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Faded Fantasy

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It was snowing outside, had been for a few days rather heavily, and the snowfall had long since begun to feel somewhat isolating in its persistence.

Hannibal would not usually have minded a few days staying home while it snowed, not when he had a beautiful home customized to suit his every need, with an extensively equipped kitchen and pantry fully stocked, a cellar decked out with vintage wines, his music to listen to, his instruments to play, his books and drawings and his self-induced tranquility, by and with everything that he found satisfying and pleasurable.

But in fleeing America and having to go into hiding from the authorities, living away as much as possible from the general population out of necessity, in a house standing alone for miles in the countryside of Skellefteå, Sweden…under that circumstance, even with a beautiful home filled with the things he'd always formerly appreciated above all else, Hannibal was not at peace, Hannibal was not pleased, nor happy…not even content.

Presently, he played his slender fingers over the keys of his black grand piano, filling the modernly designed, glass walled house, which he'd long owned under a false name, with the lilt of dark music notes that he'd composed himself. The glass of red wine that he'd poured earlier, sat untouched atop the closed lid of the piano and Hannibal felt no great thirst for the rich alcohol. He hadn't in a long while.

It'd been almost eight months since the fall from the cliff.

He'd long since healed and regained his full strength, and then some, but he had yet to find himself with an appetite again. He hadn't found himself in the mood for a hunt either, had no interest in finding a victim, rude or otherwise, didn't crave the taste of a gourmet prepared dish, not of heart or lungs or kidneys or liver or limbs.

Recently, he cooked only because he was hungry in the most banal and basic sense of the word, and of course being human, he needed to eat, he required the sustenance of it.

But it had all been animal meat in the past eight months, lesser quality store bought meat.

He still took his time and made the effort to present the meals he prepared as intricately and precisely as he always had, in hopes of finding pleasure in it, of rekindling his desire for human meat, but it was just never as fulfilling as it had once been. Everything he ate tasted bitter afterward, tasted empty, nothing was as beautiful or enjoyable as it once had been, nothing…

…when compared, to that which he couldn't have.

Hannibal clenched his jaw and closed his eyes as he continued to stroke the piano keys expertly, eliciting more ominous and daunting notes from the instrument. The fire crackled softly in the living room fire place, a background noise, and the wind howled just audibly outside, tossing a flurry of white flakes around beyond the windows. The scenery around the house was expansively white and the mountain views in the distance were stunning, but Hannibal didn't look at it, didn't even glance outside, he didn't care for it.

He just kept playing, kept his eyes closed, able to remember his composition key for key and he allowed himself to get lost in it for what felt like hours, but was really only minutes. Perhaps thirty minutes or so, before he was drawn from his reverie by the sound of the front door opening. He slowly opened his eyes again, having almost faltered in playing, but with his long honed self-control and dexterity, he was able to keep going, and was inwardly relieved that he hadn't given away his distracted mind so obviously.

Even as his stomach felt light and uneasy with anticipation and uncertainty.

The involuntary feeling was not new to him though, he'd actually been experiencing what people generally referred to as 'butterflies' in his stomach occasionally since that night on the cliff. And while he wasn't certain the feelings were necessarily caused by his 'being in love', Hannibal was quite certain that whatever they were, he'd much rather be able to cut them out of himself, cleanly, surgically, permanently.

Because at least then he wouldn't have to deal with what followed the onset of the 'butterflies', which was the nagging, empty aching reality that his 'love' was of the unrequited sort.

As if to punctuate the hollow ache tugging at Hannibal's insides, Will walked into the living room right then.

Hannibal didn't look at him, but he quietly inhaled the aroma of the younger man as Will walked by him, and the initial permeation was of the pleasant, dark base notes of Will's new choice cologne, an expensive, quality fragrance that Will had had a say in selecting and Hannibal had gladly paid for.

But aside from the artificial perfume, Will's own scent beneath it was intimately noticeable and quite truly lovely; a superb natural vetiver scent, bitterish, earthy and clean. And it was blended with Will's subtly fragranced soap and hair products, hints of their fabric softener that clung to his layers of clothes and finally the outdoor elements, an emanation of crisp cold and traces of petrichor from when the wind stirred and unsettled the trees on its way to the open landscape.

Overall, Will smelled wonderful, a result largely attributed to his good health, the absence of stress, lack of self-neglect and forbidden cheap aftershave.

Hannibal stopped playing the piano then and turned his head to look at Will. The younger man had removed his coat, winter hat, gloves and scarf in the foyer, leaving him in a dark long sleeve sweater, blue jeans and brown boots as he walked across the living room. His rich chocolate colored curls were mildly untidy from the removal of his hat, and his hair looked soft, healthy and smooth. His fair skin was visibly chilled, but the cold air had also rendered his nose and mouth an alluring shade of raspberry red, and the paleness and red contrasted the blue-green color of his eyes, dark trim facial hair and eyelashes very fetchingly.

The word lovely again came to mind for Hannibal, and then a string of other complimentary adjectives quickly followed; exquisite, stunning, ravishing, entrancing, mesmerizing, gorgeous…but none would fall from his lips. Hannibal hadn't yet found a context in which he might slip any such words in when conversing with Will, and he doubted he ever would, because their relationship was many things, but it was not that.

It didn't take away from the fact that Will looked as excellent as he smelled though, and Hannibal's mouth felt quite dry for it, but still tasted bitter with melancholy when he spoke,

"How was your walk?" he enquired politely and evenly.

Will only glanced at him from where he'd stopped at the living room bar, but then, he always seemed to avoid looking properly into Hannibal's face since the fall,

"…uh, refreshing, maybe…?" he huffed out a soft laugh, "If I don't take into consideration that it's far too cold and windy to be taking leisure walks in the first place." his words sounded like a complaint, but his tone was neither irritable nor displeased, just neutral.

Will always sounded neutral recently.

And it was frustrating, because it gave Hannibal no indication of how the younger man was feeling about anything, and it'd been that way ever since the fall, as if Will had lowered his former guard walls, but had erected new ones.

Since they'd gone into hiding, they'd become personally comfortable with one another, their mutual need and desire to be around and with one another had been acknowledged and realized, an emotional bond established.

They'd adapted well to living together, becoming accustomed to one another's routines quickly and compromising where they needed to. They still had conversations that were in depth and full of metaphor and philosophy and psychology, but they never talked about the past. Ever. It was Will's preference not to, so Hannibal acquiesced. They shared chores such as cleaning and cooking and shopping, and they also had their individual rec activities, their personal time spent apart.

They slept in separate rooms across the hall from each other, and while neither of them ever locked their doors, they also never ventured into one another's bedrooms. Hannibal still occasionally touched Will, but only in the ways he always had, with a hand settled on his shoulder or a light, fleeting touch to his arm or back. He no longer ever attempted to touch Will's face or neck though, and the younger man hardly ever stood close enough for him to do so anyway. In that way, as well as that Will made less eye contact with Hannibal than he had used to, little things about their former relationship had disappointingly changed. But Hannibal was at least relieved that Will no longer pretended to be something he wasn't, and they had a mutual agreement that one day, when everything died down, when the Chesapeake Ripper became old news with authorities and media, that they would begin to hunt together and would kill again.

Will had truly embraced his change, his darkness…he'd become exactly what he was meant to be.

And the fact that Hannibal's teacup had gathered itself back up should have been endlessly gratifying, because it was exactly what he'd wanted…but unfortunately, having not foreseen himself falling in love with Will, such a terribly banal and trite human emotion that he had sorely underestimated the power of, had made him unable to completely enjoy having Will…because he didn't really have Will. Not in every way.

He couldn't…or at least, he didn't know if he could.

It was not a subject they'd ever talked about or had even mentioned, because Hannibal wasn't sure what kind of reaction Will would have to him bringing it up. And if Will suspected that Hannibal had a non-platonic interest in him, he was doing his highly convincing best to hide it, because Hannibal honestly didn't have a clue of where he stood with Will regarding a romantic sexual relationship between them, he also had no idea where Will stood on homosexuality in general, let alone on the idea of homosexuality involving himself.

And every single time Hannibal considered bringing it up, he'd stop himself, positively loathing the fact that he was too afraid to upset Will. He worried that if Will learned of his interest and then thought that Hannibal required that particular nature of a relationship with him, then he would choose to leave…and Hannibal wouldn't stop him if he did, because they were beyond the point of forcing and drugging and manipulating, Will was his equal in their new lives and if he wanted to leave, Hannibal would let him.

"Something bothering you?" Will asked, the question followed by the tinking of glass against glass as he poured himself a shot of whiskey. His tone was sincerely curious, as if he honestly wanted to know what was distracting Hannibal but had no guesses or assumptions about what it could be.

Hannibal had been staring absently at the fireplace, but he glanced at Will when the younger man asked his question and he swallowed lightly when Will raised an eyebrow at him, before he turned his attention back to the piano keys, gliding his fingers over the smooth ivorite pieces without applying pressure,

"No." he lied. And couldn't Will tell?

Apparently not, because the younger man just let the subject drop, inhaling softly and rubbing a hand over his neatly kept beard as he walked back across the living room, over to where Hannibal sat. He came close enough that it was impossible for Hannibal not to subtly inhale more of his delectable scent. Will leaned his hip against the piano at the side of the keyboard, another action that made it impossible for Hannibal not to trail his eyes up over the lean lines of Will's jean clad, well-shaped legs, to his narrow waist and then his fit upper body, the pale column of his neck and defined line of his jaw. Hannibal's eyes stopped at Will's appealing red-hued mouth, the younger man's lips were damp with whiskey, the lingering traces of which were quickly swiped away when Will licked his lips.

Hannibal's mouth always tasted bitter and he had no appetite…up until any moment where Will was filling his senses, and then he would find himself ravenously hungry. Perhaps Bedelia had been right, perhaps his feelings for Will had always been heading in the direction of obsession, of a need so insatiable he would not be able to overcome it…perhaps that was just the way Hannibal loved.

