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Epilogue

Owing to the fact that the Chesapeake Ripper is no longer a thorn in Jack’s side these days, Will actually manages to get two weeks of leave for his trip to Italy.

He thinks two weeks is a little bit on the excessive side when it comes down to it, but it would be the first time he and Danielle would be traveling abroad, so he’s naturally excited at the prospect of getting to experience it with his daughter. Having Hannibal there with them is just an added bonus at this point, considering how precarious their relationship had been in the last few weeks.

Before setting off for Italy, Will decides to call for an impromptu gathering at his house to celebrate Danielle’s birthday-slash-Christmas-party – though it’s a belated celebration, Danielle doesn’t seem to mind, excited at the thought of everybody coming together to celebrate it with her.

Will invites the people who are closest to him and Danielle – Alice, Beverly, Alana, Jack, Bella, and of course, Hannibal – for a few hours of dinner and piano entertainment courtesy of Danielle. His house had never been filled with so many people before; adding his pack of dogs into the mix was a risky chance he willingly took, and it paid off when they behaved beautifully for the crowd, most of them either watching peacefully from the fireplace or sniffing Danielle or Hannibal for some acknowledgment.

Danielle beams at everyone throughout the night, looking like Christmas has arrived once more when she receives her presents after her piano performance. She opens them almost immediately at everyone’s coaxing, her eyes growing bigger and bigger at every present she receives.

Alice, who had fitted herself into the small group almost seamlessly, had knitted a sweater for Danielle, which she presents to Danielle with a flourish. Danielle is giddy with excitement as she immediately puts it on over her dress before kissing Alice on both cheeks and hugging her tightly.

Jack and Bella gift her with a stuffed doll that Danielle takes a liking to, dispensing another hug to Bella and thanking her for the gift. Bella looks a little scandalized to learn that it’s her first stuffed doll, while Jack looks a little stiff as Danielle hugs him after, though he manages a smile and a pat on her back before letting go, his eyes slightly misty when he pulls back.

Beverly hands a rather sizable box to Danielle, winking at her and saying, “From me and Alana.”

Will raises his eyebrow at the joint gift, the realization hitting him in slow motion as he glances from Beverly to Alana, both of them grinning at Danielle when she finally unveils her gift: a Disney princess-themed backpack and lunchbox. The girl squeals at the sight, jumping excitedly in front of Beverly and Alana before hugging them both and rushing to put the backpack on.

All in all, Will thinks that Danielle is rather set until next Christmas, at least. Thankfully Hannibal shows some restraint since he didn’t bring any additional gifts for the girl, though it seems as if he’s regretting his decision when he sees how happy she is with all the presents.

Once Danielle has put her gifts aside in one pile, Will calls for an intermission and lets his guests know that he will be serving some eggnogs before they call for an encore piano performance. He raises an eyebrow towards Beverly and gestures for her to follow him to the kitchen under the guise of helping him with the drinks.

In the kitchen, Will hands her the glasses while she pours Hannibal’s homemade eggnogs into them, both of them working in silence.

“So, congratulations,” Will says after a few seconds. “About you and Alana.”

Beverly glances at him with a smirk before returning to her task. “Caught on, Mr. Empath?”

Will laughs sheepishly. “Sorry, I’m kinda slow at this whole… emotion thing. Guess I should’ve figured it out by now.”

Shrugging, Beverly grins and settles the glasses on the tray for him, ready to be served. “That’s an understatement. Well, for someone so obtuse about feelings, including your own, you’re doing pretty good. Glad you and Hannibal figured things out. Alana was going mad from all the moping Hannibal was doing.”

“Thanks, I guess. I’m happy for you two as well,” Will says, returning her grin, amused at the thought of Hannibal Lecter doing something as undignified as moping.

“Thanks. It’s still pretty new, but we’re having a great time together. It makes the whole ‘processing the crime scenes’ thing more palatable when you have someone you like nearby,” Beverly says with a wink. “Never thought I’d hear the day that you – the famous Professor Will ‘Grumps’ Graham – would be holding a party, by the way,” Beverly teases. “I guess Hannibal’s really rubbing off on you.”

“No lewd marks where Dani can hear you, please,” Will warns her, rolling his eyes. “Come on, let’s go serve the drinks.”

Beverly smirks at the deflection, though she follows him out of the kitchen, where they both hand the drinks to everyone – Danielle gets her own glass of non-alcoholic eggnog, of course, Hannibal having made it especially for her.

The night ends with Hannibal and Danielle playing the piano together, the man humoring Danielle with her selection of songs while the rest of them enjoy the camaraderie of the night, something Will couldn’t quite believe he could have pulled off months earlier. He watches all of them with a smile on his face, basking in the warmth of the fire and the dogs surrounding him, happy at the knowledge that happiness is something attainable after all.

 

Will’s preparation for the Italy trip seems to amount to packing some clothes for him and Danielle and making sure that the required documentation for the trip are there, while Hannibal arranges everything else. The dogs will be in Alana’s care once more, Alana only too happy to help since she’s gotten her own dog recently. Will thanks her when he comes by her house to drop off the dogs, while Alana just looks amused at the dogs’ attempt to sniff her, smelling the scent of another dog on her.

“It’s no problem, you know that,” Alana says, kneeling down to let herself be licked by the dogs.

“Yeah, well,” Will replies, “I know how much they can shed in two weeks, so… if you need anything from Italy, let me know and I’ll make sure Hannibal buys it for you.”

Alana laughs, though he can’t quite tell whether it’s from Will’s words or from the lickings. “Oh, don’t worry, I already told Hannibal how much he owes me. He knows what he needs to do.”

“That’s great.” Will clears his throat and gives her a grin. “So, where’s your dog?”

Throwing him a knowing smirk, Alana leads him and his pack inside while she introduces them to Applesauce.

When Will finally manages to extricate himself from the dogs, it’s half an hour later and he finally pulls out in his car to make his way to Hannibal’s house, where they will be staying for the night before their early flight tomorrow. Danielle is already there with Hannibal, both of them probably cooking dinner while they wait for Will’s arrival.

With everything packed and ready for departure, Will tries to let go of any lingering anxieties over the whole trip, going over his mental checklist of things to do in an effort to dispel his worries. He feels slightly better when he finally arrives in Hannibal’s garage, turning the engine off and locking his car before he makes his way into Hannibal’s house, shedding his outer layers and hanging them on the coat rack.

When he steps into the kitchen, everything falls into place as he catches the sight of Hannibal happily cooking a simple pasta dish judging by the smell, while Danielle sits on a nearby stool and acts as his sous-chef, though it seems the only task she’s been appointed with was to eat ice cream on the kitchen counter.

“Ice cream before dinner?” Will asks, raising his brow and leaning against the doorway.

Danielle turns in her seat to look at him, grinning at him in an almost guilty manner. “Hi, daddy. Hannibal gave me ice cream because I helped him make the pasta.”

“She did,” Hannibal confirms, throwing a pleased smile at Will, which he responds with an indulgent eye roll. “Welcome back. How is Alana?”

“She told you not to forget about the many things you owe her.” Will stands next to Danielle then, opening his mouth for a spoonful of Hannibal’s homemade ice cream when Danielle offers it to him.

Hannibal chuckles at the reminder. “Duly noted.”

Making his way to Hannibal, he glances at the meal the other man is making. “Should I set the table?”

“Yes, please, dinner will be ready in a moment.” Hannibal throws him a smile at his curious gaze.

“Okay,” Will says, pausing before giving Hannibal a quick peck on the cheek. He turns away before he can see Hannibal’s reaction, busying himself with the plates and silverware and making his way to the dining area to arrange them accordingly.

He hears Danielle coming in a few minutes later, humming happily when she sits in her usual seat.

“I hope you didn’t spoil your appetite with the ice cream,” Will teases, taking his own seat while they wait for Hannibal.

“It was only a scoop,” Danielle says, eyes widening in a facsimile of innocence.

Will shakes his head, smiling wryly. “We are going to have words once we’re back in Wolf Trap, Dani.”

Danielle looks chastened, though it only lasts for a few seconds before her smile is back as Hannibal makes his way into the dining room, his hands juggling three plates for each of them.

Placing a meal of pesto ravioli in front of Danielle and Will, Hannibal gives Danielle a fond smile before he puts his own meal on the table and tucks in for dinner. Hannibal gestures for Danielle to begin eating, smiling at her. “I hope you enjoy today’s dinner – we’ll be dining on something quite different while we’re in the air, and something even more interesting awaits us when we land in Florence.”

Danielle only smiles at the words, though Will doubts she understands the scale of the trip they will be embarking on. The concept of another country must be foreign to her at this point – doubtless another trip to Disney World would be a more exciting prospect for a five-year-old girl.

