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By Way of Pain

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Hannibal showed out his last patient of the day and looked around his office. He'd been looking forward to a quiet evening, but now the sudden silence seemed oppressive.

He rested his hand on his appointment book but left it closed.

There was no point in looking yet again. It was still four days until Will Graham's next session, and staring at his schedule wasn't going to change that.

Perhaps he could invite Will for dinner at the weekend. Or take some food over to his house? Will had already called him out on trying to feed him up, it wouldn't be much of a surprise to him. Hannibal didn't think he would put up more than a token resistance.

He would just prefer it if Will came to him.

Hannibal knew it was mere vanity, but here he was, restless in a way he'd never felt before. Anticipating what he knew could be between him and Will. Was it too much to want Will to be pulled towards him in the same way?

Hannibal sank into his chair and let his eyelids close. Four days before Will was back here, hair damp from a hot bath, body relaxed, nourished by food from Hannibal's own hand--

Will kneeling at his side, taking food from his hand. Tongue licking Hannibal's fingers clean--

The phone rang out, startling him. He looked down at his hand as if he expected to see his fingers wet and glistening, then carefully picked up the phone.

"Will. This is an unexpected pleasure."

"Is this a bad time? Because I can--" Will sounded exhausted. Even if it had been inconvenient, Hannibal would have had difficulty turning him away. It was a mildly troubling thought.

"Not at all," he reassured him. "I was just thinking of you, in fact. You must have known."

"Oh." Will didn't sound as pleased by that as Hannibal would have liked. "Is it-- did Jack call you?"

"No, no. I was thinking of some recipes you might enjoy, that's all."

"I enjoy everything you cook," Will said, and Hannibal smiled.

Will's mouth, hot and eager around his fingers.

Hannibal's hand pressed down hard against his crotch. He let himself breathe out slowly.

"That's always good to hear." He paused. "Did something happen with Jack?"

"Yeah. I lost my temper." Will's voice was croaky, worn out. "It wasn't good. He shouted and left, and I--"

"You don't know what to do with yourself."

Will's silence spoke volumes.

"Are you able to drive over, or do you want me to come for you?"

Will's breathing stuttered awkwardly down the phone. "I can't-- this isn't appropriate. You can't let me ask this of you."

Hannibal wondered how Will would react to the many, many inappropriate things he would be delighted to have Will ask of him. Horrified? Disbelieving? Excited?

Any or all of the above, no doubt in fascinating combinations.

"Will. Is there something you need right now?"

Will swallowed audibly. "Yes."

"Is it something I can give you?"

"Yes." Strained and low, but Hannibal could hear the desperation in his voice.

"Then you should come to me." Hannibal thought for a moment. "I was about to go home and cook. How long will it take you to get there?"

"About an hour? Maybe longer, the rain's pretty heavy."

"I will start dinner then," Hannibal said. "There will still be some time to relax before we eat. Agitation is not good for the digestive process."

Will laughed, a little ragged but Hannibal detected an edge of relief. "You're the doctor," he said.


The image that still persisted of Will's eyes closed in bliss, mouth hot around his fingers, was not conducive to safe or timely food preparation. Hannibal pressed down more firmly against his crotch, surprised how hard he had become with so little stimulation

The phone call and Will's need-filled voice had played a part in it. There was something delicious in hearing Will's urge to submit himself to punishment bleed through the last shreds of his control.

Hannibal slid down his zipper. It would be better to take care of his erection now, before seeing Will. A penitent, submissive Will was a beautiful sight, one that affected him more than anything had in years. Part of it was his visible struggle to accept that physical punishment filled a deep-seated need in him, and to act on it; he was able to articulate reasons why he deserved it, but was unable to explicitly ask for it. He could also flicker from fear to willingness to arousal and back again to fear in the time it took Hannibal to determine his penance.

On the other hand, Will had an uncanny knack for selecting the right implement for his needs when given the freedom to do so. Or for not selecting one at all, which they both knew meant Hannibal would use his hand.

Oh, the places Hannibal would like to put his hands. He made do with stroking himself instead.

Whenever Will chose his hand, even silently, Hannibal felt a heady rush of triumph. It took all his self-control to stop his body reacting to the intimacy of Will draped across his knee, but it was more than worth the effort to put his hands on Will. Not just to punish him, but to soothe him. It seemed to be cathartic for Will in a way that had far exceeded Hannibal's expectations, even though he'd seen the clear push-pull of the way Will both feared and craved touch.

