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Lead Us Not Into Temptation

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"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." - Ephesians 6:12

 

 Father Will adjusted his clerical collar until it was snug against his neck and the fabric was mopping up the dewed sweat he could feel dripping uncomfortably onto his chest. He always sweated profusely whenever he had to deliver a sermon at the pulpit.

Being forced to stand there, oh so painfully aware of how bored the congregation was as he attempted to make them see every beautiful detail in God’s plan always worried him into a state. The God-given gift to empathize greatly helped with confessions, but when he caught a fourth of the church’s followers sleeping and the rest with glazed over expressions, their boredom weighed heavily on Will. In turn, his tongue twisted around the words quicker wanting so desperately to stop the hollow, glazed over glances all burrowing into him.

Bishop Crawford rarely assigned him to the pulpit for that very reason, but every Wednesday afternoon with the small crowd it was up to him to direct the sermon. Will’s hands kept shaking as he reached the cool water running in the sink and splashed it over his face to calm down. He had confessions in a matter of minutes to attend to, and after fleeing from the pulpit the moment the closing prayers had been said, Bishop Crawford would want to see him filling in the time he refused any curious followers at the end of the sermon.

Will patted down his face with the towel, opened the door, and stumbled out into the dark corridors of the church. Candles illuminated the inner workings of the large church, but it was dark enough that he didn’t notice Sister Bloom until she was almost beside him.

“You spoke beautifully today Father.”

“Thank you. I only wish the rest of the masses held… the same views.” Will struggled to get out, running a hand up into his shaggy hair. Sister Bloom, Alana, reached into her pocket and produced a small baggie. Her face was absolutely conspiratory as she held them out to him. Will had always thought Sister Bloom was far too pretty to be a nun. The black and white didn’t suit a personality as kind and sunny as hers, but he understood the calling to God as well as anyone within the Church. God had given her such a face though, a face Will often… thought fondly of. It was a face that caused him to feel the stirrings of doubt. Doubt that he was as strongly devoted to God as he wished to be. For that reason he made their meetings brief, but friendly. “Dog biscuits? Did you go out to buy them?”

“I made them, of course. I heard from one of the other sisters that you’d be visiting the strays today… so I thought…” Once he took them, her hand curled protectively against her chest, pressed over her cross but also hard enough that Will could see the outline of her own God-given gifts. Much like Adam had felt, he was suddenly all too aware of what those dangerous thoughts meant.

“You are too kind Sister Bloom. I’m sure they will love them.” Father Will gave her a small, respectful bow and she gave him one of those tender smiles of hers that Will always knew reciprocated her fondness.

“Take care, Father Graham.”

“You as well Sister Bloom. God bless.”

He tucked the biscuits in his pocket and then carried on through the hall and into the main church. Just the sight of the lingering people, some praying in the rows or speaking to one of the other priests was enough to fray his nerves. Please, no one speak to him. All he wanted to do was get into his confession box in peace. To be in his dark, stuffy… safe… box with a grate separating him from their gazes that revealed too much.

Will had perfected the shuffle walk where he walked with enough purpose that no one tried to speak to him but not fast enough to seem he was running away. His robes swept the floor as he avoided an alter boy removing one of the tall candles and nearly stumbled into an old man going to the altar to pray. “Sorry! God bless.” Will croaked out as he spun to avoid the man’s wife that was following closer behind than he released. “Ack! So sorry!” Will squeaked as his foot caught onto his robe and caused his footing to falter. The small, elderly woman was terrified as he flailed near her only to be steadied by a strong hand—certainly not the old man’s. A small crunching sound was heard as his foot found something on the floor, looking down Will groaned as the small baggie of dog treats were crushed under his foot. All Sister Bloom’s work for nothing… God help him.

 “I do hope those were not homemade.” A heavily accented voice sounded from beside him, yanking Will’s thoughts away from the mess on the floor with as much strength as if the man had physically yanked them. That voice wasn’t from around here, he’d never heard such an accent.

“They were… but thank….you.” Will’s voice died on his lips as he turned to properly thank the man. He sucked in a sharp breath at the sight. His face looked nothing like any man’s face he’d seen either. It was so hollowed and sharp, as if carved instead of flesh, with eyes that greeted Will with neither boredom, nor well… much of anything at all. The man’s lips were tugged into a tight smile but it didn’t reach his eyes.

“Ah, Father Graham, is it?” The man’s smile grew wider and his grip slowly lessened; the hand smoothed out along his robes, as if doing one last move to make sure Will was steady.

“Yes.” Will said quietly, tilting his head ever so slightly. His eyes truly said nothing, no matter how he searched them they stayed indecipherable, fascinating. Gosh, he was being rude just staring. Will shook his head a little and held out his hand for a proper introduction as he had trained himself to do whenever meeting a new lamb. “Yes, my name is Father Graham. Did you ah… enjoy the sermon?” He had been taught to say that, to spur on conversation in order to address any confusion or doubts the person had.

“Hannibal Lecter.” The man nodded slowly, deliberately, and then took hold of his hand. It was scorching. The handshake was confident where Will’s was weak, and clean where Will’s hand was clammy, “And very much so. You spoke beautifully. ‘No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it’, Corinthians. Such a beautifully chosen passage, and you spoke so wisely to it. Bringing the first part to the masses by discussing the commonality of temptation as being so core to man’s being that to be ashamed of speaking of it is not God’s will was inspirational.”

Will felt heat licking along his neck at the praise. Not many people enjoyed his sermons, except for Sister Bloom who said that to almost every priest (except a few choice awful preachers). Finding someone who understood his occasionally unconventional approach to the scriptures was rather nice. “Thank you Mister Lecter. I can’t say many people share those views. Speaking about temptation in any form, gambling, drugs… lust, it all should be discussed instead of cloistered away where it festers and only grows worse.”

Hannibal’s smile grew, and Will watched as he leaned in a little more intently. “I couldn’t agree more Father. I am glad I chose today to attend church for the first time in many years when I could hear your words. I too agree allowing any wound on the human soul to fester is dangerous indeed.”

Strangely, Will didn’t find himself eyeing the confession box as the taller man spoke to him. They moved out from the aisle as a mother and daughter moved past them to the altar, giving Will a small, polite smile as they did. “If you don’t find it rude, may I ask what brought you here after so long?”

“It’s not rude at all.” The man straightened the expensive sports coat over his arm. It was a weird sensation to remember a time when Will had owned his own clothes. He ached to wear flannel plaid or have his fishing vests wrapped around him again... but those clothes were back in another life. “Curiosity and repentance.”

Will couldn’t say the scriptures inspired much genuine curiosity in many people other than himself and the priests. “Well, I encourage you to come back then. There are far better preachers than I that deliver really lovely sermons. I only preach on Wednesday afternoons, so come any other time and I promise you will enjoy yourself.” Finally his eyes drifted back to his confession box in the corner, the openness of the large church finally sinking in and making him antsy.

Hannibal instantly caught on and pulled his sports coat up and over his shoulders. “Thank you for your time Father Graham. I hope we meet again.”

“I agree. God bless Mister Lecter, and may God watch over you.” With his own small bow he then turned and hurried over to the confession box.

Once inside he could properly breathe again. The darkness was soothing, and the smell of old wood eased him into a peaceful state. Within a few moments there was a murmured prayer from outside his box and he heard someone slipping in the other half. Will pulled back the door to expose the grate and it instantly smelt strongly of spray deodorant. Oh Lord grant him patience, not another young boy confessing. Half the time it ended up being a dare from his friends, seeing if they could scare Will with claims of murder behind sniggered laughter.

“Bless me Father for I have sinned, it has been 8 weeks since my last confession and I accuse myself of the following sins…. uh…. lots of masturbation… sometimes to animals like, doing it. And I totally ate too many bags of Doritos, is that considered gluttony? I don’t know… I also killed a few people recently.”

Will leaned forward and massaged his temples.

 

__________

 

And yet like clockwork, despite his warning, Doctor Lecter was there almost every Wednesday afternoon, sitting beside devote stay-at-home mothers and the elderly with time to spare. He looked so polished and otherworldly amongst the rest of the disinterested attendants. As Will avoided eye contact with most people and preached gently at the opposing wall with the crucified Jesus he liked to look at, Doctor Lecter stared at him unflinchingly until he would eventually find his gaze. After a few weeks of this, Will noticed whenever he looked, the nerves twisting his stomach faded away as he was met with no boredom, or even excitement, just an open space with empty eyes waiting to be loaded with Will’s anxiety.

It was… almost soothing.

After each sermon Hannibal waited at the bottom of the altar for him. There was no more running away to hide in his room for as long as socially acceptable… instead he was lured down to the masses for stimulating conversation. It had become almost pavlovian. He came down and was exposed to people asking questions and requiring advice and in return he was rewarded by understanding and a rivaled intellect. Eventually he was coming down on his own free will with the hope of speaking to the doctor.

It had made sense in hindsight that he was a doctor. He was incredibly well read and educated. Hannibal could keep up with Will in any biblical discussion, which was extremely rare for a devout man, never mind a man who claimed to have not set foot in a church for years.

Thought during this Wednesday in particular there was no one waiting for him, and Lecter had left part way through the sermon. It was hard not to feel a little tightening feeling of disappointment in his chest over the intense tiredness that had been weighing him down all day. Unlike Will who spent most of his existence inside of the church’s collection of buildings, the man obviously had a life outside of the church. It was not a good idea to become too fixated on Doctor Lecter’s presence every Wednesday anyways. Will knew all too well how dangerous that was. No, that would not be a good idea. It did not stop him from selecting the best passages and writing the most intellectually dense sermons though. They were beautiful but the glazed looks only got more intense the more he was… trying to impress the man.

No, not impress… no.

Will chewed on his lip as he closed the thick bible and started to clean up the items from communion, trying not to think of Doctor Lecter in any way. And he had almost succeeded…

“My apologies for leaving part way through your sermon. It was not for lack of interest.”

Ahh, how God loved to find irony in the little things.

Will looked up to see the man standing there with two cups. “That is quite a large amount of java for one man.” He smiled lightly as he fisted the wine bottle and passed it along to one of the sisters who came to retrieve it from him.

“The coffee is from a little artesian coffee shop. It is the only place I enjoy other than my own brew. You looked exceptionally tired today, and for such a wonderful sermon I thought a gift would be welcome.”

“Your conversation is gift enough Doctor Lecter.” But how long had it been since anyone had paid that much attention to his well being? Surely not since his mother and that sort of basic care was something Will was not immune to. The gesture was touching. “But… I would hate to refuse your kind offer. Let me finish cleaning up and then we can drink this somewhere more private.” It wasn’t that coffee was banned, but it still wasn’t good to fill the body with stimulants, especially in front of people who could be suffering from all sorts of inflictions and addictions. Priests were supposed to be the image of moral cleanliness.

Hannibal’s eyes gained a strange glint to them and he was kind enough to not start on his own drink as Will packed up the last pieces of communion. After waiting a moment to see if any of the people would come ask for him, he receded from the main church to the side door beside the alter with Hannibal. “This way Doctor Lecter.” Will said quietly as they moved through the hallway. It was unusual for another person to come through the church, but not unheard of. When Sister Bloom passed by Will’s steps faltered when she slipped more dog biscuits into his pocket with a small smile and continued on as if nothing had happened. Redness touched his ears as the biscuits weighed down his pocket.

Once he entered one of the small meeting rooms with Hannibal he gestured to the seats near a large bookcase filled with untouched books on spirituality posing as mere fillers. The man moved over to Will and put the coffee down at his seat before moving to sit with a comfortable grace. “The woman just then, what did he give you? That proceeded rather frightening similar to a drug trade.” His laugh was smoky and rich, and Will found himself clutching the cup of coffee tighter, his stomach tightening.

Will looked down at the bulging of his pockets with a nervous laugh. “It did seem rather heinously sinful didn’t it?” He plucked the bag out and presented it to Doctor Lecter. “Dog treats. I go to the humane society weekly to visit dogs. Sister Bloom bakes them for me as of late.” Will finally took a sip of the coffee and as the hot liquid slipped down to his stomach, his toes curled and a warm sigh left him. Indulgence was something Will tried so desperately to avoid, but a little bit would be okay, wouldn’t it? “Gosh, this is incredibly good.”

“Thank you.” Lecter didn’t seem overly concerned by his own coffee and left it in favour of studying Will. “I take it you have a great love of dogs?”

Will nodded and took another long sip. It tasted far too good to be safe. Maybe he shouldn’t be drinking it after all? Doctor Lecter was stimulating conversation… but perhaps not the wisest companion. “I do. I always have.”

“Always? Before your priesthood.”

Will didn’t like to think about the time before he’d given himself to God. Thinking back to a point in his life where God wasn’t guiding him, giving him some stability and chasing away the dark, awful thoughts wasn’t something Will liked to do. “Yes.” He said quietly, in hopes that God would not hear him speak of that time and remember the shame of it. “I find their obedience mollifying. They can be feral and lost, but with the right guiding force and master they become such incredible creatures capable of so much good.”

"God?” Hannibal asked as he finally took a sip of his own coffee.

“For dogs? God, man, or both, I don’t really know.” Will laughed shallowly, shrugging. Talking about something other than his sermons and out of the heart of the church was wholly strange.

“Do you find obedience to God mollifying Father?”

Will was sure the cap was about to burst off the cup with the force he held it with. Those empty eyes still greeted him, so easy to look at and yet giving away nothing. Surely, he did not mean it in the personal sense. Will was jumping where his mind shouldn’t be going. “I believe man is brought the most good out of obedience to God. I wouldn’t be in this position if I didn’t think that. What about yourself Doctor Lecter, do you think obedience to God calms men’s sins?”

The man’s lips curled around the cap of the coffee cup. “I believe that man derives its own control over his sins and state of being. I think God is incredibly useful for those who struggle to do so themselves.”

Will met his eyes somewhat shyer this time, his hands wringing around the half empty coffee cup. It was far too personal and yet he was sitting in the cramped office drinking the man’s coffee. Will stared into his eyes, leaning forward until his golden cross skated across the table. “Then what sin made you seek God, Doctor Lecter?”

Chapter Text

"Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working." - James 5:16

 

As fate would have it, coffee was not the last time Will and Doctor Lecter enjoyed each other's company. Lecter would show up sometimes with meals he claimed were merely leftovers but it was quickly clear that the doctor was making the meals especially for him. It was rather conflicting since Hannibal was an incredible cook and cooked dishes so delectable that Will often repented for just eating them. Some days they would pour over scripture when Will was working on another sermon or debate certain lines from the bible. Will was constantly surprised how often the man matched him toe for toe; he would stand there as Will leafed through one of the church’s books, pointing out lines they could be woven beautifully into his sermon that he’d missed. Their conversations were almost always of the intellectual kind, filled with debates of morality, logic, and science. Though the odd time the conversation became personal, dipping into their lives outside of the church.

Will learned he was from Lithuania, that he was a psychiatrist and as such understood Will’s job in confessional all too well. The only difference between them was that Hannibal prescribed Xanax and Will prescribed faith. In turn, Hannibal learned of his childhood on the Louisiana docks at his father’s marina and his distant mother’s death that turned the family to scripture. Will danced around his reasons for becoming part of the faith, and Hannibal skirted around his original reason for coming to church. Every man could keep secrets from other men, but Will knew all too well that there were no secrets from God.

That particular knowledge weighed heavily on Will every time he left his meetings with Doctor Lecter, often after the sun had set and he’d missed dinner with the parish. So many hours were now spent bent over his bible, muttering Hail Marys and the Lord’s Prayer by dim candlelight under his breath until a sweat broke out across his brow. He was visiting Bishop Crawford more often, following him and asking that more time in their personal chapel be allowed. The rosary was always wound around his fist, sometimes so tightly it left round, beaded impressions all along his skin.

What he was repenting so heavily for Will couldn’t quite put his finger on. All he knew was something wasn’t right, and whatever it was… God knew. He knew at night Will was sweating through every set of clothes he owned, awakening to stained sheets and no memory of how his body had betrayed him. Sister Bloom would look at him with concern whenever they passed in the hallway and lately Will found himself moving in closer to her so that his arm could graze against hers as they brushed past each other. For that alone Will repented greatly.

Offering advice to the masses felt less and less credible. Somehow he was failing as a priest, and he couldn’t be the moral perfection they needed.

The confession box’s walls were too tight, but Will still tried to relax in their dark warmth. There he could pretend the Lord was physical and reassuring him with the peace that had been lacking in the past month.

No one had been inside for a few hours so he had slipped into a melancholic trance, staring at the wafts of dust floating near his head, illuminated by the small shaft of light coming from a slit in the curtain. The dust fell down on the palm of his hand and Will didn’t have the courage to make a fist.

“Forgive me Father for I have sinned, it has been 4 years since my last confession.”

Will jolted upright in his seat, his knees knocking against the walls. He opened his mouth to apologize before it snapped shut with enough force to knock his teeth together. That accent was unmistakable. Doctor Lecter.

Will breathed in, trying to calm his breath. He wasn’t allowed to acknowledge who was behind the grate, that much had been drilled into his head during the beginnings of his priesthood. It could be a best friend or fellow priest, it did not matter. It was anonymous, and to speak their name would erase that sense of safety. Will’s hands tightened in his robe as the air within the box was all at once too warm to properly breathe.

“Father I have sinned greatly since my last confession.” Will was eyeing the curtains obscuring his box. He’d heard all forms of perversions, and although he wanted to help any man find greater peace with God, the thought of Doctor Lecter unloading his sins on him caused Will to start sweating. “I accuse myself, with sufficient reflection, of… many things. For a man that has been without the guiding hand of God for many years, I find myself unable to locate a point of departure.”

“Acts 17, ‘That they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way towards him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each of us.’ God never stopped listening.” Quoting the bible always calmed his nerves, placated his doubts, but this time he hid behind them. “What sins do you find yourself committing? Perhaps start with those that you find easy to speak of, the ones that perhaps do not bring so much shame to your soul?” Will sucked in a breath and held it as the Doctor spoke. When Lecter spoke again his voice had strength behind it that it lacked before.

“Excusing the venial sins to my own reflection, my mortal sins consist of using the Lord’s name in vain, ignoring my Easter duty to attend church yearly, and abusing alcohol on multiple occasions…”

Hannibal’s voice eased itself through the grate and when Will finally started breathing again he inhaled it in. Those were mortal sins, yes, but easily rectifiable. Will reached up with the sleeve of his shirt and dabbed at his temple with a small smile. Well, that wasn’t particularly bad after all-

“Father,” the man said in that unmistakable accent of his. The word pulled at Will’s gut and snapped his attention to the grate. When Hannibal spoke again it was rasped out in a whisper, forcing Will to lean in closer to the grate and press his curls against it, “I confess to having lusted greatly. I have a sexual fetish that I often pleasured myself to. On many occasions I retrieved these… unholy fantasies and acted impurely on myself.”

Oh Lord have mercy, anything but the Sixth.

The heat on his face spread, touching his ears and neck. His body did not do this with others. Sometimes it embarrassed him a little to listen to the particulars but not so much as this. He slapped his cheeks lightly and tried to take a few calming breaths. It was his friend, Doctor Lecter, he should feel nothing but enlightened bliss that he was being given the honour of healing the malice of his soul. But instead his mind was acting on that ungodly side of himself, giving him little flashes of the doctor’s hand moving under his covers and that carved face contorting in pleasured—not enlightened—bliss.

“Ah. Is… is that so?” Will bleated out, unable to find anything more intelligent as his hand wound around his cross and gripped it so tightly it dug into the skin of his hand. God would will him through this.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom-

“Yes, Father. I have this particular fantasy that is most… sinful.” Will hissed faintly as the Doctor moved and spoke right near the grate, nearby his ear. It was as if he was whispering to him, to the point that Will felt the heat against his ear.

Cut and dry. That was the way to do this. Will was panting, his hand squeezing the life out of the cross until he was sure the sheer heat from his hands would melt it down into golden rivers. “Well, that isn’t something a few purposeful Hail Marys can’t help absolve you of… perhaps you should…”

“To feel at peace with God, I feel I must lay myself bare to you Father. I must be completely naked in the truth of my misdeeds.” Please don’t, Will’s fist shook. If he did, Will didn’t know that he could stay pure enough to aide him. Having Hannibal naked in any way was only going to lead to trouble. Hannibal knew it was him, he had to from his voice. They spoke weekly together, pressed near each other as they poured over scripture… there was no way he didn’t. “You see, my fantasy is quite detestable. I have coveted a man for quite some time.”

A man? Will sat up straighter, turning to stare at the grate where he could see small snippets of the doctor’s face but not enough to make any sense of the expression on it. Coveting a man was incredibly dangerous. Will turned, trying to see the man behind it desperately. “God’s view on homosexuality is rather clear… that…. is a rather grievous sin. Not one though that cannot be saved with the right penance.”

“So then you understand my need to expose it fully Father?” Hannibal breathed out, corralling Will back against the confessional wall with his words as if his hands were pressing into him and smoothing along his chest. Hannibal couldn’t have known what he was doing to him; if he did he’d think him sick.

“I… do.” Will finally made out, his legs thumping up and down nervously as the heat in his stomach pooled at the idea of Hannibal’s hands wrapping around some man’s cock. The reddening blush swept down his neck, and shame filled every corner of his being. Such heavy, heavy shame.

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who press- no! Trespass, trespass against us.

“Good.” Hannibal murmured out, his word ringing out in the confessional box, silencing the din of prayer rattling around Will’s head. “You see Father, the man I desire is a man of the cloth. A priest. It makes the visions haunting me ever the worse.”

A… priest? Will’s eyes blew wide, “I am not one to… to pass judgment. I am merely a vessel of God, but that is indeed a rather perverse fantasy,” he turned to stare and got a frustrating lack of expression from the bits and pieces of Hannibal he could see. The confessional used to be a safe haven where he didn’t have to make eye contact, but now Will couldn’t tell if the man was just playing with him or not. Surely Hannibal couldn’t be serious? What priest could he possibly…? “Priests must remain celibate.” Will reminded. Who the reminder was directed at wasn't quite clear.

“Yes, of course. Perhaps that is what draws me to the man, knowing I cannot have him in the way I desire.”

"What we desire most is usually that which is forbidden. That is the entire origin of the original sin. You must not do as Eve did." It felt foolish spewing the very words a priest had once told Will as a boy. But unlike that priest, more words left his mouth before his curiosity was schooled by his guilt. “Is the priest part of the parish at this church?”

“Yes.”

Will swallowed hard, the saliva growing thick and sticking in his throat.

It was as if Doctor Lecter knew what it was doing to him, his voice delving deeper, his accent turning raspy against his tongue. “He is. He is young as well; I spend a considerable amount of time in his company. When I am sitting beside him discussing scripture I wonder what it would be like to wind my fist into his hair and guide lips sprouting faith to praise my own. I wish to tighten his curls into my fist until the only words he is capable of preaching is those of unbidden pleasure.”

“I…. I….” Will’s fingers scratched and clawed at the clerical collar that felt like it was choking him both literally and figuratively. God, he meant him… he did… Hannibal wanted to do that to him, to kiss his mouth and elicit unholy sounds out of it.