They eat quietly, making small noises of appreciation at Hannibal’s meals. The man seems to be reigning in his love of meat for Will and Danielle’s diet, mostly serving them a seafood- or vegetarian-based meal for the past few days after Will had confronted him about his less-than-savory meat procurement process. If Will notices a slight variation to Hannibal’s own meal, he doesn’t make a comment on it other than raising an eyebrow at the other man, which seems to amuse Hannibal if the returning smirk is anything to go by.

There is no dessert afterward, and Will tucks in Danielle into bed at an early hour, since they would need to make their way to the airport in less than six hours. He stays at her side for several minutes, reading her one of her newest books (courtesy of Hannibal, who had bought them for her birthday) until she falls asleep.

Rising from the bed, Will kisses her forehead before he makes his way to Hannibal’s bedroom, smiling when he sees Hannibal already prepared for bed. Hannibal acknowledges him with a soft smile and returns to his tablet while Will goes through his ablutions to prepare for bed.

When he comes out of the bathroom, he’s dressed in his typical sleepwear. The white cotton t-shirts and boxers are too comfortable to give up, and the only reason he puts on pants at home is because he has Danielle around; anything else is just a nuisance since he will typically ruin them with his nightmare sweats. Hannibal has tried to persuade him to put on silk robes, but all he got was a glare from Will, and the matter was dropped… thus far.

Will towels off his hair until it’s only slightly damp from his brief shower, and he hangs the towel at the rack before slipping into bed next to Hannibal, the man tracking his movements closely ever since he emerged from the bathroom.

He makes himself comfortable, making sure the duvet cover settles over him before he turns to Hannibal and tilts an eyebrow at him. “Still not done with your reading?” he asks, gesturing to the tablet in Hannibal’s hand.

Hannibal smiles as he locks the tablet and puts it aside on the bedside table. He turns to Will and gives him a soft kiss, both of them smiling into it. Will lets Hannibal control the kiss, content to melt into the soft pillows and sheets beneath him – until he feels one of Hannibal’s hands circling his thigh. His hand shoots out immediately to seize Hannibal’s, gripping the other man’s wrist in a tight grip as he pulls away from Hannibal’s lips.  

Raising an eyebrow at Hannibal, he pushes the other man’s hand away. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I would’ve thought it was obvious, dear boy.”

Will feels the tip of his ears flushing, though he ignores it as he smirks up at Hannibal. “I thought I made it clear to you that you only get to touch me in Italy?”

Ever since Hannibal’s stay at Wolf Trap during the Christmas holidays, it became clear to Will that he has to adhere to his own established rules to make sure Hannibal doesn’t take advantage of Will’s more persuadable nature. Though the man has always been somewhat tactile with him, Will noticed that he has been increasingly handsy with him after their little reunion, and had touched Will almost at every chance he got. Will has resigned himself to being the only sane one in this relationship (and wasn’t that a funny thought), so he has been trying to slow down Hannibal’s amorous advances, though he can admit that he indulged a bit in the morning sex on Christmas morning because, well, it was Christmas. Wasn’t that what people typically do during the holidays?

That particular incident notwithstanding, he hadn’t meant for things to go so far afterward, Hannibal seemingly feral at the thought of finally getting to torture Will with his brand of sadism that night after their weeks of separation. Though Hannibal had clearly tried to outlast Will’s pleasure, Will may have played dirty just a little bit by breathlessly begging for Hannibal to come inside him while clenching hard against the other man before he bit into Hannibal’s skin, the action triggering Hannibal’s climax.

All’s fair in love and war, after all – and with Hannibal, it’s always a bit of both.

Hannibal hums then, resigned, resettling his hand in Will’s curls. “Tempting boy,” he sighs, placing another kiss against Will’s jaw.

Will rolls his eyes, pushing Hannibal off him and onto the mattress. “You’re the one who said we need to rest before our flight tomorrow.” He places his head in the crook of Hannibal’s shoulder and drapes his arm over the man’s side, breathing in deep and taking Hannibal’s scent in before he closes his eyes in contentment. “Just sleep, Hannibal. You’ll have me soon enough.”

He’s only slightly amused at the heavy exhale Hannibal lets out at that remark, and he smiles when he feels Hannibal settling against him again, though this time he seems to relax his posture against Will, the gentle caresses of his fingers through Will’s hair lulling him to sleep.

 

They set out early the next day, Hannibal having sent off their luggage to the airport ahead of them in order to avoid dragging them around from the taxi to the airline’s check-in counter because he apparently has no patience to deal with such plebeian concepts. Will can’t say that he minds, if he’s honest, since they also get fast-tracked through immigration and customs because Hannibal had predictably gotten them business- and first-class tickets.

It will take them three flights to get to Italy, and Danielle falls asleep immediately in her seat for the first leg in their journey, flanked by Hannibal and Will on either side. The first flight only takes them an hour, where they have a short transit before they continue on another flight which will take them almost nine hours for a transit at Munich.

They are all slightly more rested for the second leg of their journey. Immediately settling herself into the window seat, Danielle looks out excitedly out of the airplane window though she’s soon disappointed by the sight of the gloomy and dark weather outside. It’s still early in the morning, and the window glass is fogged with condensation. Will takes the seat next to her, and tells her to go to sleep, promising to wake her up for the in-flight breakfast meal and a chance to look at the skies when it’s lighter out.

Hannibal is separated from them by an aisle, though he doesn’t seem to mind all that much by the way he keeps sending them his pleased, fond smiles throughout the flight.

As far as his first flight abroad goes, it’s not a bad experience, considering the man who’s currently primly eating his in-flight meal has splurged on a comfortable flight experience for the three of them. Danielle is enjoying her breakfast – fluffy pancake with strawberries, bananas, and chocolate sauce peppering the plate, which looks freshly prepared judging by its warmth – which was served an hour after takeoff, occasionally looking out the windows when she spots a different cloud formation.

Will orders the breakfast platter for himself, which is plated and presented in a tasteful manner (though Hannibal would probably sniff at the simple presentation): Italian ham and cheese, a few slices of cold meat, topped off with fresh fruits. Will has been slowly eating meat again, though he has curated his meals more often than not these days. As far as prosciutto goes, the meal is pretty good. On another excellent note, the freshly brewed coffee tastes amazing.

Will entertains Danielle’s game of trying to spot anything noteworthy below them from her window seat, which she always inevitably wins by virtue of being seated in the window seat. She tires of the game eventually, and Will sets up a few of her favorite movies on the touch-screen console in front of her, Danielle’s eyes lighting up excitedly at the various entertainment waiting for her. He shakes his head quietly, smiling fondly before he turns to Hannibal.

Hannibal is mindfully sipping his coffee while reading something on his tablet, his refined features highlighted by the morning light filtering through the airplane window. Will reclines his seat then, appreciating the sight of Hannibal enjoying himself until he feels himself falling asleep.

He’s awakened by a soft touch to his shoulder, the stewardess smiling down at him and asking him his choice for lunch. He blinks the sleep out of his eyes, stretching himself as he brings his seat upright and blindly picks something out of the menu, slightly embarrassed at his disheveled state and hoping there’s no drool on his face. Checking the screen of his flight entertainment console, he realizes that he was asleep for almost two hours, apparently making up for some lost time since they had to leave so early this morning.

Lunch turns out to be ravioli pasta filled with ricotta cheese, with a generous amount of tomato sauce, served with a side salad and a delicious-looking tiramisu. Will indulges in a white wine afterward, feeling Hannibal’s amused eyes on him as he nurses his drink while he reads a book he had brought for the flight.

He can’t remember ever feeling so carefree during a trip, with nothing to really plan for and nothing to really care about other than keeping Danielle entertained. It’s refreshing, for once.

 

When they finally arrive in Florence after another flight, Will feels surprisingly refreshed to be outside again when they exit the airport. Sure, he hasn’t had a shower just yet after the last three flights, but the cold winter air renders that unimportant for now. He likes winter well enough, and the temperature is only mildly cold at best when compared to the bitter chill of the Wolf Trap winters.

The sun is hanging down low on the horizon when they make their way to the chauffeur service lane, where Hannibal has arranged for a service taxi to take them to the apartment where they will be staying for the next few weeks. Will holds Danielle’s hand throughout the whole ordeal, only letting her go when it’s time for them to go inside the car, Danielle making herself comfortable immediately as she gazes excitedly at yet another window.

