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A Bitter Taste

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Hannibal Vampire AU featuring Will Graham as an (metaphorical) otter pup, so fluff bounce/Otter, sleek, distinguished ™ (on the Intensity of Dancy Photo Shoots Scale) vampire and Hannibal as his intended victim until shit goes seriously sideways. No warnings yet. THERE WILL BE PORN because I'm me.

It got so boring after awhile, living forever. He hadn’t bargained on that when he’d made the deal he’d made so long ago—save them all, take me instead.

Save them all,’ Will thought, seeing them in his mind’s eye, ghostly shadows of a life lived so long ago it was like an illusion. His weeping mother, his sister trembling in her nightgown, her eyes round and wide as a doe’s. “What else should I have done?”

“Pardon?” The woman next to him said, a pleasant smile etched on her face in stitches and tucks, tightened with silicon until she was a grotesque doll of good cheer. Will wondered what she looked like when she cried, how that fixed smile would break into brittle edges, or maybe not at all. There was a strange poetry in the idea of her still smiling, even as she faced death.

“I wasn’t talking to you,” he murmured, turning his head away. He tried not to be too taciturn but it wasn’t in his nature to be polite. Still, he was hungry, getting hungrier and he’d come here to eat, after all. That these socialites and snobs were relentlessly entertaining in their gross capacity for preening was just the proverbial cherry on top.

That was what brought him to this gala event, after all, newly returned from the south with a lean belly and lean funds. Always returning to the place of his birth...his second birth, rather. Here to rub elbows with those who had too much, to take what they had, all of it, and try once more to fill the ever-widening chasm where his soul had been.

“You seem familiar, young man, have we met before?” She asked, pressing more than just her question on him. He smiled at her, turning on a charm that looked effortless but was actually just a mask at this point. Once upon a time he’d been a young man, master of stately house, invited to every fashionable event so that hopeful mamas could parade their plain-faced daughters before him. It wasn’t too terribly difficult to pretend that he was that young man again, to put that mask on and hide his impatience and the boredom that plagued him, if only for the chance to make his kill.

“I think I would remember a woman as beautiful and...mature as you,” he said, seeing himself reflected in her dark eyes, watching them widen just slightly at the hint of suggestion in his voice.

“Certainly you would, you lovely boy,” she purred, smiling in a way that woke tiny wrinkles around her mouth that even Botox couldn’t stave off forever. “But I’m certain of it. Oh, I know! It was at one of Doctor Lecter’s dinner parties, wasn’t it?”

“Doctor Lecter?” Will echoed, shaking his head a little, thrown by the name. The last time he’d come to Baltimore there had been no such person, and the elitists were just that—elite. The idea that they’d welcomed someone new into their midsts was...well...interesting.

He snagged a flute of champagne from the tray of a passing waiter and took a sip, eyes searching the crowd for something to amuse him.

“...simply divine,” she was saying, her voice rising and falling in the cadence of the self-important. She was pressed so close to his side that he could feel the push of her bones beneath her papery skin. The arm looped through his was muscle that was turning soft with age, no matter the time spent with personal trainers. “You must meet him. Oh! There he is, now! Doctor Lecter! Doctor Lecter!”

Will looked in the direction she was so enthusiastically gesticulating and saw a man cutting through the crowd with steady, intense grace; a wolf among sheep wearing a bespoke suit perfectly tailored to fit his trim athletic build. He smiled when he reached them, but it didn’t reach his bright brown eyes. Those eyes, Will knew. He saw them in his own reflection—steely and impassive, pitiless and unforgiving.

He was so unexpectedly refreshing in this sea of pampered fleshbags that Will took an unsteady breath, catching the scent of cardamom mixed with others he couldn’t identify but that melded into a medley of fragrance that managed not to be overpowering.

“Mathilda, you look enchanting, as always,” he purred, scooping up her free hand and gracing it with a chaste kiss. His dark eyes cut to Will and a small smile curved the corners of his lips as he lifted his head. “And who have we here?”

“Ah, this handsome young man is new to town,” she simpered, a flush of color staining her cheeks beneath her rouge. “I was certain I’d met him before, perhaps at one of your dinner parties?”

“Alas, no,” Doctor Lecter said, tipping his head in a small show of contrition. “I cannot say I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him.”

There was a question hanging at the end of that statement and Will offered, “Will Graham, Doctor Lecter.”

He held out his hand, a graceful way to shake Mathilda off, and Doctor Lecter shook it, his grip strong and firm but not angling to impress.

“Will Graham,” Doctor Lecter repeated, his smile widening to offer just a peek of his sharp teeth. “Fresh blood is always welcome among us, isn’t that right, Mathilda?”

She giggled in a way that probably hadn’t changed since she was sixteen. In all fairness, she probably hadn’t changed since she was sixteen. It was the body that betrayed you, in the end, aging and falling apart around you while you stayed the same inside, wretched and bereft to see yourself fading.

Except for Will Graham, whose wretched aging decayed him from the inside out...


He wet his lips, reining his thoughts back in, and said, “Excuse me, I’m a little...jet-lagged.”

“Well, that is understandable,” Doctor Lecter said, clasping his shoulder with indifferent warmth, a gesture reserved for strangers, a false intimacy. “It so happens I’ll be hosting a party weekend next, should you be interested.”

“Well count me in,” Mathilda tittered, reclaiming her hold on Will’s arm. “If you can convince this darling creature to come, I’ll be eternally yours, Hannibal.”

Doctor Lecter’s smile turned hard then. She, strangely, didn’t seem to notice. But then, people so rarely saw things they didn’t want to see, even when those things were baring their rending fangs to gnaw the life right out of them.

“Well, I suppose that is certainly incentive for me to try,” he said, cocking his head slightly and meeting Will’s gaze directly. It was strange...he couldn’t see himself reflected in those dark, dark eyes. “Will you collude with me, Will, and help me win Mathilda’s eternal regard?”

He smiled. He couldn’t help it, and the surprise of that made his smile genuine. With a faint air of bewildered amusement, he said, “Of course, Doctor Lecter.”

“Hannibal,” he said, the stoic, sculpted planes of his face transforming with a genuine smile of his own. “My friends call me Hannibal, Will.”

Will’s brows rose over his dark eyes, calculated innocence accidentally authentic.

“Are we friends, Hannibal?”

“Not yet,” he said, his lids lowering to half mast, sudden calculation and interest in the dark depths of his eyes. “But we will be.”

Chapter Text

Thank you victorinedamnslippyplanet, and TheGlintOfTheRail for your comments! You're the best! And thank you to all of you giving kudos—I'm glad I finally started using this account after so long :D

“Tell me more about Hannibal Lecter,” Will said, staring fixedly at the ceiling of Mathilda’s boudoir, his hands stacked beneath his head. He was still hungry, but his plan had gone sideways. The woman he’d intended to devour had instead devoured him, inasmuch as she could manage. He might’ve been impressed that woman of her age could have such appetites, but he’d long ago learned to never underestimate a woman, even if he’d been centuries old before she’d been born.

“What would you like to know about him?” She asked, sitting at her vanity while she brushed her hair. She looked at him in the mirror, the soft light blending the fine lines on her skin so that the woman within peeked out from the body time had given her. She was fresh from the shower, rosy and warm and content to chat. She might, with the right incentive, even want him to stay the night.

“Everything,” Will said, rolling onto his side to look at her, knowing what a picture he made. He was very aware of himself in that way, circumstance and necessity had required it. Always be elegant, always beguile, always pretend that the inside matched the outside. The illusion of innocence awaiting debauchment was a lure not many could resist and Will was, if anything, a master fisherman.

She stared at his mouth in the mirror, her own parting slightly. He closed his eyes slowly, deliberately fanning his lashes, giving her a moment to stare without allowing his impatience to show. Time had certainly done nothing to teach him patience. If anything, he keenly felt every second pass like days, the smallest of hesitations taking ages to rectify until he felt he would go mad just waiting for the time it took the hands of the clock to move.

“Well....I can’t say that I know much,” she admitted. “He came to us some five years ago, I think. I believe he was somewhere in Europe before then, perhaps in his homeland.”

“Where is that?” Will asked, a different kind of hunger gripping him. He was hungry for details, ravenous to know about the man who was so tantalizingly unusual. He’d found something, finally, that was interesting. After all of this time, the suffocating blanket of boredom had peeled back and he grasped for details with frenzied greed, desperate for relief from banality.

“Lithuania,” Mathilda said, her voice fairly dripping scandal. “He used to be a medical doctor of one ilk or another, but now he practices psychiatry.”

Will mulled that one over, bringing Hannibal Lecter’s face to mind with sharp clarity. His memory was as preternatural now as his existence was, storing every moment of his long life without issue or complaint except for the night of his birth...that night was lost to him almost entirely, along with the details of his life before his transformation.

Will you collude with me, Will?’

He smiled again, and touched his mouth with surprise that it had happened twice without him meaning it to.

“...prying secrets out of Baltimore’s rich and famous! To be a fly on that wall!” Mathilda’s voice intruded on him, plucking the tight strings of his nerves so that he almost gave in to the impulse to do just as he’d intended with her.

After,’ he told himself, forcing down the hunger that sharpened with every moment. He could bear it. He’d tried abstinence before just to test it, just to see if he could manage without taking a life to fuel his own. He hadn’t made that same mistake twice. ‘After the party. Then I’ll have something worth savoring on my plate...’

“He’s so elegant, don’t you think? His home is just gorgeous, so cozy but so avant garde—he has an herb garden as a wall of his dining room! Can you imagine?”

Will tried, the darkness behind his eyes conjuring the vivid green of herbs growing one atop the other, climbing cracks in the wall like ivy.

“It must smell wonderful,” he breathed, and snatched reflexively at the small hand that fluttered onto his chest. His eyes flew open and he immediately relaxed his hold, saying with tight, polite menace, “Sorry, you surprised me.”

Mathilda just stood there next to her bed, her dark eyes wide with surprise.

He offered her a diffident, shy smile, watching her from beneath the fringe of his lashes as she lost the sharp edge of almost-fear he’d instilled in her. He flattened her hand to his chest over his heart, a gesture of reassurance, and breathed, “Come back to bed.”

Her fingers curled slightly, nails lightly raking his skin. When she leaned down to kiss him, he didn’t jump.

As he kissed her and caressed her, playing the chords of her flesh with the skill of a maestro, all he could think was that he was bored and hungry.

And as soon as the invitation for Doctor Lecter’s dinner party arrived, he could finally well and truly make a meal of dear Mathilda.

It came sooner than he thought it would. The next afternoon, in fact, hand-delivered in an elegant ivory envelope addressed in flowing, careful script. Will found the writing quite beautiful, if not a work of art in and of itself.

“What is that, William?” Mathilda called, sweeping down the stairs on dangerously high heels, still fastening her understated but costly earrings. Will had a few pairs of those earrings himself, waiting in his pockets to be pawned. She paused at the foot of the stairs and slid the envelope out of his fingers with a long, appraising glance at him.

“Doctor Lecter’s invitation,” he said, pretending she hadn’t sent him one of her own. Very few sensations could touch him keenly anymore. Though his body performed as well now as it ever had as a lusty youth, it was the inside of him that had detached somewhere along the way, drifting lose from the mundane details of prickling skin and passion. Mustering the energy to raise a performance time and again, especially as starving as he was, was rapidly leading him to a dangerous point. Mathilda might very well not survive her next indulgence in him. He wondered if she thought that would be a bad way to go or not. He wondered if her smile would finally unfreeze in horror, impaled by him in more ways than one.

“‘Doctor Hannibal Lecter requests the pleasure of your company this coming Saturday, the thirteenth day of June’,” she read, her voice airy and young. “Well, we’re to do some shopping, you and I.”

Will blinked, cocking his head slowly. “What?”

“Darling, though I know I wouldn’t complain if you went dressed only in those beautiful curls of yours and your pretty skin,” Mathilda told him, a glimmer of amusement in her eyes. “The rest of the party might not be so forgiving.”

He thought of the suit Doctor Lecter had been wearing, worth more than most people’s homes, probably.

Hannibal,’ he reminded himself, and when he smiled again, Mathilda cupped his jaw and gave him a squeeze, saying, “There’s a darling boy. Don’t you worry. As long as I can undress you, I don’t mind dressing you as well, William.”

“You’re too kind,” he said, and tipped his head to kiss her hand and, hopefully, hide the bored disdain in his eyes.

She did dress him. Rather, she had him dressed, fitted and pampered like a prize stallion on its way to auction. Nothing remained untouched, not his neatly-trimmed curls or his buffed fingernails or even his toenails.

And all he really wanted to do was eat her.

He debated about it, lounging in her bath and inspecting his fingernails, which he surely hadn’t seen so perfectly tended since he’d been groomed by his mother’s maid for Christmas mass. He thought about inviting her in here and asking her the question he asked all of them, his long, long string of victims.

What do you want most in the world? Name me that thing...

He had money now, thanks to the small things from her home he’d pawned over the past week. He didn’t actually need her anymore.

But she knew him, Hannibal Lecter. She knew him well enough to be invited to his home with himself as an add-on. If his plans went south and he failed this evening, he would need to make use of dear Mathilda again in the future to gain repeat access.

It might be a long stay this time,’ he thought, sinking into the water up to his forehead. It rankled him, but the moment he’d seen Hannibal Lecter he’d abruptly shifted his goal. Before he left Baltimore this time, he’d sink his teeth into Hannibal Lecter and see if he tasted just as interesting as he seemed.

A steady thump drew nearer, the noise reverberating through the water. Small feet shod in large heels, tip-tapping their way closer with the same clicking rhythm of deer hooves on ice.

He rose from the bath in one slow, graceful movement, water pouring down his skin like the trails of a lover’s tongue. He fastened his gaze on Mathilda, who had paused in her tracks, her intent forgotten, her eyes wide. It was almost too easy sometimes, as if desire was the very least of the things that could be inspired in a human heart.

But it wasn’t as if he could long for or remember more. Love was the brushing recollection of his mother’s arms around him. Happiness was the fading peals of laughter from his sister’s mouth. Once upon a time he’d felt everything far too well, far too potently to the point that it had almost driven him mad.

Now all he could feel was anticipation in the face of conquest and the thrill of hunting his prey.

“I came to see if you were ready,” she finally said a little breathlessly, two hectic spots of color blooming on her cheeks.

“Oh, yes,” he told her, and something in his gaze made her take a step back when he slid out of the tub with practiced elegance. “I certainly am.”

Chapter Text

An herb garden for a wall,’ Will mused, reaching out to rub a leaf between his fingers, getting the warm scent of basil on his skin. The party was gaining in volume around him but he’d seen no sign of their host.

In the kitchen,’ Mathilda had said, in raptures over the unorthodox delight that was Hannibal Lecter. ‘He does all of his own cooking and it is to die for!’

Will smirked a little, thinking that his own “cooking” was something people actually did die for, but he could hardly tell Mathilda that...yet. Still, it was frustrating to be here among this perfumed and plastic crowd just as bored and annoyed as he’d been at Mathilda’s.

“Thank you for not bruising my plant.”

Will caught that same delicious scent at the same time Hannibal’s deep, pleasantly foreign voice reached his ears. He turned slightly as the man came closer, intent on reaching one of the plants growing along this unusual wall.

“Mathilda told me about this,” Will said, surprised to realize that Hannibal was just a shade taller than himself. He seemed larger, dangerous somehow, broad in his shoulders and trim in his hips like a beast bred for fighting. “I have to admit, it isn’t what I imagined.”

“I am sorry to disappoint you,” Hannibal said, a slight smile quirking his mouth but his attention focused on the plant he was so delicately snipping pieces off of. “It is of my own design, for the sake of convenience perhaps moreso than beauty, though beauty is always a consideration.”

“Well, it is beautiful,” Will observed, touching the wall to feel if its surface was smooth or raspy.

“Thank you for coming tonight, Will,” Hannibal said, suddenly changing the subject as he finished his task, a generous bunch of thyme carefully gathered in a clean dishtowel. He looked directly into Will’s eyes—no reflection, no sign of himself looking back—until Will looked away. “Did I say something to trouble you?”

“No, of course not,” Will said, offering him an embarrassed grin, looking at him from behind the safety and screen of his dark lashes.

“I would remark on your difficulty maintaining eye contact,” Hannibal said, just a hint of amusement in his voice. “But then you might believe I was trying to analyze you.”

“Well, you are a psychiatrist, so, were you?” Will asked, grasping desperately for his mask of innocent guile. It was thrilling and alarming to be pushed out of his disguise so quickly and so often. He could feel his pulse picking up and saw Hannibal’s dark gaze flick to the side of his throat, noticing it, too.

“I would never be so rude as to say so,” Hannibal murmured, baring a hint of his sharp canines in a slight smile. “You don’t seem to be enjoying yourself. Have I failed you as a host so soon?”

“No, no, not that,” Will objected, and a heavy sigh escaped him despite himself. “I’m just...bored.”

Hannibal looked faintly offended and Will hastily said, “Not with you or your party, just in general, I mean. Everything seems pale and lifeless anymore. Boring.”

“Ah, the languishing grief of youth,” Hannibal said, mollified by the explanation. He clasped Will’s shoulder as he had that first night, the scent of fresh thyme on his long fingers, and urged him, “Have a drink, Will. If you get too terribly bored by Baltimore’s elite, there are many rooms to escape to. Feel free to make use of any one of them.”

Will’s brows rose on their own, wry disbelief coloring his voice when he asked, “How do you know I won’t rob you blind?”

Hannibal’s fingers tightened just slightly on his shoulder and he said, “I expect you are better behaved than that, no matter your personal crisis. Now, please excuse me. My sous chefs can only be trusted to a certain point.”

Will watched him go, the scent of thyme slowly fading. He took him up on his offer and grabbed a glass of champagne, threading his way through the men and women who’d all gathered at the behest of Doctor Hannibal Lecter.

Mathilda was, thankfully, embroiled in discussion with several other people, giving Will a respite from her clinging. He got looks as he passed among them, some assessing, some indignant, some longing. Some of them he marked in his mind, labeling them according to their reactions, who to feast on and who to leave untouched. He made a game of it, sorting the sheep from the pigs from the rabbits. It amused him inasmuch as anything could these days. Well, until he’d met a wolf among sheep, that is.

Staff began to herd them to the dining room where an incredible number of plates had been laid along an equally impressive table. Handwritten cards indicated who should sit where, who was lost in the flowers at the far end, accompanied by tapers in the middle, or graced with the presence of the doctor himself at the head.

Will found himself seated at the head of the table just to the right, a bewildering placement for a newcomer but he was darkly amused to see the envy it won him, even if Hannibal’s seat was yet empty.

Mathilda glared unhappy daggers from her place midway down, stuck between a slender young man and a portly politician. Will couldn’t help but feel pleased by it, and just the tiniest bit grateful.

Hannibal arrived to a round of applause, inclining his head in graceful acknowledgement of their praise for his beautiful table laden with equally beautiful dishes.

Will watched him speak, no doubt announcing what they were to expect, but he tuned it out to hear only the cadence and rhythm of his voice, a hypnotic sway of music divorced from meaning. He started slightly when Hannibal finally sat, looking down the length of his table like a King holding court.  Even his profile was refreshingly unique, like an ancient Greek relief had suddenly become living flesh.

Hannibal turned his gaze suddenly to Will and searched him, perhaps reading some of the fascination on his face. The muted lighting in the room cast shadows beneath his high cheekbones and pooled darkness at the corners of his mouth, leaving glittering reflections in his black-hole eyes.

“You should eat, Will,” Hannibal chided him, gathering up his silverware with an ornate flourish, turning his head just slightly to light his features again. “You look rather pale.”

Will watched him take a bite, relishing a dish of his own creation, and softly said, “I’m starving.”

Hannibal chewed thoughtfully, half of his attention on the conversations around him, the rest on Will himself. “Then you’ve come to the right place, Will. It is always my pleasure to feed the hungry.”

Will dutifully gathered up his silverware, his old manners on this count more instinct than memory. The plate before him was almost too beautiful to eat, and he knew it wouldn’t do him any good anyway, but he cut a small sliver of sauce-dressed meat and slid it into his mouth.

His stomach made a sudden and ravenous demand for it before the full, luscious flavor had fully flooded his tongue. He cut another, larger bite and managed not to tremble as he raised his fork to his mouth, his eyes closing in utter delight as it did, indeed, satisfy that awful, devouring hunger inside of him.

“It isn’t often I see someone who enjoys food as much as I do,” Hannibal said, and when Will opened his eyes he found the man looking at him, those dark eyes fixed on his mouth then lifting to his own. “You look less pale already, Will. I’m pleased.”

His mouth curved into a shaky smile before he could stop it, all of his intentions and control laid waste by one meal at Hannibal Lecter’s table. There was no mistaking this meat, however it was dressed and disguised. There was nothing on earth that could mimic the coppery, sharp tang of human blood, not even animal blood.

Whatever was on his plate—on all their plates—had once been one of them, a sum of dreams, hopes, expectations and disappointments sewn into a casing of flesh and sliced into precise pieces to be garnished with their own blood as sauce.

“Tell me, Will,” Hannibal said, feasting as much on his responses as he did on the food before him. “Are you bored, still?”

“I am rapidly finding you very interesting, Doctor Lecter,” Will said, unable to resist the tempting plate before him or the furious demands of his hunger.

“Please,” he was told, those glittering brown eyes avidly watching him devour his meal. “Call me Hannibal, Will.”

It was course after course of satisfying food, satiating even Will’s long-held hunger. Dish after dish, perhaps person after person? One thing he knew for sure as the dinner drew to a close was that Hannibal Lecter had a predilection for humans that extended far past just a preference for their company.

It made him wonder, really, as he sat replete in his chair at Hannibal’s right hand, watching as the man effortlessly charmed an entire table of society’s eager best, if those sharp teeth he occasionally saw were like his own.

It made him wonder if he, perhaps, was not as alone as he’d always believed, cursed and cast out and empty but for the hunger that always seized him.

“Are you feeling well, Will?” Hannibal asked, solicitously moving his attention back to the young man at his side. He took a sip from his wine glass—always just a sip—and added, “You’re flushed. Have you had too much to drink?”

“Should I have?” Will asked, absently giving the incoming staff a short shake of his head to deny yet another top-off. Apparently a glass anything less than half full was anathema in the home of Doctor Hannibal Lecter.

Hannibal seemed pleased by his response, oddly. He even managed a small smile, just enough to curl the corners of his mouth, every subtle expression showing on his expressive face.

“You are a man, Will, are you not?” He inquired, tipping his glass slightly towards Will. “I expect you to do as you please, knowing well enough what is best for yourself.”

Will contemplated that for a moment before picking up his own glass and tapping it lightly to Hannibal’s. They each drank, both of them hiding smiles behind the curve of their glasses, but never too much, never enough.

“Hannibal, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am to find my date so far from my side,” Mathilda called, masking her irritation in gentle chastisement. “Shame on you, you old rogue, monopolizing him like that!”

Will looked down at his plate which was quickly whisked away by gloved hands and replaced with some sort of sorbet. He found himself wanting to eat it just to see how far Hannibal had gone with his culinary skills. Was it even possible to render a person into sorbet?

“I do apologize, Mathilda, but my guest list was already set when you asked me to accommodate Mr. Graham,” Hannibal said, unphased by her rebuke. “The only seat I could offer was that of an old friend who, sadly, could not join us.”

“I have to say, Doctor Lecter, that duck breast was astonishing,” the man across from Will said, still dabbing his mouth with his fine linen napkin, turning the conversation without realizing it.

“Thank you, Doctor Caterson,” Hannibal said, accepting the praise without modesty. “He was an old friend who could join us.”

A round of laughter filled the room at this perceived joke and Hannibal looked extraordinarily pleased with himself, telling them over the tapering laughter, “Enjoy your intermezzo, it would be sad to let the next course pass on a less-than-clean palate.”

Will found himself profoundly amused by the whole evening, his seat giving him an uninterrupted view of Hannibal Lecter gleefully feeding these unknowing people one of their own and, even better, accepting their compliments for it. He’d never imagined that someone like Hannibal Lecter existed and now that he knew, he absolutely did not want to merely taste him. There were others in this town far less interesting and far more deserving of Will’s last question.

Because Hannibal might him.

And Will could barely contain his hunger to find out.

Dinner came to a close in the living room where brandies made their rounds on silver platters borne by impassive, white-liveried staff. Will once more found himself ensnared by Mathilda’s quick arm and, apparently, couldn’t keep the desperation off of his face. He was infinitely grateful when she excused herself for a moment and he retreated to the fireplace, staring down into the flames, wondering where all of his quiet calm had gone. He’d intended to come here and seduce Hannibal, granted he’d never bothered to use his wiles on a man before. Seduce him into letting Will get him alone, and then feast on what would undoubtedly be the meal of a lifetime.

But here he was, his belly full, his craving slumberous and calm in ways his awareness of Hannibal Lecter refused to be. He was so keenly attuned to the man moving through the room around him that he was already turning when Hannibal started towards him.

“Have you enjoyed your evening, Will?” He inquired, resting one hand on the mantle with genuine affection. “I see you don’t have a brandy.”

“I have enjoyed it and, no, I don’t have a brandy,” Will said, his hands in his pockets. “Neither do you, Hannibal.”

“I have appointments tomorrow,” Hannibal responded, watching Will watch him in return. There was an intensity in his gaze that made Will think his seduction might not have gone entirely off the rails, a force to it that made him look back at the fire, the ghost of a blush on his cheeks.

Maybe he just wants to make a meal of me, too,’ he thought, and shivered with a strange sensation that might have once been pleasure.

“Should you like me to play Zeus to your Ganymede, Will?” Hannibal asked, his voice falling to a purr almost lost in the conversations around him.

“If you intend to swoop down in the guise of an eagle and snatch me out of Mathilda’s hands,” Will said, another spontaneous, unintended smile surfacing on the heels of quick, brief eye contact, “Then yes, by all means, please do.”

Hannibal smiled at him, revealing those sharp teeth again, just the tips, just enough to make Will wonder. Would he ask his own question? Make his own demands? Or did he just take without asking, as was his due?

“Well,” he said, turning his head to give Will the full vision of his fine profile. “I will endeavor to snatch you from your fate, then, as it is currently closing in on us.”

He reached out and took Will by his elbow. Will started at the sudden contact but didn’t pull away despite his surprise.

“William!” Mathilda called, hurrying up to them with energy he’d secretly hoped she wouldn’t have. “I’m dreadfully tired. Not to be a bore, Hannibal, dear, but I must insist on reclaiming my date so he can escort me home.”

“Ah, Mathilda, forgive me,” Hannibal said, stopping as if he’d been in the middle of directing Will somewhere. “Will and I were just going to have a discussion in private.”

“Private?” She echoed, her gaze flicking from Hannibal’s face to his hand then back up to Will’s face. He resolutely did not look at her. If he had his way, he’d never look at her again.

“Yes, Will has expressed an interest in my work,” Hannibal said, moving his hand from Will’s elbow to the small of his back, a warm, confident pressure of palm and spread fingers.

“I’m thinking of indulging in therapy,” Will said, taking his hint.

“I will have one of the staff see you home,” Hannibal offered, forcefully propelling Will past Mathilda, who looked stunned, irritated, and thoroughly bewildered by the turn of events. “Thank you for coming, Mathilda. Your company is, as always, a pleasure.”

“The pleasure was all mine,” she said, her voice carrying weakly in their wake.

“You make a fine eagle,” Will murmured, allowing Hannibal to direct him to a discrete door panel that he slid open just widely enough to admit Will’s slender form.

“And you a fine Ganymede,” Hannibal told him, the pressure of his hand urging Will to go inside. “Your helplessness is quite fetching.”

Will laughed and said, “I’m not entirely helpless, Doctor Lecter.”

Hannibal gave him a genuine smile, fine lips parting over sharp teeth, and slid the door closed between them, saying, “Not yet.”

Chapter Text

Will found himself closed back into the hallway to the dining room where the staff was hard at work clearing away the remains of their feast. He idly wandered into the kitchen, looking here and there as if Hannibal might have left evidence disclosing the nature of his exquisite creations.

There was none, of course. It had only been amusing to consider it, making a nuisance of himself among the servers as they tried to perform their duties around him.


He turned, making sure to have a smile on his face that felt all too real when he met Hannibal’s gaze.

“The guests have gone,” Hannibal said, unmindful of the busy chaos around him. “Will you come with me?”

He moved as if he’d been told instead of asked, eager to ask, eager to know if Hannibal might well and truly be a monster like himself. He followed in Hannibal’s wake, aware of the lithe, predatory way he moved. It was the way he himself moved, when his attention wasn’t focused on hiding it—silently, purposefully, fluid with intent.

“Please,” Hannibal said, pausing in a doorway to gesture him within. “Make yourself comfortable.”

Will looked around as he went in, finding himself in a stately office with an open upper level devoted entirely to bookshelves, every last one of which was stuffed to overflowing.

“Is this where you work?” He asked, trying to look everywhere at once. There was a statuette on a pedestal near the far entrance, a heavy stag with head uplifted. It seemed out of place in this room but also very much a part of it. He was so busy looking at it that he jumped when Hannibal spoke.

“This is my office, yes. Now, do you wish to exchange more pleasantries or was there something else on your mind?”

Will tore his attention off of the stag and focused it back on the man regarding him with the stoic, removed beauty of a Grecian god.

“You were very eager to be rid of Mathilda’s grasp,” he observed, sounding amused. “Desperate enough to flee straight into the grasp of a stranger.”

Will smiled, cocking his head  in a way that was coy by design, especially when coupled with a wide-eyed gaze. “Stranger? I thought we were friends, Hannibal.”

There was a long, considering silence before Hannibal told him, “I imagine we could be, Will, provided you are honest with me.”

“Likewise,” Will retorted, drawing closer. “So tell me, Doctor Lecter, why so eager to rescue Ganymede?”

Hannibal’s mouth twitched slightly, a bare hint of response, perhaps amusement. Maybe irritation. Will couldn’t read him like he could read other people. The man staring down at him with glittering dark eyes kept his life a closed book to those around him.

He leaned close, close enough that Will’s heart skipped a beat, shocking and delightful. He was so intrigued by it that he didn’t even break eye contact, just twitched softly when Hannibal’s breath whispered over his mouth.

“The game of seduction goes both ways, Ganymede, never forget that when you’re getting yourself carried away by hungry eagles,” he purred, his fingers lifting to barely graze Will’s chin, just enough to make him reflexively tilt his head. “Alas, I only wish to draw you.”

“...what?” Will asked, all poise forgotten. He truly couldn’t recall the last time he’d been so profoundly affected this way and for the first time in a long time he felt the ghost of being alive unfurl to haunt him.

Hannibal had already moved away to his desk, gathering up supplies as if Will wasn’t standing there in the middle of his office adrift in a sea of surprised awe.

“If you wouldn’t mind,” Hannibal said, moving to sit in one of two chairs facing one another. “I should like to draw you on the chaise.”

Will controlled the urge to scowl. Indignant, he asked, “Draw me?”

“Yes, please,” Hannibal said, unruffled as he arranged his sketchbook on his crossed knee.

Mystified, Will moved to the chaise and started to sit.

“Lie however you are comfortable,” Hannibal said, inspecting the tip of his pencil. “Nude, of course.”

Will almost laughed aloud at that one, then peevishly remembered he was supposed to be presenting the picture of touchable purity, not revealing the jaded soul that lay within. Not until he knew if Hannibal Lecter was a monster like himself or not.

“What will you draw me as?” Will asked, quietly undressing with his back to Hannibal, folding his clothes carefully and placing them in the other, empty chair, his shoes neatly beneath.

“Yourself,” Hannibal answered, watching with measuring, critical eyes as Will retreated to the chaise, utterly nude. “Or should I say, I will draw you as I see you now?”

“Do you expect to see me differently later?” Will asked, his skin prickling with goosebumps under that gaze. He tentatively sat, swinging his legs up to lie stretched out, his body falling into a natural, graceful line more from habit than intent.

“I hope to,” Hannibal said, and there was a hunger in his gaze that rivaled anything Will had ever felt himself, not for flesh or touch but for knowing. “Try not to move, Will.”

He relaxed into his adopted pose, languidly watching Hannibal devour every nuance of his body, down to the finest detail.

“You truly feasted tonight,” Hannibal said, opening the door for conversation. “You were telling the truth when you said you were starving.”

Will considered the myriad routes this conversation could take and finally settled on a neutral, “Yes.”

“Is most food not as palatable for you as mine?” Hannibal pressed, his mouth set with concentration, his eyes following the curve of Will’s hip down into the dip of his waist.

“I had a funny feeling you already knew that, Doctor Lecter,” he said, and when those dark eyes flicked to his in reproach, he amended, “Hannibal.”

“I know only that a famished young man has no business remaining that way,” Hannibal told him, his hand moving quickly over the page, lingering here and there as his gaze did, rendering Will down to strokes and shadows on paper. “Will you go home to Mathilda, Will?”

“Not sure she’d have me after tonight,” Will admitted, hiding a smirk in his arm, holding still when Hannibal made a small noise at him the same way a man might call to a cat. “She paid out the nose to dress me for your dinner party, not to mention the other things she’s bought me.”

“Did you ask her to?” Hannibal asked, seeking his eyes again, which Will eluded by closing his own.

“No, she insisted,” he answered. “Considering I’ve been living with her for a week, she probably felt it was time to make me decent.”

“And you have nowhere else to go,” Hannibal observed, sketching earnestly.

“No,” Will answered, figuring he’d have to find a hotel somewhere near, someplace where he could be anonymous.

“Then you’ll stay here, Will,” Hannibal said, pausing long enough that Will opened his eyes, feeling a second thrill in the pit of his stomach to find Hannibal staring at him with dangerous intent barely restrained by his veneer of control.

I want to see it unleashed,’ Will felt with sudden and shocking clarity. ‘I want to see him undone and wild, coming apart at those expensive seams so I can see what lies beneath...’

He might very well wind up an entree at Hannibal’s next dinner party and a footnote in his many harvests, but he had a sudden, heady understanding that it might just be worth it.

“You’ll stay here,” Hannibal said again, a statement of fact, not an offering.

“So you can draw me nude whenever you like?” Will offered, deliberately flashing the long line of his throat, inordinately pleased when Hannibal’s eyes fixed there for a brief moment, his mouth pressing closed as his teeth clenched.

“I would never make demands on anyone who is a guest in my home,” Hannibal said, no trace of a tremor in his deep voice.

“Perhaps I’ll insist,” Will murmured, wondering how far he could push before Doctor Lecter pushed back and with what amount of force.

“In which case I would have no choice but to oblige you,” Hannibal said, a slight smile transforming the stoic lines of his face into that of a benevolent God chased in shadows. “Yet I must ask, Will, what precisely was it about my food that seemed to satisfy you so deeply?”

Will turned slightly onto his back. This time, Hannibal didn’t make the soft noise at him, just traced the newly bared planes of Will’s belly as he twisted to offer more. With an angelic flutter of his lashes to offset the bite of his response, Will sweetly purred, “I think you mean who.”

The pencil didn’t stop moving. Those dark eyes gave away nothing. There was absolutely no response to Will’s needling remark except a slight curl to the corners of his mouth that Will was rapidly learning to be a sort of delight. Delight in being called out, delight in being surprised, delight that a man who looked like a barely-legal boy might dream of playing a game of wits with him.

The odds were in Will’s favor on that count. Centuries of experience in the human condition had certainly taught him well.

“Did you enjoy your place at my table, Will?” Hannibal asked, blinking slowly as he assessed the man stretched out before him.

“I understand it’s a singular honor, Hannibal,” Will said, rolling onto his back, one foot sliding up the silky material of the chaise to raise his knee, an illusion of modesty. Hannibal, once more, did not chastise him. “One you’d reserved for an old friend?”

“Yes,” Hannibal said, eyes tracing the dip of muscle just above Will’s belly button. “Such a pity he could not make it. I do so enjoy having an old friend for dinner.”

“What a coincidence,” Will said, grinning. “I happened to enjoy it myself.”

In the stretching silence he heard Hannibal gently replace his pencil and the soft rustle of paper.

“Would you like to see?”

He made a show of sitting up, stretching like a cat woken from a nap and shaking his head to tousle his curls. He could feel Hannibal’s eyes on him like a physical touch, holding a reverence and appreciation reserved for works of art.

Naked as birth, he moved closer and leaned in to look down at what Hannibal offered him.

Himself draped on a scrolling chaise, shadows and light, an expression of smouldering, insatiable need in the elegant lines of his face.

“I said I would draw you as I see you now,” Hannibal purred, watching his reactions carefully.

“You drew me to be quite...edible,” Will said, and bit his lower lip in a brief gesture of uncertainty designed to inflame. “Is that what you want, Doctor Lecter?”

“There is a certain beauty to consuming something as potent as youthful bloom,” Hannibal said, turning his head just slightly so Will caught the lurking remnants of a smile on his lips. “Figuratively speaking, of course. But I wonder, Will, what tastes we have in common.”

“I would say, at the very least, old friends,” Will purred.

He was utterly delighted, shocked and excited when Hannibal moved with preternatural speed to snatch him up as he stood, the sketchbook falling unheeded to the floor.

Chapter Text

The last time he had been truly afraid, Will Graham had been twenty years old and facing the certainty that his mother and sister were going to die in the same horrible, obscene way that his father had. The memory of that time had left him with glimpses and shadows of his family, insubstantial as ghosts and twice as haunting, but the fear he had felt then he recalled very, very clearly.

It was the same fear that gripped him when Doctor Hannibal Lecter so suddenly surged to his feet to snatch Will’s head in his hard hands, fingers hooked behind his nape, forcing Will to look him full in the face on the heels of his pointed comment.

“What do you intend to do now, Will?” Hannibal asked, the softness of his voice belying the threatening strength in his hands. Had humans always been so strong? Or was this just another piece of evidence that Will was not the only one? “Besides provoke me, of course.”

Will’s lids fluttered for a moment as he wrapped his mind around this sudden, thrilling fear and the deep excitement it elicited. Not entirely healthy, no, but he thought he had lost the capacity for such excess of sensation and he needed a moment to greedily bask in it.

Hannibal’s fingers tightened almost imperceptibly, a hawkish expression of cat-like, cruel interest on his sculpted face as he watched Will’s minute reactions.

“Considering I’m going to stay here with you instead of running to the police should tell you something,” Will tightly said, forcing the words past the constriction of Hannibal’s palms on his jaw. His darkened eyes met Hannibal’s own and he managed to summon a smile despite himself. “Considering I knew what I was eating should tell you something else entirely.”

His grip loosened so abruptly that Will swayed for a moment, steadied by Hannibal’s hand on his bare hip, another startling sensation he didn’t expect to feel so acutely. He rubbed at his jaw in consternation, saying with a soft laugh, “You’re stronger than you look.”

“Do I look weak to you, Will?” Hannibal asked, bending to retrieve his sketchbook and scattered supplies in one graceful, fluid motion.

“Not particularly,” Will told him. “But someone stronger than they look when they look like you is really no joke.”

Hannibal straightened, that almost-smile of delight curling his lips. “So. We’ve established that you’re staying here, with me, as a guest in my home and that you are not overly concerned with social taboos.”

That’s one way to put it,’ Will thought, his amusement showing on his face. It was one of the drawbacks of having been cursed so young, this face of his. Everything showed on it, or nothing at all, and a blank, dead face fueled by anger, bitterness and frustration was not exactly the lure he required.

“We’ve also established that you have no qualms eating at my table in the full knowledge of my tastes,” Hannibal went on, gracing him with another benevolent, assessing look. “Now, we will have to establish precisely what you intend to do while you are here in my home.”

“Besides pose for you?” Will quipped, aware that he was still very much nude as a grape.

Hannibal looked at him slowly from toes to scalp, his eyes tracing the dips and curves of Will’s body in a detached but savoring way, lingering on his belly button, the shell of his ear, the bow of his lips, the wayward curls atop his head.

“Tell me, Will, how have you managed to whet your appetites until now?” He asked, mouth pursing in assessment.

Will smiled a little, startled to find himself about to confess in a way he never had. Instinct had always preserved him on that count, a deep core of self-preservation silencing his tongue when the urge to betray himself had risen to the surface. Only that question, and nothing more. That question to them before they died. Two can keep a secret, after all, if one of them was dead.

‘I’m dead,’ he thought suddenly, and found it amusing enough to laugh aloud to think that his secret would be betrayed by a dead man’s lips.

“I eat them, of course,” he said, his humor fleeing, draining out of him like pus from a wound. He very rarely reflected on the enormity of what he did to survive, having long ago named it a necessity of his curse, but standing there in Hannibal’s office with his bare skin kissed with cold, he saw an image of himself reflected backwards through time. Death and death and death with no purpose and no end. Killing for the sake of living, stealing time from humanity to claw his way through the ages of his unnatural life for no discernable reason.

He felt Hannibal’s fingers move slightly over the skin of his hip where his hand had returned to rest, but it felt far away and unreal. “...Will?”

“What?” He softly asked, dragging himself back to the present, momentarily perplexed by the strange room and the man gazing down at him.

“I asked you if it bothered you.” Hannibal repeated, moving his hand from Will’s hip to his cheek, his gaze sharpening on Will’s hazy eyes.

“No,” he croaked, wetting his lips with the tip of his tongue, trying to force the heavy, quiet despair away long enough to catch his breath. “Not anymore.”

Hannibal’s hand smoothed his cheek, thumb tracing just beneath Will’s eye. When he blinked, Will felt his long lashes press over Hannibal’s impeccably manicured thumbnail, and shivered slightly when Hannibal deliberately brushed his thumb again, perhaps just to feel the feathery touch of Will’s lashes on his skin.

“Where were you just now?” He asked, voice throaty and soft.

Will met his gaze, seeking a reflection that simply wasn’t there. It was not artifice or practice that made him seem vulnerable and undone in that moment, but the long-forgotten touch of human regret he’d thought lost in the heart of the monster he’d become. With a fragility to rival the thinnest glass, he whispered, “ the past...”

“And were you alone there?” Hannibal questioned him, tracing the arch of his eyebrow now, seemingly inattentive, utterly absorbed in committing the shape of Will’s face to memory.

“Yes,” Will bit out, torn between wanting to pull away to keep him guessing or simply leaning into him. He wasn’t sure which one was more dangerous—Hannibal’s temper or his strange, disaffected attention.

“Always?” Hannibal asked him, fingers trailing into the heavy curls at Will’s temple and seeking out the heat that had suddenly sprung there unbidden, a mixture of finally being full and a sudden rush of half-remembered feelings.

“Yes,” he said again, tipping his head. He rolled his eyes up to see Hannibal’s expression, to try to suss out what was happening in the mind behind those dark eyes, the same dark eyes he found seeking his own, curious and deadly.

“You’re not alone anymore, Will,” he said, dropping his hand to Will’s jaw, his thumb parting Will’s lips just slightly, just enough to see his eye teeth. Looking for the tell-tale sharpness, perhaps? Or maybe just searching for resistance. What will you let me do to you? Where do you balk? When will you fall to tears or outrage? That relentless, voracious need to know was the greater part of Doctor Hannibal Lecter, Will was fast discovering.

Apparently satisfied, Hannibal lowered his hand entirely and moved quietly away to replace his drawing material on his desk, leaving Will to stand there in moiling silence, unsure of himself for the first time in a very long time, the taste of charcoal dust and, faintly, thyme in his mouth.

“Get your clothing, Will,” Hannibal told him. Will noted with irritation that his usual mannered requests seemed to pare themselves down to tantamount orders in privacy. “I’ll show you to your room.”

Will slept well for the first time in decades, tucked into an oversized bed after a warm shower, all alone but for the thoughts he’d feared would keep him awake. He woke the next morning quite late by the feel of it, but then it had been nearly three in the morning by the time Hannibal had shown him upstairs.

It was strangely funny to think about it now, Hannibal Lecter graciously pointing out the rooms of his house in passing as Will slunk along behind him like some sort of pet, albeit a naked and rather sullenly perplexed one.

Will lay in bed, touching the corner of his mouth where Hannibal’s thumb had dipped between the seam of his lips to test his teeth. Again came the fluttering hope that Hannibal was like him, another monster in this world. That he just might have the answers to Will’s questions—where did we come from, why are we like this, what are we?

Vampire. That one had certainly crossed his mind. He could and did sustain his life by draining blood from the bodies of his victims, but it was never anything as elegant as the media would have people believe. No, it was messy, hot and meaty work, painful to the victim without Will’s last question, without his special gift to give them in exchange for taking their life. He was no suave and sophisticated predator, as far as he knew, stalking about in dramatic clothing with good lighting and a host of willing victims. He was so far removed from the ideal that he simply could not be one of those elegant things.

Demon, then. That felt closer to what he was, closer to the rage, anger and even hatred that had soured him over time. A monster in the guise of a troubled angel, innocent guile hiding a starving beast within. Something made of nightmares and illusion, existing on destruction and leaving death in its wake.

Yes, that felt more like what he was. He only hoped Hannibal was what he seemed.

A knock came at the door, a sharp rap of knuckles accompanied by Hannibal’s low voice saying, “Will? I don’t generally do breakfast in bed. Get dressed and come down, please.”

At least he said please,’ Will mused, and quickly stifled his urge to laugh.

“I’m still wearing what I had on last night,” he said, meaning absolutely nothing. He hadn’t been about to sleep in any part of that suit, not even the boxer briefs, and he had nothing else to wear.

“I’ve sent someone to fetch your bag from Mathilda’s,” Hannibal said. “Until then, take a robe from the closet.”

He heard the bare, soft noises of Hannibal moving away down the hallway and made himself roll out of the comfortable bed. Debating a moment, he bent and smoothed the sheets and blankets into a semblance of order before dragging a large, black robe out of the closet. It was warm and comfortable and only a touch too big in the shoulders, thankfully. He’d be swimming in one of Hannibal’s tailored shirts thanks to the smaller breadth of his shoulders. He might’ve filled out more, had he grown past the place between youth and man, perhaps gained an inch to set him level with Hannibal and shoulders to match in strength. Was it any wonder he felt such frustration? Every miniscule event, every tiny, unimportant moment, every inch gained in height or length of hair that might have been was all lost to him, a story without an ending.

The scent of eggs and sausage drifted up to him as he descended the stairs on silent, bare feet, his toes curling against the cold floors. The only carpeting he had seen so far was Hannibal’s collection of pretentious rugs that probably cost a fortune.

There was noise in the kitchen but Will stopped in the dining room, seeing places set for two. Even this seemed to call for a nod to beauty, if the flowers and spiraling shells of the modest centerpiece were any indication.

“Good morning,” Hannibal said, turning up behind him with silent grace bearing two plates, two more works of art. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yes, thank you,” Will murmured, sitting where Hannibal indicated he should, again at his right. “This is...fancy for just the two of us, isn’t it?”

“I enjoy beautiful things,” Hannibal told him, looking relaxed and at ease. He was wearing slacks and a dress shirt but no tie, the throat undone to the first button, the sleeves rolled back.

“Guess you already saw your appointment?” Will gathered, taking a moment to appreciate the time and attention that had gone into what otherwise might’ve been a simple meal of sausage and eggs.