What would that even feel like?

Will shook his head hard and clutched the cross harder. He couldn’t dare entertain those thoughts! No. Not now, not again. God would be disgusted by the mere thought of it. God was loving yes, but he did not take the sinning of his lambs lightly. God said it was wrong and Will tried to obey. In obedience he found peace but he could not obey with Mister Lecter inciting lust within his soul.

And yet… “What… else?” It was for God of course. Hannibal had to lay his sins bare to God, Will rationalized. The heat was sweltering and all consuming, stirring his cock within his robes in the most unsightly way. Will let out a strangled noise as he rearranged the robes in desperation.

“I have this one fantasy in particular where I take the man on top of the altar, Father. I spread him so lewdly and sodomize him right there in front of the crucifixion. I would mount him in front of God and men, while he thrashes and balks at the sensation of my degradation. The acoustics for such an act within the church are ideal. Chopin would not sound half as lovely. I desire to hear that southern drawl grow louder and ragged. I want to hear God’s disciple begging for my own cock with a religious fervour that would enrage our jealous God.”

Will did not even notice his own hand constantly rearranging his robes to stroke against himself until a small groan bubbled up in his throat and was quickly swallowed down.

Lead us… lead us not to temptation, but deliver us from evil.

“You want to be God.” Will leaned in closer to the grate, his voice barely a whisper. Anything louder and the arousal would have been clear within the gravel of his voice.

“No, I want to be his God, Father.”

Will pulled his cross-filled hand up to his mouth until he could taste metal and pressed the sweaty gold right against his lips to stop the awful noises threatening to leave him. Worshiping any other man or deity would be wrong, but nothing could have been more disturbing—nor gratifying—than a real human God that at once was both so physical and cruel. Where God’s savagery and love were accessed only by deep contemplation, this man, this Mister Lecter’s cruelty and admiration would be plain to see, each emotions etched into his skin for Will to touch—if he was so allowed. Even the brutal requests to show his devotion and the tender kisses against each fluttering eyelid for a prayer well said would be… within reach. Such thoughts were driving Will near madness with self-loathing and eroticism that beat its rhythm into the very marrow of his bones.

Will struggled to imagine something more divine than to kneel before Mister Lecter, mouth open for whatever communion he desired to give.

“You must think I am an unsavoury man, Father.” Hannibal breathed out and Will could see the press of skin against the grate as he laid his knuckles against it, running along it almost tenderly. Will could just pretend to fall against the grate and feel the whisper of skin running along him. Just one hint of the physicality to the voice behind the mesh.

If Hannibal was revolting, then Will was no better. “No. Never.” Will replied a little too quickly. “Everyone has their vices and demons, even us priests. The priest you… ah… lust after, perhaps he isn’t innocent either?” Will was sweating through his robes as the confessional became suffocatingly hot. “We are only human after all. We all live in sin.” Humans were all sinners, no matter how Will tried so hard to be void of it. He turned to God to rid him of it, but found only half answers.

“Do you ever lust Father?” The voice asked and Will felt a frustrated whimper being bit back by his teeth. He had invited that on himself.

“Yes.” Will could feel the whirlpool of heat swirling in his gut, sucking pure thoughts right down into oblivion. “Of course.”

“Then perhaps all is not lost for me. If I may ask Father, what is it you lust for?”

Will hesitated and mulled over the words. There was one lust he could speak he name of. “To be subjugated so thoroughly by God, my God. I wish to be without doubt, without a treasonous thought.” Will inhaled, knowing full well he’d never said these words to anyone, nor fully accepted them himself. “My lust is for that subjugation and calming control in any God who will lead me to it. Though it is in this God I have found the closest feeling to happiness and stability.”

“That is admirable.” Then the only noise on the other side of the grate was a small, amused exhale. What on earth was amusing about that? Will flustered darkly. “What penance could ever save me from my misgivings? From my own lust?” Hannibal finally asked.

They were far more than simple misgivings, but he gave the penance anyways and asked Hannibal to think deeply about the root cause of his desire and find a holy alternative to it.

The filthy images still percolated in Will’s mind even as Hannibal began to gather himself up to exit their small, heated box and back to the masses. Like any percolating tea, the longer he allowed the thoughts to brew the stronger and bolder they became, leaving his tongue bitter and his stomach hot. As Hannibal opened up the curtain a shaft of light streamed through his half, illuminating both his own face and in turn Will’s behind the grate. He flashed him a small micro smile across his tight lips. “Thank you, Father Graham.”

All Will could do in response was to reach down between his legs and squeeze the physical manifestation of his lust. A broken noise left him as he curled in on himself and wanted to cry.

Chapter Text

When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” - James 1:13-16

 

Will could not remember a time in the years since joining the parish that he had prayed as much and as thoroughly as he did now.

His shaking hands fisted the rosary and with each prayer he pinched a new bead through his fingers and tried not to think about the thoughts plaguing his every waking moment. His twitching fingers were slit open by yellowed and stiff pages of old tomes where he searched for some cure between the scrawled lines, and the palms of his hands had grown ashen and cracked from dunking them in holy way so frequently. And that was only the physical manifestation of his sins upon his hands. Will’s sinful thoughts had wreaked havoc on other parts of him as well. His cheeks flushed shamefully at the mere thought of the good doctor.

Not Doctor Lecter. Anything but Doctor Lecter.

It was just… his hands in particular were the vessels of recent bodily sins. Will sweated as he knelt devoutly in the pew, murmuring words over each bead. Every few seconds the pianist practicing at the back of the church would interrupt his attempt at holy thoughts and cause him to fumble in attempt to get back on track. Over and over again he was fumbling to try and ask for forgiveness but that horrid piano kept being mashed behind him. It was as if the world was against his soul getting saved. Just his luck.

“Lord, please let me live a holy and pure life. You have delivered me from my personal carnal vices before… please aide me once more. I don’t know that I’m strong enough this time…” Will’s voice wavered on the last words, the full weight of defeat threatening to overwhelm him. Last time he’d been this tempted he’d been a young boy with the earnest new love of God to guide him through it. Not unlike newlyweds, he was so enraptured with every word of scripture and ready with eager eyes to devote himself to God and love him deeply. With age though came a decided tiredness, a difficulty responding with the same confidence. Instead of being sure of his saving, Will was losing his grip on everything around him, a feeling not unlike how he felt before the parish. That was a feeling Will never wanted to experience again.

The piano’s notes vibrated through the acoustics of the chapel and Will felt his hand wound in the rosary quiver. It was as if he could still see the warm ropes of semen wrapped around his fists instead of the beads.

“Please, God, please. Forgive me for touching myself, for sullying my body.” Will pushed through gritted teeth, trying to not let the imagines come forth. The piano sounded again, a high flat note that caused all his muscles to tense. There he was: chest heaving and sheets twisting around his legs. The room was filled with a heady miasma of incense, self-hate and blurry arousal as his hand tightens and pulls, tightens and pulls. Sensual, slow notes of Debussy are playing on his antique record player where hymns normally play and there’s Doctor Lecter, Hannibal, nothing but a ghost and yet so visceral and real stroking up the contracting plains of his stomach, kissing along the shell of his ear and matching every soft stroke of the piano with a touch. His lips are sputtering out noises, so wanton and needy—the Doctor’s name hiccuping over his tongue in the dark room. He had come shuddering with a cry stuffed into his curled up fist. And as a sticky warmth covered him, Will had cried for the first time in years.

Even thinking of it now had him caught between loathing and humiliation. Perhaps a horrid combination of the two. Gosh, he was nauseous. “Please,” Will pushed on, pressing his sweaty forehead down against his clasped hands, “please make it stop.”

No one answered him. There wasn’t any presence; he couldn't feel much of anything really. Will slipped the rosary into his pocket, pulled himself up from the pew, and yanked up the kneeling bench as well. Hmm… he’d just have to try again in a few hours with new prayers.

Will put a hand through his hair, shaking out his curls. He needed a shower badly; his curls almost had a life of their own now.

As he made his way through the dark corridors and out into the courtyard he saw Sister Bloom sitting at the large angel Gabriel fountain in the centre. A few strands of brown hair had tumbled out of her wimple and Will could just picture her out of her habit with tumbling waves of brown hair and a bright dress that would match her bright smile.

Alana looked up from the book in her hands. “Father Graham!” She was so beautiful when her face came alive. The book was all but forgotten as she stowed it under her arm and hurried over to match his stride. “You have everyone worried, you missed breaking our fast again this morning. Not to mention half the other meals.” She chided.

Will struggled to plaster a smile on his face. How convincing it was, he wasn't overly sure. “Prayer has me a little preoccupied.”

Apparently it was not convincing enough. “Look at you Father. You…pardon me but you look to have one foot on heaven’s threshold. I think a meal and hot shower are more pressing matters than prayer. God will always be there.” She conducted them down a hallway and Will wanted to laugh when he noticed it was towards the kitchens. Always caring Alana… her kindness made him ache.

“Perhaps.”

“Perhaps isn’t good enough. Come with me, we’ll get you something to eat.” And there really was no point arguing because Sister Bloom’s hands wrapped around his arm and it was the most comfort he’d felt in a few days. Maybe some food really was what he needed?

“Has Bishop Crawford been pushing you? You know how he gets sometimes, pushing you to do things you aren’t comfortable with. Your sermons have been getting much prettier and I know he’s trying to convince you to take on more days and confessions.”

“Where did you hear that? Sister, ‘Do not go about spreading slander among your people’ Leviticus 19:16.”

“It’s not slander if its true Father and you avoided the question.” Her fingers pressed into his arm and the smile she gave him pulled at the corners of his mouth. When Sister Bloom smiled… Will felt the need to smile for her.

Once in the kitchens she grabbed a plate and moved around the other sisters cooking to arrange something on the plate for him. It was nothing like the dishes Hannibal had brought him but with a bit of smoked salami, some soft cheese, rye bread and a bunch of sweating grapes it at least awakened his hunger. Alana plucked one off the stem and popped it in her mouth as she leaned over the flour-dusted counter.

None of the other sisters in the kitchen paid any attention to them.

Admittedly after a few bites of grapes his stomach craved the stronger foods on the plate. God was he ever hungry after all. “Sister…” Will bit into a piece of salami as his elbows pressed into the flour, “I don’t mean to sound personal and like I’m prying but, and this is rather incongruous… did you… I mean… do you ever have doubts?” When she looked confused Will flushed. “I mean I know it’s normal to have some doubts and I’m not asking to quiz you or preach at you. I just need to know… Have you? Have you ever?”

Sister Bloom looked down at the plate and sliced off a small bit of cheese for herself. “Well, I mean everyone has doubts. That’s human nature isn’t it?”

It was, but what was going on in his head didn't feel at all natural. “I suppose so, but what about doubts regarding love? No, wait... love is a strong word. Desires?” Will hung his head in shame, staring down at the brie as it buckled under the press of the knife and oozed out at the sides. Much like the cheese he was afraid that with one accurate, purposeful touch he’d let everything spill out of him in a gooey mess. “Actually, forget I asked. I’m just in a peculiar mood.”

“No Father, I don’t mind.” Alana pressed her hand over his and squeezed reassuringly. It wasn’t all that reassuring. “It’s like I said… it’s human nature. All of it is. So don’t worry if you are feeling any doubts or,” her breath hung on the word until she removed her hand, “desires. It’s all natural.”

Will shuddered out a sigh, letting the knife drop out of his hand and clatter. He ran a shaky hand through his curls before giving them a squeeze. It seemed to be the only action lately that would soothe the shakes and nerves bouncing under his skin. “It doesn’t feel natural. I feel so… out of myself lately. Cluttered, disorganized.” But how would Sister Bloom understand? Sweet, focused Sister Bloom who made dog biscuits and tended to daffodils in the church garden.

Then, just like how she cared for the daffodils, she took the knife into her own hand and piled some cheese onto a cracker and held it out for him. With her encouraging smile Will could almost picture himself as her fussy child who refused to eat. “Father, I don’t presume to know what you feel, but I know whenever I have doubts the best thing to do is eat well, remove some pressure from yourself, and turn to God. Not with communions or kneeling at the altar but something more personal and intimate.”

Will only nodded and took the cracker from her warm hands and bit down to appease her awaiting expression. He didn't want to reply and thankfully the cracker stopped him from doing so. Alana meant well but those words only felt like words. He couldn’t relate to that anymore because either God was playing some cruel joke, or simply wasn’t listening to Will’s pleas anymore.

All the same he thanked her after they finished their little impromptu meal and she slid some dog biscuits over the table. Alana’s smile was warm and when she told him to give the dogs all her love their hands touch for a brief moment. Her nails grazed the tendons in his hand and over the mounds of his knuckles. In that moment Will wanted nothing more than to reach over the table and drag her lips to his to taste the grapes and the sunny, shy smile.

 

__________________

 

At the musky scent of dog and the loud, excited barking that greeted Will as he entered the common area of the humane society shelter, he could feel some of the tension instantly dissipate. Nothing, except a few of the dogs, had changed. Randall was still sitting in the round desk at the centre clicking through the computer to view the dog’s files. With his vacant stare and uneasy posture he always looked a little uncomfortable in his own skin. It is only when Will sees him playing with some of the dogs out in the run or herding them into surgery that he seems content. When he’s on the round desk shift Will can’t help but feel a little sorry for him.

“Randall, how are we this week?” Will called out as he side stepped around a small freckled boy poking at an annoyed tabby’s cage and moved to the desk to grab his keys.

“Not well Father, numbers are a bit down this week but Applesauce got adopted to a nice woman so I guess it’s been okay?” Randall’s mousey head didn’t move from the screen. When Will leaned over a little he quickly minimized the screen but not before Will caught the sight of canine jaws and teeth.

“Still studying?” Will said, trying to make conversation, not that it had ever come easy between the two of them.

“Mhm.” Was all he got out of the man as he leaned down and fished in the cupboard for Will’s kennel keys.

Neither of them were big talkers, so his indifference wasn’t really a problem, but Will needed to try any ways to get his mind off of everything. “So you're still intent on specializing in being a veterinary dentist when your internship is done?”

“It’s not a veterinary dentist, it’s a veterinary dental specialist. But yes, I am.”

Ah, never mind then. It was going to be a no-talking day today. Will took the keys from Randall and looked over his shoulder at the glass walls leading into the different pods of dog kennels. “One last thing… is he still here?”

With a few clicks of the keyboard, Randall nodded. “Yeah, Winston’s still here. They sent him home with some older man but you know how he is… he returned him.” Really, he didn’t know if he should be happy by the news that Winston is still around or feel extremely sorry for the retriever mix. No matter where he went he was always an escape artist that refused to listen. It was as if the dog has some place he needed to be and all other people and places were simply obstacles to overcome in getting there.

“Four times has to be a new record?”

“Mhm.”

Will gave a pressed, tight lipped smile, said “Thanks Randall”, and then made his way into Pod A. There, laying out on his small plastic cot, right on the flannel blanket Will had brought for him, was Winston. At the sight of Will he immediately bounded to the door of his kennel, shaking with excitement. “Winston, what did you do this time?” Will smiled as he unhooked his leash and collar from the hook and made his way in.

The kennel had that similar musky smell of dog that Will adored and when he knelt down and was showered with kisses and covered in dog hair, he couldn’t have cared less. Gosh, it was a welcome change from the noise and the horrid thoughts bouncing around in his head. If walking and playing with Winston could get rid of blurry half formed visions of Doctor Lecter or of his childhood—of a boy named Matthew, kissing a path down Will’s neck, nosing in under the collar of his ironed school uniform… reaching down to press his hand into—

Panic shot through Will, hot and white. He really needed to get outside, and he had to do so soon before even the shelter couldn’t save him from his thoughts. Yes, fresh air and Winston was what he needed.

Once the retriever was leashed, he walked him past the other barking dogs and one snarling poodle mix shoving its nose at the crack under its kennel door. The moment the door was open the early autumn air, crisp and clean from the stretch of forest behind the kennel, greeted them both. Much like Will, Winston seemed all at once at peace as the din of other dogs was shut up behind the closed door.

“You must get one heck of a dog headache in there, hm?” Will looked down at his furry companion whose tail kept gently waving back and forth in satisfaction. Will gave his own thigh a slap to get going and then took off along the road, past the runs and down to the forest path. The oaks and maples bent over the trail and some of the yellowing leaves had already fallen to crunch underfoot, but had not yet attained the damp, fermenting scent of fallen leaves turning to natural compost. It was the perfect weather to walk the dogs in.

He was only a few feet through the path when, instead of trotting in front of him, Winston shot backwards. “Whoa!” Will twisted around, nearly tumbling to the ground as the pull of the leash contorted his body to wherever Winston was intent on dragging him. Not another one of his attempts at breaking free, please, Will winced before righting himself.

Winston barked, low and warning and it was then that Will finally looked up.

“A pleasure to see you here Father.”

Oh no. No, not him.

He wasn’t allowed to be here. This was Will's secret sanctuary from the world, the liminal space between his old pedestrian life and the church where he could go and clear his mind of everything and anything related to Hannibal and sin. Just the sight of his face brought forth sacrilegious images of what Will had imagined that very mouth debasing— his chest, his lips… his manhood.

“Doctor Lecter!” Will yelped, his throat constricting. His words were hardly heard over the way Winston kept growling out his contempt. What was going on with him? “I’m so sorry, he’s never like this! Winston!” Will gave a gentle pull on the leash and Winston retreated only to curve against Will’s legs, keeping his head turned, lowered, and fixated on Hannibal. The dog’s body was coiled and ready to lunge if Hannibal got too close. He was protecting Will, which was both flattering and a little horrifying. If potential adopters ever saw this…

“It’s perfectly alright. Tsst tsst.” Hannibal let out this sharp little noise and Will watched Winston’s ears fold back submissively and then just like that the dog was laying down on the path, almost on top of Will’s dirty sneakers. Winston’s submission was shocking to say the least, and Will couldn’t deny some small part of him was amazed by Hannibal’s ability to so quickly calm the dog. If only he could do that to Will— “He’s clearly just protecting what he thinks is his. Alpha dogs are prone to such behaviours and it’s not uncommon for them to guard when feeling challenged. It’s nothing personal.”

Will stared down at the dog at his feet. Hannibal’s mere presence seemed to be a challenging force.

Hannibal stood there, hair immaculately slicked back, a tailored brown pea coat and black leather gloves fitting in perfectly with the autumn scenery. It was the polished shoes and the way he held himself that elevated Hannibal above the setting, making him appear far more graceful, ethereal even, than the dog path with the odd tuffs of dog hair and dried paw prints.

“Why are you here?” Will asked, his words coming out more defensive than he intended them too. It sounded far too similar to a frightened and cornered animal, too close to the very thing Winston would have needed to protect. “Sorry, I just… I’m not used to being seen outside the parish.”

Hannibal’s gaze moved over him slowly and when Will looked down, embarrassment flooded his features. “Or in clothes like these. I’m not exactly the image of piety, gosh.” Will laughed awkwardly, his toes curling in the warn sneakers. There he was, the exact negative of Hannibal in donated jeans with faded knees and torn hems, and red and black flannel opened up to expose a black t-shirt.

“Your piousness doesn’t originate from your clerical collar, I find you no less holy now than I had done before. If anything it only serves to remind me of your humility.” Hannibal said as he moved forward and then gestured out towards the rest of the trail. “By all means, do not stop on my account. May I come with you?”

Always the gentleman. “Of course Doctor Lecter.” With a gentle tug of the leash, Winston was trotting between the two of them, pressing close to Will’s leg, occasionally trying to crisscross to the other side.

There was a moment of silence as the trees rustled with the small breeze that wove its way between the leaves. Hannibal turned to look down at him, offering Will the smallest of smiles. “I can see why you come here. It’s tranquil to be away from society for a time with these dogs.”

He then reached into his pocket and even though it was childish, Will felt a grin break across his lips when the doctor produced a small wrapped caramel from his pocket. “I made these a few days ago, would you like one? I always carry them with me.”

When Will consented Hannibal unwrapped it and placed it in his waiting palm. The browned, thick sugar gave his mouth something to work with and the gesture itself was even sweeter. Whether or not the Doctor meant it, the candy gave him the excuse to stay silent if he wished. Woven with the smokey smells of the farms on the other end of the forest burning wood, Will’s senses were placating his anxiety.

“I apologize though as I did never answered your question. I came here because of your words when we first shared coffee together.” Will could remember that conversation perfectly, the first of many, many more that followed afterwards. He sucked hard on the candy in his mouth. “I came to see the animals you thought exemplified obedience and the ability to undergo a spiritual metamorphosis towards domestication. Perhaps if I could surround myself with such creatures I myself could replicate that change in my own life.”

Will pressed the caramel into his cheek. “It’s why I come here, so I understand the sentiment. Not that Winston is a good example of obedience, are you boy?” Winston turned to look at him before bounding forward and pulling against the collar as if to prove Will’s point.

“He seems to like you, even if he does not respect your authority as you’d like him to.” Hannibal’s wine-coloured eyes watched the dog bounding between them. “Would the church allow you to have a mascot?”

“I’ve never asked… probably not.” Though the thought of having Winston sleeping in his cell gave him as much joy as the thought of him tearing up Sister Bloom’s gardens gave him trepidation. “If he keeps getting returned I may just ask— if only to save him from getting put down.” They didn’t put dogs down often but when one was labelled “un-adoptable” it tended to go that way. Yeah, there was no way he was going to let that happen to Winston.

Winston kept pulling on the leash, more so as he and Hannibal turned a corner and a fluffy black squirrel shot across the path and darted up a tree. He gave a loud bark and circled around, snagging himself on the end of the leash when he couldn’t get close enough to investigate the squirrel. Will grunted out as he held onto the leash, his knuckles going white.

“As you can see…” Will said between ground teeth, “people have a hard time handling him. Winston, stop! No. This way, come on.” If he liked him so much, then why couldn’t he just listen?

Will rounded on Hannibal when he let out an irritating little chuckle as Will’s sneakers buried in the ground started to skid. Winston just ignored him and stayed intent on dragging him up the tree. “Hey, either help or keep your laughing to yourself. It’s rather rude.” As he lurched forward and Winston kept barking like crazy it wasn’t really the time to consider how ironically rude he’d just been himself.

Hannibal bit on his thin lip purposefully to silence his amusement. “Of course Father, my apologies for the discourtesy.” Then he took a step forward to crunch by the saplings and leaves and off the path. The black leather gloves were stripped to lay his hand over Will’s.

The feeling of flesh sent a shock through Will, and the sight of Hannibal’s pale hand wrapping around his made a choked noise leave him; the noise was most certainly caught by Hannibal who raised an eyebrow. It would have been easier if it was so different from how he’d imagined in that unholy dream. If only the doctor’s hand had been clammy and cold instead of confident and warm, that asserted control with every inch of skin. If the leash wasn’t wound around his wrist, the touch alone would have released Winston from his grip.

“Allow me.”

Will only gulped around the sweet caramel and nodded, glancing up at the doctor’s serene smile. How could he look like that when they both knew what he’d said in confessional? For a moment, Will almost doubted his own memory. Had he really said all those things after all?

