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To say that Will was catapulted into fatherhood would be putting it mildly.

He had just gotten used to the daily routine that comes with working as a professor at Quantico when he received a message from Joanna. He didn’t have many close, long-lasting relationships, connections being a little hard to maintain when your brain is looking inside killers’ minds. That someone from his past relationship had decided to call him out of the blue meant something important was afoot.

He hates being right.

 

“I have a child?” Will asks, baffled. He probably looks like a deer caught in headlights, judging by the expression on Joanna’s face.

Joanna smiles, her eyes betraying her weary condition. “I’m sorry I had to break it to you like this,” she croaks out, hands twitching on the hospital bed as she stares sadly at Will. “You have to know I have no other choice.”

Will swallows, his mind still processing the fact that he has a daughter. “How… how old are they?”

“She’ll be four this year. I… I have no one else to turn to. My parents are struggling with finance as it is with my treatment, and they can’t afford to take care of Danielle after… well. She has nowhere else to go when I’m gone.”

There’s a long silence as Will digests the information. He doesn’t doubt that she’s telling the truth, but being told he has a daughter only minutes before finding out that said daughter would be entrusted to him after Joanna’s death takes some time getting used to.

He’s a father. An absent father, but a father nonetheless.

“It’s a huge responsibility,” he whispers, his hands automatically cradling Joanna’s when she starts to cough. The chemotherapy would only give her so long to live, and she’s at the end of the line; Will can hear and see it in her tired words and the exhausted lines creasing her face.

“Please.” Her voice breaks, eyes wet with tears. “I’m sorry. I just need to know she’ll be in good hands.”

Will sighs wearily, closing his eyes to avoid seeing Joanna’s.

“Will, please,” she whispers, her pleas even more desperate.

Will knows his answer. He was only prolonging the inevitable.

“I’ll do it.”

 

Having a child is a momentous undertaking – he knew this when he accepted his fate, but he still feels unprepared for what’s about to come. And yet he couldn’t refuse Joanna. He didn’t want the child to be thrown into an orphanage or have a lacking childhood. He’s had enough of his own experience to know that those things could have a lasting impact on the rest of a child’s life.

Danielle had looked at him with curious eyes when she met Will for the first time in Joanna’s hospital room. She seemed to have accepted her fate as well, and Will vowed to himself then that he would do all that he could to make sure that their trust in him was not misplaced.

She looked petite for her age, her dark curls tumbling down her shoulders, tied back by a ribbon. Her eyes weren’t judgmental, but Will feels the heavy weight of accusation on his shoulders anyway.

 

When Joanna passes away, Will attends the service, blending in with the other mourners. He feels guilty for something he’s had no hand in.

Joanna’s parents are sobbing quietly while Danielle looks on into her grave, silent and severe. They come to him after, thanking him tearfully for taking on Joanna’s last wish, as if Will could’ve refused it. They make promises that Will can come and see them any time he feels like bringing Danielle for a visit. Danielle is a silent, mournful shadow next to them, sneaking glances at Will as he speaks with her grandparents.

He walks away from the funeral with a daughter in tow.

They’re both silent in the car, Will mostly anxious at the idea of taking his daughter to his house for the first time. They had “socialized” at the hospital most of the time, since Joanna was bedridden and that was the only neutral ground available. They haven’t talked much even in those times, and the silence is awkward and heavy now. The journey to Wolf Trap takes them almost three hours, Danielle falling into a restless sleep as the sceneries pass by.

When they finally make it, Danielle is still keeping her silent vigil, her eyes observant as Will shows her inside the house.

He doesn’t know what kind of impression his house would make on a four-year-old girl. Considering that he had slept in the bed in the middle of the living room throughout his bachelor’s life, he had to refurbish certain parts of the house to make sure that it’s habitable for Danielle, and he hopes it’s enough.

Will is happy to see Danielle’s eyes brightening when she is promptly greeted by five dogs upon entering, the dogs barking happily as they shuffle around them both. He’s further heartened to hear her soft laughter as one of the dogs—Zoe—licks her wandering fingers.

“You have so many dogs!” she exclaims, grinning at him as if she’s seen the sun for the first time.

Will thinks things won't turn out to be so terrible after all.

 

Things were hectic for the first few months, and he had decided to take a leave of absence for a month under some flimsy pretext of a family emergency (which is true enough, but no one needed to know the details). It was just his luck that he has accumulated a lot of leave in the past few years working at Quantico, and his superiors had been accommodating enough to let him go without much comment.  He’s thankful that he was never accepted into the FBI. There was no way he could have handled the workload with what’s required of him with Danielle in his life now.

Will had run into several problems in trying to care for a child in those first few weeks; he had memories of his dad attempting the same with him, and he tried not to think about how well that turned out for him (that is, not at all).

Danielle was not a difficult child, considering the circumstances. She had seemed closed-off and sad when she had first come to live with him, but the dogs had helped her with one of the two things at least. She had learned to slowly accept Will and the pack, and the dogs had no trouble in involving her in their playtimes.

Night times were a different matter, however.

When Danielle came into his life, he had finally overhauled and cleared the unused rooms at the second level of his house. He had moved his bed from the living room to the master bedroom, and he bought a small and sturdy bedpost for Danielle’s bedroom, which is just next to his.

When she first moved in, Will had shown her into the room and hoped that she would be able to feel comfortable in the house, lacking as it may be. She had smiled at him that first night; if the smile seemed forced, he didn’t comment on it. He left her room awkwardly, preparing himself for sleep.

He wasn’t surprised to hear her crying in the dark that first night, her soft sobs sounding forlorn and loud in the silence. He had gotten out of bed and slowly made his way to her room, knocking softly before entering. She had looked at him with tearful eyes, both of them silent and awkward around each other still.

Ultimately, he decided to approach the bed slowly, telegraphing his intention to embrace her. There was a split second of silence where Will feared he would be rejected, but the moment had passed and Danielle had hugged him tearfully, her sobs racking her body as she cried and cried.

By the end of that night, Will had decided to accompany her until she fell asleep in his arms.

The next night, Will had arranged for one of the dogs to sleep with her. By the end of the week, Zoe had an acclaimed spot on her bed, the rest of the dogs relegated back to their beds at the fireplace unless Danielle requested for them.

It was rewarding to see Danielle laughing happily in the second month of her stay in Wolf Trap. Will had coaxed her with piano lessons, hoping it would distract her and give her something to look forward to. He had been out of practice, but they both had fun learning to enjoy their shared activities.

Once he returned to work, he made excuses whenever he can when his superiors requested his involvement in a few cold cases. Even if he was interested in some of them (the Chesapeake Ripper being one of the more interesting and elusive out of the lot, something drawing Will to his evocative “displays”), profiling has never appealed to him after the FBI rejected his application on the grounds of mental instability. Let them suffer for their own incompetence, Will thinks darkly.

He has finally accepted his lot in life, content at the sight of his daughter running around the grounds as the dogs chase her, the girl letting out delighted shrieks every now and then. She’s happy to entertain the dogs, and Will’s happy to let her run out of her energy reserves.

There’s a new addition to the pack at Danielle’s persistent begging: a stray that stumbled onto their porch after a particularly heavy downpour. Will had yielded because he knew he was fighting a lost cause, and Buster had happily joined their little family.

He thinks he could be very happy with just this.

 

That is, until Jack comes calling.

The man practically ambushes him after one of his classes, and there’s a sense of disquiet growing inside him as they talk about nothing at all, Will waiting for Jack’s true purpose in seeking him out.

Jack is acting unrepentantly familiar with him, sussing him out with a few choice words at Will’s insistence on teaching instead of profiling – Will would retort that with the FBI’s evaluation of him being too unstable to join them in the first place, but his heart is not in it, and he truly doesn’t care enough to argue with the other man.

There’s a moment in between their conversation where Jack adjusted Will’s glasses, the presumptuousness behind the action making Will bristle with anger and annoyance, his jaw clenched tightly to avoid saying something he would regret later. Will had never wanted to punch someone so much until now.

Will’s scowl is a permanent fixture on his face these days – a deterrent to keep most people at an arm's length, his students included – but his scowl grows heavier when Jack finally spits out his real intention.

“You can empathize with narcissists and sociopaths,” Jack begins.

“I can empathize with anybody,” Will retorts. “Less to do with personality disorders than an active imagination.”

“Can I borrow your imagination?”

Will sighs. He thinks of his daughter who will be turning five-year-old soon, at how well they’re doing almost a year later, at how he has been keeping silent on her existence (not that there was anyone in his life other than Alana to admit this to, and Will could count on his hands the number of times they’ve had conversations this past year).

He grinds his teeth as he tries to think of an excuse, anything other than admitting outright that he has a daughter and a life he’s actually happy with. He doesn’t want anyone else intruding into the life they had painstakingly constructed together.

“We need your help on a case. Eight girls abducted from eight different Minnesota campuses,” Jack continues, taking Will’s silence as acceptance.

Will’s head snaps up at the information, his thoughts immediately turning dark as he imagines what could have happened to them. It doesn’t take much for him to empathize with the missing girls’ parents these days.   

He huffs in resignation as he signals for Jack to continue.

 

Will wraps a hand around Elise’s throat lovingly, the motion shockingly familiar to him. The girl looks so fragile under him, her slow breathing indicating her deep sleep.  

She startles awake at his touch, her eyes wide with fear at the sudden tightening of his fingers around her throat.

“Daddy—” Danielle chokes out—

“You’re Will Graham.”

Will startles at the voice, his vision breaking and clearing as he comes out of his stupor. He looks at the dark-haired woman who had spoken, her eyes keen as she stares back at him with an intrigued look.

“You’re not supposed to be in here,” Will mutters, only barely aware of what he’s saying as he clears his head from the image of him strangling his own daughter.

He’s clearing his thoughts as he answers the woman’s persistent questions, Jack and two other men entering the fray of their conversation as Will tries to focus on Elise instead of his daughter.

He listens to their speculations, his mind racing even as he continues to argue with Jack the nature of Elise’s death. “Whatever he did to the others, he couldn’t do it to her,” he states, his eyes wandering; Danielle’s corpse on the bed is distracting. Will takes a deep breath and count to ten, slowly opening his eyes to see Elise back on the bed, still very much dead.

“Is this his golden ticket?” Jack asks, resigned.

“No. This is an apology.”

Four pairs of eyes turn to stare at him in disbelief.

Will swallows his thoughts. He needs to go back home. “Does anyone have any aspirins?”

 

When he finally gets back to Wolf Trap, it is close to ten at night. He takes his newly acquired dog out of his car and enters his home with Winston in tow.

“Daddy! You’re back!” Danielle shrieks, both of them laughing as Will kneels down to hug her.

“Hey, pumpkin, sorry I’m late,” Will says, ruffling her hair and kissing her cheeks. “I brought you Winston as an apology.”

Winston barks on cue, Danielle’s eyes lighting up immediately at the greeting. She promptly sits down in front of Winston, holding out her hand for him to sniff; the girl is truly well-versed in how to deal with dogs now. It’s one of the things he’s actually proud of.

“Another one, Will? Really?”

His head snaps to the woman smiling indulgently at them.

Alice was the closest thing he had to a neighbor, their house only ten minutes away by car. There was an occasion when Danielle had suddenly developed a high fever earlier on in his care, and in his panic, he had driven to the nearest neighbor’s house to seek advice. Alice had been sympathetic and helpful, assisting Will in any way she can in the next ensuing days to make sure Danielle would recover.

She had taken a shine to Danielle when they met a few more times afterwards, and had offered to care for her when Will is away, happy to indulge in a child in absence of her own. Alice had been Danielle’s unofficial babysitter and his consistent ally ever since. He has had to rely on her a number of times now, especially when duty calls him away from Wolf Trap.

This was the first time he’s had to travel so far away from Virginia for his work, and he’s already regretting the fact that his work will probably take him away from Danielle more and more if he doesn’t set Jack straight in the future.

He gives her an unapologetic shrug, stretching and groaning as he stands. “He was lost and running around on the side of the road,” he says. “What was I supposed to do?”

“Maybe say something like ‘I already have six dogs and a daughter, but I can take you to the pound instead’?” she teases. “How was work?”

Will groans at the question. “It was… tough,” he cedes. “I’m sorry you had to stay here for so long. I will definitely make it up to you one of these days.”

Alice waves it aside, smiling. “There’s no problem. Dani’s been well-behaved all day.”

“Yes, I have,” Danielle quips from where she was sitting. It seems that Winston’s taken a liking to her, and the rest of the dogs have surrounded them, sniffing each other in curiosity while Will and Alice were talking. “I finished my reading and my piano lessons, and we played with the dogs after lunch. I also took my nap today!”

Alice chuckles. “A heavy lunch and running around with dogs after will do that to you.”

Will grins at Danielle before turning back to Alice. “Do you want a drink before you go?”

Alice shakes her head. “I better get back; I’m getting too old for late night drinks these days. I’ll see you two later.” She moves to Danielle, hugging her briefly before she pets the dogs crowding the girl. “Let me know when you need me again, Will.”

“I’ll hold you to that,” he says, his smile weary.

Will sees her to the door and waves goodbye until her car disappears from the driveway. He turns back into the house, smiling at the sight of the dogs still milling about Winston, curious at his presence.

“Daddy, where’d you find him?” Danielle asks. “Why is there a rope around his neck?”

“I found him on the road on the way back,” Will says, calling the other dogs away as he leads Winston outside for a wash. “I think someone’s mistreated him. I’ll cut the rope away now. Want to help me give him a bath?”

“Yes!” Danielle says excitedly, jumping up to get out the dogs’ supplies. They work together for half an hour, Danielle enthusiastic in scrubbing off the dirt from Winston’s furs, although she was content to let Will dry Winston off after.

He tucks her into bed later, once the dogs are settled downstairs.

“Daddy, I want a bedtime story,” Danielle says, yawning softly, snuggling a little under the covers.

“Aren’t you tired, sweetheart?”

“Yes, but I still want a story,” she pouts. “I haven’t seen you all day, and I miss you. Please?”

Will relents—another form of apology—and settles down next to her on the bed. He rests his head on the pillow, comforted by her presence as he reads her favorite tale in soft tones.

He watches her for a long time when she finally falls asleep, his lips curved into a soft smile. He marvels at how much his life has changed since Danielle had come into his life. It wasn’t what he had prepared for, considering his lonely existence for the past few decades. Though she had not come to him in the best circumstances, they had found comfort in each other since. He had never thought he could have this moment.

He kisses her forehead before getting up and makes his way to his bedroom.

Here’s hoping he manages to close the Minnesota Shrike case soon, because he’s not looking forward to finding out what will happen if he doesn’t.

 

Of course, things don’t go as planned.

Jack was unhappy with their lack of progress; it wasn’t enough that Will was profiling for him and going to the crime scenes, he had to drag Will to the autopsies for a second opinion, treating him like a lapdog.

He’s gotten to know Beverly, Price and Zeller after he’s had to spend a few hours with them as they dissect Elise Nichols’ body, looking for more clues. They still stare at him, mistrustful and a little disbelieving whenever he spouts out his observations. Will tells himself it doesn’t matter what they think of him, all that matters is that he solves this as soon as possible to get Jack off his back.

The breaking point was this: Jack’s brought in a psychiatrist to psychoanalyze him. Someone called Dr Hannibal Lecter.

He had stormed out of Jack’s office, furious enough not to call Jack to apologize later. Which was just as well, since Jack dragged him out to Minnesota again to look at a freaking field kabuki, another young girl impaled on the antlers like an offering to the open skies.

Will sees immediately that this is not the Minnesota Shrike. Jack, of course, disagrees. With how much he calls Will for consultations, the man never seemed happy with the words coming out of Will’s mouth.

His mood didn’t fare any better when he wakes up the next day to find Dr Lecter on the other side of the door. He’s barely decent as he answers the door, the knock on the door having woken him up from a nightmare where he had impaled Danielle on a bed of antlers.

“Where’s Crawford?” he asks, frowning.

“He’s deposed in court. I will be accompanying you instead, at least for today. May I come in?”

He lets Lecter in reluctantly, enticed by the smell of food that the doctor has brought with him. He puts on some pants as a courtesy, as much as he doesn’t care for such decorum (and speaking of that, who brings breakfast to a stranger in a motel room anyway?). But he figures some pants are in order.

He remains silent as Lecter spouts his speech on being careful of what he puts inside his body like it’s not a euphemism for something else. The man is actually plating their meals, all prim and proper. Will indulges him and pours coffee for them both. He notes that Hannibal brings his own utensils and that he does not tolerate plastic cups (of course he brought his own china tableware, all of them shined and perfect to a fault).

He’s slightly mollified by the other man’s presumptuous actions when he bites into his breakfast, the flavors from the sausage bursting inside his mouth. He hums appreciatively around his mouthful of food.

“I would apologize for my analytical ambush but I know I will soon be apologizing again and that would lose its meaning in the long run. So I will use my apologies sparingly,” Lecter is saying, finishing his own plating in a flourish and taking a bite of the scrambled eggs.

“Just keep it professional,” Will mutters. He hates the thought of this man knowing anything about him intimately, intuiting and psychoanalyzing his every thought.

“Or we could socialize like adults.” The line delivered with a wry smile.

“I don’t find you that interesting.”

“You will.”

Will pauses at that, his eyes flicking up to meet the doctor’s for a second before he resumes eating. The other man’s expressions are inscrutable, the subtle movement of his mouth and a minute quirk in his brow the only tell-tale signs he’s feeling anything at all. His façade is a solid concrete barrier whereas Will’s forts are made of barbed wires, and Will couldn’t help but be begrudgingly impressed by it.

Lecter made good on his promise on his analytical ambush by pushing for Will’s thoughts on the copycat killer. He’s almost amused at how easy it is to talk to the man. Lecter seems to ignore his biting tone, choosing to focus on his words instead. At least someone seems to believe his claims that the Minnesota Shrike and the Copycat Killer are not one and the same.

There’s a moment of levity when the doctor described Jack seeing Will as a “fragile little teacup”; Will couldn’t help the laugh bursting out of him. He feels like he hasn’t genuinely laughed like this in years with anyone else other than Danielle. The doctor seems pleased by the momentary victory, Will finally seeing a genuine smile on his face.

“I’m curious, doctor. How do you see me?” he asks, grinning still.

Lecter’s stare is disconcerting, his eyes intent. “The mongoose I want under the house when the snakes slither by.” 

Will is, for once, at a loss at what to say in response.

“Finish your breakfast,” Lecter says, his voice subtly commanding.

Well, Will thinks, something waking inside him at that tone. He’s almost intrigued, despite everything that’s happened.

 

He shouldn’t have accepted Jack’s invitation.

Garrett Jacob Hobbs’ house was a bloodbath born out of Will’s actions. He’s shaking at the sight of Abigail bleeding out onto the kitchen floor, startling when Lecter pushes his hands out of the way. His eyes are unfocused, but he can make out Lecter’s calm features as the other man works to stop Abigail from bleeding to death.

He couldn’t help seeing the intrusive image of Abigail’s blood seeping on the floor, coating every surface, even hours later when he sees Abigail lying on the hospital bed, Lecter fast asleep in the seat next to her.

He takes a deep breath before taking the other chair on Abigail’s side, his gaze falling on both of them. The sounds of machines beeping in the back of his mind lulls him into a transitory calm.

He thinks of Abigail on the kitchen floor, lying in a pool of her own blood, her eyes glassy as she gasps and struggles to live. He thinks of Lecter’s sure, steady hands on Abigail’s throat, the man remaining at Abigail’s side throughout the whole ordeal while Will is falling apart at the thought of Danielle bleeding out from his hands.

He hasn’t seen Danielle in two days.   

Will stares at Hannibal’s hand curled around Abigail’s and his heart aches.

Chapter Text

Will had requested to take a few days of leave after the incident in Minnesota, asking Alana to cover for him. She was only too happy to help, stopping short from congratulating him on a decision well made. He couldn’t really fault her for that; he’s always given her the impression that he’s careless for his own well-being.

He couldn’t afford to do that now.

He had to field off Jack’s requests for him to go to Hobbs’ cabin, Jack arguing in his persistent way until he realized how futile it was. Will refuses to budge on his stance. He hands in his report to Jack before shutting off his laptop and putting his phone on silent for the rest of the day.

Danielle squeals happily when Will tells her he’ll be home with her for the next two days.

“Daddy! Can we please, please, please go fishing?” she asks, practically bouncing in excitement.

He smiles at her. “You know what, I think we can,” he agrees. “How about we go tomorrow? You can bring your picnic blanket and a whole spread if you want.”

Danielle mulls it over, her mouth pursing. “Okay, I can bring a book too,” she says, grinning widely. “Oohh, can the dogs come with us?”

Will chuckles. “No, I think they would run into trouble in the waters. It’s probably better if it’s just the two of us.”

“Awww,” she pouts. “Not even Winston?”

“Winston? What happened to Buster? I thought he’s your favorite.”

“Winston’s my new favorite, but I love them all,” she declares.

“Okay kiddo, you get one favorite you can bring with us, but you have to make sure you’re looking after them when we’re there.”

More squeals of delight. “I can’t wait for tomorrow!”

“Let’s make sure we survive today first. I’m thinking of taking a long nap. Want to join me?”

“No thanks, daddy, but you can nap while I play with the dogs, right?”

“…Am I going to wake up with the dirt all over the house again, Dani?”

A telling silence.

He sighs in defeat. “Okay, just let me know when you’re done so we can make dinner later.”

Danielle crackles into peals of laughter as she gets ready to put on her shoes, the dogs bursting into action already.

 

Surprisingly, the fishing trip went off without a hitch. Danielle picked Winston as their companion, which was perceptive of her since the dog barely made a fuss at being made to sit and doze off next to Danielle. She had made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for snacks and brought a few books for her picnic spread while Will fished. It calmed him to know that she and Winston were nearby while he slipped into the stream, his gaze wandering over to them occasionally.

It’s late in the afternoon when the three of them make it back to the house, the rest of the dogs excited at their return. Danielle immediately takes them outside again for another chase around their little plot of land. Will can’t imagine where she gets her energy from, but he smiles at her shrieks of laughter as he puts his fishing gear aside and prepares to gut the fishes he had caught for lunch.

Lunch is a quiet affair, Danielle talking most of the time while the dogs lay watchful around them for any scraps of food thrown their way (Danielle takes pity on them, and Will’s too indulgent to care).

They both lie down for a nap on the couch by the windows, the low setting sun lulling them into a gentle sleep.

It’s as close to happiness as Will thinks he can get.

 

As always, the calm doesn’t last for long.

Will only remembers that he had put his phone on silent mode late at night once he tucked Danielle into bed. He sighs, looking at the messages and missed calls in resignation as he opens the call logs.

Several missed calls from Jack (not a surprise, Jack always pushes his luck), Alana (also not a surprise, no one else ever calls him all that much), and an unknown number. He frowns for a while and decides to tackle the messages next.

He opens Alana’s first, just to spite Jack.

> Sorry I had to call you while you’re on leave. I didn’t want you to be ambushed.

> You might know by now but Jack’s calling you in for a psych eval since you’ll be cleared for active duty. It’s entirely your call. I won’t be doing the eval if it makes you feel better. Please call me if you need to.

The sigh he lets out is entirely defeated. He lies back on his bed, thinking of the implications of the message. Though he’s slightly grateful that she’s not the one doing the evaluation, he has a sinking feeling in his stomach that he knows who would be doing it instead. The unknown number makes sense now.

After much deliberation (as if he could put off the news by not reading it), he opens Jack’s message begrudgingly.

> I want you to go back in the field, but I told the board I’m recommending a psych evaluation. Hannibal Lecter would be a good fit for you since your relationship is not personal. Call me when you read this.

He really hates it when he’s right.

Technically he’s still on leave until tomorrow, and he’s not about to give in to Jack until then, at least. Knowing the man, he would probably push Will to his breaking point all in the name of justice. He’s not up to dealing with that right now.

He ignores the message.

 

“Daddy! Daddy, wake up!”

Will groans, trying to turn but finding himself entangled in the sheets, Danielle having bounced on the bed trying to wake him up. “Oh God, what time is it.”

“I don’t know but I’m up. Come on daddy, I’m hungryyy.”

Will sighs, stretching himself before he finally gets up, smiling at Danielle’s toothy grin. She’s probably been up for only a few minutes, judging by the state of her messy hair. “Can’t you let me sleep in on my off days?” he grumbles, though there’s no heat behind his words. “Why don’t you go and let the dogs out while I wash up?”

Danielle beams happily and trots downstairs to let the dogs out.

They both go through their normal morning routine, Will turning on the coffee machine before starting breakfast. Danielle’s happily dancing outside on the porch, Buster humoring her while the other dogs drift around Will, hoping for some morsels of food.

It’s as they start to dig into their breakfast that Will hears the unmistakable sound of a car engine approaching their house. He frowns, and Danielle stops eating, staring at him in curiosity.

“Keep on eating, Dani, I’m just going to see who it is.”

He makes his way to the door, eyebrows raised once he sees who it is.

“Hey, Graham,” Beverly calls out, getting out of her car holding a brown paper bag.

“Hey,” he says, smiling a little when several of his dogs rushed out of the house to swarm around her, clearly not thinking of her as an intruder when Will doesn’t react adversely to her presence.

She laughs good-naturedly when the dogs start sniffing her and tries to do the same to the paper bag she’s holding above her head. “Hey, whoa! Okay, I did not expect to get attacked by a pack of dogs this morning. How many do you actually have?”

He whistles for the dogs, and they disperse as she makes her way to Will. “What are you doing here?”

“Can’t I drive for almost an hour just to see you with no ulterior motives, none whatsoever?” she teases, thrusting out the paper bag to him.

He opens it, the smell of freshly baked doughnuts wafting through the bag. “Uh,” he says, flustered. “Not that I don’t appreciate it, but…”

Beverly laughs at his expression but falls silent instantly when she sees Danielle approaching, the girl’s eyes peeking curiously from behind Will. “Oh.”

Will sighs. There’s no way Beverly’s going to buy any excuses he can think of, and he hasn’t had nearly enough coffee to think of any. “Dani,” he says to his daughter, smiling slightly. “This is Beverly. She’s a friend from work.”

Danielle had been hesitant, but she beamed at Will’s introduction. “Oh! I never see anyone from your work, daddy. Hi Beverly.” She’s clearly got her mother’s enthusiasm and friendliness; there’s no way Will would have taken to others as fast as she can.

Beverly’s mouth is slightly agape with wonder, but she quickly recovers with a soft laugh. “Well,” she says. “Hi! Dani, was it?”

“Daddy, you didn’t introduce me!”

“Why don’t you introduce yourself, then?”

She sighs, shaking her head at him. “Hi, Beverly, I’m Danielle. Daddy and Alice call me Dani.”

“Hi Danielle,” Beverly says, reaching out to shake her petite hands. “I’m Beverly. You can call me Bev if I can call you Dani?”

“Okay! I really like your name, Bev.”

“Aww, thanks Dani, I like yours too.”

Beverly looks at Will, then, her brows raised. “Well, now I feel kinda bad about coming this morning,” she says apologetically. “I actually came because Jack’s been calling for you and he said you’ve been ignoring him?”

“It’s my day off,” Will sighs, running a hand across his face. He should’ve known that would backfire on him somehow. “Well. Since you’re here… want to come in? We were just having breakfast.”

Beverly smiles faintly. “Uh, sure. I’ll probably just have coffee? If you don’t mind.”

“It’s why I asked,” he says, shrugging. “Come on, Dani.”

Danielle is still smiling, blithely unaware of the awkwardness hanging in the air as they make their way in. Will gestures Beverly to a chair at the dining table, pouring out a cup of coffee for his surprise guest.

He hands the coffee to her, sitting down for his interrupted breakfast. He studiously ignores Beverly’s curious eyes wandering around the house as he resumes eating, content to let Danielle talk to Beverly if she wants to. Thankfully he has his pajama pants on; one less thing for Beverly to judge.

“Have a doughnut if you want, Dani,” he says, opening the brown bag he’s almost forgotten and handing it to both of them.

Danielle takes one, munching into it as she stares unabashedly at Beverly who’s sipping her coffee. She clearly doesn’t mind the company, and she only stops staring when Zoe and Buster gather around her, lured by the smell of doughnuts.

“So, uh, Jack wanted me for something?” Will enquires once he’s finished his meal. He takes a sip of his coffee, his eyes following Danielle as she entertains Zoe and Buster.

“Yeah,” Beverly says, her eyes darting to Danielle who’s now migrated to the living room and humoring the dogs. She sighs before continuing, keeping her voice low. “Jack sent me out here to find out what you know about gardening.”

Will smirks at the phrase. “Is that a euphemism for something?”

“Eh, it’s codeword for someone planting mushrooms all over a human body,” Beverly says glibly. “Several human bodies, actually.”

“Consider your mission accomplished, then, I’m intrigued.”

“I mean, I was supposed to tell you to come with me and offer to drive you there, but,” she trails off, sparing a glance at Danielle. “I don’t think I can do that now. Is she yours? ‘Cos she’s definitely got your hair.”

“Yeah,” he says.

When no more answers were forthcoming, Beverly shrugs. “Okay, Graham, keep your secrets.”

Will smirks. “Thanks. Uh, do you mind not telling anyone else though?”

Her brows furrow. “I mean, I don’t know why you don’t want to tell anyone,” she says, shrugging again. “But okay. I do need to let Jack know you can’t come though.”

“Just tell him I’m still sick over Hobbs or something,” he mutters, tired again even though it’s still early. “It’s for the best, anyway. I haven’t gotten my psych eval that’s supposed to clear me for active duty.”

Beverly frowns at that. “Hmm, well. You should probably get on that before Jack bites your ass. He’s already shouted at Zeller twice this morning, and I know he’s gonna bite mine when he knows you’re not coming.” She rises, smiling at Danielle. “She’s a sweet kid, Graham. I should probably get going, though.”

He shows her to the door, Danielle and Buster following closely.

“Thanks, Beverly, for, uh, making it all the way out here,” he says gruffly, too aware that Danielle’s there to say more.

“No problem, Jack’s paying for the gas anyway,” she says cheekily, taking out her car keys.

He snorts. “Wish I could get some hazard pay.”

“I’ll push Jack in that direction,” Beverly says, smiling and waving at Danielle as she gets into her car. “See you later, Dani!”

“Bye, Bev!” Danielle shouts, her arms waving wildly until Beverly’s car is long out of view. “I like her, daddy.”

He smiles down at her, gesturing for them to go back in. “Yeah, Bev’s okay.”

“Can we see her again? I think she really likes dogs.”

He laughs genuinely at that. “We’ll see, but she’s very busy so no promises.”

She lets out a put-upon sigh, but her smile is back when the dogs start shooting out of the house at the sight of an open door. She immediately chases them, her laughter following closely behind.

“Make sure to wash up later!” he calls out. He sighs a little as he leans against the porch railing, looking out at the expanse of his grounds.

Time to deal with the other loose end that Jack has stranded him with.

 

He called Lecter’s number and made an appointment for an early evening slot to make sure he would be able to go back to Wolf Trap before Danielle’s bedtime. He had planned to make it a short and sweet visit, devising several excuses he could use as an exit strategy.

To his surprise, Lecter was very accommodating with his train of thought, clearing him for duty almost as soon as they started their session.

Lecter’s office itself is interesting to explore, the space matching the man’s dignified persona. There’s a ladder leading to a loft housing several interesting books, varying in interests and languages. He was perusing the books when the doctor declared him more or less sane – at least, sane enough for Jack’s purposes. He goes down the ladder and makes his way to Lecter’s pristine desk to inspect the stamp of approval, smirking slightly.

“Jack thinks I need therapy,” he challenges, reading the piece of paper, thinking how such a discrete item can wreak havoc in his life.

“I’m not sure therapy will work on you. I thought a more non-conventional approach would be better for the both of us, considering how strong your forts are.”

He hums, stealing a glance at the doctor. Truth be told, he wasn’t expecting anything out of the therapy session, and he came in today with the thought of trying to scare Lecter away. The turn of events is intriguing, to say the least.

“What you need is a way out of dark places when Jack sends you there instead." Someone like me goes unsaid between them.

Jack sending him out to more dark places doesn’t sound like a good thing, now that he has someone depending on him. “Last time he sent me into a dark place I brought something back,” he explains. The image of Danielle dead instead of Elise’s comes unbidden.

“A surrogate daughter?”

Will pauses longer at that. He’s not going to dispute the doctor’s assumption by admitting that the haunted image of his daughter was at the forefront of his thought instead of Abigail. He’s not ready to open that can of worms just yet.

“You saved Abigail Hobbs’ life,” Lecter continues, taking Will’s silence as some sort of agreement. “You also orphaned her. It comes with certain emotional obligations, regardless of empathy disorders.”

Will bristles at that suggestion. “Well, in that case, you should feel the same amount of obligation. Do you?”

“Yes,” comes the simple answer, knocking the winds out of Will’s raging sails. “I feel a staggering amount of obligation. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t fantasize about scenarios where my actions may have allowed a different fate for Abigail Hobbs.”

Will can empathize with that all too well.

They talk a little more about Abigail’s involvement with her father’s predilections, arguing back and forth about her alleged innocence. Lecter makes sound arguments, always playing the devil’s advocate to Will’s suppositions. The session ends with Lecter implying that Jack will call on one of them to ascertain Abigail’s role in the Minnesota Shrike murders soon.

The thought sticks with him throughout his entire drive back home.

 

Jack calls him into his office the next day when Will returns to work – Will has a feeling Jack heard back from Lecter as soon as Will had finished his session with the psychiatrist. Jack’s never one to waste time.

“You missed the mushroom harvester case when you decided to ignore my calls,” Jack grumbles, his face stern.

“I was on a leave of absence,” Will reminds him, his head twinging in pain again. He doesn’t bother to deny that he was avoiding Jack’s calls. “I wasn’t in the best place to look into another case so soon after Hobbs.”

Jack frowns. “Dr. Lecter gave you a clearance to return to active duty.”

“And you trust him more than you trust me, I suppose,” Will mutters darkly.

Jack sighs. Will feels that same weariness down to his bones. “I need to know you’re in the saddle.”

Will rubs his hands against his face, refusing eye contact. “I’m not saying no completely,” he says wearily. “I’m just saying that I will need time to recover. You can’t push me into new cases just because I’ve said yes once. There were extenuating circumstances when it came to the Minnesota Shrike case. I wasn’t planning on doing this full time.”

Jack weighs his words for a long time before he sighs deeply. “Fine. Can you at least do a consultation on this? You don’t need to go to the crime scenes. You do need to have a look at the autopsies when needed.”

“I can work with that,” Will agrees after a moment of consideration. A part of him is relieved at Jack’s easy acceptance, but there’s a sense of foreboding at the back of his mind, telling him that Jack is not quite done with him yet.

 

Will juggles Danielle, his work at Quantico, and his profiling side-gig as well as he can in the following days. To his continued surprise, his sessions with Lecter have given him a clearer insight into the mushroom harvester’s case, and they were able to close that one pretty quickly, given Will’s limited involvement in the case initially. He has reluctantly accepted that Lecter is a very good sounding board, their “conversations” varying from actual psychoanalyzing to the cases he’s working on.

When Jack called him in to tell him that Abigail had woken up, his stomach tensed at the thought of meeting the daughter of the man he had killed. True to Lecter’s predictions, Jack did end up requesting his help to talk to her because technically visiting a close relative of your own murder victim doesn’t count as visiting a crime scene.

He hasn’t been to see her once ever since he visited her at the hospital. He didn’t think he could take on more than one daughter in his life and had stayed away as much as he could.

That wouldn’t have mattered to Jack, of course. Will was basically bullied into accompanying Lecter to meet Abigail at the psychiatric hospital, the three of them talking in stilted tones as they tried to navigate their bloody connections to each other.

Will understands Abigail’s fears, but he has a sinking feeling that the girl might not be telling the whole truth. There’s something distinctly predatory behind her placid façade that reminds him of an alligator infesting the calm waters; she plays the victim well, but he sees something ruthless in her determination. The fact that he doesn’t feel like revealing his suspicions to anyone, not even Lecter, probably tells him something about himself. It feels as if he’s imprinted on the idea of making sure Abigail survives this ordeal, however unwise that decision might be.

 

To make things worse, Will and Lecter had run into Freddie Lounds after their visit with Abigail, and all hell broke loose as Will uttered the words that would end up being printed in garish display on her TattleCrime website.

It’s not very smart to piss off a guy who thinks about killing people for a living, the article had highlighted. Will thinks there’s a special circle of hell for tabloid journalists. 

It doesn't take long for Jack to unearth the article, and it took even less time for him to call Will, Alana, and Lecter into his office afterward.

The tongue-lashing that he receives from Jack over Lounds’ article is enough to put him in a sour mood, and it only gets worse when Jack suggests for them to take Abigail back to Minnesota. He stares unseeingly as Alana and Lecter argued about the merits of taking an alleged murder accessory back to the place where she had a traumatic experience.

There's a happy instant when Will thought Alana’s sound arguments might win over Jack’s stubborn insistence, but his hopes are dashed when Lecter comes out with a rebuttal that Jack is all too happy to agree with. True to form, Jack ultimately bulldozes them all by having his final say.

With Alana and Lecter in attendance, Will can't think of ways he could get out of going to Minnesota without compromising himself, so he settles with glaring at Jack throughout the meeting and imagines himself killing the Minnesota Shrike all over again for all the troubles he’s putting Will through.

Alana is cognizant enough to know that she’s been brow-beaten by Jack, brows furrowed in irritation at the outcome of their discussion. “We have no way of knowing what’s waiting for her when she goes home,” she says in her usual calm tone, but Will knows a warning when he hears one.

 

The whole idea of bringing Abigail back to Minnesota turned into yet another shitshow (surprise, surprise), and Will is growing increasingly irritated at the fact that Jack was blaming the next crime scene on him too. As if he was the one who invited the Copycat Killer to kill Marissa Schuur.

He goes back to his hotel room and calls Danielle that night, happy to hear her chatter about her stay with Alice. The sound of her yawn and snores when she finally falls asleep in the middle of the call is enough to make him smile for a moment.

He thanks Alice for lending her phone to Danielle when she retrieves it later. Alice gracefully swats his apologies away and asks him how he is doing instead. There’s not much he can say in reply to that question, considering the answer isn’t something he can tell his neighbor without horrifying her.

His nightmares are getting more intense lately, the Minnesota Shrike and Danielle haunting him in turns, and he knows what he’s doing for Jack now is not sustainable, but he has to see the Minnesota Shrike case through to the end out of his own sense of obligation to Abigail. He knows it’s misguided. He doesn’t know how to stop it.

Because the universe seemed intent on messing up his life, the case gets further complicated by Nicholas Boyle’s involvement. Boyle had apparently attacked Alana, Abigail, and Lecter in the hunting cabin while Will and Jack were elsewhere discussing the case the next day.

Jack calls Will to the ambulance van to question Alana on the aftermath of the attack since Lecter had taken Abigail back to the hotel, though Alana couldn’t really give them much because she was rendered unconscious during the whole ordeal. Will comforted Alana as much as he could; she wasn’t the one getting them into this whole mess after all. 

He’s not completely convinced that Boyle was the Copycat Killer in this case, the brief impression of the boy running away from their encounter at the edge of the forest completely underwhelming to support Jack’s suspicions. Knowing that Jack won’t get off his back unless he has an alternative explanation for it, though, he keeps silent on his observations for now.

He sighs and gets up from where he was perched at the back of the ambulance, starting to walk away before Jack calls out to him.

“Where are you going?”

Will turns briefly, weary. He’s been away from Danielle for four nights now, and he’s tired of it all. “I want to go home.”

Chapter Text

“Sometimes at night, I leave the lights on in my little house and walk across the flat fields. When I look back from a distance, the house is like a boat at sea. It’s really the only time I feel safe.”

He had admitted that to Lecter in one of their earlier sessions. There’s something freeing about admitting his darker thoughts to Lecter, the doctor seemingly unmoved and impossible to shock whenever Will talks about one of his more macabre dreams and visions. He knows that revealing too much could backfire on him if Lecter decides to talk to Jack about his nightmares, but Jack has been silent on the matter for weeks now. It’s highly likely that Jack is trying not to think about Will’s mental-being all that much, as long as he knows that Will is always in his saddle.  

The next case that Jack managed to rope him into was the Lost Boys’ case, as Zeller had dubbed it. Will had refused Jack’s initial attempt to persuade him to the crime scene in Connecticut, much to Jack’s annoyance. Unfortunately for Will, Jack managed to extract a promise out of him that he would be present at the post-mortem later.

He can admit that the autopsies are not as taxing as the actual crime scenes, although he still sees too much even when it’s just dead bodies. Beverly and Price being there most of the time takes the sting out of any barbed comments that Zeller always seems to make whenever Will’s in attendance. Will can’t say he’s any better; he always has a repartee ready to fling back to Zeller.

They are all crowding around Mrs. Turner’s cold body and the crime scene photos for the post-mortem. Jack, unsurprisingly, is there, hovering around them like a school principal.

“All of the victims have defensive wounds,” Jack is saying. “Except for Mrs. Turner.”

Will studies the photos spread out on the steel table for a moment, his mind processing the visuals he’s presented with. “There’s acceptance in her body position. Forgiveness, even.”

“What kind of victim forgives her killer at the moment of her death?” Jack prods.

“A mother,” Will says, eyes closed in weariness. He wishes he hadn’t accepted the case now.

 

Jack managed to drag him to the next crime scene. As the crime scene was only a few hours away from Wolf Trap, Will couldn’t come up with any excuses to deter Jack, which was how he found himself staring at the dead bodies of the entire Frist family, laid out like a Christmas decoration gone wrong.

He couldn’t get the smell of charred flesh out of his mind for several hours, the image of a Connor Frist in the fireplace twisting something in his gut.

That night, he tucks Danielle into bed and watches her sleep for almost an hour, the slow inhale and exhale of her breaths a comforting sound. 

 

“Good evening, Will,” Lecter says, smiling at Will. “Please come in.”

Will enters Lecter’s office in a frazzled state for their next appointment, Lecter raising an eyebrow at him when he tosses his satchel bag onto the chaise lounge. He scrubs his face tiredly and paces to the doctor’s desk, feeling Lecter’s questioning gaze on him.

“Is there a reason you come here bearing a gift and are imminently angry about it?” Lecter asks him, amusement playing at his lips when he gestures to the wrapped gift peeking out of Will’s satchel. 

Will sighs, pacing the room. “It was for Abigail.” He had unthinkingly bought presents for Danielle and Abigail while he was looking for materials for his lures.

“Was?”

“Thought better of it,” he mumbles, not offering any other explanation. He can’t quite explain his thought process to himself sometimes, let alone to a psychiatrist. He sighs as he takes his usual seat, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“What is it?” Lecter’s stroking the wrapped gift as if it’s something precious.

Will shrugs. “Magnifying glass. Fly tying gear.”

“Teaching her how to fish,” Lecter deduces. “Her father taught her how to hunt.”

“That’s why I thought better of it,” Will responds wryly. “Doesn’t really give me a good impression if Alana of Jack sees it.”

“Feeling paternal, Will?”

“Aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

Will falls silent, the cogs in his brain working in overdrive at the implication of the doctor’s words. Lecter continues to speak, talking about Alana’s advice against “taking a personal interest in Abigail’s welfare” (it’s hard not to bristle at that since it wasn’t his choice to go and interview and bring Abigail back to Minnesota in the first place, after all).

He’s starting to see the patterns of what he deemed as Lecter’s designs on him when it comes to Abigail. The other man has brought up Abigail at every session they have had so far, the mentions of the girl’s name usually subtle enough to go unnoticed. The fact that Will can finally see Lecter’s intentions does not mean he’s completely immune to it, though. There is an unshakeable connection between the three of them, try as he might to deny it.

“Tell me, why were you so angry?” Lecter asks after a moment of Will’s silence.

He chooses to deflect. “I’m angry about these boys. I can’t give them back what they gave away. I don’t even know if I can save them from themselves at this point.” It’s true enough: he does feel frustrated at his inability to stop these children from murdering their own family. The fact that the kids were abducted and basically brainwashed into it makes him angry every time he thinks about it.

If Lecter knows that Will is not being entirely truthful, he gives no indication of it other than a brief pause. “Freddie Lounds calls the young killers as the Blood Brothers.”

“I prefer the Lost Boys,” Will offers. It sounds less morbid than Freddie’s version. “Peter Pan seems to be losing his touch these days.”

“Abigail is lost, too,” Lecter continues smoothly, ignoring Will’s quip. “Perhaps it is our responsibility to help her find her way.”

Will can’t say anything in response to that. His growing suspicion that Lecter is weaving a web around the three of them is solidifying. He just wishes he knew why.