She chatters on with her observations as she takes in the sights outside, the scenery noticeably different from Wolf Trap and Baltimore, at least different enough for her eyes to discern. Will looks on in interest as the journey takes them from the airport to the city center, the whole trip taking them less than an hour. Hannibal holds his hand throughout the entire ride while he makes light conversation with the taxi driver in flawless Italian, their fingers laced together on the seat.

The taxi drops them off in front of a three-story terrace apartment in the middle of the city, the exterior of the old building not unlike Hannibal’s house, though the age of the structure shows through the weathered colors of the stones, the building and its surrounding neighborhood façades awash in history and culture. The driver helps them with their luggage, Will urging Danielle to go upstairs before he picks up one of the luggage and follows suit.

Once inside, he drops the luggage at the entranceway, looking around in something close to awe at the interior of the building. The decorations are tasteful and more modern than he expected, given the exterior of the building. It’s apparent that the whole apartment will be for their own private use, and he finds the living room, dining room and kitchen on the first floor, while the second and third floor houses a guestroom and a bathroom on each level.

There’s also an open-air terrace at the top of the apartment where they could take in a panoramic view of the city, and Will can make out a few notable structures from afar (a look at the apartment’s guestbook later on reveals the structures as the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore, the latter being one of Florence’s most notable landmarks with its iconic dome and is more commonly referred to as the “Duomo”). He also catches a glimpse of the snow-capped mountains beyond the cathedral, eyeing it wistfully before he feels Danielle and Hannibal’s presence beside him a few seconds later.

Danielle is grinning up at him in happiness, and he returns her smile before picking her up to give her a wider view of the beautiful city laid out ahead of them. Beside him, Hannibal is radiating happiness, proud and pleased at being able to show them Florence at last.

He takes Hannibal’s hand in his and squeezes, beaming silently at Hannibal as the three of them take in the sight of Florence.

 

Having arrived in the morning even though they departed in the morning only twelve hours ago, their bodies are still confused with the change in the time zone. Will feels lethargic; it feels as if he’s been up the whole day even though he had nothing to do but relax in the flight, even though their first day in Florence is just starting.

Sensing the change in their mood, Hannibal tells them to have a lie-in while he prepares something light for their second breakfast in as many hours. Will has a feeling that Hannibal is pleased that he can cook for them again, and it seems the kitchen has already been stocked with whatever he requires at the moment.

Will decides to take the time to have a look inside Danielle’s bedroom on the second floor – the spacious room is decorated with a large four-poster bed, shelves of books, and even a play area for Danielle, though it seems the toys are meant for toddlers instead of a five-year-old girl. Still, the room is thoughtfully decorated to give his daughter something to do for their two weeks’ stay, and Danielle seems to be absorbed in one of the children’s books already, her feet dangling in the air as she reads on her bed.

“Hey, pumpkin,” he says, sitting down and peering over her head to see what she’s reading. It seems to be the Italian version of The Princess and the Frog judging by the illustrations and accompanying texts, and he raises her brow at her. “You understand what you’re reading?”

“No, but I like the pictures,” she admits, grinning toothily at him.

“Okay. You okay? Feeling a bit tired?”

“Just a little bit.” She lets out a small yawn.

“You did watch a lot of movies on the flight,” Will says dryly.

“You said I could watch them,” she says simply, grinning cheekily at him.

“That was my mistake,” he admits, shaking his head and messing with her curls, prompting a shriek of laughter from her.

“Will, Danielle.”

Turning his head to the sound of Hannibal’s voice, Will smiles at the sight of the man in his customary apron. Of course he brought his own apron to Italy. “Breakfast is ready?”

Hannibal nods, smiling softly before he makes his way to the kitchen once more, probably plating their meals while Will and Danielle make their way downstairs hand in hand.

Will grins at the simple breakfast: scrambled eggs and sausages, served with freshly brewed coffee for Will and orange juice for Danielle.

Almost as if sensing Will’s question, Hannibal throws him a grin and seats himself at the dining table. “I thought something hearty would serve us well this morning, so that we can make ourselves ready for some late sightseeing, if both of you are not too tired. The housekeeper of this apartment has procured the meat for me from a nearby local butcher, known for his terrific cuts of fresh meat.”

“Thank you, it looks delicious,” Will says, biting back a sardonic smile at the mention of a butcher.

He takes a bite of his scrambled eggs, cutting into the sausages while he chews. The simple meal reminds him of the first time Hannibal brings him the same breakfast in that motel room in Minnesota – it feels so long ago, though he knows it was only six months at most. Theirs is a whirlwind romance when he stops to think about it, and Will finds himself contemplative as he eats his meal in silence.

Hannibal seems to sense his withdrawn mood, though he decides to ignore it in favor of talking to Danielle while he urges the girl to eat her breakfast. She seems a little tired from their twelve hours’ journey, and her eyes are drooping closed towards the end of breakfast, content and well-fed from all the in-flight meals and Hannibal’s cooking.

She seems unresistant when Will urges her to bed, thinking that everyone could do with a little nap before they see what Hannibal has in store for them. Danielle sinks into sleep almost instantly once she’s tucked in, and he vows to give her at least two hours of nap to fight off their jetlag before he needs to wake her up again.

Making his way upstairs to his and Hannibal’s bedroom, he’s not surprised to see that Hannibal has basically unpacked his own luggage, his crisp shirts and trousers lining the wardrobe, though he has left some space for Will’s clothes.

Will decides that he’s too tired to actually unpack right now, his head dazed and his stomach pleasantly full after breakfast, though it seems even coffee won’t combat the effects of jetlag. He takes his small bag of toiletries from his luggage as well as a t-shirt and pajama pants and brings them into the huge bathroom (unsurprisingly equipped with a bathtub), washing his face and brushing his teeth so he feels at least slightly human before he takes a nap.

Emerging out of the bathroom, he sees that Hannibal has made himself comfortable on the bed, his tablet already tucked in front of him while he peruses his reading list. Will smiles at the image and slides into bed next to the man, languidly stretching like a cat before he sidles closer to Hannibal, seeking his warmth.

Hannibal offers him a soft smile before his hand gravitates towards Will’s curls – he does that a lot these days, and Will loves it, the touch making him feel safe and loved as he allows himself to lean into it. His eyes close after a few minutes, enjoying the touch of Hannibal’s fingers as he drops off into a gentle sleep.

 

He’s not sure how long he was asleep when he feels a gentle pressure on his shoulder, Hannibal’s voice calling his name softly until he feels the veil of sleep lifting off him.

He groans and yawns, feeling groggy still though he forces himself to rise and lean against the sturdy headboard, his eyes following Hannibal’s movement as the other man walks about the room, readying himself for a little sightseeing outside.

“Can’t we just stay in bed the whole day today?” Will mumbles, throwing Hannibal a tired smile when the man simply gives him an amused tilt of his brow.

“I wouldn’t be averse to it, though I think it would be better for us to take a little stroll regardless. I don’t want both of you to suffer from a worse jetlag tonight if you can’t manage to fall asleep later.”

Will sighs. He hears the wisdom in the words, of course, but his body feels so sluggish. “There anything I can take to make it better? It feels like that time when I was recovering from encephalitis.”

Hannibal hums, moving to the bed, his concern obvious in his expression. He puts his hand on Will’s forehead, testing its warmth, though he pulls back a few seconds later with a soft smile. “I don’t think you’re in danger of that. It seems like a mild case of jetlag. The only thing I can prescribe is fresh air – a brisk walk outside will do wonders.” 

Will rolls his eyes; he should’ve known better than to try to joke with a doctor, no matter how dubious said doctor’s practices may be. “Okay, I’m up, I’m up.”

He stretches for a few more seconds, moving to his luggage to grab something to change into before he ambles into the bathroom again. He washes and scrubs his face, just so he feels a bit more alert, and it seems to help somewhat though his reflection doesn’t really look any better.

Figuring there’s nothing else he can really do about that, he steps out of the bathroom, looking around only to realize that Hannibal’s not there. He makes his way downstairs to the second floor and peeks into Danielle’s bedroom, where she’s still asleep beneath the duvet. He nudges her silently, hearing her startled breath when she comes awake. He waits for her to regain her consciousness fully and smiles at her when she finally looks his way.

“Hey, kiddo, had a nice nap?”

Danielle nods, yawning and stretching herself, her curls a mess from her sleep. “Is it time to go out?”

“Yep. Want me to braid your hair? It looks like a bird’s nest right now,” he teases.

Danielle lets out an indignant huff while she rubs the sleep out of her eyes, though she does nod at him and turns her back to him, urging his hands on. Will has always used his fingers to sort through Danielle’s tangles of curls, since he knows what a comb would do to their curly hair, the tangled ends always smarting whenever they’re tugged too hard. He hears Danielle humming an unrecognizable tune to herself while he works through the knots in her hair, and when he finally finishes with the braid, her curls look presentable once more.

