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The silence is oppressive. Will is used to silences with Hannibal – normally it is something he very much enjoys. The times that they simply regard each other, contemplating the shark teeth and Cheshire cats in their dark moments of quiet, are some of the most peaceful in his life. He would not trade them for a single thing.

But this is different. This silence is angry, bristling like a cat covered in static. Will's cheeks are tacky with tears, and he can feel more sitting behind his closed lids. He hates that he's been crying, mostly because Hannibal thinks it manipulative of him to do so. Will is capable of holding back tears, so when he lets them show, it is meant to be public. When Will cries, it is because he must tug on a place inside of Hannibal that cannot be reached with words, soft touches, or silences.

He should have said 'Yes'. He should have just fucking said 'Yes'. The small, velveteen black box sits in the cup holder between their elbows, discarded like an old gum wrapper. Will wants to open it and look at the ring – he hadn't gotten a chance before. He'd folded his fingers around Hannibal's and shaken his head, whispering 'No, no', with something like panic.

Even now, an hour into the drive to their destination, he can't explain why. He has known and loved Hannibal for years. Together they have devastated Baltimore, Florence, Vienna, and Havana, leaving a stream of blood and viscera in their wake that would make Death himself tremble.

He wants to look at Hannibal but cannot force himself to. Instead, he opens his eyes and lets them pass over street lights and trees, quiet and dark house windows and empty lawns. The picture of suburbia, spread out and fine. They're in America once more, invited there by a man claiming to be the Ripper, who'd had to be put in his place. There is a gallery in Annapolis that will see its new piece of art there tomorrow morning.

They're driving South, towards Wolf Trap. Then they pass it, and Will doesn't ask where they're going. Hannibal will drive until he is tired, or until he reaches wherever he has decided they will go. If anyone recognizes their touch on the destroyed vessel of the man who had dared to claim Hannibal's title, they will be long-gone and in the wind before they are caught. Will trusts Hannibal in this, as he always has.

In the backseat sits a cooler of the dead man's lungs. Hannibal had taken those by design, and then ripped out the man's heart after Will rejected his ring. Will understands the symbolism behind it; the meaning. He thinks of the flayed man in the Palermo and swallows, his throat feeling tight.

The hours tick by, passing eleven at night, then midnight, then one in the morning, then approaching two. "You're angry with me," he murmurs, as the signs for D.C. stop and he starts to see signposts for Richmond. Then Roanoke.

Hannibal lets out a quiet hum, his fingers tight on the steering wheel. Will turns his head so he's staring out of the windshield, so he can see Hannibal in his periphery. He wonders how many ways Hannibal has thought about killing him in the hours of silence.

"I could never be angry with you, my dear," Hannibal replies. Will smiles down at his lap and puts a hand over his stomach, biting his lower lip. The scar still hurts when he thinks about it.

"Wounded, then," Will says quietly. "I have wounded you to the bone."

Hannibal doesn't respond. Will lifts his head when he hears the turn signal start to click. They turn off the single-lane road and head down a long, forested driveway. There is a cabin up ahead, brightly lit and welcoming.

He sits up straighter when Hannibal pulls up outside of the front door and turns off the engine. He gets out of the car and Will follows Hannibal into the cabin. It opens at his touch, and Will heaves a sigh when he sees that the inside of the cabin is decorated for welcome. There is a large dining table, a fireplace, an amply stocked kitchen with glasses and pans hanging from a shelf that separates the kitchen area and the living space. There are candles, unlit, and a dinner setting for two.

"When did you do all this?" Will asks. There are no signs of the original owners of the cabin. Will suspects they are in the fridge, or the pantry, depending on their parts.

"Yesterday," Hannibal says, and Will hums. Hannibal takes their bags and sets them down in the bedroom. Will remains like a shadow at the door, arms folded across his chest, biting his lower lip. His chest is warm and tight, affectionate and guilty all at once.

Hannibal turns to regard him, and Will meets his eyes. Hannibal looks like he's trying his best to hide his emotions, but since that fateful night in Baltimore when he gutted Will, Will has never had trouble reading him. He sees Hannibal, in all his vulnerability and all of his strength.

He approaches Hannibal like one might approach a snarling wolf, demure and slow, and thinks it a small miracle that Hannibal allows him close at all. He touches Hannibal's chest, able to feel his heartbeat steady and strong under his hand.

"I'm sorry this didn't go as you planned," he says.

At that, Hannibal manages a weak smile. "I have never been able to entirely predict you," he says, almost fondly. Will smiles, and Hannibal cups his face as he has so often before, and Will leans up for a kiss. It's short and chaste and Will feels that horrible, guilty ache clench in his chest when Hannibal pulls away. "Let me run a bath for you."

Will nods, looking down at his hands. They're dry, but red. "Alright."

Hannibal nods, and disappears into the master bathroom. Will sighs and undoes his suit jacket, shrugging it off his shoulders to reveal his bloodstained shirt. He loosens and removes his tie and closes his eyes when he hears the water running.

He winces, pressing both hands over his face, and heaves a shuddering breath. "God damnit," he hisses, fighting back a fresh wave of sorrow.

Hannibal returns, and Will tilts his head towards him to see him in his periphery. Hannibal slides up to his back and runs his hands down Will's arms until he cups Will's shaking hands. Will sighs, closing his eyes when he feels Hannibal's lips on his neck. "I'll make dinner," he murmurs, and Will shivers and nods.

He goes to the bathroom and lets Hannibal leave him and go to the kitchen. The kitchen is Hannibal's sanctuary, and Will is eager to allow him to distract himself with the meal. He undresses and climbs into the bath, choking on another broken sound as he slides into the warm water. His head is pounding, aching like he used to get with his migraines before he fled to Hannibal and vowed to remain at his side forever.

His thoughts are a dark swirl as he absently rubs a wet washcloth down his arms. How does a relationship stand after something like this? How can Will swear his love and loyalty with one breath, when in the same one he denies the next natural step to that love? Marriage is something he never considered possible – but knowing Hannibal as he does, he should have seen this coming. He should have known that Hannibal would want Will to wear as many visible marks as society can allow him to put on Will.

He closes his eyes, trying to find comfort and clarity in the warm water. He rakes his wet hands through his hair and watches as the water turns pink from the blood staining his skin. He had held the copycat as Hannibal sliced him open, bathed in his blood and thought that red was such a wonderful color on both of them, dark and fresh. He has grown to adore the scent of blood, find beauty in the way it arcs through the air when the jugular is severed.

He looks at his hands, clenches his fingers and grits his teeth.

Will waits until he can smell the scent of cooking meat, and his fingers are pruned and his skin is flushed with warmth. He gets out of the bath and drains the pink water, dries himself off, and dresses himself in lounge pants and a t-shirt. Soft, intimate things that he knows will appeal to Hannibal's better nature.

Hannibal has lit a fire for them, and the candles, and dimmed the lights. The glow of the firelight is friendly and warm, and as Will emerges he shivers, seeking the heat of the fire. Hannibal appears from the kitchen soon after, two plates in his hands. The wine has already been poured.

Will stands and takes his place at Hannibal's side, sitting down to eat. The ring box sits on the corner of the table between them, a gleaming reminder of Will's betrayal.

The lungs splay across the plates, grey and shining, coupled with green beans and rice. The heart sits as the centerpiece, still raw.