 

Will pours most of his focus into the case in the hopes that he can lie down to sleep without any nightmares involving children, particularly his own daughter. Beverly finds him in his classroom one evening while he’s searching for some sort of connection between the Lost Boys, his focus breaking once he feels her approaching him.

“What are you looking at?” Beverly asks, perching herself next to Will.

They’re looking down at the profile of the missing boys, the children’s deadened eyes staring back at them through the photographs. “These kids are both small. Underweight for their age,” he murmurs. “I’m thinking a possible ADHD diagnosis for these boys; might be something to look into. Whoever took them must’ve studied them for a while to know that.” 

Beverly hums before turning to him. “Price got a hit from the ballistics-matching program he’s been running on the two latest murders. We’ve narrowed down another suspected abduction case from about five years ago that might have a link with this case. Jack’s basically asked me to drag you to the exam room for another brainstorming session. I don’t know where he got the idea that I’m running a post office service here because last I checked, Price and Zeller could’ve called you too.”

Will smiles tiredly. “I don’t think they’d tolerate me as much as you seem to. Probably shouldn’t have been seen as friendly with me if you didn’t want to get stuck with me.”

Beverly snorts, punching him lightly on the shoulder. “I didn’t mind, but I mean come on, next thing you know Jack’s gonna have me do all the paperwork just because I’m a woman in a sea of men. Anyway, I like you, you goose. I like being stuck with you, despite how you treat me.”

“How exactly do I treat you?” He’s curious despite himself, wondering if what he reflects to the outside world matches how others perceive him.

“You have that whole mysterious, loner vibe going on,” Beverly says, shrugging. “Telling everyone not to get too close. I mean it probably would’ve worked in high school, but you’re not fooling me, Graham. I know a softie when I see them with seven dogs and a daughter.”

Will bursts out laughing, genuinely pleased. “Yeah, you caught me at my best moment,” he admits. “Dani’s honestly the only good thing about me.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Graham, you’re worth more than that,” Beverly admonishes him. “Now come on before Jack sends a trainee to look for us next.”

 

The days continue to drag on as they race to figure out who’s recruiting these boys to murder their own families. Will can’t think straight, his headaches getting worse these days. He doesn’t know how many aspirins he’s taken, but it doesn’t bode well when he wakes up with nightmares and Danielle’s there to hear his screams.

She comes into his room when she hears him screaming as he is startled out of his nightmare. Her eyes are wide with worry as she slowly climbs onto his bed. “Daddy, are you okay?” she asks, pulling in close for a hug. He feels tacky with sweat but he takes the comfort she offered.

“I’m fine, pumpkin,” he says. “Go back to sleep. It’s just another nightmare.”

“Your nightmares are getting worse, daddy.”

“Just the hazard of my work, it’s nothing to worry about.”

Danielle squeezes tighter against him. “Can I sleep with you tonight?”

Will relents, placing a few towels for them to lie on before drifting back to sleep not long after.

 

He’s beginning to feel disheartened by their lack of progress when Alana makes an appearance as a consultant at one of their brainstorming sessions. Her comment about the “brothers looking for a mother” brings him a moment of clarity and they narrow their search to one specific profile and a camera footage to validate their deduction.

When Will brings the information to Jack, the man immediately pinpoints the location for a possible crime scene, following the boys’ trails.

Will is finally able to breathe a sigh of relief when they managed to stop another child from becoming a murderer. He was so tired that he couldn’t even get mad at the fact that Jack had managed to drag him to yet another state in order to catch their killer. It takes him four hours of driving to finally reach Wolf Trap.

He puts his phone on silent for the rest of the day when he finally arrives home, Danielle and the dogs greeting him with their customary hugs and Alice waving away yet another apology.

“Are you okay now, daddy?” Danielle asks him later that night while he tucks her in bed.

“I hope so,” he says, smiling down at her.

“That’s good,” she says softly. “Alice says your work is very important, and that I must be very happy that you’re helping so many people. I am happy. But I miss you a lot too.”

Will swallows the lump in his throat, trying to blink back his tears. He kisses Danielle’s forehead, a silent gratitude for her existence in his life. “I’m sorry I’ve been away so much, pumpkin. Sometimes I get lost trying to do what I do,” he murmurs. “But I always have you to pull me back out of the forest. So, you’re helping people too, Dani.”

Danielle glows with happiness. “I’m glad I can help you, then.”

“I love you, kiddo.”

“I love you too, daddy.”

 

Will makes his appearance at his next scheduled appointment right on time, Lecter smiling slightly as he lets him into the office.

“I heard congratulations are in order,” Lecter begins when they have both settled in their respective seats, the chair beginning to feel comfortable under Will’s weight.

“Your sources are very talkative,” Will quips, giving the doctor a wry smile.

“I believe they are just happy to celebrate yet another victory,” Lecter returns. “You and Alana deserve credit for your collaborative effort.”

Will snorts. “Thanks, I guess.”

“Since you have no active cases currently, you may use the time to talk about anything you like. How you’re feeling at the moment, perhaps?”

Will shrugs. The Copycat Killer is still out there, but for now, he wants to savor their latest success. “I feel better, I suppose. Now that I know the kids aren’t being pressured to turn against their parents, knowing we’ve put the perpetrator behind bars. Though I feel bad for the kids; I’m sure the state will run into some kind of trouble to decide how to rehabilitate them back into society.”

Hannibal lets the words sink in comfortable silence before speaking. “Children are bound to their family and society’s expectations of them. They are nurtured from a young age to believe that the family figureheads would steer them true. A dangerous belief; one that any parent can wield as a weapon to ensure the child’s compliance.”

Will smiles without humor. “Like Abigail?” he prods.

Hannibal inclines his head. “She is one of the examples of such nurturing.”

Will tries not to smile at the unsubtle way the doctor is trying to bring up Abigail into their conversation yet again. He lets it slide. He’s curious to see where Lecter will take this.

“I was planning to bring Abigail to dinner tomorrow night,” Lecter says when it’s clear that Will has no intention of talking. “You are invited, of course, to join us. I believe she would be happy with some respite from her current place of residence, and would be glad for some company.”

Ah, Will thinks. More and more webs tying them closer together, then. And yet, to what end?

“I’m sorry, but I have to decline,” he says. “I have, uh, some things to take care of back home. I’ve been so busy with the last two cases that I haven’t had time to do it, so. It’ll be a busy weekend at home.”

Lecter is silent, his expression giving away nothing. “Very well, then,” he finally says, nodding graciously. He rises up from his seat, Will watching in mild confusion as Lecter crosses the room to retrieve something from his desk.

Will is even more confused when Lecter hands him a wrapped box, no larger than a notebook. “Did Christmas come early for me?” he shoots off, his smile unsure as he thumbs the intertwined ribbon enclosing the box. The package is wrapped in a simple yet elegant wrapping paper, the blood-red ribbon wrapping it up as a finishing touch. He feels slightly self-conscious as he senses Lecter studying his reaction.

“I came across something earlier and I thought you would appreciate it. I’m glad I haven’t brought it back with me as it was my intention to give this to you during our dinner with Abigail.”

“How fortunate.” He didn’t mean for it to come across as sarcastic, but he couldn’t quite contain his knee-jerk tendency to rely on his acerbic sense of humor in order to cover his underlying embarrassment. “Um, thank you. You didn’t have to do this. Am I allowed to receive gifts from my psychiatrist? We’re not breaking any rules of conduct or anything?”

Lecter smiles, settling back into his seat as he studies Will. “Am I your psychiatrist? Or are we simply having conversations?”

Will shrugs helplessly. “Yes, is the answer to that, I guess.” A pause. “Thank you again, Dr Lecter. And, uh, thanks for the dinner invitation. Give my best to Abigail, and tell her I’m sorry I can’t make it.”

Lecter smiles graciously. “I’ll be sure to send her your warm regards,” he says. “And please, we are past the point where you can address me by my name, Will.”

Will’s brow furrows slightly. He can’t suss out Lecter’s intentions at all, the man a seemingly endless depth of water when it comes to showing his emotions. “Thank you, Hannibal,” he says, trying out Hannibal’s name on his tongue.

Will sees a flash of satisfaction from Hannibal before the other man composes himself once more. His stomach tightens at the sight, his confusion making him duck his head in embarrassment, fingers skimming the gift in his hand.

“Is there anything else you’d like to talk about, Will?” Hannibal asks.

 

When Will gets back to Wolf Trap later that night, he opens the gift only after he’s tucked Danielle into bed, the girl exhausted from the impromptu piano recital she had insisted on giving after dinner.

He unties the ribbon carefully, putting it aside on his bed and proceeds to tear off the wrapping. Hannibal would probably be disgusted by the hurried unwrapping, but Will wants to get this over with, curious as to what Hannibal has deemed important enough to give him.

When he finally opens the box, he takes out the content nestled within. It’s a silk tie, embroidered with an intricate and bold pattern. The tie is the same blood red as the ribbon Hannibal had used to tie his gift. The material feels soft, the vivid color striking against his skin.

He blinks for several seconds, unsure of what to make of the gift. He recalls Hannibal coming to one of his lectures on the Copycat Killer with Jack at one point – surely the man has noticed that he hasn’t worn any ties throughout their whole acquaintance, not even when he’s giving his lectures? Does his clothing style offend Hannibal’s sensitivities that much that he had to subtly tell Will to dress better? 

There is nothing else accompanying the gift, no card for him to make sense of.

He sighs, annoyed at himself at having expected much from the gift. He’s even more annoyed at that thought – why should he have any expectations from someone like Hannibal anyway? The man probably gives presents to his other acquaintances, things like a journal, or a fountain pen, or some other collectors’ items that he thinks they will appreciate. He probably doesn’t mean anything by it; it’s just another polite gift, likely because the doctor deduced that Will only owned two ties at most (he wouldn’t be too far off with that guess).

Disgusted with himself, he puts the tie back into the box and tosses it on the bedside table before he flings himself onto his bed. He feels tired all of a sudden, his eyes unseeing as he stares at the ceiling. Maybe he just needs to sleep off his convoluted feelings.

He doesn’t notice when he finally drifts off to sleep, but his dreams are filled with vivid red-colored ribbons, the dark fabric intertwining Will and Hannibal together in a tight embrace.

Chapter Text

The ground underneath him feels unforgiving, the rough surface scraping his feet as he trudges on, the road stretching ahead of him. There’s a heavy mist clouding his vision, the cold, dark night freezing him down to his bones. He feels exposed. Vulnerable.

There’s something following him. He can feel the hot breath of a creature breathing against him, the puffs of air coming closer and closer.

He walks on.

 

He startles awake at the sound of another man’s voice, his instincts on high alert as he tries to make out the intruder in his home. There’s something flashing in his eyes, his arms reflexively raising to shield himself against the blinding lights.

“Sir? Sir? Can you hear me?”

“Wha-?” Will groans, his eyes blinking rapidly. His vision clears gradually and he clears his throat, looking away from the flashing lights. A police car, he realizes.

He finally sees that he’s standing on a tarmac road, the woods pressing in from either side of him.  There was no intruder in his house. Instead, his dream has decided to transplant him in the middle of the road with an unseeing destination in mind. He wonders where he was heading to.

 

The police officers who had found him wandering around on the highway had questioned him for several minutes before offering him a ride back to Wolf Trap.

They drop him off at the end of his driveway, Will thanking them for their help as they drive away. He hears the sounds of barking and the telltale signs of movement from the house before he sees Danielle emerging on the porch, her face streaked with tears.

“Daddy!” she cries, hurrying off the porch to run to Will, colliding with him as she seeks out his warmth. “Where were you?” she sobs. “I was so scared! The dogs were barking and I woke up and you weren’t there!”

Will hugs her tightly, closing his eyes as he takes in Danielle’s racking sobs against his body. The dogs are milling about them, whining in concern at the sound of Danielle’s distress. There’s nothing he can say right now that would make things okay for her, so he rubs Danielle’s back in a soothing motion, letting her wails sound out through the night.

He carries her slowly into the house once her sobs subsided into quiet, tearful hiccups, both of them fighting to control their emotions as he brings her up to his room. They lie down beside each other in the bed, Danielle clutching his hands tightly, her tearful stare heavy on his conscience.

“I’m sorry,” he murmurs, stroking her curls from her forehead and wiping the tears off her face. “I don’t know what happened. I think I had a nightmare, and I woke up somewhere else.”

“Were you sleepwalking?” she whispers, her eyes fluttering close at Will’s soft touches.

“I think so,” he admits softly.  

“Are you sick?” Her little fingers clutched his tighter, the pressure making Will ache for her. Danielle was so happy and carefree these days that it’s easy for him to forget that she still carries the trauma of losing her mother to a sickness that can’t be cured. Who knows how long she had noticed his absence before the police found him and brought him back home.

“I don’t know, pumpkin. I think I might need to go and find out what’s happening to me later.”

She’s silent for a long time, her eyes slowly drooping closed, trying to fight against sleep to make sure Will is still there. When she finally falls asleep again, Will takes his phone from the nightstand to send a short message to Hannibal before he goes back to sleep beside her.

 

“Although I may be, is it safe to assume you’re not sleepwalking now?” Hannibal asks him later, handing him a cup of hot coffee with a small smile.

Will doesn’t ask how Hannibal knows how he takes his coffee – black with one spoon of sugar – the man is unusually observant. He sips the coffee gratefully, the bitter taste scalding on his tongue.

He had to ask Alice for her assistance once more, letting her know the brief account of his sleepwalking incident this morning before heading to Hannibal’s house for an impromptu meet-up. Hannibal had texted him an address, and Will was too tired to think about the implication of the doctor inviting him to his house when he arrived at the location. 

Hannibal had answered the door in a dark robe, his hair slightly mussed and loose against his forehead. He looked good for someone who was woken up by Will’s message at four o’clock in the morning.

“I’m sorry it’s so early,” he says, taking another sip. The coffee tastes good. It should, considering the contraption Hannibal is using to produce it, looking like something that belongs in a chemistry laboratory.

“Never apologize for coming to me,” Hannibal says, making another cup of coffee for himself. “My kitchen is always open to friends.”

Is that what we are? Will thinks.

“Onset of sleepwalking in adulthood is less common than in children,” Hannibal resumes, taking a sip of his own coffee.

“Could it be a seizure? I can’t even recall what happened when I woke up.”

“It could be good old-fashioned post-traumatic stress. Jack Crawford has gotten your hands very dirty.”

Will resents the implication in Hannibal’s tone. “I wasn’t forced back into the field.”

“I wouldn’t say forced,” Hannibal relents. “Manipulated, maybe.”

Will falls silent at that, his thoughts racing as he drinks more of his coffee. He didn’t know what to expect when he had asked for Hannibal’s help, though it was true that he couldn’t bring this issue up with anyone else, much less to someone like Jack.

“This doesn’t feel like a normal nightmare,” Will says after a while. “I don’t usually find myself waking up not knowing where I am. I could be walking into a lake when I wake up next. Short of strapping myself to the bed every time I go to sleep, I don’t know how I can stop this from happening again.”

Hannibal hums softly, his gaze considering. “The sleepwalking is recent, then?”

“I think so. As far as I can tell. Today was something of a rude awakening.”

“Are you suffering from any physical ailments currently?”

“Are you trying to tell me that it’s all in my head? I guess I should’ve expected that from a psychiatrist.”

“I’m trying to ascertain if there are any other symptoms to rule out the possibility of misdiagnosis,” Hannibal says smoothly. “You say that you have had nightmares before, but it has been worsening after the Minnesota Shrike – your first experience out in the field after you left the force a decade ago. The sleepwalking started after you were thrown into several other killers’ minds. It’s not an unreasonable conjecture to say that the nightmares and sleepwalking are a direct result of that if you are not currently affected by any other physical symptoms.”

“It’s not, but that doesn’t make me feel better,” Will snaps. Immediately regretting the outburst, he sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose. “Sorry. It’s just— I need some stability in my life right now, and it’s not helping me if my mind is the one causing all this. I feel… helpless.” It pains him to admit that much to Hannibal, but he needs there to be a plausible reason for all this happening to him; the alternative of him becoming gradually insane doesn’t bear thinking about. He has no idea if Danielle would be able to survive losing both parents at this point.

Hannibal studies him for a while, the silence heavy between them. “I would suggest keeping track of your sleep cycle, if you can,” he says. “Make a note if your condition worsens, as well as any other illnesses you might be suffering from. We’ll see if anything comes up in the next few days before we make a full diagnosis.”

Will’s shoulder sags, his fingers fiddling with his coffee glass. It’s the best he could hope for right now, considering his circumstances. He sighs softly. “You said Jack sees me as a fine china used for special guests. Beginning to feel more like an old mug.”

“You entered into a Devil’s Bargain with Jack Crawford,” Hannibal agrees. “Takes a toll.”

“Jack’s not the devil.”

“When it comes to how far he’s willing to push you to get what he wants, Jack’s certainly no saint.”

Will digests Hannibal’s words, putting his empty coffee glass on the countertop. His eyes are downcast as he asks what he had wanted to ever since the doctor mentioned it.

“Are we friends?” he blurts out, unable to contain his words anymore. He was hoping to sound nonchalant, but to his horror he thinks he just sounds like a sixth-grader desperate for friendship. Danielle would be appalled at his lack of social skills.

Will has half a mind to just run out of Hannibal’s house right there and then, the ringing silence after his question telling enough. He feels his face flushing and clears his throat, finally daring to lift his eyes up to apologize for the inconvenience and make a swift exit, maybe find a nearby lake to drown himself in.

His words die in his throat when he sees Hannibal’s eyes flashing with something fierce behind his expression. Will inhales sharply at the intent gaze, and the look is gone in a split second.

“Of course, Will,” Hannibal says, recovering quickly. Another beat of silence before he continues. “Did you like your gift?”

Will’s throat feels dry still and he struggles to bring himself under control at that line of questioning; he’s sure his face is burning in embarrassment. He hasn’t met with Hannibal for a few days ever since he’s received the gift, and it’s the first time they have the chance to talk about it.

“I did, thank you,” Will mumbles, his eyes downcast once more. At this rate he feels like he might as well be talking to his own shoes. He shakes his head slightly, deciding that he’s too damn old to act like a teenager.

“I just wondered why a tie in particular,” he continues, trying to shrug his embarrassment away, smiling wryly at the doctor. “Is my fashion sense so horrible that you immediately thought of me when you saw it?”

Hannibal returns his smile more genuinely. “I was thinking it would look lovely against your skin,” he says simply before picking up both of their used cups and moving them to the dish counter, his movement silent and purposeful.

Will’s boldness shatters once more at those words, his mind running in all directions now, flustered. He finds himself fixed at his spot in Hannibal’s kitchen, unmoored by his own questionable feelings.

Is the doctor actually flirting with him, or is he still dreaming right now? He tries to pinch himself lightly to test the theory, though that’s the exact moment when Hannibal chooses to return beside him, the doctor catching the movement of his hands before Will could retract them to his side.

“Are you alright Will?”

Why does the man look so damn composed? Will wants to run his fingers through Hannibal’s hair, mess it up just to see him as disheveled as Will feels right now. “I’m fine,” he grits out, avoiding Hannibal’s eyes.

Humming softly, Hannibal steers him to another room, a spacious study that matches Hannibal’s penchant for dramatic colors. The room feels stifling, though Will thinks it’s more to do with the other man’s proximity and burning gaze rather than the somber decorations plaguing the rest of the house.

“I would offer you another cup of coffee, though I think it won’t help you in this moment,” Hannibal muses, taking a seat on one of his couches and patting a space next to him in invitation.

Will sits down uneasily next to Hannibal, making sure there’s ample space between them. “I’m feeling better now,” he says. “It’s just… disconcerting to find myself miles away from the house when I woke up.”

He wishes he could tell Hannibal about his guilt at leaving Danielle, even if it was just for a few hours. He knows the trauma that could result from feelings of abandonment; he didn’t think that he would be the source of it. He finds himself wanting to lay down all his troubles at Hannibal’s feet, and it makes him anxious to feel this strongly about it, wary of being entirely too dependent on the other man.

Preoccupied and disturbed at where his thoughts are taking him, he studies the room instead. He can make out the sun filtering through the open curtains, the soft morning light brightening the otherwise dark room. There’s an instrument sat at one corner of the room (a harpsichord, his mind supplies), and rows of bookshelves lining up the wall next to it. Will’s eyes are drawn to the harpsichord, somewhat impressed and amused at the doctor’s choice of instrument.

“What did you think of the coffee?” Hannibal asks, breaking the silence.

Will feels himself roused once more, blinking slowly as he turns to look at Hannibal. “It was good,” he replies. “Really good, actually. Was it the same one that you made for me back in, uh, Minnesota?”

“It is,” Hannibal says, his smile pleased. “I had first acquired it from one of the local coffee artisans in Florence decades ago, and it has become a staple in the house ever since. Whenever I drink it, it reminds me of my home.”

“You were living in Florence?” Will is curious despite himself. 

“Florence was where I became a man, so to speak,” Hannibal confirms. “I believe I’ve told you I was adopted by my Uncle Robertas. He took me to Paris, and I learned to appreciate the fine arts and delectable cuisines during those formative years. I left to continue my studies in Florence afterwards, and I find that their roast is superior to what I can usually find elsewhere. I’ve ordered special batches of the particular roast since then.”

Will vaguely recalls that information, the doctor dropping it like breadcrumbs to lead him to Abigail in one of their earlier sessions. “Well, wherever it’s from, it’s really good. I’ve been making do with the coffee I can find at the grocery store, so.”

Hannibal looks indignant at the thought of Will doing something as plebeian as drinking normal coffee like everybody else, and it almost makes Will laugh.

“Don’t look at me like that, it’s not that bad. I’ll have you know Dunkin Donuts’ coffee is a perfectly acceptable substitute, not to mention highly convenient.”

“Will, please.” Hannibal genuinely sounds pained at that, and this time Will does laugh at his tone.

“God, you’d think I said something like I drink ramen soup from the bowl.”

“In fact, it is customary for Japanese people to finish the ramen broth by drinking from the bowl, although I would caution you against doing the same if you have hypertension issues.”

“I can’t believe we’re talking about this.”

“I merely related the origin of my preferred coffee roast. It took very little on my part to lead you to confess that you eat ramen as a substitute for actual food.”

“It was years ago while I was still in college,” Will says dismissively, smiling. He’s feeling slightly better from the light-hearted topic they had landed on; a return to a safe, neutral zone.

By the time he’s getting ready to leave for work, he feels like the smile is plastered onto his face.

“Will, would you please give me a moment?” Hannibal says when Will reaches the door, his hand already on the door handle.

Will acquiesces silently, Hannibal moving into his kitchen for a few minutes before he emerges with a bag of coffee beans in his hand.

“Here,” Hannibal says. Will’s hand moves reflexively towards Hannibal when he hears the soft command, and Hannibal places the bag onto his proffered hand, making sure Will wraps his hand around it before letting go. “I think you would appreciate it more the more you drink it.”

Will feels his heart hammering loudly, almost giddy at the thought of yet another gift. It’s an innocent enough gesture, so Will forces himself to calm down. It’s just coffee for God’s sake, get yourself together, man.

He manages a strained smile, looking into Hannibal’s eyes for a few seconds before he has to look away. “You just can’t bear the thought of anyone drinking Dunkin Donut coffee,” he accuses lightly, his smile becoming a little more genuine at the twitch of Hannibal’s eyebrow. “But thank you. I appreciate it.”

Hannibal’s smile seems pleased, but Will can tell he’s holding himself back from saying something in response.

The moment is lost in the next second, and Will thanks the doctor again for accommodating him before leaving for work.

 

Will’s good mood evaporated as soon as Jack called him in for another case.

Jack had dubbed the killer as the “Angel Maker”, for lack of a better name. The crime scene had been grotesque, judging by the photos Will saw.

The case had been one in a series of too many that Will had profiled for Jack, and there’s something about it that made it harder for Will to look. His headaches have gotten worse, and he caught himself running hot and feverish at times, though an aspirin or two would usually take care of it after a few hours.

His mind feels splintered these days, all the crime scenes he’s looked into tumbling and mixing together into an amalgamation of nightmares. Will finds himself waking up with night terrors more often than not these days, although he hasn’t sleepwalked since that unfortunate incident in which he practically walked onto the highway in his underwear.

Danielle had taken to checking up on him at night, her footsteps sounding small and faint outside his bedroom. He had invited her into his room then, letting her sleep with him. It’s probably selfish of him to want the same reassurance she requires from him.

Not for the first time, he wishes he could confide to Hannibal about his worries over his sanity (or lack thereof) and the burgeoning paranoia that his brain is slowly disintegrating. The doctor seems sympathetic enough most of the time, but he’s only able to glean the surface of what Will is dealing with. Perhaps it’s unfair of Will to expect more from the man when he’s the one trying to keep a considerable distance between them.

They had talked about abandonment previously, on how Jack is not holding up his end of the bargain to keep Will safe from the very things he’s looking into. Will had scoffed at Hannibal’s suggestion that Jack is abandoning him, but he can’t help but feel that there is some small kernel of truth in it.

Jack had been pushing him further and further these days, and he had dragged Will to the next crime scene they found: a man suspended between buildings, a mockery of an angel watching over them. The castration was a bit of a surprise.

“He’s not just making angels, he’s getting ready to become one,” Will says, looking away from the suspended man in disgust. He feels Jack’s questioning gaze on him and sighs. “Angels don’t have genitalia.”

“Save me a place in hell,” Price quips. Will would’ve laughed at that if he had the energy for it.

The frown Jack throws at him quickly nipped that idea in the bud, though.

Jack continues in his line of questioning, the barrage of questions he aims at Will making his headache worse. There’s a certain point where Will is just tired of everything, of Jack, of these cases, of his nightmares and his sleepwalking that he unthinkingly blurts out the first thing that comes to mind when Jack pushes him too far.

“You’re the head of the Behavioral Science Unit, Jack,” Will spits out, his anger finally getting the best of him. “Why don’t you come up with your own answers if you don’t like mine?”

There’s a long, heavy silence, and Will swallows his ire down. He recognizes his misstep immediately when he hears Beverly, Price and Zeller scurrying away from them, everyone dispersing like chastened school kids. There’s a moment when Will refuses to squirm under Jack’s stare, but his head is killing him and he finally looks away when Jack openly glares at him.

“I did not hear that,” Jack mutters slowly.

Will feels his jaw clenching and he forces himself to look away from Jack. “No, you didn’t. Sorry.”

 

There’s really no way to save face from an incident like that where there were multiple witnesses to his blunder – most of them colleagues he sees on an almost daily basis – so Will sucked it up and showed up to autopsy the next day.

The science team (as Will has taken to call them in their head) are gathered around the corpse and welcome him like nothing happened, but Will feels Price’s pitying gaze and Zeller’s furtive looks glancing off him every once in a while.

Beverly corners him before he leaves the morgue afterward, crossing her arms and looking mildly impressed with him. “I’ve never seen anybody talk to Jack like that before.”

“I was out of line,” Will tries, but even he knows he doesn’t sound sincere.

“You were out of your mind,” Beverly laughs, not unkindly. “Couldn’t get out of there fast enough to spare you the walk of shame after.” There’s a pause where Beverly waits for Will to meet her eyes before she speaks again. “Are you okay? I know it’s a stupid thing to ask considering that none of us could possibly be okay doing what we do. But are you okay? You seem a little peaky lately.”

“Do I… seem different?”

“You’re a little different. You’ve always been a little different. Brilliant strategy. No one knows when there’s something up with you.” Beverly gives him another wry grin. “How are you and Dani holding up, though? You’ll let me know if you need anything?”

Will shrugs, avoiding the question. He’s still not entirely comfortable discussing Danielle with anyone else, even though he knows Beverly means well. “How would I know if there was something up with you?” he asks her instead, ignoring her exasperated stare.

“You wouldn’t. But I would tell you if you asked me. Return the favor?”

Will is flustered, though he manages to give her a little nod before Price interrupts their little tête-à-tête with his findings on the case. He sees Beverly’s private smile for him before they join Price for his detailed explanation on the Angel Maker’s latest victim.

 

Will wakes up the next morning on top of his rooftop.

There’s an odd moment of serenity as he overlooks the expansive grounds below him, the scenery looking hazy and perfect in his mind, before he realizes that there’s someone shouting after him. He slowly turns towards the source of that voice; his hearing is oddly muted, the sounds coming to him slowly as if he’s underwater.

“—daddy, please, please come back!”

Will’s eyes widen, his posture turning rigid in seconds when he recognizes that voice. He blinks rapidly, his vision clearing and he sees and hears his daughter as well as several of his dogs calling out to him from the windows in his bedroom.

His legs feel shaky all of a sudden, and he takes a few slow steps until his feet are more stable before he dashes to safety in a burst of movement, his heart palpitating in his chest at the close call.

He needs an intervention.

 

Will paces Hannibal’s office, his thoughts all over the place. In the midst of his growing concerns for his own state of health, he’s also worried about destabilizing Danielle’s state of mind precisely because he’s been less than balanced lately. He feels like a failure, and Jack is not making it any easier on him by pushing Will to give him more than he can afford to.

“It’s hard to lie still and fear going to sleep when the nightmares plague you,” Hannibal is saying, the doctor sitting preternaturally still in his favored armchair in contrast to Will’s manic pacing. 

Will snorts at the phrasing. “I dream more now than I used to,” he admits. He detours to Hannibal’s desk, looking at Hannibal’s sketches to avoid the man’s gaze. “It’s harder for me to fall asleep now, not knowing when the dreams and sleepwalking will start again.”

Will’s attention is caught by the statue of the black stag at the corner of Hannibal’s office. He finds himself wandering over to the statue without thinking, the familiar figure strangely calming – even in his nightmares, the Ravenstag has always felt like an ally, somehow.

He stares at it unseeingly for a long moment, parrying back and forth with the doctor on the state of the Angel Maker’s mind, so worryingly similar to his own. The Angel Maker is sick and preparing himself for his eventual demise, taking people he deemed to be sinners along with him. Hannibal is still trying to make him see the perpetrator’s thinking.

Will’s thoughts are still racing, trying to reconstruct the killer’s thinking, on how exactly he chooses his victims.

Clearly Hannibal feels the silence has gone on for too long, since he begins to speak again. “Tell me, Will, why do you keep pushing yourself into Jack’s line of fire?”

Sighing, Will shrugs. “I don’t know. I feel like I’m finally doing something. Felt useful.”

“There’s only so much abuse your mind can take before you yourself are hurt in your quest for justice on Jack’s behalf,” Hannibal reminds him, keeping his tone gentle.

“I know what I’m doing,” Will insists.

“And yet you come to me bearing tales of nightmares and sleepwalking. I wonder if you’re taking the cases a little too personally at times. You can’t take on everything and save everyone, Will. Not if you yourself are far from being saved.”

Will glares at the words, though he can’t quite refute them. “I don’t need saving, doctor. I just need a breakthrough in this case. The nightmares will stop then.”

Hannibal hums. “Will it? Or will you run headfirst into the next case Jack throws at you, and the cycle continues? It seems you have found yourself repeating the same behavioral patterns when it comes to these killers.”

Scoffing, he turns his glare to the other man. “Oh, really, doctor? And what might that be?”

“I am reluctant to say, though you seemed to have developed a savior complex with these latest cases,” Hannibal says, staring at Will intently. “I would say that you can break this destructive behavior, Will. You should realize you will always have a choice.”

Sighing warily, he turns his gaze to the stag figure once more, tired of Hannibal’s probing. “And I suppose you'll be telling me what my choices are,” he mutters mutinously, loud enough for the doctor to hear him.

“The Angel Maker will be destroyed by what’s happening inside his head. You don’t have to be.”

The doctor's voice is gradually becoming louder as he steps closer to Will, though Will is still slightly distracted to notice Hannibal's proximity. He does feel his sense prickling, the hair at the back of his neck standing up in alert when he hears a telltale sniff from Hannibal.

He frowns. “Did you just smell me?” Far be it from him to judge, but Will’s pretty sure that doesn’t count as flirting, and is just outright creepy instead.

“Difficult to avoid,” Hannibal says, stepping away slightly, clearly unashamed of his action. “I apologize, I do have a very distinct sense of smell. I really must introduce you to a finer aftershave, however. The current one you’re using is offensively pungent.”

“I keep getting it for Christmas.”

“Have your headaches gotten any worse lately?” Hannibal asks instead. “More frequent?”

“Yes, actually,” Will says, his shoulders sagging at the admission.

“Any hallucinations?”

“No… but I’ve always been imaginative. I see more than most people.”

There’s a short silence before Will feels Hannibal’s hand at his elbow, guiding him to face the other man. “Have you felt feverish lately?”

Will shrugs, nervous at their proximity. “On and off. I think I caught a bug or something, since it comes and goes.”

Hannibal frowns at him. “I’ve told you before that you should let me know if your condition worsens, Will,” he says, concern etched in his brow.

“I forgot,” Will says honestly. “Between the sleepwalking and the Angel Maker—”

“Will.”

The tone stops him mid-way through his sentence, and he finds himself unable to look away from Hannibal. His mind is screaming for him to take a step back, to distance himself from the other man, for fear of doing something he might regret later.

“I’m concerned for you, as a friend,” Hannibal continues, his voice low. “You might not want to face the truth of the matter – that Jack is doing you no favors by sending you to look into the dark corners of these killers’ minds.”

“I’m helping him to save lives,” Will retorts, refusing to break eye contact now as a matter of principle. The warmth he feels coming from the doctor is distracting, and he has to force himself to avoid leaning in for comfort.

“I don’t care about the lives you save, I care about yours.”

Will’s brow furrows at that, Hannibal’s gaze pinning him into place. Once again, he’s at a loss at what to say in Hannibal’s presence. He finds himself in that situation a lot these days, continuously rattled by the doctor’s strange behavior.

He’s saved from thinking of what to say when his phone vibrates in his pocket. Flushed from the confrontation he finds himself in, Will steps away from Hannibal hastily, answering his phone without looking at the caller ID.

It’s the first time he’s relieved to hear from Jack. He makes a brief and weak excuse about Jack needing him for something, not looking at Hannibal as he does so, before he takes his jacket and hurries out to safety.

 

It’s a few days later when they finally find the Angel Maker, a man named Elliot Budish who suffers from late-stage cancer. They had interviewed Budish’s wife, who had suggested a location where Budish might have returned to – a farm where Budish had once experienced a religious revelation.

Will knows that they will be too late by the time he and Jack make their way to the farm.

The barn looks especially desolate, Budish’s suspended figure looking down at them from the rooftops, finally at peace.

“It’s Budish?” Jack asks.

“He made himself into an angel. This will be the last one.”

There’s a flurry of movement as the police officers and coroner are called in to investigate the scene. Will looks wistfully at Budish’s final form; he looks as if he’s found peace, beckoning Will to do the same. “It wasn’t God, it wasn’t man – it was his choice to die,” Will says.

“His choice?”

“As much as he could make it. He’s finally found his peace.” Whether his choice was bravery or cowardice is up to one’s own judgment, Will thinks, and who is he to judge the man when he can empathize with him so strongly?

“Something you want to tell me, Will?” Jack’s concern is finally turned to him, his brows furrowed in worry at Will’s wistful tone.

“I don’t know how much longer I can be all that useful to you, Jack,” Will admits softly.

“Really? You caught three. The last three we had, you caught.”

“I didn’t catch this one.”

Jack sighs loudly, turning away from Will, beginning to walk out. “I’m used to not getting information from my wife. I don’t need to not get information from you too.”

Ah. So that explains why Jack has been increasingly impatient, then. Will could sympathize, but his own frustration rises. “It’s getting harder and harder to make myself look,” he spits out, Jack stopping in his tracks at his words.

“No one is asking you to look alone.” This said with his back turned to Will. Will feels like screaming.

“But I am looking alone. And you know what looking at this does.”

“What is it about this one?”

“That’s the thing – it’s not just this one. It’s all of them, it’s the next one, it’s the one I know is coming after that. I keep telling you ‘no’ precisely because I know this would happen, Jack, and it’s not sustainable.” Will feels himself trembling – with rage, with frustration, with fear – and he fights to keep the emotions out of his voice, though he knows it’s a losing battle.

He feels like he’s at his tipping point – Jack is not the one who will yield in this contest of wills, which means he’s the one who’ll end up breaking his own mind at Jack’s behest. Hannibal was right – he has been stuck in this same behavioral pattern, unable to resist Jack’s calling whenever a new body drops. Nothing will change if he doesn’t bother to change his own response.

“I’m not your father, I’m not going to tell you what you ought to do—” Jack says, his voice raised in anger.

“Sounds like that’s exactly what you’re going to do.”

“You go back to your classroom and there’s more killing that you could have prevented. It will sour your classroom when you realize you could’ve done more.”

“Maybe. Or maybe I’ll find a job as a diesel mechanic in a boatyard.”

Jack is silent for a long moment, finally turning towards Will to study him intently. Will thinks he might have convinced the man for a second before Jack turns his back on him again, walking out resolutely. “If you want to quit, quit.”

“Then I quit.”

That stops Jack in his tracks. He turns to stare at Will, his expression uncertain in the wake of Will’s announcement. “Will—”

“I quit, Jack,” Will says, his voice louder now, uncaring for the people who might overhear their conversation. “I’ll hand in my resignation letter when I’m back in the office.”

With that, he walks out of the barn, leaving Jack staring at him in silent fury.

Chapter Text

Will finds himself feeling strangely settled over the next few hours following his impulsive decision.

He barely remembers his drive back to Wolf Trap after his conversation with Jack, but when he reaches home, he’s immediately besieged by Danielle and his pack of dogs. He hugs and kisses them all in turn, Alice looking on in bemusement from inside the house.

The first thing he does when he goes inside the house is to turn off his phone and stows it in his satchel, choosing to spend the weekend in blissful ignorance before he writes in his resignation letter on Monday. For now, he wants to savor the euphoria of his momentary happiness.

Danielle seems to pick up on his buoyant mood even if she never mentions it. Her silent, beaming face is enough to sustain Will throughout the whole weekend.

Will decides that a visit to her grandparents will be a good trip for both of them – it’s only three hours away from Wolf Trap, and they haven’t seen Danielle for a few months now, excepting the video calls they usually have every few weeks.

Danielle is only too happy to agree with the plan, though she frowns when Will tells her they can’t bring the dogs with them.

“Why not?” she asks, pouting at him.

“Nope, not gonna work this time, kiddo,” Will laughs. “There’s not enough room for all of us in the car, and I don’t want you to play favorites with them. It’ll make them feel bad when only one of them can follow us and the rest have to stay behind.” 

Danielle sniffs and glances towards the fireplace where the dogs have settled down in their beds in preparation for sleep.

“We’ll only be away for a day, Dani,” he reminds her. “Anyway, don’t you think Papa and Nana would like to spend time with you instead of the dogs?”

She sighs, turning to Will once more. “Okay,” she says morosely, though she immediately perks up again at the thought of seeing her grandparents. “We’re leaving tomorrow?”

“Yep,” Will says. “Why don’t you head off to sleep? We need to leave early to see Papa and Nana.”

“Okay, daddy.” She kisses his cheek before running off to make her way upstairs, waving her hand at him. “Night!”

“Night, pumpkin, I love you.”

“Love you too!”

 

They make their way to Newport News, Virginia after leaving the dogs at the dog-sitters the next morning. Though Will feels some sort of anxiety still when it comes to dealing with Danielle’s grandparents, it’s easy to ignore his own awkward feelings when it makes his daughter so happy to see them once in a while, and it’s a sacrifice he’s only too willing to make. They haven’t had the opportunity to meet that often, with Will being busy with work most of the time.  

The drive there is uneventful, Danielle falling asleep thirty minutes into the drive since they had woken up so early. Will is content to drive in silence, his mind blissfully quiet for once. He wishes he could bring the dogs with them, but there is no way they will be able to behave themselves at the retirement home where Danielle’s Papa and Nana are residing at.

They arrive at The Chesapeake retirement community in less than three hours, Danielle practically bouncing in the passenger seat as she glimpses her grandparents from the car. She shoots out of the vehicle immediately after Will turns off the engine, running off to give her grandparents a hug.

Will smiles at the palpable joy radiating off the three of them, Danielle hugging and kissing them before she starts talking in excited tones. He hangs back for a moment, content to observe everything from afar before Danielle beckons him to join them.

“Daddy, come on! What are you doing?”

Will smiles, the awkwardness slowly evaporating away as he makes his way to his daughter.

 

The day passes by pleasantly, Danielle exuding happiness throughout the day as she chats with her grandparents and Will in turn, the girl acting as the glue binding the three of them together. Will remains mostly silent, only speaking when he is spoken to, happy to let Danielle reconnect with her grandparents instead of intruding into their moment even though she inadvertently pulls Will back into their lively little circle.

They spend the time walking around the grounds of the retirement community, Papa and Nana gently herding them along to a picnic spot beneath a giant oak tree for lunchtime. “This is everyone’s favorite spot,” Nana says to Danielle in a conspiratorial tone. “So we have to get the best seats in the house before everyone else comes here.”

Sure enough, the spot they picked is so popular that most of the elderlies passing by would inevitably stop nearby, gushing and fawning over Danielle while telling her Papa and Nana that they’re lucky to have her dropping by. It makes Will feel a little guilty that he’s not able to see them more often, though Papa and Nana are always quick to reassure him that they were happy with whatever interactions they can get.

Will smiles sadly at that – his empathy is too well-honed to know that while both of them mean what they say, there will always be a lingering sadness over their loss, Joanna and Danielle gone from them in one fell swoop.

 

When the time comes for them to leave, Danielle tearfully hugs Papa and Nana, promising to call them when they get back to Wolf Trap. Will hangs back (always the silent outsider) and lets them have their goodbyes – he doesn’t know how soon they might be able to see their grandchild again, after all.

Danielle is a little subdued when they finally make their way back to Wolf Trap, although her gloomy mood seems to be a combination of sadness and exhaustion, judging by how fast she falls asleep once Will makes the drive back home.

It’s close to midnight when they finally arrive in Wolf Trap, Danielle fast asleep in the passenger seat. Will carries her into her bedroom, the girl sleeping so soundly that she doesn’t even realize that they’re home.

He tucks her into bed, kissing her forehead before he shuts the door to her bedroom and makes his way to his own bedroom. He’s too tired from the journey, but there’s a deep sense of contentment even in his weariness and he finds himself slipping into a dreamless sleep.

 

The morning after brings a little spot of happiness when Will takes Danielle to the dog-sitters’ place, both of them eager to pick up their pack of dogs. Danielle is still tired from their trip, though that doesn’t stop her from playing with the dogs for half an hour before Will calls them in for a proper breakfast.

They have no specific plans for the day, prompting Danielle to decide to have another one of her impromptu piano recitals, which basically consists of a mish-mash of her favorite melodies. Will is happy to oblige, sitting down by a couch near the piano with the rest of the dogs surrounding them, the whole scene giving the appearance of an attentive audience waiting for their piano concerto to begin.

Danielle has not been given any formal piano lessons, though she seems to have an aptitude for it. Will has bought her a few introductory books and tried to impart his own knowledge and skills whenever they have the time, though his own skills are still rusty at best. He hasn’t played the instrument in almost a decade, preferring to drown his sorrows in whiskey instead of music before Danielle came into his life.

He smiles throughout Danielle’s performance, giving her the occasional thumbs up or an encouraging nod every time she sneaks a glance at him. They’re so absorbed in their little world that Will doesn’t notice anything amiss until he hears a few of the dogs skittering about the house, and he only realizes the source of their distraction when he hears a knock on the door.

Danielle stops playing immediately, her head swiveling to the door in curiosity.

Will frowns; he’s not expecting any company.

There’s another tentative knock before Will sighs and gets up to answer it, mentally preparing his “get off my lawn” speech when he opens the door, only for the words to die in his throat when he sees who it is.

“Hannibal,” he breathes out, his mouth open in shock, too stunned to say anything else at the sight of the other man standing in front of him.

“Good afternoon, Will,” Hannibal says, smiling slightly at Will’s flabbergasted expression. “It seems I’m unexpected. Though you would’ve known I might be making an appearance if you had turned on your phone.”

Will snaps his mouth shut, his brow creasing in irritation. “There’s a reason I turned it off.”

Hannibal’s smile falls at Will’s cold tone. “I apologize, Will,” he says after a pause. “Jack and Alana have tried to reach you, and I believe Jack may have come by yesterday, only to see that the house was empty. They reached out to me afterward, asking me to check on you. I was worried when you remained uncontactable and I thought it would be best to come here personally to make sure you are safe.”

The whole thing makes Will bristle in anger. Alana he can forgive – she’s always seen herself as his knight in shining armor, ever ready to be his buffer against Jack, and he knows that she means well.

But the idea of Jack having the audacity to come to his house, presumably to persuade or even bulldoze Will into coming to work for him again, is infuriating, so much so that Will feels like screaming at Hannibal for enabling Jack after telling him how much he cared about Will’s life only days before this.