Totally and with the need to possess and consume.

"It's beautiful outside though," Will said with a small smile as he looked from his whiskey to the large wall of windows, "especially down the path to the woods…so I guess it's worth braving the cold." he decided before taking another sip of his drink. And all Hannibal could think was that Will would definitely look stunning against the backdrop of Sweden's snow blanketed mountains and trees, and that he might like to draw such a visualization.

"You should walk with me sometime, Hannibal. You barely go outside." Will pointed out as if it were not blatantly obvious that Hannibal frequently chose to avoid spending their leisure time together, "I've never run into anyone on the paths since we've been here, so I doubt anyone would see you." he reassured.

Hannibal blinked passively, thinking 'Ah', when he realized that Will believed he avoided going outside because he was concerned about being seen. But honestly, Hannibal didn't totally buy that.

Will was too smart, observant and perceptive to really believe it was just that, it made far more sense to Hannibal that Will was purposely pretending there was no 'elephant in the room', as they say.

But was it because he also had no idea how to address it, or was it because he simply didn't want to open the door to that kind of interaction or discussion between them?

"Perhaps I shall." Hannibal answered flatly, plainly non-committal, and he kept his gaze fixed on the piano keys as he tried to stamp down the frustration he felt at the continued avoidance of the subject and the emotional upset it was causing him. It made him angry to think that while they'd become totally transparent with everything elsesince the fall, they remained in the dark over that one thing. And yes, it was no small thing, it was very complicated, but it made no sense not to address it, not to get some clarity on the issue.

Hannibal really just wanted it out of the way, and all he needed was a yes or no. He was starting to think that knowing where Will stood would really be the only way for him to accept whatever the outcome would be, so that he could get over it. Then they could move on together with clarity, still partners, still one another's other half, but without the unanswered questions and frustrations between them. Hannibal had no intention of ever pushing Will away if he wasn't interested in being romantically involved, not at all, he just needed to at least know.

Because with Will being all he could think about, it was sucking the joy and beauty out of everything for him.

Deciding he wasn't going to avoid it anymore, Hannibal stood up, and he rose off the piano bench on the side where Will stood, bringing them into close proximity, with just about a foot of space and the corner of the keyboard edge between them. Will didn't move away, didn't seem uncomfortable or affected either way, he simply remained leaning there against the piano, slowly twirling the whiskey tumbler in his hand with his head turned and his gaze focused on the view of night falling outside over the snowed over landscape.

He seemed completely relaxed, Hannibal couldn't detect any hints of stress or anxiety, discomfort or nervousness.

And it was aggravating to no end that he had no way of knowing whether his close presence affected Will, he was never able to tell because Will never seemed uncomfortable about anything, but he never seemed happy either. It was as if he was permanently in a state of neutrality and Hannibal detested it. But even though it was such an insipid state of being, one that Hannibal would usually be unable to stand, the behavior still didn't make the younger man any less fascinating or desirable, it didn't take away from his alluring darkness or his complex brilliance. What it did do though, was leave Hannibal guessing and unsure and uncertain with regards to the more sensitive and delicate areas of their relationship, and that had to come to an end.

Hannibal was staring at Will's side profile and the younger man noticed it, but when he turned to look at Hannibal, who didn't look away, Will didn't acknowledge it,

"Do you want me to help you make dinner?" he offered, since they often cooked together in recent months. Hannibal kept his expression unreadable as he slid his gaze away to his wine glass. He picked it up, sipped from it and then set it back down, swallowing the liquid with some effort and licking his lips before he answered,

"Of course, it's always a pleasure when you join me in the kitchen, Will." which was absolutely true, it was just about the only way Hannibal enjoyed cooking any more, having Will moving around with him in easy synchronicity. Will did a thing then, that Hannibal identified as being Will's barest acknowledge of a compliment or kind word, where the younger man smiled close lipped and raised his eyebrows, before he changed the subject,

"What did you have in mind to cook tonight?" he asked, inclining his head as he raised his eyes, making proper eye contact with Hannibal for a moment, something that had become a rarity.

And Hannibal's already diminishing patience broke then, and abruptly, he decided that finding out where Will stood with him romantically was no longer imminent but immediate, he needed the answer right then.

Without thinking it through, Hannibal leaned in, the intention behind his action impossible to misconstrue, and Will audibly held his breath, lowering his eyes to watch Hannibal's mouth as he dipped his head at the necessary angle so that he could brush their noses together for only a second before their lips touched. And not wanting the kiss to be too chaste, because he'd been patient for so long, Hannibal parted his mouth slightly over Will's top lip, lightly tracing it with his tongue and gently sucking...

…and oh, Will's nose was cold where it brushed and pressed against his own nose and cheek, such a subtle and unexpected sensation but Hannibal felt the effect of it at his core. He felt shaken from it, felt starved for more and so he pressed forward for a firmer kiss…but Will drew back quickly and separated their mouths with a soft smack.

Then, with his head lowered and a tense exhale, Will stepped back to put distance between them, leaving Hannibal feeling even more shaken as the ache of rejection rushed into his limbs, replacing the brief spike of need and pleasure he'd felt at kissing Will's warm, moist lips, with an uncomfortable burn and rigidity in his body.

They stood in silence then, now an additional half foot apart, and Hannibal looked right at Will even as the younger man didn't look at him. He waited to see what would happen, wanted to see what Will would do or hear what he would say, he was waiting for the younger man to just outright tell him 'no' in some way, or to voice his disgust if his heterosexuality meant that much to him and Hannibal had just seriously offended him.

But Will –frustratingly- did nothing like that, he had no definitive reaction that Hannibal could find closure in.

Instead, with his eyes still lowered, he just calmly said,

"I'll be in my bedroom, let me know when you're ready to make dinner." and then he set his unfinished drink down on the piano lid and dragged his fingers over it as he took another step back before turning around and walking away.

And while the light tremor in his voice was still too vague to be an answer for Hannibal, the fact that Will wiped his hand once firmly over his mouth as he walked away, was offensive enough that it hurt Hannibal, and feeling hurt made him feel disgusted with himself for his own weakness.

But it also made the decision for him that he would back off.

Will was straight and their relationship was platonic, that was just how it had to remain.

They didn't talk about it or mention it at all.

In fact, from the moment they saw one another again in the kitchen an hour after Hannibal's rejected advance, Will had pretended as if it'd never happened, and so Hannibal had done the same.

Doing so was a complete contradiction to the way he usually functioned, after all, he'd never been the type to avoid an issue or pussyfoot around someone else, but Will was precious to him in ways that were inimitable and so it made him tentative about confronting what had happened, especially since he didn't know whether Will would appreciate him bringing it up, or if it'd just make him withdraw into himself.

So Hannibal continued to keep his feelings on the issue to himself, and even though Will was aware of how he felt now, it was actually a little easier to go through his day since the younger man had rejected him, because he was less uncertain of the nature of their relationship.

And it went well for a while after Hannibal had smoothed out his own personal wrinkles and had accepted things for how they were. He started to enjoy the little things again, all mixed in with Will's company of course…

…but as if it were inevitable, considering the lack of proper closure on the issue, just five or so months later, Hannibal slipped up, finding he was unable to help himself in the heat of the moment.

He and Will had decided that it was time to put long pig back on the menu at the twelve month mark, agreeing that whenever they found their first 'appropriate' victim, they'd take their meat carefully and keep it simple and clean, no displays of blood or gore, no body and no evidence to be found.

And so, one cold –but not snowing- early spring morning, Hannibal and Will drove into town together where they planned to spend the day browsing stores and shopping, as much for purchasable items as for a victim. And it didn't even take long before they came upon a suitable person.

It was after noon, just an hour or so after they'd had lunch at a decent bistro, that a young man brought himself to their attention. At the time, they'd been in a chocolatier shop making purchases, and Will had stumbled over his still sketchy command of the Swedish language while making his order, at which time the young man had rudely referred to Will as an 'ignorant westerner', and had grumbled about how he and Hannibal were holding up the queue. If that weren't already reason enough to kill him, he'd been even ruder by mumbling 'bögjävel' under his breath when he'd seen Hannibal paying for the expensive selection of chocolate that Will had picked out.

Will hadn't understood the colloquial Swedish term at the time when it'd been directed at him…

…but it was later in the week presently, after they'd abducted and then killed the sorry son of a bitch, and had just finished cleaning out his torso cavity of all edible organs, that Will decided to casually ask about what it meant, and so Hannibal casually answered that it basically translated as 'faggot'.

And in that moment, after clarifying that word for the younger man, the atmosphere became very tense and still, and Hannibal actually found it to be almost awkward, making him pause in packing the meat into their cooler bag to look over at Will's suddenly static state. They were out in the woods in a location they'd previously decided would serve as a nice isolated murder site, both of them were wearing their custom made plastic body suits and had been, up until that point, in fairly good spirits.

The pleasantness died away immediately though when Will started laughing somewhat loudly, humorlessly, and certainly with a bitter edge to it. Hannibal observed him curiously, his gaze settled on the younger man where he was stood over the dead body lying on a plastic tarp on the ground, the brunette still holding his shiny new, blood stained hunting knife in his plastic tight grip…and then completely out of nowhere, without any sign of an oncoming fit of rage, Will stopped his huffy, wheezing laugher and snarled quite aggressively before he began kicking at the mutilated corpse with extreme violence.

Hannibal watched him passively, and was disappointed to realize that Will's violent reaction to the translated word still lacked conclusiveness with regards to where the younger man stood on homosexuality, and on his feelings toward being classified, or referenced to, as one. Was he angry because he'd been pegged as gay? Or was he angry about the derogatory term used? Angry because it was insulting or angry because he took it personally?

Or was he just angry in general?

His behavior was just too gray.

