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Limbo

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The Dragon’s blood no longer warmed their skin. The sea took them in its cold dark embrace and rolled them to the bottom of the ocean where all lights faded and the only thing left were memories and dreams of moments ago stretching through time.

It started with hesitance. 

Hannibal was hesitant, waiting for Will’s response, waiting for his acceptance or rejection after once more laying down all he ever wanted for the two of them. And he got his wish in the form of a loving last gift from the one he cared for the most. Will’s arms clutched at him with a rare need, wrapped around his neck, and his head lay softly on Hannibal’s chest like comfort sought from a lover. Will felt hands tighten around him with careful reverence, heard the steady beating in the other’s chest skip with excitement, and though he couldn’t see Hannibal’s face, Will could feel the euphoria radiate from him in more than just the way he rest his chin atop Will’s head. It was affectionate, far more than either had ever allowed, and Will felt love in touch and gesture, naked and stark and for once not threatening to end him. For once not threatening to hurt, but to hold with all the care of a love true. 

The same yearning Will recognized in himself, buried under layers of shame and fear and anger. He felt that same love now burning through his own chest, unabashedly willing to make the place he laid his head a new home. It was for the better then, that he hadn’t seen the look on Hannibal’s face. That would have made his actions difficult. It would have made Will second guess and betray his intentions to the other.

Can’t live with him, can’t live without him. That was a truth Will knew and was living with for a long time.

He closed his eyes and tightened the hold he had around Hannibal as he tipped them over the ledge, eyes squeezed shut and head tucked in the crook of Hannibal’s neck. Will emptied his lungs of air and accepted his fate and his downfall. It felt right. It felt like a victory and it felt like a defeat, their zero sum game. A good way to go for both, wrapped around each other, blurring and melding as they so often do. And perhaps it was the impact, and perhaps it was the fall, but Will was quick to see darkness followed by the glimmer of stars at the bottom of the ocean.

Was this what death looked like; an endless expanse of clouds and stars and moonlight?

Perhaps.

It was peaceful, if a little cold.

Very cold.

And then he blinked.

The sea took them and turned off the lights, rolled them in its harsh embrace and with no less mercy spat them out on shore like a disease too great even for the ocean to swallow.

A memory of a touch, of lips covering his to give air, fought to the surface of Will’s hazy thoughts and he blinked again, licked the salt water off his lips, and took in a deep shaky breath.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Coherence was a luxury but that one impulsive thought looped over and over in Will’s head, even though he couldn’t understand. Even though he didn’t know where he was or how he got there. But dead he wasn’t and that felt wrong.

The sand beneath him felt wrong too. His hand and feet were buried in it but his back felt warm and supported by something other. He tried moving a bit, lifting the arm that lay across his abdomen, but it didn’t. It wasn’t his. And neither were the pained exhales.  

Will turned too hastily, tugging at fresh wounds, but what elicited a panicked groan was the sight of all the blood seeping into the sand. A black oil spill around them and Hannibal’s ghostly face looking at him, back propped against a large rock.

“Can you walk?” Hannibal was quick to ask.

“Will you live?” Will spat out immediately, unsure yet which answer would feel right to be thankful for.

Hannibal gave him the best grin he could manage at the moment. Traces of blood – his own or the Dragon’s, it was impossible to tell – still clung to his teeth. “I will,” he breathed out, “if you can walk.”

+++

Their destination was much less alluring than a glass house overlooking cliffs. It resembled the cabin found in Virginia, once long ago, almost in another life – wooden and rustic, run down by age, and buried among trees. The inside, though, was less horrific than its cousin. A cabin prepped for hiding and survival with gas lighting, preserved food, and tanks of untouched water at the back.

The chill of the Atlantic was becoming unbearable. The ocean cleaned the Dragon’s blood off of them – cleaned their wounds too, though unkindly – but by the time they reached the safe house with a stolen vehicle, they were stained anew with the marks the Dragon left on them.

The floors were creaky, the walls cold, and the few working lights barely cast shadows of light in their direction. Hannibal pointed out two wooden stools for Will to get, and limbered into the bathroom for the tools that would save their lives. They sat across each other with bags of medical equipment littered at their feet, and peeled their shirts off. Will offered his hands first, while they still worked. The pain in his shoulder would render one useless soon enough, but he also knew the sting of a gunshot and all the danger that came with it. Thankfully there was nothing to sew; his fingers wouldn’t manage that precision.

Sea salt mangled both their wounds, but alcohol was still a mandatory step. Will heard the sharp intakes of breath while he cleaned around torn flesh.

“Doesn’t look terrible,” Will said, as if the man needed assurance. As if he wasn’t talk to a doctor who knew much better the sort of damage he sustained. Maybe Will needed to hear it out loud.

His words came out a little mangled and stiff, jaw tight with pain around the tear on his cheek. Will hadn’t seen the damage, only felt it, but he suspected it wasn’t a charm to look at. He was forced to spit blood often.

Will worked as fast as he could, covering up the entry and the exit wounds with clean gauze and getting up to wrap the bandage around the torso. He noticed throughout the ordeal Hannibal’s fingers digging into his leg, and Will tried to be as gentle as he could. As gentle as his trembling arm would manage. Hannibal shook too, but that was most likely from the cold.

It was then that he also noticed the mark left on his back from Muskrat Farm and fought off the urge to touch it.

On his turn, Hannibal grabbed the scissors to cut the shirt off and leave Will’s shoulder unstressed. He took to tending the face first, gently cleaning it with one hand while holding his jaw straight with the other. Will’s eyes closed, exhausted, and stayed as such through the cleaning, the stitching, and the painful hissing.

Hannibal watched him intently with fondness immeasurable. Even he was torn with exhaustion to the point when articulating what he felt in a logical order was impossible. He just knew this dangerous beautiful thing just tried to kill them both, and the worst feeling he could pull from that experience was mild surprise. The wounds at his hand he cared for with terrible gentleness, last used long ago while cutting a young girl’s ear off. For Hannibal, it all felt like yesterday; pockets of times he could revisit whenever the great expanse of his mind would desire. But for the longest time, while suspended in a glass cage, he could only ever recall calling on to Will in his mind. And sometimes he would come but most times he wouldn’t, so having him real and under his fingertips was a particular satisfaction.

Even after he threw them off the cliff.

Especially after he threw them off the cliff.

Hannibal’s eyes lowered to the man’s barely parted lips and he was certain the desire on his face would be unmistakable were Will to open his eyes. But he didn’t.

When the last of the bandage was getting wrapped around his shoulder, Will’s eyes blinked to life and looked at Hannibal only inches away from him, eyes taking in the whole of him. Will didn’t flinch but there were thoughts on his mind; so many it took a moment to filter them through into words.

“Can this be it,” Will asked with the softest whisper, his head tilting even closer to Hannibal’s. “Can these four walls be our world? Can we pretend nothing beyond that door exists?”

“We’ll have to,” Hannibal answered matter-of-factly, “for a while.”

The eyes focused on him then, the pitch of Will’s voice becoming more sober yet still mellow. “I can’t promise...” He lost thought for a moment when Hannibal brought his hand up to Will’s cheek, thumb pressing down the tape that held gauze in place. “I can’t promise I won’t try this again,” he grabbed Hannibal’s forearm but didn’t seem to have any intentions of moving the hand away, just holding it in an almost desperate fashion as he clarified, “kill us again.”

A beat of silence stretched between them where Hannibal didn’t react beyond gentle caresses with his thumb.

Will changed pace with his words then, no longer asking for permission.

“I want this. I want to suspend us in limbo, where I don’t have to think about it. Where you don’t have to give me a reason to think about it.”

Hannibal’s lips stretched into an amused grin and his hand travelled from the face to the back of Will’s neck. Little effort was needed to gently knock their foreheads together, cold shivering skin against cold shivering skin.

“Then we will have this,” Hannibal breathed out in a whisper as Will closed his eyes again. For a while, he omitted.

Before either made an effort to get up and find warmth in dry clothes and blankets, they stole it from each other for as long as feasible, stuck between a hug and a kiss.

The change of clothes was another challenge for men who had trouble raising their limbs, one more than the other. Finally dry, Hannibal led them to the bedroom where a single bed was found, spacious by Hannibal’s preference but bare of covers. He pulled a pair of pillows and woollen blankets from the closet and neither said a word as they took a side of the bed and lay down with almost synchronized groans of pain.

“It’s still cold,” Will whispered within a minute of a silent attempt at sleep.

“Come closer,” Hannibal said and for the second time that day experienced mild surprise when in the darkness of the room he heard the springs screech. Will rolled on his good shoulder and scooted over, abandoning his pillow for Hannibal’s chest. Hannibal wrapped his arm around Will’s waist and Will did the same with care for the wound he mended.

Neither said a word as sleep took them quickly. Will dreamt to the sound of a beating human heart.

 

Chapter Text

 

The cabin was full of shadows flickering on gas light, all window hatches shut, and the only sign of a world existing beyond it were the traces of daylight coming from beneath the front door.

“Did you,” Will began and trailed off as he pulled out scissors, testing them in the hand he wasn’t accustomed using. “Did you give me CPR on the beach?”

The night wasn’t easy for either as they woke up with pains they didn’t even feel a day ago. But Will woke up from looping nightmares that made him question reality when he finally stepped into it.