“Thank you for your concern, doctor,” Will says stiffly, already halfway to closing the door on the other man, his voice rising in anger, “but if you came here to psychoanalyze my motivation for quitting or try to make me see the error of my ways, you can go back to Jack and tell him to—”

“Daddy?”

Will blinks, his anger rapidly losing its steam at the sound of Danielle’s distressed voice coming from somewhere behind him. He turns to her swiftly, taking in her uneasy stance, her eyes raised beseechingly to his as she steps forward to clutch his hand in hers.

“Daddy, are you okay?” she whispers, squeezing his hand tightly.

Will quickly deflates at the sound of her frightened voice, bending down to envelop her in a hug. “Sorry, Dani, shi— sorry, pumpkin, I wasn’t angry at you,” he says in a hushed whisper, relieved when he feels Danielle hugging him back, both of them swaying in place for a few seconds before he takes a deep breath and releases her.

He runs his hand through her curls, forcing a smile on his face as he looks at her in what he hopes is reassurance. Danielle is always exceptionally perceptive of his emotions, though she’s never seen this side of him before – all sharp edges and no give. It’s painful for him to see her so distraught, for her to witness his anger and rage even if they’re not directed at her.  

He’s aware that there’s a pair of eyes looking on in interest at the spectacle they’re probably making, the dogs whining and snuffling around them as they sense their owners’ distress, while Buster is growling at Hannibal in warning. He takes another deep breath before he stands up again, turning slowly to scowl at the other man.

Hannibal has schooled his expression to show nothing of import, though Will knows that that doesn’t mean anything when it comes to Hannibal.

He sighs, reluctantly opening the door. “Well, come on in, since you’re here,” he says ungraciously, leaving the door open as he walks away to the kitchen in a huff, Danielle following him closely behind.

He’s still too frazzled to deal with the emotions running through him, futilely trying to stamp down his annoyance at everyone’s insistent attempts to break down his forts. He had once thought he would happily welcome Hannibal into his house one day in the near future, but to find out that the doctor has come to check on him on Jack’s behest sets his teeth on edge instead.

Will distracts himself from his roiling emotions, choosing to direct his aggression to a more productive outlet. He boils some water for hot tea, letting the tea steep for a few minutes while he stares at the kitchen walls, taking in a few deep breaths until he feels calm again to face his company.

Danielle has been his silent shadow in the kitchen, the girl choosing to stand near him while he’s busy preparing tea for their unexpected guest. He smiles at her briefly, enough to show that he doesn’t mind the company. “Sorry, kiddo,” he says. “I got angry there for a second, huh?”

“You did,” she says, gravitating closer to him to give him a hug. “You scared me, daddy.”

“I’m so sorry. I was angry,” he says honestly, squeezing her shoulder. “I feel better now, though, thank you for taking me out of the woods again.”

Danielle smiles up at him, relief crossing into her face. “You’re welcome, daddy.” She squeezes his hands in encouragement, and Will can’t help his grateful smile, returning the squeeze.

“Okay, I think I’m good now. Let’s go and greet our guest, shall we?”

They emerge from the kitchen together, Will carrying a cup of tea for Hannibal while Danielle follows him closely.

Hannibal has apparently chosen to seat himself at one of the chairs that affords him a view of the piano, gazing at it with more interest than it probably warrants. The dogs are staring at him from where they are perched in their beds; it’s a wonder that they haven’t pounced on Hannibal, though the way Buster and Winston are seemingly glaring at the man would probably mean trouble if Will had not trained them so well.

Hannibal looks up as Will enters the living room, smiling slightly as he sees Danielle following Will like a duckling trailing after its mother.

Will hands Hannibal his tea before sitting on a couch adjacent to the man, Danielle sitting next to him.

“No tea for yourself?” Hannibal asks genially, resolutely ignoring the awkwardness hanging in the air.

“Nope. We’re going to have lunch soon, so.”

Hannibal doesn’t give any indication that he’s dissatisfied with Will’s curt response, though he smiles at Danielle as she watches at him in a mixture of apprehension and curiosity. “Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met,” he says, inclining his head to her in an almost charming manner.

Will inwardly scoffs at the sight.

“No,” Danielle agrees, smiling slightly. She looks to Will, who nods at her in a resigned manner, knowing there’s no other way out of this situation. “I’m Danielle.”

“Beautiful name,” Hannibal says. “I’m your father’s friend. You can call me Hannibal.”

Will ignores his emphasis on the word friend, barely keeping his annoyance in check at how expertly Hannibal is manipulating this conversation.

“Hannibal,” Danielle drawls, testing the name. “It sounds different. I like it. You can call me Dani if you like. That’s what everyone else calls me.”

“I would be happy to call you by any name you’d like,” Hannibal replies, his smile soft as he looks at Danielle. “How old are you, Dani?”

“I’m four.”

“She’s turning five in a few more months,” Will says, joining the conversation almost against his will.

Hannibal gives Danielle another soft smile and hums quietly, taking a sip of his tea silently.

The silence goes on for what feels like an interminably long time, Will growing more annoyed at Hannibal the longer the silence stretches on. He sighs, finally turning to Danielle. He smiles at her a little more genuinely. “Why don’t you take the dogs out for a round of fetch before we prepare lunch?”

Danielle’s eyes dart between Will’s to Hannibal’s before she nods, her eyes clear with understanding. She kisses Will’s cheek and gets up from her seat, calling the dogs as she runs out of the house, the lot of them rushing in a blur of movement. He can hear Danielle’s laughter fading away, catching glimpses of their playful chase through the windows.

Will avoids eye contact until he feels rather than sees the doctor’s slight movement as he sets the empty cup on a table next to him, the clinking sound loud in the silence they find themselves shrouded in.

He sighs again, scrubbing his hands over his face before he turns to glare at Hannibal. “Well, let’s get it over with,” he says. “Ask me what you want to before I politely ask you to leave.”  

“Will,” Hannibal says, his expression pained at Will’s abrupt words. “I apologize for making you think this visit is on Jack’s behalf. I heard of your intention to resign after the Angel Maker was caught. Though I wanted to give you time to calm down, I confess I was concerned when Jack called me, telling me you were basically missing in action. I felt compelled to come here to ensure you are well.”

Will glares half-heartedly at the other man, though his anger has melted somewhat at Hannibal’s long-winded way of apologizing. There’s a trace of worry in his eyes that seems genuine enough, though he doesn’t doubt the man’s skill and penchant for subtle manipulations.

“It’s the weekend,” he grumbles. “If Jack can’t even respect that boundary, I can hardly be blamed for turning off my phone to avoid this exact scenario from happening.”

“You have a point,” Hannibal concedes. “Though I doubt a man like Jack would be deterred by such inconveniences, as is evident from his visit and his calls afterward. I’m only surprised he hasn’t called in the FBI to track you down.”

Will snorts derisively. “He would, if he thought there was a killer worth catching. Can’t even take my resignation without a fight, when he was the one who practically pushed me into it.”

Hannibal is silent, his face contemplative as he studies Will. “Would you like to talk about it?”

Will sighs heavily. “No, I really don’t. You were right about the whole savior complex, but I guess Jack doesn’t want to hear it. So I’m done talking. It seems that talking has gotten me nowhere so far, so I’m giving up. I need to take care of myself and my daughter, and if Jack can’t take no for an answer, I’ll move to goddamn Antarctica if I have to.” There’s a split second of silence when Will realizes that it’s the first time he’s spoken about his daughter in front of anyone else, Alice excluded. He stiffens, waiting for Hannibal’s response to that particular declaration.

“She’s lovely, Will.”

Whatever Will was expecting from Hannibal, that was not it. He finally raises his eyes to meet Hannibal’s, taking in the man’s sincere expression and the wistful smile playing at his lips.

He looks down to his folded hands, flustered at Hannibal’s words. It’s truly unfair how unraveled Hannibal makes him feel.

“Thank you,” he says, the words coming out soft and uncertain. He can’t think of anything else to say, so he chooses to keep silent. He can hear the sounds of the dogs barking, Danielle’s shrieks of laughter trickling into the living room every once in a while.

There’s a rustle of movement from Hannibal, Will’s gaze feeling drawn to the sound. He looks up to see Hannibal rising up from his seat, holding a package which could not be mistaken as anything other than a gift in his hand.

Will rises up as well, his heart palpitating wildly as Hannibal approaches him slowly. They’re standing inches apart before Hannibal stops in his tracks, reaching out to take Will’s hand in his.

He raises their entwined hands and places his gift onto Will’s outstretched palm, silently encouraging Will to hold it. He feels Hannibal’s fingers caressing his, his breath hitching at the sensation. His eyes dart to Hannibal’s face, the man’s eyes intent on Will’s lips.

The moment is shattered when Hannibal pulls his hand away, Will letting out a shuddering breath at the loss of contact, his fingers gripping the gift tightly. He licks his lips nervously, noting Hannibal’s eyes following the gesture.

Somehow, he manages to find his voice – a monumental feat considering his inner turmoil right now. “Why are you doing this?” he asks, the words sounding defeated. He’s so tired of trying to figure out Hannibal’s intentions, wishing the man would just be straightforward with him for once.

“I care for you, Will.”

Will’s mouth goes dry at the soft admission. He shuts his eyes, blinking back his frustrated tears.

He’s mad at himself for being so affected by this, by a simple declaration from someone who had only known him for a few months, a man who can somehow see him so thoroughly, effortlessly breaking down his forts. He doesn’t want to feel this, he doesn’t want the incoming disappointment of being found himself wanting in the long run.

But he wants Hannibal so very badly.

The realization crashes over him in an instant, and he lets out a wounded noise when he feels Hannibal’s hand slowly curling around his nape, the touch so soft that it makes him shiver in anticipation. He opens his eyes to the sight of Hannibal’s face filling his vision, the ache in his heart bursting at the seams when Hannibal finally kisses him.

Will lets out a strangled noise before he finds himself returning Hannibal’s kiss, his eyes fluttering close once more, the slide of their lips warm and perfect and overwhelming in all the best ways. Will’s mouth opens in welcome when he feels Hannibal’s tongue against his lips, the deepening kiss making him squirm in place as Hannibal tightens his hold on Will’s nape, his other hand winding around Will’s flank, pulling their bodies flushed against each other.

Will’s grip loosens and he hears the gift falling down from his hand, the clattering sound it makes as it falls echoing loudly in the midst of their moans. He tries to pull away to retrieve the git, but his movement is restricted by Hannibal’s hands, Hannibal’s fingers digging into his nape and waist as he growls and kisses Will again, the contact even more desperate than before.

Will wraps his arms around Hannibal’s shoulders, pulling him closer, Hannibal’s body fitting naturally with his. He shivers at the sound of Hannibal’s satisfied hum, groaning when he feels a telling bulge pressing against his stomach, the sensation making him gasp into Hannibal’s mouth.

Just like that, Hannibal pulls away, his pupils dilated as his eyes roam over Will’s face greedily, taking in his expression. Will has a feeling he looks similarly affected by the kiss, both of them breathing hard in the aftermath, their eyes fixed on each other’s face.

The silence stretches for a few seconds before Hannibal swallows, licking his lips and smiling down at Will. “Forgive me,” he breathes out, leaning his forehead against Will’s. “I feel… overcome with affection.”

Will can’t help the breathy laugh escaping from him. “I can feel your ‘affection’ just fine, doctor.”

Hannibal smirks and grinds his body against him, making Will groan in pleasure at the friction, his own cock stirring in interest.

“Oh God, don’t,” Will whispers, his grip tightening around Hannibal’s arms. “Don’t start things you can’t finish.”

Hannibal smiles, giving Will another chaste kiss before he pulls away completely. He bends down to pick up the gift which had fallen down on the floor during their passionate embrace, handing it back to Will with a soft smile. “I believe this is yours.”

Will huffs, smiling despite himself. He takes the gift and places it on the piano to open later, highly aware of Hannibal’s heavy gaze on him as he makes his way back to the other man.

He stops to stand a few paces in front of Hannibal, their body inches away from each other – he can’t bring himself closer. He thinks he might just ask Hannibal to kiss him again if he does, and that’s not something he can do with Danielle still outside, blissfully unaware of what’s happening inside the house.

He takes a deep breath and gives Hannibal a warm smile. “Thank you. For the gift.”

Hannibal’s eyes crinkle at the corner as he returns the smile. “You’re welcome, Will.”

He feels somewhat disappointed when Hannibal turns to leave, Will following him to the door and onto the porch. Standing next to each other in companionable silence, they watch Danielle and the dogs chasing each other, Danielle throwing a frisbee for the dogs to fetch. The girl sees them and waves briefly before she lets out another shriek of laughter when Zoe and Buster chase after her.

Will sees Hannibal smiling from the corner of his eyes, his expression fond. “I meant what I’ve said before,” Hannibal says after a while. “I care about your life, Will. I find myself incapable of thinking of any other lives you might save if it means you should suffer for it.”

Will shrugs to that. “You don’t have to worry about that anymore, since I’m quitting anyway.”

“Is it official then?”

“Not yet. I’m heading to Quantico tomorrow, so I guess that’s the first thing on my agenda before class starts.”

“You intend to quit profiling and go back to the classroom?”

“Yeah. I think that’s the only way I can keep my sanity. Danielle needs me.”

“I think you’ve made the best choice for yourself and your daughter, considering the circumstances,” Hannibal says after a measured pause. “Can I see you tomorrow, whenever you’re available?”

Will steals a glance at Hannibal, smiling slightly. “As a friend?”

“As something more than a friend, if you’re amenable.”

Will’s fingers twitch at his side. “I think I’d like that,” he says softly.

Hannibal smiles, the man practically exuding happiness at Will’s answer. “Then I shall see you tomorrow, if you’d let me know when you’re free.”

Will feels himself returning the smile. To hell with it, he thinks. He grasps Hannibal’s hand and squeezes it tightly. “It’s a date.”

Chapter Text

The rest of the day passes by in a blur, Will’s thoughts occupied in a highly satisfying manner whenever he thinks of Hannibal.

Danielle has subconsciously picked up on his joyful mood, the feeling apparently contagious. Her smiles and laughter are particularly more exuberant, the girl remaining energetic and playful until bedtime. It heartens Will to see her so happy for the past two days, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep her that way.

He reads one of Danielle’s favorite fairytales for her bedtime, his hushed tone lulling her to sleep after several minutes. The sight of her restful expression is calming, and it takes all of his restraint not to fall asleep next to her, content to keep her company through the night. He does eventually rise up, kissing her forehead before slipping out of her bedroom.

He feels a mounting sense of excitement as he makes his way to his room.

The gift Hannibal had slipped into his hands earlier this afternoon lies in the center of the bed. He had brought it up to his bedroom surreptitiously once Hannibal had left, hoping that Danielle wouldn’t notice.

He sits down on his bed, picking up the package thoughtfully. It’s larger and heftier than the previous gifts, wrapped with the same meticulous care and attention for detail. Will carefully unties the crimson ribbon and tears the wrapping away, smiling when he finally uncovers his present.

Hannibal has bought him a fly-fishing tackle box, the emerald-colored container perfect for his fishing lures. He opens the box and sees several lures already nestled inside, the variety of it making Will smile in amusement. Hannibal has apparently decided to err on the side of caution and has chosen a lure for every type of fish he could possibly think of, never mind that some of them might not even be in season right now.

It makes him smile to imagine Hannibal going into a fishing store in his three-piece suit to look for fishing supplies, the man coolly asking for the store manager’s assistance to find the perfect lures for Will.

He feels a certain fondness for Hannibal when he runs his fingers through the gifts, a smile playing at his lips as he replays the kiss they had shared earlier.

There’s something tugging painfully at his heart, the hopeful ache growing into something he can’t quite control. For once in his life, he lets the feeling consume him.  

 

Will feels energized – enthusiastic, even – as he makes his way to his office the next day, though he plasters on his scowl to deter any unnecessary interactions before he has to go to class. He has a reputation to maintain, after all.

He spends a blissful thirty minutes alone in his office, using the time to compose his resignation letter and clearing his emails before he prepares his lecture materials for the day.

There’s a knock on his door as he goes through his slides on the Copycat Killer. “Come in,” he calls out absentmindedly, his focus on the screen in front of him.

“Hey, Graham.”

Will looks up and smiles at Beverly. “Hey.”

“Whoa, what happened to you?”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Okay, that frown is more like it,” Beverly says, laughing at the scowl Will gives her. “Oh my God, seriously, it’s so creepy looking at you smiling so early in the morning!”

“I smile,” he says, frowning at her.

Beverly gives him a pointed look.

“Sometimes,” he amends begrudgingly, shrugging.

Beverly grins, stepping inside his office and taking the seat in front of him. “Is it true you’re quitting?”

“Well, you do know how to bury the lead.”

“Out with it, Graham. Come on, the whole place’s buzzing, and you didn’t even have the decency to answer my message.”

“What message?” Will asks before realizing that he hasn’t turned on his phone at all. He brought it with him out of force of habit, though he has been distracted by other things and had forgotten all about it since. “Oh. I turned my phone off over the weekend. I still haven’t turned it on, actually.”

Beverly rolls her eyes, leaning back into her seat. “You’re gonna have to do better than that if you’re going to deflect. Are you, or are you not quitting?”

Will studies her for a moment as he takes out the phone from his jacket and turns it on, putting it on the table in front of him. “I’m quitting profiling.”

Beverly whistles at that. “I’m impressed. You have more guts than I give you credit for, Graham. First, talking back at Jack, and now actually quitting?”

He shrugs, his eyes furtively glancing at his phone screen, looking at the messages coming in. “I needed some space. Jack wasn’t prepared to give me that.”

Beverly nods in understanding. “Yeah, Jack does that sometimes,” she says. “I haven’t heard from him yet, but I have a feeling he’ll be getting to you soon.”

“I’d like to see him try,” Will mutters. His phone has finally stopped vibrating with new messages, and he picks it up. His heart flutters when he sees the latest message on his screen.

> Good morning, Will. I hope you’ve had a pleasurable day yesterday. Please let me know when you’ll be available today. HL

“Oh my God, you’re smiling again!”

Will’s head snaps up to see Beverly grinning at him, her eyes gazing curiously at the phone in his hand.

She raises an eyebrow expectantly. “Okay, I mean this in the best possible way, but: did you get laid this weekend?”

Will sputters out a scoff, glaring at her. “No,” he blurts out. “I just had good news about… something.”

She laughs at that, shaking her head. “I mean, nothing wrong with that, right? Wish I had the same wild weekend.”

“I took Danielle out of town to see her grandparents, if you must know,” he says, locking his phone and putting it face-down on the table. It’s not exactly a lie, but she doesn’t need to know that.

Beverly’s smile grows wider, disbelief fixed on her face. “Hmmm. So I guess I won’t be seeing you around at the autopsies?”

“I’ll still be teaching classes. It’s not like I’m quitting my actual job.”

“I’ll hold you to that. I’m going to drag you for a beer or two one of these days, and you can tell me all about the lucky lady.”

Will smiles, amused. “Maybe. It’ll have to be a damn good beer.”

Beverly grins, rising up from her seat. “Well, I’ll see you around, Graham, don’t be a stranger or I’m coming here and bringing those beers to you.”

He waves her out of his office impatiently, grinning despite himself. There’s something comforting in their easy camaraderie, and he can admit that he’s becoming fond of her friendship overtures.

Will picks up his phone, unlocking it to find Hannibal’s message again. He feels himself smiling as he types a reply.

> morning. i’ll be free for lunch, or i can come by your office after 5pm if you prefer

There’s a few minutes of inactivity as Will waits for Hannibal’s response, his heart rate picking up again when he hears his phone vibrating with a new message.

> Lunch it is, then. I will see you in Quantico, as I have to sort out some loose ends

That’s something to look forward to, at least. Will types his reply confirming their lunch date (the word giving him pause even in his mind) before he locks his phone again, deciding to ignore the rest of the messages as he prepares for his morning class.

 

Will actually manages to finish his one-hour class before Jack and Alana stop by for a joint ambush. Alana gives him an apologetic look when they walk in, the students throwing them curious glances as they slowly file out of the class.

Will sighs in resignation. He has been expecting this as much as he has been dreading it.

“Jack,” he says, keeping his voice measured as he takes off his glasses, putting it down on the table. He takes out a letter from his satchel, thrusting it out to Jack.

Jack is glaring daggers at him, but he lifts the letter out of Will’s hand. “Your resignation letter, I presume?”

Will nods, smiling slightly at Alana, who’s looking at him with some sort of wonder on her face. “I’m guessing you’re here for intervention,” he says wryly.

She smiles at him, though her smile falls as Jack turns to glare at her next. Alana raises her eyebrow at him in turn, and to Will’s shock, Jack huffs lightly before turning back to him.

“I’m here to apologize,” Jack grits out.

Will feels his eyebrow shooting up into his hairline at that statement. He was expecting a heated confrontation or Jack persuading him to rethink his decision to quit, but he did not expect this. “I’m sorry?”

Jack sighs, rolling his eyes to the ceiling. “I’m only going to say it once more and that’s the last you’ll hear of it. I apologize for the way I treated you.”

Will’s stunned expression must be quite a sight for Alana, since she can’t quite contain her smile as she studies his reaction. There’s a long silence where Will and Jack just stared at each other, not quite knowing what to say, but Will feels a begrudging smile spreading on his face before he can stop it.

“So you accept my resignation?” he asks, studying Jack.

Jack sighs again, shrugging. “I accept that you won’t be profiling for us anymore, though I hope you can still lend us your insights, if you want to”—this said while Jack is looking at Alana—“in which case you’ll be properly compensated with hazard pay as part of your additional duty.”

Will wonders never cease, he thinks.

“I can’t promise you my involvement in future cases,” Will says slowly. “I do have a life outside of these walls, and I can’t live it if I spend the whole day looking into your killer’s minds.”

Jack nods, weariness written on his face. “I’ll call you for the really big ones.”

There’s really nothing else to say to that, so Will nods in agreement, shaking Jack’s extended hand before the other man gives him a strained smile and walks away silently, leaving Will and Alana alone in the classroom.

Alana smiles at him, taking a few steps closer to lean against his desk. “Hi,” she says. “We haven’t had a chance to talk these days, what with everything that’s been going on. How are you holding up?”

Will returns her smile and sits down in his chair, his shock at the unexpected turn of event yet to leave him completely. “I… I’m doing well, I guess, considering what just happened,” he says, chuckling in disbelief. His hand fidgets with his glasses, unsure what to make of Jack’s change of heart. “Did you talk to him before he came to talk to me?”

Alana grins. “You can tell, huh?”

“I wouldn’t have gotten away with a slap on the wrist otherwise,” he replies, raising his eyebrow. “Thank you, though. I really appreciate it.”

Alana shrugs. “It’s the least I can do, after I heard about what happened,” she says, staring down at him in concern. “Jack called me on Friday and told me that you suddenly quit after you closed the Angel Maker case. I didn’t know what to make of it since I wasn’t there, and I couldn’t get through your phone afterward.”

“Sorry about that,” he says, shrugging. “I needed some privacy.”

“No, I get that,” she says, smiling softly. “I think it’s great that you created some boundaries between you and Jack.” There’s a measured pause before she continues. “Jack has been… going through some tough times. I think the Angel Maker’s case hit too close to home for him.”

Will frowns at that, recalling the time when they interviewed Mrs. Budish, thinking that Jack has seemed reserved ever since. He had chosen not to make his observations at the time, respecting Jack’s need for privacy as he worked through his issues with his wife (“I’m used to not getting information from my wife. I don’t need to not get information from you too.”).

Will has a moment of clarity when he connects the case with Jack’s withdrawn wife and realizes that Jack is fighting his own private battle. He lets the realization sink in, his empathy working to soothe his own pride at Jack’s careless treatment of him in the last few weeks.

Alana has been silent while Will works it out, and she smiles sadly when she sees understanding dawning on him. “It’s been hard for all of us, I think, these past few cases.”

Will sighs wearily. “Yeah… I don’t think I’ve gotten a break since the Minnesota Shrike.”

“Well, for what it’s worth, I think you will both get some time to take a breather,” Alana says. “Jack will be taking a leave of absence for a week to take care of things at home. I guess you’ll be free from any obligations until then. Other than your classes, of course.”

Will can hardly believe his luck – if someone had told him that Jack would be yielding to his request an hour ago, he would’ve asked them to write a paper on the demerits of wishful thinking. “I don’t know what to say,” he says, shrugging helplessly. “Except for ‘thank you’, again. For looking out for me.”

Alana smiles widely. “You’re welcome,” she says graciously, inclining her head in a mock bow. “Though I can’t take all the credit. You should thank Hannibal. He’s been championing for you for the last two days, you know. I don’t think I have ever seen him so passionate about anything as he is about your wellbeing in all the years I’ve known him.”

Will’s thoughts come to a screeching halt as he digests that information, his stomach fluttering at the thought of Hannibal defending him against Jack all this while.

“Will? You okay? You’re looking kind of flushed there.”

Will blinks, looking away as he clears his throat. “Uh, yeah, I think I caught a bug last weekend. It comes and goes, so I think I better go and rest in my office until lunch.”

Alana smiles kindly at him. “Okay,” she says, rising up from her perch on his desk. “Let me know if you need anything. I’ll be your buffer with Jack if you need me to.”

He rises as well, smiling genuinely. He steps forward, putting his hand on Alana’s shoulder and squeezing it softly, trying to convey his gratitude into the action. “Thank you,” he says.

Alana smiles before moving to hug him for a brief second, stepping back immediately after. “I’m glad you’re doing better, Will. I’ll be seeing you around.”

Throwing him a little wave, Alana turns and walks out of the classroom, leaving Will to his muddled thoughts.

 

Will sits in a daze in his office after Alana’s visit, his mind swimming around the new knowledge she gave him as he stares unseeingly at his laptop screen.

Hannibal fought for him. Hannibal went to Jack to make sure that Jack gave him enough space and time to recuperate after what Will went through in the last few days. Hannibal has also plied him with several gifts for the past few weeks.

His thoughts are interrupted by a knock on his door – one he has been anticipating, this time.

He gathers himself up, swiftly making his way across the room to open the door.

Hannibal gives him a small smile when he sees Will; he’s holding a bag which presumably contains food, the scent wafting out of it smelling wonderful. “Hello, Will.”

Will gives him a strained smile as he steps back and lets Hannibal in, the man stepping into Will’s office with a curious glance around before he places his bag on Will’s desk.

Will closes the door behind him and locks it quietly, studying Hannibal for a moment.

The man looks as he usually does – perfectly coiffed and regal, dressed in his typical suit, all clean lines and immaculate colors. There’s a smile playing at Hannibal’s lips when he turns back to look at Will, his brow raised in a questioning gaze.

“Will? Are you alright?”

Will feels all the emotions churning inside for the past hour rushing out of him as he takes a few steps forward and presses himself against Hannibal. He grips Hannibal’s shoulders and kisses him desperately, pouring out every feeling he has inside of him into the kiss.

Hannibal makes a soft, surprised noise as he’s forced to sit against the desk, though his hands immediately wrap around Will’s waist, tugging him closer.

Will moans into the kiss, his heart racing wildly as Hannibal kisses him back just as passionately, their hands intertwined around the other, desperately seeking more contact. He feels his arousal building inside, his erection tenting his pants as he languidly ruts himself against Hannibal.

Hannibal doesn’t seem perturbed by Will’s sudden desire, judging by the way his hands suddenly tighten on Will’s backside. He melts into the touch, Hannibal cupping his ass to encourage Will to rut against him.

Hannibal pulls away from the kiss suddenly, making Will whine from the loss of contact. Will stares helplessly back at him, his breathing ragged as he studies Hannibal’s face.

“Will,” Hannibal rasps, his voice harsh as his hands stray to Will’s belt. “May I?”

Will groans, nodding his acceptance eagerly, his body trembling under the man’s touch. Hannibal swiftly unbuckles Will’s belt and unzips his slacks before thumbing Will’s cock through his damp boxers. Will can’t quite stifle his noises of pleasure when Hannibal takes out his cock and begins to stroke him, spreading the precum already coating the tip of his cock. He thrusts into Hannibal’s hand shamelessly, uncaring of the noise he makes when it feels so damn good.

“Hannibal,” he whimpers, chasing his release as his eyes flutter close. “Close—”

Hannibal captures his mouth in a kiss once more, his hand increasingly teasing as he rubs Will’s cockhead in slow, careful motions, pressing the head in a squeeze before he resumes his strokes, setting a faster pace for Will’s thrusts into his hand.

Will moans weakly into the kiss, feeling himself come apart under the man’s touch. Will sees stars bursting behind his closed eyes as the dam bursts and he finally releases himself into Hannibal’s hand.

When he comes back to himself, he realizes that he’s leaning against Hannibal, his head nestled in the crook of Hannibal’s shoulder. Hannibal is gazing at him in rapturous wonder, smiling when he sees Will staring at him. Will blushes when he sees Hannibal bringing his hand to his own lips, licking at the come coating his hand.

“Pretty bold move for a first date,” he says weakly, grinning at Hannibal. His body feels relaxed, leaning against the other man in sated pleasure.

“I could say the same for yourself,” Hannibal smirks. “Though this was not the meal I had planned for lunch, I can’t fault your enterprising mind for the apéritif.”

Will feels himself flushing and moves to stand, silently cleaning himself up as best as he can to make sure he’s presentable again. His gaze falls on Hannibal’s tented pants, and he smiles at the other man, quirking his eyebrow in a silent question.

“There’s no need, Will,” Hannibal answers, smiling. “I find myself quite satisfied for now.”

Will huffs, laughing a little. “Sorry about… the whole thing.”

“Never apologize to me unless you mean it,” Hannibal says. He takes out a handkerchief from his bag and wipes his hands on it, folding it neatly before putting it back inside his bag. Will raises an eyebrow at the action, though Hannibal only rewards him with another smile. “Shall we start with our main course? Or do you plan on surprising me further?”

Will chuckles, shaking his head in amusement. He helps Hannibal to spread out the food containers on the table, both of them working in silence as they plate their meals. Will sits behind his desk when they’re done and they both settle down for lunch.

Their lunch – “mushroom and spinach stuffed cow hearts,” Hannibal announces – turns out to be delicious, though Will should have expected that. Hannibal gives him the impression of someone who will do everything to perfection should he set his mind to something; clearly culinary art is one Hannibal’s many passions.

“This is delicious,” Will says, breaking the silence. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Hannibal replies, his smile pleased.

“What brought you here to Quantico?”

Hannibal hums. “I went to see Jack.”

“Ah,” Will says.

They eat the rest of their meal in silence, Will making sure the plate is clean before he puts down his utensils. He leans back in his chair once he’s done, studying Hannibal silently. Hannibal doesn’t seem to mind Will’s rudeness, and he smiles when he meets Will’s eyes once he has finished his own meal.

Will gets out of his seat then, walking around the desk to make his way to Hannibal’s chair, the man staring at him with interest as he approaches him. Will straddles Hannibal’s legs and moves in to kiss him slowly, his eyes closing with a pleased hum when he feels Hannibal returning the kiss.

He pulls apart after a minute, sighing and inhaling the man’s scent, memorizing it before he moves to stand up again.

Hannibal’s eyes are dark with desire when Will moves away, and he licks his lips in an indolent way. “Thank you for dessert.”

Will grins, taking the seat adjacent to Hannibal, their bodies mirroring each other in an imitation of their usual therapy sessions. “It’s only right when you’ve provided us with the main course.”

Hannibal inclines his head. “I should bring you lunch more often, if that’s to be my reward.”

He laughs at that, the sound ringing out loud in the enclosed space. “I, uh, actually meant that as a thank you. For what you did for me. Defending my honor and all that, from what I’ve heard.”

Hannibal raises an eyebrow in mock surprise. “I see my sources have betrayed me.”

“Your sources have my best interest at heart, or so I’m told.”

“That they do,” Hannibal admits. “And I’m grateful for it.”

“Does Jack know about… this?”

“By this I’m assuming you mean our relationship?”

It’s maddening how easily flushed he gets when he’s embarrassed. “Yes.”

Hannibal smiles at his discomfort, looking entirely enchanted. “I see no reason to let him know, considering you are no longer beholden to him or me, as you are technically not working as a profiler anymore.”

“So… no one knows.”

“Do you want people to know? Or is it the opposite?”

Will groans. “Since I’m not ‘beholden’ to you, don’t you think you should stop talking in circles?”

Hannibal lets out a quiet chuckle. “I apologize. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s hard for me to turn off my psychoanalyzing tendencies.”

“As long as you don’t do it in bed.”

Hannibal raises his eyebrow in a highly suggestive manner, making Will flush all over again. “I would if you ask it of me.”

“You’re deflecting,” Will says, changing the subject lest he’s driven to attack Hannibal again in another fit of passion, though he has a feeling Hannibal would probably welcome it.

There’s a pause where Hannibal seems to consider his answer. “We are both reserved individuals when it comes to talking about our private lives. I have not presumed to let anyone else know of our recent relationship, unless you wish to make it public.”

“I don’t care either way.”

“Then we need not do anything about it, except to enjoy each other’s company in a more informal capacity.”

Will hums in agreement. “I can deal with that.”

“Excellent. Shall I bring you lunch again tomorrow?”

That startles another laughter out of Will. “Is that a roundabout way of asking for another kiss?”

“I wouldn’t object to it, no. Though I’d be more than happy to bring you lunch every day should you wish it.”

“I don’t think that would be wise,” Will says dryly. There’s no way he could survive Hannibal jacking him off in his office every day, even if he’s sorely tempted to test Hannibal’s resolve on the matter.

“Then I defer to your expertise.”

“I would like to see you again, though.”

Hannibal’s eyes grow warmer at Will’s admission. “Then you need only let me know when, Will. I will always make time for you and Danielle.”

“I’d like that. I think I’ll be free these days, now that I won’t be profiling anymore.”

“I’m glad to hear it. Have you been experiencing any nightmares or sleepwalking recently?”

“As a matter of fact, I haven’t. But it’s only been a few days… so I can’t really say.”

“You will let me know if it happens again? Or if you develop any other symptoms?”

“I will, doctor.”

“You can hardly blame me for worrying about you, not now that you know how much I care for you.”

“You need to stop doing that or I will kiss you again.”

“Hmm, and I didn’t even have to offer you lunch. How fortunate.”

Will laughs again; he feels like it's been years since he felt free to laugh with someone else other than his daughter, and it makes him giddy with happiness. “Unfortunately, my lunch hour is almost over, so we should probably clean up before my students come looking for me.”

“Very well, though I must say it’s cruel for you to threaten me with a kiss and not come through with it.”

“Oh my God, stop flirting and help me with these, will you?”

They finally make a move to clear Will’s desk for the remainder of lunchtime, smiling whenever their fingers brush against one another’s. Once they have finally stowed away everything in Hannibal’s bag, Will makes his way to unlock the door for Hannibal, ignoring Hannibal’s raised brow at the motion.

“I see you have planned your ambush well,” Hannibal says, his smile teasing.

Will blushes, though he doesn’t deny it. “I stand by my decision.”

“So I see,” Hannibal chuckles. They linger at the doorway for a few seconds more, neither of them willing to part. “Would you be free sometime this week? I would love for you and Danielle to join me for dinner at my house.”

There’s a pause while Will thinks it over. “You want Danielle to come with me?”

“I would prefer it, though I would understand if you think she might not want to meet me so soon.”

“I think she would love the chance to meet more people, actually. She obviously didn’t get her friendliness from me. Besides, we would be poor company.”

Hannibal pins Will with his stare. “I have wanted to see you dine at my table long before this, if you recall. I wouldn’t have asked if I did not want the pleasure of your company, poor or otherwise. Forgive me when I say that Alana made for a poor substitute for yourself when I had her over for dinner with Abigail.”

Will pauses at the mention of Alana and Abigail. He was not aware that Hannibal had invited Alana for dinner with Abigail in his place when Hannibal had first invited him to dinner so long ago.

There’s a stab of jealousy when at the thought of Alana having an intimate dinner with Hannibal at his house. He knows that this was Hannibal’s intention when he brought up Alana’s name. Unfortunately, he’s not completely immune to Hannibal’s manipulations, even if he recognizes it for what it is. The look that Hannibal throws him while all this is going on inside his head tells him that Hannibal knows it, too.

Will shakes his head ruefully. “You’re unbelievable.”

“Is that a yes?”

“It’s a maybe.”

“How can I turn that into a yes?”

“What would you give me in return for one?”

“Everything.”

“Forget I said anything, then.”

“Will.”

He sighs, running a hand through his hair, aggravated at being put on the spot.

Hannibal pulls his hand away from his hair and replaces it with his instead, pulling Will in for another soft kiss.

He can’t quite help the soft sigh coming out of him, or the fact that his eyes flutter close in bliss every time they do this, the novelty of Hannibal’s soft touches not wearing off anytime soon. Will sighs when he opens his eyes again, resigned. He’s painfully aware that he’s playing right into Hannibal’s hands, but he can’t seem to help himself anyway.

“Fine,” he says. “You win. But I reserve the right to be unsociable during dinner.”

Hannibal grins, giving Will a chaste kiss. “Excellent. I will see you then.”

Chapter Text

There’s a certain amount of trepidation at the thought of introducing his daughter to a potential partner in a relationship, especially when said relationship only happens once in a blue moon. While he and Hannibal have only known each other for a few months and have had a total of one date in those few months, Will knows that this relationship would be going somewhere even if he doesn’t know the destination just yet, because neither of them are the type to have casual relationships.

Hannibal had apparently thought so too, because he had pulled out all the stops by actually sending some poor soul to Wolf Trap to hand-deliver his dinner invitation to Will and Danielle in a fit of inspiration.

The beautiful embossed card was handed to Danielle with a flourish and accompanied by a single rose, her name written out in a beautiful calligraphy which Will suspected was by Hannibal’s own hand. His own invitation was unceremoniously placed onto his hand (something which he was grateful for). The card contained little other than his name, the day of the aforementioned dinner (Friday) as well as the time (7pm). 

He would normally roll his eyes at such gestures, but seeing Danielle’s eyes lighting up when she received the card was enough to expel any derision out of him.

“Daddy!” she exclaimed happily, running around the living room in glee. “Are we going to a ball?”

Will laughed. “What do you mean, pumpkin?”

“This is just like the princess getting an invitation to a ball!” she said, her cheeks puffing indignantly. “Like the books you read me!”

“Oh, how silly of me, of course.” Will grinned at her exasperated stare. “Would you like to go to the ball, then, my lady?”

“Yes!” she shrieked, jumping into Will’s arms in happiness.

Will texts Hannibal later that night once he’s in bed, still smiling from Danielle’s excited mood – she went through the whole day acting like a princess, bowing and talking to the dogs as a princess would with her loyal animal sidekicks. She was so excited that it took him many promises of future picnics and outings to make her go to sleep.

> thanks for the invitation. i’m never going to be able to top that in the future. Christmas will be ruined forever

Will is beginning to think that Hannibal is asleep when he doesn’t hear anything from the other man for a few minutes. He startles out of his reverie when he hears his phone buzzing, the vibration indicating a phone call instead of a message.

He answers the phone without looking at the screen, knowing who will be on the other end.

“Hello, Will.”

Will huffs. “Texting too common for you? Maybe I should find a carrier pigeon to send you a message next time.”

“Would you believe me if I told you I just wanted to hear your voice?”

He laughs. “You have to stop saying those kinds of things to unsuspecting people, or they’ll think you’re flirting with them.”

He hears a warm chuckle on the other line, Hannibal’s voice sounding husky. Will huffs again – the man has no right to sound sexy while doing something so innocuous. “I’m glad to know Danielle is happy with the invitation. I thought she might need some persuasion, hence the card.”

“Trust me, she’s not the one who needs an invitation to any social events. She loves it. Says she can’t wait to go to the ball and meet her prince.”

“Ah yes, I see now I was meant to woo the princess’s father instead.”

Will snorts at that. “Please don’t. I don’t know if I can be ‘wooed’.” Will can’t believe he’s actually, honest to God, flirting with someone over the phone; the fact that that someone is Hannibal Lecter is just another strange fact in the bizarre situation he finds himself in.

“Hmm, perhaps you would rather be persuaded instead.”

“I wasn’t aware there was something I need to be persuaded to, other than dinner?”

There’s a considering hum on the other line, which means that Hannibal is probably trying to pick the right words which will give him the best outcome. “I was hoping the two of you would stay the night.”

Whatever Will was expecting, it certainly wasn’t that. “That’s… moving a bit fast, don’t you think?”

“I think you have instigated it, after what you did in your office.”

Will flushes at the reminder, remembering in perfect detail how it had felt when Hannibal touched him a few days ago. Will can’t quite bring himself to respond to that, fearing that anything he says could be used against him.

Of course, Hannibal is only too happy to weaponize Will’s silence in the absence of anything else. “Are you imagining it now, Will? How you locked the door when I came in and kissed me so desperately? How you begged with your eyes to be touched, your body trembling against mine when I finally gave you what you wanted?”

“Fuck, Hannibal,” Will groans, screwing his eyes shut at the image. There’s a low thrum of arousal pulling at him, thinking of Hannibal’s hands on him again, the doctor’s skilled, long fingers skillfully pulling him apart little by little. His hand has moved to palm his cock without him realizing it until he hears Hannibal’s voice speaking again.

“Are you touching yourself, Will?”

Laughing a little, he hisses out, “Yes.”

“Good,” Hannibal purrs in his ears, the words sending another jolt of arousal through Will, his cock hard now as he pulls it out, stroking it to the sound of Hannibal’s voice. “Are you thinking of how good it felt when I touched you in your office? You were lovely, trembling with desire when I finally touched you. I wish someone were there just outside your office to hear you scream as I put my hands on you; you make the most beautiful sounds.”

Will gasps at that, the shame and excitement filling him at the insinuation. He whimpers in need as he strokes himself faster, his hips rising to chase the delicious friction, imagining Hannibal’s hands touching him instead. “Hannibal…”

“How lovely you would look then, screaming my name when you come apart under my hands. They would hear how you screamed for me, would smell the scent of your pleasure in the office long after I had left you, a reminder of our private sessions.”

He moans when he feels his body tightening, the pleasure hiking into a crest before he feels himself coming, gasping at the warmth spreading into his hands.

“Does it feel good, Will?”

Will smiles at the sound of Hannibal’s strained voice, his eyes opening slowly from the pleasurable haze he’s found himself in. “It’s good,” he slurs. “But it doesn’t feel like you.”

“That can be easily rectified if you agree to stay with me for the night.”

Will groans at the blatant manipulation – Hannibal is clearly not bothered to keep up pretenses anymore. “You’re an absolute menace,” he grumbles, though he knows he’s defeated. “Fine. I hope you’re happy that you’ve managed to persuade me to attend a social event and stay the night.”

“I’m immensely happy.” Will can practically feel Hannibal beaming with it even when he’s not there. “Thank you, Will.”

“I suppose I should be thanking you, but I would just be playing into your hands yet again.”

“I only have your best interests in mind, dear boy.”

“Fuck, stop it,” Will hisses, warmth spreading into his belly at the words. “I’m going to hang up now and go to sleep. Good night.”

“I’ll see you soon, Will,” Hannibal manages to purr out before Will hangs up the call, his face still red with embarrassment and pleasure. He will never admit to Hannibal that he likes the man’s teasing tones, how he always makes Will squirm with happiness and desire whenever he spouts out his provocative lines.  

Will sighs, getting up slowly to make his way to the bathroom, feeling slightly embarrassed at how fast he came considering he’s too damn old to be acting like a teenager who just discovered the art of masturbating.

When he finally slips into bed, he feels anticipation coiling in his stomach at the thought of staying over at Hannibal’s house, his previous worry of Danielle meeting Hannibal for dinner slipping away like an afterthought.

 

His work is actually beginning to feel bearable now that Jack is not constantly barging into his classrooms to take him out to crime scenes or autopsies. His classes return to their normal pace, most of the students looking relieved to have uninterrupted lessons ever since Jack had taken his leave.

On a more surprising development, he notices a marked decrease in his nightly nightmares, and as far as he can tell, there have been no sleepwalking incidents since. Perhaps there are some merits to Hannibal’s suppositions that the nightmares and sleepwalking are symptoms of post-traumatic stress, though Will is still a little bit wary of accepting such a convenient explanation for them. He has not gotten the chance to verify the hypothesis, in any case, since he hasn’t had to deal with new cases ever since he stopped taking them after what happened with the Angel Maker incident.

Beverly stops by his classroom and office a few times, just checking up on him or making small talks, avoiding the more taboo topics of the killers she and the rest of the Science Team are currently pursuing. Will finds himself grateful that she’s not slyly bringing in new cases to him, and welcomes her into the office (which he has thoroughly scrubbed of any lingering smell of his and Hannibal’s previous rendezvous, thank you very much) for a chat or two while Beverly threatens him with more invitations to have drinks with her.