“One of them, yes,” Hannibal said. “It is uncommon for me to accept appointments on weekends, but I try to accommodate. I’ll have another in a short while, but there is always time for food, isn’t there?”

It was so normal, this conversation. Pleasant and light commentary over eggs and a missing person who made a mighty delicious sausage, if Will had to say so himself. But this wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted to know if Hannibal was like him and the man was elusively refusing to give even a hint, appearing nothing more than a well-dressed, charismatic healer of the mind who had one very unusual preference in food sources.

Will wanted to grab his face, much in the same way that Hannibal had grabbed his own last night, and push his lips back over his teeth just to see if they would be revealed in his surprise.

He realized he was staring intently at Hannibal, who was chewing a bite of his food with relish and gazing placidly back at him, not a worry in the world.

“Does it bother you that I kill people?” Will asked, a hard, brittle edge to his words as his frustration pushed him from caution. The question was moot considering that Hannibal had to get his supply of fresh protein from somewhere. It stood to reason he was a killer himself. Still, he had to ask it, had to see if there was some reaction, some sign...

Another bite, petite and perfect, carefully chewed and swallowed before he said, “No, Will. It doesn’t.”

“You asked me how I managed to whet my appetite like you expected it went deeper than hunger,” Will said, plunging ahead, blissfully ignoring the warning signs his brain was giving him. “But you never asked me why I did it.”

Hannibal smiled slightly at him, his lids lowering to hood his dark eyes. “Do you need a reason, Will? Isn’t it enough that you can?”

“But I do have a reason, Doctor Lecter,” Will purred, tensing and seeing Hannibal tense in response. But no fear yet, not now and maybe not ever. Maybe not even when he asked his question, which was exactly what he planned to do should he discover Hannibal wasn’t like himself.

There was a hint of wry amusement in those dark amber eyes when Will rose from his chair, growing interest when he mounted the table in a rush of fluid, sleek muscle and grace, and downright consternation on his sculpted face when Will straddled his plate on his knees and stared down at him, the robe falling off of one shoulder, long undone.

Hannibal gazed up at him, blinking slowly, and deliberately took the bite remaining on his fork, unshaken. Softly, no hint of disapproval in his voice, he asked, “Is there something you wish to tell me, Will?”

“Yes,” Will said, practically sitting in his plate, the slide of his leg knocking his own from the slick tabletop where it hit his chair and fell to the floor, shattering in a priceless mess. But there would be more mess. There would be blood and pain, because if Hannibal was like himself he would have shown it by now, if only to stave off a threat. “Because I’ll die if I don’t is why I hunt them. Because I’m a monster, Doctor Lecter, do you see?”

He smiled, his lips parting so that Hannibal could see the full effect of his fangs slowly descending, thickening for rending, tapering to fine points so sharp a thought would draw blood.

“Yes, Will, I see,” Hannibal murmured, that delighted smile widening, and still he wasn’t afraid.

It was almost maddening, now. Will wanted him frightened, wanted him shaken. If Hannibal could not be what he’d hoped he would be, then he would be nothing more than an unfortunate crime scene left in Will’s wake.

“Show me,” Hannibal encouraged him, sitting back in his chair as if to gain a better view. “Ganymede unleashed. Do you run them down like dumb beasts, Will? Or is yours a softer hunt, a consummation of the seduction you’ve perfected?”

He snarled and surged closer, going for Hannibal’s throat but pausing at the last second when Hannibal sighed, “You are no monster, Will, but a work of art created by a master hand.”

Will’s eyes widened and he sat back suddenly, asking in a trembling rush, “Are you like me?”

Hannibal was looking at him like he was something holy, some rare and delicate creature come with news from on high, kneeling on his table mostly bare and breathing hard, more animal than angel.

“No,” Hannibal whispered, raw wonder in his voice. Not even being lunged at had shaken him.

“Do you know what I am?” Will asked, the centuries falling away to leave him a boy barely into manhood, frightened and cast into a world with new definitions in a foreign language, with rules he couldn’t quite seem to master.

“You,” Hannibal said, eyes trailing from the crown of his curly head to the vee of his spread legs to the bare tops of his thighs. “Are an exquisite dish yet uneaten, plated and parted and ready to be served.”

Will took a deep, shaking breath, confused and still angry but no longer wanting to punish Hannibal for not being what he seemed. He was trembling so hard with the sudden shift that he felt weak with it. Lowering his head, he forced himself to look into Hannibal’s dark brown eyes and quietly asked him, “What do you want from me?”

He moved then, deadly silent, coming to his feet with a dancer’s grace to cup Will’s flushed face in his hands, holding him still, capturing him as much with his eyes as he had with his hands.

“I want to see the savage beauty of you unchained,” he whispered, his breath pulsing over Will’s trembling mouth. “I want to see you freed from the weight of your past and reveling in your own power.”

Will lifted his hands, gripping Hannibal’s wrists, afraid he might pull away and tear a hole in his hope.

Hannibal’s smile revealed his own sharp, dangerous teeth in full and he dipped his head even closer, his lips brushing Will’s own when he whispered, “I want to see you hunt.”

He twitched in Hannibal’s hold, his breath leaving him in a rush, a bolt of almost sensual pleasure rocketing through him.

“Will you hunt for me?” Hannibal asked, drinking in his trembling, their roles reversed, the wrong seams undone, the wrong creature exposed to the light of truth, and Will couldn’t understand quite how it had happened.

He’d never meant anything more in the long, lonely years of his life than he meant right now, “Yes.”

Chapter Text

The doorbell rang.

Will snarled at the intrusion, frustrated, and Hannibal absently hushed him, stroking his fingers through Will’s thick curls in an idle petting.

“That will be your clothing,” he said, drawing back just slightly to look down at Will’s upturned face. A slight smile curled his lips when his gaze dipped lower. With effortless dignity, he pulled the robe back up over Will’s shoulder, crossed the material over his hips, and retied the sash, murmuring, “You look quite feral this way, Will, it suits you.” His gaze skipped to the mess of shattered porcelain and food on the floor, adding, “Though I think you lack subtlety in your approach. Watch your feet when you remove yourself from my plate, please. It wouldn’t do to have you wounded so soon.”

With that, he gave Will a caressing pat on his hip and moved briskly to answer the summons.

Trembling, Will slid one leg out, his toes finding the seat of his chair, smeared with the remnants of his uneaten breakfast, dotted with tiny shards of porcelain that prickled at his skin. He impatiently swung off of the table, skittering over the mess. Troubled, he grabbed the linen napkin from his scattered place setting and did his best to wipe it all into a smaller pile. Lacking any other recourse, he left the pile covered and padded back towards the front entrance, hearing voices raised in mild, shrill chatter.

Voice, rather. Mathilda.

“Fuck,” he breathed, aggravated. He didn’t usually leave anyone behind him to complain about how their gigolo exited their lives so Mathilda was, unfortunately, a first. He pushed open the panel to Hannibal’s office and came upon the pair of them in the midsts of a disagreement, Hannibal standing behind his desk, looking faintly amused by how badly she was behaving, and Mathilda querulously saying, “He’s been living with me for the past week, for heaven’s sake! He isn’t exactly a cheap date! And without even a word of thanks he winds up in your keeping? Honestly!”

“Mathilda,” Hannibal said, only the slight shift of his eyes betraying that he knew Will was even there. “You’re clearly not yourself. I expect you’ve been under a great deal of stress recently, all things considered. When you have a moment to consider, I’m sure you’ll agree that Will is a grown man who owes you nothing...unless you assume your support of him gives you some type of ownership?”

Will glowered, seeing her shoulders stiffen in affront.

“Is that how you see him, Mathilda? As an object?”

Will shivered, feeling phantom fingers in his hair, stroking and soothing him, fingers that were not, in fact, Mathilda’s.

“Of course not!” she snapped, propping her fist on her hip.

“Then please accept these funds to cover Will’s expenses,” Hannibal said, urging a slip of paper on her that he’d been holding this whole time.

“And what reason do you have to pay his way?” she asked, haughty with offense. She was too good to take the check, too proud and too stubborn but that didn’t make her any less pissed.

“Will came to me for help,” Hannibal said, laying the check on his desk and sliding it towards her. “Our arrangements are our own and not a subject for conversation.”

“Well, I can only imagine he’ll be half as entertaining for you as he was for me,” Mathilda said, tasting her sour grapes in full flood, Hannibal’s soft, almost smug smile only fanning the flames.

That was all it took for Will to saunter across the room into her eyeshot, tousled and still flushed, though now with anger, deliberately tugging at the smooth knot Hannibal had tied to bare a strip of his pale skin from throat to navel.

“W...William,” she stammered, caught out. “Darling, I was just trying to convince Hannibal to let you come home.”

“Oh?” he asked, propping his hip against the desk to lounge against it, knowing what a sight he was. Practice makes perfect.

“Yes,” she said, her nervous laughter sounding false and hollow. “When I got his message about collecting your things I decided to come in person and make sure this was...what you wanted.”

“Believe me,” Will said, a suggestive smile tugging at his lips. “This is exactly what I want.”

It took her a moment to process, lodging somewhere between how he’d made her feel when he was with her and how he was behaving right now. The strange, tight grief that rose to cover her anger robbed him of his victory. Money and position aside, she was just a woman as any other, facing the truth of how ephemeral his presence had been in her life. Had she thought it would be...something? He wasn’t sure. All he knew was that he felt more a monster in that moment than he had when he’d considered ripping her throat out.  At least that would’ve been quick and kind.

“Well,” Hannibal said, grasping his shoulder from behind, his warm touch bringing him back from his dark thoughts, but not all the way. “As you can see, he’s quite well, under no duress. Shall I see you to your car, Mathilda?”

“No,” she said, meek and chastened as she turned away, just an aging woman in designer clothes whose quality and cost couldn’t stave off the ugly truth of becoming irrelevant. Her heels clicked on the polished wooden floor as she walked away, tip-tap, tip-tap, fading into the distance like a waning heartbeat.

“Tell me, Will, should I expect more discarded paramours or is Mathilda a rarity of one?” Hannibal asked, his fingers spreading over Will’s shoulder as he moved around to his side, his gaze following in Mathilda’s wake even once she’d closed the door quietly behind her.

“A rarity of one,” Will said, and laughed breathlessly because the only other alternative was to launch into a diatribe of personal resentment. “I should’ve just killed her.”

Hannibal glanced down at him, half smiling, conceding, “It might’ve been kinder in the end. There is nothing quite so exquisitely painful as being turned away from that which you want most.”

Will laughed again because it was absurd, laughed and rubbed his palms over his face, to stifle a frustrated groan.

“That’s not me,” he said, feeling the trail of Hannibal’s fingers down the bow of his spine, even through the thick cloth of his robe. “That’s just...not me.”

“You doubt your own appeal,” Hannibal mused, hand sweeping back up to tug gently at Will’s curls, forcing him to look up. Those dark, dark eyes were steady and steely when he murmured, “Never doubt your appeal, Will. It limits you.”

“Does it limit you?”  Will asked. “My...appeal?”

That hint of a smile became a real one, sharp teeth between fine lips and eyes that transformed with amusement but still not offering a reflection, still not that.

“Do you worry that your appeal will limit me, Will?” Hannibal asked.

“Yes,” he said, earnest, and laughed softly again because it was better than screaming.

“There has never been anything yet in this world to prevent me from doing anything I’ve wanted,” Hannibal assured him, removing his hand entirely to unroll his sleeves. “As I’ve said before, you’re very fetching when you’re helpless.”

He honest-to-God grinned when he said it, fastening his cuffs and buttoning up his shirt with careless ease.

“Should I endeavor to be helpless more often?” Will asked, caught between amusement and indignation, catlike in his irritation.

“Surprise me,” Hannibal said, “You’ve done an excellent job of that so far.”

Will pushed away from the desk with a grin, sighing and stretching, feeling strangely ungrounded from seeing Mathilda in her last moments of youth revisited. He spied his small bag near Hannibal’s desk and hefted it, aware of the man dressing in the discarded pieces of his suit in preparation for his next appointment.

“Ah, Will, before you go,” Hannibal said, adjusting his tie just so, checking his cuffs once more and tugging them so that they peeked from his suit jacket. “There’s a utility closet in the hallway. Kindly clean up the dining room before you dress.”

Before I dress?” Will questioned, pausing in the doorway to swing around, searching him for hints of meaning.

“Yes,” Hannibal said, straightening his desk, a perfectionist’s fussy ordering of his environment. “I would prefer you not put that robe at risk, either. You’ve been rather hazardous to the safety and well being of my belongings, to date.”

Will blinked, cocking his head so that his curls fell just so over his eyes. Cautiously, he asked, “Doctor Lecter, are you telling me to clean your dining room in the nude?”

“Of course not,” Hannibal said, mouth pursing with pique, “That would be rude of me. I’m merely asking you to, Will.”

Who’s the one making a pet of me?’ Will wondered, watching him groom himself in the quiet moments before his next client. ‘What’s next, a collar?

Strangely, the idea wasn’t entirely without its merits. He thought it over quite a lot, actually, while he cleaned up the dining room in nothing but his pale, bare skin.

The clothing was a bare sum of what Mathilda had given him. Her last dig, perhaps, if he didn’t agree to go home with her. A change of clothes in total—some ugly bikini underwear she’d chosen for him, a pair of boat shoes in a nondescript grey, the light woven pants and button-down shirt she’d picked out. It was the outfit she’d bought him in anticipation of taking her yacht out. Had she expected him to have a change of heart at the sight of her? To don these intentionally understated clothes and leave with her straight to the shore?

He’d lived long enough to know he didn’t stand a chance of figuring that one out. The more people he knew, the more a mystery they were for him. Lies, lusts and desperate needs concealed by smiles and guile, that was all he’d ever been able to determine.

He dressed quietly, dropping the bikini underwear into the bag and shoving the whole thing into the bottom of the closet, shoes included. Mostly dressed, barefoot and moderately comfortable, Will meandered through Hannibal’s upstairs, investigating his unusual decor, finding the master suite. It was impressive, much like Hannibal himself. Will moved slowly through the doorway, idly reaching out to brush his fingers over the back of one of the slate blue chairs set before the fireplace. The large bed was impeccably made up, every decorative pillow in place, the coverlet showing no sign of wrinkle or wear. The plush bench at the foot of the bed beckoned invitingly, soft to the touch and cradling when he sat. He twisted to look at the headboard, his eyes scanning the pictures to either side of the frame, looking for nothing he could name except maybe a glimmer of understanding in regards to Hannibal Lecter. The parquet floor was cool beneath his bare toes, but far less cold than the marble floor in his master bath when he continued his investigation.

It was almost obscene to live this way, encased in luxury like armor, surrounded by every beautiful thing one could think of. Even the fixtures were of the highest quality, down to the flush on the toilet.

You have money already, don’t you, Doctor Lecter?’ Will thought, looking up at the embellished ceiling, no detail left to chance. ‘No mere psychologist could afford to live like this, not in this town...’

His stomach gurgled, reminding him of his lost meal. He was spoiled after last night, glutton that he’d been. He’d schooled himself through the years to take only as necessary when the hunger grew too strong, not to indulge it as Hannibal did. Yet here he was not even twenty-four hours later with his belly growling and his mouth watering.

Decided, he turned on his heels and headed back downstairs to see what was in Hannibal’s kitchen. He found the remnants of their interrupted breakfast set to one side as if Hannibal had anticipated he might need more. Will stood at the counter in Hannibal’s rather moody kitchen and ate right off the reserve plate with his fingers, sucking the hint of grease off of his fingertips with relish. He was so absorbed in what he was doing that it took him a moment to realize the shadow that had slowly materialized next to him was actually the chef himself, avidly watching Will enjoy his breakfast.

Nearly languorous with delight, Will offered him a lopsided smile, slowly drew his thumb out of his mouth on a soft suck, and murmured, “I was still hungry...”

“I can see,” Hannibal said, unblinking, his voice a husky purr. “May I ask how it was for you?”

Will said on a half-gasped laugh, “Wonderful. Want a taste?”

It was a challenge and Hannibal knew it by the way his mouth quirked just a little.

“Actually,” he said, coming closer, a wolf in a three-piece suit, savagery in a civil disguise. “I do.”

Will swayed a little in his grip when those long fingers took hold of his shoulders, still lost in the stupor of a feed, his blue eyes cloudy with it. He felt the hot spill of Hannibal’s breath on his mouth and uttered a soft, started laugh that died a quick death when the hot tip of Hannibal’s tongue traced the bow of his lower lip. It was a slow, lingering touch, not quite a kiss, just a means to taste the remnants of Will’s impromptu meal on his mouth. He shuddered hard when Hannibal suddenly sucked on his lower lip, his soft, throaty noise exchanged for a harsh gasp when he felt those sharp teeth sink in deep enough to draw blood.

His hands came up, mindless of the grease he was spreading on Hannibal’s expensive suit, not quite pushing him away. He dug his fingers into the man’s broad shoulders, holding still as his blood was sucked away.

Hannibal released his lip and pulled back just enough to look Will full in the face. He wasn’t the least bit discomfited, damn him, not like Will, who was flushed and bewildered by what he’d just done.

At a loss, he asked, “What was that for?” His lower lip stung but it would heal quickly. He always healed quickly, even the most horrific of wounds repairing themselves by the next day.

Smiling slightly, wetting his lips as if to savor the taste of Will’s blood on his tongue, Hannibal said, “It needed salt.”

Will grinned at that, couldn’t help it, not bothering to hide his sharp teeth. It was a conscious effort on his part to keep them human-looking, after all, and now that Hannibal knew his secret there was no reason to spend the energy on it.

“I see you cleaned the dining room,” Hannibal said, pleased.

“Yeah,” Will said, swiping his thumb along the bottom of the plate for another quick lick. “Sorry about your plate.”

“It was high time to change to another set,” Hannibal said, content to watch him. He gestured at Will’s body, too polite to comment directly, and asked, “Is this your...preferred manner of dressing?”

“Mathilda’s,” he said by way of explanation. “This is all she brought me. Guess I need to go do some shopping.”

“If you need money there is cash in my desk,” Hannibal said, utterly unconcerned. Maybe eating other people just made him think nothing of the things others would find quite risky. Maybe he just assumed—as Mathilda had—that Will wouldn’t make off with his valuables in the middle of the night. It wasn’t trust, Will knew. It was almost a dare.

“Thanks, but I’ve got it,” Will told him, reluctant to keep taking. Despite himself he felt indebted to the people he systematically destroyed and Hannibal was no exception. “Hey...why do you want me here, anyway? I mean, besides being curious about how I take them.”

Hannibal’s thin brows rose in question, his pursed mouth tightening just a bit. “I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re asking me, Will. Do you want reassurance or are you fishing for my intentions?”

“Fishing,” he said, leaning against the counter, unable to prevent himself from draping against things like an oversized cat. It was too much a habit to break now. “I’ve always loved fishing, so I guess that’s what I’m doing. Mathilda had my clothes off before we got to her bedroom. Most of the others have been as hasty or worse.”

“And you’ve been offering?” Hannibal clarified, idly tapping his fingers on the countertop, constructing his answer. “I’m not disinclined to know you in a biblical sense, Will; however, I think that would tell me very little about you and I’m not entirely sure you understand what you’re asking for. I’ve bodies enough to amuse me for now. What I want from you is rather more substantial, if you’ll allow it.”

“What’s that?” Will asked on half a laugh, unaccountably disarmed by what he’d said. It wasn’t even a rejection in a sense, though his mind kept telling him it was there beneath the meat of things, shadowy fingers touching deeply-buried doubts and recriminations.

“You’d best go do your shopping,” Hannibal said, dismissing the subject. “Perhaps not the places Mathilda took you. The suit you were wearing the night I first met you was nice enough and that quality should serve your everyday needs.”

“It was stolen,” Will said with a bit more heat than he’d intended, just to needle him. “The suit, the ticket to that opening—I stole it all.”

Hannibal tilted his head ever so slightly and said with a touch of amusement, “You’re a very resourceful man, Will. Dinner is at eight so be back before seven.”

“An hour before?” Will clarified, wondering.

“Yes,” Hannibal said, tugging lightly on his jacket to settle it. “Or do you need more time to snare your intended?”

“No,” Will said, realizing that Hannibal had meant every word and wanted to see him at his worst. “An hour is more than enough time.”

“Good,” Hannibal said, pleased. “You show me how you hunt, and I will show you what to do in the aftermath.”

With that, he moved briskly from the room on some errand only he knew, leaving Will standing in his kitchen, lost in thought. He absently sucked his thumb again, biting just a little for the salt, rinsed the plate off and headed upstairs to get his shoes.

Someone was there when Will returned, his clothing purchases crammed into as few bags as he could manage. They would, no doubt, remain here when he finally left. He always abandoned everything behind him, moving on to the next place like a drifting shadow, destitute in funds and soul.

He smelled sweet perfume and heard the cheery plunk of Hannibal’s harpsichord played by inept fingers accompanied by the soft ring of feminine laughter. Curious, he made his way to the living room to find Hannibal standing near the harpsichord with a glass of wine in hand, laughing at the antics of a young woman with dark hair who was playing more for response than for meaning.

He looked up, including Will in his disarming smile, and called, “Ah, you’re back at last.”

“I’ll pour another glass,” she offered, ceasing her assault on the harpsichord to do just that, her curious eyes sweeping Will’s form.

He was standing in the doorway like an idiot, he realized, and quickly got himself under control.

“Leave those by the stairs for now,” Hannibal said, gesturing him closer. When he got within distance, the man added in a low murmur, “We have an unexpected change of plans. The menu has changed.”

Will raised his eyebrows and cocked his head meaningfully at the woman moving back towards them with a glass in hand.

Hannibal’s mouth pursed and he shook his head in slight negative—not her, not that kind of change.

“Hannibal told me he had a houseguest,” she said, moving to the table behind the couch where the wine was waiting, the remainder draining into the glass she held. “Will, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Will Graham,” he answered, taking the glass when she offered it. “And you are?”

“Alana Bloom,” she said, breathless with wine and good health. She had an easy smile and endearing familiarity that made Will nostalgic for something he couldn’t quite recall, only that it had been good and sincere and had perished beneath the weight of understanding. “He’s kind of solemn, isn’t he?”

Will blinked, realizing they were discussing him and that he’d gone somewhere inside of himself again, tracing the seam of a sealed door to memories he’d long since locked away.

“Artists are often moody, are they not?” Hannibal asked, winning a soft peal of laughter. He’d changed his clothes since this afternoon, looking relaxed and comfortable in slacks and an informal button down, again rolled back at the sleeves as was his wont. His sharp teeth peeked between his lips as his smile widened to a grin when Will’s eyes met his, reproachful. “Ah, such an expression! Moody and imploring by turns. We are neither of us safe, Alana.”

She found that funny, though Will couldn’t imagine why, couldn’t make sense of why she sneaked shy glances at him from behind her wine glass like he was being far more entertaining than his simple sullen silence allowed for.

“What practice is your art?” Alana asked him, smiling. Her open appreciation of him threw Will off his stride.

Be alluring, be innocent, be all the things you seem,’ he reminded himself, a litany of prayer to conceal his true self from this kind, open woman who simply wanted to have a normal conversation with him, something to be expected of a fellow human being.

“Sculpture,” he said, thinking of how he held them in his hands as they died, how his palms stifled their gasps, how he shaped them in death, lifeless clay beneath his fingers. Summoning his elusive charm to his rescue, he asked, “And what practice is your art, Alana?”

“Ah, same as Hannibal’s,” she said, giving the man in question an indulgent, fond smile, obvious appreciation in her gaze. If she wasn’t sleeping with him already she certainly wanted to be. Will wondered if she loved him. He wondered if she would still love him if she knew what he fed on. One more disappointment in a life that was destined to be full of them. “He was my mentor, actually. I wouldn’t be where I am without him.”

“What, half drunk in his living room?” Will asked, immediately biting his lip to forestall any other glib comments that came to mind.

Alana, however, found it honestly funny and laughed, saying, “Clever, too. He always was able to find brains in his beauty.”

“I found you, didn’t I?” Hannibal reminded her, managing to actually make her blush.

Will sighed at that, exasperated and out of patience. “I’ll just leave you two to it—”

“No, don’t go!” She protested, reaching out to snag his elbow.

“I need your help in the kitchen, Will,” Hannibal said, backing her up. “Both of you, if you don’t mind. Though I’m not sure you should be handling any knives this evening, Alana.”

“You know it takes a lot more than a few glasses of wine to get me drunk, Hannibal,” she said, chuckling softly. She took another deep drink of her wine, her fingers clenching softly on Will’s arm where her hand was still hooked. She realized and made a little moue of embarrassment, saying, “Sorry! I should’ve asked before doing that.”

“Oh, Will doesn’t mind it,” Hannibal assured her, and met Will’s gaze with his own steely, steady dark eyes, daring him to revolt. “Do you, Will?”

Will stared steadily back at him, remembering those sharp teeth in his lip and the keen, sweet sensation of it. He deliberately ran his tongue along his lower lip, pleased when Hannibal’s eyes followed the slow movement, and murmured, “Whatever the doctor orders.”

Alana, it turned out, was a sophisticated mess. She was humorous and flirtatious, absolutely accepting of Hannibal’s teasing and Will’s turns of moody silence. It was strange to meet someone who did not have any discernable reaction to his troubled retreats into thought. Face value—that was Alana Bloom, all cards on the table with no regrets.

He was, in a word, charmed.

And it did not go unnoticed.

The third time Hannibal’s dark eyes flicked curiously from Will to Alana over the course of their dinner, Will looked up to catch it. There was an air of calculation in Hannibal’s glittering brown eyes, thoughts and plans that gave Will a pang of concern for Alana’s continued good health.

He couldn’t keep it off of his face, apparently, and Hannibal smiled in that cruel, cat-like way of his, delighting in his concern. When Will scowled at him, he merely turned his attention back to Alana’s laughing description of some event she’d seen play out on the Quantico campus as if it was the most delightful and intriguing thing in the world.

“Ah, that was delicious, Hannibal,” Alana said, falling back into her chair with a content sigh. “You have your own kind of magic, don’t you?”

“I merely strive to do justice to a sacrifice,” Hannibal said, amused. “Would you like to return to the living room to continue your assault on my harpsichord?”

She laughed again, loosened with alcohol and secure in close friendship. “What about all this?”

“I’ll take care of it,” Will murmured, finding a way to escape the worry. The tension between Hannibal and Alana was like a thread knotting around him, coiling him in with cruel smiles and careless laughter. He had no idea what other violence might occur tonight, what manner of death would come, but he felt that if he was not present, perhaps Hannibal would not indulge his curiosity on that count. What will you do, Will? How would you feel if I used this lovely, lively creature to show you how I hunt?

“Oh,” Alana said, looking from him to Hannibal and back again, adding with a note of question, “We’ll help.”

“I believe Will is quite capable of handling this on his own,” Hannibal said, angling a look at him that Will couldn’t quite discern. It was still calculating, that was all he needed to know, weighty with decisions being considered and discarded. “Will you join us when you’ve finished, Will?”

“Of course,” he said, pushing his chair back as he stood, piling his setting onto his plate. “This won’t take long.”

“Shall we?” Hannibal asked, holding his hand out to Alana as he stood, graciously helping her to her feet. They moved down the hallway and out of earshot, taking their light conversation with them.

Will’s thoughts turned inwards as he cleared up the dishes. Hannibal was obsessive about his kitchen, leaving it nearly pristine in his wake except for some last-minute items needed just prior to serving. They took long enough to put to rights that Will hoped Hannibal had abandoned whatever had been moiling behind his dark eyes.

Will you hunt for me?’


Could he, when it came down to it? If Hannibal was to choose the intended target, could Will do as he was bidden, as his monstrous nature demanded, and settle whatever score had accrued? What if Hannibal’s ideal victim was a woman in her full flush of youth, like Alana? What would he do if that became the intent? What would Hannibal do if he refused?

Frustrated, Will pushed his damp hands through his curls, the scent of expensive dish soap lingering faintly on his skin. There was no avoiding going back to join them and he knew it. Absconding to bed without a word would be unforgivably rude.

At least I’m not hungry,’ he thought, rubbing his flat belly. That, too, would never change, no matter how he gorged himself. He had tried on the heels of his abstinence, wondering if stuffing himself would give rise to padding that might later stave off hunger. It hadn’t. He’d awoken the next day lean and trim with the same athletic build he had died with. The same went for shearing his curls or piercing his skin. Whatever alterations he made to himself were undone in the course of a day’s time. Not even Mathilda’s manicure had lasted the night.

The pair of them were sitting on the couch before the fire in quiet conversation when Will returned to the living room. Alana seemed a little reluctant to break contact at his arrival, her smile of welcome at odds with her posture. Hannibal seemed unaffected, or else simply not invested enough to consider it an intrusion, and merely watched Alana react.

“So...” Will said, shoving his hands into his pockets, definitely the third wheel. “Goodnight.”

Alana started to protest, but faintly, finally insincere. It relieved Will to hear it, to know that even she was not immune to dissembling when it suited her purpose.

It was Hannibal who decided the matter, his voice silky and amused when he said, “Goodnight, Will.”

It was flat dismissal, a strange turn of events from someone who had, until this point, seemed utterly fascinated with him. Frowning slightly, Will made his way to the stairs, grabbed his bags, and headed up to the guest room, leaving them to their own devices.

He didn’t unpack the clothes, just dumped the bags into the closet and stripped down for another hot shower. His thoughts returned again and again downstairs, curious. He still had no idea what Hannibal’s relationship with his young friend was, considering how Hannibal behaved, but it didn’t matter in the end. Eventually he would tire of this game, like he tired of all things, and he would leave Hannibal behind him. Whether or not he was still breathing at the time wasn’t something that Will had decided on, as yet.

He flopped face first into the bed, bored. He idly considered dressing again and going out for a walk to see how the town had changed, but it wasn’t like he didn’t have time for that later. Closing his eyes, he once more thought of his mother and sister, wondering why his memories of them seemed so very far away, and why his life before his rebirth came only in snatches and glimmers, vanishing at the lightest touch.

Chapter Text

He didn’t realize he’d fallen asleep until he heard someone call his name, by the sound of it not for the first time.


He lifted his head enough to look over his bare shoulder, finding Hannibal standing in the doorway with his fingers still on the door knob.

“If you’re not too tired, would you care to join us?” he asked, his impassive face giving no indication of how Will should answer. “Alana has expressed a desire to get to know you better.”

Will rolled over and sat up, absently rubbing his neck, a quick glance at the clock showing him it was a quarter past two in the morning.

“Is she drunk?” he asked, sitting there with his feet braced on the smooth bedside rug, his dark curls falling in a riot over his eyes.

“No, she isn’t,” Hannibal said. Will noticed he was wearing only a dark-colored robe and that his hair was mussed, falling over his brow. The robe was belted negligently, hurriedly, revealing an expanse of hard, furred chest and belly.

Will dropped his hand from his neck and gazed at Hannibal for a long, silent moment before saying, “You changed your mind, then, Doctor Lecter?”

“I think under these circumstances it will, in fact, help me learn more about you,” Hannibal said, referencing his earlier refusal.

“She did the asking?”

“Yes,” he was told. So, no coercion on that count.

“Do I have a choice?” was next, accompanied by full eye contact, as much as he could muster.

“You always have a choice, Will,” Hannibal told him, content to stand there all night if he needed to. “She won’t be disappointed for long.”

It was a goad and Will knew it, and it irritated the hell out of him that it worked. He got to his feet, making his languid way to the door, asking, “Are you going to kill her if I do this...satisfying of her curiosity?”

“No,” Hannibal said, blinking slowly. “Not for this.”

It had to be enough because it was all that he was getting and he knew it.

“I was bored anyway,” he said, his lopsided grin fading when his brain caught up to the current events. He wasn’t sure if his invitation to Hannibal’s room included consent to be touched by him, and he was soberly reminded that he’d never done such a thing before in all of his long, long life. ‘Would you care to join us,’ he’d said, subtly confirming that he had no intentions of vacating his own bedroom for their tryst.

No,’ Will thought, moving out into the hallway with Hannibal just behind him, his skin prickling with awareness of his gaze. ‘He would have just sent her to my room for that...’

From the look of things they’d already warmed up. The bed was rumpled, its wide mattress holding Alana’s lovely, bare body in its center. She was blindfolded, something that brought Will up short quickly. He could feel the heat of Hannibal’s body at his back, distracting him, and turned his head a little to say, “Does she have a choice?”

The bitterness of that question stung him for some reason, choices and regrets. He left it lying there at the corner of his mind, focusing when Hannibal moved around him, saying, “It’s by her request, Will, not by my requirement.”

She hooked her thumb beneath the blindfold just enough to tease a glance out and said, “Sorry, it...helps. I can take it off it bothers you.”

“No, it’s fine,” Will told her, feeling annoyed and out of place as Hannibal moved to fondly stroke her hair. “ this normal for you two?”

“It’s...occasional,” Hannibal answered, earning a soft, stifled laugh of mortification from Alana. “Alana is doing some experimentation with her limits. She often asks me for my assistance.”

“So this is some kind therapy?” Will asked, glowering.

“If you’d like to consider it that way, you certainly may,” Hannibal said. “Suffice it to say, Alana is genuine in her desire to know you better and I can honestly tell you that you won’t be bored.”

“Not likely in this house,” Alana softly agreed, nipping Hannibal’s fingertips when he touched her mouth.

Will took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He’d done this thousands of times in the course of his life—granted, not ever with someone he had anything other than murderous feelings for—so what was once more?

At least he was well-fed enough that he could perform without needing to tear into her.

“Will?” she asked, almost embarrassed. “Are you...okay? I mean, you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to do...”

“Not like it’s a chore,” he told her, snatching at his charm, which had been strangely hit or miss since meeting Hannibal Lecter. “You’re very beautiful, Alana.”

That prompted a modest, pleased laugh and she held out her hand, fingers outstretched in invitation. She was slender but not too thin, weighty in the best places, alluring and self-conscious by turns.

Hannibal slid from the bed and moved to tend the fireplace, giving Will a moment to make the transition to her side. Will took another deep breath and went to her, feeling her small fingers close over his own tightly, tugging him to join her. Her skin was warm and soft and sweet smelling, tangy with her previous presumed romp with Hannibal. Her fingers walked up to his face, touching his mouth and nose, feeling the firmness of his jaw.

“Don’t worry,” she whispered, biting her lip on a smile in a way that went straight to places in Will’s heart it had no business being. “It’s not as kinky as it seems at first blush.”

He laughed softly, too, some measure of tension leaving him when he felt for himself that she was relaxed, in her right mind, and willing.

“You got a head start,” he said, his hands shaping to her warm body on their own, knowing the routine.

“Hannibal said you’d be more comfortable that way,” she admitted, feeling the length of this throat and the breadth of his shoulders.

“I also said he’d be more comfortable blindfolded as well,” Hannibal reminded her from just behind Will’s shoulder, turning up silently, the fire banked and glowing at his back. He thread his fingers into Will’s hair, his touch bringing prickling heat to Will’s scalp, and tugged to bring Will’s blue eyes to his own. “Well?”

Will hesitated, wanting to ask what all he was agreeing to but not wanting to alarm Alana, his boredom rapidly vanishing beneath the weight of his curiosity.

Hannibal leaned down, his lips tickling Will’s ear when he breathed, “Deprived of sight, your other senses will become more keen. Considering how bored you’ve been, Will, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to try?”

“Should I be offended by that?” Alana questioned, her hands falling to Will’s waist, thumbs tracing the soft curve of muscle where his belly began to narrow into his groin.

“Never,” Hannibal assured her, and surprised her with a kiss.

“Mm, that was you,” she said, licking her lips. “That kiss I know.”

Will caught Hannibal’s gaze and gave him a short nod. “Go ahead.”

That earned himself a sharp, shocking tug on his curls that made him gasp. He was still stinging when the world vanished behind a heavy blindfold that Hannibal snugged expertly to his head, warning, “No cheating, either one of you.”

“Girl Scout's honor,” Alana said, her hands more brave now that Will couldn’t see her.

It was far more disorienting than he’d thought it might be, not having his sight. Will had spent centuries looking at things, judging their worth and being by what he could see of them, allowing those images to shape his perceptions and opinions. Shuttered behind his lids with no accompanying visual feedback, he conjured Alana’s feminine form into his mind’s eye through touch alone—her small waist, her round hips, the heavy softness of her breasts tipped with tight, responsive nipples. He painted a picture in his mind of her, soft lips and strong teeth, round cheeks and a firm little chin, melding the feeling of beauty into a vision of it. Yet he didn’t kiss her, found himself tipping his head to one side when her questing mouth came too close to his, and started his exploration of her body all over again to avoid something that seemed far more dangerous to him in that moment than anything ever had before.

Slowly, the thing that had become an old and routine task became fresh again. He’d forgotten the allure of a young, sound body after decades of aging, experienced ones. Though Alana had experience and obviously enjoyed her own sexuality, there was still an element of experimentation to her touch that he found himself echoing back to her, giving her the illusion that they were on equal footing in that regard.

And yet, the image of Hannibal broke through the mosaic of Alana’s body in the darkness behind his eyes, time and again, scattering her image like shards of glass with the sharp clarity of his own. It confounded Will, honestly, because he wasn’t altogether sure what his attraction to Hannibal was. Only that the man drew him, the first human in decades to be of even minute interest, gifted with the incredible ability to surprise Will over and over in the smallest ways.

Will tried again to focus, keeping thoughts of those dancing, dark eyes out of his head to concentrate on the woman beneath him. He’d thought killing was messy work, but it turned out sex could be just as messy, laughter and gasps and mistouches. His skin rediscovered sensation, sensitive to the sweep of her fingers and nails, her soft lips and blunt teeth, the encompassing pressure of her body as if she were three women around him instead of one. It was a tangle of teeth, fingers, and limbs, the very impersonal nature of it making it even more enjoyable. He had no agenda with Alana, nor she with him.

The only one with an agenda was Hannibal himself, who made his presence known when Will was buried between Alana’s legs, his tongue coiling over and inside of her, her thighs tensing and moving against his cheeks and steadying hands.

That was when he heard her moans change tenor. She hissed and arched, sounding strangely muffled. He started to raise his head and felt Hannibal’s hand press on his curls, staying him, his voice deadly calm when he said, “She’s ready if you are, Will.”

She bucked against him as if in agreement and knotted her own fingers with Hannibal’s in Will’s curly hair. Realizing what probably filled her mouth only served to inflame him, his fevered imagination launching into a scenario that made him ache. Careful in his growing arousal, he worked her as hard as her body allowed, teasing and suckling until she shuddered roughly and arched against him.

Her hand slid from his hair and she panted, gasping for breath with her mouth finally freed. Hannibal’s own fingers tightened, pulling, urging Will up onto his knees. Rather than risk losing his curls, he did as he was directed, his skin rosy from Alana’s bites and kisses, from her scratching nails and tender fingers. Even breathing was a distraction for him, his entire body quivering with growing need he never imagined he’d feel again. When Hannibal released the hold on his hair, Will simply let his head fall back, breathing hard, feeling the heaviness in his groin grow weightier with every pump of his thundering heart.

The touch along his spine was not Alana’s, no. Her hands were fluttering over his belly, seeking. Yet it was the brush of curled knuckles down the knobs of his spine that made Will catch his breath, keenly hungry to know what Hannibal was willing to give to this.

“Hannibal?” Alana questioned, and he hushed her, telling her, “I’m taking care of it, Alana.”

Will nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt Hannibal’s warm, long-fingered hands skim up the length of his swollen cock. He actually yelped, startled by it, so attuned to his touch that it hurt despite how good it felt. He welcomed the fear it instilled, this hyperawareness of Hannibal. The fear just fed his arousal, and he trembled hard when Hannibal gripped him, pinching his cock hard beneath the head, forcing another tight, harsh sound from between his clenched teeth. It was shameful to be positioned this way, guided by one steady hand until his swollen crown touched slick, wet heat; yet the shame, too, he was greedy to feel to its fullest. He felt the fingers of Hannibal’s other hand, then, spreading Alana open, brushing the length of him as he sank deep.

She moaned beneath him but Will almost didn’t hear her. He was lost in himself again, blanketed in darkness that allowed his imagination to wrap anything he desired around his pulsing body. He held there, haunches tense, Alana’s thighs spread around him. He felt Hannibal’s thumb slowly stroking her, the brush of his wrist bumping Will’s lower belly, his other hand flattened on the lean muscle of Will’s hip.

She rolled her hips beneath him, then, and he had to move, the sum of her reduced to a silky sheath rippling around him. He heard a man gasping, ragged and throaty, and shuddered when he realized it was his own voice he was hearing.

And yet it wasn’t quite enough. This exquisite level of pleasure had been lost to him so long that his body was slow to respond to it, reluctant to open nerve endings that had numbed with time and overuse. His fingers clenched on her soft, curvy hips and he bit back a frustrated moan, sucking in a breath that hissed over his teeth.

“Will?” Alana breathlessly asked, sensing something wasn’t quite right. The squeeze and clench of her body changed tone, becoming deliberate and rhythmic, but it still wasn’t enough.

Two warm palms cupped his hips and Will’s breath hitched again with surprise, each time a startling shock to his system. He was electrically aware of Hannibal in a way that he’d never felt before, as if there was a place inside of himself that could only be unlocked by the man smoothing the damp skin of his belly.

“Where are you right now, Will?” Hannibal asked, pressing close to him from behind, chest to his back, skin to skin all the way down. He shuddered, his fingers clenching in Alana’s round hips. She dug her own fingers into his forearms, perhaps warning him he was too close to her limit. Again, the warmth of his breath and the soft, low purr of his voice asking, “Where are you right now, Will?”

The breath he took burned him down to his belly. His voice cracked on a moan when he answered, “Here.”

The hands on his hips moved, brushing him, hitching Alana’s legs up higher. He felt the man shift against him, fit so tightly to his back that every ripple of movement from one forced a reciprocal dance from the other. Hannibal’s hands slid beneath his, dislodging his hold on Alana’s hips.

“If you’re here, then show it,” Hannibal murmured in his ear. “Stay with me, Will.”

“I’m here,” he breathlessly said again, teeth clenching and head falling back when he started to move again.

He was helpless there between the friction of their bodies, buried over and over inside of Alana, Hannibal guiding her hips from the front and setting the pace from behind, the hard curve of his cock wedged tightly against the round heft of Will’s backside.

He’s fucking her,’ Will realized, gasping for breath, his arms sliding back out of Alana’s grasp to grip Hannibal’s slick sides, fingers digging deep. ‘God, he’s fucking her through me...’

Will surged hard, the yearned-for crest of orgasm flirtatiously out of reach. Hannibal bit him again, nuzzling his neck to lay a grazing kiss beneath his jaw.

“Not yet,” he said. “Ladies first, Will.”

“Oh my God, Hannibal!” Alana moaned, and Will felt her hands flutter over his belly, desperately seeking purchase as her body tightened in spasm around him. She found and covered Hannibal’s wrists, clinging tightly.

“Alana?” Hannibal questioned, slowing the pace, pulsing in time with his heartbeat.

“It’s fine,” she gasped, tilted beneath him now, every stroke deep to the hilt. “Anteversion.”

“Did...did I hurt you?” Will asked, shuddering. He’d felt her come just now, knowing female orgasm well enough after all this time. But sometimes pain was pleasure and pleasure was pain, and it wasn’t always clear which one was present in the heat of sex.

It took her a moment to decide, “Not exactly, just...Jesus, that was a rough one.”

“Would you rather be on your belly?” Hannibal questioned, still no tremor in his voice, no sign that he was the least bit affected except for the thrumming flesh snuggled so tightly to Will’s backside. He found himself pushing into it, wanting to hear Hannibal make some sort of noise, wanting to get some kind of reaction in return for the reactions Hannibal had somehow teased from him.

“Y...yeah, I think that would be better,” she admitted, stretched tight around him. “You’ve got a curve to you, Will.”

She laughed as she said it, all forgiveness.

Will’s breath hitched when he was forcefully removed from her, Hannibal’s expert hands dragging him back into the warm, hard curve of his body. Will didn’t drop his hold on Hannibal’s sides, just shifted with him, fingers tracing silky hardness that his mind assembled into smooth hip bones, trailing down thighs that were muscular and covered in downy hair, not at all like those of the woman before him.

“Here,” Hannibal said, nudging his exploration aside. She’d rolled over in the midsts of Will’s distraction. He wanted to ask why she was still here, but he didn’t. He wanted to ask Hannibal what he wanted, but he didn’t. He just let those hard hands guide him again, crowding him close to the warm heft of Alana’s backside. He could have taken it from there, but Hannibal didn’t give him time, or else demanded to have this much control over things. It was a thought that sent a spike of thrilling pleasure through Will’s lower belly and a responsive bounce through his cock when Hannibal’s fingers closed over him again, wringing another gasping moan from his lips.

She was loose, finally, but no less satisfying, slick with combined efforts and swaying complacently with his deep, sharp thrust. It tore a sweet moan from her, prompting him to gain speed and force until everything was a mingling of gasps, slapping flesh and pure sensation.

And it still wasn’t enough. He wasn’t willing to feel less than everything, not willing to settle for a routine finish when longed-for orgasm promised to actually materialize.

The bed shifted, tipping him slightly, and he shuddered when sharp teeth grazed his sensitive earlobe, a hot puff of breath spilling against his skin as Hannibal bit down in earnest.

Will gasped, back arching, mounting urgency in his rhythm. Alana worked back against him, the angle changing when there was sharp crack of flesh on flesh that reverberated through her round backside.

“Ass up, Alana,” she was told, the hold on Will’s ear released, and she shifted. Will felt her sharp fingernails skitter over his pumping hips when she reached back, seeking purchase against his onslaught. She was tightening around him again, seeking her own promises. The noises she uttered were animal and beautiful, a litany of sound that made his blood beat harder through his veins.

Hannibal shifted behind him. Will felt the brush of his fingers between his spread thighs and choked on a moan, shuddering. The light touch on his sac almost did it, brief as it was, and he tightened in response to Hannibal’s cupping hand passing under him. Alana cried out beneath him and Will could feel those fingers, those clever, sensitive fingers, using the frantic jarring of their bodies to slide slickly from Alana’s straining core to the base of Will’s cock when he plunged deep, his thick wrist brushing Will’s tight sac with each thrust.

“Oh my god!” he moaned, or maybe it was a prayer, or maybe it was just enough to finally get him where he wanted to be.

And then he felt heat on the skin just above his hip, followed so rapidly by warm, wet lips that he couldn’t make sense of it until Hannibal’s teeth were sinking into his skin.

Will almost sobbed, the shocking pain of being bitten almost enough to finally do it. He closed his eyes and threw back his head, still praying, still moaning, Alana long forgotten. When those teeth finally breached the resilience of his skin, stars blossomed in the darkness behind Will’s lids and the heavy rupture started.

He barely registered Hannibal immediately releasing the bite on his hip, barely realized when his hand moved swiftly between his thighs so those same slick fingers could lock tightly around the base of his cock, squeezing so hard he thought he might pass out for a moment.

But it was only a moment, only long enough to disengage him from Alana’s hot, trembling body and drag him back against Hannibal’s own.

