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All of their cases have involved solely humans so far; Will mocks himself for thinking that would last. The body strung up in the tree by its own entrails - the third one this month - looks ravaged, claw and bite marks having ripped flesh from bone everywhere one looks. One bite is so deep, the bone underneath is fractured.

 

All of these things are distractions, of course, from the core of the destruction: the first mouthful. Teeth sinking into the neck, seizing flesh in their grip, then ripping it all away like the wrapping of a present. Reveling in the blood that spurts forth like oil from the ground. He puts his mouth to the bare muscle, drinks from his prey like he would a fountain. He drinks until he is sate, then leaves his prey strung up by their ankles, draining every last drop of their precious lifeblood.

 

"They'll be collecting the blood." he says, pulling back into reality. "It's too important to them; they wouldn't waste it like that."

 

"What are they doing with it?" Crawford asks.

 

"Drinking it?" Will guesses. "Keeping it as souvenir? Hell, they could be using it as dye."

 

"Any of those things something a werewolf might do?" Crawford says it carefully, and Will can feel his eyes on him. He elects to keep his eyes on the victim rather than meet Crawford's gaze.

 

"We don't work by any different rules than humans. If a human might do something, so might a werewolf."

 

Crawford sighs. "Let me rephrase: do you think this was a werewolf?"

 

Will tilts his head. "The bite and claw marks will be consistent with that of a werewolf. I'm sure you'll find fur somewhere on the body, or perhaps even saliva."

 

"But you don't think it's a werewolf."

 

"I think someone tried very hard to make it look like a werewolf." Will frowns at the body, then turns to Crawford. "The other two victims, were they werewolves, too?"

 

Crawford looks to the body in surprise. "We hadn't thought to check."

 

"It could be a coincidence. Or our killer could have a taste for wolf blood."

 

"I'll have the lab check." Crawford steps away to make the call, and Will turns back to the body. With as much reverie as the killer had for the blood, they had no such consideration for the body it coursed through. No, to them, their victims are little more than blood bags.




~




Will looks up from his plate incredulously. Hannibal only raises a brow.

 

"You're serious." Will looks back to his plate, piled with eggs, bacon, toast, and, of all things, blood sausage.

 

"Is it not to your tastes?" Hannibal inquires, taking the seat across from Will.

 

"Not really, no."

 

"I apologize. Is it the meat? It would be understandable if you were averse to it, considering your history."

 

"Yes, and no." Will picks up his fork, poking at the sausage, shifting it to the far side of his plate. There are days where just the thought of meat makes bile rise in his throat, and others where he craves it like nothing else. He's unsure which he despises more. "Meat itself isn't the problem."

 

"Then it is what the meat calls to mind for you. I can make you something else, if you'd prefer."

 

"No, I wouldn't want to trouble you any more than I have." Will starts in on the eggs, saying, "My problem isn't that it's meat. It's more the… poor timing of the variety."

 

Hannibal nods, cutting into his sausage. "The recent killings. Victims drained completely of their blood, then strung up like animals in a slaughterhouse."

 

"Whoever it is, they're working very hard to make it look like a werewolf did it."

 

"This upsets you?"

 

"Well, it doesn't make me happy."

 

"Does it make you feel defensive of your kin? Or perhaps worried for them?"

 

Will scoffs. "They're not my kin. Even when I was-" He trips on the words, the proper descriptors for what he used to be lost to him. Letting out a huff, he continues, "I never really felt any sense of kinship."

 

"No one would fault you if you did, Will. It is natural for us to seek understanding in others. I'm sure being in a field comprised almost entirely of humans must have been very isolating to you."

 

"Didn't seem much different from before, really."

 

"But perhaps there was a new layer of disdain from your human peers."

 

Will smiles ruefully, lip curling. "Something like that."

 

"Are you glad to have been cured?"

 

"If that's what you can call it. I'm indifferent to it."

 

"If you were truly indifferent, you wouldn't resent your gifts so much."

 

"Who says I resent them?"

 

"You do: it is in your tone and body language when you speak of them. Do they bother you because they remind you of the incidents that occurred before you were cured?"

 

Will glares down at his plate. "No."

 

"Then perhaps it is because we all refer to them as gifts when they are the result of something you consider to be a curse."

 

"I thought this was supposed to be a friendly lunch."

 

"It was. I apologize for getting off track. Would you rather discuss the case?"

 

"I think I'd rather discuss you. It occurs to me that I don't actually know your stance on werewolves and other… cryptids."

 

Hannibal sips from his wine, considering. "I don't believe I have any particular stances."

 

"Your personal thoughts, then." WIll amends. Hannibal's mouth quirks in a smile.

 

"Very well. I think they each have their unique gifts that, when utilized correctly, can offer great benefit. Some to a greater degree than others, of course."

 

"Of course." Will repeats dryly. "Then am I to assume werewolves don't frighten you?"

Hannibal tilts his head, inspecting Will's face just as closely as Will is inspecting his. "I am aware of the threat they can pose, but I have no reason to fear them any more than I fear my fellow man. In fact I would say that in many cases, mankind has inflicted far worse things on itself than any cryptid."

 

"Our penchant for violence doesn't concern you?"

 

"I would say it is a symptom, like any other. A werewolf is as inclined towards violence as a pitt bull. Despite their reputation, much of their perceived nature is in how they are raised. Any dog can be trained into a vicious killer, and yet the pitt bull is viewed as a brutal animal. Guilty until proven innocent, as it were."

 

"You say that as though all dogs are the same. Like a pomeranian or a chihuahua poses as much threat as a german sheppard."

 

"In some ways, I would say they can pose even more of a threat, because no one expects such violence from them."

 

"Which do you think I am?"

 

Hannibal looks down at his plate, slicing another bite from the sausage. "I think most see you as a neutered tamaskan. Jack Crawford certainly does."

 

"I didn't ask what Jack thinks of me," Will points out, "I asked what you do." Hannibal smiles.

 

"I'm not sure you are a domesticated breed at all, William. Perhaps your bloodline is something more wild."

 

Will snorts. "You're saying I'm a wolf? I would have thought that was obvious."

 

"Perhaps. Or perhaps you are something else. A fox, maybe. Or a dingo. I will need more time to determine which."

 

"Let me know when you have." Will shoves another forkful of eggs into his mouth and, fuck it, he cuts into the sausage. There's a curious glint of satisfaction in Hannibal's eye that disappears as quickly as it came.

 

"I'll be sure to do that."




~




Lab results show the victims were all werewolves, just like Will thought. He mulls this confirmation over in his head as he listens to Katz, Zeller, and Price run through their findings.

 

Was it the taste? Once they'd had a sip, they couldn't stop there, they had to have more? No, no, that's not it. They worship the blood, but the taste isn't the strongest factor here.

 

"It's hard to make out under the, uh, damage to the throat," Price says, tracing a point on the victim's neck with a gloved finger, "but there are puncture marks here."

 

"He was stabbed?" Crawford guesses.

 

"Not quite." Zeller says. "They're shallow, almost like- like teeth. "

 

"Well we already know his throat was ripped out, how is that odd?"

 

"It's the shape of the bite marks." Kats rounds the table to point out the marks. "They're neater than anything here, and it's not a full bite. Only the canines punctured the neck. The other two victims have the same injury in the same spot."

 

"Great, so our killer thinks he's a vampire."

 

"The bites were made before the throat was ripped out." Will says. Zeller nods.

 

"We think so, yeah."

 

"A taste test. To make sure the blood is worth the effort."

 

"Wonder what happens to the ones that don't make the cut." Katz huffs.

 

"We'll check incident reports." Crawford decides. "Werewolves who have been assaulted and left with bite marks on their necks."

 

"I doubt you'll find anything." Will says. "We're already reluctant enough to seek out help from the police, what makes you think a werewolf is going to report being bitten by a vampire?"

 

"We still have to check." Turning back to the other three, Crawford asks, "Anything else I should know?"

 

"He died from blood loss, just like the others. We tested his urine, and there's no sign of any drugs used on him, not even prescription."

 

"None of them will be drugged." Will says. "Medicinal, recreational, or otherwise. It will change the taste of the blood. They want a pure flavor."

 

Crawford shakes his head and takes his leave. Will follows at length, finding it difficult to drag his eyes from the bodies. He finally manages it, and as he returns to his office, he tries to shake the taste of blood in his mouth.




~




"Do you believe in vampires, Dr. Lecter?" Will asks, staring into the fire in Hannibal's office. The room is silent for a minute, save for the crackling of the fire and the sloshing of wine being poured.

 

"I do not rule out the possibility." Hannibal finally says, appearing at Will's side with a glass offered. Will accepts it without looking. "There are already so many strange things in our world, what's one more?" Hannibal sips from his own glass, watching Will closely. "What about you, Will? Do you think vampires are among us?"

 

"Our killer certainly does." At Hannibal's silence, Will glances at him. He's staring at Will patiently, waiting for a proper answer. Will sighs. "I think it would be foolish not to. Just fifty years ago, we thought werewolves, wendigoes, and rugaru were a figment of fiction, and yet here we are. Maybe vampires are just more careful about revealing themselves."

 

"Certainly they should be; they have had ample practice, if their immortality is to be believed." Will nods, finally looking at his drink properly. He snorts.

 

"I don't know whether I should laugh or be appalled." He tilts the glass, swirling around the blood red wine. "Either way, I believe this is in bad taste, don't you?"

 

"I assure you, the taste is fine." Hannibal smirks as he sips his wine. "Though I do admit, the color did slip my mind. Would you like me to get you a glass of something else?"

 

"I'm inclined to question the ethicalness of you offering a patient alcohol at all." Nevertheless, Will sips from his glass. He's never been one to notice a marked difference between top shelf cabernet and box wine, but he will admit that this, whatever it is, is pleasant.

 

"I agree, it would be unethical of me to do so. However in this moment, you are not my patient, but my colleague - your appointment does not begin for another fifteen minutes. So until then, we are free to share a drink."

 

"Oh, then by all means." Will smiles wryly and takes another sip.

 

"You say your killer believes himself to be a vampire. Do you agree with him?"

 

"I believe they have all the tendencies of one. Whether that is by nature or by their own design has yet to be revealed." He sips again from his glass, more of a fidget than any real desire to drink. "They take werewolves to put us in our place; vampires are higher beings, resting comfortably at the top of the food chain. Werewolves are at the bottom, below even humans, but we're clawing our way up. They need to remind us where we belong."

 

"Restoring the natural order, as it were."

 

"Exactly."

 

"And where do you think werewolves belong?"

 

Will is silent, mind turning over the question as he stares into the fire. He sips at the wine, trying to distract himself from the sensation of Hannibal's eyes on him.

 

"I think the world has a thing or two to learn about treating people fairly."

 

Hannibal watches the wine in his glass as he swirls it slowly. "You refer to werewolves as if you were still one of them."

 

Will looks down and away. "You know what they say about habits."

 

"It is only natural to feel a connection to a group one once belonged to. Especially one with shared sufferings. I imagine it's not much different from the other group you were forced into."

 

Will glances at the clock on the mantle. "Our session isn't for another eight minutes."

 

"My apologies. We will table that discussion for another time, then." Will would rather drop it entirely, but he knows saying that will guarantee the opposite, so he bites his tongue and takes another swig of wine.




~




Another victim is found. Will knows instantly that it's not the vampire. No, it's the copycat's hands at play here: the body is strung up like others, but their blood pools beneath them, hands stained red from slit wrists.

 

"Puncture marks." Katz calls from her inspection of the torn out throat. The copycat went deeper here than the vampire, ripping out muscle and exposing the windpipe. Visceral enjoyment rushes through Will; this was a rare treat - a brutal gesture not often indulged in.

 

"He didn't bother mutilating her like the others." Zeller notes.

 

"They have no need to frame werewolves for this." Will says. "They have a different purpose for this display." He steps closer, eyes locked on the pool of blood. "This is a gift-" he falters, amends, "no, an offering."

 

"To the original killer?" Crawford asks.

 

Will runs his eyes over the display. The victim is hung by just one foot, where the others were hung by two. Their arms are tied behind their back, rather than at their sides. The hanged man, in a sense. "No." he decides. "They're mocking the vampire - the vampire's displays offend them. But as they ridicule, they extend an invitation to someone else." His eyes come back down to the pool of blood. Water drawn from the well, left for expected company to partake from.

 

Will turns away. "They're looking for company."

 

"The copycat is lonely?" Price asks incredulously.

 

"Not lonely. They simply find the notion of a companion entertaining."

 

"Who do you think the invitation is for?" Crawford asks.

 

Will shakes his head, looking down at the ground. "No idea." Crawford looks at him like he doesn't quite believe him, but he lets it pass for the moment. Will lets out a breath and goes to wait until he is next summoned.




~




"I'm starting to think you have a cruel sense of humor, Doctor Lecter." Will says to the blood pudding being placed before him. "Did no one inform you there was another victim found this morning?"

 

Hannibal tilts his head, amused. "I was not aware. But I assure you, I have had these dishes planned since long before I knew of your current case. I do not mean to be cruel."

 

"I believe you." Will relents. "And it does look delicious."

 

"Thank you." Hannibal smiles, pouring Will a glass of wine before taking his own seat across the table. As Will takes an experimental sip, he notes it's the same wine he had at Hannibal's office. It brings about a bitter reminder of what was almost discussed over it, but Will is able to dispel it and enjoy the wine unhindered.

 

He fills Hannibal in on the copycat's latest victim over their meal. Hannibal drinks in every detail like a fine wine, then offers his own shrewd opinions in return.

 

"Do you think he drank the victim's blood, as the vampire did?" Hannibal wonders, wiping at his mouth. Will scoffs.

 

"Of course they did. They wouldn't have offered it otherwise. You can't seal a pact if only one of you cuts your palm."

 

"Very true. Who do you think is the other half of this pact?"

 

Will's not going to get away with a lie here, and he knows it. Half-truths, then - lies by omission. "Someone who understands them, or they hope will come to. They're seeking companionship. I might even go so far as to say they want a friend."

 

"Another vampire, made lonely by years of isolation?" Hannibal prods.

 

"They keep perfect company by themself. They have no need for a friend. And yet they seek out company."

 

Hannibal tops off their glasses, musing, "Then perhaps it is not companionship itself that he seeks. Perhaps he is only concerned with the attention of a sole individual."

 

"They're special to them, somehow." Will agrees. "A god choosing their consort; offering the sweet promise of immortality." Hannibal's brows raise.

 

"He seeks to make another vampire."

 

"If that's what they are." Will sighs, scrubbing a hand over his face. "I don't know, it could be a metaphor. They could very well mean to immortalize their consort in death. A magnificent display that will sear their consort's image into the minds of all who cast eyes upon them."

 

"He is putting tremendous effort into wooing this consort. You believe his only design for them is their death?"

 

Will shifts the remains of his meal around on his plate. "I'm not sure they've decided yet." He sets down his fork, then folds up the napkin in his lap and returns it to the table. "I suppose it depends on how their proposition is received."

 

Hannibal hums. "Yes, I suppose it does. Dessert?"




~




Will is used to waking in sweat soaked clothes, nightmares firmly slamming the door to sleep shut on their way out. He's not so used to being unable to get to sleep in the first place.

 

He gets up and shuffles to his kitchen to down a glass of water. He considers the sleep aids Alana stocked his medicine cabinet with, but those tend to only make his dreams more vivid. Instead, Will goes for a walk.

 

He lets himself get lost in his woods, knowing full well that his residual instincts won't allow him to get truly lost. Traces of his curse still cling to him, staining his skin like grease from an engine, reminders of it cropping up everywhere he turns. The universe does not want him to forget the trials it has put him through. As though he were likely to forget in the first place.

 

His house floats like a ship in the night. Will loses track of how long he watches it before thirst scratches at his throat, and he makes his way back to down another two glasses of water. It doesn't quench his thirst like it should. He drops into bed and buries himself in blankets, letting his dogs pile on and surround him in their warmth. He screws his eyes shut and wills his mind to quiet long enough for sleep to catch hold of him.

 

The next day, Alana watches him chug a whole bottle of water between classes with concern.

 

"Been drinking a lot lately?" she asks carefully, perching on the very edge of his desk. Will doesn't catch her drift, shuffling through his papers in a muted franticness to get his notes together for his next class.

 

"I've been thirsty lately." he explains.

 

"Are you coming down with something?"

 

"God, I hope not." Will rubs under his glasses with a sigh. "It's probably just from the stress of working in the field again."

 

"You sure? You haven't had any other… unusual cravings?" she asks it as casually as possible, but Will catches the implications. He peers at her through his fingers.

 

"I haven't had a taste for raw meat, if that's what you mean. This isn't like when I was bit, Alana."

 

"No, of course, I just- I guess I'm always going to be worried for you, waiting for that other shoe to drop."

 

Will shoves the previous class' notes in his bag rougher than strictly necessary. "I appreciate your concern, Alana, but I would inform you and Jack if I thought I was coming out of remission."

 

"I know you would." Alana says quietly. She opens her mouth to say something else, but Will's second class starts to trickle in, and Alana abandons her words, pressing her lips into a tight smile. "I guess I'll leave you to your teaching. Let me know if your symptoms get worse, I can refer you to a friend."

 

"I'll keep that in mind." It's non-committal at best, and Alana's lips tug down in disappointment. She leaves with an awkward nod, and Will finishes off his fifth bottle of water that day before latching his focus onto his lecture.




~




The vampire responds to the copycat, none too gracefully.

 

The picture painted is crude, with none of the delicate care that was taken with the hanged man. This was designed in heated anger, a scathing rebuttal to a calm assessment.

 

Wire coat hangers, unwound and bent out of their shape, hold the victim's limbs in their position. They hang upright, entrails wrapped around their neck rather than their ankles. A white rose is nailed to their left hand, the petals stained an ugly brown by dried blood.

 

Will can't help thinking the copycat would have done better.

 

"The Fool." Crawford huffs, staring up at the body. "Just what we need, a pissing contest between serial killers."

 

"It won't go on endlessly." Will says. "Our copycat will make sure of that. Their reply, whatever it is, will be final. They're not interested in anything the vampire has to say after that."

 

"He likes getting the last word in." Katz says. "Who wants to bet he doesn't even let our vampire get in a second rebuttal?"

 

Will echoes Katz's sentiments to Hannibal as he paces Hannibal's dining room, waiting for him to finish meticulously setting the table. Hannibal tilts his head, something like a smile ghosting his lips.

 

"An interesting thought. Cutting out the vampire's tongue to ensure he has the last word."

 

"Very poetic." Will agrees. "And after the absolute mess of that display, I don't imagine the copycat will tolerate such a shoddy existence within their scope of awareness."

 

"It certainly doesn't seem in his nature to do so. The question is whether a gnat like the vampire is worth swatting to him."

 

"I imagine we'll find out in the next week or so." Will halts his pacing as Hannibal pours them each a drink. Still that same blood red wine. Will downs it in one go, earning a somewhat offended look from Hannibal. It occurs to Will that this wine is probably meant to be savored, not pelted at his liver like a cheap box wine.

 

"Sorry." he apologizes, awkwardly setting his glass down. "I haven't been able to get rid of this thirst all week."

