squirms for him, tenses, genuinely enjoys this.

Loosening his hand from himself, to let his cock rest stiff between their bellies, Hannibal slips his hands back through Will’s hair, clearing it from his eyes, loose loops of curl soft between long fingers. They tighten just enough to bring Will down and settle their mouths together once more, parted only by the soft little sighs that Will pushes out of him, eyes open with a quiet wonder, body aflame with cinders under his skin. Hannibal feels alive, thriving and young and beautiful, as if for the first time, truly, his body and mind exist in the same place at the same time, rather than one discarded in preference to the other. As if, truly, there is more than what he has known, and that he is deserving of affection, and Will - his professor is as gentle and as confident as if Hannibal had never before done this at all.

Hannibal allows himself to imagine that he has not, and in many ways, it’s true.

His body tugs tight around Will’s cock when he tries to rock back, as if to hold him deep enough that it stretches all the way up to his spine, a delicious pressure building. But Will hushes him, brings a hand against one sharp hip, and holds him still, to curl his back in shallow little thrusts, the slick head of his cock rubbing a quick pace against Hannibal’s prostate.

And the boy laughs, a quaking and tremulous sound, but rather than cover his face to hide his genuine joy, he simply buries his nose against Will’s neck, and pleads for him to keep going, please, god - yes, please don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop -

Will cums first, the words, the voice, too much and too beautiful, and he presses his own laugh to Hannibal’s skin as he shakes from his own release, guides Hannibal with relentless motion to his own, hand down between them to stroke him, thumb against the slit, kissing praise over Hannibal’s cheek.

Will holds him closer when Hannibal cums, a soft choked noise as his body is overcome, and then he falls back breathless to bed, legs slipping to rest against it in languid pleasure and he hums, draws fingers through Will’s hair and brings him close to kiss. For a while they simply mouth against each other, trying to catch their breaths, to soothe their hearts from the racing each has brought the other to.

They are beautiful, both, and Will adores him.

“Look what you do to me,” he whispers, kissing Hannibal’s cheek, nuzzling it and kissing it again. “This is all you.”

The boy tilts preening into the praise, the kisses that carry it, eyes closed and body warmed by the press of his professor’s over him. A soft smile, felt more than seen, turns his own lips to seek Will’s scruffy cheek, the strong curve of his jaw, his lips that shape promises that all, entirely, have been kept. Though still unconvinced that he deserves this, that his past and his choices in the present have not slung him to a low enough rung that tenderness is wasted on him, he accepts it. All, every word and every touch, cherished in the knowledge that Will, at least, believes that Hannibal is worthy.

He arches with a fussy noise as Will slips free of him, clings to him with lean arms to keep him near even as Will gently grasps his wrists and brings Hannibal’s palms to his mouth to kiss. Against them he promises that he’ll return, in only a moment, and Hannibal lets him go and trusts that he will.

The sound of water running in the bathroom is familiar, now, a comfort as much as all the others that the unexpected sanctuary of Wolf Trap has given him, and he listens, chewing his lip, and breaks into a grin when the water shuts off and bare feet click to return his teacher, his Will, to him with a warm damp cloth to wipe up the pleasant mess across his belly.

“May I make coffee?” Hannibal asks, stretching his legs long down the bed to feel the pull of muscle between them, the drowsiness now as enjoyable as the act that has lead to it. Will’s smile quirks, and Hannibal draws the back of his hand across his eyes, peeking sleepily from beneath it. “I am asking, because I wish to. For you.” A pause, and a sigh that carries on it a laugh. “The least I can do, after all I’ve already done to you,” he adds, teasing.

Will snorts, pleased, and inclines his head, allowing.

“Bare,” he amends, as Hannibal stands from bed, smiles when the young man makes a sound at the movement, purses his lips in pleasure knowing he had done that to him. “All day.”

He watches Hannibal blush, warm his body with the flush of blood to it, before he straightens his shoulders to obey, proud and naked, padding to the kitchen to start on coffee. Will lets him go, settles back in bed for a moment, and imagines the look on Hannibal’s face when he will get him to call the dogs inside.

Bare.

As requested.

And how he knows the boy will do it anyway.

Chapter Text

Whatever the mood of the day, Hannibal carries it in with him.

There are times where he hits the ground running, climbing Will like a tree and wrapping so tightly around him that Will can hardly pry himself free enough to touch him. Other times he’s sedate, sleepy from school, content to set his clothes aside and go about his chores - mostly self-determined - before bending over the desk to take up his studies.

And then, once in a while, is a day like this. Resistance, sand grinding in gears that otherwise run smooth, from the texts they shared until now.

I’m not coming over.

Oh?

No.

Is everything alright?

Fine.

Hannibal goes anyway.

Objectively, he knows that there are unresolved traumas that affect him, all sorts of sundry psychiatric terms for what’s wrong with him, and plenty of prescriptions on offer if only he would see someone and swallow their pills. But it feels like more than that, on days like this, like his skin is too tight for his body, pulling every time he moves, like he doesn’t belong in his own body, and is here only by some unfortunate twist of fate, when he knows he shouldn’t be.

And beyond that, he knows he shouldn’t be going to Wolf Trap.

He drops his bag with a thud on the porch, unwilling to lower his chin from the confrontational angle at which he holds it. He ignores the calm turn of smoke over Will’s tongue. Ignores the dogs who gather around him and stick wet noses into his bookbag. Ignores the way the light draws spiderweb shadows in the greening grasses and how unseasonably warm it is even for spring.

“I shouldn’t be here,” Hannibal finally says, and Will arches a brow.

“I didn’t ask you to come. You chose to come.”

“You didn’t need to ask, I know it’s what you wanted.”

“There are many things I want, Hannibal, will you endeavor to read my mind from now on?”

Hannibal’s brows furrow and he takes a deep breath through his nose before releasing it. Will watches, outwardly impassive, inwardly reading every single sign Hannibal is shouting at him with his silence and closed off expression. He reads the shaking of his mind, the tightness of his skin, the need to scream and tear and destroy.

Himself.

Nothing and no one else, but himself.

“You came,” he says instead, watching as Hannibal swallows, parts his lips to run his tongue roughly against his molars and close his mouth again.

“Yes.”

“So ask.”

“I don’t want to fucking ask.”

“Now, that’s a lie,” Will tells him, pointing with his cigarette before he returns it to his lips and takes a long drag, exhaling through his nose though he opens his mouth briefly, enough to see the smoke coil there in a ball, untouchable and fragile before it’s gone. “You certainly want to.”

“Do I.”

“Or else you would not be here,” Will reasons, infuriatingly correct, before squeezing the end of his cigarette between his fingers to put it out, and tossing it carefully into the ashtray. He lets the screen door slap shut behind himself when he returns to the house, knowing that, at his own pace, Hannibal will follow him.

But he waits, silent and sullen on the porch, and settles into the chair where Will sat before. Hannibal drops a hand, working it through the fur of the shaggy mottled dog who always comes to him first, and now sets a heavy head on his leg. He hates that Will is right. He hates that Will always knows, even when Hannibal tries to hide himself. He hates that Will doesn’t tell him what he wants despite being more of aware of what he needs than Hannibal himself.

He is still tense, unsettled as if his bones are vibrating too hard for weak sheathes of muscle and thin skin to contain, when he comes into the house, and his eyes narrow on Will as the older man starts coffee in the kitchen. Tongue pressed against the back of his teeth, Hannibal says nothing for the time it takes for the coffee to brew, for two cups to be poured, remaining just where he came into the house.

“If you know what I need, why don’t you just tell me?”

Will arches a brow, but doesn’t look towards the boy yet. “That isn’t how it works. You know that.”

Hannibal shoves his tongue against his teeth harder, jaw working in angry silence. He folds his arms, loosens them, puts his hands in his pockets, takes them out again. Nothing fits. Nothing feels right. He considers leaving, with a snapped apology, and calling Mason.

The thought feels like jagged ice, broken floes inside his veins.

“I want,” Hannibal begins, but the words falter. “I want to -”

Listening, Will stands in the doorway to the kitchen, coffee in his hand.

“Sometimes,” the boy tries again, pressing a palm against his eye and then dropping it, and lifting his gaze stubbornly to the ceiling. “Sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve this.”

“Deserve what? Use your words.”

“Life,” Hannibal seethes softly. “It would have been better for me to go with them.”

Will’s jaw works gently but he says nothing. After a moment he leans back into the kitchen to gather the mug intended for Hannibal and passes it to him as he steps closer. He waits for Hannibal to take it, before taking a sip of his own. He is so vulnerable, angry that he is vulnerable, livid that Will sees him this way, that he continues to wheedle and prod and pry.

Will can sense it in him, the internalized hatred, the helplessness.

And more than anything he can feel the way the words choke Hannibal and stifle him, twist his lungs until he makes a sound, little, and Will takes another slow drink of his coffee.

"But you live,” he tells him, answers at length, watches Hannibal's lips work in disgust as his brows work in gentle almost childish pain.

"All the worse for me."

"And you keep striving to live," Will amends, and Hannibal takes a drink of coffee and hisses at the burn, licking his lips. Will wants nothing more than to gather the boy to him, to feel him shiver at the touch as he always does, to bring him to bed and allow them to sink warm together as before.

"Why do you seek to punish yourself when, life, to you, is a constant punishment?" Will asks, stands straight to watch Hannibal keeps his eyes on the boy until he looks up.

Their eyes meet, Hannibal’s own dark as fresh blood, welling hot over pale skin, and he averts them to his coffee, thick and black as his breath feels inside him. “It helps me to forget,” he answers, after long consideration. “If my body hurts, with bruises, with cuts, then it’s something to focus on without having to go deeper than that.” He parts his lips with his tongue, considers moving to the chair or the desk but simply stands, shoulders stiff.

“And,” Hannibal murmurs, “I wonder if I don’t owe it. To them. To myself. All things considered, I still have life. I still have shelter. I have comforts that are ill-won and undeserved.” He draws a breath but it cuts short, pain twisting his lips and brows drawing in. “They would be ashamed of me, if they could know. More than that. Disgusted. I have not done service to my family. They would not be proud. And there is atonement, paying in this way for what I’ve done - what I do.”

Will considers the words, the heaviness of them and the utterly genuine belief that Hannibal truly deserves this, deserves to suffer for being alive and relatively well, and working so hard he rarely sees his bed for more than an hour, two, and sees others' for nothing but his clients' pleasures.

"Do you want me to give that to you?" He asks quietly, though his tone does not slick with pity or grow patronizing. "The ability to forget, to numb your mind to yourself for a few hours?"

He waits, long enough for Hannibal to nod, grudgingly, and he does not make Hannibal tell him verbally.

"Do you trust me," Will asks carefully, "to determine what I feel you deserve, and mete out the appropriate pain for it?"

A shiver snaps through Hannibal before he can resist it, white noise quickening like the wind against his ears. He shifts, an uncomfortable shrug of his shoulders that does nothing to relieve the tightness of his body, and swallows roughly.

Humiliation blooms rosy across his nose, his cheeks, at being forced to put these sensations into words, admitting them to the only person in the world who truly matters at all to him. The urge to leave is sudden, scalding like acid through the taut muscles of his body, but his feet are planted, he could not move them if he tried. Everything feels wrong, everything but the things Will offers him now, and Hannibal turns his eyes away from the older man and tries not to think of Mason.

The memory alone makes him hurt, like a blade twisting deep inside his body, and Hannibal wonders if this man will prove similarly unhinged when offered a beautiful boy who wants nothing more than to hurt until he’s blind to the world.

Hannibal wonders if he truly cares. Better to know, perhaps, the true make of Will’s character, so he is not surprised by it later.

“Yes,” Hannibal lies. “I trust you.”

Will shakes his head, sets his mug aside on the counter and sets still-hot fingers beneath Hannibal's chin to lift it, to force their eyes to meet despite the tension, the trembling that whispers through Hannibal’s body.

"You know lies get you nowhere with me," Will reminds him, still gentle, still the man Hannibal knows, in sleep and in waking, in the throes of passion and in the early mornings, rubbing his eyes with his wrist first, then his fingers. Offered this and still just staying his hand, patient, inevitably, infuriatingly patient. "You do not trust me with this, but I don’t know if it is because you fear agony or leniency from me."

Hannibal blinks, surprised, but says nothing, does not allow himself to turn into the hand that slips gentle to his cheek now, then up into his hair. Will does not want to hurt him, never has, that much is clear, but there is that tug, that pull of a promise that Will would do anything, everything, for this boy, should he only ask.

"I want you to hurt me," Hannibal says softly. Asking. Watches Will’s eyes darken just a little at the words, as tethered to Hannibal's requests as Hannibal is to Will’s chillingly soft refusals.

"Why."

Lips part and silence hisses past, and Hannibal stays waiting, as Will does, before the older man decides to allow reasons to slide, for now, just this once, to teach Hannibal not of his pain and apparent deserving of it, but to teach him what asking this of Will means.

"I will," he acquiesces, tone low, fingers tightening just enough in Hannibal’s hair when he relaxes at the words. "On two conditions. They are not negotiable. Do you understand?"

A slow nod, and Will licks his lips open. "You will choose a word that you will use when it gets too much, and you will use it." The request is met with almost childish disbelief and displeasure, like a game cheated on, rules broken before they are set. Will’s expression does not waver. "If you refuse to use the word, then you will trust me to stop on my own, and accept it as an end when I do."

The boy’s eyes narrow, just a bare twitch of muscle beneath them, as if sensing a challenge that he will not lose. Will has seen him, bruised and battered, bleeding from cuts and from between his legs, but he can take more than that, Hannibal is certain of it. There will be no need for anything so meager as a word to stop Will - he will tire before Hannibal breaks.

The look disappears as quiet as moth wings, and Hannibal’s soft smile is entirely insolent as he lifts it towards the older man. “I understand.”

Will raises a brow. “Your word?”

Smile widening a little further, but no less false, Hannibal responds with precise articulation, popping his consonants and drawing his tongue thick against his vowels. “Pomegranate.”

He feels absurd, embarrassed, the nervous itching sensation strong enough now that it feels like insects digging along the scarlet pathways of his muscles, snagging against his skin. With Mason, at least, he would never need to ask, would simply be grabbed and driven to the floor beneath a booted foot, reminded of his place in the world - on his back, bent, broken. With Mason, he would never need reconcile how lost he feels with the guiding hand pressed gentle against his cheek - it would be a blow, instead, enough to snap his senses into disarray.

“This isn’t going to work,” Hannibal whispers, amazed he can manage words at all with his ribs caged so tight that every breath pushes his lungs purple between those slatted bones.

For just a moment, Will’s brows raise, very slightly, and he wants to shake his head. Perhaps not. Perhaps he won’t allow it to work because he does not want to hurt Hannibal, and has never thought to. He does not want this to be a place of pain for the boy, a place to fear and loathe coming to, and at the same time, he had asked. He had blatantly, quietly, obediently asked for this.

And Will had promised.

So while he himself cannot bring such suffering to the boy, he supposes, in the end, he hardly has to. Will deals with enough sick minds to be able to slip into and out of them as he chooses, he does it for work, he finds himself, occasionally, unable to stop doing it in general. It keeps him awake at night, pulls cold sweat from his skin until he remembers who he is, can ground himself in a reality of his choosing.

He merely needs a mask, until he can see well enough without one.

“Down,” he says, watching Hannibal seek in his eyes for something more, something more than what they do together so often. He watches the disappointment there, the hesitation to obey and gently slaps him where his hand had pressed for comfort just before. Enough to startle, not enough to hurt. “You know well enough not to make me repeat myself, Hannibal, I said down.”

The boy huffs a sigh, eyes turning towards the ceiling. It isn’t enough, it can’t be, not after what he’s become acclimated to - to what he has made himself accustomed. He wonders if he’s broken himself, unwittingly, but so entirely that in trying to somehow ground himself, the only thing that works is violence, unrestrained violence - sexual, physical, emotional -

Another slap - though no harder - spurs him from his thoughts, too long hesitating, and Hannibal ignores the way it seems to echo through his body, down into his belly, as he settles, still clothed, to his knees.

“Further.”

Hannibal swallows, eyes distant as he splays his fingers across the hardwood floor, and settles to his hands and knees.

“That is far from good enough if you plan to earn anything on your knees today,” Will tells him, circling around behind Hannibal to reach and work his pants open, not cruelly, enough to slide them down his thighs, clicking his tongue as he does to the dogs for Hannibal to lift one knee then the other so Will can bare him and set his pants and shoes and socks aside. His shirt he leaves for now, hanging untucked now enough to just skim the floor.

A gentle nudge against Hannibal’s knees sets them wider and Will watches the boy catch himself on his hands when he nearly loses balance.

“You want me to hurt you, to make you forget, to numb you,” Will lists, returning to stand in front of Hannibal before reaching back for a chair and turning it to face the boy as he sits. “You want so much, and you give me so little. You know in this house you earn everything - look at me.” Will sets the toe of his shoe beneath Hannibal’s chin and tilts it up, watches the flush fill his cheeks, his eyes widen. This is not pain, as he wanted, but it’s enough to send him shivering, enough to have his mind hone in on Will’s voice, to listen and hear and find the rest of the mess in his head quieting to noise for a moment.

“In this house you earn everything, and so far I am far from impressed.” Will’s lips work before he sits back, reaches to undo his belt and works it from his pants with a whisper of fabric. Heavy, leather, worn enough to be soft and certainly enough to be supple, hard against skin when struck, formidable enough in promise, at least, that Hannibal swallows.

Will leans forward again, the belt looped in his hand, and regards the boy before him. “You want this,” he says. “You want to taste it against your skin and remember it after. You want the marks it leaves as a reminder, to wear them like badges of a martyr for no one to see but you. With me, you will wear them with pride, and I will make sure they are seen.”

It is enough of a threat to have Hannibal blink, eyes wide and lips parted, and it’s then that Will sets the belt between his teeth, gently lifts his chin to close the boy’s jaws around it to hold.

“Hold that as your promise, then, and stay still.”

Hannibal settles his tongue beneath the leather, tastes the age of it, the sweat set salty into the porous hide. His eyes narrow a little though, cheeks hot with humiliation, and skin shrinking in inches, crawling over twitching muscle, in anticipation. Something in his eyes, in the twitch of his jaw, tilts Will’s head just a little though.

“Do not.”

The boy merely lifts a brow, silent denial.

“Do not spit it out,” Will clarifies, and Hannibal snorts softly through his nose. “You think it’ll get you what you want - punishment for disobeying, that belt across your back. It won’t. Do it if you like and see how many hours I keep you here.”

Another look is lifted, dark eyes glittering even as Hannibal holds steady, and Will continues, “Because you will stay here, just like this, won’t you? I know you will, because you wouldn’t want to disappoint me.”

The too is unspoken but Hannibal hears it, and it tunes his thoughts further away from clarity, towards static, a consistent dissonance. He focuses on it, and it fades a little, further away the more Hannibal allows himself to think. Arms steady, knees spread, he remains at Will’s feet as if he were another dog, bringing a toy to his master, and only when a thin trail of spit glistens down his chin, does he move to wipe it away.

“Did I say you could?” Will asks and though the tone is soft, it’s enough to bring Hannibal’s eyes up again, questioning, and more importantly immediately wide to seek some form of forgiveness for the error, though he says nothing. He can, really, say nothing. Will shakes his head, crosses his legs. Hannibal settles into the same position he had been put in and tries to swallow, finding the more he thinks about it the harder it is to do.

Slowly, deliberately, drop after drop of spit lands on the floor, pooling in a sticky puddle that Will seems to pay no mind to, but he watches Hannibal, watches the way he struggles not to clean it, present himself as the perfect, and the ideal, as something that he will never be because he does not have to be, but he doesn’t let himself believe that.

Yet.

Will watches him long enough that Hannibal’s knees start to ache and he tries to shift, just enough to remain still but in a new position so it doesn’t hurt as much, and then Will stands, leaves the chair and Hannibal’s line of sight, and walks away. Hannibal waits, for a moment, another, before turning his head just enough to seek and jerking in surprise when he feels cold water against him, freezing, almost, from how warm the house is, directed at him from the counter, from over it, where Will aims the large bendable tap before shutting the water off and watching the now-drenched boy stare at him, shiver.

“I did not tell you to move,” he repeats gently. “I did not tell you to turn, or seek, or do anything but be obedient, and you are proving far from it.”

The shiver that runs through Hannibal is not entirely related to the cold. Will is proving menacing without once raising a hand to him, without doing anything at all but speaking, but bringing Hannibal’s own terrors of failure and shame to the forefront of his mind. A confrontation that pulls Hannibal tense, taut, nervous when Will comes back around to him and sits again, setting his shoe beneath Hannibal’s chin again.

“Do you want the belt?” He asks, watches the way Hannibal’s eyes close in a strange hybrid of aching need and a quiet shame; an acceptance, a clear yes. “Stay still,” Will reminds him, leaning forward to grasp Hannibal’s sopping hair and squeezing enough for water to slip down his face before he lets him go.

“Stay still a while longer for me and then I will ask again.”

The air settles cold against his skin, goosebumps prickling where the water has not yet dried, sopping into his shirt. He had dressed well today, he does every day, but especially today - in a shirt that was tailored just for him, now hanging limp and shapeless, water and spit pooling on the floor beneath him. His hair, ashy blonde, hangs limp in his eyes, and no matter how he tenses or loosens his jaw, the strain of holding the belt aches enough that he isn’t certain he could let go of it if he wished to.

Every shiver hurts, not only from the tension of his muscles, but with the echo of Will’s words inside him - that he is disobedient, a disappointment, unworthy of having that which he has asked for, because he has not earned it.

Each time the words echo back, rather than becoming discordant they become clearer, they strengthen, each time his body shudders and he can’t stop it, every time a muscle moves that Hannibal could not control in time, it is a loss. It is weakness. It is shameful.

Without warning, a hitched sound catches against Hannibal’s teeth, bending crescents into the leather, his lips and chin slick with drool.

“Ask,” Will tells him softly, still watching the boy as closely as he had been from the beginning, watching him grow numb and cold, muscles screaming for release and mind screaming for atonement. He can feel the tug in his chest to make this end, but he will not until Hannibal has gotten what he wants, because he had asked, and he must ask again.

Another whimper, choked and bitten back and Will tilts his head, patient, leans forward with hands clasped between his knees.

“Ask in any way you think I will listen,” he adjusts, feels Hannibal’s eyes search his own, almost desperate, needy, seeking, now, in a way Will knows is genuine, not in a way his mind has fooled him into thinking he needs. Another shiver, wracking over Hannibal’s form, before he ducks his head, allows his hands to slip on the wet floor and goes down on his elbows, lower still to press his forehead to Will’s shoe, to nudge there gently in utter sweet submission.

Hips raised and eyes up and body prone and shaking, and he looks, in a word, beautiful. Will feels his throat click as he swallows, parts his lips on a sigh and bends, slow, to cup Hannibal’s chin. The boy shivers, the first time feeling warm skin since this began and Will hushes him, careful, with his other hand, to take the belt from between Hannibal’s teeth as his fingers work warm against his jaw, over his lips, his cheeks.

“Good boy,” he breathes. “Such a good boy.”

Hannibal jaw hangs slack, eyes closing heavily beneath the warm fingers that work heat back into his skin again, into the aching muscles to stretch and relieve them. But the words, those words, send a ripcord shiver down his spine that bends his back and turns his hips higher, torn between letting himself feel them warm him as much as Will’s hands, and disbelief, still, that he is anything near what Will tells him he is.

He is sodden, filthy, all too aware that Will’s fingers work through saliva and sweat as well as water, but the praise doesn’t cease, the touches don’t still, and Hannibal can’t but let his heart stagger clinging against his ribs.

“Please,” he whispers, voice crackling like ice beneath sudden sunlight.

Another gentle hush, Will’s hand up to sweep his hair from his face, cup his cheek again to just let Hannibal lean into it. He gives the boy a moment more before gently setting the belt against his other cheek, smile gentle, tone even and calm, as he asks, “Do you want the belt?”

A shudder, bone-deep, and Hannibal’s eyes close as his mouth opens and he nods, fingers curled into fists against the floor as he whines, just a gentle little thing, plaintive, and Will knows, with every sense he has wrapped around this boy that this is the most genuine he has ever seen him, under duress. The most genuine he has perhaps ever been in such a state. He will give him everything.

“Bend, my beautiful boy,” Will tells him, stands from the chair and eases Hannibal’s face down as it had been, as he had lain, on his own. He strokes his hair again and steps away, letting the belt fall free to trail over the floor as he walks before he bends it in his hand again. “I want you to keep your hips up,” he tells Hannibal quietly. He doesn’t wait for a nod, for a sound, and the first strike reddens the skin and curls Hannibal’s toes.

Though the sensation snatches his lungs short of air, Hannibal could weep for the release that already unravels him. Threads spin wild from the too-tight person suit in which he spent so many days feeling trapped, claustrophobic inside his own body. He tilts his forehead against the floor, turns it enough to rest his cheek in the still-thick trail of spit beneath him, already too far gone to care.

“Please,” Hannibal sighs, as his toes spread wide and his fingers in kind, pawing wide across the hardwood floor where he kneels. He widens his knees, presenting the red-striped curves of his rump for Will. Only for Will, from now on, if he can lay him as bare as he needs - deeper than ostentation or clothing or skin, beyond his very body.

“Beautiful,” praises Will again, and Hannibal curls in anticipation for the strike that does not come until he settles, and stings hot as cinders against his ass. Every nerve alights, a fire lit of self-destructive consummation, and his eyes slip closed on a moan that grates shaking free from his paled lips.

It takes Hannibal a moment to recognize what’s touching his thighs, and he tilts a laugh against the filthy ground, rocking forward and spreading back again. In all the times - and they are many - he’s been debased, humiliated, beaten to the point where he wondered if one of them would have to end up dead for it to end, Hannibal has never gotten hard before.

Not until this.

Not until Will.

The next sting has Hannibal shaking in pleasure, pressing himself to the floor in needy twists, arching and bending and trembling with everything - need, want, pain, exhaustion, adrenaline, and relief, almost blinding relief. He does not know what sounds he makes anymore, if they are words or just whimpers and cries, he doesn’t know when the colors behind his eyes smear in reds and oranges and purples to a brilliant mess of wonder. He doesn’t know if he’s allowed, he doesn’t know if he manages to ask, but his hand is between his legs and he’s sobbing his need into the floor, eyes closed and mind entirely alight with every sensation and sound and light within him.

He doesn’t know how long this lasts before he hears the belt set aside, before he feels Will pressed hot against his back, arms around him to pull Hannibal into his arms.

“Please don’t stop,” he sighs, “please -”

“You’ve had enough,” Will murmurs to him, stroking his hair, his back, reaching for a blanket hanging off the arm of the couch to wrap Hannibal in, rub heat back into his skin.

“No, no I can do more, I can take more, I can -”

“You’ve had enough,” Will whispers to him, kissing his temple, holding him close as shivering becomes genuine shaking, as Hannibal squirms before he settles, and Will kisses him again. “So good for me, so, so good, Hannibal.”

Hannibal twists again at the praise, finds himself unable to gather the strength to push away, to sprawl across the floor again. He has not yet felt his skin break, give way to searing trickles of blood almost steaming hot against a body grown cold with shock. He has not said any word to make Will stop, has not yet yielded, hasn’t broken -

“Please,” he pleads again, “let me show you -”

Only the tightness of Will’s arms around him makes Hannibal aware of how violently he shakes, beyond a chill from the water, beyond the lick of the belt. “I’ve seen,” Will whispers against Hannibal’s hair, his voice cutting clear through the feedback buzz in Hannibal’s ears. “I’ve seen, I know. And you did so good, beautiful boy. You make me so proud.”

Hannibal’s protests cease, blinking wide through eyes hot with tears that he didn’t know were there. “But -”

“I’m so proud of you,” Will tells him again, a soft sigh against Hannibal’s brow before he lifts a hand to trace a thumb through the dampness beneath his eye.

Hannibal wants to say more, to beg again, to just let him show Will, please, just -

But the only sound he makes is a shaking little whimper, barely voiced, as Will traces his fingers through Hannibal’s tears and wipes the wetness away. It hardly matters when more well up, Will doesn’t stop, and Hannibal’s breathing hitches harder, comes quicker and Will holds him tighter then, too, supported, surrounded, held close and warm.

“Breathe for me,” he tells him, calm words, soothing words, and Hannibal tries, he tries. “Slow breaths,” Will guides him. “Follow mine.”

He tries, and for a while, he can, but they hitch on weak little sobs, they draw hot tears down Hannibal’s face more and more until Will stands, takes Hannibal’s trembling form up with him, the boy’s legs wrapping around him to hold on, and makes his way down the corridor, from the wet messy floor to the bathroom, the light familiar, the space secure and surprisingly warm and lacking in echo.

Will steps into the shower stall, takes the showerhead down to point it to the wall and adjusts the water as he needs it, testing it on his palm before setting it back where it belongs, closing his eyes against the spray, and turning to let Hannibal feel it against him.

Careful hands slide down Hannibal’s thighs, hot with pain but not broken, not cut and bruised, not enough to have him stand for days not by choice but by necessity. Over and over the sensitive skin until Will gently unwraps Hannibal’s legs from around him and guides the boy to stand on his own.

The blanket soaks quickly, heavy against Hannibal before Will peels it free and it lands with a wet slap to the ground behind them. Will’s hands come up to stroke through Hannibal’s hair, down his face, over his neck and shoulders and down to the buttons of his shirt, working them open. Lips press to Hannibal’s temple and cheek and neck, follow the path of his fingers to rest against Hannibal’s collarbones, sucking soft there before letting the sopping fabric fall on top of the blanket and leave Hannibal bare to receive the water against him, to warm his chilled muscles and tense sinews.

And Hannibal presses closer, then, keeps his hands curled in Will’s soaking shirt, keeps his cheek pressed to his chest to listen to the even beating of his heart, to feel Will close, and alive and there, not leaving Hannibal to put himself back together, not leaving him filthy and cold on the floor, but taking him here, taking care of him, and still, soft words filter through the white noise, telling him how good Hannibal has been for him, how proud Will is of him.

Over and over, like the water that runs down his skin, until Hannibal reaches to wrap his arms around Will’s shoulders and lever himself up, and Will kisses him, properly, deeply, lips parted and tongues hot as one hand settles against the back of Hannibal’s head to hold him there, the other splayed over his back, rubbing heat and life and feeling back to him.

It is as far as possible from the stiff, cruel awakening to which Hannibal has become accustomed - once his sins have been purged, his skin scoured, his body debased, it has always been his obligation to pull himself from the floor, to try and find warmth again in hot showers that do nothing to ease his shivering. There is no forgiveness there, no tenderness for taking his blows. He is reviled, still, no matter how beautifully his body bruises for them. He is worth nothing, and must climb up again himself, each time.

It has never been anything like this.

He has never felt so clean before.

Stripes still shining scarlet across his backside, he arches onto his toes when water sprays across them, a sweet singe beneath the torrent. Warmer still is Will’s mouth against his own, his hands, the words that flower from the older man’s lips each time they part from Hannibal’s - he is beautiful, he is worthy, he is brave and he is strong.

Hannibal blossoms.

Foreheads pressed together, eyes closed under the water, the boy gasps against the older man’s lips and pushes their bodies together. Still weak, but with strong arms to support him, Hannibal leans and tilts his hips upward, seeking a softer friction than the belt against his skin, gentler pleasures than the excoriation that he needed before he could be this again.

“Thank you,” he sighs, fingers spreading over Will’s lips, before they lower to unsteadily work free the water-logged shirt and let it drop from his shoulders.

Will lets him, eyes hooded and down against this exquisite boy, this miraculous and beautiful boy who comes to him willingly, and obeys and asks, and needs and wants the care and attention and devotion Will is happy to give him, always. Will smiles when Hannibal’s hands find his pants, when they both laugh trying to peel them free where the water has weighed them down to cling.

But eventually both are bare, pressed close with languid kisses and seeking hands, and Will can feel how the tension is just gone from Hannibal, no longer the tight and straight-backed man who had walked into his house demanding pain, demanding to be made less of a person for his own desires. He wonders if Hannibal has ever experienced this before, the genuine catharsis of pain, or if he had always thought that the sharp cruelties of it were its entirety, the only thing pain had to offer.

“I’ve missed you,” Will tells him, smile curling his lips as fingers curl through Hannibal’s hair and slick it behind his ear. “I’m glad you came.”

He knows Hannibal needs the space, now, the warmth of Will nearby, the comfort of him, and he will give him that, he can be patient, and he will be. But he wants him, he wants to feel those sweet shivers of breath against his skin as he pushes into the boy, as he brings him pleasure, now, after the pain he had made himself endure, and had endured so beautifully and so well.

Will grins, nuzzling against Hannibal’s cheek, before hands seek down, over the red, tight skin, and lower still to grasp Hannibal around the thighs and lift him up against him again, turning to press Hannibal’s back to the cool tile wall and kiss his throat. Reverent, worshipful, entirely enthralled with the boy before him.

“I adore you,” Will breathes. “And I will take you to bed, now, to rest, to sleep sprawled and lazy and warm, but in the morning…”

Hannibal’s lips press into a line, but his eyes don’t darken, hooded heavy with contentment and want, now that his needs have been so sated. Slowly, his lips part over sharp teeth, a crooked grin down from where he sits perched around Will, upheld and elevated by him.

“But we might - now...”

“We might,” Will agrees, kissing the sparse, wet curls of fluff across Hannibal’s chest until the boy leans against the wall, smile lingering on slackened lips. “But we won’t.”

“I’m asking,” intones Hannibal, and though his eyes drift closed, his brow lifts.

“And I believe it was Mick Jagger who said ‘you can’t always get what you want’.”

Hannibal hums dismay at this, opening an eye just enough to regard Will, and the way his curls hang lank as late-summer vines against his cheek, his neck. “Terrible joke.”

“Not a joke,” Will responds, though he certainly sounds amused. “Do I need to say it?”

Almost sleepy, a catlike stretch curling his spine, Hannibal nods, and Will laughs against his throat.

“No, Hannibal.”

The shiver from this is enough to bring Hannibal’s shoulders off the wall in a shove, and his arms around Will’s neck once more. Almost liquid in his arms, limber and relaxed down to the distant thump of his heart where their chests meet. “Take me to bed then?” Hannibal asks, tucking his nose against Will’s neck. “Please.”

Will smiles, just as languid, just as slow, and reaches back to turn the shower off.

He hands a towel to Hannibal first, finds one for himself, resolves to leave the mess in the shower until the morning, where he can set the clothes and blanket to appropriately dry or be washed in the machine. They dry quickly, neither caring much for the trickle of drops that run down their spines from their hair, into their eyes, and Will kisses Hannibal again, soft and slow.

As demanded, he takes Hannibal to bed in his arms as before, the boy wrapped around him until Will bends to slip Hannibal to bed, slides gentle palms over his skin to settle him, and goes to clean the mess up from the floor where they had left it. Just a tossed towel and a quick wipe down, enough that it won’t spread through the wood or cause anyone to slip. Enough that it’s just water and just sweat and just spit, and within a moment it’s all gone.

When Will returns, he climbs into bed next to Hannibal, turning into the small hand that curls in his hair and obliges him by pressing soft kisses to his still-damp skin, down his chest to his stomach, hands framing his form and caressing it, pressing praises to Hannibal now that he does not speak them, and Will listens as Hannibal’s breathing eases and slows in sleep.

He thinks of the way Hannibal had looked at him, belt between his teeth and spit slicking his chin, the thinks of how his eyes had widened at the possibility of being allowed to ask, to receive, because he had been patient, because he had been good. He thinks of how Hannibal had whimpered when he was told he had been.

Will settles with his head against Hannibal’s stomach, soft and warm and small, and curls to sleep that way, contented beneath the blankets with his boy, contented that they had breached this new wall between them and had surpassed it, finding beauty and relief within, just for themselves.

Chapter Text

Finals keep Hannibal at Wolf Trap almost constantly. The only time he had ever allowed himself reprieve from his clients in the past, Hannibal now spends with the one he no longer sees as a client. They work quietly together, Will marking and Hannibal studying, they take dinner, enjoy coffee, spend more than a few hours on the couch or in bed together, rocking close or simply resting.

Now Hannibal rubs his eyes, determined to get through one more topic before he calls it a night. His study is always determined by himself, the amount and content entirely of his choosing, Will merely encourages with gentle words and reminders to keep him focused. And he had allowed himself a nap earlier, though he feels entirely unrested, against Will who had continued to mark his work without a word, and had sent Hannibal to study with a soft kiss to his hair when he had woken.

So, still bare, Hannibal stands now, bent over his work as Will walks between the kitchen and main room, hushing the dogs or getting another cup of coffee. A constant presence that never feels overwhelming. He watches the languid strides of the man who never carries himself so loosely anywhere but here, shoulders straight and strong, a quiet confidence that he never lets the world at large know he carries.

But Hannibal knows, he sees, and with a slight smile he turns his cheek back against his hand, elbow on the desk, and stretches a little. He concentrates down each vertebrae of his back, pulling them long, coiling when he reaches his coccyx and tilting his hips before working down to his legs. One first, rising to his toes to work laxity back into his thighs, then the other, shifting from side to side before relaxing again.

He knows, too, that Will watches when he thinks Hannibal isn’t looking, and he turns the backs of his fingers against the warmth of his cheek instead, with a hum.

It’s late enough now that the words blur, each sentence requiring reading several times to gather the information from it. The air is warm against his skin, summer’s arrival imminent in the lengthening of the sun across the old floorboards, striped golden where Hannibal’s eyes settled instead of on the tired pages of notes in front of him. Another week, and he’ll have several weeks before his summer sessions begin. Another week, and he’s decided that for those few weeks, he won’t take any clients, old or new.

An actual vacation, however brief, to enjoy his time however he sees fit.

Light scatters through the trees, leaves glowing green where they cast shifting shadows across the ground. The sun sparkles almost blinding across the tossing river that runs nearby, peaks of gold where water spills against rocks hidden beneath its surface. Warm earth and lush grasses beneath his back where he lays with a book against his chest, unread and unminded, while a dog’s tail - any one of them, really - swings against his leg and comfortable panting moves in countertime to his own steady breaths. It is still and it is noiseful all at once, no words shared between himself and the man who casts his line into the river.

A gentle sound from the desk draws Will’s attention from where he has settled into his worn green armchair, as Hannibal pulls in a deep breath, eyes closed, and yet standing where he sleeps.

Will watches a moment longer, to see if he’s playing, a new attempt to finish studying early and get back into bed, but finds the breathing even, deep, lips just parted enough to shiver with every exhale. Will finds himself smiling, entirely fond and warm, watching his boy, his talented, smart, strong boy, exhaust himself not with pain and cruelty but with self-inflicted study and finals, wanting to do well, to pass top of his class because he is capable of that.

Will closes his book and sets it away, careful to stand quietly so as not to wake the boy whose eyes don’t even move below the lids he’s sleeping so deeply. Another week, and he will be free from classes. Another week for Will to figure out how to ask - as he makes Hannibal ask - for the boy to spend the weeks of summer with him, here, and not sound like he is taking his freedom away.

But he wants him here, wants to wake to him late in the morning, watch the drowsy way Hannibal smiles just before his lips part on a yawn he can’t control, wants to press him to the mattress with whispered words against his ear as he brings him over again and again until Hannibal is shaking, sobbing and entirely contented.

Will skims his knuckles, so softly that it’s almost like a brush of soft air against skin, and finds Hannibal unresponsive, balanced and comfortable enough for sleep to take him, so Will bends, draws the tip of his nose warm up Hannibal’s spine, from tailbone to the soft straight strands of dark blonde hair and breathes him in.

He is a man, now, in many ways. The breadth of his body, how he uses it, the depth of his mind and the experiences that have shaped him far older than his years would ever indicate. But in that, too, he is still so young. A teenager, for all that, and one who has never been allowed to be - has never allowed himself to be, after his childhood was anything but that. Will imagines how the time off would ease the strain he carries, sharpening the corners of his eyes, tightening his frame into aggressive defense. He imagines Hannibal laughing, loudly and freely, with nothing more to do than simply be.

Will sighs against his hair, enough to stir the ashen blonde strands but not enough to stir the beautiful boy himself. Another soft snore is the only response, features gentled in sleep, cheeks still dusky and warm where he holds his head against his hand.

Will knows there is no exam the next day. He knows Hannibal has all of tomorrow to study on this and then the weekend before his last few. He knows, and he will tell him, if necessary, to stop, to lie still, to breathe and rest as much as he needs.

He moves back down his body, kisses, now, feather-soft, where he had nosed before, and still Hannibal does not stir, stands as he is, imagines beautiful things Will can only think about and wonder at - he will never ask. He reaches his tailbone, a hotter kiss there, and with a silent sigh, sinks to his knees behind Hannibal, hands ghosting down his thighs to rest against them as he settles behind.

Kisses just as soft, nuzzles just as intimate, and he feels Hannibal shift a little, whether in sleep or nervous response he is unsure, it doesn’t matter, and Will smiles against the soft curve of his thigh, the warm and sensitive skin where thigh joins ass and parts his lips to breathe against it. Hands gently squeeze skin, enough to part Hannibal’s cheeks and breathe against the hot puckered little hole.

A moment, another, as Will finds Hannibal unmoving and unmoved, before he leans in to run the tip of his tongue against him, once, again, before burying his face between the cheeks of his boy and, with a quiet moan, spreading his tongue wider against him.

Now Hannibal stirs, shifting up onto his toes with a little whimper, part from the pull of pleasure that tugs him awake, and part from dismay of being awakened at all. A fussy, small noise, turned against his hand as he rubs his eyes, and they remain closed by choice as Will licks a broad stroke against his opening once more. He is mostly asleep, still, wondering if it’s the heat of the sun against his bare legs or Will’s hands, cock twitching against the lush grass his mind still keeps beneath him. A lovely, sylvan thing, spread bare and teasing against the earth, and Will the fisherman who has come to seek the company of such a nymph.

Hannibal’s smile works itself wider and he bends deeper, to fold his arms across his scattered notes and rest his head there, the curve of his back arching his hips higher to present himself.

“Will,” sighs the boy, but the older man’s lips surround him as if in a kiss, sucking against tender skin, and Hannibal finally finds wakefulness, the desk warmed by his body rather than his body by the sun. He turns his head aside as if to see, but cannot, and so buries his head in his arms again to trap the sweet wordless plea that forms on his lips.

Will smiles, eyes slowly closing as he feels Hannibal wake up, tense in pleasure, try to relax and tense again. He is beautiful. He is sleepy and warm and entirely Will’s own and he wants to give him this until he finds his pleasure and, shaking, settles back against Will where he sits. He wants to, and he will. The soft pleas are enough of an asking without asking.

Will spreads him just a little wider and hums as he presses his tongue into Hannibal, shallow little thrusts before he spreads it wider and pushes in deeper still. Hannibal curls forward, shoulders bent and back arched up and toes curling against the floor when he pushes himself higher up on them, to get away, to get closer, to stretch himself in beautiful lines, it hardly matters; he is exquisite.

Another hum and Will ducks his head to suck against Hannibal’s balls instead, tonguing the silky skin, just barely drawing his teeth over it before returning to the previous torment, hands sliding down Hannibal’s thighs to spread them wider, praising him with a whispered word when he arches obediently back, and Will leans in to devour him again.

Every curve of lips across his skin, every press of teeth, every suck and lick and thrust jolts Hannibal’s heart faster, and he doesn’t bother trying to control it - there is no need for that spitefulness here, not like with the others who he would not give the privilege of feeling his pulse race. This is not simply a reflex of his body, stimulated by the automatic reactions of nerve endings. It is far more than that, pleasure given because it has been earned - pleasure accepted because its intentions are good, and welcome, and not forced from a place of another’s selfishness.

It is Hannibal, now, who is allowed to be selfish, and he revels in the satisfaction not only of the physical delight that Will gives him, but the act itself seeming one of worship. He sighs, a rough sound, breath fogging the desk beneath his lips, and his fingers curl into fists as he rocks back against Will’s accepting mouth. Another twist of hips, languid and lazy, until Will presses palms to his thighs to hold him still and Hannibal grins in secret.

“May I touch myself?” Hannibal asks, his voice still coarse with sleep, accent heavier.

Will smiles, pulls back enough to just nuzzle him, press his forehead to the soft curves of Hannibal’s ass.

“No,” he breathes, delights in the shiver the word draws, the way Hannibal shifts before obediently settling again, not petulant as a child would be. “No, but I will let you, if you ask me again.”

Will waits, smiles wider at the silence, and turns to set his teeth against Hannibal’s thigh in a brief but sharp nip, to feel him squirm before returning to the gentle treatment of his body. Worshipful, intimate, Will giving himself entirely in effort and devotion to the boy before him; only Hannibal’s pleasure mattering, only his delight needed. This is for him, all for him, and Will sits up, higher on his knees to push in deeper still and hear Hannibal’s voice carry, wavering, through the warm room.

Hannibal bites his lip, not to stop the sounds that fill the room, gasps and whimpers, moans and hitches, but to stop himself from asking again. There is a wonderful challenge in this, delightfully infuriating in how hard his cock stands now, brushing the desk when he’s rocked forward by Will’s tongue diving inside of him, and how much he wants to adhere to Will’s instruction. He tightens his fingernails harder into his palm and laughs, shaking, when Will pulls back spit-slick and smiling to catch his breath, and sigh cool air against Hannibal’s wet, reddened skin.

He tilts his head now, back over his shoulder, and can make out Will’s legs, kneeling on the floor, his arm - sleeves shoved to his elbows - where he holds Hannibal’s body open. Eyes barely open, Hannibal squirms forward to feel the tip of his cock press against the cool wood of the desk, and back again, though he is denied the heat of Will’s mouth as he does.

“Will you touch yourself, then, instead?” Hannibal asks, grinning, heels digging against the floor as he spreads his legs a little wider.

Will laughs, a warm flutter of air against Hannibal before he sits back enough to meet the boy’s eyes, his own narrowed and dark in pleasure, lips slick and red before he draws his tongue over the bottom one and snares it between his teeth.

“Is that a request or a command?” He asks, a playful allowance, and Hannibal sets his thumb between his teeth in careful consideration. Will laughs, nods, and keeps one hand against Hannibal, thumb stroking over damp sensitive skin as his other slips down between his own legs to work his belt free, the button and the fly before sitting up higher, his own knees spreading for balance, and doing as Hannibal asks.

A slow drag and pleased sound and Will lets his eyes close as his smile widens before he leans in to breathe his boy in, lips parted against him until Will is as breathless as Hannibal is, and then he ducks to lick him again, as merciless and relentless as before, his own pleasure driving him now to give Hannibal more, Hannibal’s in turn cycling to fuel his.

Give and take.

Hannibal moans, a raw and unbridled sound, with no need to touch himself now that he can hear Will’s hand sliding against his own cock. He loves this, abandon and trust, to know that he brings Will to his knees, brings him pleasure simply by bending for him, can stir the man so entirely. There have been no demands from Hannibal, no control, but in the lack thereof there is a particular power that tastes sweeter than any other the boy has found for himself, to be served whatever he needs by giving up control to take it himself.

He tilts his head back, to watch the tendons of Will’s forearms tighten as he strokes himself off, and chokes back a weak sound when the sight of is accompanied by Will’s tongue wriggling hot and deep inside his ass.

“I’m - may I - please -”

Will moans, a long, low thing, and pulls back to pant softly against Hannibal’s skin, nuzzling a smile against him as his hand keep working, as his own voice pitches just a little on the reply.

“Whenever you wish,” he sighs, biting his lip, releasing it, making a soft sound in his throat before leaning in again, tonguing his boy with quick flicks of just the tip to feel him shudder and twitch with the need for it. He does not let himself cum, does not let himself get closer than the very edge, squeezing himself hard and waiting, wanting to give Hannibal this, for himself, allow the boy his own choice on what happens after and how.

Hannibal’s opening tightens and he laughs against his arms, tickled by the teasing licks, skin prickled in goosebumps. “Please,” he begs, asking beautifully, “please, hard again - suck, once more -”

Mouth closing around his twitching muscle, Will sucks firmly where his lips meet taut, wrinkled skin, and Hannibal’s moan clips short as his body convulses in a rough shudder against Will’s mouth, bridging his back and curving it deep, hips twisting as he cums, entirely untouched. Globs of white spatter against the desk as his cock pulses, each time burying Hannibal’s voice deeper, silenced, until as his release drips to the floor, he eases back just as suddenly as he tightened, and his groan rips free.

His knees nearly give way but he holds himself up, grasping the edge of the desk and spreading along his belly, paperwork rumpling beneath him. Each quick thump of his heart is heard in his breath, swallowing dry, lips parting as Hannibal pants his pleasure against the desk.

“Inside me?” The boy asks, voice cracking as he splays himself.

“No.”

His body rocking almost mindless, he moans at the answer and pushes up onto his toes. “On me?” Hannibal asks instead, tongue held against the sharp point of an incisor as he watches Will over his shoulder.

Will laughs, curses softly against Hannibal’s sweaty thigh before pushing himself to stand, to bend over his boy and nuzzle behind his ear.

“Did I ever tell you,” he murmurs, for the moment allowing himself to rock against Hannibal, against his ass, sliding slick where his cock drips to skin and his spit slowly cools. “How much I truly love when you become this demanding with me?”

His tone is low, almost rough against Hannibal’s skin but his motions are anything but, slow and deliberate, fingers coming up to stroke hair from Hannibal’s face to kiss him there, smile when Hannibal turns and kiss him properly, deeply, holding his chin so he doesn’t strain himself at the odd angle.

“Such a possessive thing you ask of me,” Will tells him quietly, another nuzzle before he lets Hannibal go and brings his hand down to stroke himself faster, eyes closed and feeling Hannibal shudder beneath him, smelling him, touching and tasting him as he feels himself get closer, closer, before Will pushes himself up, and allows himself to mark Hannibal as he had wanted, hot and claiming and territorial. A beautiful mess on a beautiful boy.

The first wet burst across his skin eases Hannibal’s breath, held tight in anticipation, into a soft groan against the desk. He tilts his head, rubs his cheek against it, shivering as he shifts his weight from one foot to the other, pushed so high on his toes. Will’s cum tickles, warm and drying in a glistening line where it runs over the swell of his ass, down straining thighs, over strong calves. For a moment they remain just so, both breathless, dizzied with shared enjoyment, relishing that they have brought the other such satisfaction.

“I normally detest it,” he murmurs, eyes closed and arms hanging off the other side of the desk, entirely content to stay spread as he is. “An act of infantile ego, an animal’s lack of restraint, and a mess. Entirely unsanitary,” he sighs, before curling one arm against his chest, and settling his cheek against the other, still outstretched. “I resent the thought that I can be ‘claimed’ by something so unimaginative as bodily fluids. I would rather them spit on me, in truth, should they wish only to see me debased.”

He shivers again, cheeks darkening when another bead of semen slips down his skin, and his eyes slip closed again.

“Yours,” Hannibal purrs softly, “I wear with pride.”

Will watches him, smile soft, hair messy where he had dragged a hand through it to ground himself, and carefully puts himself together again before coming around to look at Hannibal properly, face to face, and leaning in to gently kiss him again.

“I will remember,” he says, soft, awe and wonder that he has been allowed to do this, pride that Hannibal had wanted, had asked for it himself. He nuzzles his nose gentle against Hannibal’s and hums quietly. “Go take a shower, my beautiful boy. I will make us something to eat for when you get back. No more study today.”

“But I wasn’t -”

“I dislike repeating myself.” Will’s tone dips but only in jest, his smile wrinkles his nose in his pleasure, eyes narrowed, before he runs his fingers through Hannibal’s hair and tugs it just enough for the boy to groan. “Go.”

Hannibal runs his tongue along his teeth, grin breaking bright and broad across them before he reluctantly pushes himself back to his heels. Palms on the desk, he bends this way and that, a delicious pull considering the utterly liquid relaxation that his bones have melted into. He spends a moment tidying his papers again, tucking them away, before taking his time in passing the kitchen - hips shifting, skin still glittering where his own cum has dried against his belly, Will’s streaking down his legs. He does, in honesty, feel entirely filthy, but it’s worth it for the soft sound of delighted dismay he hears from behind him as he makes his way towards the bathroom.

The shower hits scalding against his skin and he dips his head beneath it, not to awaken but to clean, to further relax him towards the heavy-limbed sleepfulness that found him before. It comes readily, washing against his skin as he scrubs himself not with the scentless soaps he prefers, but with Will’s instead, in hopes when has to leave again he might catch the lingering remnants of it and imagine him near.

The thought, the deliberation of it, makes Hannibal laugh, and he can’t stop it from sounding dire. A schoolboy crush, he tells himself, his own declarations to the man replaying themselves and increasing in absurdity each time they echo back. A human need, intrinsic to one who has been so long without a parental figure, for someone to fill that space and provide guidance. An Electra complex, or half of one anyway, in confusing his own proclivities with that role.

A thousand reasons why he might love Will Graham, and none as satisfying as the word itself.

Perhaps there is room in the human condition for more than psychological analysis allows.

He dries his hair back out of his face, and slips into soft fleece sleep pants that Will purchased for him to wear when he’s there. His fingers skip past the soft cotton shirts that Will bought for him, though, to instead take up one of Will’s own, a little snug, more well-worn, and his.

Entirely his.

Their eyes meet in passing as Hannibal pads barefoot and clean into the kitchen, towards the refrigerator to feed the dogs as Will finishes setting the table.