And Hannibal was hard pressed not to allow his former frustration on the issue to rear up all over again.

He watched Will go ape-shit for a full minute, the younger man relentlessly kicking the dead Swede's body with little coordination and a lot of grunting, and when it continued to drag on too long, Hannibal decided to intervene,

"Will…" he said audibly and calmly as he walked away from the cooler box and approached the venting brunette who was breaking the bones of the corpse and making a royal mess of his suit and the tarp.

Hannibal stopped a few feet behind him, waiting to see if Will would run out of steam on his own, but when he began stomping on the cadaver's head with renewed vigor, Hannibal knew he had to physically intervene. He stepped up behind Will then, and it was just in time too, because wearing the plastic suit and standing on the tarp meant there was zero traction against the slick of blood and gore that was messed all over, and Will fell backwards after only his second attempted skull cracking stomp.

Hannibal caught him easily under his arms and took on the weight of Will's body against his own, wrapping his arms around Will's torso firmly, more or less holding the younger man up. Panting heavily and through clenched teeth, red faced and still seething, Hannibal was amazed that Will didn't struggle against him or try to get back to assaulting the corpse. Instead, his entire body relaxed -as much as it could after all the exertion- and the younger man leaned back against him, Will's head falling back onto Hannibal's shoulder as he unclenched his teeth and forced himself to take in slower, deeper breaths in an attempt to calm down.

Hannibal was unable to help that he found the sight and closeness of Will like that, leaned against him, out of breath and all worked up, incredibly appealing and erotic. And with his head leaned back on Hannibal's shoulder, his pale unblemished neck was bared and Hannibal could feel the deep inhales and exhales that Will made…and he realized his own breathing was increasing as he became mildly aroused.

Will's anger smelled like flint, sharp and peppery and somewhat stifling at such close proximity and Hannibal almost forgot himself – about to bury his nose in Will's hair and just breathe in deeply-, when Will spoke,

"Okay…okay, I'm fine, Hannibal, I'm, I'm calm…" Will breathed out shakily, taking back his balance before he stepped away from Hannibal –who was forced to let him go- and stood on his own. Will was too interested in looking down at the corpse to notice that Hannibal had been affected by him, "…fuck…" the younger man cursed, and then huffed out a laugh, "…that is so fucked up." he laughed a bit more then and leaned over with his hands on his knees as he took a closer look at what he'd done to the dead body in his anger.

Hannibal was still quietly reeling from the heady intake he'd just had of Will's pure, untainted scent, experienced from so close to his bared neck, where his pulse had been racing and fresh sweat had sheened his skin and Hannibal was having trouble restraining his desire right then.

And when Will stood up straight and turned around to face him, his plastic covered shoes sticking to the blood on the tarp, and he was still breathing somewhat heavily, his curls sweated down and clinging in dark ringlets to his fair skin as he looked at Hannibal directly in his eyes, that same thread of restraint that had broken the last time, snapped again.

Hannibal leaned in to kiss Will before he even had a chance to consider the repercussions, and he was more intent on it that time, so when he sealed his mouth over Will's, he brought his hands up and pulled the younger man closer to him by his upper arms.

And because Will's mouth had been open from his heavy breathing, Hannibal didn't hesitate to slide his tongue past the warm slip of Will's lips, boldly licking into the younger man's mouth. Will's breathing rattled when he did, sounding immensely strained, which contradicted the fact that he felt Will respond to him, the brunette sliding his tongue into Hannibal's mouth in a quick, rushed stroke. But even as slight as it was, it turned Hannibal's blood to fire for that wet, delicious second, and yearning surged through him as he roughly pulled Will even closer, parting his lips wider over the younger man's to lick into his mouth another time…

…and then Hannibal finally received the definitive answer he'd been seeking from Will.

It came in the form of an unpleasant groan from Will as he turned his face away to break off the kiss, and also in the way that he placed his hands on Hannibal's shoulders and shoved him backward, and the most definitive point of all was Will's shaken words,

"D-don't do that…again," he panted in an unsettled and displeased tone of voice and he looked right at Hannibal that time, while Hannibal found himself unable to meet Will's eyes, "…don't, okay? Hannibal?" Will demanded an answer with quiet but harsh insistence.

"Of course. I apologize," Hannibal responded automatically and as evenly as he could, "it won't happen again." Still, he was unable to keep the strain of emotion out of his tone and he hated it, but he was hurt and he was too thrown by the immensity of said hurt, to be able to conceal it right away.

He was immediately furious with himself as well, not just for slipping up, but because the entire concept of loving Will had been hurting him ever since he'd been locked up in the institute all those years ago, when he'd found out Will had remarried and had finally been forced to face how much the younger man actually meant to him.

And it made him sick and angry with himself for being so weak, so out of his reigns.

Hannibal heard the sound of Will unzipping his plastic suit and he glanced up to watch –with an ache in his chest- as the younger man extracted his arm from it to wipe hastily at his mouth with his canvas jacket sleeve.

And then as he panted out clouds of white breath, Will hurriedly shoved the suit down over his hips and legs and then stepped out of it completely, his eyes once again settling on Hannibal,

"…okay…I'm gonna'…" Will averted his eyes to the ground as he hopped and stepped off the bloody tarp, carefully avoiding the mess he'd made, "…I'll, uh, wait in the car, if you can m-manage here?" he asked, but was already walking and half stumbling backwards away from the scene.

But even with the extra work he would have to do, Hannibal just nodded.

And when Will turned and walked away quickly, soon gone out of sight, Hannibal closed his eyes for a moment, took in a deep breath, forced down the nausea he felt and then opened his eyes again to glance over the tarp and corpse, before he set to work cleaning up their crime scene.

And finally, he was able to definitively say he would never make an advance on Will again.

At the seventeen month mark, Hannibal and Will were decidedly comfortable living in Sweden, confident that they were safely unknown by anything other than their false identities. And they were fairly hidden away in their countryside house surrounded by forest and snow and inclines, while having access to the small city of Skellefteå a half hour's drive away for whenever they needed anything.

And as far as they knew the FBI were no longer actively looking for Hannibal, likely having had to redirect their resources into catching other killers after so long, and he and Will both agreed that if they kept their kills infrequent, tidy and untraceable, they would continue to be able to enjoy the pleasures of their shared darkness without any cause for concern.

So life was good, and things had been going well enough between them.

Hannibal had established himself as a psychiatrist in the small town a few months earlier and Will 'worked for him' as his receptionist at the small practice. They still got on well, better and better with each day that passed, and once again, they'd never mentioned or brought up the second kiss incident.

And really, due to the blatancy of the rejection, Hannibal was not only glad to never have it brought up, but he had been able to move completely past it.

So even though he still felt that way for Will, he'd accepted that any kind of a romantic relationship between them was impossible. They would always just remain platonic partners and friends.

And being as that was the decided nature of his and Will's relationship, Hannibal deemed himself 'available', which by his definition, meant he was open to a sexual opportunity should one he was interested in present itself.

So as it happened, one Wednesday afternoon, when a woman that Hannibal had come to know quite well in their time living in Skellefteå, who had often flirted with him, came to see him at his practice, Hannibal invited her to join him in his office so that they could talk, since he was in between patient's right then. She was the manager of the local museum and she'd stopped by to find out whether he would be attending the fund raiser the museum would be hosting soon, and as per usual, her flirtation as they talked was just over the line of subtle but was still reasonably appealing, and considering his 'availability', Hannibal didn't see any reason to brush her off.

She was an attractive woman, younger than him, likely in her mid-thirties. She had dark blonde shoulder length hair, was well-built and well-groomed and polished, and she had a vibrant smile that was full of bright white veneers. A lovely smile that expressed the promise of passion and satisfactory sex whenever she directed it at Hannibal in a certain way, and that was really all he would need her for should he ever feel like pursuing what she offered, and so he flirted back, just in case.

She was immediately receptive to his returned flirtation, since he'd never bothered to show interest before, and he barely made an effort before she was giggling and leaning closer to him as they discussed the fund raiser, the hint of the fact that she didn't have a date yet was slipped in quite casually too. And as she laughed quietly at something he said, Hannibal was aware of her stepping closer still, and of her hand sliding slowly down over his upper arm as she looked up at him and smiled in a sultry way that revealed she was open to being kissed…

The door to his office opened then, interrupting them, and Will –who had been out getting lunch- stepped inside. Britta, that was the younger woman's name, didn't step away from him when Will entered, and she really had no reason to, in fact, neither did Hannibal. But with the look that Will gave him and then Britta, a look that was unmistakably threatening, Hannibal felt very confused.

Will looked beyond unimpressed and he was openly glaring at them.

"You have an appointment in fifteen minutes." Will said icily, voice misleadingly calm, while laced with an undertone of ire. Hannibal, not really sure of what exactly had made Will so upset, decided it was best not to find out right then, so he turned to Britta with a polite smile,

"Britta, jag kommer att se till att ringa dig så att vi kan diskutera detaljer i fondraiser när jag är klar med mina möten för dagen." he said evenly and then gestured to the door.

She smiled at him flirtatiously, uncaring of Will glaring at her,
"Okej, jag ska prata med dig senare." she said equally polite, but added in a discreet wink before she walked to the door that Will was still holding open. Hannibal was expecting Will to let her out, close the door and then tell him what he was upset about, but instead…Will followed her out and shut the door after himself.

Hannibal was even more confused then. But he figured that Will would be back soon to tell him whatever it was that had happened to piss him off. In the meantime, somewhat concerned, he retrieved his tablet from his desk and went on to the internet to make sure his and Will's name were nowhere in the headlines. And he was still searching when he heard the reception door open and close…but Will still didn't come into the main office.

Frowning at Will's strange behavior, Hannibal set his tablet down and walked across his office –far smaller than the one he'd had in Baltimore- and he opened the door to the reception area where Will's desk and the waiting room was.