 

"Perhaps a glass of water is more suited, then." Hannibal says smoothly, ducking into the kitchen. He returns with a pitcher of water and a tall glass, and Will nods his thanks. "The thirst is a recent development, you said? You're not coming down with something, I hope."

 

"You sound like Alana, Dr. Lecter."

 

"It is in our nature to be concerned for those we keep company with. And as I am entrusted with your mental well being, it is not much of a stretch for me to be concerned for your physical being as well."

 

"Well, as much as I appreciate your concern, I can assure you I'm fine. Dehydration aside."

 

"Nevertheless, I'll be sure to switch the wine for something more hydrating when we share meals in the future."

 

"No, the-" Will bites on his words, yanking back his eagerness. "The wine helped, actually." He stares at the table, feeling something like embarrassment heating the back of his neck.

 

"In moderation, then." Hannibal takes Will's wine glass and fills it, but sets it to the side of his own plate rather than returning it to Will. "Once you have finished your water, you may have another glass." Will tamps down on a wry smile.

 

"Sounds fair enough." He finally takes his seat, and Hannibal dishes out their meal for the afternoon. "At least you've finally taken the hint about your blood themed dishes." A saltwater bass sits in the middle of the table, and Hannibal removes its fillets with surgical precision, delicately laying them in an arrangement of greens. A light sauce tops them off, something that tickles the nose with a promise of tartness.

 

"Your comments were meant to be subtle?" Amusement flickers in Hannibal's eye, and it coaxes a small smile out of Will.

 

"Something like that." Will waits for Hannibal to take his own seat before picking up his fork and digging in. It's as good as every other dish Hannibal has served him. Will tells him as much.

 

"You flatter me, William." Hannibal says, smiling demurely. "I don't usually cook fish, but this one was too good to pass up. And I thought you might enjoy it."

 

Will tenses, his hackles rising. Alana brought him nothing but fish and vegetables during the months after his remission. He hadn't had much an appetite for red meat anyways, but she was always so tightly wound while they ate, watching him so closely. Crawford still awkwardly pretends he has a valid reason to eat his burgers away from Will. And even if they don't say anything, Will knows his fellow agents question if crime scenes make him hungry.

 

"I would love to try a fish you have caught sometime." Hannibal continues, pulling Will out of his thoughts. "I imagine it tastes better if caught yourself, the same way preparing a meal yourself brings satisfaction. It would be an honor to cook it for you."

 

Will blinks, relaxing despite himself. "Oh. I thought-" he cuts himself off, shaking his head. "Nevermind. I would be equally honored to provide a fish to your kitchen. I'm sure you would serve it justice with your preparations."

 

"Indeed, I would." Hannibal raises his glass, and Will lifts his water in kind.




~




Will invests in a refillable water bottle. It replaces his usual coffee runs, but he doesn't notice any marked difference in his awakeness without it. Despite the steep drop in the number of hours he manages to sleep, Will feels perfectly awake, if somewhat cloudy-minded. Distraction picks at his mind like nails tapping on glass, but offers no alternate point of focus.

 

It's four in the morning, and Will has been staring at the ceiling for nearing six hours. His mind races, but it's the roar of rapids, individual thoughts lost to the rush of the water. He clings to his sheets, part of him terrified he'll get swept away, the rest of him yearning to be dragged into the current.

 

He wraps his hand around his phone like it's a lifeline. He doesn't know how he intends to use it to haul himself to dry land until Hannibal picks up the other end.

 

"William? It is four in the morning. I hope this is important."

 

Words catch in Will's throat. He feels stupid for calling him, but it's too late to turn back now.

 

"Will?" Hannibal asks, sounding more awake as Will's silence stretches on. "Are you alright?"

 

Will doesn't know how to explain that he's drowning, water rushing in his ears.

 

"I can't sleep." he finally croaks.

 

Across the line, the bed creaks as Hannibal shifts. "Alana tells me she has supplied you with sleep aids."

 

"They make the dreams worse."

 

"Your nightmares."

 

His throat clicks with a dry swallow. "Yeah."

 

"Are these nightmares keeping you awake right now?"

 

"No, it's-" Will looks about the room, casting for the right words. "My mind won't quiet, I guess."

 

"Would you like me to stay on the phone with you until you calm down?"

 

Will hates himself for how good that sounds. "No- no, it's late, I shouldn't have woken you."

 

"It is alright to seek comfort in times of duress, Will. I would be glad to be of help to you."

 

Will closes his eyes. The rapids beat against his eyelids, trying to drown his brain.

 

"Will." Hannibal's voice pierces through the roar. Will can see it, Hannibal standing on the shore, holding a hand out to him. "Talk to me, Will."

 

"I feel like I'm getting pulled under."

 

"You are afraid of drowning."

 

"Yes." No. Not quite.

 

"Tell me, Will, what kind of water is pulling you in?"

 

"A river. The rapids are beating at my chest, trying to drag me down."

 

"Would you like me to pull you out?"

 

"Please."

 

"I'm holding out my hand to you, Will. Do you see it?"

 

"Yes."

 

"Can you reach me?"

 

Will reaches out. His fingertips graze Hannibal's. "No."

 

"Yes, you can. Try again."

 

This time Hannibal's hand lands solidly in his. He lets out a breath of relief.

 

"It's alright, Will, I have you. Hold on tightly now."

 

Will nods, distantly aware that Hannibal can't actually see the gesture. Hannibal drags him out of the current, hauling him up onto dry land. Will collapses on the bank and gulps down large breaths of air. Hannibal places a hand on his chest.

 

"Beathe, Will. You're safe now. I have you."

 

Will keeps sucking in breaths, mouth working uselessly at words. Hannibal starts counting to him in a low, even tone. In time, Will's breaths slow, evening out to Hannibal's measured counting. Winston noses at his hand, and he releases the sheets to absently pet at his ears.

 

"Thank you." he says quietly.

 

"It is no problem, Will. How are you feeling?"

 

"Better." Will's eyes stay closed, now heavy with sleep. "Thank you, Hannibal."

 

Hannibal is silent for a few beats, long enough for Will to start to drift off. "Would you like me to stop by tomorrow to check on you?"

 

"Sure. Sounds good."

 

"Then I shall see you tomorrow. Good night, William. Rest well."


"You, too." Will murmurs, letting his phone fall to the side. He isn't sure how much time passes before the phone clicks in disconnect, but he thinks maybe it's a little longer than socially acceptable. With the call ended, the Hannibal in his mind stands and departs, leaving him with a towel laid neatly over his chest. When Will rolls his head to the side to look at the river, it runs red.




~




"I was thinking of going to see Abigail today." Hannibal says, carefully transferring an omelette to Will's plate. "Would you like to join me?"

 

Will takes a drink of his water, considering. It's been a while since he's visited her, the vampire case and upcoming finals taking up much of his time. Finally, he says, "That'd be nice."

 

Hannibal asks him about the night before on the drive over.

 

"No," Will says, "that was the first time."

 

"Would you like to recount the vision? You were understandably vague last night."

 

Will shakes his head, lips pressed tight.

 

"Very well. When you're ready." He shifts the car into the left-hand lane to make a turn, and at the light, he asks, "How are your classes going? Finals are next week, correct?"

 

Will groans, rubbing a hand over his face. "Don't remind me." Still, he's glad for the subject change. He finds himself launching into a rant about his students, indulging in complaining about their ultimately small infractions as though they were the worst kind of suffering that could possibly be inflicted upon him. Hannibal humors him, nodding along and making empathetic noises and comments at the appropriate intervals. Will knows it's constructed, and part of him envies Hannibal's confidence in correctly responding to social cues, but it's nice all the same.

 

Abigail is still somber as ever when they arrive - as she has every right to be - but she does seem to warm up at their presence, however slightly.

 

"Will has promised to deliver a fish to my table." Hannibal says over a chessboard, moving a pawn. "I was wondering if you'd like to join us for dinner that evening."

 

"Depends on the fish." Abigail says honestly, frowning at the board. She hovers over her knight, glancing at Hannibal, then moves her bishop to capture his rook.

 

"Any preferences?" Will asks, sitting back in his chair with a bottle of water resting in his lap. He watches them interact at ease, glad to hang back and let them do more of the conversing while his mind rests.

 

"I never liked salmon. Or sardines."

 

"How do you feel about trout?"

 

Abigail purses her lips slightly, watching Hannibal capture her bishop and place her in check. "I've never had it."

 

"Perhaps we'll side it with some perch, if Will can manage it." Hannibal says, flashing a charming smile. Heat creeps up Will's neck.

 

"I like perch." Abigail's lips twitch into a smile as she knocks over Hannibal's queen with her knight. "Checkmate." The corner of Hannibal's mouth ticks up.

 

"So it is. Well played, Miss Abigail."

 

"I've never been fishing," Abigail mentions, slowly putting the pieces back to their rightful places. Will blinks.

 

"Would you like me to take you?" he asks softly, afraid of being presumptuous. He won't lie and say he hasn't thought about teaching her to fish, or that his heart doesn't warm when he does.

 

Abigail turns to him, smiling almost shyly. "That sounds fun." Will can only nod, a smile of his own pinching his cheeks.

 

The moment, whatever it might have been, is interrupted by Will's phone going off. He checks it with every intention to send it straight to voicemail and apologize for not turning it off, but it's Jack's name that lights up the screen. Will curses.

 

"Crawford?" Hannibal guesses.

 

"Yeah. Sorry, excuse me." He gets up and walks to the other side of the room before answering.

 

"We have our response."

 

Will glances over his shoulder at Abigail and Hannibal. There's a note of disappointment in Abigail's eyes before she schools her expression and turns away. It makes his heart sink. "I'm in the middle of something."

 

"I don't care. Get here. Now." Crawford hangs up before Will can come up with an argument, as meek as it would have been. Will stares at the disconnected call screen until Hannibal's voice breaks his thoughts.

 

"Everything alright, Will?" Will turns to look at them, and it's clear in both their gazes that they know exactly what that call was.

 

"You have to go, don't you." Abigail says. Will ducks his head.

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"It's fine." There is, of course, a note to her tone that says it isn't fine. "Go do your sleuth thing, catch a killer."

 

Will nods, retrieving his jacket from the back of his chair. Hannibal stands, but Will waves him off. "No, you stay. I'll grab a cab." After a moment of consideration, Hannibal nods.

 

"If you say so. Let me know when you're finished at the scene - I'll take you home."

 

"Yeah, sure." He only has the barest intention to actually do that, but his agreement seems to please Hannibal, lowering him back into his seat. "Goodbye, Abigail, I'll, uh, I'll come visit you again soon."

 

"I'll look forward to it." she says, smiling faintly. With a final nod, Will goes to work.




~




Temperance stands at the edge of a pond, one foot in the water. They are hung by their neck by their own entrails from the branch of a tree, and branches are tied to their limbs to keep their manipulated shape. In their hands are two goblets, one tilted as if to pour the blood it contains into the other. Jabbed into their shoulder blades are two large branches, spreading out behind them in the imitation of wings. Their neck is sliced cleanly, no need for the theatrics of ripping it out.

 

"Is it the other killer?" Crawford shouts across the pond. Will turns his head slightly to show he's heard, but keeps his eyes on the body.

 

The lower goblet is held forward slightly, tipped towards the pond; towards the viewer. An offer to partake of their own blood, to join them for a drink. A chill runs up Will's spine, like being watched, and he has to tear his eyes away from the blood.

 

"They're human, like the other copycat victim." he says as Katz, Zeller, and Price descend on the body. Crawford huffs.

 

"So our 'vampire' is just a deranged human with a thing for blood." he surmises. Will frowns, looking over the body.

 

"Thank goodness." Price says, taking a sample from the goblets. Katz and Zeller look at him. "What? I'd rather have human wackjobs than vampires. No? Just me?"

 

"This is not our vampire." Will murmurs. His skin itches, his gut telling him the copycat would have made a more mocking display of the actual vampire. "This is someone they cherished. The copycat stole them, and made them into a symbol of virtue. Stillness in the face of the vampire's chaos, humility in place of their arrogance. Forgiveness for their accumulated transgressions."

 

"He's trying to be the bigger man."

 

"In a way."

 

"So the other killer is still out there."

 

"It would seem so."

 

"Are they going to kill again?"

 

Will closes his eyes, viewing the display through the vampire's eyes. "Yes. But you won't find any more bodies. Not like this."

 

Crawford makes that face he does when a case leaves him no actionable paths. He works his jaw, then says, "Let me know what you find." and turns on his heel to stomp back to his car.

 

"Their heart's missing." Katz supplies helpfully.




~




Hannibal has a fresh bottle of water for him when he picks Will up, and Will eyes the fancy label for only a moment before twisting the cap off and downing a third of it.

 

"Perhaps you should see someone about that." Hannibal suggests mildly as they pull away from the scene. "Excessive drinking is a symptom of many things."

 

Will grunts in response. Hannibal gives him a look, and he amends, "I'm sure it's nothing. If it keeps going after this case and finals, I'll think about seeing someone." Hannibal seems to accept that as the best he will get, and probes instead at the crime scene.

 

Will gives him light details, mentioning the missing heart last. Hannibal's brows go up.

 

"Intriguing. What do you believe the motivation behind that to be?"

 

Will shrugs tiredly, sipping his water. "A message to their consort. And a message to the vampire. I think they saved the heart. They're going to give it to the vampire. An olive branch, of sorts. Or an amendment."

 

"A post-script." Hannibal adds, mouth ticking up in a smile. Will snorts.

 

"Yeah, exactly." His eyelids slip, and he drifts for a few moments before dragging them back open. "How was the rest of your visit with Abigail?"

 

"Very good. She seems excited about your fishing trip."

 

"I am, too."

 

"I think it will be good for the both of you."

 

"I'd offer to bring you along, but somehow I can't picture you thigh deep in a river, wearing rubber overalls." The look of pure disgust that crosses over Hannibal's face is all the confirmation Will needs.

 

Over Will's laughter, Hannibal says, "I find fishing to be an interesting pastime. But you are correct, you could not get me to wear those if my life depended on it."

 

"Mm." Will tips his head back against the headrest, letting his eyes fall shut. "You stay out of my rivers, I'll stay out of your kitchen."

 

The humor in Hannibal's voice as he says, "Agreed." sends a nice burble of something through Will's chest. He elects not to examine it too closely, instead letting the gentle thrum and bumps of the car lull him to sleep.

 

The red river rushes past, frothing pink and washing viscera onto the shore. Will's mouth is dry with thirst, and he grapples with the urge to kneel by the water and drink.

 

Movement in the water catches his eye, the pitch black form standing out starkly against its red surroundings. The ravenstag stands perched on a boulder in the middle of the rapids. It meets Will's eyes steadily, then nods to the water. Will runs his tongue over his dry lips, telling himself he's not dying of thirst.

 

The ravenstag tilts its head, then huffs, almost in disappointment, before turning and wading into the water. It is engulfed up to its neck, but it moves effortlessly upstream and out of sight. Will steps back from the water to keep himself from diving in after it.

 

"Will." Hannibal shakes him gently, rising him from his slumber. Will blinks sleepily, panicking for half a second before he gets his bearings. They're in front of his house, his dogs all peering out the windows, eagerly waiting for him to come inside.

 

"Sorry, dozed off." Will sits up, rubbing his neck in embarrassment. "Thanks, uh, for driving me."

 

"It's no trouble." Hannibal assures him. "Would you mind terribly if I came in and made you dinner?"

 

"You don't have to-"

 

"For my own peace of mind. Your sleep seemed troubled."

 

Will looks down at his lap. "Yeah."

 

"The river again?"

 

"I was to the side of it this time. I was so, so thirsty, but…" He can't bring himself to say it, to reveal the pull he's been feeling.

 

"You were afraid of falling in." Hannibal finishes for him. Will nods. It's not lying if he doesn't correct Hannibal's assumptions.

 

"Let us go in and eat." Hannibal says, opening the driver's door. "Easier to discuss things over a hearty meal." A smile tugs at Will's mouth, and he fumbles with his own door for a moment before Hannibal appears to open it for him. He nods an awkward thanks and lets himself be led up to his front door.

 

His dogs swarm him once he's inside, a few of them nosing Hannibal for treats but abandoning that endeavor quickly. Hannibal heads straight for the kitchen, and Will trails after him to feed his dogs.

 

He settles at the counter to watch Hannibal cook, and Hannibal supplies him with a hot mug of cocoa. Will wasn't aware he had any cocoa, but as soon as he takes a sip, it becomes abundantly clear that this didn't come from a packet.

 

Will curls around his mug of liquid comfort and muses when Hannibal had the time to stock his kitchen. Between visiting Abigail and coming to pick him up? Or maybe he snuck the groceries in this morning while Will was still groggy with sleep and frayed with embarrassment. Whenever he did it, Will suspects Hannibal got enough to keep Will decently fed throughout the week.

 

Hannibal slides a plate towards him. "Salmon, jasmine rice, and walnuts, with a cherry glaze. Perfectly formulated to encourage restful sleep."

 

"A cup of chamomile tea wouldn't do?" Will asks amusedly.

 

"I thought some rich chocolate and a good meal were better suited to your needs."

 

Will can't really argue with that. "Thank you."

 

"I'm taking the liberty of preparing you a few other meals for this week." Hannibal continues. Will nods, unsurprised. "They will help you rest easier, and hopefully lessen your dehydration problem to some degree."

 

"Worth a shot," Will shrugs, accompanying his words with a gulp of his cocoa before folding into his meal.

 

After dinner, Will leaves the kitchen to Hannibal and retires to his bed. Probably a placebo effect, but he does feel closer to restful sleep than he has in a long while.

 

He curls up with his dogs around him and falls asleep to the soft sounds of Hannibal cooking.




~




Alana brings him soup between classes. It's in a thermos, pureed so finely that he can sip it as easily as any other drink. When he tells her he appreciates it, he means it. She tells him it's no problem and bites back another offer to set an appointment up for him. He appreciates that, too.

 

"I hear you went to see Abigail yesterday." She broaches the topic softly, leaving him room to decline it.

 

"Yeah," he says, letting himself smile. "It went well, I think. She wants to learn to fish."

 

"That sounds fun." She returns his smile, much more relaxed as he accepts the conversation. "I'm glad. For the both of you." He wilts under the raw emotion in her eyes, ducking his head. She leans back in her chair, poking at her salad and giving him space to recover.

 

Once Will can look back at her, she asks, "How did it go with Hannibal?"

 

Heat creeps upon him, his mind calling forth Hannibal in his kitchen yesterday morning, last night, and the voicemail he'd woken to this morning. It was a brief message, simply expressing that Hannibal hoped he'd slept well, and a suggestion to follow the dates on the food he'd left in the fridge. It left something warm in Will's chest that persisted well through the morning.

 

"Abigail said they played chess." Alana prompts when Will pauses for too long. "She didn't offer much else. I wanted your perspective on their interaction."

 

Will blinks. "Oh. Yeah, they- they get along well." He clears his throat, taking a sip from his soup for a moment to clear his head. "I think she feels closer to him than to me." He realizes how that sounds, and quickly amends, "I don't mean that in a bitter way. I'm just stating facts."