He accompanies her for coffee in the cafeteria sometimes, where they continue their small talks, enjoying each other’s company in the way they have never been able to before.

“So are you ever going to tell me about the lucky lady?” Beverly asks during one of their breaks.

Will shrugs, nonchalantly taking a sip of his coffee while his eyes dart around the cafeteria, taking in other people’s harried expressions as they try to eat as much as possible before going back to work or taking a 10 minutes’ nap in between lunch.

“Not much to tell,” he says. “Except he prefers to be called a gentleman rather than a lady.”

Beverly bursts out laughing. “Sorry I assumed differently then! Okay so who’s the lucky gentleman, then?”

“Bold of you to assume I would tell you more,” he smirks, putting the empty cup of coffee down on the table.

“Oh, come on, I just need some new gossip to get me through the day,” Beverly groans. “Work is killing me, and no one’s around to yell at Price and Zeller except for me. Kinda makes me miss Jack, just a little bit.”

“Speaking of Jack… how is he?”

“Oh right, I forgot you’re not in the grapevines. I heard he’s tried to talk Bella into chemotherapy, and Dr. Lecter has actually managed to convince them to go for it… It’s got to be hard, dealing with something you can’t really see or fight against.”

Will swallows at that information, his heart going out to Bella in sympathy. “Is she in the hospital, then?”

“Yeah, I heard Dr. Lecter pulled some strings to get her into John Hopkins for immediate treatment, so she’s probably there with Jack for now.”

“I’m glad she’s seeking treatment. It must be hard for Jack to feel so helpless.”

“Yeah,” Beverly sighs. “It’s kind of weird. I never thought I’d see the day he takes a week off from work, and I’ve worked with him for a long time. He just seemed so untouchable, like nothing could affect him. You’ll always lose an agent or two, working in the BAU, but he’s never missed a day whenever anything like that happens. He would just keep going, make sure the perps are caught as some sort of atonement or something.”

Will hums, chewing at that fact. He has only known Jack for a while, but his empathy has always given him some sort of advantage to see past the boundaries people typically erect to safeguard their emotions. He has no doubt that his wife’s deteriorating health would shatter Jack, judging by how tired the man had looked during their investigation into the Angel Maker’s case.

“Anyway,” Beverly says. “Enough about depressing topics because you chose to sidetrack me with other topics yet again. How’s Dani these days?”

“I think she’s really happy.”

Beverly snorts. “Okay I know that the whole ‘emotionally stunted men’ thing is a pretty awful stereotype, but really? That’s all you got?”

Will laughs. “It’s all I need. She’s happy, so I’m happy.”

“Aww, okay, that’s sweet, but also you suck at this whole back-and-forth confiding thing we have going on.”

“I promise I’ll do better if we do end up getting beer someday.”

“You know what, I’m going to make notes of all your empty promises to meet me for drinks, forever unfulfilled.”

“I just want to spend a little more time with Dani these days, after what happened,” he explains.

“Ugh, stop making sense. Fine, but you owe me beers when we do eventually get them.”

They continue their conversation, Will feeling content to have a friend to talk to for once.

 

When Friday evening finally rolls around, Will feels a rising sense of dread and anxiety at the thought of dinner. He has never been one to socialize with others in this kind of official setting before, ensuring that no such invitations came by making himself as unpleasant as possible to avoid social interactions in the first place. So he’s not too sure what to expect from the evening, other than the fact that they would be staying over for at least one night.

He has explained to Danielle that the “prince” who had invited them over for dinner was his special friend, and his daughter had seemed accepting of the term for now, though he knows he will have to explain to her in more details what exactly that entails, if their relationship ever progresses to something more serious. He doesn’t let himself think about it, for now.

When asked why they’re staying over at Will’s “special friend’s” house, Will furtively answered that they have been invited for a sightseeing tour of Baltimore city the next day, hoping that Hannibal has something planned or he might just have to improvise tomorrow.

They arrive in front of Hannibal’s front door a few minutes before 7pm, and Will encourages Danielle to ring the doorbell before knocking, her knuckles rapping softly against the door. He listens to the sound of the door being unlocked before he comes face to face with Hannibal, his eyes lighting up at the sight of Will and Danielle on his doorstep.

“Welcome. Thank you for taking the time to come to my humble abode. Please come in,” Hannibal says, bowing slightly as he opens the door wider to let them step inside.

Danielle grins at the greeting, moving inside before she thrusts out the small box she’s been carrying in her hands to Hannibal. “Thank you for having us, Doctor Lecter,” she says, reciting the speech she has been practicing on the way over. “Daddy and I brought you something, because he said it’s polite to give presents as another way to say thank you.”

Hannibal gives her a grin, relieving her of the box. “Your daddy is absolutely right,” he says, throwing Will a mischievous smile as he turns to close the door. He peers into the small box before putting it aside on a table in the hallway. “Macarons?” he says to Danielle, his brow raised in delight. “Thank you, this will be a perfect addition to our desserts later.”

“Daddy and I made it ourselves!” Danielle says excitedly, happy to see the gift appreciated.

“Did you?” There’s a teasing purr at the end of that question that makes Will shiver in anticipation, even if Hannibal was not looking at him as he said it. “That is lovely, Danielle. I appreciate the kind gesture. Shall I take your jacket?”

Danielle beams as she shrugs out of her jacket and hands it to Hannibal, who immediately hangs it on the coat rack.

Hannibal turns to Will with a smile, gesturing for Will’s coat. Will is about to take it off when he feels Hannibal’s hands stopping his movement, the man’s hands slowly landing on his shoulders. He lifts his eyes up to Hannibal’s, the man’s intent gaze darkening as he moves his hands to take off Will’s coat for him, his eyes flashing with something darker when he sees the blood-red tie Will has purposefully put on for dinner.

Will returns Hannibal’s stare, his mouth quirked in a teasing smile. “Thank you,” he says softly, eyes lowered demurely, smiling in satisfaction when he hears the small intake of Hannibal’s breath at the motion. 

Hannibal silently puts Will’s coat away, picking up the box of macarons before steering them into the dining room, where he arranges Will and Danielle on either side of his own seat at the head of the table. Hannibal tells them to make themselves comfortable while he disappears into the kitchen to start serving their meals.

Having never been inside Hannibal’s dining room before, he takes the chance to glance around the space. Hannibal’s penchant for darker colors extended into this room as well, the dark blue walls giving a somewhat oppressive feel, though the room feels warmer due to the flickering fire roaring in the fireplace. The wall behind him was lined with potted herbs, the faint aroma from the plants suffusing subtly in the air.

Will almost chokes on his own saliva when he sees a rather graphic painting of Leda and the Swan above the fireplace, his cheeks burning when he struggles to think of how to explain such depictions of Leda to a four-year-old girl. He prays to every deity he doesn’t believe in to spare him the trouble, hoping that Danielle won’t turn around and see the painting at all.  

Danielle is currently occupied by the flowers in the table centerpiece, thankfully. Will valiantly ignores the painting and ensures his eyes don’t stray to it, lest Danielle picks up on it.

Hannibal finally emerges from the kitchen with three plates balanced on his hands, the man expertly placing each serving onto their respective plates. He’s begrudgingly amazed by the whole theatrical affair, while Danielle looks delighted with the impressive show.

“How did you do that?” Danielle breathes out, her eyes shining with wonder.

Hannibal chuckles, unbuttoning and smoothing his suit jacket before he takes his seat. “I have had years of practice,” he explains, smiling fondly at Danielle. “Though I admit it cost me a lot of broken plates to finally be able to master the art of juggling.”

“It’s amazing,” Danielle enthuses.

Hannibal inclines his head. “Thank you, you’re very kind.”

Will smiles at their interaction, his worry over how the evening would go disappearing little by little. Hannibal clearly has a way with children, for some reason he can’t quite discern. The man has always seemed like a proud bachelor, aloof and untouchable in some ways, and it’s gratifying to see another different layer to him.

Hannibal catches Will watching him, throwing him a soft smile at Will’s darkening cheeks, his brows tilted in curiosity.

Will shakes his head, smiling a little before he turns his attention to the meal Hannibal has prepared. The smell is mouth-watering, the dish looking like it was prepared by a professional chef – Hannibal has plated a salmon on top of a green puréed sauce he can’t quite distinguish, the fish accompanied by a few stalks of asparagus on the side.

“It smells really good,” Will says honestly.

“Pan-seared salmon, with avocado remoulade,” Hannibal announces with obvious relish. “I thought I would serve something simple for today.”

Will smiles at the expression; he doesn’t doubt that Hannibal has only shown a sliver of his culinary skills today. “It looks amazing.”

Hannibal beams at him before turning to smile at Danielle. “Please enjoy the meal.”

Danielle returns the smile shyly, picking up her fork and knife before digging quietly into her meal. Her eyes light up once she tasted it, and she gives Hannibal a more genuine smile before returning her focus to the dinner in front of her.

Hannibal looks delighted with Danielle’s quiet approval, his pleasure at being appreciated painfully obvious on his face. He continues to talk with Danielle throughout the meal, the girl becoming more animated with every word Hannibal manages to charm out her.

Will watches everything in silent contentment, listening to the exchanged smiles and the soft clinks of their meal, his heart brimming with joy.

 

Hannibal maneuvers Will and Danielle into his study once dinner and dessert are finished, and Danielle’s gaze immediately falls on the harpsichord gracing the room. She turns excitedly to Will, who raises his brow at Hannibal, who smiles at Danielle in turn.

Taking that as approval, Danielle slowly approaches the instrument, looking at it with awe. “It’s so big! Is this a different type of piano? Why does it have two keyboards?”

Hannibal approaches her and takes a seat at the harpsichord, gesturing for Danielle to do the same. The girl’s smile is wide as Will lifts her up onto the seat, perched next to Hannibal. Will chooses to stand at the side of the instrument, his vantage point giving him a pleasant view of both of them enjoying each other’s company.

“This is called a harpsichord,” Hannibal explains, his fingers gently pressing on the keyboards to produce a few tinkling sounds. “It’s not dissimilar to the piano, though you won’t find these keyboard manuals on a pianoforte. Do you play, Danielle?”

“A little,” she admits. “Daddy says I’m very good, though I know that’s not true.”

Will laughs at that. “I would never lie.”

“No, but Alice tells me that I won’t improve if I keep playing with the dogs, and she said that to me all the time. So that means I’m not that good yet.”

“A logical conclusion,” Hannibal says, chuckling. “I would love to hear you play it for me sometimes.”

“Oh! I always hold a concert at home. Maybe you can listen to me then?”

“That would be most excellent.”

Will is sure Hannibal would stop at nothing to ingratiate himself with him and Danielle, though he’s happy to be charmed in this case. He rolls his eyes at Hannibal for good measure, however, to let him know that he’s onto Hannibal’s ploy.

Hannibal gives him a serene smile before returning his attention to Danielle. “Would you like to listen while I play you a piece?”

Danielle nods. “Yes, please.”

Needing no further invitation, Hannibal begins to play a piece for his silent audience of two, his eyes closing in appreciation as his long fingers fly across the keys. The melody itself doesn’t sound familiar to Will, though he enjoys it all the same, taking in and absorbing Hannibal’s focus and feelings for every single sound he coaxes out of the instrument.

When Hannibal finishes the piece, Danielle claps in excitement, her eyes wide with wonder, enamored with Hannibal’s seemingly endless skills. She looks as if she’s found her real-life prince, and it pains Will to know that the illusion of a “prince charming” will be shattered sooner or later, though he’s selfishly grateful that she seems so taken with the other man.

“Can I learn how to play like that, too?” she asks, breathless.

Hannibal tilts his head. “If you apply yourself to it, I don’t see why not. Though I fear you might have to sacrifice a little bit of your time to practice instead of playing with the dogs.”

She frowns at that, huffing a little. “But they want me to play with them.”

That draws a chuckle out of Hannibal, the man seemingly perpetually charmed by Danielle. “Far be it from me to deprive them of your pleasant company.”

Danielle seems to take that as a compliment and she smiles at Hannibal shyly. “I hope you can come and listen to me play one day.”

“As I’ve mentioned, I would love nothing more than to listen to your concert with your father.”

Will smiles, clearing his throat at that. “Okay, I think it’s time for your bedtime, Dani. We have an early day tomorrow.” He throws a meaningful gaze at Hannibal, hoping the man would catch on.

“Of course, I’m sorry for taking up so much of your time, you must be tired,” Hannibal says to Danielle before turning to smile at Will, his eyes shining in amusement.

Danielle gives an exaggerated sigh, pouting a little. “Okayyy,” she says, taking Hannibal’s offered hand to descend from the harpsichord chair.

Hannibal leads them both upstairs, where he has prepared a guest room for them. Will helps Danielle prepare for bed before he and Hannibal make their way downstairs, Will going out to his car to retrieve the overnight bag he has packed for them.

When he steps inside the house again, he sees Hannibal waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. He stops in front of the other man, smiling before he leans in for a chaste kiss. “I have to tuck her in. Make sure she’s asleep.”

Hannibal nods. “I’ll be in the study. You can have a nightcap later, if you wish it.”

“Got it,” Will says, grinning. He kisses Hannibal’s cheek, the man seemingly stunned at the show of affection, before he turns to make his way upstairs.

 

Once Danielle is safely tucked into bed, the slow rise and fall of her chest a reassuring sight, Will makes his way down to Hannibal’s study once more.

He finds Hannibal playing the harpsichord again, and he slowly slides into the empty space next to Hannibal, the man never breaking his concentration as he plays a different piece, a more haunting tune compared to the previous one.

Will lets him continue, his eyes closing as he lets himself enjoy the music and the warmth of the man sitting next to him, the repetitive, lilting melody lulling him into a pleasant reverie.

He doesn’t realize when Hannibal has finished with the piece, though he feels something pulling him out of the stupor he’s fallen into. He opens his eyes slowly, turning towards Hannibal with a smile. Hannibal is holding his hand in a soft grasp, his eyes roaming Will’s face.

“That was beautiful,” Will says honestly.

Hannibal smiles, lifting Will’s hand up for a kiss.

He feels himself blushing again – it’s alarming how much he finds himself doing that with Hannibal these days, and he wishes he could control it. “I guess this time it’s the princess’s father’s turn to be wooed?” he teases.

Hannibal’s smile grows wider, his eyes crinkling in amusement. “Do you often use humor to distract people from your growing discomfort?”

Will fidgets under the scrutiny, though he doesn’t deny the observation. “I don’t like feeling so exposed while you remain so damn composed all the time,” he finally says. “I feel like you can dissect me and reduce me to nothing with your eyes alone, while your barriers are as fortified as ever.”

Hannibal stills at that, the sudden lack of expression on his face telling.

They stare at each other in silence, and for once Will doesn’t want to break the eye contact, his own gaze challenging.

“I find it… difficult to let my guards down,” Hannibal says after a moment of contemplation. “You and I are both alike in this respect. We only suffer others’ company as much as we are willing to, and a severance of such connections have been far too easy thus far.”

“And now?” Will asks, his gaze on Hannibal’s unwavering.

“I don’t think I can do that so easily with you.”

Will huffs, looking away. “Do what? Discard me like a used Kleenex?”

Hannibal’s hand tightens on his. “Do you feel used?”

“Not in this instance, no,” Will admits, shaking his head. “I just meant… in general. That’s what tends to happen.”

“You have been avoiding relationships.”

“I’ve been busy with Danielle.”

“You are also using her as a crutch and a way to further reject others reaching out to you.”

“I thought we agreed on no psychoanalyzing,” Will spits out, disentangling himself from Hannibal and rising from his seat. Hannibal watches him silently as he walks away to the other side of the room, idly examining the paintings on the wall instead.

The particular painting he’s looking at is a lot milder than Leda and the Swan gracing the dining room. He suspects that Hannibal has purposely displayed that particular painting for either talking points for his guests, or to examine the shock and disdain on their faces when their eyes first alight on it. Knowing Hannibal, it’s probably a combination of both – the man loves to provoke a rise out of people, after all. Will should’ve expected that when he willingly accepted Hannibal’s overtures.

He’s interrupted out of his musings by Hannibal’s silent approach, his hand reaching for Will’s shoulder to turn him around and face each other.

Will sighs. “I did try to tell you I’d be poor company,” he says with a shrug, avoiding Hannibal’s eyes.

“On the contrary, I find you to be excellent company,” Hannibal says. His hand moves to Will’s face, cupping his cheek until Will raises his eyes to his. “I will not ‘throw you away’, Will. I have been pursuing you for quite some time now, if you haven’t noticed. Recent developments notwithstanding, I can tell you that I’m not looking for a mere bedwarmer.”

Hannibal’s hand gravitates lower to tug on the red tie encircling Will’s neck, Will’s breath hitching as he’s pulled closer to the other man.

He flushes at Hannibal’s warmth and words, his smile uncertain. “You’re telling me all those things have been courting gifts?”

Hannibal sighs, his eyes closing in consternation. “I thought I had been obvious.”

“It’s the 21st century, Hannibal,” Will says, laughing a little. “I thought they were just… gifts.”

“Was that the reason you baked the macarons for me?”

“That’s different.”

“Then I fail to see why you wouldn’t construe my gifts in the same way.”

“You’re… hard to read.”

“Then let me make my intentions clear,” Hannibal says, smiling even in his exasperation. “I care for you, Will. I care for your wellbeing, and I care for Danielle’s. My compassion for you is beyond anything I have ever experienced for any other human being I’ve met with. Is that sufficient enough to show you the extent of my feelings, or should I make it more obvious in other ways?”

The proximity and Hannibal’s words are making his heart racing again, his thoughts becoming hazy as Hannibal kisses him none too gently, the man’s hand pulling at his tie in a rough jerk. His mouth opens to Hannibal’s, the kiss turning rough in a matter of seconds as they rut against each other, the emotions they have been withholding throughout the whole evening finally allowed to explode between them.

Will shivers in anticipation when Hannibal’s other hand cups his ass, their grinding turning more sensual and desperate. He pulls apart, gasping and shuddering at the friction. “No nightcap?”

Hannibal’s eyes darken. “I believe I’m ready for another meal,” he says, smiling as he pulls Will out of the study and they make their way upstairs and into Hannibal’s bedroom, the opulent room decorated with the man’s dark aesthetics.

Hannibal leads them to his bed and gives him a chaste kiss before telling him, “Strip out of your clothes, please. But leave your tie on.”

Will swallows his trepidation, his hands shaking as he shrugs out of his jacket and loosens his tie, the fine tremors making it hard for him to unbutton his shirt. He avoids looking at Hannibal, who is stripping out of his own clothes silently and meticulously folding them before putting it aside. When he’s finally bare, except for the tie loosely hanging around his neck, he feels self-conscious and just a little bit silly thinking of the image he presents.

Hannibal seems to appreciate the sight, coming closer to Will once more, the man’s movement silent and predatory. He’s more muscular than Will would’ve imagined, his broad shoulders giving way to lean muscles, the wiry frame giving the impression of someone who takes very good care of his body in his leisure.

Will shivers anew at the look Hannibal throws him as his roam over Will’s figure. He lets himself be pushed gently onto Hannibal’s bed, his breaths coming out in quicker exhales as he tries to process what’s finally happening.

Hannibal has apparently retrieved a bottle of lubricant while he was undressing himself, and he puts it aside before he kisses Will again, his hand naturally going to the tie and stroking it fondly while his other hand caresses Will’s flank.

It’s very hard for Will to think, now that they have finally gotten to this point – he hasn’t let himself imagine how things would go if they were to have sex. His heart is beating wildly, anticipation coloring his every move as he moans beneath Hannibal.

They kiss thoroughly for minutes, Hannibal’s hands roaming Will’s body while Will lets his own hands map the other man’s back, feeling how Hannibal’s muscles undulate under his hands. He whines when he feels Hannibal pulling away, his eyes opening in protest.

Hannibal chuckles, reaching for the lubricant, uncapping it unceremoniously before he coats his hand in the gel. The touch of Hannibal’s hand on his cock sends shivers of desire through him, Hannibal’s hand warming the cool gel as he starts stroking Will at a leisurely pace.

Will lets him take the lead, his eyes fluttering closed in pleasure, gasping at the fingers thumbing the head, playing with the slit of his cock before stroking him again, the touches teasing and provocative in turn. His hands grasp the sheets beneath him, needing something to anchor him in the moment.

He doesn’t know how long Hannibal teases him like this, but his eyes immediately fly open when he feels soft fingers nudging at the rim of his entrance.

“Will,” Hannibal says softly, his eyes blown wide with desire as he looks down at Will. “Are you alright?”

Will nods shakily, trying to relax his body as he feels Hannibal’s fingers nudging him open. “I— I’m good,” he stutters. “Just… never done this before.”

Hannibal stills in his movement, his eyes growing impossibly darker as he growls and kisses Will, his fingers finally pushing in past the rim. Will moans into Hannibal’s kiss as Hannibal’s finger moves further inside. He tries to release the tension in his body as Hannibal fingers him open, easing in more of his digits into Will’s body. The intrusion feels foreign, something he’s never thought to experiment with before, Hannibal’s touch insistent yet soft, and his body gradually yields to the touch.

When his fingers finally slip out of Will’s body, Will opens his eyes to give Hannibal an encouraging smile, silently asking for more.

Hannibal is only too happy to oblige, lining himself up against Will’s entrance and pushing in slowly, both of them gasping and reveling in the sensation. Will groans weakly, his fingers digging into the sheets, gasping with every slow and inexorable push inside him, his legs twitching weakly on the bed when Hannibal finally fills him to the hilt. He feels full, highly aware of where he is connected to Hannibal, their exhales mingling in the air as they stare at each other in wonder.

Will lets out a strangled moan, his breath hitching when Hannibal pulls halfway out before slamming back in, the impact sending his body further up on the bed. Hannibal growls, his hands pulling Will firmly by the waist to be impaled on his cock once more, both of them groaning as Hannibal starts to thrust into him.

Hannibal is taking in his reactions with greedy eyes, his gaze traveling over Will’s body until it stops at the blood-red tie. “It does look lovely on your skin,” Hannibal purrs, lifting Will’s legs higher as he leans to place a soft kiss into his neck, his breath harsh in Will’s ears.

Will can barely let out a scoff at that, his hands reaching out to wrap around Hannibal’s back, hanging on to the man as he writhes helplessly against the rough thrusts. He’s practically folded in half, pinned underneath Hannibal’s crushing weight, his hands scrabbling for purchase while his legs hang uselessly on either side of him, Hannibal’s hands holding them in place.

He lets out a whimper when he feels Hannibal’s cock brushing against something inside him, the sensation sending a spark of pleasure through his entire body. Hannibal seems to take his moans as encouragement, doubling his effort and hitting his prostate with almost every thrust, Will almost sobbing at the overwhelming feeling of Hannibal inside him.

“Hannibal—” he groans. He wraps his hands tighter against Hannibal, urging the man closer, feeling himself unraveling at Hannibal’s relentless thrusts. 

“Will.” Hannibal sounds breathless, his grunts echoing in Will’s ears. “Beautiful boy, you feel so good around me.”

Fuck, Hannibal,” he whines. He doesn’t have it in him to be amazed that Hannibal can still talk at a time like this.

“Do you know what my first thought was when I saw this tie on you?”

He’s barely hanging on to Hannibal’s words, the pleasure building up inside as Hannibal continues to drive into him in deeper, purposeful thrusts. “Ah, fuck— no,” Will hisses.

“I thought how lovely it would look if I tie you up,” Hannibal whispers, “a helpless, delectable present for me to unwrap and ruin for others.”

He screams when Hannibal sinks his teeth into his neck, his toes curling in ecstasy as he feels himself coming from the feel of Hannibal marking him so thoroughly. He whimpers weakly when Hannibal doesn’t stop, the man thrusting into him in shuddering movements, Will’s body arching off the bed from the overstimulation.

Hannibal chases his release inside Will’s body for a few more minutes, kissing his open mouth until Will finally feels Hannibal stilling inside him, Hannibal groaning in pleasure as he releases himself inside Will.

Will shivers at the feeling of Hannibal’s come dripping out of him when Hannibal pulls out, both of them catching their breaths from the aftermath. He feels his eyes drifting close, dazed from his climax. When he comes back to himself, Hannibal is cleaning him up with a damp cloth, his touch lingering on Will’s skin before he walks away to the bathroom.

He feels the bed dipping again, too drowsy to do anything other than accept Hannibal’s maneuvering, the man tucking him under the covers and slipping into bed next to him. There’s a moment of silence when he feels Hannibal tentatively reaching out to him, Will opening his eyes slightly at the movement. He slides closer to Hannibal then, nuzzling into his neck before inhaling deeply, eyes fluttering closed once more at the comforting scent.

He only realizes that he’s still wearing the tie when Hannibal tugs it softly off of him, Will’s eyes drowsily tracking the movement. He raises his eyebrow when he sees Hannibal putting it aside on top of his nightstand. “Planning to recycle, doctor?” he asks, his voice coming out hoarse.

Hannibal gives him a crooked smile, one of his hands winding through Will’s curls. “I intend to put them to good use one day.”

Will shudders at the promise in his voice, and he finds his hand hesitantly wandering on Hannibal’s chest, fascinated with the man’s chest hair. The touch feels oddly intimate, considering what they have just been doing, but he has never been someone who basks in the afterglow of sex before. His eyes are drifting close again, his body sated and lax from pleasure, the hand petting through his curls lulling him into a stupor.

“Would you like that, Will?”

“Hmm?”

“To be tied up like a beautiful present.”

Will groans. “Are we really doing this now?”

“I find that it’s best to attack you when you let your guards down.”

“That’s unfair.”

“I never said I would be fair when it comes to you.”

“…I’m not saying no.”

“I’ll wait until it turns into a yes, then. You do like the idea of it, though. That you would be tied up and not expected to reciprocate, helpless to do anything other than take what I would give you. It’s the easiest way to surrender yourself into someone else’s care when you think you have no other choice.”

Will lets out a long-suffering sigh. “I’m instigating the ‘no psychoanalyzing in bed’ rule if this continues.”

He feels the rumble in Hannibal’s chest as the man chuckles. “Fair enough.”

There’s a long silence before Will speaks again, his hand curled on Hannibal’s chest. “I’m not good at surrendering myself to others.”

Hannibal hums softly, his hand stopping its movement. “You’re wary of accepting care in any form for fear it would be used against you. Is that the reason why you haven’t told anyone else about Danielle?”

He sighs. “She’s only been with me for less than a year, but I feel completely responsible for her. She doesn’t have anyone else. I can’t take care of my daughter if I can’t even take care of myself without depending on others.”

Hannibal’s hand resumes its movement, though he remains silent for a moment. Will can practically hear him think. “Though I don’t always agree with such sayings, there is something true about the phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. You need not do it alone, Will. I would be happy to share your burden.”

Will inhales deeply, nuzzling Hannibal’s neck and closing his eyes. “Let’s talk about this later, when I’m not rendered stupid from sex.”

He hears another chuckle before he lets himself drift into a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

It’s been so long since Will experienced a ‘morning after’ that it takes him a few minutes to recalibrate his thoughts when he first wakes up.

They have apparently resettled in their sleep last night, and Will wakes up to the feeling of Hannibal breathing at his nape, Hannibal’s chest plastered along Will’s back. He groans at the ticklish sensation, trying to pull away before he realizes that Hannibal has his arms firmly around his waist.

“Good morning, Will.”

Will groans again. “What time is it?” he whispers, clearing his throat.

“It’s a quarter to seven.” Hannibal sounds as if he’s been awake for hours, judging by his cheerful tone.

“How are you so awake right now?” Will complains, his own voice still rough with sleep.

He hears a chuckle before Hannibal gently bites into the mark he has left on Will’s neck last night, the action eliciting a shiver out of Will. “I’m an early riser.”

There’s also a telltale bulge poking into his thigh, and Will’s own interest is piqued, his hand moving to Hannibal’s to grip him tight as he shoves his body into Hannibal’s.

“You’re not the only early riser it seems…” Will laughs, loving how the other man’s hands tighten on him before his own words are lost to the pleasurable feeling of Hannibal’s hand on his erection, both of them soon moaning and grunting against each other as they lose themselves in their mutual affection for one another.

 

Will has a hurried shower while Hannibal prepares their breakfast afterward, his thoughts turning towards Danielle now that he’s a bit more awake.

When he finally peeks into the guest room twenty minutes later, he’s relieved to see that she’s still asleep in the bed. He quietly makes his way across the room, smiling at her restful face.

He sits at the edge of the bed, nudging Danielle’s shoulders until he sees her stir awake.

“Daddy?” Danielle blinks her eyes open, yawning and stretching before she turns to Will.

“Morning, pumpkin. Did you have a good sleep?”

“Yes,” she smiles, getting up for her morning hug. “Good morning, daddy.”

“Why don’t you go wash up? Breakfast is almost ready, I think. I’ll wait here until you’re done.”

Danielle takes her time in washing up, entranced by the big bathroom and the specialty soaps Hannibal had bought for her. It takes Will knocking on the bathroom door a few times before she finally emerges into the bedroom, fully dressed for the day and smelling like she’s bathed herself in an entire floral bouquet.

“I’m ready,” she announces, grinning.

“Did you use everything in the bathroom?”

“I only used three of them.”

“Dani.”

“They smelled nice!”

Will sighs, shaking his head fondly and offering his hand to her.

She beams at him, taking his hands before they make their way downstairs.

 

It turns out Hannibal did plan for an excursion of sorts for the three of them, the man cheerfully offering his suggestions and ideas to Danielle during breakfast while she hung on every word, still completely charmed by the man.

They ended up agreeing to go to the Baltimore National Aquarium, since Danielle showed a lot of excitement at the idea. While Will wouldn’t have planned for it if he were by himself, he quietly agreed to the plan, letting Danielle know that they would be going back to Wolf Trap once their visit to the aquarium was concluded.

Of course, Hannibal managed to persuade them for lunch after the aquarium visit before he agreed to part with them, citing the need for a hearty meal for breakfast and lunch to sustain them throughout the day. Will rolled his eyes but agreed anyway, knowing that Danielle would just veto his decisions anyway.

The visit to the aquarium went well, though Will was silent almost the entire time as he tried to avoid the weekend crowd. He tried to control his frown whenever he saw Hannibal or Danielle glancing his way, but he was content to hang back slightly while Hannibal captivated Danielle with his knowledge of all sorts of aquamarine life while they looked at the various displays inside the expansive building.  

By the end of the visit, Will was exhausted and was only too happy to make their way back to Hannibal’s house for lunch. Danielle had seemed happy, chattering almost non-stop about her observations and her favorite sea creatures (penguins), while Hannibal told her everything he knows about them (a lot, surprisingly, considering the subject).

Lunch was another simple affair, another fish-based meal that Will and Danielle appreciated – Hannibal was right, the visit did make them hungry afterward, and the meal was exactly what the doctor ordered.

Will is beginning to feel human again after lunch, drinking the lemonade juice that Hannibal poured for them, the drink refreshing him further. Perhaps lemonade wouldn’t be the man’s choice in the usual company, but it seems like Hannibal made a lot of concessions when it comes to what he chose to serve Danielle over the weekend.

After lunch, Will tells Danielle to pack up her things upstairs before they get ready to leave for Wolf Trap. While Danielle is packing her things, Will joins Hannibal in the kitchen to help him with the dishes, the other man happily accepting his offer to help.

Hannibal washes each dish by hand (because of course he does), handing them over to Will to dry them with a dishcloth. It’s repetitive, calming work, both of them silent as they go through their respective motion, the silence comfortable. It feels oddly domestic, and Will knows Hannibal is thinking the same thing when the man throws him a soft smile, looking over Will’s work.

Will raises an eyebrow at him. “Do I pass muster, Doctor Lecter? See any spot I missed?”

Hannibal shakes his head, a micro-smile on his face. “If you need me to tell you that you’ve missed a spot, I’m afraid you’ve already failed.”

“Harsh,” Will laughs.

“I’ve heard from several of your students that you are similarly exacting in your judgment.”

“Okay, I probably deserved that.”

Hannibal chuckles, stepping closer to Will as he puts aside the last of the glasses on the dishrack, making sure there’s no more water dripping off of it. “I would love to know the marks you would have given me if I were your student.”

Will allows the chaste kiss, smiling into it before Hannibal pulls away. “Do you really need your ego stroked again?”

“You insist that I do not ‘flirt’ with you, yet you continue to make innuendos whenever you’re in my company.”

He laughs at that, shrugging. “I guess you’re rubbing off on me,” Will says, grinning and raising his brow, challenging the doctor to return the verbal volley.

Hannibal merely raises an eyebrow in turn, smiling at him instead. “Did you enjoy yourself today?”

“It’s not bad. Danielle enjoyed it a lot, so thank you for that particular idea.”

“Yes, I was happy to see her so inquisitive about marine life; I assumed she got the interest from you. Though I asked you if you were enjoying yourself, Will.”

Will rolls his eyes. “It was… nice. Not something I would’ve done for myself, if that’s what you wanted to hear.”

“You did not like the crowd.”

“They can be a bit much.”

“I apologize, it was thoughtless of me.”

Will shrugs listlessly. “It’s okay, Danielle did enjoy herself, so I’m grateful for that.”

Hannibal steps closer to him again, his hand gently cupping the back of Will’s neck. He has been increasingly tactile with Will after their first night together, the man willingly gravitating into Will’s orbit whenever he can find an excuse to do so. It makes him warm all over, though he still feels himself instinctively shying away sometimes.

“It matters to me that you enjoy yourself as well, Will.”

Will sighs, his face painted into a reluctant smile. “I did. I liked seeing you and Danielle having fun together.”

Hannibal smiles, his fingers digging into Will’s neck before letting go. There’s a few seconds of silence where Will sees Hannibal’s mind working again, and he waits for the man to formulate his thoughts, fascinated by the flicker of emotions he sees in Hannibal’s eyes as he tries to verbalize his them. Hannibal is always so careful with his words, weighing every single one before he lets them out into the wild.

“Perhaps this is not the best time to ask, since you’ve mentioned your distaste for the crowd,” Hannibal begins, licking his lips a little. Will’s eyes track the movement in silence. “But I was wondering if you would be willing to accompany me to the opera next weekend?”

Will winces, already imagining how the evening would go, the people he would be expected to mingle with and be introduced to. “Yeah, that… might not be the best idea.”

Hannibal pauses for a long moment before looking away.

“You’ve already bought the tickets, haven’t you?” Will asks, resigned.

“I might have.”

“Hannibal.”

“I apologize. I admit I was selfish when I bought them a few weeks ago.”

“You… we weren’t even dating then,” Will says weakly.

“The tickets were extremely popular, they sold out within an hour. I admit it was an impulsive decision.”

“Goddammit,” Will says under his breath, closing his eyes and inhaling deeply before he dares to look at Hannibal again. “Fine,” he says through gritted teeth. “You owe me big time.”

Hannibal practically beams at him. “I am happy to be indebted to you, Will.”

“Don’t,” Will warns. “I think we need to leave before you owe me more favors.”

Hannibal grins. “I will let you know the details later, then.”

Will sighs. He’s finding it harder and harder to say no to Hannibal these days, and he shudders to think what he has gotten himself into when he agreed to go to the opera.

 

Will stands in front of the hospital door, Danielle’s hand in his as he hesitates slightly before he raps his knuckles against the door.

He hears a soft voice inviting them in, and he doesn’t let himself think before he and Danielle step into the room, the smell of disinfectant and the sounds of beeping machines reminding Will of Joanna’s hospital bedroom almost a year ago now. He feels Danielle’s hand tightening around his, the same associations no doubt coming to his daughter as well. Will squeezes her hand encouragingly before he gives a smile to the person lying on the bed.

“Hello,” he says softly to Bella Crawford, stepping closer to the bed.

Jack and Bella throw a tentative smile at him, though Jack’s eyes immediately go to Danielle’s a few seconds later.

“Thank you for coming,” Bella says, the smile on her face genuine as she eyes them both.

“I’m sorry we had to meet under these circumstances,” Will says, depositing the flowers he had bought at the florist downstairs for lack of anything better to bring. He nods to Jack. “How have you been?”

Jack sighs, smiling tiredly at Bella and petting her hand. He looks like he’s been plastered to the seat next to her for the entire week, his face wrought with weariness. “Things are progressing,” Jack says, a non-answer if there ever was one. “Thanks for coming by.”

Jack gestures them to a chair on the other side of the bed, and Will gratefully takes a seat, pulling Danielle to sit on his lap.

Bella smiles at Danielle, her eyes questioning on Will’s. “Is she yours?”

Will nods. “Say hi, Danielle.”

“Hi,” Danielle says.

“Hi, lovely,” Bella says, reaching a hand out to shake Danielle’s. “Thank you for coming to see me.”

Danielle is silent as she shakes Bella’s hand. “Are you okay?” she asks finally, her voice soft.

“I’m trying to be.”

“That’s good. Daddy says the important thing is to try.”

Bella hums, her eyes soft as she gazes at Danielle. “A lot of people have been telling me that,” she says, grinning.

“I guess because it’s true,” Danielle replies, looking up to Will to give him a brief smile. “Mommy tried for a long time, too. But I’m glad she gets to rest now.”

Bella’s eyes soften further in understanding. “Did she go to the hospital, too?”

Danielle nods. “All the doctors told her it’s too late. But mommy, Papa and Nana wanted to try anyway.”

“I’m so sorry for your loss, Danielle.”

“Thank you. It’s okay to call me Dani, though.”

“Right, gotcha. My nickname is Bella.”

“That’s so pretty.”

“Thank you, Dani. Your daddy really raised you right, huh?”

Danielle laughs, leaning against Will; his hands tighten around her. “Daddy is the best. He has a lot of dogs!”

Bella chuckles at that. “Well, that’s certainly a crowd-pleaser.”

Jack has been watching their conversation quietly, a soft smile on his face as he gazes at Bella and Danielle in turn. He catches Will watching him, and Will throws him a tentative smile.

He’s gratified to see Jack smiling in return.

Jack pulls him aside after minutes passed by, Danielle and Bella deep in their own lighthearted conversation. Both of them step outside of the room, Will putting his hands inside his jeans’ pockets in awkward silence.

Jack clears his throat after a moment, both of them staring at each other in the hallway. “Thank you,” Jack says simply.

Will shrugs. “You should really thank Dani.”

Jack hums thoughtfully. “She’s a good kid. Seems to take after you, with the whole empathy thing.”

“God, I hope not,” Will says, sighing a little. He does notice that Danielle seems to pick up his subtle moods, but he has attributed it mostly to them being so attuned to each other after living together for so long. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else.”

Jack is silent for a moment. “I get that,” he says, sighing as well. “I’m sorry I’ve used it against you.”

There’s really nothing he can say to that, so he shrugs his acceptance.

“Why didn’t you tell me about her?”

Now that’s a lot harder to answer. He contemplates the question, running his hand through his hair. “She only came into my life after her mother passed away,” he says. “It’s been an adjustment for both of us; still is. I didn’t want anything to happen to her. She’s all I have. I won’t let anything ruin the one good thing I have in my life.”

Both of them are silent then, Jack studying him.

“Things are going to happen regardless,” Jack says with his unshakeable calm. “The only thing we can do is face it forward and take it as they come.”

Will laughs at that, the other man looking at him in confusion at the outburst. “How did I know you were going to say that?” he says wryly, shaking his head.

Jack huffs, though there’s an amused glint in his eyes. “Thanks, anyway. I mean it. Especially after what happened.”

“Hmm. Well, I guess I’ll still see you around in Quantico.”

“Yeah. I’ll be back tomorrow, though I’ve been thinking of cutting down my hours at work these days.”

“Might be a good idea,” Will says, smiling. “I hope the two of you will get through this.”

Jack smiles somberly. “We’re doing our best.” The pat Jack places on Will’s shoulder feels awkward, though he knows the man means well. “Thank you, Will.”

Will smiles. “Anytime.”

 

His work continues to be uneventful, thankfully, now that he’s not embroiled in the cases the BAU is currently working on. He does pore over some of the cold cases he has in hand, looking at them from a safe, theoretical perspective in order to use them for his class materials.

Beverly still comes by for lunch sometimes, claiming that she’s tired of listening to Price and Zeller bickering all the time. Even if it’s a blatant lie, Will accepts her company – Beverly’s friendship is easier than most. He doesn’t have to keep any pretenses with her, and she’s always happy to call him out on his bullshit, so they tend to balance each other out in some ways.

“So how are things with your gentleman?” Beverly says, grinning. They’re having lunch in the cafeteria, the din from the crowd ensuring their conversation goes unheard most of the time.

Will shrugs, biting into his burger. “It’s going pretty good, I guess.”

“I’ll bet. You’ve been wearing a lot of turtlenecks these days, don’t think I didn’t notice.”

“Thanks for not mentioning it until now.”

“Hmm, maybe one of these days you’ll even introduce this mystery guy to me.”

Will snorts. “Who do you think you are, my dad?”

“I can be if you want me to be,” Beverly says, waggling her eyebrow.

“Oh God, no thanks,” he says, laughing.

“It’s not like I’m gonna bite his head off or threaten him with a shotgun if he tries to take your virginity or something,” she continues, rolling her eyes. “Don’t you think we’re over the whole secret thing?”

Will takes another bite of his burger, ignoring Beverly’s probing stare. He only answers when he can’t even pretend to chew anymore. “It’s… complicated.”

“How complicated can a relationship be?” Beverly crosses her arms, taking a sip of her iced latte as she stares at him expectantly.

He sighs morosely. “It’s… Hannibal.”

“What? I can’t hear you, can you speak louder?”

“It’s Hannibal,” Will hisses out, glaring at her.

Beverly’s eyes widen a fraction before she lets out an explosive laugh.

Will buries his face in his hands, the rest of his meal forgotten as he tries to bring his blush under control. “This is why I didn’t want to tell anyone,” he spits out when she finally stops laughing. There’s a lot of interested stares thrown their way, Beverly’s guffaws finally dying down after a few minutes. “It’s not that funny.”

“Oh my God, Will Graham, get that!” She descends into more laughter, tears coming out at the corner of her eyes now.

Will sends her a venomous look, wishing for a painless death for himself as people continue to stare at them in intrigue. “Are you done?” he asks, Beverly calming down somewhat, though she’s still grinning at him.

“I’m sorry, okay!” she says, wiping at her tears. “I’m actually really happy for you.”

“Well, you have a funny way of showing it.”

“What did you expect? You didn’t even give me any warning!”

“What was I supposed to warn you with?”

“You know what, you’re right, there’s nothing in the world that could have prepared me for that.”

“You’re kind of being a shitty friend right now.”

“Aww, look at you admitting we’re friends and actually dating someone. My baby’s all grown up.”

“A really shitty friend.”

“Takes one to know one,” she throws back, grinning. “Okay, but seriously? I think it’s great. Good for you. Jack is practically gushing over the man because he managed to convince Bella to go for chemo, so, you know, he’s probably going to be okay with you and him dating.”

Will’s smile softens at that. He picks up his burger and begins eating again, a smile playing at his lips.

“Oh my God, you’re completely smitten with him, aren’t you,” Beverly says, slightly taken aback. “You’re even smiling like a normal person.”

Will finishes the rest of his meal, shrugging. “It’s been nice, I guess.” He can’t really describe how much he actually enjoys Hannibal’s company these days, though “nice” is definitely an understatement. They are both busy during the day, but Hannibal always makes some time to call him during lunch or before bedtime more often than not.

“That’s great, Will,” Beverly says, approval coloring her tone. “I’m kinda jealous now, wow.”

Will laughs. “That’s got to be a first for you.”

“Don’t gloat, it ain’t cute,” she says, grinning at him. “Well, just let me know if you need a favor or you need me to put in more good words for you. I see him a lot these days, actually.”

“You mean Hannibal? How come?”

“He didn’t tell you? He’s been helping Jack with a profile for the last few days.”

“Which one?”

“You heard of the human cello they found at one of the opera houses?”

Will scoffs. “Yeah, I saw Lounds’s article.”

“She practically emailed them to the whole FBI, taunting us on failing to catch the guy in like, a day. Jack’s practically spitting fireballs at her.”

“She does tend to have that effect on people.”

Beverly hums in agreement. “It’s a good thing you quit when you did. But we’ve been pretty stumped with the case, so Jack’s called in Dr. Lecter and Alana for some perspectives.”

He probably shouldn’t be jealous that Alana is spending more time with Hannibal than he is. Get a grip, Graham. “I hope you catch him soon, then.”

“Me too. What a case for Jack to come back to, though.”

Will lets the silence settle between them before he speaks again. “Speaking of favors… can I call you in for one?”

She looks a little surprised at the request, though she recovers quickly. “Sure, shoot.”

“I… have a date with Hannibal this weekend,” he says, avoiding Beverly’s gaze as he fiddles with his coffee. “Do you think Dani can stay with you for one night?”

