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Let Me Sinful Be

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If the desire itself isn’t humiliating enough, the circumstances under which Will discovers it certainly is.

It’s poor diet, pure and simple. Too many meals of fast food and other junk, too much whiskey—too much stress probably, too, if he’s being honest, not to mention his nonexistent sleep schedule—and he’s too far into his twenties for his body to withstand that sort of abuse without complaining.

He spends almost thirty minutes in his tiny closet of a bathroom in his dimly lit New Orleans apartment, and when he emerges, his asshole is stinging like a bitch and even bleeding a little.

It’s disgusting and undignified, but that doesn’t stop him from fixating perversely on the sensation. Something about the ache when he sits, the thought of his hole being stretched under very different circumstances…

“You know you’ve reached a whole new level of damaged,” he tells himself with a grimace, “when you’re getting off on literal shit.”

The worst part is how his mind won’t let him forget it. The more he tries to ignore and deny, the more time his imagination spends weaving elaborate fantasies of some faceless figure putting things up his ass.

When he finally hunches into a sex shop to buy his first butt plug, he feels like any one of the criminals he investigates: driven so mad by the siren call of his own wants that he’s helpless but to give in—despite knowing perfectly well that it’ll only get worse from here.

 


 

By the time he’s settling into his new home in Wolf Trap, Virginia, Will has amassed a collection of toys that he suspects could rival an internet sex worker’s. Plugs and dildos of all sizes and colors that he stores in a plastic tub in the upstairs closet.

The urge to select a favorite or two to keep by the bed with a bottle of lubricant, so he’s always prepared when the mood strikes, is hard to ignore, but ignore it he does. He’s come to think of them like the trophies of a serial killer: to get sloppy with them, to do anything but hide them away like the shameful secrets they are, is an invitation to be caught.

The dogs, at least, don’t judge him. Harley will follow him, sometimes, up the stairs and into the closet, then stand a short distance away and watch with his head cocked while Will makes his selection and carries it back downstairs to wash it in the kitchen sink before he uses it.

“Sorry, bud,” Will says when Harley finally gets bored and wanders off. “Nothing exciting. Just the usual perversions.” To himself, a reminder: “Could be worse.”

 


 

When he’s acquitted and released from the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, Will returns to Wolf Trap and makes a painstaking circuit of the house, searching for everything that was removed during the investigation.

The tub in his closet is gone, along with all its contents.

For a moment, Will burns so strongly with humiliation that he feels almost feverish. His mind provides an excruciatingly vivid image of Zeller and Price logging it as evidence, of Beverly examining each toy, of—god—Jack pawing through and curling his lip and adding this to his mental profile of Will as an intelligent, deviant psychopath.

“You couldn’t spare me even this, could you,” he mutters, not sure whether he’s speaking to Jack or himself or someone else entirely.

 


 

He buys only one replacement, which—after considerable apprehension—he eventually allows Molly to find, years later.

Molly is intrigued, encouraging even, but the experiment that follows is a disaster.

For Will, penetration brings with it a loss of humanity. Something about being slicked up and spread open, making himself ache just a little in such a vulnerable place, strips away all of the scraps of decency and virtue and politeness he’s managed to cobble together over the years. He’s reduced to instinct and animal hunger.

He makes inhuman noises and claws or bites whatever is near enough to reach. If he keeps at it long enough—clenching his muscles and rolling his hips languidly, enjoying the fullness without trying to do anything in particular about it—then sometimes his thoughts will quiet like an ECG line going flat.

With Molly watching, participating, he can’t relax. He can’t let go.

After a matter of minutes, he gives it up as a lost cause, shoving the small plug and lubricant bottle aside with a vigorous head shake and, oddly, a feeling of relief.

“Hey. It’s okay,” Molly says, cupping his cheek when he rolls to face her. “We can try again some—”

“No.” Another shake of his head dislodges her hand. Between them, his dick is limp, even though his ass is wet and loose, a sensation that usually gets him hard like none other. “It… I think it’s just a me thing, not a me-and-someone-else thing.”

Her nod is hesitant, unsure. Before she can say anything else, he sweeps her bangs back and kisses her, distracts her. Encourages her to focus on her own desires, not his.

 


 

The brutal crash of Will’s body striking the water below acts like a dose of electric current to a dying heart. Whereas before he was content to hurtle himself and Hannibal both to their watery graves, now he suddenly needs to survive.

He’s at the mercy of adrenaline, panic, and blind faith as much as the overpowering waves and freezing temperature. He’s beaten and bleeding and Hannibal is a heavy, motionless weight in his arms, but Will can’t let them die. He won’t.

He’s fought and hauled them both halfway to shore by the time that Hannibal wakes and, of fucking course, takes control. Will tries to keep up, but at some point he realizes the roar in his ears is not the water but something inside his own mind, rising and threatening to pull him under.

Time blinks and skips, and nothing he sees or hears makes sense. When he comes back to himself, he’s lying in a bed and squinting up at a white ceiling. The world is muted and fuzzy in that way that means he’s been drugged, and when he rolls his head to one side, he finds Hannibal lying beside him, shirtless and streaked with blood and grime.

Something about the graceless sprawl of Hannibal’s body, how his legs are angled over the edge of the mattress and his torso twisted the opposite direction, makes Will suspect he is passed out rather than sleeping willfully.

“Are you alive?” Will says. His voice is little more than a croak, and he’s not prepared for the sharp stab of pain in his cheek. His tongue prods at the wound there—the Dragon’s knife, he recalls—and finds a texture he thinks are stitches.

Hannibal, at least, flutters his eyes open at Will’s question, although he closes them again almost immediately.

Not good.

Will heaves his sluggish body to sitting, sees that he’s both shirtless and pantsless, and takes stock of the visible injuries. To his shock, they seem to be mostly bruises—albeit bad ones, black and blue and purple marring nearly every inch of his skin like a child’s watercolor painting. His chest is the worst, and it aches and feels tight every time he inhales.

Aside from that, he’s been cleaned and treated, stitched and bandaged where necessary. He’s a little surprised that the knife wound near his shoulder bears only a thick padding of gauze, not a line of stitches like his cheek, but he doesn’t think too much on it, trusting Hannibal’s judgment.

Hannibal, meanwhile, is stitched and bandaged but not clean at all. A large basin of water rests on the nightstand beside him, and when Will stands and drags himself around the bed, wheezing with pain, he discovers a sopping-wet washcloth and several damp towels on the floor like they were dropped inadvertently. There’s also something that looks a T-shirt ripped and tied to form a makeshift sling.

Will deliberates between waking Hannibal and letting him continue to rest, and decides—for the moment, at least—on the latter. His entire body aches and throbs like a gaping wound as he shuffles out of the bedroom.

They’re in the cliff house, which is silent and empty aside from the two of them. Will roams from room to room, searching not for supplies so much as clues about Hannibal’s plans, maybe evidence of another house where they’ll be safer and more well-hidden. It’s ill advised to stay here. They need to leave before they’re found.

When he reaches the kitchen, something in his brain lurches, making him lightheaded and woozy, and he grabs the countertop to keep himself standing. In the corner of his eye, something gleams. His ring.

He barely even thinks. There’s a whisper of You can’t go back and You never deserved her, and a realization that his fingers are swollen, and then he’s stumbling for the freezer, looking for peas or ice or something to lessen the swelling so he can remove the ring.

Once he’s managed, sending it down the sink drain seems fitting. The symbol of his marriage, his other life, disappearing into the depths of Hannibal’s kitchen—the metaphor is almost too perfect. Hannibal would be smug and preening if he were awake to witness it.

Will continues exploring. He comes across the broken window and the blood and mess that the Dragon made; a bathroom with blood on the floor and walls, the cabinet door wide open, and vomit in the sink; and a small bedroom that smells like Abigail—or maybe that’s just Will’s imagination.

Eventually he finds a walk-in closet with a trunk wedged in the back behind several storage boxes. In the center, though, the first thing he laid eyes on when he opened the door, is a familiar plastic tub.

He stares dumbly for a long, long moment, then backs away and returns to the bedroom he started in. Hannibal hasn’t moved and is probably no closer to being ready to wake than he was ten minutes ago. Still, Will stands over him and, though his cheek smarts in protest, speaks.

You took it?”

Hannibal’s eyes flutter open. He says nothing, only stares dazedly up at Will.

“My box of sex toys. You were the one who took it from my house all those years ago.”

“Ah,” Hannibal says. “Yes.”

Then he’s out again, his head lolling on the pillow and his mouth sagging open.

“Asshole,” Will sighs.

 


 

Will attempts to finish what Hannibal started on himself, but whatever spike of healthfulness enabled Will to get up and take a walk around the house is dwindling fast. His mind slows and goes soupy, his pain worsens, and he becomes aware that his skin is much, much warmer than Hannibal’s.

Fortunately, Chiyoh arrives not long after, moving so silently through the house that Will doesn’t realize she’s there until she is already standing in the doorway, watching him and Hannibal with an expression like she neither knows nor cares what happened to them but is judging them for it all the same.

“You should lie down,” she tells Will. “You are not well.”

“I’m at least conscious. He’s not.” But she has a point, and Will knows that whatever she does, she’ll at least ensure Hannibal is taken care of. “But yeah. Okay.”

He drifts again almost as soon as his head hits the pillow, and the world goes murky. He sees the stag, he thinks, staring down at him, lowering its head as though to feed on him.

A sudden touch to his neck rouses him, and he finds Hannibal’s face only inches from his own. Will tries to jerk away, but he doesn’t have the strength and Hannibal holds him tightly in place, his nostrils flaring as he inhales.

“You have an infection,” Hannibal says. “It’s set in unusually quickly. You need medication.”

“Are you sure?” says Will, unable to stop himself. “You don’t want to leave it alone just to see what happens?”

He regrets that a few moments later when Hannibal sinks a needle into his arm and injects him with something that is very much not the antibiotic Will was expecting. The sedative drags him into a swift, heavy sleep thick with strange and vivid dreams.

In them, he is sailing a boat with Abigail, the Dragon soaring above with his wings dripping blood onto them like rain. There’s something involving the bayous of Louisiana, a broken fishing line, and fingernails, and then he’s being fucked with a cattle prod while Hannibal slices strips of skin from his ribs.

When he surfaces again, he’s lying in an unfamiliar bed in an unfamiliar room. A curtained window to his right reveals pitch-black nighttime, and to his left stands an IV that Will suspects was hooked to him at some point, although it isn’t now.

Hannibal sits in an armchair across the room with an open book in his lap. He’s dressed in a burgundy silk robe, and he wears a sling on his left arm. When he sees that Will is awake, his solemn expression breaks into a smile that is shocking in its warmth. He sets aside his book and stands.

“Will,” he says in a tone as warm as his smile. “I am glad to see you awake. How do you feel?”

Will’s head is still a little foggy, so he doesn’t mince words. “You drugged me.”

“I didn’t want to risk you overexerting yourself in the critical stages of your recovery. You can be somewhat unpredictable.”

“My recovery.”

It takes less effort than Will expected to lift himself enough to sit with his back against the elaborate wooden headboard. Whatever Hannibal was dosing him with must have included a painkiller that hasn’t worn off yet; although he feels pain, it’s still far off, like the first glow of dawn beginning to peek over the dark horizon.

He’s as shirtless as he was the last time he woke, but now his ribs are wrapped and he’s wearing a pair of black pajama pants that are soft enough to be satin.

“You did throw us over a cliff,” Hannibal says. He approaches slowly, almost cautiously, and grabs a glass of water off a nightstand Will didn’t notice behind the IV. It has a little plastic straw in it just like at an actual hospital.

“Exactly. Operative word: ‘us.’”

When Hannibal bends the straw and holds the glass for Will to drink, he obeys without hesitation. He is thirsty, and even though the water is room temperature, it’s no less satisfying for it.

“Your wounds were more concerning than mine,” Hannibal says, watching Will intently. “Aside from the bullet wound and a dislocated shoulder, which is healing far more slowly than I would prefer, my own recovery is progressing well.” Gently, he pulls the glass away and replaces it on the nightstand.

It’s bullshit; Will has no doubt about that. Hannibal was in no better shape than him, unable to do more than flutter his pretty eyes, and he refuses to believe that anyone—even Hannibal fucking Lecter—could make such a drastic turnaround in…however much time has passed.

Will shakes his head. “You didn’t give a shit about my recovery. You didn’t know what I’d do, and you weren’t confident you had the strength to stop me.”

