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Invictus

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It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul

Invictus, WE Henley

 

Light crept under Will's eyelids, soft and grey, like winter light used to in his house in Wolf Trap. For a moment he believed he was back there, until he opened his eyes and realised why his bed had seemed to sway and swell under him. The bed was in the cabin of a boat. A teakettle hung from a hook over a gas burner. Tin mugs hung next to it. Books, charts and canisters were trapped on a shelf behind a grimy length of elastic. Cheap plywood surfaces, decades old fittings: this boat had been someone's project. His glance caught on a dog leash that was coiled on a hook. He took a breath and then another. He tasted brine and felt again the freezing thrust of water down his throat. Hannibal had been locked tight to him all the way down, twined around him. The impact had slapped the breath from his lungs. After that, there was nothing.

He thought for a moment and realised that nothing hurt very much. The wound on his cheek stung a little, and it had grown a neat row of stitches. He touched his shoulder and found the same. On the small shelf next to the bed was a syringe, several clear bottles of something, probably an opiate, and a bottle of codeine pills, half empty.

Steps thumped above him, and the bulkhead door creaked open. Hannibal came down the three narrow steps, one by one, slowly. A surge of relief raced through Will, a physical ache that filled his chest. "You're alive," he said.

"This isn't Hell, or even Heaven, so you must be right," said Hannibal.

Even in the poor light, Hannibal's skin was mud coloured, but his expression as he gazed at Will was open and raw, a fresh and tender wound. Hannibal stooped to sit on an upturned crate next to the bunk. He took up a damp cloth and touched it to a smear of blood on Will's hand.

"We survived," said Will.

"Did you think we wouldn't?" Hannibal took Will's hand in his own and began to rub at the blood caked on the backs of his fingers. Hannibal's skin was hot and dry. He was shaking.

"I didn't know. I didn't care," Will said. "I wanted an end."

"You pulled me down with you." Hannibal wet the cloth in a basin on the floor and removed more blood. "You wanted an end for me too."

"For us both."

"Yet I pulled you back up," said Hannibal. "So, the ending is that we lived. Do you regret it? Do we have to contort ourselves into yet another ending?" He paused and took a breath, and he didn't meet Will's eyes. "Do you still wish me dead?"

It was, all told, a fair question. "You've gotten straight the point, haven't you?"

"I always do."

Will studied him. The lines of Hannibal's face seemed to be wrought into new shapes. There was no hardness there, and no flat emotionless regard. It was replaced with something far less controlled. Will curled his hand tight around Hannibal's. The answer was easy to find: it sat right there, new-minted and terrifying. "I'm glad we lived, Hannibal." Hannibal looked up at that, at his name on Will's tongue. "I'm glad you're alive."

Hannibal gave a small soft breath of laughter. "I can say the same about you."

He took hold of Hannibal's hand more gently, and Hannibal pressed his fingers with his own. Odd that such a small point of contact should create such a quiet joy. "Are you alive, actually? Because you look like death."

Hannibal shook his head. "I'm perfectly fine."

"Bullshit." Will edged over on the bunk. There was only one, and it was big enough. "Come here. You need to rest."

Hannibal gave him a soft, slow look, then nodded. He slipped off his boots and sweater, then edged himself under the blankets next to Will. He gave a small involuntary groan as he lay flat, shoulder to shoulder on the too-soft mattress. The length of his body pressed against Will, heat powering off him. Will closed his eyes, almost dizzy with it for a moment.

"Is it bad?" Will asked.

"No. I was lucky. And I happen to have a good supply of antibiotics." Hannibal turned his head on the pillow, and their eyes met. "And I have you," he said. "Everything else is incidental."

Will thought about that for a while, then shifted, mindful of his shoulder, and found a position where he could lay his head on Hannibal's chest without hurting either of them. Hannibal's arms came around him instantly, but carefully, and Will lay listening to that soft thumping heartbeat until he fell asleep.

*

"We need to get more food," Will said. "That was the last can of soup."

"Thank goodness." Hannibal was sitting up in bed. He'd lost his mud-grey pallor several days ago but he was still weak, and he slept for more hours each day than he was awake. He was watching Will with soft, trusting, half-asleep eyes, and it set something warm stirring inside him.

"You could've picked a better boat," Will said.

"I was a little pressed for time."

"Have you got any ideas about where to go next?" Will said. He'd checked the GPS and found they were anchored in a tiny cove off Taylor's island, tucked out of sight in a wilderness of hills and ravines.

"I want to take you to Palermo and to Florence," Hannibal said.

"Jack'll be looking for us there."

"Jack's surveillance has never stopped me doing anything. He'll be easy enough to avoid."

Will set the kettle on to boil water for coffee, busying himself with it so that he didn't have to look at Hannibal. "And why do you want to take me to Italy?"

"For the romance of it, of course," Hannibal said, softly. "To step into the Cappella Palatina with you at my side. It would be wonderful."