Hannibal liked a firm hand on himself, but he stroked lightly; that's how he would touch Will, show him how pleasurable touch could be. Once Will let himself open up, he knew he would find depths to Will's psyche that would take years to map. Who knew what else might lurk beneath the surface of a mind like that?

He groaned and let himself relax further into the chair.

Will's eyes are dark and fevered, his face close enough for Hannibal to feel the hot spice of his breath. Something cold and sharp brushes against the inside of Hannibal's thigh, and Hannibal spreads his legs wider, an invitation.

He offers himself up for this wild creature's pleasure, and does it willingly.

Will had made a list of things he considered painful enough to be punishment. Hannibal was curious to see what he would list under 'pleasure' when invited to: he suspected it would be a very short list. They could work on that.

Hannibal once thought he could fill a library or perhaps a museum with his own carefully curated pleasures, but these days many of them seemed tedious and stale.

There's nothing tedious or stale about the precise lines of pain burning his inner thigh. He can feel the blood trickle and slide, and wonders how far Will plans to go. He wonders if he will try to stop him. Will's tongue slides over his lips, breath hitching, and Hannibal knows the answer.

He tips back his head, and feels the cold edge of the knife against his throat.

Hannibal came in hot, thick stripes across his hand, and wondered for the first time exactly what he was getting himself into.

It was fascinating not to know.

He cleaned up carefully as he had something specific in mind to feed Will this evening. Some delights had to be reserved for special occasions.

Hannibal had a feeling this might be one of them.


"Not to be presumptuous, but I put a robe in the bathroom for you."

Will sagged in the kitchen doorway. Whether from exhaustion or relief, Hannibal couldn't tell.

"That's-- yeah. If you're sure."

"Our needs can't always be scheduled to a time slot." Hannibal glanced at him over the saucepan he had bubbling on the stove. It was coming along well; he could see Will's nostrils twitch at the spicy aroma. "It's an unrealistic expectation. And whatever the reason, I'm always pleased to have your company."

Will nodded distractedly. Hannibal suspected he was reacting to the sound of his voice rather than the words. He turned to find the strips of beef he planned to use, and when he returned to the stove, Will was gone.

Hannibal hummed as he cooked. Having Will bathe here as part of his weekly pre-session ritual had been one of his most successful ideas. It was a pleasure he was willing to indulge in as often as Will could be persuaded.

Will had been distressed, and he had come to him. It gave Hannibal hope.

He left the soup to cool a little and set two places at the table. Instead of setting two places on opposite sides of the table, he sat himself at the head and Will to his left. He served the soup just as Will came into the room, dressed in the bathrobe Hannibal had left for him.

As Hannibal expected, he came to the side of Hannibal's chair as he would in the study during their sessions. He passed over the thin, whippy cane he had selected and waited.

Hannibal ran his hand over the length of the cane and glanced at Will. There was a flush on his face still, either from his bath or because of nerves. He'd never selected a cane before. This was something different.

"Thank you, Will," Hannibal said. He leaned the cane against the side of his chair and gestured to the seat beside him. "Sit now, and eat."

The soup was spicy, a deliberate move to make him eat more slowly. Hannibal savoured every mouthful Will took as much as he did his own.

"It's good," Will said. "Saltier than most of your food. And tingly." He touched a finger to his lips.

"I thought it would warm you up," Hannibal said, frowning. "But you look like you're burning up already."

"I'm fine. I always run a little hot."

Will cleared away the bowls when they'd finished, padding barefoot between the dining room and kitchen. When the table was clear he came up to stand by Hannibal's chair and hesitated. They'd never done this outside of a session before.

Hannibal picked up the cane and Will slid the robe from his shoulders, placing it carefully over his chair.

"Tell me what you've done, Will."

"I haven't completed the two tasks you set me this week."

"Three strokes for each of those," Hannibal said. They hadn't been important, just whims he'd had.

"I haven't been sleeping well, and I was short-tempered. I took it out on Jack."

"He shouted at you."

"I deserved more than that," Will said, and rubbed a hand across his eyes. His eyelashes were damp, his eyes glassy. Hannibal could see prickles of sweat on his neck, more than he would expect in the circumstances. He made a mental note to look into it later.

"As far as Jack's concerned, the matter is done with?"

"He probably won't ever mention it again." Will sounded frustrated, confused. "He won't even let me apologise, he never does."