Will was sitting at his desk, drinking coffee and doing something on his laptop and when Hannibal stepped out, he looked up calmly, adjusted his spectacles on his nose and raised his eyebrows.

"Mister Lindholm isn't late, he still has five minutes." the younger man said evenly, "He's almost seventy, so give him a break..." Will said with a smirk and then turned his attention back to his computer.

Hannibal narrowed his eyes and fought the urge to say something snarky about Will's volatile and odd behavior, but instead of opening up another can of complicated, moody little Will-worms, Hannibal just took a quiet breath, let it out, turned around and went back into his office, closing the door behind himself.

It was later, at the end of that day after Will had already left the office –because they never arrived or left work together-, when Hannibal called Britta about the fundraiser, that he realized something was off.

Britta had been blatantly and overly professional when speaking to him, as if she were specifically avoiding flirting or familiarity, and by the end of the call, when they'd hung up with no further talks of getting to know one another better or attending the fundraiser together, Hannibal could only assume that her sudden one-eighty had something to do with Will.

So when he arrived home forty five minutes later, Hannibal removed his coat in the foyer and made his way to the kitchen to pour himself a glass of wine. He didn't acknowledge Will, who had started dinner and was preparing two raw steaks with seasoning, and instead he just walked to the fridge, proceeding to retrieve a bottle of wine before crossing the kitchen to the glass cabinet.

"Are you fine with having steaks in red wine sauce for dinner?" Will asked pointlessly, since he was already making it. But, no, Hannibal didn't mind, it was one of the dishes Will excelled at making and he was always pleased when Will decided to cook for them unprompted and unassisted. It was a rare thing that he only did when he felt like it, or when he felt like being overly nice, which, Hannibal realized as he finished pouring himself wine, was really suspicious.

Hannibal scented his wine, sipped it, and then turned to look at Will, watching the brunette as he moved from the counter to the stove, where he set the steaks into the preheated skillet with a fork and they began to sizzle quietly. Hannibal doubted there was anything as excellent in existence as the blended scents of rich wine, good food and Will, all in one intimate space with him. And he had to force himself not to vividly imagine all of the ways in which he'd love to sample Will's various flavors, even as he trailed his eyes over the younger man's lean, fit body, clothed in a powder blue button down shirt, which was rolled up at the sleeves, and worn with a slim fit black pants and leather oxfords.

It took some effort for Hannibal to look away from Will, and only once he had, did he ask,

"What did you say to Britta Enberg today?" because Will had to have said something to her, it was the only thing that made any sense with regards to her sudden change in behavior.

Will had moved to the sink to rinse his hands, and when he shut the running faucet off, Hannibal looked at him and found Will frowning lightly. The younger man grabbed a nearby folded dish cloth,

"What?" he asked almost distractedly, watching his hands as he dried them.

Hannibal sipped his wine and then briefly lowered his eyes to the red liquid before looking at Will again,

"Your behavior this afternoon was peculiar, but I didn't ask you about it because I assumed you'd rather I didn't." he admitted, since he'd been making the effort for a while already not to over-involve himself in every nuance of Will's life and doings, because it was easier for Hannibal that way, keeping some distance between them. "But after speaking to Britta on the phone this evening, I find myself convinced that whatever had you in such a mood this afternoon had to do with her, and I'd like you to explain to me exactly what you said to her after you both left my office." he wasn't asking either, and he let Will know that with the firmness of his tone.

Oddly enough, Will tensed up and his ears became slightly red as he pursed his lips, avoiding looking directly at Hannibal as he tossed the dish cloth on the counter top. His reaction baffled Hannibal quite a bit, because if something was wrong, if there was something worrying Will, then he would be spitting it out, not hedging...and he certainly wouldn't be embarrassed or shy about it.

"Will." Hannibal prompted, and the younger man sighed irritably before he spoke,

"I just…I told her…" he blinked a few times and folded his arms across his chest as he leaned back against the sink, staring at the far wall and lowering his voice as he went on, "…I told her to back off." he clenched his jaw.

Hannibal blinked passively at him, finding that that explanation didn't make any sense.

What reason did Will have to tell her to back off?

"I don't understand, Will, was she asking suspicious questions about who we are?" Hannibal frowned lightly.

Will laughed then, a tense huffing sound as he frowned and shook his head, still staring at the wall,

"No, Hannibal, I told her…I informed her…that we live together," he awkwardly cleared his throat, "and that she needs to…to back off from…" he paused, hesitating before he said,"…from you, and to stop throwing herself at you every chance she gets." he added the last part in a hurried manner and with notable distaste in his voice.

Hannibal stared at Will calmly, but in his mind palace, it was as if Will had just kicked in the door Hannibal had sealed shut several months ago, behind which he'd locked away the mess of his intimate and romantic feelings for the younger man, because Will's words were nothing short of confounding.

And Hannibal felt the return of those god-awful 'butterflies' and their accompanying nausea and ache as he tried to puzzle out why Will would tell Britta that they were living together. Surely he knew what that implied…or is that what he'd intended to imply by telling her to back off? Had Will wanted Britta to believe they were a couple? And if so, for what reason?

It all made absolutely no sense, and remaining outwardly calm, all Hannibal could think to ask was,

"Why?" because maybe knowing why would shine some light on the gray –always gray- situation.

And unexpectedly, Will became glaringly transparent for a moment, his eyes becoming bright and angry with hurt as his face twitched into a deep frown and he gripped the sink with his hands on either side of him,

"Why?" he repeated, huffing out another short laugh and shaking his head as he glanced at Hannibal, "Because, Hannibal…how would you like it if I flirted with other people?" he asked harshly.

And Hannibal just stared at him, nonplussed.

Because while he knew it'd hurt for him to know Will was interested in sex with another person, he wouldn't attempt to stop it, because they were not together that way. And as long as whoever they slept with didn't interfere with what they had together, with the unique kind of intimacy they shared, then Hannibal would accept it, just as he'd accepted everything else that made up his relationship with Will.

But he didn't say any of that.

And when Will just sighed exasperatedly and walked out of the kitchen, the sizzling steaks forgotten on the stove top, Hannibal didn't bother to call him back. Because he simply just didn't have anything to say, how could he when he didn't even understand what Will was thinking or feeling or doing half the time?

He shook his head lightly, deciding that he would not be asking about it again, it would just be another thing he'd let go of for the sake of Will not being upset. With that settled, Hannibal sipped his wine and then set the glass down on the counter before he went to retrieve his apron, since he was now left to complete the preparation of dinner.

Predictably, they pretended that the conversation in the kitchen had never happened, and it was all well and good to ignore the problem, just as they'd been ignoring all of the tension building up steadily between them since the first kiss. But it was all bound to come to a head at some point.

And it did, on a windy and mildly chilly Sunday morning a few weeks later, when Hannibal returned home after not having done so the Saturday evening prior.

He was fully dressed in his black suit from the previous night, but was freshly showered and groomed, and he'd only just removed his coat and hung it up on the coat rack when Will walked into the foyer and demanded,

"Where the fuck were you?"

And Hannibal was struck speechless by the rude greeting, the underlying fury and anxiety in Will's question nearly enough to make him gape at its absurdity as he regarded the younger man glaring at him.

Will looked like he'd barely slept, if he even had at all. His curls were a royal greasy mess, as if he'd been running his hands through his hair excessively, and his T-shirt and jeans were creased and far too day worn for it being so early in the morning, which likely meant that Will was still wearing his clothes from the day before, and if he'd slept in them, he'd probably done so very restlessly.

"Answer me, Hannibal." Will's voice was straining as he stepped closer, his bare feet patting softly on the wood flooring and his fists clenching tightly at his sides. Hannibal parted his lips with his tongue and gave Will another slow once over, before he approached slowly, making Will tense up in anticipation of something, but then Hannibal just sidestepped and passed him, walking into the living room.

Proceeding to remove his suit jacket as he stepped up to the nearest sofa back, he took in a silent breath in preparation to deal with Will's latest mood swing,

"I don't believe that's any of your business, Will, since you are not my keeper, and I am not yours." and really, he could have just answered the damn question, because where he'd been wasn't even something he had intended to keep a secret, but Hannibal found himself irritated by Will's confusing, ridiculous, contradictory behavior and rudeness. Everything had been too all over the place for too long and he just wasn't in the mood to play nice right then.

He laid his suit jacket neatly over the back of the armchair, leaving him in a teal button down shirt and black suit pants, before he walked over to the bar and proceeded to pour himself a shot of whiskey. When Will quietly padded into the living room, Hannibal had the intention of offering to pour a shot for him too.

But then Will derailed his calm, collected mood completely when he quietly asked,

"Did you fuck Britta Enberg?" and the leftfield question assaulted Hannibal's ears as though a drum cymbal had just been hit in the silent room.

Carefully and with a light frown, Hannibal set the tumbler and whiskey bottle down on the bar top before he turned to face Will properly, perplexed all over again by exactly why such a thing would upset Will so much.

And for once, too tired to deal with the pattern of avoidance, Hannibal just flat out asked,

"If I did, why exactly would you be so upset about it, Will?"

And Will had the audacity to look incredulous, as if Hannibal had just told him he wanted to become a vegetarian.

But while the look Will gave him seemed misplaced, the younger man's answer was staggeringly sincere,

"Because it's cheating." Will breathed out, and then rubbed a hand over his face as he took another step closer, looking at Hannibal then with confusion, "We're together, aren't we, Hannibal?" Hannibal just stared at him, "This thing…" Will gestured between them with a frown, "…it's a relationship…isn't it?"

Will continued to breathe shakily, but Hannibal had stopped breathing for the moment…because finally, finally, he was given a glimpse of where he stood with Will. And realizing the nature of his predicament made Hannibal frown quite a bit deeper than he usually did, because now that he knew what was going on in the younger man's head and with his feelings, Hannibal didn't know how or what to feel about it.