First he got his wish and it didn’t feel right. They fell and the water tore them apart and swallowed Will alive while a distant voice called, begged, for him to come back. He didn’t like how desperate it sounded but little could be done under the weight of the ocean. When death quieted everything around, it didn’t quiet his mind and he was falling again. The angry sea pushed them apart, but this time around Will denied himself a watery grave. He choked and heaved as he washed ashore and not a soul around him. There was a name of his lips that he screamed into the wind but no one answered, no one came. His eyes watered from the wind and the salt and the sadness, and when the tightness in his chest became too strong, he was falling again. No strength of his got him out of the water, but someone else’s did. Someone’s hands pressing against his chest, someone’s air pushing into his lungs, and he woke calmly to the splendour of stars spilling on the sky above. But the body against his was cold and stiff, and when he turned, the familiar face didn’t smile or speak. There was a name on his lips again, softly spoken, begging, but pale death never left the face of the man who wasn’t there to hear it. The crushing waves around his heart were stronger, unbearable, too much for flesh and bone to handle without breaking.

Will woke with a start in the middle of the night, the taste of slat still on his lips from the tear or two that slipped too far. Before exhaustion took him back to sleep, he watched Hannibal dream, his chest rising and falling, and Will wondered why oh why did it feel so comforting.  

“Did you?” Will asked again when the answer didn’t come as quickly as he expected it.

“Yes,” Hannibal said and he slipped into a position more comfortable, supported by his elbows yet still lying on the bed, waiting for Will to change the bandages that stained red and brown throughout the night.

“I’m not sure I want to thank you,” Will looked away to cut off the bandage. “But I think I know why you did it.”

“You think,” a flat statement, and with a little ire bleeding into Hannibal’s words. His eyes were locked on the other, summoning for a look with great intensity.

“I know,” and Will returned the stare with blatant openness, unmistakably making clear exactly what he knew. Hannibal called it compassion, this thing he felt for Will, and it wasn’t so much a lie as it was an understatement for the other’s benefit.

“Does it upset you?” Will asked then, before Hannibal could ask the same of him.

“That you would choose death at the thought of life besides me?” Not one to sound bitter, yet Hannibal didn’t hide how much the thought soured on his mind.

“So it angers you.”

“No,” he sighed out. “Anger is not what I feel. But I would like to know what you feel.”

Will cleaned the wound in silence. When it stretched into minutes of wordless waiting, he took a break by leaning back against the chair he sat on. His shoulders were stiff and his face a pain to speak through, even with pain killers. He could only wonder what it was like for Hannibal who would just close his eyes for a moment when the bite of his mauling was too much.

“Much like you, I suppose,” Will told him, his fingers reaching for the bandaged section of his face. It itched as much as it hurt. “Great gouts of disappointment.”

Will didn’t have to clear up his words; he didn’t have to elaborate where his disappointment was aimed. Such a level of understanding was a singular experience in his life, tied to only one person and infinitely more painful for it.

Hannibal released an unpleasant groan as he sat up against his own judgement, just to grab Will’s hand and pull it off his face. “You can’t play dead forever, Will,” he said and watched Will’s eyes shift to the point of contact on his wrist. His good hand clenched around the scissors. Hannibal couldn’t help the smirk, or the way his thumb caressed over Will’s calm pulse-point. “Do you intend to keep me here forever as well?”

Will chuckled at the thought as much as his face would allow. He put the scissors on the bedside. “Someone once told me there are means of influence other than violence. I've come to understand it the hard way. Perhaps you will too.”

Will tried pulling his hand out of the grip it was in, and it loosened but it did not give. “The world is a better place with you in it.”

“It is,” and Will looked away from the intensity of Hannibal’s eyes. Sometimes they were too much, too honest with their perplexing definition of love that he understood too well. “For you.”

“That’s the kind of selfishness you can’t hold against me.”

Will laughed in earnest and regretted it quickly when it deepened the pain on his face. “I can hold it against you, if I wanted to,” he quipped, one eyebrow raised in a cheeky gesture.

But he omitted the thought resting on the tip of his tongue. It was ready and willing to fly out and expose Will’s weakness, so he kept his mouth closed. He was certain he couldn’t hide it from his face, though, just as he couldn’t hold back the laugh. He was certain Hannibal knew how terribly warm his confession made Will feel.

“Lie down,” he placed a hand on Hannibal’s chest, gently pushing him back on the bed. “You need to rest.”

That night it was Hannibal that couldn’t sleep, but not for any nightmare. Will slept next to him, lying on his back and dreaming of things that made him twitch on occasions. Hannibal wanted to know what it was, where his thoughts went, how he felt each morning waking up alive and next to the man he wanted dead as well. He wanted to crawl inside every nook and crack Will had, make home in them, and mine them for secrets and answers.

This frozen stilled time they were sharing in the cabin felt like a last shot, and most of what Hannibal had been craving for was at the tips of his fingers, not quite in his grasp. Making the wrong move wasn’t an option but it was a threat, and it threatened more than just Will turning away from him.

Hannibal sought contact, missing the way their bodies fell against each other on their first night when neither was sure they’d wake up again. He turned on his side and reached towards Will, hand splayed over the beating heart.

Will stirred but did not wake, and Hannibal spent more of the night watching him then he did sleep.

+++

The news was having a field day. Week. Month. The dust wouldn’t settle until the bodies washed up.

Legitimate sources blamed the FBI, blamed Will Graham, blamed Jack Crawford, blamed whose ever name came up involved in this fiasco. But Freddie Lounds and her ilk were riding the wave Jack wasn’t even aware was a thing – the planned suicide story, a murder husbands cover up. Murder husbands. That’s the first he ever saw it in printed form and it made Jack’s skin crawl. It made him remember the face.

The FBI digitized the 8mm film found on the crime scene the stolen police car led them to. Another one of Lecter’s safe houses they didn’t even know existed, hidden under a false name. The video revealed a little more than what the evidence told them; Dolarhyde broke in with the intentions of killing Lecter, yet for some reason turned to Graham first. The fight got taken to the patio where all three, supposedly, met their end. But the most striking thing about the video, and few seemed to notice it, was Lecter’s face moments before he staggered to his feet to join the fray. There was a point at which he snarled, nostrils flaring and eyes aiming like daggers at an unseen enemy, presumably when Dolarhyde had turned his murderous intent away from him.

Jack couldn’t wipe that face from his memory. It lodged itself there and burned a hole in his skull, something unclean sticking to his mind. Murder husbands, Lounds wrote and Jack did not want to give her even the slightest benefit of doubt for something that looked like click-bait. And yet that face told him otherwise. He knew that face, saw it before, and as a man once in love, wore it as well.

“Boss?” Brian Zeller entered his office. “We’re the last one’s to go. You leaving?”

Jack checked his watch and it was an ungodly hour, but it didn’t matter. He lived alone, no one to wake up with his overtime. He gave a nod.

“Are we gonna do something about it?” Brain skimmed through the headlines littered over Jack’s desk. The news dragged everyone, but headline after headline featured Will as the main instigator of the failed plan and the main reason for a convoy full of dead agents. “Clear up his name or something. The coast guard is still looking, y’know. He might—”

Jack had little patience for baseless claims of the press. They knew shit. “I doesn’t matter,” he said and found the possibility of either turning up alive after so long incredible. Heck, he didn’t even believe bodies would ever be found. Life was funny that way, denying closure whenever it could.

“It should, shouldn’t it? It’s not fair.”

“Nothing ever is in this life,” Jack said and turned off the lights, leaving Brian to catch up to him in a rush. Bodies or no, he was more than willing to lay them all to rest and forget everything. But if Bella was any indicator, forgetting might take an eternity.

Jack made a note to give Molly a visit and a talk, even if he felt like the least qualified person to offer comfort right now. He owed her that much.

+++

Will was in the pantry fighting with an unopened jar when he heard it – the click, the turn, the creaking of old wood, and the sound of rain loud as if coming through an open door.

The door was opened and then closed and Hannibal had stepped outside. Will’s heart sank as he walked out of the pantry, nerves clicking and a thousand questions springing up in his mind – too early; too fragile; where; why; whose death; what body part? He couldn’t bring himself to follow suit or even acknowledge the door, but he didn’t have to. The heavy footsteps paced and splashed around the house and back again, pushing the door open only as little as needed for him to slip inside. Too used to the darkness of the cabin, the gray light of day blinded Will. 

“The pipes needed a little nudge,” Hannibal said as he slipped out of the raincoat with some difficulty. He noticed the slight trace of dumbfounded on Will’s face and added, “I don’t know about you, but I could do with a little wash.”

But something else was clearly on Will’s mind between the hum for an answer and the look he sent towards the door.

“Did you think I’d leave?”

“I wouldn’t put it above you.” Will shook the jar of mixed vegetables he still held for emphasis. The pantry was well stocked, but with few things fresh.

“Did you think I’d leave you here?”

Will chuckled. “I wouldn’t be so m—” and he choked back the word before he could say it. Fortunate was on his mind, but mis made its way out of his mouth faster than he could control it. “Are you sure you should be having baths?”

Hannibal smiled delightfully at the misdirection. “I wouldn’t leave you to this place, Will. Not even to hunt.”

Will smiled back. “Not now that you know what it’s like in two.”

The magnetic pull between them was so strong that neither was sure who took the step closer. Perhaps both did.

“I did enjoy it,” Will felt the need to say.

“I know.”

“I never wanted to enjoy it.”

“I know that too.” He took the jar from Will, opened it with visible effort and set it down. “We can’t control our wants. Those pulls are primal in their need.”

Hannibal placed a hand on the elbow of Will’s damaged arm, nudging it to lift, but the other ignored his medical efforts.

