People come and go in Will’s life.
Students, agents, victims, witnesses. They rarely stay, even the ones who are actually alive, and they never leave anything behind. Nothing ever hints at when it will happen. One moment they are here, the next what little space Will has allowed them in his life is empty.
Hannibal Lecter is not like other people.
Hannibal is like a carpenter, chipping away small pieces of Will with a delicate hand, carving out a space for himself in Will’s home and mind. He doesn’t ask for permission, rudeness shrouded in waistcoats and polite knocks at eight a.m., and suddenly Hannibal is everywhere.
Will stares at the skillet in his hand, still shiny and glinting in the sunlight with barely a scratch. His t-shirt is still damp with the sweat from another nightmare and his brain feels numb, but he knows that he doesn’t own something this nice. His own skillet is dull with disuse, probably buried in a drawer with all the utensils he never uses.
He places the skillet onto the dining table, suddenly anxious to give it back, because everything in Will’s house turns a little worn eventually. Just the thought of something that belongs to Hannibal being less than pristine doesn’t sit right with Will.
Two days later Hannibal commandeers his kitchen again, this time for herbed French Toast with mushrooms and lean bacon that tastes like nothing Will has ever sampled. Hannibal takes up more space than should be physically possible, looking completely at home in Will’s messy kitchen with his tie loosened and his sleeves rolled up, and if Will presses himself close to his side he can almost believe that the only temptation he’s giving into is the smell that rises from the various pots and pans.
”You, ah, you forget this last time,“ Will says, pointing to the skillet in Hannibal’s hand.
“How fortunate. Or we would both starve while on our quest for suitable utensils in the depths of your drawers.”
Hannibal deftly flips another piece of bacon and winks at Will, granting him the small mercy to pretend his teasing is the reason for it and not because he noticed the way Will stares a second too long at his forearms. Will can’t quite bring himself to step back, not yet, so he steals a piece of bacon, lingering for a few precious seconds longer. He can’t hold back a small moan at how good it tastes and Hannibal smiles at him, fond and pleased. Will steals another one and feels his heart flutter.
All thoughts about breakfast and the things Will might one day let himself want are forgotten during the whole clusterfuck at Baltimore State Hospital. What Will wants right now is to claw out of his skin and forget about Frederick Chilton’s and Freddie Lounds’s very existence, wishing he could afford to indulge in violent fantasies without losing the remaining tatters of his sanity.
The next time Will steps into his kitchen the skillet is still in his drawer. A painted ceramic pot with fresh garden thyme sits on the windowsill, the delicate green waiting to be plucked and sliced under hands far more skilled at such things than Will’s.
Will tried to stop sleeping to avoid more nightmares about deer stalking him or, worse, more sleepwalking. And now Hannibal is standing right in front of his desk, waking him from yet another disturbing dream. Will stares helplessly at the doctor.
“I’m sorry,” Will rasps tiredly. He feels himself flush and blames it on his embarrassment about sleeping through his appointment and not the unfamiliar warmth spreading in his chest.
“No apology necessary.” There’s no judgement in Hannibal’s eyes, only a slight hint of disappointment that Will is pretty sure exists only in his still spinning head.
It’s a sign of just how strange and fucked up Will’s life is that amidst all the atrocities and violence around him he finds someone who cares enough about him to go and find him when he’s missing.
He’s spared further embarrassment, like dropping to his knees and clinging to Hannibal like the needy thing he is, by Jack, one of now three people who care enough to come for him. Next to Jack Beverly vibrates with urgency, quietly willing them to cut the small talk and hurry.
Hannibal’s hand is a comforting presence at the small of Will’s back, guiding him on their way to the car and the only thing that keeps him upright when Beverly suddenly stops and inhales deeply.
“Mmmh, is that the aftershave with the ship on it? It’s good. I love it, brings back a lot of good memories.”
Will hopes that he’s still sleeping, because a reality in which people keep smelling him would be so deeply disturbing that maybe he should see a professional about it. Of course that small comfort is rudely taken from Will by Hannibal pushing him more firmly, hard enough to almost make him stumble, reminding him that they have a serial killer to catch.
Will falls in love watching Hannibal wrist-deep in a man’s body, smeared with blood.
Something inside Will clicks into place during those few seconds he locks eyes with Hannibal, like he knows him on an intimate, profound level. It’s a connection he can’t place, didn’t even know that it was missing all this time until he feels the void of its absence filled.
Hannibal is in the middle of the same act that makes Will sick every time he sees it happening in his mind, a man holding the decision over life and death literally in the palm of his hand. Only this time Will witnesses an act of selfless graciousness and he watches, grateful not only on behalf of the man on the stretcher but also his own.
The elderly gentleman at the vinotheque is friendly and patient, but eventually he gets that familiar, slightly pinched look around the eyes when Will explains that he needs a bottle to gift to a connoisseur, and no, he isn’t invited to the dinner he needs the wine for and can’t tell what’s on the menu.