Hannibal cocks his head. It’s a subtly reptilian movement, but it’s also overwhelmingly Dr. Lecter-ish. All these years later, Will still can’t believe no one realized something wasn’t quite right with the good doctor. Himself included, encephalitis or not.

“As I said,” Hannibal says, “you are often unpredictable. And you are fighting off an infection. You need to regain your strength.”

“Did you make me soup?”

It’s skipping a few steps, aiming right for where Will knows Hannibal is going instead of letting Hannibal direct the conversation on his own. But Hannibal doesn’t seem to mind.

“I did,” he says pleasantly. “Although I must warn you it is not my best work. Cooking in a sling proved to be more difficult than anticipated.”

If that isn’t proof that Hannibal isn’t as recovered as he’s pretending, Will doesn’t know what is. “I’ll adjust my expectations accordingly.”

“Good. Then I’ll heat you up a bowl.”

 


 

“Where are we?” Will asks.

The better question is probably What the hell are we doing? because the entire situation is surreal. Despite his own considerable injuries, Hannibal has appointed himself Will’s personal nurse and seems to take genuine delight in the task. He ensures that Will is fed and hydrated, that Will is medicated, that Will is clean and shaved and at least reasonably entertained.

They speak little and of nothing of consequence: Will because he is still fuzzy and feverish and trying to wrap his head around the fact that he is alive and with Hannibal and likely to remain that way, and Hannibal because he is apparently very busy reading a very interesting book even though he never seems to make any significant progress on it.

They are rarely out of each other’s sights, though, so despite the lack of conversation Will thinks that he’s never felt more truly conjoined with Hannibal than he does now. Which is more than a little disconcerting.

At Will’s question, Hannibal, who has been sitting in the armchair that he’s dragged across the room to be closer to Will’s bedside, sets aside his book. “Rural Kansas. It is not my favorite property or location, but I think it’s suitable enough for a private, leisurely convalescence. Don’t you?”

Kansas?” If he said the North Pole, Will would be less baffled. “Is that wise? Shouldn’t we be out of the country by now? Or do you want to get caught again?”

Hannibal crosses one leg over the other and adjusts the sling over his shoulder. “Actually, I thought it more prudent to stay in the country for the time being. Even aside from our injuries, I’ve established a precedent of fleeing the continent to avoid capture. They will expect to find us in Europe, not here.”

They might, but everyone else won’t. You know, the American citizens whose tips and reported sightings could lead them right to us.”

Hannibal sets both feet on the ground again so that he can bend forward, his good arm reaching toward Will. Instinctively Will tries to flinch away, but because he’s already up against the headboard, there’s nowhere to go. Hannibal’s fingertips, gentle and cool, trace the stitches on Will’s cheek.

“It’s healing well,” he says mildly. “And clearly it doesn’t hurt you as it did before, since you’re speaking perfectly fine.”

Will smacks his hand away, as much to hide his shiver as to deter any further contact. Hannibal has probably touched Will more times in the last few days than in all the years they’ve known each other combined, and Will has become excruciatingly aware of every one. At each brush of Hannibal’s skin against his, Will flashes back to the cliff, to their embrace, except this time he sees it as an observer might. The blood and the brutality of the scene contrasting the tenderness with which Hannibal put his arms around Will and Will leaned his cheek against Hannibal’s chest.

In that moment, they looked like lovers, like the murder husbands Freddie Lounds so enjoys calling them.

Will doesn’t know what to do with that image or the dark, roiling depths of emotion it inspires in him.

“Perhaps I wanted to give you the option to return to your life and your family when you are well again,” Hannibal says, settling back in his chair. “It would be much easier for you to do so if you remain in the United States.”

Will’s bark of laughter makes his ribs ache. Lowering his eyes to the bedsheets gathered around his waist, he curls one arm around his middle and rubs idly at the soft cotton T-shirt that Hannibal helped him dress in that morning. “You wouldn’t let me go.”

“Would you?”

It’s not really clear whether Hannibal means Would you go if you could? or Would you let me go if our positions were reversed? But Will supposes it doesn’t matter. The answer is the same either way.

He shakes his head and nearly lifts his gaze so he can see Hannibal’s reaction. But he doesn’t. He’s still trying to decide how he should feel. Knowing too much about how Hannibal feels will just muddy the already-muddy waters even further.

“I made my choice,” he says. “I’m here. Which you’ve known since whenever you realized my wedding band was gone.”

Hannibal bends forward again and, after a momentary hesitation, brushes his knuckles down Will’s uninjured cheek. It’s impulsive, uncharacteristic, yet undeniably affectionate, and it makes something in Will’s chest lurch. He follows it with a physical lurch of his body to the right, out of Hannibal’s reach, and swings his legs off the edge of the mattress.

“Will,” Hannibal says quickly.

“I want to walk. I need to…move.”

Hannibal hurries to help him up, to accompany him—either by offering his good arm for balance or just hovering nearby—like he does every other time Will gets out of bed, but Will waves him away.

“I’m fine. I got it. I’m just going to roam the house a little. Alone.”

Hannibal’s lips go thin, but after only a brief stare down with Will, he relents. He returns to his armchair and takes up his book again like he couldn’t care less if Will intends to go walk into traffic or hurl himself off another cliff. “If you insist.”

To Will’s chagrin, his legs wobble and nearly buckle after only one step—albeit more from disuse than pain—but thankfully he recovers and makes it through the door and into the hallway without incident.

Although only a single story, the house is long and sprawling, with more rooms than anything less than a family of four needs. The space is open and airy, with numerous windows that look out onto an empty stretch of green land. Will wonders when and how Hannibal acquired this property, whether he ever anticipated coming here under these circumstances.

He’s not sure if it’s simple curiosity, a subconscious flexing of his empathy, or something else that draws him to the closet of an empty bedroom, but it’s there that he pauses and throws open the door.

Clothes hang inside that he knows even without examining are meant to be his. They’re largely neutral colors, more casual than Hannibal’s favored three-piece suits, and they just feel like Will. Nestled on the floor beneath them are pieces of a matching luggage set, either full of more clothes or used to transport the ones that are here, and among them sits that damn plastic tub.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

Will shuts the door harder than necessary and shuffles back to the other bedroom. Hannibal is still in the armchair, looking for all the world like he’s engrossed in his book.

“Why,” Will says, “would you bring those with us?”

To Hannibal’s credit, he at least doesn’t play at ignorance. “You seemed to care about them a great deal. Of all the topics you could have roused me to discuss at the cliff house, you chose that one.”

“Because I didn’t understand. Hell, I still don’t understand. Why would you steal my sex toys in the first place?”

Hannibal rests the book on the chair arm and seems to be genuinely considering the question. “I suppose I thought they were important to you and you would want them preserved. So much of your little house in Wolf Trap was covered in a fine layer of dust—all except items upon which you placed particular value. Your lures and fishing equipment, your tools, your dog supplies—and that box and everything in it.”

Everything in it. Will has to sit down, and drags himself to the bed to do just that. “Did you go through it?”

Hannibal gives him a lofty look that on anyone else might have said Yeah? So sue me. “I was curious. You have quite the collection. Several of which, I should mention, were made of porous or otherwise unsafe materials. I disposed of them, of course.”

The image is worse than the one that plagued Will years ago of Beverly or Jack going through them. But it also makes a lot more sense, so Will suspects that on some level he knew all along.

“You…what?”

“I’d be happy to assist in finding replacements if you’d like,” Hannibal says.

“I would not like. I’d like it if you stayed out of my—out of them.”

“Certainly.” Hannibal’s expression is blank, but amusement radiates off of him like heat from a campfire. “To return to our previous conversation, I thought we would remain here until we are healed and the FBI’s zeal for our capture has dwindled.”

Will lies back on the bed, resting his head in the dip between the two pillows and staring up at the ceiling. “Great. Wonderful. I can’t wait.”

 


 

Chiyoh appears occasionally, always bringing food, other supplies, or information that can’t be found in internet news articles. Officially, Will and Hannibal have been confirmed neither dead nor alive, but unofficially the FBI is no longer searching for their bodies.

Will doesn’t think about Jack or Alana. Molly or Wally. He doesn’t think about much of anything, really. Even his thoughts of Hannibal are surface-level, purposely benign. What is Hannibal cooking for dinner? Is he really still reading that same book? How many silk robes does he fucking own, and why does he keep wearing them?

What did he think when he opened that plastic tub and saw Will’s filthy little collection?

“You couldn’t have known,” Will says, “back then.”

He’s standing in the doorway of the library, because of course the house has a library. Or maybe it’s meant to be an office, since it does have a desk in the center, but it also has walls of built-in bookshelves that are filled with the sort of hardbacks that look expensive and rare.

Now that Will is well enough to spend as much time outside his bed as in it, Hannibal has taken to spending his days sitting at the desk with his sling off, sketching beautiful buildings that probably exist somewhere even if Will doesn’t recognize them.

Hannibal glances up at Will’s comment. His gaze carves a path from Will’s socks to his jeans, the hem of Will’s shirt to where a lock of hair is curling against his temple. For a moment, Will swears he can feel Hannibal sweeping that lock away, tucking it behind his ear, but then Hannibal turns back to his sketch and the phantom touch dissipates.

“What couldn’t I have known?” he asks.

“That eventually you would try to convince me to run away with you.”

Shoving his hands in his pockets, Will steps deeper into the room, keeping his eyes on the books and the shelves. He’s been thinking about this all morning. It’s humiliating, actually, the amount of thought he’s given this, almost as humiliating as the fact that he’s not just confining his thoughts to the safety of his own skull anymore but taking them to Hannibal.

“You took that plastic tub from my house when you were framing me for your murders. And the other day you set me up to think you took it only so I’d have it now, but that doesn’t fit. You hadn’t figured out what to do with me at that point. There’s no way you could have foreseen we’d end up here. Not then.”

“I always plan for an array of possible outcomes,” Hannibal says, still diligently sketching away. “It’s easier that way to adapt when circumstances change suddenly.”

“So, what, you thought, ‘Just in case I decide to keep him around, I better make sure he has his butt plugs’?” Will’s cheeks burn, and he would regret the blunt phrasing except that Hannibal is visibly taken aback by it.

He thinks it will never fail to thrill him when Hannibal is so surprised by him that he drops the veil, no matter how briefly.

After a beat of silence, Hannibal lays his pencil on the desk and slides his drawing to the side. “You are embarrassed that I found them. You needn’t be. There is nothing shameful about deriving sexual pleasure from anal stimulation, Will.”

Will flinches away, ripping one hand out of his pocket to rub his eyes. He would have been happy to go his whole damn life without hearing the words anal stimulation coming out of Hannibal’s mouth. The effect it has on him is almost obscene.

“You would think,” he says, still refusing to meet Hannibal’s gaze, “I’d get used to being violated by you, but somehow every infraction just feels worse than the last.”

He leaves before Hannibal can respond to that. He tells himself it’s an act of self-preservation, not cowardice, and even if he knows it’s a lie, it makes him feel better.

 


 

The stitches are probably overdue to come out. They itch, and the skin around them feels tight and uncomfortable.

At first he wonders why Hannibal hasn’t said anything about it, hasn’t even acknowledged the cheek wound for a few days now, and then Will remembers that he’s fully capable of taking them out himself.

He does it in the bathroom, which is much smaller than he would have expected for the only bathroom in a house of this size. But it’s also well-lit with a large mirror, and that’s all he really needs.

He doesn’t realize that he’s left the door open until Hannibal appears there, framed perfectly by the wood trim with the dark hallway at his back. Will hasn’t made the first snip yet and almost drops the scissors into the sink in his surprise. He didn’t even hear a whisper of movement to suggest Hannibal was approaching.

Hannibal tuts, crossing the threshold and crowding Will in the already-cramped space. “No gloves, I see. You’ve not finished your first round of antibiotics, Will. Are you so eager for a second?”

In one hand he carries a medical kit, which he sets beside the sink, and although the sling is nowhere in sight and hasn’t been all day, he’s holding his left arm stiffly. Will suspects his injuries there were a bit more extensive than just a dislocated shoulder, but Hannibal has neither confirmed nor denied it.

“Sit, please,” Hannibal says, but it’s only when he slaps the side of the sink opposite his medical kit that Will understands what he’s being asked to do.

“You’re joking.”

I am sure as shit not, says Hannibal’s raised eyebrow. Not in those exact words, obviously, but the thought of them in his voice amuses Will enough that he hops onto the bathroom counter without further comment.