The back of Will's neck began to heat, and for a moment he could neither breathe nor move. He wanted it, he realised. He wanted it so much that his hands shook. "Romance?" he managed. "Sounds more like recklessness."

"One could say the best romances are. Reckless exploration of another, and of yourself."

Will swallowed tightly and looked over his shoulder. Hannibal was watching him, and his expression was unguarded, as it had been for all these strange, lost days on the water. Maybe it was because he couldn't guard it. Maybe that knife in Dolarhyde's gut had ripped apart that smooth gripless rock face forever.

"I won't kill with you again," Will said.

Hannibal's expression didn't change. "I don't expect you to. But we're wanted men. Perhaps one day you'll ask me to kill for you."

"What if I don't?"

"I find it's best not to deal in absolutes," Hannibal said, softly. "But you know that I would."

Will went to sit on the edge of the bed, and turned to face him. He cupped Hannibal's cheek, stubble harsh against his palm. Hannibal's eyes slid closed, and his mouth parted, waiting. There was an innocence to it that, for a moment, took away Will's ability to think.

Hannibal's lips trembled under his when he finally, gently, pressed them together. The kiss was soft and dry. Hannibal slid his hands onto Will's shoulders, and Will kissed him again. It didn't feel strange to be so close to him.

He parted his lips and felt Hannibal's faint gasp as their mouths slid together, and that small choked sound resonated through Will's body like a hammer on a bell. He pressed closer and pushed Hannibal's lips apart with his tongue, and slid in rudely. Hannibal moaned and opened his mouth to let him in. There was no finesse, only a raw hunger that twisted in the pit of Will's stomach. He pressed Hannibal back against the flimsy bulkhead and kissed him again and again. He could feel and hear Hannibal's low rough breaths, and they made him want to crawl onto his lap and rut like an animal. Instead he groaned and pulled back, pressing his face to Hannibal's neck. Hannibal slid his hands into Will's hair and held him there. Will's cock ached in his jeans, and he could see that he wasn't the only one.

"I've wanted this for so long," Hannibal said, and his voice shook. His fingers tangled and tightened slightly, and Will pressed closer. "I want you very much."

"Has it always been sexual for you?" Will said, and kissed the skin he could reach. It was just to the right of Hannibal's jugular, which was pumping hard. He moved his mouth to it, and let it throb against his lips.

"Not precisely, but I have always found you beautiful."

Will moaned against his throat. He couldn't stop himself. "People don't say that to me," he said.

"Now they do," Hannibal said, as if it were the simplest thing in the world.

Will slid his palm down over Hannibal's erection and felt the bite of fingernails against his skin. "Will…"

"I know what I want."

At that, Hannibal seemed to give up whatever further protest he was going to make. He freed his cock from the jeans he wore, and guided Will's hand around it, closing his fingers just so, moving them with his own. The head was wet, and the pull and give of his foreskin released the sharp scent of him. Will groaned, and Hannibal found Will's mouth with his own and kissed him hard. He drew down Will's zipper and reached inside. His touch was sure and his palm was hot and damp

"Oh, your hands," Will said. Hands that had done so many unspeakable things. Now they were on him, plucking his strings, shaking with need while they did it. He stroked Hannibal in return, trying to make it good, willingly lost in this foreign place.

Hannibal kissed him again, wet and slick with his tongue pushing deep, then drew back and pressed his cheek to Will's. "I've always wanted you," he whispered, into the gloom of the cabin. "Before I even knew you existed. Do you believe in fate, Will?"

"Hannibal. Oh, god."

Every muscle in Will's body was trying to tighten under the heated pull of Hannibal's hand. He pressed his damp forehead to Hannibal's and locked on to the twin bright points of his eyes. Underneath them the boat swayed, and the bunk creaked. Will came first, so easily, a bright arcing moment caused by Hannibal's wet, red lips shaping the sound of his name. He looked down a few moments later to find Hannibal's come dripping over his fingers.

Hannibal pulled him close with a low moan, and Will collapsed against him as carefully as he could. They stayed propped against each other as their breathing slowed. Hannibal's breath was a small warm gust against his cheek, and neither of them spoke.

Finally, sparks of fire from his injured shoulder began to work their way through the drugs. Hannibal must be in a similar state. He made a vague sound of disapproval when Will extricated himself and rolled him under the covers. Will pulled off his sweater and followed him. Hannibal slid his arms around him, and they wound close, as close as they could get. They clung, rocked in their plywood bower.

"Do you feel safe now?" Hannibal said, murmuring into his ear. The touch of his lips produced a low shivering thrill across Will's skin. "Out here on the ocean? You never did feel safe in your old life."

"Safety can be subjective." But Hannibal was right: he did feel safer than he ever had. He pushed deeper into the warm curve of Hannibal's arms. He wanted to stay out here on the water forever, but that wasn't possible. Hannibal was his now, and they had to move on, together. "Take me to Palermo and Florence. Show me everything."

Hannibal's arms tightened around him. "Anything you want, Will."