“Have a try if you think you can help Winston listen.” If he wanted to experience obedience, he was certainly looking in the wrong place.

Winston, it seemed, couldn’t care less and kept yanking on the leash as his front paws found the bark of the tree. He yowled at the squirrel sitting just out of reach. Really, for all the love he bore the dog, he was a poor choice even if Hannibal had gotten him to lay down once before.

Will leaned back against a tree, crossing flanneled arms across his chest and staring out at the two opposing forces in his life: one the scorching flame of sin, the other the supposed balm to soothe the burn. One was composed and gripping the blue, frayed leash, the other was in a squirrel-induced mania. They were the picture of ying and yang.

“Come.” Hannibal said clipped as he gave one sharp tug on the leash. Winston made no move to listen. Okay, he couldn’t help the smug smile that spread across his face. Pride was a sin, and he shouldn’t have felt so pleased with himself but it felt good to know it wasn’t just his own shortcomings.

“Really Doctor Lecter, I can always just bring out another-“

“Come.”

Will breathed out, the caramel rolling in his mouth as his tongue stopped keeping track of it. Whoa, hold on. It was if Hannibal was instantaneously replaced by some other force. His stance spread, his shoulders seemed broader—his posture straighter, even his pose was one that could have easily accompanied a man headed head-long into battle without an ounce of fear. But that was all just in the body. Hannibal’s gaze was still as empty as it had been since Will had first met him, but his face was set and unforgiving. The word left his mouth this time still clipped and yet… foreboding. As if disobedience would only result in some unforeseen punishment that Will could not yet imagine. Whatever it was, Hannibal’s tone told those listening to obey. It was one hundred percent alpha male. The hairs on the back of Will's neck stood up and goosebumps erupted down his arms at the sound.

Winston’s head jerked around, his ears pulling back as he lowered his head and stalked back towards Hannibal, the squirrel all but forgotten.

“How did you-?” Will said uselessly, his eyes wide and the familiar lick of heat in his belly as the dog came over and sat patiently at Hannibal’s feet. That couldn’t have been Winston, surely some twist of fate had rendered the dog before them completely different and simply wearing the familiar flecked retriever coat.

Hannibal turned, the easy smile touching all features but his eyes. “It’s as I said before Father, it’s nothing personal.” His gaze invited Will to look with him at the dog near his feet. “You simply need to exert the right amount of dominance and canines, like any of God’s creatures, will submit gladly. We were meant to be ruled, you said so yourself before in more beautiful words.”

Will couldn’t help but flush at the compliment. With just a small wave of his free hand, Hannibal invited him to step in closer. It was near enough that Will could smell the faintest hint of the fine cologne the doctor wore: breezy yet earthy like the fogs back in the tepid mornings of Louisiana. It was a comforting, familiar smell that pulled Will in closer than he should have been.

“Here, Father.” Hannibal opened his hand; the chaffed and peeling blue leash laid across his palm, now confident in his control of the dog with mere words. When was the last time Will had ever felt that confident in anything?

Once the leash was in his hand Will tried to mimic Hannibal and spread his legs out, arched his shoulders back in a charade of self-confidence and then gave Winston’s leash a small tug towards him. “Come, Winston.”

Winston gave him one look and then turned to dart back at the tree and snap at the squirrel, effectively dragging Will along for the ride. “It seems… “submitting gladly” isn’t in Winston’s vocab…ulary.” Will grunted, his stance collapsing in on itself and the charade falling apart.

Hannibal, like an animal sensing it’s prey panicking by the jump in its voice and the skitter in its movements, enclosed in near Will. “Your stance does not give power to your voice. Like this.” Will breathed in deep as a large hand spread flat out against the flannel and smoothed up the length of his spine. This sort of touch was forbidden— well no, sexual touches were but this was in no way sexual. It was Will’s mind, filled with the knowledge of Hannibal’s and his own lewd fantasies, that contorted it. Yet he still shouldn’t have been touching a priest so freely.

Hannibal must have noticed his discomfort because he apologized and eased up his touch to simply the graze of fingertips, not that it helped much. “Straighten your back. Your shoulders were correct but your posture was not. Take up space Father, fill the air around you with your presence. Let the very aura of yourself bleed dominance.”

Had that been what Hannibal had done? Was that the indescribable aspect to him before? “Like you had?” Will said quietly, his hand turning white from the pull of the leash.

Hannibal’s chest puffed out a little, his words deepening. It was almost amusing how he seemed to preen had it not been for the shiver Will barely suppressed at the man’s words. “Then listen to me. Do as I say.”

Will felt his muscles uncoil, preparing for Hannibal’s teachings and nodded.

“Say it again.”

“Winston, come.” Will tried again, gaining nothing but yips from Winston at the tree.

“Louder.” Hannibal urged, moving around through the leaves, as if slowly, languidly encircling Will as he slipped the black leather back over his hands. “And with bravado this time.”

There was no room to argue, no pleas or defiances forming on Will’s tongue.Will lifted his chin and stared at Winston, letting the words bubble in his throat and gain power. He turned to look at Hannibal, wanting permission and seeking guidance. Hannibal nodded. “Winston, come.”

That caught the dog’s attention and he turned to face Will.

“Again.”

“Come. Now.”

The dog moved back towards Will and then stood by his feet. He was not as submissive as with Hannibal but it was a start. He was actually listening! Maybe… maybe he could find a home if Will could keep working with him like this.

“Results come when we have complete confidence.” Hannibal smiled at Will. “Now command him to sit with the same confidence.”

His hands were steady, his voice even, mind clear. It was terrible to admit but this was the calmest, the most at ease Will had felt in months. And it was all at the command of Hannibal, not God.

“Winston, sit.” Will said and watched in amazement as the dog sat there at his feet, tail wagging. It was then that Will squatted down and took the dog into his arms, burying his face into his specked fur and smiling. “Good boy. You did so well, thank you for listening!”

Burrowing into his back, he could feel Hannibal’s gaze watching the two creatures of God, so bound together and troubled by their need for submission to a worthy force. The doctor watched the two as Winston lathered the man in kisses and was given as many pets in return. As he stood there watching, Hannibal knew Will was correct… man was brought the most good out of obedience.

Chapter Text

"Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers." - Psalm 1:1


“Your house is beautiful Doctor Lecter.” Will said as he moved through the living room, trailing his hand along the tops of the couches that by mere touch alone felt expensive. It was eclectic, warm with the fire crackling to life in the hearth, and yet still so dark. It was not dissimilar to a den—albeit a beautifully decorated one.

Hannibal perked up from where he crouched at the squat alcohol cabinet, turning back and leaning on his heels to stare at the priest in civilian clothes wandering around, touching his medical books and nearing his desk to stare down at the drawings there. “Thank you Father. Feel free to look through the drawings if you please.”

“Oh, gosh I’m sorry I didn’t mean to be rude I-“ Will flustered as he noticed he was indeed snooping.

“Nonsense. It is not often I have someone who is curious in what I create.” He turned his attention back to the cabinet and Will turned with Lecter’s permission and began to push aside the drawings delicately. There was Achilles and Patroclus, labelled as such, along with an image that sucked the air out of Will's chest.

It was the Red Dragon. The last time Will had seen the painting Hannibal replicated it had been in a textbook in his religion class during high school. Despite his interest in scripture he had been too ladened with hormones and acne to really focus on the image then.

All he remembered was that the painting was by William Blake. It depicted a muscular back of Satan with wings spread wide and a blonde woman laying near the ground with her hands up in some form of a plea.

"And behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth. Revelations, twelve." Hannibal said near Will's back with his hand wound around a pricey bourbon.

"What?" Will jerked around to see Hannibal. When had he moved in so close?

Hannibal only moved in closer, smiling fondly. ""The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun", my favourite painting. I like the sense of power Blake gives Satan and how the woman is wrapped in his tail as he waits to devour her unborn child. I always found it rather sexual in nature since the women does not look quite frightened, yet not quite excited either. She is caught somewhere between two contradictions, her hands thrown up in prayer while the dragon's tail curls tighter."

Will had been taught the story about the red dragon, of Satan's fall, but never had it ever been described as anything but brimstone and fire. "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back." He quoted, Hannibal's theory leaving a strange taste in his mouth.

"The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him." Hannibal continued immediately, moving the bottle aside to press near Will's side and stare at his own work. His hand reached down to move the other drawings aside.

Will's fists curled at his sides, Hannibal's warmth detectable despite the layers between them. "But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath." He finished, quickly sidestepping before the warmth lured him in. "What's that in your hand?" Will quickly changed the subject, but his eyes flicked to the drawing once more, betraying his intentions.

“I always took you as a bourbon man, though on further consideration I now wonder if priests are even allowed to consume alcohol... I perhaps should have asked that before I presumed.” Hannibal’s hand lifted the bourbon all the same, seeming intent on breaking the rule if it did exist.

“I don’t normally for personal reasons but yes.” Will moved over to lean against the wall, his socked feet wiggling now that they were freed of the worn shoes. “It’s kind of a funny story actually… German monks used to drink beer and their abbot sent a barrel to Rome, you know, to verify that it was alright to be getting drunk off of. The cardinals in Rome were used to drinking wine so they absolutely hated the beer and sent a letter back allowing them to drink it as an act of religious self-repudiation. So yeah, most liquor is allowed.” Will snorted a little, a grin lighting up his face as he saw the bourbon in Hannibal’s hand. It was southern, the exact brand he used to see at the liquor stores on the high shelves where young teenaged boys who couldn’t afford it couldn’t smuggle it under their sweaters and behind jackets. “But you’d be right. I used to have a taste for bourbon.”

“Should I pick another drink? Is there then a reason you don’t drink?”

Will shook his head. He didn’t even want to touch that part of his life right now, not with Hannibal. Not the nights drinking bourbon in the back of Matthew’s pick-up, as Bon Jovi played from his popping speakers. Surely he was already shaming God in some way after that afternoon in the forest and surely now for accepting his invitation, he didn't need to add insult to injury. “No, it’s alright. Two fingers would be great.”

Once the drinks were poured and Will scorched his throat with the alcohol, he sat down on one of Hannibal’s couches, feeling smaller than he was by the apparent wealth of it.

“Allow me to make us something quickly." Hannibal said as he took a drink from his own bourbon. It looked queer to see a man as refined as Hannibal drinking up Will's sinful, backwoods adolescence in a few savouring gulps. "Filet mignon with a balsamic glaze does not take long so feel free to take any of my books from the shelves in the meantime.” Hannibal floated over to his record player and then put on a record for them both to listen to before moving towards the kitchen. At the first few notes, Will nearly dropped the glass. “Debussy,” Hannibal said, the glint in his expression not lost on Will, “someone I’m sure you’ve become familiar with. Did you enjoy the other record I gave you?”

Will’s mouth was dry despite the bourbon coating his throat. With each stroke of the keys, Will felt pavlovian in his small stirrings of arousal. “Pardon?” He choked, his face colouring.

The reaction spurred on a small grin from Hannibal, telling Will all he needed to know as he sunk further into the couch in horror and embarrassment. “He is relaxing at times, almost sinfully pleasurable at others.”

Sinful was a good word to describe how Will currently felt.

“If you’ll excuse me…” Hannibal nodded towards the kitchen, grinning all the while at some personal joke that he shared only with himself.

With a heavy groan, Will sunk further into the couch and tossed back the rest of his bourbon. He wobbled over to the cabinet as Debussy kept playing. With sweating palms he clutched the bourbon bottle to steady himself. Lord, forgive him, for he was about to overindulge with gluttony. As he poured two more fingers, Will imagined Doctor’s Lecter’s hands from that afternoon, warm and commanding, forcing him to kneel at his alter, tip his head back with a fleeting touch of Hannibal's fingertips and exchanging the smokey molasses liquid from lips to lips.

On second thought …. make that three fingers.

_________________________

 

“No, no… I’m serious. Bishop Crawford stood there, drenched in wine, while Sister Lounds berated him in front of the whole church, ripped off her habit and stormed out in her underwear!” When Hannibal started to chuckle, Will elapsed into laughter, leaning his head back against the cupboard, breathing in the sharp yet sweet smell of meyer lemons being zested and juiced beside him.

Everything was warm and fluid, and Will couldn’t remember being this drunk since… god, since way back when. Even Hannibal, for all his restraint, was flushed and smiling much more openly than Will had ever seen, though it never quite touched his eyes as much as it should’ve.

“And how did Bishop Crawford respond to the assault?” Hannibal asked before turning to the skillet where he was browning sugar.

Will’s head lolled to the side and he grinned fondly at the memory of Bishop Crawford sputtering and standing in front of the church as the wine slowly evaporated off his steaming face. “Oh he was pissed—“ Will clapped a hand over his mouth but it quickly was chased by a wave from Hannibal to speak freely, “—sorry, angry I mean. He was so, so angry and embarrassed. He just stood there like a steaming… steaming… I don’t know what kind of food steams in wine but that’s the best mental picture I can come up with.”

“Mussels are steamed in white wine with shallots and thyme?” Hannibal offered helpfully before mixing in the eggs, butter, flour, honey and whatever else he was throwing into this dessert Will couldn’t even fathom pronouncing.

With a few small scoots across the counter, Will was close enough to Hannibal’s cooking that the mixing bowl was against his thigh. Hannibal looked so in his element in the kitchen, moving around the room in a waltz that only Hannibal could hear.

Will had stayed in the living room previously, too embarrassed to come out, for the entire creation of the dinner only to emerge to eat. Dinner conversation was lovely and alcohol sodden and now that Hannibal had proposed dessert, Will wanted to see the chef behind the dishes. He was impressed.

Hannibal’s arm tightened as he creamed the ingredients in with the butter, the tendons pulling on his forearm. It lulled Will into staring at the rhythm his arms created that matched the soft classic music. His lips parted softly at the sight.

“Father, gaping isn’t polite.”

Will’s jaw snapped shut. “I wasn’t—“

“Yes you were.” Hannibal said, not looking at Will as he dipped his pinky into the mixture and sucked it clean. He added more honey. “I don’t mind though.”

Will flushed splotchy all down his neck and under the flannel.

Was it just the alcohol or did Hannibal look particularly saintlike despite him using his mouth in ways that would incite Will to sin? He appeared to float through the kitchen; master of his domain yet gentle in his ministrations. Hannibal tended to each ingredient and aspect of his craft like any good saint tended to their flock: with respect and unwavering expertise.

Tomorrow he would have to dedicate most of the day to pray off all the sins he was committing tonight.

But the bourbon whispered that a few more sins wouldn't tarnish his soul worse than it already had been that day. As Hannibal moved away from the bowl to tend to the browning sugar, Will stuck his finger out and broke a bit of the hard dough to taste. It was… sweet like sugar cookies but kind of foreign in it’s texture as well.

As Will pulled a bit more off he lifted it to his mouth, but he found it couldn’t seem to make it to his lips. A hand was wrapped around his wrists. Looking back up, Will was greeted with those empty shark eyes that bore into him like black holes. They sucked everything, including Will’s current embarrassment and arousal, right to them, swallowing him whole.

“Ah—.” Will started an excuse that only turned to a sputter as Hannibal moved in enough that Will’s jeans with the worn knees touched the front of Hannibal’s pelvis.

Oh... Oh. Will struggled to breath as Doctor… Mister... Le- Hannibal…. as his lips wrapped around his fingers and slipped the piece of dough from fingers to mouth. Was that his tongue he’d felt?

“That was rather rude, William.” Hannibal simpered, looking far too pleased with himself as a alcohol-ladened Will short circuited, effectively turning him into a useless shell of a human who could only sit there on Hannibal’s counter, mouth agape.

“You… You’ve never called me…..”

“Will or William? Which do you prefer?” And it was just like that. As if he hadn’t just licked the priest’s fingers or moved in so close that Will smelt that cologne he was quickly growing to admire.

“Will, but that’s not-“

“I think it is time we moved past the formalities that come with your station. I consider you a friend at this juncture, do you not consider me one?”

“Well that’s an awfully loaded question, isn’t it?”

“Is it?”

A friend? He and Doctor Hannibal Lecter, friends? That was perhaps the worst idea Will could ever come up with.

This would have probably been a prime time to mention that a priest becoming friends with a man who fantasized about sodomizing him in a clearly sacrilegious way and who, on occasion, incited said priest to crave that very degradation would be a terrible idea. It was almost a worse idea than whatever Sodom and Gomorrah had done to have the Lord rain sulphur from the skies, or when Eve had been tempted by the snake to eat the pomegranate. There were countless biblical references that were almost on par with how terrible this idea was.

“But yes, I suppose we are as much friends as a man of the cloth and a member of the congregation can be. Does that mean I can call you Hannibal?”

Hannibal stopped shaping the dough into small walnut sized caps for a moment at the sound of his name. It was only a brief pause, but it was heavy.

“Yes you are more than welcome to Will.”

Will watched the older man work for a few minutes, shaping the dough into caps and stems for the strange mushroom-looking cookies and laying them out on the baking tray. “Hannibal….” Will tested the word on his tongue. The first syllable was breathy and the final drawn out. He could get used to that sound. “What did you say this was again?… I have to admit I’ve already forgotten the name.”

Hannibal placed the cookie cap on top of the stem like a little top hat and grinned playfully. “Meduoliniai grybukai. It is a Lithuanian cookie shaped into mushrooms and then dipped into vanilla and cocoa icing.” Hannibal laid the parts back down and returned to assembling. “My mother used to bake them for myself and my sister when we were children. It was the first thing I learnt to bake, although unlike my mother my culinary tastes always did veer to muscle and demi-glace rather than cakes and vanilla bean.”

Will’s head tilted to the side as as observed the man at his craft. They had spoken briefly about their past lives but to hear Hannibal refer to a whole childhood back in Lithuania was strange. To imagine Hannibal existing in another place rather than within Will’s sphere was unsettling, and even more unsettling was the image of Hannibal as a child. What would that have possibly looked like? Polished oxfords, blond hair parted and combed back with the eyes of a discerning adult? “What was it like in Lithuania growing up?”

Hannibal’s eyes became lost, his hands stilling in his assembling. “Lithuania? It was… a picturesque childhood in many senses. Summers were spent at the family summer home in France, the rest of the year was spent at my parent’s estate. Lithuania is incredibly lush with many winding rivers and lakes spotting the countryside. A truly under-appreciated country in terms of its beauty. Although, my time in Lithuania was cut short when my family’s estate was taken over by deserters of the Red Army.” Hannibal’s smile stayed the same but it lost its brief flicker of life. “My parents, along with my younger sister and the help, did not survive the raid… But that’s not good conversation, especially not over such a fine cabernet sauvignon.” And with that he reached with floured fingers to pinch his own glass of wine and took a sip before pushing it over to Will, inviting him with his eyes to take a taste.

Will grabbed up the glass and found his lips sealing over the imprint that Hannibal’s had left behind. An innocent schoolyard kiss by proxy, nothing more. He took a long drink but if he was being honest, it all just tasted the same with enough alcohol in him.

“I’ve never been good conversation, wine or not… I’m very sorry about your family though. I know how hard it is to lose a parent, I honestly cannot even fathom a whole family.” And the Red Army wasn’t exactly known for their mercy. It was rude to keep prying, but Will had drunk enough not to be conscious of social graces like tact. “How old were you?”

“Eight.” Hannibal finished the last of the mushroom shaped cookies and turned to look at Will. Eight? The image of that groomed, beautiful-eyed child version of Hannibal suddenly wasn’t so amusing. Instead Will had to picture that same boy walking around the estate alone in the middle of winter, rubbing tears on his tailored little suit with blood on the soles of his oxfords as he watched the Red Army leave with carts filled with everything Hannibal had called home.

God could be as cruel as he was loving.

The words came to him like they did whenever he was coaching someone through grief. “I can only offer the solace of God.” And yet when it left him even Will could hear how hollow it sounded. Did he truly believe that?

“To the solace of God.” Will lifted up Hannibal’s wine glass to toast him. The older man moved from his work and instead was lured in closer to Will. Will wrapped his lips back around the glass and tipped it back to distract himself from the man moving far too close. This was further than the church would approve of; this was quickly moving past the realm of friendship they had just so recently entered.

Hannibal’s eyes were staring, tracing paths down his throat as he let the wine slip along his tongue. Hannibal’s gaze heated and made simply drinking wine feel like an exhibitionist’s display. How could drinking be made erotic with only one glance from Hannibal? Surely he would die of thirst if he denied himself the right to be looked at as such.

Will choked on the wine, pulling the glass away from his face as Hannibal’s waist touched the sides of his knees. “No, not to God.” Long, talented fingers weaved through Will’s to gingerly pry the stem of the wine glass from him. “Not this time.”

And then Will watched, enraptured as Hannibal took the wine glass and turned it until the damp imprint of Will’s lips was before him and then purposefully laid his own over it. Then oh so slowly he tipped the wine back and Will watched in similar fascination at the slow movement of Hannibal’s throat.

“Then… if not God, who?”

“I cannot find solace in something I cannot touch.” He slipped the wine glass aside and then moved his floured hand up to touch Will’s face. “To you, Will.”

And he didn’t move. Hannibal hovered there, so close that Will could smell the stench of wine on his lips and feel every ounce of confidence and power that emanated from the older man, effectively drawing Will in closer. Every second was heavy, perfumed by their drunkenness and the smell of vanilla. It hung there in the small space between then, passing back and forth with every slow, deep breath.

This was the serpent made flesh. This was temptation embodied. It was control. It was physical. It was everything Will craved but could never have again.

A small frustrated noise came up from the back of Will’s throat as he closed the space between them and fisted the doctor’s hair in his hands. No, he could have it one more time. “Kiss me.” He groaned out quietly against the man. “Please.” Everything swirled together as Hannibal pushed his legs open further and filled the space between them so perfectly. It was Will who pressed their lips together but it was as far as his control went.

Hannibal was everywhere at once, crowding him up against the cupboards and smearing flour into Will’s curls. It was the press of lips for only a few moments and then Hannibal’s hand gripped Will’s neck, pushing his jaw back so it tilted back and let his jaw fall slack. With an open and willing mouth, Hannibal’s tongue sought Will’s own.

There was Matthew with his mouth tasting like cheap reservation cigarettes and bubblegum, too shy to control and instead letting their tongues move against each others in an ebb and flow.

And then there was Hannibal; tugging and pulling at his body, like he was trying to crawl into his very skin.

The same sin; two very different sinners.

A noise escaped him when Hannibal grabbed his wrists and pressed them up against his cupboard, crucifying him with his grip. “Yes.” Will hissed out, the need swirling inside of his stomach. “God, yes, Hannibal.” The name was perfect to say, and Will yearned to scream it.

Will.” Hannibal responded from the calculated movement of lips. If he had any concern for Will’s supposed innocence, he wasn’t letting it show. Hannibal’s nails found the delicate skin of his wrists just as his tongue mapped out Will’s molars. His fingers were weaving in the strings and when he had Will figured out he started to pull.