“That night almost five years ago, when you gave me a way out... What were you thinking? How did you see us?” Will’s face was raw and honest, like he’d been searching for that answer all his life; like it was a question that held him awake through many sleepless nights. “You must have known, if you knew me at all, that I couldn’t match your appetite. Not the way you wanted.”

“Perhaps I had hoped you’d broaden your horizons,” Hannibal was only being half serious and it earned him a condescending look that he smiled off. “I wasn’t planning. I wasn’t thinking that far ahead. There were names and places waiting for us all in Europe, but beyond that, there was little forethought. I just knew then what I wanted.”

Hannibal nudged his elbow once more and Will started lifting it. The words he had on his mind got cut short with a hiss not that far into his lift. Hannibal looked displeased, Will unsurprised.

“And did you get what you wanted now,” Will asked with an inscrutable look, cards held close to his chest.

“Rebirth,” Hannibal said simply. “A second chance for both of us.”

He took Will by the arm to the next room to have a proper look at his shoulder. His touch tried to be clinical, but failed only partially.

Will tried not to enjoy it and failed completely.

 

Chapter Text

 

The sight of scissors snipping in the corner of his eye wasn’t enjoyable, but having his eyes closed amplified the sensation of every touch Will got. The hands made a valiant effort to be very clinical, a true surgeon’s touch focused on work, but when Will’s eyes shut whatever barrier stood there just fell apart. The fingers were gentle and caring, grazing over his healing wound with feather-light touches and patience. They cared for him like hands that would never do him harm, and there would have been something to laugh about in that thought if Will could allow himself anything other than standing perfectly still. Hannibal’s hand was resting now under his chin, holding his head steady while stitches were carefully plucked out. Each touch, however gentle, still hurt but it never made him make a sound or ask for pause. It was when the fingers threatened to strayed too intimately over his face that Will had to break the silence and ease the goose bumps travelling down his skin.

“I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror,” he said what first came to mind, and it was that very morning’s fright from the shadowed reflection of himself. “Almost didn’t recognize it.”

A gust of warm breath from a smile or a sigh hit his face and Will became aware of how close Hannibal actually was; far beyond the boundaries of personal space, yet only his hands touched him as they worked the stitching off. Will had been walking around sans bandage since last night and the view he found in the mirror never once felt worth revisiting. The purples had gone olive and the cut, while not large, was stark in its depth. He felt it every time he ate and talked, and Will felt if he was lucky it would only leave a horrific scar.

“You’re exaggerating,” Hannibal’s voice came in like a cool balm of reason as well as a doctor’s estimate. “It will heal nicely. All it takes is a good pair of hands to take care of it.”

Will refused to consider good news. “What’s another scar,” he pondered out loud, bitterly. “Plenty of room on the canvas.”

“Each one tells a story,” and Hannibal’s thumb slid across the throbbing cut with a cool touch, an ointment left in its wake. “This one will speak a very interesting tale.” The smile was palpable in his voice.

“I’d rather some were never told,” the words came out flat, unspecific, but Will had plenty of scars in mind. He didn’t hold as much reverence for them as Hannibal did, and how could he, when he’d always remember them first for the pain they gave him; physical and emotional, if there was any difference.

It was strange then to discover that Hannibal may have had one of Will’s scars in mind too and he showed it, perhaps unintentionally, with touch. His fingers raked hair off of Will’s face, and surely it was no coincidence when the hand paused deliberately to glide over an old cut that once almost split his skull.

Will’s eyes opened and he couldn’t quite tell what it was that sprung the name to his mind or why. He couldn’t catch his thoughts in time to see the big picture, but his sight aimed at Hannibal as he said, “I’d been talking to Dr. du Maurier.”

The grin that appeared on Hannibal’s face was utterly self-gratifying. “What did you speak about?” He asked, not even hiding the depth of his amused curiosity.

“You, mostly.”

“She was in a unique position to give up quite a few details. I wonder what she had to say,” Hannibal mused, fishing for details.

“Publically? A lot of bullshit. I was interested in some things more truthful.”

“Did she hold the key to all your answers?”

“She said enough,” Will paused, testing the words he had left on his tongue. The level of honesty he had in mind felt awkward, maybe a little undeserved, but these were new waters for both of them, and they would require new methods of swimming. “Mostly I... I wanted to know what made her so fortunate to leave without a scratch.”

When circling Hannibal’s orbit, people were either shoved through a meat grinder or they were Bedelia du Maurier. Will couldn’t hide his begrudging feelings around her and he made little effort to do it now in front of Hannibal. He wanted the other to know just how much it bothered him and he wanted Hannibal to betray his true thoughts.

Those, Hannibal gave without a fight.

“A temporary condition,” and the grin on his face was sharp and satisfied as he examined Will’s face under stronger light, tilting his head towards it.

Will made eye contact again. “I gave her a warning in case someone,” and he chuckled then at his own failed endeavours, “in case someone lived. I doubt she’s around.”

Hannibal’s smile took on an eerie note. “And yet it was her words that helped turn my blade on you in Florence.” The words left Hannibal like they were a piece of casual conversation. It couldn’t have been easy for a man like him to admit to his own weakness, but there he was, manipulating with his own manipulation.

“Is that supposed to make me want to see her scarred?” Will questioned more than just Hannibal.

“You tell me,” Hannibal let it hang, satisfied with the effect. He took a step back and grabbed a small round mirror to aim at Will and show him the fruit of his patience. “I would suggest shaving,” he commented. “You’ll look a little odd otherwise.”

Will didn’t meet his reflection and stepped out of the bathroom quickly.

+++

It all started, as great things often do, with a ridiculous idea hardly supported by facts and full of omitted details. But that was just how her crowd liked it, so that was what Freddie Lounds delivered. She’d never forget that night it came to her and that day that followed when she published it. The sudden influx of traffic on her site made her think TattleCrime.com was coming under a DDoS attack. She actually had to pony up and upgrade the hosting package. Over three years later and there was still an active subforum on her website titled Murder Husbands, so it was no surprise to anyone that she resurrected that title after the convoy massacre and their disappearance.

She hardly believed it then and she didn’t put much faith in it now – it was just a quick grab for attention – but as time passed, as bodies had less and less chance to ever be found, as conspiracy theories sprung up all over her forums and comment sections, Freddie started pondering deeper on the story she made up. The more practical readers viewed it as a murder attempt gone wrong on Hannibal the Cannibal’s part, other’s saw it as a romantic murder-suicide, but a third faction looked at it as planned elopement. Freddie found herself more and more leaning towards the latter. It didn’t make her feel particularly safe or comfortable, but it would make for sensational stories. She wanted something a little more concrete this time, something real, words from a third party that would certainly know a thing or two.

Bedelia du Maurier’s house was not hard to find. She was a public figure after all, quite famous after her Florentine adventures as Lydia Fell. Freddie hoped the woman had forgotten about the article she wrote about her story and the water it simply didn’t hold – it was a long time ago after all, and not a very attention worthy article to begin with. Back then, attentions were much higher on Dr. Lecter’s imprisonment, as well as the circus of a trial that accompanied it.

She rang the door bell once, twice, three times, but no one came to answer. She circled the house and found it lacking life or light; the perfect opportunity for Freddie to take out her lock picking kit. The last time she used it, it almost cost her her life, but this time she was ready to be extra careful and quiet.

At first glance it seemed like just another cold home waiting for their resident to come back from a hard day’s work. But the kitchen was a little to sterile and everything was perfectly in place, like no one had been there that morning, like no one had breakfast or coffee. No dishes in the sink or even the washing machine. Freddie opened the fridge and suddenly everything made sense. It was empty and it had no power. She checked more rooms, closets, cup boards, light switches. Nothing.

The place was deserted. No one lived there anymore. Again.   

Freddie Lounds left quickly sensing a strange eeriness, like the disappearance of Bedelia du Maurier was a sign written in bold letters, a warning for others. She once already disappeared like smoke and not too long afterwards the Chesapeake Ripper uncovered his face to the world in a bloodbath. The fact that she was gone once again, when the police and coast guard declared the pair almost certainly dead but not found, told Freddie a lot. It didn’t confirm anything, but it did convince her to have eyes on her back and sleep with a light on.

It also made for a news-worthy story.

+++

Will washed his face when he heard that familiar click of metal against metal, a sound very close to him. He dropped the towel in the sink and rushed to the bedroom with a still wet face. What he saw matched what his mind had already conjured – Hannibal sitting on the bed, reloading an old rifle.

“Care to join me? You’re a much better shot than I,” he asked Will who looked almost petrified where he stood. “Or maybe not. That arm won’t do you any favours now.”

“What are you doing?”

“Going hunting,” Hannibal said matter-of-factly and left with the promise of a quick return.

The door opened and closed for a second time and Will had to grit his teeth because the screech of old wood rubbed his nerved raw this time around. He almost ran out after him, got as far as grabbing the door knob, then stopped. He almost ran out after him with the sharpest knife in the kitchen, but the door stopped him again. It upset him so much, Hannibal’s casual remark – hunting – like it ment nothing, like the death Will took them through was a thing to scoff at, like nothing changed and the status quo was just temporarily off balance. Will thought of sabotaging the locks, of sabotaging Hannibal, of things that made his chest hurt and determination sing. He couldn’t think clearly from the thought of Hannibal dragging in someone half alive in hopes of reliving the high of their kill again. He couldn’t think clearly because if he did he’d remember the world that existed beyond the cabin. He’d remember it because not too long ago he drove them there, through acres of woods and abandoned land, not a soul in sight for miles. He’d also remember Hannibal’s wounds.