“Okay, you’re done – let’s go see what Hannibal has in store for us, shall we?”

It seems Hannibal has been busy with prepping for their dinner – “a simple salmon sandwich that we can enjoy later in the evening”– while Will and Danielle were getting ready. Once he’s done with the meal preparations, he washes his hands before he ushers them out of the kitchen to get ready for their walk.

The sun is still thankfully out, the heat a blessed warmth on their face as Hannibal leads them to his favorite spots amongst the city he loves. They meander through the streets, Danielle walking in between them as she excitedly looks around and takes the sights in. Since it’s still early January, there are fewer tourists walking around, and the narrow pavements aren’t too packed for the three of them to pass through.  

Will soaks in the general atmosphere of their surroundings as he listens to Hannibal’s explanations of the neighborhood – he knows that Hannibal is excited to share a piece of his past with them, and though he might not always know the history behind every structure and every façade they passed by, Hannibal’s explanations are enough for him. It’s only too easy to imagine a younger Hannibal passing by the very same streets they are walking on right now, a sketchbook in his hand while he looks for a vantage point for his critical eye.

Hannibal doesn’t take them to any touristic sites just yet, letting Will and Danielle enjoy the breezy walk with no particular destination in mind. The man was right, Will thinks, the air outside is doing wonders to clear his head somewhat.

They stop by at one of the small stores along the streets, one that shows a selection of gelatos in bright, vibrant colors. Danielle is immediately invigorated by the sight of them, and Will can only laugh when Hannibal decides to indulge them and buys a cup of gelato for each of them, Danielle choosing all three flavors.

Taking a seat for the three of them in the bright and fancy-looking store, they take turns tasting each flavor between the three of them, Danielle’s eyes closing in appreciation at every bite, trying to savor every spoonful of their desserts.

Will himself doesn’t think there’s anything particularly exciting with eating a gelato in the middle of winter, but there is something distinctively soothing at the sight of Hannibal and Danielle enjoying themselves so thoroughly. Hannibal has been highly attentive to Danielle’s wants and needs, even earlier on in their relationship, but the way he behaves with Danielle now is almost doting. He’s content to just watch their interaction for now, but being here, free from their everyday burdens and far away from everything else they have to deal with in Baltimore and Wolf Trap, makes him realize that the ache in his heart has never truly disappeared. He’s only been keeping it buried, afraid to leave it unleashed.

 

Entering their apartment hours later after their short walkabout, Hannibal immediately sets off for the kitchen to start preparing their dinner. Will will never know where the man gets his endless reserve of energy from – even Danielle looks thoroughly exhausted by their short stint outside. Danielle ends up curled on the couch, having retrieved a book from her bedroom to read while the adults are busy in the kitchen.

Will helps Hannibal with the plating of their sandwiches, the silence companionable while both of them share the small kitchen space before they bring the plates and freshly squeezed orange juices to the dining table. He calls Danielle for dinner, the girl coming to the dining table with a soft smile and her book in her hands.

Dinner is a rather silent affair after the tiring day they had, though Hannibal tells them of his plans to take them for a more thorough sightseeing excursion tomorrow. Will listens and hums softly, agreeing to the plans though he’s only half-listening at this point, his body already feeling tired even if it’s only eight in the evening. Danielle is not faring any better, her eyes blinking owlishly at her sandwich as she finishes it, bit by bit.

When dinner is blessedly over, Will helps Hannibal with clearing the kitchen even if the other man insists on sending him upstairs to bed. It’s faster to clean everything together, he argues, and he manages to win that through sheer will. By the time he tucks in Danielle and makes his way upstairs to do the same for himself, he feels extremely exhausted, the last twenty-four hours taking a toll on his body at last.

He barely gets through his ablution rituals before he puts on his customary sleepwear and falls heavily onto the king-size bed next to Hannibal, ignoring the other man’s knowing smirk at his tired groan. “Are you even human?” he grumbles, glaring at Hannibal’s smile, which is somehow still in place after twenty-four hours of seemingly little rest.

“I find myself highly adept at adjusting myself to the different time zones,” Hannibal says simply, turning off his tablet and putting it aside on the dressing table before clicking off his bedside lamp. He turns his body towards Will then, pulling Will closer to him as they close their eyes and prepare themselves for sleep.

 

The next day brings them another exploration of the city, and true to his promise, Hannibal does take them to the more touristic sites in the city center. They’re lucky that it’s the off-season right now, as Will can’t imagine having to jostle himself through the crowds during the peak season. Even in early January, there are still many tourists and locals milling about in the city center, though it’s not as crowded as it would have been during the peak season.  

Danielle and Hannibal are a soothing presence, and they manage to walk around the city without too much trouble, and it seems that most of the attractions are reachable on foot. There’s something very grandiose about the scale of the architectures he comes face-to-face with during their ambling, and the magnificence of each distinctive structure is no less astounding when Hannibal explains how most of them are miraculously erected, sometimes to loud protests or even ridicule. Ultimately, it seems that Italy’s investments have paid off, as the profit gained from tourism is arguably one of their most lucrative revenue when it comes down to it, so clearly those historical patrons of the art had something to be proud of.

For lunch, Hannibal takes them to one of his favorite restaurants, known to be a popular spot amongst the locals. The restaurant looks like one of those hole-in-the-wall locations, easily passed over by less discerning eyes, and it’s easy to see why Hannibal likes it. Despite its popularity, the place itself is cozy, the din of the conversation hushed and calming instead of agitating, and the general demeanor of the people in attendance is rather genteel. Hannibal orders for them in fluent Italian, charming the waitress as she takes their orders down.

“I thought you’d want to cook for us for the whole trip,” Will teases, taking a drink of his white wine. It’s still early in the afternoon, but it’s a holiday, so who’s really counting anyway.

“I’d be a fool not to let the two of you experience the local cuisine while we’re here,” Hannibal replies, almost indignant.

The food turns out to be delicious, though Will had no doubts it would be, knowing Hannibal’s palate. Hannibal had ordered them a Florentine steak and two different pasta dishes which looks like it could serve a party of five. Danielle eyes everything on the table before she allows herself a taste of the steak, which Hannibal had cut into small pieces.

I’ll probably gain a few pounds from this trip, Will thinks, though he’s more amused than concerned at the moment.

Luckily for Will’s waistline, they walk off their excellent lunch by making their way to the Duomo, the building that had arrested Will’s sight when he first saw it from their apartment’s terrace. Seeing it from afar, he thought it was a brilliant monument, the eye-catching dome something that can’t be ignored when compared to the buildings surrounding it.

Standing in the shadows of the Duomo now, Will and Danielle have a moment of awe as they stare up at the tall, white façade before Hannibal calls for their attention, leading them to the main entrance with a smile. Danielle struts into a run to keep up with Hannibal, taking the man’s hand easily when it’s proffered out to her.

She turns back to Will, her eyes widening in question. “Daddy, come on!”

Huffing, Will shakes his head and follows them a few steps behind, his own eyes intent as they make their way into the Duomo.

The rest of their day is spent on exploring the sprawling area at the Duomo – there are too many monuments to cover in a single day, much less in half a day, and they end up spending almost four hours there without realizing it. By the time they make it out of the throng of people crowding around the exit, Will feels as if he’s run through a marathon with the effort of navigating the crowd. Danielle looks similarly disheveled, though the smile on her face indicates that her hours are spent in a more fulfilling state than Will would have expected. Hannibal looks as he usually does; the doctor only has a few hair strands out of place to show that he has exerted himself at all.

Hannibal suggests another gelato stop before they make their way back to the apartment, and honestly after the long day, Will is only too happily persuaded.

 

Hannibal continues to entertain Will and Danielle with tales of his past life and haunts in Florence over the next few days, even going so far as to take them to his alma mater, the University of Florence, where he had studied medicine decades ago. The nondescript building looks almost too serene to be called a university when one compares it to America’s expansive campuses, though Will doesn’t doubt where Hannibal got his aesthetics from as soon as he steps into the building. In fact, he has a feeling that Hannibal’s own penchant for dramatic architectures and somber decorations are heavily influenced by the aesthetics he encountered in Florence.

The halls and libraries are magnificent, though he’s told that the university has gone through several facelifts in the past few decades. Confusingly enough, the building they are visiting is only one part of the university’s grounds – apparently there are various campuses scattered around the city that are dedicated to different schools of studies. Hannibal’s campus is located near a hospital, and Will wonders if that’s where he first gained his appreciation for his studies of the human bodies. He keeps his amused silence to himself while he and Danielle follow Hannibal through the hushed halls and corridors of Hannibal’s past.