So quick, quick enough that the first spurt of cum slapped onto his heaving belly, quick enough that there wasn’t a break in his searing pleasure between the squeezing heat of Alana’s body and the squeezing heat of the hand that forcefully milked him. He arched and thrashed in the cradle of Hannibal’s hard, warm body, every nerve ending firing in rapid sequence, transforming him into nothing more than a taut line of liquid sensation moaning senselessly with pleasure. He felt Hannibal’s heart thundering against his back hard enough to echo between his shoulderblades, but that might have been his own heart, straining and leaping. He thrust up into the tight fingers wrapped around him, shamelessly and greedily using them to feel more, to feel it all.

Hannibal’s other hand smoothed his curls, his cheek, and finally delved between his parted lips, stifling his moans. Will latched on, instinct driving him. He latched on and sucked, his brain making the contours of the body he felt beneath him into vivid reality. The stiff, straining heat against his backside pulsed responsively to the force of his heaving, Hannibal’s corded hips straining up against him to savor the friction. When Will bit down on the fingers in his mouth hard enough to draw blood, he wasn’t the only one coming, and the hot spill of sticky heat that flooded up the curve of his wriggling ass just sent another spasm through his aching cock. A second rupture left him teetering on the edge of overload, straddling that fine cusp of pain and pleasure he was fast discovering was his very favorite place to be.

“You...y...” Alana’s voice, broken with panting, exhausted and amused. “You cheated.”

The hand stroking him slowed to a stop but stayed tight around him as if daring him to soften. He could feel the pulsing slow against him and pushed into it, winning a catch of breath and a deliberate squeeze in retaliation.

“I didn’t,” Hannibal said, and finally there was a tremor to his voice, some audible sign that he wasn’t immune to everything as he seemed. He was panting, too, the depth of his breathing lifting and lowering Will, who lay splayed out atop him in blissful, mindless aftermath. “You’re the one with your blindfold off.”

Something landed on Will’s stomach, warm material smearing in the pearly strings of cum all over his belly. Hannibal’s thumb brushed gently over the tip of his cock where it peeked from the top of his fist, an idle stroke for a pet who’d done as he’d been bidden.

“Maybe I wasn’t done?” she said, catching her breath, the bed shifting as she moved.

“You think by now I don’t know when you’re...done?” Hannibal inquired, his throaty laugh a pleasant vibration against Will’s back.

“Cheater,” she insisted, her laughter fading as she padded away to the bathroom. “Shame on you, Hannibal.”

Slowly, Will was able to catch his breath, hoarding the fading sensations to feed him when sex became just another tool to hunt with. He floated in the moments between, in a place where he didn’t question why he was laying like this and why he resented the loss of the warm hand wrapped around him when Hannibal let him go.

“Are you sleeping?” Hannibal inquired, nudging him. He shifted beneath Will’s weight, the press of his body uncomfortable now that he was spent. “Will?”

“I want to be,” he admitted, and tensed to sit up but was stopped by the lingering stroke of a touch skimming down his belly through cum and sweat alike.

“How’d you know my boredom was a problem?” he asked, his sweaty head falling back over Hannibal’s shoulder so that his throat was a long, sweet line.

“It wasn’t that much of a reach,” Hannibal told him. “It would be the first comfort sought and quickly grow stale from use, especially given your proclivities to play inamorato to your prey.”

His other hand covered Will’s throat, rising to the bait, tracing the firm lines that might later become a drawing.

He’s memorizing me,’ Will thought, and the reasons why were more thrilling than frightening.

“Is that why?”

There was a considering silence. Hannibal rarely spoke without thinking. “No, Will. You were safe enough here tonight in Alana’s presence. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see just how much of your experience you’ve shut away.”

Will laughed softly, amazed that he could participate and analyze at the same time. “Did you learn anything of value, Doctor Lecter?”

“Yes,” he said, sounding thoughtful. “I did.”

He shifted, easily moving Will to sit up between his spread legs. There was a tug at the back of his head, careful now not to pull his curls, and the blindfold dropped to land in a puddle with the other one, a heap of forsaken cloth on the ruined sheets between his pale thighs.

He rubbed his eyes, blinking hard, Hannibal’s cum cooling against his lower back. The mattress shifted hard to his left, nearly tumbling him out of the bed as Hannibal stood and stretched, lithe and loose limbed, his tousled hair making him seem much younger than he was. Or maybe he just put on a disguise of being older, like Will put on that of a flirtatious, naive boy.

Hannibal held out his hand, those dark eyes steady again, steely. Will could hear Alana in the shower singing, or maybe calling for them. There was blood on Hannibal’s fingers, caught under his nails, and Will realized his hip was still oozing. The perfect imprint of teeth in his hip was starkly red and ragged against the white of his skin and he irrationally wished it would stay.

“Shall we?” Hannibal asked.

Will met his gaze, searching for a reflection, lost for a moment in those blackhole eyes.

Wordlessly, he took a steadying breath and put his hand in Hannibal’s, wondering if he’d already committed to so much more than he’d originally intended.

“...doesn’t look as swollen,” a woman said, her voice piercing a haze of darkness.

Will came out of his deep, dreamless sleep when he felt something brush his side, soft skin sliding over his hip where Hannibal had bitten him. He lay still, taking stock. He was enveloped in the downy softness of warm sheets and heavy comforter, wrapped in the warmth of two bodies, one of which was sitting up at his back, legs still entangled, and touching him cautiously.

It’s still there?’ He flinched at Alana’s touch, bewildered that the bite mark hadn’t vanished with the morning light. ‘Maybe it hasn’t been long enough?’ He’d never really kept track, just knew that his wounds always reknit themselves by dawn.

“Perhaps it wasn’t as bad as you thought it was?” Hannibal offered, his warm chest rumbling against Will’s limply curled hands when he spoke. One arm was wrapped high over Will’s side and his head was tucked beneath the man’s jaw, his curls moving with every word.

“You drew blood, Hannibal, don’t patronize me,” Alana said, teasing, but still a very real warning. She rubbed her hand over Will’s hip once more, softly so as not to pain him, and sighed a little, coiling back down against his back and around him to reach the man on his other side. “I saw you at dinner. What did you do to panic him?”

“Nothing,” Hannibal said, amused, lifting his arm to draw her closer to Will’s back and into his own embrace. “I merely saw an opportunity to address one of your more sticky religious taboos.”

“Ah, that,”  she breathed, pushing her nub of a nose into Will’s nape. The pulse of her breath was pleasant against his skin, as was the warmth Hannibal was giving off. He very nearly slid back into sleep, content to leave them to their talk. But then she said, “I think that’s the most dishonest you’ve ever been with me Hannibal.”

He was silent. Will imagined he was looking at her with those deep, steely eyes, weighing where she fell on the scale of inconvenience and food.

“Yeah, I noticed and, yeah, I didn’t like it when I realized,” she said, pressing down Will’s curls to rest her cheek on her hand. “Addressing my hang-ups was secondary to whatever you were determined to get out of Will. So...did you get it?”

“Yes,” he said, his voice low, soft and dangerous. “Did you?”

She laughed quietly and said on a sigh, “Yes, Hannibal. Saying thank you seems a little unnecessary considering your motives, but yeah, I’m over the hump.”

“I doubt he would protest more practice,” Hannibal said, still cautious with her.

“No, but you would,” she said, and moved again, leaning over him. Will felt her long hair brush his shoulder and arm as she kissed Hannibal, and then she was up and moving, leaving fading warmth at his back. “Dinner was amazing, as was the...hospitality.”

“Is there anything you want me to tell him?” Hannibal inquired, though by now Will was sure he knew he was awake.

“Nope,” she said, thumps and footsteps as she dressed. “I’ll work on mornings-after another time, maybe. I’ll lock the door when I leave.”

“Leave it open, I’m expecting deliveries,” Hannibal said, apparently not concerned by her hasty and rather tense exit. Instead of wrapping his arm back around Will in the ensuing silence, he ran his fingers through Will’s furious curls in a semblance of affectionate petting.

“Still playing possum, Will?” he asked.

“Seemed better than getting tangled up in whatever that was,” he admitted, unwilling to open his eyes. He’d never face the darkness behind his lids the same way again after last night, all things considered.

That was an accord, one doctor to another,” Hannibal said, still petting his head. Even this close his touch was impersonal and detached, lacking any real connection to bring it to the level of intimacy. “She was concerned about your hip. I must admit, it’s worse than I thought it would be.”

“Than you thought...Is that why you bit me?” Will asked him. His skin tingled where the bite ringed his flesh, the sudden rush of his blood bringing renewed sensitivity to the surface. “To see what would happen to someone like me?”

“Perhaps,” Hannibal said, a throaty chuckle rumbling in his chest. “But if memory serves, it also enabled you to make the final hurdle in our little marathon last night, Will.”

He laughed and rolled onto his back, tipping his head to look at Hannibal, whose hand slid out of his hair with the movement and lay draped across his chest.

“Are we cuddling, Doctor Lecter?”

“You’ve developed unhealthy relationships with sexuality and intimacy, Will,” Hannibal informed him, not even blinking at that one.  “I was simply not pulling away.”

Will blushed and he couldn’t believe it. He really couldn’t believe it. There was no embarrassment or hiding, not from Hannibal Lecter. Perhaps he was a connoisseur of flesh in more ways than one? Or perhaps he had not been taught as Will had, the shalls and shall-nots drilled in with violence, nails in the soul of curiosity and freedom.

“So I’m a clingy sleeper? Should’ve put Alana in the middle,” he said, hovering around indignant because he refused to acknowledge being honestly embarrassed at his age. It only worsened when Hannibal said, “I did, actually. Unfortunately, she had to get up in the night and forfeited her place.”

“Unfortunately?” Will echoed, annoyed by the whole idea of it, himself traversing the width of Hannibal’s bed like the man was every bit a beacon in sleep as he was while waking.

Hannibal smiled his slight, delighted smile and added, “For Alana, of course.”

It was mollifying and that only pissed Will off worse.

Hannibal tossed back the covers and got up, naked and lithe in the late morning light, leaving Will to his own devices as he headed into the bathroom.

Taking the opportunity to salvage some little bit of his dignity, Will scrambled from the bed and straight for the shower in the guest bedroom en suite.

He mulled over last night, the hot water chasing goosebumps over his skin. He’d been excited, aroused for the first time in decades, jolted from staleness by something as simple as a blindfold.

No,’ he admitted, ducking his head beneath the hot shower spray. ‘It wasn’t the blindfold. It was Hannibal...’

Everything last night had only been possible because of Hannibal’s guiding, controlling hands. There had been something so easy in that, so effortless in allowing someone take over for him, positioning him like a doll, working through him. And the very act of it, allowing himself to be taken over, had in turn fed his own libido, all of it erupting in the throes of that final act of dominance—being bitten.

Will’s hand rubbed over his hip when his mind conjured the moment for him, feeling the individual punctures lined with raw, sensitive skin. Hannibal hadn’t been shy. He’d sunk his teeth deep as if he’d intended to take a mouthful out of Will.

Maybe he would have,’ he thought, his shudder not from revulsion, though nothing he was quite willing to name.

You were safe enough here tonight in Alana’s presence...’

Will looked down in shocked surprise to find himself sporting an admirable erection and he just as quickly ignored it, dismayed at the cause.

He was sufficiently calm by the time he got out of the shower and dressed quickly. Despite Hannibal’s solicitous suggestion, Will hadn’t actually gone anywhere of quality to get his clothing. He’d never bothered with that kind of thing and didn’t intend to start now. Jeans and a button down were more than sufficient. He’d bought a sturdy pair of work boots to replace the sprung, broken ones he’d arrived to Baltimore in, but he preferred being barefoot.

The scent of Hannibal’s aftershave lingered in the hallway, warmth and cardamom, earthy like something elemental would smell. Will followed it downstairs, realized it headed in the direction of his office, and found a note on the sideboard for him.

Will, please take this list to the Farmers Market for me. It will certainly be more entertaining than anything you’ll find here. My appointments will be done by two.

He’d signed it in his flourishing script. A neat pile of bills lay on the sideboard along with three woven totes.

“He serious?” Will asked aloud, brows pulling together in consternation.

Then again, it wasn’t like he had a plan. He never did when he came to Baltimore. There was something he was looking for, but since he didn’t even know what that thing was it was almost impossible to pin it down.

“Well, at least he’s a distraction,” Will sighed, annoyed that he’d have to put shoes on. His stomach rudely growled, spoiled in such a short time. He patted it absently, the mark on his hip pulling and burning beneath the roughness of his boxers and jeans, situated just perfectly so that both pieces of clothing bisected it. Surely, surely it would vanish by noon?

Deciding to take the chance to see some of the city, Will did as he was bidden and headed out into the light of day, flinching from the light as all dark things must flinch in the end.

He wandered the usual streets, retracing his steps of lifetimes ago. Things had changed and changed again, modernizing, squeezing closer, the press of humanity like a heartbeat of lifeblood into the city where he’d been reborn.

It was here, I remember,’ Will thought, crossing and recrossing places that seemed familiar, haunting. Was it his life before that called to him or another visit here? Another, later time pretending to be one of those rare, real gems of his life before rebirth? Yet no matter how he searched, he never found his ancestral home. There was every chance that it had been torn town over time, or refurbished beyond recognition. Even when he stopped to imagine it, he couldn’t find anything specific. Smells, tastes, the textures of home were all known to him, but he could barely conjure the four walls that encased those things.

Save them,’ he thought, pausing on the street to close his eyes, his clearest memory vivid with fear for his mother and sister. ‘Save them...

“Did I?” he murmured, his eyes slowly opening. He simply couldn’t remember. He’d made his deal with a devil he still didn’t know in the hopes of saving them, and spent eternity wondering if the bargain had been kept. “Why can’t I remember?”

A man on his cellphone gave him an alarmed glance and wide berth, his attention enough to bring Will back to himself. He was absently rubbing his hip, aggravating the ring of marks that still hadn’t healed.

Where are you right now, Will? Stay with me...’

Unnerved, Will altered his course for the farmers market, spending hours combing the stalls for the things Hannibal had listed, asking here and there after those he could not find on his own. It was as good a way as any to spend a day. After all, it wasn’t as if he didn’t have thousands more to spend in the future.

The house was, thankfully, quiet on his return. Will wasn’t sure what to do with half of what he’d dragged home; he just set the bags on the counter in the kitchen.

It was after three, so he knew Hannibal wasn’t with patients unless someone had dropped by unexpectedly. Rather than rattle around the house in a fugue, he decided to seek him out. He had things to talk about after all. His hip had still not healed.

Hannibal was in his study, diligently working at some unknown task, his back to Will.

“I wondered when you would return,” he suddenly said, turning to offer Will a smile. “Please come in, Will. Have a seat, if you’d like.”

“What’re you working on?” he asked, choosing to drift closer instead. It was like nearing a place where lightning had struck—the air sharp and prickling with danger that raised the fine hairs on his nape. Of the two of them, which one, indeed, was the monster?

“Notes for a submission,” Hannibal told him, putting his pen down and sitting back as Will settled against his desk. “Were you terribly bored today, Will?”

“No moreso than usual,” Will said, his smile somber. “Your things are in the kitchen. I kept the change.”

Hannibal’s mouth curled in a half-smile, amusement dancing in his dark eyes.

“Hannibal,” Will started and trailed off, unsure how to phrase it. He took a deep breath and made himself meet Hannibal’s unflinching gaze, asking, “What are you?”

Hannibal cocked his head just slightly and blinked, turning that question over in his mind before saying, “I’m afraid that’s too broad a question. Was there something in particular that’s bothering you?”

“The bite mark hasn’t healed,” Will said, hitching his shirt up to show the knob of his slim hip, his other hand pushing down the loose lip of his jeans and boxers to reveal the bite in full. “It’s as bad as it was when you first gave it to me.”

He feigned concern well, Will had to hand it to him. He was every inch the solicitous doctor as he examined the bite, but with a clinging air of smug gratification just beneath the surface that nearly ruined the illusion.

“It’s not infected and not likely to be if you keep it clean,” Hannibal said, unperturbed.

“That’s not the point, Doctor Lecter,” Will said, annoyed. “The point is that I heal clean by dawn. I always have.”

“Not always,” Hannibal reminded him, tugging Will’s shirt back down in wordless dismissal. “You were human once, Will. You healed the same as anyone else. Or don’t you remember?”

Will glared sharply at him, prompting Hannibal to say, “I assumed, of course, that you weren’t born in your current state. You seemed particularly out of resources when you asked me if I knew what you were...Because you do not know yourself.”

He certainly did not want to get into that.

Will gazed down at him, very sure that Hannibal was skirting his original question and figured what went for Hannibal went for himself as well. “I asked you how you knew boredom was a problem and you said something about my playing the lover to my victims. How did you know that, Hannibal? How did you know I tend to sleep with my prey?”

Hannibal blinked, pleased with him. “I doubt you were with Mathilda for her boundless enthusiasm when it comes to gossip,” he quietly said. “And you were quite intent on snaring me, as well. Or do you now claim I was not, in fact, one of your intended victims?”

“No, Doctor Lecter, I wouldn’t say that,” Will murmured.

“And am I one of your victims still?” Hannibal asked, as bland as he would be if discussing the weather.

Will smiled wolfishly and told him, “I haven’t decided yet. You’re interesting, Doctor Lecter. The wound you gave me doesn’t heal. Your preference in food is the necessity that keeps me alive. Color me intrigued.”

“I shall strive to remain entertaining, Will,” Hannibal told him, smirking. “However, I can easily admit to being equally as entertained by you. You’re a curious puzzle, Will Graham.”

“There’s nothing puzzling about me,” Will sighed, thinking of the past, the transformation that had landed him centuries out of his natural time, seeking out places he couldn’t remember and missing a family he no longer knew.

Save them all...’

“Will?” Hannibal’s voice cut into his memories, slicing through with the precision of a well-honed blade. “Would you like to tell me?”

He shook his head, his voice unsteady when he said, “No. Not unless you’d like to tell me what you got out of watching me with Alana. Besides the obvious, of course.”

“I will tell you anything you like, Will,” Hannibal said, no hesitation, no wavering in those blackhole eyes. It seemed so earnest, would feel that way, too, if Will wasn’t able to follow where Hannibal ever-so-slightly turned the subject to one he would actually discuss.

“Then tell me why you decided on that after you had all night long to consider it,” Will said, so intent that he managed to actually hold Hannibal’s gaze. “You were weighing your options, weren’t you? So why did you settle on that?”

“Because I was curious,” Hannibal purred, as if that was excuse enough. “I wanted to see how deeply insulated you’d become against emotional attachment.”

“So that shit you said in your kitchen?” Will asked, almost angry.

“I won’t have anything less than the whole of a true lover, Will,” Hannibal said,  his mouth tightening. “Letting you into my bed to pursue a farce of intimacy for the sake of your expectations was less than appealing to me. And please don’t be vulgar.”

“So you let Alana crack my shell for you?” Will asked, and laughed, shoving away from the desk.

“Is that what you perceive to have happened?” Hannibal asked, his voice sharp with intent. For whatever reason, something important hinged on the answer and his interest made Will hesitate, considering before he answered.

“No. She was just...a tool,” Will finally said, gesturing helplessly, frustrated with himself. “You were the one who did the cracking.”

He looked pleased, damn him. Satisfied. A cat who caught the canary.

“Happy now?” he asked.

“This level of petulence doesn’t suit you, Ganymede,” Hannibal said, standing abruptly. He’d shed his jacket but kept the vest, a rich, dark blue against his pale shirt. Even without the jacket he was stern, imposing, and strictly in control of himself. Will didn’t buy for one second that the cuffs Hannibal checked were out place. They simply wouldn’t dare. “There’s a reason you’ve built your walls, Will. What is it?”

“Excuse me?” he asked, thrown by the question.

“Those walls I had the singular pleasure of breaching this morning,” Hannibal said, his humor replaced by predatory curiosity. “They were built for a reason. Once upon a time, the boy who feels nothing now felt everything all too keenly, didn’t he?”

Will flinched, shocked, his eyes widening as if Hannibal had reached right into him, plunging his fingers through the empty space where his soul had been to find a splinter that, once withdrawn, made him bleed profusely.


“You built your walls to protect yourself, Will,” Hannibal said. “But I wonder, how many times did you mourn your victims before you sealed your mercy inside, hm?”

Will shook his head, retreating a step, memories beating at his brain, the fluttering of frantic ravens’ wings against the glass of his mind.

“Did you weep for them, Will? Did you look down at their dead faces and name yourself a devil?” Hannibal murmured, the world narrowing as he drew near, reduced to the purr of his voice and the bright, feverish sparkle of his dark, dark eyes. “How long have you been hiding your true self, Will? How long have you lived?”

Centuries!” he snarled, lashing out, infuriated. How dare he? How dare he?! His blazing blue eyes rose and Hannibal smiled, welcoming it. “I died centuries ago! And every death since then is a weight around my neck!”

Hannibal pressed both warm hands on his shoulders, stilling him, crooning with all the tenderness of a lover, “Only if you let it be.”

Chapter Text

“Tell me of your rebirth, Will. Tell me what you recall of the night that elevated you to godhood.”

Rain pounded on the roof, drumming an erratic rhythm that matched the thundering of his heart. The coppery, hot scent of blood was so thick he could taste it, lingering there on the back of his tongue fit to make him gag.

‘William...’ His mother wept, holding his sister. She looked so small in the voluminous folds of her white nightgown, her trembles only revealed in the thin fingers that scrabbled for purchase. ‘William, don’t—’

‘Save them,’ he said, anguished. ‘Save them all! Take me instead!’

A boy’s bravery, foolish and brash but genuine. A shadow rose to blind him, the spreading wings of a raven, feathers fluttering from the thick neck of a solemn stag that watched him with pitiless eyes. But that wasn’t true. That wasn’t real. It was merely a guise to make them cower in terror, clutching their religious trinkets and praying to a disinterested God who would never show compassion to them.

‘Take me instead!’ He shouted, but he was already taken, wasn’t he? That was why he was here, why he’d come home to them. To say goodbye—


—to make a clean break, forsaking their love for something that had the indefinable appeal of a drug, addictive and deadly.


William, don’t!’

‘Mother, why are you crying?’

“Will, stay with me. Answer me, now.”

He opened his eyes, brow furrowing to realize he was settled in one of the chairs in Hannibal’s study, a warm fire bringing light to the darkness. Hannibal sat opposite him, leaning forward with his elbows braced on his spread knees, his hands clasped together and a look of utter fascination on his handsome face.


“What do you think that beast was hiding, Will?” Hannibal asked.

Will wet his lips, confused. “Was I...was I talking just now?”

Hannibal’s brows rose just slightly over his dark eyes, the only indication of his surprise. Will didn’t trust it somehow. It would take more than a bewildered question to throw  off Hannibal Lecter’s equilibrium.

“Yes, you were,” he said. “I answered you about Alana; you answered me about the night you were reborn. You said a beast was there, but what you described had the flavor of a dream.”

“Yeah,  a dream,” Will echoed, rubbing his hand over his temple. But when he reached for the memory again, it was there clear as day— “A huge, black stag with a mane of feathers and antlers that branched like old, dead tree limbs...”

Hannibal’s fine mouth pursed as he mulled this over. “Perhaps whatever you truly did see was not something you ever wished to remember. Do you know what happened to them, to your sister and mother?”

Will mutely shook his head, blinking hard.

“You said you smelled blood,” Hannibal pressed. “Was it your father’s or your own?”

“Both,” Will said, certain only in his absent soul because his life before the stench of blood was nearly a blank slate wiped clean by glistening black feathers. “I was bleeding. I think I remember that. The way he died was obscene.”

“Yet you can’t recall?” Hannibal said, more statement than question. “It sounds as if you have very little from that night, Will. But something made you the way you are, perhaps whatever it was that your mind has made into a feathered stag.”

Will laughed softly, a short, humorless laugh that somehow seemed suited to the absurdity of his vision. “My mother always did say I have a vivid imagination. She said it’s what made things so...difficult for me.”

“Difficult in what ways, Will?” Hannibal asked, settling back in his chair, his head tilting to one side, ever the curious cat.

“I was...terrible with people if I wasn’t careful,” Will admitted, and hastily amended, “I still am, actually, I just had to learn to be charming all over again for the sake of survival. She said I couldn’t help it, that it was just how God had made me, that one day I’d stop stepping into the shoes of every person I met and only wear my own.”

He looked over at Hannibal, a sad smile playing over his lips. “That never happened.”

“Something did,” Hannibal corrected him. “You built your walls, Will. With stones made of skulls and a mortar of blood, brick by brick you built your fort and sealed yourself inside.”

“It’s better that way,” Will murmured, looking away, still trembling. He couldn’t remember how they’d gotten this way, sitting here before the fire. He would surely remember Hannibal lighting it, would remember taking a seat and the questions that followed. His uneasiness showed on him like all things did when he wasn’t consciously holding them in check. Hannibal leaned forward to clasp his knee, stilling the restless bounce of his leg.

“There is truly no better way to be than to be oneself, Will,” Hannibal told him. “Perhaps it is time to unmake your fortress and forge your own way.”

“What, start empathizing with the people I hunt?” Will asked, shaking his head.

“You already do, to an extent,” Hannibal said. “If Mathilda is any indication of your preference then you choose those in the twilight of life, lonely and lacking something which only you can give them.”

“What about you, hm?” Will asked, needling him, wanting to put him on the offensive for once. “You’re not in the twilight of anything, Doctor Lecter. Why would I pick you?”

“Because your gift, even blinded as you’ve made it, recognized in me the same things you fear most in yourself,” Hannibal told him, calm and composed. He squeezed Will’s knee once, slightly, softly. “I can help you, Will. You know that I can. I may even be able to unlock those memories of yours.”

Will shook his head mutely, then managed to whisper, “You can’t. I’ve tried ever since that night—”

“Something happened that night that you simply cannot bear,” Hannibal told him. “But it wants out, Will, and badly. Some growing part of your psyche is determined to set it free and allow you into your full potential.”

“And how do you propose to help things along, Doctor Lecter?” Will asked, bitter and sad.

Hannibal smiled then, sharp teeth revealed behind his fine lips. “It is time I see you hunt, Will. That would make a good start.”

He didn’t explain himself, how he selected someone or how he operated. He simply went out into the darkness that had risen in between times and closed his eyes.

Life blossomed around him, the thrum and pull of blood coursing through bodies. He could feel them all but, strangely, not Hannibal. There was a black, gaping space at his side where he felt heat but no answer to his questing touch. It was unusual enough in his experience to be odd, to distract him momentarily, but then the pulse became a drum thudding between his ears and Will let it draw him out into the darkness.

He never really timed himself, never knew how long it took to choose. Sometimes it took days, finding and selecting, charming his way in. Other times, like in Mathilda’s case and even Hannibal’s, it was a split-second decision based on impulse. Impulse born of empathy turned inwards on itself to serve the beast within.

He moved, that black gap lingering just behind him as he thread his way through streets and alleyways, searching and searching. He wanted to chose with mercy this time, not with greed or simple, driving hunger. Hannibal wanted to see what he was and Will wanted to show him how it had been when he’d first been reborn, how he tried to make it every time after.

The darkness and pulse narrowed, fading down to a single, thready whisper behind a thin door. The hallway was dim and close, empty, the kind of sad, aged place that had once been beautiful before succumbing to inevitable decay. Litter was strewn to either side of the door, carefully swept away from the small, tattered welcome mat.

Will took a deep breath, his eyes darting to the surroundings, his heart trembling in his chest. He didn’t knock. It didn’t work like that, by invitation only. No garlic necklace or silver cross would keep him from taking what he’d come for, no prayers or supplications, no piteous pleas for mercy. Once maybe, when he was still young. Once, before he learned his gift had another facet, one he could share in exchange for what was left of their lives.

He turned the knob. The bolt was thrown but his unnatural strength pushed it straight through the dried, flaking wood. The chain snapped with one smooth motion, the door opening onto a dingey apartment. It was clean but haphazard, cluttered with the years of a life lived. Will saw a wisp of cotton-fluff hair over the top of a single chair situated before the blaring television. The pulsing ended there, an erratic thump that skipped and jumped and stuttered, an engine finally failing after all this time.

The familiar distance fell over him like an insulating cloak, a thick pane of impenetrable glass between himself and the old woman nodding in her chair. He was before her now, watching her wake with emotionless calm. Her rheumy eyes lifted, startled, her knotted fingers spreading with surprise.

Will crouched before her, taking her face in his hands to stare into her blue eyes. She was too mystified by what was happening to protest or move, shocked into immobility.

“Do you miss him?” Will asked, a catalogue of the room telling him of a life partner, a husband since the days of sepia photos gone white at the edges. Everyday smiles of less than perfect people turned beauteous with shared love.

“I do,” she said, her thready voice cracking. Tears formed in her eyes. Her withered hands pressed to Will’s cheeks, mirroring his own hold. “Are you an angel?”

“I can be,” he told her, all the long, lonely years of her life pushing against him like the crush of a vise. “What do you want most in the world? Name me that thing.”

“I want to be with my husband,” she wept, shaking in his hands.

Will felt it move through him, his gift, bending outwards like a convex lens focusing outside of himself instead of in. It was an aspect of his rebirth, this sharing, a means of making others like himself, if only for a blink in time.

She stilled in his grasp, her eyes widening with delight at what his inside-out world showed her, spinning a web of her memories and dreams to create one last moment of peaceful joy.

When he tipped her head she didn’t even react. She was murmuring to someone long lost to her when he sank his teeth into the meat of her throat, unerringly finding the flow of her life feeding up through her neck. She was laughing as she died, laughing and taking Will with her, both of them drenched in warmth and the knowledge that everything was finally as it should be...

Will. Where are you right now?’

He opened his eyes. The heat that had been sunlight inside of him became cooling blood. Her laughter became the soft gurgle of her final breath; her frail body slumped to one side in the chair that had been her husband’s, limp in death.

He looked up right into Hannibal Lecter’s glittering amber eyes and small, delighted smile.

“Stay with me, Will,” he chided, treading cautiously around the chair to get a better look at what remained.

It wasn’t much. When he was lost there with them in the bubble of illusion the monster in him did as it wished. Her neck was laid open to the glistening cartilage of her trachea and the bones of her cervical spine. Pieces of her clung to his face and he wiped reflexively with a hand that was bloody to the wrist, worsening what he’d tried to remedy.

“I’m impressed,” Hannibal said, clearly pleased with what he’d seen. “Your ferocity is a beautiful thing to behold.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Will said, staggering to his feet, satiated once more.

“She wasn’t frightened, even as you devoured her,” Hannibal said, pride shining in his eyes.

“How do you know that?” Will asked, pressing the heels of his hands to his closed eyes, leaving bloody prints behind.

“She was laughing,” Hannibal answered him, acutely interested in his reactions. “It’s a gift, Will. A rare and startling gift.”

He laughed. It was tinged with hysteria, the rush of death still drumming at his temples and rendering him giddy.

“The beautiful gift of destruction,” he sighed, looking at the mess he’d made of her. And no one would miss her. No children left, no grandchildren near, no great grandchildren who cared. She would be carelessly tossed into the growing void of unsolved violent crimes, cremated and scattered, free to travel the wind far from the home where she’d died.

Hannibal reached for him, cupping the back of his head to pull him close. There was intimacy now in the presence of death that had lacked in the heat of his bed. There was warmth and closeness in the way he tipped his head to Will’s, only just avoiding getting bloody in the process.

“You live forever,” he murmured, every word a pulse of heat against Will’s wet mouth. “You make them a part of you and grant them immortality.”

Will blinked but met his gaze, holding it with all the strength he had left.

That is a beautiful gift, Will.”

Somehow, standing drenched in cooling blood with the remnants of her happiness dissipating around him, Will thought he might actually believe it was true.

He cleaned up in the woman’s small, tidy bathroom, washing her blood from his hands and face, wiping up the rivulets that had trailed down the column of his throat. He left his shirt discarded on the floor at first, then moved it to her small hamper. It seemed a sin to do otherwise when she had kept her home so neat.

She’d kept her husband’s clothes, as he suspected she might. He dragged a musty-smelling flannel from its hanger and pulled it on, rolling it back over his slender wrists to counter the length of the sleeves. When he returned to the living room it was to find Hannibal still gazing at the woman’s remains with critical, studying eyes.

“Now what?” he asked, his hair dripping water down his spine, trickles of it running in rivulets down his cheeks. He brushed it away absently, the taste of meat heavy in his mouth.

Hannibal transferred that fathomless gaze to Will, his face set in solemn lines. “Your preferred prey is rather too spare for my needs, I’m afraid. You hunt with mercy and feeling, Will, however little you realize it.”

“And that isn’t to your taste?” Will asked.

Hannibal’s mouth pressed slightly in what might have been disapproval. “I don’t make friends with my food. Whatever finds its way to my table is not suitable to be treated with such dignity.”

Dignity?” Will echoed, staring at her neck where the wetness was turning dark and the bone was drying.

“Yes, dignity,” he repeated, following Will’s gaze. “Saved before the grindstone of society crushed the last of the life out of her. When I hunt, Will, I am not culling the herd or playing angel of mercy. I hunt for a purpose, and mercy has no place there.”

Hannibal looked down at the woman again, committing the scene to memory, and then left him there, walking away with the same silent, fluid grace of a large cat.

Will didn’t follow. He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that following Hannibal on the heels of his own hunt would do little more than earn him the man’s irritation. He’d seen Will in action, just as he’d wished. He had never once hinted at allowing Will to watch him in return.

He made his own solitary way back to Hannibal's house, turning things over in his mind.  He couldn’t decide if it had been a failure or not, what he’d shown Hannibal this evening. Yes, it was one of the softer ways to slake his thirst, bereft of the violence strong hunger could incite. Yes, she had been terribly aged compared to his usual fare, far past the point of wanting a taste of him in return, but he’d felt it was important for Hannibal to see him this way.

It was important to him that Hannibal know about his gift, the question, the way it could be...


He’d wanted to show Hannibal something beautiful, because he knew how much Hannibal appreciated beautiful things...

Behind him, he heard the soft clickety-clack of feathered-fetlock hooves behind him, rhythmic and steady. The shadow thrown over his own gave him branching antlers like old, dead tree branches. Hot breath blew against his nape and he turned, startled, but it was only the warm night breeze riffling through his hair after all.

Chapter Text

“Where were you before you came to Baltimore, Will?”

Will paused with his fork midway to his mouth, finished the movement and chewed with relish, composing his reply. After wandering aimlessly for some time he’d returned to Hannibal’s house to find him in his kitchen, a place where he seemed happiest. He’d been in especially good humor, pleased with what he’d brought home with him. Will hadn’t asked.

“Louisianna,” Will finally said, a familiar lethargy coming over him. Somehow, it was more satisfying to eat at Hannibal’s table than it was to drain victims as Will always had. Perhaps the monster inside of him wanted its due in flesh instead of blood, now. He certainly seemed to be taking more from them these days than he used to.

“Any particular reason for being there?” Hannibal asked, watching him eat.

Will shrugged. “It was as good a place as any, I guess. I just kind of...drift around. I never stay anywhere for long.”

“But you’ve been here before, Will, haven’t you?” Hannibal asked, cutting himself a small, perfect bite. “Why do you keep coming back?”

“This is where it happened,” Will said, washing a mouthful back with a sip of wine, suddenly nervous. “My family’s home was here...somewhere. Probably not anymore. I keep coming back looking for something.”

“For some trace of your family? For the feathered stag that haunts you?” Hannibal pressed, watching him avidly. “Or perhaps home at last?”

Will laughed, turning his glass in place, a spasm of pain crossing his features. “I don’t have a home, Hannibal. I  haven’t had a home in two hundred years.”

“You could have,” Hannibal said, turning his attention back to his plate. He smelled only faintly of blood from preparing their meal, nothing more than that. Will wondered how he killed them, how he managed to stay so neat. He hadn’t showered or changed since they’d gone out, unlike Will himself.

“You’re immortal, Will. You have an opportunity most don’t,” Hannibal went on. “You could take what you need and live like a king.”

“A lonely king,” Will cut in.

Hannibal’s amber-lit eyes landed on his own and a smile curved his mouth. He sounded almost mocking when he asked, “And you’re not lonely now?”

Will shoveled another bite into his mouth to avoid answering but his body betrayed him with a vivid blush.

“When did you first learn of your gift?” Hannibal asked, tactfully changing the subject. “I admit to not understanding it entirely. Perhaps you could explain it to me, Will.”

“I...I...That problem I have,” he said, taking a deep breath. “That tendency to see things through other people’s eyes...somehow when I was changed, it changed that propensity as well. It stopped being so immediate and became something...else.”

Hannibal’s glittering eyes were on him, catching the reflections from the dining room lights, dark with curiosity and his ravenous need to know.

“I see a lot of things about people,” Will said, struggling to put it into words. “Little details, small things in the bigger picture. The way they dress, the things they say and how they say them, the places they leave behind...I can make an image in my head of them, what they want and need, what they fear and love...”

“Not just empathy,” Hannibal murmured, considering it.

“No, not just empathy,” Will said. “It used to be, but it...changed. After I died, I could turn it outwards somehow, and show them a reflection of what they want the most.”

Hannibal merely watched him, taking it all in, forming plots and wants of his own, no doubt. Will might still be foolish in some ways after all these years, but they were enough alike that he recognized the look.

“I didn’t know it or didn’t care to know it at first,” Will went on, gaining confidence as he spoke. “It was an accident that it happened at all. I remembered...”

What do you want most in the world? Name me that thing...

“Someone,” he said, the word coming out on a frustrated sigh. “Something saying that to me. It seemed important somehow, vital. I said it to a woman when I caught her, asked her the question it had asked me...”

Name me that thing...

His hand twitched, nearly upsetting his wineglass. Hannibal calmly reached over and slid it a short distance away, safely out of range.

“The stag with raven’s feathers?” he clarified, and Will gave a jerky nod because it was true. He hadn’t remembered until just now but the thing that had reared its head in front of his mother and sister was the same thing that had asked him that question so long ago.

“Tell me, Will, is this...Ravenstag something that you’ve seen time and again since that night?”

“No,” Will said, unaccountably trembling. “No, not until...Just before, on my way back, I thought it was there behind me.”

“Perhaps using your gift in front of an observer reminded you of it,” Hannibal mused, calming him somewhat. “Though I find myself wondering why anything would create something as exquisite as you only to abandon you afterward.”

Bloody and staggering, so angry...Black, wide eyes and a bellow of pain...

“I think something happened to it,” Will whispered. A steady ringing sound brought his attention down to his hand which was trembling so hard that his fork was rapping a rhythm on his fine plate. He carefully put it down lest he ruin another possession belonging to Hannibal.

“What happened to it, Will?”

I did,” he admitted, eyes wide. “I think I happened to it...”

Hannibal mulled it over, cutting another few careful pieces of his dish and taking the time to appreciate consuming them.

“Considering how distressed you are, I want you to consider several things,” he said, putting down his silverware and dabbing at his mouth with his beautiful napkin. “Will?”

“What?” he asked breathlessly, forcing himself into the present.

“Stay with me, please.”

“I’m here,” he said, swallowing hard, settling back into his chair. “What do you want me to consider, Doctor Lecter?”

“Firstly, you’re deeply disturbed by the idea that you’ve somehow harmed the creature that we presume made you what you are,” Hannibal said, leaning forward just slightly, his gaze molten with intensity. “Is that regret, Will? Are you remorseful of doing such a thing?”

“What difference does it make?” Will harshly whispered, paling.

“All the difference,” Hannibal told him. “This creature did not pluck you from impulse. If you can discover what your feelings for it were along with your connection to it, then perhaps you’ll remember how it found you in the first place.”

Will nodded, wiping his hand over his face in a helpless attempt to shield his expressions from the man watching him so hawkishly.

“Secondly, I want you to consider how a freshly-minted boy such as yourself might manage to inflict fatal damage on something whose strength we do not yet know,” Hannibal said, forcing him to think about it.

Will frowned, a shudder of relief niggling through him. With a soft, breathless laugh he said, “I couldn’t have.”

“That’s right,” Hannibal agreed. “You couldn’t possibly have killed it, Will. You said you thought you were bleeding, which means you must have been wounded in some way. If it was really so strong as you seem to believe, then you may have merely wounded it in turn. Which begs the question, where is it now?”

Will shivered again, a shadow falling over him. The air grew thick and charged, heavy in his lungs.

“Is it darker in here?” He asked, taking a breath that tasted of ozone.

“Why has it left you alone all this time?” Hannibal asked, as if he hadn’t even spoken.


“Why would it not return to find you once its wounds were healed, had it any wounds at all?” Hannibal asked, unmindful of Will’s growing panic. “It chose you, Will.”

Will heard clicking hooves on the parquet floor, the blowing breath of a massive stag drawing nearer and nearer.

“Do you hear that?” he asked, frantic, but Hannibal seemed senseless of it.

“It chose you, Will,” he repeated, unblinking and smiling slightly. “Out of all it could have taken, it took you.”

A massive, noble head pushed into the room, black feathers scattering over the floor, black eyes finding him, filled with admonition, antlers reaching to the ceiling and growing to fill the room.

“Hannibal,” he said, his voice distant and weak.

“Yes, Will?” he answered, his voice coming from the Ravenstag, rumbling with depth and warmth.

Will shot to his feet, stumbling and falling. Hands grabbed his bare shoulders, heated skin on skin, strong enough to restrain even his frightened flailing.

“What is it, Will?”

What am I doing in here?!’

Hannibal’s bedroom materialized around him, the dining room table exchanged for the bench at the foot of his bed. Will was half in the floor, confused and disoriented, the bedding pulled down around his tangled legs.


Those warm hands shifted now that he wasn’t thrashing anymore, moving to cup his face as Hannibal loomed close, peering into his wide, staring eyes. “What do you see? Answer me.”

“I...Where did it go?”

“Will, tell me where you are right now,” Hannibal calmly ordered him, gripping the nape of his neck firmly.

It had the odd effect of calming him, mess that he was.

“Y...your bedroom,” he managed. Trembling as the adrenaline faded, Will gulped a deep breath, still looking wildly for the Ravenstag.

“It was here,” he croaked, shuddering. “It was in your dining room!”

“The only things in the dining room this evening were you and I,” Hannibal told him. “You spoke to me about your gift, Will. Do you remember that?”

He nodded, convulsing in shivers.

“You were dreaming,” Hannibal said, the certainty in his voice chasing away the last of his panic.

“I don’t remember coming up here,” Will said, his voice breaking slightly. “I keep...not remembering things.”

“Hasn’t that always been the case?” Hannibal asked, using his grip on Will’s nape along with a hold on his bicep to urge him back into the bed.

No, not since—” Will moved with him, too weak with shock to resist. “I mean, I don’t not remember things recently! That isn’t how it works! I can’t remember my past, Hannibal! Now I’m not remembering my present!”

“Old memories have teeth, Will,” Hannibal said, his hands dropping once Will was upright and back in bed. “Perhaps they are colliding with your current ones and blurring.”

He soaked that in, still panting, still utterly at a loss.

“How did I get in here?” he asked, aware that he was nude, that Hannibal was naked next to him. “Did we...”

“You walked, and no,” Hannibal answered. “You seemed a little lost in thought. I had no idea you were struggling with something inside yourself.”

“I heard you,” Will breathed, hanging his head. “You answered me, but it was the stag who spoke.”

“You associate me with something you consider powerful,” Hannibal observed, smoothing the covers over Will’s lap with absent perfectionism. “I’m the first person you’ve found interesting in all this time, Will. I think I can say with some certainty that what you found interesting before me came in the likeness of a feathered stag.”

It made sense, sense enough that he grasped at it, desperate for answers.

“Thank you,” he quietly said, the last of the trembles fading. He glanced over at Hannibal and found the man gazing at him, searching his face. “I heard you talking to me. It brought me back from whatever...that was.”

“You were frightened,” Hannibal murmured, even now able to be aloof and observant. “I had to wake you or risk my bedclothes.”

Will laughed, realizing it was a mild joke, and Hannibal smiled in response. “Get some rest, Will. Preferably without dreams this time.”

Hannibal settled back onto his pillow, his strong back to Will, sighing softly as sleep beckoned.

Will rubbed his eyes in the gloom, feeling the threatening shadow of the Ravenstag tickling the edges of his mind. He turned to the only stability he’d found thus far and wriggled close to Hannibal’s back, burying his nose against the man’s nape and pressing tight.

Hannibal wordlessly reached back, captured his wrist, and pulled Will’s arm over his side, folding it to his chest to tuck him close.

“Where are you right now, Will?” he murmured.

“I’m here,” Will breathed, able to close his eyes. “I’m right here with you, Hannibal.”

It was dark and he shouldn’t be out here, he knew that much. His father would hide him if he knew his son was so far from home so long past dusk.

But he’d wanted to be alone, to see the bright stars overhead and feel the warm night air. He wanted to get away from everyone for a little while, to escape the press of company and the too-intimate knowledge he always seemed to glean from their tiniest tells. His father thought it abysmal nonsense, but Will thought it tantamount to a curse. What he wouldn’t give for their dulled senses and closed minds. God, just a conversation on politics gave him a headache, changing positions by turns as the people around him argued. He felt as if he didn’t have an opinion of his own, a view of his own. He was just a cracking mirror, reflecting the people around him in ever-smaller detail.

But it was quiet here. The rustle of the wind in the treetops made no demands on him, shared nothing but formless whispers of times past.

His boots sank in the sucking mud at the edge of the road, slowing his desperate flight. His mother would die of shock to see him in such a state, out in just his hastily-donned pants and the dinner shirt he’d discarded after seeking the solace of his room. Any gently-bred person would gape in horror at his current undress, but Will never had cared about those things. Still, he plunged into the treeline to escape the potential of prying eyes, startling a few curious does that had come too close to the city edge.

He walked until the last of the unease left him, and that was when he heard a rustle in the brush to his left followed by a man’s voice. Curious, he followed the noise, scrambling quickly behind a fallen tree when he saw two men in the faint light of the stars.

“...everything on you, or so help me I’ll gut you.”

Will’s eyes widened, his heart pounding in his chest.

“Perhaps I will gut you, first,” the other man said, his voice foreign and guttural, jolting in its strangeness for a boy who had never left his home country. Still, it was not a very wise thing to say in such a situation, if Will had to say so himself. He peeked over the log, amazed to find that the man being robbed was not in the least bit worried. In fact, he exuded an air of boredom, idly buffing his nails against his impeccable waistcoat, his boots polished to such a high shine that Will could almost see his own pale, surprised face in them.

It happened so quickly he didn’t understand at first. There was a flash of movement, a soft wheeze, and the robber was writhing on the ground, darker black blossoming on his dark clothing.

“If you hold still, it shouldn’t hurt as much,” the other man said, crouching over him to draw the robber up by his collar. “Then again, you’ve greatly inconvenienced me and I find you unutterably rude. Perhaps for that I’ll slit your belly open and take what I want before I slit your throat, hm?”

Taken by the unspeakable drama he was witnessing, Will leaned too far forward and was suddenly off balance, tumbling over the log to land in a crash of cracking, old, dried wood.

The man’s head snapped up and a stag was suddenly in his place, rampant and ready with sharp hooves and stretching antlers, feathers fluttering as he bellowed a challenge—

Will woke on a soft gasp, lids fluttering and heart pounding as his dream faded, sinking into nothing more than dark shapes and the furious Ravenstag. He could feel it there behind the veil of his sleep haze, ready to plunge its stretching antlers into his illusions and shake his memories free.