 

"Of course." Alana nods easily. "I think she needs more time; to process what's happened to her and how you - the both of you - fit into it. But if she's asking you to teach her to fish, then she must be making progress."

 

"I hope so." He imagines a world where Abigail is released from the hospital, and she comes to live with him. Or maybe she'd prefer to live at Hannibal's. Either way, Will would make sure to take her fishing regularly. He imagines Hannibal would teach her to cook. She'd be a quick study for both. She'd never call either of them father, but in time their names might become synonymous with it in her mind.

 

Will wonders what parenthood with Hannibal would be like.

 

He listens to the voicemail again as he heats up dinner. That same warm feeling burrows into his chest, making him wish Hannibal were here with him in his kitchen, cooking side by side, rather than Will standing alone, reheating the remains of his visit. Hannibal's cooking is fantastic, even reheated, but something is lost in the time it sits in the fridge. Maybe it's the same thing missing from the voicemail.

 

He sets his phone across the room when he goes to bed. His mind wraps around the morning sun lighting Hannibal as he cooked breakfast, the fond crinkle in his eyes with Abigail, his voice pulling Will out of the water.

 

Sleep finds him with an ache he can't identify.




~




Three bodies lie at the edge of a forest, piled on top of each other as though someone simply shoved them out of a car and drove on. Their throats are ripped out, their ankles and wrists marked by absent bindings. Will feels the vampire in his mind when he looks at them.

 

"They're giving up." he says. "It's not worth doing this without her."

 

"He's going to stop killing?" Crawford asks skeptically.

 

"No. But they'll be quieter about it. The motivation to display them is gone."

 

"Thought we were thinking the motivation was to shit on werewolves." Katz says, looking up at him.

 

"They were doing it for her. She was attacked by a werewolf, or someone close to her was. The vampire had their own motivations added onto it, but at the core, it was for her."

 

"He didn't do a very good job of cleaning these." Price says, finding a hair on one of the bodies. "All the others were scrubbed clean before they were staged."

 

"I want to know everything you find on these." Crawford orders. "Down to the last particle."

 

"With all this and Temperance's ID, I think we might have enough to catch them." Katz flashes Will a hopeful smile. Will almost returns it.

 

"Let's not get ahead of ourselves." Crawford says. "Get these back to the lab and comb 'em. Double time."

 

Will rides with Beverly back to Quantico. She plays rock music at a comfortable level and offers him a bottle of water from the back seat. She expresses her relief that this case might finally shut, and Will nods along.

 

"So," she says at length, easing onto the freeway that will take them home. "Lecter picked you up the other day?"

 

Heat washes over the back of Will's neck. "We were visiting Abigail when I got called away. He offered me a ride home when I finished."

 

"Mhm." When he glances at her, Will finds Beverly's lips quirked in a smile. "Don't worry, I'm just teasing. That's the closest I've seen to you having a personal relationship."

 

Will opens his mouth to deny it, to insist his and Hannibal's relationship is one of patient and psychiatrist, but the words die on his tongue. He flushes and drinks to wash away the faint bitterness of lies. He digs for better words. What he comes up with is, "I have friends."

 

Beverly laughs lightly. "Well, Alana, me, and the boys are a given. There's still that distance, though. Don't worry, I'm not offended by it. I get it. But I didn't see as much of that distance with Lecter."

 

She's right. Fuck, she's right. Will thought, if anyone, he was closest to Alana, but maybe-

 

"You should totally tap that."

 

Will splutters. Beverly's laugh rings clearly through the car, unashamed.

 

"That's not-" Will stammers. "I don't- I've never-" He presses a hand over his mouth, muttering, "Jesus, Beverly."

 

"Kidding! Man, the look on your face." She laughs at his expense a while longer, then with a fond sigh, she says, "Oh, you're so much fun to mess with."

 

"Thanks." Will says dryly. He kind of likes it, though. Beverly makes talking to her almost effortless.

 

"You ever thought about it?" she asks a while later, quieter, more genuine. Not teasing. Will considers. Into his silence, Beverly adds, "It's totally cool if you have, man. I'm not one to judge crap like that." Will wasn't nervous about that aspect, but he appreciates the sentiment.

 

"I'm not sure if I have." he answers honestly. In his waking moments, he knows he hasn't. But on the rare occasion his dreams present him a warm body, he always wakes with the details fogged over. He thinks about Hannibal in his kitchen, humming a faint tune as he cooks, warmth curling through Will as he sips his cocoa and watches. His face heats. "I don't think I'd be opposed."

 

"Then by all means, you should definitely tap that." She flashes him a wide grin, and Will ducks his head as he returns it.



~



He finds himself thinking about it as he warms dinner. He casts the thought out quickly and focuses on his meal: honey-glazed slices of elk over iceberg lettuce and topped with shaved almonds - Hannibal clearly labelled every dish.

 

It comes back to him as he's settling into bed. Relaxed with a full belly and feeling sleep gently pulling at him, he indulges in the thought.

 

He pictures Hannibal's skilled hands on him, moving over him and into him with his surgeon precision; his mouth running over Will's chest, first kissing, then biting into his skin. He bites Will's hip hard enough to draw blood, then immediately soothes it with his tongue. Will tangles his hand in Hannibal's hair as he takes Will's cock into his mouth. Will can only take so much of it before he tugs on Hannibal's hair, dragging him up to grind against him and lick into his mouth. It tastes like that wine Hannibal keeps giving him.

 

Will shoves his hand against his mouth, biting down on it as he comes more intensely than he has in a long while. Copper bitters his tongue. He lets himself savor the aftershocks, entertaining the idea of trying to roll into another orgasm, but he knows that more likely than not it will just leave him disappointed. Instead he strokes himself until discomfort starts to tint the pleasure, and lets his hands drop to the side.


Regret seeps its cold fingers into him quickly. He kicks himself out of bed and goes to rinse the wound on his hand, then chugs two glasses of water before hiding under his covers, suddenly wide awake.

Chapter Text

Evidence left on the discarded bodies leads them to a house, owned by one Josephine Monet. It's smoking when they get there.

 

The fire department manages to douse the fire in under an hour, reporting that they managed to contain the damage to the master bedroom and some of the hallway. Crawford's men check the premises before Jack leads Will inside.

 

He takes Will to the basement first, showing him Monet's blood bank. Bodies hang from the ceiling by their ankles, throats torn out. Some of them are still dripping. Jack covers his nose with his sleeve, and Will belatedly follows suit.

 

The smell is worse in the master bedroom. On the bed lies a blackened, burned corpse, still steaming. A melted tank of gasoline lies to the side of the bed, and what looks to be the remains of a matchbook is stuck to the body's hand. Their other hand is laid over their chest, curled around something. Will steps closer, peering at it.

 

He hears the thumping in his head before he consciously recognizes the heart. He feels his knees hitting the hard concrete of the porch, hands covering his mouth and doing little to stifle his scream. His love's heart lies on his welcome mat, and he moans with the loss, cradling the heart in his hands and holding it to his chest like he can transfer his own life to it by sheer force of will. The reality that she is dead crashes around him, bringing upon him full force the grief that had only brushed against him before.

 

"Seeing her heart was the final straw." Will murmurs. "They wanted to die with her in their arms one last time."

 

Jack stares solemnly at their barbecued vampire. He doesn't like these endings to their cases any more than ones where they catch the killers. Will doesn't much like them either.




~




"The copycat killed her."

 

Hannibal looks up from the notes on his desk. "You said she committed suicide."

 

"She did." Will agrees, walking along one of the bookshelves on the lower level of Hannibal's office. He resists the urge to let his fingers graze the spines. "But the copycat pushed her to do it. They broke her. They're as guilty of her death as they are of her love's."

 

He feels Hannibal's eyes on him as he moves about the room, deliberately keeping his focus anywhere but on the man himself. The other night shadows his thoughts, yanking away whatever semblance of ease he had found in Hannibal's company.

 

Hannibal, perceptive as always, asks, "Are you alright, Will?"

 

"Fine." Will answers too quickly. Hannibal sets aside his notes.

 

"Will."

 

No suitable half-truth springs to Will's tongue. Instead, he changes the subject. "We never got back to the topic of my… former box."

 

Hannibal watches him for a moment before allowing the subject change. "I won't ask you to delve into things you are uncomfortable with here, Will. And please feel free to correct me."

 

Will nods slowly, moving onto the sculpture resting between shelves. It's cast in bronze, its origins beyond him. He expects Hannibal will explain it to him at length sometime. "You're right." he says.

 

"You still feel a connection to those in your former box." Hannibal gathers. "Or emphasize with them, at least."

 

"Yeah, that." Will mulls over his words, tasting them on his tongue before releasing them to the air. "It's hard not to, when I've been in their shoes. Alana complained to me about her heels once, said I should be glad I'd never have to know the torture of wearing them. I had to remind her I knew it intimately."

 

"She was embarrassed?"

 

"A little too much. She's much better at it now."

 

"It must get tiring."

 

"Oh believe me, it does." Will sighs, looking away from the sculpture. "I'm used to it."

 

"You're also used to people making mistakes regarding your time as a werewolf."

 

"They don't know any better. I'm the first werewolf most of them have met."

 

"That doesn't make it hurt any less." Hannibal observes. Will shrugs. Behind him, papers shuffle. "In some ways, I'm sure it hurts more because they don't even know the pain they're inflicting. Especially from those who claim to care about you." Will thinks about Beverly winking at him after making a joke about wearing collars in bed.

 

"Yeah." he says. "It hurts more."

 

Something sharp cuts through the air, raw and copper. Will turns, finding Hannibal staring down at a papercut on his finger. Hannibal tsks.

 

"How clumsy of me. Will, would you mind getting my first-aid kit for me? It's in the cabinet over there."

 

Will hears the words, but his focus narrows to the blood welling up on Hannibal's finger. He guzzled a bottle of water before his appointment, but he suddenly feels as though he hasn't had a drop to drink in a week.

 

"Will." Hannibal repeats. It brings Will back a little. "Are you alright?"

 

Will shakes himself. "Yeah, fine. Just- zoned out a second. I'll get the kit." He moves to the cabinet Hannibal gestured at, stooping to pull the first-aid from inside. Hannibal's gaze is heavy on his back, but when he stands to deliver the kit, Hannibal is looking down at his hand, pressing a tissue to the cut to contain the bleeding.

 

"I hope I am not making you woozy, Will." Hannibal says, a small smile tugging at his mouth as Will pops open the kit. Will barks a laugh.

 

"I've seen worse."

 

"Undoubtedly."

 

Will hands a bandage to Hannibal, but when Hannibal holds out his hand, it's with only the injured digit extended. He's silent for a moment, letting Will catch on before asking, "If you wouldn't mind?"

 

Will peels open the bandage with numb fingers. His focus shrinks again, on the bandage and Hannibal's finger and the bead of blood that swells up with the absence of the tissue. Will pictures wrapping his mouth around the tip of Hannibal's finger, Hannibal's blood spreading over his tongue in a burst of copper. He imagines sucking more blood out of Hannibal, desperate to sate the thirst that fogs his mind. He can almost feel Hannibal's other hand running through his hair.

 

Instead Will wraps the bandage around Hannibal's finger, watching the cotton soak up and trap Hannibal's blood. He pretends it doesn't make his stomach sink with disappointment.

 

"Thank you, Will." Hannibal murmurs, taking his hand back. "Now, where were we?"




~




The full moon makes him ache, no matter how badly he wishes it didn't. It holds his abdomen in a tight fist, so bad that Will wonders if maybe his surgeries were all a dream. The fear creeps in every month without fail, despite the knowledge sitting in Will's brain that the cramps feel more like hunger.

 

His dogs pace around the house, antsy. Will used to take them out on the full moon, running with them to burn off some of his near boundless energy and quiet his mind. Now running with them only makes him crave meat. The cure was not without its side effects, it seems.

 

Will sits on the counter, curled into himself. Every fifteen minutes or so he uncurls to down a glass of water. All it does is make him have to piss five times before the moon reaches its peak.

 

He closes his eyes and sees the river. The ravenstag stands on the other side, watching him. Its antlers drip thickly with blood, black under the moonlight.

 

Will jerks out of the image and gets up to relieve himself again. His dogs nose at him with concern as he passes. He pats at their heads distractedly, vaguely attempting to reassure them. His mind is fogged over, only the pain and the thirst and the moon making it through like beams from a lighthouse. If Will closes his eyes, he can almost feel his house rocking on the waves.

 

His mind keeps going back to Hannibal's blood. He wonders if it would taste like the wine.

 

Will yanks himself away from that thought quickly. God, what is wrong with him? Did that first crime scene get to him? Sometimes when Will lets a scene in, things stick, but never like this.

 

Hobbs shakes his head from the edge of his vision.

 

That was different, he tells himself.

 

The scene replays in his head, unbidden. Will latches onto the torn flesh of his victim's neck, and he drinks. He drinks and drinks and drinks until he is full, his belly heavy and warm.

 

He tugs open his fridge and grabs one of Hannibal's tupperware containers. It's some roasted meat that falls off the bone, and Will shreds it with bare hands, shoving handfuls into his mouth with a fervor. Whatever the meat is marinated in, it sings on Will's tongue.

 

Once the meat is gone, Will attacks the greens and pasta swimming in the marinade at the bottom of the container. He licks his hands thoroughly clean, then the container. It sooths some part of him, but the rest of him itches with the feeling of not enough. He slams the fridge shut before he can decimate the rest of the meals.

 

His phone sits in the pocket of his jacket, flung over the back of a kitchen chair. He fills another glass of water for himself to busy his hands. He can't call Hannibal for this. He isn't even sure how Hannibal would help him.

 

Will climbs back up onto the counter and pulls his legs up to his chest. He's made it through plenty of full moons on his own, and he'll make it through many more on his own.

 

Abigail didn't seem bothered when she found out about him. One of the nurses in the hospital recognized him from when he was brought in half torn up by the wolf that turned him, and they made an offhand comment that made Will flinch. Abigail picked up on it and asked him about it later. Will shared the light version of the story he tells everyone. Her responses, reactions, and questions during his explanation weren't socially acceptable, but Will loved her for them. She was wonderfully blunt, refusing to shy away from things most people tiptoed around with him.

 

"If I'd had a choice in it," Will confessed, "I think I might have liked being a werewolf."

 

"I think it would've suited you." Abigail told him quietly. Then, looking out the window, she asked, "Are you still contagious?"

 

"No." Will watched her stare outside, her expression remaining impassive. "But I think it would have suited you, too." He felt it in his bones, could just picture her running with him on the full moon with his pack, his whip-sharp Beta. When she met his gaze, she seemed to pick up on it. She smiled.

 

When the heater in her room broke on the highest setting and she still pulled her scarf tight around her neck, Will hiked up his shirt to show her the scars on his back. Then he tugged on his collar, exposing the scar resting just under his collarbone.

 

"He wanted my heart." he told her.

 

Abigail studied the scars intently, then her eyes flicked up to his.

 

"Do they still hurt?"

 

"Every time I look at the moon." It's seared into his brain, the moon vibrant through the branches as he was pinned down and gored.

 

He finds himself shaking, standing at the table with his phone in his hand. Hannibal's contact page stares back at him. The scar over his heart screams.

 

He drops his phone on the table like it's burned him and staggers to the sink to wash his face. He rinses out his mouth while he's there, but the taste of dirt and his own blood persists.

 

The decision is made with minimal deliberation. He strides to his bathroom and reaches into the back of his medicine cabinet for Alana's sleep aids. He knocks back the highest recommended dose with two glasses of water, then forces himself into bed.

 

He falls asleep thinking about Josephine Monet with her love's heart clutched to her chest.




~




"D'you think she was really a vamp?" Beverly asks before taking a bite of her donut.

 

He does. "I don't know." Will sips at his coffee, decaf after Price's rant about diuretics. Beverly gives him an annoyed look.

 

"Lab results came back inconclusive. I mean yeah, she had longer than average canines, but that means jack squat."

 

"Didn't the bloodwork come back odd?"

 

"We can't tell if it's because she really was a vamp, or if she was just sick from drinking all that blood." She huffs, aggressively chomping down on her breakfast. "I'd just like to fucking know if vampires are real or not."

 

"If I find out before you do, I promise you'll be the first to know." He gives her a smile, and she flashes back a grin.

 

"You're a good man, Graham."

 

They finish their breakfast, and Beverly drives them to Quantico. She walks him to his classroom with the excuse of putting off Zeller and Price's bickering for a while longer.

 

"Plus, I've never really seen your teacher side. I'm curious." She nudges him playfully, and the contact isn't unwelcome.

 

To Will's surprise, Hannibal is waiting for him outside his classroom, bearing a thermos.

 

"Hello, William." Hannibal says fondly as they approach. "Agent Katz, a lovely surprise to see you."

 

"Same to you, Dr. Lecter." Beverly says, smirking. Will eyes the thermos.

 

"What's this?" he asks. Hannibal holds it out to him.

 

"Something to tide you over until lunch. I thought I might treat you, if that's alright."

 

Will ignores Beverly's watchful gaze and accepts the thermos. "Sounds good. My last class today gets out at one."

 

"I'll return then. It was good to see you, Agent Katz."

 

"You too, Doctor."

 

Hannibal takes his leave, and Beverly smacks Will's shoulder. "Dude."

 

Will pretends there's not fire creeping from his neck to his face as he enters the classroom. "What?"

 

"He's treating you to lunch."

 

"Believe me - if he's cooking, it's more to treat himself than anyone else."

 

"Treat himself to you, maybe." Beverly snickers. Will groans. "So what'd he give you?"

 

Will opens the thermos and takes a sniff. "Tea?" He sips it experimentally, rolling the taste over his tongue. "Pomegranate, I think?"

 

"Weird choice."

 

"No more unusual than anything else he's ever served me." He sets his stuff down at the desk, considering the tea as he takes another sip. "I imagine he picked pomegranate because of the antioxidants or something similar."

 

"You coming down with something?"

 

"He and Alana seem to think so. She keeps bringing me soup." He takes another drink, enjoying the warmth it spreads through his chest. "I'm fine. I'm sure it's just stress."

 

"Mhm." Beverly sits on the edge of his desk, eyeing him critically. "Well, if you ever decide you're not fine, I've got a killer cold remedy."

 

"Thank you, Beverly."

 

She claps his shoulder. "I oughta get to the lab before Price and Zeller kill each other. Or worse, sweep a table clean and really lay into each other."

 

"You're terrible." Will tells her, laughing. She grins back.

 

"Good luck with your lunch date, Graham." she calls as she leaves the classroom. Will shakes his head and hopes none of his more nosy students heard her.

 

Throughout his class, he drinks from the thermos. The pomegranate is sweet on his tongue, with a curious bitter aftertaste. It's a lesson in control not to just chug it. The things Hannibal prepares are meant to be savored.

 

Guiltily, he remembers the sensation of tearing into meat with his bare hands, scarfing down Hannibal's food like a wild animal. The need to somehow apologize for it persists in the back of his mind.