Hannibal nodded. "Six strokes," he said.

Will raised his eyes at that. He didn't look happy. "It should be at least twelve."

"With the six you've earned already, it will be twelve."

Will let out a huff of breath. "Eighteen then. Six and twelve."

"Fifteen," Hannibal said firmly. He could feel Will bristle next to him. "And you're going to count them."

He could see Will starting to protest, so he unbuttoned his cuffs. Will closed his mouth immediately, eyes on Hannibal's hands. Hannibal wasn't sure why, but he'd noticed that rolling up his sleeves guaranteed Will's compliant attention.

Hannibal let him lean on his dining chair for the punishment. He took his time delivering the fifteen strokes, letting the sensation of each one fully sink in before he swung back for the next. The counting stopped Will from vanishing inside his own head, kept him present in his body. If he wanted real punishment, Hannibal was more than willing to give it to him.

As always, Will marked up delightfully. Thin red welts criss-crossed the pale skin of his ass by the time he gasped out, "Fifteen," and collapsed his forearms onto the chair seat.

"Ow," he said, with a choked laugh. "Guess I asked for that."

Hannibal offered him a small smile. "Your choice of implement and your negotiation strategy suggested you wanted a more severe level of punishment than usual."

Will straightened up, somewhat stiffly. "That's a fair assessment. I wanted to be able to feel it for a couple of days, and I'm pretty sure I will." He paused. "I'm glad one of us knows what he's doing, at least."

There was just the faintest hint of a question in Will's voice. Hannibal had been expecting it eventually.

"I have considerable experience, yes. But you know what you want, even if you have difficulty asking for it."

Will flicked a glance in Hannibal's direction. "What about what you want? This is... it's hard to see this just as therapy, even if it is helping me. Wouldn't it normally be a-- a sexual thing for you?"

"Not always." Hannibal picked up the bathrobe and handed it to Will; he appeared to have forgotten all about it. "There are some like-minded individuals I'm in contact with, and they, or their friends, have sometimes wished to partake in specialised activities with someone trustworthy."

"And you still get something out of it?"

"Of course." Hannibal smiled. "Everyone involved has input into what happens, so everyone gets satisfaction."

Will was silent for a long moment. "Except with me."


"What would you want to do?"

Hannibal couldn't look away from Will's eyes. There was a determination there, he was going to get his answer. He deserved the consideration of a truthful one, if not the whole truth.

"As difficult as you find it to ask for pain," Hannibal said, "I think you would find it even more so to ask for pleasure. There are pleasures to be had from activities similar to those we've already engaged in, and involving no greater intimacy."

He wasn't sure if that was the answer Will was looking for.

"That's not to say I wouldn't want more, if it was offered." Will always appreciated frankness. "But that's where I would want to start."

He could almost feel the knots of fear and desire tying Will up inside, the strangled words lodged in his throat. He wondered if this was what it was like to be Will, feeling this connection over and over, with anyone he couldn't avoid tuning into.

"I'm going to go upstairs," Hannibal said. He adjusted his sleeves, making sure they were tightly secured at his elbows.

Will blinked. He was still holding the robe in front of him, but it slipped a little in his grip.

"You're welcome to follow me." Hannibal stood. "If not, help yourself to coffee in the kitchen, and I will see you in a little while."

He had barely reached the stairs before he heard the soft tread of feet behind him.


Hannibal fastened the padded cuffs around Will's wrists and gave the chains a tug.

"The hooks are very strong, and the ceiling solid," he said. "You can let them take as much of your weight as you need."

Will nodded. "Do I-- what if I want you to stop? People use safe words, right?" The words sounded uncertain coming from him, as if even here in Hannibal's bedroom he still wasn't sure if this was that sort of thing.

Not only was Will as susceptible as anyone to the general population's hang-ups about sex, he might have more than most.

"Yes." Hannibal glanced at the closet where he knew there were several items he could use as a blindfold, but decided to use his tie instead. "Do you have a word in mind?"

"Gremlin," Will said. "But I won't use it."

"That's entirely up to you." Hannibal was confident he'd be able to tell if Will was in genuine distress, and not just cycling through his disjointed feelings about what they were doing as he was now.

He couldn't deny he was also impatient to get started.

He wrapped the tie around Will's head and adjusted it so it settled over his eyes.

"Counting strokes kept your focus on your body," he said. "Removing external distractions will help you let go of it."

