He had retired to bed early, knowing he would be spending a good hour staring at the ceiling, the corner of the room, the faint light reaching past the gaps in the closed door. The quiet sound of music on the other side told him Hannibal was still awake. Will wondered what he was doing. Researching their killers. Drinking wine. Finishing a drawing. In some ways, it surprised him how quickly they threw themselves into life following the fall. But as commonplace as the notion of a close call with death suddenly inspiring purpose and drive is, it doesn't explain the complexities of either man's decisions. After all, it wouldn't have been the first time.
It is always easier to attempt to explain away what would have been an emotionally and logically baffling few moments in hindsight. Steps leading up to a certain outcome can be recounted in chronological order, even if it doesn't always explain the true cause. So, for Will, he had decided last minute that he did not want this to be the end, even if death was imminent for a couple of people falling off a cliff. Hannibal had also decided it wasn't a day for dying. In the chaos of the sea, their desire to live won the battle with the waves, and Will knew it was Hannibal who kept his head above water in those hazy moments of sheer exhaustion.
Having dragged themselves to shore, Will let Hannibal take the lead. He had options of his own, but chose not to share them with Hannibal at the time. Neither did Hannibal ask. He remembers very clearly the relief of not attempting to second guess everything Hannibal said and did, but just to follow, like he once did. Not because he trusted him, but maybe because he wondered if he ever could again. He will never be blissfully ignorant of the monster living inside the other man's skin again. And neither can he deny the monster living inside his own.
When they started on this unknown path, Will's decision to pursue new dragons was a diversion from the real question at hand, and whether or not they addressed this fact, they continued their course without protest from Hannibal. Nevertheless, it was always there. An undercurrent to everything they did. Why hadn't they killed one another yet?
Will swallows dryly and reaches for the glass on the bedside table. It is empty. He has gone three days without sleep and is now considering resorting to alcohol. He can flood his brain until it has no choice but to sink, into what dire subconscious he dreads to think, but he is too exhausted to even fear the prospect. Hannibal had warned against it when he saw Will looking at the wine bottle. Had said it would be the beginnings of an ill habit, the opening of a floodgate. Will replied saying he thought they had already been opened, and when he had the attention of those dark eyes, had added in a voice that was ambiguously accusatory and accrediting at the same time: "you let them all out."
Closing his eyes, he falls into an unexpected sleep and wades hesitantly through the darkness spun by his subconscious. It beckons him familiarly, placing a knife in his hand and pushing him stumbling forward into a field of bodies. Limbs locked haphazardly in a tattered daisy chain, the glassy surfaces of eyes reflecting the glow of the moon slipping out from the black clouds of his mind. He makes his way through, feet navigating their own steps, each one wet from the crimson puddles pooling beneath a leg, an arm, a head, mingling in an endless network of death. The earth, labouring under the weight of overripe corpses, rises upon Will's approach into the slope of a hill. The ascent becomes steep and strenuous, and he stumbles more than once, crushing putrid flesh and bone under his heel as his hands shoot out to purchase a hold on the cluttered and almost vertical wall before him. His chest heaves as though he has been climbing for hours, his lungs burning from within. Something suddenly gives under his foot – soil or flesh, he cannot tell – and he digs his knife into the mass before him, feels the unexpectedly hot spray sting his face and eyes, can taste it even though his lips are pressed together. The fingers of his climbing hand sinks now and then into matted hair and loose hanging lips, their very tips grazing the sharp and dull surfaces of teeth before his scrabbling finally places him at the summit. He pants for his breath, sweat sticking his hair to his face and the back of his neck. Someone is here.
Her pale skin shines luminous in the dark. Her naked body arches backwards in the throes of pleasure. Her hands stroke red up her spread thighs, her stomach, her breasts, fingers clawing at the throb in her throat. Will goes to her with borrowed hunger, stopping to bend over her prone figure and press the blade of the knife to her throat as he undoes his belt with his other hand. Her lips snarl in silence but he can hear the words in his head: do it, Richard, cut me. He presses the knife harder against her skin, a hairline from drawing blood, and enters her. Barely giving her a chance to breathe, he thrusts into her so hard, each jerk of her body brings her down upon the point of the knife a little more. Her eyes roll into the back of her head and Will senses her approaching release, feels her tightening around him. His hand snakes into her hair, snatches a thick handful of blond and jerks hard enough to tear. This time he hears it. A piercing scream half shrill with euphoria, half shrill with agony as he thrusts the knife through her throat. The cry dies into a viscous gurgle as he tears through the larynx and reaches his own climax at the sight of severed skin, muscle, arteries, her head hanging off to one side by shredded sinew pulled taut and inviting. Overcome by a sudden hunger, he fastens his teeth on those fine red threads, gnashes like a wolf and pulls. He wakes with the taste of blood in his mouth.
Hannibal listens to the thud of bare feet across the landing and turns his face to the open doorway. He watches Will storm into his room, his shorts and tee clinging to his body with sweat, his arms held tensely out at the sides. His eyes rolled into the back of his head with a twitching of lashes. When Will grabs him by the front of his half-unbuttoned waistcoat, Hannibal responds by holding on to the other's damp biceps, his steely grip keeping the sleepwalker at bay so he can make a quick assessment of his unseemly visitor of the night.