Will swallows and starts to eat as Hannibal does. The quiet here, at least, is more familiar. He hums in appreciation at the meal. "Delicious as always," he says, eager to break the silence for the first time since he has known Hannibal.

Hannibal hums, swallowing his own bite and washing it down with a sip of the dark wine. "There are some things, at least, that will always remain the same," he replies, too coolly, too measured. Will swallows when he hears just how heartbroken Hannibal is.

"I'm sorry," he murmurs, his voice hoarse like he has been screaming it all night. Maybe he has. "I'm just…not ready."

"I understand, Will," Hannibal replies. "We move through this life at our own pace. I have no desire to rush you."

Will closes his eyes. The way Hannibal is talking sets his teeth on edge and he swallows back another harsh burn of tears. "Please don't pull away from me," he says, as desperate as he had been the night he'd brought Abel Gideon to Hannibal's home, out of his mind and frantic.

"I won't," Hannibal says quietly. "If you promise to do the same."

Will heaves a tired sigh. He nods. "I'd never."

"Good."

They continue to eat in silence. It's less like static and more like stasis, now. Will wants to pace the room, throw something, react. But he forces himself to maintain his decorum and swallow the meal past the anger and the hurt sitting in the base of this throat.

His head is throbbing. When the meal is done, Hannibal clears the plates and Will sits on the brick step that surrounds the fireplace. The heat of the fire burns his exposed skin and the backs of his arms, warms him pleasantly. He watches Hannibal through the gap between the half-wall and the hanging pans and glasses.

He knows Hannibal can feel his gaze, but Hannibal doesn't appear to react or move any differently than he normally does. The act of observing changes the behavior of the observed. Will knows that Hannibal is acting as though nothing is wrong, either because of pride, or because he genuinely doesn't want Will to be distressed over causing Hannibal pain.

Will is more inclined to think the former.

He sits in front of the fire until he physically can't stand the heat anymore. He rises to his feet and goes to retrieve his glass of wine, lifting it to take a sip. Before his lips touch the rim of the glass, he hears a knock at the door.

He frowns, looking over to it. The door is large and a solid piece of dark oak, carved on the inside in a pattern meant to vaguely resemble a medieval church door. He sets the wine glass down when the knock comes again, polite but insistent.

"It's almost three in the morning," he murmurs, as Hannibal prowls into view on the other side of the dining table. It is uncharacteristic of Hannibal to choose victims or hiding places for them that might be discovered or come under scrutiny too soon. Unless someone in the police department tracked them here – and he finds that very unlikely – he cannot think of a single reasonable explanation for someone to be calling on this house.

Hannibal presses his lips together. He reaches over to the knife block on the kitchen counter and pulls one out. "Hannibal," Will says, scolding. He lifts a hand, advising caution, and approaches the door as the knock comes again. He looks over his shoulder to ensure that Hannibal isn't going to come rushing through it wielding a knife – Hannibal is, unfortunately, prone to rash thinking when he's feeling emotional – and opens the door.

A girl is standing there, blonde, her face shadowed. Will squints up at the porch light, huffing when he sees that it isn't coming on. "Good morning," he says cordially, and feels Hannibal step up behind him, feels his heat at his shoulder.

The girl doesn't respond right away. Then; "Is Katherine here?"

Will frowns and shakes his head. "No, sorry," he says. "I think you have the wrong house."

The girl tilts her head to one side.

"Are you sure?" she asks.

Will feels Hannibal shift his weight and he gives her another tight smile. "Sorry," he says, a little more firmly. "You have the wrong house."

The girl nods. Will can see the shine of the whites of her eyes in the light from behind him, as they move between him and Hannibal. Then she turns with a nod. "See you later," she says, and walks away from the door, past their car and down the driveway.

Will frowns and Hannibal reaches forward to push the door closed, his hand over Will's. "Do you know if a Katherine lived here?" he asks.

Hannibal hums, and Will turns against the door to see him shaking his head. "The man and wife who lived here were Henry and Ellen Jordan," he replies. "No children. No Katherine."

"How strange," Will says, ducking his eyes. Hannibal is standing very close to him and Will's hands instinctively reach out, flattening over his chest. Hannibal has shed his coat and he's just in his white shirt and suit pants now. Will loves how warm he is through the fine, thin clothes. He frowns again and lifts his gaze. "There's no one for miles around," he says.

Hannibal hums, leaning in to rest their foreheads together. His hand leaves the door and cradles Will's skull gently and Will shivers, his lips parting. "We could go after her," he murmurs. "I know how much you love picking up strays."

"And you love picking off strays," Will replies. He's sure if they were to go chase the girl down, she would end up as just another stack of meat and organs in their fridge. Since the loss of Abigail, Hannibal has made it clear that he will only tolerate Will's love and attachment to Hannibal. He will not accept anything less but complete love and loyalty, without distractions.

Will shakes his head and sighs, pushing Hannibal away. Hannibal goes, a darkness in his eyes that Will doesn't quite want to read. He bites his lower lip and returns to the dining room table, finishing his glass of wine in two swallows.

"Leave her be," he says, baring his teeth at the bitter aftertaste of the wine. Hannibal knows he prefers sweeter wines, but his willingness to serve fine things can sometimes be overcome by his desire for Will to taste bitterness in his mouth. His lover is a petty creature when he wants to be. "One way or another, whatever happens to her would be better than the fate she'd meet at our hands."

"You're so certain that I would do something to harm her," Hannibal says.

Will lifts his head, meeting Hannibal's eyes. "You wouldn't?" he asks. He's not fooled for a moment.

Hannibal smiles, more genuine this time. He enjoys toying with Will, no matter the circumstance. "Perhaps it would be good for us," he says, and Will frowns, brow furrowing. "Clearly the amount of affection each of us share is one-sided, or at least out of balance. I have an abundance of it. It's selfish to demand it all for yourself and then discard it at the same time."

Will grits his teeth, setting the wine glass down lest he break it. He bows his head and rests both hands on the back of the chair, locking his elbows and hissing. "I knew you were angry," he says. His eyes go to the ring box and he lets out another frustrated growl. "You think I don't love you?"

"I'm not sure how to look at what you feel for me," Hannibal replies.

"How to look at…" Will shakes his head, huffs a bitter breath, and raises his eyes. "This isn't some Goddamn Rorschach test, Doctor Lecter. Don't make this any more than what it is."

"And what is that, Will?" Hannibal asks. He has his hands on the back of the chair where Will was sitting, mirroring Will as Will glares at him. Will thinks he can see a hint of amusement flicker in his dark eyes. He has always loved toying with Will.

"I…" Will looks down again, straightening up, and he heaves a tired breath and closes his eyes. His throat feels tight and his head is hot. He rubs a hand over his forehead and his nails catch on the scar Hannibal left behind with his saw. He swallows harshly. "I never wanted to hurt you," he says. "I'm too tired to play these games right now."

Hannibal huffs, and Will sees he's smiling when he opens his eyes. "I have finally found the end of your cruelty, then," he murmurs.

"And yours continues to abound," Will whispers. He meets Hannibal's gaze, helpless. Hannibal's smile widens, his eyes gleaming with the first flickers of pleasure. "Have you no mercy for the man you claim to love?"

"Mercy? Some, yes," Hannibal says. He straightens up as well and circles the table, taking Will's hands in both of his. He raises Will's knuckles to a kiss and Will presses his lips together, fingers curling around Hannibal's, his eyes wide and searching. "Love? Limitless."