They also pay a visit to the Piazzale Michelangelo where they enjoy meandering through the gardens (although there are no flowers blooming during winter) before they sit down for coffee (for Hannibal and Will’s case) and gelato (for Danielle’s case) and enjoy the view of the sunset from the Piazzale.

Will enjoys the slow, meandering pace that Hannibal had set for their visits for the past few days. He appreciates that Hannibal is slowly trying to let him see a piece of him, a part of the history that made Hannibal into the man that he is today. Danielle seems enchanted with all that she has seen of the city so far, even if she doesn’t quite understand the sentiments behind the locations that Hannibal has brought them to.

On the fifth day of their stay, they decide to have a free day where they can choose to do nothing at all. The day seems gloomy, though there’s no threat of rain at this point of time – it’s early morning still, but Hannibal seems to deem it as an auspicious sign that they should stay in after their morning excursion to the local markets to replenish their food storage.

Will is only too happy to acquiesce, and he decides to put on more comfortable clothes for their stay inside.   

While Hannibal is busy putting away the fresh produce and meat in the fridge, Will entertains Danielle with one of the English books he has found among the shelves in her bedroom, both of them tucked in under the blankets for warmth and comfort. He’s only slightly surprised to see her fall asleep after almost half an hour of their reading session, her energy reserve finally failing her after three eventful days. 

He glances out through the tall windows in her bedroom – the weather outside is still gloomy, and he can see small droplets of rain pelting the window shades.

Tucking Danielle in more comfortably, he lets her have her rest. They have been here for five days and have been going out every day since then, their feet sore and aching from their strolls. It’s probably more tiring for her, considering it’s the first time she’s been abroad and the first time she’s had this many activities packed into five days, their Florida road trip notwithstanding.

Will makes his way downstairs soon after, finding Hannibal in the kitchen prepping for their lunch. He walks up to Hannibal, putting his arms around the other man slowly as to not disturb whatever it is that Hannibal is doing and hooking his chin on Hannibal’s shoulder.

“It’s barely 10 in the morning,” Will teases fondly.

Hannibal hums, amused, though his hand doesn’t waver from the knife board while he slices the meat and vegetables into fine portions. “I have found that it always pays off to prepare early for all things in life,” he says, his body subtly leaning into Will’s touch.

Will huffs, looking at the ingredients spread before Hannibal. “I’m sure you’ve done a lot of preparing in your life. Are you making us pasta?”

“I thought a simple recipe would be best – an aglio olio can never go wrong. I was thinking of coupling it with a chicken soup, to go with the rainy weather.”

“That sounds delicious,” Will says honestly. “Do you need any help?”

“No, I’m almost done. You can help me with the pasta and soup later once we start cooking.”

“Okay. I’m gonna go upstairs and read something, okay?”

“Please do,” Hannibal says, turning around slightly to give Will a peck on the cheek. “I’ll be coming around in a few more minutes.”

Will throws an acknowledging smile at Hannibal before he makes his way upstairs with a book, something light that he can bring to bed. He thinks he only gets a couple of pages in before the pitter-patter of the rain and the gloomy weather outside lulls him into a dazed state. He only realizes he’s fallen asleep when he’s startled awake by the feeling of the bed beneath him shifting with an additional weight.

He mumbles groggily and turns himself towards Hannibal, hearing a loud thunk on the floor before he realizes that his book has fallen from the bed. Ignoring it, Will opens his eyes to the sight of Hannibal smiling down at him, the man settled on his side of the bed.

“Have I been out that long?” Will mumbles, fighting the sleep out of his eyes. It doesn’t feel as if he’s fallen asleep for hours, but then again, he doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to recognizing his own sleep patterns, what with his frequent nightmares.  

Hannibal shakes his head, leaning forward so that their faces are inches apart. “It’s only been a few minutes. Are you tired? Should I let you sleep?”

Shaking his head, Will scoots closer to Hannibal, wrapping his arm around the man’s flank. “Just drowsy, I guess. With the lazy weather and the last few days.”

Hannibal hums, his hand rustling through Will’s curls. “It can be a bit dreary in the winter months. I would be fine by myself if you need more rest. There are a few articles I would like to catch up on.”

Will snorts, and this time he purposefully drags his body against Hannibal, grinding their bodies together until he can feel his own cock stirring with interest. “I thought you’d be claiming your prize by now,” he murmurs, a satisfied grin curling on his face when Hannibal’s hand tightens in his curls.

“Will, if you’d prefer to wait—”

That gets a laugh out of him. “Since when have you cared about that?” Will teases, raising a challenging eyebrow. “Now that you have me here, are you really going to pass up on the chance to have me when I’ve denied you for weeks?”

The growl he hears before he’s enveloped in Hannibal’s warmth is highly satisfying. Will lets himself be pushed back against the mattress and pulls Hannibal down for a kiss, both of them reveling in it for a few moments. It has been a while since they have been able to enjoy each other at a leisurely pace – with a child in the picture, there’s not a lot of opportunities for them to be affectionate with one another, and it’s nice to be able to just let himself float into this headspace where he knows Hannibal would take care of him and his needs.

It doesn’t take long for Hannibal’s hands to roam along Will’s body, and both of them are struggling to undress each other now, though it’s telling that Hannibal’s hands are tugging insistently at Will’s pants first. He helps Hannibal with it, smiling into their kiss, and when he finally manages to get his pants and boxers off, his hands immediately yank at Hannibal’s slacks, urging them off.

Hannibal pulls away then to finish undressing himself, Will sighing a little at the loss. In the light of the gloomy day, Will gives Hannibal an appraising look as the man loses each layer of clothing until he’s nude, his gaze appreciative. He doesn’t ask Hannibal if he still keeps up with his extracurricular “activities”, though it’s clear that he still keeps to his exercise regime if the man’s hard, muscled body is anything to go by.

Throwing his clothes aside, Hannibal gives Will a smile before he helps Will out of his shirt, the last remaining barrier between them. “You’re beautiful like this, mylimasis.”

Will huffs, turning away in a sudden fit of embarrassment. It’s hard not to squirm underneath Hannibal’s affectionate gaze, especially in more intimate moments like this where they are bared to each other, and he thinks he will never get used to it. “Less talk, more action, please.”

Hannibal chuckles and turns away to retrieve the bottle of lube he keeps in the bedside table on his side of the bed. He uncaps the bottle, smearing his palm with the liquid before he leans forward to kiss Will again. Hannibal’s callused hand grasps their erections together in a tight squeeze before he starts to stroke in a leisurely pace. Will gasps and moans into the kiss, his hips bucking in a silent plea for more. He circles his arms around Hannibal’s neck, using the leverage to arch himself into Hannibal’s capable hands.

Quickly losing himself to the sensations, Will nearly keens when he feels Hannibal’s hand leaving him, his eyes opening hastily to glare in protest. He only sees Hannibal’s beatific grin before he’s moaning again when he feels fingers prodding at the rim of his hole.

Will hisses in pleasure when Hannibal starts to open him up, his legs spreading wider for the other man. It’s only been a few weeks since they’ve done this, yet it never feels enough when he’s in the moment, when Hannibal touches him just so, when he can hear and see just how affected Hannibal is by their intimacy.

Though Will is the one spread open beneath the man, Hannibal is the one laid bare for Will’s studious eyes. He has always endeavored to avoid people’s eyes whenever he could, more so if he’s in the middle of fucking them (or the other way around, in this case). He sees too much even when he’s looking into the eyes of strangers – when he inevitably does it to his lovers, there is always a breaking point where it becomes too much for him, when sex is not just sex anymore, but a baring of souls, an exchange of perspectives and passions in the heat of the moment.

It’s always in the heat of the moment where Will sees just a little bit too much, and the emotions pouring into him engulfs him and backfires on his partners.

Hannibal has always loved to take him on his back, reveling at the chance to catalogue and memorize Will’s reactions, every little one of his tells whenever he’s in pain, in pleasure, or at the brink of his orgasm. While Will doesn’t mind (though he does find it somewhat overwhelming and embarrassing to imagine what he must look like in the throes of passion), he hasn’t returned the favor. He fears that he will be overcome with Hannibal’s intense scrutiny – he can’t even stomach it during their more intimate conversations, much less in the middle of sex.

Will does his best to avoid Hannibal’s eyes when the man suddenly pulls away his fingers and moves to sit up on the bed, Will feeling disoriented from the loss. He makes a confused sound when he feels Hannibal’s hands raising him bodily, only for the man to position Will to kneel before him, forcing Will to place his hands against Hannibal’s shoulders for balance. He scoffs when he realizes what he’s meant to do before he feels Hannibal’s hands grasping his hips to lower him down on his cock.