Hannibal clicks open the medical kit. “How are your ribs?”

“Bruised, not broken. I took the wrap off a while ago.”

“I noticed. It was largely a precautionary measure. A reminder to exercise care while you’re healing. Pain itself doesn’t seem to be the deterrent for you that it is for others.”

Will has always had an unusually high tolerance for physical pain, a benefit he realizes he only truly began taking advantage of when he met Hannibal. Yet another quality you brought out in me. Bet you’d be pleased to learn that, wouldn’t you?

“I’m pretty sure,” he says instead, as Hannibal is tearing open a pair of sterile gloves, “our bodies should’ve shattered like glass in that fall. But they didn’t. It’s a miracle neither of us is paralyzed. Or worse.”

“A miracle,” Hannibal echoes musingly. “Do you attribute it to divine intervention?”

Will snorts. “Hardly. God drops churches on his worshippers, but he spares us?”

“Our work isn’t done yet. Perhaps he knew that as well as you did.”

When the gloves are snapped in place, Hannibal pauses, peering at Will with dark, clear eyes. With Will perched on the counter as he is, Hannibal is shorter than him. It feels wrong for Will to look down at him. Unnatural and all the more thrilling for it.

“You fought hard for our survival,” Hannibal continues. “It’s unfortunate I remember so little of it. I imagine you looked magnificent. You always do, when the truth answers your call.”

Will doesn’t have a chance to respond before Hannibal is laying one hand along Will’s uninjured cheek, using it to hold and angle Will’s head as he pleases.

“Now. I must ask you to be still and quiet.”

Hannibal smells most strongly like powder and antiseptic, but under the temporary medicinal scents are the usual notes of spice and herbs that Will associates with him. Hannibal seems like the type of man who would favor a prominent, even overpowering scent, but it’s always subtle, barely there unless Will is looking for it.

He supposes it makes sense. Strong colognes and aftershaves announce themselves and linger too easily, like a hunter stomping around the forest and scaring his potential prey. And with a nose like Hannibal’s, maybe he’d even make himself sick, wearing something heavy.

Why are you thinking about what he smells like?

Stupid question. Will knows why. Because it keeps him from focusing too much on how Hannibal feels.

The gloves prevent a skin-to-skin touch, but it hardly matters. Will feels it just as vividly. His skin heats and stomach twists just the same. He closes his eyes and, to his surprise, sees the Dragon emerge from the blackness. His wings are lowered, his tail curled around his feet. Momentarily content, relishing a more quiet power.

The longer Hannibal works, the clearer it becomes that the stitches were long overdue for removal. The skin has started to grow around them, so Hannibal has to dig slightly rather than just pulling. It hurts, and Will can feel himself bleeding anew.

It’s intentional, he realizes. This is what Hannibal wants.

He’s making the wound his. The Dragon marked me, and although Hannibal can’t undo it, he can leave his mark alongside it.

“You were going to let it go farther,” Will says. “Until you had to cut my cheek open again just to get the stitches out.”

Hannibal makes a quiet sound of amusement. “Not nearly that far, I assure you.”

Will opens his eyes. Hannibal’s gloved fingertips are just barely speckled with blood, and his eyebrows are drawn low with an intensity that makes Will’s insides squirm even harder.

“You already have one scar on my face. Do you really need two?”

Hannibal’s gaze doesn’t budge from where it’s fixed on Will’s cheek, but his hand leaves its position on Will’s jaw and settles again on Will’s forehead. His thumb drags, torturously slowly, in a straight horizontal line.

They both know, without looking, that he’s just traced the scar—his scar—perfectly.

“It’s faded nicely over the years,” says Hannibal. He lets go and leans back. “This one will as well.”

He drops the forceps on the counter and digs in his kit for a bandage and antiseptic wipe, and Will thinks, That’s it? Already? with no small amount of disappointment and immediately hates himself for it.

“I’d intended for you to inhabit one of the other rooms,” Hannibal says. “However, the one you’ve been staying in seemed better suited for your recovery, with its natural lighting and more calming color scheme. You’re welcome to relocate, or I can assist you in moving your things.”

That explains the closet, Will supposes. The clothes meant for him, his tub of toys.

“My things, huh?”

He has an image of Hannibal carting Will’s collection from one bedroom to another, the plugs and dildos thumping against each other. When he blinks the mental picture away, he finds Hannibal frowning at him.

“Interesting,” Hannibal says, “how a single instance of theft seems to weigh more heavily on you now than any of my other crimes. Tell me, Will, which makes you feel most ‘violated’: that I took them in the first place or that I am giving them back to you?”

“Do I have to choose? Because I think the answer to that is probably ‘yes.’”

It’s a sidestep, and Hannibal no doubt knows that just as much as Will. The real answer is that Will is deliberately not thinking about why he’s so bothered. If he were smart, he’d stop thinking about the issue altogether, just let it go as he has so many other transgressions of Hannibal’s.

But apparently he’s not smart, or at least not in this, because he keeps circling and circling like a scavenger over a meal, and every time he ventures close enough to taste, he jerks himself away before he can get enough of a bite to see.

After a brief pause, Hannibal says, “I confess it was largely impulsive. I saw the box, how well you’d taken care of its contents, and I was intrigued. I thought at first to take only one, but in the end I couldn’t choose. I wanted them all, and I knew by then you were far too ill to notice their absence.”

Will’s skin both crawls with indignation and flushes with something too close to pleasure for comfort. It’s as good as a confirmation of what he’s already suspected: Hannibal’s regard for him—his love, if Bedelia is to be believed—has a sexual component, and possibly a very significant one.

And I’m not unaffected. If I were, I wouldn’t respond so strongly to him.

“I took several of your lures as well,” Hannibal says. Stepping away from Will, he begins to peel off his gloves. “Although, unfortunately, those did not survive.”

Will translates that mentally. You destroyed them when I rejected you and hurt your feelings.

He can’t resist asking, “Did you burn them or hurl them dramatically into the sea?”

“Neither.”

Hannibal doesn’t offer what he did with them instead. He only gathers up the used gloves and other trash and drops it all into the bin. He’s barely glanced at Will in the last few moments, and he continues to avert his gaze as he closes and fastens the medical kit.

Only when he’s returned to the hallway and nearly disappeared into the darkness does he turn and meet Will’s eyes. His expression is blank, and the only emotion Will senses from him is distracted curiosity.

“Shall I help you relocate?” Hannibal says. “Or move your things for you?”

Will slides off the counter. His cheek throbs beneath the fresh bandage, and his ribs ache slightly. “I can move them.” Then, remembering his manners: “But thank you.”

 


 

With the exception of decorative rugs in the library and parlor, the house’s floors are all wooden and smooth. Will doesn’t have to carry his tub from one room to the other; it slides almost effortlessly.

He’s still buzzing from the conversation in the bathroom—specifically, from the fact that Hannibal could stand in front of him and say, I wanted them all, and then just leave like it didn’t matter.

Maybe to him it doesn’t. Or, more likely, maybe Hannibal just wants to see how Will will react.

And how will I react?

By moving the toys, firstly. Taking them back properly and seeing what in the hell Hannibal did with them.

He didn’t do much, it turns out. Some items are gone, disposed of as he said, but nothing that Will will miss: only the first few plugs that Will ever bought, which he kept more out of laziness than any desire to use them again. He found them all in the cheapest, shadiest of New Orleans sex shops, so he’s not surprised Hannibal deemed the materials “unsafe.”

His favorites are there, at least. The heavy steel plug that nails his prostate dead-on. The textured glass one that stings no matter how slowly he inserts it. The purple silicone suction-cup dildo he uses when he wants something big and intrusive.

His partially used bottle of lube is there too, tucked into the corner. There’s a good chance it’s expired by now. He should probably throw it away.

He doesn’t. He scoops it up, along with his steel plug, and then he sits on the floor, asking himself, Are you really going to do this?

It’s after dinner, and Hannibal is sketching in the library. He had music playing when Will last walked by the open doorway: something operatic and passionate almost to the point of overwrought. From experience, Will knows that Hannibal will retire to his own bedroom in an hour or two; he won’t seek Will out if Will doesn’t seek him out first.

It doesn’t matter. He’ll still know. He’ll smell it after the fact if nothing else.

So what? If he wants to know how I’ll react, then I’ll show him.

But first Will has to clean the plug, and himself.

It feels naughty, sneaking out of his bedroom with a sex toy hidden amidst the folded sleep shirt and shorts he’s carrying. For a second, just before he reaches the bathroom, when he sees the light from the library farther down the hallway and hears the distant music, he wants Hannibal to peek out. To examine him. To ask him what he’s planning.

Hannibal doesn’t, which is good because Will doesn’t really want him to anyway. He slips into the bathroom and closes the door quietly behind him.

He doesn’t rush his shower, but neither does he linger. He washes his hair, his body, and by the time he finally gets to the point, his dick is already stiffening from nothing but anticipation. He can’t remember the last time he touched himself, anally or otherwise. It might’ve been years ago, for how eager he is for it now.

The first dip of his soapy finger into his asshole makes his breath catch. He always feels so tight at first, so unyielding, and it gets worse the deeper his finger sinks. He has to seduce himself again every time: has to fight his body’s insistence that this is not how this is supposed to work, and remind himself that this strangeness will pass eventually, although not yet. He’s only cleaning, and that’s always at least a little uncomfortable.

Not uncomfortable enough that his half-hard dick flags, though. And when he’s finished and his hole is just a little bit loose, a little bit used, half-hard becomes fully hard and all he wants is to stuff himself with his toy.

He gets out and dries off, then hangs his towel up neatly like Hannibal insists on. Will dresses in his T-shirt and shorts, the latter going on carefully, and he washes the plug in the sink. The cool metal warms quickly under the water, and he takes a moment to reacquaint himself with the shape and weight of it. It’s maybe four inches long, with a thick bulb on one end and a ring-shaped handle on the other, and it’s heavy enough to be a weapon in the right circumstances.

As he dries the plug off, he finds himself leaning to the side and looking into the trash. The bloody gloves and other supplies from earlier are still inside, and in that moment the sight is more erotic than it has any right to be.

Hannibal was right. Out of all the thoughts Will could have—should have—been preoccupied by, this—sex and sex toys—was what his mind had settled on. Interesting, Hannibal called it, but Will thinks the more accurate word is twisted.

And now he’s going to sneak his sex toy back to his bedroom and fuck himself with it.

The opera music is still playing softly in the library, but otherwise the house is silent. If Hannibal finds anything odd about the time Will has just spent in the bathroom, he at least doesn’t feel inclined to investigate.

Will walks to his bedroom and shuts the door behind him. There’s no lock, but he’s not concerned about that. Hannibal would never be so rude as to enter without knocking first.

Will wastes no time stripping off his clothes again and flipping off the light. It’s easier to lose himself in the dark, and the moonshine coming in through the window is faint enough that he doesn’t mind it. It reminds him, instead, how his blood looked black in the moonlight, just like Hannibal said it would. It puts him back in that headspace: all his inconvenient humanity peeled back like a layer of skin, leaving nothing but the beauty of his own savagery.

He doesn’t bother with fingers first. He climbs in bed, slicks up the bulb side of the plug with a sizeable amount of lubricant, positions it against his hole, and pushes.

What Will likes most about this plug is that there’s no give to it. It’s as brutal and merciless as a knife, and after only minimal stretching, it stings like one too.

“Oh,” he breathes.

For a heartbeat, he feels shame. He’s suddenly a few years younger and mortified by what he wants and how badly he craves it. Then the plug’s ringed handle nudges his hole, the heavy bulb rubs his prostate, and he’s gone. Will Graham ceases to exist. He’s nothing but a body, an animal, ruled by impulse and the basest of desires.

He rolls onto his stomach, and his ribs and shoulder wound protest. So does his cheek, which he’s jammed against the pillow. But the aches only add to the pleasure. Moaning softly, he clenches around the plug and rocks his hips, and it hurts so sweetly and brings a whispery phantom touch to his cock that’s somehow better than anything he could do with his hand.

His legs hitch wide, and he palms his ass cheeks. He means only to grope a little, to spread himself open until he can feel with excruciating clarity how slick and full he is, how much his body is still struggling to adjust to the intrusion. But once his fingers find flesh, he can’t help but dig them in, sink his nails into his skin, and rake them upwards.

“Fuck,” he sighs. “God, yes.”