“How many finals are left?” Will asks, and Hannibal licks his lips in thought.

“Two, next week. I should be done by Wednesday,” he answers, and after a beat, presses his mouth closed again.

Will considers the silence, considers the opening and considers his own rules on asking. If you do not ask, you cannot know, and you may not get. He should ask. A simple offer. There is a spare room, if he prefers and -

This is not a summer camp, and they are well beyond embarrassment about each other and the space they share. He should ask him as an adult, an equal, if he would like to spend time. Stay, perhaps, for however long he likes. Will feels the words warm him, smiles, and asks.

"Make sure the dogs have water, too? They lick it dry in summer."

It is rare Will feels shame, and he is, in that moment, entirely ashamed of himself for not asking. But he fears, though, beneath it all, that once the words are out there their implications could travel deeper, to older scars and brittle bones and Will is terrified that Hannibal will not stay, and more than that, not come back at all.

He will not smother him. He had promised. He does not want to, he just... he wants the company. He wants Hannibal.

"Do you allow yourself to relax, over the weeks before classes?" He asks instead, a tentative gauge of interest, of availability, though Will still bristles at the thought of others he has never told Hannibal to stop.

Hannibal ensures the smile that quirks at the question remains unseen, too worried that the bitterness will show through like rot, a decay grown black beneath his surface from being smothered so deeply, so long. He reminds himself not to look for questions unasked, reminds himself that it is ruder still to act on things unsaid and only imagined.

He reminds himself to be honest, here, rather than play the games he plays with others, lying that they’re the only ones he sees, the only ones who matter. Will sees through his lies too easily anyway, and it isn’t worth the resulting tension to attempt it again, now.

“Historically, no,” he answers, carrying the stack of water bowls to the sink to wash and refill. “From studying, a little, though it provides an opportunity to read ahead before new classes begin. From,” Hannibal hesitates, “work, entirely the opposite. It has, before, been a time in which I exhaust myself with as many appointments as I can take, to pay off the new books required, the lab fees…”

Hannibal steps away again, without looking towards Will. Guilt and ego war entangled in him. The former, that for one who holds himself so highly, this is still the most readily available means to him - he has learned, and been taught - to pay the exorbitant costs of schooling. The latter, that dreads the rejection the former convinces him he deserves. To ask is to open one’s self to be declined, and for someone like Will, who lives so much of his life in peaceable solitude, to want more time than he already has…

“Perhaps I will need to do less,” Hannibal says instead, carefully, “since my books have already been graciously afforded to me.”

Will waits, a moment, two, turns to where Hannibal had gone. A hand fists against the counter and relaxes again. He does not want to tell him, not tell him. Offer. Suggest without implication. Just... something. Something more than this, this fear holding them both at bay.

"I would like you to do less," Will says, winces at the wording but does not retract it. "To read more, perhaps, exhaust yourself as you did today, on study, not obligation."

He watches Hannibal as he fills the myriad bowls with fresh water, sets the bottles away again where Will keeps them. Will bites his lip, holds his breath, as nervous as he has ever been with another, and just -

"I would enjoy seeing you," he says, still careful, still trying, still - "As often as my company is tolerable to you. In summer the forest comes alive, I spend days in there just... letting the dogs run. Reading. Sleeping until unexpected rain or very expected dogs wake me."

Will drags a hand against the back of his neck with a breath of laughter. "It is nice here, in summer." Will swallows, closes his eyes and licks his lips into his mouth, taking a breath. "I want to see you," he repeats, forcing his eyes open, up, then finally to Hannibal. "But I will not make you see me."

Hannibal straightens, amid the flow of dogs that brush past him to the bowls at his feet, and for a moment gives no more sign of the weight of Will’s words than a softening of his shoulders. His back to the older man, he closes his eyes, pushes his tongue across the back of his teeth, jaw working gently.

He has never wanted to be a kept boy.

He has never wanted to belong to someone, to the exclusion of what freedom he has won for himself with blood between his teeth and bruises inside and out.

He has never wanted to let anyone else dictate to him what he can and cannot do.

But Will isn’t asking for that, and Hannibal reminds himself not to look for questions unasked.

He reminds himself to speak only the truth, and with a sigh and a hand against his face, laughs.

“You are the only one,” he murmurs, “that I want to see.”

Will laughs again, relieved and pleased, and allows his smile to stay on his face as he nods, returns to the stove to check their dinner. His heart hammers against his chest and he keeps his breathing steady. He can hear Hannibal with the dogs, not far at all, before he hears the click of bare feet against the kitchen floor and ducks his head as Hannibal comes up, presses close between his shoulders.

Will wants to tell him he can leave whenever he wants, that he does not have to stay if it pulls at him to leave, if he feels trapped and smothered but he knows, somehow, warm enough to pulse through his bones, that he does not need to tell him that, that Hannibal already knows. That this is something he chose on his own.

Will brings one hand down to slip his fingers between Hannibal’s and moves their hands up so he can kiss the center of his palm, eyes closing and breath shivering out against Hannibal’s fingertips. Then he turns to nuzzle against his hand, smile still stretching wide just enough to show his teeth. He does not say thank you, but he has never been more grateful in his entire life. Nor, he thinks, kissing Hannibal's fingertips, more contented.

The boy ducks his head, lets it come to rest against the back of Will’s neck, tilts it enough that his cheek rubs softly against the ends of the older man’s curls. He closes his eyes and keeps their fingers twined, some feral panic still howling in the back of his skull, that somehow this is all a deceit - a long con, to what end he doesn’t know. It warns him to run from Wolf Trap, from Will, from the feelings that fill in the empty spaces like magma, scalding hot until it solidifies into something breakable and fragile.

But he has survived worse. His heart has been broken before. And never has he had a home like the one Will has given Hannibal in himself.

Will does not want him for his body - Hannibal could deny him that, and he knows that Will would not press. It is for those things harder to define that Will wants him here - the same things that make Hannibal want to be here. These warm affections, the company, shared thoughts and fascinations with what makes the other whole, rather than merely certain parts of them. He wonders what parts of Will others want him for, that he understands this so well, but doesn’t ask.

It doesn’t matter. Not when Will is kissing his fingers, not when Hannibal does not have to let himself be touched by anyone that he does not want to touch him. Not when he can stay, protected and cared for, and for at least those few weeks that now span so promisingly in front of him.

Hannibal’s laughter is only a breath, small and so young, and he shakes his head before nuzzling closer. “I’ve never had a summer vacation before.”

“I am the worst person to introduce you to them,” Will responds, keeping their hands clasped still, but stirring with the other. Thick soup today, pumpkin, made earlier on a whim while Hannibal was studying. Cream in the fridge for it, seasoning galore for whatever taste. He has a loaf of bread warming in the oven, bought and fresh, but made all the better with a crust. “I spend mine doing precisely what I do on my weekends.”

“Nothing else.”

“Little else.”

“What else?”

Will smiles wide, shakes his head. “I fish. Down in the stream. You can hear it out the back of the house, but not see it.”

“Will you show me?”

“How to fish?”

“The stream.”

Will swallows, nods, turns to catch Hannibal’s eyes and lean closer to press their foreheads together. Their mouths meet, a soft thing, unhurried now and spreading as softly as they do throughout their bodies, tension unraveling, twining instead with the other. Hannibal runs long fingers down Will’s cheek and nuzzles against his cheek, smile widening as he recalls his dream from earlier, doing little more than sleeping, reading, and sharing time together.

No classes.

No appointments.

Nothing but this.

“Are you sure?” Hannibal asks, and as Will’s eyes widen, the boy adds with a smirk, “That you don’t only desire me here to feed the dogs in the morning, so you can sleep.”

“I’m sure,” agrees Will, amused. “You know I’ve never asked you to do that.”

“No,” Hannibal smiles, allowing Will to turn back to the stove, but not yet relinquishing the press of fingers against his back, working into the muscles still bound tight there, as he draws his mouth against Will’s shoulder. “I enjoy them.” He swallows, and adds, “But I feel -”

Will makes a questioning sound, and Hannibal hums.

“I feel as though I’ve gotten away with something.”

“With -”

“With not asking,” he whispers. It’s safe now, he knows, knows that he won’t splinter what grows between them, fragile but theirs alone.

“So ask,” answers Will, watching Hannibal over his shoulder as the boy sinks his thumbs against Will’s shoulder blades.

He draws a breath, and holds it, words muffled where he presses them to the older man’s shirt. “May I stay?”

Will hums, considering, rolls his shoulders. He knows what Hannibal has asked, felt it as much as heard it, beyond the vibration against his skin. But he can’t resist, the little pout, the little flush that covers just the tops of Hannibal’s cheeks before it spreads. He turns, arms settling against Hannibal’s hips as he tilts his head.

“Clearly,” he says, watches the way the boy’s eyes narrow, not in displeasure but exasperation, and raises his own eyebrow in question. A finger beneath Hannibal’s chin and Will leans closer, enough to feel him breathe soft against his skin. “Ask me clearly,” he whispers.

It’s so easy this way, and Hannibal feels it all across his skin, soft as feathers, a ruffling shiver as his body and mind sync. There is no pressure, no question of whether or not to question, simply a gentle guidance and a careful touch. He holds his chin raised where Will moved it, and his eyes hood, contentment darkening his cheeks.

“May I stay with you,” he asks again, “until I need to leave?” Hannibal leans onto his toes, seeking a kiss but finding that Will moves back just a little, and holds the boy in place. He presses his tongue between his lips, and downturns only his eyes, chin still held high. “May I be yours, only, for my time away from school?”

Will’s lips part on a breath and he leans close again to nuzzle soft against Hannibal’s nose with his own.

“Good boy,” he breathes, swallowing, before bringing a hand up to stroke Hannibal’s hair as he kisses him, a permission, acceptance, allowance, pride, all. Everything. Anything this boy wants, Will will give him. He smiles when Hannibal shifts a little, enough to wrap his arms over his shoulders. “My good boy.”

They break only when Will directs Hannibal to the fridge for the cream, turns to spoon their dinner into bowls for them, bends to get the bread from the oven and break it open to allow it to steam and cool down.

Only then.

Because after that they make their way to the living room, squeezing onto the couch together and turning on whatever is playing on whatever channel was last used, and tangle their legs together as they eat their dinner.

Chapter Text

Will had laughed, pleased and delighted, when Hannibal had pounced on him that morning and suggested they take the weekend as a weekend should be taken and drink.

“At home,” Hannibal has assured, amused by Will’s narrowed eyes at the idea of illegally taking his boy out to drink, as so many others do. “Just… get a few things that can make different cocktails. Mix them up.”

“Have a killer headache in the morning?”

“It will be Sunday.”

So Will had agreed, to Hannibal’s delight, and had gone to gather the items necessary while Hannibal had promised to stay put and study. And in truth, when Will had returned, Hannibal was still obediently bent over the table, nose in a book and hands working quick pencil sketches for his anatomy paper, little annotations beside.

Will has no reason to doubt Hannibal had stayed there the entire time.

Now Will sits, glasses partially down his nose as he reads up on a topic he has lectured a thousand times, merely to see if he can present it in a more interesting way, while Hannibal fiddles with things in the kitchen. It’s late afternoon, the sun lowering and painting everything in rich saturation.

Will glances up but does not catch Hannibal’s eye, before looking away with a smile.

In truth, for the last few days, Hannibal has been studying for this nearly as hard as he has his schoolwork, though he’d never let Will know it. ‘Accidental’ excellence has a particular resonance with the boy - conveying skills that seem naturally given, their real effort unseen. His escort work has certainly been an exercise in that, so that he is never surprised when a ‘new’ request is made, but can feign it with all the charm and naïveté that his customers have come to enjoy and perform it far above the station of one truly unfamiliar. Schoolwork is less given to this particular whimsy, due mostly to the volume of it that makes it difficult to keep inconspicuous.

But he has always enjoyed experimenting with cooking, when in rare times he has had the opportunity to do so, and there is far less involved in making cocktails, he wagers, than in perfecting an entire meal. The list he gave Will was obscured enough to cover a gamut of possibilities, and he stands pleased before the spread, bare but for the entirely unnecessary apron that he drapes across his chest anyway, for formality’s sake.

An old-fashioned, he decides, to begin. Recalling the recipe from the same library in the halls of his memory where he stores connecting ligaments and chemical equations, he sets a single sugar cube into the glass, upturns bitters across it, and waits as they simmer through. But the cube does not diffuse entirely, and temptation beckons at his fingertips. Another dash, two, does the job, and in such small amounts it should hardly matter. The sweetened mass is muddled with a little water, orange peel skinned with a careful turn of a knife, and set inside the glass alongside a cube of ice. A measure of whiskey is poured across the top, though it hardly seems enough, but here Hannibal stops himself, lips drawn between his teeth in reservation. He adds a cherry, and stands back, hands against his naked hips, to study his creation before delivering it to Will.

Will considers the drink delivered to him much less than he considers what his boy is wearing. It’s comical and entirely playful and Will presses his lips together before taking the drink offered and cradling it in his hand. He knows Hannibal is watching him, waiting for a response, but all Will does is stroke the stem of the cherry, take it between his fingers and carefully lean it against the side of the glass, watching amber drops slip from it before raising his eyes to Hannibal and narrowing them.

“Bend,” he says, a wonderful warmth in his chest when Hannibal does, hands on either side of Will. “Open.”

He feeds him the cherry, setting the stem away, and watches him chew as he takes a sip. Initially, the taste is not unpleasant before the bitterness hits, and it almost cuts against his tongue with the strength of it. Will swallows anyway, licks his lips and feels his brows shift a little in displeasure. He can see, immediately, that Hannibal notices, and gently shakes his head, reassuring.

“I like it sharper.”

Hannibal’s lips part, as if to offer explanation, but then thins them into a line of eminent displeasure. The bitters. He should have known better - he did know better - and he added more anyway.

“You don’t like it. It’s too strong,” Hannibal responds, and Will shrugs a shoulder, still cradling the glass in his hand.

“It’s fine. Really.”

Eyes narrowing, a bare twitch of movement, Hannibal stands tall again and smooths his hands down the apron. It’s fine - for your first time making it. It’s fine - for it to be incorrect. He holds his hand out for the glass, humming when Will shifts it away from him.

“Hannibal, honestly,” laughs Will, but Hannibal keeps his hand extended.

“It isn’t perfect,” he responds in a quiet huff. “And it should be.”

“You will learn,” Will tells him, gentle, but finds that Hannibal’s cheeks pinken, his eyes turn away in that proud, stroppy way that suggests that he has been learning, and it should be perfect, first time, every time, if Hannibal Lecter does it. It is something Will finds both admirable and entirely irrational on the boy’s part, he is an exceptional worker but he pushes, he pushes himself to exhaustion and anger to attain an unreachable perfection.

So Will sets the glass down with a click against the side table, atop his book, tilts his head and presses his fingers to his lips as he watches Hannibal before him, confidence drained to a grey cloud of displeasure above him.

“It should be,” he amends, to Hannibal’s surprise, evident in the way he looks at Will, brows furrowed and lips barely parted. “And you should have known better, having learned.”

Will hums, considering, before setting his feet flat to the floor, hands down against his thighs. “Aversion is one way to prevent a repetition of an unsavory act, in your case, the inability to achieve perfection on your first attempt. Inabilities come with consequences, Hannibal, and as I apparently cannot trust you to dole out your own, I will do so from now on.”

He gestures, a brief and gentle thing, and his eyes are entirely amused despite the artificially grave tone.

“Bend over my knees, set your hands to the floor.”

“What?” The word is spat, harsher than Hannibal means it to be but for his failure that now finds him losing hold of his own tightly wound control. His gaze sharpens, fingers stretching to prevent their snaring into fists, and he scrutinizes Will closely, his utter calm, his feigned displeasure, a mimicry of Hannibal’s own unhappiness.

“I dislike repeating myself,” Will responds, lifting his chin to regard his student evenly, even as Hannibal’s jaw sets and shifts.

“Let me make another,” he insists. “I will do it correctly. I can.”

“You can,” agrees Will. “And you will. But for now you will bend, over my knees, with your hands on the floor.”

The pop of his words, spoken deliberately, snaps Hannibal’s spine straighter and he looks between Will and the glass, the glass and the kitchen, tongue pressing between his lips before he steps closer. He has already made Will repeat himself once - another failure, he tells himself - but he will not make him do so again. It takes a moment, adjusting uncomfortably to adjust for his own height, but finally, toes pressed against the floor and palms touching on the other side, he rests heavy across Will’s knees.

Will hides his smile behind his fingers, delighted that he had done it, despite the obvious hesitation, despite the obvious embarrassment. But if Hannibal insists on convincing himself his perfection is his only worth, then Will will show him otherwise. In a harmless, potentially pleasing way.

To him, at least, as Will sets a warm palm against the small of Hannibal’s back, thumb stroking there. His other hand slips over his backside, down Hannibal’s thighs, a gentle tap with his fingers brings the boy’s hips up higher, and without warning Will strikes hard against the sensitive skin of Hannibal’s thighs.

“What -”

“Down,” Will tells him, another sharp slap to emphasize his point, stroking over the warm skin while Hannibal squirms against him. “And stay still. This is entirely yours to take.”

Will’s hand slides up Hannibal’s back and to his hair, gently twisting in the strands to bend him up, arch his back and push his hips higher still and ducks his head to look at Hannibal, meet his wide dark eyes.

“Set your legs wider,” he tells him.

“But -”

Hannibal swallows hard as Will spanks him again, and the next sound from the boy spread across his lap isn’t a protest, but a moan. His skin feels hot, across the swell of his ass and his taut thighs, pulled longer still when he obediently works his legs apart, elevated onto his toes to present himself higher.

A hand twitches upward, to untrap his cock from where it’s held between Will’s leg and his own body, perhaps to untie the stupid apron tied in a bow against his back, but his palm hardly leaves the floor before Will pulls another moan from him, by simply responding, “No.”

The boy forces his hands flat to the ground then, his weight almost entirely held on Will’s legs, and even when Will releases his hair, Hannibal holds his head back as it was before, cheeks scarlet with humiliation and want, both.

“I - I did read,” he admits, finally, voice syrup-thick. “I thought to learn for you and - I should have practiced -”

“Should have,” Will says, spanking hard against the inside of Hannibal’s thigh to draw a gasp from the boy, to watch his muscles clench and tremble. “Should be.” Another. Another. Until Hannibal is near rocking back to receive them, skin pink and hot, and Will rests his hand against the swell of his ass and strokes his thumb over one cheek as his fingers just brush against where Hannibal is hard between his legs.

“Will it be?”

“Yes.” The boy shivers, and Will turns his hand with a hum to stroke down the length of him, back up, before letting him go.

“Stand up,” he says, sits back enough for Hannibal to do so unhindered. When he’s stood, Will crosses one leg over the other, teeth working the corner of the inside of his lip as his eyes remain narrowed in pleasure at the outcome of their day, unexpected as it was.

“Now,” he says carefully, setting his fingers against the rim of his glass and taking it up again. “This is bitter, and I would like another better suited to my taste.” He holds the glass out, waits for Hannibal to take it before smiling and pushing his glasses up his nose and sitting back. “Take your time.”

For a moment, Hannibal simply stands, the hum in his ears like buzzing bees and his lips softly parted in surprise and confusion both. His skin tingles, and he reaches back as though to smooth the ties of his apron but instead traces his fingers down the curve of his own ass, hot to the touch and - he’s sure - very red. Cock standing rigid, he is at a loss as to what to do, what he wants, humiliated to blushing dark beneath his eyes, and wanting - oh, he wants, and he swallows hard as he turns towards the kitchen.

What he doesn’t feel, though, is the frustration - the simmering anger at himself for his mistake. It is quieted, drowned out by his own pulse, by pain that stretches hot down his legs when he walks, by the dizzying tension of his erection. He palms against it, for a moment, hand dipping beneath his apron to pull a long stroke and sigh, shaking as he braces his other hand against the counter.

Another slow tug, another, lip bitten between his teeth, until he forces himself to stop when the glint of ice in the glass catches his attention. His eyes narrow.

He pours it, rinses the glass clean, dries it, and begins again.

Sugar cube. Two dashes - only two - of Angostura bitters. A splash of water. Muddle, add orange peel and ice cube. Jigger of whiskey. Stir. Cherry.

Perfect.

The cherry is still lazily circling the glass as he carries the old-fashioned back out to Will, stalwartly ignoring how the apron tents across his bobbing cock. He holds his breath as Will takes it, and with his eyes closed as if to steel himself, he turns aside and in a feline stretch, sprawls himself once more across Will’s legs, careful this time to not catch his hard-on between their bodies.

Will follows the motion with gentle amusement, uncrossing his legs for Hannibal to rest comfortably over him. He eats the cherry himself, this time, savoring the sweetness, as his boy bends for him, ass still dark pink from where Will had laid his hand just minutes before. He is beautiful, and Will finds himself almost unable to hide a smile. He takes a sip of his drink and with a hum, brings one hand down to grasp Hannibal’s chin and gently lift it.

“Taste this for me,” he says, careful in tilting the glass so Hannibal doesn’t choke. He watches the way the boy’s throat works to swallow, how he licks his lips with just a peek of his pink tongue before dark eyes turn up to Will, questioning.

“Too bitter?” He asks, and Will’s smile widens as he brings the drink to his lips again, eyes never leaving Hannibal’s as he savors the mouthful and shakes his head.

“I very much like it.”

Will watches the confusion of emotions war on Hannibal’s face, pleasure at success, disappointment at the lack of more reminders of perfection. He is lovely, and Will continues to drink as he watches to see what Hannibal will decide to ask for.

The clink of ice pulls a shiver of pleasure through the boy, despite how sincerely this whole experience has short-circuited his otherwise restrained sensibilities. Knowing that he has done well this time and that Will is enjoying it, aching to feel his bare skin reddened again by the flat of his professor’s hand, and above all, so hard it feels like he’s been hit in the stomach.

A soft sound, needy and small, falls from Hannibal’s lips as he adjusts himself, shoulders shifting to better place his hands against the floor, hips twisting to plant his toes against the ground, legs spread and cock held against the side of Will’s leg. He wants everything and nothing - to be spanked, fucked, worshipped, praised, punished, ignored entirely and left to simply listen to the satisfaction he has brought to Will.

The satisfaction he brings him now, too, Hannibal hopes, as he holds himself steady. He asks for nothing, for long minutes, and the next sound spasms hot from flushed lips when he feels the cold glass set against the small of his back to rest there. His hair slips into his face and he does not move to sweep it back, as still as he can be despite the involuntary movements of his muscles, quick as firecrackers.

“Two dashes of Angostura,” Hannibal murmurs, nearly purring. “Not four.”

“Good boy,” Will praises him, tickling cold fingers down Hannibal’s spine just to watch him shiver, to watch the motion reflected on the surface of the liquid in the glass. Then lower still, fingers trailing over sensitive skin, down to Hannibal’s thighs, stroking the insides of them, up and down until he makes that needy little noise again and Will hushes him just to watches the way Hannibal bites his lip to obey.

“And you will remember?”

“I will remember,” Hannibal whispers, and Will moves to cup him in his palm, stroking against his balls until Hannibal whimpers, presses up and back against Will’s hand and Will clicks his tongue softly to remind him the glass is still balanced there.

“You did this so well, and I have to wonder why,” Will strokes him again, “you are bent over my legs again?”

He watches as Hannibal considers his words, forces himself still as Will keeps touching him, elbow resting against the arm of his chair as he tilts his head to watch Hannibal’s lips part slack, his throat work to swallow, his fingers fold to fists on the floor.

“I made you ask twice,” Hannibal manages finally, words curled as a question at the end, and his dark eyes seek, for just a moment, up to meet Will’s, lip between his teeth, nervous, needy, and so, so hard against Will’s leg. Will looks, considers, watches as Hannibal thinks of asking and just how quickly his pride stops him, and gives it a moment more, another, before lifting his chin from his fingers.

“So you did,” he agrees, and without a word slaps sharply against the pale skin on the insides of Hannibal’s thighs. “I would advise against moving, the drink will spill.”

Hannibal’s sigh rolls slowly from him, trembling but released with control, lest a sharper exhalation unbalance the precariously perched cocktail. He digs his toes harder against the floor, keeps his hands fisted, and lets his eyes slip closed to savor the white noise washing in waves over him as Will’s hand connects again.

Only Hannibal’s heart moves at the slap, tempo quickening each time he feels Will’s palm smack hot against his thighs. His pert backside, smooth and scarlet, jiggles with each spank he receives, but Hannibal lets himself ride the sweet sting that sings through him. It carries him almost out of his body entirely, and he whimpers again only in gratitude when the anxiety, the furious insistence on perfection, the frustration all ebbs away. There is only pleasure, spurred sharp by pain - there is only Will, who can ease his mind so entirely.

He shivers despite his control when cool knuckles skim along tender skin, drawn along the inside of his legs, following the swell of his ass. The glass drips against his skin, condensation trickling a ticklish trail down his side to soak a dark spot against pants, and it’s enough to awaken Hannibal from his reverie, his cock leaking a matching darkness where it rubs against Will’s leg.

He moans, and Will stops his hand, rubbing his palm instead over Hannibal’s red skin as the boy shivers. Will takes the glass with his other hand and finishes the drink, setting it down and praising Hannibal, for staying still, for being a good boy, for being his good boy. He listens as Hannibal pants against him, trembling and wide-eyed, leaking warm against Will’s pants and Will entirely uncaring.

He brings his hand up to pull the string on the apron, loosening it and gently bending Hannibal’s head forward to slip the thing from him, setting it aside on the floor to hold his boy entirely bare for him.

Will’s hands stroke over tense shoulders and squeeze gently there, working the tension from his muscles, pulling a groan from him, then up his back, flat palms just rubbing skin to feel Hannibal pleasantly shiver from it, bend up to it, arch his back against it, then down, lower, over red slapped skin, just to hear Hannibal hiss, to feel the heat of his punishment. Will bends to kiss there, as well, drawing a sound from Hannibal that Will softly hushes.

He guides Hannibal to rest against his thighs, not arch up over them, soothing hands down behind his knees to bend them, to have Hannibal utterly relaxed, shaking from adrenaline and pain and utter euphoria. Will spreads his legs, just a little more, and brings his fingers to Hannibal’s mouth for him to suck. Little things, lazy and languid pulls of his tongue until Will draws his hand free, slick, and brings it back to press slowly into Hannibal, first one finger, then the second, making a soft sound himself at the tightness, the way Hannibal instinctively clenches around him.

“Beautiful, beautiful boy,” Will whispers to him, free hand curling through Hannibal’s hair. “I am so proud of you.”

The sound Hannibal makes is not drawn from the delicious stretch of his body around Will’s fingers, the slow push that fills him only to withdraw teasing again, but from the words that fill him even more entirely. A heart-breakingly soft whimper, gratitude and satisfaction all at once, to know that there is someone, anyone, in the world beside himself who is proud of him. It hardly matters that it’s for not spilling the drink from his back, for making it in the first place, Hannibal feels the praise spread through the dark places between his bones and shine light on them.

Will is proud of him.

He matters to Will.

Roughly he grips Will’s leg with a hand to steady himself, head bowed. His body opens for Will, his being opens for him, he moans throaty and raw in release of all the tension he carries innately and further inflicts on himself. Rocking himself against Will’s thigh, he seeks friction against his cock, pushes back to feel Will’s fingers push deeper, faster, and when Will spreads them to stretch him further, Hannibal laughs, shaking.

“I -”

Will hums, questioning, but does not slow from pumping his fingers inside the boy who lays trembling over his lap. He strokes when they slip out, curving them against the sensitive nub inside his body, and choking Hannibal’s words short again.

“I want -”

“What do you want, sweet boy?” Will croons, and another shudder laughs through Hannibal before he bites his lip, releases it flushed and damp.

“I want you to be proud of me.”

It is such a profound request, so enormous in its vulnerability, and for a moment Will holds his breath, the drag of fingers deliberate and deep, pulling more desperate sounds from his boy as Hannibal's feet slip over the carpet in his struggle to rut more.

"I have been," Will assures him gently, the truth of the words curling Hannibal over him, "for a very long time. And I certainly am, now."

For the maturity and thoughtfulness of Hannibal’s actions regarding them and what they are. For his carriage before they developed whatever this is. For his trust. His courage, his strength... for wanting to make cocktails on a random day in summer for them to enjoy.

Will turns his hand, stretches further, and bends to kiss Hannibal’s hair in something like reverence.

Squirming against Will’s leg, Hannibal releases a breath from deeper inside himself than the others before it, a relief at putting his needs into words and having them heard, answered, respected by one who Hannibal himself has grown to respect so much. It’s almost comical to think of his stringency early on, in charging Will for every call or visit, however innocuous, in hopes to dissuade the man’s persistent interest, and at least make it worth Hannibal’s own while in the meantime.

And all he ever truly needed was to let slip his fierce control, and allow himself to ask.

The bend of Will’s fingers sets of supernovas behind Hannibal’s eyes, fluttering closed on a long, low moan. His trembling has become a steady vibration, rattling heart and lungs, belly and cock, and he feels the resonance pitching higher, faster, snaring tight enough to leave him breathless.

“I’m going to,” gasps Hannibal, fingers shaking where he holds to Will’s ankle. “I - your pants -”

Will turns his head against Hannibal in a fond nuzzle and does not relent in the pleasure he's giving, relishing the shaking, the soft sounds, just everything about this boy. He kisses behind his ear, noses, tickling, at the lobe and sighs.

"Let go, Hannibal," he whispers. Let yourself. I will catch you.

And when his boy does, Will strokes through it, lips parted on a wide grin as his words warm with a laugh, telling Hannibal he is so good, he did so well, Will is proud of him. So, so proud of him.

Will strokes until Hannibal jerks a certain way and he knows to stop. Careful hands, strong around Hannibal’s middle, pull him back against Will, back to chest, soothing the hiss of pain as the sensitive spanked skin rubs over fabric. Will lets Hannibal adjust how he sits on his own, his arms up around Will’s neck, breathless, languid kisses to his lips.

He twists and writhes, hips bucking in aftershocks of pleasure, savoring the scrape of Will’s trousers against his tender spanked thighs. The cocktail is sweet on Will’s lips, traced with the tip of Hannibal’s tongue before they ease into another long kiss. Hannibal hums as Will spreads his hands up his bare belly, across his chest, tugging gently against the soft fluff thickening there. His lips drift into the scruff on Will’s strong jaw, against the curve of his neck, pliant and pleased in the man’s arms, having opened for him and found himself held firm.

“Another?” Hannibal grins, eyes closed and cheeks dark as he tilts his nose against Will’s cheek.

“Already?”

“Another cocktail,” clarifies Hannibal with a huff of amusement, body rolling forward from Will’s as he moves to stand. The ground is unsteady beneath him, dizzy, but he holds himself straight and allows the sensation to settle, his blood to flow slower again, flushed pink across the rises of his body.

“And one for yourself,” Will tells him. He watches Hannibal lift the glass and stride away, stretching an arm behind his head, and glances to the dark dampness drying stiff across his leg.

Will draws a hand over his face and leans back in his chair before pushing himself to stand. He feels entirely alive, entirely fulfilled despite being hard still, despite Hannibal never once touching him, or offering his body for use. He had, instead, offered it for pleasure, for the sting of a playful punishment that was anything but. Will can hear Hannibal in the kitchen, shifting confidently, bottles clinking as he selects his ingredients.

That confidence. That joy, that is what Will aims for, every time they are together. To see it is entirely gratifying. To experience it is a gift.

He changes quickly, into a pair of worn jeans, soft from age, and decides that he can forgo a shirt, if Hannibal can forgo clothes entirely. When he returns, it is to the kitchen, snaring Hannibal around the waist and kissing his neck.

He tilts his head to the side, eyes hooding as Will’s beard rubs soft against him. “Manhattans,” Hannibal tells him, with a flourish of delight. “To continue with whiskey cocktails, and avoid the ill-effects of changing liquors once we’ve begun.”

A quick stir sends the ice spinning, and Hannibal lifts a glass to offer back to Will. He shivers when a drip of condensation hits his bare skin, watching with pleasure as Will sips, amber liquid clinging to his bottom lip. Before he can lick it away, Hannibal sets the glass aside and turns in close to draw Will’s lip between his own, and savor the sweet burn from his mouth directly.

Will’s approval is a hum caught in their kiss and Hannibal grins at it, rising to his toes to steal another quick kiss before he twists in Will’s loose embrace to pluck the cherry from the cocktail. Coy, proud, all too aware of his own loveliness, his lips curve to suck the whiskey from it, bright red fruit popping free before his mouth slackens in sympathy, eyes hooded, and he offers it to Will in turn.

Will hums, parts his lips to take it, closes his teeth gently around the stem, eyes narrowing in pleasure when Hannibal tugs it free and leaves the sweet cherry in his mouth. Will’s teeth crack the skin and he savors the taste before catching Hannibal's cheek with his hand and kissing him, feeding the tart sweetness to him in slow rolls of his tongue.

"Should we be responsible adults and eat dinner first?" Will asks, lickig his lips as he watches Hannibal lean to rest back against the counter.

"No."

And it is Will, this time, who shivers at the word.

"No?"

"No." Hannibal grins and Will takes his cocktail in response, eyes on the beautiful boy before him, and downs it.

"Keep up, then."

Back arching, Hannibal presses his palms against the counter and stretches, bare and satisfied, limber and lovely. His eyes narrow, crinkling in pleasure as he takes up his glass and spins the ice in it, brow lifting. Throat working, he swallows the cocktail in a few sips, and shudders as the whiskey singes warm down to his stomach.

“I’ve always resented my clients’ attempts to inebriate me,” he muses, taking Will’s glass to make another. He bends over the counter a little more than necessary, delightfully aware that Will is still half-hard from before. “They think they need it in order to coerce me, or control me. I dislike the sensation - it requires much more effort on my part to keep my wits about me than otherwise.”

He mixes the drinks as though he’s done it all his life, measuring vermouth and rye, dashing the bitters in, adding fresh cubes of ice.

“I’ve devised, by necessity, dozens of ways to avoid it happening. Tricks that barkeeps use when customers insist they drink with them, how to appear to swallow without doing so - a useful trick for more than just alcohol,” he adds, wry, as he turns again and offers another cocktail to Will.

“I won’t make you,” Will responds, and Hannibal’s smile curls wide as he lifts his chin.

“I resent my clients’ attempts to make me drunk,” he purrs again, gently stressing the word that in no way now describes Will.

Will steps closer, just enough to frame Hannibal against the counter, brings the drink to his lips. There is a strange heat in listening to Hannibal dismiss his others, a coy and beautiful thing that they want to own and are far from even coming close to it. A beautiful boy who has allowed that to Will alone.

"You can sweet talk all evening, Hannibal, but it was at your insistence we have these today. So you are, in fact, attempting to make me drunk." Will clicks his tongue, a sound almost hollow in his mouth, the sound he uses to chastise his dogs. Blue eyes narrow and Will takes a sip.

He would go to his knees for this boy, at his words, at his asking. Willingly a slave to his mind and his confidence, unashamedly to his body. Will leans in to paint a thick, cold stripe against Hannibal’s neck with his tongue before setting his lips against it to suck.

He shivers at the feeling of hands against his hips, cold fingers and hard knuckles, head already pleasantly fuzzy from the drinks, contented to get Hannibal there as well, to taste mumbled words and drowsy grins.

Hannibal leans back to feel Will’s weight against him, secure and comfortable beneath the older man, pleased always by how their bodies fit flush together. Bare chests pressed, bare stomachs, hands and mouths delighting in whatever part of the other they find. Hannibal lifts his chin, head tilting as Will works damp kisses across his collarbone.

“I’ve never been drunk of my own volition,” he responds, words sharpening into a soft hiss as teeth tease across his bones. “I’ve never felt safe enough to do so around another, nor seen the reason to do so on my own. It has always seemed irresponsible.”

He runs a hand up Will’s back, teasing fingertips against his spine, sinking into his hair to grasp and tug just hard enough to part Will’s mouth from his chest and bring it to meet his own instead. For a moment more, he holds Will there, blush spreading across his nose, spilling beneath his eyes as he feels the sway he has over this man, clever and admired, impatient and stubborn, given to him because he has first allowed Will to hold sway over him.

Entirely, wholly, his.

"Let me think of responsible," Will offers, words warm, so far from a skeevy, slick deal with the devil at a bar, that trust again, that promise Will had made, to take his burdens and allow a pleasant numbness to Hannibal's mind. "Let me take responsibility."

He goes as Hannibal directs him, lips parting almost obediently to take Hannibal's again, hot with drink and comfortable arousal. He goes when Hannibal grips his hair tight enough to bend Will back and bare his neck. And kisses in turn, now, devouring things, with teeth and rough tongue and the promise of bruises.

Will’s hands seek down, grasp Hannibal’s thighs to hoist him up, first against himself, then higher still to the counter. Will laughs as Hannibal keeps his legs snared around him, and strokes down to his ankles and back up again, dragging pink lines with his nails.

The counter feels wonderfully cool against his backside and curls a shiver through his spine. Hannibal tightens his legs to keep Will against him, hands spread behind himself to stay supported, and he shifts back just a little when Will leans in to snare him in another kiss, grinning.

“It’s going to be difficult to make drinks for you this way,” he teases.

“I bought good whiskey,” counters Will. “And there’s no better way to enjoy it then poured straight.”

The roughness of his voice is like the rocky shore to the stormy blue of Will’s eyes, and Hannibal sighs delight in allowing himself to be overcome by the slow roiling strength of the man between his legs. Without loosening them, Hannibal leans to drag their glasses closer, upturning one finger of whiskey into one, two into the other. He takes the larger pour for himself and when Will raises a brow, Hannibal’s cock twitches, stomach squeezing pleasurably.

“I’m one behind,” he reminds Will with a coy smile, before downing the drink in at once.

Will watches, bites his lip in deep pleasure, watching his boy wince slightly at the taste but still drink it. For himself. Because he wants to. In truth, they shouldn’t have many more, they will already have killer headaches in the morning neither need but - as Will follows suit and downs the thing with a hiss - he doubts either will stop.

Because neither of them want to.

Will leans into the hands that frame his face and smiles, eyes narrowed, as Hannibal slides his glasses off and sets them away. He does not care if the evening ends with them sweaty and filthy or just curled together in sleep, both outcomes will be exceptional, either outcome Will is very happy to steer towards.

“Now we’re even, my barman,” Will tells him sliding his hands back to grasp warmly against Hannibal’s ankles before stroking his palms back up to cup his ass where he sits. “What shall we do next?”

Three drinks deep is enough to warm Hannibal already, simmering outward from the furnace of his belly, flickering embers through his veins. His cheeks are ruddy from it, lips flushed and body loose, comfortably balanced between his naturally lithe movements and a more uncontrolled ease. One ankle unlocks from the other, and Hannibal lowers it to hook his foot around Will’s leg. It brings their hips together, and poised so close to the edge of the counter, it’s all too easy for Will to pull him free of it and hold Hannibal’s weight against his own.

The boy grins and ducks their foreheads together, thumbs stroking against Will’s cheeks as his body finds a natural balance - a dancer’s build, strong and thin, innately elegant as he holds himself perched on Will’s hips.

“Is it too cold to go outside?” Hannibal asks, and Will laughs.

“As you are?”

“Bare?”

“Yes. It’s too cold for you to go bare.” Hannibal hums, considering anyway, as Will adds, “And too dark.”

“To go walking?”

“To turn an ankle and get lost in the woods?” Will teases. “Perfectly dark for that.”

Hannibal simply smiles, running a hand back through Will’s hair so that he can press their cheeks together, turning softly to feel the man’s beard against his smooth skin. The appeal of inebriation becomes rather immediately clear to the boy, now that he has been given the freedom - the safety - to enjoy it. There is a particular freedom he feels, as if no answer he could give would be a wrong one, and no need to temper and consider every movement, thought, or word to present himself just so.

“How else might you contribute to my delinquency,” Hannibal wonders aloud, lanky arms slipping around Will’s neck. “Beyond providing me intoxicants. I am entirely your responsibility now, professor.”

“Obviously a strong hand is not enough to deter you from thoughts like this,” Will muses back, carrying Hannibal to bed and letting him fall to it, limbs flailing till he bounces and laughs, squirming, where he’s been dropped. “Perhaps next time I’ll use something else.”

“I am terrified,” Hannibal replies, and Will allows a growl, low in his throat, before pinning him down and kissing beneath Hannibal’s jaw. In truth, Will is not sure what they could do, should do. In truth, they can do anything. He thinks how a tryst in the cold forest would go and laughs at the thought, at the way they would get lost in the dark, find a less than perfect tree, and with the haze of alcohol around them, warming them, would hardly care.

“I want you,” Will admits, like it’s a secret, as though he isn’t rubbing up against Hannibal’s thigh in slow, long pulls. “Delinquent and all. What’s to be done about that?”

Hannibal squirms as though to escape, only a feigned and intentionally fruitless effort, grin breaking wide when he feels strong familiar hands capture his hips to hold him in place. “Self-restraint,” he poses, but the squint of his eyes betrays his genuine pleasure at this gentle play. “Maintaining one’s composure,” he laughs, sighing as Will’s teeth graze his bared throat, “in the face of insurmountable temptation.”

“I think your temptation seems very mountable,” Will quips, and Hannibal feigns shock in an arched brow and widened eyes. He can hardly hold the look, though, and gathers his arms around Will, curls a leg across his ass, toes digging into the waist of his jeans. It is aimless rutting, friction and contact, skin against skin, and entirely comfortable. And in it all, Hannibal feels desired - not as a thing to be claimed and held captive, but a prize to be won through patience and reliability.

A prize that has been won, as much by Hannibal’s own choice as by Will’s efforts.

Whiskey-hot and languid, Hannibal closes his eyes as the room undulates in time with the rhythm of their bodies. He reminds himself that he does not have to perform now, to play a part or discern desires to emulate. He does not need to tighten his stomach and pitch higher his voice. He does not need to be anything other than who he is, as he is, entirely.

And he does not want for anything more than this, the sweet fumbling and clumsy kisses that were never his to savor in youth as they were for others. Hannibal feels his age, unfocused and impetuous, and wonders if there are any words sufficient to describe the strangeness of the sensation. Made brave by security as much as by liquor, Hannibal rests his hands against Will’s chest to turn him to his back, an uncertain glance shared between them before Hannibal works his leg between Will’s own, the other when the older man shifts to widen his, and Hannibal presses down against Will and seeks a kiss.

It is given, warm, sloppy, and grinning, and Will’s hands come to slip Hannibal’s hair from his face as he watches him. Slowly, Will draws his knees up around the boy, the denim on one nearly worn through from use, and licks his lip into his mouth. He has rarely entertained the idea of allowing someone to own him in this way, but this boy owns him entirely. And even in this, Will is happy to oblige him.

He arches, seeks his own friction against Hannibal, curls his toes in the sheets and tilts his head with a smile. Lazy, languid, hot from whiskey and relaxed, he sets his feet against the insides of Hannibal’s calves and slowly draws his legs wider, pulling Hannibal closer in the process.

“Ask,” he murmurs, nuzzling up but ducking out of a kiss with a grin.

Hannibal blinks, uncertainty glowing in his cheeks. He wasn’t going to, he tells himself, it isn’t what he’s used to - isn’t what he’s best at. An exceedingly rare occurrence, when so many that he’s been with would rather have him spread, than to let something so slight and pretty have them instead. He wasn’t going to, he tells himself, until Will sighed that word against his skin, and it echoes like a stone down a well, rising up from inside him.

He sighs against Will’s cheek, his youth on display in wanting so much, arms trembling where he holds himself above the older man. Maybe it isn’t what he’s made for, but according to whom? Nameless faces too readily forgotten, none who matter at all when Will sees that Hannibal was made for so much more.

“Can I?” Hannibal asks, and he blushes dark when his voice cracks on the question.

Will hums, warm, at the tilt in Hannibal’s voice, the tremble through his limbs that he tries to hide by clinging tighter to the blankets. He wonders if he has done this before, not patronizing but merely curious, what people bought him for, those he did not hate or fear. Curious what ‘company’ entails if Hannibal’s idea initially had been to prepare for a night of Will having him against the wall in the same restaurant they had eaten together.

He blinks up, stretches his arms up over his head and rests them gently clasped together. Open, vulnerable and entirely trusting, as new to this as Hannibal is, finding that whiskey is doing wonders for his confidence in this, where he would question himself and trip up on his own thoughts were they sober.

He wants Hannibal, he knows, in any capacity possible. He wants him like this.

Will parts his lips with a slow breath, a slow blink and smiles. “Please.”

If only everything in life could be so simple.

Hannibal returns the smile, ducking his head as it widens to a grin and rocking the length of his body down against Will’s as he kisses open-mouthed against Will’s neck. Boyish enthusiasm, drunk and entirely at ease, he sucks a little harder to leave a mark under Will’s jaw, where he will see it tomorrow and remember, where others too might see it and know that someone loves this man enough to claim him so.

Clumsy fingers work loose Will’s jeans, hand spanning to slide them from his hips and shifting, a messy tangle of limbs and little laughs until both are bare and the pants are pushed from Will’s feet. Hannibal is never one to miss an opportunity for display, however, and with a preening tilt of his chin, he lifts his own fingers to his lips and sucks them slick, holding Will’s attention entirely when he drags them against his lips, and works them deep again. A flash of tongue, circling as he draws them out wet, and slips his hand between Will’s legs.

“Have you, before?” Hannibal asks, a sweet curiosity simmering warm in place of insecurity.

Will watches him, eyes blown wide and dark with need and nerves both, and he keeps his legs set wide where they were before, arms still above his head as he savors the pulse he can feel in his throat against the bite Hannibal had left. A mark that is entirely his to leave, a mark that Will is not going to cover, meet the eyes of anyone who stares until they no longer stare.

“Never with a man,” he says, catches Hannibal’s eyes as he processes the words and watches his eyes widen gently before laughing, bringing one hand down to rub his face before dropping it up behind himself again. “A certain woman tried with her hand. But I was young and stupid and remember that night in flashes of a strobe light. Perhaps that’s for the best.”

Hannibal laughs, just a nervous thing and Will grins wider, tipsy and confident and adoring. “Consider this a very welcome first,” Will tells him, biting his lip before letting it go. “Have you?”

A gentle nod, and then just as soon, Hannibal shakes his head. “Not often,” he admits, finding it easier, now, for so many reasons to set aside the history that hangs weighted on his shoulders. “Very not often,” he amends, grinning crooked when Will smiles a little wider at the words. “And not at all with anyone I cared about.”

He swallows hard, savoring the word he nearly used instead, and letting it warm him as much as the whiskey has.

“A first for you too, then,” Will responds, lifting a hand to slip his fingers over the curves of Hannibal’s cheek, and the boy sighs so suddenly that he nearly loses his will entirely. The touch, the words, the forgiveness and acceptance, it’s dizzying, to be given back these moments that were relinquished to unwanted others.

When Hannibal tilts his cheek into Will’s palm to kiss, without a sound, he breathes the words he didn’t say, just to imagine that he has, and let them loose from his lungs like birds from a too-small cage. His fingers seek, circle and caress, patient as he wishes it had been for him in his first time, waiting until Will relaxes with a sigh before he presses in.

Far from unpleasant, and Will hums, raising his hips for Hannibal to touch him more, encouraging, comfortable, and he draws one hand through Hannibal’s hair to bend him down to him, nuzzling warm, groaning warm soft things against Hannibal’s lips. He thinks about him when he’s away, when he’s on a case, in some motel room he can’t remember the name of, with the sign outside that buzzes till the early hours, Will thinks of Hannibal’s hands. He thinks of how they fold, and how his fingers seek and play. Delicate hands, but strong, beautiful fingers - a surgeon’s hands, the hands of an artist.

And Hannibal is both. Will be both.

“I dream about you when you’re not here,” Will admits to him softly, lips parting as Hannibal carefully eases in a second finger and throat clicking with a non-sound of need. “You hold me entirely in thrall.”

Things perhaps he shouldn’t say, needn’t say, and he hopes he’s allowed the excuse of alcohol, if Hannibal takes offense, tenses at the possessiveness, or worse, the genuine adoration that Will has for him.

Instead, Hannibal seems to unfurl at the words, stretching along his spine, spreading his shoulders wide in pleasure, adoring the praise, adoring more the man who yields to him in careful words and cautious abandon. His eyes are dark, hardly open as he spreads his fingers to feel Will’s heat and stretch around him, presses them deep and curls them to brush against the sensitive nub inside him.

He draws a breath when Will does, relishing the way Will’s throat works before relinquishing a moan, head bent back and body opening to him in every way. His tongue appears to dampen his lips, made dry with breathlessness. “I think of you always,” he sighs, his voice a low whisper, scarcely louder than the breath needed to fuel his words. “Every day that I tell myself I’m foolish, and consider leaving classes. Every day I go anyway, and receive marks that I can show to you later in pride. Every night that I spend without you, I want you there. I -”

Hannibal stops, a weak laugh lifting his words from him as he hears Will’s words resound in him.

Ask.

Tell me what you need.

“I need you,” he says, and curls his fingers to rub again before Will can answer.

A moan instead, spurred by the words and the touches against him together, and Will lets his eyes close, lets his lips part wide and allows himself to pant his pleasure up against the boy touching him. His entire body sings with the words. I need you. I need you. He wonders if his desire to be needed is as strong as Hannibal’s is to be accepted. It’s less a lack of confidence for both and a strange knowledge that there is a certain kind of being needed, a certain kind of being accepted, that they have found with the other.

Will wonders just how drunk he is that he considers telling Hannibal he loves him.

And wonders if he’s drunk at all since the words taste so familiar going down.

“I’m here,” he sighs instead, licks his lips and shivers, drawing his hands up Hannibal’s back and his knees around him. It feels good. Almost sleepy in its gentleness but they don’t need more. Not together like this, now. Will arches up to kiss him.

Hannibal sinks into the kiss and tastes the words that both convey without speaking. And when he sinks into Will, it is just as unhurried. He is gentle in the strength that Will can feel through Hannibal’s body, entirely aware of the power in his dawning adulthood as he has been in his youth. He does not feel young now, a man more than a boy, though no less beautiful for it - perhaps more so, a role more suited to him than the childishness that he affects to readily.

And though he plays at roughness, now and then, a deeper rocking inside his professor, a quicker thrust, there is no intent for anything but care in his movements, in his cautious questions to ensure that Will is comfortable, and Will wonders if perhaps the capacity he saw for harm in Hannibal was misplaced.

It is hard to imagine him as anything less than the nervous, tender young man he is now, gasping hot against Will’s neck, one hand tangled in his curls, the other between their bodies to feel Will’s release flood hot over his fingers, his own held at bay until that moment and uncoiling with a trembling groan.

Neither give voice to what aches so sweetly between them, and as Hannibal watches Will adoring, lips parted panting against his cheek before his eyes slip closed, both consider in their breathless stillness that perhaps nothing more need be said at all.

Chapter Text

As much by necessity as by a well-honed sense of whimsy, Hannibal writes longhand.

Eventually the words will find their way into a computer, one of those available to students in the library or the lab, but the first draft and revisions are always done with pen and paper. Long curls of script move swift across the page, one into the next, flowing steady as his thoughts until a period punctuates the end.

Hannibal sets his pen between his teeth. He works one foot out a little wider to settle the pull in his hips, leaning onto the desk with his elbows comfortably set against the old wood. This space that has become his own when he’s in Wolf Trap, demarcated by books and notepads into a private space.

Or near enough to it, anyway. He is shirtless in the summer warmth, clad only in a low-slung pair of soft cotton pants that hang precariously on his pointed hips. Winston is beside him, tail sweeping soft against a bare ankle, and the fluffy dog’s peers are in various states of self-medicated cooling - across the bed or on the cold kitchen tile. But for their quiet panting and the sound of insects humming through the screen door, the house is still in the heavy humidity.

One foot bends, and Hannibal stretches his toes as he rereads his words.

The sound of a car engine draws his head up, but he doesn’t move otherwise, just turns back enough to see the door, to watch as Will’s truck pulls up in front of the porch before the engine cuts. Hannibal turns back, eyes narrowed in pleasure, and forces his eyes to the page, attempting to take the words in as Will scales the stairs and swings the screen door open. It slaps shut behind him, and Hannibal can hear the sound of paper bags being set to the counter, the tap running as Will drinks from it with a groan.

Without a word, Will begins to unpack the groceries, quick practiced movements as he works his way between the dogs that have managed to force themselves from the floor to come and greet him.

Then a glass of ice water is set before Hannibal, and warm lips press to his hair in greeting. A hum - gentle, fond - and Will nuzzles against Hannibal’s hair before pulling back, a palm between his shoulders.

“You may take a break, if you like,” he says, tilts his head to look at Hannibal with narrowed eyes and a small curl of his lips. “But I told you that before I left. I don’t want you to hurt yourself in this heat.”

“It’s easier than in the winter,” Hannibal answers. “Muscles loosened by the heat, rather than the floors radiating cold upward.”

Will’s hand strokes slowly, up and down his spine, and each time it passes Hannibal arches up against it, all but purring at the welcome touch. He takes a sip of the water with a murmur of thanks, and sucks the condensation from his bottom lip in thought before lifting his eyes from the paper to focus on Will instead.

His professor, even on summer break.

“You’re back early.”

“I’m not,” answers Will, smile widening.