Will stopped worrying not when reason came knocking but when Hannibal returned and dropped a very skinny rabbit on the kitchen counter. He looked worn out as he sat with a grunt and clutched his side. His determination to eat something more substantial than preserved vegetables was astounding.

“It’s been a while since I shot from a rifle,” he said in response to Will’s barely covered shock aimed at the rabbit. A rock of anxiety rolled right off Will’s shoulders and he laughed a joyful sound.

Hannibal didn’t know why he earned it but the look was novel on Will’s face, as fitting as it was beautiful, and it’d been too long since the last time Hannibal saw him laugh. The memory living in his mind almost started seaming like a dream. It drew a smile of his own out to the light and Hannibal found himself enjoying the sincerity of it.

“I’ll make dinner,” Will said when he found a flaying knife, smile still lingering on his lips. “Or you can tell me what to make, if you had something specific in mind.”

And Hannibal did. Even in the absence of fresh herbs and a modest variety of food, he had just the right set of ideas to elevate a plain rabbit stew into something more. He sat as relaxed as he could in the wooden chair and watched Will flay and slice the animal for as long as he could. Will was left then with simple instructions while Hannibal went to rest, though half of his absent time was spent arranging the table into something more presentable. But the tablecloth was more yellow than white, the candles unevenly melted and their holders crooked, silverware inconsistent and plates worn out. The cabin used to belong to someone before it was his, and Hannibal quietly berated himself for not taking the time to accommodate it more. It was one of his last resort hideouts, but definitely among the more obscure ones.

While he felt unsatisfied, Will took one glance at what waited for him once dinner finished cooking and quirked his lips in a small gesture of a smile that reflected more in his eyes than the face. The candles were lit and red wine was poured in the only two stem glasses found in the entire cabin.

“You tried,” Will teased as he ladled out the stew.

Hannibal accepted his plate with a nod of thanks. “This cabin is a lot closer to your likes than mine I’m afraid.”

“Well,” Will began with an almost peeved tone as he took his place on the other end of the square table, “it’s missing a few key ingredients. And I wouldn’t be opposed to redecorating,” he threw a glance around the bare walls that surrounded them.

It took Hannibal less than a second to figure out what the secret ingredients were. “Would you like your dogs back?”

“No,” the answer came quick. Will kept his eyes on the steaming stew when he added, “They’re in good hands.”

Not for the first time that evening, or that day, or that week, the glint of Will’s wedding band caught Hannibal’s eye. It stubbornly refused to leave him, not even the Atlantic could wash it off, and Hannibal had to wonder if Will was even aware of carrying it. He chose not to pursue the subject at that moment, and turned instead to sample the stew.

Will watched him go through three spoons in silence and with adamant neutrality on his face. The stew was very satisfying for Will who too grew tired of the mostly vegetarian meals, but Hannibal showed no signs of it.

“How is it?” Will decided to ask.

“It’s as good as you could make it with what little you had at hand.”

Will snorted loudly. “That’s a non-compliment if I ever heard one.”

“It certainly beats what we’ve eaten before,” Hannibal amended and a smile pulled at his lips.

“I’d hope so.” Will went quiet for a moment, a thought swimming on the surface of his mind and he knew exactly how the question would come across, exactly what it would elect Hannibal to answer. But Will was curious, so he asked, “What would you rather be eating?” For the sake of pleasant conversation, he chose not to ask who.

Hannibal stopped the spoon half way, eyes turned to the ceiling like he was honestly thinking it over; like the answer was something he needed to search for. Will didn’t believe that, but he could believe Hannibal needed a moment to narrow down the list.

“She’s not around for that unfortunately,” Hannibal looked at Will as he said it with a smile, the kind Will would have described as wicked once, but now just alarmingly charming. The warm candle glow wasn’t helping.

The list of women was small and Will had it down to two, one he cared for infinitely less than the other, but neither he’d watch be made dinner of. Well, one he was certain he wouldn’t stomach the death of but the other made him think twice, and that was just another alarming consequence of Hannibal’s company.

It was a good thing both of the women were very far and in hiding, and that was a fact Will was absolutely certain of.

“But it’s company that elevates a dinner beyond the sum of its parts,” Hannibal’s voice brought Will out of his thoughts and the silence that overtook him. “And this company is much appreciated.”

The candle light really wasn’t helping.

“Smooth,” Will chuckled and grabbed his wine glass. Hannibal followed suit and before either took a sip, the glasses clinked in unison.

Something warm tightened in Will’s chest, a feeling he’d been more at home with lately. Each day he became more and more aware of what he could do, what his role could be in this afterlife, what the other truly starved for.

Hannibal insisted on washing the dishes. He took the plates to the kitchen and left the wine glasses to the other. Will picked them off the table and took a deep breath before heading to the kitchen himself. He thought it would have required more preparation than that, that it would slow him down as he approached. Will expected conflict in himself and maybe even a lack of courage in this field he never touched before, but he found none of it. No obstacles, just slow steps that weren’t fearful as they were cautious.

He stood next to Hannibal who filled a bowl with warm water and left the glasses there. He was probably about to say thanks for the dishes Will brought in, because his head turned slightly and mouth opened. Will seized the moment with what he had in mind, with a hand under Hannibal chin, tilting his head towards him for better reach. Will pressed his lips against a cheek peppered with slight coarse hairs that stung his lips and left a solid kiss, warm and wet.

It was over before it began, deliberately so, and Will let his hand slip from under Hannibal’s chin to tap twice at his chest before leaving, still wordless. Not a sound came from either and not a sound come from the kitchen for a solid minute after Will left.    

 

Chapter Text

 

Will had gone to bed by the time the windows started rattling. A storm was slowly approaching but Hannibal barely noticed as he stood in the kitchen, hunched over the sink and slowly working the plates clean. His thoughts were wrapped around Will’s actions, or one in particular.

When Hannibal lied down that evening, he turned on his side and stared at Will’s back and the little distance between them. The nights were getting colder and the only cover they had were a measly blanket each. The chill made Will fold his only to leave his back exposed and shivering, and Hannibal wasn’t far from doing the same. The last time either was warm, and Hannibal remembered this with great clarity, was the coldest night of their lives. When Will tried to kill them.

Hannibal didn’t let himself forget that. There was a fear etched in this reminder, a fear of Will turning on himself, and Hannibal figured that would require very gentle pacing around the issue and this man he wanted to keep. But that afternoon changed some ways Hannibal viewed this problem.

Maybe plotting was too harsh of a word – he’s certain Will would agree and call it tactical, which it was. The modest kiss he left on Hannibal’s cheek didn’t feel any less sincere because of it, but Hannibal knew tact when he saw it, and he could see the clockwork ticking in the back of Will’s head as clear as day. Will did warn him after all, of different means of influence. The thought brought a smile to his face. It made Hannibal more certain Will had fewer intentions of leaving this world and he was more curious what each new day the other would come up with. What was left yet was only to convince Will to return among the living, to leave this cabin when both felt fit to travel.

Hannibal debated his actions for a moment, but he was cold and Will was cold, and at the base of his actions the motivation may have been ulterior but warmth they both needed. He scooted over, arranging the blankets to cover them both as he lay chest to Will’s back. The stirring roused Will from his gentle sleep but he didn’t question or complain, just relaxed into the solid form that kept his back warm.

Hannibal pulled his arm around Will’s middle but it landed where it shouldn’t and Will jolted, definitely awake and suddenly quite tense.

A low throaty sound came from him. “Do you want to touch it? See it?”

“Sleep,” Hannibal said and moved his hand away from the mark left on Will’s abdomen, the one he’d never regret.

“You do. You thought of it often, I bet.”

“Will, sleep,” he implored this time and thought of how it tempted him once, when Will was paralyzed and unconscious on the Verger estate. He touched, yes, but only briefly to admire his precision and the resilience of Will’s skin to leave nothing but a smooth scar.

The wind drowned out their silence for a long minute before Will said, with less edge in his voice now, “I used to dream of you, in the hospital, pulling out the stitched with your teeth and watching me bleed out.”

“Sounds more like a nightmare.”

“I suppose it was.”

“Do you often dream of me hurting you?”

“I don’t need to dream about it.”

Hannibal’s acceptance of blame came with silence and his hand gently resting on Will’s shoulder. Tension left him with no haste but sleep settled on Will quickest. When Hannibal was certain he slept, he pulled his hand back where it belonged; around Will and keeping him close. Perhaps the gesture would finally stop the imago in his dreams from always jumping, always leaving him so utterly alone.

+

Morning brought the full brunt of the storm. The sound of rain roared as drops smashed against the window hatches and woke Hannibal to an empty bed and both blankets tucked around him. Some light came from the bathroom and sitting up gave him a peek at Will looking over a straight razor with dubious eyes. He didn’t give himself a full shave but a lot came off and Hannibal enjoyed the touch of smooth skin under his fingers as he treated the healing gash another morning in a row.

“There’s an aftershave worth at least fifty dollars in there, as well as a razor with an engraved handle,” Will paused his complaint to accept the cup of coffee Hannibal offered him, “and yet the pantry is full of only sour vegetables and rice.” He gave Hannibal a poignant side-eye as he took a sip.

They sat in the bedroom with blankets slung over their shoulders and a little warmth still waiting in the mattress. They tried to start the fire place but the few logs they had around the house were too wet and the chimney’s functionality was questionable.