Will swallows. "Show me," he breathes, and Hannibal lets go of his hands. Will's finds their place naturally on Hannibal's chest, curling in his shirt as Hannibal cups his neck with one hand, his other sliding effortlessly into Will's hair and knotting gently. He pulls Will in and Will is helpless to resist him.

Hannibal's mouth meets his and Will gasps, a soft moan escaping him when Hannibal immediately presses the advantage and Will can taste the wine on his tongue when Hannibal deepens their kiss. Hannibal's hand goes tight in his hair, tugging sharply, and Will arches against him with all the fervor of a man about to leave for war.

Hannibal growls, softly, and turns Will, shoving him against a bare spot on the table. Will's hand flies out to steady himself, catches on the edge of the tray that still holds the heart. He swallows, parts his jaws for Hannibal's tongue, lets Hannibal catch his lower lip between his teeth. He spreads his legs and wraps his heels behind Hannibal's thighs, pulling him in.

His free hand slides down Hannibal's chest and to the hem of his suit pants, where his shirt is tucked in. He tugs it free and Hannibal lets out another soft, growling noise. He kisses Will passionately, letting go of his neck but not his hair, and whitens his knuckles in Will's lounge pants, yanking them down and baring more of his skin.

Will hisses at the cold feeling of the table against his ass, gritting his teeth when Hannibal tilts his head, kisses his flushed jaw and red neck, and tugs at his pants until Will can get one leg free. His fingers curl in Hannibal's suit pants, fidgeting with the button and zipper until he feels both give, and he growls in victory. Hannibal opens his jaws wide and sucks a dark mark on Will's exposed neck and Will's eyelids flutter shut, he gasps and tugs at Hannibal, nails dug deep into his back to get him closer.

Hannibal's hand is tight in his hair and he uses the grip to force Will's head back. His eyes are dark, blackened with lust, his cheeks turning pink from the heat of the fire, and when Will swallows, his eyes drop to watch how his neck moves. Will knows Hannibal likes to feel it under his palm.

"Hannibal," he whispers, plaintive as he can be, and Hannibal smiles and claims his mouth in another deep kiss.

He lets Will go to push his suit pants and underwear down his thighs and Will groans when he feels Hannibal's cock slide against his own. It's decadent, sinful, how wonderful Hannibal feels against him. His strength and his vitality are proof of his evolution, how he is the prime of their species. He is a killer, and he has a killer's hands and a killer's mouth and he could so easily devour Will, and it never fails to make him hot all over whenever he catches just a glimpse of his vulnerability.

It amazes him how, when Will touches him, Hannibal trembles.

He wraps his fingers around both of their cocks, stroking slow, unhurried. Hannibal is breathing loudly, ragged in his ear. He rakes his nails across Will's lower back and then shoves him away, forces him to catch himself by the elbows on the large table. Hannibal wraps his hands around Will's thighs, yanks him close with the same grace of a rockslide, and Will moans.

He forces himself to keep his eyes open as Hannibal wets his fingers, sucks them to get them shining, and then puts his hand between Will's legs. Will bites his lower lip, knowing it's going to sting, and ache, and knowing he won't ask Hannibal to stop, just as much as Hannibal won't ask for permission.

His first finger slides in, slick and daring and assumptive, and Will clenches his jaw and tilts his head back, baring his throat as Hannibal's other hand digs into his leg hard enough to sting. Hannibal forces his finger all the way in and curls it up and Will drops a hand to his cock, stroking himself with a tight hand as Hannibal stretches him out.

Hannibal lets out a soft, ready growl, and Will sucks in a breath and bites his lower lip. "You can," he says. He knows Hannibal is impatient – such is the way his anger manifests itself sometimes. "I'll let you."

Hannibal hums. "I would never dream of harming you, my dear," he replies, and Will wonders how he can look at the scar on Will's exposed stomach and on his forehead, the cut on his cheek and the permanently raised skin on his temple and say that so honestly.

Will swallows, gritting his teeth. He won't let himself show weakness. Hannibal pulls his finger almost all the way out, pushes in with the second, and he chokes on a groan.

He knows what Hannibal is doing. This is more cruelty, disguised as kindness.

Will raises his head and lets go of his cock, gasping when Hannibal's fingers find his prostate. It sends heat through his stomach, forces his spine to go tight for a brief moment. He growls, eyelids fluttering at the sting of pleasure as Hannibal touches him. Hannibal's eyes rake over him like he's eyeing up the right cuts of meat from Will's body, and it's an expression Will knows well. This, he understands. This, he can react to.

He surges up and pulls Hannibal in by the collar, demanding a kiss that Hannibal grants him – but not without payment. He pulls his fingers out of Will and fists his hand in his hair instead, intending to force Will back, remain submissive to Hannibal's torture. But Will has never been Hannibal's prey and he doesn't intend to start now.

He shoves himself to his feet and Hannibal growls, catches him by the shoulder, and spins him around, slamming him back down onto the table on his chest. Will gasps and fights him, but Hannibal puts one hand on his nape, nails digging in, and his other hand catches Will's wrist and yanks his arm behind his back, hard enough to threaten dislocating his shoulder.

Will growls, going still, sweat breaking out under Hannibal's touch. Hannibal laughs lowly, leaning over him, and takes a deep breath of Will's scent at his hair. He shoves his thumb against the hollow of Will's neck, under his jaw, and he bites down on the exposed tendon just shy of it.

Will swallows harshly, trembling, the heat in his stomach coiling like a cobra about to strike. He can feel Hannibal's cock rutting against his thigh and he spreads his feet as best he can, offering up his body for Hannibal's use.

Hannibal's throat rumbles in another low laugh. "You are a mess of contradictions, darling," he murmurs. He lets go of Will's neck and Will's wrist, smoothing his hands along Will's sore shoulders as Will braces himself against the table. "Do you truly think it would be therapeutic to be cruel to you?"

"I don't care what's therapeutic," Will growls. "I want you to be honest."

"Honest," Hannibal repeats. He lets out a low hum, and then Will goes tense when Hannibal pulls back and takes his cock in hand, rubbing his cockhead against Will's too-dry hole. "And you think it would be honest of me to admit that…you have hurt me. And I want to punish you for it?"

"I think it's reasonable," Will replies, shakily.

Hannibal lets out another contemplative sound, and Will heaves in a trembling breath when Hannibal's weight covers him. Like this, Hannibal could force himself inside Will if he really wanted to. The stretch job is passable at best, and Will isn't nearly slick enough and they both know that.

Hannibal slides a hand up Will's heaving back, through his hair, and Will lets out a soft whine when Hannibal flattens his palm over Will's eyes. "Shh." Hannibal puts his mouth on Will's ear, bites on the helix, sucks the lobe briefly between his teeth. Will's breath catches when he hears something cold and metallic slide across the table.

It's the knife Hannibal grabbed from the block. His arms break out in goose bumps when he feels the flat of the blade finds its place against his collarbones, Hannibal's arm hooked under his so that he can't push it away.

"And do you think this is reasonable?" Hannibal whispers, right into his ear, as dark and promising as any Devil on a man's shoulder. Will bites his lower lip and closes his eyes, darkness within darkness, and forces himself to go lax under Hannibal's weight.

"I think it's honest," he replies, quiet but steady.

Hannibal smiles. Will can feel it against his neck. Hannibal pulls the knife away and Will gasps, his heart hammering and sweat dampening his hair. Hannibal breathes him in deeply and slicks his fingers in his mouth again. Will can feel him try and push his saliva into Will, get him as wet as he possibly can without the proper aid.