Hannibal glances to the clock and blinks. The days have grown so long that it still seems mid-afternoon outside, rather than nearly dinner. Immersed in his work, holding this position without pause except to get coffee or use the restroom, the hours have vanished without his notice. Will’s hand slips across his shoulder, knuckles rough against his neck, and when he opens his palm, Hannibal lays his cheek against it, eyes closed.

“I did not even have time to miss you properly.”

Will swipes his thumb gently under Hannibal’s eye and bends to kiss his hair again, just breathing him in, warm skin and clean sweat and something spicy that is just him, beneath.

“I missed you,” he says, a reassurance, a promise, and gently tilts Hannibal’s chin up until he blinks his eyes open again. “I brought home ice cream.”

He watches Hannibal’s eyes widen a little, his smile grow, and lets him go to step away, around him, to lean over Hannibal and his work. He had left the boy to write his essay - though it was his only remaining work over summer, an application for a scholarship - hoping Hannibal would allow himself respite for a few days after, feeling that he had earned the right to relax, in summer, with Will as they are.

“I want you,” Will murmurs, “to take a break, please. To stand and stretch, to walk around the house and finish your water. Then we can make dinner together, enjoy dessert as you wish.”

Will watches Hannibal obey, a delightful cat-stretch over the table. He pushes himself to stand, onto his toes, hands up above his head and fingers splayed with a genuinely orgasmic groan of relief. Will draws his bottom lip between his teeth and watches him.

Hannibal scratches a hand through his hair, already untidy from Will’s fingers, and tosses it back from his face. His smile tugs wider when he sees Will’s eyes on him, and his own avert again. He is so young, and in moments like this appears his age. No constraints of professional clothing, no worry tightening his face to stiff angularity - just a sleepy contentment that softens him, as he allows himself to relax.

Because he wishes it.

Because Will wishes it.

Because he feels safe.

“Will you read it for me?” Hannibal asks, fingers slick against the glass as he takes it up, and slowly circles the table. Will starts to move but Hannibal leans against him, chest to chest, and Will sits back against the edge of the desk. Soft lips touch beneath his jaw, over his scruff, and nearly to the corner of his mouth before Hannibal stops, and grins. “I could use a professor’s attention.”

Before Will’s hands can catch him, his bitten lips press to trap Hannibal’s own, the boy peels away with an unbound pleasure, stepping backward.

“Stretching my legs, as instructed,” he tells Will, before turning on his heel. He ducks as he goes, patting his leg to gather the dogs to eager attention. They depart all at once, the screen door held until all have gone, and Hannibal’s steps thump against the old wooden porch as he follows them out into the grass, glass still in hand.

Will watches him, amused, before turning to take up the loose pages of Hannibal’s essay. His handwriting flows beautifully, elegant and practiced, and Will knows that Hannibal had worked on it, perfected every curve and twist and join of his cursive. He draws his fingers over the script before beginning to read.

Outside, the dogs race around Hannibal, the boy having set his glass down to play with them. Will allows the sounds to wash over him as he settles back onto the desk and reads. How long passes, he is unsure, engrossed as he is in Hannibal’s genuinely interesting piece. It is unfinished, several paragraphs more before it can be drawn to a close, but Will does not fault him that.

Not that, he thinks with a smile, as the boy returns flushed and pleased back to the house.

"Leave them to run," Will says. Hannibal bends over the counter to set his glass away before guiding the dogs that had followed him inside back out to the porch.

"I've read it," he tells Hannibal, nothing in his tone to suggest pleasure or displeasure at the work yet.

As if the cord of his spine were wrapped around a fist, Hannibal straightens. His eyes flare, once, when he blinks, a flicker of uncertainty as he turns towards Will again.

He reminds himself of his own cleverness.

Like ice over still water, his expression smooths into flawless veneer of utter confidence born of innate perfectionism. His grades validate it. The respect of his professors validate it. Will, for that matter, validates it, although never before with regard to a specific piece of schoolwork. Hannibal’s smile lifts in time with a tilt of his chin, and slow strides carry him forward.

Excellent work, Hannibal.

Beyond your years.

Remarkable, truly.

Past praise envelopes him, but by necessity, he asks. “And?”

Will watches, his lower eyelids flickering in a brief tension before he relaxes them. He can see how Hannibal carries himself, knows from whence it comes, that confidence, and in truth it is well earned.

But Will Graham is the toughest lecturer to please at Quantico, and as Hannibal has earned his reputation, Will has defended his with vicious pleasure. He tilts his head, watches as Hannibal stops, waits, and licks his lips before setting the essay to the table again, careful to flatten it with his fingers before stepping away for Hannibal to be able to properly see it.

“Bend.”

Hannibal does, brows furrowed. He turns to look at Will, who merely raises an eyebrow and gestures with his chin, and a smile, for Hannibal to turn to his work.

“I would like you to read it to me,” he says, moving to step behind Hannibal, skimming a hand down his spine to curl him pleasantly, hips higher with the motion, and grasps him gently when they move to have Hannibal hold the position for him. “We will correct it as we go.”

“Is there a lot to correct?”

“Read,” Will murmurs, kissing between Hannibal’s shoulders. He waits for Hannibal to start, his voice quiet and smooth as he reads, and works his belt quietly from his pants, eyes to the ceiling as he listens, counts the words, folds the belt in his hands and smiles when Hannibal reaches his first mistake.

The strike is not painful, but enough to startle, enough to shiver Hannibal to a stop, eyes wide and head back to stare over his shoulder.

“Effect,” Will corrects for him. “Not affect.”

Hannibal’s brow creases deeper. He moves his weight from one foot to the other but returns his hips to where they were before bending a little nearer to the page. “Perhaps you cannot read my cursive, although it is pristi-”

Another slap of leather against his thighs quiets him, and he blinks. Hannibal presses his tongue past his lips and draws a breath, not yet reaching for the pen.

“It could be an A -”

The other thigh is struck, still more sound than anything at this point, but enough to send Hannibal shifting again, like an uneasy horse. He doesn’t protest the error a third time, instead taking up one of Will’s red marking pens to note his professor’s correction.

“Was that all? A minor mistake. My apologies.” The boy’s tone is insurmountably smug now, despite the embarrassed blush spreading outward from the bridge of his nose.

Will hums, taps the belt against his own leg before drawing a hand gently up and down Hannibal’s back.

“If there is another, you will take your pants off, fold them, return to this position. And any consecutive mistake, you will feel.”

Hannibal swallows, curls his hand around the pen before deliberately setting it aside.

“And if there is no other?”

“Then I will be delighted to hear you read me your essay, let you complete if before dinner, and I believe it is your evening to choose what we’ll be watching.” It is an easy trade, either something is correct or it isn’t. There is no need to prove anything anymore, it’s all on paper, black and white, and no matter which route this exercise takes, Will is going to gather Hannibal in his arms later this evening and kiss his hair and call him his good, clever boy.

Hannibal holds his breath for a moment, perhaps to stop another protest, perhaps out of sheer stubbornness. But he knows, with a pleasant tug deep in his belly, not to make Will repeat himself, and sighs. He reads as beautifully as he works his script across a page, words curling warmly in his accented voice, one that is deep enough - as Will once complained - to make him sound far older than he is. Slowly the tension eases from him, as two paragraphs pass without issue, until it snaps back into place when Will speaks.

“Stop.”

“There are no errors in that sentence.”

“The sentence itself is an error,” Will tells him. “You’ve ended that sentence with a preposition. Fine for informality but you’re applying for a scholarship.”

“And English is my fourth language,” Hannibal purrs, eyes narrowing in challenge.

“Excuses, Hannibal. You speak it better than I do.”

Will’s tone brooks no debate, and Hannibal skims the sentence again with a spiteful look directed far more at his own failure than the meager mistake. He rises just enough to hook his thumbs into the waistband of his pants, already scarcely clinging to him, and steps out of them gingerly. Graceful hands snap and sweep them into a fold, once, and then again, before he sets them aside on the desk.

Will hums, skims his knuckles down Hannibal’s spine before stepping back enough for the strike to jerk the boy at the table, enough to leave a pink mark against his thigh.

“Rephrase it,” Will suggests, as though they were discussing this over coffee on the porch, passing a cigarette back and forth. “Keep everything in it, adjust how it’s said.”

Hannibal grits his teeth, throat tight in displeasure, in shame, thighs throbbing gently with the painful strike. “How?” He asks, tone low, and Will makes a sound in his throat, bending over Hannibal’s prone back to rest his chin against his shoulder.

Will does not write it for him, he points out the flaws and watches Hannibal work on his own. It takes several moments until it sounds as it should - to Hannibal’s chagrin, better - and Will kisses Hannibal’s temple before stepping back again.

“Start from there, keep reading please.”

Hannibal does. It takes him a few sentences to steady himself, not from the pain already fading from where he was struck, but from the anticipation, the frustration, the eagerness, all mingling together. Some of the corrections are, if Hannibal is to be honest, entirely necessary. Will’s eye for detail is especially keen and he points out, clearly and kindly, where Hannibal should clarify or trim or adjust for strength of meaning.

The boy takes those lashes in stride. Thighs reddening with each stroke of the belt, ringing out with a slap in the quiet house, he whimpers, arching his back deeper, wanting more even as displeasure with himself turns his stomach slowly into knots.

Some of the mistakes, however, are obvious. Little things that catch like thorns beneath Hannibal’s skin. A misspelling here. An imperfect word choice. They are, he might tell himself, the result of having spent nearly eight hours on his feet working on this, to the exclusion of anything but bare existential necessities. They are, he does tell himself, stupid mistakes. Errors that he should not make, ever, each one pulling those slow spinning knots suddenly tight.

Those lashes, he does not savor, arching and moaning as if in thanks. He grits his teeth as the belt crosses soft skin, he forces himself not to even flinch, body wrought with tension down to his hands, clenched against the desk.

“Again,” he breathes suddenly, head bowed between his arms. “Harder.”

“No,” Will tells him, drawing a hand down his back again, watching Hannibal almost shake with it. “You’ve made no error to earn it.”

“I’ve made enough.”

“And I have struck you for them.”

“Again,” Hannibal insists, voice shaking a little. Will bends to run a hand through his hair, duck his head to meet Hannibal’s eyes, fingers snaring just enough to turn Hannibal to him when he tries to turn away.

“Hannibal.” He waits, a moment, two, before dark eyes flick to his and Will blinks. They’re almost too bright, just that level of glassy to be tearful. “It is an excellent essay,” he assures him, but he can hear the argument before Hannibal even says it.

“It is not perfect.”

“Perfection does not earn a scholarship,” Will tells him, stroking his fingers through Hannibal’s hair, from his eyes. “Perfection doesn’t need a scholarship, Hannibal, scholarships are won for being exceptional, not perfect, and you are certainly that.”

Hannibal lowers his cheek against his arms, folding with the paper bunched beneath. Will’s gentle touches don’t stop, nor does he ease the weight of his body from Hannibal’s back, a pressure just enough to provide a strange security until Hannibal’s breath steadies. He tries to remind himself of his own cleverness, the past praise, his skill with languages, but it all falls flat.

He swallows hard, and routes his thoughts in a new direction instead.

Excellent.

Exceptional.

Good boy.

“Again,” Hannibal murmurs. His hair hides his eyes, but not his smile, small and genuine. “For doubting your skill in marking.”

“Hmm,” Will smiles, leans to nuzzle against Hannibal’s hair with a sigh. “You will learn not to question.”

It is less accusation and more a promise, a gentle encouragement for Hannibal to start to allow himself to do so, to believe Will, to listen to him. He steps back, drawing the belt down Hannibal’s back softly before striking downwards, a sharp smack against one cheek, against the other for good measure before Will folds his arms, watches the way Hannibal shudders from it.

“You have a page left, beautiful boy, I will hear your voice break for me.”

Hannibal knows better than to hold back the sound that aches from him at that. Long fingers spread the paper flat again where he’s wrinkled it beneath his arms, a petulant pout quirking his lips at the disarray before he begins to read again. He does so with his cheek against his arm, and catches another sharp spank for it. His voice breaks, then, but in laughter, almost shy as he turns against his arms.

“Properly,” Will reminds him, and Hannibal doesn’t need to turn to know Will’s smiling.

He sits up, elbows and forearms braced against the table, and bends deeply. Soft, worn leather follows the graceful slope from Hannibal’s shoulders down to the small of his back, and up the plush swell of his ass. Hannibal waits, tongue against his teeth, but Will only rubs the belt over rose-red skin, patient.

“Clearly,” Will reminds him, and Hannibal starts to read.

There are six more small errors, two sentences to fix, and Hannibal’s voice hitches over every correction. But he can feel, even in himself, the way his shoulders arch stronger, how his voice - though trembling - speaks clearly, the confidence he has in his mistakes, now, when Will assures him they are simply fleeting.

They do not become him, nor he them.

He catches his lip between his teeth as Will whips him hard across his thighs, and sobs in the pleasure of it before finishing the last paragraph. Dropping his head between his arms, Hannibal’s breath shakes as he lets it free, body trembling as Will sets the belt aside and strokes his hands up Hannibal’s sides, forehead pressing between his shoulders.

The cessation is as sweet as the spanking itself. Every sigh is painted over a moan, and every shiver is a squirm. He did as Will asked - he read and listened, he took his stripes that even now burn against his backside, his quivering thighs. The paper will be stronger for Will’s guidance.

Hannibal already is.

His arms unfold and fingers stretch as he spreads his arms out in front of himself, forehead to the essay that has left well-earned bruises on both body and ego. Slowly, Hannibal grasps the edge of the desk, and beneath Will’s weight, he pushes himself back against him. Tender skin grinds against rough denim, and only when Hannibal feels a thin trail of slick against his belly where his cock is pressed does he realize how hard he is.

His cleverness returns, and hiding his grin, Hannibal whimpers.

“It hurts.”

“Good,” Will tells him, but he’s smiling, wide and bright, and rocking up against Hannibal as the boy wriggles back towards him. It is enough to sting, not to leave him unable to move, not to leave him unable to seek back for pleasure, and more, from Will behind him.

“You wrote it beautifully,” Will tells him, sliding a hand down to stroke Hannibal as he speaks to him, as he turns his head and presses his cheek to soft, sweat-damp hair, delights in the full-body shaking and moans this earns him. “And you corrected it as you should have. And you know something?”

Hannibal makes a soft sound, just questioning, but says nothing. Will turns his wrist and catches Hannibal’s hair gently to arch his back more, tilt his head back.

“I am so proud of you.”

And just like that - as he wished for, as he earned from this boy - Hannibal’s voice breaks into a soft whimper at the words. It is always like this. The pain, he can take. The strenuous postures and sustained instruction, Hannibal makes himself steady through. But those words, gentle and genuine, sunder him.

Every time.

“Please,” Hannibal begs. “May I move?”

He doesn’t wait for an answer, just a denial that does not come. When Will does not immediately tell him no, Hannibal turns, clumsy and squirming in his eagerness beneath the older man. Kisses drag across Will’s cheek until their mouths finally meet, and Hannibal slings his arms around Will’s neck to pull himself upward, setting his throbbing backside against the desk. The sensation is sparks through his thighs, wriggling to rub against Will between his legs, writhing to ease the throbbing from his lashes, altogether alive and eager as he wraps his long legs around Will’s hips and pulls him close.

Will sets one hand to the table, the other into Hannibal’s hair, grinning as he kisses him, holds him close, just shares the space, entirely contented.

“Incredible boy,” Will sighs, obliges him, steps closer. He rocks his hips up against Hannibal until the other bites his lip on a whimper, toes curling and head shaking before he laughs, eyes just as bright as before, just as wide, and Will strokes his hair from his eyes and kisses him again.

He wonders if there will be a moment when perfection will not dictate Hannibal’s life, when he will allow himself to make a mistake and grin at Will with narrow eyes and challenge him to call him on it. He wonders and he hopes, and he knows that he will pull this boy through everything, see him grow and bloom into someone incredible.

“Do you want to cum?” He asks, breathless and pleased, watching Hannibal tremble against him, feeling his hands grope over his shirt, front and back, tug it, release. “Hmm? Do you want to take your pleasure now or wait for me?”

Hannibal breathes another little laugh and ducks his head against Will’s shoulder. He shakes his head and grins, coiling and twisting beyond his own control and beyond his own caring to find it. The rush of sensation spurs his heart into galloping, and his stomach twists as if he were in an elevator, falling.

“You,” he pleads. “I want you. Here, please.”

Heels hooked against Will’s thighs, Hannibal’s essay crumples again beneath him and he has no care for it at all now, no care for anything but Will. His teeth grit when Will runs his hands over Hannibal’s thighs, glowing hot under his fingers. With a word, Hannibal could finish. With a look, the world would fall away beneath him and he would go with it, laughing.

“Please may I have you here?”

Will grins, leans closer to bend Hannibal back, catching his back so he doesn’t unbalance, as he reaches with his other hand to shift away the essay, the pens.

“Lie back.”

Hannibal’s ankles cross behind Will’s back, and he laughs, bringing his hands down to spread Hannibal’s thighs wider, sucking two fingers into his mouth. He bends lower, and slips from Hannibal’s desperate grasp to nuzzle between his legs.

“Whenever you like,” Will tells him, leaning in to suck against his boy’s opening, tongue tickling the edge before pressing in, fingers alongside, opening Hannibal up for him as he relishes just the sheer helplessness of his pleasure here. Hannibal’s voice carries, his fingers tug Will’s hair until the curls stand straight, then adjusts his grip to run nails over his scalp.

Over and over, needy and spread for him over the desk he works at so diligently.

Will hopes he remembers, next time he bends here, the sounds he made, for Will, for himself.

Will pulls back and fumbles with his pants to work them open, to stroke himself in quick tugs as his head falls back and his lips part in pleasure. He curses, laughs, curses again, and lines up against Hannibal, bending over him to catch his chin between his fingers and kiss him deep.

It’s just a push, just there, cock barely breaching him and Hannibal curses, a rare abandon in the boy as he brings a trembling hand to his face. His chest heaves, stuttering breaths, and he tightens his legs around Will’s hips, wanting nothing more in the world than what he has right now. It’s perfect, raw and passionate and utterly adoring, both blinded by their want for the other.

Nearly blinded.

“Will,” groans Hannibal, that beautiful deep voice rumbling into a laugh. “Will, fuck, I -”

“Ask,” breathes Will. The word is hot against Hannibal’s neck, pressed against his pulse, and Hannibal’s throat jerks on a harsh swallow.

“Will -” Hannibal laughs into his hand and resists every urge in his body to just bear down and take this all, every part of it. He resists, and muffled, mumbles, “Condom.”

Will’s lips spread wider over Hannibal’s neck and then his voice breaks free in a laugh, low, almost resigned in his need for this, and for a moment Hannibal wonders if it wasn’t worth bringing it up, if it wasn’t worth saying it, surely it doesn’t matter. And then Will’s lips leave his skin, his hands leave his sides and Hannibal curses, makes a weak little noise and stares up at the ceiling.

“Will, I -”

Hs words are cut off, by a sound Hannibal thinks he will deny forever, if Will ever mentions it to him, as he is hoisted up by strong hands and set over Will’s shoulder with a grunt from the older man.

“I have very little desire to let go of you right now,” Will murmurs, squeezing against one pink thigh as Hannibal squirms, laughs and covers his face with his hands again. “So… we will go to the condom, since it can’t come to us.”

Hannibal’s breath catches on a little laugh, a sweetly startled sound as Will holds him around the back of his knees, his head upside down. “But - the desk -”

“Will be there,” Will grins, and turns towards the bed. He takes his time, and Hannibal slips his arms around Will’s waist, clinging to him even still.

“You’re very strong,” he purrs, voice rough from being held suspended this way, cock pressed against Will’s shoulder. He would nuzzle against him, if he could. He tries, and it doesn’t really work. Another laugh, too pleased entirely to be carried across the room like a prize hard-won, and Hannibal loosens one arm from around Will to skim his hand down his professor’s back, lower, into his pants to squeeze his butt. He snorts when he laughs, cheeks burning in giddy embarrassment.

A light slap against Hannibal’s sensitive ass before Will bends and drops him to the bed, reaching for the drawer by the bed to pull a condom from the pack, tear it open with his teeth as he watches Hannibal squirm on bed and move to turn over.

Will makes a sound, shakes his head, and smiles wider when Hannibal rests on his back again, knees spread and hands up over his head as Will works the condom onto himself. He strokes, just watching, the way Hannibal’s cock twitches, just as he watches Will, the way a thin clear trickle works down from the tip. Will swallows, sets one knee to the bed and spreads Hannibal wider.

This time when he leans over him, Will lifts a brow, smile narrowing his eyes, lifting his lips before he bites the bottom one.

“Ask,” he hums.

Hannibal whines, a soft pretty thing, and asks with his body instead. He curls his back up off the mattress, fingers tightening against the headboard and heels digging into the unmade sheets. A graceful undulation curves him from shoulder to hips, cock bouncing against his belly, and for all his lovely trouble, he earns another swat to the thigh.

“Ask,” laughs Will, eyes hooding as he strokes himself again.

“Take me back to the desk,” Hannibal grins, erupting into another moan of laughter as Will’s hand connects again.

“No.”

“Please -”

“No, Hannibal.”

The boy coils again, twisting sinuous, shadows across his skin where muscles tremble and bones slide against smooth skin, becoming slowly golden from the summer sun. Hannibal turns his nose against his arm, hiding his face, and grins. “Please,” he sighs, “please will you put it inside of me?”

He doesn’t need to see Will’s hand move, he doesn’t need to hear Will’s words, before he trembles and huffing a laugh, corrects himself.

“Please, Will - put your cock in me.”

No wasted words, now, and Will brings their mouths together as he presses against Hannibal and thrusts shallowly into him until the boy is trembling, needy in his want for more. Will frames his face with both hands and pushes deeper, savors the groan against him, smiles and holds their foreheads together so he can watch Hannibal shudder beneath him.

He is entirely beautiful, entirely young, and in a rare moment of whimsy, allows himself to be, fully.

“My beautiful boy,” Will sighs, kisses him again, sloppy and slow.

They ease from the frantic rutting, and Will enjoys the languid push and pull, tightness, comfortable pressure of the boy around him. Hands seek down, slipping beneath Hannibal’s thigh to draw his leg higher, up over his own hip to hook there and hold.

Slender fingers stroke through dark curls of hair, again and again, framing Will’s face each time with a brush of thumbs across his cheeks. Drowsy-eyed, lips parted, he watches, rapt, the man above him.

Hannibal’s breath is pushed from him as Will rocks in again, and he tightens his leg against Will’s hip to keep him there, buried deep. The pressure of Will’s cock in him, spreading him wide and filling him, seems to push all the way up into his belly, and the muscles there tense to bear down and not allow his own release so soon.

He thinks, in no specifics - not here, not like this - of all the times that he’s been like this for another. At best, he felt nothing for it but base physical reactions that he could no more control than a sneeze. At worst, he hated it, the messy mouths and stupid words, sweaty bodies shoving selfish against his own. And none of them, even the kindest, lingered in his thoughts once they’d grunted their way to orgasm in him, on him, it doesn’t matter. If any one of them had vanished, never to be seen again, he would not have thought of them beyond a single unanswered phone call and a line drawn through their name.

He has never enjoyed this. Never wanted it. It was a job, and nothing more, and were all the world his oyster, Hannibal would never have sought it out.

But with Will, who strokes his knuckles down Hannibal’s cheek to bring him back from his thoughts, meeting blue eyes and a soft smile, Hannibal savors it more than anything he’s ever been allowed to taste. A lifetime of pain and fear, anger and hurt threads through Hannibal’s body like hyphae, snaring tight through bone and muscle, and with every gesture, every word, Will releases the grasping threads of another. And another. And another.

Healing wounds long scarred over through the faith in his touch and the praise in his words.

Hannibal wraps his arms around Will’s neck and brings him close, sighing against his throat as their bodies move together.

Will ducks his head and continues the slow pace, the reward for Hannibal’s obedience, for his work, a reminder that he is beyond perfection, that he never has to even touch it to be worthy. And for him, because Will has been aching for this boy all day, always so happy to come back to Wolf Trap and find him here, contented to see him just curled up reading, or playing with the dogs, happy to know he will help with dinner, enjoy it with him, curl up against Will under the blankets at night and fall asleep first.

Will snakes a hand between them and strokes Hannibal again, watching him jerk in pleasure, try to curl in on himself, laugh and splay out again, panting towards the ceiling, eyes glazed and lips wide in a smile. He kisses just behind his ear, and Hannibal’s voice leaves him as his release does, hot between them in steady pumps until he’s spent, and Will has looked his fill. He is incredible, this smart, beautiful, damaged boy. He is exceptional.

Will finishes with a whine, pressed to Hannibal’s skin between his teeth. It feels good. It feels so good.

Without uncurling his gathered limbs, Hannibal holds Will against him, and makes a little sound - squished, smiling contentment - as his professor sinks down against him. He nuzzles into the crook of Will’s neck, little noisy clicks when he kisses too-warm skin, their bodies slick with sweat and neither minding it when the heat of the other is such a comfort. Stroking Will’s hair, his back, curling his toes, Hannibal twists and wriggles just enough that Will slips free of him, and Hannibal can roll him to his back to lay himself on top instead.

He rests his cheek against Will’s chest, smooth and strong, listening to the thunderous beat of his heart and how it slows, like a storm moving into the distance.

“I have an intention,” Hannibal murmurs.

Will can’t help but grin at the little pronouncement, settling beneath the boy when Hannibal draws his arms up to his sides, held comfortably small in the older man’s arms. “Do you.”

“Mm,” agrees Hannibal.

“Would you like to tell me what it is?”

Hannibal closes his eyes, turning his head just enough that his lips brush Will’s skin. “By summer’s end, I intend to learn how to greet you, when you return from work, in a more proper fashion. Slippers, perhaps. A drink. ‘How was your day’ rather than creating a mess across your desk,” he adds, grinning a little.

Will smiles, and tries to temper it down again, licking his lips before ducking his head to smell Hannibal’s hair, letting his eyes close.

“I enjoy coming home to you,” Will admits, soft. “I hardly mind the mess across the desk.”

A laugh, gentle, and Will pulls Hannibal closer. They need to wash, they need to start dinner. And in all of that, they never have to stop touching. The thought swells in Will’s chest like a balloon, and no exhale makes it go away. So he kisses Hannibal instead.

“I would love to come home to a kiss,” Will muses, but it’s playful, silly. He hopes Hannibal understands the words before, hopes he remembers them.

Hannibal hides his face a little, nearly shy, sleepy and comfortable and completely safe. The thought pulls loose another strand of tension in him, and he hums. “May I kiss you, then, when you come home?”

The teasing tone is all too sweet and Will tilts Hannibal’s chin up, kissing him softly.

“You may.”

Chapter Text

The few weeks between spring and summer sessions are all too short. At Will’s insistence, Hannibal returns to the city the night before classes, despite his proclamations that he could make the drive in the morning and be there in time.

He can hardly stop kissing Will long enough to leave the porch, each of the few steps taking long minutes for him to descend, each one reason enough to lean into Will’s hands when they frame his face and let his lips part beneath Will’s own. Finally, the older man laughs and tells him to go, warning Hannibal warmly not to make him repeat himself.

The apartment, when he reaches it, is entirely the same as he left it. Cracked walls and a spreading water spot on the ceiling. A few scattered articles of clothing from his eager packing to spend two weeks, unadulterated, in Wolf Trap. Textbooks stacked neatly, still in their factory seals. Contrary to the rigid anticipation he normally feels before classes start, all that fills Hannibal now is a miasma of disinterest. He wonders why he does this to himself, when just now, he would be perfectly content to live in Wolf Trap and not trouble himself with delusions of grandeur.

He knows Will wouldn’t allow it, and sets the thoughts aside.

Hannibal drops his bag, picking up a few things on the way to the bedroom, and there starts to shed his shirt. A waft of Will, of dogs and summer warmth, heats his cheeks. His fingers still and he turns his nose against the shirt with an unavoidable smile. He decides to sleep in it, bare but for that, left loose around his shoulders, and texts Will that he misses him.

Sleep comes the response, gentle as a sigh against his skin.

He does.

There are less students on campus for summer session, most having taken advantage of the time off for the extent of the two months allowed. But credits are credits, and even a few hours cuts down on the time needed in school, which in turn cuts down on the cost. The sun dapples warm across his cheeks as he winds his way beneath the trees, between rusty brick buildings and white columns. Hannibal politely greets those classmates who have stuck around, the professors who are pleased to see him, and though he settles into the rhythm of lectures and notes again, his mind wanders.

He lingers just outside his class to take a self-portrait, eyes always averted from the camera’s lens, hair swept loose by the roving summer wind. It is oven-warm out, his cheeks pinked already from the sun, and he sends the image to Will.

I miss you already.

The response is quick, and despite nothing but letters and punctuation sounds entirely comforting. Warm. Familiar. It takes a lot not to call Will, instead, Hannibal just writes again.

Will I ever get a photo sent to keep?

Will you not content yourself with your memory of me?

I would like a distraction.

During classes?

I have a free period.

Liar.

Regardless, within moments a photo does come, one hand up against Will’s face, just gently tilting his glasses as he leans into it. A smile evident in his eyes even as he attempts to remain stern. He looks rested, as he had been during their summer weeks, he looks contented.

He looks entirely too handsome without trying to be. Hannibal wonders if Will even realizes.

You move me.

Hannibal presses send and sighs, shivering despite the oven-like heat on the campus, the sun-scorched brick pressing hot against his back. Glancing at the image again, he feels himself stir, and not only between his legs - although certainly there too. Everywhere, as though tickled from the inside, nearly enough to make him laugh out loud.

He feels silly and young and beautiful, not only an object of desire but a person whose company is worth desiring.

I hope that movement is towards class.

Hannibal grins.

He scrolls through the images saved to his phone, and finds one taken several weeks before. He had not sent it then, it felt crude at the time, when normally he spends a great deal of time composing his self-portraits, especially those that lean towards the risque. Carefully placed materials to cover himself, his face obscured, always anonymous enough that were his photos intercepted, he has plausible deniability.

Not this one.

An upward angle, along the length of his body. Head turned aside and fingertips between his teeth, rosy warmth blossoming like spring across the snow-white hills and valleys of his body. His cock is rigid, the skin around it pulled taut and dark as it rests stiff against his belly.

He hits send, and with a ruffle of insurmountable delight, carries himself into class.

It takes minutes that feel like eternity, but only six when Hannibal receives the message and checks the time. He smiles, grins, and bites his lip, settling into his chair at the back of the lecture hall.

Are you in class?

I am.

You drive me to distraction.

Welcome distraction?

You will be.

Hannibal shivers, crosses his legs and directs his eyes to the front of the hall. He wants to leave class, drive to Wolf Trap, climb into Will’s arms and be the welcome distraction he's seeking. He jumps a little when the message comes.

Touch.

Now?

Now.

I'm in class.

Good. Touch. Rub your hand against the zipper, tease until you squirm and shift. Then tell me.

Hannibal swallows back the sound that thickens in his throat, a high whimper that would darken Will’s eyes like a thunderstorm, and merit far less positive attention from his current professor. He glances to either side of him, secure - smug, really - that no other students have joined him in this row, and relieved that Will’s instruction is not nearly as embarrassing as it might have been.

He reads it again, and lets his left hand skim across the inside of his thigh. It doesn’t take more than a single, upward stroke to draw a sigh, the pad of his thumb following the line of his zipper. The words alone are enough to pool his blood in his groin, dizzying, and Hannibal imagines Will’s arm wrapped across his chest, his skilled fingers touching only enough to tease, rather than offer any relief. Hannibal tilts his head aside, as though to nuzzle the arm that isn’t there, and wets his dry lips with a press of his tongue before texting with his unoccupied hand.

I wish it were you touching me instead.

Are you imagining it?

Yes.

Don’t stop.

Hannibal nearly whimpers, leaning forward over his desk, as if the words were whispered against his ear, rough and wanton. He turns his head aside, the collar of his shirt and the tie around it taking the place of calloused fingers that would hold him snared in place, pushing white marks into his skin to feel his pulse quicken. Turning his hand aside, Hannibal presses the side of his palm against himself, hips twitching forward to meet coarse friction that scrapes deliciously against his swelling cock, and his chair creaks.

He freezes.

I’m going to get hard if I keep going. Do you not find this distressing, as a teacher?

You will get very hard. The class is an hour, no?

Yes.

Good. Use your hand now, to cup, to rub harder.

Hannibal swallows, adjusts how he sits in case anyone walks past the empty back row on their way out, and obeys. The imaginings grow more elaborate, skin so used to the familiar rough hands of his professor. Hannibal scrolls up, enough to meet Will’s eyes in the photo sent, dark already from the angle, the light, and it takes everything for Hannibal not to moan out loud.

Will you send another photo?

Have you earned one?

Hannibal shudders, skin hot beneath his collar where he’s certain it’s crimson by now. He pushes downward with the heel of his hand, adolescent neediness snapping tight in his belly to rub himself against his palm, the desk, anything at all.

Will.

He bites his lip to stop from grinning, and purses his mouth to try and seem very focused indeed on the lecture at hand.

Which is, of course, difficult when his own erection is at hand instead. He curses and blesses the tightness of his trousers, enough that were he to stand they might be snug enough to hide his arousal, but pulled close against him now, they provide only further pressure where already it’s nearly painful. But he does not stop, not when Will is asking him to earn it, and after a seemingly absent scratch to the back of his neck, Hannibal lets his hand drift lower, thumbnail curling against a peaked nipple.

He buries the sound he makes beneath a brusque clearing of his throat.

Yes.

Nothing.

For five whole minutes as Hannibal continues to tease, continues to touch because he was not told to stop, he was not told that he is allowed to. And then his phone hums, just once, and Hannibal turns the screen so it will reflect to anyone who tries to look.

Will’s hand, curled tight against his pants, a dark, soft corduroy, knuckles white and veins stark against his pale arm.

You move me.

Hannibal laughs, quiet, bites his lip and squeezes his thighs together over his hand. He's close, hot and tingling with need, and wanting nothing more than to go to Will again.

Beautiful boy, are you aching?

In response, a picture.

Hannibal’s face, the image angled upward from the desk where he sits. His head is ducked, turned aside almost demurely, his eyes uplifted towards the front of the class and shoulders curved forward. The picture is shadowed enough, vague enough that anyone else who happened across it might think it an accidental capture rather than deliberate. They would not see what Will sees - the hunger in Hannibal’s eyes, the scarlet searing beneath them, the white flash of teeth just past his lips, flushed sweet as ripe strawberries with desire.

He lets his eyes drift closed, just long enough to see his professor behind them - not the one droning before him now, but his very own, who even now sits in his office thinking of Hannibal and palming himself in want for him. Hannibal’s heart skips faster, and his fingers curl, legs tightening. He wants to leave now, excuse himself and forget the first day of classes and instead spend it on his knees beneath Will’s desk, lips parted and mouth stuffed full. He wants to sit in his lap, spanked until tears scald his eyes, before he’s bent and held against Will’s desk with his legs shoved wide apart.

He wants to come, right now, in his pants, and squeezes hard to stop it from happening, heart beating in his throat. His fingers fumble at the screen.

May I be excused?

What are you thinking about?

You.

Hannibal.

Your hands. On me, in me, against me.

How.

I - in my hair, holding me still. Against my ass, punishment for not attending to my lecture, you would spank me red.

Yes.

In me, two fingers, because I still listened to it, and remember it all. Please may I be excused?

Do you?

Hannibal smiles, delighted. He will read the notes, he will allow his mind to clear and access the part that was listening. He will deliver a perfect score to Will’s desk come midterms.

Every word.

Go.

He stands so suddenly that he nearly tips his notes to the floor. Eyes turn to him, other students, the professor who pauses a beat in her presentation, and Hannibal bends to right his desk, and hide the now-overt bulge in his trousers. He lifts a hand in apology, and when the other students turn back to the front, Hannibal stuffs his phone into his pocket and makes a quick exit through the back doors of the small lecture hall.

It’s an agony to walk like this, as though he’s been kicked in the belly, a deep bruising that spreads until he’s shaking by the time he pushes open the bathroom door. Empty, thankfully, being as all of the other students - the good students, he scolds himself - are in class. He turns into the sole stall and clicks it shut behind him, head pressed against the cool plasticine door and hand grinding hard between his legs.

Hannibal curses, and is not proud of it.

He’s so close to release, so wild with arousal, that he feels for a moment as if he’ll be sick from it. His cock pulses in time with the throbbing of his heart and rises back against his fingers when they cinch tight. He doesn’t even need to undo his trousers, he could finish on a thought.

Will touching himself, agile fingers stroking softly over corduroy.

Will scolding Hannibal for leaving class, hand fisted in his hair.

Will spitting into his hand to slick his cock, before shoving it roughly into the boy shoved against the door of his office.

Hannibal whimpers, high and agonized, and wonders for an instant how the hell this has happened to him, when never before has he had any affection at all for this sort of physicality. And now he stands, hunched shoulders and goosepimpled skin, biting his lip just so the pain distracts him from coming in his pants.

Please Will.

Show me.

Hannibal whines, a high and needy thing, and his hand shakes as he takes the photo, hand splayed against his thigh, pants tented with how hard he is, how close. He sends it anyway, knowing Will will see, knowing it will be enough.

The reply is quick. Short.

Bare.

“Fuck.” Hannibal shakes, works his pants open and with a whimper draws his briefs down. He takes another photo, presses his face against the cool door and waits, does not touch, tries to calm down, to wait, when all his mind gives him are images of Will’s hands and mouth and words, always his words, pressed to his heated skin.

“Please please please”

The phone hums and Hannibal looks down, almost sobbing in relief.

Now.

He gathers himself enough, despite the breaths that choke in his throat, grateful all over again that the bathroom is empty, his sounds of need and want and now transparent to anyone who would be listening. In a moment of foresight that makes the boy laugh, he switches his phone from taking pictures to taking video, and drops back to sit on the toilet.

Record.

It takes no more than a stroke, biting his lip. Another, tilting his head back against the hard white tile wall. A third, and in hot spurts spills into his fisted hand, pearlescent white oozing through his clenched fingers, shaking with the force of his release. A panted moan, another, deeper and longer, tears itself from his throat and he ducks his head forward, shoulders hunched and trembling.

His throat jerks in a harsh swallow, head humming and pulse hammering a violent staccato through his body. He strokes himself against, spreading his semen glistening along his cock to milk it free of a few last remaining drips, emptying himself completely.

Hannibal’s eyes make contact with the camera lense, and an unsteady smile tugs up one corner of his mouth as he murmurs, “You. You do this to me. No one else.”

Send.

For a long time he just sits, before Hannibal gathers some toilet paper to clean up his hand, to wipe himself down. He stands, redresses and flushes, and goes to wash his hands. In the mirror, his reflection is smiling, as genuine as anything, cheeks warm and eyes bright and he looks happy, he looks almost unfathomably happy. Hannibal laughs, almost nervous, and dries his hands, eyes on the phone, still black and silent.

A flash of panic, that he had done something wrong, had overstepped his bounds, had -

The phone hums and it’s a call, and Hannibal stares, eyes wide and lips parted, before the smile pulls against him sharp, like a string connected to the corners of his lips and his heart all at once, and he picks up.

“Exquisite, distracting boy, have you cleaned yourself?”

His throat clicks, into the phone and fed back, louder, into his own ear. He knows that Will hears it. He knows that Will knows it’s because of him.

“Just now. I’m still dishevelled,” he complains, a mild thing, superficial.

“Make sure you’re not, when you return to class.”

Hannibal ducks his head, and cradling the phone against his ear, pushes his shirt back into his pants. He looks into the mirror and adjusts his collar, settles his tie back in place, and steps back to ensure there are no errant wet spots dotting his button-down or his pants.

“And you?” An affectation of innocence, almost sweet if not for the thick purr of the boy’s accent.

“I,” Will replies, words warm, drawn out, soft, “did not leave my office, despite the students that came to see me. I did not dishevel myself.” Hannibal hears the way Will swallows, the hum that follows. “No, I’m waiting for your early Monday finish.”

Hannibal blinks at himself in the mirror. He does only have one class. He remembers laying across Will’s chest and showing him the timetable for the summer, pointing out classes that he is most looking forward to, those he is good at, those he needs to work on. He remembers because Will had been counting his vertebra one by one that morning, over and over like a slow piano piece.

“Oh?”

“And I am relying on your exceptional mind to figure out where the FBI academy is, to take a taxi there.”

Suddenly coy, Hannibal turns away from his own smile widening in the mirror, to lean back against the sink. “Are you suggesting that I skip the rest of my lecture? It seems irresponsible for a teacher to -”

“Hannibal.”

The resonance of Will’s tone reverberates through the phone, through Hannibal’s head, down his spine in ricochet echoes that pull him straight with a shiver. “Yes.”

“Finish your class. And then come.”

A beat passes between them, and Hannibal huffs a soft laugh, fingers pressed against his eyelids. “But I’ve already -”

He grins when the phone clicks silent, and watches the screen until it goes dark.

The rest of his class is followed with as much attention as the boy can garner, notes taken in flourishes of elegant script, filling in blanks when the professor references something mentioned earlier that Hannibal, decidedly, did not hear. And when they are dismissed, he is the first risen and gone, bag slung against his back and fingers flying across his phone to summon a car to bring him to Quantico.

Marble floors and marble walls, all in variegated shades of grey, floor to ceiling. It is an immense building, intimidating even without the armed guards who tend security at its entrance, though to their eyes Hannibal appears as just another student. He pauses, though, when they ask for his student ID, blinking wide. It’s only a pause, before he steps forward, head tilted to regard the clipboard that is immediately shielded from him.

Hannibal manifests a smile, shy, almost embarrassed.

“I’m not yet a student. I’m here to see a professor, however. Will Graham.”

A call is made, and Hannibal watches the phone, curiously envious of the heavyset man who hears Will’s voice against his ear. It should be his ear, only, an irrational thought that Hannibal eases away for later consideration. It’s unbecoming to be jealous. More to the point, it is unlike Hannibal to be jealous, especially of something so mundane.

But Hannibal is the one given a visitor’s pass. Hannibal is the one directed towards the elevator. Hannibal is the one who parts a river a students in the halls towards the teacher’s offices, room 122. And it’s Hannibal who is summoned with barely a knock, straightening as though he were struck by the lash, when Will murmurs for him to come in.

The door clicks closed behind him, and Hannibal turns from it with a soft smile.

“Hello, professor.”

Will regards him, eyes narrowed in pleasure, expression of utter fondness, just barely shadowed by the kind of lust that keeps Hannibal up at night, with hot hands and hotter words, so quiet that he feels them, more than he hears them.

“Hannibal.”

Will stands, setting his pen aside and his glasses following, down against his open ledger, and moves around his desk towards the young man who stands tense in blissful anticipation. One step, another, closer and closer still, until Will’s lips are against his own and Hannibal’s back is against the door, and their bodies are flush together.

A click of the lock and then both hands are in Hannibal’s hair, tugging it gently, pulling it tight, before his palms settle against Hannibal’s cheeks and he pulls back to breathe.

“You drive me mad, Hannibal, it’s been one day.”

“Less than,” Hannibal laughs, just a rough sigh as he arches, pushing his shoulders back against the door and his hips forward. He lets his kiss be taken, lips parting to allow Will’s tongue to press past them and curl against his own, their shared breath, the clicks of their mouths almost deafening in the quiet office.

Hannibal rests his head back against the door, eyes closing as Will’s lips snare against his jaw, his throat, his collarbone when the older man’s fingers pull Hannibal’s tie loose and throw open the buttons of his shirt to bare him.

“One class,” the boy chides, grinning. “I had but one class to attend and your attentions took me from half of it. How can I be expected to learn in such an environment?”

“Attentively,” Will purrs against him, drawing his teeth over pale skin before biting down against a nipple and bringing a hand up, quick, to cover Hannibal’s mouth when the boy makes a quiet sound against him. “Diligently. Thoughtfully. I will not have your grades suffer.”

Hannibal mumbles words against Will’s fingers and he gently turns them for the boy to suck, not asking for him to repeat his words, uncaring, mostly, as much as Hannibal is, when Will draws his tongue, teasing, over the other nipple and gently sucks it.

In truth, Will has never felt so overcome himself, never once, for anyone else, has he felt like a fever was tickling his bones and his lungs filled with winter winds. He feels alive with this boy, he feels wanted and needed, and he adores wanting and needing him in return. To his knees Will sinks, set against the insides of Hannibal’s legs before slowly spreading them, so Hannibal does the same.

“Tomorrow,” Will murmurs, lifting a hand up to work Hannibal’s belt. “Tomorrow you will go to class. All of them. You will attend your classes.” Eyes up, narrowed, amused. “All of them. And if you do, in the evening I will come to you.”

“And if I don’t?” Will’s fingers tongued to the side of Hannibal’s mouth for his words to travel somewhat coherently.

Will bites against his stomach, just a sharp nip for surprise. “Then you will find your weekend exceptionally long and without relief.”

Hannibal’s belly tightens and he hums his pleasure around Will’s fingers, pressing over tongue and teeth alike, pushing his lips out of shape. He closes his eyes, cradling Will’s hand in both his own, and suckles hungry against his skin, as if they were sweetened with honey, red with wine. His chest cinches as his pleasure swells so intensely that Hannibal can hardly breathe for it, drinking down the taste of his professor and the instructions that snap against his skin.

His lips shining as Will draws his fingers away, Hannibal brings a hand to delicately wipe away the little string of saliva that falls back against them. His eyes are heavy-lidded, his cock hardening with every suck against his bare belly, shirt ruched up in Will’s hand, and he watches with nothing less than utter fondness the man at his feet. Beautiful, though he doesn’t know it. Brilliant, though he would dismiss the claim. Strong and commanding, though in his daily life, he does not attempt to be anything of the kind.

Hannibal’s heart skips. He loves him, a secret thought that unfurls furtive and wonderful in the gaps between his ribs, and he hopes Will feels it in the press of fingers against his bearded cheek.

“What were you imagining, as I came here?” Hannibal asks, and a beat passes before he shoves his hips harder forward, with a soft, crumbling noise of need. “Will you show me?”

Will hums, brings a hand to work Hannibal’s belt open, pulling back as he peels the button free, slips the zipper down.

“You gave me plenty of ideas today,” Will tells him, not yet reaching in to take him in hand though Hannibal rocks needily forward again. “But in truth, the thing I have thought of most, is how much easier it is to work when you are draped over me in sleep, in recline and in squirming distracting pleasure.”

Will leans in again to nuzzle against Hannibal’s cock through his briefs, humming his contentment, genuine and utterly warm, before turning to kiss the rigid length through the thin fabric.

“So I hope you don’t mind if I exhaust you, and shamelessly use you to complete some outstanding report marking I have, since you so eloquently distracted me this morning.” Will’s eyes come up, bright, blue, and narrow as he smiles. “Be very quiet, my good boy, but you may move and touch however you wish.”

Will peels the waistband of Hannibal’s briefs down, bares him, and with a sigh takes him deep to the back of his throat.

Hannibal does not want to move. He does not want to touch. Not beyond that given to him now, hot and tight around his cock, deep enough that an ecstatic apprehension presses pinpricks to the back of Hannibal’s neck and dries his mouth with the taste of tinfoil. And so he presses his shoulders back, hips jutting sharply forward, ridges surrounding the low valley of his belly. His feet spread. His knees weaken.

He bites back the man’s name into a single, plucked whimper.

Good boy.

Will’s palm is hot as it splays catlike across Hannibal’s stomach. Pushing upward beneath his shirt, he opens his throat for the head of Hannibal’s cock to lean nearer bodily, and curl fingernails through the tufted hair filling in over Hannibal’s still boyish chest. He thumbs across a dark nipple, seeking out by touch the puckering of skin, the hardening nub to pinch and roll.

Sparks, crackling through his skin, goosebumps peaking as if he were plunged into a winter chill despite being surrounded in a heat that leaves him smothered and breathless. A squeeze around the stiff base of his cock works wetness from the tip of it, and when Will’s throat twitches in a swallow, Hannibal forces the side of his hand between his teeth to stay quiet.

The torment continues, excruciatingly sweet, and Hannibal finds that despite not wanting to move, or touch, he does. Free hand fisted in Will’s hair, hips rocking forward over and over. He nearly cries out when Will pulls back and cool air hits his cock, the sensation near-overwhelming in the most incredible way, sending twitches and sparks through his nerves, up and down his spine.

He is up on his toes before he realizes he is, muscles taut and trembling, as Will’s hands both seek to tweak his nipples, rub over and around then before granting him mercy with nails light and tickling down his sides. All the while, clever lips do not abandon him, working diligently, lovingly, against his cock, the sensitive skin around it, over his groin and thighs, up to his stomach.

"Beautiful," Will murmurs, nuzzling against him with a grin before raising his eyes and narrowing them in pleasure. "Beautiful, obedient boy, I want to taste you."

Will kisses along the side of Hannibal’s cock again, gently cups his balls, silky and heavy in his hand. "Let go for me,"

It is as much a command as a promise. A request. Let go so I can catch you. Let go because I will.

Will’s lips wrap warm over him again and a top tongue spreads beneath the head as Will leans closer, takes him deeper.

Shoulders spilling forward, Hannibal chokes silent on the groan that - were they at home, were they alone - would rattle all the way down through the bed frame. He curls his body around Will’s head, spine rounded and fingers tight in the man’s hair, and it takes no more than a few quick, erratic jerks of his hips before his breath stops entirely.

Falling.

And caught by the firm hands that surround his trembling thighs as he pours himself out into Will’s throat, shuddering, eyes squeezing dampness from their corners, slick down his cheeks. “Will,” he sighs, but in that utterance is weakness.

Yielding.

Giving, entirely, over to the man who swallows him down and licks him clean again, nuzzling against the sweat-curled hairs of Hannibal’s groin.

“Please,” begs Hannibal softly. “Anything for you, let me - ”

A soft hum, soothing, and Will’s hands curls light around Hannibal’s thighs, a comfort, a promise. He pulls back enough to guide Hannibal to the floor with him and presses a kiss against his cheek before turning to accept Hannibal’s lips, letting the boy taste himself, knowing that there is also a reassurance in that, as well, that he is so wanted, for himself, not for favors or anything else people convince Hannibal he is only good for.

“What do you want?” He prompts gently, hands up to stroke damp hair from Hannibal’s forehead as he near-nuzzles against Will’s neck in feline pleasure. “What can I give you?”

Hannibal swallows hard, and closes his eyes.

Let me come home with you again.

Let me stay.

A smile teases the corners of his mouth and he sucks only softly against Will’s skin, not enough to leave a telltale mark of their furtive midday meeting, but enough that Will shivers with it and Hannibal marvels at the movement of muscle beneath his lips.

“You’ve already given me what I want.”

Will lifts a brow, smile breaking into a grin, a little laugh. “What’s that?”

Settling his arms around Will’s neck, Hannibal pulls his professor against him, between his legs, and presses him so near that their hearts beat against the other’s chest. “Yourself.”

Chapter Text

Too many drinks, too little food.

It’s unlike Hannibal to let himself get so far gone, and unlike Frederick to ply him with so many glasses of wine. He maintained himself during the dinner, picking at whatever hors-d'oeuvres wandered his way, but the doctor hadn’t wished to occupy a table for the food itself when there were so many names - learned and just as soon forgotten by the younger man - to sidle up against. It wasn’t until they returned to his home, all glass and marble, that Hannibal realized he was unsteady on his feet, and glad to have the ground beneath his knees as he worked a voracious blowjob onto the man’s cock in hopes it would be over quickly, and without losing his stomach.

He did well enough, but hadn’t counted on tonight being a rare occasion in which Frederick, equally soused, wanted him in bed as well.

Hannibal braces a hand against the wall as he turns onto his floor, tapping into his phone the payment owed for his company, his services, the cab ride back to his apartment. He presses his tongue against dry, wine-sticky lips and sighs a puff of frustration when the numbers blur before him.

His next breath holds. The dark figure lingering in the ill-lit is slumped sideways against the wall, back towards Hannibal, but waiting beside his door. Instinct overrides inebriation and in an instant, the phone is gone and replaced instead with the blade he keeps ready. He knew Mason would come for him again, though uncertain how he found his apartment, he knows the boy has means beyond the meager ones at Hannibal’s disposal to keep himself hidden.

Pain sings through his body in memory of the last time he saw Mason, how close he had come to killing him, and he will not come so close again.

Hannibal toes off his shoes, and socked feet silent against the carpet, he moves swiftly. Primal response, from the howling void inside himself, that has made him lethal before and would now, too, if Mason fights him.

Ten steps.

Arm around the mouth.

Blade against bare skin.

And as he draws a breath to whisper that Mason needs to leave, now, he catches the familiar scent of scotch and cigarettes and dogs, and freezes.

“Will?”

A hand comes up, not to strike or grip, but in submission, fingers splayed, empty, and Hannibal lets him go. He does not notice how hard Will’s other fist is clenched, how it is clenched around the hem of his shirt so it doesn’t move, doesn't aim, doesn't -

"I should have called," Will says, voice rough, low to keep quiet in the corridor. He rubs the hand he had surrendered with over and over his lips in a rough gesture as though trying to wipe something clean, and turns to rest his shoulder to the wall, allowing his fingers to stop scraping his mouth and to slip through his hair again.

"You look tired," he comments, but it’s not weighted, no accusation, though there never is, with Will, Hannibal adds the guilt in all on his own, incrementally more each time. "I just..." Will licks his lips and folds them into his mouth before making a low sound, like a hum, and releasing them with a sigh. "I just wanted to see you.”