“This place belonged to someone else, I’m afraid. Deceased.” Will raised an eyebrow at that detail and Hannibal added, “Of natural causes.” His lips twitched into a smile when both of Will’s brows came up in surprise. “An old client that found my service in his life immeasurable. We shared many tales of our youth and the hunt. I suspect that’s why he left me his hunting cabin. But I have to admit, I had doubt I’d get to properly use it.”

“Yet here we are,” Will added.

A rolling crack of thunder broke around them, silencing their exchange for a moment while the windows shook. Hannibal noticed Will’s hand twitch in the half-dark, mistaking it for fright. It turned out to be just a moment’s worth of hesitation as the hand reached Hannibal’s face, the back of his fingers grazing gently over Hannibal’s cheek.

“I left a little soap if you want a shave yourself,” Will said and pulled back his hand as quickly as it came.

“How thoughtful,” Hannibal smiled, the ghost of Will’s touch still fresh on his face. He could get used to that. “Though perhaps it might be wise to consider some different looks for when we leave,” and he looked pointedly at Will, gauging for a reaction.

There wasn’t one. Will drowned a dismissive hum in another sip of coffee and the glint of his wedding band caught Hannibal’s eye again.

“Do you want to go back?” The question confused Will until he followed the line of Hannibal’s sight, set on his hand. “Do you want to make your survival known?”

Will’s eyes caught on his own ring with mild surprise, but it quickly faded to melancholy and a staggering silence. Will stopped the struggle within him and sighed loudly, releasing whatever barricaded his thoughts from coming out. Hannibal was certain the biggest obstacle was he himself. Threats were petty and damaging instruments to use now, but for once Hannibal wasn’t certain if that was the goal of his question or a jealous curiosity.

“To what end,” and Will raised his hand so both could see the ring. “To endanger their lives? To endanger our?” Will looked at him then, still wearing a sombre smile, almost apologetic, and said, “I care too much for either to let it happen.”

Their unspoken pact of honesty was a refreshing gift that flew both ways, but it didn’t give Hannibal the answer he was looking for and it didn’t bode well to give him what he’d like to hear.

Will warned him as much. “It was a good life. I have few bad things to say of it.”

But Hannibal pushed on, insistent and irritated by the ring’s presence. It still clung to Will’s finger, now noticed and stealing his eyes, and so he gave in.

“I can’t go back,” Will said with a notably upset tone. “The thought of you alone in jail, waiting, it used to sneak into my day like nothing. Made me feel guilt, made me feel I didn’t deserve the life I had with... with my wife,” Will chuckled darkly. “How the hell do you expect me to go back to anything now?”

“I’m not your punishment, Will,” Hannibal said and he wanted conviction behind his words, yet they came out listless. “But often you do feel like mine.”

The corner of Will’s lips curled into a smile and he leaned in, their shoulders pressed against each other, whispering, “I’m glad to know. Often you feel like punishment as well, but if I really believed that, you wouldn’t be here right now.”

The urge to kiss him was overwhelming, with Will leaning so close and looking at him, smelling of fine aftershave and delivering words of threat and love with one breath. Instead he pulled his eyes away from the burning desire and took Will’s hand, easing the ring off his finger and placing it in his hand. It wasn’t Hannibal’s to get rid of.

+++

She couldn’t stay another day in there, locked in a room where the remote was always too far and the news always on and spinning the same story over and over again. The food lost its taste a week ago and nights felt normal when tears came. The doctor said another week would do her good but Molly wanted to go home, wanted to see her son at night, wanted to take the dogs back where they belonged.

“Better late than never, I suppose,” she said as she struggled into her coat with one arm.

“I know I’m not the person you want to see right now—”

“You got that right,” she snapped, turning her head to the man, Jack Crawford, who stood as close to the exit as he could and as far away from her. A smart choice. She wanted to say a lot more, she wanted to curse, to break a chair over his head if she was honest.

“I came to tell you what we know.” Jack seemed stoic and unperturbed by her boiling anger. “The news for starters, it’s all—”

“I know,” she raised her voice again, “I know the man I married, Agent Crawford. I know he isn’t responsible for that.”

“It was staged,” Jack offered the simplest explanation, “but when real bad real quick.”

Molly sat on her bed. She needed to put her shoes on but that’d be another struggle she didn’t want Crawford to see. “Tell me,” she asked him instead, “do you think they’re alive?”

“All evidence points—”

“I didn’t ask for the evidence, I asked what you think.”

“No,” Jack shifted his weight, his voice solid and convincing, “I think they’re dead, and the Atlantic current took their bodies too far. The evidence supports it.”

Molly nodded and ducked her head. She wanted to believe the same and on good days she did and she would cry tears of grief. On bad days she’d think of Will alive. The optimism would last only as long as it took her to remember that he wasn’t found yet, and if he wasn’t found and was alive, it only meant the other one was alive as well. The thought of Will stuck in the clutches of that monster brought the worst grief out of Molly. It made death look like a mercy.

Will never managed to fully tell her what happened between him and Hannibal Lecter. What she knew she deduced from the news, the scandals, the fact that he’d wake from nightmares shaken and numb. Molly lay every night next to him, watching the marks Will’s relationship with Hannibal Lecter left on his body. Now the other side of her bed was clod for the second time in her life and she felt cursed. But at least the dogs were back and at least her son was there. She decided to sell the house, move somewhere warmer and smaller. The house was full of memories again, just like her first one, but this time some of the memories were terrifying. Every sound in the night woke her up and brought her back in time of the Dragon’s attack.

She sat late in the evening on the porch with a cup of hot tea and wait for exhaustion to take her to bed. All the other dogs slept but Winston was there with her every night, but unlike her, Winston was waiting. Sometimes he’d turn his head to Molly and bend his ears and she could read the question in his sad eyes. When’s Will coming back home?

Molly scratched Winston behind the ears. There was no good answer she could give him. The glint of her ring caught her eyes and she wondered how long it would take her to take it off. Three years passed before she managed to pull the ring from her first marriage, and she suspected it might take a little less to pull Will’s off, but only a little. And then the ring would join the other one in the same little box buried away in the deepest part of the attic; beautiful old memories now tainted with death.

Walter came out of the house in his pyjamas, clutching a thick blanket around himself. Often he couldn’t sleep either.

“I miss him too,” he said as he took a seat next to him mom.

Molly wiped her eyes; she didn’t even realise she was crying again. It happened often.

“Do you think there’s a chance?” Walter asked with hopefulness in his voice only a child could posses. “Do you think he’ll come back?”

She put the tea down, one hand still around Winston and the other now around her son. “I hope so,” she said because he’s still just a kid and he needed to hear it.

+++

The storm showed no signs of waning two days in.

Trees were swaying violently, their branches bending and tearing on the wind. There was a good chance one would tear from the roots and land on their cabin. Will watched the mayhem through a loose board on the window hatch, but he didn’t worry, nor was he entirely there with his thoughts. His thumb kept trying to twist the vacant spot around his finger. He wasn’t aware how much he was used to that ring until it was gone, tucked away now in the pocket of his slacks. The cold sent a shiver through him and he thought of Molly and the way she loved to drape herself over Will’s back. One thought lead to another and he could hear the sound of her raspy voice in the early morning, whispering in his ear. It felt like a Tuesday and maybe it was because that’s when she’d make her terrible cauliflower soup that Will learned to enjoy despite himself. He’d do anything for some of that soup right now and it made him smile.

Hearing footsteps behind him gave him guilt.

“You picked the worst time to be interested in what the outside looks like,” Hannibal voice came from behind and a hand pulled him away from the window.

Their breaths were visible for the good part of the afternoon. Perhaps the roof didn’t fly off the cabin or the windows didn’t break, but the wind came through every crack and chilled every part of it. Not even the heat of the kitchen stove helped as they had a quick meal around it. The last pieces of the rabbit were in their bowls now and they knew they’d both missed the taste dearly. Hannibal couldn’t promise anything on that front; he found bending and picking things up a difficult task without painkillers and those were running short on supply.

“What are you thinking,” Hannibal asked when Will had gone too quiet. “Where have you gone?”

Home, Will almost said but stopped himself in time, though when he raised his eyes to meet Hannibal’s he suspected the other knew. “To the past,” Will offered a better version of the truth.

Once home was a white house on a deserted plot of land, but Will learned home could be a person and his was always split between what he had and what he wanted, both then and now. Hannibal’s eyes darkened with disappointment and Will felt guilt again, the same one he felt with Molly when thoughts of Hannibal invaded his day, except this time the reverse was true.

“You opened that door, Hannibal,” he tried smiling and shifting blame where it belonged, and didn’t.

“I would love to meet the woman who bested the Dragon at his own game.”

Will almost dropped his spoon and the guilt started to sour. This wasn’t what he wanted to hear, this wasn’t what he wanted to discuss, but he knew it was coming just as much as he knew Hannibal’s proclivity for keeping his promises. Everyone got or would get their turn as a dinner time topic, and Molly was no exception, not when Will failed so terribly to keep her out of his thoughts.

“That’s not the only thing you’d love to do,” Will said, not hiding his worry or displeasure.

Hannibal looked at him as he bit off a piece of rabbit meat with a severity in his eyes. “Killing the memory is worth more. She left mine untouched and look what that brought her.”

It was almost a shock to hear it, almost kind, almost caring. How easy this decision was for Hannibal he’d never know but Will accepted the gift with a breath of inaudible relief, Molly’s life now tied to the memory living in his head. And it felt like a grand gesture to have Hannibal admit in his own way how desperately he wanted all but Will’s ire and hate, how some compromises had to be accepted. “She didn’t know there was a memory to kill, not like that,” he added, knowing it would make Hannibal glad.