“Oh, is that all?” she laughs. “Sure, send her over! It’s not like I have a date with a hot psychiatrist, not that I’m bitter or anything. Do you want me to pick her up?”

His shoulders sag with relief. “No, it’s okay, I’ll bring her over on Saturday, if you don’t mind? It’s just… her usual babysitter is out of town, and there’s no one else I can really turn to.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Beverly says, waving his apologies away. “I’m the eldest of four siblings, remember? I practically have a gold medal in babysitting.”

“Just don’t teach her how to shoot a gun and we’re good.”

“Hey, it’s never too early to start them with self-defense. I’d be a kickass teacher.”

“I don’t doubt it. Oh, and you might have to read her something before she goes to sleep, since I won’t be around to do it.”

“What? People actually do that? I thought everyone just threw a Disney movie on and let them fall asleep that way.”

“…Okay now I’m rethinking my decision.”

“What? What’s wrong with a classic princess movie?”

“Uh, we don’t really have a TV at home, so.”

Beverly gasps. “You mean she doesn’t even know about Disney movies? You’re kidding me!”

Will shrugs. “It… never came up. I just read her books about princesses, and she seems happy with them.”

“Oh my God, the poor kid. Never fear, she’ll be getting a full education on kickass Disney princesses, starting with Mulan.”

“…should I know what that is?”

“You are sick, Will Graham, sick. How can you deprive her so?”

They continue to bicker all throughout lunch, Beverly laying out the merits and demerits of each Disney princess, as if Will should know who these characters even are. They only part when Jack practically screams at Beverly through the phone for taking too long at lunch, Beverly scurrying off with a little wave and a smile as they both return to work.

 

The next few days pass by in a whirlwind of activities. Will finds himself buried in work as he prepares his classes for exams and the usual assignments (which means more papers for him to mark later, joy) while he also starts looking into a pre-kindergarten for Danielle.

Apparently he was supposed to start the registration process earlier this year because the whole thing takes almost an entire year just to enroll Danielle into pre-K next year, which is preposterous to him. It seems like he will be missing the deadline completely, judging by how much work he has to put into the whole thing – in fact, he’s only on the first step of looking for a pre-K, which basically consists of him looking at Yelp reviews for the best schools to send Danielle to.

Between that and his typical work schedule, he barely notices that he’s already into Friday evening, panicking at the mountain of work he still has ahead of him. He decides to call it a day, giving up completely as he heads home. Maybe I’ll just have Danielle homeschooled, he thinks with increasing despair.

He reaches Wolf Trap in a tired daze, smiling when he sees Danielle rushing out to greet him as usual, the dogs trailing behind her excitedly. He gives a little wave to Alice who’s standing by the door.

“Hi, daddy!” Danielle says, hugging him tightly before she looks up at him eagerly. “Guess what, guess what?”

“Hmm, what?” He picks her up and makes their way back into the house.

“I got presents!”

That gets his attention. “Oh? From who?” he asks wearily, though he’s pretty sure he knows the answer.

“The man who gave them to me said it’s from your friend! Can I open it, please, please, pleaseee?”

He chuckles, putting her down in the living room. “Sure. Let me just see Alice off first, okay?”

“Okay!” she says, grinning and waving at Alice. “Bye, Alice!”

Alice smiles and waves at her before following Will out of the house. “She sure seems excited,” she says, laughing a bit. “Got a whole lot of boxes there.”

Oh God, how many presents did he get her. “Yeah… uh. Just thought she needed a treat, I guess.”

“That’s great,” Alice says, smiling as she walks towards her car, Will following closely behind. “I thought I missed her birthday or something.”

“No, no,” Will says, smiling. “I’ll invite you to that, obviously.”

“You better. Alright, I have to go, I have to head out early tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Alice, have a safe trip. I’ll see you next week?”

“As usual,” Alice says, waving as she drives away.

Will watches her car disappear out of the driveway before he turns and makes his way back into the house. He sees the dogs milling excitedly around Danielle who’s sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace, her hands stroking four boxes of various sizes. He sits down next to her and kisses her forehead.

“What do we have here?” Will asks, picking up one of the bigger boxes, Buster and Zoe scurrying over to him to sniff curiously at the box while the rest of the pack are content to watch lazily from their beds, content with the warmth from the fire.

Danielle shrugs, bouncing in excitement. “No idea! Can we open them please, please?”

“Okay but you have to help me throw these wrappers away later, deal?”

“I will, I will. Please daddy just open them, please.”

He laughs, gesturing the smaller boxes in front of them. “Why don’t you open that one then while I open this one?”

Danielle nods eagerly, her hands immediately grabbing the present, her hands meticulously loosening the ribbon around it before she carefully unwraps the wrapping paper from one corner to the other. She’s almost done with unwrapping it, though she’s distracted when Will starts to open the present in his hands, her eyes growing bigger when she sees what’s inside. 

He laughs when he sees her eyeing the box in his hand, Will opening the lid of the box to reveal a beautiful cream dress folded within. Danielle’s eyes widen in amazement, her hands reaching out to touch the dress reverently.

“Daddy, it’s so beautiful,” she says in a hushed voice. The dress crinkles in her hand, Danielle stroking the lace and frills adorning the sleeves of the dress. “It’s for me, isn’t it?”

Will smiles, handing her the box. “It is,” he says. “Here, why don’t you have a look? Go ahead and open the rest, pumpkin, I’m just gonna go get a drink.”

She clearly doesn’t need any further prompting, immediately unwrapping the present in her lap while Will rises up to make his way to the kitchen.

Will stretches himself before he pulls out a glass and a bottle of whiskey from one of the upper cabinets – he feels like he needs one, after the tiring day he’s had. It does warm his heart to come home to a happy daughter, and he listens to the telltale sounds of the wrappers being ripped open; clearly she’s too excited to care about opening them in a careful manner now.

He pours a finger of whiskey into the glass, taking a small sip and closing his eyes in appreciation. He hasn’t had a drink for a while, choosing to stay sober most of the time for Danielle’s sake. He likes the relaxing effect the alcohol has on him though, the warm buzz coiling in his stomach comforting.

“Daddy, I got shoes! And I think this one’s for you!”

Will’s brow rises at that, though he probably shouldn’t be surprised. “Okay, just a sec,” he calls out to her, finishing the rest of his whiskey before he puts the bottle away.

Making his way back into the living room, he laughs at the sight of Danielle sitting in a sea of opened boxes while the dogs look curiously on; only the smallest of the box remains unopened. “That was fast.”

“I got excited,” she says sheepishly. She waits for him to sit down next to her again before she pushes an opened box towards him. “I think this is yours, daddy.”

“So it is,” he agrees, smiling at the gift.

Hannibal has decided to provide him with a full set tuxedo for tomorrow night, and Will lets out a sigh of relief at that. With everything that has been going on for the past few days, the fact that he had to rent a tux completely slipped his mind. He can’t even be mad over the extravagant gift, even knowing how much this must have cost, the fine material of the midnight-blue suit tux sinfully soft under his hand.

“Daddy, is this mine, too?”

Smiling still, he turns his attention to Danielle. “Hmm, what’s that—”

The words die in his throat as he sees what Danielle is holding up in her hands, his face flushing in a mixture of embarrassment and shock before he finds himself snatching the item away from his daughter, Danielle looking stricken at the sudden movement.

“Daddy, are you okay?”

His heart is hammering fast, and he closes his eyes in consternation as he takes in a few calming breaths. When he opens his eyes again, he plasters on an insincere smile as Danielle looks at him in concern.

“Daddy? Is there something wrong with the gift?”

He shakes his head, crumpling the present in his hands and stashing it under his tux. “No, uh, I think maybe Hannibal got you the wrong gift, so I’m just gonna ask him to return it later, okay?”

Danielle looks at him worriedly before nodding slowly. “Okay, daddy.”

“Have you tried the dress and shoes on yet?”

She perks up again at the question, and she scrabbles to put on the dress and shoes, the awkward moment quickly forgotten.

 

Will takes out his phone a few hours later, Danielle safely tucked in bed after they put away her presents in her small wardrobe. He’s lying on his bed, ready for bed, though his eyes keep straying to the gifts strewn across his bed. He gives up trying to think of what exactly to say about Hannibal’s “gifts”, deciding to get straight to the point.

> lace underwear? REALLY???

He sighs when he hears the phone vibrating – Hannibal never wastes any time, of course.

“You’re mad if you think I’m putting them on,” Will says as soon as he answers the phone. “Also, seriously? You couldn’t have put my name on the boxes?”

There’s a pause on the other line, Hannibal struggling to think which question he’s supposed to answer first. “I did, in fact, put yours and Danielle’s on the boxes to indicate which one is which.”

Will’s brow furrows at that – he can’t recall seeing it since he was so distracted with his workload and just decided to open the gifts without even inspecting them first. “Okay, fine, maybe that was my mistake. Just… can you color-code them or something next time?”

The implication of the words “next time” is surely not lost on the other man, but he doesn’t make note of it. Will hears a satisfied hum instead. “I apologize, did the presents get… mixed up?”

Will snorts. “She was holding it out and asking me if it was meant for her.”

Hannibal chuckles unrepentantly. “I truly apologize if I have scarred her in any way. I will be sure to separate the boxes more clearly in the future.”

“Thanks,” he grumbles, rolling his eyes a little. “But seriously, are you expecting me to wear that tomorrow?”

“I assumed you didn’t have any tuxedo, but I thought it would be a nice addition to your wardrobe regardless whether or not you wear them tomorrow. You need not wear them if you’re uncomfortable with them, though I hope you will still use it someday.”

“Oh my God, don’t play coy with me, Hannibal.”

“I was going to continue,” Hannibal says smoothly, Will rolling his eyes in incredulity, “but yes. I am hoping you will wear all of them tomorrow.”

The directness of that request leaves Will speechless for a moment, his eyes blinking in disbelief. He should’ve known better, really – Hannibal seems to have no capacity for shame whatsoever when it comes to his wants and desires.

“Will, are you still there?”

Will exhales, getting up to study the lacey… thing currently gracing his bed. He can’t even bring himself to say the word in his mind, which was why he had typed a message to Hannibal, hoping the doctor would have some sort of mercy on him. He really should’ve known better.

His brow furrows as he runs his hand on the fabric. “…It’s the same color as that tie, isn’t it?”

He hears another pleased hum on the other line. “It does make a nice companion to it, now that you’ve mentioned it.”

“Oh my God, did you have this custom-made for me?” He chokes on the last word, imagining how that would go in the store Hannibal typically frequents (no doubt he has a favorite tailor who would make anything he wants at a moment’s notice).

“No need to go to that extent,” Hannibal says, amusement coloring his voice. “I did get the suit tailor-made to your specifications, however.”

Will’s eyes narrow on the blue suit, sighing. “I guess I should’ve expected that. I won’t even ask you how you managed to get my measurements.”

“Through a very thorough study of your figure.”

“I told you I won’t ask, Hannibal, read the room.”

Another chuckle. “Will you wear them for me, dear boy?”

Fuck.”

“Language, my dear.”

“Oh, fuck you,” Will says, laughing at that. Everything about this whole thing is so far from his comfort zone – the fact that he’s dating someone like Hannibal freaking Lecter, the fact that said man is actually plying him with gifts every single week, the fact that said man actually custom-ordered a suit and bought a lace panties for him to wear to an opera concert – that it just seems funny at this point.

“Hmm, I might need to punish you for that tomorrow.”

His laugh quickly turns into a groan. “Please stop, you insufferable man.”

“Only if you agree to wear them tomorrow.”

“You already know what’s going to happen.”

“As always, I merely hope for it.”

“I’m going to end this now before you continue with your psychoanalyzing. Good night, Hannibal.”

“Good night, Will. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

Tomorrow comes around too soon for Will, who is quickly turning into a nervous wreck over the whole thing. He wonders why he’s agreed to go to the opera before recalling that Hannibal basically manipulated him into it in his weirdly charming ways. He’s going to have to do something about that side of Hannibal one of these days.

He calls Beverly before he sets out to drop off Danielle with her after lunch, Beverly opening the door with a wide grin on her face and a cheerful greeting for Danielle, telling her to make herself at home as they both come inside.

“Thanks again, Bev,” Will says appreciatively.

“No worries, anything for a Graham,” Beverly says, grinning. “Though a Graham might owe me a box of beers by the end of this.”

“You have an unhealthy fixation with beer.”

“Let me live, God, you sound like my mom,” Beverly says, rolling her eyes. “Come on, Dani, let me show you where you can put your stuff.”

“Okay,” Danielle says, smiling happily as she follows Beverly into a room at the end of the hallway while Will settles himself on one of the couches in the living room.

“Do you want anything to drink before you go?” Beverly asks when she comes back with Danielle in tow, the two of them giggling over something.

“No, it’s okay, I have to head back and get ready soon.”

“You’re driving back to Wolf Trap and head out to Baltimore later? Jeez, that must be some date.”

Will glares at her, his eyes darting to Danielle.

Beverly rolls her eyes. “Calm down, she’s a kid, not stupid. She probably knows more than you think.”

Will sighs, running his hand through his hair, giving up.

“I know a lot of things,” Danielle says seriously, looking at Beverly. “I’ve started reading some of my books myself, though I’m very slow.”

“How are you so precious?” Beverly gushes. “You must’ve gotten it from your mom.”

“Thanks, Bev,” Will says dryly.

“You’re welcome,” she replies cheerfully. “Okay, now scram so that I can start giving her a proper education of the life and times of Disney princesses.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Will says, giving Danielle a brief hug. “See you tomorrow okay, pumpkin? Just let me know if Bev starts teaching you how to use a gun.”

“Okay!” Danielle says, kissing his cheek happily. “Have fun, daddy!”

Beverly grins at the words, following Will to the door of her apartment. “Yeah, have fun,” she says, waggling her eyebrows. “Where’s Hannibal taking you, huh? A fancy dinner?”

“To the opera, actually.”

“Wow, pulling out all the stops already. Lucky dog. Wait, do you even have a tux?”

“Yeah, I do.” He barely stops himself from saying that Hannibal had gifted it to him; he has a feeling that will just open another can of worms.

“Hmmm, you might have to do something with your hair, the whole deranged professor look doesn’t really fly with a suit. Just saying.”

“You really know how to wound a person.”

“I aim to please,” Beverly laughs, grinning. “But seriously, it’s the opera, just put some gel in your hair or something. That’s the least you can do.”

“Do you want to go to this opera instead of me? ’Cause I could just let Hannibal know.”

“Yeah I don’t think he’d appreciate the switcheroo, nice try though. Look, just snap a picture later so I can let you know if you’re hitting it right. You don’t want to make a bad impression on him, right?”

Will groans. “Thanks for adding to my list of anxieties.”

“Relax, he’ll probably still like you at the end of the night, though it wouldn’t hurt to make an effort.”

“Are you done? Can I go now?”

“Yes, after you promise me you’ll take a picture before you leave for your date.”

“Yes, mom.”

“I prefer ma’am, but you do you. See you later!”

 

Getting ready is turning out to be a chore – he has to figure out how to actually put on a tuxedo, which will take all of his energy to put on, considering he’s never owned or worn one before.

He laid out the pieces of the whole thing carefully on his bed when he came back to Wolf Trap, taking a bath afterward. Now he just eyes them bleakly for a few minutes before shaking himself out of his misery.

No, the biggest hurdle to this is not even the tuxedo. It’s that damn lingerie Hannibal has bought for him, the piece of cloth practically glaring at him from the bed.

He takes a couple of deep breaths, picking the cloth up and steeling himself before he finally puts them on. He holds his breath until the material settles on his hips, slowly releasing his breath in a slow exhale. He doesn’t want to look at himself in the mirror, knowing that the moment he does, he’ll probably scream at the sight and promptly cancel the whole date.

Wearing it makes him feel… naked. There’s no other word for it. The lace material doesn’t leave anything to the imagination, though it feels soft against his skin. He hasn’t bothered to shave himself down there, thinking that Hannibal will just have to deal.

With that done, he finally focuses on putting the rest of his suit on, moving into familiar territory once more. When he’s finished with everything, he feels slightly odd, the rustle of his pants against the delicate material making him feel as if he’s gone commando underneath the tux.

It’s going to be a long night.

Will does finally allow himself to look into the mirror, since he needs to style his hair for a more presentable look. He uses his hair gel to tousle his hair into something he thinks might be halfway decent before he takes a photo of himself in the bathroom mirror, sending it to Beverly in a text message.

The phone buzzes after a few minutes.

> ok I should’ve clarified I need a full photo. like what am I supposed to do with a picture of your forehead and your hair, graham? good grief

Will rolls his eyes even if Beverly’s not there to see it. He takes a few steps backward to make sure he can see at least half of his body in the mirror before snapping another photo. It’s slightly blurry, but Beverly will have to deal.

> ok that’s more like it

> but DAMN GRAHAM U CLEAN UP GOOD U HV BEEN HOLDING OUT ON US!! HAVE FUN TONITE AND GO GET SOME 🍑 🍑 🍑

> PS: DON’T FORGET TO TIP YOUR FAIRY GODMOTHER WITH BEERS

Will sputters at the messages and doesn’t dignify them with an answer, wishing this whole night is over already even though it has barely started.

 

When he finally stands in front of the door to Hannibal’s house, his stomach is filled with butterflies, the whole surreal night coming into focus when he sets his eyes on Hannibal, the sight rendering him speechless.

Hannibal looks especially handsome tonight, his hair styled in a more relaxed manner than Will has ever seen him, the clean, sleek line of his black tuxedo showing off his beautiful broad physique. Will has always found Hannibal to be an attractive man, though that attraction was quickly stamped out of him when the doctor insisted on psychoanalyzing him the first time they met. To see Hannibal dressed up to the nines is another different matter altogether.

“Hi,” Will breathes out, smiling when he sees the way Hannibal’s eyes rake hungrily over his own body. He makes a mental note to buy Beverly a box of her favorite beer later.

“Hello, Will.” Hannibal gives him a wide smile, giving him a quick peck on the lips before he turns to lock the door behind him. “Shall we?”

Hannibal leads Will to his Bentley, and Will is grateful that he’s not the one driving since he feels slightly dazed by everything that’s happening. He still can’t believe that he’s agreed to go to an opera concert with Hannibal, that he’s agreed to be paraded around as Hannibal Lecter’s date in a more official capacity. His stomach is tied in knots, worry furrowing his brow as he thinks of everything that could go wrong. Perhaps he can pretend to be mute for the entire night, though Hannibal probably won’t let him get away with that.

His thoughts are interrupted by the feel of Hannibal’s hand slowly cradling his. He startles a little at the touch, but the warmth is comforting, and he curls his hand around Hannibal’s, smiling at the other man before turning to stare ahead of him again. They don’t speak along the way; there’s no need to.

 

The opera was not something he expected. Will imagined Hannibal actually renting an opera box for the two of them, but the reality of it was a little underwhelming (not like Will has been expecting more, but he’s just a little wary of Hannibal’s “gifts” these days).

They were seated in one of the middle rows, arriving just in time for the performance to begin. Hannibal has probably engineered their arrival down to a perfect timing to make sure Will wouldn’t have to socialize more than he needs to, and he finds himself grateful for it.

Despite the fact Will doesn’t speak Italian at all, the meaning behind the aria lost to him, the performance itself turns out to be enjoyable. He absorbs the general emotions of the crowd surrounding him, however, closing his eyes to concentrate on the feelings the singer has poured out into the audience, her voice ringing in his ears. He feels Hannibal next to him, his appreciation for the whole performance palpable, the man giving all of his attention to the woman singing in front of them.

Will is so taken by Hannibal’s joyful and exuberant expression that he doesn’t even realize that the performance is over, startling when Hannibal rushes out of his seat to give the singer a standing ovation. Will slowly rises, clapping and smiling at Hannibal’s obvious adoration – it’s the first time he’s seen Hannibal showing his emotions in such an overt manner, the man giving almost nothing away otherwise. He adds the memory into the forest in his forts, something to treasure and examine later.

Hannibal turns to him with a wide smile once the applause has died down, his eyes still glistening with unshed tears. He takes Will’s hand in his silently, leading them out to the main hall of the gallery where the guests are expected to mingle. Will’s nervousness has gone down during the entire performance, though he feels it rising once more when he sees the size of the crowd, the back of his neck prickling from the gazes he can feel on his back.

He’s amazed at the fact that Hannibal has somehow perfected the art of slinking his way through the crowd almost unnoticed. He finally placed them somewhere in the corner of the room, slightly secluded from the worst of the crowd, Will letting out the breath he has been holding as they navigated their way out of the sea of people.

“Champagne?” Hannibal asks, smiling softly as he offers Will a glass he has managed to procure from one of the waiters passing by.

“Thank you.” Will clears his throat, taking a sip of the bubbly drink while his eyes roam around. The performance tonight has taken place at one of Baltimore’s art galleries, in honor of a new exhibition being displayed from tomorrow onwards. While it’s not exactly the full opera experience he expected, the night has gone pleasantly enough, the performance leaving a memorable impression on him after what he’s witnessed, Hannibal’s emotions still flowing through him.

“Did you enjoy yourself?”

“Hmm, it was… different,” Will admits. “I’ve never been to one of these things before.”

“It can be a lot to take in, for your first time.”

“Thanks for inviting me. I think I can deal with this level of socializing. For now.”

Hannibal gives him a smile; Will feels himself wanting to kiss the man, though he refrains since they’re still in public, even if they have chosen to isolate themselves into a corner.

That doesn’t seem to matter to one woman, however. Will sees her slowly approaching them, her eyes curious as she makes her way to the crowd to them.

“Hannibal,” the woman begins, smiling when Hannibal sees her making a beeline for him. “How lovely to see you here tonight.”

“Elaine,” Hannibal says, graciously taking her gloved hand for a kiss. “It’s been a while.”

“I’ll say,” the woman says with a simpering smile. “I haven’t seen you for months now. I’ve been wondering why you’ve been so silent, and it seems now we know why.” Her eyes flash to Will, smiling widely at him.

“Ah, how rude of me,” Hannibal says, as if only realizing his mistake. “Will, this is a good friend of mine, Elaine Komeda. Elaine, Will Graham.”

Will takes Elaine’s hand in his and kisses it softly. He mirrors Hannibal’s posture and manner, pulling back and smiling widely. “Enchanté.”

“Oh, how wonderful, do you speak French?” Elaine gushes.

Will laughs. “I’m afraid not very well. I’ve always wanted to say that, though.”

Elaine is immediately gratified, smiling coyly between the three of them. “Hannibal, where did you ever find such a delightful young man?”

“I’m afraid I must keep my secrets; I would prefer to keep him mine,” Hannibal answers, grinning widely.

Elaine gives a tinkling, exaggerated laugh. “You sly man.” She turns to Will, winking at him. “You’ve landed yourself quite a catch, Mr. Graham.”

“I believe the opposite of that is true,” Hannibal interjects.

Will rolls his eyes at him, though he’s smiling in amusement at Hannibal’s affected personality. The man is clearly happy to be in his element at last, peacocking in his own way.

“Is he the reason you’ve been so busy to throw us your usual dinner parties?” Elaine asks, raising her eyebrows in an almost impertinent manner, though Hannibal doesn’t seem to mind.

The man only hums in agreement, throwing a secret smile at Will. “I’m afraid we have been very busy enjoying each other’s company,” Hannibal says, grinning at Elaine.

“Oh, how scandalous!” Elaine titters. “But you must throw us another party, then, to show off your young man.”

“I believe I just might, if I can be persuaded to share my time with him,” Hannibal says, amusement twinkling in his eyes.

Will raises his eyebrow at him, smiling crookedly. “Then you may have to wait for a while, I’m afraid,” he says to Elaine. “He seems to be incapable of sharing me with anyone else at the moment.”

Elaine laughs again, delighted at hearing such gossip. She’s about to reply when her attention is caught by another man in their periphery, her incredulity giving way to amusement. “Hannibal, I believe that man is trying to catch your attention.”

Will studies the two men who have approached them almost silently; one man portly in stature and giddy with excitement, while the other dark-skinned man watches them all stoically, both of them together making a very unlikely couple.

“Dr. Lecter,” the shorter man is saying. “Fancy meeting you here.”

“Hello, Franklyn,” Hannibal says, tilting his head in acknowledgment, giving both of the men a brief smile.

“Nice to see you! This is my friend, Tobias,” Franklyn says, gesturing to the man beside him.

“Good evening,” Hannibal says, bowing slightly.

“How do you two know each other, then?” Elaine says, amused as she watches the awkward conversation.

Hannibal’s words are cut off by Franklyn’s eager answer: “I’m his patient.”

There’s an awkward silence at Franklyn’s proclamation, Hannibal and Elaine rendered speechless for a moment.

Will is trying to stay silent in the midst of all this baffling development; he knows he can be awkward at socializing, so it’s only too easy to empathize with Franklyn’s bumbling way of making himself known to the crowd, his eagerness to socialize with Hannibal all too apparent. Tobias remains silent at Franklyn’s side, interestingly enough. A very odd pair, indeed.

He thrusts out his hand to Franklyn, trying to break the silence. “Hello,” he says, shaking Franklyn’s hand. “Will Graham. Nice to meet you.”

Franklyn gives him a strained smile, letting go of his hand as quickly as he can. “Are you Dr. Lecter’s patient, too?”

Will tries to control his facial expressions, and he sees Hannibal smiling at his effort. “No, not really.”

“Who are you, then?”

Hannibal clears his throat, smiling at Will. “Will is my partner.”

Franklyn’s face actually falls at that, and Will feels just a little bit sorry for the man. Tobias turns to look at Will more closely though, his icy stare pinning Will’s gaze.

“As in… a business partner?” Franklyn asks hopefully.

Will smiles, putting a proprietary hand on Hannibal’s arm. “Not exactly,” he drawls, squeezing Hannibal’s arm.

Hannibal beams at him, looking as if he might just kiss Will in front of everyone. Will kind of wants him to. Not the moment, Graham, he reminds himself.

Franklyn looks crestfallen, while Tobias’s gaze has grown intrigued. Elaine just looks massively entertained with the whole conversation.

“Do you play, Mr. Graham?” Tobias asks him, joining the conversation in a non-sequitur. “You seem like someone who would appreciate an instrument.”

Will gives him a placid smile. “I play the piano, though not well enough.”

The way Tobias looks at Will is sounding off some warning bells inside his mind. The man looks like he fits every description of a psychopath, and Will is alarmed to see the man turning his interest to him.

Tobias nods, his smile not quite reaching his eyes. “I have a chordophone string shop in Baltimore. I dare say we carry the best strings in the city. Feel free to drop by if you ever find yourself needing your piano tuned.”

Will hums at that. “I’ll look you up, then.”

Tobias’s eyes flash at the words. “Be sure that you do.”

“I’m afraid we must be off,” Hannibal says, his possessive gaze burning into Will’s before he turns to the rest of their conversation partners. “It’s good to see you, Franklyn, Tobias. Elaine, I will let you know when we’re available to have you for dinner.”

Elaine chuckles, winking at Will and Hannibal as they walk away, Will’s hand still on Hannibal’s arm.

 

Will can barely remember the drive back to Hannibal’s house, both of them silent throughout the whole drive, the tension between them taut and fragile.

Once they make it inside the house, Hannibal doesn’t even give him a chance to get a word in before he finds himself kissed passionately, his back pressed against the door in a crushing grip. Will’s knees buckle, his hands grappling at Hannibal’s waist as he kisses him back, both of them lost in each other for a few long minutes, grunting and grinding against each other.

“Hannibal,” Will groans, struggling to pull away. “Bed, now.”

Hannibal chuckles, pulling away and dragging Will upstairs silently, both of them too aroused for words.

The man practically throws Will on the bed, his lips on Will’s once more as he grinds their erections together in slow, torturous movements. Both of them struggle to strip each other of their clothing, Will cursing at the many layers they have to get through before Hannibal pulls away again, impatiently stripping himself off of his clothes.

Will swallows thickly, the sight of Hannibal stripped naked giving him another spike of arousal. He barely remembers to strip his own clothes off, managing to shuck his blazer and shirt off before he goes for his pants next, breathing heavily.

Hannibal’s hands are on him then, pushing Will’s hands away as he moves to undress Will himself, slowly baring the rest of Will’s skin to him, his eyes dark with lust when he sees the lace underwear Will has put on.

“Like what you see?” Will teases, smiling up at Hannibal.

Hannibal growls at that, his hands tight on Will’s hips, moving his face to inhale at Will’s erection, the action sending shivers through Will’s body. Gone are his reservations about putting the lingerie on; he feels powerful when he sees how affected and aroused Hannibal is at the sight of him in them. His cock is tenting obscenely against the fabric, the material wet with precum.

Hannibal pulls away for a few seconds, retrieving his lubricant. Will closes his eyes in bliss as the man pulls his cock out of his underwear, moaning when he feels Hannibal’s mouth around him.

“Hannibal,” he moans, his hips starting to thrust upwards into the wet warmth. His movement stutters when he feels Hannibal’s finger brush against his entrance, Hannibal pulling the fabric aside only enough to push his wet fingers inside Will.

Will groans at the feeling, his legs falling apart to give Hannibal better access. Hannibal hums appreciatively, one of his hands busy with fondling Will’s cock while the other is slowly thrusting into him, opening him up.

Will is silent for long minutes, occasionally letting out a moan of pleasure when Hannibal brushes his fingers against his prostate, his body jerking helplessly, thrusting into Hannibal’s hand. The lewd sounds of Hannibal fingering him open and his strangled moans echo between them, Hannibal whispering lovingly as he continues to tease Will open.

“Will, you’re so beautiful like this,” Hannibal murmurs, pulling both of his hands away after a few minutes.

Will gasps when Hannibal’s hands leave him, his body sagging down onto the bed listlessly. “You’re just going to tease me all night?”

Hannibal grins, kissing him thoroughly. “Turn around, Will. On your knees,” he says, his voice soft despite the command in it.

Will struggles to turn, propping himself up on his hands and knees, overtly aware of his heavy breathing and trembling body. When he settles himself on the bed, he feels Hannibal lining himself up behind him, moaning when Hannibal’s cock finally pushes inside him. “Yes,” he hisses, his hands grasping at the sheets beneath him.

“That’s it, Will, look at how well you’re taking me.” Hannibal groans, stilling himself inside Will when he manages to pierce into Will as deep as he could, Will’s chest heaving from exertion.

Hannibal starts to thrust into him in a slow, deep movement, his furry chest pressed on Will’s sweaty back. He winds one hand across Will’s chest, while the other hand pulls the lace underwear aside, driving into Will while he’s still wearing them. He couldn’t even muster the energy to laugh at that, Hannibal’s cock making him writhe in pleasure beneath the man.

“You feel so good,” Will mumbles, his words muffled against Hannibal’s sheets. “Hannibal, ah—  touch me, please.”

Hannibal kisses the back of his neck before his hands pull Will’s body into a sitting position, both of them moaning at the change in position. Will shivers at the feeling of Hannibal’s cock penetrating him deeper at this angle.

He feels Hannibal’s hands pinching one of his nipples and caressing his cock, and he lets himself whine from the pleasurable torture. “Hannibal.”

Hannibal pulls out slightly before slamming back into him. Will cries out at the motion, his hands clinging onto Hannibal’s arms as he’s manipulated for Hannibal’s use. There’s not much he can do other than let himself be used, moving his hips to meet Hannibal’s thrusts, the sound of skin slapping against skin obscene in the relative silence.

He keens when Hannibal’s hand finally wraps around his cock, his hips moving erratically now to accept Hannibal’s claims inside him.

When Hannibal sinks his teeth into the juncture of Will’s shoulder, Will comes harder than he’s ever done in his entire life, Hannibal’s name at the tip of his tongue.

Hannibal growls, pushing Will back onto the soiled sheets, his belly rubbing against his own come as Hannibal chases his release inside him, Will’s ass clenched tightly against Hannibal’s cock as he’s fucked through his orgasm.

He sighs blissfully when he finally feels Hannibal coming inside him, the man grunting in pleasure before he lets himself fall on top of Will, both of them breathing in other’s scents, the sheets beneath them saturated with their sweat and come. He hums in pleasure when he feels Hannibal’s hand petting through his curls.

“Did you just buy me lingerie so you could ruin them?” Will rasps, his thoughts finally returning to him.

Hannibal nips at his shoulder, biting another mark into him. “I like seeing you ruined by my hands.”

“You don’t need to buy me underwear for that.”

“No, but the color looks tempting on you.”

“Hmmm, I thought you were going to tie me up.”

“Patience, darling. We still have tomorrow.”

“…I guess we do. I’m going to sleep now, wake me when you want to tie me up.”

“Go to sleep, Will.”

Chapter Text

Will never felt like he was missing out when it came to having or sustaining a relationship. He can’t really turn off his empathy at will, which makes it harder for him to maintain a relationship when his partner inevitably tells him in no uncertain terms that they don’t appreciate the fact that Will is looking for “things that aren’t there”, even though Will knows for a fact that they are there, hidden deep below their murky emotions.

He’s not much fun at parties either, for that same reason.

So he prefers to keep his distance. It’s easier that way – his dogs are his reliable companions, and they appreciate all of his efforts, no matter how little, and in return, he gets their love and affection. He also gets more fur than he’s bargained for – the dogs shed more than humans do, but it’s something that Will has learned to live with for a decade or more, and he can’t really complain.

When Danielle stepped into his life, he took it in his stride and tried to provide for her as much as he could. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but he thinks he’s done pretty well for both of them. Danielle doesn’t seem traumatized or scarred at least, unless you count the scars she’s gotten from tumbling around with the dogs.  

It’s fair to say that Will has been pretty happy with his life thus far, his work notwithstanding. Raising a child is hard and requires a lot of empathy and compassion, which he’s only too happy to pour into Danielle, his daughter loving the attention. There are no complaints of Will looking for something that isn’t there. Danielle takes in his love and reflects it to him, both of them reveling in their little universe at the edge of the woods.

All this to say: Will has never wished for anything different in his life.

So he’s a little surprised to find that he has missed the intimacy of being known and thoroughly seen by someone. He always thought he couldn’t miss something he’s never had.

But Hannibal has shown him time and time again how much he sees Will, and that he appreciates what he sees. There’s something freeing in knowing that Hannibal sees the best and worst in Will and is willing to take all of that into his life for some reason. He still doesn’t really get why Hannibal is attracted to him and his weird mirror neurons in the first place, but he’s happy to accept that sometimes people find something they love in one another and don’t really need a reason to do so.

The additional intimacy in the carnal sense of the word is a special bonus he has never quite grasped until now.

He has had lovers, though all of them have been women until now. He doesn’t desire sex unless it’s with someone he particularly knows, so he can count his sexual encounters and previous lovers with one hand. Sex is optional and highly intimate to him; there’s something particularly revealing about having sex with someone, so he prefers to know his partner intimately if he can help it.

Being with Hannibal is easy, except when it’s not. But being intimate with Hannibal is particularly easy for him, the man not shy in the slightest when it comes to showing how much he desires Will. It’s only too easy for Will to take in those desires and use the verbal and visual cues Hannibal gives him, letting his voice ring out in pleasure and encouragement whenever Hannibal touches him, welcoming Hannibal into his body time and time again, both of them enjoying each other in ways that Will has never experienced before.

Sex with Hannibal is… mind-blowing, to say the least.

He doesn’t need to let Hannibal know what he wants, because it seems like Hannibal always knows what he needs.

And what he needs right now is to come.

“Hannibal,” Will groans. “Please—”

“Hush now, darling, I’ll take care of you.”

“Oh God.” Will lets his head fall back onto the pillow. His legs are twitching from the stimulation, his hands straining above him as they’re restrained by his own tie. He tries to regulate his breathing, futile though it may be.

Hannibal is teasing him with a massaging vibrator, because it seems like he’s in a particularly sadistic mood this morning. He has been at it for a while now, deliberately teasing Will with gentle pettings and a targeted massage at his prostate, pulling the toy back when Will seems to be at the edge of his orgasm.

He woke up this morning to Hannibal gently kissing him awake, Will groggily accepting the kiss, none the wiser to his eventual fate. Hannibal had whispered lovingly to him of his plans to bind Will’s hands, using the blood-red tie resurfacing from Hannibal’s care, and Will had let him.

Perhaps he should’ve asked for more details on what Hannibal was about to do, but he was still sleepy, barely aware of what was happening after their strenuous activities from last night. He has only himself to blame.

Will sobs in frustration when Hannibal pulls away yet again, the increasing tension in his body releasing in an anticlimax when he’s still not allowed to come. “Please,” he wails, his hands tugging uselessly at the bond Hannibal has tied them in.

“Just a little bit more, Will,” Hannibal coos. “You look so beautiful, all flushed and begging for me. I wish I could freeze you in this moment and paint you just like this.”

He manages a huff, though he groans when Hannibal chooses to wrap his hand around Will’s cock at the next moment. “You sadist.”

“Only with you,” Hannibal murmurs, giving Will a sloppy kiss as he pulls away his hand once more. “I did promise to punish you, dear boy.”

Will accepts the kiss, his cock hard against his belly, precum pooling on his skin as Hannibal edges him for countless minutes now.

“Are you ready for me now?” Hannibal whispers against his lips.

Will nods, words deserting him in his desperation. He arches his body up into Hannibal’s, tempting the other man into giving him what he wants.

Hannibal chuckles at the attempt. “So greedy for me.”

“Yes, please, please— ah!”

Hannibal has finally breached him in one swift stroke, filling Will so swiftly that his body jerks under the motion. Hannibal lifts Will’s legs, propping them up to lean against Hannibal’s broad shoulders, leaning forward to kiss Will’s open mouth as he fucks roughly into Will’s pliant body.

No more words are needed between them – Hannibal is finally losing his control, fucking Will into the mattress as Will whine and beg to come, their sweat-soaked bodies sliding against each other in lewd, rhythmic noises. Every time Hannibal penetrates deep inside him, it feels like the man is trying to meld with him, both of them conjoined in their ecstasy.

When Will finally comes after what feels like hours of torture, he loses consciousness for several seconds before he comes back to himself, Hannibal having found his own climax inside Will for the third time since last night.

Will slumps back into the bed beneath him, trying to catch his breath. He feels completely wrung out, though it’s barely morning judging by the low sliver of light he sees peeking through the heavy curtains in Hannibal’s bedroom. He moans into another kiss, Hannibal’s weight a comforting warmth above him.

They finally pull apart, Hannibal untying the knot he has tied into Will’s wrists and massaging them slowly, Will’s hands finally allowed to move. His whole body feels sore, so completely exhausted from Hannibal’s passion that he just lies there for long minutes, ignoring Hannibal’s disappearing warmth when the man rises to make his way to the bathroom.

Will groans when he feels the bed dipping under Hannibal’s weight again. He opens his eyes to see Hannibal’s satisfied smirk at the state of him. “Come to torture me again?”

“Not today,” Hannibal says, grinning down at him. “I think you’ve had quite enough.”

Will hums, letting Hannibal pick him up, his body boneless and pliant as he’s carried into the bathroom where Hannibal has apparently prepared a bath for him. He sighs in contentment when he’s lowered down into the warm water, the calming scent lulling him into a dazed stupor.

Hannibal has taken a seat behind him, his hands slowly caressing Will’s curls, washing his hair and massaging his temple in relaxing motions.

“Using your own shampoos and soap so I can smell like you for the rest of the day?” Will asks, amused.

Hannibal’s hands don’t waver, though his finger pressed a little bit insistently against Will’s scalp at his words. “There is a certain appeal to that.”

Will snorts. “I’m on to you, doctor.”

“I’m merely trying to soothe you after the long night we’ve had.”

“Mmhmm, that and making sure you leave your scent on me. My dogs have more subtlety, Hannibal.”

“I would be offended, but knowing how much you love your pack, I’m gratified to be lumped in the same category.”

Will laughs, but he doesn’t dignify that with an answer. He’s beginning to fall asleep when he finally feels Hannibal rise again, the air stirring around him. Hannibal pulls him up into the shower with him, both of them sharing lazy kisses, Hannibal practically manhandling him to clean themselves up.

Hannibal cooks for him after, a simple breakfast of bacon and scrambled eggs coupled with the doctor’s beautifully roasted coffee, their meal consumed in comfortable silence as Hannibal watches Will eat, his expression fond and pleased.

They finish their lazy morning in the study, Hannibal playing a few pieces on his harpsichord while Will reads a book he has picked from Hannibal’s library, though he drops his pretense of reading and opted to watch Hannibal play instead, the man completely absorbed in the music.

He thinks life can be perfect after all.

 

Hannibal persuades him to take a stroll in downtown Baltimore after lunch, claiming that he has several errands to run before the weekend ends. Will raises an eyebrow but agrees anyway since Beverly’s not expecting him until the evening. He thinks he’s allowed to be selfish for one weekend.

The doctor’s errands turn out to be little more than going to several of the specialty stores adorning the street, most of them catering to Hannibal’s whimsical tastes, the man stopping by a wine shop, a tailor shop specializing in bespoke suits, a patisserie that Hannibal seems to be satisfied with considering the man’s penchant for his own handmade food, a local butcher shop where the man behind the counter acknowledges Hannibal with a grunt and a nod, and a florist where the old lady arranging the flowers kisses Hannibal in greeting when they both came in.

Hannibal comes out empty-handed from the shop every time, though Will doesn’t doubt that there will be several packages arriving in Hannibal’s home – or even in Wolf Trap. Will shudders to think about it, and tries not to look at anything with too much interest, in case Hannibal gets any ideas and buys him the whole store.

It’s a pleasant outing, however, and it provides a fascinating look into Hannibal’s world, the layers that make up the man being peeled back piece by piece. Not for the first time, Will wonders why anyone like Hannibal is interested in someone like him, a single father and a dog hoarder.

Will smiles when he sees Hannibal stop in front of the window display of a furniture store, where the furniture is made of wood and probably handmade, judging by the immaculate workmanship. He shakes his head when he sees Hannibal inviting him in, gesturing to another store that caught Will’s attention.

“I’m just going to have a quick look in there if you don’t mind. I’ll meet you back here?” Will says, already making his way across the street.

Hannibal nods, smiling briefly before he turns and makes his way into the shop.

Will looks up in front of the store, looking up at the discrete storefront sign (so discrete he almost missed it altogether), bearing the words “Chordophone String Shop”. He goes in, the bell at the front door heralding his entrance. There’s a shuffle of footsteps before he’s greeted by the sight of Tobias, both of them startled at the sight of each other.

Tobias gives him a honeyed smile, his palms open in a welcoming gesture. “Will Graham. What a surprise.”

The smile he gives Tobias is not quite sincere, though the man doesn’t seem to mind. “Hi. I’m just looking around. I didn’t know this was your shop.”

“Please, feel free to have a look inside,” Tobias says, gesturing to the innards of his store. “Is there anything in particular that I can help you with?”

Will hums, looking around. There are various stringed instruments exhibited around the room, though Tobias seems to lean towards violins and trombones, judging by the displays. “Nothing really, though I was thinking of getting my piano tuned.” His laugh sounds depreciating even to himself. “It’s been years since I last had it done.”

Tobias looks a little disapproving at that. “You shouldn’t have waited, then. Do you want to make an appointment? I’m available most of the week, though you would have to let me know in advance so I can make arrangements for home service.”

Will shrugs. “Sure. Do you have a quotation or a price range? I’ll contact you later if I decide to go for it.”

Tobias inclines his head, fishing a business card from the front counter and handing it to Will. “My contact details are on the card. I can’t really give you a quotation without assessing the extent of the damage. I would be happy to swing by and let you know once I have seen the condition of the piano.”

Will sighs; it’s not like he knows that many people who can professionally tune his piano, and he doesn’t have the energy to do it himself. “Well, I’m at work most of the time, so I’m only free after seven at night. Are you available on the weekends?”

“I might be busy for the upcoming weekend. Perhaps I can make an exception and come at 8 o’clock on the night you’re available?”

Will can’t help raising an eyebrow at that. Tobias seems accommodating, which is not something he expected from the man, considering his icy exterior when they first met each other. But he supposes business is business.

“That sounds doable,” Will says slowly. “Can I give you a call and confirm with you later?”

“Absolutely,” Tobias says, his smile still not quite reaching his eyes.

He finds himself not knowing what to say, so he makes a swift exit after mumbling a thanks and crossing the street to make his way to Hannibal, finding him where he had left him. Hannibal is mulling over a coffee table, his eyes intent on the piece of furniture, though he looks up when Will approaches him.

“You still need a coffee table?”

Hannibal shakes his head. “I thought it would make a nice addition to your house,” he admits. “Considering you don’t have any.”

Will laughs. “No thanks, there’s a reason I don’t want a lot of furniture. The dogs will bump into a lot of them. Plus there’s only the two of us in the house, so I don’t see any reason to have a decorative coffee table.”