~




"I saw Abigail yesterday." Hannibal says, motioning for Will to sit at the kitchen island. He's brought them to his home, since Will's office hours don't start for another couple hours. Opening the fridge, Hannibal continues, "She expressed concern for you."

 

"She did?" Will asks, surprised. "Was she concerned about anything in particular?"

 

"She suspected you would be having trouble with the full moon." Will appreciates how direct Hannibal is with the statement. "I promised her I'd check up on you today. And, I must admit, I was hoping to soothe my own concerns."

 

Will shifts in his seat, resisting the urge to scratch at the scar on his chest. "I'm… touched that you both were worried for me, but I was fine."

 

Hannibal meets his eyes straight on. He knows it's a lie. Will drops his eyes.

 

"You could have called me, if you were struggling." Hannibal says, picking up a knife and chopping into an onion.

 

"I thought about it." Will admits quietly, curling his hand into a fist on the marble counter.

 

"Then why didn't you?"

 

Will licks his lips, traces of pomegranate lingering there. "I should be able to get through a full moon by myself."

 

"Perhaps. But our burdens are easier to bear with company. There is no shame in that."

 

"Isn't there?" Will didn't quite mean to say that. He stares at the counter, stomach roiling with shame. The chopping pauses.

 

"You don't wish to be a burden yourself." Hannibal observes.

 

The rapids roar in his ears. "I don't want to drag anyone down with me."

 

The knife clinks against the cutting board as it's set down. Hannibal's eyes rest on him like a physical weight. "Did you drag me down?"

 

Will blinks. "No."

 

"In our attempts not to drag others down, we may be ignoring the hand that can pull us up."

 

Sighing, Will uncurls his hand. "Fair enough."

 

Hannibal rounds the counter, placing his hand lightly on Will's arm until Will looks up at him. "You have my explicit invitation to contact me when you feel the urge to, Will. I promise to help you in whatever way I can."

 

His throat is dry as he says, "Thank you."

 

"But of course." Hannibal gives him a small smile before returning to his cooking. Will watches him cook in silence. At some point he zones out, watching the red river flow. He's not as thirsty as he was before, and yet the desire to drink is even stronger.

 

Hannibal slides a cup of tea towards him. "You look parched." Will blinks out of his daze and thanks him, curling his hands around the cup.

 

The tea foams a bit from being poured, a small collection of pink bubbles near the center. Will finishes the cup, then stares at the dregs until they start to look like bits of flesh.

 

"Are you alright, Will?" Hannibal asks, once again bringing Will out of his mind.

 

"Sorry," Will mutters, setting the cup down and sliding it away. "Drifting a lot today, I guess."

 

"Side effects from last night?"

 

"Possibly. I took Alana's pills."

 

"Did you dream?"

 

Will lets out a breath. "No. Not- not like usual."

 

Hannibal tilts his head. "Would you like to elaborate?"

 

"All I saw was the river."

 

"The one trying to pull you in." Will nods. Hannibal drags Will's cup towards him and slowly refills it. "What else did you see?"

 

"Nothing." Will answers honestly. The ravenstag hadn't been there. He just sat on the bank for what felt like hours, watching the water crash against the boulders standing in its path. "I just watched."

 

Hannibal hands him the cup. Will imagines flesh at the bottom again, but with a blink it's gone, normal tea dregs in its place. He drinks slowly, savoring.

 

"How was Abigail yesterday?" Will asks between sips. Hannibal smiles, returning to the cutting board.

 

"Well. With your case shut and winter break close, I told her you might take her fishing this week."

 

Will tilts his cup, shifting the dregs. He's been keeping an eye on the weather, and he flips through the reports he's read recently. "Thursday's supposed to be good." He watches as Hannibal mentally checks his appointment calendar.

 

"I only have two appointments that day. Midday. I can drive her to you and pick you both up for dinner."

 

Will's tempted to offer to drive Abigail himself, but they'll get an earlier start at the river if he lets Hannibal do it. "That works."

 

Hannibal smiles. "Excellent. I'll make the arrangements." Will returns the smile, hiding it in his cup.

 

He almost drifts away again, getting lost in the warmth radiating through him and pomegranate dancing on his tongue, but a small, sharp breath from Hannibal brings him back moments before he smells it, sharp and bitter.

 

Red runs over Hannibal's hand, slowly trickling down to his wrist as he holds it up to inspect it. The back of his thumb is sliced open, between the knuckles, and the knife lying limply in his other hand is soaked in green-pepper juices and Hannibal's blood.

 

Will wonders what Hannibal's blood would taste best with.

 

"If I keep making mistakes like this, I'm going to end up with my hands coated entirely in bandages." Hannibal says, bringing his hand up to contain the bleeding with his mouth. Will aches with jealousy.

 

In his mind, Hannibal's mouth is replaced with his own. He gulps down Hannibal's blood greedily, holding his wrist in a vice, savoring the bitter copper sliding down his throat. He breaks away to lick Hannibal's hand and wrist clean, the thought of Hannibal just washing it away filling him with something like anger. During his diverted attention, a drop of blood wells up from the cut and drops into Will's tea. He becomes transfixed by the way it disperses, irreversibly entwining with the pomegranate.

 

"Would you like a taste, Will?"

 

Will jolts out of the scene, eyes snapping up to look at Hannibal. "What?"

 

"I asked if you were okay, Will." Hannibal repeats, looking at him with concern. "You look quite pale."

 

"I'm fine." Will says. It rasps a little. He clears his throat. "Should I… fetch the kit?"

 

"Please. Behind me, under the sink."

 

Will tears his eyes away and moves. The blood stays at the center of his focus. He's viscerally aware of it, of his proximity to it, as he stoops and digs out the kit.

 

Hannibal cleans the wound one-handed, but he has Will press a piece of gauze to it and tape it down. It's worse up close.

 

"Are you sure you're alright, William?" Hannibal ducks his head slightly, trying to catch Will's eye.

 

"Yeah." Will says hollowly.

 

"Will."

 

"I'm, uh, not sure what's with me." Will shakes himself, stepping away to pack the kit back up. "Must be hunger or something." He tucks the kit away quickly, then removes himself from the room with a, "I'm going to go wash up."

 

Hannibal calls after him, but Will only hears it faintly through the roar in his ears. He makes it to the bathroom and shuts the door behind him before turning on the faucet. The water comes out red. Will staggers back, catching himself on the towel rack. He rubs at his eyes, and when he pulls his hand away, the water runs clear.

 

Just another trick of his mind. Like Hobbs hovering on the edge of his sight.

 

Nothing gone to waste; did Hobbs drink the girls' blood? Would Abigail's have tasted any different? Perhaps it would have been sweeter, if only to him.

 

Will removes himself from that thought with a violent shudder. He leans on the sink and splashes himself with cold water. The smell of blood is still overpowering, sinking its claws into his focus.

 

As he moves to turn the water colder, a dash of red catches his eye. A drop of blood, smeared onto his arm. Will stares. It would be so easy to lift it to his mouth, to lick the blood off his skin.

 

He shoves his arm under the faucet, mind kept carefully blank as he watches red swirl down the drain.

 

When he returns to the kitchen, feeling somewhat more like himself, he finds Hannibal has done away with the cutting board entirely, the half-chopped peppers gone with it. Instead, a pot comes to a boil on the stove as Hannibal hand-crushes tomatoes.

 

"I thought something simpler might be more appropriate after that… mishap." he says carefully, pretending he's not carefully watching Will's entrance. Will doesn't feel any less watched. "No knives." Hannibal promises.

 

Will nods slowly, taking his seat. "That's fine by me." He looks for his cup, finds it's been replaced by a glass of cold water. He sips at it, glad for the chill it sends through his heated body.




~




Will dreams of the river often, now. Most times, the ravenstag is there. It stares at him, blood dripping from its antlers. Every time it appears, it offers him the red water. Every time, Will refuses, and it turns away, disappointed with him.

 

Today when Will looks up at the dark figure that catches his eye, instead of the ravenstag, Josephine Monet stands on the other side of the river, burnt and blackened, but eyes bright as she glares.

 

Will steps closer, trying to get a better look. The river surges up to claim his foot, clawing at his leg and trying to pull him in. He hops back to relative safety, and when he looks up, Monet is gone.

 

An arm wraps around his throat, cutting off his air. He grabs at it, but Monet's grip is unyielding. "Drink." she hisses, like a dare. "How can you grow up strong if you don't drink?" Leaning right up to his ear, she whispers, "You know you want to."

 

Before Will can respond, Monet leans down and rips out his throat.




~




On Thursday, Hannibal drops off Abigail at Will's house. He meets them on the porch, keeping his dogs inside so they won't overwhelm Abigail. She's dressed more or less for fishing, in a slightly oversized flannel shirt and loose jeans Will knows Alana bought for her. She smiles at him, awkward and wary, but still hopeful. He returns it.

 

At Abigail's go-ahead, he releases the dogs. They swarm her, circling and sniffing curiously. Winston licks her hand, drawing a surprised laugh out of her. It sparks something warm in Will's chest.

 

He watches the interaction carefully, spotting the moment where it starts to become too much for Abigail and diverting the dogs' attention with a box of treats. He throws a few out into the yard, letting the dogs skitter after them and tussle over the distribution.

 

"Can I see the inside?" Abigail asks, looking the house up and down.

 

"Yeah, of course." Will holds the door open for her and Hannibal, shows them around the house. "There's another floor but I, uh, I don't go up there much." Abigail eyes the bed in the corner of the living room. Anticipating her visit, he made it up to look more like an actual bed than a just a mattress on a frame.

 

"Could we eat here?" she asks Hannibal, passing into the kitchen. Hannibal raises a brow, looking to Will.

 

"I think Will is the one to ask." he says.

 

"Yeah, no, that- that's fine with me." Will stuffs his hands into his pockets, keeping to the wall as he watches Abigail explore his kitchen.

 

"Think it's up to snuff, Chef Lecter?" Abigail snarks, both of them turning to look at Hannibal, who makes a face.

 

"You've cooked here before." Will points out, trying and failing to stifle a grin. "Didn't seem to mind it then."

 

"You were in a state of duress." Hannibal says coolly. "I was being polite." Will snorts.

 

"Sure."

 

"I like it." Abigail says, running her hand over the cheap counter. "It's… dingy." Will shoots her a look, mocking offense. She smirks. "I like the dingy. It's different."

 

Will thinks of the Hobbs' kitchen, and Hannibal's - both large, family sized, furnished with nice cabinets and beautiful counters. Will's kitchen barely holds the three of them, and he hasn't gotten around to fixing the cabinet door that fell off last week.

 

"Well, I leave you to it." Hannibal says. "My last appointment is at three, and I will stop for groceries on my way here. Please inform me of what you've caught so I can prepare accordingly."

 

"If we catch anything at all." Abigail says. Hannibal smiles at her.

 

"I'm sure you'll catch something. And it will taste all the better for being the product of your efforts." Abigail gives him an unimpressed look, but her mouth twitches in a smile.

 

Hannibal leaves them, and Will leads Abigail back to the living room to give her a quick runthrough of their gear. Then they pack a couple bags, a cooler with lunch and bottled water, and Will gives Abigail the coat he'd bought for her. It's lined with faux fur on the inside, but waterproof material on the outside. She curls into it, eyes fluttering shut at the warmth.

 

"Thanks." she says, looking up at him. He nods awkwardly. Then they head to the river, Will's dogs trailing behind them.

 

They set up their gear at the river, Will shows Abigail how to bait a hook, then they pull on their rubber overalls and wade into the water.

 

Abigail picks up fishing naturally, needing only small guidances. Will can't help his fond smile.

 

"Hannibal told me about your last case." she says, breaking the near hour-long silence they had formed. Will frowns.

 

"Did he?"

 

"I asked, he answered." She lifts a shoulder in a shrug. "Did they ever figure out if it was really a vampire?"

 

"Not so far, no. The, uh, the state of the body makes it hard to find any real differences from a human."

 

Abigail nods slowly, turning the knowledge over in her mind. "Did they smell different to you?"

 

"Not really. But it was hard to tell under the… the char." He clears his throat, reeling his rod back to adjust the casting. "I'm not sure what I'd even be looking for."

 

"What do you think a vampire would smell like?"

 

Will thinks. Hesitantly, he answers, "Sharp. Metallic. Magnetic. Like a cold night." In Abigail's considering silence, he feels the need to add, "They wouldn't smell exactly like that, of course. It would be something subtler, a single scent that calls those things to mind. All cryptids have a scent like that. Some humans do, too."

 

Watching him with interest, Abigail asks, "What does a werewolf smell like?"

 

"Dirt." he says automatically. "Tree bark. The night sky. And something… animal, but not; human, but not."

 

"Humans have specific scents, too?"

 

"Yeah, sort of. It's not as apparent as it is with cryptids. I have to know them well before I can pick up on it."

 

"Do you know what mine is?"

 

He glances at her, sidelong. "I'm not sure you'd want to hear it."

 

"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't."

 

"All right, then. The sharp of a blade - a hunting knife." He can see her tense, absorbing the words, but then she nods, urging him to go on. "Rich, strong wood. A fresh stream. Bone- no, antlers."

 

She tilts her head, letting the words sink in. "What about Hannibal?"

 

That is easy to answer. "Precision. Sharp like a scalpel. Expensive wine." And yet… Will always gets the sense something is missing. Something… dark. Like a rich, bitter sauce, but not quite.

 

"Do you know what you smell like?" Abigail asks. A pained smile pulls at Will's mouth.

 

"I've been told I smell like whiskey, dogs, and pecan pie. Homey, woodsy, and sweet." He scowls around the word, resisting the urge to rub at the spot on his neck it was whispered into years ago.

 

Abigail watches him for a long few minutes. Then, softly, she says, "I think there's more to it by now." Ticking her mouth up in a smirk, she goes on, "You probably smell like a teacher now. All academic." It coaxes a smile out of Will.

 

"You're probably right."




~




They eat lunch on the bank, treating the dogs to scraps tossed their way. Abigail picks at her sandwich, watching the river gurgle peacefully, and says quietly, "You knew the werewolf that turned you."

 

Will looks down at his food. "Yes."

 

She looks at him, eyes piercing. "They were close to you."

 

His throat works to suppress the emotions bubbling up inside him. "Yeah."

 

Abigail says nothing further, chewing her food slowly and watching the river as she waits for him to decide whether to go on.

 

"I dated him for almost two years." he admits. She glances at him, just enough to show she's heard. "We were talking about moving in together. I realized I didn't have feelings for him anymore, and I told him as much. He… didn't take it well."

 

"Did you know he was a werewolf?"

 

"Yes. I was a little wary of it, but up until the… incident, I hadn't seen a reason to fear him." He takes a breath, and it shakes. "He started to stalk me. I didn't know, at first. He was quite good at covering his trail. I was at Quantico when he attacked me. I went for a walk to clear my head of this case I was working on, and…" He swallows, casting around for something to settle his gaze on. "You know."

 

"You told me he was shot. Did you kill him?" Abigail asks, whisper-quiet.

 

Will thinks about the stillness of his body, all his federal and police training out the window with the pure shock. Paw-like hands pinning him, ragged teeth on his flesh, and all he could do was stare.

 

"No." he says. "Jack did."

 

"Do you wish you had?"

 

"Do you wish you'd killed your father?" He regrets the words as soon as he says them. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean- I shouldn't have-"

 

"I do." He almost doesn't hear the words. Abigail looks as though she doesn't quite realize she's said them. "Sometimes, I… I wish I had. For myself, and for those girls."

 

"I think you're better off without his blood on your hands."

 

Abigail laughs, sharp and bitter. "Right. Instead it's just the blood of those girls."

 

Will doesn't know what he can say that hasn't been said to her a dozen times before. Finally, he settles on, "You're not a bad person for surviving." Abigail nods shallowly and takes another bite of her food.




~




They manage to lighten the mood after lunch. Abigail catches a large pike, and she beams at him as he helps her wrangle it onto land.

 

"I think I like this better than hunting." she says, flushed and breathless. Will pats her shoulder, grinning.

 

He checks the time before they go back in the water, and finds a text from Hannibal. There's also a few texts from Beverly, Jack, and Alana, but Will told them very clearly he wouldn't accept any cases today, so he ignores them and swipes open Hannibal's message.

 

"Hannibal's leaving work now." he tells Abigail. "Wanna send him a picture of what you caught?"

 

"Yeah." Abigail hefts up the fish in both her hands, jutting her chin out proudly. She's trying to contain her excitement, but can't help a smile. Will pretends he doesn't feel Garret Jacob Hobbs' glare on him as he snaps a picture.

 

Ten minutes later, Hannibal texts back, "An excellent catch. Any preferences for sides?" Will shows Abigail, and after her not-so-discrete preening, she shrugs.

 

Will texts back, "We'll leave the sides up to your expert opinion."

 

With the fishing done for the day, they shed their rubber overalls and sit beside the river, dogs sprawled around them, drinking in the forest.

 

"If you'd brought beer, would you have let me have one?" Abigail asks, scratching behind Buster's ear.

 

Will raises his brows, turning his head to look at her. "Would you have wanted one?"

 

She shrugs. "I dunno. But isn't that, like, the normal motivation to taking your kid hunting or fishing? Let them grow up a little, sneak them a beer like some rite of passage."

 

Will looks back out at the river. "I… wouldn't know. My dad taught me to fish so I'd always have something to eat, even when no one would hire him."

 

Abigail pulls her arms around her legs, resting her head on top. Buster whines. "Was he a good dad?"

 

"He did his best." Will sighs. "But uh, raising a queer trans kid with aspergers on your own - in the south, no less - it… it takes its toll."

 

"How was he with the whole… gender thing?" Abigail asks, hugging her legs closer.

 

"Not bad. Not the best, but he tried. He was willing to learn."

 

"My dad was… difficult about it." Abigail admits. "When I first told him and Mom, he… he took it badly. My mom took it in stride, for the most part, but I think he needed to mourn his son."

 

"He came around in the end though, right?" From the haunted look Abigail gets, Will knows it's not the right thing to say.

 

"Yeah, he did. At least he respected my gender while he murdered in my name."

 

Will watches Romeo and Ollie argue over a branch, lost for words.

 

"Your dad still around?" Abigail finally asks, tilting her head towards him.

 

"Yeah." Will says, pulling his gaze towards her, but not quite looking directly at her. "He's retired, staying with extended family down in Louisiana. He calls to check in on me every now and then." It used to be more often, but after dozens of missed calls, he took the hint Will hadn't meant to give.

 

"Did you grow up in Louisiana?"

 

"Yeah."

 

Abigail smirks. "You got an accent?"

 

Huffing a laugh, Will ducks his head. "Did my damned best to get rid of it, but yeah. When me and my dad talk, it comes right back."

 

"Now I want to meet him, just to get you talking Southern."

 

"He'd like you. Probably call you a firecracker."

 

"What do you think he'd make of Hannibal?"

 

"Oh," Will laughs, "he'd hate Hannibal. He'd make it known, too." As if summoned by his name, Hannibal sends Will another text. "Speaking of. He's on his way here."

 

"Time to head back?"

 

Will nods and stands, holding out a hand to help her up. They pack up their gear and start the trek back to the house.

