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Manufactured Savagery

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There’s a tangible shift in the flavour of the air; through the particles of sweat, of petrol from the motorbikes skimming past the Cartagena docks, and through the hum of people filtering through the evening, there’s a fresh tang. Hannibal retreats into the shadows cast by crates, unnoticeable. He inhales.

This new scent brings to mind the sharpness of freshly cut cattle throats, for a second.

And then the scent becomes a melody; something familiar, visceral, and something that Hannibal has come to appreciate as only his.

There’s too much noise to decipher the full story being told by this new scent; the only voices that carry are shouting instructions for loading cargo, arguing prices and timescales, laughter. There’s no audible accompaniment of threats or pleas to join the scent of blood and panicked sweat. Not enough clues to establish the magnitude of risk, and Hannibal feels a tug of something inconvenient at some internal clutch of muscle that all of his surgical knowledge can’t quite identify.

He’s not one to encourage coddling. Will should be smart enough not to need his help. Although, Hannibal reasons, it was his fear that Will may be acting recklessly that led him to following him through the shadows at the turn of the evening. Hannibal’s concern does not extend to remorse for goading Will to leave in the first place.

He ambles closer to the source of the smell. The handful of people nearby are too preoccupied to pay him notice as he navigates through the crates and trollies until the shadows grow taller and the unmistakeable sound of air being punched out of lungs hits his ears.

The sound pulls the smallest of smiles to his face.

Oh, Will.

It’s five silent strides until there’s a view of the source of the noise, and the blood-thick scent of struggle honeys Hannibal’s nostrils.

Will – his Will – is curved backwards across the railings. He’s flanked on either side, and he’s grappling with an arm tugging his head back from the hair. Hannibal knows he shouldn’t enjoy the sight of the way Will’s throat looks stretched, highlighted in blue beneath flashlights. Shouldn’t. The concepts of shoulds and shouldn’ts often sit counter to the impulses he feels in regard to Will, and so he discards the accompanying guilt that they might bring. The second man is pressed close to Will, legs pinning him to the metal of the railing, and he’s burying the barrel of a gun into Will’s open mouth. It would be vulgar, the threat, if it weren’t so…evocative. Hannibal finds himself reviewing his distaste for firearms as Will tries to speak around it.

Only vowel sounds carry, and the man holding the gun speaks, impatience and frustration speeding up the words, the English sounding frantic through the lilt of the local accent.

“Who sent you?”

Hannibal watches Will relax his grasp on the first man, sees the minute shift into a poise which looks like defeat to those unfamiliar with Will’s nuances. Hannibal recognises it as the precursor to attack.

It’s quick, when it comes, but it’s clumsy. Hannibal finds himself critiquing the lack of technique as Will grabs at the gun, jerking his head further back and elbowing the second man in the face. He’s leaving himself too open to retaliation. Hannibal’s criticism is validated; the second man swings the gun at Will’s temple, splitting skin and adding to the hum of blood in the air as red splays across the strained contours of Will’s face.

“You won’t shoot me” Will says, and there’s blood in his mouth; thin, now, mixed with saliva. From an earlier blow, it seems. Hannibal feels a pang of jealousy that he hadn't been present to witness it. “They’ll count your bullets.”

Hannibal switches to pride; he hadn’t yet noticed the clues that the men belonged to law enforcement. Off-duty Policía with on duty weapons. He finds himself wondering how much Will knew; if he’d hunted these men simply because Hannibal suggested it was necessary for their safety, or if he'd merely stumbled into an altercation out of spite for his circumstances. The admiration he feels continues as he watches Will folding onto the concrete, knees taking the brunt of his weight. There’s a smear of red trailing from the trouser fabric of Will’s left leg, and Hannibal is trying to form a picture of the wound that might have caused it. He watches as Will is kicked in the gut, hard and heavy, and as the first man flicks a knife open – Will’s knife – Hannibal feels his pulse starting to quicken.

He’s missed the thrill of this.

“Tell me sent you," demands the second man, and he sounds more desperate than angry. A man with too many enemies to trust in the anonymity of this one. Will’s breathing sounds weighted as he spits out an answer.

“None of them.”

“Then you have no protection,” the first man says, and he’s resting a foot on Will’s head, pressing the scarred side of his face to the ground.