His hand goes tight over Will's eyes and Will's shoulders tense, but he forces the rest of his body to remain lax as he feels Hannibal line himself up, ready to sink into him.

"I love you, Will," Hannibal murmurs, and pushes inside.

"I l -. Ah, shit," Will growls, unable to stop himself crying out in sharp pain as Hannibal's cock splits him open. It stings, burning as Hannibal forces his way inside. Will's body knows the touch of its lover, its mate, and he intimately knows the feeling of Hannibal's hands on him, his weight and his scent and his sweat, but he's too raw and his head is pounding, and he can't help the groan of pain that escapes his chest as Hannibal sinks inside of him.

Hannibal's other hand flattens on his hip, forces him back, and Will's nails dig into the table sharply enough that he's sure he's going to ruin the lacquer.

Hannibal's palm moves from his eyes, to his forehead, giving him back his sight. Will turns his head, curls up under Hannibal's chest, eager to lift his shoulders and his neck and his heart to his lover's mouth and hands. Hannibal's thrusts are rough, careening and crashing them together. It reminds Will of how it sounded when their bones shattered on the cliffsides and the water threatened to drag them both under.

He reaches up, catches Hannibal's hand on his forehead, curls his fingers through Hannibal's tightly. He bares his teeth, unable to get enough breath through his nose. His skin feels too tight, his thighs and his back aching sharply, his neck burns from Hannibal's bites. His spine has turned molten, razor blades and salt melted under Hannibal's heat. He thinks they might be raking Hannibal apart in turn.

Hannibal growls, his teeth at Will's nape, marking his exposed skin while his hand moves from Will's hip to his stomach, nails digging in to leave little red lines. The table is unforgiving against Will's thighs, his cock rutting against the table with friction so sharp and flat that it hurts. Will hisses, arching back into Hannibal's brutal thrusts, and reaches under his stomach to wrap a hand around his cock. He's wet at the head, always tight and hot in his gut when Hannibal bites him.

"Come on," he snarls, and Hannibal grunts in reply, his hand going from Will's forehead to his hair and shoving his face against the table. Will turns his head, braces himself by the cheek and his now-free hand, knuckles wrapping around the small divot where the table leaf is. The knife is right by his hand and his fingers curl so that he doesn't grab it.

Hannibal rears up abruptly, both hands finding Will's hips and holding him still. He slams in deep, a rumble stuck in his chest. Will knows what he looks like when he's finishing, how his upper lip twitches at the side, how his forehead and jaw goes lax, and his eyes close no matter how hard he tries to keep them open. Hannibal's cock presses deep and the sensation of it thickening and twitching with release stings Will's sore rim and aching insides.

Then, when he's done, he pulls out and Will whimpers at the thick stream of his seed that follows. Hannibal growls before Will can move, yanking him up by his hair. He puts one sweat-damp hand around Will's throat and, with the other, bats Will's hand away and takes his cock in a tight grip.

Will shudders, closing his eyes, his head resting back on Hannibal's shoulder as Hannibal touches him. He can't move, can barely get the motor control to touch Hannibal back – just rolls his hips to chase the tightness of Hannibal's hand and submits to his tight grip on Will's neck. His orgasm snaps through him like a whip on his flank, he writhes and moans, and Hannibal bites his neck when he does it, spilling thick and hot over the bare end of the table.

He's definitely ruined the lacquer.

When he's done, still breathing hard and heartbeat unsteady, Hannibal releases his cock but holds his neck just as tightly. He turns Will around and kisses him, stealing his breath because Hannibal is greedy, and demanding, and Will has no power to resist him when he gets like this. If Hannibal had tried to propose to him in a moment just like this one, Will wouldn't have thought twice.

Will sighs, sagging against the edge of the table, uncaring for the stain of sweat and seed seeping into his clothes and skin. He drags his nails down Hannibal's chest and fixes his clothes, tucks Hannibal's cock back into his underwear and re-fastens his suit pants. He leaves the shirt untucked. He doesn't stop kissing Hannibal for a second while he does it.

Hannibal pulls back from him after another long kiss, holding his head with both hands. He tilts his head to one side. "You've given me my armor back," he says, his voice rough from his sounds of pleasure.

Will smiles, weak and lopsided. "If we keep the pressure up, you won't bleed out," he replies. "I have nothing to hide from you."

Hannibal hums. He looks much more the confident, self-assured creature that had greeted Will yesterday morning, and Will isn't sure which thing triggered his return, but he's glad to see it. He wants to throw the ring box into the fire so that he does not risk wounding Hannibal again, but he would never destroy one of Hannibal's gifts.

He will always want them, ready or not.

He straightens and pulls his lounge pants back into place. Hannibal retrieves a second bottle of wine – pinker this time, sweeter, Will would guess – and they settle into place by the fire, staring at the flames in another moment of silent contemplation.

Half-way through the bottle, Will cannot ignore his headache any longer. He rises, pressing a chaste kiss to Hannibal's cheek before he does, and goes to his bag to fetch his aspirin, hissing in frustration when he sees that there is only one left. It isn't enough.

He swallows the last pill dry and returns to the fire. "I'm out of aspirin," he says.

Hannibal meets his gaze for a moment, then drops his eyes and nods. "I shall fetch some more for you," he says.

Will clenches his teeth and swallows. "No," he replies. Hannibal tilts his head to one side and Will kneels down beside him, touching his shoulder gently. "I don't want you to leave. I don't want to be apart from you."

Hannibal smiles, but it's a sad thing. Will dealt another blow without meaning to. "I think I would enjoy driving around for a little while," Hannibal says, and Will swallows and nods, knowing that there is nothing to be argued at this point. "And your head is no doubt not the only thing that's hurting."

Will flushes but doesn't deny it. He kisses Hannibal, gentle and chaste, as Hannibal rises. Hannibal grabs his suit jacket, dons his shoes and socks, and takes his keys and phone.

"Hannibal," Will calls, and Hannibal pauses by the door, his head turned so that Will can see the side of his face, but not his eyes. "Please be careful."

Hannibal nods, and turns just a little more so Will can see his tired ghost of a smile. "I'll be back soon," he replies, and then he leaves. Will sighs, turning his gaze back to the fire. But it offers little in the way of amusement for him. He should sleep, but he doesn't want to sleep without Hannibal by his side. Since fleeing with him to Florence, Will has had little in the way of nightmares, but he always sleeps better with Hannibal's scent and weight surrounding him.

The hour is closer to four than three, now, and Will stands after another moment, putting another log on the fire, and sets himself up by ambling around the house, entertaining himself with imagining and making up stories behind the photographs on the walls, and creating the most absurd reasons behind books choices that he can.

Then, when that bores him, he closes his eyes. The pendulum swings in front of him, gold, right to left, left to right. He opens his eyes again and sees Mister and Missus Henry and Ellen Jordan. They are sitting at their dinner table, ready to begin their meal, when Hannibal comes to them.

He smiles. "I choose them because of their remote location," he says, striding into the dining room with all the grace of a wildcat prowling through the darkness. He runs his hand along the dining room table, imagines it without the streak of seed, without the nail marks, the candles non-melted, the heart still beating in the chest of the copycat.

The ring box…gone. Sitting in his own coat pocket. He puts a hand there and swallows.