“You didn’t tell her about us?”

Will laughed at the playfully wounded voice. “Some traumas are best left just between you and your psychiatrist.”

That night, as the storm showed the slightest signs of winding down, it felt needles of either to ask for shared warmth in bed. They just lied down next to each other, seeking from their tangled limbs what their covers couldn’t give them.

And in the pitch dark of that bedroom, Will whispered something into Hannibal’s ear that made the other turn his head and face him. Their noses touched and it took Will little effort to lean in and find his lips. He expected Hannibal to react but not with as much gusto that he’d grab Will’s neck to pull him in until that kiss meant something other than a tease, until their teeth clashed and tongues met. What pulled them apart was a need for air and a lack of energy.

 

Chapter Text

 

Some solitude suited him. That morning they were strangers in the confines of the cabin. Will spent it by the warm stove, watching the outside through cracked hatches. It was well past noon, or so the old clock on the wall told him, when Will felt the emptiness like a draft. He called out Hannibal’s name but no one answered. Maybe he was outside. He tried again a little later when he needed some help, a little louder, but instead of hearing an answer from the outside Will heard it from the inside. What he found in the bedroom was a little alarming.

He remembered Hannibal waking a little paler than usual and perhaps that was just the still prominent cold. But he didn’t notice him move with difficulty, didn’t hear him suppress pain through gritted teeth, so catching Hannibal on the bed clutching his side alarmed Will. Even with closed eyes the strain on his face was present. Will walked over and picked up the bottle of painkillers, shaking it to hear the clang of a few lonely pills left in there. Hannibal was rationing them carefully and wouldn’t agree to taking extra, so Will didn’t even try. He just sat on the bed next to him and asked, “How bad is it?”

A smirk for Will’s effort and evident worry. “You helped me change bandages yesterday. You’ve seen it.”

“I’m not a doctor.”

Hannibal opened his eyes then, his face softening. “It’s too late for me to die, Will,” and Will returned the smile not as convincingly, not as convinced. “But I need to leave this place,” he added and eyes fell shut again as he took in a careful deep breath.

“Medicine,” Will agreed but found Hannibal shaking his head.

“It’s suffocating, these four walls.”

Neither was blind to what was going on, though for Will it may have started as an unconscious act. It wasn’t anymore. He couldn’t count the days but Will remembered when they dragged their battered bodies into the safety of the cabin, and he remembered wishing out loud to remain there forever where nothing could happen to either of them, from either of them. The flimsy grounds of their relationship shifted three times over since then, and Will found ways of influence that didn’t hurt, ways that seemingly agreed with both. He could almost see himself stepping out that door. Almost. But how long could he keep a leash on his dearest monster? How well? How soon before the leash was on him and some wicked soul’s blood staining his hands? Perhaps the answers would surprise, but to uncover them he’d have to see himself step outside that door.

“Where would you go?” Will asked.

The other sighed, a sweet and relaxing sound, and behind closed eyes he seemed to be playing out a beautiful memory that didn’t yet happen. “On a much disserved vacation. Somewhere quiet and warm. Perhaps south.”

“And how would you get there?”

“A plane, most likely.”

Will snorted. “A little dangerous, don’t you think?”

“I’m going with the assumption we are considered dead. Either way, it shouldn’t be impossible.”

“Still dangerous.”

“And what would you suggest?”

“We could leave by boat?”

Will didn’t catch himself use a plural, but Hannibal did and his eyes opened again with a delighted glint. “Not the worst idea I ever heard. No less dangerous either. The sea can be wicked and the travel would be long.”

“And how long would this vacation last?”

“Long. Long enough. As long as it would take to get the taste of prison off my mind.”

“I’ve seen your cell, Hannibal,” Will’s tone got snappy. “That was a good bargain.”

Hannibal chuckled, a little regretfully when it spiked his face with pain. “It doesn’t matter how good you decorate captivity. It’s still prison. It’s still four walls choking you from all sides.”

Will understood that better than most people. His captivity may have been short-lived but it was no less damaging. Will didn’t forget who put him there, couldn’t, but it didn’t deter him as it used to. A lot had changed since then and a lot became clear, some for the worse and some for the better.

He placed his hand on Hannibal’s arm, thumb drawing circles over layers of cotton. “I spent most of my incarceration locked in thought. It wasn’t much to look at.” Will’s eyes turned to Hannibal, silently questioning.

“I wrote often, letters, articles. I read books, I drew. I indulged guests on occasions.” Will seemed unimpressed, no doubt comparing their stays. But length was a factor they couldn’t compare on. Or reasoning for incarceration. “But most often I would enjoy a walk outside,” Hannibal gave him a cheeky look, “in my memory palace.”

“Where did you go?”

“Visiting old places and distant memories. Sometimes people. Sometimes you.” They caught each other’s eyes and Will wanted to ask, curious, what those visits were like. “Not often,” Hannibal spoke before a question was asked. “I found the bitterness of reality too daunting for it to be often.”

Will sighed a smile and looked away. He wanted to call it overly dramatic but he knew better. He knew better and he knew the taste of Hannibal’s longing, the one they exchanged in the dark some nights ago. More than that, Will knew the look of it; the look in those eyes as they lay upon him the first time he walked into Hannibal’s prison. To this very moment those eyes watched him with the same unguarded intensity.

He wondered what his looked like and how much they revealed.

“What did you need?”

Will almost forgot why he came. “Ah,” he tugged on the collar of his woollen sweater as demonstration. “It’s embarrassing but I can’t get it off.” Hannibal pulled himself up by the elbows with a confused look. “I don’t want to have a pain contest but I don’t think I’ll be reaching anything from the top shelf with this hand anymore,” Will poked gently at his stabbed shoulder. “I can live with that. I can’t live with not being able to take my shirt off.”

Will stood up, not feeling the need to elaborate further, and as he did an idea lit up. Hannibal was in pain and the sight of it unsettled Will more than he’d like to admit, more than he needed a hand to get out of his clothes. But if anyone was going to convince Hannibal to take another pill it would have to be Hannibal himself. And Hannibal needed a nudge.

Will did elaborate further, digging into details that weren’t a part of his request before the idea struck him. “I was going to take a bath,” he said and raked his good hand through matted curls. “And this mop needs a wash. I’m pretty certain I found seaweed on the pillow yesterday.” His chuckle morphed into a grimace as he pulled out a heap of tangled hair with his fingers. Will let the hair fall of his hand and wiped it into his slacks. “It can wait. I’ll go make you some tea.” 

And Will was gone to clatter the dishes in the kitchen as Hannibal had a long hard stare down with the bottle of pain killers.

+++

The smell of apples and cinnamon came in waves from the kitchen. Alana promised not to butt in and relax for the afternoon. Her preferred form of relaxation has lately been perched on the balcony, watching their son play on the beach bellow. Most of the times it included a glass of wine as well, sometimes even a cigarette. Margot called it torture, but Alana could relax no other way.

Eventually the rattling in the kitchen stopped and Margot made her entrance with a platter of cookies and flour-covered clothes. She set the tray down on Alana’s desk and beckoned her closer with a finger.

“I’m half tempted to ask what you put inside,” she sniffed the air again, “besides the obvious.”

Margot didn’t rise to the bait, waiting instead patiently for her wife to have a bite, watching for signals on her face to tell her if she succeeded or not. Alana chewed for a long time, not giving away a damn thing. She took another bite and another until her hand was empty and fingers licked clean.

“I would have baked it for just a bit more, to make it a little more crispy on the outside,” Alana said with her professional no-bullshit tone, “but the taste is heavenly.” A grin spread between them and Alana reached out to grab another.

“Then I will file this first-time foray into the kitchen as a success,” Margot said with pride and took a cookie herself.

“You’re bored out of your mind, aren’t you? What did you do with the chef?”

“Told him to take a day off.” Alana raised an eyebrow in question. “I’m taking care of all the food today.”

“Should Morgan and I worry about going to bed hungry?”

Margot rolled her eyes and dusted excess flower off her sleeves. “You’ll be fine. Besides, there’s a lot more cookies downstairs. The cleaning lady will have a field day though,” she muttered.

“I’m glad you found something to...” Alana turned her head towards the balcony but couldn’t see Morgan from where she stood. Her words were left unsaid as she made quick steps to the balcony, looking a little too frantically where to boy was. She found him closer to the house this time, playing with Applesauce.

Margot followed her, her heels clicking against wood in a slow familiar rhythm, and Alana knew would she turn she’d see disappointment in her wife’s eyes.

“We have a well guarded fence. The traffic on the island is well monitored. In fact, there is no traffic. The nearest land is about twenty thousand miles away and yet you still can’t relax.” Alana said nothing and Margot joined her by the railing, her hips resting against it, arms crossed, and eyes aimed at the woman who kept ignoring her. “The internet connection is terrible and I’m tired of having Skype meetings about the future of my company. I’m tired of this island and I’m tired of this view. How many more weeks? Months? You know this is unreasonable, right?”

“Yeah,” Alana admitted, eyes fixed on their boy, “but logic can’t fight what I’m feeling. And I won’t stop being afraid until a body surfaces. I’ll be looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life. I’ll be looking over his shoulder as well.”

Margot sighed and she stepped behind Alana, arms wrapping around her in a warm dotting embrace. “You can’t let that fear rule the rest of your life. The rest of our lives.”

“I won’t,” Alana promised and it was a flimsy one but she hoped her voice fooled Margot just enough, “but I need a little more time.”