Needed.

Hannibal stills his shaking, blade still gripped white-knuckled in his hand as he lowers both to his sides. He swallows hard. He would have cut him. He’d have claimed himself attacked by a stalker, certainly no defense enough to stop the machine of the Verger estate that would not rest until it had Hannibal’s blood in exchange. At least it would have been an end to the fear and the violence, to feel Mason gasp from his opened throat, bubbling hot over Hannibal’s fingers.

It would have been an end to Will.

He feels sick as the blade slicks closed, dizzy with nausea, and he slips it back into his pocket. Trembling fingers smooth his coat, and still Will says nothing more.

“I -”

“Don’t,” Will shakes his head. “Don’t -”

“But - I -”

“Please.”

Hannibal lowers his eyes, shocked by the sobriety that hits him harder than the wine did, and he closes his fingers into fists rather than allowing himself to reach for Will. He finds his keys, fumbles them in the lock - several snapping loose from top to bottom - and flicks on the light as he steps through and holds the door.

“I’m glad to see you,” he murmurs as Will passes by him, wary of the filth he suddenly feels crawling against his skin, knowing he can’t touch Will like this, not with another’s fingers still tingling against his skin. Warier still of the dark circles and broken posture of the man before him, wind-whipped enough to strip the calm, collected confidence that Hannibal knows so well.

Will swallows and takes in the space, the familiarity of it, the comfort, and nods, just briefly, not in answer to Hannibal's words but to assure himself he is here, now, nowhere else and not unsafe. Hannibal looks unharmed, no worse for wear beyond being slightly inebriated, and part of Will relaxes slowly, muscle by muscle, with the knowledge.

"I should've called," Will repeats, gesturing vaguely towards the door. "I didn't know when we would get in, customs can be a bitch for us but -" He shrugs, bottom lip gently folding into his mouth before he sighs it back out again, swallows, throat dry and it almost aches, and it's good. Another grounding reminder.

He had been on a case for four days, in touch with Hannibal as often as he could be but always quiet on the details, and Hannibal never asked. Will watches as Hannibal closes the door, locks it behind himself, sets his keys to the small table covered in notes and bills. He can still feel the edge of the knife against his throat, can feel how close he had come to tasting that steel properly.

It had been an expert hold, not something a kid would manage with a corner-store butterfly knife. He doesn’t comment on it. He should have told Hannibal he would be here, he hadn't. The self-defense actually gives him comfort on some level, even partially drunk Hannibal can protect himself.

Good boy.

Will draws his fingers under his glasses to rub his eyes before stepping closer to Hannibal, enough to rest their foreheads together, to breathe him in.

"I am very glad to see you," he murmurs, ducks his head to kiss him and stops as soon as there is that bare flinch, that nervous tic, from the boy before him. Will sighs, leans back again.

Slowly, making sure his hands are visible to Will, Hannibal reaches up to gently remove the man’s glasses. He cradles Will’s cheek in one palm as the older man tilts into the touch, strokes a thumb across his cheekbone, and folds his glasses with the other hand to set alongside his keys. Without asking, without needing to ask, Hannibal slips his hand past Will’s cheek and wraps both arms around his neck, to bring Will against his shoulder.

They stand together for long minutes, both finding the steadiness that their hearts only ever seem to reach when they’re so near, and only when Hannibal feels Will’s breath deepen on a long sigh does he ease back and gently smooth his hair back from his face.

Careful fingers work free the buttons on Will’s coat and slide it from his shoulders to hang beside the door. Still unspeaking, Hannibal kneels to tug loose the long laces of Will’s boots. He shivers when a hand comes to rest against his hair, nothing more than a touch, but enough. Each mud-dusty boot is slipped free, and only distantly Hannibal remembers his own shoes left in the hallway, almost certainly gone now by the quick hands that reside in the building.

It doesn’t matter, not when Will tucks a strand of blonde hair behind Hannibal’s ear, when dark eyes lift to meet blue, when Hannibal stands again and presses cheek to cheek against Will.

“Sit,” he murmurs. “I’ll start tea.”

He does, once Will has slouched heavily into the couch, setting the kettle on and finding a gentle blend of lavender and chamomile, uncaffeinated, to place in the mugs while the water heats. Hannibal shucks his coat to hang beside Will’s, and asks for a moment before passing through to the bathroom.

Will waits, knees shoulder-width apart and hands clasped between, head back and eyes closed as he forces his breathing to slow, to cool his burning lungs and dissipate the shadows behind his eyes that keep shifting, forming, unforming, unfolding -

With a breathed curse, Will sits forward again. It had been a hard case. They are always hard cases. Always minds that Will slips into too easily, minds Jack needs him to see and Will forces himself to. Always minds that are twisted and sick and wrong, something in the programming that glitched to make this. A shell of a person, a semblance of one. Most of the time.

The most frightening are the ones that are entirely put together, not cracked and broken but entirely, clinically sane.

Will thinks of the glassy eyes of the victims, thinks of the way his hands had shaken from day one, thinks of how he no longer has any aspirin and the 24-hour pharmacy clerk was too concerned about the shaking to let him buy any.

He lets his eyes travel up when Hannibal returns, padding back on bare feet, and musters a smile he is sure looks as much like a pained frown as it feels.

“It’s been a long week,” he apologizes.

Hannibal doesn’t tell Will he can’t imagine it - it would seem almost an insult, considering how vividly the older man does imagine, by force, by necessity. Instead he turns a soft smile to Will in passing, a gentle thing that comes easier than he would expect it to, returning a moment later with tea, set on the table to cool.

Slowly, still damp from the hurried shower he took, clad in the loose sleep pants that Will bought for him and nothing more, Hannibal settles onto the couch. Onto Will, in particular, languid movements to straddle his lap and press himself against the older man’s chest. His body, relinquished willingly, in place of a blanket, to provide weight and warmth.

“If I am not allowed to apologize,” Hannibal murmurs, “neither are you.”

Eloquent clients, professors and curators, those with a taste for history, have called Hannibal a comfort boy before. But it’s only in his body that they take their own comfort, little enough that he has to provide beyond allowance to that space. This is a different thing entirely. Hannibal arches, shifting deeper into the embrace when Will spans his palms against Hannibal’s bare back. Touching kisses to his neck, he curls an arm around Will’s head, fingers tangling in his hair, and keeps his voice low, a rumbling purr.

“Ask me,” he smiles, just a quick quirk of his lips. “Ask me for what you need.”

Will releases a long breath, long enough that his lungs feel like they will peel from him and slip from his lips as well before he allows a shuddered breath in. Hannibal is warm, his heart is beating, he’s alive. For a moment, all Will does is hold him, hands splayed light on his shoulders, not pulling or tugging or clinging in any way.

“Let me hold you,” Will asks him softly, “please.”

Hannibal settles closer, fingers carding through Will’s hair enough to make him shudder with the feeling, intimate and soft and gentle, entirely gentle. For the first time in days he has not felt the intimate stickiness of blood against his fingertips as they splay and stretch over Hannibal’s back. For the first time in days he feels himself relax back where he’s sitting, allowing his body to grow heavy.

“Can you talk to me?” Will asks at length, turning to nuzzle against Hannibal’s cheek at the questioning hum. “About anything, school, yourself, plans, books… I just…” Will takes a breath and releases it. “I’ve missed your voice.”

Hannibal sighs, long enough that he seems to shrink against his professor, as strong arms hold him carefully close. He settles his head on Will’s shoulder and wonders where he has gone, far further it seems than the distance needed to reach the investigation, far deeper to places Hannibal cannot imagine, does not want to. It is a cruelty that this kind man - who cares for stray dogs and stray boys, who lives his quiet life in the woods, profoundly contented with such small comforts - would be the one chosen to be dragged into nightmares, the sacrificial lamb who must be consumed in order to stop far worse scenes from spreading black as rot.

And it is a welcome responsibility that he has come to Hannibal to feel whole again.

“I’ve missed you,” Hannibal murmurs, small in body and in voice, heavy in the weight he lays against Will’s chest. “The dogs did, as well. I went out daily, after class, to feed them and let them run. Buster still does not trust me, but the rest have come around. He did, once, abscond with my entire bookbag, though, and so perhaps I should take that as a compliment, that he did not want me to leave.”

Will breathes a small sound, as if a laugh would be too much strain, and Hannibal nuzzles closer, tucking himself against the crook of Will’s neck. “I studied there, on nights I did not need to work. Slept in your bed,” he adds, a mischievous tone lowering his voice. “Wished you were there, alongside me. Your house is very cold at night, but the dogs saw fit that there was no wasted bedspace in your absence.”

Will hums, and his arms slip to rest heavy and close around Hannibal’s middle, wrapped around him as Will rests his head back to see Hannibal as well as hear him. He’s here, he’s the same tired-toned and sleepy-eyed boy, the slight smell of tequila on his tongue but not revolting. He smells alive, he smells real and here and now, and Will wants to kiss him.

“Thank you,” he says, and the words sink to a depth beyond just feeding his dogs and checking on the house. For allowing this, for instance, for leaving the gentle reminders of his presence all over Will’s house for when he returns to it. Will swallows, blinks, eyes dark, hooded, exhausted to his bones from doing everything in his power not to sleep until he got home, all of him.

“May I kiss you?” He asks, lips quirking at the words, remembering the first time Hannibal had asked, how it had felt…

Without lifting his head from Will’s shoulder, Hannibal smiles a little, and his eyes close as he nods, a small, almost childish gesture. Palms rubbing upward against Will’s chest, pawing firmly enough to bring sensation back into Will’s skin - chilled from far more than just the weather outside - he pushes to sit back just enough that he can bring their mouths together. Clumsy and careful, their lips join and spread - Hannibal tastes of liquor and toothpaste, Will of cigarettes and sleeplessness, and the boy wonders if he slept at all in the days he was away.

When their lips drag slowly apart, Hannibal hardly moves, forehead resting against Will’s own, their eyes closed. “Do not drive tonight,” he tells him, fingers curling and splaying against Will’s chest. “It’s too far, and the dogs will last one more night without you.”

Will huffs a soft laugh and turns his head in a nuzzle against Hannibal. He supposes they can. At worst there will be a mess to clean, and he can take the next day to spend in their company, to apologize, to feel them there around him, alive and heavy and furry, lolling tongues and whining demands for nothing more than to be touched and allowed close.

Exactly what Will wants, now, here, and what Hannibal is giving him.

His hands seek over the warm skin before him, just to touch, to remind himself of the curves over bone, the turns over muscle, the scars against his fingertips. Things he knows by heart, things he needs to remind himself that he is real, alive, here.

He wants to press against Hannibal entirely, skin to skin, just to feel his heart beat against his own, to hold him, kiss him, fall asleep with a familiar smell, a familiar warmth and weight against him. Intimacy, nothing more.

Will turns his head to catch Hannibal’s lips again.

They meet, and for a moment remain just so, lips touching and parted to share breath between them. Hannibal tilts his head a little, to feel the dry brush of their mouths so intimately close, and just as he breaks into a grin, he leans in with a deep breath through his nose and rocks into the kiss. As heavy as the boy himself, as languid as the older man beneath, nothing more than kissing, nothing more than the press of their hands against the other’s body, nothing more than hearts beating and tea cooling forgotten.

Nothing more than that, and in that, everything.

Slowly, chased into soft kisses gathered light against each other, Hannibal leans back and ducks the next kiss, cheek tilted against Will’s, blushing warm against soft scruff, grown longer even in those few days apart. Hannibal’s fingers work open the buttons of Will’s shirt, tracing the opening that parts as he slips downwards and tugs the tail free of Will’s pants. Baring him without hurry, without the drive of need to do anything more than to make him comfortable, Hannibal leaves him shirtless before he finally stands. He leans as though to kiss but draws away, playful, enjoying the sleepy pursuit as much as Will himself, eyes narrowed in affectionate dismay as Hannibal teases him towards the bed.

His belt falls to the floor, his pants drop to be stepped out of, and Hannibal turns to watch Will drag himself back across the little twin bed. It is deliberately small, no more room than for Hannibal, never enough to host guests, chosen to stop Hannibal from even the idea of doing so, and now a comical thing to watch the older man occupy it entirely.

More’s the better, in truth.

Hannibal stands for a moment more, and then bends to slide his fingers into Will’s socks and tug them off each in turn, leaving him in no more than his boxers.

“Did you want your tea?” Hannibal asks, amused, glancing over his shoulder and back again, palming a lank drape of hair back out of his eyes.

Will draws an arm back to rest his head against and closes his eyes in semblance of a headshake. No. It doesn’t matter. He will drink it if Hannibal has his. He waits, does not make Hannibal ask, here, it is not his place to. He had come here seeking solace, seeking comfort and he is grateful beyond words for both.

He tilts his head, eyes narrowed in amusement, and licks his lips open.

“I do hope you’re sleeping here and I haven’t displaced you to the couch,” he says.

“I have a feeling that, were I, I would not be alone for long,” answers Hannibal, forgoing the tea in favor of watching Will settle against his bed.

Apologies perch on his tongue, that the bed is so small, the sheets so worn, that he has not had time to tidy aside his books and papers from the floor beside the bed. He keeps them held at bay, though - no apologies for either of them tonight, willing to sacrifice his own so that Will doesn’t feel the need to speak his own. He extends a hand, fingertips tapping against each of Will’s toes in turn, before dragging his nails slowly towards his ankle.

“We may have to lay very close,” Hannibal adds idly, pulling his tone into a tease, standing still at the foot of the bed, to watch Will, to be watched by him as he raises his chin and turns his head just so, the muscles around his eyes betraying the smile that he hides beneath an affectation of grave seriousness.

“A sacrifice I am willing to make,” Will responds, just as serious, and just as warm in dropping it when Hannibal allows his lips to curve. Will watches, eyes down to where Hannibal sets his knees on the bed on either side of his legs. He watches as slowly, Hannibal crawls up the length of him, sets his knees on either side of Will’s and then stretches forward to lie atop him, nuzzling up warm against Will’s chest, listening to his heart beating before pressing his lips to it.

Will draws a hand up Hannibal’s back, into his hair and gently tugs, feeling Hannibal turn into the touch. He’s so soft, heavy and clean and a little too warm for the weather outside but Will will hardly make him move, would hardly even consider. He draws one knee up, a gentle nudge to push Hannibal further up his body, closer in that, and kisses his hair with a sigh.

“Some cases are harder than others,” he explains, tired, tone soft enough answering questions Hannibal had never asked him, but Will knows he wants the answers to, if merely for curiosity’s sake. “Everyone has the capacity, the power to kill another, some have the capacity to enjoy the torment throughout, to drag it longer to see what will happen, when you peel a person apart.” He swallows. “Sometimes I fall too far, and I forget the reality around me is real.”

He has both hands settled over Hannibal’s back now, just rubbing there, rubbing the tension from his muscles and counting the vertebrae with gentle fingers when he skims them down Hannibal’s spine.

Curiosity tugs harder at the boy - he wants to ask what Will saw, that pushed him so far away from himself. He wants to ask what Will sees now, if it’s only at the scene of a murder that he can feel those motivations, or if it’s clear to him looking on anyone when there is old blood dried brown on someone’s hands, or soon to spill fresh scarlet over their fingers. He wants to ask if Will sees that capacity in Hannibal himself, but he lets himself imagine that he does not, and cannot imagine he would be here if he did.

Nor, in truth, would Hannibal want to know if he does.

It was a long time ago, he tells himself, and very far away. He tells himself it was an act of necessity, to save his own life. He tells himself that he did not revel in it, quaking with laughter and adrenaline as his tormentors thrashed twitching at his feet.

He tells himself that it doesn’t matter now, right now, and pretends instead that perhaps there is forgiveness in the press of palms against his skin.

“You let them inhabit you,” Hannibal murmurs, brows drawing inward as he watches his fingertips trace circles over Will’s chest. “But you are not them. You do not become them, you - that capacity isn’t yours.”

Will hums, a long, low noise on an exhale, and wraps his arms heavy around Hannibal again, relishing in the soft touching against himself in turn. It is a comfort, he can feel himself relax enough for his mind to slow, can feel sleep so close to overcoming him but forces himself awake, he wants to talk to Hannibal, feel and smell him for as long as he can.

“I fear the depth of my capacity,” Will replies instead, tone just tired, almost slurring words. “I fear that I am building a repertoire of a skillset no one needs, especially me.”

Hannibal sets his chin to Will’s chest as he looks up and the other opens his eyes just enough to see, to raise an eyebrow and quirk a lip up in a smirk.

“Empathy can invert, and it is terrifying when it does.”

“You are not a monster just because you can see them.”

“Like attracts like,” Will sighs, and closes his eyes, arching his back to settle and bring a hand to stroke Hannibal’s face instead, cupping his cheek for the boy to lean again. “I’m being morbid. I’m sorry. How has your week passed?”

Though the words linger like frost against Hannibal’s skin, he hides his shiver with a tilt of his head against Will’s hand, nuzzling and shifting his weight against him before settling once more. “Thank you for telling me,” Hannibal murmurs into his palm, before pressing a kiss to release the tension working its way between them and warm it away again.

“My week,” Hannibal sighs, “has missed you being in it. I wrote a paper that received useful criticism and otherwise good marks. I studied, much as I could manage before falling asleep against my texts. Enough work that I am unconcerned with groceries, considering too how much of yours I eat,” he adds, a coy smile catching the corner of his mouth as he opens his eyes to watch laxity come over Will’s features in rest.

“And I have been offered something of an internship, temporary, in assisting in one of my labs,” Hannibal says, but he shakes his head. “But there is hardly time enough for what my day requires already. Were I not,” he pauses, “kept so long tonight, I meant to work on my decline, but I am hardly awake or sober enough to work my way through the subtlety required to not offend in doing so.”

He starts to roll to his back, finding the wall at it instead in the small space, and so he slides from atop Will to nestle tightly alongside him. “‘Dear professor’,” he recites, a bitter humor flourishing a snort into his imaginary letter. “‘I apologize that my feeble body requires the several hours of sleep I afford it every few days.’”

Will laughs, a brief snort of breath and curls an arm around Hannibal where he presses to him, turning to his side to give him more room, to tangle their legs together and reach for the blanket to drape over them.

“‘Dear professor,’” he adjusts. “‘I have found myself in need of knowledgeable exhaustion as physical no longer suffices. I would like to accept your offer of internship, and promise to rest only upon my own notes, if my body succumbs to sleep on shift.’”

Hannibal tilts his head up, hands pressed to Will’s chest, and narrows his eyes. Will merely licks his lips and allows them to set in a soft smile.

“I can happily accept on your behalf,” he says.

Pressing his tongue against his teeth, Hannibal seems to almost age, the idea of more work etching exhaustion into his features. He tucks his head, brow against Will’s lips, and murmurs, “Time is a finite thing. It would require me to use the hours before and after lab, when I study now, before work requires me elsewhere.”

Will doesn’t need to tell him to ask, he knows he should, he knows that Will would give him anything he needs and gladly, especially for this. But there is always friction, scraping raw the inner lining of his belly, when it comes to this, knowing how much he takes already from Will, in money and time both, a feeling always that he could not ever give him enough in repayment - in thanks - for what he yields so graciously.

“Priorities, Hannibal,” Will suggests, and Hannibal closes his eyes, swallowing roughly. “There is the work you do because you have to do it, and the work you do because you want to do it.”

The words are gently spoken, guidance, not insistence, and Hannibal finally nods. His relief is instantaneous, another night of the week that he doesn’t have to spend tending to another’s needs - his own, first, and Will’s in turn.

Something he does because he wants to, and not because he must.

He tilts his head up, lips drawing against Will’s chin, his beard, the corner of his mouth, a rainfall of kisses touched against whatever skin presents itself to him. He frames Will’s cheeks with his hands, arms tucked between them in the narrow space, and sighs a laugh. “A far easier letter to write, then.”

Will hums again, eyes barely open now, and tilts Hannibal’s face up to kiss him properly, not praise, but reassurance, that any choice he makes will not affect this, will not affect them.

“Good,” he tells Hannibal, another soft nuzzle, warm breath against him, and Will settles one arm up over Hannibal’s shoulders to rest in his hair, wrist pressed between his shoulders. He takes a deep breath, exhales, forces his eyes open to see Hannibal as he says, “I am so glad my week could finish with you.”

It’s honest and warm, vulnerable, and Will is contented after to close his eyes and rest heavy in the small bed with the boy he adores, loves, if he’s honest, against him. He is back here, entirely, back to the reality he lives in that no longer feels as cold as it used to. He smiles when he feels lips against his own, against his face, and allows the gentle treatment and soft petting.

“You have an early class tomorrow?” He confirms softly.

Hannibal hums agreement, but ruffles a little, pleased that Will remembered, that he cares enough to do so. “I didn’t anticipate being out so late,” he murmurs, nearing an apology however indirectly. He glances past Will to the clock beside the bed, and makes a fussy, small sound as he digs himself in comfortably against the older man again. “Four hours until I need to be up,” he says, but his words lighten a little, despite the sleepiness that has started to thicken his accent, deepen his voice. “I only wish I had come home sooner so that I might have more time with you before then. But,” he adds, stealing another kiss as his fingers skirt Will’s hip, “I’m glad you came. Will you, again? When you need. When you would like.”

A pause, and Hannibal murmurs, “Perhaps a message first, though, so I know who waits outside my door, and do not lose another pair of shoes in the process.”

“I’ll buy you another pair of shoes,” Will laughs, and it’s genuine, now, deep and warm as it is at Wolf Trap when they press this way together there. “Since I cost you these.”

A silent agreement, there, silent understanding. Yes, he will come again if he needs, he would rather feel Hannibal put him back together than hope whiskey sticks the pieces of him down. More often than not it just slips through the cracks, makes them less stable than they already are, than how Will holds them.

“In four hours, then,” Will sighs, nuzzling him. “I will wake you with coffee.”

Hannibal smiles, and with a sigh, lets his lips part against Will’s throat to sleep. As he does, warmed beneath the weight of Will’s arms around him, Hannibal hopes that these ordinary moments will never stop seeming so extraordinary.

Chapter Text

She leaves marks on his back, every time.

Manicured fingernails curve down the plane of his back, over plateau shoulder blades and the mountain ridges of his ribs, over the smoothly curved drifts of his ass and to settle in the valley at the small of his back. She is a welcome company, not for his physical enjoyment – though he supposes he does enjoy it, much as one can – but for her kindness. Never has she demeaned him or patronized him. Never has she demanded of him more than he makes himself willing to give.

He wonders sometimes why she calls him at all. A clever woman at the top of her field, with a client list that men like Frederick would sell the remnants of their soul to have. A beautiful woman with honey hair and summer-sky eyes, soft strawberry lips that squeeze together against his own, that spread and allow him to taste her sweetness. He is easier, he supposes, then navigating the dubious interests of men who want her only for her achievements or her appearance. They met at a function for the school, enough of a kinship between them that he was honest, directly, when she seemed inclined to share his company. She did not ask his age and he has not ever shared it, and their meetings have been as much a matter of choice as of livelihood, if only to keep the boundaries of the relationship overt.

Hannibal can think of few people he’s ever met that he admires so much as Doctor DuMaurier. Bedelia, she insists, at least when they’re like this, silky thighs curled around his hips, a slender heel tucked behind his knee. They move slowly together, the ripples of his movement long between each undulation that brings him deep, languid broad strokes that root him far inside her. A little faster, a little – quickening only when the bucking of her hips grows erratic, when her fingernails press crescents into his skin and she shudders, coiling tight as a moan parts her lips.

It is some peculiar point of pride, Hannibal muses, that he can bring her to orgasm more than once. This feat is aided by the fact that he will only allow himself to finish – on her gentle prompting – after he has so satisfied them both with her trembling abandon. His cock buried deep inside, tugged by the warm waves of her pleasure pressuring around him, Hannibal runs a hand across her stomach, over the plush curve of her hips. Between her legs he finds himself, hidden within a neatly trimmed thatch of golden hair, and skillful fingers rub against the flushed bead just above where he fills her.

Bedelia arches, breasts pointed upwards, and Hannibal’s lips surround a peaked nipple, dark skin pebbling under his tongue. Even this is enough to feel her body pull tight around him once more, sleek fingers shaking against his skin. Again and again, he shows his appreciation of her – and it is genuine – with little more than teasing touches and soft sucking kisses. Again and again she shudders and clings to him, dragging marks over his back, sighing hot against his neck.

Only when she laughs, husky and warm, and pleads mercy, Hannibal does he relent, smiling with rare honesty as his own relief floods quietly through him. It is a far cry from the release that Will gives him, fingers clenched in the sheets and voice breaking with abandon, tears and laughter, gentle begging for more, less, please, yes. A shiver shakes him at the thought of it, and he shares a slow kiss with the good doctor, wishing instead to feel soft scruff and firm fingers against his cheeks.

He slips himself from her, to discreetly remove the condom and tie it off, tossing it to the bin near the bed before allowing himself to lay heavy against her. Her heart beats a slowing staccato beneath his ear, silky limbs draped over his back as both catch their breath, and the night air chills the sweat against their skin. Only after their pulses have slowed to resting does she tilt her head to watch the young man who lays against her, his dark eyes open and a hand resting against her breast, fingers stroking absently.

“You’re distant tonight, Hannibal.” The clarinet notes of her voice low and comforting where he rests his head. He draws a deep breath through his nose and closes his eyes.

“My apologies,” Hannibal says. “I don’t mean to be.”

“I know.” She strokes his hair from his face, soothing gestures. “I hope I’ve not done anything to offend.”

“You’ve not,” he murmurs, lips brushing the swell of her chest, breath pooling warm against her skin. Bedelia has always listened, and though Hannibal has only rarely availed himself of her insights – keeping work out of the bedroom and all – his heart moves a little faster as he laughs, brows knitting. “I’ve met someone,” he tells her, as surprised to hear himself say the words as he is by the truth of them.

A hum, surprised as it is pleased, and warm, but for a moment she says nothing more. Fingers still card through damp, straight locks, enough that Hannibal would doze from the gesture should it continue much longer. He turns against her skin, splays his hand over her side and holds it there, warmer against her than she is against him.

"Someone worthy enough to drive you to distraction," she finally says, and smiles when Hannibal laughs, just once, low against her.

The admission has pulled thoughts to the forefront of Hannibal’s mind where they don't belong, not when he is with another. It takes effort not to apologize again, and he doesn't simply because he knows she will accept it to quiet him. She finds no offense in his honesty, and neither make this out to be more than it is for both of them.

"Sometimes I wonder if it isn't a naïve desire for a connection," Hannibal says quietly.

"You don’t believe in fairytales, Hannibal, it isn't in your nature,” she reminds him, a deep sigh pulling her back from the bed before she settles once more, comfortable. "You are young enough, yet, to allow yourself to be naïve, yet I think far smarter to genuinely be so."

“There is danger in naïveté,” he counters, not seeking argument but only a gentle sort of debate. He prizes her mind as she does his, their conversations yielding as much – if not more – pleasure than the time they share in bed together. He wants her thoughts on this, her clarity and consideration.

He wants her approval.

“Perhaps,” Bedelia allows. “There is a risk, always, in allowing another near to us. What do you fear?” Her nails scrape against his scalp, and shivers sooth down his spine.

“That in allowance, my life is no longer entirely my own. It is subject to shifts of mood and whim to which I must respond, and in yielding greater parts of myself than I have before, there is more that can be taken.”

“Rather than only what you give.”

“Yes.”

“Tell me about them,” she prompts, and Hannibal lifts his eyes in concern but finds only Bedelia’s warm generosity there in response. She is not envious, she is not hurt by his words – they are close but not in the way that Hannibal attempts to find words for now. When he relaxes against her again, it is with a pensive frown, sifting through sentiment and definition alike.

“Him,” Hannibal finally says, and he can feel her smile as she strokes his hair. “He is kind. Gentle, always, but firm when needs be. When stubborn insolence digs my heels into the ground,” he adds, wry. “He has not asked outright for me to stop working as I have been – he has not asked me to change my life at all, but I have found myself doing so despite. I enjoy my time with him. He has removed barriers to money and time and it’s as though my breath comes easier when I’m with him. I think that –”

He stops, but the words hover.

“I think that he would care for me, entirely, if I allowed it to be so.”

"But you fear trusting that which has moods and whims of its own," Bedelia confirms, finding a smile against her skin again, though brief, in answer.

"I fear trusting," Hannibal agrees, thinking back to Will’s words regarding submission and pride, how both are powerful enough to blind, how he wishes the permission to guide Hannibal when that blindness overcomes him, when other aspects of his life overwhelm him. "But he has never broken my trust of him. Has never acted as any other man has, in my experience with them this way."

"You cannot wait for true intentions to come forth that only you’ve placed on him as expectations, Hannibal. If he is not that man, he will not be, even given time."

Hannibal laughs again, a small thing. "He said the same to me, once. He told me he would not be the man I was pushing him to become, in my stubbornness and confusion."

"You did not take him at his word."

"No," Hannibal considers, thinking back to his own youthful pride in leaving Will when he had denied him, to the denial of help simply to prove he did not need it, though neither were fooled.

"Do you, now?"

In all his petulance, his simmering anger, his flights and returns and unrelenting pride, Will has forgiven, time and again. He has never bent, he has never broken. He has never struck Hannibal in anger or demeaned him. At every turn, no matter how suddenly Hannibal tried to pull away, Will has been constant. Patient. He has explained what Hannibal could not understand, he has illuminated what Hannibal could – or would – not see.

“I could not doubt him now if I tried,” Hannibal finally answers. “And I have tried, again and again. He has been unwavering in keeping to his word. Unfaltering in providing all that he has offered to me.”

“Consistency is a rare character trait,” she suggests. “There are few enough people in the world who even give their word, let alone those who adhere to it.”

“Unfailingly,” murmurs Hannibal.

“What does he ask in return?”

A wider smile curves Hannibal’s lips before he can stop it, and he shifts, settling a cheek against her stomach as if to bury the pleasure that shows itself at this. “That I ask.” She makes a curious sound, thoughtful, and he wraps a hand around her hip, thumb stroking the delicate skin that lays across it. “If there is something I need, he wishes me to ask for it. Sometimes substantial things – money to cover tuition, affection. Sometimes small things.”

“Such as?”

“An extra glass of wine,” he grins, fighting it down but unable to do so entirely. It sounds so childish, but the warmth that spreads molten through his chest makes it so hard to breathe that he can hardly bear its sweetness. “To move from the desk he has made for my studies.”

Bedelia draws her fingers down his spine and back up again, meditative and soothing, and considers the words, considers their implication for the boy against her stomach.

"Does he ask for your obedience?"

"He asks for my honesty," Hannibal replies. "My obedience I give without him having to ask for it." It strikes him, then, that perhaps this relationship is strange, the willingness Hannibal presents in doing something for another, finding pleasure, himself, in doing it. He thinks of the chores he does at Wolf Trap, and he cannot recall a single time when he had been told to do any of them. He had started them all on his own.

"And you enjoy being told," Bedelia adds, while Hannibal gathers his thoughts, scattering behind his eyes like breadcrumbs. "Told that you are good, that you can do more. That you’re better than you are. He makes you believe it with his actions and his words." She knows the truth of it without Hannibal answering her. She knows it in the gentle tension of his back, the way his breathing shifts just so. "Do you feel safe with him?"

Hannibal swallows, throat clicking, and nods. “Yes. I would not trust him with as much as I have, otherwise. He has seen me in my poorest moments and still lifted me. His guidance has been thoughtful and correct. He –” A laugh, soft and somewhat bitter in the admission that part of his mind still resents. “In those moments, when I allow myself to open to him entirely, I have learned what protection means.”

“From others?”

“From myself as much,” he admits. She does not need to see the blush spread across Hannibal’s high-risen cheeks. She feels it spread across her stomach where he lies, whispering soft admissions to her skin. “He has shown me – allowed me to show – parts of myself that I swore I would reveal to no one. Desires that I did not know I had. He has directed them, gently or harshly if I ask for it, and in those moments it is –”

A sigh, hand curling a little tighter against her, and then relaxing.

“In submission to him is the greatest clarity and quiet I have ever felt.”

Bedelia cups her hand against the back of his head and curls her nails lightly over his scalp again, feeling Hannibal shiver pleasantly from the touch.

"True submission always is," she says, ducking her eyes to Hannibal when he hums confusion. "Clarity and quiet. It is what it should be, with a competent dominant. A release and relief. Pleasure. Some say that such a submission is the biggest rush and the most close comfort."

Hannibal lifts his head then, turns it to set his chin against his hand where it rests on Bedelia’s stomach.

"You have heard this before."

"Never from you," she smiles, "but it is common – this desire to submit and be protected, to give up your power in the trust that you will be held and given what you yourself cannot voice. If he gives you that, Hannibal, he is not a man to let go on a whim."

The words resonate in him, gathering in his belly with a stir of pleasure. Dominant. Submissive. What little he knows about that world finds more familiarity in snorting over dog collars in the adult store, but he supposes that her words suit its truer nature in what exists between them. There is a curious formality to hearing it spoken of in titles, but he can’t argue that they don’t fit with as much comfort as the thoughts of Will himself.

“He cares for me,” Hannibal murmurs, mouth tucked against his hand as he watches her, and finds no judgment or fault in her gentle gaze. “And I enjoy being cared for by him. Even when we’re not together, the thought of routine and relinquishment – it makes the day pass easier.”

Slowly, he draws himself up to sit, hair tousled into his face and skin still stinging with the memory of her nails against it.

“I’ve been giving very serious thought to quitting,” he admits, dark eyes focused on her, “and letting this evolve as it may.”

“I think it would be wise to let it,” Bedelia tells him, watching him from where she lies in bed, still, comfortable and contented to stay as Hannibal sits over her. “And I think it was wise of him to not make you, to let you come to the decision on your own.”

“I fear it will not be the correct decision.”

“You are not this, Hannibal,” Bedelia tells him, bringing a hand to her hair to slide it back from her high forehead, leaving her fingers tangled in it as she sighs and watches him, fond. It has always been fond between them, but a care that did not go beyond that which one has for a close friend, a respected friend.

“He can see that, as I can. And once in a while, when your mind eases as your body does, Hannibal, you listen to me. Perhaps you should listen to him.” She smiles and sits up, pressing a kiss to his cheek, hand gentle against the other, before she leaves the bed to shower. “And listen to yourself.”

“May I still see you?” He calls softly after her, and he feels suddenly so young when he does, swallowing down a childish sort of fear. He can count on one hand the people who have been truly gracious to him in his life, and fewer still are those who yet live, the nearest thing to friend or family that he has.

She glances back, her smile unerring in its gentleness, patient and wise.

“Not – so much for this, though – I’ve enjoyed this company, too,” he clarifies. “But I would mourn the loss of our conversations. So as friends, perhaps, instead – and only just.”

“Not only,” she responds. “But as future colleagues, as well. I would like that, Hannibal.”

And so would he, and to his great surprise, he finds his palms warm and cold all at once with the realization of what he’s just done, and the decision that he’s been allowed to make. It does not end here – her understanding is something he has long known – but it is, if nothing else, the beginning of the end, and in many ways the end of the beginning.

---

Hannibal holds his breath as he is embraced. Squeezed, really, so much so that he could not fill his lungs if he wished to.

“Please, Franklyn –”

“I have missed you,” the man gushes, pressing cheek to cheek with Hannibal, seeking his mouth with a clumsy kiss. “My god, where have you been? It’s been weeks, I was worried – you shouldn’t let people worry like that. I tried to call –”

“I know.”

“– and it just goes to voicemail. Then even that stopped and –”

“Did it?” Hannibal asks, blinking. “How very strange.”

“It did. But you’re here now, Hannibal. You’re here. And we can talk –”

“– always –”

“– about how you simply must move in. You must. I know you have the apartment on campus and your fees cover it, but surely there are options. For those students who find a partner, who find a new place to live off campus. There must be.”

Hannibal is breathless, catching his balance as gracefully as he can when he is finally released from the hug, instead held by his shoulders and watched as he smiles a small thing and tries to find words for what he had actually come here to do.

“Franklyn –”

“Hannibal,” laughs the man, a desperate waver in the sound. “Come in, don’t just stand in the doorway.”

“Franklyn, please –”

“Take your coat off, you’re so funny, you know that?”

Wide hands work the thin coat from Hannibal’s shoulders and it’s all he can do to resist a sigh. It’s as though the man knows, sensing with some sort of animal instinct, that something Bad is happening. Hannibal ducks his head to allow the coat to be removed, toeing off his shoes and glancing back to where they fall on the floor as Franklyn escorts him in with an arm around the waist. They make it to the dining room before a quick hand darts to snare Franklyn’s wrist before he can bustle away again.

“Sit,” Hannibal tells him.

Franklyn’s eyes flare like a trapped animal as he drops – heavy with reluctance – into a chair. Hannibal holds his hands above the man’s shoulders for a beat more, ready to snare him if he tries to move, and only after a long moment has passed does Hannibal smooth a hand down his shirt and settle into a chair beside him, the corner of the table safely between.

“Don’t do this,” insists Franklyn, before Hannibal can manage a word.

Hannibal releases a breath, unable to look at the man for more than a moment before he has to look away. Not for fear of guilt or his mind being changed, but perhaps the opposite, fearing he will say something cruel instead of something merely honest. And Hannibal has never been cruel to others, despite how they were, often, to him.

“Franklyn –“

“Was it something I did?” He asks, hands clasped before him, seeking out Hannibal’s to take one to hold instead. “Was it the weeks we didn’t see each other? We can start again, we can see each other more. It will come back.”

“What will, Franklyn?”

“What we had. Have. Hannibal,” Franklyn sighs, brows furrowed and lips pursed upwards in a pout that sits childish against him. “I care for you. I will do anything, you know that, for you, for your happiness. Let me, please.”

Hannibal watches his hand, held between both of Franklyn’s own, rather than the desperation that wracks the man’s features. It’s embarrassing, just as much for him as for Franklyn, and for a moment Hannibal wishes he had for once forgone his sense of propriety in seeing him in person, and simply let his phone go unanswered. For that matter, he wishes he could lie – I’m moving, I’ve been expelled, I’ve contracted a rare disease and need to be isolated for the rest of my life...

“I don’t need you to do anything for me,” Hannibal begins, but even the truth sits uneasy with the man only another inch from sliding from his chair to his knees. “You’ve been very kind to me, Franklyn, and I’ve appreciated our time together –”

“That’s great!”

Hannibal blinks.

“Hannibal, I’m so glad, oh god – you scared me,” Franklyn laughs, louder than necessary, clasping a hand against his chest. “I thought that you were going to tell me –”

“I’m retiring,” Hannibal interjects smoothly, fighting down a smile that threatens to appear at the words.

“You’re –“

“Yes.” It bodes no argument, and Hannibal allows his hand to be held a moment more before carefully starting to extricate it and finding it snared harder.

“That’s brilliant news,” Franklyn says, voice awed, quiet, and Hannibal could groan for the man’s blindness, his denial so deep he cannot even see through it anymore. “It means we –“

“ – can no longer see each other, Franklyn, I’m sorry.” Perhaps there is a genuine kindness in ripping a plaster off at once, rather than taking time to peel it piece by piece. “I am no longer going to offer my services, to anyone I once offered to, and to anyone new seeking.”

“But… your schooling, your hard work –“

“Has paid off,” Hannibal smiles, just enough, a brief curling of lips but not enough to reach his eyes. “Thank you.”

“But I –“ Franklyn’s brows furrow further, and he looks genuinely distraught by the news, feeling every coil and curl of his fantasy burn and shrivel before him. “What can I do to make you stay?”

Hannibal’s brows lift a little, and he ducks his head as if to consider the answer that comes immediately to his lips, holding it back in feigned thought for a moment, a heartbeat more.

“Nothing,” Hannibal answers, not unkindly even when he feels a particular snare in his chest suddenly loosen and retract, freed of one more tether – one more burden. “You’ve done a great deal for me, Franklyn, and I appreciate the time you’ve shared with me.”

“Can we talk about this?”

“We have.”

“You’re not even giving me a chance –”

“I’m sorry,” Hannibal answers, and it’s the first lie he’s spoken yet. “If you’d like, I might be able to find other company for you, in my absence –”

“No, I –“ Franklyn frowns deeper, eyes bright enough that Hannibal holds in breath, just enough, in case he has to console the man through tears as well. “I don’t want to replace you, Hannibal, I want you.”

“That is not something in my power to give,” Hannibal replies carefully, voice quiet, and he wonders if Franklyn is aware of just how true those words are, or if he thinks it another cheap line Hannibal makes use of to cover harsher cruelties.

Franklyn does let him go, now, when Hannibal slips his hand free, his own hanging heavy on limp wrists over the edge of the table as he watches them with glassy eyes and an expression seen more commonly on small dogs, not grown men. Hannibal resists the urge to say something more, feeling this silence is the most stable he will get the man if he wants to leave without an argument or more begging.

So he stands, moves to put his jacket on again, to carefully slip into his shoes. He doesn’t look back at the man who sits forlorn at the table, who does look at him, hoping Hannibal turns back and realizes his mistake. But he sees only the back of the boy’s jacket, his pressed trousers, and then the door closes and Hannibal is gone.

---

“Hello, Frederick.”

“I didn’t call you,” the man responds, brusque as ever when outside the careful constraints of their acquaintanceship. “Or rather, I did, and you didn’t answer. A week ago.”

“My apologies,” Hannibal murmurs, pressing a thumb between his teeth. “I’ve been unavailable.”

The shades are drawn against the afternoon sun, sending stripes of gold across the bed where Hannibal lays stretched languid as a housecat. He’s in little more than sleep pants, despite it still being day outside – a gift from Will that strokes along his skin like fingertips when he draws up a knee just to feel the fabric move. He waited until late enough in the day that Chilton’s office hours were complete, but soon enough to still catch him, and he listens with amusement to the tinkling of ice against glass through the phone.

“And now, suddenly, available again,” Frederick responds, wry. “Short on cash?”

“No.”

“I know you’re not calling to be friendly, Ha–” Paranoia stops him from finishing the boy’s name, and instead he simply snorts. “What do you want? I’ve no need for you right now.”

“Then we are as equals,” Hannibal muses. “I’ve no need any longer to provide the particular services of which you have no need.”

Silence hums through the phone, broken only by the sound of Frederick’s glass as he drinks. “Is that so?”

Hannibal makes an agreeable sound and stretches until his toes point, curling an arm over his eyes. “I’m afraid it is. I wished to let you know and thank you for a valuable introduction you shared with me into the world of psychiatric discourse.”

“At least you had the decency to call, I suppose.” Frederick takes another drink and Hannibal can hear him moving around his office. He wonders what it’s like, what it feels like in there, how big it is, whether it is filled with books and papers or awards the man wishes seen by everyone, despite their potential insignificance to anyone but him. Visual merit and nothing more.

Hannibal considers how his own will be spacious and comfortable, a home away from home as he works late hours. He considers the books he will have there, the paintings and statues he has always wanted, has seen in others’ spaces, admired from afar. Those he had had in his old family home, those he could find in antique shops to match or mirror.

He licks his lips, prepared to farewell Frederick properly, happy he had chosen to do this over the phone and not in person where the man would stare him down with disdain, when the doctor speaks again.

“It is inevitable that someone would charm you enough, Hannibal, but you’re aware of how fleeting attractions are, you study it as much as I do.” The sound of a glass being set to the hardwood desk and a sigh as Frederick relaxes back in his chair. “You have your fair share of experience with it. I’m surprised you allowed your thoughts to be so muddied, as a student of medicine and mind.”

Hannibal snorts a little, but immediately regrets letting the man hear him goaded into reaction. “You almost sound concerned.”

“Only with a professional interest,” Frederick assures him. “Something it seems you’ve forgotten. I’m not wrong, though, am I? You’ve met someone who’s convinced you they’re going to take all your troubles away. How very,” he pauses, and adds, “typical.”

“Whom I’ve met – or not – is no one’s concern but my own.”

“But you’re not denying it,” drawls the doctor, dry amusement curling his tone. “Your very own Pretty Woman story. Tell me, has he – or she, I suppose, but it seems unlikely – has he offered you a place to live? Money for your expenses, promises of a better life than the one you’ve already made for yourself?”

Hannibal says nothing, eyes narrowed at a water stain across the ceiling.

“I thought so. It’s risky business, Hannibal, and – I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the rate of recidivism in prostitutes is staggeringly high. Especially males. It’s a very hard life to leave behind. All that easy money,” he sighs. “I can understand why one would, of course, I imagine it takes little more than someone saying that they don’t care where you’ve been or who with or how – that they respect you despite that…”

“It is why I have so much to thank you for, Frederick,” Hannibal replies, tone calm, controlled, despite the panic he can feel fluttering quickly within him already. Uncontrollable, predictable and hateful. Hannibal tries to swallow it away. “You have taught me a lot, about the nature of people. Through your work, through allowing me to interact with the people you have met, and I, by proxy.”

He draws both knees up and arches back with a deep breath before releasing it, one hand up to press against the bridge of his nose.

“I have an unfailing tenacity to get the things I want, to compartmentalize my means to an end. I wish for my degree, and I will get it. How I do so is unimportant, as long as it is earned and deserved. And it will be.”

“You think highly of yourself, Hannibal. Perhaps too highly for someone your age and experience. Understand that our ego will take a beating, in this industry and any other. You won’t be the bright poster child of diversity, you’ll be just another boy striving for a piece of paper.”

Hannibal lets his hand fall to the bed, focusing again on the ceiling as his eyes blur back to clarity. “Then I’ll be no different than I am now,” he responds, “and with less stress in grasping for the paper that I will prize as highly as you do your own.”

There is a snort of laughter through the phone, and a long sigh. “Our pasts follow us, Hannibal, whether we like it or not,” Frederick says, but there’s no threat in his words – Hannibal knows he wouldn’t dare when revealing Hannibal’s extracurricular activities would implicate himself. The man is nothing if not self-preserving.

“Perhaps we’ll see each other again, then,” Hannibal finally agrees.

“Sooner rather than later, I imagine. Goodbye, Hannibal.”

“Doctor.”

The call blinks from green to red and Hannibal drops the phone to the bed. He muffles a groan into his hands, a sound of utter relief pent up too long in the cage of his ribs, until there’s no breath left to fuel it and his hands drop to the sheets once more. That’s it. It’s done. All but for one whose barking laugh still echoes in the depths of Hannibal’s skull, but that is a meeting that needs be done in person, and so he quiets it for now.

He’ll need a new number. He’ll need to clear out the clothing that holds too many ill-memories in their threads for him to want to wear again. He’ll close his little notebook for the last time – he hopes – and put it away somewhere.

The phone is still warm from his cheek when Hannibal lifts it again and sends a text.

Are you busy?

No. Will’s reply is quick, and Hannibal can almost hear the tone in those three characters. Then another comes, quickly after. I am in the middle of a lecture.

The dire predictions of the doctor fall away as suddenly as Hannibal’s grin appears.

Setting a bad example, texting when you should be shaping young minds. I’d like to see you soon, if you’d like to see me.

There is a longer pause between this message and Will’s reply, and Hannibal considers that perhaps he decided to actually focus on the lecture and not distract himself. The thought is amusing, truly, thinking of Will thinking of him at work.

I would like to see you now. The message blinks on screen. Immediately after, another. As you are, now. To stave off the impatience until the rest of the lesson passes and I can see you properly.

As you insist. Hannibal hits send and stretches in feline contentment, rolling to his belly to let the afternoon sun warm his back. The thought that this – only this – could be his life now stirs inside him, relief and uncertainty both. But Will is waiting, the screen is black with expectation, and Hannibal’s worry eases as he instead focuses on doing as Will has asked.

It’s all so very simple.

The image that appears on Will’s screen shows only a glimpse of the boy’s face, hidden by tousled hair and the pillow on which he rests. The phone is held above his head, and behind the bridge of his nose and the arm tucked beneath his cheek, his lean back ripples in stripes of sun and shadow, darkening at the swell of his backside, pants stretched tightly across. A hint, only – just a tease, but in that, a beautiful temptation.

The reply for this come quickly, and Hannibal buries his face against the pillow with a laugh, fingers just skirting the edge of his phone in a tickling stroke.

Unlock the door then return to bed. Just as you are. I will see you in half an hour.

The screen goes dark by the time Hannibal pushes himself to stand, cheeks pink when he lets his fingers slide over the lock and click it open.

Chapter Text

Hannibal explained away his choice in dress as a flight of fancy, and he supposes it’s true. Perhaps he didn’t need to wear a suit tonight, let alone a three-piece. He didn’t need to shine his shoes or comb his hair back so sleekly that it shines. It seemed appropriate at the time, and Hannibal has always been a slave to propriety.

But to his relief, Will had only seem amused – and perhaps a little curious. The searching glances had faded during dinner together, seated at the small table in the kitchen with their feet resting lightly together and dogs’ tails sweeping against their legs.

On Hannibal’s insistence, Will sits in his armchair in the living room, eyes closed and head back. The boy wonders if Will is listening to him in the kitchen - washing dishes with his jacket off and his sleeves folded tidy to his elbows, before mixing a drink for the man who awaits him. He wonders if those flickers of concern that drew in his brows together at the sight of Hannibal so put together have faded at all, or if Will searched through Hannibal – beyond checked wool and ironed cotton, beyond his skin and to the far reaches inside of him – and found something amiss.

In truth, the only thing amiss is that it took Hannibal four attempts from start to finish to write the paper pressed between the books in his bag.

He does not wonder, for all his meandering thoughts, what the man will say. The mere possibility – and it is very real – that he might be displeased, or even hesitant, is unconscionable. So Hannibal focuses instead on the celery bitters added in two dashes to the gimlet he’s fashioned, verdant from the chartreuse and cucumber, stirred lightly to meld those flavors and a dozen others with the gin at its base. He sips it, just to taste, and satisfied enough, brings it out to Will and takes up his bag as he goes.

Will takes the drink and sits forward, hands clasping the glass between his knees as he watches Hannibal with a smile.

He is entirely beautiful, always, but the formality today is both a surprise and a welcome and beautiful novelty. He can’t remember the last time he has seen Hannibal put himself together in such a way – he never makes him – and he has to admit that as everything else he has seen on his boy, a suit cuts a beautiful silhouette on him.

“You won’t drink with me?” Will asks, smile small but wrinkling his eyes when Hannibal shakes his head, unable to keep his own from his face with Will watching him so earnest, despite the storm brewing in his lungs and throat at the thought of what he wants to say, what he wants to ask.

He watches Will lick his lips, sit back in his chair and set one arm across the back of it.

“Will you sit with me?” He asks instead.

Wry humor draws up beneath Hannibal’s eyes, bag held before him in both hands. “In your lap?”

“Yes,” answers Will with a little laugh, and Hannibal’s smile narrows his eyes a little more.

“Would it please you?”

“Do I need to tell you to?” Hannibal’s silence is answer enough, and Will presses his feet flat against the floor. “Hannibal, come sit.”

If the formality was peculiar before, it certainly moreso now. On socked feet Hannibal steps closer, working the straps free on his bag to open it. His fingers find the paper and he considers leaving it. He could, easily, set the bag aside and say he was searching for a book he didn’t bring, if Will asks. He could distract Will enough that he doesn’t ask, and say some sweet little words about how he wore the suit so Will could take it off him.

None of it would work, and Hannibal realizes his expression has shifted – incrementally – only when Will’s brows draw in, sharp as a watchdog. “Hannibal?”

“I –”

“Come here to me,” Will coaxes him again, and Hannibal does. Slipping the carefully written – four-times written - paper from between his textbooks for anatomy and organic chemistry, he holds it to his chest and settles, stiff, against Will’s thigh. Will just watches him, watches the way his cheeks warm just at the top, while the rest of him pales. He watches as Hannibal’s fingers press to the pages against him and relax again – watches his chest rise and fall with short breaths before he forces them to slow.

Will holds the drink out to him but it is a request, it is not a command, and Hannibal shakes his head in answer to it, eyes just below Will’s, not meeting them. So Will takes a drink instead.

“What can I do?” Will asks, finds that this, at least, brings Hannibal’s eyes to his quickly before he looks away again.

“Do?”

“You’re a breath away from shaking, Hannibal,” Will points out gently, tilting his head to watch his boy before reaching out to set his knuckles against his cheek, turning to place his palm there after, to let Hannibal lean into it. “Will you tell me what’s wrong?” He asks him softly.

Hannibal’s throat clicks, and he closes his eyes, concentrating on the heat of Will’s hand against his cheek. “I don’t know, yet, if there is anything wrong,” he answers, brows knit. “I can’t tell if I’ve made one of the wisest decisions in my life, or one of the most foolish.”

Though it’s a twitch, no more, Hannibal opens his eyes at the tension that responds to his words through Will’s hand, and meets his eyes.

“What decision, Hannibal?”

His smile in response is soft, so small as to be almost childlike in uncharacteristic insecurity. The suit, the sleek hair, the years themselves fall away from him, and with a clipped sigh he extends the paper from his chest for Will to take.

“I’ve written a proposal,” he says, and his lips quirk at the word. “A contract, perhaps, is better stated. For your consideration.”

Will blinks, surprise raising his brows and parting his lips before he blinks again and settles back in the chair they share, setting his drink to the side table and both his hands down against Hannibal’s thighs. He can feel the tension in them, strokes against them over and over to soothe it a little, to feel Hannibal’s weight rest more on him again as he relaxes.

