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Dread and Hunger

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Chapter 11: Cortese

            He was able to find a tux with the fastidious aid of Beverly armed with coupons and Alana’s unredeemed gift cards, and he didn’t have to break the bank to do it. Alana relinquished her hold on them with enough ease that he wondered if she’d even bothered to look at how much was on each. There was a Visa one with twenty-five, an Amazon one with one-hundred, and they used a Jamm’s Frozen Yogurt one to grab food between stores.

            Beverly had far more fun picking out the outfits than Will did trying them on.

            “No offense, but I’m pretty sure this is Sugar Daddy territory. A ballet? You’re going to bang him tonight, right?” Beverly eyed one critically and gave a solemn shake of her head. Will uttered a short curse and walked back into the dressing room irritably.

            “No labels,” he reminded her through the door.

            “No labels is a lot like saying Sugar Daddy without having to be judged for it,” she tossed back.

            “It’s not like that. If he was our age and doing this, you wouldn’t think that.”

            “If he was our age, he wouldn’t be buying tickets that cost a couple hundred a piece just to take you out in hopes that he gets laid tonight.”

            Will gave her a particularly dark look when he walked out of the fitting room, and she smiled sweetly.

            “This is the one. Perfect.”

            He managed to shave, and he combed his hair back with a pomade that Beverly assured him wasn’t too greasy. When Hannibal pulled into the parking lot, he was sure he looked utterly stupid, over-dressed and ridiculously corny with his dress shoes and his Ross tie. He stuffed his hands into his pockets so that he didn’t tap them about, and he tried to appear normal, nonchalant. Hannibal stepped out of the car, and the look he gave him made every single self-conscious thought flee his body. He felt decidedly hungry, seeing the way Hannibal looked at him.

            “You look sharp,” Hannibal said. His eyes drank Will in.

            “Beverly picked it out,” Will admitted. Hannibal circled the car and opened the door for him, and his gaze, burgundy in the sunlight, trailed from his shoes all the way to the top of his head, much as it had in the bar of Belle Bleu when Will first told him he’d been let go. It made his hands tingle. It made him want to forget the ballet entirely.

            “She has excellent taste.”

            Once Will was securely tucked into the car, Hannibal drove out of town, to Baltimore. While his normal, everyday attire was never complete without a tie, a pocket square and supple leather dress shoes, Will had to admit that he somehow managed to take that to another level entirely. His black silk tie was sharp against a white so bright it almost hurt, and the satin lapels of his jacket shined. Just underneath, he saw the hints of a three-button vest, and a small chain for what had to be a pocketwatch.

            The line getting in moved quickly, and Will was buffeted gently about by a crowd of chiffon dresses, coiffed hair and hushed murmurings of excitement. No one stared at him, no one pointed and whispered. In a crowd like this, no one knew to look for the oddities among the many faces. When they were led away from the main floor and taken to a private balcony, he cast Hannibal a curious glance, but Hannibal gave nothing away. It wasn’t until they were seated at the very front that he removed his jacket, laid it across the seat beside him, and gave Will a conspiratorial look.

            “Seeing a ballet is an intimate affair. I bought the balcony so that you could enjoy it without the discomfort of having so many bodies pressed too close.”

            “You bought out the balcony,” Will repeated, not quite believing what he was hearing.

            “I wanted you to enjoy this as much as I knew I would,” he said, as though it were an obvious thing to do.

            Will wasn’t quite sure what to say to that. In the back of his head, Beverly gloated.

            When the lights dimmed though, and Hannibal’s fingers drew lazy designs on the back of Will’s tux jacket, all thoughts of sugar daddies and age gaps vanished. The stage lights brightened, the music notes began to hum, and everything else ceased to exist. A coil in his chest tightened, tightened, and with each note struck, with each arched, graceful turn of a dancer, it twisted until he was sure it’d snap. Hannibal continued to drag his fingertips over his back, electric tingles gliding across the fabric to dive beneath his skin.

            Afterwards, they were stopped by a woman in a red sheath dress with a bob whose lines were just severe enough to cut skin. She appraised Will from head to toe, then shifted and jutted a hip out, arms crossed elegantly.