He closed his eyes again, forcing his breathing to even out. He’d seen the man’s face in his dream, but now he couldn’t recall it, couldn’t quite remember the inflection or timbre of his deep voice, only that it had frightened him with its depth of violence and cruelty. His heart slowed from a raging gallop, steadying out to its normal rhythm as he calmed. He reached up and clasped Hannibal’s arm where it was flung across his chest, the hard, solid feel of his body grounding Will in the here and now.

It was just a dream,’ he told himself, but he knew better. He knew it was a memory, that the murky fog around it would slowly clear now that he knew it was there.

Next to him, Hannibal sighed softly in his sleep, his forehead pressed to Will’s temple, his own heart pounding a steady beat against Will’s shoulder.

He honestly couldn’t recall coming up here with Hannibal, knew nothing of the conversation that had taken place which resulted in him sleeping once more in Hannibal’s bed, albeit this time with less exhaustive activity. Had they discussed what would and would not happen? Or had he simply followed Hannibal in and taken over his bed?

Will tipped his head up for a quick scan of the room but there was no sign of his clothes. The robe, however, was draped neatly over the back of one of the chairs, giving him the idea that he’d probably maneuvered his way in here and Hannibal had relented. Whatever it was, it hadn’t been a seduction, that was for sure.

He felt the heat of Hannibal soaking into him, the press of his skin that was soft and smooth and sprinkled with hair by turns, and he found himself wishing it had been. Having been given the gift of sensation once more, Will found himself missing it all over again, and he wasn’t fool enough to believe they needed Alana here to bring it about.

Will rolled beneath Hannibal’s heavy arm to face him, forehead to forehead, idly trailing his fingers through the hair on Hannibal’s chest. It was a lighter shade than his hair, silvery ash. Will was laughably rather jealous, his own body hair being spare and fine and confined mostly to his groin and calves. Perhaps that, too, would have changed had he had a chance to grow all the way to his potential.

Frowning, he moved his fingers from Hannibal’s chest to his throat, absently skimming his fingertips up the man’s jaw to his neatly-trimmed sideburn. The gloom around them threw shadows beneath Hannibal’s uptilted cheekbone, making his face even more that of a glorious, indifferent god half lost in shadow, willing to bless and smite with the turn of his mood. It was a thought that made Will smile, laying there in the darkness. If he lived to be twice the age he was now, he knew he’d still never manage the same presence that Hannibal Lecter commanded so effortlessly. For all of his experience, all the lives lost at his hands, all the deeds he’d done, beds and throats he’d savaged, he was suspended in time with his boyish face and large, limpid eyes, his slender body and delicate hands. Peter Pan unwilling, never to be more.

Hannibal’s eyes opened. He blinked softly, taking a deep breath, his hand sliding against the base of Will’s spine in an absent caress. Another calculated intimacy, this time at a level reserved for those who slept through the night in his bed but no more personal than the warm touches he gave out like candy at social events. Just enough to make people feel singled out and special. Just enough to be charming, to make them love him a little more. Will knew those tricks well. They were variations of his own, after all.

“What has you singing your siren song, Ganymede?” Hannibal murmured, his voice rough with sleep. “That solemn expression makes you seem terribly young, Will.”

“Only on the surface,” Will whispered, still running his fingertip along Hannibal’s sideburn to feel the short, soft hairs against his skin. He was caught anyway, so there really wasn’t a reason to stop at this point. “I was terribly young when he took me.”

Hannibal’s lids fluttered closed. He lay still beneath the touch, his own fingers tracing aimless patterns on Will’s back just above the dimple of his backside.

“How young?”

“Twenty,” Will slowly said, the word sounding strange and foreign to him, the name for something insignificant and paltry. Twenty, the age of recklessness, thoughtlessness, and unintentional cruelty. The age when childish things seem so far away but adulthood had still not arrived, no matter how grown one felt. “I was twenty...”

“Already that old?” Hannibal purred, amused. “I wouldn’t have thought so.”

That,” Will whispered, smirking. “Makes you a pervert, Doctor Lecter.”

“No titles in bed, please, Will, I insist on it,” Hannibal said, sighing, his fingers trailing up to stroke Will’s back from shoulderblades to buttocks in one smooth, continuous motion. “Twenty when your Ravenstag took you...What a tempting morsel you must have made.”

“Not now?” Will asked, tracing the hollow of his cheekbone to the firm line that framed his mouth.

And now,” Hannibal amended, turning his head to nip Will’s fingertips. His teeth were startlingly sharp, uneven, but it suited him. It was somehow poetic that a man such as Hannibal should have such a dangerous bite beneath all that urbane charm.

“Am I safe, Hannibal?” Will inquired, noticing that his voice shook despite himself.

“No,” Hannibal told him, nuzzling his fingers aside to kiss his palm. “You’ll never be safe with me, Will. I am learning, however, that you have fight enough in you to save yourself, if needed.”

“I’ve done a pretty damned good job so far,” Will said, thinking back along the long years of his life. “Not all of them were old and weak. Not at first.”

“It took time to perfect your method,” Hannibal said, understanding. “You adapted to your strengths in ways that suit you. Despite that, there is a lion inside of you, Will, even if you rarely unleash it.”

“And is that what you want to see?” Will asked, goosebumps rising on his skin when Hannibal’s mouth traveled to his wrist, his sharp lower teeth raking over where his blood pumped.

“I want to see all of you,” Hannibal told him, moving his touch from Will’s back to grasp his wrist and tuck his hand down between them. “Everything you’ve never shown anyone ever before, I want to see.”

“And what do I get in return?” Will breathed, heart rate picking up once more.

Hannibal’s smile was wide and sharp even in the gloom. Without an ounce of modesty, he answered, “You get me.”

Chapter Text

You get me...’

There was a split second of thrilling anticipation followed by the inevitable realization that it was finite. Hannibal was no immortal like himself. He had risen to the peak of his prime and was starting to eye the road down in the distance. Perhaps, had Will found him twenty years before, it would have made a difference but that was foolish to even think of. They were here, now, and he would move on sooner rather than later, leaving Hannibal behind however he could manage to do so.

It put a fine edge of desperation in his lunging kiss, a sharp insistence driving him to near panic. He tasted copper on his lips and lapped it greedily, some essence of Hannibal’s lifeblood making it richer, warmer, more addictive than it had a right to be.

“Will,” he said, his bleeding mouth brushing Will’s, moving beneath his lapping tongue. “You’ve gone ahead of me, haven’t you?”

“Yes,” he said, his voice husky, his hand twisting between them to rake up Hannibal’s chest and find his shoulder, blunt nails digging in hard. He felt Hannibal wince against his onslaught but the man never once indicated he should stop.

“You weren’t there,” he said, pushing against him. Hannibal rolled with the movement, letting Will rear over him, seized with the desire to devour him whole and somehow save him from his empty future.

“And that bothers you?” Hannibal asked him, stroking Will’s back with both warm hands, unresisting beneath him.

Yes, it bothers me,” Will snarled, pressing his face against Hannibal’s throat, feeling the thrumming pulse just beneath the skin, fluttering against his lips. “It’s a crooked deal, Hannibal. My everything for your limited lifespan. I lose on that one.”

He knew already what was to come. He knew very little about Hannibal’s thoughts, but it was a reasonable expectation, a natural next step to name it.

“You could change me, Will,” Hannibal said, and Will suppressed a soft, knowing smile. He breathed easily and softly despite the weight of Will atop him. His fingers traced the stark, bunched muscle of Will’s arms and swept down his sides, waking a spill of gooseflesh with his touch. “You could ask me your question and do for me as the Ravenstag did for you.”

“No,” he whispered, placing a kiss where a bite had been intended. He could feel Hannibal’s heart pounding, the ripple of his belly as he breathed. Will shoved at the bedclothes and hitched his leg over Hannibal’s hips, straddling him, sitting up to settle himself firmly over Hannibal’s groin. “No.”

“No you cannot?” Hannibal purred. “Or no you will not?”

Will studied him, perched on him like a lithe, pale incubus, fingers tracing absent trails on Hannibal’s hard belly.

“No, I cannot,” he carefully said. “I don’t remember how it was done to me. I can’t do it to you.”

“Does that give you incentive, Will?” Hannibal inquired, content to stack his hands behind his head and merely look at him. His appreciation took physical form beneath Will’s round bottom, but neither of them acknowledged it. “The idea of taking more than a mortal lifetime to get your end of the bargain in full?”

“You just want immortality,” Will said, a soft laugh forcing its way from between his lips. His teeth gleamed in the darkness, white and sharp and fully descended.

“Is that such a terrible thing?”

“It is for me,” Will said, solemn once more.

“Because you are alone in your forever, Will,” Hannibal reminded him, noting the almost imperceptible slump of his straight shoulders. “You don’t have to be.”

Will frowned, mulling that over. Hannibal was blatantly manipulating him, which meant he didn’t care if Will knew it, which meant it was probably honest.

“That’s a pretty strong commitment to someone you don’t know,” he said at last, making the leap before him, reversing the image to see things through Hannibal’s eyes. For the first time in a long time outside of a hunt the perception that had plagued him as a human reared its head in full once more and the reversed image solidified. With absolute certainty he knew why Hannibal would seek immortality, how he would use it, what ends he would seek.

“Self-preservation is a strong motivator,” Hannibal said, smiling slightly. “As you well know.”

Will swallowed. He used both hands to trace the dome of Hannibal’s slight belly, fingers ringing his belly button where a narrow strip of hair began to widen as it swept downwards.

“Is it so outlandish to think that I would gladly trade the rest of my mortal life for an immortal one?” Hannibal asked, giving him that to chew on. “Perhaps when you remember what the Ravenstag did to you, Will, you will find that you made the very same choice, and my own will seem much more acceptable to you.”

“I already understand,” Will murmured, because he did. It was as simple as breathing, shifting to Hannibal’s perspective, seeing his reasons and the future as Hannibal did.

He absolutely knew that he wouldn’t be there. It was only a commitment insofar as Will was complicit in his own ignorance, and he was far too old for that now.

“How would you do it?” he asked, sweeping his hands up to Hannibal’s chest, stretching out over him like a warm, calculating cat.

“Slowly,” Hannibal told him, sliding one hand out from under his head to cup Will’s cheek. “As you would prefer.”

Will’s lids drooped, his mind conjuring the moment it would happen. There would be a test to ensure the transformation had taken, and then Hannibal would turn on his maker and consume him.

“I’d still be immortal,” he murmured, tipping his head down, shifting his weight onto his backside against the fullness in Hannibal’s groin. “With you forever...What would you take last, Hannibal?”

Hannibal’s hand grazed down to press over Will’s chest. His voice was absent and distracted when he said, “Your heart, of course.”

Will shuddered, taken with the idea. He would be transformed and elevated, devoured bit by bit with his still-beating heart taken last, making him forever a part of a man who would wield immortality like the weapon it was meant to be.

“Does that frighten you?”

“No,” Will said, immediate and firm. “I understand it, and that informs me, but it doesn’t frighten me, Hannibal. There isn’t much that truly does anymore, not deeply, anyway.”

“Allow me to try,” Hannibal offered, grasping his wrists suddenly in a bruising grip, shifting with sudden, controlled violence to twist Will beneath him, compliant and alert.

“Try all you like,” Will breathlessly said, his thighs parting to cradle the press of Hannibal’s hips, the man’s full weight bearing down on him. He tugged to test the strength of the grip on his wrists and his breath caught again when he felt the thrill of being well and truly pinned. He knew he could break Hannibal’s hold if he wanted to by employing his unnatural strength and it was just that certainty that Hannibal was relying on if things got to be too much.

He had an astounding amount of faith in Will’s desire to save himself.

“Use your gift on me, Will,” Hannibal purred, transferring Will’s wrist from his left hand to hold both in his right. Free now, he tangled his fingers in Will’s hair and gave a hard, steady tug that made him wince, teeth bared. “Turn it into a weapon to protect yourself.”

“That’s not what it would be,” Will gasped, stars bursting on the edges of his vision, his rushing blood flooding his groin with painful heat. He laughed, delighted, and knew with sudden clarity, “It would protect you.”

It was not desire to share himself that prompted Hannibal’s urging, but a desire to see Will helplessly ensnared in him.

Hannibal’s response was to suck a bite-mark on his bared neck, only lifting his head when Will grew taut with tension beneath him. His hand found the mark on Will’s hip and covered it, exploring the sensitive edges with a vague threat of causing him real pain ever lingering in the warmth of his touch. He unexpectedly released Will’s wrists and slid down his body to lave the mark with his tongue, even that gentle probing enough to make Will catch his breath.

“No one’s ever left a mark on me before,” Will said, the words escaping in a broken jumble. His hand knotted in Hannibal’s hair, ready to pull if his tongue pushed too hard. His hard cock jostled with each word he spoke, so close to his touch but so far. “Why can you?”

“You allow me to,” Hannibal purred, his attention shifting to Will’s trembling belly where he gripped him hard as he sat up, arching Will’s back to his satisfaction, arranging him like a display. He was panting, his hair falling over his brow and a slight sheen of sweat shining on his skin. He traced a line from Will’s breastbone down his belly with one manicured fingernail, right to where the straining tip of his cock lay restlessly pulsing.

Will took a dragging breath, shuddering hard because he knew, he knew. In that moment, Hannibal was imagining him split open, warm innards bared to him, seeking in flesh those secrets that Will’s mouth had not yet offered up.

“And what are your walls made of, Hannibal?” he asked, his words jagged, cutting glass, sharp enough that Hannibal flinched. “Blood and bone and determination? The understanding that there’s no one—not a single soul—worthy of knowing you completely?”

Hannibal stared down at him. When his smile came, it was cruel and cold and Will licked his lips with anticipation, wondering how it would manifest in his touch. He would heal eventually, whatever was done to him. He wasn’t even entirely sure that Hannibal taking his heart would truly kill him, not for good. He was unknown chaotic destruction barely leashed by his own civility, held in check only by the remnants of the empathy that had plagued his human lifetime.

“That wicked little tongue of yours, Ganymede,” Hannibal said, his voice husky and harsh. “Should be careful what it says.”

“Is that something you’re withholding, Hannibal?” Will asked, reckless in his curiosity. “Or was your bargain just a castle in the air?”

Hannibal’s hands spread over Will’s thighs, sliding beneath to hitch them up, knees bent and slender feet braced.

“I always keep my promises, Will,” he whispered, dropping over him to brace on his stiff arms, gazing down into Will’s excited face. “One of these days you will know me as well as you know yourself.”

Will laughed, the irony not lost on him, but he didn’t care. He really couldn’t give less of a fuck. His heart was pounding, his skin twitched with sensation as he was buffeted by excitement, delight, and even that biting fear by turns. It was a heady mixture he wasn’t about to forfeit for a half-truth. Whatever it was that danced over his skin like electricity must surely be madness, because he was willingly staying in the keeping of a man who had shown he could and would hurt him without hesitation or compunction. Perhaps he was truly insane after all? If so, he embraced it with the same furious hunger that he embraced the man descending on him.

Hannibal’s hands found his neck, fingers curling beneath to tilt his head, baring his throat. Will eagerly tipped his head back farther, utter compliance, his whole body jerking in response to the brush of lips down the column of his throat, the ravenous press of teeth with every potential to crush his windpipe. He shuddered and arched into it, hands scrabbling to clutch Hannibal’s broad shoulders, pulling him closer, urging him on. When the bite did finally come it tore a throaty moan from his parted lips, his hips arching up on instinct, pushing for friction and finding it in the press of Hannibal’s warm weight between his legs.

He could kill me...’

But he wouldn’t.

Will knew that as surely as he knew that after this tryst he would do anything necessary to remember what the Ravenstag had done to him, anything to please the dangerous beast moving over him, even if it meant that his heart would be eaten from his chest like a cherry plucked from a tree.

And he would do it because he’d finally found something interesting in the world, something that promised the end of boredom, however things turned out.

“I’m not as easy to break as I look,” he promised, his teeth aching to sink into something, fully descended, lupine and sharp.

“I have very few assumptions about you, Ganymede.”

Hannibal shrugged his shoulders, shifting Will’s hands down. He felt blood smear beneath his touch and realized he’d dug in too deeply. But it didn’t matter because Hannibal’s mouth was seeking lower, tongue and lips tracing the same trails Alana’s had as if to erase the memory of her touch on his skin. Will clutched at him, locking his corded thighs around Hannibal’s hips to keep him from gaining any space between them. He arched over Will with nimble grace, supple and sleek as he tasted the soft skin of his nipples, the salty skin stretching beneath his arms, bit to test the depth just over his sternum where his heart fluttered like a caged, wild thing, ready to burst with excitement.

He sat up suddenly on his knees, Will’s body bent to accommodate him, his slender back bowed and his limpid eyes glittering. Hannibal gazed down the length of Will’s pale, slim body, panting and calculating.

Will lowered his lids just slightly, a parody of the demure, and deliberately parted his lips as if he was going to speak. A flush suffused him when Hannibal’s eyes fastened on the movement, fixed on Will’s angelic face written with nothing less than an absolute desire to be soiled beyond redemption.

His cock twitched in a hard surge against Will’s sensitive skin; he grinned and purred, “Even knowing what this is, I’m unwilling to resist.”

“So was Zeus,” Will said, his full mouth curving in a smile. He tightened his legs around Hannibal’s hips and pulled, an undulation that poured up his body with liquid grace, unrepentantly inviting.

Hannibal was eager enough to be seduced, willing enough to test the muscles of Will’s thighs with his fingers and part them. Now that Will was shaken from making a game of his seduction, Hannibal was perfectly content to explore him in depth, his dark eyes bottomless holes that greedily devoured every tiny detail of the body beneath him.

It drove Will to distraction, that hunger, that clinical observation. He wasn’t content to be the only monster set on fire in this bed. He much preferred to burn together.

“Stop fucking thinking,” he snarled, moving suddenly to sit up, snatching Hannibal’s wrists in his hands and wrenching his arms out. It left the man exposed for a bare, split second, long enough for Will to place a biting kiss beneath his jaw, growling softly with irritation.

Hannibal twisted on instinct, breaking Will’s hold and gaining his own, one large hand on his nape and the other on his shoulder, the tender prelude to a snapped neck. He stared down into Will’s upturned face and Will swore for just a moment he saw his reflection in his amber eyes—flushed cheeks and parted lips, eyes sultry and half-mad, suspended somewhere between angel and demon with every capability to be either on his whim.

“I’m not yours, Hannibal,” he panted, and grinned. “You can’t dissect me for my secrets or bleed the truth from me. How does that make you feel?”

The hand tightened on his neck at the jibe, vaguely threatening. When he pushed back against it, lean body arching forward against Hannibal’s, he got a flicker of pure fire from those gleaming eyes and laughed.

“What do you want, Doctor Lecter?” he breathed, the pressure of Hannibal’s cock against his own acutely pleasurable. He wet his lips with the tip of his tongue and lowered his lids further, veiling his eyes behind his thick, dark lashes. “Or would you rather I tell you what I want?”

“No,” Hannibal said, the barest tremor to the word. His voice was strong but unsteady when he said, “What you want is irrelevant, Will. What matters is what I’m going to do to you and how much you’re willing to take.”

Will laughed again, shuddering hard, grasping at this fear and excitement that just kept hitting him in growing waves. His delight made him dizzy, stole his composure and pared him down to something even more savage than the monster who devoured the helpless.

He was still laughing when Hannibal bent him backwards, bowing his back so hard he had a heady moment when he thought his spine might snap. But he was limber and supple and a quick shift of his knees brought him flat on the bed, his hands dragging Hannibal to him, their mouths meeting in a brutal approximation of a kiss. Those warm hands swept down his back and cupped his round ass, squeezing him up tight. He rocked with the movement, seeking friction, his breath stuttering and harsh, his lean belly smeared with precum. Hannibal tasted like blood and wine, his tongue plunging into Will’s mouth with such force he nearly bit him. He moaned when his sore, unhealed lower lip was sucked between Hannibal’s sharp teeth but his violence was under tight and absolute control, no unintended pain planned, and instead the raw places where Hannibal’s teeth had pierced him were softly laved with a kiss.

“I don’t want that,” Will gasped, tossing his head. He was immediately and forcibly shaken by the scruff just once, just hard enough that his teeth clicked together. Angry, he snarled, “I don’t want your kindness, Hannibal!”

The grip on his nape slid to his hair and Hannibal’s fingers fisted painfully. Will thrashed in his grip, resenting the other hand that took hold of his chin and made him look directly up into Hannibal’s handsome face.

Oh, there was fire there, now. Those eyes fairly danced with it. Fire and cruelty and something that might have been hope, though for what Will couldn’t imagine. Hannibal smiled just slightly and Will wanted to kiss him again, to feel his warm, wet lips and sharp, frightening teeth on his other hip, setting a mark to match the first.

“You want what I tell you to want, Will,” Hannibal purred, deceptively soft. He pressed his thumb just beneath Will’s lip, his fingers curling beneath his chin in a  soft stroke. “When I tell you to want it.”

‘Lie however you are comfortable...Nude, of course...’

‘Kindly clean up the dining room before you dress...’

Will fought his grip, heedless of the pain, but he wasn’t fighting to get away. He was fighting because it felt good to finally have something that would resist him.

But it didn’t feel half as good as having Hannibal smile wickedly at him, knowing already what he needed and how he needed it.

“It’s nearly dawn,” Hannibal said, his tone conversational, his touch downright devilish when his fingers moved from Will’s chin to trace a trail down his body. “I wonder how quickly I can manage to unmake you?”

Will’s breath came out in a staccato of half-curses when Hannibal’s fingers swiftly cupped him. He jerked in the man’s grip, eyes rolling with the pure sensation of it. Somehow, that intoxicating awareness of Hannibal grew teeth and bit into his nerves; he arched into the touch and snarled, wanting more.

“Emotional abstinence has certainly left you starving,” Hannibal purred, his hold on Will’s hair pulling, forcing his head back into the pillow to bare his throat once more.

“Good thing you enjoy feeding things,” Will brokenly said, clutching his shoulders, unashamedly trying to fuck the hand so teasingly fondling him. He hissed a fluid, impressive curse that made Hannibal chuckle.

“I must admit, Will, seeing you starving in this capacity is infinitely gratifying,” he said, letting go of Will’s hair and his cock, leaving him splayed out on his bed in a resentful, beautiful heap.

The room was subtly lighter, dawn creeping in through the cracks and revealing Hannibal’s handsome face in full. Even in the softest of lights his cheekbones were stark, his mouth perfectly shaped and stern, lending him a dignity that didn’t fail no matter that he was naked and disheveled and alarmingly aroused.

Hannibal cocked his head, observing him, and Will asked, “You thinking about what you want me to want, Doctor Lecter?”

“No,” he said, absorbed. “I’m thinking about canceling my appointments today to deal with you.”

Will grinned. When he trailed his hand down his belly to take himself in hand, Hannibal suddenly caught his wrist and stopped him. Will didn’t resist when he settled back, dragging him along by the grip on his wrist. Even reclining at the wrong end of his bed he was noble as a king, his dark eyes shuttered and secure in what he wanted.

“Open your mouth.”

Defiant only for the split second it took him to flash Hannibal a sultry glare, Will slowly wet his lips and opened his mouth. Dark eyes held his as Hannibal touched his lips, his fingers dipping into Will’s mouth to caress his sharp, lupine teeth.

“If you draw blood,” he softly said, hooking his finger behind one thick fang to draw Will nearer. “We’ll discover together if the pieces cut off of you grow back by morning.”

Will didn’t answer. His tongue curled around Hannibal’s fingers and he sucked on them, slowly drawing back.

He didn’t need to be told. He drew his spread knees up and bent forward, hands steadying on Hannibal’s thighs. It didn’t feel like the first time doing this, didn’t feel strange or alarming when he darted his tongue out to taste the tip of the man’s heavy cock. Musky and wet, pearly precum salty-thick and sticky. The skin was incredibly soft beneath the trailing touch of his tongue, responsive to even his harsh breathing.

Will closed his eyes and carefully drew the full head into his mouth, cautious of his sharp teeth. The shudder that wracked him echoed in Hannibal’s body and he felt fingers twining in his curls. Not tugging now, not guiding, just petting him so that gooseflesh chased down his back and arms.

He added pressure with his cheeks, decades of being on the receiving end coming to his aid. His wet tongue slid out, trailing further down the length of him as he tested his own gag reflex.

Turned out he didn’t have one.

His nose flattened to Hannibal’s groin and the man actually groaned, arching slightly into him, the long, fat length of his cock contracting hard down Will’s throat. He swallowed and swallowed, shivering, lids fluttering. It was suffocating and incredibly powerful, a keen, strange pleasure all on its own, a penetration he hadn’t considered but realized he wanted more of. God he wanted to bite down, to taste the blood swelling Hannibal’s cock to delightful proportions. He wanted to sink his teeth in and feel him twitch, feel him cum helplessly.

Will pushed harder, lips fastened around the base, hoping against hope to win another groan out of him. He might just cum all over himself if he did, and he didn’t give a damn. He’d been deprived for too long to deny himself anything now, no matter how quick and hard it might be.

Hannibal released a long, throaty sigh, kneading Will’s nape, sweeping his palm up against his curls in a warm caress. Will caught suction and pulled up, a soft, helpless moan escaping around the thick flesh in his mouth to feel it sliding from between his lips, silky-hot and throbbing. He wanted to do it again, swallow him all the way down, feel the pulse of him deep down in his throat and the frantic spasm as he came, but Hannibal tugged on his hair, then, holding him from doing more.

Languid now, strangely satisfied by it, Will licked his lips and swallowed hard, surprised when Hannibal suddenly dragged him up by his shoulders and kissed him.

It was the most undone he’d seen him yet, his calculation lost to urgency, finally helpless against desire as so many others had been in Will’s life. But the control was still there, violence restrained and maddeningly so, even as he bodily slung Will around onto his hands and knees with lithe, tense grace.

“Was my tongue better suited to that, Hannibal?” Will asked, laughing breathlessly, still tasting the thick, salty flesh in his mouth.

“I would say so,” Hannibal said, the words clipped and tight as he crowded close.

Still panting, Will twisted around to look at him, shuddering to see him so utterly unfettered. He was pouring something onto his hand and Will bit his lip when that same hand slid between his cheeks.

“Open,” Hannibal ordered, slapping first one inner thigh then the other to make Will comply. He did so, head hanging, shivering in spasms when Hannibal’s slick fingers expertly teased into him.

It forced a shocked sob from him, harsh and desperate. He grabbed the nearest pillow and hugged it underneath his chin, biting the corner. Those fingers weren’t gentle or cautious but Will didn’t need them to be. His body gave with the motion, greedy for more, almost like he’d done this before, though he would certainly have remembered.

In and out, slick and fast, twisting. Two fingers then three, and Will wasn’t entirely sure he couldn’t take more. It was a thought that made him snarl into the pillow, his dribbling cock bouncing in response.

Hannibal crooned at him, making that soft sound like he had in his office, chastising him as if he was a cat. He didn’t warn him, just gripped Will’s hip—right over the mark he’d left, no accident in its placement—and fed the swollen tip of his cock in along his slick fingers.

Will jerked beneath him, trembling hard, feeling Hannibal’s fingers slide out of him as his cock slid in.

Spots danced before his eyes and his breath came out in a gasping rush. He twitched hard and tipped his hips up on impulse, sobbing as Hannibal settled deep. He couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think, the whole of his body and mind was clenched tight around the hot, thick flesh inside him. He hadn’t counted on it feeling good, on liking it, on anything, but Hannibal gripped his hips in both strong hands, shifted Will’s body to bow prettily beneath him, and put the full force of his powerful hips behind his next thrust.

All he could do was relax into it, moaning senselessly, every pummeling crack of Hannibal’s hips against his ass sending a shockwave through him, so rough and fast that Will’s cock slapped up hard against his belly, splattering precum over his skin with each stroke.

Hannibal panted behind him, working him furiously to just the edge of pain, moving Will’s compliant body to suit his own needs, Will’s pleasure rendered incidental.

So why was he moaning over and over, “fuck me, fuck me, oh god, fuck me”? He didn’t even recognize the words at first, that they were coming out of him, the pillow forsaken. Luckily for him, Hannibal had no intentions of stopping, didn’t even pause when Will’s legs gave out underneath him. He just tightened his grip on Will’s slim hips and tilted him up tighter, a piston of hard flesh inside of him, riding him along the fine cusp of pain until Will bucked in his grasp, going tight and rigid beneath him.

Will lunged in sudden, breathless climax, his orgasm drawing him into a taut line, clenching around Hannibal’s deep thrusts, his cock bouncing wildly, seeking friction as he spurted viscous ropes of cum onto Hannibal’s pristine sheets. He was gasping and moaning and he couldn’t muster the energy to feel embarrassed by the way he begged, wanting it to stop and wanting it to last forever. It was so keenly satisfying and frustrating all at the same time, bursting into orgasm without a single touch to his throbbing cock.

Tension gave way to boneless release. Hannibal paused long enough to shift behind him, sliding backwards to settle Will astride him.

“Holy fuck...” he moaned, panting, centuries of vocabulary eluding him in the face of one very good orgasm. “Oh, God, wait, Hannibal—”

He cut off on a hiss of indrawn breath when Hannibal tucked up around him, balls deep and rocking, one arm locked around Will’s chest, his free hand dropping to wrap around Will’s spent cock.

He squeezed down around him reflexively, sobbing when Hannibal managed to coax him back to full salute and it was so delightfully painful, his cock so achingly sensitive that he squirmed helplessly in another hard, dry orgasm, suspended in the throes of that white-hot line where pain and pleasure looped in on themselves with vicious effect.

He was so lost in in the agonizing pleasure of it that Hannibal’s own orgasm came as a surprise. Will uttered a soft, moaned complaint when the man arched up hard into him, the hard spasm of his cock pulsing and pushing inside of him. A shudder wracked Hannibal’s warm body and Will echoed it, trying to curl protectively around his spent sex and the relentless, slick pull of Hannibal’s trembling hand.

Hannibal slowed to a stop, panting harshly behind him, both of them sweaty and breathless. Will could feel it starting to seep out of him around the thick flesh still buried to the balls in his ass. He wondered if Hannibal would be appalled when he pulled out.

“Ganymede,” Hannibal said, breathless, dropping a sudden and surprising kiss onto Will’s sweaty nape. “You truly could stop even a god in his tracks, Will.”

Will smiled, tired and spent, softening in more ways than one. He was limply unresisting when Hannibal shifted him, pulling out in a gush of spent sex and expensive lube. Considering the way he kneaded Will’s backside when Will slid forward, he certainly wasn’t appalled.

“Will?” he asked, moving to sit next to him, lean belly caving with every breath, one large hand stroking Will’s sweaty, smooth back.

“I’m fine,” Will panted, answering the unspoken inquiry. “Tired, but...I’ll live.”

Hannibal’s eyes sparkled with amusement at that. With a sharp, delighted smile, he purred, “I would count that as I win, were I you.”

Chapter Text

Hannibal left him to sleep it off and Will drifted in that in-between place where the waking world merged with sleep. The sound of the shower drifted to his ears like the pattering of rain the night he’d gone home again. Half asleep, Will found himself there once more, the scent of a cigar leading him through the shadows of his family home to find his father. It seemed important that he find him, important to tell him...something. An apology? A plea for forgiveness?

I left them...Why did I leave them?’

There was no stag there with him, no dangerous presence outside of his own. He wasn’t sure if he’d met the Ravenstag yet, the timeline of his life crossed itself, confusing him.

‘William, I don’t want you traipsing around in the woods from now on,’ father said, stern and humorless at the dinner table where they all sat rigidly in their chairs, scrubbed rosy and clean and dressed in their best.

Is it because of the body—

Father’s face darkened, his blue eyes cutting to Mary in annoyed warning...His little sister’s name was Mary, and he nearly sobbed in relief to know it. ‘This is not appropriate conversation for the dinner table, William. Just do as I say, for your own sake!’

“Mary,” Will murmured, shifting in the bed enough to make the moment subside. Hannibal was gone, just a faint trace of his aftershave lingering in the room. Will reluctantly rolled out of the bed and did his best to tend to the rumpled bedding, but there was really no rescuing it after their one-on-one session this morning. He opted instead to strip it all off and pile it on the floor before going in for a shower himself.

By the time he got downstairs again—barefoot as he preferred, his dark jeans rather longer than he’d anticipated and still stiff, his shirt negligently buttoned and untucked—it was mid morning but still gloomy in Hannibal’s house. He seemed to prefer it to have...atmosphere, a combination of furnishings, wall colors and decor conspiring to leave the house elegantly museum-like and hushed.

...explain this?!”

Will picked up the half-shrieked comment and headed towards Hannibal’s office, curious. For a second there it had sounded like...


Without a doubt Mathilda was back again, this time with a bone to pick. Will quietly cracked the door to Hannibal’s office to find her once more before his desk, hands on her narrow hips. Hannibal was holding something card-sized, perhaps a photograph, consternation written in the frown on his handsome face.

“What do you wish me to tell you, Mathilda?” he finally asked, his mild calm only seeming to infuriate her further.

“I want you to tell me how it’s possible!” she ordered, hooking her finger around the item in question to point something out. “This photo was taken forty years ago, Hannibal. Explain to me how this can even be!”

“I have no obvious explanation for you,” Hannibal murmured, his brown eyes boring into hers. “What explanation do you have for yourself?”

She threw her hands up in aggravation, swinging away to pace nervously, her heels clicking loudly in the sudden silence. Finally, she managed to say, “There isn’t one.”

She approached the desk again, almost imploring when she said, “There isn’t one, is there? There is just no possible, feasible way to explain this.”

Hannibal’s full mouth pursed slightly and he tipped the photo towards his chest, bending it into a slight curve. “Do you have copies of this photograph, Mathilda?”

She laughed harshly, nodding. “Of course I do, Hannibal! It was my sister’s wedding, for God’s sake! There’s any number of photographs just like this one!”

“Is there any way I could persuade you to keep this to yourself?” Hannibal asked her, his tone silky.

“What if I don’t?” she asked, her chin tipping up at a haughty angle, her thin frame tight with tension. “Hm? What if I tell the whole wide world, Hannibal? What happens then?”

Hannibal’s slight, delighted smile curved his lips then. With barely hidden delight he told her, “You would be ostracized from your social circles for your ridiculous accusations and find yourself quite alone and quite vulnerable.”

She swallowed hard, the noise audible even to Will, who stayed hidden behind the door panel watching it all play out.

“Exactly,” she conceded. “I didn’t come here to make threats, Hannibal. I came here for answers because my mind is having difficulty accepting what my eyes are seeing.”

“That is profoundly unsettling,” Hannibal purred, taking the photograph and sliding it into an envelope before putting it into his desk drawer. Will heard the click of a lock falling into place and wondered who he was hiding it from. “Should you like to discuss it further, I would be happy to accommodate a future session for you, Mathilda. Sadly, I have an appointment very shortly and would appreciate it if you could use the other door when leaving.”

She did so, her face red with frustration, every step clipped and sharp. She was too well mannered to slam the door behind her but it closed with a decisively intentional click, a subtle display of displeasure.

“Hannibal?” Will asked, letting himself into the room in her wake. “What was that all about?”

Hannibal discreetly slipped the key to his desk into his jacket pocket and greeted Will with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

“Mathilda was taken with nostalgia and was reviewing her old photographs,” he said, striding smartly around his desk to straighten a few volumes of books that dared to be out of place. “She found one that just happened to capture someone who should not have been there then, nor now, without changing at all.”

Will’s brows rose and a soft “oh” escaped him before he could stop it.

“She did say she recognized me,” he mused, drifting to a stop behind one of the chairs. He braced his hands there, fingers curling on the back of it, his thoughts reorganizing. “I guess she did.”

“I think you should revisit Mathilda, Will,” Hannibal said, things organized to his satisfaction. He crossed the short distance to lay his hand on Will’s shoulder, warmly squeezing. He had a tendency to press just slightly into the personal space of whoever he was granting his attention to, Will had discovered. Just enough to make it feel more intimate than it actually was, just enough to bring awareness to him in a way that might distract, make one susceptible to his suggestions. Even realizing it was no guard against it. Will still felt his nearness acutely and thrilled with it, treasuring each moment he felt so shockingly alive.

“She’ll be frightened of me,” Will murmured, turning his head just a little, countering with his own carefully constructed manipulations, giving Hannibal an unhindered view of his round cheek, the plumpness of his lower lip, the fan of his dark lashes shielding his gaze.

Hannibal smiled, his hand moving to Will’s far shoulder as he stepped closer, tipping Will’s head up and turning it towards him. “She won’t be. She has a compulsive need to save people, Will. She couldn’t save her husband from anxiety and bad decisions. She couldn’t save her son from drugs and over-indulgence. She will want to save you, her ageless beauty, the one precious thing she has left.”

Will frowned. He’d taken Mathilda off of his menu when he’d decided to stay here in Hannibal’s home. He hadn’t counted on her digging into her past and finding evidence of having met him before, forty years ago when she’d been a silly young thing full of flirty laughter and excitement for her future.

He suddenly and vehemently did not want to kill her. She’d had enough disappointment so far that even her wealth and position couldn’t make up for. He didn’t want to be yet another.

“Will?” Hannibal purred, his hand caressing Will’s jaw, stroking up his temple into his still-damp curls. He realized what he was seeing and pressed, “Leaving her to live out the rest of her natural lifespan ceased being an option the moment she found that photograph.”

“I know that,” Will said, wetting his lips with the tip of his tongue.

“Then I expect you know what’s to be done about it,” Hannibal said, stepping away from him entirely, his goal achieved. It rankled Will, annoyed him almost to the point of rebellion. Hannibal’s manipulation was obvious to him, as his own manipulations were obvious to Hannibal, but that didn’t make them any less effective or frustrating, especially when he had no qualms letting Will see how easy it was for him. Even spending a few hours tied into a tight knot of flesh and delightful pleasure barely registered on the grand scale that was Hannibal Lecter.

“If you’ll excuse me, Will, I need you to lock that door behind you, please,” Hannibal instructed him, readying himself for his appointment.

“Anything you want  me to get for you while I’m...out?” Will asked, a mocking smile curling his lips when he said it.

“I’ll leave that to your best judgment, Will,” Hannibal said, sparing him a glance and a sharp smile of his own. “Try not to be too bored today.”

Will retreated, closing and locking the door in his wake, a true grin spreading over his face. In all the many lonely years of his timeless existence, he never dreamed he’d meet anyone as unusual, frustrating, and compelling as Hannibal Lecter, even if he was a manipulative, emotionless bastard.

I wonder if I can get that out of him?’ Will mused, laying plans for Mathilda’s farewell. ‘I wonder if either one of us can manage to get that out of each other?

It would amuse him to try, he knew, and that was all the incentive he really needed.

Will knew Mathilda’s routine by now. When she met her girlfriends, where she went for dinner, book club, bridge, whatever struck her fancy. He knew more about Mathilda than he knew about anyone thanks to having lived with her for a week, something he’d only done but rarely in the course of his life as a predator. He knew that, barring incident, she’d be swimming laps in her warm, indoor pool when he sneaked back onto her property, swimming back and forth, back and forth, chasing her fading youth with determination and desperation.

But she’d found a damned photo. She’d remembered him forty years after having met him once before, which surprised Will. He never thought he was that interesting. He never thought he was as beautiful as they seemed to think, merely acceptable. So much emphasis on looks, laughably so when a person’s appearance was the one thing about them guaranteed to change. Everyone except Will, forever on the cusp of full adulthood, trapped forever in a man’s body with a boy’s softness clinging to its edges.


He unfolded from the bench where he’d been sitting, waiting for her to finish her lap and make the return. She held on to the edge of the pool and gazed at him, bewildered but not afraid.

“Mathilda,” he softly said in response, taking slow, unthreatening steps towards her. “Would you come out, please?”

“Of course,” she said, her smile unfeigned. He offered his hand and she took it, allowing him to lift her from the water with effortless ease. “I didn’t expect to see you.”

“Didn’t you?” he asked, steadying her. She was so much smaller than him without the armor of her clothing and painfully high heels.

“I thought Hannibal would entertain you well enough,” she said, letting go of his hand and plucking her towel up to dry her face. She seemed cagey suddenly, oddly disconcerted by the subject she herself had brought up. Out of nowhere, she said, “You should be careful of him, William. I don’t know if you’re entirely safe.”

“I know,” he said, offering her a soft, sad smile. “He told me about the photograph.”

Her gaze flew up to his, startled and surprised. “Wh...what did you say to him? I thought...I thought I was going crazy when I saw it!”

Will gave a gentle shake of his head, murmuring, “No, not crazy, Mathilda. Just...inconvenient.”

“What?” He smelled her fear, sudden and sharp, could hear the pace of her heart jump higher.

“Mathilda,” he said, advancing on her. She took a step backwards in response, clutching her towel to her chest as if it might protect her somehow. “I want you to know that I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what, William?” she asked, the tremor in her voice betraying her fear.

“I’m sorry that I couldn’t have left you in a better place than where I found you,” he breathed, reaching out to cup her face in his hands, her skin cool from the water, the stench of chlorine overriding the remnants of her expensive perfume. “I’m sorry that I had to return to you this way and end it all.”

“William...” She saw his teeth descending. He could see his reflection in her dark eyes, how they widened as those sharp, lupine teeth were revealed.

“What do you want most in the world, Mathilda?” Will asked her, feeling it swelling from him, reaching for her, snaring her in her own desires. “Name me that thing.”

She trembled. Tears streamed down her cheeks. Breathlessly, she mewled, “You. I want you.”

I want you...’

Will lay in the midst of a warm, rumpled bed, the scent of heat and sex clinging to his skin. A man was there at his side, the Ravenstag unmasked, the shadow of antlers clinging to his head. Firelight played over his face but Will couldn’t see it, wasn’t ready to see it. It was enough to feel those questing fingers on his skin, trails of fire down a body ripe for pleasure. He was shameless in his display, delighted in the delight taken in him, for once in his life a beautiful, priceless treasure instead of a broken, bewildering anomaly.

What do you want most in the world, Will?’ The Ravenstag asked, kissing his palms one after the other, sharp teeth prickling his skin. ‘Name me that thing...’

You,’ Will told him, opening himself wide for utter possession, a willing vessel waiting to be filled in whatever way the Ravenstag chose to suit itself. ‘I want you...’

Will staggered back, skittering backwards in surprise. Mathilda floated face-down in her pool, a haze of blood drifting out from her head. There was a bloody stain on the side of the diving board where her temple had struck hard. Will had a vague understanding that he’d flung her from him, her death accidental in his surprise.

He brought his hand to his mouth and bit down on it hard, the only way he could think of to pen up the urge to scream. Of all the people he would see die pointlessly, Mathilda was the last. He’d come here with his gift at the ready and ended up giving her a paltry, common end, painful and frightening and stupidly inept.

“I’m sorry,” he moaned, reining himself into a semblance of control. He cast one last, regretful look at her empty shell and silently fled the way he’d come in, unnoticed and unknown.

“Are you just going to stare at me, Doctor Lecter, or do you have something to say?” Will asked, glowering at the man seated across from him. They were settled comfortably in Hannibal’s small study, seated before the fire with drinks in hand.

Hannibal took a sip of his liquor and considered him, his critical eyes noting Will’s hunched posture and tight, tense face.

“Things didn’t go as planned,” Hannibal observed, turning his glass in his long fingers. “What happened, Will?”

Will threw himself back into the seat, his drink sloshing over his hand unheeded, his eyes upraised to search the ceiling like it might have answers for him. He slapped his other hand over his eyes and took a deep breath, blowing it out with frustration.


“It didn’t work,” he said, angry at himself, angry at Hannibal for sending him after her. “It didn’t fucking work.”

“Language, please,” Hannibal murmured. Whatever his preference in the bedroom, he was consistently insistent outside of it. “What didn’t work, Will. Tell me what has you so disturbed.”

“I went there, I waited,” Will explained, pausing to gather his thoughts, trying to find words to explain. “I had her, Hannibal! I had her right there in my hands! I asked her my question and...”

Hannibal cocked his head, watching him struggle, using that, too, to feed his insatiable appetite for the world around him.

“She said, ‘You’,” Will whispered, laughing harshly. He raked his free hand through his hair, setting his curls into disarray. “She said what she wanted most in the world was me.”

Hannibal’s brows rose, clearly not expecting that any more than Will had. “So you found yourself unable to grant it to her?”

“No,” Will said, shaking his head. “No was my answer, Hannibal. Mine.”

Hannibal merely waited, expecting him to explain.

“When the Ravenstag asked me what I wanted most in the world, asked me to name it,” Will whispered, trembling with the memory. “That was my answer to”

Hannibal put his glass down and leaned forward, effortlessly elegant as he rescued Will’s glass in turn. Placing it carefully on the small side table next to him, he leaned his elbows on his spread knees and steepled his fingers over his mouth, considering.

“She jostled loose a memory,” he said, more to himself than to Will. “And you reacted without thinking.”

“I don’t know what I did,” Will admitted, laughing at his own failure. “God, I have no idea. I was there in a room with the Ravenstag one second, and the next Mathilda was floating in her pool.”

“Did you drown her, Will?”

“No, I...I think I threw her, or maybe I just cracked her head against the diving board on purpose,” he said, the words bitter. “She sparked a memory and I made her pay for it.”

Hannibal nodded softly, frowning.

“It wasn’t what I wanted for her,” Will said, his anger ebbing away to sorrow.

“Why is it not what you wanted for her?” Hannibal inquired, watching him carefully. “Mathilda was nothing to you, Will. Had you not been distracted by me, she would have met with the same fate as your other victims.”

Victims?” Will echoed, a laugh startled out of him. His blue eyes darkened when he searched Hannibal’s face, a slight, mystified smile on his lips. “You choose your words so carefully to suit your purpose, Doctor Lecter. My conquests become victims but are sometimes merely prey depending on your intentions?”

Hannibal smiled at him, pleased. “You are far too intelligent to be influenced by such, Will. But tell me, why does Mathilda’s death upset you?”

“Because it was mine to give her the way I wanted to!” Will flared. “I wanted to give her that gift, Hannibal. I wanted to let her go with some semblance of—”

“Dignity?” Hannibal offered, flustering him.

“Yes,” Will said, frowning because despite his doubts Hannibal had been right in naming his methods as he had. “Something better than drowning. She looked so common that way. It wasn’t right for her.”

“All humans die, Will, one way or another,” Hannibal reminded him. “Some go in grandiose ways, others slip away silently. A death is not always a reflection of the life lived, Will. Sometimes it is merely a death.”

Will shifted in his chair, sullen. It had been a very long time since it had bothered him to this extent.

“Or is it simply that without your gift, without taking their lives in such a way, you commit mere murder instead of artistry?”

Will glared at him, irritated.

“Murder has its advantages, too,” Hannibal said, settling back and crossing his legs, idly tracing the crease in his pants leg with thumb and forefinger. “Through murder you can give a life meaning that a death—by accident or age—cannot provide. Murder can be a gift, too, Will. Would you like to see?”