“How much more?”

“Ask me next week.”

“You said that last week.”

“Is that why you’re cooking today,” Alana turned to look at her wife with humorous scrutiny. “Trying to appeal to my better nature?”

“No,” Margot answered, but the scrutiny of Alana’s gaze made her consider. “Maybe.”

Lunch was digestible and dinner quite good, but Alana could not single out a moment in that day, or any of the days they spent in nigh-isolation, when she didn’t think of that sleeping threat. She needed that body found. She needed both their bodies found – one to burn on a pyre and get rid of an endless nightmare, the other to bury and visit and mourn.

When her thoughts remembered Will, she regretted never meeting his wife. Something to amend perhaps, when she would finally find the strength to go back home.

+++

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Hannibal was up and having a stretch but there were still flickers of pain on his face. Will came closer, his hand twitching with need to help him balance. He laid a comforting touch on Hannibal’s shoulders and asked, “Did you take another pill?”

“Yes,” and Will sighed inwardly with relief. “It’s manageable now, though I should occupy myself with something to get the mind off of it.”

“Well, you could take the daunting task of figuring out what combination of rice and vegetables we’re going to repeat eating today.”

“Riveting,” and Hannibal looked towards the kitchen with disdain in his eyes and voice.

“Or you can help me in the bathroom.”

“That’s a lot more interesting,” Hannibal turned to look at him with unmasked pleasure, a bold sort of statement he hadn’t consciously employed since the beginning of their recovery period.

“I bet,” Will turned as soon as he felt a dash of heat rising to his skin, amplified by their proximity.

It was a little more than just pulling a sweater over his head. Washing hair one-handed didn’t seem like the best idea, but neither did Hannibal sitting on a stool to do it. The problem Hannibal found dismissive and Will was quickly met with hands gripping the hem of his sweater and a voice asking for permission. The hands didn’t linger any place they shouldn’t, but they were careful when the injured shoulder had to slip out, slowly pulling wool over the stiff arm.

Will was about to thank him when Hannibal said, “I’ll leave you to it then. Do call when you want your hair washed.” He set the folded sweater on the counter and left, the door clicking shut behind him.

Will was momentarily baffled. Of course Hannibal left, of course he wouldn’t stay there to discomfort Will with his presence while the other undressed. Of course. But it didn’t even occur to Will to ask. Something about naked flesh sounded so trivial when Hannibal had already seen him emotionally exposed so many times. Well, Hannibal may have been a convicted criminal whose actual death toll reached a possible triple digit, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t courteous to a fault.

The water stained pink when the bandage came off and Will paid no attention to it, or the soap. It was a little too warm, a little too comfortingly warm and inviting. Nothing about it felt like the last cold and vast body of water he submerged himself in, and Will let his eyes shut as he sank down for quiet moment. When he came back up for air he still held his eyes closed and kept them as such too long, and each time he’d open them more and more time passed. At some point the still water of his bath turned into the bright expanse of the ocean and a white boat bobbed in the distance, sailing, two people sitting on its deck. A knock on the door broke the meditative daze, spooked him and sent water spilling over the edge. Suddenly it was no longer hot but just comfortably warm, no longer the bright ocean but the dim bathroom.

“Are you all right?” Hannibal’s voice came from the other side, a little worried, a little curious.

“Sorry, I dozed off,” Will said and called him in.

Hannibal didn’t seem to care. He just pulled the stool closer and sat with an audible grunt that made the other turn. Will worried – he found he worried a lot about their fragile lives as days went by. He worried more than he should for someone who promised to take them.

His head was turned back before he got a look, a shushing sound coming from Hannibal, and Will felt chills spread over his skin the first time those fingers slid across his scalp, tangled in his wet hair and rubbing circles. The lather came later, and Will didn’t know how much later because his eyes were closed again, senses attuned to the workings of strong and gentle hands as they rubbed where they should and where they shouldn’t – over his scalp and down his neck, around his ears, below his jaw, across his shoulders and just at the right points around his maimed one. Time slipped again behind shut eyelids but this time Will knew in whose hands he left it. It was so relaxing, the most he ever felt since the fall. One of those hands held his neck, slowly massaging, and lowered his head down as water poured and poured over him. Will felt like a rag doll being pulled back, loose-limbed and comfortable, and finally he opened his eyes to a poorly lit sight of Hannibal above him, a hand resting against his neck, and the water a much darker shade of pink.

“That can’t be good,” he managed to say as soberly as he could.

“The water is warm and you wounds are not very old. I wouldn’t worry much.”

It was some comfort but his arm still felt useless and limp with that wound.

Hannibal released him and grabbed the rim of the bathtub to help him stand with another louder groan. Will followed after the shortest pause, wondering if Hannibal would turn and leave again.

He didn’t. Hannibal held open a bathrobe for him to slip in, his eyes perfectly tamed on Will’s face.

“We haven’t had a bite all day,” he said as he pulled the bathrobe over Will’s shoulders and both his hands travelled to the wounded arm to give it some proper relief. “Are you hungry?”

Will tied a knot around his waist before his arm got take into care. “Not really,” he spoke through his teeth as the first roll of hands over his shoulder was not the gentlest.

That’s not good.”

“I’m not hungry for rice and vegetables.”

“I can understand that sentiment.” Hands started working their magic and Will hummed pleasantly, but then came the arm lifts which were never the fun part. “I could make rice pudding. There’s some powdered milk,” and Will suppressed a laughing in-between his own painful yelping. He didn’t have to turn to see, no, hear how appalled Hannibal felt. “There’s sugar. I think I saw some cinnamon. Maybe even fake vanilla extract.”

Will chuckled, said he’d eat anything so long as it wasn’t more of the same. When Hannibal let him go, Will noticed again the stifled walk and the twitch of pain in his bend to pull the stool away.

“You sure you’re all right?”

“Yes.”

“You don’t look all right.”

He knew how grave he sounded but he didn’t expect such a lighthearted response. Hannibal even looked charmed with how wide that smile reflected on him. “I told you it’s too late for death.”

Will’s concern seemed to amuse him but it did not amuse Will. He shook his head at that response. “We’re mortal. Death doesn’t pick and choose and we cheated it one too many times.”

Hannibal took a moment to stand strait, his face now void of humour but still so clearly content as eyes settled on Will for a long moment, long enough to distract. He reached out, hands grabbing Will’s, and pulled him closer until their bodies were against each other. Neither hesitated to seize the other into an embrace, like a reflex, like they’d done it before, like they did it often. Perhaps they should because they curled into each other with spectacular ease, like two puzzles meeting on the right side.

“I won’t be leaving you any time soon,” Hannibal whispered into Will’s damp hair, hands making gentle comforting motions across his back. “Forever if time wills it.”

He didn’t ask for Will to return the sentiment, but the invitation was clear and there and desperate, as desperate as the hold they had on each other. Will’s answer was not immediate, but it was not held back for any malicious intent or punishment. He had merely lost himself in this tight embrace, in its simplicity and potency, in the way both their hearts beat with excitement and agitation. No night or darkness or need for warmth could shield them this time from this display of tenderness.

“Neither will I,” he finally whispered back and Hannibal’s hold on him tightened, his form melting in and around him and that meant everything.

 

Chapter Text

The handles of the clock were stuck together. Somewhere in this world it was noon but Will had doubts about time being right in their cabin. Sometimes it ticked too fast, and other times too slow. What day it was neither of them knew. Not even Hannibal was certain how many days they spent in this dim, cold coffin. The walls were getting to him the most, shrinking, but so was the pain. The last painkiller he had was yesterday and his walk reflected it with uncomfortable, staggered steps. But still he moved around, digging out spare clothes and duffle bags, large brown envelopes that seemed important, some bottles of water. Each strenuous movement Hannibal punctuated with a groan hissing through his teeth, an unwanted escapee, but he didn’t ask for help and Will didn’t offer it. He couldn’t because he was stuck, glued to a chair that faced the exit. He knew what was coming but decisions trampled him, froze him between kindness and cruelty, courage and cowardice.

Old ghosts called for vengeance and Will knew cruelty, knew what love felt through its lens for he was taught by the master.

There was a bag at his feet he didn’t pack and Hannibal at the door, swinging it wide open. The cold gray light of day blinded him and Hannibal turned into a faceless silhouette. He looked like he was about to step out, cross the threshold, but he didn’t. Someone was missing at his side.

Staying any longer in this pocket of dead time would be a slow gruelling death, a good riddance, a gift to the world and a gift to Will’s soul. If he dug his feet in the ground he could make the other stay in their limbo for longer and longer, maybe even forever. The look on Hannibal’s face would be unparallel disappointment as he’d lock the door and himself inside, thinking perhaps tomorrow or the day after he could change Will’s mind. Either the wounds would get to them or they’d get to themselves, and all that would be left was an ugly end to feed to flies.

But that was no life at all. That was no challenge. Too boring, too easy a victory, and Will wasn’t used to easy victories.

Stepping out would be the gamble. Will would win some and he’d lose some, but the odds seemed a lot more interesting than death in a drafty old cabin.  Death could come under the sun as well, in a warm place and a beautiful house. He did promise, after all.

Will knew cruelty and knew its sharp love, but the biggest surprise was finding out that was just one of the languages they could speak in.

Hannibal shifted his weight from one foot to another for the second time as he waited by the open door for Will to join him. He looked so certain that all it would take was a little patience for his prediction to come true. Will almost wanted to take it away from him, just to see that glimmer of hope crack on his face, but his skin still felt the warm embraces, the loving trails those eyes left on him, how gentle the hands could be and have been.