“Why’re you here?” asks the second man, and he’s crouched on the ground, tucking the gun away, instead holding the knife uncomfortably close to Will’s face. Hannibal isn’t impressed; the stranger has both shown his hand and folded in the same gesture. He won’t kill Will, and already there’s a dampening of the thrilling surge. A knife, in hands so uncertain…it would only mar, not devastate. The threat, though real, has lost some of its orchestral viscera. Hannibal looks on, reassured and disappointed in unequal measures, though a little unclear on where the balance tips.

Will’s arms are clutching at his stomach, and he’s curled, foetal. He looks vulnerable to anyone who doesn’t know him, doesn't see the specific tics and twitches of the ruses he employs to overcome those who threaten them.

The first man murmurs something too quiet to be audible to the shadows, and he’s surveying the spaces around them.

“Self preservation,” offers Will as a delayed answer, and he’s unfurling; his hands creeping underneath him in order to gain leverage to push himself up, his knees bending to kick out.

Hannibal sees the inevitability of failure before it happens.

Will twists away, but the weight on his head hinders the movement. The knife catches the palm of his hand as he swats. He’s still trying to grab the weapon, and as the blade cuts into Will’s hand, Hannibal finds himself captivated at the way Will doesn't shy away from the pain. Will’s safety, literally on a knife’s edge, and Will’s holding onto the wrong end of it. It’s the kind of poetry that Hannibal’s been missing.

“Tell me why you’re here, or you go in the water.”

Will bites at the arm holding the knife, a fierce and feral incision that breaks skin and pulls a scream out of the injured man. The handle slips into Will’s hands. The next slice made by Will and it’s swift; right across the Policía’s jugular, and the shower it produces is a lurching, spewing thing.

The second man stills; a moment of shock that allows Will to push himself back into the fight, knife aimed at the pulse in the man’s neck. The moment passes without purchase; the second man lunges at Will, a fist curved upwards that catches beneath his jaw, sending Will skull-first towards the ground.

Hannibal is across the silent spaces between them before Will completes the drop. His fingertips are all that slows the impact of bone against concrete, and it’s enough, just. There’s still a thud, and a reflexive bounce, but there’s not the crack that would otherwise have occurred.

The second man is only granted four breaths before Hannibal squeezes the air from his neck, then twists, sharp and impatient.

Some people deserve ornamentation and elevation. This one doesn’t. Hannibal lifts his body to the railings and shunts it over the edge. The ripple he forms in the water is legacy enough; undramatic and unseen, with the sound swallowed by the distant workers on the docks. He drags the other; this one leaving red and sputtering in its wake, and sends it over to follow.

They served their purpose, Hannibal supposes. Nothing more.

Hannibal expects Will to be slowed by the blunted impact of his head on the ground, expects some concession to the way his body will need to recover from those injuries bestowed upon him out of his sight, but Will has always been one to counter expectation.

“Home,” Will says, standing with some difficulty, a low blooming fury in his eyes.

Will doesn’t know the effect of the word, so urgently spoken and taken for granted, but Hannibal feels its impact. Home. An ever changing place for them since their fall, never tranquil, but always with the two of them. Will demands home, meaning that Will demands the stability, the comfort that Hannibal provides. That Will provides in turn for Hannibal. The two of them entwined in their dependency.

Hannibal threads an arm to rest against Will’s side in offer of support.

Stability, Hannibal knows, has never been the best enabler of Will’s potential.

They’ve had a tentative honeymoon of sorts these past few months, and they’ve healed, enough. If tonight has proved anything to Hannibal, it’s that there’s a ferocity to their dynamic which has lain dormant through these slow months of convalescence, and that there’s no time like the present to reinvigorate it.

Sending Will like a hound after the inconvenient obstacles who seem to threaten them is fine, though it seems too trite an expenditure of their efforts. The corrupt law enforcers of the Colombian docks are poor receptacles for it. He’d do it, if needed. But, Hannibal decides, as he steers Will through the shadows towards his parked motorbike, it’s not so much the act of killing that he needs to spark the two of them into profound actions.

It’s the accompanying distress.

It’s the conflict that twists at Will’s morality, and it’s the brutality.

He passes Will his helmet and fits the strap of his own, waiting for Will to nod his assent that he’s fine for the journey back. It’s a small gesture he receives; a tilt of the head as Will climbs onto the back of the bike and snakes his hands across Hannibal’s middle. The glisten in Will’s eyes is enough to drag a smile to Hannibal’s face. It’s a shimmering, resentful thing. Wounded, and wrathful. It’s an expression that Hannibal wants seared into the softest ends of his nerves, and its one that he is determined to pull out of Will again.