Will appeared genuinely upset though, he looked as though he was really contending with the betrayal of being 'cheated' on as he continued to frown and fidget and glare in confusion at Hannibal.

And while Hannibal was still processing the unforeseen revelation that Will had just slapped him with, the brunette took a few steps closer and then dealt another verbal slap,

"Sex, right?" Will threw a hand out to the side, "This...this is about s-sex for you." he sounded defeated. And once again, Hannibal just stared at him. "Is that it, Hannibal? Do we need to be fucking each other before we classify what we have as being a real relationship?" he was shaking his head wearily.

And really, the worst part about Will's sudden eagerness to unburden himself, to talk and ask and clarify and confess, was that he was being so damn sincere and emotional about it.

Realizing the value in that, and not wanting to let the opportunity for transparency on the subject pass, after a tense swallow, Hannibal forced himself to open his mouth and respond,
"Will…you do realize that this is the first time we're addressing this, up until this poi-…"

"Answer me, just…just answer me…please?" Will sighed and then dragged his hands over the lower half of his face before speaking again, "Is it about sex? Do you need there to be that sort of…physical intimacy between us?"

Hannibal took a contemplative breath then, gathering his thoughts and feelings about what he'd just realized Will had assumed was going on between them. And only once he felt surer of his own view point on the situation, did he answer,

"It isn't a need, Will, nor a requirement. What this entire situation actually is, is a convoluted misunderstanding."

"Misun-…what?" Will frowned irritably and shook his head.

Hannibal stopped frowning and his expression eased into something more diplomatic,

"Before right now, I was completely unaware that you considered us to be in a relationship, Will." he admitted plainly before Will could get even more upset. And the younger man was the one confused now, shaking his head still, because he didn't understand, so Hannibal clarified, "Even before the first time I kissed you, I didn't realize that that was how you viewed our partnership. At the time, I was actually attempting to determine the nature of our relationship by kissing you."

Will went ahead and paled then, his eyes widening and breath catching, but that only lasted about two seconds before the brunette flushed red with hints of embarrassment, but mostly with anger as he narrowed his eyes,

"But you…Hannibal…you are…you…"

"I am what, Will?" he calmly prompted, since Will seemed to be stuck.

"You're in…" Will took in a breath between his teeth and briefly glanced to the side, "…you're supposed to be…in…" his face twitched and he wiped a hand over his mouth before waving it around, palm up, "…in love with me…?" he posed it as a question, sounding tense and uncomfortable, as though it bothered him to have to say it out loud, "So I assumed that about us, because…we're," he exhaled another shaky breath, face twitching between annoyance and hurt, "we're intimate, and we are together…just not….not s-sexua-…"

Hannibal closed his eyes and inhaled abruptly enough that Will immediately stopped speaking. Hearing Will say that, hearing that Will acknowledged and knew, or at least assumed to know how Hannibal felt about him, was somewhat disconcerting and unnervingly exposing. But even so, Hannibal wasn't about to deny it,

"And I am…in love with you," his mouth twitched in distaste at having to verbalize it, "but that gave me no reason to believe that you were interested in me the same way." Hannibal worked his jaw lightly, feeling uncomfortable at having that conversation with Will, even though they'd needed to talk about it for too long already.

He supposed he'd just hoped that maybe they understood one another better than that? But obviously not, because Will looked terribly confused and Hannibal felt terribly confused and they just stood quietly for a long minute then, staring at one another and trying to figure each other out, until Hannibal decided that since they'd already started into the issue, they just needed to hash it out once and for all.

"At least now, it would seem that we are finally on the same page, so I sug-…"

"N-no, Hannibal," Will interrupted him with a grimace, "we're not on the same page." Hannibal raised an eyebrow and Will made a face, "Not until you tell me why you didn't come home last night, because when you left yesterday afternoon you told me that you were just going to a gallery opening. So why did you lie?" he insisted on knowing.

And the question was so blatantly domestic that Hannibal felt equal parts disturbed and warmed by it,

"I didn't lie, I did attend a gallery opening…in Östersund." he admitted.

"Östersund?" Will breathed out, "That's hours away from here…" he frowned irritably.

"Yes, I'm aware of that, as I drove there and back." Hannibal said unnecessarily in a flat tone of voice, and Will looked hurt and offended by his sarcasm, making Hannibal amend his tone when he added, "And I stayed in a hotel last night, by myself." he emphasized the last word, looking straight into Will's worried face.

Will didn't looked appeased by that answer though, and he swallowed tensely and shifted on his bare, pale feet, before asking the same question in a different way,

"Have you…ever slept with Britta?" his voice was quiet, face serious.

Hannibal tilted his head slightly as he regarded the younger man, having half a mind to tell Will that considering he hadn't known of their apparent relationship, even if he had slept with her or with anyone else, it would hardly be considered cheating. But Hannibal rethought saying that when he saw the genuine unease in Will's bright eyes.

He supposed that to Will, if he'd truly believed that they were in a relationship all that time, it would definitely feel like being cheated on, and after everything the younger man had given up and suffered to be there with him, Hannibal found he really didn't want to give Will any reasons to start to hate him all over again, or to have regrets of any kind.

So he answered honestly,

"No," and then just to be extra clear, he added, "I haven't been with anyone since before my incarceration in Baltimore."

Will looked very relieved to hear that, which was really a sight to behold, Hannibal actually being able to witness the extent of the younger man's feelings and emotions with regards to him…and there was even a bit of contrition in his expression, likely at having to acknowledge the extent of time in which Hannibal had gone without sex and physical touch, Will knowing that it was literally all for and because of him. Hannibal was unbothered by that detail though, sex was not as important as all that to him, and yes, he wanted Will quite badly, but he was not driven by his libido or lustings, never had been, and he would never do anything that was purely sexually motivated.

He waited until the information settled in and Will had relaxed a bit before asking,

"So, are we on the same page now?"

Will just nodded unevenly.

Hannibal sighed then and was surprised to find he was developing a headache. He was completely unused to dealing with such fickle domesticity and the tedium of it was becoming a physical pain. But he didn't think for even a moment that he would rather do without it…not when it'd mean losing Will.

Will was too precious to him…

"Alright, just so that I understand," Hannibal began, "according to you, we've been in a romantic, but asexual and monogamous relationship since that night on the bluff?" and he was so focused on finding out if he had it right, that he didn't realize how condescending and belittling that question actually sounded out loud, not until he saw how mortified Will looked, his eyes becoming lightly wet, ears reddening and his jaw clenching.

It seemed to take a lot out of him to nod and rasp out,

"Yeah, more or less around that time….for me…" he bit out quietly.

Hannibal regretted making Will feel bad, but he really was trying his best to navigate the unusual situation as tactfully as possible. After all, it had never been a secret that he'd always avoided working with couple's therapy, and it was because that sort of thing, the kind of thing he was faced with right then, was not his forte. He had little to no experience managing domestic problems and the knowledge of how to do so had never interested him.

Until right then, when he was regretting not knowing what to do or say to make Will stop looking at him as if he'd just run over his dog...or any dog really, considering it was Will.

It took him a moment, but he realized that a possible solution would be to meet Will halfway on the 'assumed relationship' front, at least he could do that much,

"I suppose technically, that was the dynamic that we had in the beginning," and that was true enough, "but that changed for me after you turned down my initial advance." he said candidly, "And following the second…" he swallowed tensely and his mouth twitched in displeasure at the memory, "…rejection, from you," Will frowned and averted his gaze then, as if the memory hurt him too, "I accepted that we were just friends and unique partners."

Will frowned at him,

"…really?" he shook his head lightly, "After everything, how could you even think we could just be friends?" he sounded disbelieving. Hannibal shrugged subtly,

"Because I didn't know what you felt, Will," and oh, how he despised having to repeat himself, "I didn't know if anything you felt went beyond our shared proclivity for murder and likeminded company." he wet his lips, organizing his thoughts and stamping down his irritation, "I did have the…hope, for more with you," more pathetic, sappy, humanizing words that Hannibal wanted to choke on, "but that-…"

"Yes, I know, you said…" Will interrupted, swallowing tensely, "…that it changed when I told you…never to kiss me again." he said the last part in a hurry of words and then turned away, running his hands through his untidy hair.

Hannibal remained silent, deciding to let Will speak next, but when the rumpled brunette just paced and said nothing for a while, he moved to pour himself that drink he'd originally wanted.

He didn't get to though, because before he could even turn around, Will faced him abruptly and cut a hand through the air,

"I'm not gay." he stated with a frown and Hannibal just blinked at him sedately, because yes, that was rather the problem of the entire matter, wasn't it? Will was not done making revealing declarations though, and using more hand gestures he continued, "I'm, I'm not bi, or…or like, curious and I, I never was, never, not in high school or in university," more pacing, more frowning, "I never experimented with any of that." he wasn't looking at Hannibal as he ranted, "I never even thought about kissing another man at any point in my life," he huffed out a laugh, "I mean, shit…I haven't even had sex with that many women, and even with all of the time I spent…" he glanced awkwardly at Hannibal and then at the floor, "self-gratifying, it was always, always linear, straightforward, heterosexual masturbation." he laid on the articulation somewhat thicker and then became awkward again, "There was never…never anything penet-…" he cleared his throat and blushed from his neck up, "…anything penetrative, in any way, ever…" he inhaled and exhaled deeply, finally making eye contact again, "…Hannibal, I'm straight."