The tongue traced along the roof of his mouth and then pulled away to bite at his lip just the way he had always loved it. Will bucked up, his hands flailing in Hannibal’s grip before finally sagging when it became futile.

Hannibal was in control. Utter and complete control. “Did you touch yourself before?” Lips were moving along Will’s throat as the rest of the kitchen bent and swirled from the arousal and alcohol. Had he?

He had.

“Yes.” Will’s toes curled as Hannibal’s lips found the hollow of this throat. “Yesyesyes.”

“Yes, what?” Hannibal asked, pulling his lips away.

“Yes, Hannibal.” The counter and the cupboard had become as warm as Hannibal. Everything around him was now only background noise, only half of sensory data whereas Hannibal was a live wire.

This was as steady as he had felt in ages. With Hannibal's bruising hands taking away his agency--subjugating him.

“Thank you Father.”

And just like that, it all fell apart.

“What?” Will yanked back, smashing his head against the cupboard. What had he just called him? “What?” He repeated drunkenly before wrenching his hand away and bringing the back of his wrist up to touch his lips. They came back wet with saliva.

Hannibal called him Father because—the stupidly simple truth smashed into him like a freight train, making all the air in his lungs squeeze out in a wheeze—he was a priest. “Oh no. Oh no, no, no. We didn’t…. Oh, please no. Hannibal, I can't.” It was only then that he could feel the golden cross on his chest that had been hidden by his civilian clothing. It hung heavy against the thudding in his chest.

“Is something the matter Will? Do you need a glass of water? Are you feeling dizzy?” The doctor insisted, before moving in to pull gently at his eyelid. "Perhaps there was too much wine."

“No, it’s not the wine. I wish it was.” Will laughed sourly before pulling away and leaning over to stare down at the floor. What had he been thinking? He’d asked for it like… like some desperate harlot. There was nothing pious or chaste about what had just transpired. Nausea welled up in his gut. He was going to be sick all over Hannibal’s floor, wasn’t he? “I… I think I’m going to throw up.”

He needed air, he needed to be able to breathe again or else he was going to pass out. Perhaps he would pass out and vomit simultaneously, wouldn't that be grand? “Excuse me.”

“Will…” The doctor ran after him, so Will ran faster as if he could run away from this. But he couldn't, not this time. The fancy couches and stupid sculptures were all in the way and Will barely managed to run past them before tumbling out of Hannibal’s front door and emptying half his stomach contents into a rose bush by the patio.

Bile coated his throat and stung his nose while the muscles in his stomach contracted once more but didn’t push anything else up. So instead Will hung his head over the patio railing, staring down. The golden cross came loose from his shirt and banged against his chin like a constant reminder.

What had he just done?

“Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum…. F-…Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra.” The Lords prayer was coming out of his bruised lips with the fervency of a dying man. Something this grave called for Latin.

Hannibal opened the door softly. Will turned to glare at him over the bannister as he stood there with a glass of water, and arousal barely concealed in the seam of his pants.

“Please, please call me a taxi. Now.”

Chapter Text

"And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." Matthew 10:28

 

“Father Graham! You, yes you. In my office now. And don’t eye the archway like that, we both know I can outrun you and I don’t need you testing my patience.”

Despite Bishop Crawford's words, Will found himself trying to squirm slowly out of the eye line of the burly black man. This was the last talk he wanted to have. The very last talk on the planet, perhaps only second only to a talk with Hannibal.

The difference was he actively hadn't seen Hannibal in two weeks but the bishop was near unavoidable. "My humblest apologies, not to be rude Bishop Crawford but I'm about to go pray. Could I come by your office later?" It was worth a shot no matter how futile.

"Do I need to repeat myself Graham?" The scary twist to the bishop's pox-scared face was enough to almost physically drag Will from the stone corridor and into the man's large, drafty office beside the main chapel. Once inside the office, Will leaned back against the wooden door as the bishop sat down in the high-backed armchair opposite Will. The room, despite the size, felt suffocating with the look Crawford directed at him.

"All you've done for the past two months is pray, I'm sure our Father would excuse you for a few minutes of my time. So unless you would rather I get the sisters to haul you into my office later tonight by the ends of your bed clothes, I suggest you sit down." Bishop Crawford gestured over to the leather seat near Will and with a nervous glance at the chair Will finally tried to settle in. Settling, it would seem, was not something Will was capable of doing for the past few weeks. It felt like the muscles under his legs and arms were crawling with a discomfort that could only be momentarily eased by fidgeting. "Your leg is bouncing already." Crawford sighed, reaching forward to pinch the bridge of his nose. "You are going to need to stop that if I'm going to be able to hear myself think."

"My apologies." Will stilled his leg and starting to absently pick at the skin around his nails.

He stopped momentarily when Crawford looked at his newly formed nervous habit and simply shook his head in disbelief. "Look, I'm going to be frank with you Father. I have half the mind to ship you off to India for one of the sister's missions. If Father Price wasn't so insistent on going to see the Taj Mahal, I would have sent you along. Do you know why?"

He had a good idea. "I'm going to assume it has something to do with my absences?"

The bishop leaned back in his chair, joining his hands over his black cassock. "I think complete withdrawal from your churchly duties would be a better way to describe it, wouldn't you agree?"

There was no point in arguing, the bishop was right. He had feigned illnesses, took on any menial chores that needed doing, and avoided most of the congregation and parish to the point even Sister Bloom had come to his room personally to check if he had run away in the night. Not that the thought hadn't crossed his mind.

A frown puckered on his lips at the thought. It had been in a moment of desperation he'd considered it when an old woman found him hiding away in the confession box and started to confess. Her sins were small ones but he had clammed up and sputtered out regurgitated lines he had learned in school... nothing close to the wisdom he used to try and bestow.

He wasn't qualified to help people anymore. Who was he fooling? God was no longer guiding him, no matter how hard he searched and tried endlessly to reconnect with him. It felt eerily close, horribly nostalgic even, to how he had spent his teenaged years around his own father: trying to call for help and love and receiving nothing but an endless silence.

So he needed to keep praying until he was soothed again. Until then... he just couldn't do it.

"Graham." The voice barked. "I'm speaking to you, I asked if you agreed?"

Will's head snapped up to look at the impatient Bishop. "Yes. I agree."

The man pursed his lips and looked over as Will shifted around in the leather seat, causing little squeaks of leather to fill the silent, cold room. "Do you want to talk about what has been bothering you? I mean it's clear there's something festering inside of you. Something toxic and dangerous. You should bleed out the bad blood, so to speak."

A tight, wail of a laugh bubbled up from Will's throat. There was no way he could tell his bishop that he'd kissed another man for the first time in countless years and had not only enjoyed it but craved in every inch of innards for more; to rake his nails down Hannibal's back and crawl into his skin to live there for days. It would be the most comforting way to live. Will wanted Hannibal there to command him to eat, to sleep, to never pray to any other idol but him again. He would kiss his shoes and kneel if Hannibal could make him feel that stable... that sane again.

"No. No I would really not like to speak about this matter." Will chuckled out loud, shaking his head in disbelief. The bruises on his wrists ached. "This is an issue I have struggled with for years and not one that can be saved through a mere talk. We all have our wars against sin, this will forever be my cross, my burden, to shoulder."

"Is that why you have been praying then?" The man's face softened at the little bit of information Will fed him.

He nodded slowly as he picked at the skin near his nail and pulled it back. A dark streak of blood filled the path of raw skin made bare by the tug and pull of his fingers. He felt dirty, and no amount of praying or holy water was helping.

"Alright, alright. I won't press the issue any further, but in return for my compliance I want you to do something for me. You haven't preached in weeks and you run away from confessionals like a scared child. I won't permit it anymore, no matter the reason. So in return I will be placing you on an assignment."

"Of course." If a special sermon or providing confessionals to wayward youths would allow Will to continue his searching in peace, he would have to mime and act his way through the motions. He could do that much.

With his answer, Crawford turned around and reached into the lowest cabinet in the grey filing cabinet behind him. The clicking of folders sliding along the metal bars filled the room and Will glanced around at the old paintings of bishops, arch bishops and of course of Jesus. Jesus hung high up above Crawford's desk and stared down at Will with his glossy, dead eyes as he hung bleeding on the cross. When he had been crucified by the Jews through the Romans, had there ever been a point on the cross when Jesus--bled nearly to death, grown empty through starvation, and rancid from deplorable hygiene--had wished to give up? The vacant look in the painting was of a man who was no longer present in his body. Perhaps Jesus simply "went away" for a while, retreating to memories of a place where he wasn't tested and tortured.

Maybe Will should simply "go away" for a while too? Maybe then he could be resurrected.

"Here is it..." With a huff, Crawford hefted the folder onto the desk and began to flip through the pages until he retrieved one that had been obviously typed by a typewriter years ago. "This is his file when he first joined the church." The page was slipped over to Will with the man's basic information. His marital status had been corrected by opaquing film multiple times as had his address. "His name is Jonathan Novachek, he has been part of this church for nearly seventy years and before his illness he was an active member."

Novachek... it did sound vaguely familiar.

"It would seem that Mister Novachek is nearing his time of ascent and will be needing last rites delivered to him. Unfortunately his illness prohibits him from leaving bed so his old doctor has been tending to him in his final days on house call and would like a similar house call to be done by the church."

Oh, a house call? Well, that wasn't as bad. So long as he didn't feel the need to ask for guidance, and it sounded like perhaps his illness had robbed him of that ability, he would be confessing his sins to Will to listen to and then Will would simply have to absolve him of them. Any sins were absolved at death, so Will didn't need to worry about guiding this man through anything except the process of joining Jesus.

"That will work just fine." Will murmured as he pulled the sheet closer to look over the information there, without truly processing any of it. "May I ask which doctor I'll be working with?"

"Speak of the devil." The bishop turned in his seat, smiling broadly before standing up and walking to the entrance.

Will didn't need to look up, the moment the man spoke it was enough to simultaneously chill his blood with dread, and ignite his stomach on fire.

"Hello Father Graham. It's been a while."

_________

 

Will held the small box filled with the items needed for last rites in his hands as his hip canted to close the passenger door of Hannibal's Bentley. Thank the heavens he was free of the car and out in the open where he could breathe again. The ten minute drive to the man's apartment had been extremely claustrophobic.

Never had classical music been so stifling, nor horribly banal small talk so useless or transparent. It was like Hannibal was overriding every single thing that needed (or preferably did not need) to be said with the most boring topics he could think of.

'It is getting rather cold as of late, isn't it?' 'I knew Jonathan back during my residency when I began treating the start of his illness.' 'Do you want me to turn up the heat?' 'It's amusing that the pharmacy already has its Christmas decorations out before Thanksgiving. Rather premature, is it not?'

He acted like nothing had ever happened, and it irked Will to know that while it got under his own skin that the Doctor could act so nonchalant. That he was so completely unaffected by everything while Will was falling apart at the very seams.

"Shall we?" Hannibal asked, holding the door open for him. Will mumbled a barely audible 'thank you' and strode in afterwards. They made their way up the tight staircase with their respective tools for saving and to 210B. It smelt just a little like cat piss, and when they knocked they heard a few small meows from the other side. Will wasn't a cat person but he side-eyed the doctor and saw his eyes tighten in amusement. Apparently he was.

"We are coming in Mr. Novachek, it's Doctor Lecter with a friend of mine, Father Graham." A friend? Will wanted to scoff at the choice of words. Would God even be listening to Will when he tried to rectify this man's sins? With both he and Doctor Lecter in a room together God was surely turning a blind eye to anything either of them wished from him after their last time together. God was turning a blind everything to Will lately.

When they'd... when he'd... The bruises on Will's wrists burned with the memory from his own sacrilegious crucifixion. They had faded to the barely whisper of yellow but had served as a reminder for the two weeks since.

A small gurgling noise came from the bedroom and Will had to side-step an orange tabby as it walked by Will's feet, ignoring his very existence in favour of meowing loudly at Hannibal's.

"Do they know you?"

Hannibal nodded as he set his bag down beside them and then leaned down to stroke along a black cat's arched back. It purred heavily and ran it's cheek along Hannibal's pant leg, leaving a few black hairs in its wake. "Whenever I come to check on Mr. Novachek I bring food for them." As if to demonstrate he opened his bag and pulled out a hand full of little homemade brown liver treats for them. They crowded around his fist, practically vibrating with happiness. Will could taste a phantom of caramel on his tongue as the cats ate out of the palm of Hannibal's hand.

Once the cats were sated they made their way through the house and past the collection of items Jonathan had made a life from. Old, dust-covered trophies from baseball tournaments, collectables, and war memorabilia were scattered around the house with no real order. There were, Will noted, no family photos.

"Jonathan? How are you?" Hannibal opened up the door and Will peeked around him at the arrangement. He had a dozen brown pill bottles lining the bedside table along with a tissue box, glass of stale water, an IV that was attached to his arm, and an oxygen cannula wrapped around his ears and pressed up into his nose. Hannibal had mentioned during the drive that he had nurses stopping by regularly to help ease the pain.

A hacking cough came from the bed and a raspy voice responded from the old man dying in bed. "Doctor... Lecter..." A brittle smile stretched across his cracked lips, splitting them down the middle with the effort.

"Will--Father Graham," Hannibal corrected.

"No, Will is fine." There was no point in going back on what had already been said. Plus, the sound of his name had steadied himself, if only for a moment.

"Will then, could you please go and grab the chapstick from the outside pocket of my bag while I prepare Mister Novachek's medication?"

"Of course." Will moved over to the bag Hannibal had placed on Jonathan's desk and slipped in beside Hannibal who was pulling out vials and needles. Will's thigh pressed against Hannibal's side as he leaned in to touch the pocket. He was warm, and hard, and physical. But he shouldn't, couldn't really, think about that. Certainly not now.

"Hello Mister Novachek, I'm Father Graham. I'm here for your last rites, but I'm also going to put some chapstick on your lips... they look painfully dry. Is that alright?" Once the old man nodded, Will leaned in and started to run it along his cracked lips. It may not have been spiritual saving, but the relief was clear in the man's eyes and that was the most good Will felt he had done in months.

"You know... the lips are nothing," the man hacked out another cough, "in comparison to the... lungs. But thank you... Father... all the same." The words were slow, forced and it sounded as if every word was a hard fought battle. Unlike most of the useless babble Will overheard in the parish and in the congregation, these words had purpose.

Hannibal had moved to the other side of the bed and switched out the IV bags.

"I should have never.... taken... that insulating job." Jonathan chuckled and Will winced as it elapsed into a coughing fit that required Hannibal's hand to steady the man.

"While yes the asbestos did lead to the pulmonary fibrosis, you should consider yourself rather lucky considering how slow the process has been. The disease has been uncharacteristically kind to someone exposed to as much as you had been." It was a dark sort of compliment but Jonathan grinned all the same. It seemed Hannibal's calming effect wasn't only felt by Will.

"Now Father..." Jonathan wheezed out as Will took the seat Hannibal had left at the desk and scooted it towards the bed. This was the part he had been dreading, and his hands were starting to shake again. His skin was crawling. The dirty feeling in the pit of his stomach that shame had calcified around, was heavy. God wasn't going to listen to Will, and this man wasn't going to be saved by Will if no one was listening.

"Yes?" Will said uneasily as he moved the chair closer with a squeak.

"I've got.... quite... the list of sins. Though... there is one... I can't forgive... myself for."

The sounds of Hannibal moving the man's hands along the bed and tapping on his dried up veins to get a spot to inject reminded Will of his presence despite the quiet in the room. "Well, then let me prepare." Will managed a smile before leaning down to his wooden box. He pulled out a rosary and placed it in the man's palm before he reached down and retrieved the blessed oil. Then Will moved awkwardly along the bed side until he was closer and could smooth some of the oil along the man's forehead, and then since his illness was in the lungs Will moved the loose shirt he was wearing down so he could smooth some over the chest. It was practically all ribs under his fingers from weight loss.

As he did this, Will said the verse from 'James' he knew by heart. It was reflex, muscle memory almost, as he spoke. "Are any among you sick? Pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well. The Lord will raise them up." Will knew the line that was to come next and paused. His eyes moved from Jonathan and then up and over to Hannibal. The doctor stilled as he attached a medication administration button to the IV, turning to look at Will. Their eyes met, and it was truly the first time Will had looked at him since that night. He had been avoiding eye contact but now he was looking, really looking. They had done something sinful... Hannibal had confessed his intentions and Will knew his own inclinations and yet he still put himself in a dangerous position with wine and proximity. They had practically baited the devil. And why? Well, Will knew why. He knew from the steadiness in his hands and the soothing wash over the pit in his stomach when Hannibal tilted his chin up ever so slightly, that aura of command just beginning to ebb over him. "And if they have committed sins, these will be forgiven."

Perhaps, their sins too could be forgiven.

"I feel... like I'm being basted... to be cooked like a.... turkey." Jonathan chuckled hoarsely as he craned his head down to look at his chest, the folds in his neck squishing up against his chin as he did so.

Even Hannibal had to smile at the joke.

"Consider this stuffing then?" Will said with a small grin as he took out one of the communion wafers, blessed it, and then pressed it into the man's awaiting tongue.

Once that was done, Will then leaned back into his chair. This was the part he had been dreading profusely. "Now you may confess Jonathan, though you may skip the prelude as what we have just done should cover the bases. I also do not wish to stress your lungs beyond what God needs for confession."

"That's very kind of you." Hannibal said from the other side of the bed, having left and come back with another pillow to prop the man up further. He slipped it behind the man's back and then pulled up a rocking chair from the corner to bear witness to the event. Having Hannibal there decreased the man's chances of being heard, but it at least increased Will's ability to make it through the confession. Hannibal's gaze kept lingering on him, collected and in control. The picture of composed. Will mirrored him, sitting up a little straighter and trying to gain more confidence as he had done on the trail.

"What are the sins that are troubling you?"

The white-haired man sighed deeply and looked beyond Will to the window with tacky orange blinds. "I destroyed three... marriages, Father, with my lust. The... the divorces were because I couldn't commit myself to... to one woman and was always greedy for more."

"You were adulterous then?" Hannibal asked from the other side of the bed.

The man nodded slowly. "Countless, countless times, even when my second wife was in labour. I missed.... the birth of our d-...daughter because of that. The child passed... away that night from... complications." Jonathan breathed deeply, sucking in breaths for a few moments before being told to take a moment by Hannibal to regain his ability to speak. It was clear that this knowledge weighed heavily on his soul.

"I hurt them all.... I was not there... for my daughter. I did not live... as God intended." The man looked over at Will, his eyes reaching for some sort of absolution, a sign of either disgust or understanding. Will tried to school his face to be unknowable. He didn't make eye constant and instead looked at the man's chest.

It wasn't his place to tell him what God thought of his sins, especially not now.

"You have committed adultery many times, you did not uphold your responsibilities as a husband or a father. You lusted and were greedy and were not content with what God had offered you. You also took multiple wives within the span of your life despite vowing before Gods and men to hold one woman... Do you acknowledge these sins?" Will asked slowly, shifting in his seat a little as Jonathan's eyes grew watery. He couldn't handle tears, he had no clue what to say to this dying man to make him feel more at peace with himself and God. It might as well been a monkey or potato doing the the last rites for all the good Will was doing.

"Yes, I confess to all those sins Father. Does.... God forgive me?" He wheezed out before tilting his head and staring up, searching for something in the stucco ceiling.

"Do you hurt for those you have wronged? Do you understand the pain from your sin?"

"I have... for decades. I wish I could... go back. I desperately wish I could apologize."

"Then yes." As with all last rites, the person was absolved of all their sins, no matter the kind, so without hesitation Will added, "You are free to join God with a clean conscious and when you join him above you will be given the opportunity to seek forgiveness from those you have wronged."

A smile touched his cracked lips as he sagged into the pillow Hannibal had put under him. He reached out with a shaky hand to lay his palm over Will's. "Thank you... Father... I will, to Maria... to Clarice... to Johanna... to all of them. I feel... I can finally face them."

Will could only stare down at the hand over his own. Had he known what those hands had done, what bruises burned just under the hem of his black shirt sleeves perhaps he would not be so thankful.

Hannibal watched, his eyes following Will's every move, flickering momentarily to his wrists as Will smiled at Jonathan and then began to recite the Lord's prayer for them both. Once he had finished his healing, Hannibal finished his own.

Hannibal wiped the man's face and chest clean of the oil and then took the administration button on the IV and handed it to him wordlessly. Jonathan looked down at the button and the tears that had been only blurry droplets clinging to his eyes finally pooled and sunk down his cheeks, leaving paths along the parched skin where it quickly absorbed the salty wetness. "Thank you Doctor Lecter... you... and Father Graham both." He let out a haggard cough and slumped down further into the pillows. "Now, if it would be alright... would you mind giving me a few minutes alone? I want... to be with my thoughts."

"Of course Jonathan, let us know when you are ready for us to come back in. We will be in your living room, would that be alright?"

He nodded and Hannibal turned to Will. "After you, Father Graham."

 

_________

 

Will thanked Hannibal for the steaming tea he pressed into his palms without Will having to ask for it. With a laugh he commented on how haggard and drained he must have looked to be given caffeine without asking. Hannibal merely smiled and told him that as a surgeon he dealt with death and that the only thing that worked from him was a finely crafted tea or coffee, something that would awaken his senses from their deadened, frayed state and remind him not only of comfort but of life.

It, of course being Jonathan's, was not merely as good as what Hannibal used to bring, but Will was thankful all the same. And thankfully Hannibal said nothing when their fingers brushed together and Will's lingered along the side's of his thumb, silently, subconsciously seeking companionship without his intending to.

The living room they were in was stale and cold except for the one lone light shining orange by Hannibal, bathing him in a warm glow. He looked like heat and fire personified. One of the fat cats had made a bed out of the space of the high backed chair behind Will's head while a mostly white cat sat on the arm of Hannibal's couch, taking on it's own creamsicle orange hue.

"Thank you again Will for coming today, I can tell it was a great help to Jonathan. Though as a first time observer of last rites, are all sins forgiven that easily?" With a pause he took a sip of his own tea and Will couldn't stop the small smile that creeped onto his lips at the sight of the doctor's obviously displeasure. If a poor tea was enough to shake him, Will could only imagine what he would do to the abominations Will used to craft in the kitchen. Once he looked back up he apologized. "I did not mean to imply you had not done your job correctly Father."

"No, and I didn't take it that way." Will murmured into his tea before taking a sip. It was earl grey made just they way Hannibal used to bring his coffees. Will stared down into the tea trying to arrange his thoughts about the whole ordeal. It was hard to string together coherency out of the muddled mess in his brain. "But yes, barring murder, all sins are forgiven. Even murder though is treated much the same."

"Then does death absolve a person of their sins then? Are we all forgiven? If so, then what is the purpose of confessing during our life?" Hannibal reached over to pet the white cat that arched it's back under the touch. "If you'll pardon my curiosity."