            “You didn’t tell me you were coming, Hannibal, darling,” she said, eyebrow arched.

            “It was a spur of the moment decision, Octavia, my apologies,” he said lightly, a flicker of remorse on his face. His hand that’d ghosted along the small of Will’s back dropped so that he could clasp it behind his back.

            “You didn’t tell me that you had a date, either,” she added, petulantly glancing to Will.

            He tried to make his grimace look like more of a smile, but he wasn’t sure he succeeded. He looked away from them, drawn towards the feel of a pair of eyes fastened anxiously in their direction. A short, portly man in a tux much like Will’s rocked onto the balls of his feet, then back, gripping a program tightly in one hand. Beside him, a much taller, lither man stood, dark eyes mildly curious as he looked from his friend to Will.

            “Allow me to introduce Will Graham, a good friend of mine,” Hannibal said. “Will, this is Mrs. Octavia Wilson, a woman of great taste and refinement.”

            “A pleasure,” Will said, looking away from the man eagerly turned in their direction.

            “Indeed. Has he cooked for you, yet? Hannibal, tell me you’ve cooked for him.”

            “I’ve had the pleasure once or twice,” Hannibal said with a laugh.

            “You know, he used to do these wonderful, lavish dinners where he’d cook almost everything himself –hasn’t done one in months, I’d say.” She sniffed, personally affronted. Out of the corner of his eye, Will saw the short man make his way over, program clenched tightly.

            “You can’t force inspiration, Octavia. It is either there, or it’s not,” Hannibal protested. Will turned away from the people walking over, hoping a silent dismissal would keep them away, but still they moved, just behind him and brimming with an emotion that made desperation crawl onto the tip of his tongue to lurk.

            Don’t mention the Chesapeake Ripper; for the love of god, don’t mention him or the newspaper…let people think I'm normal here...

            “Hannibal, I think that man is attempting to get your attention,” Octavia said, and Hannibal looked over Will’s shoulder to see the person in question, eyebrow quirked. Will glanced over his face, surprised to see a flicker of annoyance.

            “Hello, Franklyn,” he said politely. Will turned and moved out of the way somewhat so that the man could enter into their circle. He rocked from his heels to his toes, prepared to launch himself into it if Will hadn’t given him room.

            “I saw you,” Franklyn said excitedly. “Up in the balcony.”

            “Yes,” Hannibal agreed, and it was the first time Will saw utter distaste flicker across Hannibal’s face before it was gone, snuffed out as though it never were. There was mild relief, though, to know that Franklyn had been staring at Hannibal, not Will.

            “I think he was more interested in you than in watching the performance,” the man behind him said with a short laugh.

            “Oh, Dr. Lecter, where are my manners; this is my friend Tobias. Tobias, this is Dr. Lecter.”

            “A pleasure, doctor,” Tobias said, shaking his hand. His eyes were dark, the chandelier lights above reflecting odd designs in them. Despite his smile, he didn’t sound pleased at all.

            “This is my good friend Will Graham and Mrs. Wilson. Franklyn is…” Hannibal floundered, his hand falling to his side limply. The flicker of distaste lurked in the curve of his jaw. Will had never seen him at a loss for words before, and his gaze locked onto Hannibal's face, equal parts amused and surprised.

            “I’m his patient,” Franklyn said, and Hannibal’s polite smile tensed, frozen.

            “Yes. My patient.” The words were clipped, pronounced with care. Will drummed his fingers on the side of his thigh.

            “I knew you liked the arts like this, Dr. Lecter. I knew it,” Franklyn said.

            “Yes.” Hannibal nodded, and Will looked away from the two of them, wanting to help ease the tension that stifled his breath but not entirely sure how.

Just behind Franklyn’s embarrassing display, his friend Tobias stood, and Will was surprised to see him not looking to Hannibal, but to Will instead. His brows furrowed, trying to place Will somewhere, and Will broke eye contact, swallowing with difficulty.

