“I don’t know whether to be concerned or impressed by your performance tonight,” Hannibal said, as they pulled away from the curb.
Will glanced at him. “You’re impressed.”
“You’ve certainly given them something to talk about.”
“Me? You’re the one letting them think I’ve got you wrapped around my little finger.”
“My part was no more of a stretch than yours.”
“That thing you played for me—“
“Piece,” Hannibal said firmly. “Not thing, please.”
“Piece, sorry. When did you write that?”
“I’ve been working on it since a few weeks after we met. It’s not finished.”
“Will it ever be?”
“Perhaps not. Perhaps it will evolve with you.”
“Is that what I’m doing? Feels like devolving or revolving a lot of the time.”
“You’ve seemed happier recently. You looked happy tonight,” Hannibal said.
“Thanks to you.”
“I don’t think so. Perhaps thanks to your decision to indulge in something that you would normally deny yourself.”
“I wasn’t myself tonight,” Will said quietly.
“You were a possible aspect of yourself.”
“Would you rather have me like that?”
“I like you as you are, Will.”
“That’s not really an answer.”
“Then I will admit I wouldn’t mind seeing you from that angle again at some point. It has a certain appeal. But not now. I think the rest of the evening will require a more forthright attitude than the man I spent the evening with could muster.”
“You want to go back to your place?”
Hannibal smiled. “Yes. Do you?”
They reached Hannibal’s house, and Will managed to let him get his coat off before he pressed him up against the closed door and kissed him.
“Coffee,” Hannibal mumbled into Will’s mouth.
“In the morning,” Will said. “Show me your bedroom.”
His sheets were a deep, almost violet red.
Will pulled his bow tie loose. “Should I be worried about the color you picked for me? I’m going to look like I’m lying in a pool of blood.”
“It was that or dark blue. In the end, I decided that the night sky could not stand up to such a star.”
“Even from you that sounds a little cheesy.”
“But you’re smiling.” Hannibal stepped close and brushed his thumb along Will’s bottom lip. “And so my purpose has been accomplished.”
Will bit lightly at his thumb to keep his smile from growing any wider. “Still cheesy. Did you get me anything tonight?”
“Of course. But you’ll have to wait. This isn’t the time.” He kissed Will around his thumb and then stepped back. “Take off your shoes and socks, if you would, and nothing else. I’ll be back in a moment.”
“Got a plan?”
Shoes and socks gone, Will laid himself out on Hannibal’s sheets, the color of venous blood.
Hannibal stopped in the doorway. “Don’t move,” he said.
Will stretched, arms up over his head, back arched, blatantly showing off. He settled on his side. “Wasn’t planning on it,” he said.
Hannibal started to undress with neat, precise movements. Bow tie folded and set on his dresser, jacket hung up in the closet. He faced Will as he unbuttoned his shirt and toed out of his shoes.
“I don’t get to help?” Will said.
“No. Stay just as you are.”
“You got bossy in a hurry. Sure you don’t want to wait for the afternoon light tomorrow?”
“What makes you think I’ll let you out of bed before then?”
“I’ll have to go home and let the dogs out in the morning so they don’t piss on the floor.” Hannibal sent him an amused look, and Will shrugged. “Sorry. You knew what you were getting.”
“Yes, I did.”
Hannibal stripped for him, piece by piece, steady and unhurried, until he stood naked beside the bed. Will stared. The more he stared, the more Hannibal’s silent amusement grew.
“I can see you smirking,” Will said.
“You’re not looking at my face.”
“I don’t need to.”
Hannibal stepped closer. “A leap of intuition?”
Will slid a hand up the outside of his thigh, over his hip, across his stomach. “Can I suck your cock?”
“Not at the moment. I had a plan, you remember.”
Hannibal climbed onto the bed and knelt near Will’s feet, hands braced on the mattress, watching him. The muscles in his shoulders bunched and shifted, and his thighs flexed, and Will closed his eyes for a second.
“When do we get to the part of this where I get to touch you?” he said.