Digging his hands into Hannibal’s shoulders, Will grits his teeth when he feels the head of Hannibal’s cock breaching him slowly. He knows Hannibal is watching his face, so he closes his eyes and lets out a shuddering breath when Hannibal finally pushes himself inside Will, the delicious pressure making his body arch into it. He can’t meet Hannibal’s gaze, so he does his best to reciprocate with his limbs, his hands wrapped around the man’s back and his legs entwined over Hannibal’s lower body, urging him deeper.

Straddling Hannibal, he ignores Hannibal’s burning gaze and starts to move his hips, his mouth falling slack at the feeling of being so deeply penetrated in this position. Will moves in slow, searching movements, letting the pressure and pleasure build up inside him and focusing on his own needs. He can feel Hannibal’s hands digging into his hips, and he knows it will bruise later, knows that Hannibal would love the fact that he will be leaving so many imprints inside and outside of Will’s body.

Will gasps when Hannibal’s cock finally grazes his prostate, the stretch and the press against it making him moan. Moving more insistently now, he feels his sweat gathering at the base of his neck and his forehead, the rivulets falling onto their bodies as Hannibal starts a grueling rhythm, pleased and incensed by the noises spilling out of him. His knees are beginning to feel numb, though he can’t quite stop grinding himself against the other man – it feels too good and too right for him to be here right now, so entwined with Hannibal that he doesn’t know where he ends and where Hannibal begins, tangled as they are with one another.

It feels too good to be connected like this, to be overwhelmed by the sensations and the emotions he has been trying to tamp down. He feels tears springing to his eyes, and he hides his face in the crook of Hannibal’s neck, letting himself go almost pliant against the other man and his punishing thrusts. There’s no wielding in his emotions all of a sudden, the strength of his own feelings leaving him gasping in pain.

Will doesn’t quite know what to do with his own burgeoning realization that he’s in love with this man who has so thoroughly ensnared him in his trap before he realizes his mistake. There’s no other way to explain the way his heart aches for Hannibal, who has enchanted him from the very start of their short encounter, Will’s brash and frankly rude exit from Jack’s office so many moons ago only driving Hannibal to engineer more encounters between them. He couldn’t have known then, how Hannibal would push to entangle them further with his own ideals, his own view of Will’s becoming, not until it was too late. There may have been warning signs along the way, but Will was willfully blind, initially shocked, then pleased at the acceptance in Hannibal’s eyes whenever Will shared his darker side with him, his forts lowering day by day whenever he found himself in the man’s presence. By the time Will realizes his own irrational emotions, he’s too far gone to care that he’s in love with the Chesapeake Ripper.

The tears are silently flowing now, Will fighting back to swallow the truth while Hannibal continues to elicit more pleasure out of him.

Perhaps sensing Will’s emotional state, Hannibal pauses his movement, trying to catch his breath as he tries to seek out Will’s eyes. Will remains stubborn, refusing to lift his head up, his body shaking with invisible tremors, though he knows Hannibal feels it deep in his soul.

Snaring one of his hands in Will’s curls, Hannibal tugs at his hair, the movement full with intent instead of malice. Will can’t quite control the way his eyes fly open in shock at the sudden pull, his body jerking along with the motion. He stares helplessly into Hannibal’s eyes then, his tears trailing down his chin.

“Will,” Hannibal breathes out, the sound soft and gentle. “Have I hurt you?”

Will manages to scoff at that, though the sound is quickly followed by a choked sob, his eyes closing in consternation in a move to avoid Hannibal’s probing. He feels Hannibal’s hand gripping his curls more forcefully now, and he hisses in pain though his body clenches tight around Hannibal, their forgotten pleasure cresting again at the reminder of how connected they are at the moment.

Will’s eyes open in defiance, then, glaring at the man buried inside him. “What do you think, Hannibal?”

Hannibal blinks at the sudden question, his eyes searching Will’s face, not quite knowing what he’s looking for. “Will,” he murmurs, his voice laden with emotion. “Magnificent boy, tell me what’s holding you back. You’ve come so far to deny yourself now.”

Will laughs, shaking his head and letting the tears drop freely now. “You’ve hurt me in so many different ways, and I can’t even hate you for it,” he replies, throwing another hateful glare at Hannibal. The words are there, at the edge of his tongue, and he finally decides to let it loose. “I love you, Hannibal.”

He sees the moment the words land on the other man, Hannibal stiffening in surprise for a few seconds at the confession. There’s an unnatural stillness to him – even more so than usual – before he seems to come back to life in the blink of an eye, and Will sees a smile blooming on Hannibal’s face for a second before he’s pushed back into the mattress.

Huffing in surprise and mild annoyance at the sudden pressure on top of him, Hannibal preempts his glare and curse by kissing him soundly and resuming his thrusts. Will groans into the kiss, though he gives as good as he gets, biting into Hannibal’s lips at a particularly rough thrust.

Hannibal seems to revel in the pain, licking at the spot where he’s bitten when he leans back to look at Will. Hannibal laces his fingers with Will’s, his determination returning and his grip tight on their clasped hands as he picks up the pace.

Will thinks that Hannibal must’ve been merciful with him before this, because the renewed pace is anything but that. His legs are spread wide by the punishing thrusts, and Hannibal’s hands on his are almost painful, the pressure and pleasure quickly driving out any coherent thoughts from his mind. He barely registers his own sounds of pleasure and the guttural sounds coming out of Hannibal, the bed creaking underneath their vigorous activity.

“Will,” Hannibal whispers against his skin, biting and kissing Will’s throat in turn. “Will.”

Hannibal utters his name with absolute reverence and bliss that it’s hard not to be mystified by his own effect on the other man. He can’t quite make up his mind on how to respond to that, so he settles on vocalizing his pleasure, squeezing Hannibal’s hands in encouragement.

“Fuck, Hannibal,” he hisses, writhing and whimpering in turn when he can’t quite move from or into the onslaught of sensations. “I love you. Fuck if I know why, but I love you.”

He gets another biting kiss for that, Hannibal seemingly intent on driving Will insane from ecstasy.

“Mylimasis,” Hannibal whispers against his lips. “Aš tave myliu.”

Even if he can’t quite understand the foreign words and his brain is short-circuiting from the heart-pounding activities, there is no doubt in Will’s mind the meaning behind those words. As if reading his thoughts, Hannibal leans his forehead against Will’s, staring into his eyes as he repeats the words, his thrusts turning gentler now though they’re no less insistent.

“Will, my love,” he whispers again, his words almost lost in the cacophony of sounds in Will’s head, his heart swelling with every thrust. “Marry me.”

If he has any capacity to be more shocked than he currently is right now, Will suspects he might have a heart attack right at that moment.

As it is, the words just bring angry tears to his eyes, and his forts crumble in that single moment. He sobs in anger, arching his body to urge Hannibal’s more punishing pace, though Hannibal doesn’t budge and continues to his slow thrusts, enraging Will further. He can’t deal with Hannibal’s gentleness right now— he doesn’t want this— he can’t want this— he wants this so fucking badly

“Fuck you,” Will cries, closing his eyes in rage, in happiness, in bliss— “You fucking piece of— mmphh—”

Their words are lost then in the heat of the moment, both of them chasing their pleasure in more concrete ways, their moans lost in each other’s lips.

When Will finally comes, his orgasm crests and spills over them both and he groans in satisfaction as he feels Hannibal filling him in reciprocity.

 

By the time he finally regains his senses, Will is lying on his back still, their limbs an entangled mess as they regain their breaths. He feels sticky with sweat, lube, and come, but he can’t find it in him to remove himself from their conjoined state. One of Hannibal’s hands is in his curls now while the other is still clutching his hand; he can feel Hannibal licking his neck breathing him in, and wonders what the man smells on him as he comes down from his post-coital bliss.

“Do you really hate me cursing that much?” Will whispers, turning his face to seek out Hannibal’s eyes. “So much that you had to kiss me just to shut me up?”

Will loves counting the crow’s feet at the corner of Hannibal’s eyes when the man crinkles his face in amusement. “You were ruining the moment.”

Scoffing, Will glares at Hannibal. “I’m ruining the moment? You were the one who asked me to marry you with your dick buried in me,” he sputters indignantly. (Possibly there’s no way to sound indignant when said man’s cock is still evidently buried inside him.)

“You’re ruining the moment again, my love,” Hannibal says, though his tone is teasing. “It seemed… fitting.”

Will rolls his eyes, though he leans into Hannibal’s caress. “Did you mean it, really?” he asks, his voice soft.

