"My love, who taught you how to fish?"
Will's eyes snap to him, a wildness there that seems ever-present nowadays, hiding below the surface of ice like an orca ready to breach in the hopes of catching meat. His upper lip rises, edges of his teeth bared, but he doesn't otherwise move.
He says, just as quiet; "Don't call me that."
Hannibal smiles, folds one leg over the other, traces his fingertips feather-light across the rim of his glass. Their shared bottle of brandy sits, bled almost-dry, on the small table between them. Will never touches it, merely accepts it when offered.
After a while, the ice melts, and the predator sees no prey worth catching, so it sighs and swims away. So, too, do Will's shoulders rise and fall, and he looks past Hannibal, sees something in the shadows Hannibal cannot. "My father did," he whispers, solemn as the innards of a confessional booth. "When I was young."
Hannibal nods. "I would like to learn."
Will huffs. "You don't have the mindset for fishing," he says.
Hannibal raises an eyebrow, head cocked. He is not offended, because he knows Will meant to cause offense. His beloved has always been insurmountably rude, even in his gracious acceptance of Hannibal in his life, at his side, and in his bed.
Will doesn't elaborate, and Hannibal doesn't press. This is what they do – there is a glass bridge between them, straddling a deep ravine, and should the glass shatter they will both plummet to the ground, and so Hannibal must tread carefully if he wishes to make it to the other side.
"My love," he says, during another quiet evening between autumn and winter, where the air is humid and dark, and the sun still takes far too long to reach the horizon, and there are daffodils and lilies growing in the same place around a pond. "Who taught you how to play Chess?"
Will doesn't meet his eyes, entranced by the splay of black and white on the table in front of him. He is an aggressive player, Hannibal finds, and will open his flanks wide in the hopes of distracting his opponent from the lance aimed for their heart, as the feathers and pretty lures he makes hide the sharp hook from the fish. So, too, was Hannibal speared while he spent his time admiring the frills and edges of Will's beautiful mind.
Will's teeth bare themselves again, sink into his lower lip, and he slides a knight forward and takes one of Hannibal's bishops. "I had a teacher. Mister Wallace," he replies, setting the bishop down amidst a cluster of pawns and a rook. "He taught me to play, when I'd spend my evenings in the library and had nothing better to do."
Hannibal smiles. "He was a good teacher."
Will rolls his eyes as Hannibal takes advantage of the opening Will's knight left behind, cornering Will's king with his remaining rook. "Not as good as whoever taught you," he replies.
Hannibal's smile widens, neither proud nor demure. He merely nods, and takes the pieces, sliding them back into their box and setting it beside the heavy marble board. Will sighs, sets his elbow against his knee, hand under chin, and turns his head to one side until his neck cracks in a series of sharp pops.
He stands, until Hannibal is forced to sit back so he can see Will's face. Will has let his hair grow longer again, until it resembles the soft mess of curls he wore when they first met, when he felt the need to hide his eyes behind glasses and hair. Yet, now, he meets Hannibal's gaze openly, as though in challenge.
He presses his lips together, and holds out his hand, palm up, fingers slightly curled as though they already embrace Hannibal's. Hannibal smiles, and slides his hand into place, and lets Will pull him to his feet.
My darling, who taught you how to do this?
This question, he does not ask aloud. He kisses it instead to Will's jaw, whispers it ghost-like along Will's neck and thinks the answer comes in the bunch of Will's shoulders, the grip of his strong hands, the wildness in his eyes. It is, he thinks, perhaps some boy or girl from Will's youth, who taught him how to lie still and let his lover move atop him. Who taught him how to roll onto his hands and knees and hold fast and steady, a mount for his partner's use. Maybe another student, or someone older – someone who, later, Hannibal would remind him of.
Someone who taught Will that he likes it when there's a hand at his throat, no matter if he's taking or giving, someone who walked him down the fine ladder between the bite of pain when there's teeth at his nape and nails on his flanks, drew him a map to each sensitive place inside a man or woman, who taught him that it's okay to bury his face in his lover's neck upon release, that to rest inside someone, to share in that knife-edged moment of total satisfaction settles more than any workout, any whiskey, and any word could.