“Breathe for me,” he says softly, and the sigh Hannibal releases comes out as a laugh, nervous and little, and Will’s expression warms even more at seeing it. He smiles, holds his eyes to Hannibal’s, though the other does not look at him, and parts his lips with a quick press of the top of his tongue.

“Will you read it to me?” He asks, feeling Hannibal coil back up into himself again, squeezing against his thighs just enough to feel, to reassure. “I would like you to read it to me,” Will rephrases. “Please.”

The gentle command is just enough to remove Hannibal from himself. He will not disobey Will – by choice, he will not – and now he needs only do as he asks. Read. Outloud, but simply, only read the words that are there.

“In light of the developments that have occurred between us,” Hannibal says, “I would like to suggest an agreement. Accordance may have been a better word, if not for connotations of warfare,” he interjects, but Will’s hand squeezes against his leg, just enough to bring Hannibal back to him.

Just words.

Just read.

“You have offered to make available to me whatever I need, so long as I ask. I am asking,” he breathes, and the words tighten in his throat. “I am asking that – that you care for me, in all the ways that might entail. Emotionally. Mentally. Domestically and fiscally. It might be argued that you already do, and I would not debate it, but what I need now is guarantee that were I to yield myself to you, and only you, I would in fact belong to you, and only you.”

His breath shakes as he sighs, shoulders hunched, suddenly so small as the words slip from him in a whisper. “I am exacting, particular, and perhaps high-maintenance. I have been told that I am difficult. I am not an easy stray to keep. But I am –” The words hitch hard and he forces a long sigh. “I am asking to be kept.”

Will feels the breath within himself only because he has not released it. He holds it with every word Hannibal speaks, taking the boy’s tension from him as much as he can. In truth, he couldn’t speak now if he tried, as overwhelmed in hearing the words as Hannibal is in reading them. He had wanted, for a long time, to ask to do this for him. Perhaps too long, enough for his mind to remind him of his place in Hannibal’s life and his reason for being there.

He had never expected Hannibal to ask.

But he is. He is asking and Will swallows before his smile widens, and he bites the inside of his lip to control it, heart beating quick against his ribs.

“Please,” he sighs, watching Hannibal raise bright eyes to him, wide with worry. “Please keep reading.”

Hannibal swears his chest will crack when he forces air into this lungs again, eyes turned to the page before him. “I have little to offer.” Will inhales as though to protest but Hannibal shakes his head to stop him. “But what I have is yours. Myself and my company. My studies and my achievements. My responsibility to care for the house and all the dogs. My responsibility to care for you. My submission.”

The word lingers, only a whisper to fuel it, but the stillness almost echoes.

“If I need something, I will ask you. If I want something, I will weigh its necessity, and ask if needed. If you or I become unhappy,” Hannibal reads, flinching just in the corners of his eyes, “then we will evaluate and discuss, and if the issues are insurmountable, we will void the agreement.” A pause, and a breath of laughter, just a shaky sigh as Hannibal presses a hand to his face. “The safe word will remain pomegranate.”

Will laughs with him, a breathy thing before he rests his fingers against his lips and rubs there. He wants to agree with everything. All of it. That he will care and protect, that he will dote on and adore, that he will help, in any way he can, with anything he needs. He wants to tell him that he will celebrate Hannibal's victories with him, and help him through losses. He wants to hold him so close neither can breathe - because neither can now, anyway.

Instead, he lets Hannibal keep reading, wondering what he had done, what he possibly could have done, to earn such a boy, such a gift of a person, as his own.

Hannibal watches the pleasure soften Will’s eyes, wide and bright rather than narrowed, his mouth curved into a crooked smile rather than thinning in misgiving. The boy watches, breath coming a little too short, but he pushes his tongue against the back of his teeth and reads, voice steadying even as his heart stumbles.

“I’ve written a stipend, for school and basic living expenses, but – but there are scholarships available, and grants. With more time free, I’ll be able to apply for them all, to assuage the cost of medical school. I will get them,” he declares, a firm addendum to the paper now that he holds tighter to stop from shaking. “I would like to keep the apartment.”

He doesn’t explain this, but it is understood, he hopes. For as much as he seeks to give, he is self-aware enough even at his age to know that there will be times when he needs to be alone. There will be times that he seeks silence, to await results of tests or to prepare for them.

“I want you to come to me, when you need me. Only me,” he adds, with a wry little smile that doesn’t breach the seriousness in his eyes. “I want to be the one who returns you to yourself, when you are lost in someone else’s mind. I want to lift you, as you lift me. And I want to know what you need and what you want, what you wish from me in all things, to repay you for,” he swallows, “for everything you’ve done for me.”

The paper crinkles as Hannibal grasps it tighter in his hand and lets it settle in his lap, finished. Cheeks flushed and eyes a little too bright and avoiding Will’s as he swallows, catching his breath to calm himself. Will wonders if he has ever witnessed anything so brave – he wonders if Hannibal knows just how brave he is, for asking this.

Carefully, Will takes the paper from Hannibal and smoothes it straight. He lifts it to read over again, just a skim, not to check Hannibal's own ideas but show him he is genuinely interested. Then, carefully, he sets the document – and it is nothing less than one – to the table beside them, and rests his hands at Hannibal's sides, stroking just beneath his ribs in gentle reassurance.

"I accept all the terms of this agreement," Will tells him. Hannibal visibly shudders, relaxing against him, and Will brings one hand up to curl beneath his chin and lift it so Hannibal meets his eyes and holds them. "I will care for you, in any way you need, and in any way I can. I guarantee and promise to, to the best of my ability. I would have no other but you."

Will presses his thumb gently against Hannibal’s chin and smiles, stroking there. His other arm comes around to hold Hannibal closer, as he himself sits back and lifts his own chin to keep their eyes together as he continues.

"I will keep you. From all harm and pain I can. I will keep you for you, and for me, because nothing would make me happier. I will celebrate your achievements with you, if you allow me, help you gain the results you wish in any subject. We will find ways, together, around results you find unsatisfactory. And you will listen to me, heed me, when I tell you perfection is unattainable, and that to me, you are exceptional as you are. Because you are mine."

“Yes,” Hannibal sighs, because he can say no more than that. Will’s words are as tangible as the man’s hand against his skin, as warm as a kiss, and it pulls him breathless from inside. He will listen. He will heed. Bedelia asked Hannibal if he trusts Will and the only answer is yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

He needs this – the words as much as the promise in them. He has always needed this, desperate for a constancy that he’s never known, until Will granted it to him. Already the tension uncoils and spins loose inside him. Already he feels himself yield, not only a part of him and the rest reserved, but entirely and wholly his, to be guided and corrected – supported and adored.

Hannibal tilts his head, lips brushing over Will’s thumb. His eyes are hooded, dark and focused, and he breathes softly. “Please.”

Will smiles, and gently draws Hannibal's lip out of shape.

"I will look at the stipend, I will help you to apply for any scholarship you wish. But anything you want, you will ask for, without weighing its necessity against a personal scale. And I will spoil you, as I see fit." Will's eyes narrow briefly, as Hannibal's cheeks warm with the words. "Any gifts that are unwelcome or unwanted may be returned at your will and leisure."

"But -"

Will hums, soft, and watches Hannibal swallow his protest with a smile.

"You will keep the apartment, and tell me about any repairs needed in it, so they can be done." Will draws his hand down Hannibal's chest now, just a soft thing, to splay his fingers over his boy's - his - heart. "Any disagreements we have will be discussed together, and all rules of our arrangement will be suspended for the period of discussion." Will raises an eyebrow at Hannibal’s gentle protest. "No submission. No dominance. When we discuss we are equals."

"Okay."

"Okay." Will smiles and leans close to nuzzle against Hannibal’s nose, smiling wider when Hannibal smiles. His own heart is so full he can barely breathe for it. He turns his head to kiss him, a brief gasp and fingers press to Hannibal's lips to hold him at bay.

"And the safe word will remain 'pomegranate'," Will confirms, pressing his forehead to Hannibal’s before arching his neck to kiss him, finally, properly, spreading his hand over Hannibal’s cheek and up into his hair.

Hannibal can hardly return the kiss. His smile is so wide it hurts, delight spreading into a grin, a laugh that works itself free of him against Will’s mouth when he tries again to kiss him. Pressing his hands to Will’s cheeks, thumbs stroking through his soft shaggy beard, Hannibal lets his eyes slip closed in blessed relief, so profound a release of tensions too-long held that he trembles from it.

“I thought you might – that you might have doubts or, that I had misjudged –”

He is hushed with another touch of lips to the corner of his mouth, and Hannibal shifts, no longer sitting sidelong on Will’s legs but instead working his knees between the man’s hips and the arms of the chair. Dark eyes blink wide, searching, memorizing the strange gratitude that shines in Will’s gaze, and Hannibal presses their foreheads together with a shaky sigh.

“I’m yours,” he whispers. “Only yours. I –”

“Speak, Hannibal,” Will teases, pushing his palms against the boy’s back to bring their bodies flush.

“I quit. Preemptive, perhaps foolish to sever ties considering that this was not guaranteed –”

“You –”

“Quit,” Hannibal says again, cheeks aglow, dusky red from the long bridge of his nose outward beneath his eyes. “My regulars – I told them I would no longer be offering my services. I –” A laugh shakes his shoulders, so quiet it’s almost a gasp as his ribcage expands too big for his chest, a wonderful agony. “I’m not working anymore,” he tells his professor, fingers pressing against Will’s cheeks. “I don’t wish for anyone but you to ever touch me again.”

Will brings a hand to Hannibal’s face and then leans in, just to press against him, to hold him close. His heart is beating so fast Will wonders if it will ever slow. He can feel Hannibal still trembling with tension and nerves and excitement. He is so little, suddenly, with the magnitude of his words behind him, and Will can do no more than just adore.

"I will do everything I can to make sure no one ever does,” he murmurs, turning to kiss against Hannibal's neck, his cheek.

They will keep the contract - proposition - somewhere safe, somewhere Hannibal can find it and read it whenever he wants. Will thinks of how they will slowly learn each other, slowly learn their place together, here. The thought was unimaginable weeks ago, even the day before, still so distant that Will could only think of it in fond passing.

Then he laughs, suddenly, and pulls back to look at Hannibal who blinks at him with his beautiful wide eyes, questioning and delighted all at once.

"I think," Will sighs, contented, warm, holding his boy close, "tonight is going to be quiet. A film of your choosing, and bed." Will bites his lip, releases it. "And I might not let you sleep ‘til morning,” he adds, wry.

Hannibal tries to fight down his smile, primly lifting his chin. “That doesn’t sound particularly quiet.”

“I’ll make sure you’re not,” Will answers, and Hannibal feels his cheeks heat at the words, averting his eyes in an affection of shyness only to feel Will lift his chin again and kiss him softly. Hannibal slides his arms around Will’s neck and holds himself close, and for a moment wonders if he’ll ever be able to wash away the sensations of others’ hands on his body, or their demands from his mind. Their words are like scars beneath his skin, pulling his soul too tight in certain places.

He supposes he doesn’t have to try to remove it all himself now, when every time Will holds him by the cheek or waist or with his eyes and words alone, the numbness of his inner scar tissue becomes sensitive and soft once more.

“I suppose I didn’t need the suit,” Hannibal muses, touching his tongue to his incisor in mischievous amusement.

Will grins, strokes both hands down Hannibal’s chest and back up again, carefully snaring the topmost button to start working it undone.

Will leans in to kiss the skin he reveals with reverent, soft lips, and tells him simply, “I suppose you don’t.”

Chapter Text

Dress nicely.

Hannibal has been staring at the message for the better part of an hour, now. The others around it giving no clue as to why, what for, how nicely. Hannibal wonders, for a moment, if it is a suggestion to make an effort. He wonders if he has started to slip, allowing himself the freedom to go to Will’s in his oldest shirt and no tie, spend time in Will’s clothes or none at all. He wonders and he worries. He worries and he eases it.

He settles on a dark suit, subtle copper pinstripes, a red shirt beneath. Slicking his hair back in a careful wave, he spends a long time in front of the mirror wondering if he had forgotten an important date. If they had important dates. The thought pulls a warm pleasure into his belly.

Perhaps they are going out to dinner, but then why so early in the day? Perhaps Will needs an escort to a conference? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps... Hannibal nearly stumbles from the cab, makes his way slowly up the porch steps and quietly knocks when he’s by the door. He is early, today, just after class, and the evening has not yet started to darken the sky. He summons a smile when Will opens the door, and almost immediately it drops as his jaw slackens, seeing Will before him.

Slick black suit and black shirt beneath. Fitted. Beautiful. Pulling Will into a silhouette Hannibal has never seen before. His hair is also gelled, back and dark against his head, not severe but no curl out of place. It brings Will’s feline features into stark relief, cheekbones and aquiline nose and crooked smile and almond eyes. Eyes that now narrow in delight at seeing Hannibal’s reaction. The boy stays still as Will sets his fingers beneath his chin and follows Will as he’s gently pulled inside.

"You look exquisite," Will tells him, a warm murmur before he leans in to kiss Hannibal softly, eyes closing in genuine pleasure at feeling his boy so close again.

Hannibal’s tension spirals free with a laughing sigh, and he leans into the kiss harder, drawing Will’s bottom lip between his own to suck and press his teeth against. He pushes his palms against the fine suit Will wears - for him - and runs them slowly, firmly up his chest until they slip across his shoulders, looping his arms around Will’s neck. Dinner, he imagines, but he hardly cares and any hunger for food falls by the wayside in favor of hunger for this fierce nearness, the affection he feels well up so strongly in him that he has to remind himself to breathe.

When Will’s hands raise to rest against his hips, Hannibal lowers to his heels again, and their lips part only to meet again and again and again, little touches that each pluck a note of pleasure through the boy.

His smile widens, even as he closes his eyes and nuzzles against Will’s cheek.

“If it’s your birthday this time,” Hannibal murmurs, “I must apologize for being without a gift.” He grins, and lifts dark eyes to meet Will’s. “The one I have with me is yours if you’d like it, although it would require removing my suit.” A breath, a laugh. “You should keep yours on, however.”

Will grins back, and shakes his head. "Not my birthday."

He says nothing else, but he extricates himself from Hannibal's arms long enough to walk further into the house - dogs nowhere to be seen, upstairs perhaps, locked away from the gorgeous suit that fits the man... exactly where it should. He takes up a small package, his keys, his wallet, and turns to guide Hannibal back outside.

"You will excuse poor planning," he says, locking up, walking to the car. "Dinner will regrettably have to be after. We're going to make it just on time."

"Make it where?"

Will's smile sends cool shivers down Hannibal’s spine. He doesn’t answer. Hannibal doesn’t ask again.

They drive back into the city, where evening has finally taken hold of the sky, pulling it to dusk and lower. They drive and Hannibal keeps his eyes on the window, curious, excited, young, entirely, in his enthusiasm for this. There is no dread that they will go somewhere unsavory, that Hannibal will find his beautiful suit removed in favor of more carnal things.

No.

He trusts Will entirely, and when the quiet command comes for Hannibal to close his eyes, he does.

Will drives in circles several times, his own need to surprise Hannibal, please him, pulling at the whimsy in him. When they park, it is gentle knuckles to Hannibal's cheek, permission to open his eyes.

"This," Will says, taking up the package to set to Hannibal's lap, letting his hand linger against it. "Is for you."

“You shouldn’t have,” answers Hannibal, reflexive.

“You haven’t even opened it.”

“No,” Hannibal agrees, fighting down his grin into a tempered smile. He slips a finger beneath the touch of tape that holds the package closed, careful not to tear the carefully folded paper. In it, a silken square, pristine white and shining, and Hannibal lifts it gingerly, laughing when it unfurls.

The scarf is well-made and beautiful, expensive to the touch but elegantly simple in appearance. A soft fringe hangs from the ends of it, and Hannibal’s throat works in a quick jerk beneath his collar. He thinks of the first gift Will gave him to him, the red scarf that never left his neck, until it was torn away.

He lifts his eyes to Will, softened in their corners, and questioning. “You really shouldn’t have.”

Will’s eyes warm and he leans in to kiss Hannibal gently. Amusement curls his tone as he nuzzles against his boy, strokes the soft strands of hair against his neck.

"It is imperative you wear it. You will find yourself in likeminded company."

They leave the car and walk, the wind cooler now, catching the fringe as Hannibal watches it, cheeks warm and eyes bright when he looks up at Will. The man carries himself exceptionally in a suit, as comfortable in it as he always is in his check shirts, in his loose jeans and bare feet. Here, Will is like a statue, beautifully proportioned, calm, poised. He catches Hannibal looking and a smirk tilts his lips.

"Beautiful boy."

Hannibal's cheeks color further at the praise.

Will stops them several feet from the meandering crowd and turns to adjust the scarf against Hannibal’s front, soothing down over his chest, splayed warm against his stomach.

"Inside, you may have one drink, but no more. You will appreciate the clear head." Will hesitates, just a moment, before leaning in to kiss Hannibal again. In public, together. With a gentle nuzzle, Will pulls back, curls his bottom lip into his mouth, and steps aside to allow Hannibal to make his way before him, watching his reactions carefully, perhaps a little nervously, when the boy realizes where they are.

His eyes raise. And raise. And raise, until finally they reach the lobby ceiling, and follow back down the curved, wide staircases, crimson carpet spilling down to the shining tile beneath their feet. There is no one here divested of their finery, furs and silks, dark restrained colors and flashes of ostentatious jewelry. Hannibal steps to the side as an older couple steps in behind him, and swallows hard in lieu of breathing.

He is, for perhaps the first time truly since they’ve known each other, unable to muster up pride or preening or even obstinance, and keeps his eyes just past Will’s shoulder.

“The opera?”

Hannibal has been taken to restaurants before, gala events once in a while, perhaps a little orchestra would play but little more. Never this, due as much to his clients’ general lack of interest in the fine arts as his own lacking funds to be able to afford such a thing. He feels underdressed, suddenly, keenly aware where the threads are running thin in his suit and where there is a small hole, yet to be repaired, on the inner lining of his sleeve. Aware of his heartbeat and his pulse. Aware of his breath, however lacking.

“‘The Rake’s Progress’,” Will tells him, setting a hand to Hannibal’s elbow to move him beyond where he’s stood still in shock.

“Stravinsky,” whispers Hannibal, blinking wide. “And Auden. How did you - I’ve never said anything about it.”

Will just smiles, a little and lingering thing, and turns just enough to breathe against Hannibal’s hair before he lets him go to get them a flute of champagne each.

As with their bodies, together, with their minds, Will approaches Hannibal as exceptional, as someone worthy of more than he allows himself. In truth, he is surprised Hannibal has never been to the opera, that no one had ever once listened to the boy, to his understandings and yearnings for things like this. To Will, it is obvious, as it is when Hannibal has had enough, when Hannibal needs more without asking. Be it rest or food or pain or pleasure. He knows. Can feel the tug within himself for it, can read his boy coiled in his beauty with his smile and his eyes.

He has never had to say anything for Will to know it, and he accepts the glass when it is passed to him, leading them to stand by the wall to allow Hannibal time to take everything in.

The champagne is sweet against his tongue, bubbles breaking against lips young enough that they are not yet accustomed to such things as this, and so are savored with all the illicit pleasure they can truly afford. His fingers play against the satin scarf, looped loose over his shoulders, and he laughs, suddenly, a little sound as bubbly as the drink he holds in one careful hand.

“You’ve rendered me speechless.”

“All the better then for listening,” Will muses, taking in Hannibal with as much fascination as Hannibal takes in everyone around them.

The boy shifts, just a bare turn of his shoulders, to feel his arm press to Will’s and hope that others will see and know that Hannibal is his, entirely. “I should not ask,” he murmurs.

“Ask.”

Hannibal’s grin flickers wide before he mutes it again to a wide smile. “Why?”

Will takes a long drink and swallows, holds the glass against his stomach as he surveys the people mingling together, some older, others just as new as Hannibal, and everyone here to enjoy.

"Because happiness suits you,” he tells him, a brief glance to Hannibal, a shift of his own so they are closer, both for Hannibal's comfort and for Will’s need to be. "Because this is something you will enjoy, and I enjoy seeing you contented." A smile, wider, before Will finishes his glass. "Because I want to," he adds, amused, "and I can."

He allows a passing server to take the glass onto his tray and turns to Hannibal properly, watching his wide eyes, barely parted lips, warm cheeks. He wants to kiss him, he wants to get on his knees and press his forehead to Hannibal’s stomach and show him how worthy of this he is, how worth the time, the money, the thought. To Will, he is worth every hour lost thinking about him, sleep lost worrying, sleep lost pressing their bodies so close it was hard to tell where one of them ended and another began.

To Will he is worth everything.

"Shall we go?" He asks. "Our box should be ready, we can watch the people filing in."

The last sip of champagne goes down thick, and Hannibal’s eyes widen as the glass is set aside and taken. “You have a box?”

“We do tonight,” answers Will. “It isn’t something I do often.”

Hannibal’s eyes narrow in delight. “Ever?”

“Very, very rarely,” the older man responds with a sigh of laughter. “Come on.”

He reaches, fingers pressed to the small of Hannibal’s back, and that bare touch is enough to scatter sparks like static over Hannibal’s skin. He shivers, and before they can take more than a few steps, Hannibal turns his body towards him. Dark eyes glint mischieviously from their corners, waiting for a small group to pass them by, and when they do he leans in just enough to nuzzle against Will’s neck.

“Thank you,” he murmurs, and it’s not nearly enough to tell Will how much this means to him. He has imagined - often, since that’s been his only means - spending his time just like this. Dressed beautifully, surrounded in resplendence, always inclined towards elegance but wholly inelegant in what has ever been available to him. He should feel nervous, he supposes - an imposter, a fraud, a prostitute born into desolation and with little respite from it, and now playing at a class far above his station.

Instead, when Will’s palm settles against the base of his spine, he feels as if he’s right where he’s always meant to be.

They make their way up the long curve of stairs, and Hannibal averts his eyes from the tickets - he neither needs nor wants to know the cost of something like this - before they are shown to their box. A private space, curtain closed with a soft susurrus of velvet behind them, and before he can stop himself, Hannibal goes to the edge of the little mezzanine and spans his fingers across the brass railing, leaning out enough to see the stage and all those settled into their seats below.

Will just watches him. Watches this beautiful boy finally act like a boy, when he so rarely does. Excited by the stage, their proximity to it, excited by the people below, the bright colors and exquisite decor, excited that when his scarf slips one end over the edge of the balcony it sounds with a soft hiss of fabric, and Hannibal bends to cross his arms over the railing and rest his chin against them.

Will watches and he is enthralled entirely by this boy. His lungs burn before he realizes he is holding his breath, and allows it free with a shuddering quiet laugh.

He takes the steps necessary to go and lean as Hannibal is, back bent and arms crossed, as he regards the people below, turns his head to look at Hannibal properly. He reaches, gentle, to work a few strands loose from how Hannibal has his hair set and brushed, draws his knuckles over his lips and pushes to stand.

"Come here," he tells him, just a soft request, immediately and gracefully obeyed. Will directs Hannibal to sit, settling his hands on his shoulders and gently pressing down before Will bends to kiss his hair.

Hannibal’s hand comes to rest against Will’s wrist. He slips it higher, reaching for Will’s neck and slipping a hand around it as he stretches one long leg out in front of his chair. A coy smile tilts crooked on Hannibal’s lips and he rests his head back, to bring Will’s mouth against his own, upside down. There is a difference between decadence and debauchery, and though all too often Hannibal lived his life in the latter sphere, he revels now in the former. Possessed willingly by a man twice his age - clever and respected and admired - who kisses him soundly, sprawled across a seat in a private box at the opera, clad in silk bought so that he might feel its cool slide against his skin and shiver.

Hannibal is certain he’s never been so in love with life or anyone in it before this.

The soft swell of tuning strings draws their kiss-flushed lips apart and Hannibal presses his tongue against his own, to taste Will there, mingling with sweet champagne. He keeps his hand against Will as the older man moves to take his seat beside, trailing along his shoulder, his arm, spanning over his leg. Slowly, Hannibal leans to close even that slight distance between them, and drifts a shivering kiss across Will’s neck.

The chandelier lifts, and the hall grows quiet with murmuring voices and the settling of fabric. Brief flutters of programs and delicate lace fans. Will turns his head just enough, to lift it and allow Hannibal to kiss him, parting his lips as Hannibal’s do, exhaling when the young man does against him.

He wants nothing more than to pull Hannibal into his lap and hold him, nuzzle him and kiss him until both are dizzy with need, but just as much, he wants to see Hannibal’s eyes widen at the music, at the swell of voices and beautiful costumes. A gentle hand through his hair, then, to draw the boy away, fingers settling beneath his chin to turn his head to the stage, Will’s lips grazing a kiss against Hannibal’s cheek as he whispers, warm.

“Watch.”

His eyes linger on Will a moment more, tracing the line of his jaw, the faint curve that remains upon his lps. He feels his own appear in turn, and ducks his head in gentle acquiescence, the warmth of his cheeks rising with the first threads of music.

Love at first sight is something Hannibal has never known, but love at first sound snares him now instead, enraptured. He knows the story well enough, has heard recordings of this piece before, but it’s a whole new experience to hear it live before him, resonant. It reaches, grasping, to foster a part of Hannibal that has had few opportunities in his life to grow - an innate passion for music and fashion and food and theatre that has never been made available to him before. Every crescendo rises in him like wings unfurling, unsteady and tickling, enough to push the air from his parted lips in a soft sigh.

It’s only the second aria when Hannibal finds himself already leaning against the railing, arms folded and graceless in his youthful eagerness.

Will watches him, head tilted and eyes warm with pleasure seeing Hannibal respond to the music, the way his fingers unfurl and gently shift to the beat of it, flicker as though playing one of the instruments. He is entirely engaged, muscles tense and lips parted, the hair Will had displaced from the elegant arrangement lifting and falling with every little breath.

He allows his eyes to the stage, to the people below, once in a while, holding their programs against his lap before he sets them aside, watches his boy again.

He wonders why no one has taken him to such places before, when his clientele, on the whole, were well-off enough that they can afford to go here, and would be expected in their circles to frequent the opera. He wonders why no one bothered to let the boy grow, when it would take nothing from their experience with him, and, in fact, would add to it, watching him so excited, so enthralled, so genuinely young, alive, and utterly beautiful.

He does not distract him from the performance, though Will wants nothing more than to press himself between Hannibal’s shoulder blades, close his eyes and listen to the music the body beneath him makes, in tandem with the music on stage. The little sighs, the little sounds he tries to keep inside and doesn’t manage to trap, the shivers, the twitches the pulls of his skin. The beat of his heart.

Hannibal only moves when applause lifts and the curtains fall at intermission. He stretches back, pushing against the railing to pull a deep curve in his back, feline and almost sleepy from the intensity of his focus. With a little smile, he turns this way and that, in passing catching Will’s eyes watching him, and at this, his smile widens. Slowly, he uncoils back into his seat, and turning onto a hip, he pivots his body towards Will and slips a leg straddling his thighs to settle heavy in his lap.

One hand against a scruffy cheek, the other in neatly combed curls of hair, Hannibal brushes his lips soft as a whisper against his. No one, not his kindest client nor his richest, ever did something like this for him. No one treated him with such agency, a person with his own thoughts and feelings and interests. No one acted with such selflessness towards him that Hannibal would in turn give them everything.

No one but Will.

The kiss deepens as he rocks their mouths together, fingers curling in Will’s hair to gently bend his head back.

Will goes as he’s pulled, eyes closed in genuine bliss at being held this way, touched this way, allowed to touch back. He sets his hands soft against Hannibal’s thighs, splays his fingers there and lets them slide around to slip over his ass, up to this lower back, up higher to grasp his shoulders and hold him gently that way.

He can feel the pleasant weight of the scarf where it bends against him, can hear the hum of white noise of intermission and people moving from their seats for more wine, refreshments, merely to stretch their legs. And he is here. And he wants to be nowhere else.

“I have never seen anyone more beautiful than you when you watch that opera,” Will tells him, warm words, lips drawing up in a smile as his eyes hood, down to watch Hannibal’s mouth as he laughs softly. “Perhaps you in the early mornings, when I gently blow air against your nose and you wrinkle it in your sleep.”

Hannibal blinks, blush spreading warm beneath his eyes before they narrow in delight. “You do that?”

“Sometimes.”

“Often?”

“Yes,” admits Will with a laugh, before Hannibal can snare the sound of it against his mouth again, pressing into Will with a sweet abandon. He breaks apart with a grin, before teasing another kiss against the corner of Will’s mouth. His jaw. His cheek. Across to his ear with a sigh to feel Will shiver beneath him.

He can’t let himself say the words, or anything near them, but his adoration for the older man sings through the quickening tempo of his heart, the steady rhythm of his kisses. Slowly, eyes closing, he sinks against him, head on Will’s shoulder.

“I feel as if I’ve done nothing to deserve so much,” he murmurs, swallowing softly when Will’s hands send a shiver up his back. “And you will ask nothing of me for this. For school. For any of it. I wish -”

He stops, but the gentle sound from Will prompts him to continue, no need to even ask for asking now.

“Would that I might make you as happy as you’ve made me,” Hannibal finishes.

Will freezes for a moment, no motion, no breath, just eyes open and up to the elaborate ceiling, and he wonders if Hannibal truly doesn’t know, cannot understand, or if he simply does not want to believe that he means so much to Will that he is sleepless the nights he isn’t there, that he is tense, exhausted, sore, when he leaves town for a conference.

How could he not know?

He sets his hands to Hannibal’s hair and strokes it, slips fingers beneath the straight strands to rubs against his scalp until Hannibal shivers again and Will smiles, holding him close.

“I don’t have eloquent words for how happy you make me,” he tells him gently. “Just the way my heart hammers every morning I get to wake up to you. The way I trip over myself trying to get the phone, knowing you are calling.” He hums, turns to nuzzle his nose against Hannibal’s temple, breathe him in.

“Is it enough?” Hannibal asks, as much from desire to please as his own latent insecurity.

“More than.”

Hannibal draws away just enough that he can see Will’s eyes, studying the warmth in them, and finds that the simmering heat that spreads beneath his skin is stoked to a fire. There is still a disbelief that he alone would be enough, that Will wants him - just him - with or without his particular set of skills that seem to be a secondary at best to simply being present and attentive and willing. But he has asked for no more in return than that, he has not laden Hannibal with expectations or demands, he has let him come and let him stay, and held him close in every way.

“Then you will have it,” Hannibal declares softly. “With or without scarves. With or without the opera. You see me. You have me. Like no one else ever has. I -”

A beat passes, but in the silence much is spoken.

“I would not decline attending again, though,” Hannibal finishes with a crooked grin, flushed.

“Then we will attend again,” Will grins, brings Hannibal down to kiss him again, deep and warm, a bite against his lip to tease, eyes narrowed, and catching Hannibal by his hair as he leans in to kiss him again, as the three bells resound to announce the end of intermission. Will breathes soft against him and swallows, letting Hannibal go. “As often as you like.”

---

Hannibal joins the standing ovation at the end, smile so wide it narrows his eyes, shiny with some new enlightenment, a blissful enjoyment and youthful pleasure. He is beautiful. Will stands beside, clapping as enthusiastically, watching the company take its bows, watching as the lights return, the chandelier lowers, and people begin to file out. He glances at Hannibal, a small smile, and leans in to kiss him before guiding him to leave the box first, bending, himself, to get their programs so Hannibal can keep it.

The lobby is filled with people, talking and drinking the last of the wine presented them. Pearls and diamonds and fur, tuxedos and silk ties, beauty in a society that so rarely allows it to be seen without it appearing otherworldly, strange.

Will follows at several paces behind Hannibal, hands in his pockets and head ducked, hair no longer pristine as it had been, going in. He watches Hannibal navigate the lobby, politely excuse himself to get past someone, once in a while stopping to listen to a conversation, but choosing not to stay and contribute.

It is dark now, the wind brisk but not freezing, and Will steps up behind Hannibal just to breathe him in, warm and excited and alive.

“Should we go home?” he asks.

Hannibal’s hand stills, sweeping his scarf across his throat. It’s not the question itself that stops him but the way in which it’s asked. The word snares his legs, his breath - home. With a furrow in his brow, Hannibal wonders if perhaps that explains the difference, beyond superficial variations, in how he feels in Wolf Trap rather than his apartment. Warmth and security, familiarity and openness, rather than simply a place to past time between obligations.

He only misses a step out of rhythm before finding it again, his new shoes - another gift from Will, to replace those lost in the hallway - clicking against the pavement.

“Can we?”

Will glances up from his keys at the question, brow raised as he regards Hannibal across the top of the car. “Can we?”

“Go home,” answers Hannibal, tongue pressed against his teeth in a rampant pleasure that he doesn’t try to explain, happy enough without needing to do so, delighted enough by Will’s mild amusement.

“We can.”

The feeling doesn’t settle on the ride to Wolf Trap - the ride home - fluttering fast against Hannibal’s chest. He tries not to fidget, overcome by the night and the words exchanged through it and the man at his side now, as he’s been for months, as he will be for many more. Hannibal talks at length about the opera - the differences between this performance and the other recordings he’s heard, the history of it and its composers, an endless unfurling of information and a nearly wild energy in him that the boy never once, never, not once, imagined he would feel in simply belonging.

Because it’s never been simple.

Because it’s never been offered to him.

Because he’s never been in love before.

And he is, he thinks happily, fingers tracing condensation on the window, he is entirely in love and he’s glad he’s never felt it until now, because he isn’t certain there’s ever been a sensation inside him so wanted or wonderful.

They get out of the car to the sound of dogs from upstairs, Buster up on the windowsill, paws splayed over the glass, the others meander by as shadows or a flick of tail. Will grins, beside him, Hannibal feels his smile begin to hurt, it’s so wide. Will lets them in, goes upstairs to release the wriggling, furry things outside for a while before their dinner and closes the door behind them.

Hannibal’s lips meet his before Will can seek for him and he smiles, opening his mouth happily to his boy as Hannibal presses his hands between them, against Will’s chest and allows himself to be held. He is little and warm, and Will wraps his arms around him to just hold them together, swaying lightly in the kitchen to a beat they both feel.

“Thank you," Hannibal murmurs, and Will kisses against his nose.

“You are very welcome.”

It’s domestic, it’s comfortable and sweet, and Hannibal does not want to think about how this could be a game, a long, drawn-out game. No. It isn’t because Will would not do that. It isn’t because Will is not like the others who once bought him. For the months they have been together, first proud and angry, then slowly closer, warmer, trusting and soft. For those months never once has his freedom been compromised, never once has his independence, have his choices been questioned.

The man who holds him now wants little more from him than what Hannibal gives him entirely willingly. It’s still strange, still unusual, still so new to him that Hannibal just shivers, makes a soft sound and just presses closer.

“I can drive you in, tomorrow,” Will tells him softly, murmuring against his hair. "Bring you back again, if you wanted.”

“I want,” agrees Hannibal, chasing another kiss, and another. “I want, very much.”

Will and Wolf Trap. Closeness and intimacy. The opera and lazy Sunday mornings bare beneath a tangle of sheets.

The kiss comes hard and fast, every push and pull of lips wrought with what Hannibal can’t let himself express in words. His fingers speak tenderness through Will’s hair and down his throat, his lips on a gasp confess his submission. Hannibal unloops his scarf to rest on the chair beside them, jerks his coat from his shoulders, stripping bare without letting their lips part, little sounds pouring into Will’s mouth sweet and thick as honey from the boy’s throat.

His hair is clutched and Hannibal groans, rising to his toes at the sharp pull that bleeds blushing across his cheeks. Sinking back he slips to his knees, biting against the exquisite fabric of Will’s suit, his tender belly beneath, and dark eyes lift as fast fingers free Will’s cock from his pants.

Will bites his lip, watches Hannibal, Hannibal watches him in turn, eyes narrowed, waiting for Will to tell him, as he always does. To ask. He watches Will part his lips, tongue brief against them, before he sighs.

“Please.”

Hannibal laughs, a low thing, happy, warm, before he parts his lips to take Will between them, a slow suck, deep, before pulling back and doing it again. It is a deliberate exploration, and Will seeks back to find the wall to lean against it, legs shifting wider apart to accommodate the boy between them.

He curses, soft, keeps one hand in Hannibal’s hair, tight enough for Hannibal to shiver, to feel, but not enough to hurt, never to hurt. Will arches forward, a brief roll of his hips and parts his lips on a gasp, looking down.

“Can you?” He asks, breathless, quiet, waits for Hannibal to meet his eyes, to pull back and lick his lips and nod. It is a question. It is not a command. And Will groans at the answer, shivering as Hannibal takes him into his mouth again, as he allows Will to roll his hips against him, slow, deep, enough to pull a soft choke from him, enough to close his eyes as he takes it, the slow push, the depth. Because he wants to. Because Will, above him, is moaning his name, and despite that being so gentle.

“Hold still,” Will groans, parts his lips and slowly pushes in even further, just to see, to catch Hannibal’s cheek, to hold him gently as he pushes this discomfort, as Hannibal obediently sits for him and takes it all, despite the tears already heavy in his eyes from the pressure.

“Good boy,” Will sighs, allowing him freedom, dropping his head back with a soft moan of pleasure. “Good boy.”

Hannibal purrs at the praise, rising up onto his knees, settling again, a constant shifting of eager movement as he sucks. He lifts a hand to brush away a stray tear from taking Will so deep, and brings both palms to press against the soft fabric that hangs so beautifully on the older man’s hips. His eyes dart upward, dip again, unable to stop himself from watching the effect that he has on someone with so much control, a groan vibrating happily from far inside him, resonant enough in Will that it earns a mirroring moan.

He bows his head and takes Will across his tongue. Silky skin that twitches taut when the tip of his cock presses to the back of Hannibal’s throat, Will’s pulse beats quickening against Hannibal’s reddened lips. It’s as if Will’s very heart is against his mouth. He draws his lips back with a suck that hollows his cheeks, and settles back on his heels. Hannibal’s eyes raise in a silent question.

And he opens his throat for Will again. Trembling fingers scarcely settle against his hair, hardly touching enough to stir it, tears well hot in his eyes and still, Hannibal fights back the instinct to gag and instead takes shaking breaths through his nose, buried in the thick curls of hair at the base of Will’s cock.

“You are extraordinary,” Will breathes, one hand gentle in Hannibal’s hair, the other snared, claw-like against the wall as he holds himself back. Not yet. Too soon. But this feels incredible, Hannibal’s throat working in thick almost desperate swallows against him until Will is whining, soft and long, a heavy, needy noise.

He coaxes, gently, for Hannibal to sit back, to sit away, catch his breath and brings his hand down to wipe his chin with his thumb, cup his face. He knows Hannibal would keep going, he knows he would for himself, because he himself wants to, if he let him, and it would be stunning to watch, even better to feel.

Instead he just holds him, this beautiful, eager boy whose eyes are wide with need and adoration, skin pale, entirely bare, before he bends, enough to be able to properly kiss him, deep and sloppy, tasting himself against his lips.

“You undo me,” he sighs, nuzzles against him, kisses Hannibal again. “Ask,” he murmurs, and it sounds like a plea, like the helpless words Hannibal is reduced to when Will pushes him to the limits of his pleasure. “Ask me.”

Hannibal is breathless, chest heaving in shortened, giddy breaths, a grin split wide across swollen lips. He rests one hand back against the floor, back curved into an arch over his heels, knees spread wide. The other hand moves slowly. Teasing fingertips along the rigid line of Will’s cock, up the bare glimpse of belly where his shirt’s been untucked. Higher still, and Hannibal finds Will’s tie, turning it slowly to loop around his hand.

He pulls, a quick snap to bring Will bent lower over him. Eyes closing, Hannibal sighs, and holding his breath so long it burns beautifully hot inside him, he traces the tip of his tongue over Will’s chin, across lips that slacken in silence. A long lick, agonizingly slow, until he jerks Will harder down to meet his mouth, and whispers, “Let me swallow it.”

Will’s teeth come together in a quiet click, he swallows, keeps his lips against Hannibal’s, his eyes barely open. Beautiful, tempting boy. A part of Hannibal that rarely comes out between them unless they’re at play, Hannibal wanting to get something he has not earned, willing to play coy, play clever, play this for it.

“Ask me properly,” he breathes, feeling Hannibal smile against him, hold him bent just as strongly, just as surely by his tie. He feels the shivering breath against him, hears the soft click as Hannibal swallows.

“Please let me swallow it,” Hannibal breathes, tilts his head as Will smiles back at him, pulls back and finds the tie slowly released so he can. Will steps back, turns, another, until he can lean back against the counter on his elbows, one knee bent, the other leg out straight in front of him.

“Come here,” he says, watches Hannibal grin, tilts his head. “Crawl to me.”

Hannibal sits back on his heels, now with both hands beside his feet. His cock stands stiff against his belly, but he doesn’t reach for it - hasn’t, once, despite being so hard that the head of it is nearly scarlet, peeking from beneath taut skin. He watches Will, head tilted and tongue touching the point of an incisor, as if considering the request.

In truth, he’s so hard he can scarcely move, but it paints a pretty picture.

Hannibal has always understood the importance of aesthetics.

“Hannibal.”

Will’s voice is like a whipcrack - softly spoken but it jerks Hannibal’s spine straight and he bites back a moan. He rocks onto his knees and settles to his hands, eyes upturned beneath golden hair. His hips sway with each drag of a knee, his cock rubs against his bare thighs. It’s never been a choice to play this way for him, always expected or demanded. It’s never been something he’s enjoyed - a useful means to an end, rather than a desire to truly display himself and be seen.

And never has Hannibal felt himself swell with such a keen sense of power on his knees as he does when he settles as Will’s feet, and lets a whisper unfurl his lips.

“I’ve always resented being treated like a pet. Something to display and own,” he murmurs, pressing a tongue against his lips and sucking them softly to savor Will’s taste. His eyes glint dark, and his smile curves wide. “Perhaps I was merely in need of the right master.”

Will sets his feet on either side of Hannibal’s splayed knees, spreading himself for him, bringing a hand down to languidly stroke as he watches Hannibal’s eyes flick down to look.

“You’re a very pretty boy,” Will tells him, lips turning up just a little. “And very good. I would continue to display you just for myself -” A pause, a laugh, warm, as the unspoken words float between them like warm mist. I would… and I can.

“Sit up.” Will says, lets himself go to set his arm back against the counter again, wrists hanging limp over the edge of it, fingers loose, some slick from stroking himself, the light reflecting against it just enough to tell. He watches as Hannibal obeys, a slow uncurling of his shoulders and his back, head tilted in a beautiful haughty way, chest soft with the first curls of downy hair that Will loves rubbing against in the early mornings, laughing when Hannibal catches him by the hair to hold him still.

“Hands down,” Will continues, turning his head to look as Hannibal sets his palms against his legs, spreads his fingers. “Spread your thighs for me, hold them open.”

A shiver of pleasure down Will’s entire form as Hannibal obeys this, too, with a coy twist of his neck, a slow folding of his fingers, one by one, over milky skin before he sits up just high enough to take his weight off his heels, and moves his thighs wider, shifting Will’s feet aside until he sets them between Hannibal’s legs instead.

“Good boy.”

A moment more, Will watching Hannibal as he watches him, flushed and hot and patient, obedient, a pet for no one else but determined, delighted, so damn hard for it now. From Will. For him. Together.

Will steps closer, enough to set the toe of his shoe beneath Hannibal’s balls, careful, gentle, the other leg against the outside of Hannibal’s thigh. He brings his hand down enough to stroke himself again, a bead of glossy white pooling from the tip, down his cock, so close to Hannibal’s lips, yet the boy sits still, eyes up, heart hammering against the pulse point at his throat.

“Open your mouth,” Will tells him.

Hannibal rocks himself forward, shivering when the tip of his cock brushes against Will’s pant leg, and parts his lips. Tongue flattened, just set against his bottom lip, he writhes without intention, without mind for the little twists and shudders of his body, hard and wanting and hungry to feel Will’s knees give out because of him.

He whimpers when Will pushes into his mouth again.

His thighs turn pink, squeezed where his hands rest, fingernails drawing pale lines in their wake. Hannibal digs his knees against the ground and pulls his cock against Will’s leg, rubbing against his sock, the smooth leather of his shoe, it doesn’t matter so long as there’s contact. Every brush leaves a clear streak, leaking slick. Every breath becomes a moan, low and warm.

Hannibal’s lips wrap firm around the head of Will’s cock, just beneath the swell of it. His tongue works against the slit - he won’t miss another drop of it - and when Will’s breath hitches Hannibal lifts his eyes.

Obedient.

Submissive.

Debauched and decadent, all at once.

Deeper, he sucks until his cheeks hollow, slides his mouth around Will’s cock until he’s as far as he can comfortably normally take him. He swallows, the breath through his nose cooling the spit-slick skin, and lifts a finger to wipe away a glistening line of saliva from his chin.

He replaces his hand against his thigh immediately.

“Behind your back,” Will tells him, voice rough, though it does trip on a word, and watches Hannibal smile at it. Carefully, Hannibal’s arms settle behind his back, crossed at the wrist, loose, and Will doesn’t make him change his position.

“I want to see my beautiful boy dripping with this,” he adds quietly, head back as Hannibal hums around him, lips parted silent before he swallows, presses them together, speaks again. “Spit slick down your chin, over your neck and to your chest, tears down the corners of your eyes, lower,” Hannibal takes him deeper in, Will smiles, “lower…”

It’s when Hannibal misses a beat, chokes quietly, that Will grasps the back of his head to hold him still, catching his eyes when Hannibal’s widen in brief panic.

“Breathe,” he whispers, tone back to his own, back to Will, the man Hannibal knows and trusts and needs. Will does not pull back but he does not push forward, not until Hannibal has found his rhythm again, until he is swallowing and breathing as he should be. Will’s fingers curl tight in his hair and hold him still, and he fucks Hannibal’s throat enough to have the boy whine against him, curl his hands into fists behind him, cock still leaking, aching, arching in front of him.

Will pushes Hannibal until he can feel the tension in him, until he knows, immediately, when to step back and hold Hannibal’s chin in his palm, spit down his front, over Will’s hand, dripping from his cock. He watches, catches Hannibal’s eyes and smiles, sees the way his eyes narrow as Hannibal smiles back.

“Good boy,” he tells him, “just like that.”

He should feel used. Debased and angry, Hannibal should revolt at this as he has silently every time he’s gone to his knees before. Dripping against another man’s shoe, chest glistening with saliva and precome, his throat aching - he should hate this, and in a whisper, so soft beneath the hivelike hum in his ears, competing voices remind him that he’s better than this, and that this is exactly what he’s meant for. Hannibal’s fingers snare together, shoulders taut, and though the gesture has nothing to do with Will’s movements, he stops.

He stops, and strokes a thumb across Hannibal’s cheek before gently raising his head.

To see if he’s okay.

To see if they should stop.

To reassure Hannibal that they could, at any moment, and that nothing would change between them.

And that is why, as Hannibal, moaning, swallows Will as far as he can, he feels nothing but desire to see this through. His whimpers break clicking when Will rocks against his throat. Even his gagging is muted, held quiet as he can, breath whistling through his nose as Will’s cock fills his mouth and throat entirely. And with a curl of pleasure that shudders through the trembling boy, Hannibal reminds himself that he is better than this.

Much better.

And takes Will to the hilt.

Will curses, loud and harsh, and brings his free hand up to press over his face, over his mouth then up to cover his eyes as he laughs. Hannibal swallows against him, holds, despite the pressure, despite how much tension is in him, despite the hot tears slipping down Will’s thumb where it rests against his cheek, still.

“Oh, Hannibal, you are stunning,” he sighs, forces his head down again, mouth open, eyes wide. Gasping, he watches the boy take him so deep. Aching, Hannibal grinds against his leg in his need to get off as well, from this, from all of this, from Will alone, around, inside, everywhere.

“Look at me,” he waits, patient, until Hannibal can manage. His eyes are bright and wet and leaking tears and entirely devoted, glassed over in that way he gets when Will pushes him just enough, pushes him to that silent, blissful peace he seeks so much.

Will chokes, air too heavy, room too full, of everything, utterly everything that Hannibal holds in his eyes, and he cums, hot, quick spurts down Hannibal’s throat, one hand holding against the back of his head, the other over his cheek, holding him steady, feeling his breathing, shaking as Hannibal swallows over and over and over him.

Breaking the rhythm of Hannibal’s throat gulping to swallow the acrid sperm that hits the back of his throat, to keep Will held there where his throat alone milks him dry, Hannibal whines softly. It’s a low and jagged sound, held until the last remaining air in his lungs is pushed free. Careful hands rest against his face, one through his hair, the other against his jaw, and he widens just a little more to let Will slide free, dripping spit and semen in long threads between his cock and Hannibal’s mouth.

And still the boy sits, fighting every urge to sit back onto the floor and slow his rattling heart. He sits with his hands behind himself, clutched so hard they’re numb, and his cock softening from the strain of it all. Hannibal closes his eyes, mouth slack. He’s never been held so long before, not with someone so deep. He's been taken in the mouth, yes, roughly, oh yes, held in place, but only for moments until they finished. It was never like this, leaving stars glittering behind his eyes and tears on his cheeks, salt on his tongue and tremor in his heart.

It was never this thrilling.

Will catches his breath and sinks to his knees in front of his boy to hold him. He turns his palm down to check Hannibal's pulse, that it’s steady, not too fast, that he will not lose consciousness or hyperventilate. Then his hands move lower, down his shoulders and back, gently unclasping Hannibal’s hands from where they grip so tight. A slow return to the front so he doesn’t grow numb from the shift, so it doesn’t hurt him - though Hannibal hardly seems to care, entirely gone into his mind, floating.

“Hannibal."

Just enough to get him to open his eyes, for Will to smile and kiss his forehead, allow him to relax again. His lips part wider on a smile, a soft slurping sound as Hannibal attempts to clean his bottom lip of the slickness against it.

“You exquisite boy, just look at you," Will whispers to him, still stroking his hair, still touching his face, over and over, down his back and back up again, over his thighs. Will sits back, pulls Hannibal into his lap and gently uncurls his legs to wrap around him, to pull him from the painful kneeling position he had stayed in so long.

“So good for me, Hannibal, so good."

Will’s praise comes like soft rain. He patiently wipes the tears that seep from Hannibal’s eyes as he comes back to himself, as his body relishes the utter high he is riding from the words, the touches, the man before him, capable of always bringing him here, never too far, and always bringing him back.

Will wraps his arms around him, elbows against Hannibal’s ribs, arms up, secure, behind his shoulders. He splays his hands up into his hair, against the back of his neck as he holds him close, and breathes with him, smiles and accepts the messy kiss Hannibal nuzzles into him.

Hannibal coils closer, as if they’re not pressed chest to chest, hip to hip already, as if Will’s arms aren’t tight around him. Seeking a nearness so fierce that one becomes the other, seeking warmth to heat his adrenaline-cold skin. He rocks his hips and shivers at the sensation that tightens his skin and sparks through sensitive nerves.

“Are you pleased?” Hannibal purrs, the words rough in his throat.

“Very,” laughs Will, and he kneads Hannibal’s hair between his fingers, little tugs and soft presses.

The boy shifts, enough that he can press his palm between them. The ruddiness of his cheeks darkens duskier, and he rubs slow against his softened cock, velvety and tender, not with want for release but rather to revel in the stars that burn and burst in him with every touch.

“Are you happy?”

Will turns his head and brings Hannibal enough that their eyes meet. “Very, Hannibal. You’re such a good -”

“Do you love me?”

Will’s lips remain parted but he says nothing, for a moment entirely frozen, struck by the words. Does he love him? He thinks of the endless messages and calls, thinks of the gifts and seeing Hannibal smile, thinks of waking up, early mornings, and pressing close just to feel Hannibal turn to wrap sleepy arms around him and mumble something in his beautiful foreign language.

All an infatuation, surely. So much time spent together would lead to attachment but -

"Yeah," he breathes, smile widening before he laughs, nervous and warm, swallowing before he nods. "I love you."

Hannibal stretches and settles, burying his face against the curve of Will’s shoulder. He wraps both arms over his shoulders, and lets his heart settle. He imagines, once, a long time ago, his parents said it to him. His sister. The memories are thin and brittle as parchment paper, though, and blackened with the inky lies of all those who said it to him after.

When he sighs, it’s as though he’s been holding his breath for his entire life.

“Good,” he smiles. He laughs. He hides his face against Will’s neck, and muffled, murmurs, “I’m glad.”

Chapter Text

All Hannibal needed to say was that he was thinking of doing some shopping, and without a question, found a weighty roll of bills pressed into his palm. He doesn’t typically ask so bluntly, by nature resistant even still to the money that Will so gladly spends on him, but his motive is unspoken and unasked about, and so he savors the secrecy and lets it ease his mind.

Class ends midday, ample time for Hannibal to mingle among his classmates and discuss lectures with his professors. Ample time for Hannibal to drop his bag into his car, and leave campus. Ample time to find his way to the - gently described - “artistic” area of Baltimore, and a small shop with no signage but that stuck to the door.

Under 21 Not Allowed

Hannibal’s smile widens, an effortless and pretty thing that tells nothing of the brief tickle of nervousness within. A bell jangles as he enters and lets the door slip quietly closed behind him. A quick ‘hello’ exchanged with the man behind the counter, who returns to his tablet without any apparent interest in checking Hannibal’s ID.