Soon enough, Will is writhing, still scratching, forcing the plug into his prostate again and again. It’s so good, as frightening and awe-inspiring as lightning splintering the black night sky. He turns his face into the pillow, opens his mouth, and bites. He feels ruined, and he wants to ruin. He wants to ravage everything in reach.

With a weak growl, he flips onto his back. The scratches from his fingernails sting as he grinds his ass against the mattress, making the plug knock against his inner walls like it’s seeking to beat its way past them. His cock throbs with every movement, precome leaking from the tip.

He grabs a fistful of sheets, wrenches them toward his mouth, and tears at them with his teeth. He can’t stop moving. His limbs are shaking as he swivels his hips in little circles, fucking himself on the steel toy that’s warmed by his body heat now.

It goes on until he feels feverish, out of his mind with pleasure that will never end, never leave him empty. He’s vaguely aware that various parts of him are sore and aching, even more vaguely aware that he’s sweating and groaning and gnashing his teeth in the sheets.

When Will comes, it feels like breaking, like it should have felt when he’d hit the water in Hannibal’s arms. Shattered and helpless and like he’ll never recover.

Clarity returns sluggishly, like a fish fighting the current. He’s sticky, tender, and out of breath. There are scratches from the side of his neck down to his collarbone that he has no memory of making.

He doesn’t want to take the plug out.

Can’t keep it in, he reminds himself. It’s not worth the discomfort he’d wake up to if he fell asleep with it in.

He gives it another few minutes before he bends his knees and slips the toy free. He moans a little at the lingering looseness and soreness, and has to give himself another few minutes to appreciate it, rolling his hips gently as the lube begins to dribble out.

His legs tremble when he finally climbs out of bed and puts his sleep clothes back on. It’s another thing he doesn’t want to do, but if he waits until morning to wash the plug, then the lube will be dried and harder to clean off.

As he opens his bedroom door and creeps into the hallway, the light in the library is still on, but there’s no music coming from inside. Or any other sounds, for that matter. Will hesitates but makes himself continue.

He’s a cannibalistic serial killer who ruined your life and tried to kill you. A little harmless self-pleasure doesn’t compare to anything he’s done.

But Will can’t help but wonder what Hannibal would think if he heard any of what went on in Will’s room.

 


 

“Do you feel better this morning?” Hannibal says.

He’s serving Will breakfast, which today is some sort of egg scramble with sausage and peppers that looks basic but will no doubt taste delicious and otherworldly. His expression is impassive, like his question is nothing more than a polite inquiry.

Will knows better. Hannibal may or may not have cottoned on last night to Will’s masturbatory session, but when Will walked into the kitchen with five puffy scratches high enough on his neck that none of his shirts will hide them, Hannibal was immediately and blatantly transfixed. He stared long and hard enough that Will could feel his attention like a physical touch, and his nostrils flared wide like he was intent on sniffing out all of Will’s secrets.

That reaction, combined with his phrasing now… Well, Will doesn’t doubt Hannibal has at least an inkling.

Will’s face heats, and shame threatens to engulf him—but only for a moment. He knows that Hannibal is prodding at him, seeing what Will will do. He also knows Hannibal could choose something much worse to bait Will with.

Fine. If Hannibal wants to play this game, then Will will damn well play too.

Will smiles wide, meeting Hannibal’s eyes without hesitation. “I do, thank you. I had a surprisingly stimulating night.”

To his disappointment, Hannibal barely blinks. “Wonderful. You seem much improved. I made juice. Oranges, freshly squeezed. Would you like a glass with your breakfast, or just coffee as usual?”

“Uh. Sure? I can try a little.”

 


 

There’s nothing to do in the house. No TV, no computer or phone, not even a board game or stack of cards. There is a tablet, with internet, but Hannibal has all but pissed on it to mark it as his.

There are also Hannibal’s books in the library, but when Will picks through them, he discovers most are French. The ones that aren’t seem to be largely philosophical or obscure Renaissance texts, which Will has little interest in on a good day and no patience for at the moment.

Thus, he’s begun spending a fair amount of time in his bedroom reacquainting himself with his toys. And Hannibal has begun shooting Will looks that seem to say Again, really? Which just makes Will more eager to steal away and rub one out to spite him.

He peeks his head into the parlor one day, where Hannibal is scowling at something on his tablet. “So how much longer do you think we’ll be stuck here?”

Hannibal glances up and lays his tablet in his lap. Will recognizes the TattleCrime.com logo on the screen.

“‘Stuck,’” Hannibal says. “No one is forcing you to remain here, Will. It’s not my intention to keep you against your will or confine you in this house.”

Although Will still has his doubts about that, he’s also made his peace with it, more or less. “Are you nitpicking my word choice because you’d rather talk about my presence here instead or because you don’t want to admit you don’t have an answer to my question?”

“I’m always happy to discuss you in whatever context you wish. As to your question: after another month or two, it should be safe to travel. I can’t imagine it will take any longer than that.”

Will has a childish urge to throw himself on the floor, but he reins it in. “A month?”

“Two of the most dangerous men of our times are running loose in the world,” says Hannibal. “The FBI is sparing no expense to locate us, although unfortunately for them, they will not.”

Will grimaces, looking around the room. The décor here is more minimalist than Hannibal’s home in Baltimore or the cliff-side house, but it still reeks of ostentation and expensive taste. “Not sure ‘dangerous’ is the word I’d use.”

Hannibal balances his tablet on the chair arm so that he can lean forward, staring at Will with an intensity that burns like a brand. “Wouldn’t you? Do you still truly believe that you are a harmless, boring man after you conquered the Dragon so beautifully at my side?”

“Maybe I was talking about you.” Will gives him a thin smile that threatens to grow when Hannibal is plainly delighted by the response.

“That reminds me,” Hannibal says, settling back in his seat, his eyes still crinkled with amusement. “A package arrived for you. You’ll find it on my desk. I was going to deliver it to your room, but you were…otherwise occupied.”

“A…what?”

A package on its own would be alarming enough, but Hannibal’s blasé attitude about it is even worse. Will suspects he’s about to be both appalled and outraged by whatever he finds.

“A package.” Hannibal arches an eyebrow mockingly. “Shall I define the term?”

Will spins on his heels and hurries to the library, where there is indeed a package the size of a shoebox centered perfectly on the desk. It’s addressed to Adam Kemp, and the return label indicates only that it was sent from Sacramento. Will tears the tape by hand and rips open the top.

He thinks at first that it’s an unusually large bottle of cologne because that’s what the elegant black container most resembles. Then he unfolds the included packing slip, spies the words personal lubricant along with the price, and grits his teeth.

Package in hand, he marches back to the parlor and drops the box on the floor. Hannibal peers down at it like he’s never seen it before and doesn’t particularly want to see it now, but when he raises his eyes to Will, something like humor glimmers in them.

“I’d prefer it if you treated my gift more kindly than that,” he says. “It wasn’t cheap.”

Will almost isn’t sure how he should respond to that. He rakes his fingers through his hair, telling himself that What the hell is wrong with you? probably won’t make for a productive conversation. “This isn’t the time for gifts, and I’d hesitate to call that a gift.”

Hannibal lifts one shoulder in a nonchalant shrug. “It’s true my motivations are somewhat selfish. As you know, I have a keen sense of smell. I’m sorry to say that the lubricating product you’ve been using has a particularly obnoxious scent.”

“Does it?” Will says. “I like it. I thought I might start dousing my entire body in it.”

Hannibal’s narrowed eyes say he’s deeply unimpressed with the threat. “Perhaps I could convince you to sample this brand before you go to such drastic extremes. I assure you the quality is exceedingly high.”

It better be, for that price, Will thinks with a sigh. “So let me get this straight. We’re in hiding until it’s safe to flee the country, but you don’t see any problem with buying luxury lube and having it delivered to the house.”

“Not at all. I took appropriate precautions.”

The worst part is that Will doesn’t doubt that. Hannibal is a lot of things, but he’s neither stupid nor negligent. Almost equally bad is that Will doesn’t feel nearly as put off as he knows he should.

“You have put entirely too much thought,” Will says, “into my private activities.”

“Have I?” Hannibal crosses his legs, looking thoughtful. “I apologize. I’ll try to stop myself, although—” He steals a glance at Will that is so playfully mischievous and flirty that Will’s breath stutters in his chest. “—I can’t guarantee I’ll succeed.”

Words elude Will. He’s torn between pushing Hannibal a little further on the topic and pretending ignorance. It’s mostly because he knows Hannibal would see the former as a victory that he chooses the latter.

“So am I Adam Kemp, or are you?”

“You are. The name Adam derives from a Hebrew word meaning ‘to be red.’ I thought it fitting. I’ve never seen a sight more exquisite than you bathed in blood.” Hannibal taps his tablet to awaken it and returns to his Tattle Crime article, as though this conversation has lost its entertainment value. “Don’t forget your gift.”

My gift. Will curls his lip, but he picks the package up and takes it to his bedroom.

 


 

If there’s any significant difference between this new lube and the stuff he’s been using, Will can’t tell. Obviously the packaging is more expensive, and the liquid itself is a little thicker—but that’s all. Even the smells aren’t noticeably dissimilar, according to Will’s nose at least.

Sprawled in the center of the bed, with the door closed, he uses Hannibal’s “gift” to finger himself until he’s loose almost to the point of gaping. Every thrust inside his hole brings an obscene wet squelching sound, and everything from his balls to his upper thighs are slick with lube.

He never quite loses himself the way he does with his toys, but he isn’t too fussed this time. It gives him the opportunity to ruminate a little more on what Hannibal said, what Hannibal may or may not be planning.

Is this a seduction? Does he figure that if the murder didn’t snare Will tightly enough, then maybe this will? The hormones produced after sex supposedly promote attachment—and, after all, isn’t attachment what Hannibal seems to crave? He’s fostered codependency. He’s refused to be rejected or forgotten.

He supplemented the Dragon’s mark on Will’s skin with his own.

Will shivers at the reminder and cups his cheek with his free hand. The bandage is off now, but the wound isn’t completely healed. It’s still ragged and tender to the touch, and if he presses his fingers into the sorest spots, it throbs along with his cock.

Look at what he’s done to you. What you’ve let him do to you.

And he could do so much more.

Will wants to stand up right now and find Hannibal. He wants to wave his wet fingers right under Hannibal’s nose and ask him what he thinks about the scent now. Maybe sit in a chair in his baggiest boxers with his legs spread wide so Hannibal can smell the lube leaking from his ass.

Before Will knows it, his hand is tight around his dick, jerking fast and hard, and then he’s coming with a gasp and trembling in the aftermath.

He’s only slightly surprised that the desire to go to Hannibal and see what happens hasn’t lost any of its appeal.

 


 

Will washes the sheets himself every few nights after Hannibal’s retired to his bedroom. It started, he thinks, as some sort of attempt to remind himself how depraved he’s acting, but it’s become more habit than anything.

And there’s something soothing, too, about sitting alone in the kitchen or the parlor or even the library and waiting for the washer and dryer to finish their work. It’s the same comfort and tranquility he used to feel on the open water, a boat engine rumbling under his feet. Freedom stretched out in any direction he chooses and no one to lead or try to hurry him up.

When the sheets are tumbling in the dryer, he pours himself a glass of Hannibal’s whiskey—so much smoother than anything Will’s ever bought for himself—and sits in the parlor to enjoy it, in the same chair that Hannibal always claims for himself. It’s identical to the one he leaves for Will in the opposite corner—greyish leather, low to the ground, and stuffy as hell—but there’s something inexplicably compelling about surveying the room from Hannibal’s perch.

The leather smells very, very faintly like him, or maybe Will is only imagining that.

His ass still feels loose and sloppy from the fingering he gave it earlier. Although his libido is down for the count, he can’t resist squirming against the seat cushion just to savor the sensation.

He wonders what Hannibal is doing right now. If he thinks that Will is some sort of cock slut in bed. If he expects the two of them to one day trail bodies across the globe.

Will sips his whiskey and drops his head to the back of the chair, eyes closed, letting the alcohol burn a straight line down his throat.

“Rather late for laundry, isn’t it?”

Will almost loses his grip on the glass in his shock, but he manages to catch it in time. Hannibal is standing in the threshold of the parlor. He’s dressed in his burgundy silk robe over pajamas—proper, fancy pajamas, not the cotton T-shirt and shorts ensemble Will is wearing—and a pair of black house shoes that are apparently just as silent on the wood flooring as his socks.