 

Hannibal's car pulls up to the house forty minutes later to Will and Abigail in the front yard, playing with the dogs. He eyes them with fond amusement as he steps out of the car. Abigail goes to help him bring in the groceries, and Will trails after her, only half tuned into the world around him as he watches Hannibal offer Abigail praise and affection.

 

"Are you alright, Will?" Hannibal asks, placing a hand on Will's back as Abigail goes into the house ahead of them. Will smiles slowly.

 

"Yeah. Just… not used to this."

 

"If it is too much-"

 

"No, I meant- it's nice. Just hard to believe I might actually get some nice things."

 

"You deserve the best, Will." Hannibal says, giving him a smile. His hand dips down to Will's lower back before it slips away, Hannibal heading inside. Will stares after him, fighting the heat in his face.

 

He allows himself a minute outside to collect himself before grabbing the last bag from the car and heading up the porch.

 

Inside, Hannibal and Abigail are already at work, moving around each other easily as they take out ingredients and Hannibal sets out pots and pans. They look suspiciously like ones Will's seen in Hannibal's own kitchen. WIll sets his bag down on the counter and motions Abigail over to the kitchen table. They pull out her catch, and Hannibal steps over to inspect it, approving it with a small nod. Will pulls out his knife and shows Abigail how to gut a fish.

 

"Whoa." Abigail says, holding up the fish's entrails. "It has eggs." Turning her head towards Hannibal, she calls, "Think they'd make good caviar?"

 

Hannibal looks them over critically. "I'm sure I could make some use of them."

 

"Maybe some other time." Will chuckles, taking the guts to dispose of them. He helps Abigail scale the fish, then it's handed off to Hannibal. Will wipes down the table, then sits at it with a mug of decaf to watch Hannibal and Abigail cook. She comes to it a little less naturally than she did fishing, but Hannibal is patient with her. Will allows himself to drift, just watching them work.

 

His phone buzzes in his pocket. Another message from Jack, demanding Will call him back immediately. Will rolls his eyes and swipes to reply.

 

"Jack, I'm trying to spend time with my family." he types, then hesitates, glancing up at Hannibal and Abigail. As much as he'd like to keep the phrasing, he deletes the text and recomposes. "Abigail is visiting today. Whatever it is, it can wait." He waits for it to send, then turns off his phone.

 

He settles back in his chair and lets himself imagine a world where days like this are a regular thing. It's a good world.

 

But since when has Will ever been allowed anything good?

 

His face falls, and Abigail catches it. "Are you okay, Will?" He snaps himself back to attention, sitting up.

 

"Yeah. Yes, sorry. Just got lost in my mind a little." He gives her a reassuring smile, and she smiles back, understanding.

 

They're both chased out of the kitchen once the fish is in the oven, Hannibal assuring them that the remaining preparations only require one person, and their time would be better served setting the table. Will shows Abigail to his dusty dining room, and she looks over it skeptically, now getting a better look than she had during the brief tour that morning.

 

"Figured you would've cleaned up before I came over." she says offhandedly, wiping down the table with a wet rag. Will ducks his head sheepishly.

 

"I did."

 

She huffs a laugh. "This is supposed to be clean?"

 

"It was much worse yesterday."

 

Abigail continues to snicker at him as they set the table. Once that's done, they take the dogs outside again, giving them their own dinner on the porch.

 

"You just take them in off the street?" Abigail asks, petting Roxy's ears when she finishes eating early and comes over for attention.

 

"Literally, in most cases." Will says, sipping his coffee. "I make sure to contact the vet, have them check for tracking chips and such, but most of the ones I find don't have anyone looking for them."

 

"Bet you get a lot of funny looks for having so many." Abigail says, smirking. Will snorts.

 

"Oh, absolutely. I'd probably get just as many without the whole werewolf thing, though."

 

"Do you think they trust you more because of it?"

 

Will barks a laugh. "Oh, hell no. If anything, it makes some of them trust me less. No, I've just always been good with dogs. We had one growing up. Kinda had to, in the neighborhood we were in. My dad showed me how to train them, taught me all the commands."

 

"So you train all these guys?"

 

"I have to." Will laughs. "This many dogs, they'd probably all kill each other in a week if left to their own devices."

 

"Think you could teach me some commands?" Her tone is as close to shy as Abigail gets, and Will grins.


"I'd be glad to. After dinner?"

 

"Sounds good."

 

Hannibal calls them back inside soon after that, and Will and Abigail strong-arm him into letting them help set out the food. He draws the line at the main course, though, insisting that Will and Abigail be seated before he brings it in. They share a look of amusement and allow Hannibal his theatricality.

 

"Roast pike with piquant herb butter." he announces, setting it in the center. Will eyes the plate it's set on, wondering if Hannibal brought more than just his pans.

 

"It smells good." Will comments, pulling his water glass towards him. Hannibal starts to portion out their plates, but Will puts a hand on his arm, stopping him. "This is my house, Doctor. We're doing this family-style."

 

Hannibal makes a face, but Will suspects it's mostly for show as he sighs dramatically and sits with a "Have it your way, Professor."

 

They dig in, and Will isn't sure why Hannibal is watching Abigail so closely until she takes her first bite and freezes. She's never had his cooking before, Will realizes. She slowly sets her fork down, her other hand coming up to cover her mouth. Her eyes dart to Hannibal in surprise.

 

"This is…" she trails off, mouth working as she tries to think of the right words. After a minute, she settles on, "Holy shit."

 

"I told you I was a good cook." Hannibal says amusedly.

 

"Well, hearing it and tasting it are two very different things." Will says, taking a bite himself. He has to stifle a noise of surprise. Hannibal eyes him with the same amusement. Will swallows, then concedes, "Okay, you, uh, you might've outdone yourself here." He's had pike before, but he's never gotten it to taste like this. "What the hell did you do to it?"

 

"A chef, like a magician, must have his secrets." Hannibal says, finally picking up his own fork to eat. "So, how was fishing?"

 

"Really good." Abigail says, smile soft. "I had a lot of fun."

 

"I did, too." Will agrees, mirroring Abigail's smile.

 

Hannibal looks between them, his own smile small and satisfied. "Good to hear."

 

The rest of lunch passes easily. Abigail tells them of the few things at the hospital she finds interesting, Will shares class stories, and Hannibal horrifies them with tales of his high society events. When they're done, Will and Abigail clear the table while Hannibal readies dessert. This time, he insists they both wait in the dining room for him to bring it out, wanting to surprise them.

 

"Sanguinaccio dolce," he says, setting a carefully decorated plate in front of each of them. At the center of each is a carved out orange with some kind of chocolate in the middle. "Blood chocolate." Hannibal elaborates. Will gives him a look.

 

"Really."

 

Hannibal's mouth twitches in a self-satisfied smile. "To celebrate the close of your most recent case." Sitting, he adds, "I intended to make it for you last week, but, well," He rubs his thumb, where a fresh bandage has been applied. "It seemed in poor taste, after that."

 

"And it's not now?" Will huffs, no real heat behind his words.

 

"I thought enough time had passed."

 

Will shakes his head at him, picking up his spoon. "You're ridiculous."

 

"Indeed."

 

He takes a cautious first sip, somewhat uneasy about the blood in the dish. Hannibal has never steered him wrong before, but then, he's never been quite this adventurous in the meals he's served Will.

 

As the chocolate touches his tongue, he wonders if maybe it wasn't unease, but anticipation he was feeling.

 

Abigail and Hannibal watch him carefully as he savors the flavor, making a small, pleased noise in the back of his throat. Hannibal seems pleased, but Abigail still looks apprehensive. Will remembers she's not as used to Hannibal's penchant for the unusual in his cooking.

 

"It's really good." he assures her. She smiles tightly, taking her spoon.

 

"If you're worried about the blood, I can assure you, it is perfectly safe to consume." Hannibal says, resting a hand over hers. She looks at him a long moment, then seems to relax, her smile easing as she nods.

 

After dessert, Abigail goes to play with the dogs while Will and Hannibal clean up.

 

"Thanks for this." Will says softly, watching through the kitchen window as Abigail tries to tug a rope out of Pippin's mouth. Hannibal looks at him, arching a brow.

 

"I cook for you often." he points out.

 

"No, I mean- today. All of this. Thank you for setting it up, it was… really, really nice."

 

A tiny smile graces Hannibal's lips. "I'm glad to have done so. You and Abigail seem much closer now."

 

"Yeah." Will stares down at the plate in his hand, scrubbing away a dried spot of butter. "I'd like to do this more often. Not, uh, this, exactly, but… dinners. Lunches. Small outings. Mundane, domestic things."

 

"That sounds lovely." Hannibal agrees. Will looks over at him, finding him staring fondly out the window. "I must admit, I have not felt the parental urge in a very long time. It is… pleasant."

 

"You were a father?" Will asks, surprised.

 

"Not quite. I had a sister. We were left on our own quite young, and she became my charge. Even so young, it stirred very parental feelings in me. With her death, it felt as though my capacity to care for a child had gone with her. It is nice to know that was untrue."

 

"I'm sorry." Will murmurs. Hannibal shakes his head.

 

"You have no need to be. Her death is a faded scar now; speaking of her brings me warmth, if still somewhat bittersweet."

 

Will can only nod silently in response. He has nothing of equal weight to offer; he has no siblings, his father is alive and well, and his mother is hardly worth mentioning. He hasn't experienced such loss, aside from the humanity that, in the end, he managed to regain. Then he looks at Hannibal's face, at the sadness and wistfulness there, and despite his usual unwillingness to initiate physical contact, he presses his arm lightly against Hannibal's. Hannibal looks at him in surprise, then eases into a warm smile, gently returning the pressure.

 

Will looks back down at the dishes and resumes his work, feeling the blush creep up his neck as their arms continue to brush together.




~




When the sun starts to dip into the horizon, Hannibal reminds them all that Abigail needs to be returned to the hospital. They stand on the porch, Will and Hannibal side by side, as Abigail says goodbye to the dogs one by one. Winston is last, licking her face and earning one last laugh. Then she stands, hovering in front of Will, all of their awkwardness from before returned full force.

 

Will considers offering a handshake, but he knows that's unbearably awkward, even for him. Instead he shoves his hands in his pockets, saying, "I hope you had fun today."

 

Abigail surprises him by darting forward, slipping her arms under his and wrapping them around his torso, pressing her face into his chest. "Yeah." she says into his shirt, "I had fun."

 

Will looks to Hannibal for some sort of indication what to do here, but Hannibal only offers him an amused look. Hesitantly, Will rests his hands on Abigail's back, returning the hug. "I did, too."

 

They part, sharing a slightly less awkward smile, then Hannibal leads her out to the car. Will watches from the porch until Hannibal's car has disappeared from sight. He doesn't tend to entertain the idea of starting his own family past the point of "who would want someone fucked up like me for a father?", but with Abigail, with Hannibal, he thinks about it often. It's gotten so bad that sometimes he daydreams about it when he's at home, feeding the dogs or cooking himself breakfast.

 

For the first time in a long time, he thinks about making use of the rooms upstairs.

 

He shakes his head and goes inside, calling his dogs after him. He checks the dining room and kitchen, making sure they didn't miss anything when they cleaned up. His phone sits on the kitchen table, and he picks it up somewhat guiltily, turning it back on. There's another few texts from Jack, and voicemails from him and Beverly. Will takes his phone out to the living room, settling down at his desk to work on a lure while he listens to them.

 

"Okay, Will," the slight waver in Beverly's voice gives him pause, and he sits up straighter to listen. "I know you're busy with family bonding stuff, but shit's gone down and we could really use you. Check your damn messages and call us back."

 

Frowning, Will listens to Jack's message. "Damn it, Will, pick up. Monet's not dead. She attacked Price and escaped, and we need to find her before she can hurt anyone else. Call me back."

 

Will scrolls through the deluge of texts waiting for him. Mostly, they're the same:

 

Jack: "Code red. Call me."

 

Beverly: "Know how we were joking about vampires being real? Yeah, not a joke."

 

Even Alana: "Will, please call Jack back. It's important."

 

"She hurt Price. Come on, Graham, I know you care."

 

"The vampire is loose. CALL ME."

 

"Price is up. The vampire asked him about you."

 

"Will, Monet knows where you live."

 

"Will, if you get this, just stay at Hannibal's. Take Abigail back to the hospital, then just stick with Hannibal. Call us to let us know you're okay."

 

Wanda starts barking, startling him. He whirls around to shush her, but someone beats him to it.

 

Standing at the front door is Josephine Monet, covered in blackened burns, staring down his dogs and hissing for them to be silent. They obey. Monet's eyes snap up to him, and Will's blood runs cold.

 

"Will Graham." she growls. "Finally."

 

"Can I help you?" Will asks smoothly, casually inching his hand towards his fishing knife on the desk. Monet smiles manically.

 

"You can call your blood-father. Let him hear as I rob him of your life."

 

"I don't know what you're talking about."

 

"They call him the Ripper, I believe. He's stolen from me, and I'd like to return the favor."

 

"I don't see what killing me will accomplish, then. If anything, you'd be doing them a favor, getting rid of me."

 

Monet shakes her head, stepping closer. "You're trying to be clever, Graham, but I don't buy it. You reek of his blood. No matter what you are to him, taking you will hurt him."

 

"Like they hurt you? What, do you plan to carve out my heart and drop it on their stoop?"

 

Monet laughs, taking another step. "I'm glad you understand."

 

Will lunges for his knife, but Monet grabs his wrist, suddenly right next to him.

 

"Not quite grown into your speed, hm?" she says, smiling wide and sharp. With one quick pull, she launches him across the room. His dogs start to bark, concerned for their master, but she hisses at them again, and they retreat, whining.

 

Will scrambles to get up, going for his motor tools piled against the wall. Monet steps on his back, flattening him to the floor.

 

"Don't struggle. You couldn't beat me if you tried." She stomps on Will's shoulder, and he screams as it crunches and pops out of its socket. Straddling him with her knees, she flips him over, pinning him to the floor with a punishing hand on his shoulder. She slices open his shirt with razor-sharp nails, then drags them down his chest, drawing blood.

 

"It's too bad your blood is tainted like this." she muses, "I would have loved to drink it, really add insult to injury." Her nails move to scrape over the scar on his chest. She hums thoughtfully. "I'm not the first to go after your heart, am I? Does your Ripper make a habit of ripping out the hearts of people who are cared about?"

 

"I wouldn't know." Will grits out. "Do vampires normally come back from the dead just for some petty revenge?"

 

"Petty?" Monet digs her nails into his scar, making him grunt in pain. "You think I'm petty? If I were really petty, I'd bleed you dry over a river, letting all your precious blood wash away, then I'd string you up where he could find you, his precious thing stripped down to nothing . Maybe I'd even maul you, make them have to identify you by your teeth."

 

"I think you're overestimating how much of a damn the Ripper gives about me." Will points out. Monet smirks.

 

"Good point. Maybe next I'll track down his little broodling, leave her to drown in her own blood. Then I'll stitch your hearts together and shove them down his throat."

 

Will's really fed up with people trying to rip his heart out.

 

He knees her between the legs, taking her exclamation of pain as an opportunity to free his good arm and elbow her in the face. Blood spurts from her nose, and she slaps a hand over it, glaring down at him. "You little-" She shoves her hand into his chest, nails digging in to scrape against the bone of his ribs.

 

Something snaps. Will lurches up like he's being pulled, sinking his teeth into Monet's neck and clamping down.

 

She roars, shoving at his shoulders. He lets her push him away, taking a hearty mouthful of her flesh with him. Her neck gushes, quickly soaking them both as she staggers back, hands ineffectively trying to staunch the bleeding. Will kicks himself away from her, backing himself up against the wall by his tools. Monet glares at him, words gurgling out of her unintelligibly.


They stare each other down until eventually Monet slumps, then falls to the side, eyes vacant.

Chapter Text

He needs to call Jack. Getting up on shaking legs, Will picks over the steadily growing pool of blood and makes his way to his desk. As he picks up his phone, he realizes he still has a mouthful of burnt flesh. He spits it out, gagging at the taste that lingers. It's rancid, unbearably bitter, and wrong. He bends at the waist and throws up until all he can taste is bile. Winston nudges his back, concerned. Will whistles sharply, pointing to the kitchen. His dogs all hurry to huddle inside.

 

He sits as he opens up his contacts, barely looking at them as he picks one. He stares blankly at the dead vampire as it rings.

 

"Will?" Abigail's voice shocks him enough to bring him back to coherency.

 

"Abigail?" He pulls the phone from his ear, checking the screen. Hannibal's name lights up at the top. "Is- is Hannibal there?

 

"Yeah, he's driving. Are you okay? You sound… weird."

 

Over the line, Will hears Hannibal's muffled voice, then a beep. Then, "Will? Are you alright?"

 

"Yeah, I-" he starts to say automatically. He shuts his eyes, letting out a heavy, shaking breath. "No. No, Hannibal-" His voice cracks.

 

"Is it the river again, Will?" Hannibal asks.

 

"The vampire is- was- was alive."

 

There's a long silence. "Did she attack you, Will?"

 

"I killed her."

 

"We're on our way back. It will only be a few minutes. Would you like me to call Jack for you?"

 

"No!" Will grips the phone tighter like it will keep Hannibal from hanging up. "Please. Stay."

 

"Alright. I need to focus on driving, but Abigail will stay on the line with you. Is that alright?"

 

"Yeah." Will pulls his legs up to his chest. "Yeah."

 

"We'll be there soon."

 

The phone beeps again, then Abigail asks, "Did she hurt you?"

 

"Just- just some scratches. I did worse to her."

 

"Good."

 

Abigail stays on the phone with him, describing as they switch lanes and make turns, then as they pull up to the house.

 

"Will, I'm going to come inside now." Hannibal says. "I'm leaving the phone with Abigail, and she is going to hang up to call Jack."

 

"Okay."

 

The call ends, and Will focuses instead on the sound of gravel crunching underfoot as Hannibal makes his way up to the house. He opens his eyes when the door creaks, meeting Hannibal's concerned gaze for a moment before his eyes skitter to the body.

 

"Oh, Will." Hannibal breathes when he sees the mess. He steps closer, hesitating only to sidestep Will's puke.

 

"I threw up." Will explains numbly.

 

"It's alright, Will. It's over now." Hannibal puts his hand on his shoulder, and Will almost collapses into the touch. "Let's get you outside."

 

Hannibal helps him stand, leading him through the kitchen and out the back door, the dogs trailing after them. They make their way around to the porch, and Hannibal sits Will down on the deck.

 

Abigail approaches after a minute, handing Hannibal his phone. She kneels next to Will, pressing their shoulders together. Will leans into her as Hannibal goes back inside. He returns with a blanket that Abigail helps wrap around herself and Will. Winston climbs into his lap, and Will pets him absently, staring out into the woods surrounding his home. Hannibal goes out to his car, returning with a large first-aid kit from the trunk. He kneels in front of Will and starts to clean up his chest.

 

"You ripped out her throat." Hannibal observes. "Did you swallow any of her blood?"

 

Will shakes his head. "I- I threw it all up."

 

"Very good, Will." Hannibal gives him a smile, and Will shakily attempts to return it.