"I choose them because they are soft, and kind," he whispers. "I tell them I have a flat tire, and a dead cell phone. They welcome me because they have no reason not to."

In front of him, Ellen Jordan is a smiling older woman, with a round face and hair pulled back in a bun. "Can I offer you coffee or water?" she asks.

"No," Hannibal replies in Will's mind's-eye. He's glowing with joy and anticipation, smiling wide enough to show his teeth. Will finds himself smiling back. "Thank you. I would like to use your phone if you don't mind."

"Of course." Henry Jordan is stoic, the everyman who returned from the war and wants to sit in a thickly-padded recliner with a beer watching the news. He hands Hannibal his cell phone, and Hannibal repays him with a swift jab to his throat, designed to stymy his airway and stop his breathing. Ellen jumps at the sound of her husband falling to the floor, and -.

Will stops, blinking. He tilts his head to one side to listen.

Nothing moves. Nothing changes. The fire crackles and one of the logs collapses on another in a shower of sparks.

Will's fingers curl.

A floorboard creaks in the direction of the bedroom.

He presses his lips together. An older house will move and groan, he's sure of that. But he knows how older houses move and groan. Living in Europe and sharing his bed with a wolf had taught him to be aware of things even his life as a cop and criminal profiler hadn't trained him for.

He hasn't carried a gun in a number of years, not since he started living with Hannibal. Guns aren't intimate. If it came down to that, Will would use his bare hands as he promised to so long ago. He has had no need for a gun for a long time.

But Mister Jordan…

He takes the wine glasses and bottle from in front of the fireplace and carries them to the kitchen. He sets them down and keeps his eyes on the sink and pours himself a glass of water. He waits for the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up.

They don't, but that doesn't mean anything.

He turns around and nurses his glass of water, his eyes lowered but his peripheral vision sharply scanning. No movement in the shadows.

A normal person would call out. Perhaps Hannibal is home and, sensing Will's distraction while he recreates the life of the Jordans, hadn't wanted to disturb him. Maybe it's just one of those noises old houses make. A normal person would turn on all the lights, search all the rooms, and make sure that they are alone. A normal person might shut all the doors and put their back to a wall, a gun or knife in their hand and frantically calling 911.

Will is not a normal person.

He sighs, smiling into his water glass as he waits for another telltale sign. None come, for so long that Will starts to think that maybe it had just been a movement of the house. He didn't hear the car return, the gravel crunching. He hadn't heard the door, and even deep in his recreation of murders he has always been self-aware. Except when he was sick.

He's not sick, now.

He sighs, setting the water glass down, and frowns when he hears another knock on the door. It's harsher this time, and he knows Hannibal didn't lock it. He goes to the door and presses his hand flat. There's no peephole.

"Hello?" he murmurs.

Silence. Then; "Is Katherine home?"

It's the girl again. He sighs and closes his eyes. "I told you, you have the wrong house," he mutters. He can't let her in – Hannibal was right. If she comes in, she will meet a far worse fate here than any one she might meet out there. If she comes in, she won't come out.

"Are you sure?" the girl asks again.

Will huffs and locks the door. "You'd better leave," he says, and thinks of eating the girl's liver and intestines for breakfast. She'd been lean, soft. The meat would melt from her bones easily. "I don't know what'll happen to you if you stay, but I can promise it won't be pleasant."

He turns away from the door, passing the dining room table.

He stops and looks at it.

The knife has moved. Now it sits, perfectly angled across the empty cloth placemat.

Will regards it for a long, long time, biting his lower lip. His fingers curl again.

"…I choose them because of their remote location," he whispers, and his lips twitch in a smile.

Come to think of it, he didn't specifically confirm if Hannibal had killed the Jordans. Perhaps he has stumbled upon someone else's hunting ground. He lifts his head and sees Mister and Missus Jordan sitting by the fire. They look up at the knock on the door, frowning, commenting on the late hour. They answer it, and the girl is there.

"Is Katherine home?"

There must be at least three of them. One to move within the house, one to guard the front door, one at the back. "I choose them because they are soft, and kind," he says, and takes the knife in hand, twisting it so it lays flat against his forearm, the blade angled out to cut. "I choose them because they don't know any better."

He sees a knife cut through Missus Jordan's neck, sending arterial spray flying. It hits his face, and he lifts his thumb to his mouth to taste it. Where the blood fell on the floor, the wood seems redder.

His smile widens. How unfortunate. The pack of coyotes have invaded a henhouse and instead they find wolves.

He goes to the bedroom and turns on the light. The suitcases are the same, untouched. He closes the door behind him and eyes the master bathroom. The bath is still damp from water, the mirror still steamed.

Across it, written in what he assumes is blood, is the word 'Hello'.

He hums, and turns around, his eyes on the room. There isn't enough room underneath the bed for someone to hide. The closet is open, revealing no one lingering inside. The curtains are closed but moving with the wind.

He crosses to the curtains and flings them open, ready to slash. No one is there.

But there is someone outside.

It's a man, wearing a poorly-tailored suit. There's a mask over his head, canvas with holes cut for his eyes and mouth. Will regards him calmly through the open window. Then, the man lifts his hand and waves it back and forth, slowly.

Will closes the window and locks it.

So, at least two. He will have to be wary and watch out for the third. Unless the girl isn't in on it, which seems unlikely. He shuts the curtains so the man cannot see when he leaves the bedroom.

They must have been here for a while, watching Will and Hannibal. They'd waited until Hannibal left, figuring Will would be easy prey in comparison. Either that, or Hannibal is much more injured than Will had thought. Injured enough to want vengeance.

But no, that's too impersonal for Hannibal. Will's death demands his presence, demands his artistry.

He closes the bedroom door as he leaves, knowing that room is clear. He goes back to the kitchen and eyes the fireplace.

His phone is burning, melted into the logs.

He smiles. "Clever," he says, doing a small turn within the open space. "But unnecessary. Are you afraid?"

No, not afraid. They want to scare him. They want him to know he's alone, that no help is coming, and that they have him cornered and outnumbered. They believe he will be intimidated by the fact that they entered the house and moved the knife. They touched it. They were right behind him, watching him. They could have killed him.

"Did you watch us fucking?" he demands of the empty room. Nothing moves, no sigh or creak of the floorboards gives them away. "I hope you liked the show." Perverts.

He goes back to the kitchen, finishes his water. He sets the knife down and pours himself another glass of wine, killing the bottle. It seems almost wrong to start a hunt without Hannibal by his side. He hums into his glass, taking a sip, and sets it down, grabbing the knife again and going to the front door.

He opens it, gazing out. The porch light gives nothing in the way of illumination, but he can see a floodlight from a far-off barn, illuminating the driveway, the dark road beyond. There are trees, and he hears the creaks and squeaks of an old chain swing set.

He doesn't see the man.

He closes the door and leaves it unlocked and returns to a spot in front of the fire. He hums and cradles the knife in his lap, and the pendulum swings.

Left to right, right to left.

Mister and Missus Jordan sit down to dinner. But their hands are bound, and they're gagged. Behind them, a man and wife stand with masks on their faces. The girl is standing behind a third chair, her fingers wrapped around the very knife Will is holding.

Missus Jordan is crying. Her whimpers and moans are quiet. Will watches them impassively.

"I kill Mister Jordan first," he says, and as he talks the masked man behind Mister Jordan steps forward and slits his throat in a single motion. Missus Jordan screams, her eyes bright with tears. Her knuckles are white and her wrists are red from pulling at her restraints. "I want her to watch him die. I want her to know what awaits her as well.