It is, in a word, overwhelming.

In all directions, splashy-colored silicon and glistening latex. Catsuits and corsets, lacy lingerie and thigh-high boots. He steps further inside, past thick-strapped leather harnesses that smell of sweet oiled leather and shine over brass buckles. His fingers trace the rough edges and he shivers, pressing on.

Hannibal spends perhaps undue time marveling at an array of electrical devices, wands and bulbs made of blinding-bright chrome, and he’s suddenly grateful that his clientele has - had - always been of an older and more traditional bent. Fingertips tease along a pole - no, he reads the tag, a ‘spreader bar’ and he grins for an instant before forcing it down to a pensive neutrality.

He sees himself, face down and bent onto his shoulders, bar between his ankles to keep him spread, and shivers.

“Something I can help you find?”

Hannibal stops, hand suspended in midair, and turns to the man who he figures to be only slightly older than himself. “I’m not sure,” he admits.

“You lookin’ for bondage stuff?”

Dark eyes dart to the bar where Hannibal’s fingers hover, and he considers it. “Perhaps,” he answers, and the softness of his own voice makes him recall the sign on the door. “And - ah - pain.”

“Just on the next aisle,” the clerk answers, and Hannibal is grateful that he’s not given more guidance than that.

Tassles spread soft over Hannibal’s hand, rivets on a paddle tickle his fingertips. Each and every potentiality is imagined with relish, and though the prices are staggering on the implements, Hannibal reminds himself of Will’s favor towards him.

He hopes he will not be disappointed that the boy did not spend his money on new socks instead.

It is only on the way out, money nearly gone, that Hannibal’s eye is caught again. Among the tawdry doggish paraphernalia, tacky collars that Hannibal would sooner slit his own throat than wear, there is one that stands three times taller than the rest. Ribbed as if with corset frames, laced with black satin up the back and lined with soft lamb’s wool, Hannibal can’t help but appreciate the perverse beauty of such a thing that would press collar to jaw and force his head upheld.

He shivers, and spends the rest of Will’s money and his own for it.

And with still time to spare to make it to Wolf Trap before Will is home.

---

Will sees the car and smiles, parks his own alongside and kills the engine. No familiar sound of dogs scratching at the door, and he supposes they’ve been given their dose of attention from the boy in his home, maybe directed upstairs if he wanted the room quiet for study. Will stands by the car a moment longer, considering that he could come in to the bare beautiful thighs of his boy spread leg to leg over the table, thinking he would kiss him, every inch of skin he could reach, bring him to shuddering before even slipping a hand between his legs.

Will takes the stairs silently, a brief bounce on each, and fumbles with his keys, pulling the screen door open and resting it on his shoulder as he unlocks the front door and goes in.

He finds Hannibal, as he thought he would, in the main room. But he is not bent beautifully over his books, he sits, instead, with knees wide and body bent forward on all fours, skin pale and bare, tremors shivering through muscle just beneath it. Will’s eyes trace slowly over the satin ribbon that rests down between Hannibal’s shoulders, slips fluidly to a thick collar that spikes the short hair at the back of Hannibal’s neck up outwards.

It spreads like ink, wide and smooth and beautiful, in a curve over his collarbones, up to his jaw, enough to tilt his chin up and hold it that way. Will feels his blood flicker cold, back to hot, a feeling that sends an involuntary shiver through him as his eyes lift higher still to the thin, shiny implement in Hannibal’s mouth. Long across as Hannibal’s shoulders and two fingers’ width more on each side, the crop looks exquisite, beautifully balanced. And entirely presented, gifted, given, by the boy before him now.

Will swallows thick and steps closer, eyes on Hannibal’s as he bends to retrieve the thing from between his teeth and set it, gently, down the line of his back, from collar to ass.

“I’m afraid you’ve caught me entirely speechless,” Will laughs softly, sinking into a crouch before Hannibal and stroking his hair.

Hannibal tilts his head, what little movement its allowed, beneath Will’s hand but does not take his eyes away from the older man’s gaze. His cheeks warm discomfortingly hot, a sinkhole opening in his stomach and a shudder down his spine where the crop rests. Hannibal isn’t sure what he was expecting, nor is he sure what reaction would have stopped him from feeling, in a word, foolish.

What explanation is there for whimsy? For seeking out something new, something wanted, something that Hannibal has never had before and never imagined that he would be safe enough to even consider. In an instant, he’s worked his way back through the receipt - still folded neatly into his book bag - and worked out what can be returned, and what he’ll have to simply live with.

A foolish boy, who has in a flight of fancy, forgotten himself.

The collar hides his swallow, but it clicks in his throat. He reaches back to find the lace that holds the leather cinched, eyes darting away. “I apologize, it was - I thought that, perhaps -” He shakes his head, with a sighed smile that withers quickly. “It is beneath us both.”

Will catches his hand, gentle but quick, directs it back down and strokes Hannibal’s cheek before sliding his hand over the collar that splays over his throat so beautifully. He rests his knuckles beneath Hannibal’s chin.

“Keep your posture,” he tells him softly, smile catching the corner of his lips as Hannibal blinks at him, confused.

In truth, Will is as astounded by the beautiful display as he is entirely aroused by it. Hannibal is so gracefully arched, in the collar, the black a stunning contrast to his pale skin. He would look at him all day, this way, if he could, but he can feel his body aching for more than just what his eyes can give him.

“Good boy,” he tells him, when Hannibal settles as he had been. He reaches to settle the crop down the line of his spine again, deliberate in dipping the end between the cheeks of his ass to feel Hannibal shiver before returning his eyes to the boy before him. He smiles, reassurance and warmth and promise. Talk to me, tell me what this means, tell me what you want me to do.

Beautiful boy, I adore you.

“Ask,” he tells him, stands to walk behind him, watching.

Hannibal seeks to duck his head but finds body-warmed leather stiff beneath his chin, holding him in place as Will’s fingers so often do. He cannot turn without moving his entire body. He cannot look to see Will standing behind him.

Even the thought of his professor standing over him, crop in hand, proves to be enough for Hannibal’s cock to jerk in response.

“Would you let me remove your shoes from you? And set your bag away,” asks Hannibal, his voice scarce above a hoarse whisper. “You should be comfortable, after work.”

Will swallows, enjoys the little shivers that skitter over Hannibal’s skin as he tries to stay still. He tilts his head, considers this beautiful boy who had gone on his knees this way, willingly, who had asked him for money, just for this. To be pleasing and feel pleasing, to bring as much joy to Will as this is bringing to Hannibal now, so restrained without restraining, so obedient without fear to be.

“Yes please,” Will tells him, allows. “Shoes first. Set my bag by the bed, I would like to work later. With your help, if you are still coherent then, and willing.”

He bends to take the crop so Hannibal does not drop it when he moves, and returns to standing in front of the boy. “While you do, tell me what you saw in the shop, why you were drawn to this.” The crop slides smooth up the length of the collar, to Hannibal’s chin.

Hannibal sighs, unsteady and wanting, eyes hooded heavy as he raises them to Will, and swallows past the tall collar and pad of leather at the end of the crop.

“Foolishness,” he answers, but not with the dismay that wrought him so desolate moments before. A smile twitches in the corner of his lips. “To answer both your questions.”

The boy’s fingers spread up over Will’s shoe, and he remains bent, knees pressed into the floorboards, as he works the laces slowly free. He makes himself stay unhurried, despite the pull of muscles in his belly and his back at holding that position. He keeps his eyes raised.

“Most of what I saw was either beyond my knowledge or beyond my interest. I’ve no want for wearing corsets and garters. I’ve no desire to penetrate myself with electrical objects. There were dog collars,” he adds, eyes flickering narrow with pleasure. “I thought of you.”

He grasps Will’s heel and toe, both hands, and when his professor lifts his foot, Hannibal removes the Oxford to set aside. Moving to the next, he tightens his stomach to ease the strain in it, fingers moving with careful precision.

“Curiosity drew me. I would never allow -” He pauses, and corrects himself. “I would never have allowed most clients to use most implements. Though to be honest, those clients who wished to hurt me did not await my permission to do so, nor did they need tools to aid in doing so.”

His cheeks are dark, but still he holds Will’s gaze as the second shoe is removed.

“I wondered, irrepressably, what it might be like to play by choice,” Hannibal murmurs, “rather than to be forced unwilling into another’s game.”

“It is far from foolish to know what you want and to seek it,” Will tells him, shifts the crop to rest under his arm. “And you look beautiful, Hannibal. You brought me to speechlessness with this, and not in displeasure.”

Will’s eyes narrow in pleasure as he watches Hannibal lick his lips, allows a small smile, genuine, relieved. He adores when Hannibal smiles in their games, when he turns and bends for his own pleasure, not just to impress Will, not just to present himself as a more pleasing target.

He is pleasing.

He is always unfailingly pleasing.

“My bag,” Will prompts, works his fingers over the handle of the crop almost absently, knowing Hannibal will follow the motion, and he does. “You may stand, if you wish.”

Hannibal sits back on his heels, toes tucked beneath him, and pushes slowly to stand. He’s careful about it, his movements restricted well beyond his neck by it being held so stiffly in place, and the tickle of ribbon against his bare back makes him shiver. The raise of his chin, shoulders forced down, it all pulls Hannibal even taller than he already is, utterly prim in the chosen tilt of his head now.

He touches the tip of his tongue to his incisor in thought, and considers asking if he can kiss him. He decides against asking just yet, because there is work to be done, however playfully invented it is between them. Will’s bag rests where he left it, between where he stands now with crop poised and the door. It is on the floor.

Hannibal draws a breath.

Murmuring an ‘excuse me’ as he passes, Hannibal is forced to bend at the waist to take up the bag, curling his fingers through the handle. “Will you allow me to be your writing desk later?”

“If you’re able,” Will tells him, honestly, quiet, watching Hannibal move the bag to the bedroom with a tilt of his head, the boy’s shoulders straight, his head high, his back curved beautifully. It cannot be comfortable for long but he looks exquisite. Will draws his bottom lip between his teeth and lets it go with a sigh.

“You want this used on you,” Will says, bending the crop in his hands and turning it, over and over to feel the leather warm between his fingers. He waits for Hannibal to turn, lifts his brow, watches as he swallows, sets his hands behind his back.

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

Hannibal’s cheeks darken, his lips twitch gently. “Yes, very much. Please.”

Will walks closer, brings a hand up to cup Hannibal’s cheek and leans in to kiss him, soft and welcome, gentle and entirely adoring. He has found, in their time together, that his worry of causing Hannibal undue, unwelcome and unwanted pain has faded. He knows when something is too much. He knows when something pulls at Hannibal in a way that he does not wish it. He knows when to stop.

And he knows, from the sighs and helpless tears that slip into Hannibal’s smile, that the pain is more, always, than just marks on his skin. It is a release that is stronger than anything the boy can achieve on his own, and the trust that he is willing to give Will entirely, to do it for him.

Will makes a sound, gentle, and pulls back to nuzzle Hannibal with a warm hum.

“Do you remember your word, that you chose?” He always asks, every time, and knows that Hannibal is slowly growing used to that repetition, slowly coming to understand that he will always ask, always make sure.

“Yes.”

“Say it to me.”

“Pomegranate.”

“Good boy,” Will kisses him again, and steps back.

Hannibal flinches - just a twitch, to most, an extra blink - when Will snaps the crop against his own palm. His mouth is dry, adrenaline cool and metallic in the back of his throat. He squeezes his hands together.

“Do you know why I chose it?” He asks, whispering.

The leather drags warm against the outside of his thigh, over his pointed hipbone, past his cock and down his inner thigh.

Will steps closer.

“Tell me.”

A shiver pulls Hannibal just a little taller still, cheeks dusky and lips flushed. A smile curves them. “The source of Persephone’s damnation.”

Will’s lips pull up on a smile and he gently taps the insides of Hannibal’s thighs until he spreads them, brows flickering together to draw with the sharp discomfort. Will rewards him with a rubbing of the soft leather against his skin.

“Her weakness turned to strength,” Will adds. “Her power over someone to fall in love with her so strongly as to lose his mind, to trick. My beautiful boy, do you know how you snare me?”

Will keeps the crop between Hannibal’s legs, draws his fingers through Hannibal’s hair and gently tugs it to bend him back, mindful of the collar, of the pressure it could put on his back, and careful, always, to make sure Hannibal’s eyes are bright with want, with need and pleasure, never doubt or worry.

The crop comes up, traveling up Hannibal’s stomach and settling flat over a nipple, pressure applied just enough as Will steps back again, taps the crop against sensitive skin until Hannibal’s breath hitches for him, then he turns it to tug the loop over him, catching on the peaked nipple, moving to the other as Hannibal’s breath leaves him in a soft moan.

Will leans in to kiss against the collar, knowing Hannibal can feel the pressure, the promise of his lips but not the soft sensation of them against him. Will flicks the crop, just to feel Hannibal jerk in his hands, before moving to torment the other nipple in the same way.

“Are you going to bend for me?” Will murmurs, wetting the leather with his tongue as he speaks against it. “Arch your back and spread your legs and offer yourself that way?” He sets one leg between Hannibal’s own for the boy to rub against him, encourages the motion with a quiet hum when Hannibal trembles. He loosens his grip on Hannibal’s hair to allow him to return to his more comfortable posture.

“Trickery, perhaps,” sighs Hannibal, resting his chin against the rigid collar. “But Hades was not without his own succulent, young reward for it.”

Will’s delight shows in his eyes, and his pleasure shows in the snap of the crop against the outside of Hannibal’s thigh. It’s more noise than sensation yet, a little spark from the slap of the leather against Hannibal’s already sensitive skin, but enough to turn his eyes to Will again, seeking.

“Yes,” Hannibal answers, harshly whispered. “If that is how you wish me.”

Another firm tap is answer enough, and Hannibal sets his feet at shoulder width and bends. Muscles flicker beneath his skin like shadows under water, his back curves towards the floor and his cock, glistening already, soon to be dripping with how stiff it stands against his belly.

“Hands on your ankles.”

Hannibal thinks of the bar that would have held him in place, and knows for a moment, now, how it might feel. Skimming fingers over the downy hair of his legs, Hannibal grasps as near to his ankles as he can, and with the collar holding his head, shoulders, spine straight, the position soon has Hannibal’s cheeks scarlet.

It is difficult to hold, but not impossible.

It is a strain, but not one in which he will be injured.

It is almost too much, but really, always, just enough.

The first slap of leather is sharp, jerks a sound from Hannibal before he closes his eyes, licks his lips and parts them again. Will draws a warm palm over him, fingers curling to squeeze one cheek, stroke fingers down the cleft between them before pulling his hand away.

“Exquisite distraction,” Will tells him, words fond, praising, warm. “Beautiful, beautiful boy.”

The crop lands again, again, always sharp, pressing for a lingering moment where Will has hit to make Hannibal feel that sharpness last and fade to a warmer kind of pain. Four strikes to his ass and Will swings the crop to Hannibal’s thighs next, smiling when Hannibal’s fingers press to his own legs at the sensation.

“Does it hurt?”

“Yes.” A brief hesitation, half a second, less, and Will’s next whip comes harder against pale skin, enough to draw a sound.

“Now it hurts,” Will says, a laugh warming his tone, and he bends to kiss the mark before rubbing the crop over unmarked skin next. “So that is how I’ll do it.”

Just at the edge of too much, just beyond not-quite-enough. Hannibal closes his eyes with a mirroring laugh, and wonders at Will’s ability to see so much, so clearly. His laugh breaks on a whimper when Will spanks him again, it raises in pitch when the next follows right against raised red skin where the strike fell before it.

The leather feels hot, now, where Will rubs it against his leg. His skin tingles, a burning sensation that radiates outward while the center, somehow, remains cooler than it should. He will have trouble sitting tomorrow - more trouble still in walking - but the thought stops on a dial tone hum when he feels Will slip the crop to the inside of Hannibal’s thigh, instead.

“Ask me, Hannibal.”

He’s so hard it hurts. “Please.”

The crop snaps against his skin and Hannibal’s leg jerks. A bead of precome stretches and drips from the tip of his cock.

“Properly. Ask me properly.”

“Please,” breathes Hannibal, and no matter how deeply he tries to fill his lungs with air, it feels too shallow, dread and desire filling his veins with fire and his eyes with tears. He tries to lower his head and twists, swallowing hard beneath the collar the forces him to keep his position.

“Please strike me,” the boy whispers. “Please hurt me again.”

Will does, a sharp red line against Hannibal’s thigh when he moves the crop away, returns to just the soft leather end to tap against the sensitive skin at the top of his thighs as Hannibal catches his breath.

“Again,” Will asks him, tells him, and Hannibal begs, obedient.

“Please do it again.”

Will does it thrice more before he sinks to one knee, gently catches Hannibal around the middle and moves to stand, pulling the boy with him, slow, careful to not bring him up too quickly and have him lose consciousness from the blood rushing from his head. Will whispers praise - whispers, soft words, just gentle sounds against him. He holds Hannibal to him when he stands, shaking, hands up to rest over Will’s where he holds him up.

Will kisses the tears from his cheek, up against his temples, nuzzles damp hair. He can feel the tension in Hannibal to ask for more, to not want to stop, and Will’s lips part, just at the thought of the sweet requests, the thought of gentle asking.

“I will let you go and you will turn,” he breathes. “Chest to the bed, legs spread and back arched, do you understand?” His own voice sounds broken, overcome by the devotion, the trust of this boy who he adores beyond any words he can find in any language he knows.

“I understand,” gasps Hannibal. It’s hard to breathe this way, though the collar is not so tight against his throat as to prevent it, but its presence is ceaseless, like hands resting against his throat in threat of a choking that will not come. He is held, warmed by strong arms that keep him steady until his breathing slips to normalcy, until the tears on his cheeks are wiped away.

And he is released.

“Go.”

Hannibal steps back, another, and turns. Every step spreads fire along his legs, the push and pull of his skin singing in echo to the strikes laid against it. He has never been so glad that Will keeps his bed in the living room as now, and when he reaches it, he is grateful for the familiar sheets beneath his fingers. Against his chest. Gathered soft beneath his cheek.

He works his feet apart, hissing at the tug of pain, and bends his back as much as he can to present his backside, bare and throbbing scarlet.

Will’s jaw works and he just watches, just allows himself to experience this, for a moment, when neither are pulled taut by their game, when both are - for just a moment - themselves. Hannibal trembles where he’s bent, pushing slowly up on his toes and Will moans, head back and hand against his mouth at the sight alone, looking at him almost too much when Will feels every spark of desire and pain and need through the boy.

He walks after him, sets the crop to the bed, his hand pressed atop, and bends to kiss down the beautiful corseting at the back of the collar, down to Hannibal’s spine and to the hot skin of his ass. Little sounds, heavy breaths, tension and release meet the motion and Will straightens, whips the crop through the air just once before setting it soft against Hannibal’s red thighs.

“How many?” He asks.

Hannibal buries a laugh against the mattress and writhes, hips curling as if to seek for contact on the bed beneath, finding nothing but another swat for his trouble. “Until your arm is sore,” grins Hannibal, eyes closed and mind dialed to soft static, empty of worry or stress, utterly serene. “Until my skin breaks with it. Anything you give, I will take.”

“No.”

Another laugh coils out of the boy and he squirms blissfully. “A dozen. Hard, Will, please -”

His request is met, in vicious snaps of leather across his ass. The first sends him shuddering, rocking forward onto the bed. The fifth begins a keening, high moan from him. The ninth tightens his hands in the sheets and Hannibal realizes distantly that his tears have wet the bed beneath his cheek.

“Count for me, beautiful boy.”

A resonant groan vibrates into the mattress and Hannibal lets himself be lost, knowing that he will be found again.

“Ten,” Hannibal whimpers, as the strike all but lights his skin aflame.

“Eleven.” Another, in the same place, breaks his voice on a sob, laughing and weeping, breathless and weightless all at once.

“Twelve.”

The crop is set aside with a click on the bedside table and Will moves to bend over his boy, feet against the insides of Hannibal’s, hands on either side of his head, his own head bent down against Hannibal’s back where he’s shaking, sticky with sweat. Little sobs and whimpers still pull from Hannibal, into the sheets, and Will does not hush him, allows him the release of it, and bites his lip.

Will holds his breath, allows his mind to entirely open to the boy before him, to feel the fire in his veins, to feel the burning of his throat, the sheer relief of being allowed to cry, helpless sobbing things, almost childish, young. He allows his heart to speed faster, to match Hannibal’s the tension in his arm from using the crop to meld to his entire body, the exhaustion there, the blissful burn of release that is beyond the physical, beyond anything Will can describe in words.

And he can feel, against himself, through every sigh, through every sob, the pleasure Hannibal feels from something Will had done to him, had done for him, had done with him. He can feel the gratitude there, for acquiescing and not dismissing his desires as whimsy and silliness. He can feel the trust, of being bent this way, held this way, used this way, for Will to know when to stop, for Will to know when this is too much, for Will to know, for Will to take this from him.

Will sobs, just once, and blinks his eyes open, feeling the tears slip slick down his nose, down his cheeks. He laughs from the release, from Hannibal’s euphoria flooding his entire system, overwhelming and perfect and addicting.

Will lifts his hand, starts to unlace the collar with trembling fingers until he can free Hannibal from it, kissing against the skin now bared to him, nuzzling there, whispering gratitude and promises and adoration against him.

“You are so good, Hannibal, every day, but this -” He sighs, throat clicks as he swallows, sniffs another sob and laughs again. “Hannibal, you are beyond... everything…”

The collar slips to the bed and Hannibal sighs. His fingers splay, he rises to his toes, he stretches - long and trembling - before sinking again beneath Will’s weight. The words Will yields to him in his own strange submission are felt as deeply as the strikes before, and though they leave no mark, they will last far longer. He asked and he listened. He bent and he held. He gasped and wept and begged.

All for Will, who now with tears and whispers and warm hands against cold skin, worships him for it.

“I feel beautiful,” the boy murmurs, “because of you.”

Will bites his lip harder and closes his eyes, tears squeezing from the corners before he laughs again, as helpless as Hannibal’s tears, as happy. Entirely alive.

“You were beautiful before me,” Will tells him. “You will be incredible after. And yet you choose to let me see it, now, you let me be the person to witness it, and give this to you.”

Will swallows, pushes himself to stand and keeps a hand in Hannibal’s hair so the boy doesn’t worry he’s leaving him, so he doesn’t fear a quick escape and a drop where the adrenaline runs rampant now. He hoists himself onto the bed, crossways, and reaches, to brush against Hannibal’s face, down his neck, coaxing him to draw his knees up onto the bed with a hiss. Hannibal crawls forward and falls onto Will as the other laughs again, with a grunt.

Heavy arms wrap around Hannibal’s back and he holds him close, strokes his hair, whispers his name and kisses him everywhere his mouth can reach.

“I love you,” Will breathes, eyes up to Hannibal’s and lips pressing together just briefly before they part again.

Hannibal’s lips tilt, sleepy contentment drawing him down into a drowsy kiss. Even that slows, soon enough, and Hannibal tucks himself close against Will’s chest, mouth above his hammering heart to feel its pulse.

“I know,” he tells his professor, his teacher, his lover. He knows and the thought fills him like nothing else, pushing Hannibal to push himself further, whether taking lashes or taking tests. He wants to be better, in every way, and now not only for himself.

For his Will, who lays praise against his skin, to ease away the pain.

Chapter Text

“Another day.”

“No.”

Will arches a brow at the response, but meets only Hannibal’s grin, sleepy and crooked.

The boy shakes his head again. Pushing his hands over Will’s bare chest, with dogs against his legs where he straddles his professor’s hips, Hannibal stretches and twists. Both awoke hard, as they often do, and thankfully Hannibal had the foresight to set his alarm an hour earlier than he needs to leave, ample time to feed the dogs, share coffee, and savor each other just a little longer before work and school pull them apart.

“No,” he says again, smile widening. “It is unseemly enough that you kept me from school yesterday. It is only the second week of semester. And you a teacher,” chides Hannibal.

“You could hardly walk, let alone pay attention.”

As if to make his point, Will runs his fingers over the plush swell of Hannibal’s ass, thumbs scraping softly over the remaining marks left from the crop. The boy only arches more, and rocks his hips back into Will’s hands.

“May I go to class today?” Hannibal asks, with a put-upon sigh and a glint of pleasure in his dark eyes. He reaches for the drawer beside the bed, taking up a foil packet and setting it against his teeth, brows raising.

Will laughs, watching Hannibal entirely disheveled and sleepy, condom between his teeth and asking, of all things, to go to school. If he didn't know it before, he would know in that moment that he was head over heels for this boy. He reaches to take the packet and leans up to kiss Hannibal instead.

"You may," he says, nuzzling warmly against him before lying back with a sigh, setting the condom away, despite Hannibal's whine of protest. "We don't have time for the things I want to do to you this morning," Will mumbles, as though contented to return to sleep, but his hand snakes between them, grasping them both to stroke together, warm and slick quickly as he relishes the helpless little sounds Hannibal makes against him.

"My lovely, clever boy. I will think of you all day, you know." Will's eyes have fallen closed, in all appearance like he is enjoying the extra minutes of sleep before an alarm goes off, but between them, his hand twists and works them both harder.

"I know," Hannibal says, coy, ducking his head to kiss to Will’s chin, to his lips as he feels the familiar coil of pleasure in his stomach, lower. He curls his toes in pleased anticipation and rocks harder into Will’s hand.

"Good." Will draws his free hand over Hannibal’s thigh to cup his ass, delighting in the way he gasps and squirms forward, cock twitching at the touches.

Hannibal rolls his hips, again and again, a coil of his spine and a turn of hips to feel soft skin create hot friction between their lengths. Endless kisses scatter over Will’s cheeks, his throat, his mouth, all soft and sweet and simple and entirely blissful. Will rubs his thumb across the tip of Hannibal’s cock, smearing the clear precome that beads there, and the boy’s voice cracks free.

“Won’t you have me? Won’t you fill me so deep that for the day, I feel empty without you?” Hannibal’s voice is a purr, sleep-thick and rough. “More than I already do, when we’re apart.”

“No,” answers Will, delighting as Hannibal laughs and shivers at the word. “When you come home later, if you’re good today.”

“I’m always good,” Hannibal reminds him, laying heavy over Will to feel the whole of their bodies pressed twining together. His own softly furred chest rubs against Will’s smooth expanse of skin, nipples peaking between them, an endless cascade of shivers that they buck their hips to try and match.

Will groans, licks his lips, grins, and keeps his eyes hooded so he can look at his boy, keep his hand working between them as his other cards through warm hair and tugs it from his face. It is lazy and sleepy, warm and very good, and Will feels the familiar twitch and tremble that suggests Hannibal’s close to release, breathless and beautiful with it.

“You’re close.”

Hannibal shivers, curls his fingers in the sheets, against Will’s chest.

“Yes.”

A hum, pleased, and Will keeps stroking, arches up to his own hand to rub harder against Hannibal, to bring him to shaking, to laughter pressed to his neck, more and more, gentle twist, a thumb over the head, a nail run gently under it and Hannibal whimpers, body tensing, lips parting against Will’s warm skin. He slicks Will’s palm between them, spurts hot and sticky, enough in that alone to have Will follow, head back and teeth gritted in his pleasure.

“Beautiful,” Will whispers, smiles as Hannibal kisses against his throat. “And now entirely filthy. What am I to do with you?”

Hannibal laughs, a low chuckle, and splays himself over Will’s body. Their semen spreads slick between them, warm and slippery, as their bellies slide together. It is wholly dirty, but Hannibal - curiously - doesn’t mind it as he usually does messes, not when his head is humming and he’s still dizzy with blissful pleasure shared with the only person in the world who matters to him.

“Lick me clean,” the boy purrs.

Will snares Hannibal around the waist and turns him to his back. The two dogs that lingered on the end of the bed scatter and Hannibal tries to raise a knee up in resistance, but finds it shoved flat against the mattress. Strong hands hold his wrists quickly in place, and Hannibal squirms, laughing suddenly and loudly, flushed with delight.

“Is that a no, then?”

“I would spend all day between your legs and not feel it a day wasted,” Will grins, bending to kiss against Hannibal’s cheek as he holds him, squirming, down. “But if I am down there, Hannibal, I will make you cum again.”

“No,” Hannibal laughs, a childish thing, helpless and he shakes his head, lip between his teeth, cheeks flushed. Will just kisses him again, slips his hands from Hannibal’s wrists to splay their fingers together, gripping palm to palm tight.

“So you’re going to stay messy?”

“No.” Another laugh, another twist and Will presses another kiss to his jaw.

“And you won’t let me lick you clean?”

“Not with those terms.”

“A pity,” Will sighs, drawing his teeth over Hannibal’s throat with a low, almost predatory hum. It’s playful and fun, it is ridiculous for them both to be acting this way and yet neither would change it, neither would call a stop to it to remind themselves they are adults with work and school pending just half an hour away. “I’d hoped I would have your taste lingering on my tongue all day. Through my lectures, through my classes…”

Hannibal squirms blissfully, little shifts of body, feet digging into the sheets, fingers tightening with no real attempts to escape. Why would he, when he feels so entirely beautiful? Why would he want to be anywhere but here, with the man who makes him feel like he’s worth so much?

“You would go the day without brushing your teeth?” Hannibal chides, unable to fight down the grin that Will brings him to so readily. “Unsanitary.”

Their eyes meet, for a moment, but it feels as if it lasts a glorious lifetime. Dark eyes darting between bright blue, and in their shared gaze so much more is said than they can bring themselves to express in words. Hannibal draws a breath, as if perhaps he could force himself to say what his mind has not yet let him confess, but it holds, quiet.

Until Will presses a hand to his ribs, the soft thatch of hair beneath his arm, and pushes his fingers in against Hannibal’s side.

The boy all but explodes, a desperate writhing and furiously flushed cheeks, laughter breaking sweet and childish as he tries to escape the tickling and is held in place.

“So you are ticklish,” Will muses, voice deliberately calm as he keeps Hannibal held in place and torments him with deliberate fingers, juxtaposed with soft kisses when he can land them, smiling wide himself, flushed from the sheer joy of this, the sheer joy of Hannibal beneath him, laughing like a child that he has not allowed himself to be before as he’s tickled.

“And rude, you’re being so rude.” Will snares Hannibal’s legs with his own as Hannibal shrieks in joy beneath him and tries to protect the sensitive skin. “I tell you you’ll linger with me all day and you take the poetry from it. Unbelievable.”

“Stop!” Hannibal giggles, shaking his head, eyes closed tight as Will lifts their still joined hands above Hannibal’s head and tortures beneath that arm instead. Then he stops, rests with their foreheads pressed together, Hannibal panting for air and Will smiling at him where he’s pressed to the bed.

“You want me to stop?” He asks, playful, coy.

“Yes!”

“You’re sure.” Will’s fingers press to skin again and Hannibal bucks up as Will’s grin widens. “You’re sure you want me to stop?”

“Please,” Hannibal begs, a laugh breaking past his lips before Will even moves his fingers again. Just the thought of it, the threat of it, enough to send him into peals of writhing shivers. “Please stop.”

Will relents, enough to kiss Hannibal’s cheek. Enough to smooth his hair from his face, tousled and wild. Enough to frame his jaw with a gentle hand and revel in the sheer, youthful joy that radiates from his boy.

Enough for Hannibal to catch his breath, and the tension to settle from his spine, sinking into the sheets.

And then, again. Fingers dive beneath his arms, over his ribs, under his knee when Hannibal lifts it to try and fight away. Every touch yields a sputter of laughter, gasping breathless in delight, every touch burns bright as embers in Hannibal’s cheeks as he thrashes beneath his professor. Kicking wildly, he throws his body from side to side but only manages to find himself on his belly instead, and Will still atop him, adjusting his hand to hold the boy’s wrists in place.

“Shit,” Hannibal whispers, eyes wide.

Will just clicks his tongue, a brief reprimand, before his fingers return, clever and cruel and Hannibal sobs into the pillow beneath him, unable to buck Will off, too weak with laughter to fight him properly. Pleas and curses and giggles, helpless giggles, are bitten into the pillow and then Will’s hands let him free, stroke down his sides to hold his hips and kiss against his neck, up behind his ear.

“You have never looked more beautiful to me than when you laugh like that,” Will tells him, breathless too, gentle, no more threat of impending tickles and unexpected stimulation. He presses down against Hannibal’s back and sits up, snaring his arms around the boy to pull him with him.

“Shower?” He asks, kissing his cheek, eyes hooded when they meet Hannibal’s. “Then I do the dogs and you do coffee? You make amazing coffee.”

Hannibal sits back in Will’s lap, one leg curled beneath him, the other stretched long and tangled in the sheets. He glistens, still, where their release has dried against his skin, his pupils are wide with the thrill and terror of a tickling. Arms slipping over Will’s shoulders, he nuzzles his scruffy cheek, sighing, and kisses him again and again.

“I could, perhaps, miss a second day,” he suggests, fingers tripping, tapping down Will’s chest. “Since I was so unwell yesterday…”

“Shower,” Will tells him again, with a kiss to the cheek and a swat to the thigh. Hannibal laughs and unfurls, laying across Will’s lap, stretching until he trembles with it, all bare skin and tight-bodied. With a grunt, he relaxes, and rolls himself off the bed to stand, grasping the nightstand to steady himself.

The dogs all stand in unison, tails wagging, and Hannibal spreads his hands at his sides as if he were a wanton boy-king, walking through his gathered followers. It delights him enough to merit another little laugh, before a glance over his shoulder reveals Will watching him, hungry and pleased, and Hannibal hurries on bare feet to start the shower.

After, the morning routine picks up. They shower together, sloppy kisses and careful hands working soap into a lather against skin. Will delights in the knowledge that Hannibal will smell like him, all day, and Hannibal grins knowing he can duck his head in any class, at any moment, to breathe in Will against him.

The dogs are fed and ushered outside as Hannibal sets to making coffee and Will dresses. Then he’s in the kitchen, stabilizing the copper pot as Hannibal pads to the bed and gathers his things from the foot of it. A comfortable suit today, dark but not excessive. He slicks his hair back and allows it to naturally dry, lifts his chin when Will adjusts his tie for him and kisses the skin beneath his jaw.

Coffee is had on the porch, a cigarette shared between them, before Will whistles, sharp, and the dogs herd themselves back into the house.

“This evening,” Will says, draping his jacket over his shoulders and tugging down the sleeves, “I was going to have fish. Roasted vegetables. Ice cream for dessert.”

The invitation is clear, the hope that it will be accepted warm beneath the words, and Hannibal wonders why Will still asks, when he knows the answer so well. Still, he feigns consideration, lofty and proud, chin tilted just so.

“What sort of ice cream?”

Will’s hands are caught gently as he moves to button his jacket, and Hannibal’s work in their place. He watches his boy, beautiful and playful in a way he’s just now letting himself reveal, and his brows lift in equally affected consternation.

“Strawberry,” he offers. “With real strawberries in it, of course.”

“Of course,” agrees Hannibal, mild but for the arch of his brow.

“And vanilla,” Will continues, and at this Hannibal looks up to meet his eyes, grinning before he can stop himself. “No extract. I’d hate for you to be licking it from my fingers and thinking of formaldehyde.”

Hannibal’s hands spread over Will’s chest and he leans, tilting their mouths together, a swipe of tongue inside his professor’s mouth. They stand, Hannibal on his toes despite being of equal height, and they kiss, they kiss until they’re dizzy and only then does Hannibal step away with a smile, to take up his bag.

“I’ll be home by eight.”

“I will wait for you, this evening, then,” Will murmurs, smiles as Hannibal leans in for one more chaste kiss and lets him go.

He drives out first, headed towards Quantico, and watches in the rearview mirror and Hannibal turns his car to follow, but through, instead, into Baltimore. He realizes he’s smiling the entire drive to work, the entire way to his office, bouncing up the stairs two at a time. He stops only when he hears a whistle, sharp and short, and turns to find Bev in the doorway to her lab, arms crossed and shaking her head. With a grin, Will lifts his hand in greeting, turns it and folds all but the middle finger to his palm. Bev snorts and Will’s smile widens as he lowers his hand.

“Lunch?”

“Beer.”

“Beer with lunch.”

“You drive a hard bargain, Graham.”

Will’s brow quirks and he continues on his way, damn near waltzing into his office and closing the door, thinking of the warmth of Hannibal against him, and how in only several hours more he will see him again.

---

Hannibal, despite his whole-hearted willingness to drift away with thoughts of Will, does not take his classes for granted. Now and then his mind wanders to warm hands and loving threats, to genuine promises and soft lips, but he knows that nothing less than his best is expected of him - now not only by himself, but by Will as well. He listens. He takes notes, He keeps his phone safely away in case Will has texted him, knowing what utter distraction comes from that.

He counts down the classes left before he gets to return to Wolf Trap.

Home.

A smile spreads at the thought, head ducked to maintain an unnecessary but desired seriousness among the other students. They pass him in the hall, each hurrying to their classes before the next starts. One more, and then -

Hannibal. My god, I thought something terrible had happened to you. Are you alright?”

Cold. Immediately cold and immediately tense and Hannibal’s eyes seek a door he can push himself through, to a class, to any class, just to avoid this, here, and then leave, as quickly as he can, at the end of the day.

An arm snares around his shoulders and he jerks from it, feeling fingers clasp like vices over his arm to hold him still.

“You don’t pick up, you don’t visit me, god, Hannibal, a boy just starts to feel unloved.”

“I have to go to class,” Hannibal tries, finds himself pressed harder against the unforgiving form of the older boy.

“But you weren’t in class yesterday," Mason drawls, leaning closer to Hannibal than he ever wants the man to be. He can feel his entire body tense, close off, retreat, an instant response to fly and flee, not fight, not here. “You’re making such bad choices about school, now, Hannibal, I thought you were better than this. I thought you were smarter.”

“Mason, I -”

“Cordell tells me you still make your name in the top few students of your year but that can’t continue if you miss school. I can’t continue if you don’t see me. I missed you, Hannibal. All these weeks. You know, I haven’t been able to concentrate, myself. Father is so unhappy with my progress and what can I tell him but that the one thing that keeps me grounded, that keeps my mind where it needs to be, is not here when he needs to be.”

Hannibal throws a look to the skinny boy loitering behind Mason, seemingly casual, his sloped shoulders set against the wall. Sallow skin and black hair greased back from his face, watery eyes sharp over the tops of his glasses. He knows him, Cordell, from classes they share together - another student in the medical program, and another in the thrall of Mason Verger.

But Cordell - Cordell is his by choice, and not by force.

He ducks his eyes to Mason’s shoes, oxblood red and shined blinding bright.

“I have class now,” murmurs Hannibal. “Class that I should be in - they will note my absence.”

“They will. Such a shame to come down a bit of summer flu that keeps you from it. Hannibal, come with me. Let’s talk.”

Mason’s arm brooks no escape, nor does the boy who watches them without watching, and so Hannibal walks slow beneath the weight of Mason’s arm. They turn down a hallway, away from Hannibal’s classes, away from other rooms filled with students and teachers who might help him, were he to go to them.

Were he to reveal why he needs help.

Were he to reveal the information that Mason has that’s put him in Mason’s grip in the first place.

“Hannibal, you’re not listening.”

“I’m sorry,” he replies, on instinct.

“Your phone - what’s happened to it? I’ve tried to ring you but,” Mason laughs, the sharp snap of sound echoing in the empty hall. “But it says you’ve disconnected. Is that true, Hannibal? Are you feeling disconnected?”

A thick swallow and Hannibal closes his eyes for a moment, thinks of the morning with Will, tickling and playing and kisses and closeness. Intimacy. Is he disconnected? From the boy he was before this, he feels he is. Letting clients go one by one by one until only Will is left, and he was never, really, a client.

“I lost it,” he lies. “I had to get another -”

“You lost it.” Mason squeezes so hard against Hannibal’s arm the boy hisses from it. “Hannibal, Hannibal, Hannibal. That is not how a professional acts. No, no, no, not at all this would be unacceptable in the professional world and you, Hannibal, you want to be professional right out of the gate, don’t you?”

He thinks of the day before laying on his stomach as he was kissed, as cooling soothing balm was rubbed into his sore red skin. He thinks of whispered conversations and dogs kicking against him in their sleep. He thinks of those words he couldn’t bring himself to say to Will this morning.

“Yes,” he replies, quiet, careful. He tenses as they stop, anticipating a strike, but finds they only stand, for the moment, in the middle of an empty corridor, classrooms sporadically filled up and down it, not used often. The labs here are older than the others, soon to be replaced, and yet there are still people here. But like an ocean with its cruel temptation of water, Hannibal knows they will be no help to him.

Not here.

Nor, perhaps, would they be of help to Mason.

Hannibal’s eyes narrow. Cordell will be a problem, he’s sure, but Mason - Hannibal has envisioned ending him more times than he can recall. A snapped neck, his face beaten into an unrecognizable mass of bone and brain and tissue, a cut across the throat deep enough to notch his spine. His hand lowers to his pocket, as though to wipe dampness from his palms, and he finds nothing there but the weight of his phone. The knife, Hannibal recalls now, has been left at his apartment for weeks - no need for it, now that he’s not risking himself nightly to the prurient interests of others.

He lingers a moment too long, and Mason jerks his arm free to instead shove a hard hand against Hannibal’s throat and pin him to the wall.

“Cordell!”

The boy comes scurrying, looming taller than the both of them, and without Mason needing to say anything more, he swipes his palms down Hannibal’s pants. The phone is extricated, but there is nothing more.

There doesn’t need to be. Mason’s eyes darken like ice on asphalt, and his smile widens.

“Now you’re lying to me,” he sighs. “You’re lying to your good friend who knows you so well, inside and out, Hannibal, it just won’t do.” His fingers, black gloved and strong, press against the vessels thudding so near to the skin, squeezing and releasing, taunting. “Maybe I should have a talk with one of the administrators. I think that might help, you know, find a resolution for all this misbehavior. Lying, skipping class, all sorts of wanton debauchery,” he says, just loud enough. “And to start it all, in the admissions office…”

“Don’t -”

It comes quicker than Hannibal intends, voice thankfully steady but his heart is pounding so hard in his ears he can hear little else. They can break the phone, destroy it, but if they unlock it, if they find Will…

And school - the reason he had done all of this, for as long as he had, the only reason he had allowed himself to be so undone, so debased and hurt and used. He cannot have that taken from him at the word of a spoiled, petulant boy. Not that. Not what he has worked his entire life for. To get out, to get free, to do something other than what he needed to get here.

And for Will. If not for himself, he has to do this for Will.

Don’t, Hannibal? Don’t what? Don’t bring to attention a frankly frightening practice of one of the most promising students at the school? But you’re already doing that, Hannibal, you’re already lying and sneaking and tricking, being so rude to those that keep you in your place, you should be grateful.”

“I am grateful,” insists Hannibal softly. He is grateful to Will, he is grateful to his teachers, he is grateful to every client who was kind enough to him that it made up for this one and let him go another night without seeing him. But no matter how he twists his own words, unto himself, their bitterness is like acid across his tongue.

Are you? Are you truly,” Mason purrs. “Cordell, his knees.”

Hannibal twists but it’s fast sweep that knock his legs out from beneath him. Bone crunches against the hard tile floor and the boy grimaces, reaching up to snare Mason’s wrist. He could dig in, bend it just enough to splinter bone against bone, stand and dig his thumbs right into -

“This doesn’t seem very grateful to me,” sighs Mason, brows shooting high beneath his hair. “Cordell, break his hand.”

Hannibal releases his grip, breath picking up faster as Mason’s hand tightens against his throat. He lifts his eyes to Cordell, who stands so tall over him - Cordell, who sits in his classes, who attends the same study groups, who knows Hannibal and yet, through Mason’s eyes, sees nothing at all of classmate or peer.

“Please,” Hannibal breathes. “Please, tell me what I can do to make it better, Mason.”

His voice is a whisper, only just, his hands upheld - hands that pressed palm to palm, only hours before, hands that Will worships for their skill in drawing, in cooking, in touching. If Cordell moves to follow through on the threat, Hannibal will kill them both - even if it means beating their brains across the floor with a broken hand. Let them drag him bloody from this place, let them lock him away for doing it. Better to give up his life, himself, than to let it be taken from him.

“Now those words sound very good, Hannibal. Very, very good. You’re starting to remember yourself now.” Cordell doesn’t move closer, Mason doesn’t gesture for him to move, in fact, at all. At an impasse, almost, Hannibal kneeling between the two of them, prone and helpless. Mason’s hand still allows him air. Cordell merely tilts his head when Hannibal’s brows furrow at him.

He wants to ask why. When in class the boy is clever, quick, good with his notes and drawings and hands in practicals. Why, when he could be gifted and good all on his own, would he sink so low as to tether himself to Mason Verger.

“I could use that ass again,” Mason considers, bringing his free hand up to stroke through Hannibal’s hair as one would a pet. “I’ve missed the sounds you make when I use you like that. I’ve so rarely missed something before, Hannibal, do you see, now, how hard it has been for me to not have you on call like you so obediently have been before?”

Cordell’s throat works. He says nothing.

“No,” Mason sighs, there is rarely need to answer him when he can so easily answer himself, hear what he wants to hear, appease his own unquenchable ego. “No, that would be messy, that would be too messy here, too long to clean, too much trouble for me. No. Your ass I will use another time. Next time.”

He grips Hannibal’s hair, tilts his head up and grins, white teeth and bright eyes, a mania that just tilts against his expression which would be excited, pleased, genuine, on anyone else. “It’s all in the anticipation, anyway, isn’t it, Hannibal? You can wait and ache for it until I give it to you. No. What else.”

There are those who would hear him, if he shouted for help.

There are those who would hear Mason, happy to tell them all about how a then-seventeen year-old earned his way into this school by going to his knees, just as he is now.

And they would listen to him, his father the great benefactor, he the heir of countless piggish fortunes. They would hear his words and give them grave weight, despite the madness that infests the boy like worms. What does Hannibal have to offer, that might compete? Especially when there is truth in Mason’s claim.

He got here on his knees, and with a slow settling like lead in his blood, Hannibal knows it is the only thing that keeps him here.

“My mouth. As punishment for lying,” he offers, voice cracking in a way that Mason always finds so pleasing, glassy blue eyes blinking wider. “But not here -”

The hand beneath his throat forces his jaw upward, and Hannibal erases from his thoughts the memory of gentle fingers lifting up his chin. Soft kisses that followed. Kind words.

Gone. There is no place for them here.

Cordell leans to Mason and whispers softly. The blonde’s brow creases, and Hannibal is brought to his feet again. The tile passes beneath his feet in a rhythmic pulse of grey. The bathroom door bangs open and Hannibal hardly sees the harsh lights or smudged mirrors, hardly hears the lock snap shut behind them before his knees are dug against the ground again. The edges of his vision are black, a narrow tunnel vision that turns his stomach with vertigo as Mason unzips himself, and Cordell stands watching, Hannibal’s phone in hand.

He feels the familiar veil of cold indifference lace over him, as it always did when he took a client, did his job, played the part. But it is so stifling now, it feels so wrong. Just as forcing his jaw wider feels wrong, the taste and smell and sensation of it all does.

Hannibal thinks of biting down and locking his jaw. They would have to pull him free, ribbons of torn skin in his wake. They could beat him, hurt him but that damage would be done, that screaming would be heard, and no one would believe Hannibal went willingly to his knees to cause that damage. He thinks of striking out and not stopping, fists in a flurry of anger and a strange sensation of righteous justice.

He thinks of the old hallways and the school, the broomstick ends and how blood tasted filling his throat as Mason's cock does now, and he gags.

It would be easy. So easy. One hand up to a pressure point, holding, one out to unbalance. Mason's head would hit the tile floor and bloom red across it and Hannibal thinks how easy tearing skin really is, when it comes down to it. How fragile human beings are, encased entirely in something so thin and easy to pierce.

He thinks of rending and tearing and biting and blood.

He does not think of Will.

The slap comes unexpected and sharp and Hannibal chokes on the air the strike allows him, chin slick with spit, skin wet beneath his eyes from tears involuntarily shed.

"No, no, Hannibal, it's like you're not even trying ." Mason strokes himself, feet set wide, and drops his head back to groan, loud, petulant, towards the ceiling.

Hannibal might have whispered an apology. He doesn’t know. It doesn’t matter. But some sound comes from his throat that sounds unfamiliar now, too long unspoken in the months away from this. It hardly matters. He gags as he’s silenced again, but for wet clicks and Mason’s mad mutterings.

Hannibal is a liar.

Hannibal is a cheat.

Hannibal is a whore.

He closes his eyes, and thinks of how black the blood would appear on the tile floor. His body jerks, nerves ringing sensitive and sharp, when sticky wet heat spills across his lips, his cheek, and drips from his chin. Hannibal is struck again, in the semblance of a too-hard pat, and he reaches to wipe his face clean when his hand is stopped.

“Leave it.”

Hannibal glares, eyes narrowed, lips parted to breathe as he sits filthy, feels filthy, feels bile against his throat burning away the sticky sharp taste of semen there.

He thinks how mixed together they taste like blood and wonders if he's already bitten through, lost time in a trance of anger and inexplicable peace. He watches Mason put himself back into his pants, zip up, run a hand through his hair and hold the same one out to Cordell for the phone.

Hannibal tenses. Would rather see it smashed than in Mason’s hands but the boy will have no patience trying to crack the password on it. No. It won't be him doing it.

Mason taps the phone against his lips after the fourth consecutive wrong code and hums a note of clear displeasure. He flicks his eyes to Cordell, the boy already near-vibrating at the thought of doing his bidding, and back to Hannibal again.

"Number."

"I -"

" Number, Hannibal. And I will call it. And I will see how truthful you are after your lesson and teach it again if you are not."

Hannibal lowers his head, if only to speed the dripping down his cheeks, the glistening trails drying stiff. He doesn’t swallow, even to quiet his heart, he will not have more of Mason inside him than has just happened - not now, not ever again.

The number is given. Hannibal listens as Cordell dials it, and Hannibal’s phone alights in Mason’s hand, prompting a burst of laughter from the older boy.

“Very good, Hannibal. I guess you do, eventually, learn.” Hannibal’s cheeks are gripped in gloved hands, the sticky mess burning salty as Mason smudges a thumb across his mouth, pushing his lips out of place. “Never let anyone call me unforgiving,” he sighs. “But rest assured, that if I try to reach you again, and am unable? If you do not come when I call, there are plenty of others who would be happy to listen. Catch.”

Hannibal extends his hands and the phone is tossed into them, screen locked now, from the failed attempts to enter it. He pockets it, and rests his hands against his knees as Mason spreads his arms, and Cordell tidies his clothing back into place, and only speaks again when they turn to leave.

He knows what has to happen. And he knows it can’t happen here.

“Thank you, Mason. You’ve made everything so very clear.”

Chapter Text

Will is home first, to his surprise. The dogs swarm and greet him, furry tails and lolling tongues and he gives them all due attention, kneeling amidst the excited whining and nuzzling cold noses. Then he lets them roam, spreading in a sea of canines beyond the porch, sniffing and chasing, little yips of joy at being outside together.

That is something Will never grows tired of, seeing his dogs so contented, when so many had come to him in pain, terrified, starving and near-rabid.

He washes his hands and sets to scaling the fish - bought today, though he has a mind to ask Hannibal with him when he fishes this weekend - meditative and familiar, the knife small and sharp in his hands. He guts it, cleans it, sets it aside and still, beyond the occasional bark outside, no sign of life near Wolf Trap.

Will frowns, takes his phone up to send a quick message before bending to grab potatoes from the bottom of his pantry, pumpkin from the fridge, courgettes and sweet pepper for roasting.

He gets a message perhaps twenty minutes later, claiming traffic was awful and he is just on the highway now. Something about the words sets Will’s mind to pause. He cannot pinpoint it, nothing explicit within the words themselves that suggest tension but tension is there. Perhaps a hard day, perhaps a new assignment, perhaps a headache.

Perhaps something else.

Will palms his phone into his pocket and continues dinner preparation, quick hands and even pieces tossed with herbs and oil, pink salt and cracked pepper and pushed into the oven. Then he goes to have a cigarette.

He can see headlights by the time he has his second, and stands, flicking the butt into the ashtray and moving to lean against the porch supports as Hannibal’s car pulls up, the engine cuts. He has missed him, most of the day spent in thought of Hannibal’s bright smiles and soft little noises of pleasure. He wants nothing more than to pull him into his arms and hold him close, even just on the porch, even just like this, together.

Hannibal sits in the car for a moment after killing the engine. Just a breath, no more than that, but Will’s fingers tense as if in response to it. They don’t loosen when he sees Hannibal emerge, in different clothes than the ones he left in. There’s no reason to worry about this, in itself, no reason to assume it as anything more than Hannibal’s stopping by his apartment to gather some things he needed.

But altogether, the text and the pause, the clothes and the long strides that carry him closer, it sets Will’s teeth on edge.

He swallows the feeling, and releases the breath he holds only when Hannibal sinks into an embrace.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” Hannibal tells him, and with no more than that, passes by into the house.

Will licks his bottom lip into his mouth, waits for Hannibal to set his bag down inside before following him, whistling to the dogs and holding the door for them as they all plow in and swarm Hannibal in greeting. But even with them, there is not the usual childish enthusiasm with wanting to hold the furry things, greet them with scratches behind the ears, lifting the smallest to watch him wriggle in pleasure.

Hannibal stands with his hands splayed and allow them to touch and nuzzle, but then passes through them, as well, to walk deeper into the house.