 

Jack and the others arrive shortly. Alana is the first to reach them, sparing only a glance inside before kneeling by Will and taking his hand.

 

"Will, are you alright? Oh god, you're hurt-"

 

"What the hell happened?" Jack booms, slamming his car door shut. Beverly hops out of the car, following Jack up to the porch.

 

"It would seem the vampire came to Will's house with the intent to kill him." Hannibal says, squeezing Will's shoulder. "She is now dead."

 

Jack opens the door, peering inside. He steps back with a, "Christ."

 

Beverly shoves at his head when she reaches him. "Pick up your goddamn phone next time." There are tears in her eyes, and her voice cracks.

 

"Sorry." Will murmurs.

 

"You'd better be." She reaches down to squeeze his shoulder before leading her CSI team inside. He winces as his shoulder protests.

 

"What happened here?" Jack repeats more softly. "From Will, please."

 

"I, uh-" He licks his chapped lips, then winces and leans to the side to spit out Monet's blood. Alana digs a wipe out of the kit, and Will uses it to clean his face before continuing. "Hannibal and Abigail had just left, and I- I sat down to work on some lures. I finally got your messages. Wanda started barking, and I looked and-" He looks down at Hannibal's hands, watches them work on the scratches on his chest. "We fought. She was- she was so fast. Inhumanly so. She threw me across the room, dislocated my shoulder-" At that, Hannibal makes a dissatisfied noise.

 

"You should have informed me of that sooner." he says, moving to grip Will's shoulder. He pops it in neatly, but Will still hisses in pain, taking a few moments to breathe through it.

 

"She talked a lot." Will says, glancing up at Jack. "Stuff about- about the the Ripper. She thought they were the copycat. She wanted me because she thought… she thought they'd care."

 

"Trying to get back at him?" Jack guesses. "Like an eye for an eye?"

 

"Or a heart for a heart." Abigail whispers, staring at Will's chest.

 

"She wanted to 'shove it down his throat', along with… with a girl's heart, I think. She called her the Ripper's 'broodling'."

 

"The Ripper has a daughter?" Alana asks, sitting up.

 

"I don't know." Will says. "Monet seemed to think so."

 

"How did you get away?" Jack asks. Will stares down at the deck.

 

"I ripped out her throat. With, uh, with my teeth."

 

A long silence follows. Abigail presses closer to him.

 

"One of the agents will take your statement, then you're free to leave." Jack says, as close to gentle as Jack gets. "I can arrange a hotel for you to stay at."

 

Will thinks about sleeping alone in an unfamiliar place after what just happened. He pales.

 

"No need." Hannibal says quickly. "Will is free to stay with me." Will relaxes, raising his eyes to look at Hannibal's shoulder.

 

"Thank you."

 

Jack nods, pats Will awkwardly on the arm with a, "Glad you're alive." then heads inside. An agent steps up to take his place, and Will gives his statement. As soon as he's done, Alana shoos the agent away.

 

"I'll look after your dogs until things settle." she offers, standing.

 

"Thank you, Alana."

 

"Call me if you need anything. Anything at all." Will nods, and Alana makes her leave, going to talk to a few agents on the lawn.

 

"Would you like to stay a while?" Hannibal asks, packing up the kit. Will shakes his head immediately.

 

"No, I- I'd like to get out of here."

 

Hannibal nods understandingly, getting to his feet. He pulls Abigail up first, then the two of them help Will up. Will pauses as Winston whines at him.

 

"Um. Can I bring Winston?" he asks, eyes cast down at the porch. Hannibal looks between Will and the dog, then smiles softly.  

 

"Of course."

 

Hannibal fashions him a sling from an agent's windbreaker, then the three of them pile into Hannibal's car, Will between Abigail and Winston in the backseat. Abigail leans against him again as soon as they're seated, and Will leans back, letting his eyes slip shut. He drifts for most of the ride.

 

He sees the river again. The ravenstag is next to him, now, a solid presence at his side. On its antlers is perched a raven that blinks down at Will with red eyes. The ravenstag tilts its head slowly, careful not to disturb the bird as it indicates the river. The rapids have calmed to a degree, no longer a dangerous, punishing roar. The waters still run quickly, but now it seems tamable; almost inviting.

 

"We're here." Abigail tells him, pulling him back to the world. Will looks up, finding they've parked in front of Abigail's hospital. He nods, and Abigail tucks into his side for a hug. He hugs her back as tight as he can with one arm.

 

As they pull apart, he says, "I'm sorry our day ended like this."

 

Abigail shakes her head, saying, "Don't apologize for surviving." Will hugs her one last time before she climbs out of the car.

 

"Will you be alright here for a few minutes?" Hannibal asks, looking over the seat at Will.

 

"I think I'll manage." Will says, smiling as Winston flops his head into his lap. Hannibal nods and hands him the keys before getting out. Will locks it behind him, feeling safer for it.

 

He's almost dozed off by the time Hannibal returns, a light knock alerting him to his presence. Will unlocks the door and gives Hannibal his keys back as Hannibal settles in the driver's seat.

 

The drive to Hannibal's house is short. Hannibal helps him and Winston out of the car, then leads them up to the house. Will makes sure Winston wipes his paws before entering the house. Hannibal smiles at him appreciatively, putting a hand on the small of his back to guide him inside.

 

Hannibal shows them upstairs to a guest room, directing Will to go ahead and take a shower while he gets a few things. Will thanks him, then closes himself and Winston inside the bathroom.

 

His shoulder protests loudly as he struggles out of the makeshift sling and his clothes. He's not looking forward to trying to wash himself one-handed.

 

Somehow he manages it, and he wraps a towel around his waist before going into the bedroom. Hannibal is there waiting for him with a change of clothes, a proper sling, and a first-aid kit that looks like it belongs in an ER.

 

"I did used to be a medical doctor, you know." Hannibal says as Will eyes it.

 

"How many kits do you have?" Will laughs, grabbing the sweatpants from the pile.

 

"One in almost every room. You can never be too careful."

 

"Guess not." Will ducks back into the bathroom to pull on the pants. They hang low on his hips, slightly too large for him, and he spends a few minutes fumbling with the drawstring, trying to tie it without jostling his shoulder too much. Hannibal throws him an amused look as he reappears. Will ignores it and sits on the bed shirtless, letting Hannibal go to work on his injuries.

 

"Thank you again for… all of this." Will says, watching as Hannibal places yet another bandage on his chest.

 

"Think nothing of it." Hannibal tells him, smoothing down the edges. "What kind of friend would I be if I did not aid you in your hour of need?"

 

"A pretty shitty one, I guess."

 

"Indeed."

 

Once his chest is patched up, Hannibal helps Will into a loose button-up shirt, then the sling, before handing Will a couple pain pills and a bottle of water. Will knocks them back, then freezes. "Fuck."

 

"What's wrong, Will?"

 

"I forgot my meds at the house. Fuck, I didn't even think to-"

 

"It's alright, Will. I will call Jack, and he will have someone bring them over in the morning."

 

Will nods, trying to shake the anxiety that's nesting in his chest. Hannibal puts a hand on his arm, squeezing reassuringly. Somehow it makes Will breathe a little easier.

 

"I have sleep aids should you need them," Hannibal says, packing up the kit. "And please feel free to help yourself to anything in the kitchen. My room is just down the hall if you should need anything."

 

"Thanks." Will says for what feels like the hundredth time that day. Hannibal just smiles kindly and ruffles Winston's fur on his way out.

 

"Goodnight, William. Sleep well."

 

"You, too."

 

Hannibal closes the door behind him, and Will shifts up on the bed, calling Winston up next to him before he can think better of it. He winces, thinking of the face Hannibal will make when he finds dog hair on his nice sheets. Well, it's too late now, and Will thinks he deserves to be a little selfish, here. If it really upsets Hannibal, Will can pay to have the sheets cleaned.

 

He tucks himself under the blankets, holding them up so Winston can curl up against his back. It's a comforting presence, but Will wishes he had the weight of all eight of his dogs to ground him and warm him. He huffs a laugh at himself, feeling childish. The threat is over, dead on his living room floor. If anything changes, Jack will call Hannibal, and Hannibal will come in and wake him to warn him. And should anything happen, Will knows Hannibal can hold his own in a fight, if the incident with Tobias Budge is anything to go by.

 

Feeling somewhat comforted by those thoughts, Will shuts his eyes and forces himself to accept the sleep tugging at his mind.

 

He finds himself in the woods in the dead of night. Trees tower over him, reaching so far into the sky that they disappear into darkness. The river rushes in his ears, but it's nowhere to be seen.

 

The hairs on the back of his neck stand with the presence of something behind him. He turns, expecting to see the ravenstag, but all he sees are shadows, shifting as moonlight plays through the sway of branches.

 

"Hello?" he calls out, stepping forward. A caw has him whirling around, looking up into the branches to find the raven staring down at him. It cocks its head, blood red eyes boring into him.

 

"Do you know where the stag is?" he asks it, approaching its branch. It shrieks and flies away in a flurry of feathers, and Will stumbles back to avoid their razor sharpness. His back hits something soft, something breathing, and he stills.

 

He reaches behind him to touch the creature, again expecting the stag. But instead of the soft down of the ravenstag's feathers, his hand curls into coarse, matted fur. Breath bears down on his neck, hot and wet, and he shudders.

 

A furred, clawed hand comes to rest on his chest, digging the tips of the claws into the flesh over his heart. Teeth graze the back of his neck, jagged and sharp. Will stays very still, breathing carefully as the teeth move to grip his neck.

 

His head is pulled back slowly until he's looking up into the sky, the moon bright in the void claiming the treetops. Slowly, the moon dims as it's overshadowed by an eclipse. The creature's claws dig deeper into his chest as the moonlight bathing them turns completely red.

 

Movement in the trees tears Will's gaze back down. Josephine Monet emerges from the trees, fully healed of all her burns. Blonde hair frames her face, and when she smiles at him, long fangs flash bloody in the moonlight.

 

"You still haven't drunk, fledgling." she says, striding forward. She grabs Will's chin harshly, forcing him to maintain eye contact as she speaks. "How can you ever hope to be with him if you won't even drink?"

 

"What are you talking about?" Will asks.

 

Monet looks him over, tsking. "Such a shame. I should have fed you when I attacked you, fledged you myself. Oh, the look on his face when he realizes you'll never be able to drink from him again. I imagine it would be sweeter than anything."

 

"I don't understand what you're saying."

 

"You will. In time. That is," She smirks, eyes flashing a dark red. "If you ever actually drink." Her grip lowers, nails digging into his throat while the creature's grip on his neck tightens. Will chokes out a gasp.

 

Something crashes through the trees, felling a few in its wake, and Will meets the eyes of the ravenstag for just a moment before pain consumes him.

 

He lurches up, chest heaving as he tries to get his bearings. Beside him, Winston whines. Will pets his fur absently, grounding himself in the dog's warm presence.

 

"My name is Will Graham," he mutters to himself, "it's-" he looks around for a clock, but finds none. "It's late, and I'm in Baltimore, Maryland, in Hannibal Lecter's guest room." He takes a shuddering breath, then continues, "Shawn Marquis is dead. Josephine Monet is dead. I'm in no danger here."

 

Still, the room is too dark, too full of creeping shadows. Will climbs out of bed and leaves the room, Winston following. They pad down the hall, to where light spills out from a door standing slightly ajar. He raises his hand and knocks before he can talk himself out of it.

 

"Come in, Will."

 

Will slips inside, Winston plastered to his legs. Hannibal is sat up in his bed, a worn book in his hands. He sets it aside and stands, crossing to put a gentle hand on Will's elbow. "Are you alright?"

 

"I, uh…" Will looks down at the ground, feeling foolish for running to Hannibal's door like a frightened child.

 

"Was it a nightmare?" Hannibal asks kindly. Will nods shallowly. "The river again?"

 

"No, uh- no. No. I didn't see it."

 

"Come sit down, tell me what happened." Hannibal guides him to the bed, sitting him down next to where he himself had sat a minute ago. Winston hesitates beside the bed, letting out a small whine.

 

"Sorry, boy," Will tells him, reaching down to scratch his head. Hannibal watches them a moment, then snaps his fingers, summoning Winston onto the bed. Will gives him a grateful look, sinking his fingers into Winston's fur.

 

"What did you dream about, Will?" Hannibal asks, perching next to Will's legs on the bed. Will keeps his eyes on his hands, carding through Winston's fur.

 

"Josephine Monet."

 

"She attacked you?"

 

"Yeah. She- she wasn't alone." Hannibal waits patiently for him to continue. Quietly, Will admits, "Shawn Marquis was with her."

 

"The werewolf who turned you."

 

"Yes." Will looks around the room, noting luxuries everywhere his eyes land. It's not unlike Hannibal's office. "They, um, they both grabbed my throat."

 

"You died in this dream?" When Will doesn't look at him or answer, Hannibal makes a small noise of sympathy. He reaches forward, but Will doesn't quite register it until he feels fingertips on his jaw. He recoils, and Hannibal takes his hand back, holding it up placatingly before relocating it to Will's shoulder. "You are alive, Will. It was only a dream."

 

"I know that." Will murmurs without conviction.

 

"Both of your assailants are dead, Will. You have survived the both of them, and they cannot hurt you now." The way Hannibal says it, Will can almost start to believe it.

 

His eyes close, the exhaustion creeping back in now that his anxiety is seeping away, drawn out of him bit by bit where Hannibal's hand lies on his shoulder. Behind his eyelids, Will sees the ravenstag, standing triumphant over the corpses of Josephine Monet and Shawn Marquis. It bows its head to him, antlers just centimeters from his face. They drip with the blood of Will's attackers. Will smiles, curling his hand loosely around an antler as he leans forward and presses his lips against it.

 

The ravenstag makes a pleased rumble in its chest, something between the roar of thunder and rush of the river. Will has never heard a more soothing sound.




~




Winston licks him awake, whining for food.

 

Will laughs, batting the dog's snout away from him. "Gimme a few t' wake up, boy." he drawls sleepily, burying his face in his pillow. Winston huffs, digging his nose into Will's back. Will groans as Winston stands on his back, putting all his weight behind him. "Winston, c'mon. 'm tryin' t' sleep here."

 

Next to him, someone chuckles. Will pops his head up in surprise, blinking in confusion at a sleep-ruffled Hannibal lying next to him.

 

"A dog is relentless in its pursuit of food." Hannibal notes, his accent much thicker as he rubs sleep out of his eyes.

 

Will's face flushes hot as he glances around the room. He's in Hannibal's bedroom, in Hannibal's bed.

 

"You shouldn't lie on your stomach, Will." Hannibal says, shifting to sit up. "It is bad for your shoulder." Will dislodges Winston and rolls onto his left side, grateful for the excuse to look away from Hannibal.

 

He listens as Hannibal gets up and moves around the room, trying to remember what all happened last night. He remembers coming in here to talk about his nightmare, sitting on Hannibal's bed. God, he must've fallen asleep while they were talking.

 

"I'm going to make some coffee. Would you like some, Will?" Hannibal asks.

 

"Um. Yeah, sure."

 

"I'll be down in the kitchen. Join me at your leisure. Come, Winston, we shall find you something to eat."

 

Will hides his face in the pillow as they leave. Beneath his mortification, something warm buries itself in his chest, teasing him with a scenario where waking up next to Hannibal is more than a good man letting his friend crash in his bed after a harrowing experience.

 

Will heaves a sigh. Fuck, he's farther gone than he thought.

 

He lies there until the strong scent of coffee reaches him, then drags himself out of bed.

 

Downstairs, Hannibal is at the stove, poking at something in a pan. Whatever it is, it smells heavenly. Will considers saying so, but it sounds cheesy and embarrassing even in his head. Instead, he awkwardly says, "Smells good." and sits himself at the counter. Hannibal smiles at him over his shoulder.

 

"French toast." he describes, flipping a slice. Winston watches him, enraptured and whining in the back of his throat. Hannibal points him to a bowl of food in the corner, and Winston goes reluctantly. Then Hannibal gestures to a covered pan, continuing, "There is also Canadian bacon. And to top it off, maple syrup."

 

"Seems pretty pedestrian for you." Will comments, leaning his good arm on the counter.

 

"I thought it best not to overwhelm you. I can assure you lunch will be closer to my usual standards."

 

"Thanks. You didn't have to." Guilt creeps into his words, and Will curses himself for it.

 

Hannibal looks at him curiously, then turns back to his cooking and says, "I am more than happy to do so, Will. Making accommodations for you is not as heavy a burden as you seem to think."

 

Will ducks his head. "If you say so."

 

"Did you sleep alright?"

 

"Yeah. Sorry for um- for falling asleep in your bed."

 

"You have nothing to apologize for. In fact, I quite enjoyed your company; it is rare that I get to share my bed with another in sleep, and I found your and Winston's presence to be very pleasant."

 

Will tries not to dwell too much on any of that, clearing his throat and saying, "Then- uh, you're welcome, I guess."

 

Hannibal plates up their food, then brings it over with a mug of coffee for each of them. Will immediately takes a swig of his, revelling in the bitterness. It's just what he needs to snap him properly awake. Hannibal's mouth quirks amusedly before he hides it with a much more sedate sip of his own coffee. Heat pricks at Will's neck, and he steadfastly ignores it to start in on his breakfast.

 

He gets a single bite of toast and bacon in his mouth, then has to fight not to immediately spit it back out. He forces himself to chew it and swallow, shuddering as it goes down. Hannibal sets down his mug.

 

"I do hope it tastes alright." he says.

 

"Yes, of course it does." Will says quickly, setting down his fork. "I just, uh…"

 

"You are reminded of holding Josephine Monet's flesh in your mouth."

 

Will stares down at the counter. "Yes."

 

"I apologize, Will, I should have accounted for that. What would you like instead?"

 

"No, this is- this is fine. Maybe just… smaller bites." Hannibal nods understandingly, and Will starts his breakfast again. The smaller bites help, but when he swallows, the aftertaste is Monet's blood. He gulps down some coffee to chase it away.

 

"Would you like to talk about it?" Hannibal offers after a while. Will stares over his shoulder at the small plant growing by the window. Probably some herb Hannibal uses often. That, or something exotic that he enjoys looking at while he cooks.

 

"Part of me is concerned she infected me somehow." he admits, voice trembling slightly. "That the whole shitshow is about to start all over again, only now instead of meat, my cravings will be blood."

 

"You did not ingest her blood, Will." Hannibal reminds him. He begins to say something else, then pauses, gaze flickering away uncertainly.

 

"What is it?" Will asks.

 

"I cleaned out your wounds as best I could, but… she bled on you, yes?" Will nods. "Then it is possible some of her blood made it into your bloodstream. If so, then it is inevitable." He speaks with perfect certainty at the end. Will frowns.

 

"How are you so sure? We weren't even sure vampires were real until yesterday."

 

Hannibal sighs, looking down at his plate. "I'm sorry, Will. I have not been completely honest with you."

 

Will sits up. "What do you mean?"

 

"I have known about vampires for years. Normally they like to keep to themselves, so I saw no reason to out their existence to people like Jack Crawford and, consequently, you."

 

"So you know all about them, then?"