“Soon, I promise.” Hannibal reached for something off the side of the bed and held it up. “Do you know what these are?”
The scissors Hannibal held were bent at an angle, and the tips were rounded. Will opened his mouth and then closed it again. “Trauma shears,” he said, and swallowed.
“Yes. Used to cut clothing off of patients in the ER. They’ll cut through nearly anything.”
“You— But you’re not going to— You can’t.”
“I think I can,” Hannibal said, voice low. He ran a hand up Will’s calf to his knee. “It’s all mine, isn’t it? Everything you’re wearing tonight, bought and paid for.”
Will swallowed again and felt his cock stir. He never should’ve told Hannibal about that fantasy. Should’ve kept it in his head where it belonged.
“Still here,” he said faintly, eyes fixed on the shears.
“You didn’t even wear your watch,” Hannibal said.
“It didn’t really stand up to the tux.”
“I’ll get you one that does.”
Will let his head fall back on the pillows and let out a shaky breath. “Yeah?”
“Of course.” Hannibal closed a hand around his ankle and rubbed his thumb over the knob of bone there, a strangely intimate touch. “You didn’t bring your wallet either. Were you expecting me to provide for you?”
“It’s in my bag.” He turned away, face heating. That was exactly what he’d expected. “I didn’t think you’d let me pay for anything.”
“And you were quite right. It’s my privilege and my pleasure to give you what you need.”
“And to take it away again?”
Hannibal smiled at him, eyes bright, a hint of teeth. “Don’t worry. I’ll replace anything I ruin.”
“Are you really going to—” Will could hear the longing in his own voice, and he cut himself him off fast. Not fast enough.
Hannibal crawled up his body and dipped his head to speak into his ear. “I am really going to cut this very expensive custom tailored tuxedo off of your body and leave it lying in pieces while I fuck you in its mortal remains, yes.”
Will moaned through his teeth and grabbed at his shoulders. “Hannibal. God.”
“You’re hard already just at the thought of it, aren’t you?” Hannibal murmured. “You know every person you met tonight saw you as mine, don’t you? A possession, just like the things I’ve bought for you. And I’m quite sure none of them believed you bought what you’re wearing on a teacher’s salary.”
Will’s cock ached, and he moved restlessly against the sheets, unable to keep still. “Do it if you’re going to,” he got out.
Hannibal tugged his head back by the hair and kissed the center of his throat. “The tips are blunt and unlikely to cut skin. You needn’t worry about keeping still. Since I can see that’s a problem for you.”
Will swore under his breath as Hannibal moved back down his body. He lifted his head to watch.
Hannibal ran the shears up the center of the right leg. The fabric gaped in their wake, jagged, his skin pale underneath. Up over the knee, the thigh, straight up and through the the waistband of both pants and underwear.
Cooler air against his heated skin made him shiver. Hannibal used the tip of the shears to flip aside the panel of ruined cloth and expose him. Will grabbed hold of the sheets, breath coming short and quick. His cock lay in a thick, hard curve against his lower stomach, already wet and sticky at the tip.
Hannibal bent down, on all fours over him, like something wild. Something hunting him through the woods. Or waiting for its chance, asleep in a tree. He bent so low his nose almost touched Will’s cock and breathed in, scenting him.
Will’s cock jerked, and he swallowed, choked on air thickened with heat and desire. “Hannibal,” he said.
Hannibal looked up at him. His eyes were half-closed and so dark, barely recognizable. “Is there something you want?” he asked.
The words formed in his mind, and he let them out, knew they were right without knowing why. “Do I smell good?”
“Delicious,” Hannibal said. He took a slow breath and seemed to shake himself a little. He gripped the shears and continued his cut, now down the other side, all the way to the bottom, until the pants and underwear lay in rags, entirely free of Will’s body.
Hannibal knelt back and looked him over.
“Is this what you were going for?” Will said, voice unsteady. He still hadn’t moved, didn’t quite dare. “Am I aesthetically pleasing enough for you now?”
“You always were,” Hannibal said. “Now you are art.”