Hannibal blinked again and wet his lips absently,

"Yes, I got that." and there he went again, being sarcastic. And again, Will looked very unimpressed by it, though apparently he still wasn't done,

"But…after you kissed me that first time…" he seemed a little calmer now though, "I had to think about it…" he went on confessing and all Hannibal could do was hear him out, "…I had to consider the idea of sex between us, because, because I realized then that we were not…that you were…" there was a vague gesture made for whatever Will thought Hannibal 'was', "…and that what you wanted from me, was more." the younger man took in another long breath then, and hesitated before taking a few steps closer to Hannibal so that they were an arms-length apart, "And I did, Hannibal, I really thought about it, but I just couldn't…" he frowned guiltily, "…that second time you kissed me, I tried…you know…right, you…" he pursed his lips, "…I tried to kiss you back…and, and I'm fucking sorry but I-…"

"And I am sorry too, Will." Hannibal cut off his longwinded and unnecessary explanation, because ultimately, the outcome of Will's need to explain himself would all amount to the same point and he was wasting his breath.

Will looked exhausted then, but certainly calmer than he had before, and Hannibal supposed that was a good thing, it meant they'd finally reached the end of the uncomfortable domestic conversation and they'd finally established a few important details that had needed to be made clear,

"I understand completely that you are decidedly heterosexual, and I have accepted that," he said honestly, and Will looked relieved, but only for a second before his empathy made him aware of the impending 'but' that Hannibal was about to add, and he frowned deeply as Hannibal went on, "however, pertaining to the asexual side of things, and by extension, the monogamy…Will…" he trailed off then, because Will looked hurt all over again.

"You need it…you need us to be sexual in order for you to be with me monogamously?" he asked quietly, very seriously, his eyes drier but still faintly shiny. Hannibal took a quiet breath and clenched his fists lightly at his sides,

"Need is not the correct word to use." because it really wasn't "I just do not see the point of monogamy when we would not have the responsibility of protecting one another's sexual health related vulnerabilities." he pointed out clinically.

And Will laughed softly, a sore and bitter sound that ended abruptly when the younger man dragged his hand over his mouth, his fine beard rasping softly as he looked at Hannibal and then spoke again,

"That's all monogamy means to you? Protection from catching and transferring STD's." he smiled humorlessly and only for a moment before sniffing as he looked away again. "I guess I should have expected that…" he mumbled dryly.

Hannibal knew he was missing some fundamental and vital sentiment in all of it, in the idea of monogamy, but he just didn't see things the same way other people did, and being monogamous just for the sake of the emotional factors involved didn't make sense to him. And he very much wanted to just treat the issue with logic and sense and a simple yes or no, but the more that he watched Will hurting, the angrier he became at himself for causing it and it was clouding his usually keen and clear judgment in matters of excess human emotion.

He sighed then and enquired curiously,

"What is the reason for which you would choose to permanently forfeit sex and enter into an asexual relationship with me?"

Will sniffed again then and didn't look at Hannibal when he plainly admitted,

"Because I love you, Hannibal…" and those words caused a lump to form in Hannibal's throat, bringing with it an emotional tension the likes of which he hadn't experienced in so long he'd forgotten he was capable of such a thing. He couldn't speak right then and he just stared at Will, who turned his back to him after a while, "…but even that means something different to both of us." he added quietly, and then he walked away…

…walked out of the living room and left that statement lodged in Hannibal's throat, where the lack of being able to take a breath forced wetness to collect in his auburn eyes.

Hannibal had expected his next confrontation with Will to happen in a few days or maybe even after a few weeks had passed, at which time they would probably come to an agreement on how to deal with their problem after more domestic discussion.

But he was very mistaken, because it was only hours later on that same evening, that upon exiting his en-suite after having taken a shower, Hannibal was met by Will, the younger man standing at the foot of Hannibal's bed, shirtless, barefoot and wearing a plaid pajama pants. And Hannibal, stunned into stillness, stood in the bathroom doorway with his towel only just wrapped around his waist and a swell of steam floating out behind him as he stared at the brunette.

Will had his eyes down, gaze settled on the neatly made bed and Hannibal's first thought was that the younger man was sleepwalking, even though he hadn't done so in years.

Considering that, he knotted the towel firmly around his waist and then slowly approached the other man,

"Will, are you awake?" he asked evenly, voice soothing and calm so as not to startle Will, just in case.

Will's reaction was to smile sadly before he glanced at Hannibal but didn't even attempt eye contact,

"Yes, Hannibal, I'm awake." he answered quietly.

Right, so with that out of the way, the question left to ask was,

"Is everything alright, did you need something?" Hannibal ran a hand back through his wet hair and glanced over Will's still and tense form, keeping his distance at several feet.

Will shook his head and then frowned slightly,

"No…or…yes…" he nodded then and dragged his hands down over his face. When he finally spoke again it was with raised eyebrows and an air of resignation, "…I need you to be monogamous, Hannibal, because I can't stand the idea of…" he shook his head, "…of anything else," Will said surely, and then looked at him, "and you need sex…with me, for that to happen…so…" Will trailed off, gesturing from himself to the bed and taking in a shaky breath as he averted his eyes again.

Hannibal didn't need him to verbally clarify his intention, honestly, what he was putting out there was very obvious. Will had decided that he was willing to trade the use of his body, in exchange for Hannibal not going out and using anyone else's. It was insulting, and a sadly vulgar and backwards way of thinking, no doubt something Will's desperation had caused him to consider after he'd worked himself into a mess in the past few hours stressing about the issue of monogamy.

Hannibal was inclined to be angry at Will for thinking that he would accept sex offered to him on such demeaning terms, as if Will's body were some sort of bargaining chip, a consolation fuck to be had only on conditions of Will's choosing. But on some level he understood what was going on in Will's head and while it was disappointing, it was also significant, because it meant that Will 'loved' him enough to sacrifice his own physical comfort in order to accommodate Hannibal. But really, even though they viewed the concepts of 'love' and monogamy differently, that did not mean Hannibal was some lecherous, sex starved and depraved halfwit.

Even just the idea of Will thinking he'd accept such an offer was offensive, and the insult behind said offer made it very difficult for Hannibal not to slip onto the dangerous side of his temper. But even so, he had no desire to take that anger out on Will in any way, and that was because that's what 'love' meant to him, it meant forever and precious and invaluable. Loving Will did not mean having sex with Will, that was not how Hannibal's brain worked.

Sex had always just been sex to him, a means to an end more often than not, pleasure for pleasure's sake on other occasions. So no, sex and love and monogamy and what Will believed and thought Hannibal needed was all wrong.

And the monogamy problem wasn't even all that complicated, it all just came down to Hannibal making a decision.

If he chose to be monogamous, it wouldn't be difficult to do, and it'd be purely because he didn't want to hurt Will. He'd actually been thinking about it all day, and had been fairly close to making his decision when he'd walked out of his bathroom to find Will standing in his bedroom, smelling of anxiety and expecting Hannibal to fuck him just because he said so.

Of all the ridiculous…

He was tempted to chastise Will, to point out his common behavior so he'd feel ashamed and then send him away, rejected…an insult for an insult as it were…but even just the idea of intentionally hurting the younger man set Hannibal's teeth on edge. So instead of being a complete bastard, he decided not to reject Will. He did however, intend to send him away, but first, he'd take a little something for himself as payback for the insult.

Deciding what he wanted, Hannibal said nothing to ease Will's anxiety as he began approaching the brunette slowly, naked but for the towel on his waist, and he was aware of the distinctive spike of stress in the younger man's scent as he came nearer. It upset Hannibal to know that he made Will nervous in that circumstance, but such was the consequence of Will being a heterosexual man.

Keeping his movements steady and slow so as not to spook Will, Hannibal moved to stand at the foot of his bed, so that it was behind him while Will was in front of him, just two feet away and within arm's reach.

Hannibal then sat down on the edge of his bed and made a show of looking over Will's upper body, starting from his narrow waist and drifting upward, he trailed his eyes first over Will's tense abdomen, committing to memory the sweet dip of his shallow navel and the fine line of dark hair below it. Further up, he looked over Will's nipples, which were semi-hard from the cool air in the room and to Hannibal they were temptingly suckable.

Forcing his gaze away from the temptation, Hannibal glanced over the full picture of Will's lean torso and arms, memorizing the lines of subtle muscle definition and sinew, visible and curved in all the right places. He took note of the quick rise and fall of Will's chest, the distinct line of his clavicle, the subtle flicker of his pulse at the side of his neck…and the shifting of his adam's apple as he swallowed nervously.

And finally, Hannibal looked up to his wide eyes, unsurprised to find Will staring off to the side.

He noticed then that there was a faint tremor moving through the younger man's body and he was so obviously uncomfortable that it was actually making Hannibal uncomfortable.

'Best get this over with…' Hannibal thought, going ahead with his plan to take just the one thing he could have, if nothing else. He only wanted a memory of Will…completely naked…so that he could store it in his memory palace for when he needed to self-gratify –as Will had put it-, because he was facing monogamy for the rest of his life with, but without Will, so he'd need the visual to get by.

And just like that, he'd made his decision to be monogamous, and he was happy to do it if it meant making Will happy. Hannibal was actually starting to believe there was very little he wouldn't do to make Will happy and while it was dangerous for him to so readily accept his own susceptibility, he chose to anyway.

The room was silent aside from Will's audible breathing, which accelerated even more as Hannibal brought his hands up to hover at Will's hips, and when Hannibal only just fingered the waistband of Will's pajama pants –careful not to touch his skin- Will's torso muscles immediately rippled and tightened.

And under different –properly consensual- circumstances, such a reaction to his touch by the beautiful younger man would have turned Hannibal on quite a bit. But as it were, knowing the unpleasant feelings behind Will's reaction only diminished Hannibal's already tepid arousal. He hadn't been able to help reacting to the pleasing sight of Will half naked before him, but even that was fading because the atmosphere was too negatively charged.

And when the stress and discomfort and tension spiked Will's bodily scent to a miasma so emotionally displeasing that Hannibal felt sick to his stomach, he decided he should rather just be honest about his intentions so Will could calm down and let him know whether even just that, even just letting Hannibal see his beauty, was acceptable.