 

"Yes."

 

"And how, exactly, did you find out about them?"

 

"My sister was one." Hannibal sits back, looking at Will directly. "She inherited it from our parents."

 

Will blinks. "Excuse me?"

 

"My family were vampires, Will." Hannibal repeats patiently.

 

"And you, um," Will sets his fork down carefully, fidgets with it until it sits perfectly parallel to his plate. "You were-?" He meets Hannibal's eyes, tastes his emotions. Trepidation. Vulnerability. Trust. Will drops his eyes. "Oh."

 

"You can understand my need to have kept it secret."

 

"Yeah." Holy shit. "So, uh, in your… professional opinion , do you think…"

 

"Only time will tell." Hannibal sighs. "If you have been infected, then it will take a few days for it to set in. At that time, your thirst for blood will become insatiable until you are fed by a full-fledged vampire. Or, alternatively, have drained a human dry. You can see why a fellow vampire is preferable."

 

Will nods slowly. "Is there any way to stop it?"

 

"There is no known cure."

 

"So basically, I'm screwed." Will huffs, glaring down at his food.

 

"Perhaps. Perhaps not." Hannibal sets his own fork down, measured and precise in its placement. His next words are just as meticulous: "Perhaps this time, you can choose your path."

 

Will eyes him cautiously. "What do you mean?"

 

"I am suggesting you choose to jump before you are pushed."

 

"You mean let you turn me?"

 

"Yes."

 

Will looks back at the plant. "What if I'm not infected? I'd be jumping for no reason."

 

"Indeed. It is entirely up to you, Will. I am merely offering you options."

 

"Is being a vampire…" Will trails off, unsure what exactly he's asking.

 

"It has its ups and downs, like any other existence. It is not wholly good, nor is it wholly bad. Overall, I enjoy it. It offers tremendous physical benefits that I feel outweigh the drawbacks. However, i have known others that loathed every single aspect."

 

"I didn't mind lycanthropy itself." Will says, running his finger along the length of his fork. "It was the… social aspects of it that bugged me. And knowing that, if I'd had a choice, I probably wouldn't be a werewolf at all."

 

"If you had the choice, would you be a vampire?"

 

Will considers. It wouldn't be as visible as being a werewolf. Obviously it can be done without becoming a serial killer like Monet, as is evidenced by Hannibal. And clearly it is not as restrictive as the tales would have you believe; Hannibal walks in the sun and eats garlic just as well as the next person.

 

"I suppose I don't know enough about it." Will finally settles on.

 

Hannibal smiles kindly, spreading his hands. "Ask me anything you'd like."

 

Will supposes he should start with something more practical, but it's been bugging him, so he says, "Monet mentioned something called a 'blood-father'. What is that?"

 

"A blood-father is the vampire that turns or fledges another vampire. There are also blood-mothers, and, undoubtedly, blood-parents. Generally the vampire that fledges you into an adult is considered your 'true' blood-parent, but ultimately it is up to the individual. For instance, I consider my biological parents my blood-parents, even though they both died long before I was fledged."

 

"So… she thought the Ripper turned me."

 

"It would appear so."

 

"Why?"

 

"Perhaps she observed your thirst for blood somehow."

 

Will stops his fidgeting, eyes darting to stare at Hannibal. "What?"

 

Hannibal's smile is apologetic. "I saw the way you fixated on my blood when I was injured, Will." Will looks away guiltily. "Coupled with your recent insatiable thirst, well…" Hannibal shakes his head. "Were I not aware of your tendencies to take souvenirs when stepping into the minds of others, I would have thought you were in the middle of turning."

 

Will stares a hole into the countertop. "So if I were to… accept. You would be my…"

 

"Your blood-father, yes. I promise you, it is not as odd as it sounds; in its essence, it is only a title. The significance it carries is entirely up to you."

 

Will nods, not lifting his gaze. He lets that sink in for a minute before asking, "How often do you drink blood?"

 

"Personally, I drink half a bag twice a week." Will looks up to blink at him in confusion. Hannibal gets up, crossing over to the fridge. He reaches into the back and takes out a plain white container. He walks back to the counter and sets the container down, leaving it for Will to inspect. Will does so slowly, popping off the lid and setting it aside before peering in. Inside are about half a dozen medical blood bags. Will isn't really sure what else he'd expected.

 

"I have an old acquaintance from the hospital." Hannibal explains, taking one of the bags out. Will tracks it with his eyes, transfixed. "He doesn't know my specific need for them. I invite him to dinner now and then, and in return, he asks no questions when he sells these to me. Only common blood types in healthy supply, I assure you." Noticing Will's distraction, Hannibal sets the bag back down and replaces the lid. The snap of the seal is like a slap to the face. Will stares at his plate in embarrassment as Hannibal returns the container to the fridge.

 

As Hannibal sits back down, he continues, "Really, it is up to personal preference. I could drink it as often as every day, or as little as once or twice a month. It is not simply food, like many stories would have you believe. If anything, it is like… recharging one's batteries. We are, in some ways, undead, and the blood helps to keep us in working order. If we are injured, we need much more of it, and if we are in good health, we can go longer without it."

 

"That…" Will sighs, rubbing his hands on the fabric of his - Hannibal's - pants. "That sounds doable."

 

"It is actually quite pleasant. But then, I was raised with this as a fact of life. I imagine for humans, there is a period of adjustment, if the taste for it is acquired at all."

 

"I don't think that'd be a problem for me." Will laughs. "Clearly I already have a taste for it."

 

"Craving something and enjoying its taste is quite different in this case, Will."

 

"Maybe." Will picks his fork back up to poke at his half-finished food. "How old are you?"

 

Hannibal raises a brow. "Not much older than you. Vampires do have an extended life expectancy due to our powers of regeneration, but we are not immortal, Will."

 

"No, of course not, sorry."

 

"No need to apologize. You are curious, and I invited you to be so."

 

Will lets out a breath, rubbing a hand over his mouth. It's so much. "Can I- can I think about it a while, before I decide?"

 

"Of course." Hannibal says instantly. "I had no intentions to rush you, Will. You may take as much time as you like. And the offer stands, even if Josephine Monet has not infected you."

 

Will has no idea what to make of that. "Thank you."

 

Hannibal nods. "Now, let's finish our breakfast, shall we?" Will agrees, and he takes a bite of french toast. It goes down easier now. Without the ghost of Monet's flesh overpowering it, the taste is wonderful.

 

They're rinsing their dishes and placing them in the dishwasher when the doorbell rings. Will and Hannibal wear matching frowns of confusion for a moment, then Hannibal remembers first. "That must be one of the agents with your medicine." He tilts his head slightly as he starts towards the front hall, an open invitation for Will to follow him. Winston hugs to Will's side as he trails after Hannibal.

 

Katz is at the door, a grocery bag hanging off her arm. She offers Hannibal a polite, tense smile, but it dissolves into one of relief when her eyes land on Will. "Wow, you look terrible."

 

"Thanks, Beverly." Will laughs. She grins at him, and lifts the grocery bag to catch his eye.

 

"I brought your meds, as requested. I also grabbed your phone, some clothes, and…" She hands off the bag, then plucks a pair of glasses from the top of her head, handing them to him with a flourish. "Your glasses."

 

He accepts them with a laugh. "Oh, you're the best." He can see well enough without them, but the added focus and additional layer between eye contact is always nice.

 

"Don't you ever forget it." In the moment of silence that follows, her face falls. "Don't fucking scare me like that again, you hear?"

 

"Yes, ma'am." Will says obediently, staring at her feet. "How's Price doing?"

 

Beverly sighs like she's been up since yesterday morning. She probably has. "He'll live. Just some broken bones and blood loss. Thank god Zeller found him when he did. Though, uh, part of me wishes it hadn't been Zeller, y'know? He's pretty shaken."

 

"Yeah."

 

Beverly clears her throat, visibly rebuilding her composure. "Well, shit delivered, mission accomplished. I should head back, get some shuteye before visiting hours. Swing by, yeah?"

 

"Yeah, of course."

 

"Good. Take care of him, Doctor."

 

"I will. Rest well, Agent Katz." He nods to her in farewell and shuts the door as she heads back to her car. Then he turns to Will. "Shall I get you a glass of water?"

 

It takes Will a moment to process the question. When he does, he shakes his head, adjusting his grip on the bag so he can slip his glasses on. "No, that's alright. I usually take them before bed."

 

"Then allow me to tend to your injuries; you could use fresh bandages."

 

"They're not that bad." Will tries to defend. "They're just scratches."

 

"Rather deep scratches." Hannibal corrects him. "And I could not forgive myself if they were to become infected on my watch. Regular, human infected." Will can't help but chuckle at that, his cheeks warm.

 

"Well then, how can I refuse?"

 

"Exactly." With a hand on his elbow, Hannibal guides him into the study. He sits Will down on the couch, then goes to get the kit. Winston plops down at Will's feet. Will fidgets during Hannibal's absence, digging through the bag and examining the study.

 

Beverly packed him three shirts, two pairs of pants, and enough underwear for a week. Will doesn't expect they'll keep him out of his house for that long, but he appreciates her preparedness.

 

Hannibal's study, meanwhile, is much like his office. It screams his style, but somehow a homier version. The books on the shelves are in good condition, but clearly often read and well loved. The antiques and oddities on display are just as unique and extravagant as the ones in his office, but sit more plainly in the open without the fear of a patient disrupting them. There are pictures hung on the wall above the fireplace, most of them of places in Italy, France, and what Will would guess to be Lithuania.

 

The man himself returns, and he sits next to Will on the couch with the first-aid kit in hand. As Hannibal places the kit on the coffee table and extracts what he needs, Will fumbles with the buttons on his shirt one-handedly. He manages to get most of them open before Hannibal is done, but the last few give him trouble. With a huff, he drops his hand and lets Hannibal undo the rest for him.

 

When he peels away the first bandage, Hannibal pauses.

 

"What is it?" Will asks cautiously, examining Hannibal's face. He picks up worry and uncertainty.

 

"Your injuries." Hannibal removes another bandage, frowning. He pulls a third before speaking. "They are farther along in their healing than I expected."

 

"That's a bad thing?" Will scoffs. Hannibal gives him a sobering look.

 

"In the fledgling stage, a vampire does not have access to their full powers, but they have weakened versions. Namely the power of healing." Will's stomach drops.

 

"Are you saying I'm- that I'm in this state now?"

 

"Not necessarily. While this degree of healing is abnormal, it is not completely out of the scope of human capabilities. At this stage, I do not see it as a cause for concern."

 

"Good to know." Will grumbles. "Let me know when it changes from 'could be' to 'start making plans to incorporate blood into your meals'." Will pauses, blinking as the words re-enter his brain. "You have a sick sense of humor, you know that?"

 

"I'm afraid you've lost me, Will."

 

"Blood sausage, blood pudding, blood chocolate. Jesus, you basically spelled it out to me."

 

Hannibal's mouth twitches. "I will admit, I had some fun with those."

 

A thought turns Will's stomach. "You, uh, you used animal blood in those recipes, right?"

 

Hannibal looks up at him. "Do you think I would feed you human blood, Will?" Will meets his eyes, trying to read him. Patience. Slight hurt. Will ducks his head.

 

"No, of course not. I'm sorry."

 

"It's alright, Will. It is a valid concern, in light of everything. I promise you that I have never fed you human blood."

 

Will relaxes. "I believe you."

 

"Thank you. I would hate to think I might lose your trust over a joke, as ill-advised as it may have been."

 

"You'd have to do a lot worse for me to stop trusting you."

 

"Something worse? Like killing a man?"

 

Will gives him an unimpressed look. "We've both killed men, Dr. Lecter. You'll have to do better than that."

 

Hannibal's smile curves into something that sends a chill down Will's spine. "Is that so?"

 

Before Will can formulate a response, the look vanishes, and Hannibal continues treating Will's injuries like nothing happened. Will is left reeling.

 

He moors himself in the contact of Hannibal's fingers on his chest, skipping lightly over his scars as he cleans out the gouges over Will's heart. Will closes his eyes and suppresses a shudder at the memory of Josephine Monet's nails digging in, of Shawn Marquis' werewolf teeth biting down.

 

Josephine Monet and Shawn Marquis are dead. He survived them. They cannot hurt him now.

 

"There. All finished." Hannibal announces, his hands drawing away. Will opens his eyes as Hannibal rises to pack the kit.

 

"Thanks." he says, distracted.

 

"I have two appointments today," Hannibal tells him. "But I can reschedule them if you'd rather not be alone."

 

"No, no, I've already imposed on you too much."

 

"Nonsense, Will. You were assaulted in a manner that resembles a past trauma. You are more than entitled to seek aid from your friends."

 

"I can't ask you not to do your job, though."

 

"I know. Which is why I offered."

 

Will swallows and stares at the pictures over the fireplace. "I'm sure I'll be fine on my own for a few hours."

 

"I can stay, Will. It really is no trouble to me."

 

"No, you should go. I've got Winston for company, and if that's not enough, I'm sure Alana would love to drag me to lunch, or drive me to visit Price."

 

Hannibal tilts his head, conceding the point. "Very well. Should you change your mind, feel free to give me a call, and I will return here as soon as possible."

 

Will ducks his head. "Thank you."

 

"You do not need to thank me so much, Will. I am more than happy to do these things for you."

 

Hannibal only means well, Will knows, but every reassurance, every kind deed, they're piling up on Will's shoulders, the weight doubling with every new addition. Will picks at the fabric of his pants, overwhelmed. Hannibal pats his knee, the touch lingering even as he stands to go wash up and change for the day. Will sits there, listening to Hannibal putter away upstairs, and steadfastly ignores the speed of his heart and the flush in his cheeks.




~




Hannibal leaves for his office, and Will spends two hours leafing through books in the study, then another examining Hannibal's kitchen and steadfastly ignoring the packets of blood he knows are hidden there before his restlessness becomes unbearable.

 

He texts Alana.

 

He changes into the boxers and jeans Beverly brought him, but keeps Hannibal's shirt on. Because it'd be too hard to get the sling back on, he tells himself.

 

Winston is let out into Hannibal's fenced yard with a bowl of water just as Will hears Alana's car pull up. She pulls him into a hug as soon as he opens the door, and he lets her, placing his hand on her side to half-return the gesture.

 

They get drive-thru from a little dive they both frequent, and eat in the car by a park. Will's glad for the reduced social interaction.

 

"How are you feeling?" Alana asks softly, dipping her fries i the leftover sauce from her sandwich.

 

"Alright." Will shrugs thoughtlessly, then has to bite his lip to stifle a pained sound. "You know, relatively."

 

"I have asprin in my purse if…"

 

"No, it's fine. Doesn't hurt that bad unless I move it." Probably doesn't hurt nearly as much as it should. It could be another sign that he's infected, or it could just be a placebo effect.

 

Alana eyes him doubtfully, but lets it go. "And you're alright with staying at Hannibal's? I have a guest room, if you need somewhere else to stay."

 

Considering that Will may or may not be infected with vampire blood and could possibly be overcome by bloodlust at any point in the next few days, it's probably best that he stay with the one person that could stop him and pull him out of it without hurting anyone. "Thanks, but I think I'm good at Hannibal's."

 

Alana stares him down, lips pursed. Will feels his face start to burn, convinced she's picked up on his budding feelings for Hannibal somehow.

 

Instead, she says, "It's the food, isn't it?" A surprised bark of laughter extracts itself from Will, and Alana grins, tossing up a hand. "I knew it! Forget it, I can't compete with that."

 

"Come on, Alana, you're a… reasonable cook." She looks at him, unimpressed, and he laughs. "To be fair, I'm not sure anyone can compete with Hannibal's cooking." There must be something that slips into his voice when he says it, because Alana's expression shifts to one of contemplation.

 

"No…" she says slowly. "Probably not." Clearing her throat, she crumples her trash and shoves it into the bag. "So, next stop: visit Jim?" Will nods, stowing his own trash away and feeling like he's missed something.




~




"And you thought I looked like hell." Will tells Beverly, pulling his eyes away from Price. He's laid up in a hospital bed, bandages wrapped around his chest, arms, and neck. Will only needs to look for a moment to picture exactly how Josephine Monet attacked him; it's not pretty.

 

"I just hope vampirism isn't contagious." Price jokes weakly, fidgeting with the bandage on his neck. Zeller smacks his hand away.

 

"Not by bite." Will says absentmindedly. Hannibal would have mentioned it if it were. Suddenly he feels the weight of all eyes in the room on him. He blinks. "What?"

 

"How d'you know that?" Beverly asks, crossing her arms. She's more curious than accusatory, but it still puts Will on edge.

 

"Monet, um- she mentioned stuff about turning me into a vampire." Technically not a lie. But then, he doesn't have to be as careful about lies around them as he does around Hannibal. "Mostly getting her blood into my bloodstream."

 

"Shit, man." Zeller breathes.

 

"Sorry for, uh, telling her where you live." Price says. Will shakes his head.

 

"No, you did what you had to do to survive. I wasn't even supposed to be there half the day."

 

An awkward silence falls. They all knew the dangers when they joined the FBI, but experiencing it firsthand is uniquely different. Not to mention the fact that none of them ever expected to be attacked in the morgue.

 

"So, uh, how'd your day with Lecter and Abigail go?" Beverly asks, swapping topics somewhat smoothly. "Y'know, before the whole vampire thing."

 

"It, um, it was fine. Good." Will rubs at his neck, looking at the floor. "We had fun." Beverly bumps him with her elbow.

 

"Fatherhood looks good on you, Graham."

 

He manages a small smile. "Thanks."

 

Alana returns with vending machine coffee, and Will drinks the whole thing dutifully, standing between Alana and Beverly as they navigate the social obligations of visiting a friend in the hospital with ease. Will could almost envy them.

 

He tries to at least pay attention, he really does. But after five minutes it becomes painfully obvious that he doesn't have much in common with Price, Zeller, or even Beverly outside of work. Price and Zeller start a debate over a highly technical method of forensics Will's never heard of, and he tunes out automatically. Instead, his focus turns inward. He wonders: if he were actually infected, could he feel Monet's blood pulsing in his veins?

 

The thought of her blood inside of him makes him sick. Just the thought of how it tasted makes his stomach roil.

 

But Hannibal's blood, the blood he'd shown Will… that didn't seem too bad. Hell, Will would be lying to himself if he said the thought of drinking it was anything other than fucking tempting .

 

If he had the choice, free of worry that he'd already been infected, would he want to be a vampire? Maybe it was just Josephine Monet's mind impressing on his own, or maybe the copycat's, or the Ripper's, instilling him with a thirst that wasn't actually there.

 

He hears the river in the distance, but when he tries to see it, all he sees is the forest, Monet and Marquis' bodies at his feet. The ravenstag is nowhere to be found. Disappointment claws at his chest.

 

"Will," A gentle hand on his arm brings him back. Alana looks concerned. "Are you okay?"

 

"Yeah, you with us, bud?" Beverly asks, hand on his shoulder.

 

"Yeah, no, I'm- I'm here. Sorry." He blinks at the room, spots Zeller and Price still arguing, unaware of Will having been checked out for the past few minutes. A glance at the clock tells him those 'few' minutes were more like forty-five. "Sorry." he repeats.