“Do you doubt my love for you, still?”

He feels his face warming over, and he closes his eyes again; hiding himself away is second nature to him now. “There’s no real benefit to filing joint income taxes with me, you know. You won’t even get anything from me from an annulment.”

Hannibal chuckles against him, kissing Will’s jaw before he pulls out of Will, both of them hissing at the loss. Hannibal resettles them then, lying down on his side before he forces Will to do the same, both of them facing each other head-on now. Hannibal waits until Will focuses his eyes on him once more before he smiles at him.

“Not that I don’t appreciate the sentiment, though I doubt you’re really worried for me,” Hannibal says with a wide smile, “I have no ulterior motives in asking you to marry me. You know how much I care for you and Danielle – haven’t I showed you enough of myself, Will?”

Will swallows harshly, his eyes fixed on Hannibal’s. There are too many emotions playing behind Hannibal’s eyes, and all of them are mirroring Hannibal’s love for him, the man’s palpable obsession with him almost overwhelming. He doesn’t doubt Hannibal’s love at all, though he’s still surprised at the thought of someone wanting to marry him.

“What if you get tired of… this?” Will asks softly, gesturing at himself and Hannibal. “This play at domesticity? One day, you might realize that this was never enough to satiate your appetite.”

It’s a weak point to jab at, and Will knows it. Hannibal has given up his Ripper identity, has refrained from murdering and eating anyone after Abel Gideon was done for (not publicly, anyway), and has capitulated to every one of Will’s requests and whims just so he could have Will in his life again. But he needs to hear it from the man himself; he needs the reassurance that the commitment is real. He knows all too well how bad things can go if Hannibal decides that this infatuation he has is ultimately unfulfilling. He’s not too sure if he can extricate himself from that sort of heartbreak, seeing how his own father lost himself to his battle with alcohol and depression when his wife left him.

Abandonment requires expectations, and there’s no way he can bounce back from something like that so easily, remembering how low he felt when he first found out that Hannibal was the Chesapeake Ripper. Hell, Will even gave up his own morals to get what he wants in the end, covering for Hannibal when he should be turning the man in. There’s no telling what he would do if Hannibal decides that he’s done with Will and Danielle.

Hannibal’s eyes are soft with adoration as he takes in Will’s uncertainties. “Do you put so little faith in me, Will? Have I not given up everything that could jeopardize our lives together? I have gone blissfully unaware of my own solitude until I met you. You somehow scaled the walls of my palace, and taught me there’s another way to live beyond the trappings of my lonely kingdom. I don’t intend to return to that life. Not if it meant losing you or Danielle.”

Will lies still at the admission, studying Hannibal’s face intently until he’s satisfied with what he sees. He hesitantly reaches out his hand to Hannibal’s, squeezing it tightly before he gives Hannibal a radiant smile. “Then yes.”

His heart aches at the way Hannibal beams at him, the man radiating so much happiness that it hits him how two simple words can affect a man like Hannibal so. He is a little confused when Hannibal suddenly rises from his position, his movement suddenly coming alive with alacrity as he opens the bedside drawer on his side of the bed and rummages through it for a few seconds.

Will raises a tired eyebrow when he sees what Hannibal was looking for, the simple and elegant jewelry box thrust out to him on Hannibal’s palm. “You… had this planned,” he mutters, wearily glancing at the silver ring nestled within the small box.

“I did,” Hannibal admits, watching Will sit up with an effort, evidently pleased at how wrecked Will is from their earlier activities. “Though I was planning on unveiling it at a more… opportune moment.”

Hannibal’s tone sounds accusing, and Will lets out a bark of laughter when he realizes that he has basically ruined Hannibal’s plan to propose to him by wrecking the man’s fortified castle first. Serves him right, Will thinks gleefully.

The sight of Hannibal’s moue of displeasure at Will’s amusement drives more laughter out of him, and he feels tears pricking at the corner of his eyes again. He shakes his head ruefully, lifting out his hand and offering it to Hannibal.

“Well?” Will teases with a tilt of his eyebrow. “Put a ring on it, Hannibal.”

He thinks it’s the first time he sees Hannibal roll his eyes, the man obviously exasperated at Will’s lighthearted jokes. Will does smile more genuinely when Hannibal obeys, however, the slip of the ring on his finger a foreign feeling. He flexes his fingers, marveling at the perfect fit before he breaks into a wide grin and pulls Hannibal in for a kiss.

“I love you, you asshole.”

“Aš tave myliu, mylimasis.”

“So what was your original plan to propose to me? Take me in a helicopter over the Dolomites and hold me hostage until I say yes?”

Will.”

 

Will has never been one to admit that he’s impulsive – most of the things he has done in the past required some deliberation and intent, unless circumstances forced him to decide in the heat of the moment.

He thinks this particular one counts as one of those moments.

Will and Hannibal are standing across each other at the Palazzo Vecchio, Will’s heart beating fast at the sight of his soon-to-be husband, thinking incredulously that he must be out of his mind to do this thousands of miles away from Wolf Trap. There must be something in the tap water in Florence that must’ve induced him to say yes to Hannibal, though he doesn’t think he can really blame his current situation on anybody else other than himself.

There were many considerations Will had thought of when Hannibal initially suggested the idea of getting married in Florence. It was a tempting idea to get married with no pomp or ceremony, with only the two people who mattered most to him in attendance. Will had played the devil’s advocate, though, asking Hannibal about the various logistics involved if they were to get married immediately.

The most immediate thought that came to mind when Hannibal brought it up in bed the night after their engagement was the thought of what Beverly would do to him if she were to find out he basically eloped with Hannibal in Italy.

(“Bev would kill me,” he lamented while Hannibal worked his body open.

“We will hold a special dinner then, and I will only invite your closest confidantes, though I hope you wouldn’t mind if I invite Elaine Komeda,” Hannibal retorted smoothly before he kissed the argument out of Will’s mouth.)

With that particular point cleared out, Will had then turned to a more serious point of contention: where they would be living. Will knows how much Hannibal loves Danielle by now, but he still has his reservations when it comes to his pack of dogs – he doesn’t think Hannibal’s love would extend to include his seven dogs in his house.

Hannibal was quick to prove him wrong, of course.

(“My home is spacious enough to house every single one of your family members.”

“Where would they sleep? Also, they’ll ruin your study.”

“I have the utmost faith in your ability to teach them to behave themselves, considering how well-behaved they are in your own house. The yard at the back of my house is also a perfect place to house their shed. You can even build it for them yourself if you prefer. I can even stay in Wolf Trap, if you’re amenable, though I’d prefer to upgrade your kitchen if that’s the case. Or, if you’re really set against Baltimore, we can find another house elsewhere.”

A beat of silence.

“I’m not selling my house.”

“I don’t expect you to. I hope I’m still welcomed to visit whenever you want to go back to it for your fishing trips. A picnic with Danielle sounds excellent.”

A sigh.

“You have also expressed some concerns over not having the time to figure out where to send Danielle to school since you were busy for the past few weeks. I’m happy to say that an excellent acquaintance of mine has told me there’s room for one more student in one of his fast-track school programs for children under seven years old.”

“Please don’t tell me you’ve submitted an application for Danielle.”

“…the forms are in Baltimore if you want to fill them in and I will gladly send them on your behalf.”

“Dammit, Hannibal.”

“Is that a yes?”

Fine. But you need to put that Leda and the Swan painting somewhere else.”)

When he had exhausted all of his avenues (of which there were distressingly few), there was really nothing else for it than to go along with Hannibal’s plan. Conveniently enough, Hannibal managed to get the paperwork sorted out in only a single day in order for the two of them to get married, which really showed how much Hannibal had prepared for this outcome. Will has no doubt that Hannibal has also used his extensive connections to expedite the process to get them an immediate date and slot for their ceremony.

Will’s only remaining worry was honestly telling Danielle of his… predicament.

In the end, he needn’t have worried at all.

Hannibal had made himself scarce while Will sat down with his daughter a few nights after their “engagement” to tell her about his decision. He had been nervous all day at the thought of confusing her or, even worse, disappointing her with the news, and had tried to start the conversation many times before he finally blurted out the words to her.

“Dani, Hannibal and I are getting married.”

Danielle blinked for a few seconds, her eyes wide in surprise. “Really? When?”

“Well…” Will swallowed harshly. He can’t even bring himself to look into his daughter’s eyes; clearly, she’s the one gifted with the social skills out of the two of them. “In a few days, actually. But only if you’re okay with it.”

Danielle tilted her head wonderingly. “Why wouldn’t I be okay?”