Hannibal looks faintly displeased at the thought, though he relents at Will’s reasoning. “Very well.”

“Are you done with your errands?” Will asks, reminding Hannibal of why they’re here in the first place.

“Yes, I think I am. Did you find what you were looking for?”

“I guess,” Will shrugs, following Hannibal out of the store, both of them slowly making their way back to Hannibal’s car that’s parked along the streets.

“Is there anything else you’d like to have a look at?”

“No, I think I should go. I’m worried about Danielle.”

“Oh? Any particular reason?”

“I haven’t heard from her since last night since we were… busy.” Will glares at Hannibal’s wide smile. “Plus the longer she stays there, the more time Beverly has to teach her how to dismantle a gun. I really wouldn’t put it past her…”

“Danielle is with Ms. Katz?”

“Yeah, I dropped her off with Bev yesterday.”

They are both silent as they finally reach the Bentley, Hannibal opening the door for Will to step into the passenger seat. Will rolls his eyes at the show of chivalry, but he accepts it anyway because it’s the easier thing to do.

Will waits until Hannibal has pulled out of the street, both of them silent still while Hannibal drives them to his house.

“Hannibal, are you jealous?”

Will thinks Hannibal would scoff if it was a gentlemanly thing to do. As it is, he sees a tick of a frown on Hannibal’s face before the man schools his expression into something more placid.

“What makes you think that?”

Will laughs. “Oh my God, you are!”

Hannibal keeps his stare resolutely ahead of him, though Will can definitely detect a frown in the way his eyes set.

“Okay fine, you don’t want to admit it. Just tell me why?” Will grins.

Hannibal sighs, his expression exasperated. “I feel… protective of the two of you,” he admits. “I was under the impression that no one else knew about Danielle.”

“Wait, that’s it? Seriously? Beverly found out by accident a few months back.”

“And yet you trust her so completely to care for your daughter.”

“It’s for one night.” He can’t believe he’s having this conversation. “Dani’s usual babysitter is away on a weekend trip. Beverly is… the only friend I have.”

Hannibal’s brow softens at that, his shoulders losing its rigidity. “Then perhaps I should be thankful instead of feeling jealous towards her.”

“So you admit you were jealous,” Will huffs. “You don’t own me or Danielle, you know. We’re allowed to have a life that’s separate from you.”

“Of course,” Hannibal concedes. “Though I hope I can be part of it one day.”

Will swallows his words, choosing to stare at the passing scenery instead.

They finally arrive at Hannibal’s house, and Will swiftly opens the car door without waiting for Hannibal. He takes in a deep breath before he turns to the other man, Hannibal’s expression serious.

“I should get going,” Will says. “Since everything is packed and all.”

Hannibal nods, stepping aside to let Will go.

Will huffs, taking a few steps to Hannibal and kissing him softly, Hannibal immediately reciprocating though he doesn’t deepen the kiss.

He pulls away slowly, staring directly into Hannibal’s eyes. “I like you a lot, Hannibal,” he murmurs. “Though I can’t promise you more than that for now.”

“My offer still stands, regardless. I would be happy to share your burden.”

“That’s just it,” Will says, eyes closing in frustration. “Danielle’s not a burden. She’s my whole world. I’m not looking to foist her off on someone else.”

“Even if I’m willing to be imposed on?”

Will sighs, turning away. “Just give me time. That’s all I ask.”

Hannibal seems resigned, though Will knows he’s unlikely to hear the last of the man’s declarations of intent. “Very well. Have a safe drive, Will. Let me know once you’re home.”

Will nods, squeezing Hannibal’s hand and letting go. He makes his way to his car, waving to Hannibal as he drives away, the man’s wounded expression haunting his mind all the way to Beverly’s house.

 

He reaches Beverly’s house in thirty minutes, Danielle opening the door to Beverly’s house excitedly when he rings the doorbell.

“Daddy! You’re here!”

He gives her a hug, smiling when he sees Beverly beckoning them inside.

“Come on in, I got some Chinese takeout for dinner,” Beverly says, grinning from the sofa. “Want to eat them while we watch the rest of Moana?”

Will smiles in resignation. “Did you order spring rolls?”

“Of course,” Beverly scoffs, gesturing to the takeout containers on the kitchen counter. She scoots to the edge of her sofa, making room for Danielle and Will as they crowded around the seat.

“So what’s this movie about?”

Danielle’s eyes light up as she launches into an explanation of what has happened in the movie so far, Will grinning and nodding while he eats and listens to her almost endless chatter.

“—and there’s a singing crab who really likes shiny things! He reminds me of Zoe…”

Will laughs. “Breathe, kiddo. Do you want some of my spring rolls?”

“Sure!” She chews the rolls as Will feeds them to her with a chopstick, the girl returning her attention to the movie once more, squirming in her seat between Will and Beverly.

Will leans back, opening another container before eating out of them, the savory taste of the fried rice something he hasn’t indulged in for some time. He turns to Beverly. “Did you guys just watch movies all day?” he asks dryly.

“We went out to brunch, a late lunch and the park today, you snob,” Beverly answers, munching on her own fried rice. “I have a gold medal in babysitting, remember?”

“Thanks, I really owe you one. Which I’ve already put on the table, by the way.”

Beverly perks up at that, crossing the room to inspect the box on the table in a blur of activity. “Nice,” she says, grinning as she takes out two bottles of beer. She passes one to Will, toasting him before opening hers and practically gulping it down. “So you do know how to be a good friend.”

“I owed you for yesterday, that’s all.”

“That good, huh?” Beverly smirks.

Will glares at her, his eyes going to Danielle’s figure. She seems engrossed in the movie still, but who knows just what she could be listening to.

“Relax,” Beverly says, grinning and leaning closer to him, her voice barely a whisper. “She told me all about your sugar daddy. Damn, Graham, I didn’t know you had it in you. Or Dr. Lecter, for that matter.”

Will sputters, almost dropping his takeout box. “He is not my sugar daddy,” he hisses.

“Really? Did you, or did you not, go to the opera with him last night, wearing everything that was purchased by him, riding his car and probably something else by the end of the night?”

Beverly.”

Beverly smiles widely at him, winking and saluting him with her beer. “Glad I could help you with that. I wouldn’t say no to more of this excellent beer, though.”

Will rolls his eyes, trying to control his blush.

As if sensing his discomfort, Danielle turns to him then, her brow scrunched up in worry. “Daddy, you okay?”

“I’m fine, pumpkin. Why don’t you watch the movie? We’re leaving after since I have work tomorrow.”

Danielle nods, seemingly satisfied at his answer before turning her attention back to the screen.

Beverly is still grinning in satisfaction, and Will finds himself returning her smile after a while, both of them silent as they focus on the movie.

 

After the pleasurable weekend he’s had, Will feels refreshed to take on work for the next week, though his high mood is depleted by the time Tuesday rolls around. He’s slightly astonished to see Hannibal and Alana coming into his classroom after his afternoon class, both of them throwing him a smile when they approach his desk.

“This is a surprise,” Will says, putting his glasses back on. “Am I being ambushed for an opinion on a profile?”

He assumes that’s the only reason he’s being ambushed these days – he dreads the day Jack will come calling for him again, and would not be surprised if Jack manages to persuade others to do it for him. Hannibal hasn’t mentioned anything about the Catgut Killer case to him (the moniker something that Beverly had coined in one of their many conversations), and he didn’t want to bring it up during their dates.

Alana is the one who answers, the woman giving her a strained smile. “We came about Abigail Hobbs, actually.”

Will’s brow furrows. He hasn’t heard much about Abigail these last few weeks, and he was perfectly happy to leave it at that. “Any new development in her case? I thought she was doing fine at Port Haven.”

“She is,” Hannibal answers, sharing a glance with Alana. “Though Nicholas Boyle’s corpse was recently found a few days ago, and Jack suspects that she might be involved with his death. We don’t really know the timeline of his death, since his body was frozen at the time of death and has only recently thawed.”

Will frowns. “Jack has suspected her from the beginning,” he says slowly. “But he doesn’t really have any evidence, does he? He asked Abigail to identify Boyle?”

“Got it in one,” Alana sighs, while Hannibal looks at him in obvious pride at his deduction. “Jack’s insisting on an interview with her. And to top it all off, Freddie Lounds reached out to her to talk about a book deal about the Minnesota Shrike case, and I think it would be best for the two of you to talk to her since it’s not farfetched to say that you will be prominently featured in the book if it does happen.”

Will rubs the bridge of his nose, letting out a heaving sigh. “Lounds again.”

“Sorry, Will,” Alana says sympathetically. “I’ll make sure she’s not around at the facility while the two of you talk to her, if that makes you feel better.”

“It does, though this whole thing is really not the best idea,” Will grumbles.

“Which is what we mentioned to Jack,” Hannibal says. “Though I fear he has the look of a man who only cares for his own opinion at the moment. He has been on a warpath ever since they uncovered Boyle.”

Will frowns as he leans against his desk. “Jack can’t ignore the fact that Boyle is not the Copycat Killer he was looking for,” he muses, taking off his glasses and staring into the distance. “He’s either trying to pin it on Abigail… or he’s thinking there’s another killer on the loose… and it kills him to know that he hasn’t caught the killer yet. The Copycat Killer has been eluding him ever since the Shrike case. He’s… meticulous, leaving no trace behind… his killing is not a mercy, but a show, an unveiling of sorts… he was trying to show me something when he killed Cassie Boyle and Marissa Schurr… that his work is art, elevated above the Shrike’s apologetic murders…”

His words trail off into the silence. He notices too late that Hannibal and Alana are looking at him in a mixture of amazement and shock, though there’s a darker desire behind Hannibal’s eyes that Will can’t quite place.

He swallows, clearing his throat and lowering his eyes. “Sorry. Are we going to see her now?”

Alana recovers first, smiling softly. “I’ll be heading there first; I need to talk to Abigail before the two of you do. I’ll let you know when she’s ready to see you.”

Will stares at her as she walks away, the click of her heels loud in the ensuing silence. He sighs and puts his glasses aside. “Sorry about the whole Copycat Killer thing— Hannibal, what—”

He barely gets the words out before he’s kissed within an inch of his life, Hannibal almost pinning him down against his own desk. He hears the clattering of his things falling off the desk as he’s practically ravaged against it, Hannibal’s tongue forcing its way into his mouth.

Despite his surprise, he quickly melts under the man, returning Hannibal’s kiss in equal fervor as they both softly undulate against each other.

There’s the sound of footsteps passing by the classroom which pulls him back to reality, and Will pushes Hannibal away, shakily catching his breath as he sits up and stares at the man. Hannibal’s eyes are dilated, his expression almost feral in its intensity as he gazes into Will’s eyes.

“Aren’t we supposed to go to Port Haven?” Will says, laughing slightly. “What’s gotten into you?”

Hannibal licks his lips and straightens himself, pulling at his suit jacket and correcting his tie before he looks at Will again. “Your mind works in a beautiful way. I was… overcome with awe.”

Will blinks in disbelief, straightening his own clothes. He’s thankful that no one walked in while they were busy, but he’s a little surprised at Hannibal’s sudden action. “That’s… I don’t even know what to say to that.”

There’s an embarrassed silence as Will picks up the pens and pointer which have fallen from his desk while Hannibal was busy mauling him, both of them trying to make themselves presentable again before they head to Port Haven.

Hannibal offers to drive them there, and Will gratefully agrees. He’s secretly happy that he and Hannibal got to spend more time together outside of the weekends, and he’s only too willing to make amends for the way they parted a few days ago.

They go through the usual small pleasantries before their conversation circles back to the situation at hand.

“Do you think Abigail is responsible for her father’s murders?” Hannibal asks him.

Will sighs, leaning back against the headrest. “I guess that’s why we’re heading there. To find out whether she’s involved or not.”

Hannibal is silent for a few seconds. “She has been through some traumatic experiences. If she’s found guilty as an accessory to her father’s murders, she might be prosecuted and jailed away for life.”

“Yeah,” Will mumbles, his energy receding. “I just don’t get why she wants to do a book deal with Lounds, with all this going on.”

“I suppose she’s feeling powerless at the loss of narrative. She wants to steer her life back into its charted course, preferring to reframe the incident through her own account of things.”

Will falls silent at that, his eyes closing for a moment. “Can we talk about something else?”

“Of course. What do you want to talk about?”

Will scoffs. “How’s your work, for a change? How is it, profiling for Jack?”

Hannibal turns to give him an amused smile. “How it felt to be the Will Graham of the day?” he teases.

“Yeah, how’s that working out for you?” Will laughs.

“It has been fascinating,” Hannibal answers, honest to a fault. “It had been a while since I profiled anyone in that capacity. It’s exciting to see the workings behind the FBI.”

“Very educational, huh?”

“Yes, though I doubt that Jack is happy with my performance thus far. He seems to favor Alana a bit more.”

Will is slightly amused at the fact that Hannibal is feeling slighted from Jack’s supposed favor, though there’s a bitter taste in his mouth when he hears Hannibal mention Alana’s name. The silence must be telling enough to Hannibal, who psychoanalyzes people for a living, and Will sighs at his luck for dating a man who can see right through him.

“Will, is there anything you’d like to say?”

“No,” Will grumbles, refusing to look at Hannibal in any way, staring at the passing scenery instead.

“Will.” He hears a warm chuckle before he feels Hannibal taking Will’s hand in his, cradling it over the car’s middle console. “Are you jealous that I have taken over your job?”

Will’s frown deepens, and Hannibal seems to take that as a cue to another line of questioning.

“Or perhaps you’re jealous of Alana?”

He knows he’s flushing, he can feel it traveling over his face and ears; Hannibal can probably see that just fine. He tries to snatch his hand away, but Hannibal’s grip tightens instead, trapping their hands together.

“Leave me alone,” he groans.

“I will not,” Hannibal says simply.

Will glances at him, sees the man smiling in an almost infatuated manner, and his heart skips a beat at the wide grin Hannibal throws him when he looks over.

“I’m glad to see that my affection for you is not so one-sided, after all.”

Will softens at that, leaning back against the seat once more, staring ahead. “It was never one-sided,” he mutters.

Will squeezes Hannibal’s hand once, a smile playing at their lips for the rest of the journey.

 

Once they arrive at the Port Haven Psychiatric Facility, Will and Hannibal make their way to Abigail’s room. Alana messaged Will telling them that they’re free to come to her room any time since she’s made sure that Lounds is nowhere near them at the moment.

Will gives Abigail a strained smile when he steps inside her room, the former associations of Abigail and Garrett Jacob Hobbs coming back to him in startling clarity. Though his nightmares have lessened these days, the Hobbs’s duo continues to haunt his thoughts whenever he allows himself to think about them.

It’s been a nice respite. He’s finally ready to put some sort of closure to this one loose end in his life.

Alana gives Abigail a soft smile before she makes her way out of the room, leaving Will and Hannibal alone with the girl.

Abigail looks to Hannibal and Will uncertainly, misery in her face. “So you’ve come here to talk to me against doing the book?” she says, lips trembling and staring at them in defiance.

“Among other things,” Will says.

“We’ve come to advise you against it,” Hannibal says, his tone placating.

“Have you thought this through, Abigail?” Will asks, exasperated. “The repercussions from this book wouldn’t just be on you, but on all of us.”

“I don’t have a lot of choices,” Abigail says, her voice soft. She looks down, biting her lips and picking at the bedsheets. “I don’t have anything to my name. My house will be sold but I won’t see a penny of it – everything’s going to go to the other girls’ families.”

Will sighs, rubbing his forehead in irritation. “Yes, but by doing this you’ll be forfeiting all of our privacies. Don’t you see how this could affect your life in the long run? You’ll be known as the Minnesota Shrike’s daughter forever, your story bound for posterity.”

“And whose fault is that?” Abigail retorts, her icy blue eyes turned to Will. “Why do you think I needed to do this in the first place? You’re the one who killed my dad.”

Will’s breath hitches at that, the accusation hitting him harder than he thought it would. He takes in a shaky breath and sits next to Abigail on her bed, his eyes boring into hers. “I’m not denying that. I know you’ve been through a traumatic event; we all did. Things are changing for me, too, after all that’s happened. But you don’t have to do this, Abigail. Everything that’s happening right now? It will all pass, and the feelings you have won’t last. Things will change, but there are some things you can’t take back if you let your feelings consume you.”

Abigail glares at him, her face resolute. “Just because you killed my dad, doesn’t mean you get to act like him.”

The three of them fall silent at the claim, Will gritting his jaw in frustration.

Will turns his gaze to Hannibal, who’s looking at him as if he’s waiting for Will’s cue. “Can you give me and Abigail a minute?”

Hannibal studies him for a few seconds, finally nodding before he makes his way out, the sound of the shutting door loud in the silence.

Will takes a few deep breaths, his jaw set when he turns back to look at Abigail. Gone was the girl whose lips were trembling, her eyes filled with unshed tears. The Abigail he’s looking at right now has an icy demeanor, her face set in stone as she stares back at him in a fit of rebellion, daring him to challenge her.

He sees too much of what’s going in behind her impenetrable façade.

He takes his hands in hers, gentle. “Abigail,” he murmurs, keeping his voice down. “Everything I say will stay in this room, and no one will know unless you tell someone else.” Abigail gives him a confused look, but he continues. “I know you killed Nicholas Boyle.”

“What? No, I didn’t, I told Jack and Alana, you can ask—”

“I don’t care what you told them,” Will cuts off, “I know what I saw. And I see through you and your acts, Abigail. I know what you did with your father. I know that you helped him with his planned murders. I know that you also killed Nicholas Boyle – it wasn’t a planned act, not like how your father preyed on the girls, no; it was an accident, wasn’t it? But you covered it up, and for some reason, you’ve had a guilty conscience and you dug him back up. And now you’re trying to spin it all into a sad tale – a story that paints you as the victim.”

Abigail’s eyes are wide with horror now, the tears filling them genuine.

“I’m not going to tell on you,” Will reminds her, his eyes never straying from hers, his hands tightening on her knuckles. “But I won’t let you destroy my life and ruin the one good thing I have in it. You’re not going to go through with this book deal, or you’ll find out what happens if Jack knows what exactly you did to help your father.”

“You don’t have any proof,” Abigail whispers, the tears falling onto her cheeks. “You can’t prove it.”

“Do you think the FBI won’t find out sooner or later? They will be on your trail, Abigail. And when they do find it, Hannibal and I won’t be around to help you, because you will have destroyed the only allies you’re going to get in this little hole you’ve dug yourself into.” Will tightens his hand on hers again. “Do you understand what I’m saying, Abigail?”

Abigail’s crying freely now, her lips trembling as she lets out a silent sob. She nods, helpless, and Will can’t help the pity he feels for her, Garret Jacob Hobbs’ feelings channeling through him when he finds himself enveloping her in a hug.

“I’m sorry, Abigail,” he whispers, though he doesn’t feel sorry at all for wanting to protect Danielle from this, “but you’re going to have to lie low. Don’t answer any unnecessary questions if Jack calls you in for questioning. Don’t involve me in any of your lies, and I won’t expose them.”

Abigail’s hitching sobs stop, the girl seeming to come back to herself at his words. She pulls away from him, wiping her tearful face and trying to control herself. “What will happen to me now? I don’t even have anywhere to go.”

Will sighs, shrugging helplessly. “I don’t know, Abigail. I can’t help you. Maybe you can discuss your options with Alana or Hannibal.” He feels slightly guilty for foisting off Abigail on Hannibal, but the man seems to be taken with her for some reason.

Abigail gives him a steely stare, nodding. “Fine,” she says. “I won’t make trouble anymore.” For you anyway, he hears the words in her tone.

Will slowly nods, sighing. It’s probably the best thing he’s going to get right now. He doesn’t want Abigail or Freddie Lounds on his tail, doesn’t want them to intrude into his life and brings more trouble for him – he’s had enough of them as it is. “Good. Then we have an understanding.”

 

The drive back to Quantico is silent, Will’s thoughts turning in his head. Hannibal had joined him and Abigail after their revealing talk, but he’s not sure how much the doctor has gleaned from the way Abigail and Will almost avoided each other afterward. He has a feeling Hannibal will be talking with the girl later, and he doesn’t care – he wants nothing to do with it, now that he has somehow disentangled himself from that particular web.

Hannibal seems to understand Will’s need for silence, and he keeps his stare ahead on the road as they make the drive back in under an hour.

When they arrive at the parking lot, Will unbuckles his seatbelt and turns to Hannibal, ready to answer any questions the man might have for him.

Hannibal is studying him carefully, finally asking, “Do you need anything from me, Will?”

Will shakes his head, relieved that the man doesn’t seem to be in a probing mood today. “No, thank you though,” he says. “I’m just… I just hope Jack doesn’t rope me back into this whole business. I quit for a reason, but I understand that he also needs closure for the Minnesota Shrike case.”

Hannibal nods, understanding etched in his face. “Since the fact that they have uncovered Boyle means that the Copycat Killer is still on the loose, Jack won’t be able to ignore the evidence in front of his eyes anymore. We might have more workload added onto our plates, in addition to the trombonist case that we are still trying to close.”

“I’m sorry,” Will says, feeling oddly guilty. He’s the reason Hannibal was called in for the case, after all, since he refused to profile for anything that doesn’t warrant his involvement.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Hannibal retorts. “You have nothing to be sorry for. I’m glad you’re taking a step back with the cases, considering how bad they were for your health. I went into this with my eyes open, and I will be glad to have someone like Alana to help me with the cases.”

“Yes, I’m sure the fact that she’s good-looking doesn’t hurt, either.” He’s almost sorry for the outburst – he doesn’t know where his feelings of jealousy are even coming from. Alana has always been pleasant and professional when it comes to separating her work from personal life; it’s Will who has trouble separating that right now. He sighs, rubbing his eyes. “Sorry, forget I said that.”

“Will.”

He looks up at the serious tone, Hannibal wasting no time to pull him in for a kiss over the console. Will melts into it and closes his eyes, Hannibal’s hand caressing his jaw and neck.

When they pull apart, Hannibal’s eyes are shining in amusement and adoration, which sends Will into another blushing fit.

“You know how much I care for you, don’t you, dear boy?”

That tone never fails to make him blush, his neck and ears flushing now. “I do. I… it’s the same for me,” he mumbles, averting his gaze. There’s something oddly vulnerable at admitting this to Hannibal. No matter how many times they have been intimate with each other, he has never felt so emotionally exposed except when it comes to Hannibal, and it makes him uncomfortable still.

“I’m glad,” Hannibal responds, pulling his hand away. “I suppose we should return now. Jack and Alana will be expecting me back in his office, considering the interview we just had.”

Will nods, opening the car door and stepping outside into the cool air. The days are getting shorter these days, the sun already low on the horizon. He checks his watch; it’s still too early for him to head home, so he decides to accompany Hannibal inside before they have to part ways in the hallway, Hannibal murmuring that he will call Will later once he’s at home. Will nods his acceptance, checking to see if anyone’s around before he gives Hannibal an impulsive kiss on his cheek, smiling as he waves and walks away from the other man, his heart lighter now that at least one of his problems has been solved.

Maybe his luck is finally turning around.

 

Once again, Will finds himself swamped with work and his ongoing despair that he still hasn’t really started on the applications for Danielle’s schools. At times like this, he does wonder if it’s easier if he had help, but he quickly stows that thought away for another time.

Beverly still finds the time to hound him for lunch or a quick watercooler chat whenever they run into each other, continuing her endless teasing of Will’s “sugar daddy”, the term never failing to make Will flush like a ripened tomato, which is probably why she keeps doing it. He doesn’t mind the constant teasing, though – Beverly feels like one of the good constants in his life, helpful and cheerful to a fault.

The BAU is still busy with the trombonist case, and Will sees Hannibal and Alana sometimes, waving at them whenever he does stumble across the two of them before he takes a detour elsewhere so that he doesn’t have to face his own ugly feelings.

He doesn’t know why he’s avoiding the issue of his jealousy with Alana, but part of it probably has something to do with the fact that Alana doesn’t even know of his and Hannibal’s relationship, and it’s too awkward to tell her. It’s not like he’s being territorial about it; he just dislikes the thought of Hannibal getting to spend more time together with her instead of with him. It almost makes him feel like going back to profiling, though he chastises himself with that line of thinking swiftly, reminding himself that he still has Danielle to consider whenever he ponders that.

With everything that’s going on, he has completely forgotten about his promise to contact Tobias about the piano tuning. The only reason he recalls it at all is because he managed to unearth Tobias’s business card from his jacket while he was tidying up his office, the small piece of paper completely forgotten until now.

He thinks about the piano concert that Danielle is still talking about whenever the subject of Hannibal comes up, his daughter reminding him that they have yet to invite the man over for the promised performance.

He lets out a sigh, already taking his phone out to call Tobias. The phone rings for a few seconds before he hears someone pick up. “Hello, is this Tobias Budge?”

“Yes,” comes the man’s smooth tone. “I believe I’m talking to Mr. Graham?”

“Yeah, sorry about the delay, I’ve been really busy with work,” Will says. “I know it’s really last minute, but… do you think you can come this week?”

There’s a pause at the end of the line before he hears Tobias speak again. “It’s already Thursday, Mr. Graham.” Will can definitely hear the reproach in his tone. “I’m unavailable tomorrow, but I suppose I can make time for you on Saturday if you’re available.”

“Oh, I thought you said you weren’t free,” Will says, frowning. “I mean, it’s okay with me if you come next week—”

“No, as it turns out the weekend plan didn’t pan out,” Tobias interrupts him. “So I would be able to come on Saturday, if you’d like.”

Well, weekends are easier for him, since he won’t be so tired. “Okay, sure, maybe around eleven in the morning?”

“Perfect,” Tobias says, sounding pleased, though he still manages to sound robotic at it. “Let me know the address of your house and I’ll see you in a few days.”

“I’ll text you the address now. Thanks again, sorry about the last minute notice.”

“It’s no problem, Mr. Graham, I look forward to seeing you.”

There’s a dial-tone before Will can reply, and he just raises an eyebrow at that. He shrugs it off; he supposes that he has his fair share of making other people uncomfortable with his own extra mirror neurons running amok sometimes. He can hardly blame anyone else for having a lack of empathy, especially if he doesn’t even know the other person and will only require his service over the weekend.

His thoughts are interrupted by a more surprising development, however, when he hears someone knocking on his office door. Will looks up to see Alana, and he blinks in surprise for a few seconds before he recovers and invites her in.

Alana gives him her lovely, soft smile, closing the door before taking a seat across from him. “Hey, sorry to interrupt. Busy?”

Will looks around, shaking his head. “Nope, I’m almost done for the day. Kind of.”

Alana nods, looking around approvingly. “You seem to have your whole life put together these days,” she says, grinning at him. “I’m glad to see it.”

Will gives a dry chuckle. “Just give me a golden star and be on your way, I guess.” She looks a little taken aback at the words. “Sorry, I forgot you’re still not used to my sense of humor.” Beverly is always ready to punch him back with her words, and Hannibal is always happy to play along with his macabre ways, so it’s easy to forget that not a lot of people appreciated his darker moods.

She raises her eyebrow, smiling still. Alana is really lovely, he thinks. If he wasn’t so damaged, he might’ve gotten around to asking her out on a date, though she always seems to keep her distance in their acquaintance, so he never did get around to it. Perhaps it was for the best.

“So what brings you here?” Will asks. “Other than a cursory health check.”

Alana laughs. “Sorry, old habits die hard.”

“It’s okay, I get it.” He shrugs. “Not the easiest person to get along with.”

“Your sense of humor notwithstanding, I do like you, you know.”

“Not enough to be alone with me throughout our entire acquaintance,” Will challenges her, lips quirking into a smile.

She blushes, though she doesn’t deny it. “I find it hard to separate my personal and professional feelings about you, sometimes,” she admits. “So I… stayed away. I didn’t think you’d notice.”

Will laughs. “Empathy disorder, remember? I can’t help but notice things sometimes.”

“Should’ve figured that out,” she says ruefully.

“Hmm, and for some reason you’re okay with being alone with me now.” Something clicks into place. “You know about me and Hannibal, don’t you.”

Alana laughs in surprise. “I guess I should’ve seen that coming.”

Will purses his lips, throwing his head back and groaning at the ceiling. “Did he tell you?”

“I have eyes, Will,” she teases. She waits until he looks back at her before giving him a soft smile. “I can see how smitten he is with you, considering the way he talks about you.”

He raises his brow at that. “You two… talk about me?”

“Only in the more professional sense,” Alana says, her tone defensive. “Like what would Will do or think in this situation… you know, since we’re profiling together for that trombonist case. And now the Copycat Killer case too, I guess. It just sort of came up sometimes, and Hannibal never says much, but I can see how he acts around you too, especially when the two of you are in your own world.”

He blinks, trying to think of any time which he might’ve tipped off Alana with his own behavior and coming up blank. “It’s not that obvious, is it?” he asks weakly. “Does Jack know?”

“I don’t think so? It’s not obvious unless people know both of you well, and I happen to be in the prime position of knowing both of you quite well, so.” She gives him a wide grin. “It’s okay, I haven’t told anyone else. But I know Beverly knows.”

Will groans. “I’m gonna kill her.”

Alana laughs, shaking her head. “Don’t, she didn’t say much, but she always teases Hannibal whenever we work together. It’s all pretty subtle, but I knew what to look for, so…”

He gives another sigh, running his hand through his hair. “So you’re coming here to give me a whole pep talk? Or to warn me?”

“Can’t you use your empathy to tell?” she teases.

“Not in this,” he admits, laughing. “This kind of… emotion is a bit hard for me to parse. Give me a killer over lovers any day.” He winces at that impulsive admission even as it leaves his mouth, wishing he could take it back.

Alana chooses to ignore it though, and he’s grateful for it. “I’m just here to let you know, you have nothing to be jealous of with me and—”

“Dammit, did Hannibal tell you that—”

“—I have eyes, Will, I noticed you’ve been avoiding me too. I think I caught you glaring at me one time while I was talking with Hannibal.” She laughs at his flushed discomfort. “I’m just here to tell you that I’m happy for you. Normally I would kill Hannibal for what he did since it’s against so many ethics of conduct, but since I know it happened after you quit, that makes it easier for me to turn a blind eye to whatever it is you guys did during your previous therapy sessions.”

“We didn’t do anything,” he mutters mulishly.

“Hey, I’m just saying,” she says, putting her palms up in a placating gesture. “The two of you are adults in a relationship, so I’m just going to stay out of it. And you have nothing to be jealous of; I have my eyes on someone else, honestly. Just… be careful, okay? I’m happy for both of you, and I really hope it works out.”

Will settles at that and manages to give her a smile. “Thanks, I think. Not something I thought I’d be hearing from you.”

Alana grins, leaning back against her chair. “So no more avoiding each other?”

He nods, returning her smile. “I guess we can be adults about it now,” he says. “So how are your cases coming along?”

They continue to talk until the end of the workday, and if she notices that Will is much more comfortable talking about serial killers than he is talking about his relationship with Hannibal, she doesn’t mention it.

 

When he wakes up the next day, Will feels like his whole body is on fire. He’s woken up from another nightmare where he has impaled Abigail on a set of antlers in Hobbs’ cabin, and he’s sweating all over, his bedsheets saturated with the scent.

It’s the third nightmare he’s had after meeting with Abigail again in Port Haven, and he sighs at the thought of these nightmares recurring again for as long as it takes for him to purge Abigail out of his life. At least he didn’t wake up screaming, so Danielle is at least spared from that.

He trembles as he gets out of his wet t-shirt, his skin feeling clammy in the cool air. Taking a few fresh towels out of his bathroom, he lays one on the bed, his body slowly falling onto the bed once more as he wraps a towel around himself and falls back into a fitful sleep.

 

There’s a soft voice calling his name anxiously, and he slowly comes back to consciousness and sees Danielle staring at him in worry.

“Daddy? Are you okay? It’s morning already.”

Will blinks his eyes open several times, looking around the room. It’s bright out already, the lights filtering through his bedroom windows, and he panics for a second. But he hasn’t lost time; he’s still in bed (as far as he can tell), and he’s probably just overslept.

He looks back to Danielle, who’s still staring at him in worry. “I... I think I’m feeling a bit sick today,” he rasps, rubbing his hands on his face to try and clear the cobwebs from his thoughts. He feels a little feverish, and he still feels clammy; apparently, he’s sweated through his towels, too. “I might need to call in sick today.”

Danielle continues to stare at him, and though he wants to give her a reassuring hug, he feels too sweaty and he’s worried he might be developing a fever.

“Sorry Dani, let me just call my work and let Alice know we might need help today,” he says. “Do you think you can make yourself a simple breakfast? PB&J’s maybe?”

His daughter nods in understanding, though she still looks at him nervously as she makes her way downstairs silently, her brow furrowed.

Will sighs and makes a call to his administrator letting them know that he’s out sick today and will be needing a replacement. The next call he makes is to Alice, to let her know that he doesn’t feel well enough to work or function as a father today, requesting her help in one department at least. She’s only too eager to agree, letting him know that she’ll be over in a few minutes with some sustenance for Will and Danielle.

He doesn’t have it in him to tell her that he’s fine, so he drags himself into a brief shower, making himself as presentable as he could (t-shirt and pajama pants is considered presentable, right?), then slowly descends downstairs, looking around to find Danielle eating her sandwich silently in the living room while she pets Buster.

“Morning pumpkin, sorry about this morning,” he mumbles, sitting down next to her and petting Winston and Zoe, presumably coming up to check on him too.

Danielle chews her sandwich silently and gives him a small smile. “Are you staying home today?”

Will nods. “I think I might be down with a fever, so Alice is coming over as usual. I’m just going to rest today, I think.”

“Okay, daddy,” she says seriously. “I’ll take care of the dogs and everything. You just need to rest.”

“…That doesn’t mean you can skip your lessons today.”

“Awwww.”

Will chuckles, shaking his head. “Sorry Dani, I’m the one who’s sick. I’m afraid you still have to continue with your lessons. I can go over them with you later when I’m feeling better?”

Danielle perks up at that, smiling widely. “Sure!”

“Okay, I think I hear Alice in the driveway now. Finish your breakfast and be good.”

“Okay! Get well soon daddy!”

Will greets Alice and thanks her for her usual help, while Alice gracefully takes in his typical apologies and comes in with her homemade chicken soup (“if it’s good for the soul, it’s good for the body,” she claims). He eats it for breakfast while he stares at Alice and Danielle, who’s slowly making their way through one of her books – Will thinks she might be ready for something heavier next time. A Little Princess, maybe, he muses.

He retires to bed again after taking some medicine at Alice’s behest, the older woman practically shouting at him at how terrible he looks. He smiles gratefully and leaves for his bedroom, closing his eyes and immediately going to sleep again.

 

He goes through Friday in a dizzy haze; he can’t even remember much of what he did, but he knows that he woke up for lunch and an early dinner and that he talked to Beverly (he thinks), telling her that he was sick, the usually cheerful woman sounding concerned at his tone.

“Are you sure you’re okay, Graham?” Beverly asks him at one point during their phone conversation. “You don’t sound so hot. Do you want me to come over and help you with Dani?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, Alice’s here to help,” Will grumbles, though there’s no heat to his words. “It’s just a fever, I feel slightly better now. It’s why I took a whole day off.”

“Hmm, at least it’s the weekend, I guess,” she says, still sounding worried. “Let me know if you need anything, yeah?”

“Yes, ma’am, I’ll see you Monday.”

Beverly gives him a laugh. “You’re learning, Graham. Alright, soldier, go back to bed and get some more rest before I give your sugar daddy a call.”

“What, Beverly, no—”

Beverly has already hung up, and Will groans in frustration at his bedroom ceiling. He mulls it over and decides to turn off his phone – he’s pretty sure he’s going to get over the fever by tomorrow morning, and there’s no sense in actually letting Hannibal know about this.

He tries not to feel too guilty as he stows away his phone on his bedside table.

 

He’s relieved when he finds that his fever has broken during the night, waking up on Saturday feeling slightly refreshed. He still feels lethargic, but at least there were no nightmares last night.

Danielle is already up and playing quietly with the dogs in the living room when Will makes his way downstairs in the morning; apparently she feels like he could use the extra hours to sleep, not bothering to wake him up this time. She smiles when he sees her entering the room.

“Good morning, daddy,” she says, beaming. “Are you feeling better?”

“Yeah, I think I am,” he replies. “Do you want breakfast?”

“Yes, please!”

“Okay, why don’t you help me with the setting while I cook?”

Breakfast is a quiet affair, then, once they’ve settled down for their meal. Danielle is humming quietly under her breath – it sounds suspiciously like that shiny crab song from Moana – while she finishes her orange juice, smiling at Will when she catches him looking at her.

“Are we doing anything this weekend, daddy?” she asks when she finishes her juice, putting down the glass on the table.

“Hmm, I think it’ll just be a quiet weekend for us, after all the excitement we had the last two weeks,” Wills says, smiling as he takes a sip of his coffee.

Once breakfast is over and cleared away, he tells Danielle that she can take the dogs out for a chase around their grounds, the girl eagerly putting on her jacket and shoes as fast as she can before Will could change his mind. He has to admire how fast she works – by the time he puts on his own shoes to look out for her on his porch, she’s already running around with the dogs, Max and Ellie chasing her while she throws a stick for them to fetch.

He brought his coffee with him to the porch, and he takes a moment to savor it while he watches Danielle and the dogs, the chaotic cacophony of the dogs barking mingling with Danielle’s laughter sounding like a symphony to his ears.

He takes another sip of his coffee, remembering Hannibal as he does so. He should probably stop ghosting the other man or he might just get ambushed at his home if he still chooses not to turn on his phone.

Before he can step back inside the house, however, he hears the sounds of a car slowly making its way into his driveway. He frowns when he doesn’t recognize the car, and it’s only when the driver emerges out into the open air does he finally recognizes the man.

Right. Tobias was supposed to come by to tune his piano.

He sighs and rubs his forehead. “I’m sorry, I completely forgot that you were coming here today,” Will says.

That doesn’t seem to stop Tobias in his tracks, though he does raise his eyebrows. “I’ve messaged you earlier this morning, and since I didn’t receive any reply to the contrary, I decided to come.”

Will huffs. “Yeah, sorry, I turned my phone off.”

They stand in silence for a moment, Danielle looking curiously at the two of them as she tries to calm the dogs down. He shakes his head at her and waves her off before turning back to Tobias.

“Well, since you’re here,” he says awkwardly, stepping inside and gesturing to where the piano is to the other man. “Uh, I’ll leave you to it? I have to just… check some things.”

Tobias gives him a cursory nod and proceeds to ignore him as he sets out his tools for the tuning.

Will is sort of amazed at the man’s lack of cordiality, but then he supposes there are really no words needed when you’re just here for work. There must be something going on with him and Franklyn, Will muses as he makes his way upstairs to his bedroom, for them to be so close even with their clashing personalities.

He retrieves his cellphone from his bedside, finally turning it on, wincing at the incoming notifications. There are a few texts from Beverly (as expected), a get well soon message from Alana (not that surprising), and several messages from Hannibal (of course – the ones he had been dreading the most). He feels silly for ignoring their texts and calls since it seems like most of them are just texts telling him to take care of himself and all those small condolences messages you always get when you’re out sick for the day.

He does smile at Hannibal’s messages, though, the man apologizing for not being able to come since he was swamped with his clients and profiling work almost the whole night yesterday. He figures Hannibal would have been busy with the cases and is grateful that the man didn’t come down barging into his house just because he hasn’t messaged him for a day.

Will makes his way downstairs again, briefly looking into the living room to see what Tobias is doing. The man is completely absorbed in his work, occasionally wrenching the tuning hammer before he starts fiddling with the keys while listening to his tuning fork.

He watches Tobias for a while before he decides to make his way into the kitchen and prepare a drink for them. It’s not like he has anything else to do, and it always pays to be courteous to guests after all.  

While waiting for the water to boil, Will gives Hannibal a call, deciding that it’s best to let him know he’s alright before the man decides to come over.

Hannibal picks up on the first ring. “Will.”

“Morning,” he says, smiling a little as he paces around the kitchen.

“Are you still sick?”

“Nah I’m feeling better this morning,” he replies. “Must’ve caught a bug or something on Thursday. Did Beverly call you?”

“She might have mentioned something about you being sick.”

Will laughs at that. “She did warn me,” he says ruefully. “Sorry about that. I do feel fine though, so it’s not like you have to drop everything to come by.”

There’s a silence on the other end and Will hears the telltale sound of classical music in the background.

“Hannibal,” he says slowly. “Please tell me you’re listening to your music while you’re at home and that you’re not on the way to Wolf Trap.”

“…I can’t lie to you, so I prefer to keep my silence.”

Will groans. “It’s just a fever!”

“Nevertheless,” Hannibal says, his tone smooth. “I’m bringing you and Danielle lunch; I thought you might need it if you’re still recovering. I would like to just see you healthy and well before I make my way back to Baltimore.”

He sighs. “It’s not like you’re not already on the way or anything,” he grumbles. “Look, Hannibal, you can’t just—”

“Daddy!”

The sound of Danielle’s distressed shriek pulls him out of the conversation, his phone call immediately forgotten when he swings his head and finds out that Tobias has Danielle in a tight grip, one of his hands threatening on her throat while another is holding the tuning hammer.

“Tobias, what the hell—”

“Will Graham,” Tobias says, ignoring Danielle’s panicked struggles and the stunned look on Will’s face, “ex-profiler for the FBI. You caught the Minnesota Shrike and helped with several other cases afterward, only to suddenly fall out of the limelight.”

Will glares at him, his eyes darting from his to Danielle’s. “Look, whatever this is about, let my daughter go, what the hell is wrong with you?”

“It’s a shame you didn’t see my latest piece of art,” Tobias continues, completely ignoring what Will was saying, his hands tightening on Danielle’s throat in warning, “and I suppose if you had been the one profiling the case, you would’ve caught on to me earlier. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see your thoughts on that truly pathetic trombonist.”

Will frowns. “You’re the Catgut Killer?”

Tobias actually tsks at that, his expression disgusted. “Why can’t people come up with a more elegant name?”

Will tries to slow down his heart rate, forcing himself to calm down at Tobias’s threatening stance. The man’s dead eyes stare back at him, daring him to make a move. He stills himself as much as he possibly can, putting his palms up to show he’s unarmed.

“I don’t know what you want,” he says slowly, “and I don’t care what you want to do to me. But let Danielle go.” Will slowly turns his eyes to Danielle, gazing at her meaningfully.

“I admit it was a surprise to see you had a daughter,” Tobias says, his eyes flashing. “I suppose that’s why he was attracted to you. You offer him some empathy, or sympathy, whatever it is that you do with that brain of yours, and you’ve also offered him a possibility of a built-in family. Not something that you can find anywhere – someone who’s able to empathize with killers like me.”

Will’s brow furrows, his eyes returning to Tobias’s in confusion. “Are you even listening to me? Let Danielle go.”

But it’s clear that Tobias has completely lost the plot – his eyes are glaring at Will in cold hatred, no compassion present in them at all.

“You’re the reason he’s rejected me,” Tobias growls.

Will sees his grip on the tuning hammer tighten and he turns his pleading eyes to Danielle, shouting out her name.

What happens next is a blur of movement and activities – Danielle screams angrily, craning her head just enough to sink her teeth into Tobias’s arm, which causes the man to scream in surprise, loosening his grasp on Danielle. The girl quickly scrambles out of the way and runs into the living room and outside, slamming the door behind her, and Will hears the dogs barking like mad, presumably because they had been locked out of the house when Tobias made his move earlier.

Tobias growls when he realizes what Danielle has done, turning to chase her into the living room, but Will is faster. He runs to the other man and grabs him by the collar and pulling him back into the kitchen, managing to put his arms around Tobias’s neck, restricting his airway and movement.

Will feels adrenaline pumping through his veins as they both struggle to gain the upper hand, Tobias’s hand trying to stab him with the blunt hammer and scrabbling at Will’s arms. He does manage to dislodge Will off him by knocking the air out of him when he pushes his elbow into Will’s stomach, and Will only has moments to digest the pain before he’s scrambling to his safe and brings out his shotgun, turning off the safety and zeroing in his sight on the other man.

There’s a moment of fear when he sees Tobias’s hand on the door, Danielle screaming at the other side of it, and he doesn’t think.

He aims the shotgun at Tobias’s chest and pulls the trigger once, twice, thrice.

 

The last thing he remembers is Garret Jacob Hobbs’s corpse walking towards him in surprise and fear, calling out his name in concern.

 

Chapter Text

Will wakes up to the sound of beeping.

He’s slightly confused as he tries to make sense of where he is, his eyes slowly opening to see a blank ceiling above him. His body feels oddly heavy, almost as if there were sedatives running through—

Danielle.