“Home” he tells Will, one foot on the pedal and his thoughts speeding into new ways to deconstruct the meaning of the word.

 

 

*

 

 

Home, for the last few weeks, has been a modestly sized villa in the northern region of Cartagena. The white walls bounce moonlight throughout the interior, and the outdoor pool serves as a mirror for the neons of the city. It’s a beautiful home, for now. Its previous owner, an Emilio Chavez, had been a poor housekeeper, in that he was poorly behaved towards his housekeeper. Emilio had, however, dedicated no small amount of his income to filling his home with extravagantly priced spirits and wines, a detail which both Hannibal and Will were able to appreciate, after.

In this moment, Will is peeling off his motorcycle helmet and is storming towards a bottle of spice-darkened rum on the kitchen counter. It was the only bottle deemed aesthetically acceptable to be displayed in the food preparation area, and Will’s red-crusted fingers are gripping it by the neck. He has yet to make eye contact with Hannibal.

“A glass, at least,” Hannibal suggests.

There’s heat radiating from Will, more than any air conditioning could suppress.

Hannibal places his own helmet on the sideboard next to Will’s and looks pointedly at the cupboard behind Will where the glassware is stored.

He doesn’t say, be civilised.

Will is rankled, and it’s a delight.

Hannibal flicks the light switch on, illuminating Will's brittle movements as he takes two wine glasses from the cupboard. He looks unwell; milk-skinned and breathing fast and thin; yet still determined to antagonise.

Hannibal imagines that Will is feeling secure enough in their dynamic, confident enough in Hannibal’s affection, that he can kick at the boundaries that hold them both.

So. He’s being deliberately contrary. A small poke at Hannibal’s love of etiquette and consistency, and Hannibal finds himself charmed by it, and thinks of puppies pissing on carpets to get their owner’s attention.

Will pours until both glasses are half full, placing one in front of Hannibal and holding his own by the bulb as he drinks from it with thirst.

Hannibal doesn’t say, be careful, drinking with a head injury.

Hannibal smiles, and he waits.

Some of the tension drops from Will’s shoulders as he downs another inch of the drink. Then a smaller sip, then a wipe of his mouth with the back of his shirt sleeve.

Then, he looks at Hannibal.

The spark in his eyes dims the backdrop of the city panorama by contrast.

“What…what did you think would happen?” Will asks, and there’s a drawl to his words. It’s indignation, and self protection in the way he curls the intonation of his voice as though beckoning the words back to himself after they were spoken.

“I should ask the same of you,” offers Hannibal. It’s a truthful rebuke; he wants to know precisely what spurred Will out to the docks, to the violence that sat there in wait. He could surmise some degree of Will’s motivations; knows that he had suggested their temporary idyll was under threat, that Will owed some debt to their safety if he wanted to enjoy the temporary peace they inhabited. He may have hinted at where the threats may have lain, but Hannibal had not gone so far as to identify any specifics. He wants to know, and he wants to find new ways to encourage Will to tell him.

“You knew.”

“You are assuming omnipotence on my part, Will. I cannot claim the honour of it.”

Will’s eyes narrow, then peer at the wine glass. He refills it before speaking again.

“You posed a conundrum,” Will says, carefully. “And you told me how I should solve it.”

He looks at Hannibal, and in his gaze there’s that buttoned in expression of betrayal, and the distance between the two of them seems immediately too great. Hannibal resists the impulse to close it; to smother it and crush the breath from it. Instead, he waits.

“You expected me to fail.”

Hannibal smiles at this; an instinctual response to Will’s grudging vulnerability.

“I had no such expectations. I was concerned, Will, that your recklessness may lead you to a path more hazardous than you were equipped to travel.”

Will smiles, with teeth, into his drink. There’s still red lining his gums, and Hannibal finds himself wondering how the metallic taste will be influencing the flavour of the rum. He wants to taste it.

“Concerned.”

“I was not wrong,” Hannibal says, and he knows it is a cruel thing to say, even before Will’s reaction.

The freshly poured drink disappears down Will’s throat and the glass in his hands smacks against the sideboard, severing stem from base.

“You wanted me to fail,” Will says, spittle lining his words as he pushes the glass stem against the skin of Hannibal’s neck. “You knew I’d screw up.”