Will does not kiss Hannibal during, but after, oh, in the after, he is sweet and gentle, either resting between Hannibal's thighs or with his own spread to make room. This time, his fists are knotted tight in the sheets below Hannibal's arms, his shoulders trembling with strain, and he keeps his eyes closed and kisses Hannibal like he's in love.
Whether he's thinking of Alana, or Margot, or some other man or woman during, Hannibal knows he never kissed them like this.
"My darling, who taught you how to shoot?"
They live dead-ended to a forest, which stretches out wide and long behind them. Off the grid, off the beaten path. It's thirty miles to the nearest town worth a damn, and ten to the outpost where they have things delivered. Things that are worth their weight in gold when combined with the price of the teller's silence.
Will looks up, and his fingers twitch like he doesn't want to lower his gun. His hands have tanned during the summer, and the silvery inlay along the gun's barrel glows in the fading sunlight. Will lowers the gun, turns the safety on and sets it down between them. His hands look empty without it.
"My uncle," Will replies. "And my cousin, one year when my dad was out of state."
Hannibal smiles. "Perhaps we should visit them," he says. "Your father, and your family."
Will makes a sound, somewhere quieter than a laugh but also more strained. Like he wants to believe, desperately, that Hannibal is joking. "You surprise me, Doctor Lecter," he says, and Hannibal blinks at him.
Will picks up his gun again and shakes his head, releasing the magazine and pulling the slide back so that the bullet in the chamber leaps out. He catches it in a move well-practiced, and there's a bag on a table next to him, to which he goes and begins to put everything away.
"They're Bible-belt, Doctor Lecter," he says after another moment. "They wouldn't approve of our, ah, lifestyle."
Hannibal grins, wide enough to show teeth. "Our lifestyle?" he repeats, delighting in the subtle flush on Will's cheeks that has nothing to do with the heat and humidity, the upward curl of tension in Will's shoulders, the way his fingers are tugging at the zips and compartments of the bag with more force than strictly necessary.
Will's eyes rise, gleaming brightly with accusation. "Yeah," he replies. "We're both men."
Hannibal hums, and looks away. "Ah," he says after a while. "That's the lifestyle you're referring to."
When he looks back to Will, Will looks almost amused, his hands gentler on the bag as he seals it and shoulders it, and prowls to Hannibal's side. He cups Hannibal's face, leans in to let their noses touch, and smiles when Hannibal's eyes drop to his mouth.
"Strangely, I don't think they'd mind the other stuff as much," he says, soft, and slides his hand back so his palm covers Hannibal's pulse. "They're hunters, like you."
Hannibal hums. "Just me?" he asks, and Will's smile widens, affectionate yet sharp at the corners where it cuts into his cheeks. "You still see yourself as a fisherman."
Will blinks, slow, lazy, and leans in for a kiss. His lips are chapped from so long outside, but the press of his mouth is soft, and warm, and calls to the creature in Hannibal's head that purrs and stretches out whenever it sees Will.
Will pulls back, sets his thumb against Hannibal's jaw to hold him back like he might control an untrained dog. And Hannibal wants to chase.
"I hooked you, didn't I?" Will asks, wetting his lips.
Hannibal smiles. "Yes, my love, you did."
"Beloved, who taught you how to dance?"
Will smiles at him, one hand spread out wide on Hannibal's shoulder, the other resting lightly atop his. They spin slowly across their living room floor, accompanied by a gentle chorus of strings and woodwind that help them keep time, and yet Hannibal doesn't think it's necessary. Will's sense of rhythm is flawless, and they move together as seamlessly as they might have had they been doing this for a thousand years.
"Her name was Maria," he tells Hannibal. "She was my high school crush, and she was a dancer, and I wanted to take her to junior prom, but I knew she wouldn't go with me unless I could dance. So, I learned."
Hannibal smiles, and spins Will out, then draws him back in until Will is back in his arms, pressed close, their foreheads almost touching. The waltz is an intimate dance regardless, and yet with how closely they're pressed, it would be obscene.
"Did you take her to your prom?" he asks.
Will shakes his head. "I didn't go at all," he replies. "My cousins took me camping instead, for the whole weekend. She went with someone on the football team. I think they're married now."
"Wonderful," Hannibal says, as they reach the threshold of the kitchen and turn, making their way back across to the lulling beat of the music. "You hear such terrible stories about young girls on nights such as that."