He struggles to move his limbs, his breathing heavier now as he panics and tries to get his body to just move so he can get to his daughter—

“—calm down, Will, you’re safe here, and so is Danielle, listen to me—”

His brain catches up to the words breaking slowly into his thoughts, and he blinks rapidly as he tries to clear his vision, trying to make sense of where he is right now.

He hears a soft voice calling out to him, small hands holding his palm in hers. “Daddy,” she whispers, her hands tight around his.

Will closes his eyes in relief; hearing her voice must mean that she’s safe and sound, and he’s the one who’s currently struggling for whatever reason. There are strong hands holding him down by the shoulders, and he finally sees Hannibal’s face swimming in his vision before he’s pulled back under.

 

The next time he wakes, he feels more lucid, his senses returning to him in small increments. He tries to move his fingers first, then his toes, before he opens his eyes slowly, staring at the same blank ceiling above him. He can feel the tube extending from his hand, pulling at him as he moves his hand slightly. The sound of beeping machines is still in the background, and he slowly turns his head to the side to look at it, finally figuring out that he’s in the hospital.

He’s greeted by the sight of Hannibal sitting slumped in the couch across him, Danielle’s head pillowed on his lap as they both dozed against each other.

He closes his eyes, a hazy smile tugging at his lips, and when he opens his eyes again, he sees that Hannibal is awake, the man’s eyes alert on him now.

Will blinks slowly, his eyes inviting, though he knows Hannibal won’t move from his position lest he wakes Danielle up. Hannibal does slowly extricate himself from Danielle, substituting his lap for one of the pillows strewn around the sofa, the pull of Will’s gaze too strong for him to resist.

Hannibal silently makes his way to Will, dropping into the chair next to the bed and cradling Will’s hand in his. “Hello, Will.”

Will’s mouth feels dry, and he can’t quite make out the words he wants to say. Hannibal notices and gets up to procure a cup of ice for him from the small fridge in the room. The man slowly feeds him the ice cubes, Will swallowing them gratefully, the melted ice in his mouth cooling his parched throat.

Hannibal repeats the action several times until the ice cubes are almost gone and Will finally feels like he can talk, though he’s still thirsty.

“What happened? Danielle okay?” he rasps.

Hannibal takes his hand again, kissing the knuckle softly. “Don’t exert yourself, Will. She’s fine, as you can see. She was unharmed when I arrived at your house.”

He closes his eyes in relief. “Tobias?”

“Dead,” Hannibal says fiercely, his grip tightening on Will’s hand.

“Good,” he whispers.

They fall silent for a while, the constant hum and beeping from the machines surrounding him the only sounds in the room.

“I’m tired,” he mumbles after a while. “Gonna go back to sleep.”

“Sleep well, mylimasis.”

His vision darkens once more, the feeling of Hannibal’s hands on him reassuring, as if Hannibal might never let him go.

 

Will wakes up fully a few days later (or so he’s told afterward, since he wasn’t really present for any of those days), and the first thing he sees and hears is Danielle sitting next to him, softly singing an unrecognizable song – he thinks it might be one of the songs from those Disney movies that Beverly has shown her, but he can’t really say.

He smiles at her; she’s so absorbed with her song that she doesn’t realize he’s awake until she hears him speak. “Hey, pumpkin.”

She startles at his hand on her head, her eyes going wide when she finally turns to him. “Daddy,” she murmurs, overjoyed. She pulls his hand away from her head and nuzzles into it instead. “I missed you.”

He licks his lips, looking around to see that Hannibal is hovering nearby, ready with a cup of ice cubes. He’s only waiting for Will to notice him, immediately making his way to the bed when Will sets his eyes on him.

Will accepts the ice cubes gratefully, swallowing and letting them melt in his mouth one by one, Hannibal sitting on one side of his bed while Danielle sits on the other side. Once he finally finishes the last one, he struggles to a more upright position, testing out his limbs. They feel heavy still, and he wonders how long he’s been out.

But first, there’s Danielle to consider. He turns to her then, extending the arm that’s not tethered to the IV drip out to her. She immediately scrambles from her chair, using it to climb up onto the bed and settling herself next to him, carefully avoiding the IV drip and catheter attached to his body parts. Will breathes her scent in, the warmth from her body a comforting weight against him. He holds her just like that for a long moment, hardly aware of anything else except for the irrefutable fact that Danielle is safe and sound in his arms.

He doesn’t realize how long he stares at her, his daughter crying silent tears as she burrows her face into his chest, both of them savoring the moment. He sees her eyes fluttering close after a while, her inhale and exhale evening out when she finally falls asleep against him.

Will hears a soft sound coming from the door to the room, and he looks up to see a nurse coming in, greeting him and Hannibal before she tells Will in quiet tones that she’s there to check on his vitals as part of their typical morning routine (so he knows it’s morning, at least).

The nurse gives him a cursory check, trying to move around Danielle as she takes in his condition. Making a few notes on her tablet, she smiles at him encouragingly once she’s done with everything.  

“I think you’re ready for your first meal,” she says, patting his shoulder and moving away, presumably to call for breakfast to be served.

Will stares after her blankly, his mind still sluggish. He finally turns to Hannibal, who has been silently watching him and Danielle for a while now, poised as he is in his seat. “Hey,” he manages to croak out.

“Good morning,” Hannibal says, giving him a brief smile. “Welcome back.”

“Thanks,” he says, trying to keep his voice low to avoid waking Danielle up. “But I don’t remember what happened after Tobias… I thought I wasn’t injured?”

“You weren’t injured from Tobias, no,” Hannibal confirms, his own voice subdued. “When I arrived in Wolf Trap, Danielle and the dogs were on the porch. I knew something was wrong when I heard you on the phone, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight of you and Tobias lying in a pool of blood in your living room.”

Will winces at the description; he hopes Danielle didn’t see anything. “What happened to him?”

“I called the police, though I also called Jack since Tobias Budge is one of the suspects for the trombonist case. I think they have gathered enough evidence from your house by now, though I would need to check with Jack later.”

“Right,” Will says, brow furrowed in confusion. “So… why was I out for so long? The blood wasn’t mine.”

Hannibal visibly swallows as he formulates his answer. “You were unconscious when I found you. I checked you for any visible injuries but it was clear that you were otherwise unharmed. However, there was a feverish scent to you at the time, one that I have not previously noticed until then. Once at the hospital, I told the attending doctor about my suspicion that you had an undiagnosed case of encephalitis.”

“Sorry, but I’m trying to set this straight,” Will interjects, interrupting Hannibal’s explanation, the man only looking faintly amused at the disruption. “You… smelled the disease on me?”

The insufferable man only inclines his head, a small smile on his face. “I’ve told you before that my sense of smell is highly distinguished. I was able to smell cancer on someone even though they themselves were not aware of it.”

“That’s— I don’t even know what to say to that.”

“Perhaps I am now slightly above your dogs, then, in terms of where I stand with you.”

Will snorts at that. “You just diagnosed a disease on me using your nose, I’d say you’re almost at the top of the hierarchy there.”

Hannibal’s eyes flash at that, pleased. “Shall I continue?”

“Yeah, sorry, go ahead.”

“Since they could not find any physical ailments on you when you were attacked by Tobias, they ended up scheduling a brain scan for you and managed to confirm my suspicion. You have been hospitalized for encephalitis treatment for almost two weeks now.”

Two weeks?” Danielle stirs against him, and he lowers his voice again, incredulous. “How did I even get it in the first place?”

“As your case was diagnosed as autoimmune encephalitis, what it essentially means is that your immune system has attacked your own brain when the antibodies react with your brain proteins.”

Will can clearly see the doctor’s persona coming out of Hannibal, his clinical tone somewhat amusing to listen to. “That’s… that’s something,” he says weakly. “How long am I going to be in here for?”

“Since you were diagnosed fairly early, the disease was still at its early stage and they were able to treat it aggressively before it develops into more serious symptoms.” Hannibal gives him a soft smile, leaning forward to brush Will’s hair off his forehead. “I was told that it might take you another week depending on how you react to the treatment. Judging by your charts so far, you’re expected to make full recovery, although as a doctor I would advise you against strenuous activities for a whole month.”

Will grins at that. “Too bad for you, then, doctor.”

Hannibal chuckles fondly and gives him a chaste kiss before he leans back into his seat. “I am happy to be compromised in this case.”

Of course he is. “I feel like my whole body is still sore.”

“That would probably be the effect of being bedridden for two weeks.”

Will sighs, settling back against his pillows. He runs his hand through Danielle’s curls absent-mindedly, staring at nothing. “Has she been here all this while?”

“No, I’m afraid that wasn’t possible, with no other guardian present. Ms. Katz has been very helpful; Danielle has stayed with her for the first week, and I have accompanied her stay in the hospital for this past week.”

“Hannibal…” Will swallows down his retort and admonishment, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath instead. “Thank you.”

Hannibal gives him a wide smile, his eyes crinkled in fondness as he stares at Will, silently congratulating Will for accepting help for once. Not like he had a choice in it.

“I’m glad to be of service,” Hannibal says. “I thought she would want to stay near you, in any case. So it was for the best.”

Will nods, though whatever he was going to say is interrupted by the arrival of breakfast in his room, their moment broken.

He has to wake Danielle up for breakfast, both of them sharing their meal together even though Danielle seems a little groggy still. Hannibal watches them both while they eat the bland porridge, his mouth turned into a frown of distaste at the thought of Will eating something cooked by the hospital. Will has no doubt that Hannibal is already planning some meals for his future visits, just as he has no doubts that there will be future visits as long as he’s still in the hospital.

Once breakfast is finished, Will makes room for Danielle to sleep next to him, the girl seemingly exhausted still. He has a feeling she has stayed up or slept fitfully for the past few days, judging by how fast she falls asleep next to him once more.

He feels slightly on edge, cabin fever setting in – he’s itching to pace around the room, at least, but a quelling look from Hannibal tells him that might not be the best idea right now, at least not until he’s had a chance for proper rehabilitation for his body.

The attending doctor in charge of Will comes by after a while, giving him a basic rundown of what he’s suffering from (though Will doesn’t mention that Hannibal has beaten the doctor to the punch, explaining to him that he will be staying in the hospital for several more days before they can discharge him and put him on the rehabilitation path). Will takes everything in silently, nodding in all the right places to show that he’s listening.

The doctor, a woman by the name of Dr. Michelle Wright, is telling him the various regiments he can expect when going through the rehabilitation program, and Will is beginning to think that he might need help with most of the exercises as well as with Danielle. He has a sinking feeling that Hannibal is listening in on the conversation with a vested interest, and he sighs internally, knowing what his eventual fate will be.

“So what’s the lookout for me in the next few days?” Will asks the doctor once she finishes.

“I still need to monitor you for a few more days, though your results have been encouraging,” Dr. Wright says, consulting her charts. “But I think you might be able to get discharged by next week, at least, barring any complications. And as long as you stick to the follow-up treatments afterward, I don’t see why you can’t make full recovery within a month or so… I would highly suggest a few follow-up appointments in a few more months, but we still have time until then.”

Will nods, resigned. He gives the doctor a wan smile as she excuses herself, leaving the three of them alone again, Danielle still asleep by his side.

“I take it you already have something planned for me,” he begins cautiously, stealing a glance at Hannibal, who hasn’t strayed from his side since this morning. “I guess I might as well hear it now instead of being surprised later.”

Hannibal pauses, but there’s a smile on his face. “Considering your house is still a forensic minefield at the moment, I was hoping I could persuade you and Danielle to stay with me for a while.”

Will narrows his eyes at the other man. “How long is ‘a while’?”

Hannibal gives him a minute shrug, and he’s definitely smiling now. “As long as it takes for you to recuperate and get back on your feet again.”

“That could take months,” Will says, rolling his eyes. “I’m not going to stay at your place for a few months, Hannibal.”

“It need not be a few months – a week, or more, if you’re amenable,” Hannibal agrees. “At least until we’re sure you would be fine alone with Danielle.”

The meaning behind the words set Will’s teeth on edge, though he can’t deny that he needs help with his daughter if he’s going to be rehabilitated. Maybe it’s fate’s way of telling him to depend on others for a change, though fate’s voice sounds suspiciously like Hannibal’s right now.

Will sighs. “I’m only going to agree if Danielle says yes.” He glares at the twitch of Hannibal’s lips. “You’re not allowed to bribe her with anything.”

Hannibal gives him a serene smile, which doesn’t make him feel better at all. “I would never do that.”

That makes Will even more suspicious, but he can see why the man would be complacent with Danielle’s veto power, considering how taken she is with him. Will ignores his impending doom for the moment; it’ll just make him even cagier just thinking about it. 

Hospital rest has always made him restless, his body itching to do something even though he knows he can’t. Will tries to think of anything he can do other than sleep the day away – it’s a tempting thought, since he still feels tired all the time, but he also knows that’s a recipe for disaster when rehab time finally comes around. Swallowing his pride, he asks for Hannibal’s help to move around the room, which the man is only too happy to agree with, offering his arm to Will to lean against while they take a turn around the room and Hannibal helps him slowly make his way to the toilet. He does insist to be left alone the first time he’s allowed to use the bathroom, and can’t help the sigh of relief escaping him when he manages to get through that. He hates feeling trapped in his own body.

Other than that, there’s really not much that he can do, and Hannibal seems to sense his dark mood, plying him with his homemade food and bringing him piles of books and journals to pore through should he wish it. He does find it engrossing, though he’s still stuck in his bed or the sofa for the most part.

Danielle seems to sense his taciturn mood as well, and her beguiling ways of trying to cheer him up work wonders, the girl offering to play the piano on Hannibal’s iPad (something Hannibal has recently taught her to use during Will’s hospital sojourn) and asking Will to read her usual books to her for bedtime. It does distract him for some time, so that’s at least something.

On the second day of his “awake day” (as he has come to call it), Beverly and Jack come visiting him in a more official capacity. Hannibal and Danielle are still in the room while they come in, both of them flanking Will’s sides as Danielle shows him how to use the piano app on the iPad.

Will hears the sound of a shutter going off, frowning and raising his head to find the source of it.

“That’s a nice family picture,” Beverly says, grinning as she enters, her hand raised as she takes a picture of the three of them.

“Beverly,” Will groans. He can already tell that Hannibal will be radiating with happiness at the insinuation behind Beverly’s words, so he chooses to ignore the other man.

Beverly laughs, winking at him. “Sorry, I missed teasing you. It’s nice to see you up and about.”

“Do I look like I’m allowed to be out and about?” he grumbles. “Hey, Jack. I guess you’re here to ask me about Tobias Budge.”

Jack gives them a nod, just staring at him and Hannibal with a frown on his face.

Will sighs internally. It looks like it’s going to be a long hour.

“Hey, Dani,” Beverly says. “Whatcha got there?”

“Hi, Bev,” Danielle says, beaming at her next favorite person. “I’m teaching daddy how to play the piano.”

“That’s great,” Beverly replies, grinning. “Hey, want to join me for an iced chocolate and a cake downstairs?”

“Sure!” Danielle shrieks, her eyes lighting up at the magic words.

Rolling his eyes at Beverly’s expert maneuvering, Will waves both of them off as Danielle excitedly talks about chocolate.

“So, you and Hannibal,” Jack begins.

Both of them turn to Jack then, Will trying to bite back his laugh at Jack’s expression.

“Thought you were here to ask me about Budge,” Will says, failing to contain his smile.

Jack frowns, glaring at Will and taking a seat opposite Hannibal. “Tell me what happened, then.”

Will sighs, taking a sip of his water before he recounts again what he remembers from what had happened that Saturday. Considering it happened two weeks ago, he can still recall clearly what happened with perfect clarity, until he gets to the part where he shot Tobias, his voice faltering into a shaky silence when he remembers just how close the man had gotten to Danielle.

The other two men remain silent on either side of him, and Will sighs. “I still don’t know what was the catalyst. He showed up to my house, and next thing I know he started talking about the Catgut Killer case as if I should know every single detail.”

“He was supposed to come by and tune your piano,” Jack says slowly, trying to piece together the events based on everything Will told him. “He came by, and everything was normal? He didn’t say anything before he suddenly attacked you in the kitchen?”

Will shakes his head, his brow furrowed. “No… I didn’t even notice when he came into the kitchen, I was having a conversation with— with Hannibal.”

Jack throws a furtive look at Hannibal, though the doctor remains unmoved, silently listening to Will’s recounting. “Tell me again what he said while he was threatening your daughter.”

His jaw sets at that, rage bubbling up again at the thought of Tobias putting his hands on Danielle. He swallows his anger, blinking rapidly for a few seconds to clear the ugly thoughts swimming around his head. “He… he’s clearly been reading TattleCrime, from what he was saying,” Will says, laughing bitterly. “He knows that I was the one profiling for the Shrike case and several of the cases after that. Mentioned something about how disappointed he was I wasn’t involved in his particular case.”

Jack frowns. “Were you the one he had been serenading? Are you aware of the particulars of the case?”

Will shrugs. “I saw some pictures on TattleCrime but I didn’t read the ‘article’, if you can call it that,” he says derisively. “Everything else I know is from what Beverly shared with me, though it’s not a lot. I don’t know anything about him serenading anyone.”

Jack hums, dissatisfied. “Since the man is dead, we can’t really quite make out the motive of his attack.”

“Sorry about that,” Will says, though he’s really not sorry about putting his bullets in the man. “He was threatening us, Jack…”

“No, no,” Jack says, sighing and leaning back in his seat. “It was obvious what you did was in self-defense, and the forensics can tell you that, though we’re still processing some minor details around the house. The board will clearly rule against homicide.”

Will’s shoulder sags with relief. “Thank you,” he murmurs. “So, when exactly will the FBI be out of my hair?”

Jack gives him a wry smile. “You should know the answer to that, Professor Graham,” he says, actually teasing Will. “As long as it takes for them to gather all the pertinent evidence. Though I’d say it’ll take just another week or so, and we need your fingerprints as well as your daughter’s once you’re settled. I’ll ask Katz to let you know when everything’s clear. You might want to call for some cleaning service and air out the place, though.”

Will nods. “Thanks, I figured I’d ask anyway,” he says, sighing.

They’re both silent for a few seconds before Jack raises his eyebrow at Will and Hannibal. “So, you and Hannibal.”

Will finally hears Hannibal chuckling at his side, the man stirring into life.

“I thought you’d noticed,” Hannibal says, his posture relaxed and pleased. The bastard.

“I don’t make it a habit to know about everyone’s personal lives,” Jack says wryly. “Though I clearly should’ve. But since you’re not breaking any laws here… I’m only asking about it from the perspective of a friend.”

Will shrugs. “Nothing to tell, really.”

“Alright,” Jack says, nodding. “Though I expect to be invited to Dr. Lecter’s excellent dinner again whenever the two of you decide to make it public.”

Will sputters at that. “No, I’m not going to parade myself again.”

“Again? Did you already have dinner and didn’t invite me, Hannibal?”

He knows he’s fighting a losing battle with himself, flushing almost immediately. “Never mind, it’s nothing important, but no dinner.”

“It would just be among friends,” Hannibal purrs, grinning his way.

Will rolls his eyes at that. “No,” he says sardonically. “We’re not going to talk about this in front of Jack where you can guilt trip me into agreeing.”

Jack chuckles, shaking his head and rising from his seat. “Well, looks like trouble in paradise, sorry about that,” he says with a grin. “I’ll be taking my leave now. I’ll be in touch with you, Will.”

Will glares at Jack, though there’s no real malice behind it. “See you around, Jack.”

The other man just throws him another amused grin before he nods to Hannibal and makes his way out of the room.

He turns his glare to Hannibal once Jack is out of the door. “No dinner.”

Hannibal gives him a placating shrug, but as always says nothing to promise him otherwise. He looks at Will with curiosity for a moment, though, carefully restructuring his thoughts. “Are you alright, Will?” he finally asks. “You seemed distressed when you were talking about Tobias Budge earlier.”

Will scoffs. “I mean, wouldn’t you? If he suddenly barged into your house and attacked you and your daughter?”

Hannibal’s eyes flash at that. “I confess I was pleased when I saw that you had killed him,” he says in a low tone. “When I heard Danielle’s voice during that phone call… and I couldn’t hear anything afterward when you dropped your phone.” Hannibal leans forward, taking Will’s hand in his. “I was worried you were dead.”

There’s an alarming amount of yearning and hunger in Hannibal’s expression that it takes Will several moments to calm himself, his heart pulsating wildly in his chest. He can feel himself flushing, the damn thing something he can never control, but he can’t find it in him to avert his eyes from Hannibal’s earnest gaze.

“I’m glad I’m not, then,” Will murmurs, his mouth dry, staring at Hannibal’s eyes and lips. He licks his lips then, parched for something he can’t quite ask for. “I’m glad you found me and Danielle.” He thinks Hannibal can hear the broad generalization in that statement, the man’s eyes dilating slightly as he watches Will’s lips in turn.

“Did you regret it, Will?” Hannibal asks, his voice barely a whisper. “When you took his life?”

Slightly confused at the line of questioning, he shakes his head. “No,” he answers slowly. “How could I? He tried to hurt my daughter.”

Hannibal’s hand tightens on him, the touch grounding him to the other man. “Good,” Hannibal replies, a fierce satisfaction creeping into his voice. “I only wish I could be there to help you. It’s… disconcerting to see the scene he left behind.”

Will shivers at the image, imagining how distraught Danielle must have been at the sounds of the gun being shot at the other side of the door, not knowing if it was safe to come inside until she could no longer hear the noise, fearing what she would find on the other side.

“I’m glad I killed him,” Will whispers, his rage swelling at the thought. “I wished he was alive so that I could kill him with my bare hands.”

He senses before he feels Hannibal leaning towards him in a blur of action, the man pushing him down into the pillows to give him a heated kiss. Will’s eyes are wide with shock for a few seconds, groaning at the sudden weight of Hannibal against him. His mouth opens in protest, but Hannibal only takes that as a cue to deepen the kiss, his tongue questing into Will’s mouth, Will moaning at the feel of it.

There’s a danger of him running out of air when it seems like Hannibal might never let him go, the kiss suffocating in its need, Will’s hands scrabbling weakly against Hannibal’s as he tries to push the man away—

“Hey, we’re ba— oh my God, shi— sorry!”

Will hears the door slamming, and he’s struggling to breathe again when Hannibal finally pulls away at the sudden commotion. He coughs for a few seconds, Hannibal rushing to get him a cup of water and handing it to him as fast as he can. He struggles to gulp down the drink, clearing his throat when he can finally breathe without coughing again.

“Come in, guys,” he says, his voice strained from embarrassment.

The door opens again after a few seconds, Beverly slowly poking her head in before she decides things are okay and comes in with Danielle in tow, the woman smirking slightly as she observes Will and Hannibal struggling to pretend nothing untoward has happened.

“As I was saying, we’re back!” Beverly says, gleefully eyeing Will’s face.

Will’s venomous stare promises a painful payback, though the effect is somewhat spoiled by the way he’s still flushing, judging by how warm his face and neck feel.

“Daddy, I brought you a strawberry milkshake!” Danielle says, grinning innocently – it seems like she’s spared the vision of her father being mauled by his not-quite-psychiatrist. (At least he hopes so.)

He smiles at her, ignoring Beverly’s shit-eating grin and Hannibal’s amused stare as he takes the milkshake out of her hands. “Thank you, pumpkin.”

“Well, Jack is waiting for me in the car, so I gotta go,” Beverly says, her eyes twinkling. “I’ll see you later, Grahams.”

That tone means imminent trouble whenever Beverly manages to get him alone again, so he throws another glare at her to assert dominance, which she promptly laughs off, waving to the three of them as she says her goodbyes.

“Daddy, are you okay? Do you still feel feverish? Your face looks red.”

“It’s nothing,” he mumbles, keeping his eyes on the milkshake instead of the other life-ruining form beside him. “Thanks for the milkshake. Did you have fun with Bev?”

Danielle nods, starting to tell him about the various items she and Beverly drank and ate in the cafeteria, while Will listens to her half-heartedly, highly aware of Hannibal’s hand still hovering near him, the warmth emanating from the other man confusing yet comforting.

 

Once he’s deemed more or less recovered, Dr. Wright gives him the permission to discharge on the condition that Will follows her advice for the rehabilitation program, his medications and his follow-up appointments. He can’t even argue against anything, since he knows Hannibal will be personally attending to all his needs during his recovery period.

Will feels anxious and guilty when he and Danielle finally arrive at Hannibal’s house. Hannibal has gotten everything ready for his stay, it seems, arranging everything for Will and Danielle – the dogs are under Alana’s care, their clothes have been packed and brought to them, and Hannibal has also apparently taken a week’s leave from his psychiatrist business as well as from profiling, which heightens Will’s guilty feelings further.

It’s hard to settle his feelings when he’s like this, though he tries to keep up a front for Danielle at least. The room she has previously occupied during their last visit has been prepared for her once more, Danielle happily climbing onto the bed when she’s told to make herself at home. Will wishes he could feel the same freedom at accepting someone’s care for him.

Hannibal carries his bags for him, making their way into the man’s main bedroom, not even bothering to keep up any pretense that they would be sleeping apart during this whole arrangement. He knew it was coming, but it still makes him feel warm all over at the thought of sleeping alongside Hannibal for a week.

Will sits down at the edge of the bed, watching Hannibal silently as the man begins to unpack his things and putting them in one of his spare wardrobes. The fact that he has a spare wardrobe doesn’t even faze Will anymore – he’s only surprised that Hannibal didn’t buy him a whole set of clothes instead, knowing the man’s penchant for dressing him up in his preferred style.

While the other man is busy putting away his clothes, Will finds himself slowly reclining on the bed, still tired even though he’s said to be ‘on the road to recovery’. He doesn’t realize he fell asleep until he wakes up later, having discovered that Hannibal had tucked him into bed.

He feels groggy still, and he doesn’t know what time it is as the curtains are shut. He blinks his eyes a few times and finally sees that Hannibal is reading on his iPad, the lighting from the tablet glaring to Will’s eyes. He groans in discomfort and tries to turn the other way, but Hannibal immediately puts his tablet aside, leaning towards Will to check on him.

“Will?” Hannibal murmurs, shaking his shoulder. “Are you hungry?”

He shakes his head. “I think I’d rather sleep,” he mumbles. “Why am I so tired all the time.”

“Encephalitis is not so easily rid of, I’m afraid, though the fact that we caught yours earlier is a blessing, as the recovery time is lessened significantly due to that,” Hannibal says, moving his hands to massage Will’s temples. “There is a chance of recurrence if it’s not properly treated, and rehabilitation is a step to prevent that. You’ll feel better once you take your medicines and we go through the exercises together.”

Will goes boneless at the feel of Hannibal’s fingers pressing into his skin, moaning at how good it feels. He knows that Hannibal must be smiling at that, he can practically feel it.

“Do you like it? Seeing me so helpless in your clutches?” Will manages to ask, though his eyes are still closed, enjoying Hannibal’s soothing touches.

He hears a chuckle from the other man, his hands increasingly gentle on him. “There is something pleasing at seeing you so relaxed,” Hannibal admits. “I want you to rest and recover, Will. We will get through this together.”

Will mumbles something, but his words are lost as he feels himself drifting into sleep once more.

 

He feels like he’s been falling asleep and waking up with no recollections of how he got into the dreaming state too many times these days. When he wakes next, he can make out the soft silk sheets beneath him and the press of something warm at his back, belatedly realizing that it’s Hannibal when he finally opens his eyes.

Will blinks his eyes open several times, trying to get the sleep out of his eyes, shifting slightly to get away from the burning warmth behind him. Hannibal feels like a furnace, somehow; it’s nice, but also smothering.

“Good morning, Will.” Hannibal’s voice comes to him first, then he feels the man’s hands stroking his curls while he kisses Will’s nape. “Are you feeling better?”

Will hums. “Much better. I still feel a bit groggy though.”

“Hmm, perhaps a bath is in order, then.”

He does feel incrementally better after the bath; after spending so much time in the hospital, he feels like he’s been doused in the smell of disinfectant, his mouth feeling strange for days now. Once he’s dressed in his own clothes, he feels like he’s settled back into his own skin, the fog lifting up from him somewhat. 

Hannibal gives him some space, letting him know that he will be making breakfast while Will goes to check on Danielle. He can only nod, grateful that the man seems so understanding; he hasn’t been alone with Danielle for weeks now, and it feels like he’s been a neglectful father.

He slips into the guestroom and he sees Danielle still sleeping under the covers. He removes the covers slowly, gently sliding next to her to watch her sleep for several minutes. She seems tired from the past few days, and he wonders if she finds the adjustment hard, having been transplanted from their home in Wolf Trap into the hospital, and now Hannibal’s home.

She stirs after a while, perhaps sensing Will nearby. Instead of getting up, however, she makes her way closer to him, her eyes closing again once she has managed to lean herself against Will. He can’t help the smile blossoming on his face, his hands instinctively stroking through her hair.

Danielle makes a quiet, contented noise before falling back to sleep, and he feels the world righting itself again.

 

It takes Will more than a week to feel like himself again, and Hannibal helped him through it all. If there was ever a time he doubted Hannibal’s feelings for him, Hannibal would’ve dashed it all away with how dedicated he was to ensure Will and Danielle’s care throughout their stay there.

Alana and Beverly stopped by for a few times on the pretext of bringing the dogs to meet Will and Danielle, though Will suspects that they just wanted an excuse to tease and ruin Will’s life with their running commentaries of Will and Hannibal’s domesticity.

Alana was surprised to find out about Danielle, though the shock in her face melted when she faced the girl, Danielle immediately befriending her in her typical bubbly ways, Beverly grinning at the sight of the two of them conversing with one another.

(“So what did he have to bribe you with this time to make sure you stayed here?”

Nothing. He just said he would take care of me and Danielle.”

“Uh huh, I’m sure you don’t receive any nightly ‘massages’ or anything.”

“Stop winking at me, you pervert, we don’t even do anything at night.”

“In daytime then? Yeesh, you guys are really shameless, I really wouldn’t have pegged you for it, though I can see how Hannibal could be though. He always looks so… non-threatening, you know. I figured there must’ve been something going on behind the scenes, and looks like I was right.”

“Oh my God, shut up, Beverly.”)

As a matter of fact, Hannibal had been a perfect gentleman during their entire stay there; they still slept together in Hannibal’s bedroom for the most part, but Hannibal had done nothing more than nuzzling him in his sleep (or even when he’s awake sometimes), morning wood notwithstanding.

He likes that there’s someone there to soothe his nightmares away. Though they’re not as bad as his previous nightmares, he still sees the scene with Tobias playing out in his mind sometimes, and on those nights, he has to go and check on Danielle, lying next to her for a few hours before he’s satisfied that she’s still and he can go back to sleep with Hannibal. The man never made any comment or complaint, immediately making space for Will again when he slips into bed once more.

Hannibal puts up with Will’s grumbling about his slow rehabilitation process, the man being too rational for his own good. Will is impatient to get back on his feet again (though he doesn’t quite miss his work), feeling a little bit cooped up in the house after he’s been basically comatose for almost a month.

When they finally make it outside to a nearby park, Will savors the fresh air, regardless of the cold, the early winter’s morning giving everything a hazy tint to it. The three of them slowly meander through the expansive grounds for an hour before Will feels himself succumbing to fatigue. Hannibal takes them to a nice café that’s not too crowded, treating Danielle to an afternoon high tea, something which Will has never experienced before. Danielle, of course, loves it immediately, tasting each pastry presented to her on the tiered silverware and affecting the air of a queen while she takes a sip of her tea.

Though he thinks he will never get used to Hannibal’s more high-class tastes, he can certainly appreciate how happy it makes Danielle at times, though he hopes the both of them wouldn’t be so spoiled by Hannibal’s attentions, because he feels like one day all this will be part of his fever dream; something he can’t quite come up by himself, not even in his wildest imaginations.

He keeps expecting the other shoe to drop, but it never does.

 

After almost two weeks of recuperating at Hannibal’s house, Will finally feels like he’s ready to go back to Wolf Trap and his other daily routines. He feels better these days, and he wonders if the encephalitis was the reason he felt so tired before this.

Hannibal has started going back to work after the first week of leave, so Will had some “practices” of trying out his many bodily functions while puttering about the house, Danielle at his heels. He’s grateful to find that his body has regained its strengths, though he probably won’t be able to go back to fixing his motorboats for a while.

It’s with some excitement and trepidation when Hannibal drives Will and Danielle back to Wolf Trap, the drive there comforting in its familiarity.

Hannibal had, of course, arranged for his house to be treated chemically to get rid of any blood stains or lingering smell from Tobias’s mishap, and when Will arrives in Wolf Trap, everything smells and looks… clean.

When he steps into the house the first time, he doesn’t see Tobias Budge’s corpse on the floor. He considers that as a win.

 

The day he starts work again, there’s a murmur of excited chatter from his students, and some of the more enterprising ones (or the newer ones) start clapping before Will throws them an unimpressed glare.

“Unfortunately for all of you, I haven’t prepared any materials on Tobias Budge,” he says dryly, addressing the crowd. “So, I’ll be continuing from where Ms. Bloom has left off. And please tell your fellow students, I don’t accept any applause. Just make sure you turn in a legible paper for your assignments and I’ll consider that as your appreciation for what I do. Now, let’s jump right into it, shall we?”

The rest of the class goes on as well as it usually does, which is to say pretty good. Will continues his lectures as usual, ignoring any non-pertinent questions to the subject at hand, and assigning his students more assignments which he will have the non-pleasure of marking.

Beverly comes by, of course, during lunch, dragging him to the cafeteria to ask how his day went before launching into another line of questioning about Hannibal, which he has long expected from her, so he just rolls with it, because he actually enjoys Beverly’s company these days, her teasing comments aside.

He knows that the BAU is still investigating the Copycat Killer, though the trail for that particular case has gone cold for several months now. He doesn’t hear anything from Hannibal about the investigation details into the other cases that he’s working on unless Will asks about it, even though he knows there’s a few even if the other man never brings it up. Since Will prefers to be kept in the dark about the serial killers they’re chasing, especially after what happened with Tobias, Hannibal has likewise kept silent on their progress.

He gets to repeat his routine for a few more days before Jack comes knocking at his office.

“Will,” Jack greets him, his face calm and poised, though the way he holds himself belies the tension in his frame.

Will is going through his students’ assignments when Jack enters, blinking up at him almost owlishly. He hasn’t expected Jack to come and meet him for a while, not after the hospital visit anyway.

“Jack,” Will says, frowning. There’s a pause before he invites Jack to take a seat, the man immediately sitting down with a heavy sigh.

“Look,” Jack begins, his brow furrowed. “I didn’t want to do this, but we’ve been working on this particular trail for a while now, and even with Hannibal and Alana helping us, it’s been one dead end after another.”

“Is it about the Copycat Killer?”

Jack sighs. “Among others. Abigail Hobbs is presumed missing.”

“What—”

“That’s only the beginning of it,” Jack says, holding up his hand, halting Will’s words in its track. “There’s a theory that the Copycat Killer got to her, but we don’t know that, since there have been no traces of her at all for the past few days.”

“That’s one theory,” Will replies, “but I have a feeling that you still think she’s the Copycat Killer?”

Jack shrugs. “If there’s no proof otherwise, then there must be a connection between the two of them. It’s too coincidental that the killer turned up wherever she appeared. And now she’s gone missing, while the killer remains silent as far as we know. But that’s only one part of it.”

 “You’ve been very busy.”

“More than,” Jack snorts. “We now have a reason to believe that the Chesapeake Ripper is back.”

A heavy silence descends in the room while Will tries to process the shock that passes through him at the mention of the Chesapeake Ripper.

“What makes you say that?” Will asks.

“There’s a recent case that bears the hallmarks of the Ripper’s – abdominal mutilations on the body and most importantly, the organs are missing. We’re still going through the autopsy, and the team has been working on documenting all the evidence. If we’re right, then this means the Ripper is finally emerging again after two years of silence.” Jack sighs heavily, his gaze weary, looking as if the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Will sees too much – he sees how exhausted Jack is by the new fine lines written on his face, his hair rapidly greying since the last time Will has seen him, the way his body is slumped in on itself, so in contrast with the way Jack usually holds himself, the grim look on his face adding years more to his age. He wonders how Bella is doing in the midst of all this.

He sighs. “What can I do for you, Jack?”

 

Things quickly moved from there. Will is rolled in as the BAU’s “consultant profiler”, a name that doesn’t really mean anything other than the fact that he’s expected to be on the FBI’s payroll to help them catch the Chesapeake Ripper.

Will has laid out his terms to Jack, letting the other man know that he will only be able to consult based on processed evidence and possibly autopsies, though he agrees to go to a crime scene only when it’s still within reasonable office hours. Jack wasn’t too happy with it, but Will was adamant, reminding Jack that he’s still technically recovering from the effects of encephalitis, and the last time he was attacked by a serial killer, he wasn’t even involved in the case in the first place and somehow became entangled anyway.

That’s how Will finds himself looking into the Chesapeake Ripper’s older case files, Beverly having helped him dig it out of the records’ room.

Beverly is helping him sort through the files onto his desk while Will is busy pinning the more pertinent details and photos to his pinboard in his office.

“So only nine known cases from the last four to five years,” Beverly is explaining to him, walking him from the oldest to the most recent cases the FBI have come across to date, “and there’s a pattern to his kills, if you look at the dates. The first three cases happened close to each other, and then I guess he went on a serial killer’s sabbatical leave or something because the next three cases happened more than a year after the last. And then he took another sabbatical before we got to the last three cases.”

Will hums, listening to her explanations as he eyes the various victims scattered on the board. There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to how the Ripper picks his victims; all of them have no relation or resemblance to one another, with little to no similarities in terms of their profile or anything in common connecting them at all. The fact that the Ripper kills in a rhyme of three is odd, as is the fact that he remains silent for a year or so after the group killings.

“So the last six victims were found in Baltimore?” Will asks, looking at the photos of the crime scene evidence in the last three years. He frowns, looking at the profile of the last known victim: Miriam Lass. “There’s no evidence for Miriam Lass?”

There’s a scuffle of movement behind him before he feels Beverly standing next to him, both of them looking at the pinboard now.

Beverly sighs. “Miriam Lass is believed to be the last Ripper’s victim before the trail went cold a couple of years ago. She was looking into the previous victims’ private medical records, but she went missing a couple of months after that. We technically don’t really know what happened to her, but considering what she was looking into… I think it’s fair to say that she’s presumed dead at this point.”

“She was an FBI trainee,” Will whispers, reading over her details. “Why was she looking into the vics’ private records if she was just a trainee?”

“Oh boy,” Beverly says, shaking her head. “That’s… not really Jack’s best moment.”

Will gives her a wry smile, reminding her that he’s seen most of Jack’s worst moments with a flick of his eyebrow.

“Fair point.” Beverly shrugs. “All I know is that Jack was kind of giving her some of the Ripper’s cases intel under the table, and she was looking into those records in a more… unofficial manner. Jack was beside himself when he found out she was missing.”

Will frowns for a moment, thinking back to their last conversations during lunch. “You’ve mentioned her to me before. Kind of.”

Beverly frowns, blinking at him. “Oh yeah, I guess I did. Well, now you know. Jack felt guilty about the whole thing, and he tried to get on the Ripper’s trail as soon as he heard about Miriam – not a lot of people know that he was the instigator behind that particular mess… I don’t know what happened with the higher-ups, but all I know is that he was back on the Ripper’s trail when he’s back on duty, but well… the Ripper disappeared after that. Trying to lay low now that he figured someone from the FBI is getting close, I guess.”

“Hmmm. And now he thinks the Ripper’s back.”

Will turns to his desk to have a look at the most recent case file that Jack has given to him, sifting through the photos and papers. He frowns at the photos, one of them showing a male body sitting in the bathtub, his eyes staring at nothing in his death. The man’s torso has been cut open from his neck to his pelvis, and there’s a note from the evidence records that a surgery was performed on the man before the killer sewed the body back up.

“So someone clawed the sutures open?” Will asks. “And the kidneys were the only thing missing?”

“Yep. Couldn’t find it.” Beverly sighs, sitting down on one of the seats next to Will, looking over the photos. “Not sure why the killer tried to open the sutures again, but the official cause of death is cardiac arrest. Zeller insists that it’s the Ripper, judging by the way the killer cuts his victim open and the missing organs.”

Will throws a sideway glance at Beverly, silently asking for her permission.

Beverly gives him a smile. “You’re going to do your thingamajig?”

“Please don’t call it that,” Will scoffs, rolling his eyes.

“Whatever, just work your mojo, Graham.”

Will does, closing his eyes as he tries to envision what happened to the man. There’s not much he can glean from photos sometimes, but he tries anyway; the various photos strewn around his desks collated in his mind, coming together like jigsaw puzzles fitting into its allocated slots.

When Will opens his eyes again, he frowns at the victim’s profile. “This is not the Ripper.”

Beverly only raises an eyebrow and smirks at him. “Well, I’m not the one who’s going to tell Jack that. Good luck with that.”

“As always, thank you for your lack of encouragement.”

“I give you plenty of encouragement, jeez, why are you so sensitive these days. Is it because of Hannibal? He didn’t give you any more presents in the last seven days or something?”

“What is with your obsession with me and Hannibal?”

“Look, I’m just trying to be a good friend when I ask you about your personal life.”

“Oh yeah? So what’s been happening with yours, Bev? Anything I should know about when it comes to your love life these days?”

“Oh no, I think I hear Jack telepathically calling for me,” Beverly says, laughing at Will’s glare. “Sorry Will, you’re on your own with this one! I do have some work to do.”

“Funny how you only remembered that just as I was asking for more details of what you’re up to.”

“Say hi to Danielle for me!”

Will shakes his head with a wry grin and waves at Beverly as she makes her way out of his office. Sighing, he returns to his Chesapeake Ripper pinboard, mulling over his thoughts on the killer’s profile.

 

Things have been more or less the same with Hannibal after he and Danielle moved back to Wolf Trap – they’re both busy men, Hannibal doubly so since he’s juggling his patients and profiling for the BAU still, so they make do with phone calls whenever they don’t manage to meet each other.

Will sees Hannibal at the BAU sometimes, though he can’t do much other than smile or wave at Hannibal in passing, Alana and Beverly sometimes flanking the man. Both of the women would smile and return his wave if they see him, and Will can only return a strained smile, all of them separating for their busy schedules.

Danielle has been oddly despondent these days, even with the dogs at her beck and call. Usually his daughter manages to pick herself back up again after a few days, but she’s noticeably silent when he comes back from work these days. Alice doesn’t have much to report, only letting him know that she’s been through her usual lessons and plays with the dogs more often than not, but she does seem to be a bit distant at times.

Will watches her throughout dinner, both of them eating their meals silently while the dogs eat their own meals out of their bowls, though Buster sometimes sniffs at Danielle’s leg, hoping for some of their leftovers.

“You okay, pumpkin?”

Danielle looks up at the question, her eyes wide at being caught playing with her remaining spaghetti and meatballs. She gives a little shrug, forcing herself to eat though her heart doesn’t seem to be in it.

“You can tell me if you’re having trouble with something, Dani, you know that right?” Will asks, softly laying out his palm on the table to Danielle.

Danielle looks at him for a moment, nodding and putting her hand in his and squeezing tight before she quickly lets go.

Since there’s no use pushing her to talk about it, Will goes back to eating his meal, pondering what could possibly have her so taciturn all of a sudden.

He tries again to coax her out of her pensive mood at bedtime, Danielle tucked down into bed already and Will getting ready to kiss her goodnight before he retires.

The girl only stares at him for a long moment, her eyes searching his. “Can you sleep here with me tonight?”

Trying to figure out the reason behind the sudden request, he slowly nods and relaxes his body closer to hers, lying on his side and staring at her for a moment. “Are you having trouble sleeping?”

She shakes her head, though she nuzzles closer to him, seeking comfort in their nearness.

Will gathers her close and closes his eyes, their breathing synchronizing in a few moments of stillness. She feels so small against him, and he marvels again at how his life has changed so much in less than a year. She will be turning five soon, and he’s actually excited at the prospect of getting to celebrate a milestone with her.

Stirring a little when he thinks she’s finally asleep, he’s surprised to find out that she’s still awake, her hands clutching his shirt in a sudden movement. Will looks down at her, only to see that his daughter is crying silently, her shoulders heaving with the sobs racking through her.

“Please don’t leave me, daddy,” she cries, smothering her face in his chest.

“Hey, hey, sssh, pumpkin, it’s okay, I’m here, aren’t I?” Will says, panicked at the sudden sobs Danielle is letting out; it seems like she has finally reached her breaking point, her hands clutching at Will and not letting him go. He settles himself back against her, wrapping her in a tight embrace and letting her cry it out.

In all the times she’s lived with Will, he has never seen her cry this much except after Joanna’s death, and even then she tried to contain her sobs whenever she sensed him near. This time around, however, it seems like the dam has finally broken, her wails and cries going through her frame like it’s pouring out of her. The sound is agonizing to him; it seems that he is the center and the cause of the problem at hand, and he’s at loss at how to stop it.