"It's perfectly alright." He had missed it actually. Really, he hadn't noticed it until he had it again: this intellectual stimulation he had been lacking without Hannibal. No one had been challenging him, or understanding him on the level he worked at. It was either mindless obedience because of his position or vacant stares, but Hannibal was staring intently, leaning forward a little as if waiting for WIll's words eagerly. It was flattering though to have his words held in honest high regard again. "Uhm, yes and no would be the answer. Yes, in that last rites do absolve us of our sins on earth... But no in that death by itself cannot erase sins. In heaven you will be judged ultimately by God. " Will took another sip. "Think of last rites as a sort of ease of transition. Priests absolve you of your mortal sins, and when you ascend to heaven God judges you for what you have not confessed or atoned properly for. That is why confession is so important, to not confess and to not atone means... well... it could mean hell."

Will shrunk into the chair at the very idea of hell. It was why he had been confessing and atoning until he gained headaches from the loud prayers always in his head.

"I see." Hannibal responded to his semi-lecture with such a small phrase, though Will could see the wheels turning in his head. "I must say the concept of hell always did perplex me."

"In what way?" Will murmured, feeling himself sink further into the chair from the warm familiarity of their discussions.

"Well," Hannibal's mouth moved into a micro expression of amusement before setting the tea aside. "God seems to always be so full of contradictions. For example, he is loving, but he can be cruel as well. Recently in a church in Silicly a facade fell on sixty-five grandmothers at a special Mass. Was that evil? If so, if He’s up there, He must enjoy it, Father. Typhoid and swans— it all comes from the same place."

Will gripped his cup tighter, remembering asking himself the same thing when his mother had passed away. He had asked his father, his face puffy from sobbing, and received the answer he learned to apply to all of God's choices. "Every act is the will of God," he parroted, "even that unfortunate accident... even Jonathan's eventual death. All of it is."

"Then by that extension, so is every sin." Hannibal replied.

The tea was suddenly far too hot for the new heat and heaviness in the room. Will quickly put it aside on the table. So... was this it? Were they finally going to talk about it? Will's heart thumped loudly in his chest as Hannibal remained even and collected as ever.

"Every... sin?" Will said softly.

"Every sin." Hannibal agreed, the corners of his eyes crinkling in fondness. "If I remember correctly you once included a line in your sermons from the bible. It went, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it" from the Corinthians."

"I did use that once before... yes. Your memory is astounding."

"I could never forget such a wonderful sermon as yours. I remember every sermon you've given in my presence."

Will flushed darkly.

"You said how temptation was so core to man’s being that it went against God's will to not speak of it, to lock it away and let it fester into something darker. You speak powerfully to the need to confess and to be absolved. When I spoke to Bishop Crawford he said you have been-"

"You spoke to Bishop Crawford about me?" Will interrupted to Hannibal's slight annoyance. "You... you asked Bishop Crawford for me especially, didn't you? Of course you did." Will prickled, his face pulling into a tight line. Of course he had. Why did it surprise him? Hannibal was the type of man whom convenience bowed to, allowing his hands to shape it to his whims. He was control, he was order, and something like "luck" did not exist in his realm. Will looked down and fisted up his hands into his hair, still warm from the tea.

"As you spoke to... letting things fester and to leave them unspoken of will only cause harm. I do not wish to cause you harm, Will. So while I did speak to Bishop Crawford it was over concern of your absence, and he informed me of your constant confessing.... Will?"

When Will looked up, Hannibal had moved from his seat by the lamp and over to Will's chair. He sat down on the footrest near the edge until they were close together. "Yes?"

"It is as you said, God will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear."

"And this is bearing?" Will hissed quietly, his face turning red from humiliation. Hannibal had no idea just how upsetting it had all been. "I've been practically living in the chapel, praying more than I care to remember over things I can't even bring to my head without feeling guilty. We did something wrong Hannibal, and if I do not atone I will be punished. Don't you see? I am guilty."

"But, it is as you said William." Hannibal pressed, and the fondness and tenderness in his voice was not lost on Will. He wanted to be upset but it was reaching into his gut and soothing out the knots. The kindness turned physical when Hannibal reached over to gently thumb his knuckles. Will wanted to hate the action, to rip his hand away and label Hannibal as the serpent so keen on inciting him to sin but he couldn't. Because that small brush of skin was enough to settle Will and still his quivering hands. "Every act is the will of God."

"Then what happened in the kitchen... you believe that was the will of God?"

"Yes, I do."

"And what you said in the confessional... what you said about wanting to... to..." Will stammered the pulled his hand away to run it over his hot face. The things Hannibal had professed to wanting to do were never lost on him. He thought about Hannibal committing those sins and that was half the problem. "To sodomize me, was that not more than you could handle?"

The look of surprise on Hannibal's face was satisfying. His face struggled to mask an expression it was clear he normally never wore. The satisfaction though was short lived and fizzled out into horror.

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to... I shouldn't have said that." If he wasn't already doing a bad enough job as a priest, he had just spoken of something said in the comfort of the confessional box. "Hannibal, I didn't mean to say that, I'm so sorry for betraying your trust... as a priest I feel as if I have failed you and I don't know how to apologize.... enough..." He trailed off.

Warmth encased his face and thick thumbs ran along his cheeks soothingly. The amusement, the small glimmer of absolutely wicked amusement was buried in Hannibal's face, was not lost on Will. He held him there wrapped up in his hands as the words sputtered to silence, the thumbs slowly stroking Will's nerves and grounding the electricity jumping through his veins.

"Shhh, Will. I will tell no one you spoke of my confession. I do not mind. Settle."

Settle.

Will took in a deep breath, letting his lungs drink it in and his mind to chase away the disbelief towards his unsightly actions. "Okay."

"Good." Hannibal's thumbs stilled and held Will's face near his own. How could a man like Hannibal crave such things from a creature like Will? Something so unstable and plain? It made no sense that Hannibal's heart could hammer at his ribcage and crawl up that long throat of his as it had done for Will. "Those images, my dear William, are God's gifts to me." He said softly, his eyes tracing over Will's face. "These are the thoughts he has filled my head with, they are the things he has chosen to arouse and haunt me. Can you not see that you are God's precious gift to me, and perhaps if I am so lucky I to you? This is all his design William, from the typhoid to the swans, and these desires and feelings all wrapped around you is just one small, beautifully crafted intricacies of his plan."

Will's head craned into the hands wrapped around his face even as his clerical collar pressed tighter against his throat. It was childish to feel pleasure at being precious to someone, to be held as something special and not merely a servant to a absent God. A quiet groan left his lips, unbidden. It was wrong to wish to be cherished, it was prideful.

"I desire you Will Graham, I desire you as a man should desire a woman, but I desire more than that. I want not just your body as communion, but I want your blood. I want the way you struggle to find the subjugation God does not give you, I want your lips, and your mind, your beating heart in the palms of my hands and your soul. If that is not God's plan, then I must be some otherworldly force to be reckoned with if you believe I can so challenge God."

Will did not doubt in some small corner of his mind that Hannibal was a force to be reckoned with anything, but even God himself did not desire him in such a way. They both desired subjugation but Hannibal could gift it.

Hannibal tilted his head to stare up at him. Every part of Will told him to take hold of the man and kiss him as they had in the kitchen and as each second ticked by and the longer Hannibal held him he was forgetting why he was forbidden to do so.

The hands wrapped around his could just as easily turned to hellfire, licking and melting the very flesh from Will's bone until it unearthed pink marrow and at this point... would he run?

He was getting very tired.

"And you, what do you feel?"

The orange light of the lamp gave Hannibal's hair a golden halo. He felt like he was looking at a saint and insisting on being a non-believer. He felt confused, exhausted, he felt like he was yearning for affection."I've thought of you and felt... conflicted."

Hannibal did not respond, merely stayed quietly waiting. There was no hiding in Hannibal's words.

"Conflicted because the mere thought of you makes me want to sin, and has forced me to sin. I feel at ease when you are near Hannibal, I feel whole and more sure of everything around me. You make me feel conflicted because you are the foreseeable cause of my damnation and the closest I've felt to feeling saved since my first years in the parish."

Will wrenched out of the doctor's warm hands finally to turn and stare at the tea on the coffee table beside him. It still gently steamed and the cat on the back of his chair had moved near it to leech its warmth. Both the cat and Will craved warmth like any living being, if only tea was enough for Will.

"And these feelings, were they what brought you to the parish originally?" Hannibal asked, leaning forward on the footrest.

Will nodded not looking away from the cup of tea.

"Then perhaps you need to step away from God." When Will looked back, Hannibal chuckled, "try not to look so affronted. I merely mean that you are far too wrapped up in the complexities and grey areas. Remember, when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. This is your way out, this is how you can endure. Move away from God, if not physically at least mentally. You must need to step away in order to return."

"You can't just simply step away from God." 'Can you?' hung on his lips, weighted there but not passing.

"Start small, allow yourself the small delights that sin brings us. The small, innocuous acts that even during confession are often ignored. Begin there, Will."

Oh, he made it sound like it was so simple. It couldn't be that simple or else there would not be guilt always biting at Will's heels.

"And then... when you feel ready, explore your humanity. Let yourself endure, to explore... to find pleasure, Will. Let go of the complexities and step away in order to return." Hannibal looked down fondly. "Release any thoughts and desires you've held onto, make them into action. Only then will you be able to return cleansed and ready. It's a holy baptism, washing you anew."

"Anew with sin?" Will all but snorted.

Hannibal only stared back, an amusement in his features. When Will worded it that way it did sound quite humorous.

Imagining God not haunting his mind and giving him room to breathe, to readdress his life made him feel lighter at the thought. If this was what it took to be sure of his relationship with God, perhaps Hannibal was right. Perhaps.

"I'll consider it." He murmured.

"Excellent. Consideration is all I ask for." With that Hannibal stood up and smoothed Will's curls away from his face before letting his fingers a path down his temple, down to his chin, and finally down to the awaiting clerical collar around his throat. Hannibal gave it a gentle tug but nothing more before nodding back towards the dark hallway. "I believe Jonathan must be requiring our assistance by now and is simply being stubborn. Shall we head back in?"

Will chewed on his lip, the path of Hannibal's finger stinging his skin. "Yes, I believe that's a good idea. Yes." Will nodded slowly, a heavy tiredness clinging to his bones and the ache in his stomach subsiding to a dull throbbing similar to common indigestion.

Will followed after Hannibal he collected himself and moved from the sitting room and down the hallway barren of any family photos to the bedroom with the tacky curtains. Jonathan was as they had left him, with cracked lips and pallor.

"Jonathan? I will be administering your final shot before the care nurse will come to deal with your hygiene. Does that suit you?" Hannibal spoke as he rounded the bed. He only made it half way before pausing mid-step to stare down critically at the man.

The old man's wrist was scooped up into's Hannibal's grip and once Will took a few steps closer, the smell hit him. Excrement. His nose wrinkled on instinct even though it was incredibly rude to do so, especially in the presence of a medical professional.

"Should we...?" Will started, eyeing the obviously drugged and unresponsive man uncomfortably. He had never changed a diaper never mind--

"That won't be necessary." Hannibal interrupted before dropping the man's wrist. "He's dead."

Pardon? Was what Will thought but instead a dumb "huh" left him instead.

How could he be dead? They had just spoken to him fifteen minutes before. People didn't just die while you discussing sin in the next room. There was supposed to be choking, coughing, and pain before an epic expiration. Not quietly in the other room.

But upon second consideration a certain blue hue touched the man's lips and his face had already begun growing tight giving him a much more relaxed expression than he had been holding before.

Hannibal thankfully reached up and hooded the fish eyes sinking in the man's skull that stared out at Will at the end of his bed. "It would seem that Jonathan found peace in your last rites Father and allowed himself eternal rest."

It was not lost on Will that Hannibal reached down to Jonathan's fist to remove the administration button. His eyes flickered up to the IV bag momentarily and squinted.

"Then I was glad I could have been of some help." Will replied.

"We should contact the morgue to come pick him up. Then I will drop you back at the church and you can tell Bishop Crawford of the good you've done. I will put a good word in for you, if only to ease his supervision." Hannibal unhooked the IV bag from the stand and gently pried the needle free of Jonathan's wrist. His comfort with death very apparent with how at peace he appeared.

"That... That would be great, thanks."

It looked unsettling like a puppet master unstringing his toy.

Chapter Text

"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" - Colossians 3:13

 

For a few days Will delighted in the small sins.

He breathed curses under his breath when alone in his cell, slept in, allowed himself to stare in his mirror lingering, looking, adjusting, and vainly composing. Will was a rodin bronze, a statue of virility and youth under his pious clothing and no longer a faceless priest in the back of some forgotten painting stashed in the catacombs of the chapel. With a few purposeful looks, and for the first time since his adulterous and vain adolescence, he felt worthy of being made immortal.

Will went an entire day without setting foot in the chapel, his rosary not on him but stashed back beside his bed for the day.

For that entire day he left the church to walk around Baltimore's harbor in his civilian clothes. People did not stare at his way of dressing, or look at him like children look to their teachers or parents with an expectation of all-knowing. They just... ignored him. He wasn't there to spout wisdom or guide them, and his dress did not tell those who looked of his beliefs and history. Will was invisible for all except the small looks of appreciation for his form (which were not wholly unwelcome).

There was pistachio ice cream and people pushing double strollers around him and he did not think of God, or brimstone, or salvation all day. For that reason his mind, admittedly, felt empty. Not empty of thought or intellect, but instead empty of the constant stress that came with devotion.

Without the one, ceaseless thought that filled its corners and hovered over every passing thought like thunderclouds, Will's mind had turned from a turbulent sea before a storm to a calm stretch of warm waters. For the first time in a while, Will wanted to inhabit his mind.

Though childlike exploration and curiosity, much like childhood itself, could only exist for so long.

While the rest of the parish had prayed there was always the skin-prickling sensation that he was being watched. Will began to keep his eyes open often seeking Sister Bloom's own straying glance. Her lips were parted in quiet prayer her hands clasped firmly against her modest habit to press in and outline her breasts.

It was no wonder she joined Hannibal in Will's now nightly fantasies. She'd seat herself deeply on top of Will, her habit finally gone and her curls left free to bounce and sway as Will's hips canted up into her tight sweetness. Hannibal's voice rasped at Will to hold still, a command perfectly obeyed as his cock breached Will's throat, stretching it and dragging muffed chokes around its heaviness. He could taste brine, feel heat, smell sweat, but the sight of their coupling was disjointed. Limbs gave way to limbs, bodies to bodies, skin became so removed from the individual as it warped and bent dizzying into a patchwork of pink and cream that the only telling factor of their bodies was Alana's curls that Will loved so fiercely and Hannibal's overarching steady commands that soothed the the guilt that always followed.

So when, during their final night's prayer, Alana had knelt beside Will, Will could not help but lean closer. His elbow touched hers, as did his thigh. Her own side tensed at the contact but their little touch below the alter with the crucified stared down with lifeless eyes did not cease.

The next morning Will entered the kitchens with the intent on finding Alana baking, but he instead found her draped over the counter beside a civilian woman and half prepped potatoes with curls of red skin scattered around. Her posture was relaxed and expression loose as a melodious laugh left her. Will watched as her hand moved across one of the preparation tables, past the box of Neptune Produce to grasp the other woman's hand as she laughed, as if seeking stability and yet... it lingered.

The other woman, asian and spritely, had a huge grin, big gestures, and commanded the space without encroaching into Alana's. Their body language spoke of familiarity.

"And that's when I said, Richard... can I call you Dick? Dick, okay, I don't care that all your exes are asian or that you've got "yellow fever"," the woman air quoted with a snort, "let's get something straight: I'm anything but and you sir are a damn racist."

Alana's mouth hung open in a gasp before lapsing into chuckles once the other woman started to snort. "I'm confused, did he think that was a compliment?"

"Lana, I have no idea but you should have seen his face." The other woman's strong features pulled into a cross between offended and aroused then amplified ten times over for comedic effect. Alana only leaned in closer, beaming in a way Will had never seen. Gosh, she looked more beautiful then, laughing carelessly and openly, than she ever had during mass or with a rosary wrapped around her thin fingers. Despite the drab black and white garb she wore there was more colour in her cheeks and life in her eyes then Will could ever remember seeing.

Even Will couldn't help but smile from the doorway; both their energies were infectious.

"Father Graham!" Alana shot up once she noticed Will, snatching her hand away from the woman's to stand up straight as if she was caught doing something wrong and was waiting to be chastised. "I'm sorry I didn't see you there, good morning."

The uneasy crease in the other woman's brow didn't go unnoticed by Will.

"Good morning to both of you."

"Bev." The other woman replied before Alana could introduce them. She held out her hand for Will to take. "So you're the fabled Father Graham I've been hearing so much about."

"Fabled?" Will laughed as he shook her hand and then settled between them against the counter. "More like absent, though it's good to know I make an impression either way." He turned to look at Alana who only offered a shrug, unable or unwilling to fill in the gap.

"Yeah, Lana mentioned you were MIA for a while. You worry her... I hope you know that. All I ever hear is how you aren't eating or sleeping. I think I know your diet better than my own!" With a grin she stood up and then nodded to the box of produce. "Let me grab the last box from the truck."

She pulled on a rough pair of fingerless gloves and then with a small nod to Alana she disappeared through the shipping door.

Will turned as Alana picked the peeler back up and got back to work on one of the potatoes. With nimble fingers she skinned it bare as Will watched. As one of the younger sisters she wasn't permitted to do the main aspects of baking or cooking and instead got stuck with the menial tasks the older women refused to do. But even in peeling potatoes Alana had a certain effortless grace. "You know I'm not partial to gossip but I heard some of the sisters mentioning you went for last rites a few days ago with Doctor Lecter?" Her eyes flicked over before returning to her peeling.

Will stiffened at the mention of his name. "Yes, I did." It was impossible but Will still felt a jolt of fear at the idea of someone having seen something or heard another. "I didn't know that was something warranting gossip. No communion wafer snackers or coffer stealers this week?"

Alana chuckled and shook her head. Will's chest tightened.

"No, none of that. I'm just surprised is all. I mean Doctor Lecter is pleasant enough to me the few times I've seen him at the church but one of the altar boys overheard him asking Bishop Crawford for you specifically."

"Who's this we're talking about?" Bev grunted as she hoisted up a large wooden crate filled with onions and waddled back into the kitchen. She tossed it down with a bang and then looked from Will to Alana. "Well, don't just stand there Father. None of this "women's work" bullshit." A second peeler was slid across the counter.

Alana shot her a look but Will only smiled. He had no qualms helping out. Once his sleeves were rolled up he struggled to copy Alana's moves as she peeled the potatoes and Will just tried not to cut his fingers. He slotted himself beside Alana, watching her hands move and her tongue trace her lip in concentration. Will swallowed heavily, but unlike before when he would have looked away in horror he allowed his eyes to watch her teeth nip at her lip and leave it pink.

Alana was very kissable.

But he wasn't the only person in the room who seemed to be watching the way Alana subconsciously exuded sensuality.

"And we were talking about Hannibal Lecter, one of our church's newest members. He's slavic, tall, well mannered."

"High cheekbones?" Will offered with a start, pulling his attention away the moment Beverly turned towards the box with a cough. "Very put together..." He trailed off with a dozen inappropriate descriptors sticking to his tongue. Warm lips, a crushing grip and the ability to make Will want to kneel with one hard look--

Bev started to unload the onions then paused thoughtfully. "I think I've seen him in the parking lot a few times when I've done produce delivery. If he's the guy I'm thinking of he's got these soulless shark eyes. I always kinda' thought he looked like he was psyching himself out to go serial killer someone."

"Beverly!" Alana pointed the peeler at her. "Anyways, that's not even a verb."

"I'm only teasing Lana." With a wink that turned Alana's face as pink as her lips she turned to Will after hefting the last bag of spanish onions out of the box. "Anyways, I've got deliveries to make and my partner Zeller, who is probably listening to his shitty college radio station at this very moment in retaliation, is waiting in the truck. He's a dog, you can't leave him alone in a car for too long or he starts going nutty and pees everywhere. It was nice meeting you Father Graham... I can see why Alana worries about you so much. Take care of yourself. Don't make her worry, 'kay?"

Alana stopped peeling to give Beverly her attention. "Goodbye Beverly... I'll see you in two weeks?" She sounded... upset or maybe it was disappointment? It caused Will to stare down at the modestly dressed woman beside him as she watched Beverly nod. Her fingers gripped the peeler harder.

"Yeah," Beverly said quietly, "two weeks." Then with one last look at Will she turned around, waved over her shoulder, and opened the door to get to her truck. In the silence of her departing, the air in the room lost its life and grew tense even as her truck beeped and detached from the loading door and give three shrill honks in goodbye. Without Beverly to act as a buffer it left both of them alone in the kitchen with the small touches at mass.

The room grew quiet and Will continued to peel, unsure of what else to do. The burning questions were about Beverly but it wasn't his place to pry or prod, and Will was more interested in the pull in his gut that Beverly's absence brought to the room. It was wrong, felt a little nauseating it was so strong, but he had to welcome it.

Looking around the room, Will paused as Alana kept busying herself with potatoes. "Where did all the other sisters go? Usually they would be shooing me out of the kitchen by now." Will grinned and then leaned over near Alana to grab another potato. His fingers grasped the rough, starchy vegetable just as his side brushed the warm and smooth expanse of Alana's side. He stayed there, outstretched, his hand deliberately deciding on another potato to prolong the touch.

"To mass." Alana replied, quieter than normal. She paused working for a moment, opened her mouth, and then started to peel again.

"Sister Bloom I-"

She pressed the peeler down to the counter and then turned towards Will. "Father Graham, do you... do you remember that conversation we had about desire?"

What? Where did that come from? Will tried to school his surprise but instead ended up almost slicing off half his finger with the peeler. "Uhm, yeah I remember. Did you have something to say on the matter?"

Alana took back up the peeler and went to work, keeping her eyes trained down on the potato instead of Will. While Will avoided all eye contact she always sought it, except for this time. "I just think I may understand what you meant Father."

There was no way Alana could understand what sort of issues that Will was dealing with. Sweet, kind Alana who cared for so many and couldn't have harboured many sins past a little overindulgence in sweets or her immense pride in her work. Certainly nothing as difficult as Will's. Maybe that was just another form of egotism though to not fully imagine the lives of others. "You do?" When he reached for another potato he came back to his spot in front of the counter a little closer to Alana. She didn't seem to mind at all.

"I don't know who else to tell. I doubt the other priests would understand and there is certainly no way I can bring this up to Mother Du Maurier. Maybe to Sister Verger but I never quite know with her..." Her peeling had become less precise and in smaller, nervous strikes. "I've been having rather... unclean thoughts. I'm sorry that I can't think of any more precise way to define it. I can't sleep right anymore because of them."

Alana? Unclean thoughts? The image of Sister Bloom stripped down to her nightgown and thrashing around in sweat-soaked sheets made Will's breath come just a little quicker. He allowed the image to come and to affect him as it would.

Their peeling was slow now and more for show and without the incessant scraping noises he could hear Alana breathing quicker as much as he could feel the fluttering of her ribcage against his side. "Well, I've been trying something new and perhaps a little unorthodox. I am trying to step away from the strict rules of the Church that have left my body riddled with a sickly appetite and restless nights and instead I am allowing myself some time to release these tensions, work through them, and then come back to God able to serve him better." He was parroting, he knew he was, but the worried crease between Sister Bloom's brows softened at his words. Her bitten lip was unfurled from behind her worrying teeth and it looked so red and kissable. The thought of her riding him in his dreams came rushing to supply images of Alana's imagined breasts under her habit.