Will manages to present the bottle he eventually decides on (‘you know, just give me something expensive and nice’) with a minimum of fuss. Hannibal accepts it, gracious as ever, and by the time Will is greeted by his little bunch of strays he’s almost convinced himself that he left something behind that might please Hannibal.
It suddenly occurs to Will that he likes the thought of pleasing Hannibal. Somewhere along the line it became just as important as not to disappoint Jack. Only this need belongs to Will alone and he tucks it away, guarding it carefully.
All thoughts Will might have entertained about equality are crushed by a small bottle on his bathroom counter.
It sits on a white card, innocent and impossible to miss in its elegant simplicity. The white label says ‘Dries Van Noten by Frédéric Malle’ in plain letters. There are no ships or embellishments of any kind.
Will looks at the bottle for a long time, wondering how it smells. He doesn’t touch it, only nudges it eventually so he can pick up the card. Hannibal’s distinct penmanship on thick white cardboard comes as no surprise, but the novelty of Hannibal acknowledging that this is a gift and not a forgotten convenience still makes Will’s heart beat faster.
It’s extraordinary. It reminds me of you.
It’s almost 1 a.m. by the time the last guest leaves, but Hannibal looks fresh and elegant when he opens the door.
“I’m sorry—” Will starts, but then the words just wilt on his tongue. He spent the last three hours on his porch, debating with his dogs whether it would be prudent to visit at this time, but it never occurred to him to wonder what he would give as a reason.
“Please don’t. I had a feeling that I would see you again today.”
Rather than inviting him into his office Hannibal leads Will upstairs into what seems to be his private sitting room. It looks much like what Will has seen of the rest of the house, sleek and classy, just like its owner.
Hannibal sits in a plush leather chair and crosses his legs like he’s done every time Will came here, a sartorial feast of pressed trousers and tailored waistcoats, for someone so inclined. Will isn’t, but even he can’t ignore the striking image Hannibal presents.
The bottle is covered with Will’s sweaty fingerprints by the time he has fumbled it from the pocket of his jacket. He wipes it nervously on the green cloth before he carefully places it on the coffee table.
“Do you like it?” Hannibal asks, looking perfectly at ease.
“I— I haven’t opened it,” Will confesses, tapping the cap with his finger. He can’t seem to stop fidgeting, so he jams his fists in his pockets. “I don’t understand, what is this?”
“It is whatever you want it to be, Will,” Hannibal says patiently, his voice clipped and precise as if they were discussing just another one of the atrocities that sum up Will’s life.
“It could simply be a gift from a friend. Or it could be much more.” Hannibal’s tone doesn’t change, remains perfectly polite, but there’s suddenly an underlying heat in the way he looks at Will.
It’s that moment in the garage all over again, an eerie kind of deja-vu, only this time Will can’t walk away and hide behind duty and Jack’s demands. There’s no way to run.
Will licks his lips nervously. It’s a habit he can’t seem to break, much like reliving other people’s sick kicks. He wants— Will isn’t entirely sure what he wants or needs, but he’s desperately tired of not having.
“I’d like that,” Will says, tapping the bottle again. It sounds weak even to his own ears, so he clears his throat and tries again. “I want that. I want more.”
There’s no answer. It takes Will a few moments to look directly at Hannibal, but when he finally does there’s nothing but hunger in Hannibal’s eyes, like he’s one of Hannibal’s exotic dishes that he can’t wait to taste.
“Very well.” Hannibal stands and closes a surprisingly strong hand over Will’s on the bottle. “Why don’t we start with this?”
Will loses all sense of time while hot water pounds on his back. It does little to calm his nerves, but at least it eases some of the tension in his neck. He tries not to worry, not to think about why Hannibal ordered him to shower or what exactly it is that he agreed to. Anticipation sits heavy like a fist in his belly. It feels a lot like fear.
Hannibal’s bathroom is a study in decadence, a dream made of chrome and lavishly painted tiles. The plush deep red towel feels like a caress, soothing the tingle of nerves that flickers over Will’s skin.
The waistband of Will’s boxers snaps into place just as he hears the clink of glass on glass. Will startles at how close Hannibal stands, close enough he can feel his breath on his neck. He never even heard him enter.
“Can’t you knock?” Will blurts, turning to face Hannibal. “No— what…”
Maybe it’s silly to expect Hannibal to knock. This is his house and Will agreed to— something. He’s pretty sure he agreed to sex, which is fine. Everyone thinks he’s a freak, but he’s still a guy. He likes sex. It’s that other thing that scares him, that unsettling connection he can’t stop thinking about. Intimacy.
“Maybe a little,” he amends.
“Keep them, then. For now,” Hannibal says, his eyes lingering appreciatively on Will’s almost naked body. And now Will feels most definitely shy, standing in his saggy boxers next to Hannibal who somehow looks perfectly put together even with his shirt a little wrinkled and his sleeves rolled up.