Will nods, and raises his eyes. Meet's Hannibal's, and they're dark, hardly blue at all. They turn greener when there's less sun. Winter is almost upon them. Will's hand on Hannibal's shoulder slides up, rests atop his collar heavy as lead. Hannibal thinks he might collapse beneath it.
"I'd have killed him," he says, almost too quiet to hear. The music hits a bar of silence and for that brief, quiet moment, everything goes still enough that Hannibal can hear Will's growl. Will's nails curl, dig in, and he bares his teeth again.
Hannibal smiles. "As would I have," he replies.
Will answers his smile, sharp again, and when the music swells, Will lunges, and wraps his arms around Hannibal's shoulders, their lips pressed tight together.
"My love, who taught you how to kill?"
Will laughs, full-bellied and loud enough that it echoes. He crouches down and takes the animal's head in his hands, looks dispassionately at the bullet hole in its shoulder. He kneels on it and it shrieks, clawing at Will's other thigh with desperate, bloody fingers.
"Please," it says. "Please -."
Will snaps its neck and dusts his hands off. "No one taught me," he says, and stands. "Or, maybe everyone taught me. It's hard to tell." He grins at Hannibal and wipes the back of his hand over his mouth, a smear of red left behind. "Can you grab the legs?"
"My love, who taught you how to hunt?"
"This is what I mean, you know."
Hannibal looks up from his book, finds Will standing by the fireplace, his eyes fixed on the flames as they dance and writhe around each other. Will turns, just a little tilt of his head, so that he can meet Hannibal's eyes, and Hannibal closes his book, sitting forward.
"What you mean?" he asks.
Will smiles. "You don't have the mindset of a fisherman," he says. He has been gone for several days, down to the lake where he sits and waits and brings back what he catches when the meat runs scarce. During the winter time, they live off of stores – jerky and frozen meat – and whatever Will can catch on his own.
Hannibal hums, and sets his book down, then sits back, arms sprawled out on the back of the couch. Will's eyes dart to his hand, then the other, as though measuring his reach should Hannibal lunge.
"Would you like to tell me the difference?" Hannibal asks, raising his chin in challenge. This is what Will does, of course – he leaves, and he leaves, and he leaves, and perhaps he waits for Hannibal to chase, maybe he delights in making Hannibal ache for him; Hannibal has yet to figure that part out.
Will smiles, off-kilter and affectionate. He stuffs his hands into his pockets and paces to the center of the golden arc of firelight, silhouettes Hannibal's body and casts both their faces in darkness.
"Do you think the crocodile chases the buffalo when they're not crossing the river? Or the snake slithers after the mouse and chases it down?" Hannibal tilts his head to one side. "No. They go where they know their prey must be. They are not patient. They are not fair. They cheat."
"This is how you see me," Hannibal murmurs, unsure whether he is amused or should feel insulted. "A cheater, playing with a stacked deck?"
"That is the kind of hunter you are," Will replies. "The ones that need no lure." His voice is soft, hardly a breath. He steps forward until their knees touch, yet the rest of his silhouette does not change shape. "No edge. You simply are."
"And by this reasoning, I cannot fish," Hannibal says, amusement winning now.
Will huffs, and it sounds like he's laughing. He pulls his hands free and parts his knees, slides into place on Hannibal's lap and rests his hands on Hannibal's shoulders. Hannibal doesn't move, because it feels like he's trying to prove a point though he's not sure what it is.
Will leans in close, tucks his nose against Hannibal's temple, kisses the edge of his cheekbone. His nails curl and he slides closer until they are pressed together intimately, even through their clothes, and the heat of Will's lips blisters Hannibal's skin.
"Am I wrong?" Will asks. "Even now, you wait for me to come to you. You are here, where the prey is, and one day I will venture too close and you will snap your jaws around my neck."
Hannibal shivers, gut clenching with something akin to hunger, as Will kisses the words down his jaw, nuzzles under his ear until the hairs on his neck rise and his arms pebble into goosebumps under his shirt.
"You misunderstand me, darling," he says. Will hums curiously. "I feel much more like the fish, swimming over to inspect a lure and yet knowing if I bite, my fate is sealed."