Their shoulders touched when she came back with a new potato and neither of them moved. Not to peel again, nor to move away. "Do you really believe that Father?"

"It's the only choice I have left. I need to know if I can come back to God anew and find him ready to gift me with certainty in exchange for my devotion."

"And if he doesn't?"

Will sighed. "Then I know definitively that I will need to find a new God to worship."

This was one of those instances.

Will turned towards Alana just as she turned to look at him. They were both caught in each other's gazes, while the other refused to be the first to break it. There was a definite tension between them that had been building and the crescendo was thrumming through Will's ears as he reached out to finally touch one of the brown curls fallen out of her habit. It was soft and when he let his hand glide down to stroke across her lips, he found them just as soft.

"Alana," her breath quickened under his fingertips at her name, "I've always thought you worthy of a thousand devotions."

He couldn't say which of them moved first, but suddenly Alana's lips were on his. Unlike her own softness she didn't need soft corralling into the kiss and fell into it immediately and quickly. Alana's hands immediately rushed up to cup Will's bristly cheeks and her mouth opened up for him to explore.

This was wrong on so many levels, but Will pushed the shame aside and let pleasure fester in its place instead. It was easy to feel pleasure at the way Alana breathed heavily and slipped her hands up into his hair. Her nails were long as scratched along his head, causing goosebumps. Did it feel good for her too?

"Father." She whispered against his lips urgently as he reached down and dragged her up against him harder.

Her habit rode up and Will slammed his hand down onto the counter for support. Their lips moved quickly, sloppily in comparison to the precision that Hannibal's kiss had been. They both lacked the constant practice that people outside the parish had, but in their clumsiness there was a definite sweetness. Alana didn't bite or scratch but she leaned hard into Will, all curves and warmth, and her mouth kept going slack to allow Will complete control.

Just what was he supposed to do with that control? Alana kept yielding almost expectantly, moving her head aside to expose neck and when he pulled back from her she bite her lower lip until it turned a deep bitten red.

God, she was hot and right in that moment all his. Was it crazy to be doing this? He had tried to shove all the thoughts of appreciation regarding Alana away for so long that it was overwhelming to be allowed to look at her pant and grow pliant in his hands.

Will's hand stroked along her ass and got a fistful as she stared at him uneasily. Did she want to stop? Maybe they should.

"Alana... I..."

Alana's eyes suddenly snapped open and she seized at Will's shirt and started to shove him back towards the walk-in freezer. "Father Graham-- Will! Crap. Crapcrapcrap." She hissed as she shoved him back against the cool metal of the walk in freezer.

"I thought Bishop Crawford should have been a little less intense in today's sermon... don't you think?" Muffled voices in the hall carried through to the kitchen. "Just one second... let me get a snack..."

Oh god, no. Two of the sisters were coming back early from mass. If they caught them like this, with Alana's black wimple half off and Will looking disheveled and thoroughly-kissed, they'd both be--

"Freezer. Now." Will grunted as he turned around and quickly ushered them both inside. Immediately they were hit with the burst of air that whipped at their cheeks and cooled their breaths into steam around their faces as they panted. There were huge bags of frozen vegetables everywhere and further down Will could see hunks of beef hanging from the hooks. Not exactly the most ideal place.

Alana elapsed into giggles that she immediately covered with her hands. Peeling them away slowly she stared at Will across the freezer. "What are we even doing? How are we ever going to get out of here if they are out there?" She shook as she laughed and more of her brown curls slipped from her wimple.

"I don't even know, honestly." Will snickered as he moved further in the dim blue light and over to Alana by the boxes of frozen food. "This was poorly planned."

"Well you surprised me!" Alana shot back scowling as Will approached her again and touched his hand against the side of her cooling cheek. She immediately stopped scowling and looked down at Will's lips. "Do you... want to continue?"

"Hell yes."

The kiss resumed easily, as if they hadn't broken apart at all except this time some of the apprehension was gone. Now when they reached for each other there was more purpose. (Although they had to watch where they stepped so they didn't knock over the boxes.)

Will searched for something in the kiss as their teeth clinked together and Will's tongue tried to coax Alana's into his own mouth only to be given a teasing flick, seeking him to follow her back into the warmth of her mouth. Between them their shared breaths turned to fog.

As Alana plucked Will's shirt out of his belt, grinning impishly, Will remembered a place much warmer and swirling with the haze of alcohol. The press of large hands against his wrists crucified him against the cupboards and refused to yield. There had a been a calm through him as he was forced to commit the sin and enjoy it.

He needed to stop thinking about Hannibal. Alana was there and ever present with her fingers wrapped around the loops of his belt. Her hands were shaking but Will didn’t know for what reason.

"Have you ever kissed someone like this before?" Will asked, his voice not as sure as it had been before. Now it was curious. His hands reached up to try and make Alana become more physical as her touches kept fading into the memory of something more forceful and steady. The wimple was half off Alana anyways and as he pressed a few kisses against her jaw he slid one of the pins from her hair and let it fall to the floor. Alana let out a long breath as the black fabric hit the freezer floor.

Finally Alana's gorgeous curls were free to lay against her shoulders and Will immediately fisted them. She was absolutely gorgeous, even more so now that her curls were free to brush against her reddening cheeks. This was what Will wanted, right? He pulled her closer by her curls and then buried his nose deeply into it. It had the same smell as cold winter mornings, but underneath the freezer's chill there was some floral scent that Will couldn't pin down for the life of him.

Alana didn't answer him so Will stole a few more kisses as his hands moved up towards her habit and let his hands run over her breasts. He could feel the hard bumps of her nipples straining against her habit from the cold and arousal and Alana let out a small whimper against his lips when he let his thumbs run against them for a moment.

It was such a delicate sound. Her voice caught right at the end of it and then her own hands twitched at Will's waist, moved for a moment, and then settled back awkwardly. Did she think she was supposed to touch him now or something? Was she asking for permission or just petrified of Will trying to push this somewhere where it maybe wasn't supposed to go.

Why was it so difficult to navigate through this. It would have been easier if Alana just slammed him up against the shelves and commanded him to touch her, or to leave her be. Her mouth tried to move to kiss Will's but then pulled back to swallow loud enough that even Will heard it click.

And Will just kept his hands cupped at her breasts, feeling the weight in his hands. They felt nice... but it just wasn't really doing what he thought it would. What was wrong with him... he'd kissed girls before even Matthew with more eagerness than this.

Oh gosh, this was a Hannibal thing wasn’t it. Maybe it was. Did he ruin him for other people or something? It was true that he had thought about him and when he really considered it... Alana's constant attempts to get Will to take control hadn't spurred him onto any action. If anything Will kept trying to quietly coax her into doing the same. This was bad.

"Will... are you okay? Do you want to stop? We can stop." Alana's hands finally pulled away from his waist and pulled up between her breasts in a way that made Will have to drop his hands to his sides.

The cold was finally starting to leech into him on a deeper level, burrowing into his muscles and causing his teeth to start chattering. Alana's kissable lips had turned a faint purple.

How could he tell her this without making it seem like it was her fault? It's not you, it's me. Awful. "I'm sorry Alana. Yeah, we should stop." Will reached up and rubbed at his eyes. "I shouldn't have done that. I'm sorry, I've just been confused lately but I think I get it now."

"Get what?" Alana watched on.

"Why it didn't feel quite right for me. Though, uhm, did it feel right for you?"

Alana blinked twice slowly and then started to smile. "Nope." And immediately she started to laugh and then sucked her lips back into her mouth to try and shut herself up. "This is awful. I felt the same way I just didn't want to... you know... if you liked it. I think, if I'm honest, that I may be lusting after someone else."

Alana? Lusting after someone-- oh. Will's own lips pulled up into a smile. It was Beverly wasn't it? Wait, was he just used as a proxy as well?

Then he too started to chuckle. "Thank goodness. I thought it was just me." Will leaned in and then pressed a small kiss to the top if Alana's cold nose. Hopefully this wouldn't change anything then and would stay between the two of them, provided they ever got out of the freezer alive. "But, yeah, I understand. I think I'm in a similar situation. I believe I'm lusting after someone else as well."

And then, being caught or not, they both tried to stifle their laughter before their constrained faces started to crack. Giggles erupted between them and despite the sin, Will felt light for a moment.

New sins and temptations were faced, but deep in the pit of his stomach Will knew there were the old ones still to face. That was enough to cause his insides to turn cold and for the lightness to turn to stone in the pit of his stomach.

 

____

This was insane. There was no way his number was still the same, no godly reason for him to even want to listen to Will and his idiotic ramblings. This had to be one of his stupidest ideas. Yet Will kept pacing back and forth in front of the blue pay phone only a few blocks away from the church. He was far enough away from everything holy in his life, but the idea of reaching into the belly of his sins and dragging forth his first experience with damnation was wilting his willpower.

He had sinned so thoroughly, so profoundly today and even so it was this particular sin that felt especially wrong. He had to endure it though, let it go as much as he could if he was to find any of the solace and peace that Hannibal had promised him. Will had to obey Hannibal in this.

Will entered the phone booth slowly, his eyes tracing over the curling burnt plastic, the sharpie marker graffiti and the cross hatched car key scratches on the walls. Something so decrepit and broken surely wouldn't mind one more sin being committed within it.

He pushed two dollars into the slot and despite the low light of the nearby streetlight, he keyed in the number he knew by heart without error. He immediately wound his shaking hand up in the metal cord of the phone. Every ring brought his heart higher in his throat.

Finally the ringing died.

"Y'ello?"

Gosh, his voice was scratchy but it was him.

"Hi, Matthew."

Silence.

"Will?" Matthew's voice was confused, incredulous, but the sound of his name in any context or form coming from those lips made his stomach summersault like he was still fifteen.

"Yeah, it's me. It's really me. I know I shouldn't call you, and I can't believe you still have the same number but I have to talk to someone. Matt, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry for everything and I can't say sorry enough and I just need you to tell me something. I have to know that it was real, was it real? It felt real. I thought it was real. We didn't do anything wrong, right? We weren't wrong, we were just kids. How can kids be wrong? We didn't know and... and..."

Everything was coming in waves, washing over Will, hitting his tongue and tumbling out into a ceaseless flow of words. His head felt weightless, his legs like jello, and there was a slight possibility that he was going to throw up all over the pay phone.

"Shit, slow down." Matthew laughed, but it was more uncomfortable than humorous.

This was a mistake, he shouldn't have called. Why in the good Lord's name did he think this was a good idea? It had been around a decade since they'd last spoken and here he was babbling like a lunatic.

"Where are you?"

Will's fist uncurled a little from the phone's cord. "Baltimore."

There was a long pause followed by a sigh. "Look, I'm only an hour away from you. I moved up north for work and I'm off at eight. I don't want to have this conversation over the phone, okay? Can you meet me at the Dennys in Baltimore around nine? There's one in Oliver."

Will nodded, despite knowing Matt couldn't see it. He could do that. He would get ready, say he wasn't feeling well and take a taxi there. Denny's was a safe middle ground. "Yeah... yeah I can do that. I'll see you then."

"See you little hawk."

His terrible nickname caused Will to stiffen before the line went dead. Will was left hanging on the line, listening to the long tone at the end signifying that Matt had hung up. Then, after the noise had gone on long enough Will put the phone back in its cradle and leaned back against the plastic walls of the phone booth, staring out blankly through the graffiti on the other end.

_____

This particular Denny's had rather hideous abstract geometric patterned upholstery, greying carpet with nefarious looking stains, and the half-wall wood panelling that so many had. The random framed pictures of the Bromo Seltzer Tower and other Baltimore landmarks were interspersed with random paintings that looked like they belonged in a yard sale.

Yet despite the interior there was the familiar smell of waffles and french fries, the bright yellow logo branding everything from menus to over the pickup window. He could just as easily been back in Louisiana on a Thursday night after going out to the movies, or early Saturday morning when Matthew dragged him from his bed and down for brunch. Will called it cruel to be awoken so early and Matthew as a proud member of the Knights swimming team reminded him he'd already been up three hours for practice and to be thankful for a free breakfast and, as he put it, superb company.

The memory of fingers sticky with syrup and Matthew pulling down the menu from Will's hidden face every time they ordered to smile was enough to plaster a similar smile on Will's face.

For a moment it was so easy to forget about his churchly commitment, about Alana and Hannibal and to simply be a teenager again.

But when he caught sight of Matthew sitting in a booth by the windows his smile pursed until he had sucked his lip inside his mouth to chew nervously on it. Matthew wasn't fifteen anymore, not by any stretch of the imagination. His shoulders were obscenely broad now, and the swimmers physique that used to make him look a little gangly had been filled out impressively. But despite the new haircut he still wore adidas sports jackets and his face still was that quiet kind of beautiful--the sort of beautiful that was never going to be written about in poetry or sculpted. Where he had said Will was pretty, Matt had been understated.

His eyes moved up and their gazes caught. No, there was no more running away from this. He had to explore all his pleasures, even those nearly snuffed out by time and scripture. How had Hannibal put it? 'You need to step away in order to return?' Or something to that sort.

"Fuck, Will." Was all that left Matt's mouth as he let the menu drop down onto the table and just stared.

Will felt heat rise to his cheeks from the inspection he was getting. "Different, I'm guessing?" He said nervously as he approached the table and slid into the opposite side of the booth. Immediately his hands reached for a menu to hide away behind and once his face was framed by the array of choices he took a deep breath.

He was able to look at the All-American Slam and the Lumberjack Slam before the menu was grabbed and tilted down. "Yes and no. I mean the outfit is different. I can't lie I miss the ripped jeans and the awful plaid though I never thought I'd say that." Matthew's face softened as he stared across the table at Will. His hand pushed the menu further down until the metal tips were touching the table. "And you look tired, really tired. But no, your curls are still the same, your eyes just as blue as I remember and if anything time has taken your girly face and made it into a man. Or at least somewhat."

Will rolled his eyes and dropped the menu. "Well I can't believe you still wear those awful adidas jackets and that you remember that terrible nickname."

Matthew grinned, leaning back against the bench and started to toy with the collar of his jacket. "Hey, we earned those nicknames. Winning the Southern Junior State Science Fair is nothing to scoff at."

"We did an entire project on the Red-Shouldered hawk for no other reason than you deciding that you thought hawks were "pretty badass"." After getting partnered together they had spent every evening together pouring through books and drinking sweet tea. Those nights had been what had started this whole mess between them.

"And I still believe that they are pretty badass." Finally Matt picked back up his own menu, leaving Will to finally start pouring over his own. It was silent for a few moments before Matt folded up his menu. "Are you still going to get scrambled eggs and chocolate chip pancakes?"

Damn him. He still knew Will too well.

"Maybe."

"And by maybe you mean yes?"

Will sighed and closed his own menu before tucking it into the holder. "Yeah, as if I'd ever get anything else at Denny's."

The waitress came by and took their orders and now without the menus to act as a shield between them and a distraction for conversation, they were left only with the purpose of the visit.

"Sooo," Matt began, "I take it there's a reason you suddenly got nostalgic and apologetic?"

Will tilted the sugar shaker and let it spill onto the table like snow. His finger started to draw and when his finger was half way through the final stroke of his second cross, Will sighed. "Yeah, there is." His fingers pushed around the sugar and started instead on a jellyfish.

After letting his words hang in the air one moment too long, Matthew nudged his foot under the table. "And?"

This was silly. Bringing Matthew here was silly. Thinking that dredging up the past and dealing with it would solve anything was silly. After this conversation he was still going to feel these immoral feelings for Hannibal and he would have still kissed Alana. This was going to change absolutely nothing.

"What I said on the phone..."

"Right. That." Matt pursed his lips.

"About wondering if it was real..."

"Was it?" Matt asked for him.

Will nodded.

Matt's fingers moved into the sugar beside Will's that were mindlessly drawing spirals now out of nervousness. He flicked a bit of sugar at Will's lap and smiled again. "I think it was. I mean as real as anything can be when you are just kids."

It was only when the knot in Will's stomach released did he understand there was one there in the first place. "And you don't think we did anything wrong when we..."

"Fooled around?"

"Mhm." Will couldn't stand to look Matt in the eyes, favouring the cheap plastic table instead. They had sinned together so many times despite both of them being dressed up in their Sunday best the very next day and preached at of the dangers of what they were doing. They were young and stupid to think they were above God and that the sermons applied to everyone but them, that they were somehow the exceptions. At least Matthew liked to say they were exceptions when Will was tucked under his arm and scratching little heart welts onto his chest. For Will the guilt was suffocating, at least until Hannibal.

"Look," Matthew started, practically commanding Will to do so and to stop silently lamenting at the laminate, "I don't know what kind of horseshit your batshit fundamentalist dad brainwashed you into thinking or what your parish has taught you... but there is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved. Or touched."

"But I..."

"No, there are no buts. Will, I don't know how you felt but I fucking loved you. When your dad," his face broke for a moment and he looked vulnerable and seventeen all over again, "when he found us and took you away from me... I was furious. Then the next thing I hear you are halfway across the world training to become some priest. You were always religious, but that was never you Will."

The image of his father standing in his doorway as Matthew's cock was halfway down Will's throat was buried so deep in him that pulling the image back to the surface felt like it was inverting him. He didn't belt him, though he had every right to. Instead he dragged Matthew out of the room and then never spoke of it again. It became the phantom haunting every conversation, every silent moment shared, every single sentence of scripture his Father began to force him to read with him for hours before bed. Instead his Father took him to additional Wednesday masses, put him in Saturday bible study, convinced the priests to talk to him about the homosexual disease during confession, filled his every waking moment with scripture until nothing else, especially Matthew, remained.

It really hadn't been the self-sought saving he'd thought it was, was it?

"You wanted to become a mechanic, or a vet if you could ever get your stupid biology mark up. Not this." He gestured to the clothing, thrusting his hands accusingly at the white clerical collar.

Will pinched his brow, a headache brewing behind his eyes. This was all a bad idea and it was confusing everything else. He was here for one reason and one reason only: to release his old desires and pains. He needed to be done with Matthew, and his father, and the guilt surrounding that time in his life. Hannibal's advice wasn't to run off and become a darn mechanic, it was to just... let it all go.

"I did, but that's not the path I walked. I just need to know... that it wasn't wrong."

"It wasn't." Matthew pushed, allowing no room for arguing.

The women came finally with their food, thankfully pulling them away from their conversation. The hot-cold back and forth of their conversation was brought back to a nice pleasant, lukewarm homeostasis with the help of pancakes and scrambled eggs covered in syrup.

"So," Matt started again as he waved a bit of sausage at Will, "what brought this up anyways? Why even call me in the first place?"

Will swallowed the sweet eggs heavily. That would be Hannibal's doing one hundred percent. "I never would have bothered you but someone convinced me to start exploring the facets of sin so I thought... well, you are sort of where it started."

"Well I'm flattered that I'm part of your weird, really confusing spiritual journey. Even though I may not sound it."

"You really don't." Will finally felt his face warm back into a smile and then took a sip of coffee that he had allowed Baileys to be added to.

"Uhm so is that person... you know... a guy?" Will could tell by the way he pushing around his sausage that Matt felt that the question was on really thin ice.

It was going to come to Hannibal at some point. There was no way he could have this conversation without it coming back to him. "He is."

"And," Matthew said with the same trepidation as before, "do you like like him?"

"Like like? What are we, five?"

Matthew smirked. "You didn't answer my question. You used to do that when I put you on the spot about your crushes."

Because it was Matt he had had a crush on!

Fine. "Yes, I do like him. I don't think it's love or anything crazy like that. Heavens knows I'm in no position to even consider those feelings. But... it could be eventually." Will buried his face in his coffee and spoke into it. It was easier to talk to caffeine about Hannibal, whether it was tea or coffee was irrelevant. "He's making me doubt everything and challenge what used to be so set in stone. I feel like I'm trying to walk on water now. No terrible religious pun intended."

"I wouldn't dream of considering it."

"But yeah, it's pretty messed up. I agree with him that I need to step away from everything and learn to live and let temptation in to better understand myself and find my footing again. At least I think I do. I don't know. I'm too in my head."

"Sounds like you." Matthew said behind a bite of egg.

"Ugghhh, but I don't even know if it's working. It's not like I've heard God any better ever since. It still feels like I'm listening to a dead line ringing." Will grumbled, "maybe I should have been Buddhist" loud enough for Matthew to catch it and snort.

Touching Alana had done absolutely nothing but reconfirm that he needed Hannibal's guidance. If anything he felt like he was betraying Hannibal--not God--by giving her pleasure and taking in turn.

"You'd look terrible with a shaved head." Matt added and Will found himself laughing along.

Once their respective meals were finished and cleared away they sat waiting for the waitress. Matt pushed his straw inside his water, chasing the ice cubes and slurping at the remainder.

It was obvious that this weird dinner of theirs was coming to an end. There were still things on Will's mind though so it was either bring it up now or face the possibility of never seeing Matt again. He breathed deeply and crossed his arms over his full stomach protectively. "Matt, do you think I was a horrible for leaving you without a goodbye?"

Matt's brow arched and he stopped swirling around his drink. "Uhm," he sounded caught off guard, "I mean it broke me, sure, but it's not like I haven't gotten over it. I had a nice slew of boyfriends in college." The waitress came then with the cheque and despite insisting he would pay for it, Matt waved him off. After slipping her his visa, she took off to pay for the bill. "And for the record, if God isn't there for you anymore and this guy is.... Will you have one life and you should live it in devotion to someone who appreciates you."

Will tightened his hands around his stomach and nodded. Deep down in the pit of his stomach, he knew Matt was right.

"I know we never really got to got to home base together but," he reached across the table to peel a hand away from Will's stomach to hold in his own, "God can't touch you, yeah? I know in the metaphysical sense maybe, yadie yada, but not physically. You shouldn't die alone without ever knowing that it feels like to be held and touched fully. It's... hell, it's one of the best feelings in the world to belong to someone."

To belong to someone?

The concept seemed strange to not be in service of a higher power but someone at least somewhat on the same level as himself. It was all he wanted though in reality. If only he had some force in his life to belong to, to cherish him.

Could Hannibal even.... He could, Will knew he could.

"Thank you Matt," Will squeezed his hand back with a smile, "really. I can't say how sorry I am for dragging you out here."

The waitress came by with the bill and a few mints that Matt immediately split between the two of them. He started to suck on one before giving the waitress a wave.

"Don't worry about it. I'm sure if I had a breakdown in the middle of a Las Vegas strip club and needed you to come pray me out of it you would too."

Had it been a few months ago, Will wasn't too sure he would have had the courage to, but he agreed nonetheless. Their respective coats were taken up and Will popped his own mint into his mouth to nervously tongue.

"So I guess this is goodbye, hm?"

"I guess so." WIll did his coat up and adjusted the clerical collar that felt like it was suffocating him. "So, uh, good luck with everything I guess."