Except…" Will frowns, tilting his head to one side. He gets up and approaches Missus Jordan, her eyes still on her husband. Everything slows down and Will looks at the face of the masked woman. "No," he whispers. "You didn't die here."  

Will raises his head when he hears a car approaching. He bites his lower lip and goes back down the hallway to the bedroom, shutting the door to the laundry room and a closet, eliminating the amount of opportunity for ingress and egress.

Hannibal comes through the door as Will returns and pauses when he sees the knife in Will's hand. His eyebrows rise.

"I know you're upset," Will says calmly, "but sending people to try and frighten me seems a little…distant."

"I have no idea what you mean," Hannibal replies, shrugging off his coat. He has a plastic bag from a pharmacy in his hand and he puts it on the table.

"I assumed you killed the Jordans," Will says. He keeps his eyes moving, his head turned away. Hannibal is a presence he is always aware of, and he'll know if Hannibal comes close to him. "The girl came back. And there was a man in a mask outside. I think they killed them."

"Will -."

"They threw my phone in the fire," Will says, and gestures to the wad of melted black plastic. He sees Hannibal go over to inspect it. "And they moved the knife while I wasn't looking. They wrote on the bathroom mirror."

He turns, regarding Hannibal coolly. "Don't do me the discourtesy of saying it's all in my head."

"I am simply saying that we are men of evidence, and so far, you have shown me little to suggest the presence of a third party," Hannibal replies, just as even and calm.

Will tilts his head to one side. His grip on the knife tightens. "Alright then," he growls. "How did Mister and Missus Jordan die?"

"Will, take your medicine. You don't think straight when you have these headaches. You should rest."

"How did they die, Hannibal?" Will demands.

Hannibal sighs. "I snapped Mister Jordan's neck in the living room. I slit Missus Jordan's throat when she tried to run."

"No," Will replies, shaking his head. "That's not right."

"Are you calling me a liar?"

"I know you're a liar," Will says. "Just as I am." He looks around again. "I think there's someone else. There has to be three – that's the minimum amount for something like this. You need someone to guard the exits while you do the dirty work."

"Suggesting that I would not be capable of killing these people on my own," Hannibal says. "So now you insult my ability."

Will huffs. "We should leave," he says. "We cannot possibly eat all of them in one night."

"Will." Hannibal approaches him, uncaring for the knife in Will's hand. He cups Will's neck and forces their eyes to meet. Hannibal regards him, his eyes moving from one of Will's eyes, to the other. He presses his lips together and takes a breath. "You've been drinking."

Will frowns. He tries to pull away but Hannibal's grip doesn't let him get far. "You seriously don't believe me?" he demands.

"Think of this as a Rorschach test," Hannibal says. "You see a Devil, I simply see a picture of a horse."

"I can't believe you," Will murmurs, his breath escaping him in a shaky laugh. He pulls away more forcefully this time, wincing when Hannibal's nails leave marks on his neck when he does it. "Fine. I'll hunt them down myself."

"Will, darling. Please."

Will shrugs him off with a growl, and he's halfway to the bedroom when the power abruptly goes out.

He pauses, lifting his head. He smells something…off. He can't place it, but it's foreign to the house.

"Perfume?" he whispers.

Will doesn't like to admit that he jumps when there's another pounding on the door. When he goes back to the main room, all that remains of light is the fire, flickering dully, about to go out. He feels Hannibal's warmth and goes close to it, his eyes on the door.

He breathes out when it slowly swings open. There's no one there, and it's dark beyond it.

Hannibal pauses, before he heaves a sigh that sounds frustrated and terribly inconvenienced. "Get to the car," he says.

Will nods, and Hannibal leads the way out. Will grabs his shoes from next to the coat closet and puts them on, and they get outside and circle the house. Hannibal gets into the car and Will waits, sensing eyes on the back of his neck. He shivers in the cold as Hannibal tries to start the car.

It won't start.

"They'll have messed with the wiring," he murmurs. "Made sure we can't get away."

Hannibal hums, and gets out of the car again. He looks more aggravated than anything else, which helps settle Will's unease. And he is uneasy. It's been a long time since he felt anything close to fear, but there are more of these people than there are of Will and Hannibal, and they might have guns.

Hannibal takes his phone and turns on the flashlight, leading the way back into the house. "Daylight is in less than two hours," he says quietly, shutting and locking the door behind them. Sealing them out, or keeping them in. Will suspects the latter.

"Did you kill the Jordans?" he asks. "Or did they?"

"We will wait for daylight in the bedroom."

"Sloppy, Doctor Lecter," Will growls. "This is what happens when you think with your heart instead of your head. Can you imagine what might have happened if you hadn't come back?"

"Are you suggesting you cannot defend yourself? That you need me to protect you?"

"You like protecting me."

"Only because I know that it's not out of necessity that I do it."

Will huffs, and Hannibal opens the door to the bedroom and lets them both inside. Will shuts it behind him, doing another sweep just in case. Still nothing beneath the bed, still no shape of a body within the closet. The curtains are still drawn and do not bulge like someone is behind them.

He looks at the mirror and bites his lower lip. When Hannibal's phone light arcs across it, he sees that below the 'Hello' is written the word 'Again'.

He frowns, stepping towards the bathroom. He looks up and sees that the large grate shielding the fan and air duct is gone. "They're in the walls," he murmurs, pointing to it with his knife, then the 'Again' on the mirror. "That wasn't there before."

Hannibal comes into view at his shoulder. He presses his lips together and Will watches him do it without turning around.

"The girl is small enough," Will says. "Not the man."

Hannibal huffs. "How elaborate," he replies, and turns away. "They are very daring. Most people would think twice about trying to terrorize men who have a fresh human heart as a centerpiece on their dining table."

Will smiles, and turns away from the bathroom, closing the door. "Well, we hardly corner the market on killers, Doctor Lecter," he says, low with affection.

Hannibal looks at him, a flicker of a smile crossing his face. Then, he straightens, and lifts his chin as he takes a deep breath. He frowns. "Do you smell that?"

Will cocks his head to one side, goes to the door, presses his nose close to the hinges and takes a breath in. Gas. He growls. "The fire," he whispers.

"They're trying to lure us out."

"Stay here and risk an explosion, go out and risk them," Will says. "Or, neither happens, and we remain inside and get fumigated."

Hannibal hums, drawing Will back from the door. He holds his hand out for the knife and Will, after a second of hesitation, hands it to him. He swallows. "I can go," he says.

"I have the light," Hannibal says, holding up his phone.

Will swallows again. He knows, objectively, that Hannibal is more than capable of defending himself. He has been hunting men like this – and doing much worse – since before Will became a man. But. He puts a hand on Hannibal's chest and curls his fingers in his shirt. "Please be careful," he says, and he knows this is the second time tonight he's said it.

Hannibal smiles, puts a hand in Will's hair and tugs him in so he can kiss Will's forehead. "I must hurry," he says, and Will nods, letting him go. Will opens the door for him, closing it quickly as he prowls through.

He presses his ear to the door to listen as Hannibal makes his way to the kitchen to turn off the gas. He sighs, pressing his lips together. The room is completely dark without Hannibal's phone light, and with his own out of commission, Will knows he won't be able to see again any time soon.

He tenses up when he hears something tapping at the window. It's the kind of sound that is made when someone scratches nails along glass.