Will wanted to push him, make him do something, and he wanted to lie still and have Hannibal look at him like that forever.
A few thick seconds passed, and then Hannibal moved up his body again. He cut a jagged, diagonal slice across the front of the shirt and through the shoulder of the jacket, enough to bare Will’s chest, enough to ruin both of them and still leave him trapped inside them, cufflinks and all.
“You are perfect,” Hannibal told him, low and fierce. “You should not be possible.”
Hannibal looked at him and through him, and his hands lay on Will’s skin like they had become a part of him. Will took a slow breath, afraid to break the moment and more afraid not to.
“You’re not the first person to tell me I’m impossible,” he said.
Hannibal didn’t seem to register the words for a second, and then he dipped his head slightly, a faint smile growing on his mouth. His expression eased into something more human. For the moment, Will was glad of it.
“I can certainly see why,” Hannibal said. He reached over Will to his bedside table and came back with a condom and a glass jar. “You have done this before?”
“Not recently, but yeah.”
“I’ll be careful.”
“Don’t be too careful.”
Hannibal raised his eyebrows, but took him at his word. He started with two fingers, slicked up so generously that it dripped down between Will’s cheeks. Down onto the remains of the tux to ruin it more thoroughly.
Will imagined the stain and the creases pressed into by their bodies. He pushed himself down onto Hannibal’s fingers and sucked in a tight breath at the burn and stretch of it.
“Perhaps next time I’ll have you keep it all on,” Hannibal said. “Pull your pants down and have you like that.”
He slid his fingers deep and twisted them, rubbed the pad of his middle finger against Will’s prostate, a light tease that made Will squirm helplessly for more.
“Not very elegant,” Will said, between his teeth. It was all he could do not to whine like a dog. It’d been so long.
“You are forcing me to cultivate an appreciation for the less than elegant. What did you think of the men’s room at the opera? The stalls are fairly large.”
“I think you’re bluffing. There’s less than elegant and then there’s sordid, oh…” He reached up and grabbed at the headboard as Hannibal thrust his fingers in hard. “Please, that’s enough. Fuck me.”
“I don’t know,” Hannibal said, tone musing and far too calm. He wiped his fingers on Will’s jacket and tore open the condom. “It would be empty during the performance, and one can still hear reasonably well. It’s not ideal, of course, but the idea of being inside you while I listen has some appeal. Do you think you’d enjoy talking to your new friends after that? Freshly fucked, with come drying on your skin. I would most certainly be able to smell that.”
Will bit at his knuckles and pressed a hand over his eyes. “I’d let you. God. You know I would. Please.”
Hannibal smiled down at him, broad and pleased and predatory. He pushed Will’s legs up and back, tilted his hips, and started to press inside.
The room dimmed momentarily as Will found himself unable to focus on anything but the perfect, slick invasion. He grabbed at the headboard again, at the sheets, at anything that might afford him some purchase while his mind slid off into static.
The stretch was almost too much. Hannibal’s cock was thicker than he’d had even when he did this on a semi-regular basis. More than ten years ago. It left him struggling to relax around it, clenching every few seconds, forcing himself to let up again as Hannibal pushed in another inch.
“Breathe,” Hannibal told him.
Will tried, but the further Hannibal got inside him, the less room there seemed to be for anything else, including air. “Just don’t stop,” he said. “I’m fine, I promise. Just don’t stop.”
Hannibal watched him for a moment. “Tell me if you change your mind.”
The final few inches were a steady, hot press, and he felt his body open up inexorably, knees sliding against Hannibal’s sides, stretched and caught and held. Hannibal drew back almost immediately and started in again, a little faster. Will could feel him inside, everywhere.
“You can do it harder,” he said.
Hannibal didn’t listen, just curled over him and kept his thrusts slow and steady. Will’s body relaxed by degrees. Some of the ache faded. Not all. He’d feel it tomorrow, and the thought of that made him smile.
“Better?” Hannibal asked.
“Good. Perfect. You fuck like a dream. God, sorry. It’s hard to— I should shut up.”