"Thanks, I'm going to propose to my boyfriend in a few weeks so I'm going to need it. Good luck to you as well with... shit, all of this."

"Thanks." He almost left it at that, but maybe in a moment of nostalgia and craving for some final sense of closure, Will pulled Matt in for a hug. Buried there against his shoulder it smelt just the same as it always did. Flashes of their teenaged years hit him as he held onto him tighter. There was nothing like the calm he felt with Hannibal though, nor the steadiness. His palms still sweated as he held onto him. "And for the record, all those years ago," Will whispered against his shoulder, "I had been in love with you."

Matt hugged him closer and buried his nose into Will's curls. They stood like that in the Denny's for a moment longer until finally they separated and Matt shoved the receipt on the table into his pocket. "I know." And with that he walked out.

Chapter Text

There had been a storm brewing all day. The radio stations spoke of nervous families clearing out the supermarket shelves like the apocalypse was on the horizon. Even the church had a tense undercurrent as the basement was prepped.

The dark clouds grew darker as the day came to a close, and by dinner time there was talk of a freak autumn tornado touching down south of Maryland with supercells heading their way. To say the weather was unusual would be an understatement. October was part of the second wave of tornadoes and Will was no stranger to them or hurricanes back in Louisiana. However they never ventured this far north so late, preferring the storm-battered bayous to the sterile and unwelcoming north.

The church was boarded up and most people had returned to find shelter in the basement for the rest of the evening. Will had very willingly offered to stay in the chapel for any people coming to get shelter from the storm and seek sanctuary. It was more of a formality than anything else but he needed this time alone with no one bothering him. Just him, and God.

The wind howled outside and shook the boards over the stained glass. The candles lighting the altar and down the long aisle to the thick wooden doors flickered as if they could feel even a whisper of the storm outside. The entire church was bathed in orange and the dim light made the crucifixion before Will seem more bloody and menacing than it truly was. The Lord's dying eyes turned to dark sunken holes in the candlelight. Connection to such an image was so much harder. As if it hadn't already been near impossible to begin with.

"I don't know what you want from me." Will said. The broom in his hand that had been idly brushing the floor teetered in his limp grip as Will ceased working and stood staring. The crucified Jesus didn't move to give its answer. "Just once. That's all I'm asking for. Just a sign, something." He didn't need him to cure the lame or turn the rain to wine... just some reassuring words and direction. Will had asked lesser people for more.

The wind kept battering the boards and a loud rumble of thunder sounded in the distance. He counted like his mother used to teach him to—one, two, three, four—until by the time he hit twenty there was another rumble. The storm was approaching, but still a ways away.

Thunder could hardly be considered an adequate response though.

Why he had even expected any sort of guidance or presence at this point was rather pathetic. The crucifix stayed infuriatingly silent. Will threw the broom down to the stone floor with a clatter. "I've tried casual devotion as a boy, commitment in the parish, fanaticism in light of my sins, I've even tried to commit sins mindfully to come back a better man and yet you still forsake me. What do you want from me?!" Will's voice tightened and rose until his voice broke. Even just talking like this felt like he was getting angry at a carved statue and not a holy vessel overseeing the chapel. It was ranting, not a conversation. A conversation required two participants.

He stalked forward and grabbed onto the railing where communion was took, kneeling. The cold metal could have been boiled down and reshaped with how tightly Will gripped it in his sweaty and hot fists. "Have I done something wrong? Is that it? Am I... am I broken?" Had he just done something so beyond repair that God refused to listen to even his most pitiful of pleas now? What good was a god who left his servants to drown.

When only silence continued to meet him, Will felt a rush of white hot anger flood behind his eyes.

"LISTEN TO ME!" Will snarled out at the crucifixion. Thunder cracked louder outside and his voice swelled in the empty chapel into something ugly and furious. It had been so long since he'd allowed himself to truly feel this angry. Long gone was the passive restraint of piousness. There was nothing to be passive for. It didn't move, the black pits didn't blink.

The communion wine was still on his lips that pulled back over his teeth in such an animalistic way. This was a father abandoning his son, a lover refusing to reciprocate affections, a snubbed friendship, a cold shoulder, a slight, a god damn insult.

He shook the metal bar that gave no give. "Guide me! I've given you my life... what more do you need from me?!" Years of his life devoted to serving the Lord. A life with Matthew sacrificed like Abraham's sheep, and Hannibal like his son—with Will so close to surrendering that too for proof of his unwavering servitude to the Lord. He would have given his own life while somewhere in limbo God would have stepped back when the pool of his blood edged up too close. Will shook the bar harder, grunting because he couldn't break it apart and hurl it at that solemn, pacifistic face even in the face of certain death. "All I ask is for you to fucking love me!"

The words were hideous and Will felt rotten inside while yelling them. How desperate, like an ex-lover on his knees begging to be taken back. Enough of that. Will stormed away towards the altar and climbed the stairs in order to get another fill of the communion wine. The bitterness was welcomed as he took long draws from the bottle. Who cared if a lamb wandered in for shelter? There was no way Will was going to give them pretty words and put on the charade of God-fearing Father for them or anyone else.

This had been going on for well over an hour now. This terrible back and forth of drinking, trying to work, and then falling apart and alternating between pleading and screaming. It was a testament to the wind and pelting rain that no one had heard his cries deep in the belly of the church where the parish prayed and slept.

"Fuck." The word made Will grin grimly as he pushed the bottle away and then wiped his lips with the back of his hand. What was he even doing... this was pointless. It was pointless, but the drinking felt good. His limbs had started to tingle and the flames on the candles blurred and gained fuzzy halos.

Will turned back towards the broom with the intent of finishing his sweeping and herding that little dust pile into the trash when a loud booming sound snapped his attention up. What in the heavens?

The heavy wooden doors swung open and instantly a gust of wind followed, taking out the first few rows of candles. The rain fell with such force it seemed to be punching the earth and whipping angrily at the trees. The creature that stood within Mother Nature's fury looked half drowned by her and when it took a step inside puddles immediately formed below its sodden jacket.

Only when the creature stepped further into the church and moved by the lit candles did Will understand what sort of creature it was. His toes instantly curled in his shoes and rather pavlovian-like, the angry tide of wine in his stomach heated and turned steady.

"I was on my way home but I believe it is better not to drive. When a storm seems intent on killing me I know to accept my defeat." Hannibal pulled his driving gloves off with a slick noise and laid them across the nearest pew. His hands would have been cold from the rain, and Will watched them linger against the wood, caressing it.

The coolness from the rain in the church suddenly grew warmer and Will couldn't help but feel elated for Hannibal's near death experience. The anger was leached from his body and instead it was replaced with a heavy sort of arousal at the sight of Hannibal moving through the aisle and casting large shadows along the walls, and having the light in turn carve out his strong features.

"I think knowing when to surrender is a virtue few men have." Will tightened his fists around the broom but made no move to do anything but watch Hannibal walk down the long space between the pews. There was electricity in the room as their gazes locked, the same sort of buzz as in Hannibal's kitchen. Lightening lit up the slits between the boards and a crack of thunder made the hairs on the back of Will's neck stand stiff.

"Agreed. Surrender is a virtue. People so often see it as a weakness, but I always found the opposite to be true." Hannibal looked at him pointedly as he approached the long communion bench and then walked along towards the altar. His long fingers kept tracing the metal bar and his gaze never wavered from Will.

Here Hannibal had come for Will's own surrender, if he decided to give it.

But at the sight of the trail of water and the soaked clothes Hannibal was in at closer inspection, Will reached out for the lapels of his coat. "Perhaps all this talk of surrender can wait. Go down to where the rest of the parish is. There is food, a warm change of clothes... and... uhm..."

Hannibal's hand moved up to lay across Will's cheek and his fingers were surprisingly not ice cold but rather warm and damp instead. He leaned into it as his body instantly uncoiled and the wine turned him into a kitten who hummed and pressed further into the hand.

"I stopped at this church specifically. I wished to see you, Will." Hannibal's hand slipped under his chin and lifted his gaze towards him. It felt far too much like a dream to be real. There was Hannibal, seemingly physical and real in front of him where only moments before there had been nothing but unanswered pleas. Would it be strange to admit so readily that he had missed him and hoped he was as real as he seemed and not a ghost? No, not strange at all.

"You're an apparition. If you are not then Mother Nature will kill you yet with a cold."

Will opened his mouth to say more but his mouth turned dry as Hannibal shed his coat and laid it across the metal communion bar. Beneath it his white dress shirt had turned translucent and the body that Will had fantasized about was visible as Hannibal reached up to the collar of his shirt.

Hannibal paused at his throat and then grinned over at Will. "Have you been drinking?"

Then he popped the first button at his throat, and then the next, and the next. Will swallowed. "Yes."

"Would you bring me the bottle then? I doubt God would mind shedding a little blood between us."

Thunder seemed to shake the floor and Will counted down as Hannibal kept pulling at his buttons. One, two, three, four

Another crash of thunder rumbled and Will tore his eyes away from Hannibal as he brought the shirt to lay beside the coat. He wouldn't disobey, no matter the scenery. His neck felt hot and his palms sweated against the bottle as he retrieved it and carried it back towards Hannibal.

Sweet Jesus. Will suppressed a noise that clawed at his throat. He wasn't overly muscular but he had a presence that only seemed stronger the less clothing Hannibal wore—like the clothes held back his true power. The chest hair was greying and it continued down on a patch to where his belt began. His arms were strong though and as he tilted the bottle his bicep muscles pulled wonderfully. Will couldn't bear to look at his throat and mouth working on the wine.

"Look at me Will."

Will's breathing deepened and pulled from the bottom of his lungs as he did as he was commanded and turned to look as Hannibal put the wine aside and started on his pants.

"Tell me about your exploration."

As Hannibal started to pull at his belt, Will breathed in another deep breath and began to speak. Hannibal commanded, Will obeyed. It was simple, understood, and as Hannibal grew more naked Will wanted more than anything to be told flat out to worship him. He would now, he knew he would.

"No matter how I sinned or how I faced old sins I have found God to be completely absent. My faith no longer exists. I refuse to give my life and body to an uninterested entity." Hannibal let the belt fall to the floor with a clatter that rang loud in the chapel over the thrash of the boards and howling of wind.

"How did you sin? Imprecision is ineloquence."

Will thought back to Alana's nipples hard under his fingertips and her curls wrapped up in his fists. But mostly what he thought of was her smile and the laughter they shared between them regarding their defects and sins.

"I kissed Sister Bloom. I touched her as well but in truth it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted you throughout it. I wanted your sure touches, your force, your lips..."

Hannibal's pants came off along with his shoes and socks. Everything was laid neatly and Hannibal stood there only in his underwear that too seemed to be a bit wet. Will subconsciously licked his lips. Under his priests clothing, he was hard and with wide eyes Will saw quite clearly that Hannibal wasn't unaffected by the suffocating feeling between them.

"I want you Hannibal, I can admit that now." It was Will who moved closer first, and he shocked himself by letting his nails reach out and graze across the silvering curls of hair across Hannibal's chest. "Because if there is no biblical God, then I want you as my God."

Much like the storm battering the outside in violent, unpredictable waves, inside the church Hannibal was just the same. He seized Will up within his hands and crushed their lips together and the effect was immediate. A needy groan left Will as he wrapped himself up in Hannibal and allowed himself to be kissed and ravaged as Hannibal pleased. His teeth were on his lips, his hands at his hips with bruising strength and Will pulled at Hannibal's hair with the same intensity.

Everything in Will's body instantly was at ease. It felt beyond perfect to be within Hannibal's hard grasp again. He'd do anything he asked. He'd give up the parish for him, he'd forsake God more than he already had. He'd do anything to be Hannibal's.

A keen left Will as Hannibal reached up and pulled him away by the roots of his hair to stare at Will's uneven and clouded gaze. "I want you kneeling at the communion bench." He started, turning Will's head by his curls to point his gaze towards the line of cushions where Will had knelt every evening for the private mass, mouth open and hands grasping.

"Anything you want." Will swallowed hard and nodded in excitement. "Anything."

Hannibal used his other hand to reach over to where Will's pulse was jumping against his too tight collar and Hannibal plucked the white clerical band. "Open your habit, close your eyes, and open your mouth. Do nothing until I tell you to, do you understand Will? Will you obey me?" Hannibal's shadow from the candles seemed to flank the entire church, too large for his body but large enough to shadow his unseen presence in the room. Unrelenting and massive.

"Yes, Hannibal." When Will turned his back to approach the communion bench he heard the crackling and smelt the burning scent of his clerical collar being set aflame.

"I free you," Hannibal murmured, darkly. Will knelt down on the cushions and stared at the naked and damp line of Hannibal's back as he tilted the collar to allow it to catch further, "to serve whom you please."

With shaking hands Will plucked at the little black buttons and exposed a new swatch of skin unseen to anyone but Matthew in such a way many years ago. The wind howled and the thunder cracked loud enough to make Will jump and miss a button. Hannibal let the burning collar fall to the floor as it finished burning away Will's old life. As he opened the rest of his priestly outfit and exposed the expanse of his front and his excitement swollen in his briefs, he knew this would be more than a simple communion. Hannibal was baptizing him anew.

His eyes closed and Will opened his mouth but he could still hear the appreciative hiss from Hannibal when his wet feet clicked against the floor and he turned to stare at Will open and willing. He was free to commit any sins, any of the sins he'd confessed to Will—to subjugate him.

The metal bar creaked and Will could feel the phantom of heat coming from Hannibal near him. Every sense was ten times more aware without his sight and it made the nervous twisting in his stomach all the more intense.

"Taste my body, take your communion, Will." A small noise hitched in Will's throat as he felt Hannibal's finger tap against the bottom of his chin. "Lean in and find your way with your tongue."

Will may have lived a life of naivety but he knew what Hannibal wanted, he'd done that much with Matt. He wanted him to... with his mouth... Will's tongue slipped out and he leaned forward slowly. His hands raised to try and gain some sort of balance and found Hannibal's bare knees spread open. "Tsk, with your tongue Will." A quick shake of his legs knocked his hands away and Will locked them behind his back to resist the temptation to freely touch Hannibal like he wanted to but was not allowed to.

Oh, but after only a few seconds of blind fumbling with an outstretched tongue he made contact. Hannibal made a pleased noise above him and there it was, the physically he craved. Hannibal's cock was hard and hot against the stripes of his lapping.

The thunder crashed, the fires of the candles flickered orange behind his eyelids, and the saltiness against his tongue only grew as Will wrapped his lips around the crown of Hannibal's cock.

"This is not your first time is it?" Hannibal mused as Will opened up his throat and slowly eased Hannibal deeper almost teetering on the cushions and impaling himself.

As Hannibal's cock hit the back of his throat after a few long bobs of his head and slick slips through his mouth, and Will hummed softly as his response, earning a groan. With his eyes closed he had to rely on the way Hannibal's cock seemed to twitch in his mouth, and to continue his certain sucks or movements when he tasted the brine grow stronger against his tongue.

"You look beautiful like this Will, truly. Debauchery suits you just as well as piousness." Will's legs slid open further against the cushions as his own cock leaked against his underwear. It felt so damn good to be debauched. The wrongness clawed through him right along with the pleasure and it only amplified it. Things felt much more dangerous and good when it was forbidden. It was why people sinned. "A true Antinuos worthy of deification and a cult of your own. Would you like that?" Hannibal asked breathily as his hands found Will's curls and brushed them back to better watch Will's wet lips stretch and his throat push out with the addition of a thick cock pressing against it.

Will pulled back and stared up sightlessly at Hannibal. He licked his lips. "No, I have no desire to be God." Will grabbed at the priest clothing that felt strange on his skin and too restraining and eased them off his shoulders onto the floor. They pooled around him and Will pulled back his shoulders, giving Hannibal the best of him to look at. "Only to serve one."

Hannibal's snarl filled the church and rang through the thunder and shaking boards as Will pushed Hannibal deep down into his throat and worked hard, sweating as he serviced Hannibal as best as he could. The hot taste of cum coated his tongue. No metaphysical body here.

After one sharp buck of his hips, Hannibal pushed Will off of his cock. "Stand." He ordered and Will struggled to stand up without his sight. His legs felt like lead and had the fuzzy feeling from wine. Standing there was hard with his own cock pushing against his briefs. He had spent years learning how to control his desire and not touch himself, except now freed from those vows the last thing he wanted to do was to ignore those feelings.

"I'm so hard." Will groaned as fingers crawled down his front and slipped below the waistband to let his tentative fingers touch at the hardness between his legs. Spikes of pleasure shot through to his brain craving him to touch himself more and keep coaxing the sweet feelings from his body. "So... god damn hard."

He heard Hannibal snort and the sopping wet sound of his underwear hitting the floor. "You have such a filthy mouth when allowed to speak freely. Shall I remedy that again?" But Will felt a shiver roll through him when it was clear from Hannibal's thick gravelly voice that he wasn't unaffected by his display. "Open your eyes Will and go to the altar table. Go as you came to this earth."

When Will opened his eyes and bypassed Hannibal towards the table where the wine sat half drunk, he caught a glimpse of the man in all his splendour with a heavy cock jutting out proudly and still wet with Will's ministrations.

His movements were languid and slow, moving like a cat up the steps to the altar. Pride was a sin he was quickly growing familiar with. Hannibal was gifting him with so much, so in return Will snapped the elastic band of his underwear and then eased it down a little to expose the first ass cheek to a hungry Hannibal watching on.

"You're infuriating. Who knew freeing you would release such a little incubus?" Hannibal laughed throatily and low but took a step towards Will.

"I was not without experience, only without freedom and the clear conscious to express it. The wine helps too admittedly." There was no guilt now, no fear of brimstone and damnation. There was no god, even as a crucified Jesus watched Will's slow tease towards the altar, Will felt nothing but eagerness to feel Hannibal's hands on him.

Will curled his fingers under both sides of the elastic and slid it down the rest of himself and to his ankles. He bent slowly and then stepped out his underwear, only to flick it across the room. At the altar Will had delivered nervous sermons to deaf ears in hopes of Hannibal listening in, he now laid his hands across it and bent over for inspection.

The bible laid open between Will's hands and he could have spoken the lines off by heart as Hannibal rutted into him, but Hannibal snapped it shut when he covered Will with his own naked body. It was so warm and strong across the length of Will and he pushed back to feel Hannibal's cock nudge between his cheeks. He'd never done that before, but he wanted it more than he wanted air.

Thunder boomed, the time between the crashes now almost non-existent. A small clattering was almost completely lost in the noise as Hannibal reached for a deep red rosary nearby the bible and wound it into his fist to stare at the small gold medallion hanging in the very middle.

"St. Francis, patron saint of animals?" Hannibal asked in amusement as he turned the rosary around in his hand and watched the candle light play off of the bead caps and the little carving.

"The only saint worth consistently praying to." Will smiled over his shoulder but let out a yelp and fisted up the white cloth across the table as he felt something cold pressing in-between his cheeks right against his entrance. He puckered up immediately and shivered at the sensation. "Hannibal, what are you—?"

Will only tensed up further when he felt something small push inside of him. He couldn't be, was he?

"This is your first time, correct? You need preparation and such a pretty trinket will go to waste if we don't find a new means for it." A hot kiss followed on his spine as he was stretched open for another bead and then another.

Will nodded against his arm, rubbing his warm face up and down his own skin as he was breached by the next cold little ball. It was sacrilegious on so many levels to use a rosary in such a manner, but all Will could think of was how much he wanted even more stuffed inside of him.

"Should... Should I pray on each and every bead?" Will asked breathily as he tightened himself up and felt Hannibal shove the next bead in with more force, enough to only begin to scratch the itch inside of Will. It was more of a tease than anything, a hint of having something up inside of him without the real thing.

"That's a tempting thought." He could hear the smirk in Hannibal's voice. "Please do."

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." Another bead pressed in. "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb... J-Jesus." Will cut off as Hannibal's finger chased the bead deep inside of him, his finger warm against the coolness of the plastic and pressing the beads up even deeper inside of him. "Ohhhhh, god." Hannibal's other hand reached down to the small of his back to hold him steady as Will's back arched hard.

"Yes?" Hannibal leaned down to growl out against Will's ear as his finger twisted inside of him and then pressed a few rosary beads up to massage them against what Will could only guess was his prostate by the flood of pleasure that clawed through him.

"More, put more in. Just don't make me pray to a false god." Will swallowed as Hannibal's finger kept dancing around his sweet spot and tangling itself up in the beads. "Let me praise you." It was all he wanted to do. He needed to pray to Hannibal, to thank him for this properly.

"As you wish." Hannibal eased his finger out and then pressed the next bead against Will's opening enough to apply pressure but not enough to push in.

"You... you are the perfect embodiment of force, Hannibal. I'd give you my body, I'd give you my heart... I'd give you..." Will's words caught as Hannibal sunk his finger in with the next bead and then thrust another in right afterwards. "Let me be yours. Please. Please." He begged out when Hannibal began to push another few beads in.


Those warm fingers pushed in more and more as he kept singing his praises louder and louder to the empty church. Another finger sunk in aided only by the oil on the counter for anointments. The two fingers twisted and turned and were joined by another as the beads jostled up inside of him and seem to touch all the nerves within him at once. It was maddening but Hannibal's other hand steadied him as his words commanded him to take it.

"Just like that Will. Perfect. Yes. You serve so beautifully..." The compliments were further inebriating while Will clawed at the table.

"Baptize me, take me Hannibal. God, please. Make me anew, make me yours." Will growled out against the table cloth, his damp lips dragging across it with every pant and vowel sound thrusted out of him. "Fuck me, sodomize me."

A low croon was dragged out of Will as Hannibal gave the rosary a few exploratory tugs and then pulled the infuriating beads right out of him in little ripples and bumps of pleasure. The rosary clattered on the floor but it was entirely lost against the shaking of the boards and screaming wind. The whole church could blow away and Will wouldn't be any wiser. He was in too deep to understand anything but Hannibal, Hannibal, Hannibal.

Though the crashing and shattering of the entire contents of the altar table being shoved onto the floor by Hannibal was not lost on Will. The wine bottle exploded, the bible slammed to the floor, various other artifacts followed suit with one strong strike of Hannibal's arm. The sheer aggressiveness, the physical proof of Hannibal's impatience in the act made Will raise up onto his arms and arch his back hard like a pleased cat preening at the attention.

"You're mine." Hannibal insisted and Will hissed as Hannibal grabbed his arm and flipped him onto his back over the altar and loomed. He seemed impossibly large, filled with the grandeur of a true god. It made sense now. Will had been a religious man all along, he had just been serving the wrong god. "Repeat it."

Hannibal knocked his legs apart with his own and lined himself up so Will could feel the slow circles Hannibal rubbed against Will's still slightly oiled entrance. For all Hannibal's aggression there was still an elegance to it. He conducted Will so perfectly, and his hand not wrapped around his hips reached out to cup his face. "Repeat it to me Will, please."

This wasn't a forced control or obedience out of fear. It was earned and willingly given.