His breath catches when, after a moment, he realizes that it's coming from inside the room.

He doesn't hesitate – he goes to the bathroom, feeling along the door frame, and finds the mirror. He slams his knuckles against it, hissing at the loud sound of glass breaking and as finer pieces get embedded into his knuckles. He feels around blindly for a large shard and holds it tight enough that the skin of his palm splits.

Footsteps. A harsh breath. He turns around and slashes wildly, grinning when he feels the shard of mirror hit warm flesh.

Someone cries out, stumbling back, and Will follows. They might have a weapon but he doesn't care. It's the girl – Will recognizes the youth and femininity in her voice. He grabs any part of her he can reach, his knuckles finding a handful of hair, and grunts when a knife gets plunged into his shoulder.

"Sorry, sweetheart," he growls, dragging her close. The shard of mirror finds her throat. "You deserved better."

He digs the shard of glass into her neck, smiling grimly when he hears her start to choke, feels her warm blood gush over his hand and stain his shirt. He keeps digging the shard in deeper, dragging it in front of him to sever her vocal chords and bleed her dry. She's slim, almost dainty against him, and he feels her grab for his arms and try and struggle, before he grits his teeth and pulls the knife out and she goes limp with a gurgling groan.

He plunges the shard back in and keeps cutting, until the weight of her body separates from her head.

Will lifts his head when the door opens. Hannibal's phone light illuminates the girl's broken body, the huge stain of blood on the bed and the floor and on Will. Will holds up her head by the hair and curls his fingers around the clown mask on her face, pulling it away.

"Where did she come from?" Hannibal murmurs dispassionately, closing the door behind him.

Will shrugs one shoulder. "I think she was behind the curtains," he replies. "She's small. I didn't see her."

Hannibal hums, approaching him. The knife in his hand is clean – clearly he didn't run into any trouble on his venture.

Hannibal tuts, shaking his head with something like disappointment. Then his phone shines on Will's shoulder. "Are you injured?" he asks.

Will nods. "She stabbed me," he says. He wishes, in that absent and half-mad kind of way, that people would stop shooting and stabbing him in the Goddamn shoulder. It's already stiff sometimes when the weather gets bad or he strains it just right.

Hannibal lets out a soft, worried sound, and Will shrugs his touch away. "I'm fine," he says sharply. He tosses the girl's head on the bed, listens to it thud against the headboard. "Did you see them out there?"

"No," Hannibal replies. "I think they threw the fuse. The box is likely in the shed in the backyard. I can go there and try and bring light back to us."

Will frowns. "They want to separate us," he says, and lifts his eyes to Hannibal's.

"Yes."

"And you want to let them."

"I think they are more likely to show themselves if we are not together," Hannibal replies coolly. "They are trying to hunt us as wolves do, corralling us to the final killing field." He looks down at the girl's body again. "Unsuccessfully."

Will smiles, dark, teeth bared. "They will be enraged when they find out I killed her."

Hannibal smiles back.

"What if they have guns? What if both of them attack me at once? Are you so eager to use me as bait, Doctor Lecter, in the hopes that they might overcome me?"

"I assure you, Will, I want no such thing."

Will hums, wrapping his fingers tightly around his mirror shard. His blood is warm on his hand, leaking freshly down to the floor. "I don't believe you," he whispers. Hannibal steps closer and Will can feel his heat, smell where both their scents have mixed in the form of sweat and open-mouthed kisses.

Hannibal sighs, and cups Will's neck with his knife-wielding hand. The metal is cold against Will's bared skin. Will shivers when Hannibal kisses his forehead. "If I wanted to kill you, my darling," Hannibal murmurs, "I would do it myself."

Will smiles, and lifts his head for a proper kiss. "Go to the fuse box," he says, and pulls away. "I'll deal with the wolves."

Hannibal smiles. They both leave the bedroom, walking close together, ears pricked and eyes peeled for any intruder illuminated by Hannibal's phone light. Hannibal kisses him one last time before he leaves through the front door.

Will sighs. He stokes the fire and adds another log, encouraging the flames to burn brightly and give him as much light as possible. Then, he sits on the brick edge, his back to the flames. The fire dances in his vision, warm and golden.

Will knows he's being watched. The light doesn't extend far enough for him to see the second corridor leading to the guest bedroom, and the stairs down to the basement. But he knows someone is there – he can sense it like he can sense the heat at his back.

"I killed your daughter," he says to the darkness. "Cut her head off."

He hears a low growl, and then two people step into view. The man with the canvas mask, and a woman with a white, smiling doll face. They are both holding weapons – the woman has a knife, and the man has an axe used for chopping wood.

Will's smile widens, and he stands. "You picked a very bad night to do this," he says. He is only holding his mirror shard, it's a paltry weapon in comparison, and he doesn’t have the reach that the axe would give him, and there are two of them. His heart is beating quickly, adrenaline and tension thickening in the air. "And the absolute worst people to do this to."

They don't respond. Will suspected that they wouldn't.

He gestures to the kitchen, the blood on his hands gleams in the firelight. "Would you like something to drink?"

"Shut up," the woman says. Her voice is thick with tears. There's blood on her shirt. Will nods to it.

"Is that Mister or Missus Jordan's?" he asks.

"It will be covered by yours soon enough," the man says darkly. He strides forward, axe in both hands and ready to strike. Will dodges to one side as the blade comes down, turning and putting the table between him and the couple. The woman comes one way, and man comes at him from the other. Just as he predicted.

It's dark, and Will knows that their vision isn't helped by the masks. "I go for the man first," he whispers, and slashes at him with his mirror shard. The man leaps back and Will runs for the kitchen, dodging the woman as she shrieks and leaps for him. He grabs the butcher's knife from the chopping block and turns as the man swings for his head. He ducks low and slides the blade of the butcher's knife cleanly across his stomach. It's not a deep cut, but it bleeds profusely, dousing him in red. Will kicks him back and he stumbles. "He's the biggest threat, and his anger makes him act rashly."

The man groans, clutching his stomach. Will kicks him in the gut, sending him sprawling backwards against the wall.

"The woman rushes me," he says, just as she does exactly that, swinging wildly with her knife. Will parries it with his own, sends her knocking unsteadily against the sink. The wine glasses and bottle crash to the floor, littering it with glass and pink liquid. "I kill her quickly."

He grabs her hair and runs his knife across her throat, watching in the window's reflection as she gags, clutching her neck to try and stop the bleeding. Will grunts, hauling her back, and throws her to the floor. "I take no pleasure in making her suffer," he growls, baring his teeth at her. He can see, in the holes in the doll mask, the shine of her eyes in the firelight. "But I take pleasure in watching her die. You two are sloppy," he hisses.

The man howls, running for him again. The axe swings and Will ducks, grunting when he hears it get embedded in the kitchen cabinets. He brings his elbow down on the man's shoulder, sending him to his knees, and kicks him back to lay parallel to his wife.

The man groans, writhing in the growing pool of his wife's blood. Will smiles and kneels over him, pushing his hands to one side when he tries to grab for Will.

He throws the butcher's knife away, into the living room, and rips the man's shirt open. He wraps his knuckles in the man's tie and pulls, slowly, slowly, tighter and tighter around his neck. "Look at me," he demands. "Both of you."