Will blinked, suddenly alert.

“Are you offering to take me with you, Doctor Lecter?” he ventured, curious.

Hannibal’s eyes were somber and weighty when they met his own, searching him for signs of hesitation or reluctance.

“I would like to take you for a certain purpose, Will, yes,” he said, skirting the issue. “What happens will be up to you.”

“Because I always have a choice?” Will asked, almost mockingly.

Hannibal was too well-mannered to rise to the bait. Instead, he gave Will a smile that was predatory with anticipation and purred, “Oh, you do have a choice, Will. You always have.”

Hannibal drove him out of the city that night. There was a fire in his eyes that matched what Will had seen in his bed, though it stemmed from another place entirely. Hannibal’s passions, it seemed, presented the same to even Will’s discerning eye.

“Do you have something specific in mind, or are we just...going?” Will asked, lolling in the passenger seat of Hannibal’s ridiculously luxurious car.

“I always have something in mind,” he answered, angling an amused glance at Will. “Considering how Mathilda’s death affected you, it occurs to me that you aren’t utilizing your talent to the fullest, Will. When I asked you if it bothers you, you said no. Was that a lie?”

“No,” Will said, turning to look out at the passing scenery. They were reaching a less populated area, passing less return traffic. “It wasn’t a lie and, no, it doesn’t bother me, per se.”

“‘Every death since then is a weight around my neck’,” Hannibal echoed back at him, amused.

“They aren’t irreconcilable,” Will said, his fingers spreading on the warm leather seat, exploring the texture with his sensitive fingertips. “I carry their weight so it isn’t meaningless, but that doesn’t stop me from doing it all over again.”

“You deceive yourself,” Hannibal decided.

“I compartmentalize,” Will corrected him, smiling a little. “Time hasn’t taught me patience, Doctor Lecter, but it has taught me pragmatism.”

“Pragmatism has its value,” Hannibal agreed, turning off on a side road. “But now I would like to see something else.”

“What’s that?” Will asked, wary now. The Bentley’s tires crunched on gravel as Hannibal maneuvered it onto what was little more than a dirt path.

“Your participation,” Hannibal said, shutting the car off and pocketing the keys. They sat in the sudden silence broken only by the soft click of the engine cooling.

“Participation, Doctor Lecter?” Will asked, his voice a study in neutrality. “Is this an attempt to show me how murder can be meaningful?”

“I want you to hunt for me again,” Hannibal said, his hooded eyes gleaming in the faint light. “Not as an angel of mercy, but one of vengeance.”

“Avenging what, may I ask?”

Hannibal’s brows rose. “Does it matter? I asked you to hunt for me and you said yes. There is nothing more to be said.”

“I want what you tell me to want when you tell me to want it?” Will asked, his voice silky.

Hannibal’s eyes fastened on his mouth. “Yes.”

Will sighed a little, knowing the way his mouth parted brought other things to mind, just a small reminder of his own appeal. He found himself wanting to remind Hannibal of that, now that they were out in the middle of nowhere with murder hanging between them. He very much wanted Hannibal Lecter to remember what had transpired in his bed and hope for another chance at that.

It was as good a way as any to stay alive and entertained, and he was in a damned terrible mood from Mathilda’s death, that was for sure.

“Down this trail there are four cabins,” Hannibal said, pulling his gaze from Will’s mouth with gratifying reluctance. “In the last cabin on the left there is a man drinking his last drink on earth.”

He turned and looked at Will again, sober, all thoughts of sex set aside in favor of intensity. “There’s a case in the back seat. Get it, please.”

Will frowned slightly but did as he was bidden, sliding out into the warm night air to retrieve Hannibal’s bag. Hannibal himself was ill-dressed for this area, still in his expensive suit and gleaming Italian shoes. If he was concerned about it, he certainly hid it well.

Will wordlessly handed him the bag, walking alongside him through the thick brush in the darkness. There wasn’t a soul around, no whispers of small animals in the night, just the rustle of trees as the wind sighed through it.

It’s like the night I snuck out,’ Will thought, smiling a little to himself with the remembered ease of that moment. His smile faded, however, when he thought of the would-be robber lying bleeding on the ground with the Ravenstag rearing over him.

“How’d you know he’d be here?” Will asked, seeing the cabins beyond the trees.

“Social media is a curious thing,” Hannibal said, angling towards the last cabin. “Enabling one to follow another’s actions with ease. I find it quite easy to track whomever I wish to find.”

“How do you choose them, Hannibal?” Will asked.

“Consider what I would wish to remove from this world,” he said instead of answering. “That is how I choose them.”

Will laughed softly, shaking his head. “Outright rudeness. Lack of manners in general. Anything that offends your aesthetics.”

“There are very few requirements to find oneself on a very long list,” Hannibal told him, amused. “I take them as the mood strikes me, or as my requirements dictate.”

“The world’s a massive larder,” Will mused, finding it rather lovely. “The hunter’s hunter.”

“As you are, Will,” Hannibal reminded him, pausing behind the chosen cabin to hang the bag by one strap on a stubby tree limb. He unzipped it and pulled out a peculiar thing. Will thought it was a hazmat suit at first, then realized it lacked a hood or faceguard.

He watched with curiosity as Hannibal pulled it on over his clothing, shoes and all, zipping it up with ease to encase himself in slick plastic.

“You’re careless with your kills, Will,” Hannibal told him, tugging and pulling the suit to his satisfaction. “You’ve been lucky so far but you won’t always be.”

“I don’t exist,” Will said, stepping back to get a better look at him. “They can’t pin a murder on a ghost.”

“There are no ghosts in this day and age,” Hannibal said, zipping the case neatly and taking it in hand. “Cameras abound, evidence lies dormant in custody, pictures are taken and shared. The world has grown smaller in your lifetime, Will. You either change as it requires or find yourself its victim at long last. Which do you prefer?”

Will gave him a dubious once-over. “I prefer not wearing something like that.”

Hannibal tipped his nose up almost imperceptibly, enough so that Will thought he might’ve managed to actually offend him, which might’ve taken him off of the short list of people not to eat and landed him on the long list of entrees in waiting.

“I couldn’t carry it off like you do,” he amended, the obvious play getting a frown from Hannibal’s pursed lips but nothing more. When Hannibal headed purposefully towards the rear steps of the cabin, Will followed in his wake.

He wondered what Hannibal had in mind, what he’d do if more than just his chosen victim was inside. He wondered how many people at a time the man before him had killed and hoped to ask him that very question on the long ride home.

The back door was unlocked, no doubt from neglect. The remnants of a fire smoked in the firepit, the glowing embers dying down to coals. Beer cans littered the ground around a single chair. So, all alone then.

“Will,” Hannibal said, opening the door for him. Cigarette smoke drifted out onto the night air along with the sour stench of booze. He could hear a radio host giving the play-by-play of a baseball game and was seized by the sudden desire to see one himself, just to see what the fuss was about.

“Goddamn it, you losers!”

The loud voice slurred, full of irrational anger. Will moved through the small kitchen into the main room proper, not impressed by the irate, unkempt man flopped into a sprung recliner. Will had no doubt the cabin had started out quite nice by the look of it, a rental space meant for cautious suburbanites to come experience the great outdoors without too much inconvenience. He had no idea how long this man had been in possession of this place, but he’d been careless with it, if not deliberately destructive.

“Who the fuck are you?” the man asked, becoming aware of the pale, silent shadow that darkened his doorway.

Will frowned softly, looking him over with scrutinizing eyes. This man was a blight on good company, a thorn in the side of society. With his unwashed hair, three-day stubble and beady eyes, he seemed more a parasite to Will than a human being.

This is how he sees them,’ he thought, taking a smooth, even step towards the man glowering at him. ‘They are no more fit to breathe the air he breathes than a cockroach or a maggot.’

“I said—

“I heard you,” Will murmured, cocking his head as if a new angle might reveal some redeeming quality in this waste of air and space. He thought of Mathilda, her head cracked open like a walnut and left to drown. She was gone; this bag of bile remained.

“Then fucking answer me, asshole!” the man said, gesturing at him with a hand holding a cigarette, the other clenched on the neck of a beer bottle. “Fuckin’ kids just doing whatever they want! Didn’t your momma tell you it’s rude to just walk into places that don’t belong to you?!”

“Didn’t your mother tell you,” Will asked, closer and closer, genuine annoyance coloring his mild words. “That it’s rude to destroy things that don’t belong to you?”

“What?” the man asked, laughing, exasperated. He stood from the chair and ground out his cigarette with a mean, anticipatory grin on his face.  He wasn’t drunk enough by far to be ineffective, and lunged at Will with the intention to land a punch from his swinging arm.

Will easily sidestepped, graceful and alert. He’d fought over the long decades of his life, less so to hunt than to defend himself or stop something he considered unjust. It was muscle memory by now to do so, to duck and slide out of the way, amused as the man became more and more enraged by his elusiveness.

“Son of a bitch!” the man snarled, choosing to sling the bottle at Will. It smashed hard on the wall, foamy beer leaving a pungent stain that dripped down the wood. His bloodshot eyes were wild with fury, his yellowed teeth clenched as hard as his fists.

Will laughed at his paltry anger, at his easy rage. He had no idea what it was like to be truly angry, truly enraged. He had no idea what injustice actually was, damn him, and yet here he was acting as if a stranger in his home was worthy of such a ridiculous display of aggression.

“What the fuck you laughing at?!”

Will bit his lip but the laughter wouldn’t be restrained. “You.”

“Will,” Hannibal said from the kitchen doorway, making the man spin around in alarm. “Are you done playing with your food?”

The man turned again, alarm rising to replace the anger, finally. Finally he began to see what mortal danger he was in, how ineffective and insufficient his blind and stupid reach for anger was.

You,” Will murmured, catching the acrid scent of his fear. “Brought this on yourself.”

“H...hey, man, no harm no foul,” the man said, suddenly conciliatory in the face of the odds. “Just go, okay? No worries.”

“Oh?” Will inquired, smirking. “Brave enough when it’s just a fucking kid, but two on one is a whole other ballgame, isn’t it?”

Hannibal looked on, his cruel curiosity obvious in his dark eyes. “Remember what I said to you, Will? How murder can grant meaning to a life?”

“I remember,” Will said, finding it difficult to view this moment from any perspective other than Hannibal’s. He looked at the human before him and saw nothing more than a spot to be cleaned away.

“Is this life worth your dignity?” Hannibal pressed, pushing him. “Or would such a gift be wasted on something so base?”

Will didn’t doubt that if he bothered to untangle himself from Hannibal’s intentions he might be able to find something redeemable in the man growing ever more agitated before him. He had no desire, however, to do so. There was a cold, sharp elegance to Hannibal’s view of the world, a kind of elemental balancing of the scales that appealed to Will’s latent morality. It should have frightened him at long last but it didn’t.

It just didn’t.

The man laughed nervously, his gaze darting from the slim young man on one side to the strangely-dressed man on the other.

He opened his mouth to say something.

He never got the chance.

Whatever plea or curse he intended, whatever placatory excuse he was going to offer died a sudden, shocked death when Will sank his fingers into the man’s throat, twisted, and ripped a handful of flesh free, whispering, “I don’t want to hear it. Whatever you have to say is meaningless to me.”

Blood sprayed everywhere, coating him in wet heat. Awful, bubbling, gurgling noises rose from the man’s chest, his lungs no longer in contact with the rest of him, his airway torn open to plain view.

No gift, no solace granted. No question to give notice that death was incoming, no dignity and certainly no grace. It was a quick and ugly death to match a quick and ugly life, and Will could see the beauty in it for as long as he looked through Hannibal’s eyes.

The man fell to his knees, hands scrabbling, flinging blood all over them. It sprayed onto Hannibal’s plastic suit with the sound of raindrops on an awning, a dull pattering sound. It soaked into Will’s clothing, a heat that quickly cooled. They watched him there together, watched him heaving and bleeding, eyes rolling wildly and mouth agape, trying to draw breath through the broken mess of his windpipe.

Will could see the question there in his panicked eyes, the desperate, final question they all asked. Why me?

“You were rude,” he murmured, grasping the man by his greasy hair. He wrenched his head around with a crunching crack and the body gave a convulsive jerk. When Will released his hold, it slumped to the worn wood floor, twitching as nerve endings triggered.

Will knelt next to the body and looked up at Hannibal, who gazed down at him with fierce, unabashed joy. For just a moment Will wondered how on earth something like this could inspire the kind of unfettered glee he saw on Hannibal’s face, but only for a moment. It was too easy to understand why, too easy to see how snuffing out this man’s life like a candle was a source of power and pride. No more cursing, no more filth and rudeness, no more callous disregard for things he had no hand in creating or ownership of. He removed a source of intolerable ugliness from the world, like swatting a fly that buzzed around one’s carefully-prepared feast.

“Was that to your satisfaction, Doctor Lecter?” Will softly asked, feeling the fine mist of blood drying tight on his face, the heavier droplets wet and clinging.

“Oh, yes,” Hannibal said, reaching out with a plastic-encased hand to smooth Will’s bloody curls back from his forehead. “Far in excess of, in fact. Tell me, Will, is this death another weight?”

I want you...’

Will blinked, tongue darting to lap a rivulet of blood that pooled in the corner of his mouth. In slow, measured tones, he said, “No, Doctor Lecter. At least, no more a weight than it would be for you.”

“Then shall we continue?” Hannibal asked, turning his attention to the silent, still body.

Will followed his gaze and murmured, “Yes.”

The body was split open, the particular pieces removed and packed in waxed paper and plastic. Hannibal did his own butchering, having Will turn and move the body as he required for the removal of select pieces. Each one found a temporary home in wrappings, sealed into plastic and stacked into the bag atop Hannibal’s spare tools for the walk back to the car.

Will watched the process with a detachment that sent fluttering fingers of warning through him, fearfully trying to tell him that this was wrong, that nothing deserved this kind of disregard, that the last thing he’d seen gutted this way was a deer and he’d vomited all over his own boots to the sound of his father’s embarrassed scolding.

He thought of Mathilda and all the others who had succumbed to his charm, how the wounds he made were growing larger and more violent, and he wondered if he would eventually come to this very same method in the centuries to come...

“It amuses me to display the bodies,” Hannibal said, zipping the bag up again over what he wanted to take with him. “In this case, however, time is of the essence.”

He cocked his noble head at the mess on the floor, the pooled blood and piles of discarded flesh. It was human litter, detritus of fat and bone. It seemed to please Hannibal, enough so that he didn’t feel it necessary to do much more than arrange the head suitably atop a mound of his own soft tissues, a figurative mess made literal.

Will could feel the blood drying on him, sticky and uncomfortable. He eyed Hannibal’s plastic suit with envy, even if it must be hot as hell. Hannibal felt his heavy gaze, realized the cause and smirked, triumphant.

“You’re quite a mess,” he observed, standing and gathering his bag up.

“Usually how it works out,” Will conceded, straightening beside him.

Hannibal headed back the way they’d come, the bare dirt of the backyard giving way to meadow grass and dense underbrush. They moved through the heavy woods, angling back towards the dirt trail. When it thinned out enough, Hannibal paused and removed his plastic suit, turning it inside out as he did so.

“You’ll need to change clothes when we reach the car, Will,” he said, relaxed and conversational now, some part of him at ease to know that someone who had offended him somehow had paid for it with their life.

“Didn’t bring any, so...”

“I brought clothing for you,” Hannibal told him, moving more confidently now, his stride picking up pace. “And while we’re on the subject of your clothing, Will, I must confess that I would prefer to dress you from now on.”

“What?” Will asked, a disbelieving laugh burbling out of him. “You mean...”

“I mean what you’ve purchased is atrocious and doesn’t suit you in the least,” Hannibal said, giving him a firm look. “I intend to remedy that.”

“Clothes are clothes, Doctor Lecter,” Will reminded him, moving around to the trunk when the man opened it. He peeled off his wet shirt even as he worked his boots off, the dirt clinging to the bottom of his socks.

“No, Will, your clothes are merely clothes,” Hannibal corrected him, sorting the packets carefully into separate prepared coolers while Will stripped. “Your Ravenstag did you a favor taking you when he did. You are a perfect specimen of youth, Ganymede, yet you waste it by dressing like someone’s grandfather.”

Will snorted with laughter, dragging his socks off to feel the warm dirt beneath his toes. If he was going to get naked, he may as well be barefoot in the process. “Grandfather?”

Hannibal silently offered a bag for Will to throw his clothes in. It didn’t escape Will’s notice that it was a garbage sack.

“Those as well,” Hannibal said, nodding towards Will’s jeans. “All of it, in fact, please, Will. I can’t have you getting blood inside my car. Stains are so difficult to get out of leather.”

“Of course they are,” Will said, smirking as he worked his jeans off. They were stiff with blood and clung wetly to him, leaving streaks on his pale skin.

Hannibal didn’t acknowledge the remark, he merely handed Will a pile of neatly-folded clothing and watched him dress before telling him, “Get into the car, please.”

Will handed Hannibal his boots and got into the passenger seat, careful not to put his head back. Most of the blood in his hair had dried but he didn’t want to take any chances considering his track record with Hannibal’s things. He saw the man in the side mirror carefully brushing away the tracks Will’s bare feet had made in the sandy dirt as well as the prints his own dress shoes had made. When he got into the car, Will asked, “Think anyone would see it anyway?”

“One can never be too careful,” Hannibal said, fishing his keys out and turning the car on. He tossed something at Will that turned out to be a knitted cap, saying, “Put that on.”

Will did so, not arguing, glad to have something between him and the headrest so he could lean back.

“How many have you ever killed at a time?” he murmured, lids lowering almost closed as Hannibal carefully backed the Bentley out onto the little-used lane, headlights off.

“Seven,” Hannibal said, no hesitation. “I found myself cornered.”

“And they found themselves dead,” Will said, and grinned, opening his eyes to look at the man across from him. “You live a very dangerous life for a human, Doctor Lecter.”

“I suppose I do,” Hannibal said, a smile curling his perfect lips. There was a strange, amused glint in his eye when he looked at Will, adding, “For a human.”

Will laughed at that, his sharp teeth carelessly exposed.

“Have you remembered anything more, Will?” Hannibal asked him, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, a perfect topic of conversation to have when one was driving home with body parts wrapped and packed in ice and a bag filled with dismembering tools rattling around in the trunk.


“No, not really,” he said, stifling the urge to laugh at how absurd it all was. “Nothing more than I told you already.”

“It will come in time,” Hannibal said, reaching a junction in the road and flipping the lights on, becoming just another vehicle unremarked on the street. “Memory loss is an aspect of aging.”

Will eyed him, wondering if he was supposed to be annoyed because he felt annoyed. “If you’re trying to irritate me—”

“Not at all, I’m simply making a point,” Hannibal assured him, amused by his response. “However, that being said, I think it is reasonable to believe that you can regain your memories. Tell me what you do remember, Will.”

Will heaved a sigh, head lolling to look out the window again, his thoughts turning inwards.

“Tell me about the man you saw in the woods.”

“It wasn’t a man,” Will said, thinking of the Ravenstag on the offensive, ready to gore him for his intrusion.

“Why were you out there?”

“To get some peace,” Will answered, closing his eyes.

“Is that when he took you, Will?”

“No,” he said, thinking of the bed he’d been in, how that man had kissed his palms with the same fierce, breathless intent of a sinner seeking redemption. “No it was...after.”

“But perhaps that is the first time he saw you, and you him?” Hannibal suggested.

“Might be,” Will said, brow furrowing. There was something else there, something important that had followed his rough introduction to the Ravenstag of his dreams.

“You made it out of that confrontation intact,” Hannibal mused. “However it responded, it let you leave without doing too much damage.”

“Yeah, maybe...”

Will closed his eyes, finding himself in a heap on the wrong side of that log, caught in a tangle of dried tree branches. The stag was before him, bellowing and rearing, ready to cut him down with its sharp hooves and pin him with its stretching antlers. How had he managed to escape it? How had he, a freshly-minted boy, as Hannibal said, walked away from that challenge and back home to his family without coming to harm? How had he later found himself in its bed, naked and unafraid?

“This relationship you had with your Ravenstag,” Hannibal said, his purring voice finding Will in a world made entirely of broken, dead tree branches and fluttering kisses. “I find it quite fascinating.”


“That’s what it was,” he whispered. “He let me go because he was fascinated with me...”

It was a meeting by moonlight, unexpected and startling, particularly under the circumstances. Neither expected the other to be there, just then, in just the right place as if fate itself had conspired they meet. Blossoming youth set in the path of age and experience, how else could things have come about?

Because he’d seen him, the face behind the frightening stag. He’d looked straight back at a monster with the wondrous abandon of utter naive innocence, insulated by youth, unaffected by violence he’d never been exposed to and, thus, was not afraid of.

What a tempting morsel you must have made...’

Hannibal had never once wondered if the Ravenstag had been just as tempting in turn.

In the darkness behind his eyes that powerful form moved slowly towards him, his breath coming in short, sharp puffs, his dark eyes alert and leery. The robber lay dying in the dirt and Will didn’t care. He didn’t care at all because the robber was a Bad Man and Bad Men deserved whatever nasty end they met.

Who are you?’ It asked him, tossing its noble head, forelegs dancing restlessly in the thick, dead leaves.

Will,’ he answered, the sum of his life thus far, a simple syllable to encompass the whole.

Are you frightened, Will?’

The scent of it was warm and wild, tangy blood and rich spices. It looked at him with teeth in its gaze, as if chewing down the sight of him and swallowing him up.

No,’ he said, splayed there in the bracken in an undignified heap, unmoving in his awe. ‘You’re so beautiful...’

The Ravenstag threw back its head, its laughter filling all the world...

When Will opened his eyes, it was Hannibal’s laughter he heard, throaty and deep, and for an instant it seemed that the stag wore the face of Hannibal Lecter, surprised from his stoic reserve by the blunt, blurted confession of a strange, lonely youth who had never had the sense to be frightened of him.

Chapter Text

“When did you first decide to eat someone?” Will asked, dipping his head to wet his chin in the hot water of Hannibal’s bath where he was soaking. A glass of wine sat untouched on the rim next to him, a second glass currently being someplace Will would rather be—namely, in Hannibal’s hand.

Hannibal didn’t respond at first, merely placed his glass carefully next to Will’s and moved to sit on the edge of the tub, still dripping from the shower he’d taken, the soft towel slung around his hips padding his skin from the warming marble.

“It was less a decision than it was defiant resolution to survive,” he finally said, trailing his fingers in the water near Will’s knee. “Despite the circumstances, I was determined that I would eat instead of being eaten.”

“You make it sound so simple,” Will said, tipping his head back onto a towel of his own, content to lay there in the warm water and watch him.

“It was that simple,” Hannibal murmured, sighing. He traced Will’s knee where it peeked from the water, fingers curling beneath in a soft caress. “It was assumed that I would not take what I was offered for fear of the consequences. I survived despite the expectations.”

Will caught the wistful distance in Hannibal’s dark gaze and smiled. He had caught the man in a rare moment of unguarded reflection; it would be foolish not to press the advantage.

He moved slowly to sit up, coiling around Hannibal’s arm, wet fingers gliding up firm, tanned muscle to cling tight, blue eyes veiled and sultry as they lifted to Hannibal’s own.

“Who was it?” he breathed. “Who was the first one, Hannibal?”

“Mischa,” he said. Those dark eyes hardened suddenly and Will smiled, laughing to think he’d ever had an advantage to press. Hannibal’s slight, bare smile curved his handsome mouth, his voice barely more than a purr when he said, “My younger sister.”

Will held his gaze, considering him. “Once upon a time there was a boy, a sad little boy with a little sister...”

“Your story, Will? Or my own?” Hannibal asked, reaching out to cup his cheek, thumb brushing over Will’s eyelashes when he leaned into the touch. “Or perhaps our story is the same?”

“Will I be your Ravenstag, Hannibal?” Will asked, remembering how they had kissed, twined together in a strange bed that smelled of spice and warmth. He had felt so cherished then, every inch of him precious and languorously explored, touched for the first time in his life as if he was actually worthy of something so deeply devouring and encompassing that mere love was paltry in comparison.

“That is up to you, Will,” Hannibal said, fingers spreading to cup the back of his skull, buried in damp dark curls. “You may want what I want when I tell you to want it, but that is entirely outside of my ability to command.”

Will laughed softly at that, finding it unlikely that there was anything outside of Hannibal’s ability, only outside of his aesthetics.

“And what do you want me to want right now, Doctor Lecter?”

Hannibal considered him in the soft lighting, the glimmer in his eyes turned amber. The light gleamed golden on his tanned skin and turned Will’s bare hide into shades of tinted ivory.

“I thought I knew what I wanted from you, Will,” he said, reaching down into the water to caress his hip, fingers skimming back over the high, round curve of his ass. “But I find myself rethinking my original plan.”

“Which was?” Will asked, sliding closer to Hannibal’s warm body and, incidentally, allowing easier access to his own. He tipped his head back and brushed his mouth against the strong cords of Hannibal’s throat, feeling the dim pulse of blood beneath the surface of his skin, the warm scent of him rising and thickening as his heart picked up its pace.

“To have you laid open and bare, fastened tightly and helpless,” Hannibal murmured, his warm palm hot against Will’s backside when he cupped one pert cheek. “Lashed into tears and teased into raptures by turns. I wanted you broken in my bed and remade to suit me.”

“What would have suited you, Hannibal?” Will asked, shivering to even think of it. He would not have protested, had it come to that. There was very little he wouldn’t sacrifice to stave off his boredom.

What matters is what I’m going to do to you and how much you’re willing to take...’

“You changed your mind,” Will purred, pressing into him, one damp hand lifting to trace the contours of his collarbone and down to twine in the hair on his chest. “What would have suited you?”

“To see you as you were when you mounted my table with the burning ferocity of a knight heading into war,” Hannibal murmured, his breath coming out in a slow, controlled sigh when Will softly bit him. “You in all your feral fury collared and leashed at my feet with the marks of my teeth on your skin.”

Will shuddered, rearing up to push into his lap, Hannibal easily steadying him, dragging him out of the water without any effort.

“You should have,” Will said, the words muffled by Hannibal’s mouth on his. His skin prickled with shivers that pooled in his groin, his thoughts wrapping around the image Hannibal had painted of him. Hannibal snagged his thigh and pulled him closer to straddle him there on the edge of the tub, Will’s hands fisted tight at the nape of his neck, holding him close, driven to distraction by even the idea of it.

“I don’t need to break you in order to own you, Will,” Hannibal said, a husky, throbbing breath against Will’s lips.

“Do you think you own me, Hannibal?” he asked, drawing a gasping breath. Hannibal was warm and solid against him, the brush of his furry chest and belly tickling Will’s smooth skin. He bit his lip against a moan when Hannibal traced the bruises still on his throat from their last time together, the faint imprint of the bite he’d been so desperate for.

“You’ve belonged to others your entire life, Will,” he murmured, making a collar of his laced fingers, a tight squeeze making Will jerk hard in his grasp. “It isn’t a decision for you any more than my own was for me. You fear chaos, aimlessness, pointlessness and you seek out those with the power to shield you from those fears. You belonged to me the moment you stripped for me at nothing more than my whim.”

Will’s eyes swept closed, the whole of his senses narrowing down to the warm, strong hands around his throat, heated breath spilling over his chin and lips as Hannibal purred, “Breaking you now would merely be for the sake of distraction.”

But he wanted it. God, he wanted it. Wanted to be helpless and vulnerable, wanted to be pushed to that fine edge of pleasure and pain and made to ride it without mercy. He wanted to let Hannibal take all of his boredom, hatred and lifelessness and transform it, let him carry the weight in Will’s stead, seek freedom in captivity where his choices were no longer his own and the consequences were not his to face.

“I’m amenable to distraction,” Will managed, his eyes opening, foggy with desire.

Hannibal smiled at him, flashing his sharp, dangerous teeth. “That isn’t what I want for you now, Will,” he said, sweeping his hands from Will’s throat to his shoulders, sliding his fingers down the trembling muscle of Will’s sides to grip his taut hips. “I prefer you in a collar of kisses, laid open and bare by your own hands, fastened tightly and helpless in the bonds of your own desire.”

Will squeezed his thighs around Hannibal’s lean hips, pressing into the heat rising beneath the soft towel that separated them. His hands trembled with the force of his excitement, fingertips stuttering over the heat of Hannibal’s belly, seeking the tuck of cloth that held him away from his prize.

His wrists were seized and pulled wide as Hannibal kissed him, harder this time, a cruel mingling of tongues and sharp teeth. Will wriggled against him, tugging against his grasp, enjoying the feel of Hannibal’s strength caging him so tightly. With a deft twist and push, Will’s arms were folded back behind him, wrists crossed at his lower back, the pressure of Hannibal’s fist against him forcing an arch to his back that pressed him more tightly to the man’s ready body.

“Here,” he panted, coiling his tongue against Hannibal’s own, a slick stroke of flesh designed to inflame. “Here.”

Hannibal felt no need to answer him. The pressure on Will’s arms sharpened and he bit back a yelp, shoulders dropping backwards, hips arching forward, the long line of his body exposed from the tips of his curls to the strutted, seeking length of his cock.

Holding him with one tight hand, Hannibal grazed his curled knuckles under Will’s chin, his deep, dark eyes watching with greedy excitement as he traced a trail down the long length of Will’s throat.

“Your skin has always marked so beautifully, Will,” he murmured.

Bewildered, Will tossed his head slightly, gasping, “What?”

Hannibal either didn’t hear him or ignored him, and Will was so eager to continue that he didn’t pursue the strange statement. In fact, when Hannibal spread his fingers over Will’s chest, fingertips teasing one tight, hard nipple, he forget about it entirely.

“What an enticing treasure you are, Will,” he purred, fingers skimming lower and lower, Will’s body taut and responsive to his touch like a well-tuned instrument. He wanted to be played as such, stroked with teasing and pounded with passion, nothing more than a harp of bone strung with shivering nerve endings. “Willing to suffer any depravity for the pleasure of being elevated once again.”

“Hannibal,” he moaned, his voice catching on a strangled gasp when a touch ghosted over the leaking tip of his cock. His eyes rounded wide and he snarled, “God, don’t stop!”

“You want what I want,” Hannibal softly reminded him, gathering slick precum on his clean fingers to slide them just beneath the tight head of Will’s cock, light and teasing. Will’s thighs tightened hard around his hips, every muscle in his body straining towards that touch, an animal growl of frustration breaking from him when it only earned him the brushing trail of one blunted fingernail down his length. His cock pulsed, bouncing hard, his hips twitching forward.

“Tell me,” Will said, the words breaking on half a sob, rushed and tight and painful in their intensity. “Tell me what you want!”

The finger reached the tight skin of his balls and Will reared up on a harsh cry when Hannibal cupped him, only the unrelenting grip of his fist on Will’s crossed wrists keeping the smaller man in place.

Those fingers tightened and Will’s eyes rolled back, head back and mouth parting in absolute resignation to whatever Hannibal chose to give him. Another soft squeeze, a fondling roll of fingers and palm followed by another and another until Will’s teeth clenched, the veins standing out in his bared throat, a flush suffusing him from his brow to his chest.

He wanted to break Hannibal’s hold and rip the towel off of him, to bare him as he was bared. He wanted to kneel there on the cold marble floor, shivering and penitent and choking on Hannibal’s hard cock.

Penance for what?’

He pushed it away, shuddering, the dark gaze of the Ravenstag in his memories looking back at him with voracious lust.

“Where are you right now, Will?” Hannibal asked him, punctuating the question with a squeeze that was deliberately shocking, a flare of pain to drag him back into this moment.

Will did sob, then, a harsh and startled sound torn from his lips as his eyes flew wide. He writhed against Hannibal’s grip, briefly resistant, only to find himself dumped to the floor, shivering and bereft.

He lay where he landed, splayed on his elbows with his cheek to the floor, his knees curled underneath him so that he lay flat on the cold marble. It felt good against the heated curve of his cock and he wriggled with calculated intent, his blue eyes holding Hannibal’s in unmistakable challenge.

“To think you spent so long cut away from all of this, Will,” Hannibal mused, leaning over him to press one hard hand to the base of his spine, pushing him harder into the floor until Will jerked in response, breathless and aching. “Two hundred years of delight wasted. Do you think he would have allowed that, your Ravenstag?”

“No,” Will moaned, grinning up at him, eyes hazy with desire. He started to work his hand between the hard floor and his own tight belly but Hannibal stopped him, pulling his arm out straight to prevent it, curtly telling him, “Don’t move.”

Panting and helplessly delighted, Will shivered when Hannibal did the same to his other arm, leaving him flattened on the floor with his bent knees curled to either side. His bones and muscles complained but he ignored them to enjoy forcing himself past the limits of even his own impressive resilience. His cock leaked a small puddle on the floor and he found it perversely amusing that this pristine room would be smeared with the leavings of his own desire.

Hannibal let him lie there, merely watching him for a long, thrilling moment before he tugged off the towel with a negligent twitch of his fingers, the loss of his pressing hand allowing Will’s hips to rise just slightly.

“Before me I see the boy you should have been,” Hannibal breathed, crouching to stroke Will’s curly hair, an amused smile curling his lips when Will twisted to kiss his hand, sucking at his fingertips to taste the salt of his own precum. “Two hundred years of restraint undone in a heartbeat, no more resistant to sensation but a victim of it.”

“Is that what you want, Doctor Lecter?” Will breathlessly asked, rolling his hips to skate his hard cock against the floor, just for the prickle of gooseflesh it brought to his too-tight skin. “Should I be your victim? Willing and waiting and twitching for the knife?”

Hannibal dipped his fingers into Will’s mouth, allowing him to suckle them, allowing him to graze his sharp, lupine teeth in a threat belied by the soft tongue that followed.

“I think it was this that drew him to you, Will,” Hannibal said, his voice hushed and sultry, thick with growing desire. “This recklessness of yours, your willingness to risk even death for a taste of what sustains you.”

It was hard to concentrate on what Hannibal was saying when he was so hard and full and tantalizingly out of reach, a swollen and succulent ache that Will wanted to kiss away. Hunger flooded him in rapidly uncontrollable waves, rising like a tide to push out everything else but this consuming demand for more. More touches, more pain, more kisses and more everything. He wanted to be skewered by flesh, turned inside out with the force of his pleasure, wanted to feel the fire in his belly take hold and sear him from within. He bit Hannibal’s fingers and moaned, the rub of cool marble over his heated cock almost enough to bring him to orgasm.

As if well aware of what he was about with such fretful squirming, Hannibal grasped Will’s hips and hoisted him up onto his knees, denying him once more.

“Don’t move,” he warned again, and left Will lying there, shivering and hot and snarling with frustration. He could have moved, he knew. There was nothing holding him there in such a vulnerable position, chest on the floor, arms spread wide, backside in the air like a bitch in heat. No bonds, no ties, no tools to pin him in place like a butterfly except for his own desire. Somehow, realizing Hannibal could exert so much control over him only made Will’s heart thunder harder with excitement.

He heard Hannibal return, heard him make a soft sound of approval at him, that muted cluck of his tongue usually directed at cats. Will made a sound that was not unlike that a cat might make, a startled hiss of surprise when he was pulled up off of the floor entirely and propelled towards the shower Hannibal had only recently vacated.

“What are you doing?” he asked, gasping out the words, stepping into the still-foggy world of glass and slick stone to brace his hands on the smooth wall.

“Whatever I like,” Hannibal purred, his body shoving hard against Will’s pressing him almost painfully into the wet wall. His tongue curled into Will’s ear and the smaller man twitched, rocking his hips back to feel the sticky throb of Hannibal’s cock against his ass. Teeth grazed his lobe, making his breath stutter, his back arching when Hannibal cupped his chest, fingers finding and teasing his darkened nipples. Had they always been so sensitive? He could remember various women over the course of his forever running their sharp nails over them, circling and teasing a reaction, but he couldn’t recall ever jolting with sensation as he was doing now. Under Hannibal’s pinching, toying fingers they formed two solid lines of shocking pleasure straight to his groin. He choked out a moan and tightened, aching for relief, not even caring that Hannibal chuckled, content to watch Will suffer.

“Fuck me,” he urged, pushing back against the man pressed so tightly to him. “God, Hannibal, just fuck me.”

“I must admit, Will, I find it terribly gratifying to see you this way,” Hannibal whispered into his ear, nuzzling him. “All your grace and guile abandoned to show me what lies beneath.”

He reached to do it himself again, the only goad he knew to get Hannibal’s immediate response. He was, predictably, prevented from doing so, his hands flattened to the wall, all four limbs spread wide.

“I admire your relentless pursuit of your goal, Will,” Hannibal told him, wry. “But what I want doesn’t encompass you masturbating. Another time, perhaps.”

Will’s cheeks darkened deeper than his rosy flush and his cock did another bouncing dance, straining for friction and finding none when Hannibal pulled him backwards by his hips, instructing him, “Slide your hands down the wall. Don’t break contact.”

Panting, he did as he was told, his shiver nearing uncontrolled shudders because there was only one thing this this position could mean and he wanted it so badly he could taste it like salt and musk on his tongue.

“You have an incredibly receptive body, Will,” Hannibal said, only the faintest strain in his voice betraying his own excitement. “I would say that your Ravenstag did quite a thorough job of teaching you, wouldn’t you?”

“I don’t know,” Will said, biting the words out past his dragging breaths, hips tilting just a little to offer more, enticing and bare and ready.

A touch brushed down his spine, sliding between his cheeks. He twitched hard and cursed, dropping his head and closing his eyes, teeth clenching as warm, slick fingers found and circled his hole. He wanted them inside, twisting and seeking and uncomfortably full. He wanted them filling him with slickness and giving way to Hannibal’s thick cock. He wanted the painful cramp of Hannibal balls-deep inside of him, his insides squeezing in spasm at the intrusion, clamping down around him as he thrust...

Fuck!” The word exploded out of him when the first finger slid in. He felt Hannibal’s other hand brush lower and take his balls in hand, a sensation so unexpectedly sudden that he jerked away from the touch. He felt a slow, steady tug and the nerve-prickling, aching tautness of his sac being pulled, followed by Hannibal softly breathing, “Sh...”

Will’s teeth clenched so hard his jaw ached but the motion distracted him from the second finger being fed inside of him, sliding in without resistance, pressing down lightly in a way that banked more and more heat in his belly.

“You’re going to make me cum,” he tightly warned, forcing the words past his clenched teeth, shuddering. Hannibal’s only response was to add another finger, stretching him. When the fourth slipped inside, Will moaned helplessly, eyes wide.

“,” he gasped, realizing what Hannibal intended. “Hannibal!”

“Sh,” he was told again. He felt it then, knuckles teasing at his ass, lube-slick and hot. He felt a push, a wash of gooseflesh spilling down his spine as Hannibal’s fist slid inside of him. He felt himself tighten around it and the world bled to fuzzy white.

Oh my fucking God!”

It echoed in the richly-appointed bathroom, his own sordid mark on Hannibal’s careful aesthetic, a scream dripping with astonished shock that was almost as lewd as the way his body worked back against the slow, careful plunge of Hannibal’s fist inside of him.

“What a beautiful vision you are, Will,” Hannibal praised, the pressure of his other hand on Will’s balls preventing anything more than mounting tension that rapidly climbed to the precipice of pain. “I wonder, what more will you allow?”

“Whatever you want,” he promised, begging for more, pleading. Deeper, more, harder, give me everything and more on top of that. He rocked his hips back against the knotted fist inside of him, lost in a blind haze of disbelief and pleasure that never peaked enough to give him relief. “Please, Hannibal, holy fuck.”

“Are you helpless yet, Will?” Hannibal purred, amused, fisting him slowly and steadily, knowing too well how to keep him dangling on the edge of explosive orgasm.

Yes!” he snarled, sobbing, heaving so hard that Hannibal paused, waiting for the spasm to pass. Will felt him pull out slowly and whimpered, each exquisite motion of his fist unfurling bringing another wash of dangerous pleasure to the fore. Hannibal released his balls and Will gasped, shuddering, acutely aware that four of his fingers were still inside of him, palm up to cup his own cock as he fed it into Will.

“Oh God!” he sobbed, shoving back in short, frantic bursts as Hannibal’s fingers slid out and came to clench on his hip, the other joining to hold him steady. He ground his round ass back into the man behind him so hard that he felt Hannibal’s pubic bone, earned himself a soft, indrawn breath over sharp teeth and an answering, brutal thrust.

In a matter of seconds Will tightened around him so hard it may as well have been his first time, every deep stroke threatening to unmake him, every pulsing, responsive bounce of Hannibal’s cock inside of him so excruciatingly satisfying that it was all Will could do to stay upright. His skin tightened in answer, the whole of him squeezing down around Hannibal’s thick cock to feel him bumping that place inside, each time a shock to his system, an overload that threatened to burst.

Hannibal tightened his grip on Will’s hip with one hand, the other rising to stroke his slippery, sweating body. His words were broken when he spoke, each one punctuated by a soft, low moan of effort when he said, “Moan for me, Will. Let me hear your need.”

There was nothing feigned in the way he sobbed, curses and promises of filth and desire spilling from him in a jumbled, heated gasp. The curses became pleas. He braced against the wall and writhed, begging for permission.

Because he wanted what Hannibal wanted, when Hannibal wanted it, and Hannibal most certainly did not want Will coming just yet, if the painful pinch of his fingers around the base of Will’s cock was any indication.

“Do you think he did this to you, Will?” he gasped, slowing the pace in preference of depth, rolling his hips up in a way that nearly lifted Will off of his feet, the tips of his toes straining to keep his balance. “Do you think your Ravenstag tied you into a knot and fucked you? Hm?”

Just hearing that word out of Hannibal’s mouth made Will twist in his grasp, his aching cock weeping so much that it dribbled over Hannibal’s tight fingers.

“How do you think he did it?” he mused, panting, slowing to a stop, leaving Will thrashing on his cock in frustration. “On all fours, like a beast? Or did he sneak into your bed as you slept to fuck you silly?”

Will’s muscles trembled with strain, aching and hot. He clenched rhythmically around the thick cock buried to the balls inside of him, just that friction enough to put pressure on that spot inside of him.

“I want you to cum for me, Will,” Hannibal said, taking a dragging breath half unheard over the sound of Will’s sobbing answer. “I want you to make me cum when you do.”


A sharp, stinging slap hit his cock forcefully and Will saw stars, his body gripping up tight as light burst across his vision. Before the sharpness of it subsided, another slap followed and he snarled, thrusting helplessly as he came, arching up into the hand that delivered blow after delicious blow to his spurting cock. His whole body bowed into it, hips straining and tight in frantic rhythm, every hard squeeze of his muscles milking the thrumming heat buried deep in his ass.

His begging turned to sobs and mindless moaning. He was barely aware of Hannibal squeezing close to him, the sharpness of his chin digging into Will’s shoulder, his arm clamped hard around Will’s taut waist, his groin pushed up tight and unmoving against Will’s backside to feel every tremor and spasm that rocked him.

Will wanted that hand to keep going, to keep cracking against his abused flesh until he couldn’t stand it, but it was so much more satisfying when Hannibal’s cum-slick hand squeezed tight around the head instead, rapidly milking him to keep him wriggling.

Hannibal groaned deeply, stiffening behind Will, the barest shudder betraying his orgasm. He could feel it inside, though, the urgent contraction of heavy flesh trapped in the tight well of his body. The sensation of rushing blood through Hannibal’s engorged flesh coupled with the relentless and almost painful rub of his hand on the head of Will’s cock was just enough to make him thrash again, heaving and sobbing as he came.

When Hannibal finally let him go with a final squeeze, Will slumped against the shower wall bonelessly, fighting to catch his breath, every nerve ending singing with aftershocks.

Panting heavily, Hannibal groped his hand over the shower knobs and the overhead came on, dousing them with water that slowly warmed.

“Holy. Absolute. Fuck,” Will said, gasping for air, shivering and wincing when Hannibal pulled out of him, a gush of hot cum dribbling down his thighs.

“Inelegant but accurate,” Hannibal said, peeling him off of the wall to stand upright under the water.

Will turned under the spray, a tired grin tugging the corners of his mouth. “Picked a good spot for it, Doctor Lecter.”

He got a slow grin in response, Hannibal’s fine lips parting to show the tips of his sharp teeth. “I have a limited number of sheets at the moment,” he said, chuckling. “It’s a regrettable oversight on my part.”

Will laughed at that, watching Hannibal get cleaned up. He was struck suddenly by the way his hair fell over his brow, a slight tousle that took years off of him and brought reluctant admiration to Will’s mind. It was familiar somehow, but the feeling faded when Hannibal ducked his head beneath the spray and slicked his hair back, giving Will a weighty, thoughtful look.

“Still see the boy I should have been, Doctor Lecter?” Will asked him, still rosy and flushed and trembling.

There was a strange nostalgia tingeing his words when Hannibal purred, “Oh yes, Will. I see you precisely as you were meant to be.”

Chapter Text

Will dreamed of Mathilda, guilty and ashamed. It had been over a century since he’d had a dream about someone he’d hunted, but...

‘You didn’t hunt Mathilda, was mere murder instead of artistry...The Ravenstag said, breath pulsing on Will’s shoulder when he spoke. It nuzzled his arm, its nose like velvet, warm and soft. Mathilda was wide-eyed and terrified before him, gaping in horror at what she saw behind his mask. Her plastic smile finally cracked at the edges, peeling away the youth she’d hoarded so desperately to reveal the aging, raw woman within.

‘I want you...’ she sobbed, and Will slung her hard against the diving board, panting and undone, offended by her answer because it didn’t belong to her. It didn’t belong to her.

Through murder you can give a life meaning,’ the Ravenstag reminded him. They watched her slide into the water, boneless and bubbling, a trail of blood fading to pink in the water. Will watched a droplet grow full and ripe where her head had struck. It wobbled a moment, trembling dangerously. Will could see his reflection in it, upside down, the antlers sprouting from his head becoming roots reaching deep to anchor him. ‘What do you want most in the world, Will? Name me that thing.’

Will turned, his bare feet squeaking on the slick, oiled floor, facing the stag that was suddenly a man, his noble head graced with branching antlers, his presence filling the world.

You,’ Will told him, the answer that had always been ready, dancing on the tip of his tongue.

Then why did you run from me?’

Will sobbed, recoiling from the soft accusation, fleeing from it on quick, silent feet. He fled down a hallway filled with shadows. Mathilda was there, sobbing, ‘William? William, don’t!’

A body was slumped in a pile of churned earth and leaves, staring blankly up at the night sky.

Will fell over the log and landed hard on his backside, breathless in the face of the stag rearing before him.

But it was a man, beautiful and commanding, a force of nature rendered down to bone and sinew and rage. He wasn’t frightened of anything, this creature, neither man nor beast. He wasn’t scared of Bad Men like the dead robber because he was stronger than they were. He burned before Will’s awed gaze like a shining god of old...

‘You’re so beautiful,’ Will blurted, and laughed when the Ravenstag laughed.

William,’ Mathilda scolded, brushing his forehead with her hand, the scent of chlorine clinging to her skin. ‘You’re burning up. Darling, he’s burning up. Send for the doctor.’

‘I don’t trust him,’ Father fumed, outraged at even the idea of it. ‘He’s a foreigner! He doesn’t understand us!’