"I'm yours, Hannibal." His words barely made it out before Hannibal began to press in. It wasn't as comfortable as Will had expected from the porn he remembered watching with Matthew when they jerked each other off. It was tight, and it stung the further Hannibal pushed in making Will grunt. But with every wince or shuddered breath Hannibal was there with a stroke to his face or an encouragement.

Though the moment Hannibal sensed Will's growing comfort he stopped the encouragement and instead began to take his fill. He pressed Will's legs open further, leaving no part of him hidden or too vulnerable. The pleasure started to come soon after the pain with each drive of Hannibal's cock.

"You are beautiful. My most beautiful creation." Hannibal's teeth found Will's throat and alternated between marring his skin with bites and long, bruising sucks meant to make purpling art out of their coupling. No one would again be able to look at Will without the glaring proof of his devotion.

Yes, he was beautiful, truly beautiful now. Sin had made Will into the unattainable, the perfect, the sort of beautiful that had historically turned artists against the stuffy Parisian salons, intent on making their muse the womb of a new movement based on this embodiment of what the world would soon accept as perfection. He was the youthful physique to the lustful Greeks and coy and shy sensibility to the restrained Brits.

Hannibal had created this.

Will's own fingers dug into Hannibal as he was fucked along the altar, marking his god with nails and desperate hands seeking to find solidity in what he worshipped. The heady air around them was peppered with Will's sharp groans as Hannibal's teeth found the gold cross still hanging around his neck and snapped it off his neck with a hard tug.

It dangled there between Hannibal's teeth, like a dog holding some dead thing in it's jaws, as his fucking slowed down so Will could feel every catch of his cock's brim against his opening and then the sweet, slow plunge deep into his heat. It felt so good, better than he could have ever imagined being taken would feel.

"Get rid of it," Will's hand reached up to touch the grinning lips as Hannibal pushed in deep again, almost too deep by the feel of his upper insides giving an uneasy clench, "I… I don't want any memory of my life before you." Will panted out as his fingers intertwined in the gold chain, eased it from Hannibal's lips, and then hurled it. It clattered down the aisle and by the way Hannibal began to fuck him in earnest, he seemed entirely too pleased by the gesture.

Hannibal's hips began to slam into him, pushing him with so much force that Will had to grip the purple cloth over the altar to keep from being sent tumbling over the edge. He kept pace though, he held his own and kept meeting Hannibal with a snap of his own hips. The sinful pleasure kept swirling through him and aided with the wine it made him dizzy and high.

"Hannibal, yes, just like that. Again. Again!" Will cried out as he tossed his head back, the room beginning to spin and the crucifixion gazing down at their dark ministrations just kept staring.

That's right. Keep looking. Take a good look.

"Will, my Will." Hannibal's hand reached up to his throat to press down and keep Will's head tilted back. The pressure was wonderful. His voice seemed somehow thicker, deeper, hoarse even beyond that of sex. It filled every cell and fibre of Will's being until it felt like he consisted of nothing else but Hannibal's voice, his cock, and the orgasm starting to spread it's white hot fingers through Will.

"Yes." Will gasped out, struggling to swallow against Hannibal's hand. "Yes, Hannibal."

His other hand stroked Will sharply, but Will knew better than to come without permission. Oh god, did he want it though. He needed it so badly, the church was spinning too much, the storm deafening.

"Will you give your soul to me?"

Will keened as he writhed against the altar as the orgasm had it's fiery claws sunken into his brain. His ass scraped along the cloth, his hands balled into white fists, and his head knocked back against the altar. There was only one answer. He'd give anything to Hannibal. His life, his body, his soul.

"Yes! It's yours!" Hannibal released him at his answer and everything went black as an orgasm so powerful ripped through him that it felt as if it was inverting him. Every nerve connection in his body was firing the same signal through him: good, good, so fucking good.

The huge hand around his throat finally released him so he could cough breath back into his lungs. The heat of the church felt like flames licking at the bottoms of his feet hanging over the edge of the altar, and the dizziness of the wine and post-coital bliss turned him to jelly as Will bought himself up onto his elbows.

When he did though, his mouth turned dry, and the suffocating heat of the church felt like it was pulling every bit of moisture from his body, sweating him out. Shadows filled the church, unfurling and expanding into the rafters and along the boarded up windows.

"Hannibal...?" A nervous foreboding feeling filled Will's stomach as he watched the shadows crawl further along, aided by the light of the candle to cast across the entirety of the church like a set of wings.

A small smile was his only response.

A skin-splitting noise filled the church, the storm now only serving as percussions to the wet sinew and muscle being ripped. In front of him, Hannibal braced the sides of the altar and behind against his back Will could see the skin of his shoulder blades shredding. Blood spilled and wrapped around Hannibal's ribs to drip along the floor.

"Hannibal!" Will shouted, wrenching himself painfully from being impaled on Hannibal to yank his feet up and pull his knees against his naked body. Hannibal's fillings slipped down his thigh. What was happening to him? He wanted to be brave enough to reach out and either push Hannibal away or aide him. Instead, like a coward, Will sat trembling on the altar as the two protrusions began to resemble freshly birthed colts, covered in the sticky and wet afterbirth. "Hannibal, stop! Oh god, please." Will screamed as somewhere bones cracked and more of this vile skin raised from Hannibal, who still stared at Will.

"God?" Hannibal finally asked, tilting his head slightly in amusement. Sweat poured from Will's pores as the church burned like a furnace. The two rising mounds finally broke free of their confines and terror gave Will a brief relief from the relentless heat as it flashed ice cold through him. Will watched in horror as they snapped open as leathery wings, framing Hannibal. "I thought I was your god?"

Will scrambled against the altar to the edge as Hannibal sighed out softly. "No, I mean, yes... I... I... Oh god no." Horns broke through the skin of Hannibal's greying blond hair Will had fisted before in pleasure and curved until they resembled ram's horns, or some other awful cloven beast.

He had to get out of here. This was a dream surely and if he could only get out of the church he would wake up and everything would be alright. Except no one had come at the sound of fucking, nor had they burst in as Hannibal twisted and mutated. Could they not hear this? Will made a move to spring from the altar but was dragged back into place by Hannibal's grip suddenly stronger than the hand that had once guided his own to instruct him how to command. He pulled Will down until he laid in a shaking naked heap before the creature breaking through Hannibal's skin.

"You are mine. You said so yourself Will, and I do not allow those who belong to me to be rude. Stay." His voice was just as commanding as it had always been, except now Will obeyed because deep inside of him he knew there was no other option. So Will only nodded and keep shaking as Hannibal's fingers turned long and spidery as more skin-spitting and bone breaking continued.

"What are you?" Will gasped out as he stared up at the looming creature whose extra appendage stroked up along Will's bare thigh, trailing like a lover's fingertips. At the sight of the skin-covered tail stroking along himself, Will let out a loud scream. He screamed and screamed, surely Alana or someone else in the basement would hear him. They had to hear him.

God, please, God. Someone. Help. Save him.

"You once asked me what sins had sent me to you." Hannibal leaned over the lovely once priest quivering and fully debauched below him. He snatched up his face and examined it, his fork tongue darting out with the words, the black coals of eyes, the dark endless pits that seemed to be nothing but black holes devoid of life started down at Will. His long nails dug into the soft skin of Will's cheeks as he contemplated him. "Did you never entertain that perhaps instead it was your sins that sent you to me?"

No. Tears began to well Will's eyes as he stared up. "But I didn't-"

Hannibal tsked gently and leaned down to press a small kiss to the corner of Will's eye where it had turned wet and salty. Will's breath caught in his throat, his blue eyes wrenched as far in the corner as he could away from the probing tongue. If he breathed he was afraid the creature slowly growing in size before him would eat him alive. "But, you remarkable boy, you had them in you. The ferocity in which you resisted temptation drew me to you. In amongst mere mortal men and their mere mortal sins, you glowed like a beacon in the night. You could not imagine how tempting you seemed, one of the Lord's own constantly teetering on the brink of damnation and under all your prayers and resistance, housing the desire to be pushed."

"I never... I never wanted any of that." But even as Will said it he couldn't take back his moans as Hannibal fucked him. He couldn't take back the submission, the yielding, even the intellectual challenge and late nights preparing sermons simply to see Hannibal glow at his words.

"Now, we both know that is not quite true." Hannibal smiled and then paused to whisper against Will's ear the very same words he'd used before when the beautiful boy became skittish, "Settle. I did not lie, I do desire you. You must trust that I see your potential. I would not eat nor waste something so promising." He kissed against Will's temple as Will's racing pulse against Hannibal's lips began to beat slower.

The horned demon wearing Hannibal's face took a moment to move it's claws down to trace at his throat where the cross and priest's collar had once sat to protect him. Will's swallow bumped against his finger as it pressed at the delicate hollow between his collarbones.

It had been a seduction from the very moment Will had bumped into him on the first day of his damnation. There was the original sin, those coffees and stimulating discussion that played at his pride. Then there was lust, the branding of images into his skull of Hannibal having him over and over again as he whispered all that filthy things he wanted to do to him in the quiet of the confessional booth. Envy, for the control Hannibal had on the world and the desire to be subjected to it. Sloth, causing him to stay, to not run away from Hannibal when he enticed him. He'd been greedy for his touches, gluttonous for indulging in old sins, and turned wrathful at his old God when it offered him nothing but silence.

It meant nothing now, for as sure as Will was of his own folly, he was equally as sure of the devotion now branded across his soul.

He'd seen a beautiful and intelligent man with the intense dominance he craved and he'd bitten the bait. What a stupid little lamb he had been to listen to the snake and bite the pomegranate so willingly.

"The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray." It said.

"But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath." Will replied, a similar previous conversation sparking the final connection in his head. He stared up in terror and awe at his god, at the thing he had, perhaps would still, so willingly devoted himself to. The demon that cradled his soul in one hand and fisted his foreseeable damnation in the other. He reached up and framed the face of all the evils of the world between his two simple, human hands. He leaned up, clothed in the candlelight, both praying to be saved and yet allowing himself to hold on tighter.  

"The Red Dragon." Will breathed out.

"Yes, and what will you do, boy clothed in the sun? Will you pray for God to save you or be devoured? Be taken?" Hannibal's hand reached out and one of his long fingers stroked a lock of sweaty hair back in the same fond gesture he would have done before. This was Hannibal, no matter the charade or form. Perhaps his soul would not be lost within those same hands that were present even now where his old god was absent.

He held Hannibal still between his own hands near the horns, considered the stillness deep within him, the calm control now embedded into his very soul. Was this not what he had wanted? Physicality and dominance? Was there no greater dominance and control than to be in servitude body and soul?

He was made to serve.

Will considered, hesitated, and then kissed his lips.

"Devour me."

 


_________

 

Epilogue

"Are you implying I should kill my own brother, Father? That seems rather contrary to all the teachings of the church, does it not?" The falsely sweet and imploring voice drifted through the confessional as Will smiled. Margot was always one of the more interesting confessionals and that days confession proved no less enthralling. "Aren't Cain and Abel a cautionary tale to that sort of thing?"

"You seem to think you are Cain, where as I see you more as Abel. Your brother is cruel and will kill you eventually, you're smart enough to know that, though the precise time is hard to determine. You are certainly not his keeper. We both know how the story of Cain and Abel ends, though it doesn't need to end that way." Then Will rested his head against the grate as they played his game together. They always did whenever she came, like clockwork, on Wednesday afternoon. "Though no, I'm not advising murder. I'm only obligated to inform people if you intend to harm someone."

"But not if the harm has already been committed?"

"No, in that case I can say nothing. You don't intend to harm someone, do you?"

"Not at all Father. I would never do something that the Lord would see as shameful." Under Margot's words there was that distinct annunciation of sarcasm so well blended into her tone that it was almost impossible to discern. It was there though, and that was enough to tell Will that after working three months with her there was the distinct possibility that she would no longer require Will's guidance.

"Good. Be sure to recite three Hail Marys tonight and I will see you next week." With Margot's noise of confirmation and a quick well wishing she snapped back the grate cover so that no hint of her bright red lipstick remained. He had to give her a few minutes to leave the confessional so it maintained the impression that he had no idea who she was. It was rather ridiculous how priests were supposed to maintain that air of anonymity at all costs, even at the cost of common sense. Of course he knew who was praying and pleading to be cured and whom needed a much more delightful push in the wrong direction.

It was all about keeping up appearances though, no matter how long ago he'd truly given up the charade. It was a game he played and learned to play well.

It was easy to learn with such a good teacher.

As Will finished closing up the confessional box and made his way into the courtyard with the intent on grabbing his coat from his old cell, he heard the deep voice of Bishop Crawford bellowing. A few new sisters scurried out of his way in a terror.

"Father Graham! Going so soon?" He laughed as he caught up fully and clapped Will's back sharply. "I so rarely see you lately I would have thought you a ghost if it wasn't for the endless praises your little lambs give you."

Will ducked his head bashfully and laughed along. "They speak far too kindly of me, you know I've simply found a new found love of guidance Bishop. It seems I was built to serve the Lord through the quiet of the confessional booth, not up on the podium."

"We all have our ways of serving, I'm just really happy you've found yours." His smile sweetened as they rounded a corner towards the offices, including Bishop Crawford's. "I think letting you live outside of the parish was a good idea too. I'm glad I approved it, you seem like a completely different man, Graham."

"I am. I was in a place of doubt before from the pressures of cloistered life but being allowed time and space to myself really had cleared my mind and refocused by devotion. I finally feel free to serve my god full bodied." He always did like to take credit for Will's proposal, but Will had no issue allowing Bishop Crawford to stroke his own intellect and decision making skills at his own expense. Whatever he believed didn't change the fact that Will was allowed a modest apartment a ten minute walk away above a used book store where he could serve in peace.

Their walking slowed outside the offices and the bishop leaned against the large door of his office and sighed out. They both turned to look out at the courtyard where priests and nuns scurried about in their daily rituals. Two alter boys carried stacks of old Bibles, a few of the older nuns tended to the rose bushes lining the pillared open corridors, but it was the three nuns walking towards the kitchen that caught the bishop's eye. "If only I hadn't needed Sister Bloom as a reality check to allow you this freedom. If only I'd offered her the same freedom... maybe she wouldn't have..." His pox-scarred face pulled tightly and Will's gaze followed to stare at the sisters laughing amongst each other as they carried groceries towards the kitchens that Alana was often found in but now seemed dimmer without her sunny smile and quick wit.

"I pray for her everyday." Will leaned back against the wall and watched the women slip into the kitchen's door. Except most of their "praying" happened over the telephone as she gushed about her and Beverly settling into their cute one bedroom in Seattle right beside the two universities they had decided to attend—Beverly for forensics and Alana for psychology. She was going to meet Beverly's parents, two very Jewish and very liberal first generation Chinese doctors who were glad their daughter had finally given up her rebellious shitty job and shitty apartment and met a nice girl. They had just gotten new Ikea couches so Will was expecting a call on the weekend. There was talk of getting a cat.

She was Will's first lamb and would forever be his favourite.

"There were no signs, at least not that anyone reported. To suddenly break her vows without a word and leave—to live in sin no less. It just seemed out of character, I thought Sister Bloom was one of the truly good ones. Am I foolish for thinking that?"

"Not at all." Bishop Crawford for all his bullying and intensity was rather soft inside and Will wasn’t interested in breaking the news to him that his expectations of people were always rather off the mark. Will was a living testament to that. For all his supposed grace and power of curing sin, one of the most sinful creatures to ever walk into his church was leaning beside him and the bishop only looked at him and nodded.

"I'll see you tomorrow then? You are taking the morning confessional shift correct? I have your name down in the schedule for your little lambs to find you. They are always asking after you and your schedule. I feel like your secretary." His face dissolved back into a smile and he opened up his office and stepped inside.

"Tomorrow? Yeah, I'm in. I'll see you then. May the Lord be with you Bishop." Will gave a small wave over his shoulder before heading out.

"And also with you!" Crawford called out from his office as he started opening up the filing cabinets and prepping his paperwork.

Once Will had grabbed his coat from inside his old cell he was out in the sweet early Spring afternoon. The chill of winter still lingered but the birds had returned and the buds had begun to swell on the tree, only days away from beginning to sprout small leaves. The joggers and families pushing strollers were enjoying the day with all the excitement the first true days of spring brought. The walk down through the park and down along his street was just what Will needed to clear his head of all the drivel in the church and to peel away the layers of his well worn mask to be prepared to enter his true place of worship. He drew deep breaths to try and pin down the exact fresh scent of spring and commit it to memory.

Will swirled his keys in one hand as he yanked out his priest collar and stuffed it into his coat pocket. At the top of the stairs he opened up the door to 96B, his home for the past six months, and was instantly greeted with the smell of lunch and the loud barking of Winston. Really, he couldn't ask for a better life to come home to.

"Hey, boy! Hello, hello! Have you been good Winston? " The speckled golden retriever mix almost ploughed Will over as he barrelled into his legs and then jumped up to try and grab his attention. Being around Hannibal always made Winston edgy so at the sight of his master he was quick to make up for hours spent cooped up with a demon. He had pay an extra fifty dollars in rent to keep him but the shelter had been more than happy to give him what they considered an unadoptable burden and Will was more than happy to finally have his pal with him full-time, no matter how much of his hair ended up on the couches and in Will's breakfasts. Before Will could open his mouth to scold him there was a sharp whistle and the dog dropped down to sit perfectly at his feet.

"He's been very naughty. I caught him trying to eat one of your slippers this morning after you left. He is absolutely miserable when you first leave you know. The poor thing is too dumb to have a sense of temporality."

"No, not Winston!" Will faked gasped as he leaned down and took Winston's face between his hands and kissed along the length of his nose in quick succession. "Winston, naughty? Never." The dog only panted harder at the sound of his name and licked at the side of Will's face happily.

"Ahem."

Will grinned against the top of Winston's head before letting go and standing. He turned around to stare at Hannibal lounging against the archway towards the living room and kitchen. The urge to please him clawed up along Will's spine. There was something about having his soul held captive that Will adored. Belonging to someone full-bodied was a high like no other.

"You know patience is a virtue." Will languidly moved towards Hannibal before holding his face like he had Winston's. He laid a small kiss to the corner of his mouth before pulling back to stare at the face the demon he was hopelessly and desperately in love with wore. He was as much in love with everything that was "Hannibal" as he had grown to love all that was the "Red Dragon". He loved the guise of humanity, the intellect, the beautiful facade and endless nights spent debating literature and scripture on the couch, but he also loved the danger and the predator under the skin. The commands, the ownership, the submission and domination and the nights the demon introduced him to new sins he'd never dreamed of.

"I have no interest in virtues." Hannibal greeted Will with a kiss of his own and then turned back towards the kitchen as Will simply smiled dumbly as he strolled.

"Indeed."

In the kitchen there was a fine lunch spread out waiting for him. Often Hannibal couldn't be with him, but on the days and nights he was Will was spoiled rotten. He was allowed to take up the summery white wine and watch as Hannibal plated their food with skill, spreading the vinaigrette around the rim of the plate and then bringing out Will's stone cutting board that had been in the freezer to start creating tempered chocolate lattices for on top of the mousse. He could watch Hannibal cook, and had before, for hours.

"It seems that your mother is intent on bringing about spring." Hannibal pointed with the tip of his piping bag of hot melted chocolate at the window above the sink that looked out towards a Vietnamese restaurant and a small view of the park across the street.

"My mother?" Will began and then started to laugh. "Perhaps we could avoid this whole winter thing all together if only you would release me." Then he snorted and leaned forward to reach for a lattice that was hardening only to still his hand and pull it back with one warning look from Hannibal that promised pain. "Not that I wished to be released."

There had been an on-going joke between them about their similarity to Persephone and Hades. There was a certain arrogance on Will's part when hearing the comparison. Much like his mythical counterpart, Will had made the Lord of the underworld seek him out, and in turn turned his interest into adoration. Any day he could lose interest and eat him instead of keeping him as his prize.

"Today is Wednesday, so Margot was at the confessional?" Hannibal asked it like a question but did not wait for an answer. "Tell me about her progress."

Will shrugged and pulled out the plastic box of raspberries and began to clean them without being told. There was just the deep sense in his body that made him know that Hannibal wished for him to help him prepare the fruit for the mousse. "She has far more potential than I originally gave her credit for. I'm fairly sure she'll at the very east attempt to kill her brother within the next few weeks. Unlike some of the others she is self aware. She doesn't believe she is discovering her potential herself, she knows my influence."

Which suited Will just fine. He rather liked her intellect and dark sense of humour, it made a bit of a challenge were as many of the others just blindly believed Will because of his status.

A smile bloomed on Will's face as he felt Hannibal lean in and nose against the back of his neck as he stared down at the raspberries he was cleaning.

"Then maybe I won't take my fill of Margot right now. I have a good feeling this one will only grow more ripe for the picking with age. Would you prefer that?"

Will nodded quickly and then turned in Hannibal's arms to pop a raspberry between his lips. Just a little flick of his tongue found the pad of his thumb and it was hard not to recall images when Hannibal had done the same around cookie dough. He loved when Hannibal gifted him with people to keep, or in Alana's case a promise to let them be.

It was often hard to stomach the reality of what sort of fate he was leading these people to, but those worries and anxieties were always quickly stilled by the physically of Hannibal—whether through a few words or a touch. He wanted to serve and to please.

After tossing Winston a few raspberries Will got him a bone to gnaw the marrow out of and then turned his attention to Hannibal who was holding open a chair with one hand.

Hannibal gestured to his table of cooking. "Roast beef wellington with a honey mustard vinaigrette reduction, charred chicory, grapes, one thousand day gouda, and a raspberry mousse." Hannibal pointed out the components of the lunch and then settled on one end of the small table as Will settled opposite. His stomach growled appreciatively.

Will licked his lips and took a long sip of wine. Hannibal's cooking was always impeccable and the taboo that had coloured their first few meals had long since faded away with Hannibal's encouragements.

"Who is joining us for dinner this evening?" Will asked as Hannibal ran a slice of beef through the path of mustard.

"That boy from the shelter, Randall. I've been saving this until I could come see you. You worked beautifully with him and it shows in the tenderness of the cut. You can taste a certain liberation in the flesh. Perhaps your underdeveloped palette cannot taste it, but I can taste your beautiful vulpine words of insistence, of understanding, your gentle pushing and pulling. I taste you, if only vicariously, and it is delicious." Hannibal grinned and took a sip of the wine.

"Liberation is not a flavour." Will rolled his eyes at the overindulgent compliment.

"You convinced him to become the animal he always wished to become, to defy God's design and become something more. He killed people because you convinced him it was God's will, that is the sort of gift you have, Will. You simply did not have the guidance to use it before."

He couldn't argue with that logic.

"Eat, it will grow cold." He insisted, gestured towards Will's plate. Hannibal always said it was only fair that since Will prepped souls for Hannibal to harvest, it was only fair that Hannibal gave Will a share of the fruits of his labour once and a while.

Will looked down at his plate, and then looked across at the demon he dined with and then to the dog at his feet.

"Should we say grace?" Will asked as he slid his knife into the tender flesh.

After a moment's rest they both began to laugh.



"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."