"No, luck, Will?" he asks, continuing to fight the body as it presses forward. "Perhaps we should give the hypnosis another try?" His lip curls upwards as Will appears to acknowledge his question and respond with a renewed effort to overpower him. For his own curious amusement, Hannibal allows Will to get close enough for him to feel the feverish breaths blowing from his lips, and smell the mixture of stale and fresh sweat. The close contact makes him reminisce for the fraction of a second that moment on the cliff. He feels, in Will's arms, the hard tension coiled in the bunched muscle as tight as a crossbow cocked for too long a time, reinforced with the rage following a missed opportunity to take a shot.
"Marvellous," he murmurs lowly, the sound triggering the loosing of the bow, and yet he does not protest when Will bites his neck. Testing the strength of the other's teeth, Hannibal accepts the assault until the vice of dull incisors and pointed canines break through skin to sink into muscle. Liquid heat begins to run, staining the open collar of his shirt. His nerves strain under the onslaught, shooting sharp and burning between a sweet heat and a heated agony.
At last, he snares a hand in Will’s hair and yanks hard from the roots. Holding fast, Will bites harder, his top and lower jaws straining to meet over another millimetre. It is both next to nothing and enough to make it unbearable, and everything to follow is executed with a staggered urgency as both men struggle against one another: Hannibal’s hand on Will’s throat, closed and choking, his other hand twisting the skin around the wrist of the hand still clawing at his clothes. He watches Will begin to falter with a face growing increasingly flushed, feels a slackening in those stubborn jaws as he chokes Will with more force. Like a beaten dog, Will lets go with a breathless yelp, only to snap extra hard at a rupture in Hannibal's skin, and even as Hannibal grabs Will's head and digs his fingers cruelly into the stitches in his cheek, the other abruptly wrenches his head away, pulling free the paper thin flesh nipped tight between his teeth. With a stifled groan, Hannibal manages to shove Will back, and he stares at his assailant with lidded eyes, his mouth slightly agape as he breathes, watching with excited admiration as that flap of skin disappears into Will's mouth, a deep laughter bubbling out at the same time as he chews. Hungry for more, Will lunges forward again, and Hannibal stops him before he can get too close. Shoving a hand into his throat, he winds Will enough to send him stumbling backwards and down, his head, Hannibal suspects, now swimming with the rush of bloodlust. Moving to stand over Will, he punches him across the face when he tries to get up, then once more for good measure. Then, leaving Will spluttering and gasping for his breath on the floor, he goes to get the needle and syringe.
Will wakes to the smell of coffee. The bedsheet is dry beneath his body. His face aches. Lifting a hand, he touches the stitching in his cheek, finds it neat and tight. His fingers move to his mouth and finds a cut in the middle of the bottom lip. Dragging himself out of bed, he leaves his room and goes downstairs.
“Good morning,” greets Hannibal as Will steps into the kitchen, the tiles cool beneath his bare feet. He stands there watching Hannibal watch the coffee machine, observing the way those hooded eyes focus on the glass cup. His white shirtsleeves are rolled up to the elbows, exposing deep scratch marks over his forearms. The watch on Hannibal’s wrist tells him he has overslept. He sits down on one of the bar stools, eyes falling on the steaming cup placed in front of him. Across the polished granite, Hannibal leans on his arms, the white shape of his figure reflecting vividly in its black surface. Will’s gaze meets Hannibal’s over the glass rim as he swallows, the coffee washing hot and acrid down his throat, twisting his face with a frown. He pauses, then takes another deep, punishing gulp as Hannibal watches on.
"Did you give me something?" he finally asks, putting down the cup and looking at Hannibal who smiles good-naturedly as he watches Will through the spikes of hair falling across his eyes.
“Did you sleep well?” he asks in return.
Will glances aside in realisation.
"Wouldn't you say that is encouraging a bad habit?" he says flatly, bringing his eyes back round to the other. Hannibal copies Will’s deliberately blank expression and resumes his position at the coffee machine.
"Drugging you wasn't the method intended," he says, adding lightly, "this time."
Will continues to listen.
"But I foresaw a lengthy and laborious night ahead of us if we were to continue the way we were.”
"A rather polite way of saying a long night spent trying to kill each other," he murmurs, lifting the cup yet finding he cannot take another sip. Placing it back down, he moves his hand onto the granite.
"Did I try to kill you?" he asks, keeping his eyes on his hand.
"No," comes the simple reply.
"If I try to kill you in my sleep again," he says lowly, pausing for a moment before continuing, "don't let me." He looks up and finds Hannibal smiling at his coffee.
"If you try to throw us off a cliff again, should I let you?"
Will continues to look at Hannibal who continues to drink his coffee. Lowering his cup, he regards Will without a smile.
"You couldn't kill me if you tried, Will," he says plainly, "you know that now."
Still unable to say anything, Will remains silent, holding that black stare as it invades him through his pupils and reaches deep inside. Hannibal moves to take their cups.
"You have to want it," he says, a knowing smile on his lips before he turns his back on Will and walks to the sink.