“Don’t be. There is only pleasure here tonight for you,” Hannibal says.
He leans closer and— oh God— he’s smelling Will again in a slow line from clavicle to ear, eyes closed and inhaling deeply. Will swallows hard against the bump of Hannibal’s nose against his throat, followed by a soft brush of lips and a hint of tongue that might only be his imagination but makes him tremble nonetheless.
Will sinks down gratefully onto the stool that seems to appear out of nowhere. The bottle of aftershave sits on the counter and behind it in the large mirror Will stares back at himself with wide eyes.
“Did you mean it? I mean the note,” Will asks, watching Hannibal set out a small bowl, a thick brush and a well-used leather roll. He immediately wants to take it back. It doesn’t need a psychiatrist to catch the neediness in his question.
“I do not joke about matters of importance,” Hannibal says, meeting Will’s eyes in the mirror. It’s easier this way, somehow, so Will lets himself look a little longer. The harsh bathroom light makes the lines in Hannibal’s face stand out sharply, adding something sinister to his appearance that immediately melts away with the pleased smile that curls Hannibal’s lips when he catches Will looking.
“Miss Katz was wrong,” Hannibal says, lathering up soap in the small bowl with brisk strokes of the brush. Tiny specks are spattering Will’s shoulders with the force of it. “A man should never smell like something that he isn’t. You’re anything but ordinary.”
Hannibal steps behind Will and tips his head back until it rests against his abdomen. Will exhales shakily, feeling oddly vulnerable with his throat bared as if in submission, like he’s about to sink into the mind of a killer, but all he feels is the wet brush of lather on his skin.
He watches Hannibal hover over the leather roll for a long moment before he decides on a straight razor with a simple black handle.
Hannibal’s hands are strong and sure on Will’s skin, his long fingers as skilled with a knife as they are with a pen while they stretch his skin for the next stroke. It shouldn’t surprise Will, he’s seen him chop and slice liver with the precision of a surgeon just hours before.
They don’t speak. Will closes his eyes and lets himself enjoy the absence of thought. The only sounds are the rasp of the razor against his skin and Hannibal’s deep inhales. Hannibal’s obvious enjoyment in smelling him is shockingly intimate and demanding. Heat coils in Will’s stomach until he can feel the frantic thud of his heart in his throat, meeting the razor halfway in a bizarre imitation of a kiss.
The sharp pain comes so unexpected Will doesn’t know if his gasp is cause or reaction. His eyes fly open to the image of blood trickling down his throat.
“My apologies,” Hannibal murmurs. “You are quite distracting.” The fingers of his free hand run over Will’s skin, wiping away most of the blood. Will watches Hannibal lick them slowly, his eyes sliding shut for a split second. Will feels dizzy, breathless, ignoring the voice in the back of his head that screams at him to get the hell out of here.
Instead Will stays perfectly still and watches Hannibal’s fingers slide from his lips and return to his throat. This time his fingers graze the cut and Will —god, what is wrong with him— feels himself grow hard.
The rest of the shave goes smoothly without incident. Will watches keenly in the mirror, but Hannibal doesn’t falter, trimming Will’s beard with practiced ease. The cut still bleeds sluggishly, tiny droplets of blood running down Will’s throat much like his cock is slowly leaking into his boxers, making a mess of them. Will is awash in sensation— pleasure, pain, and it’s all his own.
“Do it again,” Will whispers, watching Hannibal behind from half-lidded eyes. The heat that flares in Hannibal’s eyes tells Will that he’s right, that it wasn’t an accident and Hannibal really desires him like this. He tilts his head, baring his throat for both their pleasure.
Hannibal cleans his skin very carefully, almost as if stalling for time or most likely just enjoying the anticipation. This time he stands before Will and it’s just a flick of his wrist that would look careless if this wasn’t Hannibal and Will feels blood trickle over his clavicle. It’s a longer cut, low enough that his shirt will cover it easily, but Will will know that it’s there and remember it for days.
Hannibal bends, slow enough for Will enough to pull away, but Will just closes his eyes and waits. Hannibal’s tongue is rough against his split skin, the tip of it swiping over the cut with a hard stroke followed by the even harder press of fingers. It’s a small pain, nothing like being stabbed or shot, but it’s good, so damn good. Will can’t hold back a moan, craving more of everything.
Hannibal kisses Will with Will’s blood on his tongue and on his hands and Will falls in love for the second time in less than a day.
The aftershave burns against the cuts, but Will barely feels it over the pounding of his heart.
“Isn’t this much better,” Hannibal asks, pressing the words into Will’s skin. Will can’t smell anything over the taste of his own blood, but he doesn’t think that’s what Hannibal is asking.
Maybe he was wrong and Hannibal does like some of his possessions sightly less pristine and a little worn around the edges.