Will you say that to your son as he lays dying?’ Mother asked, her hand sliding off of his fevered head. ‘Get the doctor. Now.’

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Hannibal said, his voice cutting through Will’s distorted nightmare. “Will?”

“I’m here,” he said, shaking off the vestiges of sleep to give Hannibal a curious once-over. He was in Hannibal’s office, slumped into the chair Hannibal himself preferred to use. Sunlight came through the drapes, making him wince.

He wanted to ask how in the hell he’d gotten here, barefoot and dressed in soft pajama bottoms but nothing else, smelling freshly of soap with his damp curls hanging around his face. He wanted to ask what day it was, how much time had passed since their tryst in the washroom. Instead he asked, “Something wrong?”

“The FBI needs me to help with a case,” Hannibal said, stacking his volumes of notes neatly to one side of his desk, preparing to depart.

Will laughed a little, finding that absurd. “What do you mean, help with a case?”

“I help them build psychological profiles of killers,” Hannibal said with a wry smile. “It’s something of a hobby of mine.”

“So you’re just...the on-staff murderer?” Will asked with a soft, stifled laugh.

Per diem consultant,” Hannibal corrected, tugging his cuffs straight as was his habit. He crossed the short distance to Will, who looked up automatically at him, eyes closing softly when Hannibal grasped his face. “You’re pale. You should have eaten more last night.”

“I don’t remember last night,” Will said, his words careful and even but his smile tight and unsteady. “Everything after you and the shower is...gone.”

When he opened his eyes, Hannibal was frowning down at him. “You told me about the doctor. Do you still remember that?”

“I remember my mother telling my father to send for him,” Will whispered, eyes misting when he recalled the fear and sharpness in her voice. “It was the only time I ever heard her talk back to him that way.”

“Did your father love you, Will?” Hannibal asked suddenly. It wounded Will in ways he hadn’t expected, that question.

It wounded him even more to say, “No, he didn’t. He wasn’t that kind of person and neither was I.”

“Because of your gift,” Hannibal mused, his fingers stroking Will’s hair with absent affection, unable to resist.

“I was twisted, Hannibal,” Will said, remembering the awful frustration of it. Faces that gave him too much information, jealousies that didn’t belong to him, an inability to distinguish between himself and his father and how he’d grown furious as a toddler to see his parents kiss. “I never learned how to love; I just learned how to interpret it from others.”

Hannibal’s dark eyes held his, a terrible cold to counter the heat of shame and fear inside of Will’s head.

“I think that’s why I answered him,” Will breathed, trembling. “I saw myself through his eyes and something...clicked.”

“You chose your Ravenstag’s version of love as your own,” Hannibal said, smoothing his brow and frowning over the warmth he felt there. “Perhaps seeing yourself through his eyes was a revelation for you.”

A revelation, a biblical word for an otherworldly experience.

“I expect one or more of my colleagues will be joining us for dinner,” Hannibal informed him. Will didn’t ask in what way. He figured killing FBI was a little ballsy even for Hannibal. “I’d like you to take some time today while I’m gone and construct a timeline of what you recall.”

“Will there be a test?” Will asked, more amused than annoyed.

“This is in your own best interests,” Hannibal firmly said. Will wondered if he’d ruined Hannibal’s bed again the night before, clinically noting that he was intentionally hiding from himself behind the screen of his libido.

I guess I don’t want to remember too badly if I’d rather think about sex than focus on what I do recall...’

“Sex is as good an escape as any, Will,” Hannibal said, startling him with the realization that he’d spoken out loud. “Your past is painful to you. You have the luxury of taking as long as you need to explore it. Forever is a very long time, after all.”

“Yeah,” Will said, shifting just enough to dislodge Hannibal’s hands. “Have fun at the murder.”

 “Oh, I imagine it will be stimulating as always,” Hannibal said, pulling his keys from his pocket and heading for the outside access. “Considering the victim was yours.”

“W...mine?” Will called, twisting around just as the door closed. “Hannibal!”

All he got in response was the definitive sound of the lock sliding closed. Annoyed, Will got up and went to Hannibal’s desk to root out some paper, thinking the whole exercise would be one in futility anyway. He spied the little locked drawer where Hannibal had put Mathilda’s photo and wondered suddenly why he would do such a thing.

He wouldn’t have to hide a picture of me from me,’ Will reasoned, frowning at the brass lock. He remembered Hannibal sliding the key into his jacket pocket, palming it smoothly enough that Will might’ve missed it if he hadn’t been watching so closely. He tried and failed to find a reason why he shouldn’t see a picture of himself. He tried and succeeded in finding a reason to break into Hannibal’s locked desk—maybe seeing himself staring out of his recent past would trigger memories from his distant pass.

It was as good a reason as any to go snooping.

Considering what he knew about Hannibal’s eating patterns, what was this little secret anyway?

The key was nowhere to be found, Will discovered. He spent half the day digging through places he thought Hannibal might have put it only to come up empty. Frustrated and grouchy, he located the pretty, covered ceramic dishes in Hannibal’s refrigerator and ate leftovers straight from them, bored and wishing he knew just how he’d spent the last two hundred years.

“Damned slice of Swiss cheese,” he breathed, resorting to calling his memory names. It was petulant and didn’t make him feel any better but it beat going back to sleep. It seemed he wanted to do that more often recently, sleep all the time.

Maybe one of these days I’ll fall asleep and they’ll think I’m dead,’ he thought, stuffing another little rolled meat nugget into his mouth. He dimly recalled Hannibal telling him what it was last night when they’d been right here in the kitchen, but that wasn’t a memory he wanted to waste effort on. ‘They’ll bury me and I’ll wake up starving in the darkness...

A more reasonable expectation was that he’d be cremated.

It had its own dark, peculiar allure, he found.

So did being eaten by Hannibal,’ he thought, feeling the heat of the man’s hand on his chest and the pure, devouring certainty in his eyes when he’d told Will, “Your heart, of course.”

The idea of how painful it would be didn’t bother him. At least he’d feel something, and Will knew too well how seductive that could be.

He cleaned up after himself and returned to the office to work on his timeline. There was a strange feeling of appropriated power he got from sitting in Hannibal’s chair at his desk. He very rarely had the occasion to be in his office, even more rarely had he seen Hannibal actually seated here, but he felt it all the same. He was like a dragon in some respects, Hannibal was—hoarding his treasures close, basking in his garnered power, reveling in the control he could exert over others.

Will wondered what his patients thought of him, coming here for healing. Was he good at his job? Or did he just find it amusing to watch them struggle?

The morbid thoughts felt like home to Will, comfortable. Relaxing a little, he returned his attention to the task he’d been given and put pen to paper.

Went out for a night walk, he wrote, his awkward scrawl doing a huge disservice to both the weighty, expensive pen in his hand as well as the thick, hand-pressed paper Hannibal used for letters and notations. Frowning at the sentence, he went on, Came upon a man being robbed in the woods. I hid behind a fallen log to see what would happen. The man did something to the robber, cut him, hurt him somehow. He wasn’t afraid. He made others afraid, so he wasn’t afraid. This is the first time I met the Ravenstag.

He looked at that again, This is the first time I met the Ravenstag...

Will frowned, thinking of that figure in the woods, the impeccable clothing in cutting edge fashion compared to the slightly dated clothing Will was used to, ideals of fashion taking as long as they did to cross oceans.

He’s a foreigner!’ Father had said.

Send for the doctor...’

Will skipped partly down the page and wrote, I got sick. Mother wanted to send for the doctor but father didn’t want him because he was a foreigner.

But she’d insisted.

And he’d come...

Good afternoon, young gentleman,’ he said, his clipped and strangely-shaped English waking Will from his fevered sleep. ‘You have your mother in quite a state.’

Will licked his dry lips and opened his eyes, mouth parting in surprise to see the Ravenstag leaning over him, amusement and delight in his dark, dark eyes.

I’ll need privacy to examine him, please,’ he said, straightening from Will’s side. The window behind him cast him in shadows, long trails of darkness across the bed like stretching antlers. His profile was so starkly beautiful it cut and Will looked away to the door where his mother lingered, eyes rounded in bewildered admiration that the doctor seemed to take as his due. She swept out of the room with a blush on her cheeks, reduced to a virgin maiden with no more than a simple request.

‘It is very good to see you again, Will,’ the Ravenstag said, turning that burning intensity back towards him. A cool hand swept his curls back, settling on his sweaty brow. ‘You kept your word to me. That is something which I cherish.’

‘I said I wouldn’t tell,’ Will croaked, parched beyond the need for water, for anything other than the cool hand smoothing his sweaty hair. ‘It’s our secret, remember? Ours together.’

‘Yes,’ the doctor said, pleased with him and showing it, his heavy teeth exposed in a smile that was almost tender. ‘You’re a good boy, Will. Here, now, let’s see what we can do for this fever, shall we?’

So saying, he brought his opposite wrist to his mouth, tugging back his thick sleeve with his teeth, and sank those same teeth into the veins that flowed beneath his tanned skin.

Will’s nostrils flared at the scent of his blood and his mouth opened wider, tongue already seeking, hands finding sudden strength to grip the doctor’s wrist and hold it tightly to his mouth when it was offered. It flowed into him like a blessing, quenching the fire of his fever, life granting life.

‘There’s a good boy,’ the Ravenstag crooned to him, sliding to sit, pulling Will’s head onto his hip, his free hand stroking Will’s hair and bared neck with possessive satisfaction. ‘You will suffer, Will, and I am sorry that I will see so little of it, but very soon I will give you a choice and you must answer me honestly. Can you do that for me, Will?’

“Yes,” he breathed, his voice husky, his lids rising to show him Hannibal offering him a knife handle first, the scrutinizing weight of his gaze betraying his knowledge that Will had, once more, been much removed from his present.

“Then please get started,” Hannibal said, releasing the bladed end when Will accepted it by the handle. He moved away from Will, who stood there at the large stainless steel island that housed both counter and range all in one. Will looked down at the vegetables on the cutting board before him and wordlessly began to slice them, recalling a vague request for uniformity.

“The exchange of blood has always been a powerful ritual,” Hannibal said, moving to start his own work, a slab of red and ready meat awaiting its transformation. “The mingling of blood to seal brotherhood, the offering of blood sacrifice to hungry gods, the symbolic covenant of devouring divinity through the drinking of blood.”

“It wasn’t only that,” Will murmured, brow furrowing. He vaguely recalled Hannibal returning and looking at his timeline, asking him questions which Will had answered, making his own notations between Will’s haphazard sentences. “He did something else to me before that. He made me sick somehow, and only his blood could fix it.”

“It was purposeful, then,” Hannibal said, his recipe card at the ready but untouched, as if he’d already committed it to heart. Will envied his ability to do so. He could study it for days on end and still forget it now, when before his memory had been so very, terribly clear and sharp. When had he started forgetting the things he’d held with such clarity? He’d known his past well before he’d come to Baltimore, for instance, he’d just not been able to recall the moment of his rebirth or what had come before. What had happened to him this time that he was losing more than he was gaining, pouring out the details of himself to become an empty vessel once more waiting to be filled?

He heard Hannibal make that sound at him, the soft noise reserved for pets. Will looked for the cause and realized he was bleeding on the cutting board, the knife tip buried in the meat of his finger.

Hannibal washed his hands quickly before gathering Will’s hand up to inspect the cut. On perverse whim, Will tipped his finger to Hannibal’s mouth, daring him to take the bait.

Amber fire rose in those dark eyes, a glimmer of humor mixed with lust and something else that defied Will’s understanding. Careful not to pain him, Hannibal locked his mouth over the cut, his tongue settling against it, blood welling into his mouth.

“It was purposeful,” Will said, watching him, his voice a bare soft whisper of sound. Hannibal held him still with one hand on Will’s wrist and the other cupping his curled fingers, his long throat working as he swallowed Will’s blood. “Do you know what’s happening to me?”

Hannibal’s eyes held his. He gave a soft suck to the cut and pulled his mouth from it, wrapping his own finger over it tightly to slow the bleeding. Cocking his head just slightly, he inquired, “Why would you think I could answer that, Will?”

“What was in that picture?” Will whispered, thinking of Mathilda, of her head cracking with a sickening crunch. “It wasn’t me, was it?”

Who else would it possibly have been?” The Ravenstag whispered, startling him. Hannibal felt him jump and turned Will’s hand in his, laying a grazing kiss along his knuckles.

“What do you see when you look at me, Doctor Lecter?” Will asked. He felt the tug of forever on his heart, pulling him to lay waste to everything in his path and move on once more. He needed the answer like he needed human life to sustain him, a reason to understand something he’d only seen through the impersonal lens of his perception. What do you see? Let your honesty be the anchor that holds me, because I’m slipping and I’m slipping fast...“The chance for immortality? A willing body? An amusing distraction?”

Hannibal’s dark eyes met his. Will could see the gleam of the kitchen lights there, picking out amber glints, sparking color into those bottomless eyes, but he still couldn’t see himself reflected there and he desperately wanted to see himself reflected there.

“I told you when I met you that what I want from you is more substantial,” Hannibal murmured, checking the cut again with care before wrapping it back in his tight hold.

“So only my beating heart?” Will joked, but it sounded just as humorless as it felt.

“I find you incredibly fascinating, Will,” Hannibal purred, his fingers moving in a soft caress over Will’s skin. “You could do nothing more than lie still and breathe and I would be content enough to sit and watch you.”

Will blushed. It made him laugh, a burble of delight that brought an answering smile to Hannibal’s firm mouth. “That’s ridiculous, Hannibal.”

“No,” he said, shaking his head. “It merely is. Never make the mistake of assuming I’m not enraptured by you at all times, Will Graham, no matter how distracted I seem. You are the finest example of the ideal I could ever be offered, every jaded, sullen aspect of you mirrored by vulnerability and need. An altogether fetching package.”

“I’m not entirely helpless, Doctor Lecter,” Will whispered, recalling the last time Hannibal had called him fetching the night of his party and what Hannibal had asked him last night with his fist buried inside him. Will shivered with the memory, his whole body tightening with arousal that was as welcome as it was unbidden.

Hannibal gave Will the same smile he had that night in his office when he’d closed him away from the rest of the party, separate from everyone else, isolated as he preferred Will to be. He kissed his knuckles again with relish, asking, “Are you not?”

Chapter Text

Will had just put the last piece of silverware on the table when a shadow passed by the doorway. For a disorienting moment he thought it was the Ravenstag again, but a glance showed him a rather burly dark man in a dark suit watching him with an unsettling amount of consideration.

“You’re Will Graham?” he asked, his intensity broken by his easy smile. He took a step in, offering his hand. It was his left hand, beringed, and his handshake was firm and assessing. “Jack Crawford. Very nice to meet you.”

“Ah, nice to meet you, too,” Will said, retrieving his hand as quickly as he could, a tight smile curving his lips. This man made him uneasy. He was far too watchful and alert, used to dissecting people’s intentions and worth with only his observations. Will didn’t trust himself enough recently to be subjected to that level of scrutiny. His smile turned wry when he figured Hannibal knew it and had invited Mr. Crawford over just to find out what would happen. “He’s just finishing up in the kitchen. Have a seat if you like.”

“Jack, I thought I heard your voice,” Hannibal said, damned-near jovial as he swept in, settling plates into place and going to his sideboard to fetch the wine. “You’re early. Has something happened?”

“No, the commute just wasn’t calling to me,” Jack said, sitting down with a chuckle, eagerly looking at the plate Hannibal had placed before him. “This is too beautiful to eat, Doctor Lecter.”

“No such thing, Jack,” Hannibal corrected him, pouring wine into their glasses with efficient grace. “The most delicious things I’ve ever tasted have also been the most beautiful.”

Will glowered at him and Hannibal winked, the corners of his mouth curling up in a smug smile.

“Hannibal tells me you’re an artist, Will,” Jack said, regarding him across the table as Hannibal took his seat. “A sculptor, I believe?”

“Yes,” Will said, taking a sip of his wine to buy time. He desperately hoped that he wouldn’t fall into a moment right now, because the last thing he needed was a suspicious FBI agent seeing him vulnerable. Hannibal was right—the world was getting smaller and that could rapidly become a problem for him in this case.

“Is your work showing anywhere local?” Jack inquired, taking his silverware in hand when Hannibal did.

“, I...” Will’s thoughts clicked desperately, trying to come up with something to say.

“Will’s pieces are finite,” Hannibal said for him, smoothly taking control of the situation, a sparkle of amusement in his dark eyes. He indulged in a bite of his creation and took a sip of wine before going on, “He works in perishable items, mainly butchered meats. I find his work visceral and startling, even more powerful for its impermanence.”

“Sounds unusual and intriguing,” Jack said, opting for polite instead of truthful. “Is there a statement behind it, Will?”

“It’s an homage to mortality,” Will said, catching his thread of thought and smiling. “It succumbs to time and the elements like our bodies do, a reminder that we are all fleeting. There’s something very satisfying in knowing that it won’t survive long once it’s finished.”

“A work of love becomes a study in futility,” Jack mused, nodding. “I can see why Hannibal would like it. Are you planning to leave any pieces behind here, Will?”

“A few,” he said, meeting Jack’s brown eyes directly. He could see himself looking back from Jack's dark eyes, a pale and fey young man with troubled blue eyes and unruly, curly hair, too slight to be truly threatening and too young to be so jaded. “I like to leave them to be discovered. It makes the experience more personal.”

Hannibal was beaming at him, thoroughly pleased, but turned the talk to safer shores. Jack seemed happy enough to let the subject lapse, no doubt finding Will incredibly odd and putting it down to an artistic bent.

They didn’t speak of the case, of course, not with Will there as an outsider. Jack didn’t even mention he worked for the FBI, which was just par for the course, Will knew. They chatted of people and places, dreams and wonderings, the wine flowing dry and replaced at Jack’s insistence with sparkling water.

“Bella would not find it amusing if I couldn’t drive home,” he said, his deep, rumbling chuckle pleasant and filled with honest mirth.

“Still, if you need it, my guest bedroom is always available,” Hannibal said.

Jack’s eyes flicked suddenly to Will, his quick mind seizing on that little tidbit of information.

“If you’d like to discuss business,” Hannibal offered. “I am sure Will wouldn’t mind if we retire to my study.”

“Actually, there are a few things I’d like your opinion on, Hannibal,” Jack admitted, coming to his feet when Hannibal did, both of them buttoning their suit jackets. Will tried not to feel underdressed in his long-sleeved, black thermal, jeans, and bare feet. He was certain such things hadn’t bothered him before he’d met Hannibal, but he couldn’t quite recall.

“Will, if you would be so kind as to clear this away?” Hannibal asked, giving him a charming smile that Will wasn’t buying for an instant. “And when you’ve finished, I think it would benefit you to look over that list you made for me. I’ve left it in my office for you.”

Will watched Hannibal escort Jack out, a warm smile on his face. He gave Will a lingering look and departed with a slight, delighted smirk.

“Two hundred something years old and he gives me chores,” Will growled, stacking the remnants of their meal to get everything to the kitchen. He could have left it. The thought entered his mind and would no doubt have some entertaining results. But he did it anyway. Not like he had anything better to do.

The list was on Hannibal’s desk in his office, precisely where Will had last worked on it. His awkward scrawl was interspersed with Hannibal’s elegant, studied script, small notations here and there, questions in the margin that were mostly benign. Where? What year? What season? The robber’s name? Other deaths?

Near the end of the page Will had written, ‘The doctor was the Ravenstag. He said he cherished that I’d kept my word to him. I said I wouldn’t tell...’

Underneath that, Hannibal had written, ‘What secret did you share?

The secret. That was right. They had a secret together, he and the Ravenstag.

‘You’re so beautiful...’ he’d said, and a man lay dying on the ground, his last moments of life eclipsed by the icon of power and beauty before him.

No, not quite his last. He saw Will, too, a means of escape, a savior half-dressed and providing distraction. A shield to be used in order to escape.

They were so distracted by the sight of one another, so immediately and deeply entranced that the man lunged up off of the ground and grappled for him, trying to wrestle Will into a shield, screaming, ‘I’ll kill him! Back off or I’ll kill him!’

And just like that Will reacted, impulse instead of design driving him to dig his fingers into the cut on his belly and pull, filling the night air with screams, blood and spilling viscera, like the Ravenstag had made the cut for just such a purpose.

Will watched him die, floundering in his own innards, the flame of his life wisping out in a gurgle of panic and sour stench. He trembled in shock and surprise at how quickly it happened, stared down at his own bloody, flesh-flecked hands in the moonlight and almost gagged.

‘What a feral little creature you are,’ the Ravenstag praised him, a looming and feathered shadow at his shoulder, gazing down at the dead man with amusement and detachment. ‘What will you do now, young man?’

‘I don’t know...’ Will stammered, shock giving way to dread and horror at what he’d done. ‘I...I didn’t mean to...’

The Ravenstag touched him, then, smoothing his hair with one long-fingered hand, a coal-black creature with stag horns crowning its bare pate.

I will help you,’ he said, and just the calm certainty in his voice was enough to take the edge off of Will’s sick panic. ‘I will take care of this unfortunate thing for your sake but you must promise me that you will never speak of it, nor of me; not to anyone, not ever. Do you understand?’

“Yes,” Will said, the word escaping him as a husky whisper.

He felt the Ravenstag there with him, a flourish of black wings sweeping back to reveal Hannibal standing over him, straightening his cuffs, a soft frown on his face.

“Did you?” Hannibal inquired, the thread of warning in his voice alerting Will to the fact that he’d answered again while he was somewhere else.

“What?” he asked, shaking his head. He had the list in his hand but he wasn’t in Hannibal’s office anymore. He was in the living room, sitting at Hannibal’s harpsichord, his left hand limply on the keys. Bewildered, he sild his hand into his lap and gave Hannibal a lopsided, uncertain smile. “I was someplace else.”

“I gathered,” Hannibal said, reaching out to touch Will’s hair, not bothering to hide the fact that he was peering into Will’s eyes for more than just eye contact. “I asked you if you meant to interrupt my meeting with Jack and you said yes. Very unlike you.”

“I’m sorry, I was...answering him,” Will breathed, soothed by the soft touch of Hannibal’s fingers in his hair.

“Your Ravenstag?” Hannibal asked, pausing briefly to process that, glittering curiosity filling his dark eyes. “What did he say to you, Will?”

“He told me not to tell anyone, not then and not ever,” Will answered, reaching for the details while they were still fresh. “He disposed of the body.”

“The robber’s body?” Hannibal clarified, reaching out to pluck the page from Will’s lax fingers. There were several more lines there than there had been before, smeared and sloppy but legible. Hannibal’s dark eyes scanned them, greedily absorbing the information.

“I killed him,” Will breathed, and laughed softly, wondering how he could feel so guilty for killing an awful man like that and feel so little while killing those who truly didn’t deserve death. “I...I tore him open with my bare hands...”

Hannibal’s mouth curved slightly, a smile this time instead of a frown. It was lost on Will, who stared blankly at the pattern on Hannibal’s waistcoat, his mind still back in that forest.

“I just...pushed my fingers into the cut the Ravenstag had made and...pulled...”

“Do you remember how you felt, Will?” Hannibal asked, his hand sliding from Will’s curls to close around his chin, tipping his head up to meet his gaze. “In that moment when you first took a life in such a desperate and frightened way, how did you feel?”

“Afraid,” he breathed, his blue eyes soft and distant, stuck somewhere between the past and the present. “Sickened by myself, horrified at what I’d done...”

“And what else?” Hannibal pressed, light filling his dark eyes with amber flecks, as if the fire inside of him was sparking behind his lids. “What else, Will?”

Will swallowed hard and wet his lips with the tip of his tongue. In a harsh whisper, he admitted, “Powerful.”

He took a breath, let it out on slowly, uneven and faltering.

“I felt powerful, Doctor Lecter.”

When he finally was able to meet Hannibal’s gaze, he found the man smiling down at him, saintly in his blissful approval.

Exactly,” he breathed, and pulled Will’s cheek to rest against his belly in silent benediction.

Mathilda’s death made the news as a tragic accident. A slip on wet tile followed by a fall that rendered her unconscious. Death by drowning in her own pool. The housekeeper had found her there when she hadn’t made dinner. Will had been tearing someone’s throat out with his bare hands at the time.

That murder got its own headline, the profile provided by Hannibal Lecter himself.

That was still something Will found hard to wrap his head around, laughable, in fact.

“So you even investigate your own murders?” Will asked, incredulous. They were dressed in flawless evening clothes and on their way to some event or other that Hannibal refused to miss. “I’m still pissed about my clothes, by the way.”

“That particular murder wasn’t mine,” Hannibal reminded him, giving him a repressive stare. “And those reprehensible rags certainly haven’t earned the right to cause you grief of any sort, Will. You should be thankful I took care of it.”

Will had returned to his room this morning after spending another night in Hannibal’s bed to find that every bit of what he’d bought had been cleared out and replaced with items of Hannibal’s choosing. Nothing nearly as fancy as Hannibal himself wore, but of quality and standard that Will reluctantly discovered suited him very well. He couldn’t even bring himself to leave his shirt untucked now. It just seemed rude to do that to the clothes.

“A beauty such as yours deserves a proper wrapping,” Hannibal said, pulling into the line for valet service.

“So speaks the one doing the unwrapping,” Will quipped, turning his head away before Hannibal could see his sly smile. He needn’t have bothered. They both knew it was there.

“Shall I invite Alana over, Will?” he inquired, turning the conversation again. There was a thread of...something there. He had more than enough exposure to Hannibal Lecter to know it was dangerous.

“Why, you bored already?” he asked, giving Hannibal a smoldering look from his veiled eyes, long lashes rising and lowering in slow invitation.

“Boredom is your cross to bear, Will,” Hannibal said, reaching out to adjust Will’s tie. It was frustrating the way he could control his attraction, dialing it up or down the same way he turned knobs on his stovetop to raise and lower the heat. It made Will curious to know his limit, to push him until he found that point where Hannibal Lecter threw caution to the wind and really let it all go.

“I hate socializing,” he said, figuring two could play at this game, letting Hannibal see his seduction as nothing more than a play made out of boredom.

“Would you prefer to go home?” Hannibal asked, threatening calm in his voice.

Will scoffed at that, tossing his head and disarranging his curls. “I want what you tell me to want,” he purred, tipping his head to bare the side of his throat where the faint marks of Hannibal’s teeth still showed. They weren’t as stark or as deep as the ones on his hip, but they were undeniably there. “When you tell me to want it.”

Hannibal’s fingertips touched what was little better than a fading bruise, but Will shivered all the same and resented him for it, pettishly annoyed that he didn’t seem to have the same effect on Hannibal. He turned with the intention to snap at him but drew up short when he saw the absorbed way those black hole eyes were looking at him.

Never make the mistake of assuming I’m not enraptured by you at all times, Will Graham, no matter how distracted I seem...’

“Would you prefer to go home?” he asked, leaning to let Hannibal’s fingertips slide inside of his shirt collar, warm and seeking.

“My preference is at odds with my obligations,” Hannibal murmured. “I’m afraid I’m committed this evening, Will. But I won’t deny myself the pleasure of your company.”

Will glowered when the valet rapped on the window before sweeping open the door. Irritated to be interrupted, he slid out of the car and shoved his hands in his pockets, waiting for Hannibal to join him.

“Hands out of your pockets, please, Will,” the man admonished him, tugging at his cuffs and settling his jacket until it was whatever degree of perfect he found acceptable. “As much as being surly highlights your good looks, please try to be pleasant.”

“Why are we here?” Will asked, people sweeping past him in various measures of pretentious dress, dolled up in their brands to impress one another. He found it trifling and common and couldn’t believe that Hannibal could stand it. Curious, he turned to ask him, closing his mouth abruptly when he saw the mocking, amused smile on Hannibal’s face.

“You enjoy this on a lot of different levels, don’t you?” Will asked instead, a mocking smile of his own curling his mouth. “Do they realize how little you like them?”

“Disdain merely makes them try harder,” Hannibal said, leading the way inside a building that Will thought had started life as a courthouse of some sort. He really should’ve paid attention on the ride over. He wasn’t even sure what state they were in.

People milled everywhere, laughing and talking, dropping names and exchanging witty anecdotes. Hannibal moved among them with the Devil’s own charm, a warm friend to some, a beguiling mystery to others. Will was content to stand back against the wall with a glass of champagne in his hand and watch him, amused to see them so thoroughly deceived.

It made him wonder if he was being deceived in some way, if Hannibal’s fascination with him was merely a ruse to disarm him. Time certainly had no impact on one’s ability to be fooled or foolish, Will knew, it just extended the allowance for it to happen and the thought made him uneasy. He never had stayed in the city of his rebirth for long in the past, only long enough to satisfy himself that whatever he was looking for simply wasn’t there.

Which begged the question, why did he keep returning? Was he looking for something, as he’d always thought? Was it home, as Hannibal had suggested? Or was he looking for some trace of the Ravenstag after all?

His eyes cut to Hannibal, his height and regal bearing marking him out as surely as his unusual but undeniably good looks. People vied for his attention, flirtatious advances were returned in kind as adeptly and effortlessly as candid discussion on all manner of subjects Will found boring himself. He had no doubt he could hold his own if he bothered, but it was the bothering part he couldn’t summon now that boredom had become apathy and rendered all else nonsense.

Hannibal’s eyes met his and he lifted his glass in a slight toast. Will dipped his head and returned it, smiling.

“Mountains and Muhammad,” he breathed to himself, remembering the phrase his mother used to use in regards to his father's stubbornness. If anything, luring Hannibal to his side over the course of the evening was as entertaining a way to spend it as any, and he was curious to see if Hannibal would play such an obvious game.

With that in mind, he settled into his role of guileless, naive young man and moved through the huge space echoing with the sounds of humanity. It was easy to insert himself here and there, exclaiming over statements with wide-eyed astonishment, transforming the most mundane opinion into pure gold. It was all he could do not to laugh at how easy it was, how they puffed up with self-importance, preening beneath his unabashed admiration.

“Are you here all alone?” he was asked more than once, along with, “You’re very young to be here, aren’t you?”

Some of the questions came with kindness, genuine interest in the inquiry. Others had less selflessness at heart. In a gathering this size, Will was bound to find someone too captivated by him to consider the consequences. After all, he’d never failed to do so in the past.

“Does your family know you’re here?” a man asked him, interrupting the effusive chatter his date was directing at Will. “Or are you here with them?”

“I’m not as young as I look,” Will chided, unchallenged when he refreshed his glass from a passing server.

“Well obviously,” the man said, flushing like Will had scolded him. “Else you wouldn’t be here. I was merely—”

“Being rather rude?” Will inquired, brows rising under the cover of his curls.

The man cleared his throat and took his date’s hand, folding it carefully over his elbow. “They’ll be starting the bids soon. Let’s go in and see what we like, shall we?”

Will hid his smirk behind his glass, barely tasting the champagne. He hadn’t seen Hannibal for some time but he hadn’t been looking for him, either. An idle scan of the place left him no wiser than before; perhaps he’d gone in to look at the items available for bidding.

“You’re here stag, too?”

Will turned with a smile at the ready, confronted by a slender, rather tall young man with an easy smile and eyes filled with sly wit. His smile was lopsided and honest when he added, “I couldn’t convince my sister to come, so I came alone. Who turned you down, may I ask?”

“No one,” Will said, a coy glance following the answer. “No one to date, anyway.”

He laughed, delighted at that, and stuck out his hand, saying, “Anthony.”

“Will,” he responded, shaking the offered hand. His grip was firm and brief, businesslike. “Sister, huh?”

Anthony laughed, abashed, and took a sip from his glass, admitting, “I’m in a rather sticky situation, date-wise. If I take one, the other’s mamma gets all out of sorts. If I take the other, the first one throws a fit and raises hell.”

“I’d go for a third and drop them both,” Will mused, grinning when Anthony laughed, altering his guise just a little. It wasn’t a seduction this one wanted, just company and conversation.

“I would,” he said, walking slowly alongside Will into the next cavernous room where people were moving in clumps and singles past the items on offer. “But I’m expected to propose to one of them rather soon if I intend to be my father’s heir,’s a sorry state of affairs.”

“Could be worse,” Will said. “You could have been stuck with just the one.”

He was willing to laugh at that, too. He seemed desperate for amusement; it was a sentiment Will shared.

“I’m sorry, but do you know that gentleman over there?” Anthony asked, nodding slightly to Will’s right. “Because he seems to know you.”

Will glanced over and saw Hannibal in a bantering conversation with a small group of people, his dark eyes alight with enjoyment when they cut to look Will’s way.

“Yeah, we’re acquainted,” Will said, fingering the bruise on his throat with a smirk. “Is your sister older than you or younger?”

“Younger,” Anthony answered, not pressing the issue past what Will was inclined to provide. “Yours?”

“Mine? What makes you think I have a sister?” Will asked, hiding his discomfit in his glass, draining it dry.

“Because you asked about mine?” Anthony offered, shrugging. “I don’t know...You seem like someone who would have a sister.”

Will accepted that, idly looking at the items in passing. Most of them were antiques of one ilk or another, some understated and others absurd.

“Mary was younger than me,” he finally said, thinking of her. She’d been pale to his dark, like his father. She’d been envious of his curly hair and had often played with it, coiling Will’s deep brown curls over her fingers to make it even curlier. He’d fallen asleep countless times to that, lulled by her quick little hands playing with his hair, tying bows in it that he would complain over when he finally woke...

“How did she pass?” Anthony asked, picking up on the tense he’d used. He was genuine in his curiosity, not morbid about it. “I lost my little brother when he was six. Cancer.”

“I’m sorry,” Will said, automatic manners. “Mary died...afraid, I think. Just...afraid.”

Anthony frowned, snatched another glass from a passing tray and exchanged it for the empty one in Will’s hand, telling him, “Here's to our dearly departed, then, Will. We never could love them enough while we had them.”

Will smiled a little, tapped his glass to Anthony’s, and drank to that.

“Your gentleman acquaintance is coming this way,” Anthony said, turning away slightly to hide that he was speaking. “In case you’d like to duck out or something.”

“I appreciate the offer,” Will said, genuinely amused. “But I doubt it would do me much good.”

“There you are, Will,” Hannibal said, arriving with a devilish smile on his handsome face.

“Doctor Lecter,” Will said, his voice silky. “This is Anthony...”

“Dimmond,” he supplied, offering his firm handshake with a smile. “Doctor Lecter the psychiatrist?”

“Ah, I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” Hannibal purred, rescuing his hand. “Have we met?”

“No, I mean, not in the flesh,” Anthony said, blushing a little and uttering a soft laugh. “I am familiar with your work. You last article was quite thought-provoking.”

“Thank you very much,” Hannibal said, preening with the praise. “I didn’t mean to interrupt, I only need to borrow Will a moment.”

“Oh, yes, of course! By all means,” Anthony said, stepping away. “Excuse me.”

When Anthony got out of earshot, Hannibal closed the distance between them and murmured, “Are you socializing at long last, Will, or are you hunting?”

“Socializing, I think,” he said, polishing off his drink, enjoying the faint touch of Hannibal’s lips against his ear when he spoke.

“Have you seen anything here that you like?” Hannibal asked, head tilted down just slightly to speak into the shell of Will’s ear.

Will chuckled and turned his head to catch Hannibal’s gaze, his nearness playing along Will’s nerves like sparks of electricity. “To buy or to eat?”

The smile he got in return spoke volumes. “I am interested in the answer either way, Will.”

“I’ve met more than the usual amount of rude people,” Will said, teasing.

“Do you see that man there?” Hannibal asked, moving almost behind Will, ducking slightly so that they gazed the same direction. Will followed his movements, eyes coming to rest on a rather short and rotund elderly fellow whose florid flush betrayed his love of alcohol. “He interrupted a lady friend of mine no less than six times in the course of our conversation. He then proceeded to spill his drink down her cleavage—a very interesting event considering she is much taller than he. Had I no manners to speak of, I would say he is no better than a pig. It is, however, a grave disservice to pigs.”

Will snorted softly, laughing.

“The rude are all around us; we are saints not to eat them all,” Hannibal said, chuckling, possibly in the best mood Will had yet to see him in. It was the setting, he realized, the society. Hannibal enjoyed fine things, fine company, fine wines and fine conversation, especially with the occasional peppering of rudeness to pique his appetite. Like Will, he earmarked the people around him—the pigs from the rabbits from the sheep, and the larger the crowd the better.

“What about you, Doctor Lecter?” Will asked, dropping his empty glass off on a passing tray, his eyes sparkling with mischief and alcohol. “See anything you want?”

“So long as you are in my line of vision, Will, yes I do,” he said, baring his sharp, dangerous teeth in a grin. “As far as the items go, there are a few things.”

“Show them to me,” Will said, suddenly curious, as if Hannibal’s appetite for information was a disease that could catch.

Hannibal cocked his head, watching Will with those dark, empty brown eyes, a slight smile curving his mouth. Almost too softly to hear, he said, “Very well.”

They walked along together, alone in the crowd, viewing the pieces of art and weaponry that Hannibal had bid on. All of it was his usual baroque style, weighty and—to Will’s estimation—unnecessarily self-important.

Then they came to the last item Hannibal had his sights on, and Will just stared at it, eyes wide.

It was an antique military pistol, an old American single-shot pistol carefully preserved and tended.

“Will?” Hannibal asked, seeing his immediate reaction to the old weapon.

The gun rose to the level of his heart. His father was screaming, shouting, furious. 'Get out! Get out of my house before your mother sees what’s become of you!’

Monster, demon, other.

You must stay with me, Will,’ the Ravenstag reminded him, holding his head in both warm, strong hands. ‘You will be frightened and you will want to flee, but if you do, if you return home, your hunger will overcome you. Do you understand?’

“...quite alright, he is merely a very deep thinker,” Hannibal said, his voice drawing Will’s attention from that gun. He felt the man’s warm hand at the small of his back, possessive and protective, and forced himself to look away from the pistol. “Aren’t you, Will?”

“Yes,” he agreed, taking the cue and smiling. It was Anthony there next to Hannibal, concerned and earnest. “I get lost in my own head sometimes.”

The answer seemed to satisfy him because he gave Will another easy, crooked smile and said, “Well, I didn’t mean to bother you, I only wanted to ask if you both would like to have dinner sometime next week? It isn’t often I meet interesting people out at events like this; I’m loathe to waste the opportunity.”

“We would be glad to join you,” Hannibal answered for them both, amused and intrigued by the young man handing him a business card. He offered one of his own in return, which Anthony carefully tucked away in his pocket.

He looked at Will expectantly and asked, “And how do I get hold of you, Will?”

“Call my office,” Hannibal said, redefining the boundaries of the box Anthony was to put them in. “Will is staying in my home for the time being.”

“Ah, alright,” Anthony said, nodding and stepping away. “I’ll call sometime next week! It was very good to meet you both!”

Hannibal watched him go, a bemused smile on his face.

“I like him,” Will said.

Hannibal cocked his head.

“Don’t eat him,” Will growled, nudging Hannibal to break that cat-rapt stare.

“I would never dream of doing so,” Hannibal purred, chuckling, and drew Will away from that strangely familiar weapon.

Chapter Text

Please have a look at this amazing gifset done by nightliferogue for this story! It is absolutely gorgeous and perfect!!!

Jack Crawford dropped by unexpectedly the evening after the auction, late enough that they were already relaxing after dinner. Hannibal was playing something vaguely familiar on his harpsichord while Will was stretched out on the couch, just listening, both of them sipping from the ever-present glasses of wine within reach.

Hannibal seemed surprised by the unannounced visit, slightly annoyed if Will was to hazard a guess. He came back to the living room in Jack’s wake, calling ahead, “Will, Jack’s come to visit.”

Will swung his legs down and got up, retrieving his glass and keeping distance between them. He didn’t like Jack any better now than he had the last time they’d met and he wasn’t feeling energetic enough to spar this evening.

“Let’s go to the study, shall we?” Hannibal offered, gesturing in the direction of his office. It was smaller, closer quarters, but perhaps he wanted to have those factors to his advantage, able to watch Jack closely without drawing undue attention to himself.

“I’ll leave you two to it,” Will offered, heading towards the kitchen.

“No, Will, please join us,” Jack said, stopping him in his tracks. “This visit concerns you, actually.”

Will scowled.

“I do hope it’s nothing troublesome,” Hannibal said, ushering them all into his small study. “Will has hardly been here long enough to create much of a disturbance.”

“Well, we’ll see,” Jack said, cryptic. He waited for Will to go in first, which he did, flopping into the chair nearest the door while Jack turned Hannibal’s desk chair to face him.

Hannibal took the other armchair, turning it to see them both, his eyes alight with curiosity.

“So,” he said, a slight smile on his fine mouth. “What brings you by so late, Jack?”

“Questions, Hannibal,” Jack sighed, settling back. “Many, many questions.”

“For Will?” Hannibal asked, as if that was the most unimaginable thing he could consider. “That’s rather strange. He hardly leaves the house.”

“I know. Unfortunately, there was a request for more information on you, Will.”

“What kind of information, Jack?” Will asked, his tone biting and his eyes flashing ill-concealed irritation.

The large man shifted in his chair, pressing his palms together, his elbows on his knees.

“You know, I couldn’t find any mention of you or your work on the internet,” he said, his tone conversational but even a novice fisherman would’ve seen the hook.

He thought of the carnage he’d left behind him, a vague sense of destruction, and softly said, “Oh, it’s there, believe me.”

“It’s almost like you’re a ghost,” Jack said, his slight smile less benign and more shark-like. “Are you a ghost, Will?”

“No more than you are,” Will purred, looking away from him. He was being churlish and he knew it but he didn’t really care.

“Where were you before you came to Baltimore, Will?” Jack asked him, declining the drink Hannibal offered him.

“The south,” Will said, no longer willing to entertain him. He hadn’t tried very hard, but he didn’t like Jack Crawford and that shortened his ability to bear nonsense.

“Can you get more specific?”


“You were staying with Mathilda, weren’t you, Will?” Jack asked. “Much like you’re staying with Hannibal now?”

“Jack,” Hannibal admonished, brows drawing together in irritation at hearing her mentioned.

“Yes,” Will answered, shrugging. “I was staying with her.”

“Jack, what is this all about?” Hannibal asked. “She hit her head and fell into the pool. It was nothing more than a tragic accident.”

“The housekeeper said she thought she saw you leaving the grounds, Will,” Jack flatly said, hoping to provoke a reaction.

Me or someone like me?” Will softly clarified, tapping his finger on the chair arm.

Jack gave him a steady stare, mouth thinned to a grim, unhappy line.

“I wasn’t staying with her when the accident happened,” Will said, toying with the stem of his glass. He cut his eyes to Jack’s, a certain amount of relish in his voice when he added with a scornful lilt, “I was already comfortable here.”

“But you did stay with her, and you do know her house and grounds,” Jack said, smiling slightly as if he’d caught wind of some massive plot. It annoyed Will to see it, that this man thought himself so very clever when he was just as blind as everyone else. “And, to my understanding, she even came to visit you here once or twice, didn’t she? What happened, Will? Did you rekindle things? Better yet, Hannibal, why didn’t you mention that she’d come here on the day she died?”

Hannibal took a deep breath, finally saying with a convincing amount of reluctance, “I had hoped to keep the world ignorant of our last conversation. It is bad form to speak ill of the dead.”

Jack’s brows rose, awaiting an explanation.

“Mathilda visited me, Jack, not Will,” Hannibal said, able to sustain that mournful tone complete with regret. “Twice, actually. The first time it was to demand I return Will to her as if he was nothing more than a belonging I’d borrowed. The second time she returned with threats—were I not to give her Will, she would spread all manner of rumors about the both of us in an attempt to ruin our respective careers. It was markedly unpleasant and I had no desire to expose those details to public opinion.”

“So she was making threats,” Jack echoed, nodding slightly. He cut his eyes to Will again. “What happened, Will? Did she threaten to tell Hannibal something that would make him toss you back to her so you killed her?”

“Jack, let me save you the trouble,” Hannibal sharply said, saving him from Will’s quick and eager tongue. “Will was here with me the night of Mathilda’s accident. I can vouch for his whereabouts. If he is a suspect in her unfortunate death then I insist we move to a professional location and continue this within the strictures of the law with my lawyer present.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Jack murmured, almost smug in his suppositions. “I’m not questioning Will, we’re just...having a conversation.”

“I’m a shitty conversationalist,” Will sullenly told him. “For what it’s worth, so are you.”

He got up and stretched, more bored than worried, but a niggling warning in the back of his mind urged him towards caution. Jack Crawford was a nosy busybody but he was a nosy busybody with an FBI badge who could make trouble for him.

“I admit I was surprised when you were brought up, Will. Your association with Mathilda was entirely unknown until her housekeeper mentioned you to the case investigator,”  Jack said, a dog with a bone he was determined to keep hold of. “Considering you are now living on the largess of my friend, you can understand why I need to ask you about it.”

Will wouldn’t even look at him. He could feel Hannibal’s eyes on his back, a weighty reassurance.

“I don’t have to explain myself to the likes of you, Jack,” Will said, huffing a short, irritated laugh. He stalked out of Hannibal’s study with every intention of fleeing out into the darkness and indulging the darker side of the monster within him that urged him to kill for the joy of it rather than for need.

“Excuse me,” Hannibal murmured to their guest, following Will out into the hallway. He stopped him with one hand on Will’s arm, drawing him back as he closed the door behind him. “Will.”

“What?” It was petulant and short but his mood was soured by the talk of Mathilda. He imagined it would take another two hundred years before she stopped being his most fumbling and inelegant mistake.

“In the living room next to the fireplace there is a capped knob,” Hannibal murmured, his voice pitched so low that even Will’s preternatural hearing strained to catch what he said. “On the left side, behind the vase. Uncap it and listen.”

Will blinked, his brows drawing together in slight confusion.

Hannibal didn’t say, “Do as I tell you,” because that would be beyond the pale. His look, however, reminded Will of the one prevalent agreement between them.

“I want what you want when you want me to want it, right?” he breathed, smirking. “I’m going.”

Hannibal briefly stroked his cheek, pleased, and headed back into his small study to sit with Jack, probably, to mend whatever fences the man’s graceless and dogged pursuit of his preferred truth had torn down.

Will wandered into the living room and glared at the vase before moving it. He flopped onto the floor with a bored sigh and touched the brass cap.

It seemed strangely familiar to him, harkening back to something from his childhood, some game he’d played as a boy.

Frowning, Will twisted the knob free, startled when he heard the echoing sound of voices.

“Seriously?” he breathed, wriggling down to press his ear to the brass end emerging from the wall.

Sure enough, he could hear their conversation, thinned by distance and made tinny by the vibration of the metal, but clear nonetheless.

I’m telling you, there is something wrong with that boy!’

Will jerked back, trembling, heart racing. That hadn’t been either one of them. That had been a voice from his past. Snatching a soft breath, Will closed his eyes and leaned down again.

He shouldn’t be doing this, he knew, spying on his parents this way, but they’d been acting so strange around him lately, like they were hiding something. Were they hiding something?

‘I’m telling you,’ Father flared, his voice carrying through the tube. ‘There is something wrong with that boy!’

The Doctor says he just needs more treatm—

He doesn’t need more treatment, he needs an exorcism!’ Father snarled, incensed. ‘That...that man has no idea what he’s doing! He’s a foreigner! Didn’t I tell you such?!