Hannibal reaches out a hand to push the improvised weapon away, and is discreetly surprised when the glass presses in. His nerves fizz through his neck as the smallest portion of his skin breaks beneath the pressure.

“So you intend to kill me for coming to your rescue?” Hannibal asks, aware that he has spoken another cruelty, savouring the impact it has on his skin when Will pushes the glass a microdistance further.

Will tenses at the sound of his bluff being called.

“I can’t kill you,” Will admits, though the glass stem remains in place. “Separation is...a terrifying thing.”

Hannibal regards him carefully.

“Do you miss being terrified?” he asks.

“Do you?” Will counters. His expression says that he knows he hasn’t earnt terror from Hannibal, not with this.

“I miss terror,” Hannibal answers, and he wraps a hand across Will’s tensed wrist, pushing with incrementally growing strength until the glass is at Will’s side, away from him. Safe.

“I thought, tonight, you wanted rid of me,” Will says, softer now. The defeat in his voice tells Hannibal that the pint of rum is starting to dull his caution; he’d never speak so candidly without lubrication.

Hannibal picks each of Will’s fingers away from the glass stem until he holds it in his hands.

“I could never be so impersonal with you, Will.”

He means it, and as Will shifts forward, he feels rigidity inside Will’s trousers as he presses up against him. Behind the inebriation and the inevitable arousal, there’s still a tremble that feels like rage, but it’s thinning, assuming another form.

“But you wanted…” Will hesitates, eyes widening and all semblance of better judgement leaving him through grabbing, pulsing breaths. “You just wanted to watch me get hurt,” he says, and Hannibal feels the way that Will’s erection grows as he voices the realisation.

Hannibal holds the glass stem against the scar of Will’s cheek, close enough to stroke, but not close enough to cut into the scar kept small by his stitches.

“Of course,” Hannibal answers.

 

Will’s fury emerges with a burst that should have been quashed by the injuries of the dockyard altercation. His skin shines with a pallid sweat, and his breath is a rasping thing that doesn’t reach the depths of his lungs, but the fight in him is still…remarkable.

Will doesn’t say, you’ve seen me suffer enough.

Instead, Will grabs at the open collar of Hannibal’s maroon shirt and tugs until buttons split and the force of it angles Hannibal towards the tiled kitchen floor.

“Who am I supposed to be to you,” Will says, and it’s a challenge, not a question. “You have me,” he says, and he’s pulling the shirt away, matched by Hannibal pulling the damp fabric from his chest. “You’ve had more of me than I thought I had to offer anyone.”

Hannibal pauses at this; sees the wetness gathered around Will’s eyes and bites down the urge to lick at them.

He has, he knows. But Hannibal knows that it was only ever his to take.

“I have only taken what you are willing to give me,” Hannibal answers, and he moves his right hand to the tautened cotton of Will’s trousers.

He feels his want, his hunger, growing inside him like something primitive.

“And now you want me to give you my…suffering,” Will says, and his hands are faltering around the waistband of Hannibal’s slacks. “More of it.”

Hannibal has no defence, and agreement would be insubstantial. He reaches a hand round the back of Will’s neck, pulling him towards him. His mouth is open enough only to consume, not devour, but he’s pulling Will, and Will folds into it like an answer, and their mouths are hot, hungry, angry, and Will is speaking in that silent, blood-tanged way that Hannibal hasn’t tasted since they washed up on shore those months ago.

Hannibal pulls back, for breath. Will fidgets again at the buttons on Hannibal’s crotch, and each fumble and jerk pulls a breath into Hannibal’s stomach that feels like being winded.

Hannibal lets himself feel vulnerable to Will’s touch.

He feels the tremble on his groin as Will’s breath, warm and sharp, skims across the swollen head of his cock. He arches off the tile as warm tongue skims his shining, drizzling tip, and he breathes out in frustration as the friction withdraws and Will speaks, low and almost in control.

“Go on, then.”

Hannibal’s thoughts are slower to gather.

“Will?”

Will is poised, hands splaying Hannibal’s thighs and his mouth inches from the strain of his cock, breath hot and now light, shaking.

“You want to. So do.”

Hannibal doesn’t say, there are too many things I want to do in this moment to pull a single one into clarity.

Will thumbs indents into the bare skin of Hannibal’s legs and his expression is pure murder.

“You want it, so do it. Hurt me.”

 

 *