            “Well, when you do another dinner party, please let me know, Hannibal.” Octavia seemed to sense the same whisper of tension and discomfort that everyone else did. It was palpable, and Will wanted to wipe it from his skin. “Bring your friend Will along, too. I’d love to pick his brain about the rendition done here tonight.”

            Will noted the distinct lack of invitation for Hannibal’s patient.

            “Of course, Octavia. When inspiration strikes, you’ll be the first to know,” Hannibal promised, and Octavia made her getaway with poise. Will caught Hannibal’s eyes, and he consciously pressed his palm flat to his leg to stop the infernal tapping.

            “You have dinner parties?” Franklyn seemed positively delighted.

            “When the mood strikes. If you’ll excuse us, though, Franklyn, we have a previous engagement. Tobias, a pleasure to meet you.”

            “A pleasure indeed,” Tobias said, watching Will.

            Hannibal’s hand brushed against Will’s when they reached the outside, and he clasped it once they were in the car. The coil inside of Will’s chest tightened.

            “I’ve never seen you run from a conversation,” Will said once they were on the interstate.

            “I did no such thing,” Hannibal objected.

            “The inanities of small talk brought you to one word answers,” Will retorted with a snort. His fingers twitched in Hannibal’s grip, and he squeezed tightly in response. “You did mention once that small talk bored you.”

            “I find speaking with patients outside of a professional environment disquieting. Franklyn is…exuberant.”

            “That’s a good way of saying he has a crush on you,” Will snickered.

            “Was it so obvious?” Hannibal sounded almost pained. Personally affronted, more like. Will was enraptured by the way he seemed near-disgusted.

            “I mean, I saw it,” Will said. “Same way I saw you look like you were trying to…to remove your teeth with your bare hands.”

            “Colorful,” Hannibal quipped. “My mind was, actually, in far more pleasant places than that.”

            “Where was it?”

            “I was thinking of how delightful it’d be to remove your clothes.” The coil tightened. The pressure was harsh on his ribs, and Will worried that it’d explode from him.

            They made it all the way to the apartment before it snapped.

            It was the darkness, Will supposed, and the way the small light from the kitchenette accented the planes of Hannibal’s cheeks, jaw and neck. The light reflected in his eyes of jet, and lurking in the depths of them, hunger of an instinctual kind made his heart begin to pound.

            “What is that look you’re giving me, Will?” Hannibal asked quietly. He removed his outer jacket, hanging it on the hook by the door.

            “I guess I was just thinking about how nice it’d be to remove your clothes, too,” Will said, and the spring snapped. Hannibal turned to him, and it couldn’t be said who moved first –Will or Hannibal. Either way, eager hands fumbled, fingers stuttering over vest buttons and shirt buttons and coat buttons, and why were there so many buttons.

            Hannibal pressed him to the door of the apartment, his kisses fervent and dominant. His touch was scalding, and Will couldn’t help the groan of pleasure as Hannibal’s tongue slid along his bottom lip and pushed its way in, hands finally managing to tear the shirt from his shoulders and exposing his skin to the cool air. Hannibal’s shirt didn’t fare so well; there was a small sound of something ripping, and a few buttons scattered to the floor, the noise distant as he let out a breath of laughter and tossed the shirt to the side.

            “That was my favorite shirt,” Hannibal murmured against his lips, hands gliding down to explore his chest. Will nipped at his bottom lip, tugging it.

            “I’ll buy you a new one,” he promised, arching against him.

            Amid the scuffling of shoes, and socks, tripping over the dress slacks abandoned on the floor and falling into one another in the hall, Will found himself poised over Hannibal on the bed, dizzy off of the feel of their skin pressed tight together. He ground his hips down, and the hiss of pleasure was heady, a sense of power and control as he dipped his face low to bite along his chest and stomach.

            “Are you just going to tease me?” Hannibal asked, his shortness of breath belying the sense of impatience. Will grinned against his stomach, pressing a light, barely-there kiss to it.

            “What’s wrong with an appetizer?” he murmured, fingertips gripping Hannibal’s hips to keep them in place. “Don’t you like to tell me that we work up to the main course?”

            “Sometimes even I like to skip to the main course.” His hands slid into Will’s hair, tangling within the curls.