Because he wouldn't even take that much if Will truly didn't want to give it.

Drawing his hands away from Will and setting them on his towel covered thighs, Hannibal was very aware of how his carefully constructed walls were all crumbling to pieces at Will's feet, giving the younger man full access and reign over his inner workings. Will was breaking him down and yet wasn't even purposely doing anything. It was both terrifying and liberating for Hannibal to be willing to let go of the control he'd always had over his emotional feelings, and he had to wonder if Will would hurt him with it.

But he could only wonder, for he had no way of knowing.

Hannibal looked up at Will then and pursed his lips briefly before speaking,

"Will…" he said first, in order to make the brunette look at him. And it took a few seconds, but eventually the younger man managed to meet his eyes, looking down hesitantly, clearly unsettled to the point where Hannibal just wanted to put him at ease, "…please, relax. You need to understand and believe that I would never take from you, that which you have no genuine desire to give me."

In complete contradiction to his obvious stress, Will immediately became upset that Hannibal wouldn't accept his offer, and only because he didn't want Hannibal to be with anyone else. So frowning, he tried to insist,

"Hannibal, weren't you listening? I'm here…and I a-…"

"Yes, Will, I know why you're here…" Hannibal calmly cut him off, "…but you do not want to do this, you are here before me for the absolute wrong reasons. You're willing to force yourself to do this because you expect something from me in return…"


"…something, Will, that I have already decided I am prepared to give you, no exchange required." he interrupted Will again, and rude though it was, it was necessary.

As his words sunk in, Will's eyes remained unblinkingly on him for several seconds and then he breathed out,

"W-what, really?"

There was disbelief in Will's voice that irked Hannibal deeply, but he swallowed his irritation and managed a smile,

"You are more important to me than my ideas and concepts of sex and monogamy, Will. If you wish for us to have an asexual, monogamous relationship, then I am willing to give that to you." he said quietly and sincerely.

Will appeared stunned and he shook his head slightly as he asked,

"Why, you seemed so adamant this morning, what…what made you change your mind?"

Hannibal could think of several complicated and long winded answers to that question, but he settled for the simplest of the lot,

"For the same reason you gave me earlier..." he looked at Will, and even though he didn't verbally add the 'because I love you' end part, it didn't need to be said aloud because Will would know it was what he meant.

And when the words hit home for Will, the watery, sincere and affectionate smile that the younger man gave him was beyond worth it, more precious than a million human hearts would be to him. Hannibal felt that painful lump return to lodge itself in his throat and he broke eye contact, feeling overwhelmed by his emotions and choosing to stare at the navy blue plaid pattern of Will's cotton pajama pants as he tried to get himself under control.

"Thank you, Hannibal." Will said quietly and completely unnecessarily. His breathing had already calmed quite a bit and the acetic scent of his anxiety was fading, quickly being replaced by an odd mix of hormone scents that suggested Will was aroused, even when he clearly wasn't. Hannibal could only assume it was a misleading blend produced due to Will's feelings of affection and endearment, possibly some form of attraction as well, likely of the emotional kind, not the physical.

Will sniffed then and mumbled something about leaving Hannibal to sleep, taking a step backwards and turning to walk away…and it hurt Hannibal's pride gravely to actually have to ask, to want it so badly that he would allow himself to be once again at risk of Will's rejection, when a moment ago he could have taken his eyeful and then have soothed Will's anxiety afterward. But he'd already made the decision to put Will first, to make himself vulnerable to Will instead of making Will vulnerable to him, and so he would follow through on it. And since he knew it would be the dynamic of their relationship going forward, Hannibal decided he needed to get used to it.

So he reached his hand out, catching Will lightly by his wrist…and immediately the younger man tensed up again.

Will looked down at his hand first and then met Hannibal's eyes with a questioning gaze, and the words Hannibal intended to voice were pathetic enough that he had a sudden wish that he might choke on them.

All the same, he spoke anyway,

"Would you allow me, to at least…see you?" he asked quietly as he released Will's wrist, trying to take comfort in the knowledge that Will understood how his mind palace worked, and that the younger man would understand why Hannibal was asking.

Will swallowed with an audible click and blinked a few times, breathing a bit unevenly as he glanced from the floor up to humbled auburn eyes. He spoke after a few seconds, his voice a half whisper as he nodded,

"I can…I can do that." he sounded worried about it though. And Hannibal gleaned from the spike of anxiety in Will's scent again, that while he understood why Hannibal was asking it of him, the younger man didn't necessarily trust that to be all Hannibal would want.

It seemed Will honestly underestimated his self-control…and his decency.

They apparently still had a lot to learn about one another.

Hannibal had trust yet to be earned, and right then was as good a place to start as any,

"I won't touch you, Will." Hannibal said quietly, holding Will's wide eyed gaze, "You have my word."

There was uninterrupted eye contact then, eventually Will nodding his trust, and for a few seconds they stood and sat like that, neither moving, both just breathing, Will more noisily than Hannibal. And it was only when Hannibal broke eye contact and trailed his eyes downward over Will's chest again that Will moved, turning to face Hannibal properly, still standing just inside of the older man's reach as he brought his hands up and hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his pajama pants.

Whether it was intentional or not, Hannibal had no way of knowing, but Will's movement was almost deliberately slow as he slid the pajama pants down over his pale, narrow hips, revealing -in tantalizing increments- the V lines of his Adonis belt and the thickening line of dark hair further down on his abdomen, lower still, the dark thatch of his pubic hair, then his soft sex and the creamy skin of his upper thighs and…

…and then Will let the pants drop, and he was standing before Hannibal in all of his naked perfection.


And Hannibal would swear to all the Gods he knew of, that he had never felt such intense emotional and physical need in all his life, and he hated the overwhelming feelings…but he also welcomed them because they existed within him only for Will.


Will was trembling lightly…and so was Hannibal.

He didn't shy away from staring at the younger man's nudity, taking in and committing to memory the sublime sight of Will. And while his openly lustful gaze probably made Will uncomfortable, being as it was all Hannibal would ever be allowed, he didn't feel bad for it…after all, he was only looking.

And he wanted to see more…he wanted to see everything.

After memorizing the lovely picture of Will's full frontal nudity, Hannibal asked,

"Would you please turn around?" and his tone was gruffer than he expected. And when he spoke, he noticed that Will's fair flesh prickled with goosebumps at the husky sound of it, followed by another peak in Will's anxiety.

Hannibal was about to repeat that he wouldn't touch, just in case Will needed to hear it again, but it was unnecessary because after only minimal hesitation Will moved to turn around, stepping out of and then on the pants lying at his feet as he turned until Hannibal had a full view of his back, lean and lined with just the right amount of musculature, just as was his tapered waist and his firm, shapely buttocks, the backs of his thighs and his calves.

Hannibal burned with the desire to touch, to pleasure and to worship Will Graham, in every way.

But he could not…and unfortunately, he also could not control the level of arousal he experienced at seeing Will plainly naked, nor could he hide the result of it while he was wearing naught but a white towel around his waist.

A part of him thought it would be best to ask Will to leave, so that he could deal with his reaction to Will's beauty quickly and efficiently, but then…he didn't want to take his eyes off of the younger man just yet.

And really, he'd already asked for something as pathetic as to be allowed to look at Will naked, so what did he really have to lose in letting Will see that he was erect…

"Hannibal?" Will asked, still facing away from him.

Hearing how softly and almost shyly Will said his name drove more blood to his groin, causing him to speak before he could stop himself,

"Allowing me to see you this way, Will, is quite like…nourishment." he swallowed tensely as he tracked his eyes over the line and curve of Will's spine, further down over the cleft of his buttocks and between his thighs, "I have sketched you nude in the past, even though I had never seen you like this before now," he kept his voice quiet and was aware that he sounded somewhat reverent, "and despite the ways in which you are different to what I had imagined, the truth of you, the reality…" he trailed his eyes back up to the cut of Will's shoulders, the dark curls of his hair, "…the visual splendor of your skin and your physique has far exceeded my every fantasy." he inhaled then, having Will naked and so close to him was an irresistible temptation, and the clearer notes of natural vetiver on Will's recently showered skin were intoxicating.

And he'd been honest in every word he said, because while Will was not unblemished or as defined in musculature as Hannibal had drawn him purely from imagination, he was infinitely better in every way standing there in flesh and blood and breath…in all of his Grecian-like beauty, with his dark curls and fine beard contrasting his pale skin, his long and lean body and his naturally affected kouros stance…

Will cleared his throat, which brought Hannibal out of his dazed reverie just as the younger man slowly turned around again, but only halfway, and folded his arms over his chest self-consciously as he glanced at Hannibal.

He was blushing faintly, likely because of Hannibal's verbal praise, and he appeared to be even more uncomfortable than before. Perhaps hearing Hannibal's words of desire were just as unsettling for Will as his hands might have been touching the younger man's skin?

And if his discomfort had been bad before, when he noticed Hannibal's erection partially tenting the towel over his lap, it visibly increased along with his breathing, the brunette actually taking an absent half step away as he looked everywhere but at Hannibal. The reaction was accompanied by a splendidly attractive fresh blush that started from Will's chest and heated his face and the tips of his ears. And it was such a torrid onset that Hannibal was able to feel the heat radiate from Will even at two feet away, and he was also able to smell the prickle of fresh sweat on his skin.

Will had barely glanced at Hannibal's lap, but the sight of his arousal seemed to render the younger man immobile and made him very tense, which made Hannibal realize that Will was too uncertain and uncomfortable to make any movement, even just to retrieve his pajama pants and leave the room…so Hannibal opted to leave first.

He didn't really have it in him to speak right then anyway, with most of his blood still gathered too far from his brain, so instead he just stood up, noting that Will tensed up as he did so but didn't step away again, and then Hannibal walked away, back toward his bathroom, expecting that Will would be gone when he returned to the bedroom shortly.