“I didn’t notice.” Will is annoyed at himself for being caught off guard, and some of that anger seeps into his voice.

He means to say more, but then Hannibal tips his head to one side, eyelids fluttering shut, and his shoulders heave as he inhales deeply. There’s no question in Will’s mind about what he’s sniffing right now.

“How do I smell now?” Will asks wryly.

Hannibal’s smile is as bright and warm as a candle flame. “Much improved. May I join you?”

For a mad second, Will thinks he means joining Will in making himself smell like this. But no, Hannibal just means joining Will in the parlor. Will waves his hand in a lazy have at it gesture, and Hannibal crosses the room to sit in the chair Will usually occupies.

“And how did my gift perform, may I ask?” he asks, looking down at his robe as he fusses with it, removing the wrinkles formed by his seated position. His smile has dimmed, but it’s still there.

I’ve made it clear I’m prickly about the subject, Will thinks. So of course he has to just keep fucking poking.

Will lifts his glass and says, before he takes a sip, “Adequate.”

Hannibal clucks his tongue. “Only adequate? I’ll endeavor to choose better next time. Tell me, Will: when did you discover your predilection for anal penetration?”

Will nearly chokes on his whiskey. Yep. Definitely still poking. “Remember when I said you were putting too much thought into this and you said you’d try not to?”

“We can talk about something else if you wish. What Jack Crawford or Alana Bloom must be thinking now, for instance. Or your so-called family. Perhaps how you declared our design beautiful and then threw us off a cliff.”

All of the things that Will would least like to discuss, although in a slightly different order. Prick, he thinks, and almost grins ruefully but manages to tamp down on the urge. “I was in my twenties. It was…accidental.”

He holds in a grimace, remembering the incident in all its undignified glory.

“Discoveries of sexual desires are often accidental,” Hannibal says. “An inadvertent action that brings pleasure. A partner who challenges your understanding of yourself. A result in a search for pornography that piques your interest.”

He’s watching Will closely, no doubt trying to judge by Will’s reaction which is the closest to reality. Will doesn’t give him the satisfaction. He shrugs and says, “Guess so,” then takes another sip of whiskey.

As he lowers his glass, he licks his lips and doesn’t miss the way Hannibal follows the movement with his eyes.

“Let’s talk about you, Dr. Lecter. Do you have any similar ‘predilections’?”

Hannibal sets his shoulders back but seems otherwise unaffected by the question. “I enjoy penetration with a partner, in both positions, if that’s what you mean,” he says, and a shudder passes through Will’s body. “But I confess I never had any interest in silicone imitations.”

Will laughs. “They’re not imitations. They’re a whole different thing entirely.”

“I’m beginning to understand that now. I became much more interested in the idea once I discovered your collection.”

Hannibal smiles, and there’s a subtle hunger in it that makes Will shudder a second time. Will shifts in his chair, feeling again the residual looseness of his hole. If his refractory period were more impressive than it is, he’d be hard now and squirming for a different reason.

“It’s quite a collection,” Hannibal continues, watching Will even more greedily. “It wouldn’t be inaccurate, I think, to call you a connoisseur, would it?”

Will’s cheeks warm, shame rearing its head. He shoves it back into dormancy. “I’m not sure whether I should be insulted or flattered by that.”

“Flattered. I assure you, Will—” Hannibal gives a soft half laugh. “—I mean no offense.”

Will sees it now as clear as a crime scene, all the evidence lined up and incontrovertible. Hannibal’s machinations were in motion, and Will was intriguing, yes, and a possible friend, but mostly an experiment, a plaything. Then Hannibal discovered Will’s toy box and was struck, uncharacteristically and therefore all the more powerfully, by a new awareness of Will as a sexual being. Awareness of Will as other things might have followed, but Hannibal found it difficult—no, impossible—to move past the sexual aspect.

And now here Will is: the closest to becoming Hannibal’s genuine partner that he has ever been, on the cusp of following Hannibal into the dark, and not just embracing his sexuality but outright flaunting it for Hannibal to see and covet.

“You did more than discover them,” Will says. He lets his voice dip low and seductive, and thrills a little when Hannibal eases forward in his chair, drawn unconsciously to Will’s lure. “To figure out what materials each one was made of, you must have dug around in them.” He waits until Hannibal opens his mouth to answer and then cuts him off deliberately. “Which one do you think is my favorite?”

He doesn’t doubt that Hannibal remembers each plug and dildo in Will’s tub. Maybe there’s even a corner in his memory palace dedicated to them.

“The violet one,” Hannibal says, no hesitation. “About eight inches in length, slightly curved, realistically shaped. It was at the top of your collection, so I assumed it was a favorite.”

Technically, he’s not wrong. That one is a favorite. But if Will had to pick a toy above all the others, that dildo would not be it.

“Nope,” he says. “Not that one. Good guess, though. It has a suction cup on one end, you know.”

“Yes, I noticed.” Hannibal’s tone is as even as Will’s, but his eyes are dark with longing.

The power Will feels in that moment isn’t as potent as when he kills, but it’s close enough to seem a decent echo. He wonders how it’ll feel if he takes this even farther.

He drains the last of his whiskey. “The sheets should be dry by now, so I think I’ll go to bed.”

Displeasure pours off of Hannibal in waves, but his expression doesn’t change. “Of course,” he says genially. “Good night, Will.”

Will’s sheets are still damp, but he carries them to his room and sleeps on them anyway.

Chapter Text

He tells himself it’s Hannibal’s fault, and to a certain extent it is. He put the idea in Will’s head. He directed Will’s attention away from the plugs Will’s been reacquainting himself with and toward the dildos he’s had yet to play with. And one dildo in particular.

He likes it for its size. It’s not huge, but it’s the biggest he’s ever had. When he wants to feel stuffed full, pinned like a butterfly to a board, he goes for his purple dildo.

The suction cup is incidental. It works well, especially if he wets it with a little water first, but because he prefers to fuck himself lying down so he can writhe and rut against the mattress, he never uses it.

Time to change that.

When Will goes to shower, he takes the purple dildo with him. In the distance, he can hear Hannibal puttering around the kitchen, although they’ve already had breakfast and it’s too early for lunch. Whatever he’s doing, he’s not in the immediate vicinity, which suits Will just fine.

Will cleans the dildo in the sink first and finds himself watching his hand slipping up and down the smooth silicone shaft for longer than necessary. He wonders if Hannibal ever thinks about him doing things like this to his toys too, and then he imagines that it’s Hannibal’s cock he’s stroking while Hannibal stares and groans and tries to issue commands that Will cheerfully ignores.

It would be violent, Will thinks. It would be tender too. He’d switch from one to the other and back again just to mess with my head, and I’d do the same.

His hands are trembling when he finishes at the sink and carries the dildo to the shower.

It takes a lot of trial and error to get the height just right and to ensure that Will isn’t going to accidentally unstick the suction cup from the wall in his squirming and thrusting. But when he’s satisfied, turns on the shower, and climbs in, oh, it’s worth it.

He’s filling up his ass so often lately that he barely even needs prep. A glob of lube spread over the toy’s flared head, and then he’s ready to bend forward and hold the dildo steady as he backs himself onto it.

The burn toes the line between good pain and bad pain, edging closer to the latter, but even that in its own way is good. It gets his endorphins and adrenaline surging, lights his body up with sensation, and makes him want to gnash his teeth and fight.

He slaps one hand on the shower wall to his right and fists the other so he can jam the knuckles in his mouth. He has to bite, has to hurt something, even if that something is himself. In this position, the fake cock feels massive, like it’s stabbing into him rather than slipping slowly, and the hazy thought that Hannibal would probably appreciate that flickers through his mind before he starts to lose himself.

The water beats down on his chest and trickles down his abdomen, but he hardly notices. He swivels his hips, testing angles until he finds the one that forces the dildo’s tip against his prostate, and then he stays there, rocking back and forth and moaning into his hand.

It’s like an ache, that feeling of being split open by a toy, but the sort of ache that Will wants to keep: like a bruise he can’t stop prodding.

“Oh,” he sighs, voice muffled by his fist. “Fuck. Yes.”

He heaves forward a little more, nudging his feet wider so he can brace himself enough to thrust properly, fucking himself back on the dildo. The burn is receding, superseded by pleasure, but he wants it back. He lets go of his knuckles and bites his forearm instead. He can sink his teeth deeper there, can gnaw and grind and tug at the skin until he feels like a feral animal, all his dignity and kindness shed like a too-heavy coat of fur.

It doesn’t last nearly as long as Will wants it to. All too soon, his legs are shaking, his hand slipping on the shower wall, and his lower back beginning to cramp.

Giving in, he stills his hips and jerks his cock until come splatters the shower floor to be rinsed down the drain. He’s more than a little disappointed in how unsatisfying it feels, but at the same time he knows it doesn’t matter. This is only the first part.

With one hand on the suction cup, keeping it fixed to the wall, Will eases the dildo out of him with a grunt. He washes himself and cups water in his hands so that he can dump it on the toy, rinsing away the lube. Then he shuts off the shower and climbs out.

The mirror is fogged, and even though he knows it’ll leave streaks and smudges that’ll drive Hannibal nuts, Will wipes it clear with his hand. His skin is flushed and damp, his lips oddly red. He’s surprised to see that the bite marks he’s left on his knuckles and forearm already look bad; he imagines they’ll be purple and black by tomorrow.

Even better, he thinks, remembering Hannibal’s reaction to the scratches Will left on his own neck.

Will twists his head to the side to examine his cheek. It’s healing well, the scar pink and not even itching anymore. The rest of the bruises and wounds on his body, from the fight with the Dragon and the fall, are faded as well.

After dressing and hanging up his towel, he opens the bathroom door and heads out into the hallway, leaving the dildo stuck to the shower wall.

 


 

His hair still wet, Will retreats into the library and, as Hannibal always does, leaves the door open while he approaches the desk.

The chair there looks like something out of the Renaissance, decorative and stuffy and stiff, but it’s surprisingly comfortable. The desk itself is fairly plain, but the items on top make up for it. The sketches in particular, which are arranged in a neat and almost freakishly even stack in the lower-left corner.

They’re magnificent. If Will hadn’t seen Hannibal working on them himself, he might be tempted to think they were at least traced if not completely faked. The architectural pieces are stunningly realistic, the portraits breathtaking, and all of them could be featured in an art museum.

Will pages through them, taking a small measure of amusement from the fact that he’s messing up the immaculate stack, and freezes when he reaches the bottom drawing.

It’s himself. There’s no background, no context, but Will knows what it is. He’s bent at the waist with his legs wide, poised like a beast about to strike. His teeth are bared in a snarl, and the side of his face and much of his white shirt are soaked in blood. His eyes look wild.

Will never really doubted that their battle with the Dragon loomed in Hannibal’s mind like a beacon, but it’s nice to have confirmation anyway.

He replaces the sketches in the desk corner and digs in the drawers until he finds a fresh sheet of paper and a pencil. He’s nowhere near the artist that Hannibal is—in fact, Will wouldn’t call himself an artist at all—but he used to be a passable doodler.

He puts little thought into it, just making lines and shapes and shading them in. He ends up with something that looks a shadow against a door, stretched so long it’s distorted and scarcely resembles the human Will thinks it wants to be.

He goes to give it antlers branching from its head area, but they span too wide and tall. He makes them into wings instead, framing the shadow like a wreath of lightning.

He doesn’t hear Hannibal approaching any more than he usually does, but this time he doesn’t let himself be startled by Hannibal’s sudden appearance in the doorway. Will toys with the idea of setting the pencil down and leaning back in the chair, giving Hannibal all of his attention, but instead he keeps drawing, making the wings larger and more intricate.

“I believe you left something in the shower.” Emotion simmers in Hannibal’s tone, but Will isn’t sure how to identify it aside from noting that it is intense, strained, and at least a little dangerous.

“How forgetful of me. Is it in your way? You can just leave it on my bed if it is.”

There is a pause, and then Hannibal closes the distance between them, coming to stand directly in front of the desk. Will still doesn’t glance up.

“Far be it for me,” Hannibal says, “to dictate how and when you sate your urges, but masturbation is an activity that generally requires privacy and discretion.”

“Generally. But as we’ve established, you don’t want to give me privacy, so I figured, why the hell should I bother with discretion?” More to keep his hands busy than anything, Will starts sketching the shadow’s shadow spreading along the floor behind it. Or maybe it’s a bloodstain. It looks like both. “Could you smell my come?”