Letting out a laugh, Will shrugged, finally allowing himself to stare at his daughter. She only seemed confused at the sudden announcement, and there was no judgment in her face otherwise. “It’s always been just the two of us.”

“And the dogs. And Alice. And Papa and Nana.”

“Right,” Will said, laughing, though he’s struck with the realization that his life wasn’t truly that solitary in the past year, even if he would like to imagine it as such. “Well. If Hannibal and I get married, it won’t just be just us and the dogs. You’ll have another daddy to look after you. We’ll probably be moving into Hannibal’s house, but Wolf Trap will still be there for us. We can still go fishing, and go visit Alice and Nana and Papa.”

Danielle nodded slowly, digesting the information. “I like my bedroom in Wolf Trap, but I like the bedroom in Hannibal’s home too,” she said, as if that’s all there is to it. Will wondered at how black and white things are for kids sometimes.

“You’re also going to start school soon, though I haven’t really decided when just yet... But if I do send you to school, you might get some questions on why you have two fathers instead of a father and a mother. Sometimes the adults might ask you the same questions, too.”

That took her longer to digest, and Will could almost see the thoughts turning in her mind as she tried to reconcile the idea of having two fathers and a dead mother. She finally nodded after a long moment of silence, during which Will’s heart was in his throat, not looking forward to the prospect of letting Danielle know the discrimination that she and the rest of them would be facing from certain parts of society.

“Alice told me that family life is our business and no one else’s,” Danielle said, struggling to get the words out. “Bev said that too. And she told me that Hannibal made you very happy.” She gazed up at Will then, searching his eyes. “Is it true, daddy?”

Will felt his face and neck flushing in response to that, silently chastising and thanking Beverly in equal measures. “Well… he does.” He took Danielle’s hand in his and smiled at his wonderful daughter. “I’m really, really happy.”

That seemed to clear her doubts on whatever it was that she had been thinking of as she mulled things over. “Okay.” Her face brightened as she realized something. “Can I be a flower girl at your wedding?”

Will chuckled at the question, shaking his head in fondness. “We’ll get you a whole outfit for the big day, okay? I think Hannibal can make you a flower crown. Is that really all the question you have for me?”

Danielle wrinkled her nose and frowned at him. “Do I have to call Hannibal daddy, too?”

“Yeah, that might get a little confusing. I don’t know, we can ask him about that later.”

So the discussion turned out to be fortunate and even a little illuminating, and for that Will was thankful.

He knows that Danielle will likely stumble upon some questions and concerns sometime in the future when it comes to Will and Hannibal’s relationship with each other, especially when she hits a more impressionable and tumultuous age (Will is not looking forward to her teenage years). But in the meantime, all he can do is vow that he will help her get through whatever problems she has, hopefully with the help of Hannibal as well, if they’re going to do this parenting thing together.

Since the talk with Danielle was concluded in a more or less satisfactory manner, the last and most important roadblock to their marriage is basically gone.

And so that’s how he finds himself in the Palazzo Vecchio one week into their vacation in Italy, standing in front of Hannibal with their hands clasped together tightly, the pressure in his hands and his heart almost too painful to bear.

They are getting married at the Palazzo Vecchio, with Danielle acting as their flower-girl and witness to the ceremony. The only other people at the ceremony are the civil officer who is there to wed them, the local interpreter and two other witnesses who are only there because they are legally required by Italian law to be there in order for Will and Hannibal to get married.

Will is only half-listening to the officer standing in front of them while the man is reciting the words for the ceremony in Italian. In truth, he’s really staring at Hannibal, unwilling to tear his eyes away from the other man for a change.

The foreign words wash over him, and he sees the emotions in Hannibal’s eyes reflecting back at him and he thinks that’s all he needs at that moment. He finds himself squeezing Hannibal’s hands and beaming at him at the end of the ceremony, his own emotions brimming at the surface for once, happiness clear in their visage in that moment.

Danielle squeals in joy when she sees them putting the rings on each other’s finger, and clearly clueless of any impropriety she might display, she leaps to them at the ceremonial altar immediately after, spreading out her hands for Will.

Will laughs and bends down to take her into his arms, kissing her forehead affectionately before Hannibal rushes in to do the same and enveloping them into an embrace. There are no words needed just then, the three of them content to bask in each other’s warmth.

 

They are at the tail-end of their vacation now, and Will is feeling just a little bit disappointed that they will be leaving for Baltimore again by tomorrow evening.

The last four days after he’s hitched himself to one Hannibal Lecter passed by in a blur of happiness. Their trip was basically a honeymoon trip now, though Hannibal didn’t make any alterations to their trip itinerary regardless of their newly wedded status. His husband did make sure that Will was fully satisfied every night in bed, however – though to be fair that’s really something par for the course for the two of them, whenever they find that they could get away with it.

Will savors every single moment now, unwilling to let it go. There’s something about this trip, the fact that they are so ensconced in their own bubble in Florence, that makes it seem like a vivid lucid dream instead of something that’s actually happening to him. He finds himself constantly seeking out Hannibal and Danielle’s hand at every turn, trying to gauge if he’s awake or still dreaming.

At present, the three of them are standing in front of Botticelli’s Primavera, Danielle staring in awe at the painting as she stands between Will and Hannibal. The Uffizi Gallery is teeming with tourists and tour guides alike, but there are fewer people now as the closing hour creeps in on them. Hannibal has apparently saved this painting for last, and Will has felt the anticipation building throughout their visit to the gallery until they are finally situated in front of Hannibal’s final goal.

Danielle leaves their side for a moment, walking closer to the painting before she sits on the bench in front of it and stares up at the larger-than-life art while Will and Hannibal look on from their vantage point.

“I used to sit in front of this painting for hours,” Hannibal explains, his words hushed and almost reverent as his eyes roam over the art in front of them, entranced. “Hours spent toiling away to sketch a likeness for it, to try and bring it to life.”

Will brings himself closer to Hannibal, letting their shoulders touch. “What is it about this particular one that captured your imagination?”

Turning to him, Hannibal gives him a soft smile. “Do you know the story of Zephyrus and Chloris?” he asks, gesturing to the two figures in the right-hand corner of the painting.

Giving Hannibal a side-eye glance and a smirk, Will returns his gaze to the Primavera. “The god who takes the mortal away, for their own pleasure and amusement, only to show some sort of remorse and made the mortal a deity later?”

He feels Hannibal’s amusement radiating off him before he deigns to correct Will’s interpretation. “A god who sees a potential in a mortal, who coaxes that potential out of her and guides her into becoming a deity in her own right. Chloris is then transformed as Flora, emerging and blooming into her own spring.”

Understanding dawns on Will in that moment, and he barely reigns in his laughter, managing to turn it into a scoff instead. He directs his half-hearted glare at Hannibal, who’s looking at him with a mixture of amusement and fondness.

“You’re saying you’re the god who’s been ‘coaxing’ my darkness out of me and turning me into a deity as a result?” Will murmurs, keeping his voice low. “That you… stole me away and made me into who I am today?”

“Do you not feel the change? I see you now more clearly than ever, now that you’ve dropped your pretenses and your shields – I see you as something divine, something to worship.”

Will’s glare is stronger now, a warning in it. “Don’t you start,” he whispers. “I don’t think the people working here would be too pleased with overt displays of affection or murder, and I can honestly swing both ways right now.”

Hannibal’s grin only grows wider at the threat. “I wish you could see how radiant you are now, Will. Your eyes are the clearest blue I’ve ever seen, now that there’s no more doubt left in them.”

Sighing, he doesn’t deign that with a response and laces their fingers together instead, knowing there’s no point in refuting the statement. Will smiles when he feels Hannibal’s finger caressing the wedding band on his finger, and he returns the caress with a gentle squeeze.

He stares at Danielle then, who’s still studying the various figures in the large artwork before her, seemingly enchanted by it.

Will’s eyes are fixed on Danielle and the artwork, but he feels Hannibal’s burning gaze on him, feels the man’s captivated stare on him instead of the Primavera, feels the warmth from Hannibal’s hand seeping into his, branding him with Hannibal’s indelible mark.

He knows with certainty then, the fierce love that has taken root inside him and is blossoming into something monstrous will never truly leave him, not now that Hannibal has shown that he will do anything and everything to ensure that Will can never turn away from him.

A normal person would be horrified at this realization, but Will has never been normal. He has embraced that aspect of himself long ago, though he finds himself feeling isolated by it. To have someone like Hannibal crashing into his life with his unshakeable certainty and see him so entranced by Will and all his idiosyncrasies is exhilarating, the feeling something close to salvation.

His spring has bloomed eternal by Hannibal’s hands, and he finds that he’s intoxicated by it.