With a click of his tongue Will sends the dogs upstairs, follows Hannibal at a careful, respectful distance.

“Long day?” He asks, pulling a smile from the depths of whatever he can manage. “Perhaps I should’ve kept you home.”

For a moment, Hannibal’s hands still against his jacket, as if considering the words more than once, their repercussions. He shrugs his jacket from his shoulders, and hangs it in the closet.

“A better use of time, by far,” he agrees, clearing his throat to ease away the rough edges from his voice. His tone softens, then, as he makes his way to the kitchen. “Something to consider moving forward. Salmon?”

“How did you know?”

Hannibal touches a finger to his nose and offers a slight smile, before finding his place again. He checks the oven, each in turn. He checks that the dogs are fed. Little motions that feel like normalcy. Little motions too exacting to be anything less than a seeking of stability. Though his hands are stable, his expression calm, Will sees in him the same motions of his dogs when they return from the vet - checking each corner, reassuring themselves that nothing has changed in their absence.

With thoughtful motions, Hannibal begins to gather what he needs to make a drink for Will, as he does every night. “What do you prefer tonight?”

For you to tell me what’s wrong.

Will parts his lips with his tongue. “Just a whiskey today,” he says. “One for you, if you like.”

Ask, Will thinks, chews the inside of his lips in thought, the questions aching against the back of his throat. He wonders if the exhaustion is his own or Hannibal’s, he wonders if the quiet that has settled over them truly does feel like a blanket of lead, hard to breathe through and heavy, so, so heavy.

He steps closer, enough to duck his head and breathe against Hannibal’s hair, his arms still crossed against his chest, pressing gently to Hannibal’s back. He lingers that way until the tension passes through Hannibal and out, with a sigh, only then does he set his hands against Hannibal’s arms, curls fingers gently just above the elbow.

“Will you tell me what’s wrong?” He asks.

There is a snap of tension through the boy, there and gone like an electrical current, before he grounds himself again. He presses his tongue against his lips and pours Will a finger of scotch, neat, declining one for himself.

“Why do you think something’s wrong?”

“Because there is,” Will answers, matter of factly, rubbing palms slowly against Hannibal’s arms. “There is something.”

Hannibal draws a breath and sighs slowly, brows gently uplifted. “There is always something. Often many somethings. Were I to begin, the dinner would burn to a crisp well before I finished. None of it matters enough to ruin a meal.”

Will swallows, nods, a brief and gentle thing, before stepping back enough to reach the oven, to flick it off so the vegetables and fish remain in heat but not enough to burn or overcook. Enough to wait. Enough that they can talk - will talk, one way or another - and Hannibal will have no excuse of guilt or duty to back him up.

Will takes the drink and sips it, turning to rest his hip against the counter, to look at Hannibal properly.

“I had to cover a class today,” he says, conversational but not forced, words he would have pressed against Hannibal’s skin within the hour anyway. “I wonder how some classes are taught, with the material they have. Entirely dull and yet, you have a full lecture, you have attentive students.”

“Perhaps it’s you.”

“And my endless charm and bubbling wit,” Will agrees, eyes narrowing in pleasure, though the smile Hannibal returns is not as genuine, small and weak on his features. “I spent most of my day explaining to students how to commit the perfect murder, and how to read the signs of someone about to.” He shrugs, takes another sip of the scotch. “Perhaps I’ve taken it home. Forgot to leave my analyses at the door. Seeing things wrong where nothing is.” There is little conviction, here, but he tries, excuses his own worry with exhaustion.

Hannibal lifts a brow, but does not pull away. His hands spread against the counter, thumbing up a speck of spices to flick into the sink. “There must be a word, for the acquiescence to inevitability. It is not painful, rather entirely peaceful once one recognizes that their fate is inexorable and despite protest, has always been. It is bittersweet, at once a loss and a victory.”

Will’s brows knit and he focuses on his glass, turning the amber liquid in slow circles. “Surrender.”

The boy draws a breath as if to taste the word, and tilts his head, listening to a strain of music that plays only for him, and from very far away.

“Acceptance,” he counters.

“What are you accepting?”

A slight smile curves and Hannibal ducks his head, before pushing gently off the counter. “Fate.”

“There are choices, even then, never inevitabilities.” Will meets Hannibal’s eyes when he raises an eyebrow, expression almost resigned to disappointment at the words, and Will feels a laugh lift his chest in a brief huff of air. “I’m a cynic. Don’t believe in some higher power grasping me to push me to a path predetermined. Or perhaps I’m just stubborn.”

“How are your killers made, if not by circumstance?”

“Choice,” Will replies with a shrug, finishing his drink to set it behind himself on the counter. “Always a choice.”

“And limits?” Hannibal asks him quietly. “A human being pushed to their extreme physically, mentally, with no choice left but to bite back in the way they are intended to.”

“That would be defense. That’s different than murder. And yet, still a choice.” Will’s brows furrow just a little and he swallows, watches the boy in front of him, the tension in him, the way he still stands proud, despite being exhausted, despite the shadow Will can see once in a while when Hannibal turns his head a certain way, catches the light, just there against his jaw and up over his cheek.

“You speak from the perspective of the living, whose job it is to seek a restitution -”

“Justice,” Will corrects, only gently.

“Call it what you will, it’s no different than trading death for death to end a blood feud.” Hannibal’s jaw flickers tighter, and eases again, a faint smile lingering lax as he turns to the oven and slips on mitts. “It makes no difference to the dead, whether they were killed as an act of defense or not. But what of the living who has taken that action? Does their own satisfaction mean so little?”

“Does it justify the murder?”

“Yes,” Hannibal responds.

“No,” answers Will. “It doesn’t. Hannibal -”

“I’m going to kill a boy.” Hannibal reaches into the oven, removing the vegetables to set upon a trivet beside. “And then I’m leaving school.”

Will watches him, the way the muscles in his back tense and relax as he closes the oven door, removes the gloves, reaches to find a fork to test the softness of the potatoes. The words register but hang as though in a mist around them.

I’m going to kill a boy.

“No,” Will says.

Hannibal cocks his head a little, but doesn’t raise his eyes from the quiet work his hands have found. He brings a forkful of pumpkin to his mouth to taste, fingers pressed to his lips in pleasure, before he moves to check on the fish.

He doesn’t argue. There’s nothing to argue about. His mind is settled and sedate with the thought of tearing Mason’s tongue out with his teeth, and listening to his laugh become a wet, bubbling gurgle when he drowns on his own blood.

“The salmon is at risk of being overcooked.”

“Hannibal.”

Blue eyes to dark when Hannibal turns to him, brow up, playing ignorant of the weight of Will’s words, and yet still, waiting, for him to forbid it, aching for him to tell him he cannot, will not, must not. So he has a reason to tell him no, a reason to claim his autonomy, allow the pressure resting in his chest that wants to manifest into a scream out.

Will doesn’t move, he just looks, watches the way Hannibal’s eyes widen and narrow, just enough, thoughts as clear as if they were written on his face.

“Tell me why.”

Now, there is a flicker of emotion beyond the marble edifice so cooly set in place. Amusement, dire and terrible, gathering just beneath his eyes.

“You know him. Or his marks, at least. I washed away the ones left today - thankfully only superficial, this time - though I taste him, still, just there against the back of my tongue.” His smile widens and falters, a flame flickering, consuming. “It is a rare skill, to possess such abilities as to render me without use of words. Few have, and those who managed were left similarly unable.” A pause, tongue pressing to his lips. “Permanently unable.”

He draws a breath, repairing his expression to smooth marble, and turns to remove the fish from the oven.

“He is not the exception to that.”

Will thinks of the darkness he had seen once, coiling within the young man like tentacles, pushing through skin like antlers of terrifying width. He thinks of how often he has felt that anger quelled, with words or actions, by the boy himself, how often Hannibal had sought a numbness through pain and through pleasure, how he has started, now, to slowly come into his own and explain, demand, tailor his own experiences.

He is a boy damaged, perhaps permanently, cruelly, entirely damaged but he is not a boy broken.

“You did not like it,” Will murmurs, eyes in the middle distance, wondering how they can both converse so quietly like this, about this, when their words hold such horrors. “You did not fear it, but you did not like it. You can taste that death behind your teeth, you seek numbness for it, Hannibal, another will not make it better.”

“Do you know the taste of it?”

“I have killed.” Will flicks his eyes up, tilts his head. “Due to necessity, just as you.”

Hannibal’s eyes soften, just a little, the pressure easing from their corners. “Some would argue that revenge is not a necessity,” he says. “I would, strongly, disagree.”

He steps closer, breath catching just a little as Will’s gaze only touches on his own before moving just past. A warm hand is pressed to Will’s cheek, thumb soft through the scruff there, before moving past to the back of his neck. Hannibal leans, arms looped tight around Will, and his throat clicks as his words stick in it.

“I would not have wished it on you,” he murmurs. “And I feel no regret in it for myself. Not for the ones that came before, and not for this one. He is mad, and a word from him - errant, careless - would see me expelled and disgraced, if not sent away.”

Hannibal draws away again, as soon as he feels Will’s hands against him, a skittish mistrust showing white in his eyes.

“Will you send me away, then? When I do. Now, perhaps, is better still, I would not have you implicated -”

Will watches him, feels that blackness, that slick suffocating oil pushed down, by something else, something more. That thing which had Hannibal giggling this morning in childish abandon, that thing that has him turning to Will at night to whisper things against his skin. That part of him that is beyond the damage, that grows flowering through cracks in barren earth.

He reaches, careful to have Hannibal see, careful to hold him gently but firmly, all at once, against his cheek, one hand, then the other, before he leans in to press their foreheads together, closing his eyes in trust that Hannibal will not hurt him, will not pull away from him, will let him.

“Stay,” he whispers, harsh, and he has to stop before the words shatter against his tongue and bleed from him next. There should not be blood between them. “Stay with me. Stay with study. Stay with this life that you are building, yourself, every inch and corner yours to mold and shape, and standing so strong on iron foundations.”

His throat works, thumbs gentle against Hannibal’s face, and Will opens his eyes to look to the ground between them, where their feet stand close, where their bodies bend like plants to the sun to press together.

“Please stay.”

Hannibal shakes his head, but Will’s hands are firm against him, one smoothing back his hair, the other settling against his jaw. A sigh breaks, a weak sound that Hannibal hates as soon as he hears it. He stays, standing, for now, but every twitch of muscle in his body begs for him to run.

“He will ruin me,” Hannibal seethes. “He has, enough times, but bruises heal. Wounds repair. What he can do to me -” Another breath dies in his throat, and he dampens dry lips with a press of tongue, eyes closing. “He knows, he knows how I gained my admittance, he knows how I have kept it. It is only by luck and his laziness he does not know about you. And then what?”

Hannibal grasps Will’s hands in his own and draws them away, clutching tight in a rising panic, like waves breaking against an unyielding shore.

“This was a mistake. All of it, school and how I’ve kept it, I should not have. I should not now. He will follow me, he will follow me and he will take and take until boredom snares him and then, what? Any career I might have sought will be as ruined as I’ve made myself in chasing it. Will, I can’t -”

“How you paid for school means little once you graduate it, Hannibal, please.” Will watches the panic fill him, like a drowning from the inside, turns his hand in Hannibal’s to press fingers to his pulse, rubbing there gently in an attempt to soothe.

“People strip through college, they sleep through it, and yet, once they are a doctor, once they are a lawyer, once they are what they have earned themselves to be, that history is nothing more than a point in their lives. A murder clings to you forever, Hannibal, and you would be tried as an adult, now.”

“He’ll know -”

“He will,” Will murmurs, pushing off the counter to step closer to Hannibal again, to rest a hand against his shoulder to hold him close, safe, careful enough and yet not possessive as grasping the back of his head. “And his madness will take him, enough, at some point, to null his voice entirely. But you will grow, you will succeed in this, for you, never for him, because you are studying for yourself, striving and working and struggling for yourself, never for him, never for them.”

Will swallows, keeps his eyes on Hannibal. He will not tell him not to. He has no right to tell him not to. He wishes, in that moment, that he did, so he could tell Hannibal to not kill again, to not do that to himself.

Lifting Will’s hand to his cheek, Hannibal presses it there and lets his eyes close. His breath is warm, soft little puffs against his palm. He stands silent for moments, minutes, hours, it feels, a barely tangible trembling in him like the earth’s movement before a quake.

“Do you know what I felt before, when I did it?” He nearly laughs, a mirthless smile flickering and vanishing like lightning. “Nothing. I felt nothing because they were nothing. It was no different than crumpling up a piece of paper, riddled with mistakes, and throwing it away. They, each, lay at my feet bleeding, shaking into stillness, and even when I tasted them to gain back some part of me that they had taken -”

He draws a breath and shakes his head.

“Nothing. A distant satisfaction. I slept, after, for the first time in so many months and I didn’t dream. It was -” A breath, a laugh, a sigh. “It was peaceful.”

His eyes open, dark as cabernet, hints of red in the low kitchen lights, and Hannibal asks, unable to hide the wariness in his voice. “Did you know?”

Will’s eyes are wide but he is quiet, no horror there, no disgust. He has seen enough, he has seen so much, and it should frighten him much more that his response to Hannibal’s admission is that he knows the peace that comes of that, that he is happy, happy, that he had slept, then, without pain, without fear.

“I saw something,” Will tells him, tone just as calm, still holding him close, setting a hand against the base of his spine to ground him. “A darkness there that coils and tugs, that turns you to a creature with your face and black skin and antlers to the sky. I saw and I swallowed it away.”

Will turns his head to press his lips against Hannibal’s temple, to breathe him in with slow, steady inhales.

“It is not what you are, it is a facet,” Will tells him, sigh soft and words genuine. “It is a facet as parts of me are, on fire and burned black with hatred and horror, or eyes bright and smile little, in pleasure at the thought of what I wanted to do, and did at one point. They are not me, either.”

Will holds Hannibal as the boy trembles at the words, waits, he knows, waits for the rejection and dismissal, waits for the command and control, and Will gives him none of them.

“I am so proud of you,” he tells him, instead.

Hannibal’s jaw works, once, a bare flicker of movement that catches the light and shadows him. He tries to turn his head away but finds he’s held. Held close, still, held near, and he sinks into Will, an ugly, raw sound ripping from his throat and buried against Will’s shoulder. He is small, suddenly, so small and so entirely impotent with this taken from him, small in the strong arms that hold him and small to the quiet hushes pressed against his hair.

He only realizes that he’s wept, broken and whole all at once, when he feels Will’s shirt damp against his cheek, shuddering silence shaking his shoulders, his breath too short to catch and hitching, little sounds from a little boy who has spent his whole life being anything but.

“I’m sorry,” Hannibal breathes, gritting his teeth against the rush of feelings he can’t stop now. “I love you. I’m sorry.”

Will just holds him, eyes closed and hand curled up around Hannibal’s head, fingers in his hair and allowing him to move and nuzzle as he pleases. He holds him because there is nothing else he wants to do more than that. He holds him to take that pain, to feel it seep through his skin as the tears do, as the words do, hot and real and raw against him.

He takes it in so that Hannibal does not have to carry it, so that he can breathe when the cage isn’t around his lungs anymore, so that he can sleep without the oppressing memories clouding his eyes. Will swallows when Hannibal wraps his arms around him in turn and clings, fingers digging into his back, bunching his shirt and pulling it taut enough to nearly rip, seams struggling and Will uncaring for anything but the way Hannibal’s tears leave him, the way his words become tear-thick and mumbled, incoherent against him and he holds him closer then.

Only when Hannibal stops shaking, when his breathing eases, does Will remove his fingers from his hair, from his fever-hot scalp, to draw over his cheek again, to wipe the tears from it again and lift his chin.

“My beautiful boy, do you know how strong you are?” Will whispers, bending to press their foreheads together, adoring, protective. “Do you know how much I love you?”

“Please,” Hannibal flinches, somewhere between a laugh and a sob. “Please, stop -”

“No,” he answers, as gentle in voice as he is in touch. “No, I won’t.”

The word resonates, simple and profound, and Hannibal swallows down a rough breath before catching Will’s mouth beneath his own. He simply holds it there, unmoving, fingers curled tight in Will’s shirt. He holds the kiss until he has to breathe, and even then, drawing away only enough that they’re still touching.

There is a new kinship, now, in their blood, spilled from others and unable to staunch from their own wounds before hands pressed softly to slow the flow. Hannibal lets himself be small, because Will is here to make him large. He lets himself be weak because Will makes him strong. He lets himself be, because Will loves him for that and nothing more matters.

“I don’t know what I’ll do when he comes for me again,” Hannibal whispers, earnest now, softly spoken. He shakes his head a little and manages a laugh, faltering. “Just keep me here. Let me stay and forget the classes. He won’t stop.”

Will shakes his head, but it is not a denial, it is not a rejection. It is a gesture as helpless as Hannibal’s fears of this boy - boy - who harms him so, for his own amusement, who torments him for his own enjoyment. He wants to tell Hannibal that he will not stop, but Hannibal must not either, that he will go to class and get incredible grades, for himself, for his own dream and his own want to do that. He wants to tell Hannibal that he is stronger, that he is smarter, that he is better.

And he will. Every day they share together, every morning they wake to the other.

Every chance he gets.

“Stay,” he tells him again, conviction just as strong in that one word as anything else he has promised Hannibal and said to him, honest, open. “But do not stop with classes. Do not, not for him.”

He makes no promises of ‘better’, he cannot, not yet, but he makes promises of comfort and safety, promises of this guarantee of what they have between them. Will kisses him until Hannibal makes a sound in his throat and then he holds him again, against his chest, so he can hear how steady and real and alive Will’s heart beats.

A moment, two, before Will’s lips curve in a smile and he presses them together.

“I want dinner in bed,” he says, a suggestion and a gentle command both. Dinner in bed, ice cream on the porch, and another shot of whiskey, that they can share through lazy kisses and wide smiles.

Hannibal’s shoulders lower, not beneath the weight of command but in gratitude for the release it provides. Something for him to do, some way to occupy his thoughts from what still feels so inevitable, much as the blonde-haired maniac himself. He nods, brushing his lips over Will’s own before offering his cheek, the corner of his lips, the bridge of his nose, to feel each kissed in turn.

He parts only reluctantly, letting his concern fall on the cooling vegetables rather than himself, for now. As Will leaves the room, Hannibal shivers, and wonders if the fear of loss is enough to stop his hand the next time Mason seeks him out. It is as hard to imagine letting himself be hurt even once more as it is to envision no longer coming home to Wolf Trap - to friendly dogs and a soft bed and a man who in spite of seeing so much, still finds good in the world so wrought with darkness.

It is a candle, in the dead of night, but it’s more than Hannibal’s had before to guide him.

“No more whiskey for me,” Hannibal calls out softly. “Not if I’m to make it to class tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

It happens without fanfare, almost without notice. While Hannibal’s rent is still paid, his time there diminishes to only a few days a month, and all the rest are spent at Wolf Trap. Despite the inconvenience of it, despite the long drives after longer days, gentle mornings ended far too soon so that he can make his early classes, there is a keen comfort in returning to a place where he is greeted by friendly dogs and a warm embrace.

It feels like home, and Hannibal lets the word settle like soft hands against his skin.

Slowly, Will’s shelves are crowded with textbooks and novels in languages he doesn’t speak. Space is taken in his closet for tailored suits, increasing in number as he buys them not for Hannibal to perform in, not to meet some suitor’s expectations, but simply because it brings the boy such pleasure to move in them, refined and lovely for no one but himself. New appliances appear in the kitchen, carefully chosen. Alternatives to cheaper foodstuff, bought fresh instead at farmers’ markets.

Another backpack of books has arrived with the boy today, well-loved copies that he could afford for himself from the used bookstore, each one touched and paged through before Hannibal finds a spot for it.

Will does not help Hannibal unpack them or sort them, the place is his to arrange as he sees fit. Though Will had made the offer of emptying some shelves just for him, Hannibal seemed contented to just place his books in amongst Will’s, filling in the gaps available, making the entire house feel more like home for them both.

They will run out of space, soon, and Will considers building another bookcase, up higher around the fireplace.

He watches, now, as Hannibal reaches for the highest shelf, pushing up on his toes, and settles two books there, between the bookend and one of Will’s older textbooks. It feels strange and utterly beautiful all at once, watching Hannibal almost nest this way, settle his clothes and books and life into this little house with the dogs and the space and Will.

Will, who now bites his lip and smiles at the thought of another late night together, legs tangled in bed or on the couch as they read or talk or watch something on the television until one or both of them fall asleep.

Domestic. Comfortable. Not a life he thinks Hannibal ever envisioned for himself, nor, Will would admit readily, he for himself either. But he finds that even at any depth he digs, beneath his own potential cynicism, he finds only happiness when Hannibal is around.

Hannibal presses a fingertip against one of the books, squinting a little until it’s flush with the others. Pleased by this small tidiness in the face of disorganization, he crouches again to gather another from his bag, and pauses. He swallows, and allows a faint smile to appear before taking up the little book. Fine black leather worn pale around the edges, the pages within softened by use, he considers it for a moment as he meanders towards the trash bin beneath the desk. Gentle fingers open it almost fondly, fanning through pages written in his own hand, and he closes it just as lightly before starting to lower it to the bin.

Something pulls at him, though - memories, perhaps, that seem so far removed from this place and this time in his life as to be almost unfamiliar. He lifts his eyes to Will, settled comfortably into one of his armchairs, and instead approaches him on bare feet, clicking against the wooden floor. Without needing to be asked, Will shifts his own book to one hand and uncrosses his legs.

Hannibal settles into his lap, toes pressed to the floor, and leans a heavy shoulder against the man’s chest. “I’ve never shown you this,” he remarks, amusement gathering beneath his eyes.

Will’s own eyes narrow before he waits for Hannibal to open the book again, at a random page. Within, there are columns, for a name, a date, a number, and another date, this column without a label, but the intent clear enough.

Will smiles, sets one hand against Hannibal’s hip, just to hold him close, thumb stroking up and down against where his shirt rests over warm skin. Hannibal turns the pages without being asked, and Will stops him only when he sees a familiar number.

Will Graham. Do not return the call.

The words are crossed out, yet three names beneath, is Will Graham again, this time with a date, and this one crossed out more vigorously than the first.

Will hums, leans back in his chair and rests his elbow against the arm of it, head tilted to rest his cheek on folded fingers, watching the boy in his lap.

“Two times?”

“Four.”

Will licks his lips, raises his eyebrows. “Four?”

Hannibal’s smile widens a little. He turns two more pages, and runs his finger along the seam of a page removed, its remains bristling beneath his touch. “This was the third.”

“The whole page?”

Humming, Hannibal settles a little deeper, head against Will’s shoulder. “I was very unhappy with you,” he grins. “I had to fish it from the garbage to rewrite the rest of the information. And then I satisfied myself by crumpling it once more.”

“Which time was this?” Will asks, gently amused.

“When I asked, and was denied.” Nearly shivering when Will’s thumb strokes a little more firmly against his hip, Hannibal touches along the strip of paper again. “I didn’t understand what I wanted or what you wanted from me. I had not, before then, ever offered myself so willingly by choice, rather than necessity. And so in self-pity, I returned to my work and learned again the meaning of being truly wounded.”

A sharp swallows jerks in his throat, unexpected, brow creasing a little as a particular name, still present, stands out to him.

“All were not so unkind,” he considers, after a moment to draw up strangely proud again, a curious self-fortification of walls erected around weakness. He touches a name and notes, amused, “This one was in love with me.”

“Was?”

Hannibal hums, thinks that he will not at all miss Franklyn but he will think fondly of him, the sweet, desperate man he was.

“He kept insisting I move in, stop my studies, that he would support me and make me happy.”

Will clears his throat and raises his eyebrows, lips pursing in clear pleasure at how close to home the words ring. He watches Hannibal’s expression soothe with a laugh before he shakes his head, nods it, gestures to allow for this being an exception as Will leans a little closer to run parted lips just beneath his jaw, as though to kiss but not quite getting there.

“Could he have?”

“Doubtful.”

Will snorts, but it isn’t malicious. He knows his boy, knows how haughty and demanding he is. One thing he does have, despite everything, is self-respect and an element of self-worth that Will is working tirelessly to brighten.

“Do I?”

Tilting his head to feel Will’s lips trace against his skin, Hannibal’s cheeks darken and his eyes hood in contentment. “So far you’re doing admirably,” he allows, smile widening when finally he is kissed. “I am unfamiliar enough with how you make me feel that I am having to learn new words for it, ones that have not had any use in my life before. And others that were well-known to me now seem strange.”

He turns another page, and another. Names and names, dates and dates, again and again. There was a time when Hannibal would turn these pages with a stubborn sort of pride, to know that those therein had chosen him on which to waste their time and money. A secret life of which none were aware but he and they, unbeknownst to professors or peers.

And despite that over time, the dates become further and further apart, the names familiar rather than a scattering of one-offs, it feels suddenly tawdry. His notes about preferences seem perverse, and the entire thing a confessional not of his worth, but of his lack of it. Accessible to anyone with a valid credit card. Available at any time of night. Amenable to whatever they wished of him, whether affection or lust, each as false as the other.

“Here,” Hannibal murmurs, finding Will’s name again, not scratched through. “I had not charged in months by then. It felt unfair, though, for you not to be here, when others are who meant far less.” His brow knits again and he closes the book abruptly, shifting away to stand. “And now it seems just as wrong that you are listed among them.”

Will’s arm snares gently around Hannibal’s waist and he sits up more comfortably before pulling Hannibal back against him in a firm but warm embrace.

“I belonged there, once,” Will says. “I was there, just as they, for your company and your time. And I believe for the first few visits you really hated seeing me.” He shifts his arms to rest just his hands on Hannibal’s hips when he squirms in the embrace to get away. “It is a catalog and measurement of time passing, for you, and the changes therein. I’m very proud to no longer be in the book for payment and necessity, but there because you want to see me.”

He can feel the tension in Hannibal still, through his shoulders and down his back, tightening the muscles in his stomach, in his arms, his jaw set and his head down. Will kisses him, just there where his jaw turns, from running parallel to the ground to bending smooth up to just against his ear.

“I am very happy I get to wake up to you,” Will murmurs.

Hannibal shifts a little again, as if to test the bonds of Will’s arms around him, and feel them so secure. He tilts his head again, nuzzling softly, eyes still dark but seeking kisses that soothe long-held tensions, each one a relief. He imagines all the times he’s woken alone, still in his clothes from the night before and with the sensation of unwelcome hands and mouths against his skin. He thinks of all the times he’s awoken, sent spiralling far into his mind from exhaustion, and not known where he was, whether in another’s bed or his own, trapped halfway between waking and nightmare and unable to rouse himself from it.

It’s been months since the last time it happened, another gift given to him by this man who has given him so much.

He wonders if he will ever truly feel worthy of it, and the book in his lap seems suddenly heavy.

“Would that I had met you before it came to this,” Hannibal murmurs. “I have brought with me more than just books and clothes.”

“You brought me yourself,” Will murmurs, just a soft nuzzle against his hair before he pulls back to look at Hannibal properly, turned as he is, bringing up a hand to tug gently against the strands of his hair that lie flat and smooth over his scalp.

“And you I would take without the clothes and books and be just as contented.” There is a promise there, as Hannibal had once made, quiet and certain, that Will seeks for Hannibal to understand now, that he seeks to use to rub the tension from him and hold him gentle and close for as long as that takes.

“Did we want to start on dinner?” He asks.

“No.”

Will smiles a little at the answer, despite the tone it carries with it. His arms slip around Hannibal’s waist again, forehead pressed to the boy’s shoulder. “Do you want me to start dinner?”

He considers it, and shakes his head. The little book is set aside to the floor, and Hannibal turns enough to draw his long legs up into the chair, taller each day it seems, and in moments like this, seeking to somehow make himself smaller. He rests sideways against Will, who resettles his embrace, running a hand along Hannibal’s arm as the boy’s hand comes to rest against his chest.

“Why did you tell me no?” Hannibal asks, hiding the consternation of his expression against the crook of Will’s neck. “When I asked before, then - the page that was removed. Why?”

Will considers the words, thinks back to that day when he had had to fight himself the entire time to keep his own composure, to keep his own stance on this. To say no, to not retract it. He remembers how Hannibal had felt against his hands, trembling and warm and young, he remembers how his breath had come out in a slow sigh, how he had resigned himself, immediately, to that answer and had closed off, piece by piece.

“Because you did not ask me for yourself,” Will tells him quietly. “You asked because you wanted the closeness but you would have seen it as any other advance, any other acceptance of what you gave with your body, after we were done. You would have possibly come back, but it would always have been with that weight over us both, that assumption that now, all I would want from you would be to strip you bare and hear you moan.”

Will sighs, sets the heel of his foot against the armchair and closes his eyes. “It was one of the hardest things for me, to watch you walk out and wonder if you would come back again. I didn’t think you would.”

Will hums, blinking his eyes open again and sitting up more, ducking his head against Hannibal’s hair. “But I would not be another person who betrayed your expectations over something I could wait for, if allowed it of me.”

He recalls the words Will spoke to him then, beyond the no that stings distantly even now. How he told Hannibal that if he still wanted this later, he would gladly. If Hannibal asked. If Hannibal allowed it. He recalls the words that followed after, telling him that he was - is - more than a thing to be used for money and discarded.

No one had ever said that to him before. For all Hannibal can imagine, no one had ever thought it of him. Theirs was an insistence to the contrary of what Will claimed that day, or a tacit acceptance for their own benefit.

Hannibal turns to brush his lips across Will’s cheek, absent gestures to self-soothe from the stark memories that are not so easily brushed away. He told himself that day - startled and angered by Will’s words, exposed and wounded by being denied what he thought he wanted - that he would not call him again, he would not see him again.

It took reminding himself how much worse it could be, near to death, for his stubbornness to break.

Slowly they shift, tangled limbs and soft kisses brushed over whatever skin or clothing presents itself before them. Hannibal rearranges his long legs, like a dancer’s limbs, thin and strong, to spread them over Will’s lap and face him. Framing his face with warm hands, he draws Will into a slow kiss, to remind them both that he came back to where he’s supposed to be.

Will kisses back, eyes closed and hands gentle over Hannibal’s arms, over his shoulders, down his back and to his hips, just holding, just soft.

He adores him. He would have waited longer, had Hannibal not come back as soon as he had. He would have waited regardless, found a way to help even if it was indirectly, a way for money to go to Hannibal without him having to do anything to ‘earn’ it there, a way for him to be safe without stepping in as protector. And now he holds this extraordinary boy in his hands and Will feels his heart swell.

Hands seek up against the hem of Hannibal’s shirt and Will works it free from his pants, smiling when Hannibal breaks the kiss to nuzzle against him and bring his hands forward to work the buttons. Will allows this because Hannibal is not seeking to misdirect through sex, because he is not running from himself here. He allows it because Hannibal’s breathy little noises filter through his hearing like warm water and it feels amazing. He allows it because Hannibal allows it.

“Bed?” He offers, words warm and eyes hooded before he lifts them to meet Hannibal’s, a quiet suggestion, but only that.

Hannibal looks over his shoulder towards the bed, body twisting pleasantly down against Will in a way that seems unintentional and is anything but. He doesn’t want to move from here. He doesn’t want to move from Will, so entirely, wholly near to him.

“It’s very far.”

Will’s smile twitches a little wider. “Is it?”

Hannibal hums, reaching up to sweep his hair back from his face, and then turns to Will again to slip sleek arms around his neck. He presses into him, cheek to cheek, and murmurs against his ear. “Much too far.” A beat, as he hears the instruction unspoken, and asks, “Will you take me there?”

Will draws his hands up and down Hannibal’s back in consideration, hiding his smile behind false displeasure before he stands, in one deliberate motion, hands slipping quick to catch beneath Hannibal’s ass so he doesn’t fall. He kisses Hannibal’s hair and sighs.

“Spoiled boy, you’re growing lazy.”

Regardless, Will carries him to bed, catching the kisses that fall against his face, holding his boy close to him so he can feel his heart beating beneath his half-open shirt. He sets Hannibal down gently, does not throw him to bed, and crawls over him to kiss him down into the sheets, deep, languid, loving things as Will splays one hand over Hannibal’s chest, fingers wide. The other, he slips between the boy’s legs to stroke, catching the little sounds against his mouth with a smile.

Hannibal arches, pale skin stretching beneath the rise of his shirt, the dip of his pants. Soft belly and lightly haired chest, all at once youthful and masculine. He lets his eyes slip closed, sighing, and does not argue Will’s claim. The laziness is still unfamiliar enough to him to be a wonderful novelty, savored again and again, to have no more obligation than to study hard and do those chores around the house that Hannibal has as much assigned to himself as Will has. Enough that he feels he is attempting to earn his keep. Enough that he feels free to revel in moments like this, when he feels beautiful and adored.

Spoiled, indeed.

Long fingers slip across his stomach, and Hannibal reaches for Will’s pants to open them. He laughs, unsurprised, when Will moves his hand above his head, and Hannibal obediently folds his fingers together.

“Let me,” he complains, a warm murmur that rocks into a moan as Will’s palm presses firmer against him. “Let me please you, I wish to -”

“You are,” Will assures him, contented to just explore the beautiful body beneath his own, with lips and warm hands, as Hannibal squirms in pleasure from it. It is always astounding to Will just how responsive Hannibal is when he lets himself be, when he allows Will to take him to that depth of trust and release, when he begs for and accepts stinging strikes against his skin, when he is held pliant and beautiful by a collar or his own will. He is an exquisite thing, and Will makes sure he understands just how he adores him, just how much he enjoys worshiping against his skin, for everything Hannibal is.

He works Hannibal’s pants open and strokes him as he bites softly against a nipple, feeling Hannibal arch beneath him and draw his knees up to open himself up. He is beautiful. He is alive and youthful and Will’s.

By choice.

By want.

Will moans, parts his lips from Hannibal’s skin and pants against him, ducking his head to nuzzle into him as a cat might as his hand continues to tease between them.

Hannibal accepts every kiss, every breath, every touch that Will shares with him. If they spent the rest of the night just so, praising the other with words and gestures, it would be a grander night than most that Hannibal has known. He wonders if he will ever tire of the physical pleasure that Will builds in him. He imagines with a flare of delight that he will not, ever, and grins against his arm, outstretched over his head.

Slow undulations curl his hips upward, thrusting his cock into Will’s grip. He plants his toes into the sheets, pushing against them to find purchase and allow his body to move with all the freedom that Will offers. Cheeks warming, Hannibal’s lips part on a moan when the silk-soft skin around his cock is slid back to bare him, cold and hot all at once, nearly too sensitive and releasing his heart to race from it.

He wants Will to have him just like this, legs splayed wide and chests together.

He wants Will to turn him to his belly and lay heavy atop him, rutting deep and slow.

He wants to be dragged to his knees and spread and taken until the bed and his body in turn shake with it.

“You,” Hannibal asks, because that, after everything, is what he truly wants the most. “You, please, Will.”

Will’s eyes flick up and he smiles, pushing himself up to kiss Hannibal deep, enough for him to moan, drop his arms down to stroke through Will’s hair and tug it, enough that it sends shivers and goosebumps down Will’s body. He presses their foreheads together, lifting Hannibal’s hips to slip his pants from him and toss them over the edge of the bed. He sits up, allowing Hannibal to wriggle free of his shirt and remove that from the bed too. Will just savors him, the beautiful way he is flushed down his neck and over his chest, panting and smiling up at Will.

“Please.”

Ask.

Will grins, bites his lip and shakes his head, not in denial but in disbelief that he could be this lucky.

“How?” He asks, yanking his own shirt over his head, wanting nothing more than to just be joined with him, rocking slowly together, deep enough to draw those sweet little cries from Hannibal’s throat.

“Just like this, Will, please –“

So Will bends, working his pants free, kicking them away, laughing when he reaches over Hannibal to get the lube, the condom, and the boy snares arms around him and yanks him down to snuggle and kiss and rub against.

“Impatient,” Will sighs, delighted, nuzzling back just as warm, just as happily, before trying to reach again and finding Hannibal holding his wrist from it. He blinks, brows furrowed in question.

Hannibal doesn’t meet his eyes, turning instead to bring Will’s hand to his mouth, lips parted against his palm. He lays still that way, all long breaths and fast heart, eyes closed. Regret wracks him inside, stretching sinews tight enough that Hannibal’s legs wrap against Will’s thighs and hold there for a moment before releasing and falling lax to the bed once more.

“I wish I could feel you,” he whispers against Will’s fingers, so soft the words are hardly heard. “Just you, like this.”

Before Will can answer, Hannibal lets his hand free with a sound almost like a laugh. Foolish. Childish thoughts that he forces away, reaching himself to the nightstand instead.

Will watches him, the strange twinge of regret that shoots through him like pain, before taking the condom Hannibal hands him to put on the nightstand again, leaning over the boy to watch him as he just clicks open the bottle of lube and spreads some on his fingers before teasing between Hannibal’s legs.

He bends, kissing against Hannibal’s cheek, eyes closed and touch lingering and soft, before he pulls back, sighs, and presses two fingers into Hannibal to stretch him, careful and devoted - always, always gentle.

“I want you to feel me,” he murmurs, nuzzling against Hannibal’s cheek before humming soft, almost in question, and kissing there instead. “May I?”

Hannibal twists at the touch inside of him, squirming with a shudder of pleasure, and he shakes his head. “You shouldn’t.”

He reaches for Will’s cheek, to bring him down to kiss, blinking almost sleepily when Will hesitates, speaking near enough that their lips brush.

“That isn’t what I asked.”

The boy attempts to smile, and he knows when it falters and so instead he tucks his cheek against Will’s own, tensing despite himself. He shouldn’t have said anything. He knows better, and he forgot himself. The chastening slows his heart, the movements of his body. Will doesn’t withdraw from him, but neither does he press. With as much sensitivity as if it were his own body so suddenly sundered, he drapes kisses across Hannibal’s cheek when he turns away.

“It’s okay, Hannibal.”

A shake of his head displaces Will’s mouth from his skin, eyes open, turned towards the wall. By his own fault, he is ashamed. By his own decisions, he is humiliated. Embarrassment darkens his cheeks, guilt tenses his jaw. “It isn’t. You don’t know where I’ve been,” he adds, black-humored even now.

Will kisses him again, a deliberate seeking of skin until Hannibal can’t squirm from it, has to feel the lips against him, has to feel the softness with which Will touches him, still gently stroking between his legs but not pushing, not distracting.

“You are here,” he sighs, “now. Hannibal, it’s okay.”

He doesn’t fight the touches, the kisses, neither does he accept them with anything more than that - acceptance that Will is still here, still trying to ease away thoughts not so readily forgotten.

“It isn’t - safe,” he responds, the words hissed on a whisper, bitterness coiling through voice and body. A sharp swallow cuts through his throat, tongue pressing against his teeth. “Every month I’m tested. Every month I fear. Every month the same thing again, wondering if this will be the time - ”

He tried to be careful. He always insisted on protection and walked away from paying customers who would have doubled his fees to have it without. And in those moments when it happened anyway, it was never his choice, held or pinned or incapable of protest, overpowered by strong alcohol or stronger hands. He never wanted it, and it happened anyway.

“Please,” he asks, holding his breath as if it might stop his voice from hitching, shuddering weak in his chest. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“It’s okay,” Will whispers, drawing a hand through Hannibal’s hair and kissing the corner of his eye. “You won’t.”

“I’m unclean,” Hannibal hisses, brows drawn and jaw tense and voice breaking on the word.

“No.” Will’s assurance pulls a breath so sharp through Hannibal it arches him up, even as Will removes his hand to rest it against his hip instead, watching Hannibal as he begins to tremble beneath him.

Hannibal is not repulsed by the idea of having Will this way - he is terrified that were Will to touch him like this he would find himself disgusted, find Hannibal, thus, disgusting. He swallows, thick.

“Sharp edges and broken things."

“No.” Will cups his face and bends over him, watching to see if Hannibal’s denial and excuses become genuine, not a selfless fear keeping him from what he wants. Just bright eyes and flushed cheeks and the hitching of Hannibal’s small chest beneath him, the upset tugging at him, almost overpowering him.

Will kisses his forehead, down his nose, beneath his eyes.

“You’re perfect.” Will whispers, and Hannibal sobs, just gently, just once. “I love you.”

“Breathe,” Will sighs against his cheek.

It is an instruction, however gentle, and Hannibal acts on it as he would any other. A hitched sigh fills him and empties, and with it carries a small sound, a single note plucked from deep inside. He curls his arms around Will’s neck and breathes him in, again and again.

“If you don’t want to, then we won’t,” Will tells him, listening to the little breaths against his ear, feeling Hannibal’s heart beneath his chest. “I’m not afraid, Hannibal. Not of you. Not of this. Tell me what you want.”

The words tighten, hold, and release on a whisper.

“I want you. Just you.”

“Okay.”

Ask.

Will kisses his flushed cheeks again. “Okay.”

He brings his hand, still slick, down to stroke himself, down to line himself up against Hannibal, and just breach. Blue eyes up to brown and Will smiles, expression entirely warming his features, entirely softening his face. He watches Hannibal adoring, devoted, so entirely in love with him he can barely breathe for it and he leans in to kiss him, just a gentle press of lips to lips before sighing soft and starting the gentle push into him.

Will keeps one hand against Hannibal’s face, levering himself up to let Hannibal arch, lips parting and eyes just this close to closing. He watches and he holds him, pressing in as Hannibal’s voice hitches again, as he bites his lip and swallows and watches Will with wide, beautiful eyes.

“I am so lucky,” Will whispers, ducking his head to press worship to Hannibal’s jaw. “You feel so good, Hannibal, so good…”

A thousand times he’s been told those words. A thousand times they’ve slicked across his skin like oil that never quite came off when he washed. A thousand times they became a meaningless drone, no more than the patter of rain against the house in which he shuttered himself when they fell.

Never once have they meant anything until now.

Thoughts war in the boy, unwelcome memories and wanted sensation. All the the others who took what they wanted and thought it a fair exchange, and now the one who has given more than Hannibal can fathom and only takes what Hannibal offers, freely. His arms tighten over Will’s shoulders and he wraps a trembling leg around his hip, to press Will deeper inside of him.

As though he is not already there, between his bones and in every breath. As though every heartbeat isn’t for him, as though his blood warms for any other.

Hannibal ducks his head against Will’s collarbone and shudders a laugh, cheeks ruddy, damp with tears he didn’t know had fallen free. With grasping hands and curled toes, with exquisite pressure and just a little pain, he welcomes Will into himself entirely, skin against skin, body against body.

Will does not push more than Hannibal can handle, he allows languid shallow thrusts until Hannibal’s body pulls him deeper in, until the boy himself gasps his pleasure, digs his nails into Will’s back and whimpers what he needs.

Will rarely needs words to know what to give him. He feels Hannibal’s entire being vibrate against his own with his pleasure, with his relief.

And it feels so good, so unbelievably good to be inside Hannibal this way, to be allowed, and Will whispers his gratitude, his adoration against every inch of skin he can reach, laughing when fingers curl delicate and strong in his hair, pull his head back so Will can see him again, so he can grin and feel Hannibal grin back.

“You are beautiful,” Will tells him, eyes narrowing, growing slightly breathless from pressing so deep into his boy, feeling him shiver and clench. “And you will tell me what you want me to do to you, like this, and I will drive you breathless and speechless into these sheets.”

Hannibal chokes on another little laugh, caught in his throat already despite Will’s promise to take his voice from him more than he already has with his body and his words. He drags the back of his hand across his eyes to wipe wet heat away from them, a steady trickle now as much caused by this as despite it. Shaking fingers press to scruffy cheek, stroke across lips that part to kiss them, and Hannibal curls his leg tighter around Will’s hips before bringing the other to join it.

“Is it asking too much,” he manages, “for you to stay like this forever?”

Will’s grin pulls a little wider, and Hannibal feels his own do the same.

“Just so,” asks Hannibal, “or on my belly, bent for you, every way - just stay like this.”

Love, and nothing less.

When Will moves, it is a slow draw back and a rougher shove in, pushing a sound from Hannibal’s parted lips before he presses a hand against his face, gentle and pleased, his laugh genuine in its joy when Will does it again.

He curls one hand down to grip Hannibal’s thigh, spreading him wider, pressing him to the bed so his back arches more. Will digs his nails in just enough to feel Hannibal squirm from it before letting up, ducking his head to suck hard against his collarbone instead as his hips speed, push harder, deeper, and pull more and more sounds from Hannibal beneath him.

“Beautiful boy,” Will praises. “Louder, for me, come on.”

Hannibal’s voice is freed in a long, low moan pressed against Will’s shoulder. He slings his arms around the man, clinging almost desperately, his groans of pleasure broken into pieces with each thrust of Will inside of him. He doesn’t recognize the sounds he makes, so wholly unrestrained. Perhaps he’s never really made them before, and he knows he’s certainly not for anyone else.

No one else has ever made him feel so wanted, so accepted, so loved.

No one else has ever made him want to be so open.

No one else has ever earned him.

“Please,” begs Hannibal. “Please, I can’t - Will, I’m going to -”

The warning hitches silent, gasping, fingernails digging and toes clenching tight as he feels himself uncoil. He spills hot and sticky between them, his orgasm shaking him to breathless silence, lips slack, and still Will thrusts into him, wonderfully there, inside him still, just as he asked.

Will presses in and holds, hair damp and getting in his eyes but he doesn’t care. He watches Hannibal’s eyes widen, his chest rise and fall with quick breaths, white teeth snaring over his red bottom lip. He is entirely exquisite like this, and Will cannot get enough of him. He bends to kiss, lips to Hannibal’s cheek, smiling wider when little fingers seek his face, his hair, tug to hold him closer.

Will takes a breath and pulls out of him, groaning at the loss, and silences Hannibal with a kiss when he protests.

“But –“

“Turn,” Will grins, stroking up and down the boy’s sides. “Over.”

Hannibal watches him with wide eyes, still entirely drunk on his pleasure, and Will kisses him again, deeper, this time, lingering, holding his chin and breathing against him until Hannibal shivers, sets his hands to Will’s chest and gently pushes.

Will sits back, does not even touch himself for fear of coming too close before he’s had his boy on his knees. He watches Hannibal set his legs wide, slowly bend forward and turn to look over his shoulder. He watches, and he sits up against him, cock sliding between his cheeks as Will strokes Hannibal’s back, into his hair, spreads fingers over his shoulders. One slide, another, and then he’s pushing in again, arching Hannibal’s back harder, spreading him trembling more.

Will leans over him, buries his nose in the messy blonde hair and smiles, pulling back just enough to allow a shallow teasing thrust to feel Hannibal shudder. He slides one hand down to take Hannibal’s, slip their fingers together and hold.

“Tell me to move,” he asks. “Tell me I can.”

Hannibal pleads Will’s name into the pillow. A laugh, a sigh, a sob, it’s all the same - ecstasy and adoration in equal measure, and altogether overwhelming. His fingers tighten with Will’s between them. His hips shift to press back for more, to draw away to make it last, and his belly slides sticky against the sheets where he slides to lay flat, thighs spread wide, with Will wonderfully heavy atop him.

“Please move,” whispers Hannibal, rubbing his cheek against the pillow, against the soft lips that trace his jaw. “Please, you can - you can move, in me, I want you to, Will.”

He squirms, gasping at the stretch of Will inside him, at the fullness that makes stars supernova behind his eyes and pressing inward out steals his breath away that he would give to Will entirely if he asked for it.

He would give him everything.

He’s already given him all of himself.

“Please,” he begs again, a soft little sob. “I want to feel you forever.”

So Will does.

Slow, rolling movements that push him deep and quick and just there, until Hannibal is panting with it, sobbing Will’s name and meaningless words and Will can barely hold himself back. He bends further over Hannibal, hair damp and pointed in wet ends to tickle over his back as he keeps thrusting, taking, sharing this with Hannibal after so long of thinking he never would, or could, by the boy’s own choice.

“Can I make you –“ Will pants, curses, presses his lips in a heavy kiss between Hannibal’s shoulders. “Again?”

Hannibal tries to move, tries to push to his hands, tries to do anything and simply flattens again. He laughs, burying the sound into the pillow. One foot lifts as if in protest and drops back to the mattress, as he simply lets himself be taken by the only man he ever wants to feel touch him this way again.

“Will,” he whimpers, “the refractory period -”

“Can I make you?” Will asks again, and the firm repetition sends shivers down Hannibal’s spine.

“I could -” Hannibal coils again just to feel Will so solidly inside him, just to feel his sensitive cock rub soft against the bunched sheets beneath. “I could orgasm, not -”

Will sighs, entirely overcome, by the surrender, by the gentle needy words.

“Sweet boy, you are so good to me.” He kisses just above Hannibal’s ear, shifts his hips and finds his prostate again, rolls his hips over and over until Hannibal is genuinely sobbing into the sheets, one hand clenched with Will’s, the other against the pillow, body shaking and exhausted and sensitive to even the gentlest breeze against his skin.

“Please, Will, please.”

“Breathe,” Will gasps, hardly able to himself. He continues the rutting, the torment until Hannibal tenses, back rigid and voice high from him, and Will can’t anymore, not hold back or tease or play, and he holds himself against his boy, fills him with pulsing heat as he breathes promises and adoration against his sweaty skin, tasting him.

“Jesus Christ,” he breathes, eyes closed and body heavy atop his shaking boy. “Jesus motherfucking Christ.”

Another twitch inside of him, another, lessening each time but Hannibal feels himself full, this as much a gift as any other Will has shared with him. He feels only a sudden and resonant love, enough to squeeze warm tears against his cheeks again, none of the fear or anger or hate that has always before accompanied this strange sensation. Again and again, Hannibal tells him so, frail whispers against the sweat-damp pillow, as if to ensure that Will knows it by words if not by actions.

He loves him.

He loves him.

A strong arm around his middle breaks his words into a soft sound of protest, but Hannibal goes as Will moves him, shaking too hard to do anything else. They lay on their sides, joined together still, Will’s chest heaving against Hannibal’s back, as if their hearts were struggling to reach the other by lunging from their bodies.

But slowly they settle. Slowly their pulses quiet. Slowly Will slips from Hannibal, hushing the boy’s gentle whimper. Slowly their hands move across the other, arms or hips or whatever they can reach in blind tenderness, seeing the other with just their fingertips.

Will worships Hannibal with his hands, now, as he had with his mouth, his body before this. He touches him as Hannibal continues to tremble, lifts his arms as Hannibal turns to him and presses close to his chest, hands between them, making himself small and vulnerable and so, so beautiful.

“Thank you,” Will tells him, means every word, as one hand comes up to gently wipe away the tears streaking Hannibal’s face. Thank you for letting me bring you pleasure this way, thank you for letting me touch and love and worship you. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you.

Soft lips to fevered forehead and Will smiles, nuzzles Hannibal, touches his hair. The next tears that spill silent from him, Will wipes with his knuckle, just as soft as before. His other hand keeps stroking, up Hannibal’s back and down it, curving lovingly, gently, over his ass and back up again, always touching, never stopping. Reassurance and affection and care.

“Are you alright? You did so well.”

Hannibal ducks his head, a little movement to press even closer, tucking himself beneath Will’s chin. He breathes into the hollow of his throat, lifts his lips to press against his Adam’s apple. His pulse throbs steady against Hannibal’s mouth, enough to slow his own heart against.

He is alright. He is more than alright. He is accepted, as he is, with full awareness of his past, the blood and horror, the sex and desecration. More than that, he is loved, wholly and without exception, for every part of what has made him who he is and who he has become because of it.

A soft breath hitches. Another. And with shuddering shoulders, Hannibal breaks against the man who holds him so close.

“Thank you.”

Will hushes him, wraps his arms around his boy and bends to reach the blankets they had displaced with their lovemaking to cover them, now. He wraps Hannibal in warmth, tight enough for him to relax his hands, finally, against Will’s chest, even as the crying doesn’t stop, even when the tears make way for laughter, genuine and little and enough to pull Will’s heart to his throat and make him smile wide, lip between his teeth.

Will holds him until Hannibal sets a hand to his chest and gently pushes. The blankets cover them entirely, and Will brings one hand up to hold the warm cover over them as he regards Hannibal in the semi-darkness of their sanctuary together. He doesn’t know what else to tell him that he hasn’t already, that he doesn’t already, every day. I love you, you’re beautiful, you’re strong, you’re mine. I’m proud of you.

“You need a shower,” Will murmurs, watching Hannibal’s nose wrinkle in displeasure and eyes close sleepily as he shakes his head. “You do.”

“No.”

“Yes,” laughs Will, smoothing sweat-slick strands back from Hannibal’s face.

“I’ve no desire,” the boy responds, prim. It’s the truth, despite his near-neurotic penchant for order and tidiness, cleanliness in all things. He is wonderfully content, every muscle in his body lax. It is dark and warm in their little tent made of blankets.

He is loved.

Hannibal considers Will’s feigned disapproval, the hum that reverberates against his lips. His smile widens, tracing his tongue across the back of his teeth, and a sleepy, small grin parts his lips as he leans nearer still.

“I still feel you inside me,” he whispers softly, spreading his fingers over Will’s cheek. “Wet and warm. I want to keep you there.”

Will turns his head to kiss the sweaty palm against his face, eyes closed and fond, nuzzles into it with a hum when fingers curl around him a little more. He feels the thrill of hearing those words, of knowing how Hannibal enjoys it because it is theirs, not because he had forced himself to do something.