“Come with me,” Hannibal finally broke the silence, the slightest edge of desperation in his voice. “I want you to live, Will. I want us to live.”

Will rolled the dice and went all in. The moment he stood up was when he almost felt like a sure winner, Hannibal’s eyes wide on him like the light of his world fired up. He grabbed his bag and went to stand on the threshold, eyes squinting as he looked at the driveway turned over from the storm, and a tree dangerously bent over the car they came in.

“You will make me regret this,” and it took no foresight to predict that, though Hannibal accepted his words with a kind of smile that indicated defiance. “But until you do, I guess we could drive off somewhere nicer.”

“Sail,” the correction didn’t surprise Will, but the grin couldn’t be helped.

“I don’t suppose you know where we could find a boat?”

“I know where to buy one.”

The engine took five desperate tries before revving to life and the relief was audible in both of them.

“Will that be enough to get us out of the woods,” Will asked as he eyed the fuel meter with concern.

“It should.”

“And to a gas station?”

“One thing at a time.”

+++

The setting sun painted the skies above him in hues of purple and gold. Will stood still and watched, the ache of his shoulder washing over him in pulsing waves. He should have asked for help with the anchor and the sails, but it had been a few long day of avoiding security cameras and sleeping in cars for them, and Will found he wanted to spare Hannibal the fatigue he saw him struggle with just for a day. He had seen strange things in that short time, from Hannibal in a tracksuit and beanie to Hannibal being only marginally upset by his choice of takeout. That morning in particular was full of small surprises as Hannibal didn’t even protest much when Will refused to waste the money that wasn’t even his on a small yacht with a mini bar.

Will watched the setting sun with a pleased smile, something he almost resigned himself never to see again, not from a window or the deck of a ship on the open waters. When the lack of its warmth started to bite back, he took it as the proper time. Almost ready to retreat below deck, but first he had an obligation to himself and to the people he cared for. He did not forget the vacant spot on his ring finger, but the weight in his pocket had to go. The least he owed to the one waiting for him down below.

He spent no time thinking of it, just gave the ring one last look before he flung it far into the Atlantic. A distant plop and it was gone, and Will tried not to feel guilt. The ghost of a warm touch lingered on his back as he went below and took of his damp sailing jacket, lingered for a moment more before real touch replaced it – Hannibal pulling a blanket over his shoulders.

Hands smoothed the fleece cover over his arms and Will’s lips twitched into a smile of thanks when their eyes met. The inside of the sailboat smelled of beef bourguignon slowly cooking away on a small gas stove. To no one’s surprise, Hannibal didn’t spare money on ingredients that would keep them well fed until their next stop, but the appliances for cooking had to remain modest.

“You should have had a look inside before making your purchase,” the tone was a little scolding, Hannibal’s brow pulled in a line as he sat down on the padded corner bench, tablet in his hands. His intention was to catch up to all the news as much as the weak signal would allow him.

“A one-man sail,” Will joined him on the cushioned seats, speaking with the assurance of a man who knew exactly what kind of vessel he bought. “Each of us is currently worth half a man, which is about as much as we need to man it.”

Will stretched one of his legs on the L shaped furniture and leaned in to glance at some week old news on the tablet. As far as they could gauge, the media was almost entirely assured of their death.

“I will have to assist,” Hannibal spoke with dawning realisation. He turned to look at Will who asked for no assistance, who now leaned on him while clutching a cheap fleece blanket from the cold. He pulled out the arm between them and placed it around Will, gently kneading the damaged shoulder. “How is it?”

“I did you a favour today,” Will flashed him a quick smile, “you’ll do me one tomorrow.”

“Fair enough,” and Hannibal turned back to reading. “I still think you should have had a look inside. The bed in particular.”

Will’s arguments were solid – something big and flashy would not only draw the eye but leave a mark of suspicious expenses. This purchase was a lot safer, but also a great deal less luxurious. Hannibal wouldn’t even call it an upgrade from their cabin, though several bags of fresh food made the smallest but significant difference. Sleeping arrangements were a definitive downgrade. A room further in was a tiny cabin with a light bedstead grafted in place. On it a modest mattress of a size just enough for a single person to enjoy spaciously.

Will’s eyes blinked slowly as they rolled over to the adjacent room. “If there’s not enough room for you, I can sleep here,” he said because bruises and gashes and gunshot wounds still needed time to heal, and nothing quite helped like a good night of undisturbed sleep.

“No,” the verdict came the moment Will finished speaking and the eyes were on him again. “I assumed the space would be a little too cramped for your taste.”

“You assumed wrong,” Will raised an eyebrow as Hannibal searched his face for signs of truth, but the truth was all over.

“It seems like I’m making elephants out of flies,” he grinned and returned once more to his reading. “My apologies.”

Will sighed a laugh and joined in the reading. The sea gently lulled the ship and his head grew heavy, eyes tired, and Will found rest on Hannibal’s shoulder.

+++

It was a sunless day, gray and bleak, cold. Crows gathered and sang on the naked treetops

“Good to see you back.”

“Good to be back,” Alana said and joined Jack on the bench.

The courtyard of the BHCI was deserted in the late afternoons, the right time and moment for a meeting between old friends. Years and distance chilled their connection and smalltalk was short-lived between them, but it did not betray a lack of care.

“I thought I wouldn’t be seeing you in Baltimore again.”

“Can’t live in fear forever. Can you?”

“I’m not afraid,” Jack spoke with his usual brand of stubbornness echoing through his voice. Indeed, he was not afraid but he was restless.

“Tell me what you think, Jack.”

“The evidence is pretty clear—”

“Stop,” she heard that one before. She heard it every time she opened the news, every times she called the FBI, every time she questioned her private investigators. “That’s not what I asked. Tell me what you think.”

“I don’t want to listen to that voice,” Jack admitted with a heavy sigh. “I want to bury it. I want to rest.”

“I want nothing more, Jack, nothing more but to bury. But I can’t. And neither can you.” Alana stood up and turned to look at him. “Hannibal is alive, and the reason we haven’t found him is because Will is alive too.”

The exhale that escaped Jack was pure exasperation. He didn’t want o buy it, he hated the idea of it, but it was the same story his own thoughts kept spinning at him.

“You tried to save him once,” Alana continued to address him. “I did too, more times than I’m willing to admit was necessary. But I need to save myself now. I’ve got a family to protect. What about you?”

A silence dragged between them. Jack’s eyes didn’t shy away but he could hear the accusations coming his way before they were even spoken. She didn’t even have to say anything.

“What do you have left,” and the question didn’t address Jack’s once more crumbling position at the FBI, or the cold state of his life, the hole in his chest no one but Bella could ever fill. “A friend or an obligation?”

“You know damn well what.”

“Then act like it.”

+++

The body next to him stirred awake and sat up. Not quite a nightmare, but the few loud gasps had a different story to tell. Just the outline of him visible in the dark, Will turned his head in all directions seeking something that wasn’t there.

“Nightmare,” Hannibal asked, voice ragged and dry.

“Old friends visiting,” the words came out with traces of a smile, and he turned his head to Hannibal with a question of his own. “Why are you still awake?”

His sleep was thin in these close quarters and every sway the ship made he felt deep in his bones, almost like a latent threat. Will, on the other hand, sleep loose limbed and comfortable. For most of the night, the smell of slat that mixed with his hair and the ease of his breathing held Hannibal’s acute attention until sleep took him, only for a mere wave to wake him again. Normal, Will called it earlier that evening, just something to get used to.

Hannibal reached out, a move made half on instinct and half intended to stop the other from leaving the bed. Will laughed softly as a hand splayed over his chest pushed him back against the pillow, and Hannibal was fairly glad he chose not to comment on it.

Just enough light showed the traces of a smirk on Will’s face when he turned his head towards Hannibal, asking, “What is it?”

Nothing. There was no problem. By all accounts, everything was perfect and set in its rightful place. But this deep in the night, with fragile sleep and a tired mind, nothing felt certain or real – not this moment, not Will’s presence, not the future. Only the past was tangible and all the uncertainties that dragged along with it. Darkness was an inseparable ally, but these days Hannibal found much comfort in the light of day to show him who slept by his side.

“What is it,” he heard the question again, quieter, closer, warm breath barely grazing his face. He wanted to taste it again, make sure it was real.

The hand travelled up Will’s chest, across his neck, until fingers tangled in the hair at his nape. The gesture was a déjà vu and Will responded to its familiarity, though not quick enough.

The pull was sudden, intense, and Will was caught unprepared under Hannibal’s hunger, under his lips intently set on taking all the air out of him. All eyes closed under the unseeing weight as their tongues met, the kiss finally becoming reciprocal. The intrusion was invited on both ends, sloppy and wet with a hint of teeth leaving marks where they could. Heat coiled around them and the cabin was filled with loud sounds of their exchanging breaths that occasionally gently curving into a guttural moan.

The bed strained under their shifting weight and Will was the first to gradually wind down until the extent of his participation was just an open mouth. Hannibal took it as a cue, though his lack of breath should have been the first one.

Not a word was said before they filled their lungs with air three times over.

“What’s wrong,” Will had the audacity to ask again, the audacity to care and sense something amiss in his companion, the misplaced fear of a tired mind.

Hannibal dodged it gracelessly, voice hoarse but question genuine, “Did I overstep my boundaries?”

Will huffed a smile and let him have it. The days ahead would reveal more, fix and undo, rebuild anew. “No,” he answered as best he could in this state, “not yet.”