There’s a moment where he can’t believe he just said that. Where his ears roar and his face burns like he’s going to combust in embarrassment on the spot. But it passes quickly, in small part because Hannibal sucks in a breath like Will has just wounded him, and Will has to bite his lip so he doesn’t grin in satisfaction at this new power he holds.

“Yes,” Hannibal says lowly.

“And how did it smell?”

Hannibal’s only response is to plant his hands on the desk and loom ominously over Will. Will waits, half expecting some display of violence or at least an attempt to snatch back control. But Hannibal only watches him for several seconds and then reaches—slowly, plainly telegraphing his intentions—for Will’s hand.

His thumb finds the mark on the knuckles left by Will’s teeth and sweeps higher to circle the deeper mark on Will’s wrist. Will scarcely breathes, all his attention fixated on Hannibal’s touch. When Hannibal rests the tip of his finger over the darkest section and presses down, making the bruise ache, Will just barely manages to hold in a moan.

“Do you often injure yourself during the act?” asks Hannibal.

During the act. It makes Will think of murder. Then again, most things do, with Hannibal. He licks his lips. “Not always, no.”

Hannibal prods the bruise once more and retreats, standing up straight again. At the loss of his touch, Will realizes that’s the last thing he wants.

“Do you know what I was thinking about while I was doing it?” Will says. “The dildo was big and the angle a little awkward, and for some reason it reminded me of being stabbed. Then I thought that you’d probably appreciate that.”

He’s disappointed when that doesn’t get him another sharp inhale. Hannibal only says, “You are playing with fire, Will.”

“Am I? I thought I was playing with my toys.”

Setting the pencil down, Will leans back in the chair and finally allows himself to look up. Hannibal’s eyes are blazing, as wild as Will’s in the sketch at the bottom of Hannibal’s pile. Will imagines Hannibal lunging at him, pinning him down, devouring him until there is nothing that Hannibal hasn’t made his own.

When Hannibal lowers his gaze, backing down, Will feels a spike of frustration, but he says nothing as Hannibal spins Will’s sketch toward him so that he can examine it.

“May I have this?” he says, lifting it. He holds the paper gingerly, like he’s afraid of ruining it.

Will is surprised. He was counting on Hannibal seeing this as a violation of his space and belongings. Either he was mistaken or Hannibal just wants him to think so.

“Do you want me to sign it for you first?”

He means it to be a joke, but Hannibal’s response is earnest. “Please.”

 


 

Hannibal says nothing else about the sex toy stuck on the shower wall, and eventually the suction cup dries up and weakens. After the dildo falls one afternoon with a dull thud, Will picks it up, cleans it in the sink, and takes it back to the plastic tub for storage.

It was an interesting experiment that yielded promising results, he decides, but ultimately it was a failure. Hannibal is apparently determined to maintain their standoff, and Will will be damned if he gives in first.

He came to Hannibal at the BSHCI. Now it’s Hannibal’s turn to come to him.

So Will ups the ante. He chooses a fairly basic anal plug—black silicone, with a tapered, pliable length and a base that curves slightly for comfort—cleans it, and slicks it up for insertion.

The tip, which is crooked to one side, kneads at his prostate every time he moves, and the pleasure is more mind-blowing than he expects. He ends up standing perfectly still in the bathroom, bent over the sink and staring into the mirror at his reflection, while he gets himself under control.

He doesn’t quite succeed. He’s too fucking sensitive, and his body has been primed to the point of whorishness in the last few weeks. His cock is torturously hard and twitching in his jeans, and eyelash-fluttering, slack-jawed bliss keeps passing over his features like a cloud passing over the sun. Or maybe the opposite, the sun peeking through the clouds.

It’s obvious, he tells himself. That’s what you want. Now go.

His legs are wobbly as he leaves the bathroom, but he does his best to ignore it as he follows the hallway to the front of the house and turns into the kitchen. Hannibal is standing at the sink, washing his hands. He looks so much like the deceptively benign, comforting Hannibal who invited Will into his Baltimore home for dinner that Will’s throat goes tight.

Hannibal uses a dishtowel to dry himself, then retightens the ties on his apron, before he looks at Will, who is waiting on the fringes of the room to be noticed.

“Dinner will be ready in about an hour,” Hannibal says.

“Can I help?”

Will’s voice wavers on its own, no embellishment necessary, and Hannibal goes perfectly still, peering like he can crack open Will’s skull and have full access to everything Will has ever thought.

But he only says, “You may peel and grate the ginger if you like.”

Will’s done that for him before, albeit in Baltimore rather than here. But he’s familiar enough with this kitchen now that he’s comfortable getting started without any further direction. As he gathers the ginger and necessary tools, he can feel Hannibal’s eyes on him, and he knows what he looks like—the little hitch in every step, the tension in his shoulders and arms, the occasional totter in his legs. Not to mention his expression, the one that Will just spent so long watching himself.

“Will.”

Will pauses in front of the counter and meets Hannibal’s gaze. It’s dark and fathomless, and something about the intensity reminds Will of how Hannibal looked at him just before gutting him and leaving him to bleed on the kitchen floor: equal parts wounded and impassioned.

It’s probably the reminder that inspires Will to ask, “Which one do you think I’m wearing right now?”

Hannibal crosses the room and has Will backed against the counter in a second. The marble digs into Will’s spine, and his hands find Hannibal’s biceps although he refuses to let them grab like they want to. He’s about to be kissed, he thinks, and ravished and maybe fucked, and he’s never been more ready for anything in his life.

But Hannibal only presses their foreheads together and sighs. His breath is warm against Will’s lips, which are parted in anticipation. “The garlic too, if you please,” he says and steps away.

Will sags against the counter, feeling adrift. His hands, hovering in the air where Hannibal stood, are trembling finely, and he’s clenching around the plug, driving the tip into his prostate and making his breathing hitch.

Fuck. How is it possible to want him this much?

He spins around and forces his attention on the ginger, taking the peeler in hand. “How much do you need?”

He senses a presence behind him, a movement in the air and a sudden return of heat. Yes. Of course. He wants it just as much. He can’t convince himself to go far. Perfect. Will leans backward and is rewarded with Hannibal’s arms winding around his shoulders, pressing their bodies together.

As Will shivers and gnaws his bottom lip to hold in his triumphant groan, Hannibal drags his nose along Will’s nape and inhales deeply enough that his chest pushes against Will’s back.

“Silicone,” Hannibal says, his voice a rumble that Will can feel through his shirt. “I can smell it. That you can walk with relatively little difficulty while wearing it suggests it’s a…plug, I believe it’s called, yes?”

Will jerks his head in a nod.

“Of course,” says Hannibal, still nosing at Will’s neck, “that hardly narrows it down. Much of your collection are silicone plugs. You prefer them.”

Before Will can respond, Hannibal clamps one hand loosely around Will’s throat and lowers the other to Will’s hip.

“Show me,” Hannibal murmurs, and rocks Will’s pelvis back against his. The movement forces the thick outline of Hannibal’s cock into the seat of Will’s jeans and jostles the toy in Will’s ass, rubbing it against his prostate.

Will’s cry is as loud and clear as a church bell in the silent house, and he can feel Hannibal’s smugness at being the one to cause it. But Hannibal follows it with another commanding roll of Will’s hips, and Will doesn’t care if Hannibal is smirking like the arrogant bastard he is. Will wants more.

Hannibal, for once, seems happy to oblige. He thrusts their bodies together forcefully but languidly, allowing Will plenty of time to luxuriate in the swell of pleasure and then experience half a moment of desperate wanting before he’s given another.

It feels like a seduction. Hannibal luring Will nearer and nearer, as though he doesn’t realize that Will is already there and eager for the taking.

A particularly good thrust rattles loose a long, keening moan from Will’s throat, and he reaches instinctively for Hannibal. One hand joins Hannibal’s on his hip, and the other tangles in the hair at Hannibal’s crown. The nails of both sink into Hannibal’s skin and scrape.

Hannibal hums. “You crave violence in the throes of passion. Your body is alive in my arms now, and it feels too much, too strongly, for you to contain it all inside you.”

Don’t speak, Will thinks, followed swiftly by No, keep talking. He wants to know Hannibal’s thoughts even better than his own. At times Will’s own mind is still a mystery to him, like a dark forest he’s always getting lost in. He wants Hannibal’s to be as easy to map and traverse as a well-marked trail.

“You need someone to hurt,” Hannibal says.

Will wrenches Hannibal’s hair, and when Hannibal doesn’t make a single sound of pain or pleasure, Will snarls, frustrated. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“Not at all. Please, Will—” Hannibal kisses the top of his ear. “—hurt me.”

With a moan, Will claws at him with all his strength, gouging haphazard lines along Hannibal’s scalp and hand. Will swears for a moment he can feel the sting of them in his own flesh, and then Hannibal groans, sounding both pained and blissful, and shoves Will forward, bending him over the counter so he can rut against his ass in earnest.

Will has to grab the marble to keep himself from diving face-first into it, and his nails skid over the slick surface, seeking purchase in vain. At first, he’s sure he doesn’t like it. The position makes him feel submissive, just a thing for Hannibal to manhandle.

But it also forces his ass cheeks to spread slightly, giving Hannibal better access to the base of the plug nestled between them. Despite the layers of their clothing, when Hannibal thrusts his cock against Will’s ass, driving the toy deeper, it feels so good that Will’s toes curl and his dick throbs and leaks in his jeans. He decides he doesn’t want it to stop.

He balls one hand into a fist and shoves it in his mouth, needing to sink his teeth into something. He doesn’t get the chance before Hannibal is grabbing his wrist and pinning it down.

“Lovely though I find the marks you’ve left on yourself,” Hannibal says, breathless and rough, “I would much rather feel them for myself.” He replaces Will’s fist with his own index and middle fingers. “Here. Bite.”

Will sucks them to the second knuckle and snaps his jaw shut, moaning at the rigidness of the knobby bones between his front teeth. “And if I bite ‘em off?”

His words are garbled, but Hannibal has no difficulty understanding. His voice is soft and almost impossibly fond when he responds. “My darling boy, nothing would delight me more.”

Will falls as still and silent as death. Out of any of the things Hannibal could say to unnerve him, a pet name is apparently at the top of the list. It’s as effective as a bucket of ice-cold water dumped over his head.

He spits out Hannibal’s fingers and bucks him off, adding a kick and an elbow jab for good measure. Hannibal stumbles away with a grunt. His expression is shrewd when Will turns to look at him.

“Ah,” Hannibal says. “I see. It’s acceptable for me to desire you sexually, but god forbid I feel fondly toward you in other ways.”

Will laughs bitterly. “You felt fondly toward Abigail, and look how that turned out.”

Hannibal barely blinks at that. “Do you still think I mean to kill you? Or perhaps you still think you intend to kill me.”

“I think I’m not having this conversation with a plug in my ass.”

Will starts to shove away from the counter, gritting his teeth, hating that his prostate still hasn’t gotten the message that the fun is over. It’s as responsive as ever, making Will ache with every rub of the plug against it.

Hannibal blocks his way. “Ah, but which plug? I never guessed.”

“Time’s up. You forfeit.”

Will tries to sidestep, but Hannibal stops him by grabbing his throat in a one-handed grip so tight that Will freezes instinctively. Even when Hannibal’s hold loosens, Will remains, knowing that if Hannibal is this serious about keeping him here then Will won’t get far. Hannibal sweeps his gaze over Will, from head to toe, lingering noticeably over Will’s groin area. With Will’s luck, there’s probably a wet spot, but he refuses to check.

Instead, he gives Hannibal the same lecherous once-over, and his eyes are also drawn to Hannibal’s crotch. Even through Hannibal’s pants and apron, Will can see that his dick is still hard. Impressively so.

“Hm,” Hannibal says. “The steel one, I believe.”

“I thought you said you could smell the silicone.”

One corner of Hannibal’s mouth ticks up. “Forgive me. I’ve returned to an earlier conversation without indicating so. I don’t mean what you’re wearing now. I’m referring to your favorite. You asked me to guess it before.”

Will did, and he’s not sure if he should be surprised or not that this time Hannibal has guessed correctly. “Why that one?”

Hannibal’s shoulders rise with a deep inhale, and he steps closer until there’s less than an inch of space between them. Will can smell him, can feel his heat. It’s mortifyingly difficult not to sway into his embrace.

“Judging by your reactions tonight,” Hannibal says, “I would say that your prostate gland is unusually, exquisitely sensitive. The heft of the metal against it renders you helpless under the onslaught, but it feels so good you don’t care how weak you feel. You never want it to end.”