He took a moment to admire his handiwork with the cane. Standing here in the middle of the room, the ache would add to the total effect he was looking to produce, but Will was certainly going to feel it when he sat down.

Hannibal planned to give him something to take comfort in at the same time. After all, he didn't want to only make himself a source of pain for Will, no matter how necessary it was.

He picked up a soft suede flogger and brushed it over Will's shoulders as he circled him. Will's head turned to follow where he thought Hannibal was, but after a few brushes his focus was on the sensations on his skin instead of Hannibal.


Hannibal stood to one side and skimmed Will's shoulders and back with a rain of soft blows, light and airy to start with and then harder. The suede was soft enough that even putting all of Hannibal's strength behind it wouldn't come close to the punishment Will had taken tonight, but there was no need for that. Hannibal had more than enough implements to choose from; he was only just getting started.

A smattering of blows to his chest clearly surprised Will, and Hannibal detected some doubt for the first time in the nervous tilt of Will's head. The unexpected nature of it had an interesting effect too; Hannibal saw a distinct twitch from Will's cock, and caught a whiff of warm arousal from him.

As an experiment he followed up with a flick of the flogger against Will's stomach, and was rewarded with more of the same and a strangled gasp.

He could almost hear Will wondering where it was going to land next. Was he dreading the lash of soft suede against his cock, or was he hoping for it? Knowing Will, it was probably both.

Hannibal aimed for his thigh instead.

He worked his way round until every non-intimate part of Will had received at least one blow, and gave his back and shoulders more thorough preparation.

Then he switched to a braided leather flogger. The same treatment produced more pronounced responses now. The blows were heavier, though still designed to stimulate rather than hurt, and by the time Hannibal had worked over Will's chest, stomach and thighs, he was pleased to see he was almost fully erect.

If anything he was even more gratified to see the relaxed sag of Will's shoulders and the strain he was allowing the chains to take. Will's pleasure was building slowly, and he wasn't fighting it.

He switched to a knotted flogger and focused on the sensitive pinking areas of Will's back and shoulders. Will stirred at that, but only to lean into the blows and breathe out low groans. When Hannibal didn't follow his usual pattern, he made a half-hearted effort to turn his front into the blows, but Hannibal just moved every time; if Will wanted something specific here, he was going to have to ask for it.

"Please," Will gasped out eventually.

Hannibal rewarded him with a flick to his thigh.

"Hannibal," Will moaned, his voice hoarse. "Please..."

That earned him a lash across his stomach, and Will's head fell back, mouth open and trying to form words.

Hannibal repeated the blow since he made such a pretty picture. Will's cock was fully hard now, leaking and straining.

"Please," Will repeated, no louder than a whisper. There was something more he wanted; Hannibal hoped he knew what it was.

He stepped closer, not actually touching but close enough for the sensitised skin on Will's back to tingle. He leaned in so his mouth was right next to Will's ear.

"If you can say it, you can have it."

Will strained against the chains but he couldn't free his own hands.

"T-touch me," he stuttered.

Hannibal ran a light finger down his back. "Like that? Is that what you want, Will?"

Will's damp hair flicked from side to side as he shook his head. He jerked his hips, making it clear what he wanted.

"Please," he groaned. "Hannibal, please. Touch. Me."

It was probably as close as he was going to get. Hannibal closed the last distance between them and took the weight of Will's head against his shoulder. Reaching around, he gave Will's cock one light stroke, and a second, and that was all it took.


Will didn't protest when Hannibal insisted he take his bed.

If he hadn't come already, Hannibal had no doubt he would have had messy sheets again; not that he would have objected. Instead, Will was so wrung out he barely reacted other than arching his back into the cool bed when he lay down.

He still seemed fevered, and Hannibal thought-- yes, there was a hot sweet scent that was more than a figment of his imagination. He pulled a chair over so he could sit next to the bed. It was comfortable enough for him to sleep in if he had to, and he would if there was cause for concern.

"Will." He put his hand on Will's forehead and frowned. "I want you to see a doctor."

Will's head rolled over on the pillow until he was looking up at Hannibal. His expression clearly said he was seeing one.

"A specialist," Hannibal said. "No arguments, Will. Just trust me."

Will's eyes closed, and Hannibal wasn't sure he'd heard, but a moment later Will's hand groped over the side of the bed and found his.

Hannibal wrapped his fingers around Will's and didn't let go.