What he didn't expect was for Will to stop him from leaving,

"Hannibal…" he said quietly, and Hannibal stopped walking and turned around, but not all the way, now feeling somewhat self-conscious of the jut of his erection beneath the towel.

"Yes, Will?" he prompted as evenly as he could manage.

Will pursed his lips and unfolded his arms as he glanced at the bed and then looked at Hannibal again,

"If…if I can't…" he took in a deep breath, "…if all I can give you is a…an accurate f-fantasy, then I can do better than…just this, me standing here, like this." he gestured to his naked self.

And that time, Hannibal honestly didn't understand what Will was trying to say, and he frowned just enough to let Will know he needed to elaborate.

In answer, Will began to move…toward the foot of the bed…where he sat down and hesitated a bit before pushing himself backwards, until he was settled in the center of the bed. And Hannibal's mouth instantly went dry at the sight of Will naked on his bed, his cock twitching as the wet spot of pre-come on the inside of the towel became even stickier.

He was unable to look away from Will sitting on his carmine red and black bed sheets as he asked,

"Will…?" and swallowed in an attempt to wet his throat. He needed an explanation.

"You said…that you won't touch, but you asked to see me…" Will spoke with a subtle tremor in his voice but he sounded quite sure of himself otherwise, apparently emboldened by the fact that Hannibal had kept to his word of not touching him, "…so for your mind palace, for your fantasy, h-how would you like to…see me?" he asked and then –so cruelly and temptingly- he leaned back on his arms and affected a more casual –albeit still tense- position, "On my…on my hands and knees?" his voice wavered at the suggestion and he averted his eyes, but he was totally serious. Hannibal could tell that his resolve was at one hundred percent right then.

Will was offering Hannibal visually, what he could not physically.

And while it was unintentionally cruel…it was also quite generous.

Hannibal walked back to the bed, moving to stand where Will had been standing before, the younger man's cotton pajama pants pooled just in front of his bare feet. And when Will shifted to get onto his hands and knees, Hannibal found it was very much not what he wanted.

"No." he said huskily, accent thick even on the single short word. Will stopped uncertainly and settled back to sit, somewhat hunching in on himself now, looking as though Hannibal had just rebuffed him. But that wasn't the case, not hardly, "If I could, I would have you as you are now, in my fantasy you would be lying beneath me, supine," he specified and was aware of how his heated gaze made Will blush all over again, "so that I could feel your legs wrapped around me, and see your face, be able to kiss you as I enter your bod-…"

"H-hannibal…stop," Will's voice was strained, his eyes cast downward, "stop talking, please, I g-get it…" and he was clenching the bed covers in his fists on either side of his hips. Hannibal's words were apparently quite like a touch for Will, it was too much and made him very uncomfortable.

He inclined his head in acquiescence to stop talking and Will nodded unevenly back at him, and then Hannibal watched as the younger man lied back on the bed with his head rested on the pillows and drew his legs up so they were bent, planting his feet flat on the mattress and with only slight hesitation…Will parted his legs.

Hannibal felt like he could really use some water right about then, he was terribly parched.

"Like…like this, Hannibal?" Will asked in a shaken tone while staring at the ceiling, his breathing still too fast and his knees shifting inward and outward, as though he was fighting the urge to close his legs again. Hannibal only raised his eyebrows at that question as his blood sung with arousal, steadily flowing south. And Hannibal knew he was being cruel to himself, but seeing as how Will was giving him the reigns to construct his visual fantasy and model it for him, how could he not make the most of it?

He stepped up then, so he was standing with his knees against the foot of the bed, just a little closer. Will glanced down at him, but Hannibal didn't meet his eyes because he was looking at Will's inner thighs, gaze trailing the smooth curve down to the younger man's parted buttocks, between which was his puckered hole, virginal and undoubtedly tight. Hannibal's gaze drifted up after a little while, trailing over Will's relaxed scrotum and limp penis, and when his eyes settled on Will's face, he parted his lips slowly with his tongue and then spoke,

"Place your arms above your head," he directed gruffly and Will took in a shaken breath, but did as told, "and close your eyes." he added, and when Will's eyes slid closed, feeling desperate with his cock throbbing demandingly beneath the towel, Hannibal gave into the desire to touch himself.

He removed his towel, dropping it onto the floor at his feet and he closed his eyes briefly when he first took himself in hand and stroked his cock from the base to the tip, his tautly stretched foreskin moving beneath his palm as he stroked again with a subtle twist. And after he'd taken the edge off, he began to masturbate himself in earnest as he looked lustfully over Will's body.

He was aware that he was probably crossing a certain line that he and Will hadn't discussed by touching himself, but he was so hard and Will was so exquisite, Hannibal just figured they'd work through the setback afterward.

Deciding that, he went ahead and said in a strained, -obvious- half groan,

"Wider, Will…open your legs…wider…" he husked out as he fisted his cock, steadily stroking and imagining how he'd touch Will, how the younger man would feel, how he'd taste.

Will went rigid at the sound, the lustful depth, of Hannibal's voice, and also because it was rather obvious from the hitching in his breath and speech just what he was doing. Hannibal thought for sure that Will would be offended, that he would get up and storm out of the bedroom, but he didn't. He simply clenched his eyes tightly shut and did as requested, spreading his legs further and letting them fall properly open, exposing himself completely to Hannibal.

Driven past the point of his decorum by Will's unspoken permission to continue, Hannibal made no more effort to be subtle then, not about his breathing, or the gruff bitten off sounds of pleasure he made in the back of his throat, or the sound of skin sliding hot and tight, his cock becoming tacky with pre-come so that it made a clicking, wet sound as he masturbated to the visual aid of Will.

"Arch your…ah…your back, Will…raise your hips for me…" he entreated breathily. And Will, who was breathing heavily through his nose, almost as much as Hannibal was, did so, pressing his pale feet into the red duvet cover and raising his lower half off the bed, the small of his back curving, and then, unprompted, Will pressed his head back into the pillows and he said Hannibal's name just audibly.

It was completely unexpected, putting serious strain on his self-control, and again, Hannibal would never know if Will had acted intentionally, but the sight coupled with the breathy word sent him careening over the edge into orgasm. Hannibal didn't moan as he dropped his head forward along with his upper body, catching himself on a shaky hand splayed on the mattress as he came, stroking himself through it as his semen spilled over his fingers and spurted onto the duvet cover. Breathing harshly and mostly through his nose, he savored the familiar pleasure of climax as it moved through him, resonating through his body in dizzying waves, his nerves warming so that his skin felt electric, his insides aching with the sensation of intense pleasure.

And he wasn't imagining it, that his orgasm was more intense than ever before, and it was obviously due to the sight, scent and sound of Will Graham.

When the surge of pleasure throughout his body and the sound of his pulse rushing in his ears ebbed, Hannibal came back to his senses and still breathing deeply he opened his eyes, glancing first to one side and then the next, finding that Will's feet were still set flat on the mattress at about a foot's distance on either side of his head.

The younger man's legs were still spread wide…and when Hannibal looked up at him he saw that aside from having lowered his arms and lying down flat again, Will hadn't moved.

Pulling himself back together with a steadying breath, Hannibal shifted backwards to stand up straight. He looked over Will's slightly tense body then, his eyes raking over the brunette who still lay supine with his body on display, his eyes still shut and his arms folded over his middle uncertainly as he lay breathing quietly but deeply, waiting…

…waiting for Hannibal to say it was over? Probably, there was really nothing else it could be.

Instead of speaking to let will know he could go, Hannibal rather did as he'd intended to earlier, and after picking his towel up off the floor, he walked away and closed himself into his en-suite so that he could rinse himself down, giving Will the time he needed to leave…

…and when he emerged from the bathroom ten minutes later, Will was gone, just as he'd expected.

They did in fact settle into an asexual, monogamous relationship following that evening, which meant that nothing changed between them aside from the technical terms of their relationship being mutually recognized and made 'official'. As usual, they ignored certain things, in particular never discussing or mentioning the fact that Hannibal had masturbated to the sight of Will posing sexually for him on his bed. In fact, nothing sexual was ever discussed in any capacity ever again, and Hannibal just accepted it because Will preferred it that way.

And despite having the physical image of Will to fantasize about, Hannibal rarely masturbated, but then, he always had rarely masturbated so that wasn't unusual. And on the occasion that he did, Will was all he cared to think about, to imagine and to desire. And he never allowed himself to wonder about what Will thought of when he pleasured himself, lest he become angry or worse…jealous. He refused to lower himself to something as cliché as the latter.

Ironically enough though, the idea of getting angry or jealous caused Hannibal to genuinely value their monogamy when he belatedly realized that he would have quite literally gutted anyone who ever touched Will sexually, because Will had been right, they were together, had been since that night on the bluff…and Will was his and his alone.

He felt like an idiot for having not seen it himself, for having not been on the same page with Will from the very beginning, but he excused himself for it because it was all very new to him; a relationship with commitment based on genuine feelings, based on feelings of love.

He never mentioned his delayed epiphany to Will though, it wasn't necessary because he knew it now and that's all that mattered. It also mattered that while nothing physical had changed between them, emotionally, Hannibal was very aware that they became closer and more attached to one another every day. With every conversation and every smile or shared laugh, every morning greeting and good night said in the hallway separating their bedrooms, every casual brush of their shoulders or fleeting and absent platonic touches when they cooked together or went about their days…with every shared kill and the subsequent meal made from it, every meaningful look, every day…every hour that they spent together, they were always growing closer.

And it was fulfilling in its own way, in new ways that Hannibal had never experienced before.

Understandably, he still yearned to kiss Will sometimes when the younger man would smile at him, but of course, he never again moved to kiss Will and never would, because he'd been asked not to and that request would stick forever.

Hannibal would never pursue anything sexual with Will again, because Will didn't want that…

…that's what he'd said...