Darling,’ Mother tried, tears in her voice. ‘Will has gotten so much better since he’s come—’

His interest in that boy is unnatural!’ Father shouted, his voice rising to a volume Will could hear even without the aid of the spy tube. ‘I’m telling you, there is evil afoot here! We’ve had more deaths since he’s come than we’ve had in twenty years! People are sickening, falling ill for no reason! Even the dogs don’t like him! Yet you shove your son in his path because he’s better now?!’

Darling, please—

I won’t have it!’ Father said, his words as firm and stout as he was. ‘I simply won’t have it! He’s done something to that boy, something evil and dastardly, and I want no part of it! Of either one of them!’


He looked up to find the Doctor there, standing in the living room with his hands tucked into his pockets and a slight frown on his fine lips. ‘Will, what did you hear?’

They’re fighting,’ Will whispered, capping the tube. ‘Father says I need an exorcism.’

You don’t need an exorcism,’ the Ravenstag said in his guttural, flowing English, coming closer to crouch before him. ‘You’re perfect just as you are.’

‘He says you’ve done something unnatural to me,’ Will said, trembling. ‘That he won’t have it in his house...’

The Ravenstag cocked his noble head. ‘Do you see, now, Will, how brittle their love is? How is it so easy for them to turn from you, hm? To stop loving you?’

Will felt tears well up in his eyes at the truth of his words. In the space of a year, he’d lost the support of his father for no reason that he could discern.

‘Will you do the same?’ Will asked, hugging his knees to his chest, miserable and frightened. ‘Come a year or more, will you turn from me?’

‘Alas, no,’ the Doctor breathed, touching his curls with tender softness. ‘Their love is like fog on water, easily burned off by the heat of the sun. My love for you is darkness, Will—ever watchful, ever embracing, ever ready to shield you from your enemies, and ever constant.’

Am I evil?’ Will asked, trembling, his eyes seeking the Ravenstag’s, imploring and scared.

Evil is a word used for humans bound by law and answerable to others who judge them,’ the Doctor told him, stroking his soft curls, his dark eyes drawing Will into comforting darkness. ‘When you answer to the instincts that nature has provided you, does that make you evil? It is evil to do as your impulses bid you? When you are freed from limited mortality, you are freed from such tawdry terms as good and evil to be just as God intended you to be. Who would dare stand in judgment of you?

Will unfolded from his place on the floor and reached for him, was gathered to his broad chest and warmth, encased in safety and a love that would never forsake him.

‘I’m ready to go with you now,’ Will told him, squeezing his eyes closed. ‘I’m ready to leave this behind for good...’

That was the night he left them, his family. Or, rather, was cast aside by them and turned to the Ravenstag for comfort. It was a comfort that came in a manner he hadn’t expected but threw himself into without hesitation. Anything, anything for him, anything at all as long as he would love him.

‘Do you think your Ravenstag tied you into a knot and fucked you?’

Hard hands swept his skin, seeking and demanding as much as the mouth covering his own. It thrilled him and terrified him, untouched as he was, with only a chaste kiss from the neighborhood flirt to his credit. This felt like being eaten alive, quivering and molten, lacking hands enough to grasp tight, lacking breath enough to moan as he needed to in order to cool this building pressure inside.

Sharp nails pricked his skin through the cloth of his shirt and ripped it from him, the shriek of rending fabric making Will jump, the hot touch of bare palms on his exposed skin forcing a keening cry out of him.

The Ravenstag laughed at his eagerness, not cruelly but with delight, with amazement that anything could be so wild and wanton for his touch. Warm, silky lips trailed behind questing hands, laying sharp, stinging bites that Will’s whole body tightened around.

‘Will you let me have you entirely, Will?’ the Ravenstag purred, shredding Will’s pants with the same easy, possessive elegance as he had the shirt. ‘Here...

Will looked down the trembling stretch of his own body and saw his hard, flushed cock standing up over his belly, bouncing responsively, a lewd invitation that made him blush. When the Ravenstag brushed his fingers down it, barely tickling the soft, sensitive skin, Will sobbed and threw his head back, his flesh pressing up in a spasm as if offering more.

Here,’ the Ravenstag said, cupping his tight balls and forcing another loud, anguished cry from Will’s lips. The hand cupping him shifted, long fingers seeking lower so that Will’s heart pounded in merciless fear and excitement.

‘And here?’ the Ravenstag purred, his finger pressing in, breeching the tight ring of Will’s body to slide inside of him.

Yes!” Will sobbed, working against it, the room put back together in bits and pieces, the finger that had pierced him his first and thrilling time replaced with the full, solid thickness of Hannibal’s hot cock. Hard hands were at his hips, guiding him, urging him as he frantically rocked astride, working both of them with everything in him.

“He did,” Will said, the words a broken pant, faltering with his harsh breath. “He tied me into a knot and fucked me, even the first time. Especially the first time.”

Hannibal’s cock bucked inside of him and he arched up harder, lower lip caught between those sharp dangerous teeth. There were marks on his skin, marks from nails and teeth that Will vaguely remembered putting there. There were marks on his own thighs and his aching cock reminded him of the explosive orgasm he’d had in Hannibal’s mouth with such vivid detail that he nearly came again. Will’s head dropped back and he moaned, the harsh, raspy sounds of their pleasure mingling in the heat of the room.

“Did you love him, Will?” Hannibal asked, fingers tightening on his hips to hold him up, frozen and braced above him for the punishing thrust of his hips, each one forcing a louder and more desperate sound from Will’s mouth.

Yes!” he gasped, the liquid, silky feel of Hannibal sliding so rapidly inside of him coating his skin in gooseflesh. His eyes flew wide and he shuddered, tightening, wavering there on the cusp where Hannibal liked him best, suspended between pleasure and pain and breathless with anticipation.

“And did he love you in return?” Hannibal asked him, his usual steady calculation forsaken, as breathless and undone as the man wriggling atop him.

“Hannibal, please,” Will moaned, straining to settle back on his hips, to feel the satisfying crack of flesh on flesh that could get him where he wanted. “Ah, God, please...”

“Did he love you, Will?” Hannibal pressed, slowing his pace so that Will sobbed in frustration, shuddering in his grasp. “Answer me.”

“As much as he could,” Will whispered, his dragging breath thick with unshed tears. “In the only way he knew how—like darkness, absolute and encompassing.”

Hannibal pressed down on his hips so hard that Will felt his bones complain but that didn’t detract from the overwhelming feeling of being forcefully ground down onto Hannibal’s thick cock. He thrust so hard beneath Will that he lifted him on the rise of his hips, a jarring and shocking motion that brought Will to orgasm, thrashing and crying out loudly, coming in forceful spurts up Hannibal’s heaving belly.

Nearly liquid with relief, Will swayed with the force of Hannibal’s own orgasm, shivering and squeezing as he plunged deep and rocked there, feeding every bit of himself into Will’s pliant body, his hands tight and possessive on Will’s slender hips.

Panting and overheated, Will slumped over him, head hanging and eyes half-closed. He knew without remembering that they’d been in here for some time, a leisurely exploration that had turned insistent and urgent enough that they hadn’t quit the bed.

Hannibal was flushed beneath him, still breathing raggedly, his dark eyes nearly closed. He looked replete, leonine in his satisfaction, a slight smile baring the tips of his sharp teeth. His warm hands smoothed Will’s hips and up the small of his back, urging him closer. Will folded down atop him with a soft sigh, glued belly to belly with cum, Hannibal’s wet cock sliding slightly out of him. Will shifted, squeezing enough to earn a soft catch of breath, his heart pressed to Hannibal’s own thundering heart.

“You’re healing,” Hannibal murmured, fingers softly tracing the mark on Will’s hip, his other hand smoothing Will’s cooling back. “Slowly, like a human would.”

“Yes,” he said, because he didn’t know what else to say. He closed his eyes, wondering how long Hannibal was going to let him lie there in a sticky mess.

“Jack Crawford is determined you’re involved, Will,” Hannibal said to him, his hand drifting from Will’s hip to fold his arm over the small of his waist, his other hand coming to rest on the back of Will’s head, gently petting his curls. “He is ignoring the facts to suit his suspicions because he is unreasonable. He is unreasonable because he is unnerved by you.”

“Do you know why?” Will asked, growing drowsy in the aftermath, warmed by the heat of Hannibal’s body beneath his. “I know why. He sees me as strange and surly, too small to truly be a physical threat, too young to take seriously, and too young to be sleeping with you. Hence, I must have done some terrible deed that will separate me from you before you end up like Mathilda.”

He lifted his head and smiled at Hannibal, telling him, “He thinks I’m using you, Hannibal. That I’m taking advantage.”

Hannibal chuckled, amused by it, and sighed a little, hitching Will up closer atop him when he shifted, nestling his head next to Hannibal’s, still sprawled atop him, a living blanket of warm flesh.

“Only inasmuch as I take advantage of you,” Hannibal said, still stroking his skin.

“I tend to ask for it,” Will admitted, nuzzling against him and sighing. “He’s jumping at shadows and thinks he’s struck gold. He’s got nothing, Hannibal. He’s distorting the facts to suit what he wants to be true. He’s the worst kind of person.”

“What kind of person is that?” Hannibal asked, squeezing him again, shifting Will’s body to be slightly more comfortable atop him.

“A righteous one,” Will breathed, thinking of his Father, of the gun. “Did you win your bid?”

Unperturbed by the strange shift in subjects, Hannibal told him, “Yes. The pistol will be delivered within the week. Why do you ask?”

Will didn’t answer. His thoughts had skipped ahead, or maybe backwards, finding himself in the Ravenstag’s bed, bound by desire and senseless with love.

“How did you know, Hannibal?” Will murmured, thinking of something that had been niggling at his awareness. “How did you know that the Ravenstag was fucking me?”

“Because I would, in his place,” Hannibal answered, the obvious response and, thus, most likely not true. Well, true enough, perhaps, to take the place of the actual truth. “You are intelligent and remarkably beautiful, Will; preserved forever as perfect youth. I doubt he would choose so merely to look at you. Such fresh innocence demands debauching.”

Will laughed softly at that, boneless atop him. “I did,” he said, vague snatches of memories plucking at his awareness. “I begged him. He...was like a drug I couldn’t get enough of. I’d beg him on my knees without shame, desperate for what he offered.”

Hannibal twitched beneath him, bringing a soft chuckle from Will, who asked, “That do it for you, Doctor Lecter? Me begging someone to do anything and everything to me, no matter the cost?”

Hannibal squeezed him, murmuring, “Does it surprise you? The image of your ferocity turned to tearful supplication is quite the stimulating picture, Will. I can honestly tell you that I would love to see it again.”


“Well I guess we’d need the bathroom for that,” Will joked, his mind hastily supplying him an explanation, clamping the lid down tightly on his welling curiosity about Hannibal Lecter.

“Yes,” Hannibal said, a curious note of nostalgia in his voice when he said, “I suppose we would.”

Chapter Text

Anthony Dimmond invited them to dinner a scant few nights after Jack’s unwelcome visit. Will preferred to decline it but by the time he found out about it Hannibal had accepted.

“We move in the same social circles but it seemed inevitably we attended different functions at opposite times,” Hannibal told him, sketching something at his desk that Will leaned over him to view, hitching his hip up against the desk and tipping back to look at it.

Hannibal looked up at him with a smile, pencil in hand.

“Somehow,” he said. “We’ve always managed to miss one another.”

“Well, he sounded plenty excited to have you,” Will scoffed, reaching down to run his fingertips over the paper, careful not to touch the markings themselves.

“And you as well,” Hannibal reminded him. “He seems very interested to have someone there whom he perceives to be closer to him in age than most of the company he keeps.”

“Joke’s on him,” Will murmured, laughing softly. “Why are you so keen to go?”

“The Dimmonds have something which I have been very interested in for a very long time,” Hannibal said, sitting back in his chair to look at Will, his dark eyes retracing the lines he often drew in quiet hours, refreshing his memory of Will’s face as if he held an infinite amount of interesting detail to be found.

“Oh, yeah? What’s that?” Will asked, turning his attention from the piece to meet Hannibal’s steady, amused gaze.

“An Iberian harpsichord,” Hannibal told him, getting a startled, burbling laugh out Will.

Why am I not surprised?” he asked, feeling another bout of raspy laughter begging to escape. “Ah, Doctor Lecter, you are certainly in a class of your own.”

“I always have been,” Hannibal agreed, grinning. After a long moment, he added, “Will, it hasn’t escaped my notice that you haven’t asked me for my help.”

“Help with what, exactly?” Will softly asked, looking at Hannibal from under the fringe of his lashes.

“I am a psychiatrist, healing broken minds is what I do,” Hannibal reminded him. “Yet you haven’t asked me to help you recover your memories.”

Will smiled slightly, a crooked and uncertain smile accompanied by his eyes rapidly seeking anything else in the room to focus on except for those dark, knowing eyes.

“We’ve been busy,” he said.

“I am aware,” Hannibal stated, the words careful and weighted. “I am also aware that when you begin to remember something, it frightens you into seeking sex as a distraction.”

Will swallowed hard, frowning.

“I have no objections to being a distraction provided you are able to balance the two,” Hannibal said in response to his discomfort. “I will, in fact, distract you as often as necessary or physically possible, so long as you are making progress in recalling what the Ravenstag did to you.”

“I’m...remembering,” Will said, blowing out a frustrated breath. “Piece by a mirror in my head was shattered and I keep finding all these pieces without knowing how they fit together.”

“I can help you fit them together,” Hannibal said, reaching out to rest his warm hand on Will’s knee, fingers smoothing the fine material of his pants. “I can help you fill in the cracks, make your mirror whole again.”

“I’m...ah...” he laughed nervously, rubbing his face with both hands, grateful for the touch on his knee. The warmth was something he could reach for, something real and tangible. “I’m a little scared of what it’s going to reflect...Terrified, actually.”

“You needn’t be terrified,” Hannibal assured him, leaning forward and reaching up to tip Will’s head down, forcing the fidgeting man to meet his gaze. “Stay with me, Will. So long as you stay with me, you need never be frightened of what the mirror of your mind reflects.”

Will’s mouth turned up in an unwilling smile that slowly became a true smile. Strange as it was, he felt instinctively that Hannibal could do exactly what he claimed, and, as the man had said before, Will was attracted to that kind of power. Will was attracted to the promise of relief that power presented, and he had found more relief with Hannibal Lecter in just this short time than he’d found in two hundred years.

“Now,” Hannibal purred, smiling up at him. “Shall we go to dinner?”

It was not the intimate dinner that Will had hoped it would be.

When they arrived, dressed to Hannibal’s strict standards much to Will’s impatience, there was already a small crowd gathered in the parlor of the Dimmond house and it was growing by the moment.

“This place is an orgy of excess,” Will muttered, scowling at his rich surroundings as if mortally offended. Hannibal looked pleased, damn him. Always so pleased to be among his own crowd, a peacock among a murder of crows. “Do you ever pick from them? Your crème de la crème?”

“It has been very tempting at times,” Hannibal murmured, exchanging a nod of greeting with someone across the room. “But no, I can’t recall I ever have. They are mostly saved by their good manners. Not all humans are born to circumstances that protect them quite so well as the rich.”

Will chuckled at that, telling him, “They’re tiresome. I can’t believe you can bear the boredom.”

“I find ways to amuse myself,” Hannibal said, grinning. “Dinner parties are certainly one of my favorite ways.”

Anthony cut across the room with a bright smile on his face and two glasses of wine in hand, calling ahead, “I was worried you wouldn’t come!”

“Oh, Hannibal wouldn’t miss something like this for love or money,” Will said, taking one glass while Hannibal took the other. With a wry smirk he added, “Believe me, I tried.”

“You certainly did,” Hannibal said, cutting a glance his way. “Your home is very lovely, Mr. Dimmond. I admit to being envious of your collection.”

“You mean my father’s collection?” Anthony corrected, grinning. “He’s found some way to make it a tax write-off. I wouldn’t dare call him a collector, more of a strategist.”

“I assume from the quality we’ve seen that your father has more delicate and valuable pieces stored separately?” Hannibal asked, all innocent inquiry.

“Are you angling for the harpsichord?” Anthony quipped, laughing at Hannibal’s wry smile at being caught out. “It’s tucked away in a room even more pretentious than my dinner list, present company excluded. Would you like to see it after dinner? I wouldn’t mind showing it off. It gets precious little admiration here.”

“Does your father not have any interest in it?” Will asked, finding it rather odd to have something apparently so valuable without having some deeper attraction to it.

With a conspiratorial, mischievous smile, Anthony leaned closer and said, “Between us, I’m certain he bought it just to keep someone else from having it. He’s a terror, the old man. Hungry?”

“Ravenous,” Hannibal said, grinning like the proverbial cat in the creamery.

The dinner was served passing-plate style, small tasting dishes making the rounds by liveried staff while the guests mingled in Anthony’s sumptuous salon.

Will availed himself of the ample wine options and took only minimal tastes of the food, unable to take any nourishment of note from it. He mostly lingered at the edges of the room, content to watch the people around him. Hannibal, enormously in his element, tended to draw attention with his looks, charm, and intriguing foreign inflection to his soothing voice. Most if not all of the attendees knew him but took the chance to know him better.

Somewhat too much better, in some cases.

Particularly in the case of a tittering socialite who had apparently chosen to invest in a rather impressive shelf of a bosom that only stayed inside of her dress by virtue of its very immobile plasticity.

Not for lack of trying,’ Will wryly thought, hiding his laugh behind a swipe of his hand, looking away as she once again placed a hand on Hannibal’s arm and bent over to check the strap of her shoe. His long-ago instincts urged him to check it for her out of politeness and his current state of impish humor seconded that, if only to remove her source of display, but it was far more entertaining to see Hannibal’s look of courteous interest rapidly fraying beneath the combined weight of her manners and her company. The others in their group drifted away one by one, unable to break her monopoly on his attention despite Hannibal’s best efforts.

“She does that every time,” Anthony quietly said, turning up at his shoulder with a small plate, his own amused gaze on the woman bouncing upright. “She tends to gravitate towards older men...her father died when she was young, so...”

“I’m sure they gravitate right back,” Will said, chuckling at the harried look on Hannibal’s face. He had no polite or delicate way to disengage at present but bore it admirably, well used to long suffering the presence of fools. Will doubted anyone else would notice how uncomfortable he was, but Will Graham was more intimately acquainted with Hannibal Lecter than most.

“You should rescue him,” Anthony suggested.

“Nah, he’s fine,” Will said, not bothering to hide his amusement when Hannibal caught his eye. “If he can’t maneuver his way out of the clutches of a single determined soul then he’s not half the man I know he is.”

I may rescue him all the same,” Anthony said. “Perhaps I can use his gratitude to my advantage.”

Will gestured his direction with his glass, saying, “Worth a shot.”

He watched Anthony ride to the rescue, knight errant sans horse, and run into the peculiar issue of the determined young woman shifting her attention from potential father to potential heir in a heartbeat. Will almost snorted wine up his nose when she latched onto Anthony’s arm.

Anthony cast him a resigned look over the crowd and shrugged, mission mostly if haphazardly accomplished.

Hannibal stayed to make pleasant conversation, maneuvering Anthony between himself and the tittering young lady. Will ambled over now that his source of entertainment had moved on, sliding himself into the space next to Hannibal just a touch too close to be casual.

“Will, there you are,” Hannibal said, pleased to see him arrive on his own, his arm draping over Will’s shoulders in companionable comfort. “Have you met Ms. Lane?”

“Not in the flesh,” Will said, angling a smile her way. “But I have been admiring from a distance. It’s nice to have a name to go with such a lovely...face.”

Thank you, Will, I was just telling Tony that he should be more chivalrous,” she said, lightly slapping Anthony’s arm with her pale hand.

“Oh, I find him all sorts of chivalrous,” Will chuckled, tipping a sip from his glass. “Riding to the rescue of fair maidens and such.”

Anthony’s eyes widened and he laughed.

Hannibal smirked and caught Will’s gaze, his own sparkling with wry humor.

“Oh, I’ve never been called a fair maiden before,” Ms. Lane said, hugging Anthony’s arm to her formidable chest.

“Well, perhaps someday,” Hannibal said. Before she could respond to question him, Hannibal’s arm fell from Will’s shoulders to the small of his back as he said, “I’d love to show Will the portraits, Anthony, if you don’t mind?”

“I would love to show them to you!” he said, eagerly taking his chance. “Ms. Lane, so sorry, please, won’t you excuse us? I believe that gentleman over there is trying very hard to get your attention.”

Anthony led the way, shifting through the crowded salon to reach the other end well away from the abandoned Ms. Lane.

“Goodness, she’s a darling girl but she can be a bit much,” Anthony said, laughing softly. “My sister would never forgive me if I didn’t invite her but she does tend to cling something awful.”

“Ms. Lane just enjoys affirmation of her desirability,” Hannibal said, snagging a fresh glass of wine. “It stems from a low sense of self-worth.”

“Well let’s all hope she finds someone to treasure her enough to uplift her, then,” Anthony said. “Well, portraits are all here. I can’t show you properly while the party is in full swing, but have a look on your own and find me if you have any questions.”

“Of course, thank you for your hospitality,” Hannibal said.

“I’ll give you the grand tour in a bit,” Anthony said, easing back into the crowd. “Take your time.”

“He is a charming young man, isn’t he?” Hannibal mused, watching Anthony work his crowd. They were close enough to the music performers that the conversations around them became a soft drone of sound set to a lively string ensemble.

“Should I have rescued you?” Will inquired, brows rising over his blue eyes.

“Play knight to my fair maiden?” Hannibal asked, showing his sharp teeth in a wolfish smile. “I only entertained her so long for the sake of your smile, Will. You were far too amused by my predicament.”

“On the contrary, I had immense faith that you could handle a lovely young lady all aquiver for a daddy,” Will remarked, chuckling at the memory. “Jesus, she’s more than a handful. You’ve got better ways to get me to smile, Hannibal. You didn’t need her to do so.”

“I would think you could commiserate with Ms. Lane,” Hannibal said, his eyes sharpening ever so slightly.

“Oh? Why’s that?” Will asked, careful to keep his tone airy. “Have you diagnosed me with similar daddy issues, Doctor Lecter?”

That got a rare, real smile out of Hannibal, a sly curve of his mouth and a flash from his dark eyes.

“Merely that you share the loss of a father’s love,” he said, deliberately sidestepping such an obvious pitfall.

“I didn’t lose anything; my father never loved me,” Will corrected him. “And stop trying to get me to empathize with Ms. Lane. I doubt you want me unwittingly expressing the same level of frantic desperation that permeates that poor woman.”

He glanced up at Hannibal from under his lashes, adding in a soft purr, “Or maybe you do?”

“Will,” Hannibal said, cautioning him, though the amusement in his gaze made a lie of his sternness.

“Hannibal,” he said in response, sensing an advantage. He edged closer, using the excuse of giving someone else room to get past them. Under his breath, he said, “Or am I not the one with the daddy kink, hm?”

Hannibal deftly maneuvered his glass to his mouth before he could give anything away, but he was decidedly amused and Will gave him a wide-eyed, faux-shocked look, murmuring, “No wonder you were so keen on me.”

“Anyone with sense would be keen on you, Will,” Hannibal said, thoroughly pleased with him. “No kinks required.”

“But absolutely welcome,” Will said, tipping his glass to Hannibal’s, both of them drinking to that one. “Consider me informed.”

“I’m considering you in all sorts of delightful ways,” Hannibal said, the sudden heat in his eyes unexpected enough that Will stared at him, momentarily surprised to see it.

“You aren’t usually given to PDAs, Doctor Lecter,” he said, grinning. “You keep looking at me like that and someone is going to notice.”

“Actually, I don’t think anyone would notice at all,” Hannibal said, his hand finding the small of Will’s back and applying gentle pressure, casually steering him towards a less crowded hallway. “Shall we?”

Will didn’t resist, merely said, “I want what you want when you tell me to want it, right?”

Hannibal was too well bred to wander into areas where he didn’t belong so he pawned off their glasses on passing staff, found a dignified woman with an earpiece in and politely told her, “My young friend here has developed a slight headache; is there someplace he could find some quiet for a little while?”

She processed that, looking at Will, who did his best to look woefully uncomfortable and must have managed pretty well because she nodded.

“Thank you,” Hannibal said, his own brilliant smile charming her. “I have his medication with me, he just needs a few moments to let it work.”

“This way,” she said, opening a door for them and signaling a uniformed young man who started when he saw her. “Take these two gentlemen to the library, please, and wait for them.”

“Yes, ma’am!”

It was a crash course in the layout of Anthony’s house, threading their way behind the nervous young man to the library, which turned out to be an impressive room smelling of leather, paper and affluence.

“I’ll be just here,” the young man said for the thirtieth time, indicating a place outside the door. “Just let me know when you’re ready to go back.”

“Of course, thank you,” Hannibal said, his manners ever ready to cover for Will’s own. He closed the door, shutting them into the quiet library. The fireplace burned brightly, gas-fed light flickering, but otherwise the room was quite dim.

Will had wandered away during the brief exchange, craning a look around as he drifted towards the opposite end of the room. He smiled when he felt Hannibal’s heat prickle against his back and turned, curious and grinning.

“You can’t possibly be entertaining what I think you’re entertaining,” he softly said, aware that even the low pitch of his voice carried in the silence.

“Can I not?” Hannibal asked, reaching out to trace Will’s jaw with his fingertips. “My shining and beautiful Ganymede, laughing with wicked delight at my dismay.”

“Your dismay was very amusing,” Will reminded him, his heart racing. Surely Hannibal wasn’t serious? The library door was unlocked. That kid could open it at any moment to check on them; anyone could. “Hannibal...”

The hand on his jaw tensed slightly and tipped Will’s head for a kiss, deep and hungry. Will opened for it, eyes closed, fitting to Hannibal like a puzzle piece when the man’s hands slid to his hips and tugged him close. Will had experienced plenty of kisses in two hundred years but each time Hannibal kissed him it was like a revelation all over again. There was something viscerally arousing about the play of his soft tongue tempered by his sharp teeth, a heady skill in his teasing mouth that Will instantly responded to. He’d gone from paucity of sensation to overload in Hannibal’s hands. It was little wonder the whole of him vibrated like a finely-tuned string stretched taut over the frame of Hannibal’s experience with just a single kiss.

“You must be quiet, Will,” Hannibal admonished when he broke the kiss, his own breathing slightly heavy. He swept his thumb over Will’s wet, plump lower lip, his dark eyes fixed on Will’s own hazy blue gaze. “We can’t have anyone interrupting us.”

“Interrupting us at what?” Will whispered, pushing into him. “You know it never ends at just this, Doctor Lecter. How do you plan to...manage me?”

It won a warm chuckle from him, throaty and deep. “Have I failed to manage you adequately so far, Will? Look at you.”

He put some space between them, his dark eyes flicking over Will from curls to shoes.

“Sex poured into a suit,” he said. “Such a shame you cannot wander around in only your bare skin, Will.”

You were the one who wanted to dress me, Doctor Lecter,” Will reminded him, tugging his tie loose, unbuttoning his jacket, pleased when Hannibal’s eyes followed the movements, this deliberate sullying of his preferred perfection. “Now you want to undress me? First cold then hot, Doctor, is that how you run?”

It seemed his actions did more to inflame than his words. Seeing Will disheveled, jacket gaping, tie hanging and askew, elicited a response Will took careful and delighted note of. Hannibal snatched him up, sharp lower teeth raking the pale skin of Will’s throat with force enough to pop the top button on his shirt, giving him room enough to suck a dark mark at the base of Will’s neck.

Will laughed breathlessly, his clever fingers making quick work of Hannibal’s jacket buttons, sliding beneath the overlap of his waistcoat to find his belt buckle. He snarled softly when Hannibal swiftly brushed his hands away and told him, “Hold on to the column behind you.”

Will backed up the short distance to the column in question and reached back to grasp it, anticipating just what Hannibal was going to do to him.

Hannibal straightened his waistcoat and buttoned his jacket back up, the picture of decorum. Will leaned back against the column half undone, grinning and feral and hungry for the feast Hannibal was always willing to provide him.

“What are you distracting me from right now, Doctor Lecter?” Will asked him, hitching a little when Hannibal reached out and teased his shirt free of his waistband.

“Is there something you think you need distraction from?” he asked, fingers skimming over the fluttering muscle of Will’s belly, trailing fire through his groin.

“I think there’s something you need distraction from,” Will told him, cocking his head with a sly smile. “Considering you left a room full of your favorite entertainment to not let me get in your pants.”

“What makes you think you’re not my favorite entertainment?” Hannibal purred, managing not to answer. “Is it so strange to think I find you compelling enough to slip away with you?”

“Strange enough considering I stay with you,” Will said, gasping softly when Hannibal tugged on his belt, deftly unbuckling it. “You have unfettered access to me and the added advantage of telling me what I want, right?”

Hannibal leaned close, forehead to forehead, nuzzling him softly. He plunged his hand down Will’s pants and cupped him through his boxers, hushing him when Will arched hard to the touch and hissed, shuddering.

The hand withdrew as quickly as it had arrived, moving to unbutton and unzip Will’s pants to loosen them.

“Be quiet, Will,” he admonished him, pushing his pants down to his thighs, tugging his boxer briefs down just enough to bare the jutting curve of Will’s cock.

“Or what?” Will asked, biting his lip and closing his eyes against the sight of Hannibal’s fingers teasing up beneath the fat head of his cock, an instant burst of sensation that dragged another ragged moan out of him.

A tug on his tie distracted him as much as the loss of contact on his cock did. He opened his eyes just as Hannibal slid his loosened tie up to his mouth, twisted the knot to the back of his head and jerked it snug.

Will bit down on it out of reflex, wincing when Hannibal tightened it again.

“That should do,” Hannibal said, satisfied, and hefted Will up to one side to settle him against a nearby desk.

Will wriggled, the cold press of the desk edge against his bare ass almost painful. He watched with widening eyes as Hannibal casually seated himself in the desk’s chair like he was getting ready for a therapy session.

“I need you to be quiet and not move,” he warned again, legs spread wide around Will’s own, smoothing the lip of Will’s shirt up to bare his pale belly and heavy sex. “We can’t have you making a mess of this library like you do with my bed.”

He sounded more approving than scolding, delighting in Will’s uninhibited responses to his touch.

“There’s nothing I need distraction from, Will,” he purred, smoothing his hands up the insides of Will’s taut thighs, sweeping down to force his pants lower, just enough to allow his legs to fall wide. When he leaned forward, Will groaned around the tie between his teeth to feel the rush of his hot breath on his cock when Hannibal breathed, “I just found myself hungry for something more delightful than our host is able to offer.”

Will’s eyes rolled back and his whole body curled in response to the hot mouth slowly encasing his swollen head. Sharp teeth rested just behind his head, hooking gently in to allow his clever tongue to lash the underside of Will’s cock, bringing him to immediate, squirming overload.

Hannibal negligently cupped his balls, gained purchase and gently pulled, countering his pleasure, bracing him for the excruciating feeling of Hannibal’s mouth slowly sucking him down.

The tie grew wet in his mouth, stifling his keening cries. His arms ached from bracing his weight up on the slick surface of the desk and his hips trembled, straining to control his urge to thrust. He twitched hard as Hannibal’s mouth descended, wet and tight, seeking his base and swallowing him down.

Will snarled unintelligibly against the tie, pushing into Hannibal’s mouth, unable to control his instinctive thrust when he felt those sharp, dangerous teeth graze the base of his cock followed by Hannibal’s tongue darting out to lave a dripping caress to Will’s sac, cupped and squeezed in offering.

There was so much about his life that he couldn’t remember, but Will knew without a doubt that he’d never felt anything to rival the suction of Hannibal’s slowly ascending mouth. He lingered on the head, suckling and teasing, his tongue testing Will’s slit with force enough to make Will sob and, strangely to his own mind, urge him to do more.

Hannibal released him with a soft suck and licked his lips, his mouth wet and kissable, his dark eyes afire. Will panted, chest heaving, sharp teeth descending with the force of his desire, showing clearly over the dark tie in his mouth.

“That is something you’ve been keeping from me,” Hannibal said, his voice husky. He steadied Will’s cock with his free hand, thumb rubbing his frenulum relentlessly, index finger circling his slit and pressing just slightly to indicate where his interest lay. “Were we at home I wouldn’t hesitate to test it for you, Will. I would love to see you react to sounding. You have such unfettered responses to stimuli it’s nearly overwhelming to watch.”

Will betrayed himself with a throaty moan, his cock twitching in Hannibal’s hand, his balls clutching up in his palm. He instantly imagined Hannibal before him, penetrating him there as well, watching him with greedy eyes as he fed a slender piece of sterile steel into his cock.

A pearl of precum welled at the thought and his cock thrummed in Hannibal’s grip, bringing a smirk to the man’s perfect mouth. “That imagination of yours is working overtime, Will. Stay with me.”

He punctuated his words with three swift, firm strokes of Will’s cock, just enough to make his hips strain away from the desk, his moan threatening to escape the muffling tie. He wanted Hannibal’s mouth on him, a lesser form of cannibalism. He wanted Hannibal’s cock inside of him where he felt empty and waiting, making a sloppy mess of him that even these beautiful clothes couldn’t hide.

“Be quiet,” Hannibal whispered, letting go of Will’s tight sac to suck on his fingers, deliberately and slowly, his eyes fastened on Will’s.

Will’s legs pushed wider, angling his hips against the desk. He made a desperate, needy sound, grateful for the tie that lessened its force, and shuddered hard to feel Hannibal’s hand slide up between his thighs, a twist of his hand parting Will’s cheeks enough to find and penetrate him, a slow and arousing tease of fingers into his eager body. He opened with no effort, relaxing for it, eyes watering when Hannibal hooked his fingers towards himself and started rubbing his prostate from the inside.

“Prostate stimulating through sounding is singularly pleasurable,” Hannibal whispered, flicking his tongue out to tease Will’s seeping cock, his fingers just the right amount of tight, giving him just the right amount of friction. “I’m curious to see how long you can hold out against it.”

Will sobbed, fighting to keep control of himself, clenching around Hannibal’s determined fingers when the man suckled his head again, using the pressure of his mouth to devastating effect. His hand slid down as his mouth did, chasing his lips in a rhythm that matched the pressure of his fingers, rapidly bringing Will dangerously close to orgrasm with every bob of his head.

As if to dare him, Hannnibal swallowed him down once more all the way to the base, the ring of his fingers moving to let his mouth catch suction, sliding down to fondle him.

It was too much. Will thrashed hard, balls clutching up in Hannibal’s gently-squeezing hand, cock bucking down the man’s working throat as he came, body clamping tight on Hannibal’s fingers.

He just kept swallowing, drawing on Will’s flesh until he was reduced to a twitching, shuddering mess of nerve endings and raw pleasure, jerking in Hannibal’s hold as much from overstimulation as orgasm. Only when he desperately risked those sharp teeth and retreated, wriggling to gain distance, did Hannibal finally release him, sliding Will’s wet and reddened cock from his mouth as his fingers slid out of his body.

He was panting, breathless from bearing the force of Will’s climax with his wet mouth. His face held a light, becoming flush that only made Will want to do more, to see him properly enflamed and hungry. Instead, Hannibal delicately plucked his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his fingers, looking at Will’s flushed and trembling body with covetous delight.

Shuddering with aftershocks, Will lifted one trembling hand to the tie and loosened it, dragging it over his head to free his mouth. His panting was loud, matching Hannibal breath for breath. His legs felt too watery to support him but held when he gingerly straightened. He tugged his boxers and pants up, having to try twice to feed his cock back into his pants, he was so shaky.

Hannibal, meanwhile, put himself back together, every inch the urbane gentleman, no sign that just moments before he’d been devouring Will’s cock like a starving man. After a long, considering look, he swiftly reached around Will to tuck his shirt into the back of his pants and worked his way forward, quickly and efficiently setting him to rights. Will just focused on catching his breath, finding it strangely soothing to have Hannibal zip, button, and belt him back into his pants, to have him fussily button his jacket back up and purse his mouth at the button on his shirt hanging by a thread. He plucked it free, snapped the thread off at its base, and pocketed the button.

“What about this?” Will asked, finally possessed of enough oxygen to ask, lifting the mangled tie in his fist.

Hannibal plucked it from him, rolled it tightly, and poked it into Will’s jacket pocket, telling him, “I much prefer it in your mouth than around your neck.” He parted the top of Will’s shirt and undid another button, baring the smooth column of his throat and, Will instinctively knew, the shadow of his bruise mark—Hannibal’s silent and possessive claim.

“You want to tell me what that was about?” Will asked, angling a look at him, trying to figure him out. “Or maybe reciprocate or something?”

Hannibal pushed his handkerchief into his pocket out of sight and told him, “No reciprocation necessary, Will. Let’s get you back to the party, shall we? I find myself in need of a washroom. If this becomes routine I really must come better prepared to properly distract you.”

“Oh, I was pretty distracted,” Will admitted, his laughter still breathless. “Believe me, Doctor Lecter. I certainly was.”

Hannibal smiled at him, sharp teeth and sharp cheekbones and a charm that was frighteningly addictive.

Like the Ravenstag...

The thought was gone before he could catch it, but it left Will with a sense of warmth that carried him through the rest of an otherwise tedious social excursion with a soft, seductive smile.

The rest of their evening passed pleasantly enough. Anthony was a gracious and entertaining host and, luckily, no one got eaten...Well, not in the traditional sense, anyway, as the library could attest. They got their tour and the grand introduction to the Iberian harpsichord, which Hannibal was delighted with and clearly ached to play it.

They left with promises to return for a smaller, more intimate dinner and talk of Hannibal’s latest article, which Anthony was effusively complimentary of, and returned to Hannibal’s house.

It was Will who broached the subject that Hannibal himself had raised earlier in the day, pausing Hannibal as he stripped off his jacket by saying, “I’d like to have you help me, Hannibal...With my memories...”

Hannibal brushed at his jacket with his curled fingers, mouth pursed in thought. He hung it and unbuttoned his waistcoat, saying, “Would you prefer to start now while you’re feeling confident?”

Will nodded, peeling off his clothes like shedding an uncomfortable shell. He hung them as Hannibal did, in that space he reserved for dry cleaning to be dropped off. He donned a pair of Hannibal’s flannel sleep pants and nothing else, wrapping his arms around himself with a sudden chill that went deeper than skin.

“Will?” Hannibal said, concerned when Will visibly started. “It can wait until you’re more prepared.”

“No, it’s okay, I’d rather try now while I’m ready,” Will said, gratefully taking the undershirt Hannibal held out to him. “Should we...go to your office or...”

Hannibal gestured at the armchair in front of the fireplace in his room and Will sat, dragging the shirt over his head as he did so.

Hannibal turned on the fireplace and in moments warm flames flickered up and a pleasant heat filled the room.

“Better?” Hannibal asked, sitting down opposite him. “It’s important you’re as comfortable as possible.”

“Ah, yeah,” Will said, wondering how Hannibal could still sound so professional when he was lounging in front of his fireplace in a wine-red sweater and muted pajama pants. “So...what do I do?”

“Try looking at the fire,” Hannibal suggested. “Try to clear your thoughts, Will. I know it is difficult to sweep out all of the clutter but do your best.”

Will turned his face to the fire, his eyes tracing the dancing movements, his eyes dilating softly as he relaxed.

“I want you to think of the Ravenstag, Will,” Hannibal softly said, his throaty voice raising a pleasant shiver in Will’s body. “Just focus on that singular presence as the pin that holds your memories in place.”

Will thought of him, the sinuous wave of the flames filling the whole of his vision. He thought of the Ravenstag in the forest, rampant and powerful, and his heart leapt painfully in his chest. He could hear Hannibal speaking, the soft, low drone of his voice in a rhythmic cadence he couldn’t make sense of but latched on to, knowing it marked the path to safety.

The Ravenstag said he’d tend to the body and he did. It was found the next day, dangling from a stout tree limb not far from where he’d died, swinging from a noose as any common thief, his innards forming an apron of crow-picked flesh turning sour in the rising sun. His hands had been removed and placed in the cavity his guts had vacated, the fingers peeking out as if someone inside was trying to emerge. Will had followed his father, who had been summoned by shocked and horrified neighbors to offer what insight he could. What kind of monster could do such a thing? What kind of person would tear another apart like this, even if he was a rotten soul and a known thief?

Will had watched the wind gently rock him, back and forth, back and forth like the pendulum in their clock, a carelessly butchered carcass hoisted high in a blatant commentary on his chosen profession.

Will’s father was so angry with him when he saw him that he only just barely managed to restrain himself, ordering Will home in such tight, taut tones that Will knew better than to disobey.

Will knew better than to speak of him, the man in the woods.

He heard Hannibal speaking still, a soft whisper of suggestion, a gentle push that led Will back to that night in the woods with blood drying on his hands and flesh stuck beneath his fingernails.

You have cost me my dinner, Will,’ the Ravenstag said, grinning and hungry, too sharp teeth and too shrewd eyes but so beautiful and Will could see himself in the Ravenstag’s eyes just the same, his empathy showing him himself elevated to something unearthly and special. Chosen. ‘What are we to do about that?’

“I will feed you,” Will murmured, the words solid and startling, pausing the soft rumble of Hannibal’s voice, but only for a moment. “Just show me how...”

The Ravenstag knelt there, sullying his impeccable breeches to gain Will’s level, tipping his head up by his chin to gaze down into his face. His lips parted and Will saw the teeth descending, becoming sharp and leonine, ever so much heavier and more shocking than a wolf’s.

Are you frightened of me yet, Will?’ the Ravenstag asked, allowing him to take in the sight, his deep, shockingly foreign voice wrapping around Will like thorny vines, piercing him to hold him fast.

Fascinated, Will reached up, unmindful of his bloody hand, and tested the tip of one overhanging canine with his fingertip, awed by its sharpness.

“I’m not afraid,” he said, caught somewhere between the firelight and the Ravenstag, shivering when his tongue snaked out to suck the blood and bits of skin from Will’s finger, nudging him to suck them clean, one by one. It went straight to the pit of his belly and coiled there, waiting and heavy, fed by the sensation of his hot mouth, the wet pressure, the soft caress of his tongue on Will’s skin. Every hint of regret about his part in the robber’s death evaporated in that moment when he realized he would do it again and again if only to feel this same heady, frightening thing.

“What are you?” Will breathed, thrilling to his presence as if he was in the company of something wild and dangerous, a beast made of instinct and bloodlust bound into the body of a shockingly virile man.

What do you want me to be?’ the Ravenstag asked, a final lap of his tongue drawing the last of the blood from Will’s fingers.

It was utterly foolish and utterly silly but he said it all the same, his voice coming out in a rush as he breathed, “Mine.”

Will jerked in his seat when the Ravenstag of his memories lunged at him, those same fangs sinking into his throat, hard hands cradling him and bending him to have unfettered access to him.

It still wasn’t fear. He lay staring up at the treetops, gasping and shocked, his damp hands curling into the Ravenstag’s hair to hold him close. There was pain as he drained Will’s blood but it was a good pain, a pain that seemed right somehow, almost religious in its intensity. It was bliss, the bliss of knowing he was absolutely and terribly helpless, that there was no way to defend himself even if he wanted to. He was utterly at the Ravenstag’s mercy and it was such a shocking pleasure that he writhed in his grip, panting with lust as much as surprise. Those teeth surged deeper, hands tightening, and the Ravenstag lifted his head with a throaty groan.

Then he looked down at Will’s upturned face and his blood-stained lips murmured, ‘Perhaps I should keep you...’

Will took a deep, dragging breath, surprised to find that the fire was out and the room was dark and Hannibal was smoothing his hair.

“You were beginning to worry me,” the man admitted, stroking his throat much as the Ravenstag had, standing over him as a dark and seeping shadow. A trick of the room’s faint light conspired to give him stretching antlers, blurring the line between Will’s past and his present so that it felt like he was here for just a moment, his Ravenstag. Here and ready. Here and waiting for him.

Here and wanting to punish Will for what he’d done...

“Will?” Hannibal inquired, pulling back in concern when Will jerked away from him. “Will, where are you right now? Stay with me, please.”

“I’m here,” he said, but he sounded no more certain than he felt. He groped for Hannibal’s sweater and tugged, dragging the man down on his knees between Will’s spread legs. He shivered, a chill that had nothing to do with the temperature permeating his flesh. “Hannibal...”

Hannibal slid his arms beneath Will’s and stood, hefting him up onto his feet and pulling him to the bed, deciding what Will needed in that moment.

“You stopped talking nearly an hour ago,” he said, tucking Will into his bed and sliding in next to him, gathering Will up to his chest where he shivered like a baby bird, lost and shocked by what he’d remembered. “I had hoped you were remembering something of import.”

After a long silence, he prompted, “Did you?”

Will nodded, delving into the warmth of Hannibal’s throat to whisper, “I think I may know what he did to me, Hannibal.”

There was a short silence before Hannibal smoothed his curls with one hand and softly told him, “Then you are that much closer to truly having me, Will.”

It was as daunting a prospect as it was an exciting one, but Will couldn’t stop the coil of anticipation that curled through him at the thought of finally having Hannibal Lecter be a part of him forever.

However brief that forever would prove to be once the man decided to kill him, of course.

Chapter Text

Jack Crawford was quickly becoming an issue for Will.

Not terribly long after their little “conversation” Will was once again subjected to questioning, this time caught on his own away from Hannibal’s house as he ventured out to search the city once more for the elusive thing he obsessively knew was there somehow, even if he didn’t know what it was.

“Are we going to have another uncomfortable conversation, Jack?” he asked, unwillingly coerced into the man’s black SUV. It was just the two of them, so he knew he must not have much to go on but his hunches and his dogged determination that Will was somehow dangerous.

He couldn’t fault the man’s instincts on that count, though he wondered how on earth Hannibal had managed not to inspire the same degree of suspicion.

“I want you to take a look at these photographs and tell me what you see, Will,” Jack said, handing him an envelope.

Will humored him, peeling back the flap to ease the pictures out. They were varying sizes and qualities from varying times and locations. Some were black and white, others in color. Some were official crime scene photos while others were taken from media outlets like Tattle Crime.

All of them were humans—older females, some even elderly—with their throats torn out, bodies drained of blood.

“I see you sense a theme?” Jack pressed.

“Yeah, but I don’t know what you hope to get out of showing me these,” Will told him, shuffling through the photographs. Thanks to his recently-unreliable memory, there wasn’t even a trace of recognition in him for Jack to see.

“I’ve had people tracking your movements, Will Graham,” Jack said, his tone careful and deliberate, hoping to rattle him. “Everywhere you’ve been, as far as I can trace you, corpses have been left behind. Corpses with their throats torn out, one within days of your arrival to Baltimore. Women, Will. Women who have an awful lot in common with Mathilda Blair.”

Will chuckled softly and shuffled the photos again, looking at the date. “How far back have you been able to trace me, Jack?”

Jack frowned at him, irritated. “Not far enough by far. You seem to have just appeared one day, no record, no birth certificate that I could find, no social security number. You’re a ghost, Will. And people who are ghosts are people who have something to hide.”