Hannibal bent to kiss him, eyes amused and fond. “Sexual intimacy is meant to encourage the dismantling of barriers.”
“Not the ones between—Fuck—thought and speech, do that again, harder.”
Hannibal pushed in hard, hit the angle perfectly, and Will let himself moan out loud. His head fell back against the pillow, and he stared up at the ceiling, mouth open, just feeling the way Hannibal moved inside him, over him, the way their skin met, Hannibal’s tight grip on his hip and the back of one thigh.
The thrusts came faster, with enough force to push him up the bed and push sounds from his throat that he hadn’t meant to make. Hannibal’s fingers dug into him with each one, and he let himself keep making them, let himself feel without dignity or reservation or fear.
Hannibal took his wrist and pulled his hand down from the headboard. “Touch yourself,” he said. His face was drawn, sheened with sweat, tendons in his neck standing out under his skin.
“Finish first,” Will said. He shook off Hannibal’s hand and reached up to touch his face instead. “Stop holding back.”
Hannibal laughed, a sharp, strained sound. His next thrust was harder, the next harder still. He shoved Will’s leg up and back, opened him up, pinned him down hard with a hand on his chest, just below his throat.
“All yours,” Will told him, though with enough of his breath knocked from his lungs that he barely heard the words himself.
Hannibal rode him with bared teeth and savagery, utterly silent when he came. His nails sank into Will’s thigh with a spasm of clenched muscles and a flare of pain. Will drew him close, legs around him, hand on the back of his head. He could feel Hannibal’s labored breath as if it were his own.
Hannibal moved enough to pull out and tie off the condom. When Will shifted to bring him closer again, Hannibal’s stomach slid along his cock, and Will pushed up into the contact with a low sound.
“Let me,” Hannibal said, and started to move down.
Will caught him by the back of the neck. “Not yet. This is good. You feel good. Just kiss me.”
They lay together, Hannibal’s mouth on his, on his throat and under his jaw. Slow kisses and the friction of Hannibal’s lean stomach against his cock, winding him tighter. For a while, that was all he wanted. It felt too good to push for an ending, and he worked his hips in lazy thrusts, bit and sucked at Hannibal’s lower lip until he felt it go tender and hot against his tongue.
Will rolled them over and pushed himself up, legs splayed over Hannibal’s hips, shirt and jacket still hanging off of him. He looked down at Hannibal and stroked himself once.
“Talk to me,” he said.
Hannibal looked up him with something like reverence and touched his thigh, his hip, his wrist. “I truly don’t know what to say.”
“That’s not a bad start.”
“May I touch you?”
Will nodded, and Hannibal rand both hands up his thighs and wrapped one hand around his cock, below Will’s. A little darker than his own hand, nails tinged with red.
Hannibal followed his gaze. “It’s yours, I’m afraid,” he said softly. “The back of your thigh. You must have felt it.”
“I can feel it right now. It’s good. You’re good.”
“You sound very sure about that.”
Hannibal started to stroke him, and Will let his own hand fall away. He leaned back and closed his eyes.
“Good is relative. I’m sure you have secrets you haven’t told me yet.” Images slid behind his eyes and fit together with a sound like fat crackling in a fire. “I’m sure you ate that man. Half revenge and half the hope of reclaiming some part of your family.”
Hannibal didn’t say a word, but his fingers dug into Will’s thigh until he was in danger of breaking the skin again, and he stroked Will faster. Will could feel his eyes on him.
“That’s why you identified so strongly with Abigail. Have you ever met anyone else who’d eaten human flesh? Even if she didn’t mean to, it must’ve been extraordinary for you.”
“Will…” Hannibal sounded choked, as if he were the one seconds away from coming. His hand moved in a blur on Will’s cock.
Will breathed hard through his nose. He braced his hands behind him on Hannibal’s thighs and thrust up, straining. “Little tighter…”
Hannibal tightened his grip and twisted. His thumb slid over the head of Will’s cock, and Will came, arched like a bow in his hands. He stared down at the streaks of white across Hannibal’s chest and stomach. Hannibal pulled him down and held him close. He buried his face in the curve of Will’s neck and breathed him in.