It’s close. Will gives him that. But he doesn’t feel helpless or weak when he uses it. Maybe at the point of orgasm or immediately leading up to it, but mostly he feels wild. Uninhibited.

“Am I right?” Hannibal asks.

“You’re right about it being my favorite. The rest of it, though, you missed the mark a bit.”

“Oh? In what way?”

Will forces a laugh, scrubbing a hand over his face and putting a few more inches of distance between them. He needs to calm down. He needs to get his control back.

“I seem to remember you lecturing me on privacy and discretion not that long ago. Make up your mind, Doctor.” He glances over his shoulder at the ginger that hasn’t even been peeled yet. “Still want me to do the ginger and garlic?”

Hannibal hasn’t taken his eyes from Will’s face. Again, Will is struck with the feeling of being taken apart and analyzed bit by bit. “No. I can manage on my own. Why don’t you…lie down for a bit. I’ll call when dinner is ready.”

Disappointment—in Hannibal, partly, but mostly in himself—yawns wide in Will’s chest like a pit, but all he says is “All right.”

In his room, he takes out the plug and throws himself across the bed to wait and think.

 


 

Dinner is an awkward affair, more so than Will thought Hannibal was even capable of.

They exchange not a single word between them. Hannibal serves Will without identifying the dish or explaining its preparation, and once they both tuck in, Hannibal seems utterly uninterested in what Will thinks of the food. He doesn’t watch Will eat with that look of eager pleasure he gets.

It’s like they’re both dining alone at the same table, and it’s one of the worst experiences Will has ever had.

The only consolation is that Hannibal is clearly paying Will some attention, even if it’s not overt, since—despite Will being a much faster eater, less inclined to savor to the degree that Hannibal prefers—they make their way through the food at exactly the same pace and finish at the same time.

Hannibal breaks the silence then, but it’s only to say, with excruciating politeness, “Would you mind assisting me in the cleanup?”

Silence falls again, feeling even more oppressive now, as Will helps Hannibal gather up the dishes. He takes up drying duty while Hannibal washes each one by hand in the sink.

There’s a perfectly good dishwasher not a foot away, but Will says nothing about it. It’s obvious that this is his punishment, and he supposes he’ll accept it even if it seems more like a tantrum than anything.

“You didn’t finish yourself,” Hannibal says suddenly, when he’s swirling his soapy washcloth over the final plate and Will is waiting to dry it.

Will’s mind goes first to the food, but then he understands. “Didn’t feel like it.”

Hannibal makes a thoughtful noise and switches to rinsing. “May I join you when we’re done here? Perhaps I can assist.”

“Assist.”

“Perhaps not the best word. I have a request. A particular item in your collection that caught my eye. Not among your most favored, I think, but I would greatly appreciate it if you obliged me.”

It’s a victory. Hannibal giving in, coming to Will, asking for it. But it doesn’t feel that way. Not after Hannibal just spent all of dinner manipulating him with the silent treatment, and Will allowed it.

“If you want,” Will says. He accepts the dripping plate that Hannibal passes over.

It shouldn’t, but it makes Will feel better, the way Hannibal is watching him. Like whatever Will offers, be it sex or platonic affection or even violence, Hannibal will accept it and thank him for the generosity.

“I do,” Hannibal says. “I want it very much.”

Will dries slowly, forcing himself not to rush lest he seem too eager, and stacks the plate in the cabinet. By that point, Hannibal has already left, his footsteps uncharacteristically loud as they head down the hallway toward Will’s bedroom.

We’re really doing this.

He hesitates briefly, second-guessing the intelligence of this, and then follows. When he gets to the bedroom, Hannibal is kneeling beside the open plastic tub and sifting through its contents. Will doesn’t know what he’s expecting, what sort of sex toy might catch Hannibal’s eye, but it’s not the one Hannibal picks. Silicone and an ugly fuchsia color, it’s half plug and half anal beads. The shaft is three spaced bulbs that increase in size from the tip to the base.

Hannibal is right. It’s not a favorite, is in fact at the bottom of Will’s list, although only because it’s the newest, bought only weeks before the encephalitis grew so bad Will could hardly function. He’s used this plug once, and the memory is distant and foggy. His brain was probably already on fire then.

He wonders if Hannibal knows somehow, if that’s why he’s chosen it, but Will supposes it doesn’t matter.

As though he’s privy to Will’s thoughts—and, really, Will wouldn’t be surprised—Hannibal says, “The shape intrigues me. Shall I clean it for you?”

“I can do it.” Will comes closer to take it, but Hannibal promptly snatches it away.

“Consider it part of my request. You use the hand soap in the bathroom, yes?”

In Wolf Trap, Will used a cleaner specifically designed for sex toys. In the house he shared with Molly and Walter, he made do with basic dish soap. Here, Hannibal fills the elegant glass pump bottle beside the bathroom sink with an unscented, hypoallergenic soap, which suits Will’s purpose just fine. Will guesses something about the smell must give it away, even though it’s supposedly scentless.

“Yeah,” he says.

“Then I’ll return shortly. Take the opportunity to disrobe and get comfortable.”

Comfortable. Will almost laughs, but then he realizes that he’s actually not uncomfortable. A little unsure and jittery with anticipation, but otherwise he’s more or less at ease. Eager to make Hannibal look at him again with hunger and longing.

He undresses and stretches out on the bed, facing the ceiling. His dick isn’t exactly hard, but it’s not soft either. His hole is still a little slick and open from earlier; putting something else up him should be a breeze.

When Hannibal returns, he frowns disapprovingly at the clothes that Will has left scattered on the floor. But then he looks at Will, and Will can see the moment Hannibal decides that Will’s mess is unimportant. His gaze follows the length of Will’s body: his lips, his chest, the scar on his abdomen (which gets a long, thorough visual examination, of course), his cock, his thighs. It’s a struggle to remain still, to not preen and flaunt himself under Hannibal’s focus.

Will fully expects some comment comparing him to a classical figure or a work of art or something similar. Instead, Hannibal extends the cleaned plug and says, “It’s intended to be a vibrator. There’s an empty slot for one to be inserted.”

“It came with a bullet, yeah.” Will takes the toy and reaches for the fancy lube that’s sitting on the nightstand. “I got rid of it. I find vibrations…distracting.”

“Is my presence going to distract you, Will?”

“Probably,” Will admits. But he wants it. He wants to see Hannibal’s cool composure crack at the display. Maybe he’ll make Hannibal feel helpless and weak.

As Will spreads lube over the shaft, concentrating on the beads, Hannibal removes his own clothes—leaving them in just as much disarray on the floor as Will’s, Will notes with amusement—and goes around the bed to climb in on the opposite side. He sidles close, leaving almost no space between them, and lays his palm on Will’s thigh. He uses it to spread Will’s legs and props himself up on his elbow to watch Will position the plug against his hole.

“Is that the only preparation you need?” Hannibal asks. His rough voice betrays his seeming calm, as does the hardness of his dick. It’s thick, Will can’t help but notice. Thick and uncircumcised, veiny and flushed pink.

“Now, yeah. I stretched myself earlier when I put in the black plug.”

Will bites his lip as he pushes the first bead inside, but that does little to quiet the moan that rumbles in his chest. Hannibal echoes the sound, lower and softer, and his fingertips dig into Will’s thigh.

Definitely a distraction. Will eyes Hannibal’s hand pointedly and, corners of his eyes crinkling with humor, Hannibal removes it. As a reward and a thank-you, Will pops the second bead into his hole and parts his lips to let his cry free. Hannibal shudders visibly.

Will’s lower spine arches, his ass muscles fluttering around the toy. He feels full, although he knows he can take a lot more.

“You prefer masturbation to partnered sex,” Hannibal says. He sounds ravenous and dangerous. Will can almost feel the teeth closing around him, biding their time before they descend.

The final bead slips in, and already Will’s hips are moving, making lazy circles to better savor the penetration. “Sure,” he says, breathless. “I guess.”

“That’s understandable. If I had to choose between your company alone or that of you and someone else, I’d feel the same.”

Will’s attempt at a laugh cuts off, morphing to a whimpery “Oh” as his hole clenches involuntarily, lighting him up with sensation. He has to wait for it to dim before he can try to respond again. “Smooth, Dr. Lecter. Very smooth.”

Hannibal cups Will’s jaw and gently coaxes his head to turn. Their eyes meet and hold. Will feels like he’s being cracked open and exposed by Hannibal’s laser-like intensity.

“Tell me, Will: why have we returned to a last-name basis? Still trying to keep our relationship less personal?”

Will swallows thickly. He doesn’t want to talk. Speaking keeps him tethered to the world and to his fully functioning mind. He wants to be beyond this already.

But then, in that case, I might as well be doing it alone.

“Maybe subconsciously,” he allows. “But I think we can both agree that if that’s what I really want, I’m doing a shit job of it. This is as intimate as I know how to be.”

“That’s not entirely true, I think. But I suppose it’s close enough for now.”

With one finger, Hannibal follows the line of Will’s jaw to his chin and then his opposite cheek. He brushes his knuckles against the wound there, and the tenderness in the touch and his expression rattles Will to the bone. For a second, he wants to stop this, take out the plug, just lie with Hannibal in the bed until one of them can’t stay still any longer.

Then Hannibal lets go and says, “Turn.”

Will barely manages a “What?” before Hannibal is forcibly rolling Will onto his side to face the nightstand. Will’s hands, which were both poised on the base of the toy as though it needs to be held in place, flail briefly, and the plug is jolted unpleasantly inside him.

“I’m distracting you,” Hannibal says kindly. “It’ll be easier for you if you face away. And besides—” He plants a hand each on Will’s ass cheeks, making Will jump. “—this view has its own benefits.”

With his thumbs, he spreads Will open. The thought of what he’s seeing, how Will’s hole must look with the fuchsia toy peeking out, reminds Will of his purpose, what he wants from this little encounter. Hannibal has broken him more than once, and now Will is going to break Hannibal in a very different way.

He shifts until he’s flat on his stomach, his thighs parted slightly and his arms folded under his head. “I usually do it like this, actually,” he tells Hannibal.

And with that he closes his eyes and tries to let himself go. His body undulates as it wants to, rocking the beaded silicone inside him. It glances over all of his sweet spots but never quite stays there. That, plus the knowledge that he’s being observed, makes it impossible for him to lose himself.

His eyelids flutter open for a peek at Hannibal, and he isn’t disappointed by that at least. Hannibal’s lips are parted, baring a sliver of his gritted teeth, and he’s sucking in one chest-heaving breath after another. Whether it’s an attempt to rein in his control or smell as much of Will’s arousal as he can, Will doesn’t know, but he’s pleased either way.

Hannibal looks positively enthralled. One of his hands is clenched around his dick, but it isn’t moving. It just remains there, holding his erection as it twitches in his grasp.

Will smirks. He can’t help it. He feels powerful again, and it’s a heady feeling. “I don’t know how interesting it is for observers,” he says coyly, rocking his hips harder, more for Hannibal’s benefit than his own.

Hannibal’s lips twist with something raw and predatory. “I take it I’m not the first observer you’ve had.”

It makes Will grimace and turn his face into his arms. He doesn’t want to think about Molly. How patient and understanding she was about all of his quirks and hang-ups, and how easily he walked away without even a goodbye. How little he’s thought of her since he slipped the ring off his finger.

The mattress bounces with sudden movement, and Will feels Hannibal’s heat almost against his skin.

“In any case,” Hannibal murmurs, resting his palm between Will’s shoulder blades, making Will shiver and arch into the pressure, “I disagree. You’re the very picture of beauty and temptation right now. The embodiment of lust. I should warn you that I will almost certainly recreate this scene in my art. More than once, I imagine.”

God. I’d let you. Will wouldn’t even make him rely on memory. He’d lie wherever Hannibal wanted him to, slow all his movements to last as long as possible while Hannibal sat nearby and sketched him.

Hannibal’s hand trails lower, skimming along his spine to his ass cheeks. His fingers dip between them and stop when he reaches the plug. “May I?” he asks.

Will nods, but instead of using the toy, Hannibal begins to remove it, sliding its length out bead by bead while Will lifts his head and groans as each one pops free.

“You weren’t enjoying that as much as I hoped,” says Hannibal. He tosses the toy aside, and Will laughs when it falls off the bed and hits the wood floor with a plop. “If you’ll hand me the lubricant, I’d like to try something else.”