“In five minutes,” Will murmurs, gently sucking one of Hannibal’s fingers before letting it go. “I’m going to drag you into that shower, kicking and screaming if need be.”

“Need will not be,” Hannibal replies, almost haughty. “I have no desire to scream and little strength to kick.”

“And I no desire to force,” Will tells him, leaning to kiss his nose softly. “But I won’t have you wake in the middle of the night displeased with your truly beautiful mess all over you.” He grins, kisses Hannibal’s nose again and sighs, eyes closing and blanket lowering over them. “Five minutes.”

So Hannibal resolves to lure Will to rest with cleverer wiles than words. Both hidden beneath the blanket, their bodies warming each other, Hannibal rests his head against Will’s chest once more. Legs twine together, his arms remain against his chest and Will’s arms hold him near. Wrapped together, Hannibal savors every breath, beat, pulse, and gentle movement between them. Wonderfully exhausted, Hannibal feels his body grow heavy, drowsy and restful.

And five minutes later, he growls, grinning, when Will rouses him from sleep, just as he said he would.

Chapter Text

Hannibal resolves to lure Will to rest with cleverer wiles than words. Both hidden beneath the blanket, their bodies warming each other, Hannibal rests his head against Will’s chest. Legs twine together, his arms remain against his chest and Will’s arms hold him near. Wrapped together, Hannibal savors every breath, beat, pulse, and gentle movement between them. Wonderfully exhausted, Hannibal feels his body grow heavy, drowsy and restful.

And five minutes later, he growls, grinning, when Will rouses him from sleep, just as he said he would.

“No,” he protests immediately, the moment Will’s hand finds his hip and squeezes.

“Hannibal.”

A warning hum comes next, and Hannibal wriggles to dislodge the hand that doesn’t move from him, but only presses tighter. Fussy and prim, entirely a mess of sweat and dried semen on his belly and warm slick between his legs, Hannibal is entirely content to remain as such, and makes no other move, settling comfortably once more.

Will sighs, entirely charmed, entirely amused, and strokes through Hannibal’s hair. It is late enough now that it is too late for dinner. Something small perhaps if they get peckish but otherwise no dinner, now, for the evening. He waits, a moment, two, before whistling, just one sharp sound. The clicking of nails is immediate, from upstairs, from the living room, and Will carefully peels back the blankets just enough to reveal Hannibal’s face and neck as the first dog jumps up on the bed.

“If you won’t go to wash, I will have to get it done here,” Will laments, grinning as the first dog nuzzles her cold nose behind Hannibal’s ear and the boy squirms. More dogs jump up, some next to Will, contented to just get pets, scratches behind the ears and soft words, others crowding Hannibal and licking him, gently tapping him with their paws as he laughs and tries to hide from their broad tongues against his face and neck as Will watches.

“Will!”

“Shower,” Will calmly replies, but he is smiling, he is entirely too happy as Hannibal attempts another escape under the blankets.

“Mercy!” He giggles.

“Shower,” Will repeats, as Winston joyfully digs against the blanket trying to find his friend beneath it.

The little laughs, bright and sleepy both, only build as Winston tugs at the blankets. He leaps aside, colliding with Will where he sits, and ducks low, front paws spread. A bark, and another, waiting for Hannibal to just lower the blankets enough to peek out. He is leapt upon, licked and whined at, and Hannibal snares the fluffy beast beneath an arm to spoon him close.

Dark eyes narrow at Will, amusement showing in their softly crinkled corners. Only his nose and above are revealed from under the blankets, and the stray arm slung over Winston, the boy’s unabashed favorite.

“In all my years, I’ve never had the dogs called on me.”

Winston’s tail whacks back and forth against the bed and Will settles a hand in his thick fur to ruffle it, scratch over his back and pat gently against his haunches.

“In all my years I have never had such a stubborn a boy in my bed,” Will comments, grinning when Hannibal’s eyes narrow further. “Do not make me call them all on you. Come shower with me. The sooner this is done the sooner I leave you alone about it.”

Hannibal makes a sound and Winston immediately echoes it in a whine, nuzzling against him, trying to dig further under the blankets. Will just watches Hannibal, adoring. After a moment he licks his lips, raises his eyebrows and brings his lips together as though to whistle again.

“Mercy,” Hannibal pleads once more. “Does it not satisfy you to think of yourself still warm within me, spread throughout -”

His poetry pauses when Will’s brow inches higher, and finally, Hannibal relents. He tugs Winston near to murmur into his ear, something unheard by Will and - the man is certain - in another language just in case. Whatever he says, the boy appears pleased by it, grinning rakish and crooked before releasing Winston from his gentle grasp with a fond tug to one ear.

Slowly, with a flinch here and a grimace there, sore and made somehow more elegant by it, Hannibal unfurls himself from the bed. The boy is all liquid curves and sinuous movements, pale skin set stark against sharp bones and soft, dark hair that curls across his chest and thighs. Humming his welcome pain, he sits to the edge of the bed and stands, languidly easing into a stretch with his arms above his head, luminous white in the evening dark.

“Cruel,” he murmurs.

“I am,” Will agrees, pushing to stand as well, clicking his fingers to send the dogs away to where they were, with more pats and scratches as they pass. “Entirely.”

He watches, proud, as Hannibal makes another little noise of pain and pushes up on his tiptoes to walk the first few steps down the corridor to the bathroom. Will quickly tosses the blankets aside and pulls the sheets away, bundling them into a ball to wash later. Remaking the bed takes less than five minutes and then he is in the corridor as well, watching Hannibal stretch himself in the doorway before walking towards the shower and bending, deliberately, to grab a fresh towel from under the sink.

Will watches, tilts his head to seek the slight sheen down Hannibal’s thighs, telltale and filthy and his. His. He wants to keep the boy up all night, with his fingers, his mouth, his cock, wants to redden his skin and watch Hannibal squirm with it, red-cheeked and horny. He bites his lip and raises his brows and wonders, as the water turns on in the shower, if he was always like this or if Hannibal had somehow brought this out in him. Walking to the bathroom now, closing the door quietly behind himself, he truly doesn’t care, as long as he has this boy, his boy, to lavish his affection and attention on.

Though Hannibal says little, his body says much. A glance is sent across his shoulder towards Will, the fire in Hannibal’s eyes dimmed now, but not extinguished - embers, smoldering, waiting to be stoked anew. His tousled hair nearly obscures them, but not the smile that presses to one corner of his mouth, feline and knowing, before he turns back to the bath.

He lifts a foot against the cool edge, pressing against his toes to tighten his calves, the strong sinews of his thighs. Bending, just a little, Hannibal holds a hand beneath the spray to test its warmth, shoulder blades shifting like tectonic plates, each one enough to send a tremor through the older man if Will allows Hannibal to affect him so. The curve of his back flares out to plush cheeks, still bearing red lines where Will’s fingernails dug to hold him spread.

Hannibal revels. Will’s eyes are as intense as hands upon him, grasping and seeking, learning him intimately from the tilt of his chin to the bend of his wrist, to the flicker of muscle movement in his backside. His angles and presentation are carefully chosen, his display deliberate.

Despite the admitted miseries of his life, one thing that has never been in doubt to Hannibal is his own beauty. Soiled, perhaps. Used by those who did not deserve him but paid him to suffer them, certainly. But none of that has ever challenged his awareness that in moments like these, the glory of youth is his own, an Apollonian fire that warms his smooth skin and stripes gold through sweat-damp hair.

He loves to be seen.

And he is certainly seen.

Will allows him the freedom to move around the bathroom as he sees fit, stretching his exhausted limbs before stepping into the shower. Under the spray, he smooths his hair back as the water cascades against his face. Will waits. He lets him relax before stepping in behind him, arms heavy around his middle before settling palms against smooth hips.

“You are a temptation,” Will tells him, fond.

He kisses wet skin before reaching for the shampoo to run it slick through Hannibal’s hair, letting him relax back against him and taking his weight. Will lathers his hair and then rinses it, careful to keep the soap from his eyes. All the while, Hannibal’s hands seek behind himself to touch Will, strokes of fingers, drags of nails, just touch and contact and closeness.

Will releases him to wash himself and finds Hannibal more interested in washing him. Lazy rubs of the sponge against his skin, all over, Hannibal wincing as he kneels to clean Will’s legs, his feet, up his thighs and between his legs before handing the sponge over to Will. Will takes his time, massaging tired shoulders before cleaning them, kissing warm neck before washing it too, down and down over sensitive nipples and to Hannibal’s cock. He hushes the boy’s high little whimpers at being too sensitive, not tormenting him now but just getting him clean.

He watches Will’s bare fingers spread across his groin in the wake of the soft sponge, cupping his length, his balls, with a tender hand to wash him. He does not harden - he couldn’t again right now if he wanted to - and yet it feels entirely wonderful, wholly reverent to be washed and fondled so carefully. Shoulders back against the slick tile, Hannibal works his bottom lip between his teeth and releases it flushed, sighing when those gentle touches relent.

It is a welcome sensation of power to know the sway he holds over this man, dangerously clever and remarkably handsome - to know that if Hannibal asked for nearly anything, he would be granted it. To know that Will thinks of him to the point of distraction. To know that even if Hannibal withheld his body from him, that adoration would not lessen.

His smile curves wider.

Who’d want to do a thing like that, though, when having his body held instead feels so good?

With hooded eyes and drowsy pleasure, Hannibal twists inch by delicious inch to face the shower wall. He folds his arms against it, shoulders flexing with the movement, and brings his forehead to rest against them. He knows there are scars there, invisible unless one were really looking - areas where pale skin is striped smooth and glossy from the lash of a belt that tore strips from him, broomsticks that hit hard enough to break skin.

Hannibal flexes again, pulling taut along long legs and bare backside, up the slope of his back to where he dips his head, waiting expectantly.

Will merely squeezes the sponge over his skin to let the water slick down, soapy, over it. He washes Hannibal's back, over his ass but doesn’t linger, to Hannibal’s mild displeasure. His legs are gently guided open so Will can wash between them, soaping down over his thighs and to his feet and back up again.

He is spread, gently, for Will’s hands to work Hannibal clean, gentle swipes and rubbing until the boy arches his back, pushes to his toes with a contented sigh. Will remains as he is, patiently cleaning his boy until Hannibal’s shoulders relax again and his sighs fall from needy to resigned, apparently given enough today.

Will sets the sponge aside, allows the water to cascade over Hannibal’s pink skin and wash him clean. Another moment and Hannibal moves, to turn to leave the shower and dry himself, and it is only then that Will catches his hips to hold him still, leaning in to press a kiss to his lower back, down to the curve of Hannibal's ass. He feels the shiver and smiles, nuzzling him on his knees as he is, parting his teeth to gently nip the sensitive skin just where his thighs join his buttocks to feel Hannibal squirm.

Will hums, contented, the white noise of the shower enough to lull him to laxity, and spreads Hannibal with his fingers. He watches his pink hole tense and relax before leaning in to suck kisses against it, delighting in still tasting himself there, just a little, as Hannibal whimpers and allows his arms to slip further down the shower wall.

The tiles are warm where he presses his cheek, eyes closed and lips parted. Hannibal turns his hips out, rocking back in gentle thrusts against the pressure of Will’s tongue when it slips between his cheeks. He sucks again and Hannibal’s fingers twitch tighter, a breathy moan sighed in response. He is still so tender there that even this hurts a little, a sweet pain that coils low in his belly and stirs him to pleasure inside, despite his body being yet unwilling to show it outside.

Will’s beard rubs soft against Hannibal’s cheeks, his thighs when Will dips lower again. Reaching back, Hannibal twines his long fingers through Will’s wet curls, not to pull or push but simply to feel him there as much as he feels the man everywhere else. Hannibal knows he will limp tomorrow from this, hiss when he sits and blush from the memory of what caused it.

Hannibal knows that he will ask for it again, then. Maybe later tonight as well, when he stirs Will’s cock to life with his mouth, beneath the sheets, so that the older man will drag him up to lay back to chest and take him again.

He will ask for it, sleep-rough words that will darken Will’s cheeks.

For now, though, he asks for nothing more than this. An entirely genuine and gentle devouring, firm pulls of Will’s tongue, sucking and kissing against hot skin before tracing just the rim of him with the tip of his tongue until Hannibal bucks, squirms, laughs from the feeling.

Will does not aim to stimulate him again, it would hurt, he wouldn't manage. No. He just wants to taste his boy, musky and sleepy and warm, before they collapse to sleep together, if they sleep at all.

Will holds him still and takes his own pleasure in the soft sounds Hannibal makes, in the little fingers in his hair. He will worship this boy, delight in him, as often as he can, as often as they both have the time. Will pulls back and swallows air, lips parted and eyes barely open, pressing hot kisses to Hannibal’s thighs, stroking hands up and down them.

"Bed?" He suggests, smile soft against Hannibal’s back.

Hannibal touches his tongue against his incisor, turning to look over his shoulder and down at Will, resting against the curve of his ass. Slowly, Hannibal shifts his weight from foot to foot, backside tilting against Will’s cheek. He hums as if considering, pretty and spoiled and entirely indulgent in Will allowing him to feel so adored. Whether dressed in finery at the opera, or fed from the man’s fingers as he sits at his feet - whether taken rough enough to leave him trembling against wrinkled sheets or simply kissed in welcome when he returns from a long day of classes, he feels as he has, perhaps, always considered himself somewhere inside, beneath the dreck and depravity.

Brilliant and beautiful.

A prize won, rather than simply taken.

A breath fills him, long and satisfying, and he turns slowly, so that his back is to the wall once more. Will lets him move but comes to rest again, cheek turned against his thigh, knees spread against the bottom of the tub. Smoothing his hair back from his face, Hannibal watches him.

“I wonder about you,” he murmurs, eyes drawing up in pleasure when Will hides a smile against his leg.

“That isn’t what I asked,” responds Will, wry.

Hannibal hums, eyes hooded and smile easy. “Your strength. I have suffered and survived, but you - the things you’ve seen, the things you’ve done,” he responds, his own gentle praise falling softly from his lips. “And still you stand sure-footed and certain. Still you stand strong enough to hold us both.”

His fingertips touch beneath Will’s chin, lifting just enough to bring their eyes to meet.

“I love you,” Hannibal tells him. “I admire you.”

Will blinks at him, for a moment entirely speechless, taken aback by the lovely words gifted him by the boy who stands so beautiful and alive just there, and lets Will get close. Will swallows, closes his eyes and turns to nuzzle into the hand that holds him, a trust there, too, that he is giving himself to Hannibal as surely as the boy is allowing him to protect and take and love him as well.

Kisses fall soft against Hannibal’s palm and Will pushes himself to stand, just to turn the water off and pull Hannibal close against him.

He has seen Will come apart, the very edge of a fray but he has seen it, when he had held Hannibal and wondered if he was real, when he had touched and kissed and slept against him to allow just his presence to patch him back together. He has seen, and he has still come back, still allowed Will to come to him.

There is something in that, something more than words could possibly ever really say. Will draws his knuckles down Hannibal’s face and kisses his cheek, leaning out to reach for a towel for him first, to wrap his boy in warm before taking one for himself.

Hannibal leans against him, towels around their shoulders, dripping bare beneath and smelling sweetly of soap and sex and each other. Kisses are sought and yielded, pressed so close together that when one moves, the other moves with, unable to stop touching, nuzzling, sweeping lips together and sighing softly. He is weak and powerful all at once. Fiercely loved and capable and yet entirely in the thrall of Will who laughs against his mouth and murmurs for him to dry himself, so he doesn’t catch cold. Dark eyes follow the words as they shape Will’s lips, trace the smile he speaks with, and still he kisses him again. It is as though he has emerged from a long chrysalis, shaped by forces beyond his control, with frail wings that grow stronger daily.

And Will, the gentlest and strongest hand that saw him through it to become what he has, rather than something else entirely. His survival was only rarely in doubt, but what might have been shivers Hannibal suddenly, and without hesitation, Will draws him near.

“See? Dry off,” he scolds him gently, and Hannibal grins against his chest. “Then you’re going to bed.”

“Am I?”

“You are,” Will insists, laughing.

“We’ve not eaten,” Hannibal reminds him, kissing Will’s jaw, his pulse, the hollow of his throat, unable to keep his lips from the man for more than a moment. “You forget to eat too often.”

Will can’t argue that. In recent months he has gotten better, with Hannibal around to feed, making food for both his dogs and for them, remembering to eat it because his boy was hungry. He strokes Hannibal’s hair from his face and brings the towel up a little higher to squeeze water from it.

“I do,” he agrees, rubbing the towel over Hannibal’s back, bringing his own to dry his front. “We can find something, now, take the effort tomorrow to make something good.” Will’s lips quirk, eyes narrowed in pleasure. “Steak, perhaps, cooked on the grill outside, for dinner. Poached eggs in the morning.”

Will hums the question on his words without raising them, continues his gentle stroking to dry his boy before kissing his forehead, smiling when Hannibal continues his gentle touches and needy little pushes to get closer.

“Go to bed,” he says softly, breathing in Hannibal’s sleepy warm smell, nuzzling his hair and letting him go. “I will find us something.”

Hannibal snares Will’s fingers in his own as he steps from the bath, keeping them lightly laced as he watches Will step out behind him. “No,” Hannibal responds, musing and sweet. Will arches a brow, but Hannibal doesn’t relent, in words or lingering smile.

He peels away to face himself in the mirror, head tilting one way and then the other, surveying the peaks and planes of his own features. He marvels at how long they’ve been unbruised, though that was not without its peculiar charm at times, and sweeping his hair from his face, Hannibal traces the small scar across the bridge of his nose, unfortunately prominent. His lips quirk in a mild displeasure before he resumes toweling himself, all soft skin made pink by Will’s attention and warm water.

“Hannibal,” Will begins, and in an instant the boy is against him again, finger pressed to his lips, mouth pressed to the corner of it, sleepy grin bright.

“You should go to bed,” he murmurs, drunk with affection. “And let me make you something instead.”

Will makes a sound, almost a warning in his throat, but then Hannibal kisses him again, another gentle almost-nuzzle, and he relents with a sigh, parting his lips to kiss Hannibal’s fingertip before letting him go about his way as he pleases, proud and straight-backed and sleepy. Will returns to bed, adjusts the blankets from where they had bunched them, together, and climbs in to rest on the side that he has come to accept as his own. It’s strange to think that even that is in his life now, that the right side of the bed belongs to Hannibal, that that is where his smell lingers when Will rubs his face against the pillow in the morning.

It’s so beautiful and domestic, so comforting, in that.

He turns to watch what he can of the main room and the kitchen, once in a while he sees a limb, slim and pale, reach to gather something, or bend to stroke behind a dog’s ears when they come by to investigate. Other times it’s just shadows against the wall, and the smell of something comforting and mild from the kitchen.

Will lies back, swallows and rests an arm up over his eyes to cover them. He is just as cared for, just as protected and loved and wanted as Hannibal is to him. He is so used, now, to coming home to the younger boy bent over the table bare, studying, shivering when Will bends to kiss his tailbone. Or coming home to small arms around his neck and hot kisses to his lips. He is used to coming home to another person, another warm and loving body that is happy to see him, that wants to spend time together.

Will feels more stable. He feels more confident coming home after a case if he knows Hannibal will be there to stroke his hair and say nothing at all until Will speaks first. He is good for him.

He only realizes he’s fallen asleep by the movement of the bed beneath him when Hannibal settles beside. Long legs crossed, he sets the plate on them, reaching first to curl a hand through Will’s hair. Enough light filters through into the house to illuminate the shape of Will’s body beneath the blankets, and Hannibal follows them with his palm, down to the man’s stomach and back again to stroke his cheek.

“You will eat,” the boy decides, eager enough to fight off his own drowsiness for this. “I will make certain of it.”

He tears off a portion of sandwich, cheese stretching warm between toasted bread, cooked quickly with a little butter, and offers it to Will, humming pleased when his professor’s lips curl around his fingers. It is a grilled cheese, ostensibly, but the butter is flavored with oregano and thyme and rosemary, and the cheese is a mild smoked gouda, a far cry from simple American slices that most are made with.

Will hums, savoring the smokiness, the richness of the flavor against his tongue as he slowly wakes up again, pushes himself up a little more as Hannibal peels another piece for him to take and then another for himself.

It’s almost laughably simple, and yet entirely not. Elaborate elements on a plain canvas that make it taste incredible. Will savors every bite he is fed, kissing Hannibal’s oily fingers to suck them clean, watching through hooded eyes as Hannibal feeds every other bite to himself. They share the sandwich until there are only crumbs and spots of oil left on the plate, and then Will sits up, sets the plate aside on the table beside the bed and pulls Hannibal close to kiss him.

“You are too good to me,” he mumbles, nuzzling against Hannibal and breathing him in, arms snaring tight over the boy when he tries to squirm free to do the dishes and turn the kitchen light off. “Leave them,” Will sighs heavily against Hannibal’s damp hair. “Stay here with me.”

“But the cast iron -”

“Do I need to repeat myself?”

The words are said with a smile and Hannibal grins as even still they skitter goosebumps over his skin. He relents, with a solemn vow to himself tomorrow to wash the pan and season it appropriately. He relents because Will’s arms are so welcome in their weight around him. He relents because Will asked him to.

Their mouths slip together, simple and soft. Hannibal’s body aches with exhaustion, the stretch of his legs pulling a hum of pain, entirely pleasurable, when he slips them around Will’s legs to tangle happily together. A dog joins them at the foot of the bed, and soon enough another settles against Hannibal’s back, and he breaks their kiss with a little laugh that surprises the boy himself in the childish sound of it.

Will hums and pulls him closer, warm beneath the blankets, and warmer still with Hannibal there.

“Once two are down you’re stuck ‘til morning, you know this,” Will murmurs, amused. More of the dogs will meander over, some enjoying their quiet on the couch with the others there, but he is fairly sure by morning four of the dogs will be smeared across the covers over them as they sleep.

Will kisses him, gentle lips and soft breaths. “Thank you for dinner.”

“My pleasure,” Hannibal answers, their mouths still touching even as they speak in little whispers. “Truly. I enjoy it, and have rarely had the opportunity.”

“Rarely? You’re too talented for ‘rarely’,” Will murmurs.

Stretching his legs, pointed toes prodding the little dog at the end of the bed, Hannibal hums and lets his eyes slip closed. “Thank you, but it is not false modesty. You saw the space in the apartment - hardly sufficient for more than boiling water. And what little money was available to me was needed more for keeping the lights on than buying truffle oil,” he adds, gentle amusement. “I enjoy the experimentation of it, the history of recipes and what may be changed in them without losing the intent of the original. Finding new methods to plate, adding ostentation to simplicity -”

He trails off, and tilts his nose beside Will’s own.

“It brings me pleasure to see you satisfied and content, by whatever means I might provide you that peace.”

"You do just by being here," Will tells him honestly, eyes closing and breathing warm against his boy. "Just like this, as you are."

He thinks of when he had come to Hannibal needing the grounding and the support, how he had felt himself breathe again just from holding the boy close against him.

"Knowing you are near me, comfortable, content, that is all I need. What I'll aim for."

“It doesn’t seem enough,” Hannibal responds, thoughtful more than argumentative. He presses his tongue between his lips, breaking into a smile when he feels Will’s part in kind, so close as that. “Will you let me do more, if I tell you it pleases me to do so? Not because you need that of me, but because I wish to offer it. Myself.”

The words seem heavy, but the weight is much as Will’s arms - more security than burden, safety rather than oppression. Still, he shifts a little, shivering when Will eases the movement with a hand against his chest, calloused fingers curling lightly through Hannibal’s fluff.

“And I can learn from it,” he adds, wheedling with a slight smile. “New recipes. New skills. New methods of hosting, of keeping a home. As a teacher, you wouldn’t wish to forbid me from learning, would you?”

Will laughs, an indulgent and warm sound, and brings a broad hand up to grasp the back of Hannibal’s head, scratching his scalp softly until the boy coils like a cat from it, toes spreading and settling to repose again.

"You will find a way, won't you,” he mumbles but the chastisement is far from harsh. It is too fond, too proud of his boy wanting something and not only asking but explaining why he wants this, what it would mean.

"I want you," Will sighs, "to better yourself as you see fit. I want to watch your skill with cooking grow. I want to drink the delicious things you make me. I want to see what else your beautiful mind thinks to buy for us to play with."

A permission, a suggestion, a request... All at once and all so gratefully accepted, once told.

Had Hannibal feathers, they would ruffle in pleasure at the words, granted the freedom to flourish as he wishes, and the support to allow it. He will work at these things as diligently as he does his classwork, he will learn and become more than he has had the ability to be in the past. Kissing his professor in quiet thanks, little touches against his lips again and again, Hannibal envisions a well-kept house, beautifully appointed. Extraordinary dinners as delicious as they are beautiful. Nights of opera and orchestra, at times, and nights of blinding pleasure shared in wordless understanding.

He will bend for him, always.

He will stand tall for him, always.

He will love him, consuming and entire, always.

They sleep with heat held between their bodies, and even when their lips fall slack in sleep, they still touch.

Chapter Text

Hannibal knows what he promised Will.

The words resonate through him, echoing reminders of that terse night in the kitchen when Hannibal expressed his decision to permanently rid himself of a persistent problem.

He will not kill him.

Beneath that hastily spoken agreement, wrought with more emotion than Hannibal could suppress, are more promises, scripted out on paper and spoken from his perch in Will’s lap.

He will not see any clients again.

There have been several weeks of silence but Hannibal can feel the tension rising in him akin to what animals must experience in the days before an earthquake takes place. He knows from the narrow looks he’s given that his avoidance of Mason has angered the boy, from the constant tap of texts sent to him by Cordell in the study group he shares with Hannibal. This time, at least, Hannibal is ready for it.

This time he acts first, and Mason regards the note passed to his desk as if it were a cobra. He prods it with his pen, he turns it over with a cautious finger, and finally Cordell takes it from his desk to open, read, and return.

After class, Bio 145?

Mason’s eyebrows snap high above his eyes. He nearly vibrates with the resistance it takes not to topple his desk in standing and answering aloud, and a whispered conversation with Cordell takes place in low hisses instead.

“I would recommend against it,” Cordell murmurs, pencil working over his page as he still takes notes, in this class for Mason only, his own major pushed aside most of the time to accommodate for the Verger heir’s need to pass.

“You would recommend -”

“He has never offered before,” Cordell reasons, flicking light eyes to Mason and looking just past him almost immediately. “He has always resisted, and this is unusual.”

“Do you know how operant conditioning works, Cordell?” Mason says, pushing his chair back to balance on the two back legs, toe of his shoe hooked under the table to hold himself balanced as he gestures. “It is a method of training that is incredibly useful, especially on stubborn creatures. He is offering because he knows he should. I’m surprised it took him so long, you claim he’s clever.”

“He is clever,” Cordell whispers, words a little more pressing, now. “Which is why I worry.”

Mason snorts. “You always worry, Cordell. Always fretting and wringing your hands together, God. Doesn’t it make you tired?”

“I worry on your behalf,” Cordell says, and he watches as Mason scribbles down a note and sends it to Cordell to pass along. How it took him so long to write only yes defies Cordell’s understanding, and for a moment he considers holding the note and pretending to have passed it along, but it won’t stop Mason from going.

Nothing stops Mason from doing anything, really.

Hannibal receives the note and opens it, expression unchanged as he folds it again and deposits it within the pages of his notes. He gives Cordell nothing in his features to judge or analyze, no reaction at all - a worrying thing in itself to Cordell, who only by resolute willpower looks away to continue taking Mason’s class notes for him.

The biology room is empty when Hannibal arrives, as he knew it would be. An unused room this session, with sheets across the lab tables, darkened but for strips of light that pass through the drawn blinds. He sets his things beside the door and stretches, pulling his neck long one way and then the other, and settles atop a desk to wait.

He hears Mason before he sees him.

He always hears Mason before he sees him. That same loud, brash, semi-drawled dialogue that - if listened to closely - genuinely makes no sense. He wonders how there was ever a time he was intimidated, truly, by him. Disturbed by, often, wary of, frequently, and when he is bleeding on the floor and in agony, certainly hateful.

Always hateful.

The hate feels like a balm, and Hannibal could laugh for it. Instead he crosses his ankles and curls his fingers against the edge of the desk.

He will not kill him.

He doesn’t have to.

"Hannibal." Mason spreads his arms as though welcoming, and drops them as his sides again. "Hannibal, Hannibal, Hannibal. I have missed you."

Hannibal offers a soft smile, demuring his gaze to the shine of Mason’s shoes. Crocodile, polished to a gleam. Expensive.

The hate settles sinuous between his bones and Hannibal stretches his shoulders to allow it more room to take hold.

“I’m sorry I’ve not been around more,” Hannibal says, knowing without looking that Mason grins at the apology. He remembers to keep tight the muscles around his eyes, in the corners of his mouth. Mason does not want a willing conquest.

Mason wants fear and loathing, and the latter, Hannibal can certainly provide.

“I’m sure you’ve been very busy,” Mason responds, folding his gloved hands together as he steps closer. “Making good use of your truly remarkable skills. It’s better, though, that you’ve not forgotten who first found them. It’s important, Hannibal, so important to keep those patrons happy.”

Hannibal lifts his chin only when slick leather fingers touch beneath it, and he forces a swallow hard enough that it’s visible. Mason all but purrs in response, and Hannibal somehow manages to keep his expression slightly stricken when Mason says, “Leave us, Cordell.”

It’s perfect. Hannibal does not recoil at the touch or the words, but tightens his fingers against the edge of the desk. A step further into the room carries Cordell nearer, then - as if realizing his mistake - he retreats back again.

“I’ll look away,” he offers instead.

Mason lifts his gaze from Hannibal’s and blinks, once. Twice. Hannibal can almost see his synapses misfiring as he’s told something contrary to what he wants, and rather than grin as he’d like, Hannibal sets his bottom lip into his mouth and waits.

“I must have misheard, Cordell. I must have - there must be some sort of static in the room, some white noise, because I’m sure,” he laughs. “I’m sure that I just told you to wait outside.”

Light eyes seek Mason’s, but find his glasses reflecting the striped light from the windows instead. Cordell knows, he knows that another show of disobedience will have him bloody and regretting it, he knows. But the way Hannibal looks, poised to fight, not flee, holds Cordell still just a minute longer.

He has grown up reading human cues. He has grown up absorbing lies and filtering them.

Cordell settles his eyes on Hannibal’s instead, and only after another displeased sound from Mason, does he turn to go, reluctantly, gently clicking the door closed behind himself.

Mason turns back to Hannibal with an exaggerated sigh, lifting his brows as though suggesting a question, a camaraderie between them that makes Hannibal's skin crawl. He slowly releases his lip from between his teeth and waits.

"It isn’t for you, really. You are used to being watched. But I prefer a simple approach, intimacy, if you will. And I have missed you, you know. Like one misses a dog to kick to hear it make that sound. You've always been my dog, Hannibal. You are made for it."

Hannibal allows through a strain of dismay, to join the discordant symphony building within him. A little sound, only that, of finely tuned displeasure that proves enough to send a frisson down Mason’s spine. His fingers tighten around Hannibal’s jaw, thumb pushing against his cheek to pry apart his teeth as one would a horse resistant to the bit.

“You don’t agree,” Mason asks, flat. Disappointed, almost, except for the delight brightening his eyes to find Hannibal seemingly unwilling. Hannibal makes a sound, unable to speak with his jaw held wide, and Mason releases it with a curt little slap that turns Hannibal’s head aside.

He wets his lips with his tongue and murmurs, “Your dog, Mason. With my tail between my legs.”

A loud laugh, one piercing note, echoes in the room and Mason claps his hands together. He is a child, given a new toy and told not to break it, thrumming with excitement at the knowledge that he will anyway. “You have changed, haven’t you? It’s good that we’ve finally reached an agreement about this. It’s silly to fight what you’re meant to be, Hannibal. A dog can’t become a cat just because it wants to, and a whore can’t become a doctor just because he gets good grades.”

The last curls past Mason’s lips, bent in a snarl over clenched teeth, and Hannibal holds his breath as a fist in his hair jerks his head back. Mason’s breath is hot against his cheek, not touching, never touching - he wouldn’t deign to kiss someone like Hannibal, or anyone at all really.

“Sit,” he whispers, and drags Hannibal to his knees.

It is jarring, the slam of his knees against the floor, the sharp yank of his hair when Mason doesn’t move his hand to accommodate the movement. Hannibal stays. He sits. Eyes up and lips parted and hands digging nails into his own thighs to hold himself from moving too soon.

Not yet.

"Now this is much easier," Mason hums, turning his hand enough to pull Hannibal closer, to keep that little twist of pain just at the corner of his mouth. "On your knees like the slut you are."

He pries Hannibal's mouth open again, perhaps just to see it open, perhaps just for the control of holding Hannibal's jaw in such a cruel position. He lifts Hannibal's lip with his thumb, stroking over his teeth before letting it slip down again.

"No biting," Mason warns. "It wouldn't do to lose your teeth over it."

He tugs Hannibal up against him more, the implication clear, the sigh less relieved and more put-upon when Hannibal's fingers start to work his button and fly, careful of the expensive fabric. Mason drops his head back and hums before ducking it down again to watch.

Hannibal doesn’t speak, but allows his disgust to manifest as an unsteadiness in his hands, as stiffness in his posture. He doesn’t loosen even when Mason shakes him by his hair, but focuses, cold hands gliding Mason’s trousers and underpants both down to his thighs. He’s still soft, cock barely stiffening and Hannibal lifts his eyes only to find himself struck stinging across the cheek for his trouble.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers.

At this, Mason’s length twitches harder.

Each cruel slap is but a percussive addition to the swell of sound rising in Hannibal’s ears. His neck hurts from it, held in place by his hair to stop from moving too much, and when his eyes water and he feels the swelling tightening his skin, he raises his hands to Mason’s legs, curling his fingers around his calves.

“Slow,” Mason purrs, and Hannibal takes Mason into his mouth.

This is always familiar. Always the first thing clients want him to do, on his knees and eyes up and open wide, baby. He does. Knows how Mason enjoys being sucked, always slow, always deep enough to gag and held there until it is almost too much. Sometimes it is too much.

He pulls a breath through his nose and obeys, for now, the crushing grip on his hair, the deliberate push into his mouth, deep, with no warning. Hannibal takes it, lets his eyes close since Mason never cares to look at him anyway, and thinks back to the admissions office, to the paperwork spread over the man’s desk and to himself spread beneath it, sucking and moaning and touching himself like his life depended on it.

And it had, in a way.

The man had signed his papers, had touched his face and stroked his hair and hoped to see him again soon.

Hannibal gags, a deliberate sound, sets his teeth to Mason’s length before he is yanked back and struck again. A fist, this time, no longer a soft flat of his hand.

"No. Teeth. Hannibal. God. The most tedious part of owning a pet is the training of it." Another strike crosses Hannibal's face before Mason presses a finger to Hannibal's lips in warning. "Be good."

Nodding, Hannibal parts his lips against Mason’s finger, murmuring apology. The tremor comes easily to his voice, his throat rough from the violent shove against it. His left eye is swelling already, and Mason is almost dripping for it. He jerks his fingers away from Hannibal’s mouth and brings him back onto his cock. Musky sweat and golden blonde curls of hair fill Hannibal’s nose as Mason fucks his mouth, and Hannibal clutches Mason’s hips despite the warning hum this unwanted extra touch elicits.

A fight, then, as if to push Mason’s hips away but not letting go, and Mason won’t have it. He keeps his cock buried to the back of Hannibal’s throat until spit slicks down Hannibal’s chin, until he’s heaving, gagging, forced to breathe through his nose in a desperate hiss as he struggles.

As he succumbs.

As the sound of music reaches its crescendo and with a final cataclysmic cacophony, Hannibal bites.

Mason’s skin snaps like sausage casing between his teeth. Blood fills Hannibal’s throat, spills to the floor in a cascade of crimson, the spongy tissue splits and the vessels sever and Hannibal’s nails dig marks into Mason’s skin as he holds him until his teeth meet, clenched. He closes his eyes to the spray that coats his chin, and when he looks up to see Mason pale and breathless above him -

Hannibal swallows.

For a blissful moment there is no sound at all, as Hannibal sits back and parts his lips to breathe, teeth stained red and chin dripping with it as he watches the man above him stumble a step, unsteady, and finally scream.

It isn’t a drawn-out howl, it is short bursts of sound, almost indecisive, almost as though he isn’t sure that this is how one should respond to pain and is trying it on for size. Mason’s eyes are wide, irises rimmed with the whites when he turns them to Hannibal in disbelief, in horror, and stumbles back enough to fall to the floor in a sprawl.

Hannibal just closes his eyes and swallows again, feeling his throat, raw and sensitive, work as spit soothes it. He takes a breath through his nose and licks his lips before opening his eyes again, watching the bleeding mess of the Verger heir on the floor before him.

He looks, at once, real and unreal, there and not there, and Hannibal thinks of the warm buzz he had gotten when he had snapped a broomstick against a boy’s sternum, between another’s ribs. He thinks of the relief. He can feel the corners of his lips tug up, just a little.

“You’ll want to stop the bleeding,” Hannibal tells him, as Mason’s voice pulls into a long elastic groan of pain. Hannibal pushes himself to stand and brings the back of his hand to his smarting cheek to feel the heat of it. “You’ll go into shock, soon.”

Another tilt of his head, eyes up as the door of the biology room finally slams open and Cordell watches them both with a look of almost comical surprise.

“Advice from a whore,” Hannibal says, “who has dealt with this enough.”

The sounds from Mason are more animal than human, suspended in a high tremolo somewhere between wild laughter and hysterical sobbing. Hannibal draws a long breath and sighs, reveling in the sound.

Cordell gapes, speechless, and drops beside Mason to close a hand over his wound. Hannibal notices that he hesitates for just an instant before he tries to squeeze off the bubbling of blood from it, and as Cordell reaches for his phone, Hannibal steps past.

“Why don’t you leave him? You can always say it was me.”

Cordell doesn’t look at Hannibal, dialing emergency services with one hand. Hannibal notices - or perhaps only imagines - that there is an instant of hesitation then, as well, before he lifts the phone to his ear and turns a dire eye to Hannibal.

Hannibal shrugs and offers a small smile before taking up his bag. “See you in study group.”

He stops only in the bathroom on the way out, to wash the blood from his face and then from the sink, to change into a Johns Hopkins sweatshirt tugged down over the ruined button-down. He’ll have to dispose of all of it, of course, in case the Vergers ever want to follow up on the pruning of their family tree, but Hannibal can’t imagine that it’s worth the shame to do so, nor the lack of evidence remaining anywhere but Hannibal’s stomach. It isn’t the sort of thing one does for fun, anyway - a matter of self-defense and self-preservation.

None of which lessens Hannibal’s smile as he emerges out into the afternoon sun, and hears in the distance the sound of an ambulance.

Chapter Text

Will senses the car pulling up the drive before his dogs do. A slight raising of his head, eyes over the rims of his glasses as his hands still against the marking he has on the table in front of him. A week of finals for the students offers him more time at home, between office hours.

Winston whines next to him and claws click against the floor as he pads over to the door, tail swaying in preemptive excitement at seeing his favourite friend.

Will sits where he is, smile warming his features as he watches the car pull up next to his truck, watches the boy climb out of it to the cacophonous greeting from all the dogs, gathered at the door, now, for him. Will sets his pen aside and shuffles his papers together, pushing to stand just as Hannibal opens the screen door and greets the furry creatures swarming him. He holds the door open with his foot and gently ushers them all outside before closing the door behind himself and tossing his bag to the floor.

“Hello, stranger,” Will murmurs, happy to patiently wait for Hannibal to come to him, where he stands. Arms gently crossed over his front, glasses halfway down his nose where he hasn’t been bothered to adjust them.

He doesn’t need to settle them higher on his nose to see the shadow cast unmoving down the side of Hannibal’s face. He knows the shape of it by memory, could form it from thought alone, and so the swelling is jarring in its unfamiliarity, as startling as the sweetness of Hannibal’s voice.

“Hi,” the boy answers, and if Will didn’t know Hannibal better, he’d swear by the long sway of his voice that he’s drunk.

Will unfolds his arms and pushes up his glasses as Hannibal approaches with languid steps. One eye has puffed closed, his lips formed out of shape across the left side. He doesn’t have time to ask before Hannibal grins, darkness stained between his teeth, and he wraps his arms around Will’s neck to press a kiss against him.

He tastes like blood.

Strong hands settle against Hannibal’s shoulders and the cold panic that had started to curl itself through Will’s gut at seeing Hannibal pull up so early finally grows claws. Gently, Will presses against Hannibal to push him back, to break the kiss and look at Hannibal properly.

He knows who does this. He knew that somehow that boy would get to Hannibal again, and the guilt at breaking his own word to him eats at Will until he has to hold his breath and swallow down the immediate apology. He had promised. He will fix this, no matter what it takes.

He strokes knuckles gently down Hannibal’s swollen cheek, feeling the heat of it against his own skin before turning to cup his face gently with his palm. He watches Hannibal carefully, eyes seeking over his features as the boy continues to smile, seemingly entirely unfazed by the pain painted on his skin. Will blinks, tilts his head gently to the side.

“What happened?”

Hannibal touches his tongue between his purpled lips and grins, lazy and feline, turning his cheek against Will’s fingers. It hurts, it hurts enough to force a breath from the boy, but before Will can draw his hand away Hannibal catches his wrist to hold him there, palm to battered cheek.

“I am officially void of clientele,” Hannibal murmurs into Will’s hand, turning his open eye towards Will. The concern he sees stricken in his professor’s features is a salve and pain all at once, and as if to reassure the man, Hannibal presses little kisses to his hand.

Will does not return the touch, all but frozen.

“Hannibal,” he asks, “what did you do?”

“I did not wait for him to come for me. I met him on my own terms instead, alone.” Will’s eyes widen but Hannibal only presses closer, through the hands that seek to keep him at distance, to bury his face against Will’s throat and nuzzle softly.

“He wanted my mouth,” Hannibal says softly. “He always does. I did not kill him, but I ensured that this would be the last time he would ever have it. Or anyone else’s. Ever again.”

Will’s hands hover over Hannibal’s shoulders, unsure he is able, yet, to hold him, mind whirring too quickly, too many possibilities. And Hannibal’s injuries still tugging at Will’s conscience, that he did not stop them, that he should have, that he had promised to, and failed. After a moment, he settles a hand against the back of Hannibal’s head and one between his shoulders.

“You taste of blood,” Will murmurs, as Hannibal arches into him like a pleased kitten.

“It’s not mine,” Hannibal tells him, and at that, Will laughs, a nervous little bark of sound that he presses his lips over to contain. The thought it too ridiculous, too wrong, and yet…

Some sense of propriety snares the boy enough that he pulls back just a little, but it’s too much distance already and he leans in closer, heavy enough to force Will to take a step. Clumsy kisses drift along Will’s cheek, sleek fingers wind back through his hair. He is limber, loose with relief and pleasure, a satisfaction that weighs his body down into beautiful laxity.

“I should brush my teeth,” Hannibal sighs. “It’s rude, I should have done that before kissing you. Forgive me?”

He draws away, then, hips shifting with a predator’s grace, but there is no hunt in his step. He is sated, in nearly every way imaginable, and he sets a finger to his livid lips before breaking into a grin and ducking his head to make his way towards the bathroom.

Will watches, heart still beating too thickly in his ears before he swallows, presses his fingers to his lips and follows Hannibal down the hall, listening as the water runs, as Hannibal begins to brush his teeth. It occurs to him that he could have acted sooner, could have found out the boy’s name, his location, and shown him the pleasure of a fist against his face, over and over until he could barely move, and lost the ability to speak.

He could have.

But it would hardly have served justice for either of them. It would have meant more hell for Hannibal once the boy recovered, it would have meant trouble for Will had charges been pressed. He thinks, with a cool clarity, as he leans against the doorframe and watches his boy, that Hannibal would not have forgiven him fighting a battle for him.

The guilt still stifles him, but it subsides with every breath and every swallow.

“You are a wonder,” he tells Hannibal gently, catching his eyes in the mirror and holding them as the boy smiles again. “Brave and terrifying.”

If Hannibal were anymore leonine than he already appears, he would purr at the praise. Fingers set against the counter, a crooked smile lingers around his toothbrush, dark gaze holding Will’s through their shared reflection. He spits, delicately and low to the sink, and quickly rinses away the foam streaked with bright scarlet from his split lip and the dark clots of old blood that is not his own. He rinses from a cup, never his hand, but washes them after.

There is an efficiency to his cleanliness that should concern Will, and might have, once. He recalls Hannibal’s desire to kill this boy, and despite the money behind the Verger name, watching Hannibal now remove any trace of his doings from the bathroom sink, Will wonders if they ever would have found the boy if Hannibal had disposed of him.

He turns to Will, languid, all the tension erased from his body. His fingers curl beneath his collegiate sweatshirt and the one beneath, both pulled free above his head and folded loosely to rest on the sink.

“I’ll get rid of these,” Hannibal promises, a smile narrowing his eyes. He approaches again, slower than before, and spans his hands against Will’s chest. A pause, a breath off-beat, and Hannibal asks, softly, “Are you proud of me?” His fingers tighten, just a twitch. “Or have I disappointed you already?”

A hand finds its way through Hannibal’s soft, silky hair and Will regards him where he presses close against him, mint mingling with iron as Hannibal bites his lip and waits.

Will’s expression gentles by breath, not a lie to ease from the worry and surprise and mild disgust that something like this would have to happen for Hannibal to be safe. Never disgust at him. Will strokes Hannibal’s uninjured cheek and leans in to kiss his forehead, just a languid press of lips there.

“I have never been more proud,” he says, and means every word. Hannibal had fought his own battles, had won, and had insured, with his cleverness, that this information would not come to light. And if it ever had, no proof would exist. He knows Hannibal will graduate away from the past that got him to college, he knows he will never forget it, but he will learn to not linger.

And Will will remain by his side to make it easier not to.

Hannibal’s sigh shivers from him, his pleasure unfurling in a wild bloom of racing pulse and blushing cheeks. “I’m proud of myself,” he admits, before his boyish grin breaks into a laugh and he slips his arms around Will’s neck again.

He lifts to his toes and when strong hands snare his thighs, lets himself be lifted entirely. He curls his legs around Will’s hips as his professor carries him out of the hall, peppering Will’s face with little kisses and endless adoration. He strokes his hair and touches his mouth. He fixes his glasses and then removes them entirely to kiss him without smudging their lenses.

“No more,” Hannibal promises. “No more bruises unless I ask you for them and you wish to give them to me. No more fear or apprehension or dread or obligation. No more touching,” he sighs, pressing his brow to Will’s and letting his eyes slip closed. “Except for you. Only you.”

Will just kisses him, gentle and deep and long, a forgiveness and reassurance and everything in between. He is just happy to have him home, to have him safe, if harmed in the process. He thinks how he will press so close to him when they sleep tonight, how he will spoon Hannibal back against him and not let him go until he stretches, sleepy and fussy, in the morning and turns to kiss Will awake.

“I love you,” Will tells him, smile wide when Hannibal smiles at the words. Carefully he turns them to press Hannibal into the bed and kiss him into it, deeper, hotter against him as Hannibal ruts up with soft little sounds and clinging hands. “Remarkable boy.”

He laughs, almost shy, and lets his arms rest above his head. He is Will’s to kiss and move as Will pleases, knowing that whatever Will wishes for him in this and everything else will be right and welcome. Despite the injuries, despite the fact that a prominent part of the heir to a porcine fortune is still heavy in Hannibal’s stomach, despite it all, when Will kisses him, Hannibal feels extraordinary.

Beautiful.

His.

He lifts his his hips when Will loosens his pants, letting himself be made bare, displaying himself with a preening stretch for Will to watch. Brave and terrifying - the words’ echo sends a shiver down Hannibal’s spine and he arches with a moan, lowering a hand just to twine through Will’s curls. As with all the praise that Will has paid to him, it took time for Hannibal to believe it, but he does, he is everything Will has always claimed him to be.

“I love you,” Hannibal murmurs.

Will’s hand seeks up Hannibal’s body in a slow, stretched touch, heel of it pressing down against taut stomach and warm chest and splaying his fingers up just beneath Hannibal’s throat as Will levers himself up to kiss between them, to move his hand aside entirely and kiss beneath Hannibal’s jaw, up to his earlobe to tug it between his teeth.

He can feel how entirely responsive Hannibal is, more so than usual, still high on his victory, tired from the beating and from the surge of every kind of emotion through him. He can feel how he willingly spreads his knees and draws them up around Will - still clothed - as he settles against his boy.

He is extraordinary.

He is beautiful.

He is free.

By his own hand, Hannibal is free. And in his freedom, he still chooses Will, still comes home to him and bares his body for him and whimpers and moans so beautifully for him.

Will lifts his hips enough for Hannibal’s hands to seek down to the button and fly and start to peel them down Will’s legs. He kicks them to the floor behind himself and grins as Hannibal’s hands find his shirt next, to unbutton and work from his shoulders.

Hannibal kisses the scar across Will’s shoulder, the curve of his neck, upward to his scruffy cheek. He kisses beneath his eye, his brow, his nose, and finally him, properly. Their bare bodies press together, rubbing as much to pull pleasure between the other as to simply feel skin against skin. Hannibal buries a moan against Will’s jaw, grazing with his teeth, when Will works dampened fingers between his legs. He grins, pressing his sharp smile to soft skin.

“I am glad I waited for a Friday to do this,” Hannibal murmurs. Will casts him a curious look, brow lifted, and with youthful delight Hannibal writhes up against him and spreads his legs wider. “I do not intend on leaving bed tomorrow,” he says, adding with a wry smile, “with your permission, of course.”

“You’ll need to rest,” Will sighs in agreement, spreading his fingers just to feel Hannibal shiver and arc, throat working on a swallow as he bares it to Will.

“Exhaust me,” asks Hannibal. “Tire me. Use me until I sleep and then wake me to have me again. Only you,” he says, again, because he does not imagine he’ll ever tire of saying it. “Please, Will - I want only you.”

Will kisses warm against Hannibal’s uninjured cheek and turns his face aside with the motion, nuzzling him after as he lets his eyes close and his body work to bring Hannibal pleasure, first his fingers, until he’s writhing and begging, laughter catching between his words and making him shudder, then with his cock as he slowly presses into his boy. His. Only his, now.

Will holds Hannibal like he’s made of glass, hands splayed against either side of his face, eyes to his wide dark ones before settling closer, forehead to forehead, lips just brushing as Will starts a slow, languid rhythm. He makes love to Hannibal until he’s panting, until they are both restless and desperate for release and Hannibal’s skin is marked with sucked bruises against his chest and neck.

Only then, does Will relent and bring his hand between them to stroke Hannibal quickly, not easing his grip even as he spills with a cry over Will’s hand and his own stomach. He keeps stroking, keeps thrusting, until Hannibal’s voice breaks saying his name again and Will’s body tenses with his own release. He whispers praise against him, truths, all truths in his soft words. He tells Hannibal he loves him. He tells him he is strong, and extraordinary. He tells Hannibal he is his, Will’s voice curling a low-toned growl when he says it, repeats it, kisses Hannibal and holds him still beneath him as they both come down from their orgasms.

Only after scaling so many peaks - adrenaline and endorphins and serotonin and Hannibal can’t even be fussed to think what else - does the pain finally begin to register, and when it does, it hardly matters. Hannibal strokes Will’s hair as his professor rests against his chest. He keeps his thighs around his hips to feel their sweat-slick skin cool together. He whispers ceaseless affections, for everything Will is and everything Will has given him, admiration and praise, and love.

So much love that it fills Hannibal with a far sweeter and stronger pain than his injuries ever could.

“Let me make you dinner,” Hannibal offers, stroking a thumb across Will’s lips when he draws a breath in inevitable protest. “I want to. Please let me. I promise to ice my eye, after, no matter the discomfort.”

A pause, and mischievous, Hannibal fights down a grin.

“But you’ll forgive me, I hope, if I sit with you and do not eat. I’m still rather full.”

Will snorts, he can’t help it. Still shocked, certainly, but so genuinely proud of this boy beneath him that he can do little more than worship his body with little kisses, with soft nuzzles and sighs before he levers himself up to look at Hannibal properly.

“You will ice your face,” he agrees, “and you will sleep. You will sleep, Hannibal, until you are rested.” He smiles at the little pout that meets him, the boy still ravenous for this warm pleasure they have together, the taste of freedom sharp and fresh between his teeth and his entirely body vibrating to experience that with Will while it lasts.

Will leans up to kiss chastely against Hannibal’s lips and gestures with a sweep of his hand for the boy to get up as he wishes, make whatever he wants for dinner. He doesn’t resist the little slap to Hannibal’s ass as he stretches, and just smiles, eyes narrowed, when the boy looks back.

“Don’t forget your apron.”

“Only that?” Hannibal asks, feigning convincing surprise.

“Only that,” agrees Will. “And you’ll remove it as soon as you’re done.”

“Rather a new meaning of ‘dressing for dinner’.”

“Not only for dinner,” Will responds, as their eyes meet. “For the whole weekend.”

Hannibal tilts his head with a soft smile, and studies the look he receives with a lingering fondness. It is thrilling and impossible, all at once, to think that this is his, now. This home and the dogs, the desk and the bed.

The man who watches him, now, with admiration and respect.

Hannibal releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding, and it sounds like a laugh as he genially inclines his head.

“As you wish.”