“Am I my fifties, Jack?” Will asked, holding up a photo from the early 1980s. He smirked, prodding, “Or thereabouts?”

Jack’s mouth thinned.

“Is this seriously all you have, Jack?” he laughed, shoveling the pictures back into the envelope. “You’re going to have to try a little harder than this if you want to scare me.”

Jack took the envelope away from him and lowly told him, “I’ll keep looking, Will, and I’ll keep finding. The harder I search, the more I’ll find. Somewhere someone saw you. Somewhere there’s a video or a photo to connect you, or some evidence on these bodies we haven’t sorted through yet. Whatever it is, I’m going to find it and I’m going to make sure you’re no longer a danger to society.”

“Or to Hannibal Lecter?” Will inquired, aware that his heart was beating uncomfortably fast. It took him a second to process that it was worry he was feeling, actual anxiety about what Jack was truly capable of. “Am I free to go, Jack, or do you want to continue this...farce of a conversation?”

Jack glared at him.

Will elbowed open the door and got out, slamming it heavily behind him.

“I can’t stay here much longer,” Will told Hannibal later that night as the man prepared for one of his smaller dinner parties. Just about ten guests this time, just to socialize.

His statement garnered him Hannibal’s immediate and undivided attention. His blackhole eyes were steady and serious when they met and held Will’s own, his lithe body keyed with sudden tension as he abandoned his bladework to back Will into the armchair in the corner of his kitchen.

“I beg your pardon, what did you say?” he murmured, wiping his hands on a towel, leaving pink stains on it as well as on the apron tied around his waist.

“I said I can’t stay here much longer,” Will repeated, gazing up at him with deliberately limpid eyes. “Jack Crawford has been looking into my past, Hannibal. He’s been tracking me by reports, mapping my whereabouts in regards to deaths that have a pattern. My pattern. design, if you will.”

Hannibal exhaled softly, an irritated frown on his face. “He is a meddlesome creature. It sometimes outweighs his value as a friend.” He took a deep breath and focused on Will, telling him, “Had Jack anything substantial in the least he would have arrested you, Will. He’s needling you to see what you’ll do.”

“I’m considering leaving,” Will told him. “I never have stayed in one place so long. It’s strange for me to do so. I feel like I should go anyway.”

“Then why don’t you?” Hannibal asked, tipping his head forward slightly, his words a husky whisper.

“Because I want to remember what he did to me,” Will breathed, all efforts of distance abandoned for truth that glittered in his eyes like unshed tears. “I want to remember and change you, Hannibal. I don’t want to leave you behind. The next time I return you’ll be...”

He stopped himself but they both knew. The next time he returned Hannibal would be quite old if not already dead and buried. It was a prospect that caused wrenching, shocking sickness to twist Will’s belly, a keen pain that he never imagined he would feel again once the Ravenstag was lost to him.

“Will...” Hannibal said, gently tracing his trembling lips with fingers that tasted of salty blood.

“Are you happy now?” Will asked, mouth brushing those fingers when he spoke. “Are you pleased yet, Hannibal?”

Those dark eyes just watched him, taking in the minutiae of his responses, hawkish and demanding.

“I should be running,” Will whispered, trembling. “I should be saving myself. Yet here I sit, caught in a collar of kisses, laid open and bare by my own hands, fastened tightly and helpless in the bonds of my own desire because I want you.”

Hannibal smiled, sharp teeth and sharper desire, pleased with him beyond the point of delight.

“You want what I want,” he slowly said, slipping his thumb into the warmth of Will’s mouth, eyes flaming with heat when he suckled it. “When I tell you to want it, Will. Right now, I want you to stop worrying about Jack Crawford and enjoy our little gathering.”

Will pushed his thumb out with his tongue, licking his lips and swallowing before saying, “And then what?”

“Then we deal with Jack together,” Hannibal murmured. “Permanently.”

Will’s eyes swept closed and a tremor of relief shivered through him.

Murder was the subject of their dinner discussion.

Hannibal’s guests, arranged in an order of his preference, could speak of nothing else but the latest gossip—namely, that the Chesapeake Ripper was in custody and had been for the past two years, all unsuspected until he’d managed to kill again right under the nose of the Director of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

It was a topic of conversation that Will found strange for the company but Hannibal was keenly interested, pouring over the details given to him with a slight, strange smile on his lips.

From what he could glean, the Chesapeake Ripper was a serial killer who preyed relentlessly in the surrounding area and had done so for quite some time.

It didn’t take Will long to realize that the Chesapeake Ripper was sitting at the head of his table, vastly entertained by the chatter around him and vastly annoyed every time this Abel Gideon fellow was mentioned.

“How did they realize they had him?” Will asked, one of his biggest contributions to the conversation so far. The scandalized, excited attention turned to him in a heartbeat.

“Apparently he killed a nurse after faking an illness,” the woman on his right said, her voice dripping with delight. “And used her to recreate one of his previous murders.”

“Did he say why?” Will asked, bewildered.

They all stared at him. Hannibal smirked and turned to his plate, enjoying Will’s sudden interest.

“Apparently he wanted to come out, as it were,” a man down the table said, smiling at Will as if he was an empty-headed bauble picked out to accompany Hannibal this evening, like the candles and centerpieces were chosen to compliment the meal.

“After two years?” Will asked, and snorted, taking a gulp of his wine. “That doesn’t sound very smart, and the Chesapeake Ripper seems plenty smart.”

“Well, I’m sure it made sense to him,” another person piped in. “He’s crazy, after all!”

Will rolled his eyes at that dismissive statement and said with a scornful laugh, “Then I guess you’re all pretty batshit because he’s about as crazy as you are.”

Hannibal broke the sudden tension by laughing, which paved the way for the others to laugh, as if Will had made some amazingly deep intellectual joke only they could appreciate.

If only they knew why Hannibal laughed.

If only they could read the delight in his dark eyes to witness Will rise to his defence.

He tipped his glass to Will’s and coaxed him into reciprocating, sharing a private, knowing smile between them as the others dined on their dead.

Once the last of the guests had left and Will was alone with Hannibal, drying dishes which the other man deftly put away, he finally ventured, “What are you going to do about Abel Gideon?”

Hannibal sighed a little, more of an angry exhale, and leaned against the counter next to Will, his dark eyes thoughtful.

“It would be for the best if he was considered the Chesapeake Ripper,” he admitted.

“But?” Will prompted, getting a slight smile in response.

But my pride at times overcomes my common sense,” Hannibal admitted. “I fear some things do not change with age.”

Will laughed at that. “Very little of me changed, I think. I’m stuck as I am, I’m just pissed about it.”

“We all get stuck as we are,” Hannibal murmured, his thoughts on his reputation—rather, the Chesapeake Ripper’s reputation. “Our psyche only develops to a certain point. The rest is just the body decaying to spite our internal truth.”

Will knew that well enough from his victims, a vague understanding that within their worn flesh lay the soul of someone who had never stopped being sixteen or twenty or forty or wherever they felt the most comfortable and alive.

“It would be something, wouldn’t it?” Will asked, smiling when Hannibal sent him an inquiring look. “Leaving Baltimore with a...splash?”

Hannibal smiled, his dark eyes crinkling with delight.

“No sense letting Abel Gideon have all the fun,” Will said, handing him a wineglass, clean and dried. “Give Jack Crawford something to chew on.”

Hannibal angled a wry look at him and said, “You’ve moved from indifference to active dislike, Ganymede. I see your innocence tinged with an excess of knowledge.”

“Is that a problem, Doctor Lecter?” Will asked, flashing the long column of his throat, gazing at Hannibal from beneath his dark lashes.

“On the contrary,” Hannibal said. “I find it quite delightful.”

Will quirked an eyebrow at him, a wry smile curving his lips. “There enough hot water left for a shower?”

“There will be by the time I get done with you,” Hannibal said, and tipped his head to Will’s for a sudden, ferocious kiss.

Will met the Ravenstag again in between that time in the woods and when he grew ill.

He recalled it with sudden clarity when he was wrapped around Hannibal’s body in his warm bed, nudged from restless sleep by his own sudden hunger and rousing Hannibal with his insistence.

“He did it again,” Will panted, glassy eyes flicking with restlessness, mouth parted for his shaking breath.

“Did what again?” Hannibal murmured, grazing kisses beneath his jaw, one large hand sweeping Will’s side from hip to chest, his thumb slipping over to graze his nipple so that Will clenched, gasping and distracted, half in his memories and half in Hannibal’s hold.

Bit me,” Will said, the words an explosive exhale. His hand clenched on Hannibal’s shoulder, holding the man tightly to him, safe beneath the press of his heavier body, trusting it to anchor him. His eyes swept closed when Hannibal’s teeth raked his throat just hard enough to leave marks, stinging and sweet. He wriggled beneath him, situating the bulk of Hannibal’s hard body between his lean thighs and rolling his hips to feel him.

“Where did he bite you, Will?” Hannibal asked, switching to the other side of his neck. It was, strangely, the very side the Ravenstag had sunk his teeth into so long ago.

There!” he gasped, arching hard under him, panting when Hannibal negligently trapped his wrists, pinning him. Those teeth sank in, almost breaking the skin, just to hear how desperately Will cried out into the darkness. “Hannibal! Oh, God—”

“What else did he do to you when he bit you?” Hannibal pressed, working his way down Will’s heaving chest and caving belly, following the trail of muscle and skin that had never aged past being soft and supple. He shifted to his knees between Will’s legs and drew his wrists down to his sides, holding him in place for his unhurried exploration.

It was hard to think with Hannibal’s mouth on him, always with the threat of those sharp and dangerous teeth. But he kept blurring, as if winding back and forth along the thread of his life, one moment here with Hannibal, the next there with the Ravenstag.

“Will,” Hannibal whispered, placing a soft, reverent kiss on his belly button right above the heated jut of his cock head. “Where are you right now?”

Church,” he breathed, the utter sacrilege.

But that was where the Ravenstag found him, where he found them all. He strode into their Sunday service and everyone stopped to stare at him as he found a place among their masses.

“He was so beautiful,” Will whispered, sighing with contentment to feel Hannibal kissing the mark on his hip, still not healed, threatening to scar the shape of his bite into Will’s skin for eternity. “Everyone couldn’t stop staring...”

Except his father, of course, who took immediate exception, scowling at the soft murmur of gossip rippling through God’s people.

Will couldn’t help but stare at him, the bite on his neck still stinging beneath his starched collar, hidden from view but not from the Ravenstag, who caught his enthralled gaze and smiled to show his sharp, sharp teeth.

“What did he do to you?” Hannibal asked, his mouth tracing a path to Will’s other hip to suck a mark on the soft rise of his hipbone. “Tell me, Will.”

“He introduced himself,” Will sighed, the feel of his hand as they shook in a mockery of first meetings so keenly felt that he dimly registered Hannibal was holding onto him, fingers laced now, palm to palm as he lay over Will to trade wet, warm kisses. He spoke in the moments between, greedy for the touch of his tongue and the thrilling danger of his teeth. “He shook my hand and Mother invited him to dinner but he said no.”

“Why would he do that?” Hannibal pressed, his free hand coming up to cup Will’s sweaty curls, curving beneath his skull to grip his nape.

“He was afraid,” Will said in sudden revelation, laughing a little at the absurdity of it.

Hannibal bit his lower lip, softly and sweetly. “Of what?”

“Of me,” Will said, and ran his tongue along Hannibal’s mouth to beg entrance, thighs tightening around the man’s hips. “He was afraid he’d take me then. I think it worried him what would happen if he did. He wanted to kill them and take me away and he knew it would hurt me so he said no...”

“It would have been easier than what came after,” Hannibal purred, letting go of Will’s nape to hold himself steady, the wide head of his cock pressing up between Will’s cheeks.

Will lifted for it, so thoroughly used from earlier in the night that he slid in with barely a push, both of them groaning. Hannibal hitched up closer to him and Will clenched tight, moaning softly at the weight of him, the feel of Hannibal deep inside, the press of his body from hips to chest that sandwiched his own aching cock between them.

“What came after?” he asked, arching hard at the push of Hannibal’s hips, a soft rocking motion that did little more than tease them both. “Ah! Tell me what came after!”

“He asked if you’d like to see his horse,” Hannibal said, covering him with heated kisses, their mouths melding so completely that Will wasn’t entirely sure which one of them had spoken—himself, Hannibal, or the Ravenstag.

Yes,” he hissed, half affirmation and half pleasure, a soft sob trapped between their mouths. He was burning and hard-used, stretched wide open around Hannibal’s hot body and aching with it, the kind of pain he wanted to never stop, only enhanced by the gentle, slight friction of Hannibal working him. “That was when...”

He recalled it now, or he was there, one. The families leaving the churchyard with their children in tow, Mother and Father talking with the Pastor while Mary chased down the road after a little boy who’d teased her. The huge black stallion waiting with impatience, saddled and ill tempered and trying to bite. It sidestepped the Ravenstag, eyes rolling white all around, but calmed at Will’s touch.

“On the other side of the horse, where they couldn’t see...”

His voice came in soft gasps, pushed out of him by the growing pressure of Hannibal’s body into his, a steady rhythm growing sharper as the pleasure grew more fierce.

There, right there in the churchyard with his family a shout away and the bright sun shining down on them, hidden behind the arch of a finicky horse’s neck the Ravenstag had tugged his collar down, just a little, just enough to see his marks.

“He smiled at me,” Will said, delighted, fisting his hands at the back of Hannibal’s head to hold him tight, his kisses full of teeth and sharp hunger, his cock overriding his sense with the slick-wet press of Hannibal’s belly against it. He shuddered hard, bowing up under him, every soft, gasping breath Hannibal loosed against him only heightening his pleasure.

The Ravenstag smiled at him, amused inquiry in his glittering dark eyes.

What do you want most in the world, Will? Name me that thing...’

Will tipped his head back to bare his throat in silent invitation, returning the smile with one of his own as those teeth sank deep, his breath leaving on a sigh, ‘You...’

Oh my God!” he sobbed, heaving beneath Hannibal’s body, all gentle restraint lost to the crack of his hips and the demanding thrust of that heat up inside him, hitting him where he liked it the most, filling up the emptiness that threatened to consume him from the inside out.

“And what did you do, Will?” Hannibal demanded, his voice ragged with his unsteady breathing, his arms wrapped underneath Will to grip his shoulders and hold him in place for the punishing rhythm of his hips.

The Ravenstag’s hand rose. The other was locked at the base of his skull but this one was free and bleeding. His wrist touched Will’s lips and he opened, feeding as he was fed, the burning sunlight and cloudless blue sky swallowed up by darkness the same way he swallowed the Ravenstag’s blood.

There in the churchyard, shielded from view by a nervous horse, exposed beneath an uncaring sky left orphaned by an absent God, Will Graham clung tight to a monster and fed on his blood with such crippling pleasure that his whole body clenched hard in orgasm.

He thrashed hard beneath Hannibal, gasping for breath, ragged moans tearing out of him and eyes wide on that moment as he came, arching up so hard against the man atop him that Hannibal snarled, hitting the staccato frenzy of his own climax.

In the churchyard, the Ravenstag kissed the mark he’d made and kissed the blood from Will’s parted lips, chuckling in delight at what he’d managed to inspire.

The Ravenstag’s laughter sorted itself into Hannibal’s soft chuckle against his ear.

Little by little, Will peeled himself away from that moment in the churchyard to find himself firmly flattened to the bed beneath the weightier bulk of Hannibal’s body. He absently loosened his grip on the man’s nape and slid his arms down his shoulders instead, a soft caress to reaffirm that the warm combination of skin, muscle, bone and breath was very real and very satisfied.

“You must tell me what he did to you to get such a reaction,” Hannibal said at last, his words lazy and tired. A slight shift of his hips slid him free of Will’s body and he stretched out to lie next to him on his side, stroking Will’s throat and cheek with one loosely-curled hand.

Will smiled. It was wan and worn but genuine. His fingers sought Hannibal’s without his knowledge or consent, tangling with his at his throat and tightening so that the ball of their hands lay over his pumping heart.

“A church?” Hannibal softly asked, confirming.

“Yeah,” Will breathed. “Pretty fucked up, isn’t it? Right there in front of God and everybody...”

He vaguely recalled Hannibal saying something about a horse but was certain it must have been himself.

“We shared blood standing on the other side of his horse but...” he flinched, brows drawing down in a spasm. In his memory, his father swore he needed an exorcism. In his memory, his father leveled a gun at him and stared at him with horrified, outraged eyes.

With a faint note of recognition, he whispered, “Someone saw us.”

“Saw you? You and your Ravenstag?”

“Yes,” Will said, nodding, more certain by the second. “They saw it and it came around to my father eventually. That’s why he hated him so much. That’s why he wanted him away from me. There were other times after that...He knew what the Ravenstag wanted from me before I did.”

After a weighty, stretched silence, Hannibal said, “I doubt that very much, Will.”

Will glanced over at him, still troubled.

“A creature that lives forever would choose its companions with care,” Hannibal said, drawing their twined fingers to his mouth to brush a kiss on Will’s knuckles. “He chose you for reasons your father could never begin to understand.”

Something loosened in him, some knot of sick darkness, some surety that his hedonistic abandon in the Ravenstag’s presence somehow drew a scarlet letter over his soul.

He wet his lips, turning his gaze back to the ceiling to hide how raw he was in that moment. Hannibal allowed it, merely pressed closer to his side, unlacing their fingers to draw Will into his embrace.

“He was wrong about me,” Will said, holding Hannibal’s arm where it crossed his chest, needing the weight to keep him from floating away. “He thought the Doctor had already been with me. He kept me so close then, refused to let me leave the house, would have refused to let the Doctor in except Mother arranged for him to visit while he was gone. He just...assumed...”

“He was human. Assuming the worst is something humans do,” Hannibal said. “Don’t judge him too harshly, Will. If there is a heaven or a hell, I am sure he regrets the way he dealt with you.”

Dealt with me,” Will echoed, a dark, humorless laugh escaping him. “He all but drove me from the house. I went with him that night I heard them arguing. I decided to leave with the Ravenstag rather than bear his ugly suspicion any longer. That was the first night.”

“The first of many,” Hannibal breathed into his ear. Or maybe he didn’t. Maybe it was his imagination again, using Hannibal Lecter’s voice to address those things he had no ability to express.

“The first of a great many,” Will murmured, lids drooping, slipping rapidly back towards his past. “They searched and searched for me but I never wanted to be found...”

And each time before the Ravenstag would devour him, he would ask his question and Will would always answer the same—you and you and you. Always you. Forever. Fed and flushed on each other’s blood and consumated with pleasure.

“Did you hunt with him, Will?” Hannibal asked. When he didn’t respond, Hannibal shook him lightly, chiding, “Stay with me, Will. Only far enough to see, but no further.”

“Yes,” he answered, seeing them now, those long-ago people cut down to feed the Ravenstag’s hungry belly. And his own. It was important that he fed alongside the Ravenstag. The question, the blood, the sex followed by the hunting and eating of those around them. Teaching him, showing Will what was necessary to survive, all steps in the process of changing him that, at any moment, could be undone if he allowed doubt to draw a line between them.

So he had helped him, floating on the euphoria of bliss, blinding himself to their suffering because he wanted the Ravenstag and he would have him. He was better than any morality, more precious than any truth, firmer and stronger than any bedrock or foundation that Will had ever known.

“Yes, I hunted with him,” he whispered, shame creeping into his voice two hundred years past due. “They thought I was dead. The whole town thought I was dead and my ghost was haunting the dark roads...”

“Perhaps you were dead,” Hannibal suggested, but Will shook his head emphatically.

“No, not yet, not then,” he said, taking a deep breath as the certainty settled on him. The room, the fire, the bed. “Not quite. It took...time. He would ask me his question...”

“And what followed?” Hannibal pressed, nuzzling his ear and his cheek, lips whispering over Will’s skin. “When enough time had passed, what followed the question, Will?”

He flinched. “A warning.”

When you are like me, you will feel the same hungers I feel, see others the way that I see them. It is very important, Will, that you stay with me. Do you understand? There can be nothing else for you but me. I cannot tell you enough how important it is. Can you do that for me, Will? Can you stay with me?

“I couldn’t,” Will whimpered, shivering.

The Ravenstag lay on the bed as if asleep, his eyes nearly closed, his arm still bleeding, his clothes loose and half open.

“I panicked,” Will said, tears thickening his voice.

All he could think was that he was dead. He was dead now, and Will was, too. Dead and now what was he supposed to do? How was he supposed to live? He straddled the Doctor’s supine body and shook him by his shoulders, sobbing.

“I could feel it,” Will said, shuddering in Hannibal’s warm grip. “Changing me, remaking me, and it was the most terrible, wonderful thing, like being filled with a thousand ravens all trying to tear their way through my skin...”

He wouldn’t wake. He wasn’t breathing. He had left Will here, alone and newly made, left him with nothing—no instructions, no information, nothing.

“All I could think to do...” Will stammered, the tears in his eyes overflowing, caught on one side by Hannibal’s lips.

“All you could do was go home,” Hannibal whispered, brushing the tears away with his thumb.

Will slapped his hand over his mouth to contain the broken, frightened sob that tore from him and slammed the door on his memory.

But lingering there beyond the threshold was a world drenched in blood and guilt and what he’d brought down on them, waiting for him to return.

Chapter Text

They did not speak of it, not that day or the next. In fact, Hannibal was most insistent that Will not mention what he’d seen for fear of his automatically rejecting details they would require to fully understand what the Ravenstag had done to him.

But Will was certain now that he knew, or knew well enough.

It was a process, a ceaseless test of assent—the question must always be answered with honest assurance, the answer must always be sealed with a kiss and the sharing of blood. Life before death and the death that followed must be consumed, death to make life. An ouroboros of deliberate choice knitted together to create life eternal. At some point, the blood in his veins had become the Ravenstag’s. At some point, the final step he had taken to complete the transformation had been enough to render the Ravenstag unresponsive and vulnerable in their bed.

Should he work the same alchemy on Hannibal as the Ravenstag had done in him, that would be when Hannibal would turn on him, preying on his vulnerability in that silent space between deaths.

And Will couldn’t tell anymore if he was still willing to let Hannibal eat him, not now that things had gotten so interesting. It came down to a matter of intentions—did he intend to change Hannibal and somehow survive it or did he intend to spend eternity regretting the fact that he hadn’t?

So he said nothing, revealed nothing. Instead, they focused on preparing to leave Baltimore and the details of their final feast with Jack.

Hannibal, it seemed, had already laid the foundations for a quick escape. The most precious of his possessions were packaged up and carted away to places Will dared not guess. The rest, he was assured, would be tended to by trusted staff and carefully packed and sent to storage over time until Hannibal settled or had need of them. There was no rush. The house, apparently, had been purchased under another identity and would remain in Hannibal’s hands.

“Have you always been ready to move on a dime?” Will asked him, watching him prepare his little bag for the killing spree to come. Jack had agreed to dinner, to Hannibal’s hushed and reluctant confidence that he did not feel safe with Will, that he would like to have Jack come and test the waters once more in a way that Will would not suspect. Hannibal wanted the meal to be something memorable for Jack before he was made into a part of it. And memorable meant procuring the proper cuts.

“Yes, of course,” Hannibal said, intent on his work. “It would be foolhardy to continue as I do otherwise.”

He checked his list, one that Will had helped to prepare, evading the people he was certain Jack had set to follow him in order to create timelines for Hannibal’s intended victims. Most people had routines. It was a bit trickier to get them all to be vulnerable on the same night, however, but they’d managed somehow in the days slowly counting down to their departure.

One last show from the Chesapeake Ripper, an understated finale to cast doubts on Abel Gideon’s claims.

“Are you ready, Will?” he asked, for once not dressed in a three-piece suit but in something very much like Will—dark jeans, dark long-sleeved shirt, understated and normal.

Will thought of how he’d hunted with the Ravenstag, relentlessly determined to feed the one he loved. He thought of Hannibal’s reputation as the Chesapeake Ripper besmirched by the claims of Abel Gideon and suddenly wanted nothing more than to help him take it back.

“Yes,” he said, his mouth curving in a smile to bare his sharp, wicked teeth.

Their efforts made the news, specifically on Tattle Crime—The Chesapeake Ripper Strikes Again! Exclusive Photos!

“What do you know, she actually did it justice,” Will observed, looking at the magazine on Hannibal’s tablet, lounging in the armchair in his kitchen with his bare feet crossed at the ankles and a slight smile on his face.

The gory tableau was a riot of color, the deep red hues of body cavities, the darker splashes of dried blood, the tones of skin stripped bare of concealing clothing to highlight how vulnerable they had been in the last frightened moments of their lives.

Three of them arranged at their own last supper, plates filled with their own tongues, those rude and offensive organs that had somehow caught Hannibal’s ire. It wasn’t the only indignity he’d subjected them to, but it was the most telling. The rest was butchery to reach the choice pieces he required which even now were being cleaned and prepared for the meal to come.

“You’ve got them all wound up,” Will told him, amused. There had been no call to Hannibal for his opinion. Even a layman would know whose handiwork this was, though none of them would guess what help he’d had. Still, he imagined Jack would arrive this evening ready to discuss it in private with Hannibal, perhaps in his study after eating his share of a meal he would never survive.

“That was my intent,” Hannibal told him, not putting him to any work today. He wanted everything exactly as he imagined and would leave nothing to chance. “My methods are rather well known to law enforcement in the area. It is for the best that we are leaving once Jack is discovered. I am very fortunate to have you as an alibi, Will.”

He said it with a wolfish grin and Will laughed, nodding.

They’d spent the day before their hunt packing up or destroying Hannibal’s patient notes depending on what they contained. Will hadn’t asked, but he got the distinct impression that not all of the broken minds who came to Doctor Lecter went away again in mint condition. Will wanted to ask about it. He had all sorts of things he wanted to ask about now that they were on the cusp of fleeing and Hannibal would soon be an immortal like himself. So many questions now that there was a limit on his lifespan, and Will found himself touching his chest to feel the pounding of his heart, envisioning Hannibal eating it right from his gaping body, his last vision of life that of unbridled power and deadly intent.

He realized Hannibal was watching him, a strange expression on his face. Perhaps he, too, was thinking of the time to come, already composing a symphony of exquisite dishes to transform Will’s banal flesh.

“What is it?” Will asked, his voice barely above a husky purr.

“I wonder how you can still not remember,” Hannibal said, shaking his head just slightly as if baffled. “So many times, Will. So many things and still you push it away.”

“I’m not pushing anymore,” Will said, sighing softly as he put the tablet down, their scene forgotten. “I’ll remember, Hannibal. It won’t be long now.”

“No,” Hannibal said, sounding strangely taut and cryptic when he purred, “It will not.”

Will smiled a little, hoping to assure him that he wasn’t abandoning this life for nothing, that there would be a change to come, that he would get the chance to indulge in Will’s body in ways he hadn’t fully as yet.

“Go to the cellar and fetch me a bottle of wine,” Hannibal ordered him, those brown eyes piercing in their intensity, almost as if daring Will to refuse. “All the way to the back, third tier up, fourth bottle in.”

Will retreated to the pantry and popped the hatch to the basement, climbing down in the darkness. He’d never been in Hannibal’s basement before, lacking the need or desire, but was surprised to find it so vast. He thread his way to the wine of Hannibal’s choice and plucked it free, cocking his head slightly at what he saw.

Something gleamed in the darkness just enough to catch Will’s eye. Curious, he crossed the length of the cellar, seeking out the switch to illuminate the back room.

The overheads flicked on, bright and blinding. Will flinched from it, wincing, blinking hard as his sensitive eyes adjusted. When they did, the bottle of wine slid out of his nerveless fingers and smashed to the hard floor.

Skulls filled the room. Shelf after shelf filled with them displayed in glass bell jars, empty eye sockets and bare, sharp teeth grinning back at Will.

“Oh my God,” he breathed, eyes widening on the details. There were probably a hundred skulls here, and each one bore the same thick, sharp teeth that Will thought unique to himself.

Do you know what I am?’

You are an exquisite dish yet uneaten, plated and parted and ready to be served...

“No, this...” Trembling, Will moved from jar to jar, glass from the shattered bottle piercing his bare feet, his eyes wide and wild as each one revealed itself to be alike in only one alarming way—those rending fangs just like his. Some were bleached white and chalky, other yellowed with age, some stained with the remnants of the flesh that clung to them, but they were undoubtedly exactly like himself.

He knows what I am...he kills what I am...’ Will saw his own pale, shocked face reflected in the glass, superimposed over the empty-eyed skull within and he backed away, almost choking on his shock because at the end of the closest shelf, benign and tenderly patient, was an empty bell jar awaiting a skull of its own.

Will heard a strangled, keening noise of pain and realised it had come from him, a cry trapped deep in his chest trying to escape past the strictures of self-preservation and secrecy. There was an envelope next to the empty jar. The envelope was next to the empty jar. Trembling, Will picked it up and tore it open with shaking fingers.

The glossy photo was aged, clearly dated by the look of the people within. He recognized Mathilda, an achingly thin young blonde with too-bright lipstick and wavy-curled hair. Will scanned the photo, a candid shot taken at a wedding reception, looking for himself in the background.

He found Hannibal Lecter instead.

Are you like me?’


No, not like Will, but something that hunted things like him. Something that had, perhaps, also killed the Ravenstag. He had been hurt that night of separation, Will knew that much. He had been terribly wounded and it made all too much sense why he had never sought him out again. No newly-minted boy had killed him, no, but a predator feeding on predators.  For all Will knew, the Ravenstag’s skull was right here in this room. Hannibal would have seen Will that night, would have gravitated to places that Will would have haunted, searching and searching for the one that escaped. The hunter of hunters, feeding on those things that fed on humanity. What amusing and dangerous prey they would make him, after all...

Will slapped the lights off and strode swiftly back the way he’d come, leaving a trail of bloody footprints behind him.  He was speechless with horror and shock, reeling from deep, ugly betrayal. Everything he thought he knew about Hannibal was wrong, backwards, dangerously uninformed and he’d deliberately blinded himself to it the whole time.


He stopped in the kitchen, the pantry door closing behind him. He stared at Hannibal there behind his stove, working with relaxed grace at his next glorious creation, his ashy brown hair falling over his brow and his stern face holding the ghost of a smile.

“You look a bit pale, Will,” he observed. His eyes flicked to Will’s bare feet and narrowed. His voice was calm and clinical when he asked, “Is something wrong?”

“No,” Will said, an automatic answer, his mind scattering a thousand different directions, surfacing again and again to one thought—why hadn’t Hannibal killed him yet? Why this game of waiting for Will to remember and change him when he was already something...else?

“You’ve forgotten the wine,” Hannibal said, gentle chastisement. “Are you sure you’re well? You look as if you’ve seen a ghost.”

Will laughed, a ragged, hysterical sound that brought a spasm to Hannibal’s brow and a frown to his face.


“Do you know what I am?” Will asked him, hitching with laughter that was a bare breath away from a sob, the illusion he’d been living so many pieces of shattered porcelain on the floor around him.

Hannibal turned off the burner, wiped his hands carefully on a dishtowel, and shifted the whole of his attention to Will.

“Why did you lie to me?” Will asked, trembling with tension, ready to flee if needs be but he wanted answers at long last.

“I don’t recall ever lying to you, Will,” Hannibal calmly said, hooding his brown eyes. “Why would you think I had?”

“Did you kill all of them yourself?” Will asked, his thoughts leaping backwards, adding up the ages of those skulls which far outripped the supposed age of the man before him. “Maybe the better question would be, what are you?”

“It disturbs you to see them, Will?” Hannibal asked, a shadow falling over him, or maybe it was a shadow falling away at last. “Those trophies of times past?”

“Times past?” Will scoffed, laughing. “Some of those skulls are fresh, Hannibal!”

“Yes,” he said, his head tipping up a little, looking down at Will with calculating intent. “They are.”

“And the empty one?” Will asked, his voice rising in volume with the force of his anger. “Who are you saving that one for?”

Hannibal’s soft, delighted smile curved the corners of his lips. Very softly, he inquired, “Who do you think?”

Will slammed his hand into the pantry door frame hard enough to crack the wood.

“I’m not as easy to break as I look,” he bit out, but the true and deep fear that welled up inside of him broke through the words and rendered them meaningless.

“I don’t want to break you, Will,” Hannibal said, amused. “I only want to help you.”

“Like you helped the other ones whose heads ended up in jars?” Will asked, taking a step towards the hall when Hannibal took a sudden step towards him. “Did they offend you? Or did they just offer you the same distraction I did?”

“Don’t put yourself in such ordinary company, Will,” Hannibal advised him, taking another step that Will countered, his back to the hallway now. “They were mundane, mere shadows of their potential. You are a beacon, Will, glowing brightly. You always have been.”

Will snatched at a breath that suddenly eluded him, the world swaying around him.

“I tire of our game at last,” Hannibal said, gazing at him with fondness mingled into his own cruel brand of attachment. “You’ve taken everything I’ve offered, made your own connections, you’ve simply refused to look at the result.”

“No...that’s...” Will shook his head, alarmed.

“I gave you every chance, Will,” Hannibal said, moving towards him with easy grace. “Prodding and urging your memories to return so that you would recall it at long last.”

Stop it!” Will hissed, ravens’ wings fluttering up before his eyes, almost blinding him.

“Where are you right now, Will?” Hannibal asked, stalking after him as he backed down the hallway.

The hallway. This hallway.

William, what are you doing?’

“Where are you?” Hannibal pressed, each step clicking like hooves on the parquet floor. Feathers swirled at the edges of his threatening form, indistinct and frightening. “Answer me.”


This hallway, darkened and silent. He’d come home when he’d fled, home to his family because he had nowhere else to go. Home to see them, home to say goodbye, home to seek solace, home to beg forgiveness and return to the bosom of his family.

He could smell the scent of his father’s cigars in his study and thread his way through the house to find him, his belly roiling, unfed and demanding. He flung open the door and his father turned to see him, the welcome dying on his face when his eyes beheld his bloody, feral son, all joy replaced with rage and terror.

“Father,” Will sobbed, reaching for an image that had died two hundred years before. “Father, please...”

Don’t you dare call me father!’ The words cut like a whip, lashing his heart with criss-cross wounds, drawing blood to the surface. His face was contorted with fury, livid with it, so grossly offended by what he saw before him that he could barely stand to look at the son he’d created. ‘I’ll not be father to a devil! Look at yourself! Look at what you’ve become!’

“No, father, please! Please!”

Curled lips and outrage, bone-deep disgust and a gun raised to the level of his heart. ‘Get out! Get out of my house before your mother sees what’s become of you!’

He took a step forward. The shot hit him and he staggered, lost in the memory.

“What do you see, Will?” the Ravenstag asked with Hannibal’s voice, echoing from someplace far, far from his now.

“I don’t want this!” Will moaned, clutching at his temples, sobbing.

“You want what I want, Will, when I tell you to want it,” the Ravenstag said, looming all around him with the omniscience of a god. “We are no longer playing cat and mouse, you and I.”

The gun didn’t fire again. Bleeding from the wound on his chest, he lunged and pounced on him, this bag of flesh and innards that had once been his father. He tore him open like a ripened fruit, gnawing at his liver while he screamed.

He wasn’t the only one screaming. He heard his mother’s voice raised in a high, keening wail, the thud of footsteps as she ran from him. Why was she running from him? Why was she afraid? Her terror tasted sharp, cutting. He swung around after her and gave chase, trailing his father’s blood and flesh like a mantle behind him. Up the stairs to his sister’s bedroom where she cowered, clutching her daughter to her, stricken with grief.

William,’ she sobbed, heartbroken and defeated. ‘William, don’t...’

“Mother? Why are  you crying?”

Her tears scared him, her awful and bone-deep terror inspiring an equal terror in Will’s own heart.

A shadow rose behind him, the Ravenstag at last come to find him, unsteady and weakened but determined nonetheless. He turned to face his punishment for what he’d done, for running when he'd promised to stay, for forsaking his word that he would forsake all others for him alone. The branching antlers and rippling feathers wisped away like fog on a soft wind, and Will stared in stark surprise at the man before him.

Hannibal stood in the doorway, noble and reserved, a ghostly image over the man staring down at him with calm, deliberate concentration.

Use your gift on me...’

You could change me...’

Over and over he’d given Will a chance to discover him, to realize, hint after unheeded hint, like feathers brushing over his skin.

The Ravenstag of his memories was Hannibal Lecter in the flesh.

“What have you done, Will?” he asked, sliding in and out of the shape of a massive black stag, dark eyes full of recrimination, three faces of one man who was no more human than Will was.

“Save them,” he begged, falling to his knees. “Take me instead...”

Take me away, keep them safe, save them from the monster I’ve become. Help me help them, help me save them. He’d thought it was stupid bravery all this time but in reality it had been fear.

“I cannot,” he said, his hand on Will’s bloody curls in benediction. “I will not.”


“Do you remember, Will?” Hannibal asked, stroking him like a cat. “Do you remember now, what happened? To yourself? To your family? To me?”

Hannibal moved past him, shaking off his clutching fingers, his desperation, his pleas. He plucked Will’s little sister from the floor.

“Do you see, Will? Do you remember?”

Please, save them! Save them!’

‘I cannot raise the dead, Will,’ he said, Mary’s bloody body dangling limply in his arms, her body torn apart from throat to stomach. ‘Do you see? Do you understand what has happened here? I cannot save them because they are already dead.’

Will screamed in denial, yanking at his hair.

He looked at the man before him, holding the remains of his sister’s corpse, laying her so carefully in the bed as if he had no hand in what had happened. If he’d never touched Will, never enticed him, changed him, then none of this would have come to pass...

Will sobbed, covering his face, shuddering with the force of his horror. “You took them from me! You took them from me!”

“What future did you envision for them, Will, had you not killed them?” Hannibal asked. “Terrified of their own shadows? Left with the eviscerated, ruined corpse of your father and a society full of ready, deadly judgment? Waiting and waiting for you to come home again and finish what you’d started...”

“No!” he moaned, tearing at his hair. “No! You were supposed to save them!”

“I did save them, Will,” Hannibal purred. “The only way I could, considering what you’d done. I gave them the dignity in death that you denied them.”

His mother and sister laid out on the bed, covered to their chins with a blanket, but even that couldn’t give the impression of sleep, not with the terror and horror of their last moments fixed on their faces, Will’s savage, snarling face imprinted on their wide, staring eyes.

“I tended to them for you, Will,” Hannibal said. “And how did you repay me?”

If only, if only, if only—regrets that could only be felt and not fixed. And here he was, a newly born monster shaped by the hands of the man pretending tenderness as he tucked Will’s dead family into their beds.

He came up off of the floor with a scream, slamming into the larger man with a fury he didn’t quite expect. Rage and grief and that deadly hunger rose up inside of him and he plunged his hand through cloth and skin, sliding beneath bone until his fingers touched the pounding flesh of Hannibal’s heart...

“Only we can wound one another,” Hannibal said. “Leave marks that scar deeper than skin.”

Blood poured from his chest. What Will had thought was anger in his dark eyes became betrayal and recrimination with Will’s hand buried in his flesh to the wrist.

“You wounded me that night, Will. You wounded me terribly, so much so that I thought for a moment you might have managed to kill me.”

Will shuddered and trembled, folded in on himself, rejecting everything but forced now to accept it.

“I was proud of you then as I am now,” Hannibal said. “Unpredictable and dangerous Ganymede, filled with wrath and teeth. How beautiful you’ve always been, Will.”

“No, please stop!”

He’d fled from the force of those dark, dark eyes, ripped his hand from the pounding of Hannibal’s beating heart and fled. He’d run and run and run, until decades became centuries...

But he couldn’t run anymore.

He opened his eyes to find himself in the basement, kneeling on the floor with those skulls staring down at him, laughing at the futility of his actions.

“It took a very long time for me to heal,” Hannibal murmured, a warm, dangerous heat behind him. Fingers coiled into his curls, stroking and threatening. “Long enough that I could no longer find you when I was finally able to return to your country. My masterpiece was lost to me, broken in spirit but never in mind.”

Will shuddered, staring at that empty bell jar. The memory of how his father tasted was sharp and sour in his throat. What other choice did he have in the end? How else could it have possibly gone? He’d made his decisions and his father had made his own—the carnage that had followed was only natural in the same awful, inevitable way of a hurricane or earthquake.

“You made it difficult for me, as I knew you would,” Hannibal said to him, sighing softly. “No pattern, no trace, erratic in your movements but for one irresistible urge to come home.”

Will took a dragging breath, the wet warmth of his tears spilling down his face.

“Knowing that, I only needed to bide my time,” Hannibal said.

“You bought the house, my house,” Will whispered. He could barely hear himself over the sound of his mother’s screaming, echoing over and over in his head.

“I did. It was your first instinct when I changed you. I knew you would come back eventually,” Hannibal’s fingers moved from his hair to his nape, knuckles lightly grazing the tender skin there. “I kept it as well as I could, updating it over time, hoping that it would be enough to remind you. It was a dangerous game we played, as Mathilda can attest. I returned as was safe and hoped circumstance would allow us to meet. When I first saw you again, Will, so lost in thought at that opening, I realized that you’d forgotten everything. You sacrificed your memories on the altar of your peace and then spent all of your time trying to get them back again. You set yourself running in circles, remaking yourself into an angel of mercy trying to give others the peace that you were unable to grant to your family.”

“All this time,” Will breathed, a slight, wry smile curving his lips. “It was you.”

The silence behind him stretched taut. He started slightly when Hannibal said, “Yes, Will. Your mind refused to see me as I am. It made me something entirely...other.”

“You took me,” Will said, the words bitter, his lids sweeping closed on more tears. He wept for the boy he’d been, seduced by someone who knew all too well what he was doing. He wept for the man he might have become one day, for the ending he might have met, for the family he could have had and all the tiny details he would never get to know. He wept for the family he’d destroyed in one fell swoop, an eternity paid for in his very own blood. “You created me in your image.”

“As God created man,” Hannibal said, both hands on Will’s shoulders, now, squeezing tight. “You are the pinnacle of my art, Will, my masterpiece. No other creation has ever connected with me as you have.”

“Is that what these are?” Will asked, wondering how they’d failed him, these empty, bleached pieces of bone. “Your...children?”

“Does that bother you?”

“No,” Will answered, looking at each one in turn as Hannibal did, each one somehow defective in his eyes, lacking some substance he’d been seeking. “They’re just...pathetic reproductions of your defining work.”

“You always did understand me, Will. Absolutely and completely and in ways I’d never dared hope,” Hannibal whispered, tugging Will to lean back against his parted legs. He tipped Will’s head up, fingers stroking the long column of his throat. “What do you see here, Will? What do you see before you, tucked away in the darkest corner of this house?”

“Affection,” Will said, seeing them for what they were, each carefully preserved, gently held within their own glass house, eternal reminders of their short, furious burst of immortality and what Hannibal had found in them. “But not love.”

“No,” Hannibal sighed, thumbs pressing the corners of Will’s mouth, his downturned face full of wistful longing, as if he wished he could feel such a thing for them. “No matter how I tried, I could never replace you, Will. It was folly to even try.”

Will breathed softly, staring up into Hannibal’s glimmering amber eyes. He saw his own reflection there at long last, his languid eyes and sharp intelligence wrapped in a deceptively innocent face, his age only showing in his jaded, weary gaze.

“I gave you a choice once, long ago,” Hannibal said, solemn and cautious. “Now I offer you another. Would you have me unmake the decision you made then, Will? Lay your soul to rest with those of your lost family and place your skull inside a jar of its very own? Or would you rather finally dare to live as a lion in this world instead of a silent shadow?”

Will blinked slowly, all artifice lost to him. The heavy weight of his past jostled around his neck like a yoke, pulling him towards a decision not his own. How much guilt was he willing to bear? How much longer would he punish himself for what he’d done?

“Would you do that for me, Hannibal, if I asked?” he whispered, his lips brushing Hannibal’s thumbs as they traced the fullness of his mouth.

“Is there anything in this world I wouldn’t do for you, Will?” Hannibal murmured. “Should you dare to ask, I would dare to give it, even my beating heart.”

He hadn’t fought back. Will remembered that now. He’d stood there with Will’s fingers reaching for his heart and he’d just...allowed it.

“Do you still love me, Hannibal?” he whispered, his hazy eyes fixed on the man’s downturned face.

“From the moment you looked at me and saw beauty where others saw only horror and fear,” Hannibal murmured to him, his fingers reverently brushing over Will’s solemn face once more. “It has never once wavered nor changed, Will. It is constant as darkness is constant, always there and always waiting.”

Will sighed, eyes sweeping closed again, the tension running out of him in a wash of relief.

“What will we do?” he asked, his voice a lilting whisper in the widening silence.

“Should our plans now change?” Hannibal asked. His hands were warm and covetous. “I have had many lives over time, lived in many different places as many different people. It will be no different for you.”

“Many different lives,” Will whispered. “But only one name.”

It made him smile, his Ravenstag, his creature of myth and darkness. Made him smile and say with those sharp teeth flashing, “Oh, yes. Only that name. I’m afraid it’s the only one to suit me.”

Will gazed at him, fascinated by the reflection he saw now, awed that he hadn’t seen it before. His voice wavered when he asked, “Will you tell me what we are?”

Hannibal’s smile widened, his dark eyes crinkling with delight. “I will tell you everything, Will. From the very beginning. We have forever for discussions such as these, after all. Eternity is a very long time.”

Will laughed again, thinking of how long two hundred years had felt and how quickly his time in Hannibal’s keeping had gone.

“How will you answer me?” Hannibal gently asked, tracing the column of his throat. “Shall I unmake you with the same ferocity that I made you, Will?”

Will shook his head, the movement almost imperceptible but not lost on the man watching him so keenly.

“I want what you want when you tell me to want it, Hannibal,” he said, his voice silky with anticipation, with pure potential. “Bring me out into your world with you and destroy the old one behind us.”

Hannibal smiled, his own sharp, heavy teeth revealed in full, pleased with him.

“For you,” he purred, drawing Will to his feet. “I would set fire to the world itself.”

Will smiled, the weight of the yoke falling from his shoulders, all sins forgiven and all else before him.

“Not yet,” he said. Home settled around him as powerful arms and a broad chest. The solace he’d spent two hundred years searching for smelled of cardamom and heat, coiling around him with every intention to devour, secure in his intention to not be devoured. Boredom would no longer be an issue, not when he was mingling with Hannibal, a single soul in two bodies, a never ending flow of reciprocity. With a content, delighted smile, he added, “Someday, perhaps. We’ll do it together, burn the world down around us while we laugh.”

“For now, let us settle for dealing with Jack Crawford and leaving the country,” Hannibal said, nuzzling his ear so that Will shivered, delighted.

“I’ve always wanted to see Europe,” Will admitted, his fingers dancing over Hannibal’s skin because they could, because it was allowed, because there were no more secrets between them. “And to see where you come from.”

“Then we will go there,” the Ravenstag said. “I promised you everything, Will. And I always keep my promises.”

Hannibal kissed him, then, ravenous and heady with desire.  Will tasted the distinct flavor of his own unique brand of love, suitable for something as complex as Hannibal Lecter. It was a fine wine, this love, tasting of death and cruelty and exhilarating possession.

And Will knew with utter certainty that he would never need anything more to sustain him over the long forever of his brand new life than this thrilling, bitter taste.