He imagines how he must look to them. Some deformed, shadowy monster bathed in their daughter's blood. The man gasps and twitches, tugging uselessly at his tie. "All dressed up like you're going to church, and yet here you are," Will says. "I am God to you. You have insulted me and mine, tried to play at our games. And you will see what God does to heretics."

He lets go of the man's tie, lets him take in one last, futile breath, and he smiles. He digs his nails into the wound on the man's gut, wraps his fingers around the man's slick intestines, and yanks them out. They stink, sour and unhealthy. "Not even fit to eat," he mutters dispassionately, and keeps tugging, drawing the organs out foot by foot until he reaches the stomach and the bladder.

The lights turn back on just in time for Will to see the life leave their eyes. He pulls their masks off. They're plain, ordinary-looking people. Boring people. The woman's eyes are wide and blue, blank and staring at him with something like awe.

He leans down, cups her face, and kisses her forehead. "Sleep," he says, and closes her eyes. He does the same to the man. Then, for good measure, he snaps their necks.

 

 

Hannibal returns to the house as Will pours himself another glass of wine. He smiles at Hannibal, bloodied and sleek, and turns to regard the couple as Hannibal rounds the corner and stops, seeing their bodies.

He tilts his head to one side, his eyes taking in the discarded butcher's knife, the shattered glasses, the axe embedded in the cabinets. "A crime of passion," he murmurs.

"All my crimes are crimes of passion," Will replies. "And yours are the work of a butcher. I wielded your trade weapon of choice. I gutted them like pigs." He sighs. "Or, I tried. I cannot be as clinical as you."

"You defended yourself," Hannibal says. He circles the bodies and Will offers him his wine glass, pouring himself another when Hannibal takes it. Hannibal hums, sniffing at the bouquet, and licks the shine of blood from the edge of the glass before he takes a sip.

Will smiles. "Does it heighten the flavor, Doctor Lecter?" he asks.

Hannibal raises his eyebrows and hums. "Enhances it, yes," he replies. "You were right; this is far too much for us to eat."

Will shrugs, sighing into his own glass. "I wouldn't want to, anyway," he says. Hannibal regards him curiously. "Some pigs aren't worth their own meat."

Hannibal smiles.

"They tried to be what you are," Will continues, glaring at the man and woman. He feels something dark and angry stirring – the same emotion he'd felt when he'd heard tale of someone claiming to be the Chesapeake Ripper, the same anger he'd felt looking at Abel Gideon. "They thought they could play our games, and overcome us. I wanted to break them apart, and watch them die, and then create a display for you. But I couldn't do it, not like you could've."

Hannibal is silent, sipping his wine.

"I've realized something," Will says after another long moment of silence. He turns his head to meet Hannibal's eyes. He tilts his head to one side. "Did you kill Mister and Missus Jordan?"

Hannibal hums. "No," he replies. "I found their bodies, and took advantage of the good fortune."

"Knowing these people might come back?"

"Yes."

"There is no replacement for you, Hannibal," Will whispers. "This felt…routine. Material. I found no joy in it."

"And this troubles you?"

Will nods. "Since I became yours, I have seen joy and light in everything you do," he says. Hannibal raises his eyebrows, regarding Will curiously. "I see, in this family, what might have been our future. With Abigail. But it was not our future, because there was no joy in this family. There was no light. You have brought me freedom, and clarity, and that is why I love you. I love you because you are my happiness and my life."

Hannibal swallows. "And you are mine."

"When I first knew they were here, I waited," Will says. He takes another sip of wine and sets his glass down, turning to face Hannibal fully. "I waited because I didn't want to start this hunt without you. When you were not here, I didn't want to hurt anyone."

"You blame me for your killer instinct," Hannibal replies fondly. "You always have."

Will sighs. He steps close and places a hand on Hannibal's shirt. He leaves a red handprint behind. "You're missing the point."

"And what point is that?"

"My point is that, with you, there is nothing else I want." Will meets his eyes, steady, ready. He licks his lips and takes another tiny step closer, until there is no air between their bodies at all. "You are my master, and my friend. My closest confidante and the man I love above all else."

He feels Hannibal's breath catch, and is pleased when he sees Hannibal's eyes widen. Hannibal sets his wine glass down and takes Will's hand in both of his own, squeezing tightly.

"What are you saying, Will?" he asks. Hopeful. Vulnerable. His hands shake.

Will smiles, and leans in for a gentle kiss. It's warm and intimate and Will feels Hannibal's heartbeat stutter. "Ask me again," he whispers against Hannibal's lips.

Hannibal pulls back, his expression as open and adoring as Will has ever seen it. Hannibal nods, pressing his lips together, and guides Will out of the kitchen, towards the dining room. The ring box is untouched, unmoved. Will wonders if the people here had noticed it, if they intended to place it on one of them when their bodies were white and cold.

Hannibal takes the box with trembling, reddened hands. He looks to Will again, almost like he's waiting for Will to trick him. Will regards him steadily. He won't run away.

Hannibal presses his lips together, folds the box in both of his hands, and turns to face Will. "I have loved you since the moment we met," he says quietly. "Before I even knew that that is what I should call it. And I will continue to love you until my dying breath."

Will sucks in a quiet breath and swallows, his breath unsteady. Hannibal looks at him for another moment, and then he slowly sinks to one knee and opens the ring box.

"Will you marry me?" he whispers, as reverent as a sinner in a confessional booth.

The ring is lovely. It's a golden band, thick and gleaming in the firelight. Around the edges, Will can see a pattern of interlocking coils like links of a chain. He smiles, and swallows harshly again.

"Yes," he says, and cups Hannibal's hands in both of his, encouraging him to rise.

Hannibal smiles, practically giddy for how stoic he is trying to remain. His eyes shine when he takes the ring out of the box and gently touches Will's left hand, turning it, and slides the ring onto his finger. Will smiles at him and cups his jaw.

"It's beautiful, Hannibal," he whispers, and the feeling in his chest is much like the one he'd felt after Dolarhyde, when they'd embraced on the cliffside and everything had seemed perfect with the world. All their aches and blows and moments of disaster have led them to this perfect, bloody one, and Will wouldn't trade this silence for any other moment of joy, any amount of wealth, or any other person in existence.

Hannibal embraces Will tightly, kisses his smile and threads his hands through Will's hair. Will sighs, wrapping his arms around Hannibal in turn, and kisses Hannibal until they're both too breathless to continue.

Light is dawning on the edges of the horizon and Will pulls back, bright-eyed and flushed. He presses his lips together and nods to the pool of blood in the kitchen. "What should we do with them?"

Hannibal regards them, lips pursed in consideration. "You brought about the method of their death," he says, and Will nods. "So, too, should you decide the means of their afterlife."

Will smiles. Usually Hannibal is the one to create the display. He possesses an artistry Will has no desire to mimic.

He takes Hannibal's hand and doesn't miss how Hannibal's fingers tighten around the ring. Will's hands are bloody and it will stain the innards of the gold, but the blood will wash away and the ring will remain. Will hopes it will become embedded in his skin; a reminder of this fateful night and the sharp clarity it brought.

Life with Hannibal is a series of sharp moments of clarity and silence.

"They wanted to be clowns," Will says, somewhat darkly. "They mimicked human form and attempted to play God." Hannibal hums. "Let us show the world the kinds of heathens they were."

Hannibal huffs a small, adoring laugh. He cups Will's nape, threads his fingers through Will's hair, and kisses his forehead. Will closes his eyes and goes lax against Hannibal's side, where he belongs.

"That sounds perfect, my love."