            “Naughty,” he whispered, nipping at the hip bone. “What are we going to do about that?”

            When he reached where he intended to go, Hannibal’s eloquence dropped decidedly as he informed Will just what they should do about that.

-

            Hannibal slept possessively, one hand wrapped around Will’s torso to keep him close. Whenever Will woke, there was always a hazy panic that it was the Ripper, but with each steady, deep inhale and exhale, he’d smell his cologne and his heart would stop slamming into his ribs so angrily. It was Hannibal. Hannibal was safe.

            He liked to lay like that, no matter whose house they ended up at, Hannibal’s arm tossed across his stomach, his eyes glued to the ceiling. He liked to sync his breathing with the man beside him, deep, full inhales with slow, lazy exhales, a pause between like he had all of the time in the world. It made the mirrors in his mind stop reflecting the world around him, as Hannibal had put it. It made things turn into a lax, peaceful entropy.

            He always knew when Hannibal woke because his grip would tighten reflexively, pulling him an inch or so closer until the strength of the half-asleep ultimately failed and Hannibal had to resort to moving himself over so that he could nuzzle his neck with lazy, half-hearted kisses. His five o’clock shadow always itched across his skin, tickling.

            This time though, his mouth paused at the two cuts at his neck, and he seemed to not know what to do about them. His mouth frowned around them, puzzled.

            “I saw these before,” he murmured, rocks in his throat. “They aren’t shaving cuts.”

            “Good morning,” Will said evasively.

            “I thought to ask yesterday, but you looked so sharp and pleased in your tux that I didn’t want to spoil it.”

            “Don’t spoil it now; I’m having a good morning.”

            “Are you? I’m glad.” He pressed another kiss to the marred skin, this one pointed.

            “I had a dream we made omelets. I think I even have eggs in the fridge.”

            “What put those cuts to your skin so close to your jugular?” Hannibal propped himself up with his elbow, sliding his hand from Will’s side to his heartbeat. It jerked irregularly against his palm, another palpitation. He’d never gone to the doctor for it.

            “A knife.”

            “Who held the knife?”

            “Is that even a question?” Will snapped. He sat up and turned, letting his bare feet press to the shabby carpet. The silence of the steady morning was ruined. Hannibal slid the pads of his fingers along his back, creating goosebumps along his bare skin.

            “Your admirer.”

            “My admirer,” Will agreed miserably. Quietly.

            “He was close enough to kiss,” Hannibal commented, and Will balked at the statement.

            “It doesn’t matter.”

            “Did you intend to tell someone the Chesapeake Ripper found his way to you again?” A pause. “Does Jack Crawford know?”

            “No. It’s fine.”

            “Will, there are many things I’m more than content to let slide between us because we are adults and have our own, separate and distinct lives, but if you’re going to tell me a lie, make it a better one.”

            He kissed Will’s back to soften the sting of his words. Will nodded, accepting the rebuke, refusing to apologize for it. Hannibal slid out of bed, found his underwear on the floor, then made his way to the door, either to shower or cook breakfast, Will wasn’t sure. It didn’t open, though, and he looked over when he didn’t leave, confused.

            He’d forgotten about the note.

            Hannibal plucked it from the door, and the tack fell to the carpet soundlessly. Will couldn’t see his face, but he could imagine the expression –anger? Confusion? Distrust? He’d thought about taking it from the door many, many times, but each time he’d stopped, fingers pausing at the line that’d been dragged under the looping cursive of ache. It’d dug in so hard it’d ripped the fibers of the paper, and Will wondered at it. His pinky would dip into the torn part of the paper, and he’d leave it for another day, the stain of the ink deep beneath the layers of his skin like a bad tattoo.

            “Interesting,” Hannibal said, and his tone gave nothing away. Will stared at his back, bare and taut with muscle, a sliver of unease uncurling inside of him.

            “It’s escalating,” he said, like that could somehow explain everything that was happening to him.

            “These things do,” Hannibal agreed. He glanced back to Will, note held out like a sordid offering.

            “I don’t want it,” he said.

            Hannibal was out of the door before he said, “Of course you do.”