 

"It's alright, Will." Alana assures him softly. "We've probably been out too long, let's get you back to Hannibal's."

 

Will says his goodbyes. Price and Zeller call out vague returns before continuing their argument, and Beverly pulls him in for a hug.

 

"Call me if you need anything." she tells him, before punching his good shoulder. "Seriously. Anything. Even if you just get sick of Lecter and need some greasy pizza and cheap beer."

 

Will smiles. "I'll keep that in mind."

 

She grins. "You'd better."

 

Alana drives him back to Hannibal's, silent except for when she asks if he wants to pick anything up on the way, and when she tells him to call her if he needs anything as she's dropping him off. He replies politely to both, his thoughts not quite in the present.

 

She drives away, and Will's phone buzzes in his pocket as he steps inside - Hannibal letting him know he's finished with work. He fetches Winston from the back yard, then sits on the kitchen floor, leaning back against the island and letting Winston curl up in his lap to nose and lick at him. He pets him absently, thinking.

 

What exactly does 'blood-fathering' entail, he wonders. Would Hannibal bleed himself into a cup or a packet, then give it to Will to drink, or would he have Will drink directly from the tap?

 

Will pictures his mouth on Hannibal's neck, his teeth sunk deep into his flesh as he greedily gulps down Hannibal's blood. He can almost feel Hannibal's hands on his sides, just below his ribs, steadying him. He can almost hear Hannibal murmuring words of encouragement into his ear.

 

He puts a stop to that line of thought before it can go anywhere else. He splinters it and watches it branch, takes a safer road.

 

What would his life even be like, as a vampire? Assumedly Hannibal would provide him with blood, taking care of the new member of his coven. Is that even a term vampires use? Maybe it wouldn't be much different from being a werewolf. Though Will had no one to guide him when lycanthropy dug its claws into him and tore . If he hadn't had his dogs, he probably would have gone into an omega spiral. He'd still come close.

 

God, how would he hide it from everyone? Would he have to? They all know about vampires now, and it would be easy to say Monet turned him, to let them assume bleeding on him a little was all it took. Either way, he'd keep Hannibal's secret. He wonders if anyone else knows it. Some selfish part of him hopes not.

 

Hannibal finds him there some time later, head cocked curiously at his chosen location.

 

"Hey." Will says, looking up at him.

 

"Hello." Hannibal returns. "Is there a reason you are on the floor?"

 

Will shrugs. "Not especially. Just seemed like the place to be." Amusement curves Hannibal's lips.

 

"I cannot argue with that. Have you eaten?"

 

"Not since lunch. Alana took me."

 

"Dinner, then?"

 

"Sounds good."

 

Hannibal holds his hand out, and Will accepts it, letting Hannibal haul him to his feet. He settles into a seat at the island, and Hannibal opens the fridge to start assembling his ingredients.

 

"How was work?" Will asks, leaning on his arm.

 

"Not terribly different from usual. How was your time with Alana?"

 

"Fine. We got cheap, greasy food, then went to see Price. He's doing okay. They're saying he'll make a full recovery."

 

"That is good to hear."

 

"He won't turn from a bite, right?"

 

Hannibal lets out an amused huff. "Assuredly not. We can only be made from sharing blood."

 

Will nods, picking at the stitching on his sling. "That's what I figured." He plucks one end of the thread loose, and twists it between his fingers. "Am I going to have to hide it?"

 

Hannibal pauses mid-chop, and Will can feel his eyes on him, watching. "You don't have to. If you want to let everyone know, then by all means. If not, then I will help you keep it secret. It is up to you."

 

"I wouldn't tell anyone about you." Will assures him. "That- that'd be way out of line."

 

"I appreciate the sentiment, but I would understand if you did." Hannibal sets the knife aside and wipes his hands on a towel before placing a hand on Will's shoulder. Will looks up. Hannibal's expression is kind, soft. He asks, "Would you want to hide it, Will?"

 

"Jack would be pissed if he knew," Will reasons, not quite meeting Hannibal's eye. "He'd be even more pissed if he found out I was hiding it. But…" But the thought of telling people, of them treating him differently because of what he is - worse than with his other boxes, probably, since he'll be the only vampire known to the public that isn't a dead serial killer - it makes him sick to his stomach.

 

Hannibal squeezes his shoulder. "I do not intend to rush you, Will. You have plenty of time to come to a decision on this. Whatever you decide, I will aid you in whatever way I can."

 

Will nods jerkily. "Thank you."




~




Hannibal brews him tea before bed. As he hands off the mug, he says, "I can wake you if you start to have a nightmare, if you'd like."

 

"No, I should- I should sleep in the guest room."

 

"I do not mind sharing a bed with you, Will. Especially if it helps you sleep better."

 

He did sleep better last night after he got into Hannibal's bed. Conceding the point with a sip of his tea, he instead tries, "You really shouldn't be indulging my every whim." Hannibal smiles.

 

"Only the ones that aid you."

 

Will looks down into his tea like it will swallow him up and relieve him of the embarrassment setting his skin aflame. The water is tinted red - passionfruit, he thinks Hannibal called this - and it's still foamed a bit from when it was poured. Will is almost pulled back to the river, then Hannibal's hand on his arm grounds him back in reality. He swallows down his disappointment and lets Hannibal guide him upstairs.

 

Hannibal takes the bathroom first, going through whatever his nightly routine entails while Will manages to get out of his jeans & pull on some sleep pants without injuring himself. Once Hannibal is done, Will does little more than brush his teeth and take his meds before returning to the bedroom.

 

Hannibal is already in bed, sat up with a book in his hands. Will pretends he doesn't feel incredibly awkward as he climbs in on the other side. Winston hesitates at the side of the bed until Hannibal allows him up with a small gesture.

 

"I feel like I should be concerned at how well you have him trained already." Will says, carding his hands through Winston's fur as the dog settles between them, his head on Will's lap.

 

"Are you concerned for his loyalty?"

 

Will huffs a laugh. "Possibly."

 

"I don't think you have anything to worry about." Hannibal says, reaching to scratch behind Winston's ear. "He simply senses that I am the master of this household, and that I outrank him."

 

Will's fingers slow in Winston's fur. Monet hisses in his mind, putting his dogs in their place. "Vampires intimidate dogs."

 

"We intimidate most animals." Hannibal agrees. "We appear dead to them. It throws them off, makes them wary. Some choose to make themselves small and obey, others simply attack. It is down to the nature of the animal." He watches Will for a minute, sensing his worry before Will can find a way to voice it. "I don't think your dogs would fear you. They would be concerned, perhaps, and more defensive of you, but they would not fear you."

 

A relieved sigh escapes him. "Good. That's- that's good."

 

Hannibal's smile is kind. "You should sleep. Allow your mind to rest and give your subconscious space to work things out."

 

Will bites back a comment about how his mind never really rests, and nods his head, shifting to lie down. Winston lifts his head as Will repositions himself, then sets it down on Will's chest. His tail thumps happily against Will's leg.

 

Hannibal turns the light down, so low that Will wonders how he could still read in it. Exactly how good is a vampire's eyesight? He'll probably find out soon, he figures.

 

He falls asleep to the soft shift of paper and Hannibal's slow, even breaths.




~




His eyes open to raven feathers. He reaches out to touch it automatically, but the ravenstag shifts away from him, trotting further along the bank. They're back at the river, and the sight of it eases a weight off Will's chest.

 

The water is still comparatively calm, enough so that Will steps towards it without fear of getting swept away. The ravenstag stands at his right, pressing sturdily into his side. Will curls a hand into its feathers, and it turns its head to look at him, red eyes glinting curiously.

 

Will looks out at the water. Something in him sways unsteadily, and he clings to the ravenstag to keep himself upright.

 

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do." he says. The ravenstag stares through him, displeased with his lie. He swallows and looks at the ground. The shore is red with blood, viscera scattered about. It doesn't churn his stomach like it used to.

 

The raven lands on his shoulder, letting out a chirp as it nudges its head against his. He smiles and raises a hand to stroke its neck. They are here to guide him, to give him aid. He knows what he must do.

 

More viscera washes onto the bank, and a heart comes to rest in front of Will. He doesn't have to examine it to know it's Monet's. He turns his eyes away and steps over it. The ravenstag moves with him, walking by his side as he takes his first step into the river.

 

The current is stronger than it looks, and Will almost falls, but the ravenstag is there to prop him up. He puts a grateful hand on its neck, then takes another step.

 

They reach the middle of the river, and the ravenstag's presence falls away. Will turns to see where it's going, but finds no trace of it.

 

"Where-" he begins to ask the raven, but he finds it gone, too. He's not sure when it flew off.

 

He's left alone in the river, the water beating at his chest, staining him red and trying to push him under. His heart races as he whirls to locate the ravenstag. It was just here. It wouldn't have just left him. And yet it's nowhere to be found.

 

"Please." Will whispers. The current claws at his thighs. "Please come back."

 

A bird shrieks from the other side of the river. Will's not entirely certain it's the raven, but it gets him moving. Slowly but surely, he wades through the water, towards the opposite bank. Shadows shift in the trees there, unsettling and yet comforting. The river roars.

 

He looks behind him again, hoping to see the ravenstag, but it's Josephine Monet who stands on the shore, her heart in her hands. Blood covers her mouth, spills from her lips. There is murder in her eyes.

 

The river pulls him under.




~




Will jerks awake, his shirt soaked and clinging to his skin. For a moment he thinks it's blood, but then he shifts, and the familiar scent of sweat fills his nose.

 

He pushes himself up on one hand to rest against the headboard. Winston noses at his face, whining concernedly. He'd been standing over Will when he woke, likely woken a while ago by Will's tossing and turning.

 

"I'm fine, buddy." Will murmurs, petting him with a soothing hand. "Just… just a weird dream." He can't quite call it a nightmare. Up until the ravenstag disappeared, Will felt almost calm. Now his skin feels too tight, a prickle of unease at the back of his neck. His throat burns with thirst.

 

The decision is already settled in his chest, heavy and warm, and Will itches to put it into motion.

 

He looks at Hannibal, sound asleep. Will knows he should feel bad about waking him, and yet…

 

"Hannibal." He hesitates, then puts his hand on Hannibal's shoulder, shaking slightly. Hannibal blinks awake quickly, concern bleeding into his features as he peers up at Will.

 

"Will? Are you alright?"

 

"I've decided."

 

Hannibal slowly sits up and turns on the light. He scans Will's face, then asks, "What is it you've decided, Will?"

 

For once, the river is quiet. Will gets the distinct feeling of being in the calm before a storm, of being on a precipice, staring down into dark waters. But instead of unease, anticipation swirls in his gut.


"I want you to turn me into a vampire."

Chapter Text

Hannibal is silent for a few moments, just watching him. Then, "Are you sure?"

"Yes."

"There is no going back from this, Will."

"I know."

Hannibal dips his head, relenting. "Very well. Do you want to do this now?"

That gives Will pause. "I mean- if you'd rather do this in the morning…"

"No, now is fine." Hannibal shifts, crossing his legs in front of him and turning to face Will. "Before we begin, do you have any questions?"

"Um, could you- is there a way you can do it so I won't know if I was actually…" He doesn't want to say it, doesn't want to acknowledge that he might have her blood in his veins.

"Of course." Hannibal says. "I will need to draw blood."

Will nods, mirroring Hannibal's position. Winston settles at his side. "Do whatever you need to do."

Hannibal holds up one hand, and Will watches as claws emerge from his fingertips. He drags one down his palm, slicing it open. Will's focus immediately narrows to the blood that wells up, his mind stuttering to a stop. His throat aches with thirst. He doesn't even notice Hannibal's other hand has moved until a sharp pain slices through the side of his neck. Hannibal's bloody palm immediately covers the cut on Will's neck, pressing just hard enough to create a seal around it. Will's eyes flutter shut.

Hannibal says something, but it's muted to Will, too distant to make out. All he can hear is the rush of blood in his ears, his heart hammering against his ribcage. He imagines he can feel Hannibal's blood moving through his veins, spreading farther with every heartbeat, warm and heavy.

He definitely feels the moment Hannibal's blood reaches his heart. His body jerks as it shocks through his system, and it's only Hannibal's other hand on his arm that keeps him upright.

"You're doing good, Will." Hannibal says, his voice now cutting clear through Will's bloody haze. "Just a while more." Will manages a nod, leaning into the hand on his neck. Hannibal squeezes him slightly, reassuring.

He's not sure how much time passes, but he starts to ache all over. His hands, his jaw, and his eyes hurt the most, and he screws them shut against the pain. Hannibal makes soothing noises, thumb stroking his neck in small, gentle strokes.

The worst of it all is the unbearable, unrelenting thirst that only grows and grows as time goes on. His throat screams for relief, and he can't- he can't take it. It's too much.

He grabs Hannibal's wrist, tearing his hand away from his throat. He opens his eyes to look at the bloody mess of Hannibal's palm, and the light stings his eyes. It's inconsequential to him as he brings Hannibal's hand to his mouth and tastes his blood. It sings on his tongue, and the first swallow soothes his throat like nothing else has in weeks.

After the first taste, he can't stop - doesn't want to stop. He clings to Hannibal's wrist like a lifeline, licking the blood off his palm and sucking at the cut there. Hannibal lets him, murmuring something that Will doesn't pay attention to.

His jaw aches even more now, accompanied by a sharp pain in his gums. He presses his tongue into Hannibal's cut, trying to coax more blood out of it. It's not enough. It's not enough, it's not- it's not enough. He yanks on Hannibal's wrist, pulling it to his mouth and sinking his teeth into it.

His heart stops, mid-beat, and in the silence, he hears Hannibal's gasp, the uptick in his heart rate as Will digs his fangs further into his flesh. Blood gushes into his mouth, and Will's heart starts up again, double-time, as he gulps down Hannibal's blood as fast as it fills his mouth.

Hannibal's other hand finds its way into Will's hair, and Will is only half aware of the small moan that escapes him as Hannibal's fingers wind into his curls. He's lost in the taste of Hannibal's blood, the way it slides down his throat and rests with a hot weight in his belly.

"Will," Hannibal breathes. Will hums in reply, squeezing Hannibal's arm for another pulse of blood. Hannibal's hand drops from his hair to cup his jaw. "Will, look at me."

Will drags his eyes back open and looks up to meet Hannibal's. Red bleeds through the brown of his eyes, striking something in Will that makes him ease off, pulling his fangs out of Hannibal's wrist and instead only pressing his mouth to it. Hannibal runs his thumb over Will's cheek.

"Let me see." He tilts Will's chin up, away from his wrist, and Will lets his mouth hang open, lets Hannibal push at his lips to get a better look at his teeth. Hannibal sighs. "Oh, Will." His thumb runs down one of Will's fangs, catching on the tip and drawing blood. Will closes his mouth around it automatically, pressing his tongue to the wound. Hannibal smiles, revealing sharp fangs of his own. "You are magnificent."

Chapter Text

Will dreams only of the depths of the river, his body suspended between the riverbed and the surface. It's quiet. Peaceful. Will is content to simply float.

The water presses against his mouth, trying to break the seal of his lips. He opens and lets it in. Bitter copper fills his mouth, his stomach, his lungs. Blood surrounds him and fills him, warming him to his core. He's never felt anything sweeter.

He wakes alone in Hannibal's bed, neither Hannibal nor Winston anywhere to be seen. He rubs at his eyes, looking around for his glasses. How much of that was a dream? He remembers waking up after being pulled into the river, but did he really-

Will feels his teeth, but finds only human canines under his thumb. He pushes down the disappointment that bubbles up in his chest - he's not sure he has it in him to ask Hannibal for that again. Heaving a sigh, Will pulls himself out of bed and pushes his glasses onto his face. Maybe Monet's blood will turn him, and he won't have to ask, won't have to chance that in real life, Hannibal might say no.

He should be disturbed by how he aches to think that he'll only ever taste Hannibal's blood in his dreams. But then, he should be disturbed by a lot of things. This is likely the most innocuous of them.

Hannibal is turning the stove off and covering a pan when Will enters the kitchen. Winston is laid at Hannibal's feet, and he lifts his head and cocks his ears at Will, letting out a low whine.

"Ah, I was just about to come wake you." Hannibal says, turning to smile at him. "I've made a protein scramble for breakfast. I hope that is alright."

"That should be fine, yeah." Will says distractedly, holding his hand out for Winston as he approaches. Winston eyes him warily, whining louder as he noses Will's hand. "What's the matter, boy? You feeling okay?"

"He's confused. Last night his master was one thing, now he is another."

Will frowns, stooping to pet his dog. "What do you mean?"

"I told you last night, Will. We appear dead to animals. It will take some time for your dogs to adjust."

"Oh." He feels the side of his neck, finding the raised edge of a scar there. "I- I thought I'd dreamt it."

"What happened last night was very real, Will. You are now a vampire."

Will stands, rubbing at his neck. "Huh. Thought it would feel different."

"Different how?"

Shrugging, Will sits at the island. "I'm not sure. Just… different. When I was turned into a werewolf, I felt sort of… inhuman. Like something had been taken from me, something vital to being a person." He remembers vividly the feeling of it burning away, being consumed by the pain that engulfed his body.

"I wonder if that was caused less so by your lycanthropy, and more by the manner in which it was inflicted upon you."

Will picks at his sling. His shoulder still hurts. Maybe that's why he doesn't feel different; some part of him had thought that being turned into a vampire would have healed his injuries by now. He felt his heart stop last night; it's a little disappointing that his rebirth didn't bring him back fully renewed.

Fingertips ghost over his new scar. Hannibal leans over the counter to cup Will's neck, and Will finds himself leaning into the contact. "We are not miracles, Will. You will still scar, and you will still need time to heal. I'm afraid it's not quite as fresh a start as you may have hoped."

Will lets out a breath, closing his eyes. "That's fine. Would it be strange for me to say I kind of like this scar?"

He can hear the smile in Hannibal's voice. "Not at all."

"So, uh," Will opens his eyes, blinking up at Hannibal. "Now what?"

"Now you're going to need a day or two to get used to your new state of being. I would recommend not having any human visitors until that time, as newly fledged vampires can be… fickle."

"Is that the polite way of saying I might have fits of uncontrollable bloodlust?"

"In terms of your vampirism, you are still growing, Will. In some ways, it is like a second puberty."

"Yeah, turning into a werewolf was like that, too." Will sighs, leaning back. "Hell, what's a fourth puberty?"

"From what I can recall, it isn't too terrible. Most of the inconvenience comes from the cravings."

"How old were you when you were, uh, fledged?"

Hannibal casts his eyes down to look at the counter. "I was twelve. Unfortunately, it was not by my choice."

For a moment, Will sees the moon through the trees, can feel teeth on his chest. Phantom chains dig into his neck, foreign and chilling. Then he blinks, and it all vanishes, leaving him cold. "I'm sorry."

"You need not be. It was a long time ago." Hannibal shakes himself, putting on a reassuring smile as he looks back up at Will. "We should eat before it goes cold."

"Yeah, of course." Will nods, ducking his head to examine the swirls in the marble. Thirst claws at his throat, but it is not his own.