Fingers. Will can tell by the way Hannibal is holding his hand up, rubbing his first three fingers with his thumb like he’s ensuring they’re clean and smooth and ready for the job.

Will finds he has no qualms about that and passes over the lube without comment. Hannibal slicks up his fingers and reaches behind Will and between his thighs. Two of them slip inside with an ease and sureness that makes Will drop his head down and moan into his forearm.

“No.” Hannibal tuts, scooting closer until he’s half draped over Will’s back, his fingers still hooked in Will’s hole. “If you happen to bite yourself…well, I believe I was clear enough about that in the kitchen.”

He matches the two fingers in Will’s ass with two in his mouth, and no sooner has Will accepted them than Hannibal finds his prostate and massages firmly. Will bites down, and his body comes alive with a keening cry.

“A perk of sex with a doctor,” Hannibal says. He’s practically speaking into Will’s shoulder, his hot breath rushing over Will’s skin. “It’s been many years since I’ve been called upon to massage a prostate, but I haven’t forgotten. And yours is so prominent. Impossible to miss.”

And to prove it, he’s practically pummeling it with his fingertips. For several long, glorious minutes, Will is aware of nothing else. He’s squirming, gnawing, wailing. He can’t lie still. He hitches his legs wider and bends his knees so he can more easily roll his hips, driving Hannibal’s fingers against his gland exactly like he needs them.

“Ah,” Hannibal says, sounding just as breathless and affected as Will. “I see.”

Will doesn’t know what he sees and doesn’t care because Hannibal stops massaging and just keeps his hand rigid, his fingers crooked perfectly for Will to thrust against. Will scrapes his teeth over Hannibal’s knuckles a few more times and then lets them go, more than content for the moment to tip his head back and fill the room with his moans.

“I didn’t expect this of you,” says Hannibal, “although I see now I should have.”

“Expect what?” Will asks, and he can hear the growl in his own voice. Will Graham is chipping away, giving in to his own hedonism.

“Your need for control.”

That drags Will back a little. “It’s not a need. It’s—”

“It’s what your body is used to. A plug more or less motionless inside you while you writhe against it. Is that right, Will?”

It is, and Hannibal damn well knows it. Of course he understands. He always sees Will: sees everything in him.

“There is nothing wrong with that,” Hannibal says. He’s panting, and it sounds like his teeth are bared in a snarl just like Will’s are. Will likes that. He likes it a lot. “You are accustomed to complete control, and so you have come to rely on it.” He lowers his mouth to Will’s shoulder and nips hard enough that Will hisses and twists his head, bites at the air in retaliation. “Yes. Come on, Will. Show me how lovely you are when you’re in control.”

He may have worded it as a command, but Will can hear the plea in it. He knows that Hannibal will do anything Will asks of him right now.

“Three fingers,” Will tells him. “And give me your arm to bite.”

The third finger stings. All together, they’re thicker than either of the plugs Will’s filled himself with tonight. He uses Hannibal’s wrist to muffle his wail: finds the long pale scar that Matthew Brown left on him in Will’s name, frames it with his teeth, and bites. Hannibal’s groan is louder than Will’s and even more pained, even more blissful. Will bites harder just to hear it again and tastes iron.

Hannibal breathes a wounded “Ahhh” into Will’s shoulder and then lifts his head. “I wonder. If I had my penis inside you—”

Will unclamps his jaw to snap, “Just say ‘cock’ like a normal person—”

Hannibal’s hand shoots to Will’s throat and clenches around it. Will chokes and gasps and nearly fights, but Hannibal only uses his grip to twist Will’s head toward him and kiss his lips. It’s a brief, albeit wet, brush, and then Hannibal lets go of his throat and batters Will’s prostate some more until Will comes back to himself and takes over again.

“If I had my cock inside you,” Hannibal says, eyes bright, “would you force me to lie still, in ecstasy and agony, while you use me for your own pleasure?”

Yes. Fuck, yes.

The image has barely solidified in Will’s mind before he’s saying, “Do it.”

“Hm?”

“Put your cock in me. I want to fuck myself on it.”

Surprise flashes across Hannibal’s features, but he doesn’t argue or hesitate. He slips his fingers from Will’s hole—which is as sore as it is loose now, Will realizes, and it’s only going to get worse—and gets out of the way while Will turns onto his side, facing away. Will hikes up one leg and uses his hands to spread his ass cheeks, letting Hannibal see how badly he wants it.

Hannibal sounds like he’s been gutted when he asks, “Protection? More lubricant?”

“No. To both.”

Hannibal holds his cock in place while Will sits back on it. The stretch burns, but it’s good. Will whimpers the whole time Hannibal’s dick sinks deeper until Will’s ass is cradled against Hannibal’s pelvis.

“Give me a minute,” Will mutters. It’s a stupid thing to say, considering he’s already moving his hips in short, jerking thrusts, already getting used to the fullness and wanting more.

Hannibal’s arms are shaking as he wraps them around Will’s chest, and this time it’s the opposite wrist that he offers up for Will’s teeth. It’s the hand that’s been in Will’s ass and reeks with the strong, musky smell to prove it. Will obliges him, surrounding the matching scar there with his teeth and biting down. The noise Hannibal makes is beautifully tortured, but he remains perfectly still as Will begins to writhe on his cock in earnest.

That’s all Will needs, apparently. A purposeful swivel of his hips, a handful of thrusts when he finds the right angle to tease his prostate and make his dick throb and leak, and then he’s nothing but instinct and animalistic desire, taking what he needs with no care for anything else.

His skin feels hot and slick, his thighs ache, and he tastes blood and sweat on his tongue. He’s growling ceaselessly, digging his teeth in until his gums protest, and fucking himself harder, faster, full-motion thrusts instead of the little ones he started with.

“Please,” he hears at some point, a watery word gasped directly into his ear. “Will, please. I’m—I—yes. Please.”

Will senses desperation, as thick and tangy as the blood in his mouth, and with a moan he rocks his hips frantically until his cock jerks and begins to spurt.

He hasn’t come down from his high yet, hasn’t even let go of Hannibal’s wrist, before he’s being shoved against the mattress and fucked ruthlessly. Startled and oversensitive, he squirms and sputters. Hannibal’s only reaction is to bear down on him more strongly and pound into him so wildly that the bed groans and the headboard bangs into the wall.

“Hannibal,” Will tries to say. His voice stutters to the rhythm of Hannibal’s thrusts. “Hannibal!”

“Yes,” Hannibal rumbles, sounding euphoric. “Yes.”

Will can barely stand it. It’s too much; his body is too tender and overworked. He’s sobbing and trembling, reaching behind him to claw at Hannibal’s hip and tearing at Hannibal’s arm with his teeth. He has a vague sense of building, of crashing, of another orgasm, but it hurts as much as it feels good.

Hannibal comes soon after, filling Will’s ass so full he half expects it to gush all the way up to his throat, and then it’s over. As they heave to catch their breath, Hannibal crushes Will against him and presses sloppy kisses all over Will’s neck, cheek, and jaw.

When Will takes too long angling his head so Hannibal can reach his mouth, Hannibal grabs his chin and does it for him. Hannibal’s lips taste like salt, and he strokes Will’s face and hair with such heartbreaking gentleness that Will has no doubt at least part of what he’s tasting are tears.

Eventually, Hannibal draws away and buries his nose in Will’s nape, inhaling deeply. His next move is minute and aborted swiftly when Will says, “Don’t.”

“I beg your pardon?” It sounds like Hannibal’s vocal chords have been reduced to tatters, and Will is more than a little proud of himself.

“Don’t sniff my ass or lick it or whatever you were going to do.”

“I was simply going to admire it.”

“Yeah? Well, don’t. Not now.”

He can feel Hannibal’s smile. “Next time, then?”

Will snorts, fighting a smile of his own. “Yeah. Next time.”

 


 

When Will wakes the next morning, the sheets tangled around his hips, he thinks for a moment that he’s alone in the bed. Then he rolls over and discovers Hannibal lying supine beside him, his hair disheveled and both of his arms lifted so he can peer up at them. In particular, Will suspects, the wrists, which are dappled with dried blood and swollen bruises from Will’s teeth.

“How’d I do?” Will asks.

“I confess I hoped you’d bite off a piece or two of skin. But it’s a good start.” Hannibal lowers them and faces Will, propping his head up with one hand. “I’ll bandage them after breakfast.”

For once, though, Hannibal seems in no hurry to start cooking. He gazes down at Will, wearing an expression of such blatant fondness that Will feels an echo of the same emotion in his own chest. Hannibal reaches toward him with one arm. Not, as Will first thought, to coax him into an embrace, but so that he can span his fingers wide on Will’s abdomen: right over the scar that Hannibal left there years ago.

The reminder should sour Will’s affection, should turn this soft moment ugly and cruel. But it doesn’t. Will covers Hannibal’s hand with his own, and Hannibal entwines their fingers and smiles like Will is something precious and not the man whose life he wrecked time and again.

“Do you regret it?” Will says.

Hannibal hesitates, his shoulders sagging. “Regret is—”

“That wasn’t an invitation to wax poetic about the nature of regret. I asked you a question.”

“No.” The smile Hannibal breaks into makes him appear years younger and utterly guileless, such a contrast from his words. “I don’t regret it. In truth, I regret nothing. Everything I have done—or you have done, for that matter—has brought us to this moment, which I wouldn’t trade for anything.”

Will blinks. “That…might be the most romantic thing anyone has ever said to me. Which just makes it even more surreal that you’re talking about gutting me.”

He loosens his grip on Hannibal’s hand, but Hannibal tightens his, not letting him go. “I have seen you as no one else has. I held your lifeblood in my hands and ushered you from one life into the next. I can think of nothing more romantic.”

“Of course you can’t.”

And the deepest, darkest truth is that Will can’t either. God. Maybe they are made for each other. Or, more likely, Hannibal has finally succeeding in excising everything in Will that doesn’t need Hannibal as much as Hannibal needs him.

Either way, Will is here, and he can’t imagine himself leaving now. They only survived the first time because Hannibal ensured they weren’t truly separated.

“I have a number of properties that overlook the sea,” Hannibal says, watching Will carefully. “Not all of them, unfortunately, but enough that I think we can find something to suit you.”

How many fucking “properties” do you own? Will thinks. Yet at the same time, he doesn’t think he wants to know. Not now. He shakes his head. “I don’t need the sea.”

Hannibal raises his eyebrows. “You’re withering here without your water, Will.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t have to be the sea. I like rivers, lakes, even creeks. Believe it or not, I’m actually pretty easy to please when I’m not being manipulated, tortured, or caged.” The full implications of this conversation strike Will then, and he flounders, taken aback. “Hang on. Are we…leaving?”

“Soon, I think. We’ve been in Kansas long enough.”

Even though it hasn’t been the one or two months Hannibal said the last time Will asked. It confirms a suspicion that Will’s had for a while now. Nothing to do with the FBI’s search and everything to do with getting me where you want me, you manipulative bastard.

“And what are we going to do then?” Will asks. “Florence was messy and reckless, Hannibal. If you want to do it all again somewhere else, we’re going to have a problem.”

Hannibal stares at the fitted sheet past Will’s shoulder, his expression going guarded. “I wanted to show you Florence, but I could not. You didn’t want it. As a result, I became…reckless, yes, as you said. It won’t be like that now.”

“Because you’ll have me.” Will means it as a statement, but somehow it comes out with the upward lilt of a question.

Smiling, Hannibal lowers himself flat on the bed, still facing Will. “Because I have you.” His fingers remain tangled with Will’s, and his hand doesn’t budge from Will’s scar. “We needn’t hunt if you don’t want to.”

He sounds genuine, but Will doesn’t believe it for a second. “Really? You’ll be happy to spend however long playing at domestic bliss? Nothing but housework and polite company and quiet evenings at home and real, honest-to-god pork in your dinner? You won’t get bored of that?”

All Hannibal says is “Will you?”

Will will. Of course he will. He’ll grow bored and try to convince himself he’s not, but unlike Molly, Hannibal will see through the façade and remind him who he really is. Who Hannibal molded him to be.

“I guess we’ll see,” he says, and can’t even bring himself to be annoyed when Hannibal glows with smugness.

“For the sake of efficiency,” says Hannibal, “we should limit what we take with us when we leave here. Only bring necessities and what is truly important. That includes your collection, of course.”

“Yeah,” Will says dryly, “somehow I didn’t think I’d be leaving that behind.”