Will pulls back, his teeth and eyes shining. He slides his hands up, cups Hannibal's face in a gentle touch, and kisses him. And Hannibal cannot resist him, never could. He leaps from the water and chases down his prey, wraps his arms around Will's waist and digs his nails into Will's back through his shirt. Will's exhale turns shaky, rough, and his eyes are wide and shine when Hannibal hauls them upright and then over, plastering Will on his back on the couch, covering him.
Will breaks the kiss, swallows harshly and brushes his thumb over Hannibal's lips. When Hannibal leans in again, Will turns his face towards the fire, and Hannibal growls, but accepts his assigned form of chastity. Will does not kiss him during, and Hannibal wonders, often yet absently, if it's too intimate for him to bear.
"My love -."
Hannibal cannot speak. Will is silent, smiling, and though he looked up in reflex to Hannibal's pet name, he ducks his head down now, hair falling forward to hide his eyes, but not the pink rose of his blush. His hands are dirty, though with what Hannibal cannot precisely say. He's washing them now, and Hannibal steps forward, his mouth watering at the scent of meat and spices as it wafts its way to him.
"Have a seat," Will says. "It's almost done."
Hannibal obeys, struck mute. He walks into the dining room and finds two place settings, set across from each other as equals. Between them is a decanter of dark red wine and Hannibal takes it, pours them two glasses and takes his seat. He swirls the red around, lifts it to his nose and inhales deeply – it smells sweet, like blackberries and spun sugar, yet when he drinks it it's surprisingly light and coats his tongue thinly, pleasantly.
Will emerges, carrying a roasting dish, which he sets between the place settings. He lifts the lid without flourish, the same way he might unload his cooler of fish or pack away his gun. It's a tenderloin roast, and smells delicious, the meat crusted on the top with salt and pepper, and the bottom of it surrounded by a moat of caramelized shallots in a rich red wine sauce. The scent alone makes Hannibal's mouth water and his stomach clench up hungrily.
Will leaves, knowing that Hannibal needs no introduction to his food, and returns with a cutting knife and fork. He cuts a slice towards the middle of the roast, where the meat is more rare, and pinker, and it oozes with juice as Will cuts through it. He takes Hannibal's plate silently, loads it with the meat and shallots, and sets it down before serving himself.
Will takes his seat, sees that Hannibal has filled his own glass, and smiles at him, toothy and pleased at having struck Hannibal silent.
Hannibal looks down at the food again, and slices himself a bite. The fat is tender and crisping towards the edge, the meat itself wonderfully soft so that it almost falls apart in his mouth, and combined with the crisp sweetness of the sauce, he can say it's delicious.
"My love," he murmurs, proud beyond words. "Who taught you how to cook?"
Will smiles, flushed and pleased, and takes a sip of wine. "You did."
Hannibal turns over in their bed, finds Will's warmth and buries his face in Will's hair, breathing in his scent deeply. Since they moved Will always smells somewhat of the woods; pine needles and the unmistakable scent of mud under fallen leaves, of grass and wildflowers.
Will huffs, but lets Hannibal embrace him, sighing when Hannibal pulls their bodies close together so they're touching everywhere possible, despite the tackiness of old sweat providing a mild discomfort. Will sighs again, sleep-flushed and lazy, and reaches back to gently squeeze Hannibal's hip.
"I'll cook for you more often, if that's my reward," he says.
Hannibal laughs, and Will turns in his arms until their eyes can meet. Hannibal leans in for a kiss and Will accepts it with a soft, surprised sound. And in that moment Hannibal realizes Will was right – he never initiates, waits for Will to cross the stream or come to him. Even in this drawbridge dance, can he say he was truly trying to cross from his side to Will's, or merely sitting, and waiting, for Will to come to him?
"My love," he whispers, kisses the words to Will's pink, lovely mouth. "Will you teach me how to fish?"
Will blinks at him, and he swallows, touches Hannibal's cheek with the utmost gentleness while those sharp, all-seeing eyes track over his face, read whatever it is Hannibal cannot help but show since the walls came down. Surely, Will has burrowed behind his person suit and made room for himself there, and Hannibal cannot cut him out any more than he could amputate his own limbs.
Then, Will smiles, and kisses him once more. "Yes," he says. "I'll teach you."