The air was still and thick around them. Will felt his mind contracting back into his body, as an engine contracted when it cooled. “Tissues,” he mumbled.
“One moment.” Hannibal slid out from under him and returned with a damp cloth. He wiped at Will’s skin and then, even more cursorily, at his own.
“I thought you’d make us shower for sure.” Will stretched out and looked up at him.
“Some things one doesn’t wish to clean away immediately.”
Hannibal climbed back in with him and pulled off the remnants of Will’s shirt and jacket. They fitted themselves together, Will on his back and Hannibal against his side, his head on Will’s shoulder, arm curled over his stomach.
Will yawned and splayed his hand out across Hannibal’s back. He traced the ridges of Hannibal’s spine. A thought drifted into his mind. He let it out into the world without examination.
“Would you take me to Venice if I asked you to?”
“You need only tell me when,” Hannibal said. “A week or two of warning so that I may clear my schedule would be ideal.”
“Just like that?” Will slid a hand through Hannibal’s hair and tugged lightly until he looked up. “Really?”
He took Will’s hand and kissed the inside of his wrist. “The rain will start in earnest in a month or so. How long would you want to stay?”
Forever, Will thought, and sighed. “I’ll get back to you on that.”
“After you weigh your conscience against your heart? Perhaps it would help you to know that I won’t consider anything less than two weeks. A month would be preferable.”
“I have at least that much vacation time built up. But Jack.”
“Jack will never need you any less. If you wait until the flood subsides, you will be treading water forever. Or you will be subsumed entirely.”
Will let himself imagine the two of them in bed somewhere with tall windows and rain on the glass, water lapping against the side of their building. No responsibilities, no chance of a call from work. Wine and Hannibal’s cooking and the opportunity to be someone he wasn’t.
“Mid-November,” he said. “Is that okay?”
“Perfect. Shall we stay through Christmas?”
A month and a half. Fuck it. He’d use up sick days if he had to. “Yeah. We can do that.”
“And New Year’s?”
“It’s only a few more days.”
Hannibal kissed his chest. His mouth curved against Will skin. “If we are to stay so long, it seems a pity to miss Carnival.”
“Now you’re pushing it.”
Hannibal laughed quietly. “Perhaps next year,” he said.
Will slid his fingers through Hannibal’s fine, straight hair and watched the shadows move on the ceiling, like the reflection of water two stories below. His eyes closed on their own, and he slept.
Will woke to the smell of coffee. Pale light came through the curtains. He could hear Hannibal moving down in the kitchen. A mug sat on the bedside table. He swung his legs off the bed and picked it up. For a moment, he just breathed it in, steam and warmth and the aroma, almost as good as he knew the taste would be.
His eyes caught on a small box that had sat, hidden, behind the mug. Gray velvet, curved on the top. The sort of box that a ring might come in. It hadn’t been there the night before. He took a deliberate sip of coffee and then another before he set the mug down.
Hannibal had said he’d gotten him something. That he’d have to wait for it. He reached for the box and opened it.
The ring was silver in color. Knowing Hannibal, it was more likely platinum or white gold than sterling. Three strips of white cut across the top, perpendicular to the band. He touched one and found it warm. Not stone. Bone or ivory. He twisted it so the inside caught the light and saw the inscription.
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura
He didn’t need to know Italian to recognize the beginning of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself in a dark wood, for the straight path had been lost.
It nearly made Will laugh. He felt the dark wood all around him, the brush of leaves and blind eyes watching him from the shadows, had felt it almost from the moment they’d met. He had no desire to find his way out. To know that Hannibal felt the same was more than he would ever have thought to ask for.
A matching chain lay coiled in a depression at the back of the box. He’d need it. From nitrile gloves to fish guts to dog baths, his life was not well suited to the constant presence of a ring on his finger.
For now, it fit perfectly, incongruously plain for one of Hannibal’s gifts. Almost, but not quite, something he might have chosen for himself.