He realizes that she didn’t have the opportunity to process her own trauma at being attacked and seeing her father collapse in a pool of someone else’s blood in their house, his imagination supplying the image into his brain with an immediacy he doesn’t appreciate. On top of that, he had gotten diagnosed with encephalitis and was hospitalized for three weeks, and they had both stayed at Hannibal’s house since then. Kicking himself for being so stupid, he hugs her tighter, not knowing what to do and feeling helpless about it.

In the end, he lets her cry it out, her sobs eventually dissolving into hiccups and sniffles, his shirt wet with her tears. They stay wrapped around each other for a long while, Will stroking her hair and rubbing her back in turn. He kisses her forehead once she’s stopped crying, his hands instinctively moving to her face to wipe the tears off her cheeks.

“Feeling better?” he murmurs, watching the emotions crossing her face.

Danielle nods meekly, hiccupping still. “Please stay, daddy.”

Will nods, swallowing down his own feelings; he hears the plea behind her words well enough. “I’m not going anywhere, Dani. I was sick, but I’m feeling better now. I’m not gonna leave you, no matter what, okay?”

Danielle gazes at him, nodding when she finally feels satisfied at whatever she sees in his eyes. “Promise?”

Tying his pinky finger loosely against hers, he smiles at her fondly. “I promise.”

 

The next few days bring a return to normalcy of sorts to Will’s life. Danielle seems to be more open, though he still sees her flinching when he leaves her bedroom for his own. Not wanting to spoil her or let his own feelings cloud his own judgment, he doesn’t indulge in his own need to feel her next to him at night, but Danielle surprises him once more. He finds her sleeping at his side on his bed for a few nights, and he relents; he can admit that he falls asleep much easier when she’s around.

Meanwhile, his investigation into the Ripper’s case is taking up all his spare time at Quantico; he’s prepared some class materials based on the victims’ profile, hoping to get any insights he can into the elusive killer by studying and talking about it.

Jack expressed some frustrations that he has to wait for too long in between the next victim, though Will wishes he wouldn’t call on fate in such ways. Beverly rolled her eyes at it all, letting Will know that Jack had been irate when he found out that the man they were chasing might not be the Ripper after all.

“I mean, I can see why he thinks that, seeing as how they removed the organs – sometimes pretty unsuccessfully – and the fact that this is the first time in a while that we’ve seen a similar modus operandi,” Beverly says, taking a sip of her iced coffee.

They’re having lunch at the cafeteria again, Will losing the will to live at the sad sight of the dry hamburger in front of him. It seems like Hannibal has ruined his stomach for fast food.

“It’s not the Ripper,” Will insists, poking at the dry meat. “I see some similarities to the Ripper, but… I don’t feel it, you know?”

“Yikes, don’t repeat that to Zeller, he won’t like it. What are you doing to your burger?”

Glaring at Beverly, he finally takes a bite out of his meal, chewing and swallowing slowly even though it feels like eating sand. “It’s just,” he says after a moment, “I know why Jack is getting all caught up in the Ripper case, considering what happened to his trainee, but he’s getting a little too obsessed with him, don’t you think?”

Beverly shrugs, finishing the remainder of her coffee. “He’s got a bone to pick with the guy, that’s for sure.”

“I just think he’s chasing at the wrong corners with this guy. The Ripper is… sophisticated when it comes to his killings. He performs his mutilations in perfect cuts, so we know that he’s someone with anatomical or surgical knowhow. This particular killer you’re after seems to be blundering through it. The Ripper takes his victims’ organs, yes, but that’s the only similarity I see between this case and the Ripper’s,” Will mutters, forcing himself to eat more of his lunch. “There’s just… no artistry to the recent crime scenes.”

Beverly blinks at him for a few seconds. “Well, definitely don’t say that in front of Jack or Zeller.”

“What? It’s not like it’s not true.”

“Well, I mean yeah, but I wouldn’t say the Ripper’s killings are art.”

Sighing, Will gives up on his half-eaten lunch, throwing it down onto the tray and leaning back in his chair. “Fine,” he agrees. “Not like anyone else talks to me except for you, anyway.”

“Aww, are you grumpy that Hannibal’s too busy to see you these days?”

“Shut up,” he grumbles, though there’s no heat behind his words. He can’t even deny the sentiment; he hasn’t talked to Hannibal in days now, since they’re so busy at work and Will can’t answer the phone at night since he’s usually asleep with Danielle by then.

Beverly laughs at his pain, because Beverly is a shitty friend, he thinks darkly.

“Well, if it makes you feel better, he’s been moping about it too,” she says, grinning at the change in his expression. “Alana and I had to listen to him moan about how he wishes he had you to talk about the case, yadda yadda yadda. I don’t know what you did, but he’s completely gone on you for some reason I can’t even fathom.”

“Shut up,” he says again, though his heart flutters at the mention of Hannibal missing him just as much.

“See? Seriously, I don’t know why he puts up with you.”

Will sighs. “You’re right.”

“Wait, what, no, you were supposed to talk back with your smartass remarks, Graham,” Beverly huffs. “Forget it, this is what I get when I try to cheer you up. Come on, lunch is over, I need to get my ass back to the lab before Jack hounds me again.”

Will nods morosely, picking up his tray and dumping his leftovers into the trash. “Tell Hannibal I said hi.”

Beverly’s smile softens at that. “Sure, I’ll let him know you’re mooning over him later. See you!”

He waves her off, smiling slightly as he goes back into the office to ponder some more about the Chesapeake Ripper.

 

He’s still pondering over his pinboard in his office a few hours later, though his musings on the Ripper is interrupted by a knock on his door.

“Come in,” he says absent-mindedly, his fingers tapping lightly on Jeremy Olmstead’s photo.

Will turns his head slightly at the sound of his door closing and his visitor’s footsteps approaching him. He feels his smile blooming on his cheek before he can control the expression, though he doesn’t need to since Hannibal is wearing a similar expression on his face.

“Hello, Will,” Hannibal says, leaning forward to give him a chaste kiss, his hand brushing softly against Will’s cheek.

“Hi,” Will says softly, confused at his own shy greeting. He widens his smile though, shifting his body aside to make room for Hannibal at the desk, both of them leaning against it as Hannibal stares at what Will has been looking at.

“Busy at work, I see,” Hannibal says, his eyes roaming on the pinboard of the Chesapeake Ripper’s murder tableaux. “It’s getting a little late, isn’t it?”

Will hums. “Jack has basically called me in to be a bloodhound for his white whale. Won’t let me rest until I catch him.”

Hannibal smiles at the words, stealing a glance at Will. “His white whale? You think the Ripper is unlikely to be caught, then?”

Will shrugs, staring at the board. “Jack has been at it longer than me. If he can’t catch him even when there were three sets of sounders dropping off like pretty little packages, then I doubt I can really do much more than him.”

“I would suggest that Jack is more likely to catch the Ripper if he has you,” Hannibal argues. “Your insights are invaluable, even if you don’t appreciate them.”

“Would you appreciate them if they gave you nightmares weeks after?” Will scoffs.

“I see your point,” Hannibal concedes. “I’m grateful to know that the hallucinations and sleepwalking can be attributed to your encephalitis, however.”

Will softens at the words, smiling a little. “Yeah, thanks for that.”

“No thanks is necessary, Will, you know that.”

“I know, but I wanted to say it anyway.”

“You’re welcome, then,” Hannibal says graciously, grinning at him.

Will returns the grin, though his gaze gravitates once more to the board in front of them. He sighs; he feels like he’s been looking at the details for so long that he can’t even glean anything new from it anymore. Hannibal being here reminds him of how much he appreciates the man as his soundboard during their previous therapy sessions.

“Doctor Lecter,” Will says, grinning at Hannibal’s raised brow at the sudden use of his title, “why don’t you help me out a little, since you’re here and all?” His eyes narrow for a moment. “Beverly sent you here, didn’t she?”

Hannibal chuckles, grinning at the sudden insight. “She did,” he admits, “and she’s threatened me with bodily harm unless I agreed to come and see you after our little session with Jack. Though of course it’s no hardship for me to come here, regardless.”

Will rolls his eyes. “She has no boundaries.”

“Friendships do tend to blur the boundaries somewhat,” Hannibal says with a smile. He turns his gaze to the board after a short silence, both of them staring at the various details Will has written on the board. Hannibal rises up to take a closer look at one of the victims, his gaze boring into the photos. “What do you make of this Ripper, then?”

“Asking for answers so you can copy them?” Will asks, snorting. “I think he’s something else altogether, from the way he kills. He’s not a psychopath – that’s something too plebeian to label him. He knows exactly what he’s doing when he kills his victims. He’s patient, that’s for sure. He can wait months or even years in between his kills, so he doesn’t really crave it as most serial killers do. He walks among us, perfectly camouflaged in a human suit. No one would know him by his Ripper crimes; he would seem normal to the outside world. There’s no sense and rhyme to his murder tableaux, but there’s a reason why he does them.”

“You call them murder tableaux?” Hannibal asks after a few moments of silence.

“Oh, that’s just… something I coined,” Will says, embarrassed at blurting out his thoughts in so many details.

“Why?”

Will shrugs, even though Hannibal can’t see it. “It’s just… the way he presented his kills is not typical of any other killers I’ve come across. His crime scenes are always full of intent – meanings behind meanings, layered with something that only he can see. He only presents the barest of details to his audience, and we’re left to guess what it is that he’s trying to convey. But no one really knows, because no one can really make sense of how he chooses the actors for his stage…”

Hannibal is silent throughout Will’s mutterings, though Will doesn’t quite notice the looks he throws him. “Displaying one’s enemy after death has its appeal in many cultures,” Hannibal says smoothly, watching Will’s face closely.

Will shakes his head impatiently, his mind working in overdrive as he tries to untangle his sticky thoughts. “They’re not his enemies,” he says derisively. “He sees them as nothing more than pests. He’s… he’s shaming them, somehow, with every tableau. What they did is something so discourteous and so unspeakably ugly to him that he thinks they don’t deserve mercy at his hands. But he turned these seemingly ugly creatures into something more… and elevated them to art.”

He only gets a few seconds of warning before he feels Hannibal’s body practically slam into his, Will feeling breathless from the impact. He’s barely aware that he’s been pushed down onto his desk and Hannibal’s mouth is on him.

The surprise he feels at the kiss quickly turns into something more passionate, and Will returns the kiss almost fervently. All he knows is that he’s missed this – he misses the warmth emanating from Hannibal’s body when it’s slotted so perfectly against his, he misses Hannibal’s devouring kisses, he misses the way Hannibal pours every single one of his desires into Will unabashedly, making him overwhelmed with it.

The kiss quickly changes into something more desperate when Will starts to rut against Hannibal, his hands pulling the other man tightly against him even if he’s beginning to feel discomfort at the wood digging into his back. He doesn’t care – he hasn’t been intimate with Hannibal for more than a month ever since he’s still recovering from encephalitis, and it feels as if they’ve been separated for so long, always missing each other in passing.

“Hannibal,” he gasps against Hannibal’s mouth. “Please, touch me.”

It seems like both of them have lost their control after being apart for so long, as Hannibal only growls at the comment, his hands quickly working at Will’s belt and pants before loosening his own, freeing both of their erections in a few fluid movements.

Will is too far gone when he finally feels Hannibal’s hand stroking their cocks together, letting out a shuddering moan at the touch. “Oh God, I’ve missed you,” he whispers, rocking his hips into Hannibal’s strokes. The friction is eased by their own precome, both of them lost to the sensation as they rock against one another, Will planting open kisses to Hannibal’s mouth, cheek and neck in turn.

But it doesn’t feel enough.

“Hannibal, in me, please,” he whines, arching his body against the other man.

“Will,” Hannibal rasps, his breathing harsh. Will finally sees how affected he is now, the way his eyes are ravenous for him. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, please, do it,” he says, “I need to feel you. It’s been so long—”

Hannibal shuts him up with a kiss, though he pulls off soon to crook his fingers into Will’s mouth, letting Will wet the tips of his fingers with his saliva, Will moaning around the intrusions. The act feels even filthier than Will thought, his cock twitching with interest.

When Hannibal finally pulls his fingers out, he whispers roughly to Will. “Turn around, Will, let me open you up.”

Will groans at the words, immediately turning himself to lay on the table on his stomach, his movement somewhat restricted by the pants pooling around his hips. His ass is bared only enough to grant Hannibal access to him, the cool air a shock to his senses as Hannibal finally presses his fingers into him.

He grits his teeth at the sudden breach, Hannibal pushing in one finger, then two, in impatient moves, both of them desperate for more contact. Will clenches his eyes shut, his hands surely leaving imprints on the desk by how hard he’s pressed to it. He feels himself opening slowly to Hannibal, the man making sure he’s loose enough before they go any further.

Will moans when he finally feels Hannibal’s cock breaching him, his loosened muscles welcoming the thick shaft penetrating slowly into him. He groans into his arm, hoping the sounds of his pleasure would be stifled somehow.

Hannibal isn’t faring any better; he can hear the grunts the man lets outs as he finally thrusts in and out of Will, the rhythm of their coupling stilted by their ecstasy.

“I’ve missed you, too, Will,” Hannibal murmurs against his nape, mouthing at the area through his clothes. He drives into Will with intensity, plastering himself against Will, his hips pistoning in and out of Will in a maddening pace.

Will bites into his own arm when he feels Hannibal’s thrusts against his prostate, the pleasure making him scream with it. He can’t do anything other than take what Hannibal gives him, his own hips trapped close together by his boxers and pants. He doesn’t care – he closes his eyes and lets his muffled screams sound out throughout the room.

Grappling at his desk, he gasps when he feels Hannibal’s hand winding itself around his hips and settling on his cock in an almost tight grip. A few strokes are all it takes before Will comes into Hannibal’s hand, the fluid dripping onto his desk. His ass clenches around Hannibal’s cock in response to his climax, the resulting groan of pleasure from Hannibal, the faltering thrusts, and the wet warmth Will feels slipping between his legs the only indication he gets that Hannibal has also found his relief inside him.

“Oh my God,” Will whispers after a few seconds, letting out a huff of laughter. “I can’t believe we did that.” He feels sweaty, his body feeling too warm in his clothes, the sweat in his hair dripping down onto his desk. He’s suddenly glad there were no students’ assignments on the desk and that he had the foresight to pin all of the Ripper’s records onto his board.

Hannibal catches his breath faster than Will does, and Will groans when he feels Hannibal pulling out of him, his thighs dripping with the man’s seed. Will’s face flushes as he imagines what Hannibal is looking at right now, though he doesn’t know if he can move right now, wondering how he’s going to clean up after his impromptu begging.

“Let me, Will,” Hannibal murmurs, somehow always attuned to Will’s emotions. He grabs a few tissues from Will’s desk, wiping and cleaning Will up as much as he can, short of trying to finger Will open again. His cheeks burn at the thought of Hannibal doing that, and he lets out a few exhales to calm himself down again.

He hears Hannibal fastening his own pants again, content to lie down on the desk for a few more seconds before he’s forced back to reality by a knock on his door, the door rattling when he hears someone trying to open it.

“Will, hey! You in there?”

Beverly. Will groans in embarrassment. Of all the rotten timing.

“Hey, you okay? You sound like you might be in pain there.”

“Uh, yeah, just— just a second,” Will says, trying to get up from his position, his face permanently flushed now. He glares at Hannibal’s smile at him as he tucks himself inside his boxers and pants. “Anything you need?”

“Yeah, why’s the door locked? You know what, never mind, have you seen Hannibal anywhere?”

“Uh, I might have, why?” Will winces as he stands, feeling some of the come seeping out of his ass. He takes a few tissues to wipe off the sweat from his brow and hands, Hannibal looking on in amusement. The man doesn’t look disheveled from their activities at all; Wil glares at the unfairness of it all.

“Jack’s looking for him. And you. We tracked down this guy, so he wants you two to be there to see if it’s the Ripper or not.”

Will sighs. Just his luck. “Okay, I’ll be out there in a few.”

“Okay, come on, I’ll give you a ride, we’re leaving soon—”

“No need, Ms. Katz, I’ll be driving Will there, since I’ve received the location from Jack,” Hannibal says loudly, making sure Beverly hears him.

“Oh— ohhhhh.” There’s a telling pause where he knows Beverly is trying to contain her laughter. Will can practically hear the glee in her voice, and he’s pretty sure he can even see her wide grin at the implication of the scene she’s found them in. “Okay, gotcha, sorry if I interrupted anything! Or maybe you guys were already finished with… whatever. See you there!”

There’s only the sound of Beverly’s boots tapping away from his office, and then he hears her loud laughter echoing in the hallway as she walks away.

Will buries his face in his hands, cursing everything and everyone he could think of.

 

Feeling sticky and slightly ashamed still, he went to the bathroom before he and Hannibal left for the crime scene, cleaning himself up as much as he could and splashing water onto his face, wishing he could drown himself in the sink. He feels much better afterward, even if he can’t thoroughly clean himself up, his boxers still damp and clammy against his skin.

Hannibal looks insufferably smug as he drives them to the appointed location, an ambulance garage where Jack and Beverly are seemingly in deep discussion when they finally arrive.

“Glad you could make it,” Jack greets them, nodding to Hannibal before turning to Will. “Thank you both for your time. Beverly has done the groundwork and found a match to one of the private ambulances that the suspect is believed to have used to perform his surgery on his victims. We’re waiting for the manager to help us locate the ambulance.”

Will nods, looking around at the garage and noticing Hannibal doing the same. They smile at each other in unison – it’s not the first time both of them have been called to a possible crime scene after the whole Minnesota Shrike mess, but there’s something almost illicit in the way they’re both here now.

A man, presumably the garage manager, approaches their group, looking harried as he glances at Jack with a clipboard in his hand. “The ambulance you’re looking for is not in rotation right now. It hasn’t been out of the shed.”

Jack frowns. “There’s a surveillance footage that says otherwise.”

The manager shrugs. “I don’t know what to tell you; my records say she’s still out for repairs.”

“Who’s the one who signed in for the repairs?” Beverly quips in, taking a peek at the sheet on the manager’s clipboard.

“Devon Silvestri. One of our part-time drivers.”

“Well, let’s have a look at the parking bay and see if the ambulance is really in the shed,” Will interjects. No use wasting their time arguing about it.

When they make their way to the parking bay where the ambulance van is supposed to be, the bay is tellingly empty.

Jack raises his eyebrow expectantly at the tired-looking manager. “Mr. Silvestri working today?” he asks dryly.

“He’s not on the schedule,” the manager replies, frowning at his clipboard. “Something must’ve slipped through the system.”

“We need to locate that ambulance right now,” Will says. “There’s a possibility that he’s out there with another victim.”

Beverly quickly jumps into action, firing her questions rapidly to the increasingly weary manager, who answers her as best as he can. They finally manage to get enough information about the van’s tracking system for Beverly to work her magic, using her knowledge to track the location of the van using a DF sweep.

Once Beverly wrangles a location for them, they find the ambulance van parked in a particularly desolate location, an empty car park in the middle of a rundown neighborhood. The dim lighting and general silence of the area only serves to highlight the light shining from the van while it’s surrounded by FBI agents, poised with their guns in hand and ready for action.

Will and Hannibal stand apart from the agents, watching the spectacle from a distance. One of the agents pulls open the ambulance door with a crowbar, forcing it open to reveal a man who’s in the midst of a surgery. There’s a flurry of movement as Jack moves in closer to Silvestri, his shotgun pointing at the man in a threatening gesture. Will can barely make out the words Jack and Silvestri are exchanging, though he can tell that there’s something wrong with the scene. Clearly Silvestri has botched another surgery, and the victim is not long for this world if they don’t manage to extract the man away.

Hearing his name being called in a loud shout over the clamor near the ambulance, Hannibal swiftly walks to the mouth of the ambulance, Will following a few paces behind him.

“Can you tell what’s happening to the patient?” Jack growls, glaring at Silvestri.

Hannibal cranes his neck to assess the damage, frowning at the scene. “He was removing the kidney. Poorly by the looks of it. I can reattach it.”

Jack nods, gesturing for Hannibal to go inside. “Go ahead.”

Almost as if in a trance, Will slowly moves closer to the ambulance to the sight of the doctor rolling his sleeves up to his elbows, the man putting on latex gloves before he dives into the patient’s innards, his hands working with certainty and a certain placidness that comes from years – or even decades – of working in surgery.

There’s something dark creeping into the edge of his mind as Will watches Hannibal work with a fastidiousness that the doctor always displays, the way those hands are so practiced as he cradles a man’s organs into place. Everything else falls away at the moment – he forgets where they are, he forgets about Beverly, Jack, and Silvestri.

There is only Will and Hannibal there, in the back of that ambulance.

Knowledge of surgery and the human’s anatomical workings. Meticulousness. Theatrical. Artistic.

He walks among us, perfectly camouflaged in a human suit. No one would know him by his Ripper crimes; he would seem normal to the outside world.

His own words float back to him, the synapses connecting his mirror neurons as his mind collapses in itself, his world shattering into a million pieces as he sees the Chesapeake Ripper staring back at him.

Chapter Text

The drive back to Hannibal’s house is silent, the tension taut between them throughout the entire journey. Will keeps his gaze ahead of him, staring at nothing while his mind buzzes around him, his posture stiff in the passenger seat. He sees Hannibal throwing him shifty glances from the corner of his eyes, though the man doesn’t say anything to break the heavy silence between them.

There is no easy way to process the emotions currently roiling inside of him right now, everything trying to make itself present while Will sorts out through all his musings and conversations with Hannibal, trying to make sense of all the clues that the man had dropped throughout their friendship and eventual relationship.

No matter how much Will tries to calm himself, he knows that he can never go back to his previous blind state, the knowledge that Hannibal is the Chesapeake Ripper at the forefront of his mind when he finally feels the car coming to a stop.

Will blinks his dry eyes for a few moments, finally noticing that they’re in Hannibal’s garage right now and that Hannibal has somehow made his way to the passenger side, tentatively opening the car door for him.

Stepping out of the car almost carelessly, he hears the door being shut before he silently follows Hannibal into the house, his steps automatic, the journey into Hannibal’s house all too familiar now.

They’re sitting in the study, where Hannibal has lit up the fireplace. Will listens to the crackling from the warm fire as they sit near it, the numbness in him thawing little by little.

“What time is it?” Will rasps, staring into the fire.

“It’s 7 o’clock.” Hannibal’s voice sounds uncertain.

That’s a first, Will thinks. He nods, leaning back into the chair. “So, I guess this is when you kill me.”

Hannibal frowns at him then. “And why would I do that?”

“I don’t know.” Will shrugs listlessly, his gaze still drawn to the fire. Anything to avoid looking at the man he had so thoroughly misunderstood. “I’m guessing that’s why you brought me back here instead of dropping me back to Quantico.”

“You seemed to be in shock. I thought it would be best if we talked it out here.”

Will snorts, finally turning his blank gaze to Hannibal. “Makes it easier for you to dispose of my body directly into the morgue, I guess. Though I would’ve thought you’d love to display me.”

Hannibal looks pained at the suggestion, though he swiftly schools his expression back to his more placid manner. “I won’t kill you, Will. I can promise you that.”

“Guess I’m not even worth that, then.”

“You’re worth more than any of the pigs I’ve dissected,” Hannibal growls, his calm expression broken once more at the words.

“Then what?” Will shouts, anger burning through him at last. He rises up from his seat, ignoring Hannibal’s stare as he paces around the man’s study. His gaze falls onto the harpsichord where Hannibal and Danielle had played together previously, the realization of everything he has lost and will eventually lose crashing down on him. His rage rises further.

“What could you possibly want to accomplish, then?” Will asks, turning back to Hannibal and glaring at him. The man is still plastered to his chair by the fireplace, his body unnaturally rigid as he returns Will’s stare. “What did you think would happen, Hannibal? That I’d be happy with this revelation, to know that the very killer I’ve been chasing was actually you this whole time?”

Will lets out a bitter laugh. “Have you been laughing at me all this while? Were you having fun while you pulled my strings, blathering on about my profile of the Ripper while you were right there in front of me? Have you been watching me, waiting for the other shoe to drop?” He stops as another thought crashes through him, his mouth opened in shock at another realization.

“You were there from the very beginning,” Will whispers, his eyes never straying from Hannibal’s. “You… you brought me breakfast that day in Minnesota, right after Cassie Boyle was impaled in that field. You’ve been there all along, and I was too blind to see you.” He swallows the bile rising in this throat at the thought. “How long have you been waiting for me to realize that the Copycat Killer and the Chesapeake Ripper are one and the same?”

Hannibal’s eyes bore into him, his gaze a mix of awe and intrigue, almost rapturous at how Will is slowly unraveling the threads he has woven around them. Even in this moment, Will thinks bitterly, the man can’t resist cataloguing and psychoanalyzing Will’s responses.

“The organs,” Will continues, ignoring Hannibal as another realization hits him, horror freezing him in place. “They were always missing… you were harvesting them, but for a different reason. You’ve been feeding them to all of us, haven’t you? You’ve been feeding them to me—”

The images of all the meals they’ve shared flashes through Will’s mind, and he feels himself beginning to hyperventilate. He tries to control the sob trying to claw out of his chest, sick at the thought of Hannibal feeding him and—

“Did you feed them to Danielle?” he whispers, his body trembling with rage.

“Will, I wouldn’t do that to her. If I can explain—”

“You sick, egotistical bastard,” Will hisses, his eyes stinging with tears he refuses to shed. “Was anything about this real? Was I some sort of a goddamn experiment to you?”

Hannibal slowly rises from his seat, his eyes transfixed on Will’s rage. He takes a step forward, and Will instinctively takes a step back, the predatory way Hannibal moves setting his instincts on high alert. “Will—”

Don’t,” Will snaps, his eyes blazing with anger. “Don’t you even dare try to talk your way out of this. I want you out of my life. In return, I’m not going to expose you and your web of lies. If you ever come near Danielle or me again, I swear to God I’ll go to Jack with this. I might even kill you myself.”

Without waiting for an answer, he rushes out of Hannibal’s study, his feet taking him outside in mere seconds, taking care to slam Hannibal’s door as loud as he can when he leaves.

He doesn’t know where he’s going. It doesn’t matter. He trudges on silently into the night, his rage fueling his movements along the way.

 

He does eventually call a cab when his feet are too sore to keep walking. The journey back to Wolf Trap passes by in a daze, and he mutters out a thanks to the cab driver, passing a few twenty notes to the man before he stumbles out onto his porch.

Will lets out a deep sigh, looking at his watch. It’s later than he would’ve usually been, and he hopes that Danielle isn’t too worried about his late appearance. Trying to rid himself of his turmoil before he steps into the house, he takes another deep breath and opens the door, Danielle and Alice looking up from the piano bench as he makes his way in.

“Daddy!” Danielle screams, grinning and leaping to him in a matter of seconds. He crouches down and gives her a fierce hug, Danielle letting out a soft huff of surprise when she’s enveloped in his arms. “Ow, daddy. Are you okay?”

Will nods, burying his tears into Danielle’s curls. “I’m okay, pumpkin,” he whispers. “Just… let me hug you for a while, okay?”

Danielle doesn’t answer, but she does tighten her arms around Will’s, settling herself onto Will’s lap as much as she can as she returns his embrace, both of them locked tight against each other.

 

Taking a cab to Quantico the next morning in order to retrieve his car, Will takes the opportunity to apply for a week’s leave, letting Jack and his administrator know that that he’s down with a bout of sickness and would prefer to recuperate at home, in case his encephalitis acts up again.

If any of them think it’s a weak excuse, they are more or less convinced when they see Will’s pallor and general demeanor. He promises Jack that he will be back in a week to resume his profiling on the Chesapeake Ripper, though he doesn’t know if he can even bear to look at the case once he’s back at work.

He doesn’t let himself think about it, though.

Danielle looks happy at the prospect of having Will at home for the week, though Will quickly lets her know that he has other plans for them.

With Danielle’s birthday coming up in a few days and everything going to shit in his life, he thinks he might as well just take the whole week off and spend more time with the one person who keeps him alive and functioning these days.

Though Danielle pesters him to reveal his plans for them, Will keeps his silence, only telling her to pack her things for a six days’ road trip and to bring a nice dress for the occasion. Danielle pouts at his vague responses, though she starts packing only mere minutes afterward.

He debates on bringing the dogs with them, though he knows that it won’t be possible even as he considers it. In the end, he decides to send them to the dog-sitters’ again, since the thought of asking for Alana’s help doesn’t quite sit well with him.

He can’t bring himself to admit that he thinks Hannibal might use the dogs against him.

 

They set off for their destination the next day, Will waking Danielle up for a light breakfast before they leave the dogs at the sitter’s and head for south. True to his prediction, Danielle falls asleep soon enough, the monotonous scenery lulling her into a drowsy stupor, her head lolling back and forth in her drowsiness before Will finally convinces her to sleep for a few hours.

Once she’s asleep, Will turns the radio on, finding a station that he can listen to in order to drown his own thoughts out while he’s driving, his stale Dunkin’ Donuts coffee his companion throughout the three hours’ journey.

They arrive at Newport News when the sun is high in the sky, though the heat is dampened somewhat by the wintry chill. Will wakes his daughter up, Danielle coming awake groggily as she tries to take in where they are. Her eyes light up in recognition when she sees her grandparents slowly making their way from their residence in the retirement home.

“Daddy, you should’ve told me!” Danielle laughs, shaking her head at his secretiveness.

“I wanted to surprise you,” Will replies, grinning. “We can celebrate your birthday earlier with Papa and Nana.”

Danielle beams at him and hugs him tightly before she bolts out of the car, squealing in delight as she falls into her grandmother’s arms.

Will locks the car and joins them, waving at Papa and Nana as they both hug their only grandchild, their happiness palpable even from afar. There’s something freeing in the simple happiness he feels in this small act of his, Papa and Nana never expecting more from him than whatever he’s willing to give.

They stay there for several hours, Nana presenting Danielle with her homemade chocolate cake while Papa hands Danielle her present and a decorative birthday hat for her to don for the rest of the day while they cheer and laugh together, Will taking a few photos on his phone to commemorate the day. It’s the first time he’s celebrating Danielle’s birthday, after all, even if it’s still a few days away.

When the sun makes its descent, Will and Danielle excuse themselves, Will letting Papa and Nana know that they’ll be stopping by again on their way back from their road trip.

Danielle resumes her questioning on their actual destination, though Will only gives her a small smile before they take to the road again.

 

Though Will knows he can easily take a flight to Florida, he thinks there’s something to be said about taking a good old-fashioned road trip with his daughter, recalling the days when his dad had done the same for him. Their summer road trips had been the highlight of his childhood; even if they only go through one seaside to another, there’s always something interesting along the way for them to gawk at, and that’s always the fun of it.

They stopped at a few motels throughout their journey, and Will made sure to make a stop at anything he found particularly interesting for Danielle. They made several pit stops at Rocky Mount (Will thought the nearby Rocky Mount Children’s Museum and Science Center looked a little dated and could use an uplift, though that didn’t seem to matter to Danielle, who was entranced by the solar system exhibit and the planetarium movies), the port city of Wilmington (the beaches were a little cold for the current weather, though Danielle still tried to dip her toes in the water anyway), and Jacksonville (where Will had taken her to Sweet Pete’s – reputedly one of the largest confectionary stores in the country – and Danielle looked as if she’d found heaven) before they finally reached Orlando.

He has somehow miraculously managed to time their arrival to make sure Danielle’s visit to Disney World coincides with her birthday, though she still doesn’t seem to grasp the surprise she will be in for the next day. Will only tells her to put on her nice dress for tomorrow, telling her to rest well since they have a big day ahead of them for her birthday.

In hindsight, he should have probably expected Danielle to put on the dress that Hannibal had gotten her when he sees her the next morning.

He shakes thoughts of Hannibal out of his mind, trying to focus on Danielle instead.

“You look beautiful, pumpkin,” Will says, putting on a strained smile. He laughs genuinely when she twirls in the dress, the skirt billowing after her in her excitement. “Okay, are you ready?”

“I still don’t know where we’re going,” Danielle points out, pouting a little.

“Well, you’re about to find out, kiddo, so keep your socks on.”

 

Though it’s a weekday and they’re still in the middle of early winter, the park is crowded with a sea of people, though everyone’s palpable excitement only serves to buoy Will and Danielle’s moods for a change. Danielle holds his hand as she follows him to the entrance to Disney World, both of them following the throng of the crowd and passing through the ticketing gates in a mess of genial confusion.

It’s only when Danielle finally stands in front of the infamous castle that she finally understands where she is, the girl stopping in her tracks when she first sets her sight on the tall, imposing structure, her jaw dropping in shock.

She turns to Will, her eyes shining in happiness. “Daddy,” she cries. “It’s the princess’s castle!”

“It is.”

Danielle surprises him with a warm hug to his legs. “Thank you, daddy. This is the bestest surprise ever.”

It’s Will’s turn to beam at her, squeezing her hand in his. “Happy birthday, Dani. So, what do you say? Should we go and take a closer look?”

“Yes!” she shrieks, jumping in place before tugging Will into a run, both of them laughing as they make their way to the castle.

 

The weather for Danielle’s birthday is excellent. Considering it’s still early in December, the park is more crowded than he had anticipated, though the cool air soothes any irritation Will might have when it comes to dealing with people.

He entertains her every whim when it comes to the rides – there’s only so many that she’s allowed to ride on due to some of the height restrictions. They got on as many of them as they could, however, and Will is only mildly surprised to learn that he’s actually having fun.

While the rides were something that Danielle highly enjoyed, nothing excited her more than the sight of the Disney princesses parading about the amusement park at different timings. They mostly stumbled on the characters by accident, though Danielle is always excited at such encounters, recognizing most of the princesses on sight. He has no idea who most of them are (apart from Moana), but it doesn’t stop him from enjoying Danielle’s happiness.

He has taken too many photos of Danielle and her favorite princesses as well as several photos where Danielle is just seemingly enjoying herself (eating a cotton candy, tasting the Mickey Mouse ice cream for the first time, going on the Buzz Lightyear ride and having fun shooting at the marks on the ride) – it’s the first time his camera roll is filled by anything other than dog photos and random class notes. He mostly uses his phone to take photos of random things he wants to remember for some reason or other, and he rarely takes any personal photos of himself or Danielle.

It’s late in the evening when they finally think to rest their weary legs somewhere. While he and Danielle are enjoying their overpriced vegetarian pizza and soft drinks (a rare indulgence) at one of the parks’ restaurants, Will takes out his phone and idly thumbs through the messages he’s gotten for the past couple of days, finally feeling well enough to actually go through the messages.

He sees a few messages from Beverly and Alana, and thankfully none from Hannibal – he quickly pushes the thought of the other man away; he’s having a great day, there’s no sense in digging back bad memories.

Alana sent him a message letting him know that she’s there if he needs someone to talk to. From the way she texted him, he suspects that Alana knows that he broke up with Hannibal, though “breaking up” just sounds hilariously mild considering the risk he knew he was taking when he decided to cut ties with the other man. (How do you break up with a serial killer and get away with it? he wonders wearily. Maybe he needs to move his shotgun to his bedroom later, just in case.)

He sighs, sending off a short message of thanks to Alana and letting her know that he’s fine for now.

Taking a sip of his drink, he stares at Danielle for a while, the girl happily chewing on her pizza and watching the people milling about the park. Her ponytail is a mess at this point, considering the many rides they have gone on thus far, but she looks happy with her own tired state, her grin almost constant now.

Smiling at the confirmation that his daughter is happy and satisfied, Will turns his attention to the phone in his hand again. He opens Beverly’s messages – she has been updating him with small details of her work and musings in a pale imitation of their usual lunchtime banter. He does manage to crack a grin at some of her cruder jokes about Price and Zeller.

He types a reply to her without thinking too much about it.

> hey, thanks for the updates. sorry zeller’s still being a dick. Dani and i are doing fine. we're at disneyworld right now, thanks for your suggestion. it's her birthday today

Taking another sip of his drink, he joins Danielle in watching the parents and children running around; most of the parents look exhausted and are only too happy to have a breather at the restaurant while their kids are talking excitedly amongst each other.

His phone buzzes, Beverly’s reply lighting up the screen.

> omg happy birthday little Graham!!! tell Dani happy birthday for me pls. I’ll video call her later tonight when I’m back from work. Alana says hi & happy birthday as well!

> also, as her godmother, you’re obligated to give me a picture of both of you

Will snorts.

you’re not her godmother

Beverly is clearly slacking at work, since her next reply comes in only a few seconds later.

> then I should be!! fine, her fairy godmother then. come on, Graham, pay up

Rolling his eyes, Will obliges, calling out to Danielle for a picture. He raises his hand up for a higher vantage point and takes a picture, satisfied with how it turns out considering he doesn’t really take selfies: they’re both smiling at the camera, Danielle giving the camera a toothy grin, both of them looking tired but happy as they hold up their drinks in their hand. He sends the photo off to Beverly, captioning it with the words “now leave me alone”.

> aww Dani looks so cute!! I’ll be waiting for my invite for her birthday party, you jerk, I can’t believe you didn’t tell me it’s her birthday. anyway gotta dash – have a picture I took of you guys before I forget about it. ttyl!

Will frowns, pressing on the blurred image to download it before it fully loads on his phone.

His throat constricts when he realizes that Beverly has sent him a picture that she took of him, Danielle and Hannibal while he was still hospitalized for encephalitis. In the picture, Will’s brow was scrunched up in concentration at whatever Danielle was pointing to on the tablet. Hannibal sat on Will’s other side, a soft smile on his face as he gazed at the two of them.


Photo of Hannibal, Will & Dani on the hospital bed

He locks his phone and swiftly puts it back in his pocket, ignoring the feelings barging into him as he recalls the moment immortalized in the picture.

Turning to Danielle, he plasters on a forced smile and nods to her. “Hey, kiddo, you done?”

Danielle nods, smiling happily, her feet swinging with excitement. “Yup, I finished my pizza!”

“Okay, ready for round two?”

“Yes!”

“Good, come on, let’s see if you can beat my Buzz Lightyear score this time around.”

“Daddy, you cheated! I’m gonna beat you this time.”

Laughing at the accusation, Will holds out his hand to Danielle, the girl happily taking it before swinging it in an unsynchronized movement, both of them continuing their chatter as they make their way to the next ride.

 

It’s only later that night with Danielle asleep next to him that he allows himself to unlock his phone again, staring at the photo and trying to figure out if Hannibal’s smile was ever genuine.

 

They have another exhausting and enjoyable day in Disney World, Will trying to drag Danielle to the other sections of the enormous amusement park though he inevitably gives in to her desire to pull them back to the Disney castle. She is completely enamored with the structure, last night’s fireworks show clearly imprinted on the back of her mind as she gazes up dreamily at the castle. Will can’t find it in himself to deny her, so they spend most of the whole day going on the same rides before they sit down for a scheduled parade while waiting for the fireworks show to start.

Figuring that Danielle would be tired with amusement parks by the third day, Will decides to take them to the Kennedy Space Center instead. Though some of the exhibits seem to be too advanced for her to truly appreciate, it’s hard not to be impressed with the scale of some of the models, and there’s a Rocket Garden exhibit where children are actually encouraged to touch and climb the rockets should they want to. This is where they end up spending their time before Will decides to call it a day.

They make their way back into the car, Danielle clearly fatigued from the last few days. Will lets her sleep the entire time since they still have a few days before they make their way back to Wolf Trap, since he’s planning to stop at a motel for the night before continuing their journey to Newport News for another visit to Danielle’s grandparents.

Papa and Nana are only too happy to meet up with their granddaughter again, and they get to spend a few more hours together, the majority of that time conquered by Danielle as she happily narrates her experiences for the past three days while the adults look on in amusement and fondness.

Returning to Wolf Trap with their dogs in tow after their impulsive five days’ journey to Florida feels like a small reprieve, though Will groans when his joints crack after the long drive.

Watching on as Danielle talks to the dogs about the trip when they finally arrive home, Will finds that he wouldn’t change anything about his life, despite the various outcomes that have come to light recently. Sure, he may have to sleep with his shotgun underneath his bed, ready to be unveiled at a moment’s notice, but he thinks that’s a small price to pay for their continued survival.

He does pour himself two fingers of whiskey that night, however, dreading the thought of returning to work next week.

 

Surprisingly enough, work turns out to be bearable when Will returns to his office. The Silvestri case was successfully concluded (for Jack and Beverly anyway), so there was no paperwork for Will to handle, and since Silvestri was obviously not the Chesapeake Ripper, Jack was forced to give up on his obsession for now, at least until the real Ripper resurfaces with new evidence.

With any luck, Will hopes that never happens. Of course, Will’s luck is pretty shitty these days, so maybe he shouldn’t be holding out on them.

So Will continues on with his lectures, his mind free once again to wander on the less precarious killers. He drones on and on about the killers they’re studying, and though he’s blissfully free of nightmares these days, he finds himself becoming… bored.

There’s a monotony to everything he does now, Hannibal’s betrayal coloring everything he used to enjoy.

He notices that Beverly doesn’t mention Hannibal to him anymore during their lunchtime breaks; he has a feeling that Alana has probably gotten around to talking to her about it. He’s grateful that she decides to ignore the subject altogether, since he doesn’t think he wants to open the can of worms just yet.

His meals have become somewhat bland and intolerable these days. He has never really taken any notice of what he eats, since food is food, and he needs just enough to fuel his body and keep himself functioning. A few months with Hannibal have apparently destroyed that mindset, and he finds himself listlessly eating whatever is in front of it with a certain dread these days. Nothing will ever taste as good as Hannibal’s food now, he finds, but he forces himself to eat something anyway. He’s taken to eating vegetarian meals lately, having lost his appreciation for meat after finding out what Hannibal does with his victims’ organs.

He had feverishly combed his memories for every meal he has had with Hannibal over his long leave, and it nauseates him to think just how many meals he has enjoyed with Hannibal throughout their relationship. He’s relieved to recall that Hannibal only ever served fish-based or sometimes even vegetarian meals whenever Danielle was with them, so that’s a small consolation, at least.

Even coffee isn’t safe from Will’s personal purging – he can’t bring himself to throw away the ground coffee Hannibal had gifted him with previously, but it sits at the back of his cupboard now, untouched for several days. It should be telling that’s the thing that makes Will angry the most – that Hannibal can take away his enjoyment of coffee, something which he downs in gallons sometimes. He’s lucky he hasn’t really turned to his whiskey in his darker moods, the reminder of Danielle’s dependence on him at the back of his mind the moment he feels like reaching for the bottle.

Alana swings by for lunchtime a few times, though Will’s recalcitrant moods probably put her off after he rebuffed her attempts at conversations, judging by the way the woman avoids him afterward. He can’t even fault her for that – he’s not exactly the easiest person to get along with on normal days, and he no longer feels normal these days.

No normal person would keep their silence if they knew who the Chesapeake Ripper was, after all.

He can’t bring himself to regret his decision, however. He convinces himself that it’s because of self-preservation, since he was bargaining for his and Danielle’s life in return for keeping his silence on Hannibal’s true identity. He ignores the small voice in his mind that tries to call him out on his lies.

 

Will begins to silently work on refining the Ripper’s profile in his free time at the office. There’s no Jack hounding him to do it; there’s only his own thoughts driving him on in the useless exercise, his mind looking for something to do to forget about Hannibal. He doesn’t appreciate the irony that working on the Ripper’s profile actually helps him to do that, but since it seems to be working somewhat, he figures it’s something worth doing.

He tries to work backwards from the latest known victim, though there’s not much to be gleaned from Miriam’s case file since her body was never found. He wonders what Hannibal has done to her, for her to completely disappear off the face of the earth. He wonders if that’s what Hannibal would’ve done to him if he hadn’t stormed out of the man’s house so many nights ago.

He wonders what happened to Abigail Hobbs, who disappeared without a trace.

Beverly finds him one day in the midst of his mindless stupor when she visits him in his office, the woman nudging him with a firm hand on his shoulders. 

She sighs in relief when his eyes flicker to hers in confusion.

“How long have you been standing there?” Will asks shakily, rubbing his eyes a few times.

“For a few minutes, at least,” Beverly replies, curious. “You weren’t even looking at anything, just… staring off into the middle distance when I came in. I called your name a few times when it became clear you weren’t even listening to me, and here you are now.”

“Sorry about that.” Will turns to her fully, raising an eyebrow. “What’s up?”

“Our lunch, that’s what,” Beverly says, rolling her eyes. “I was waiting for you, but you never showed up. So here I am instead, bringing lunch to you because I’m a good friend.”

Will frowns and checks his watch. It’s fifteen minutes past their usual lunchtime. “Sorry, I lost track of time.”

Raising her eyebrows, she takes one of the seats across from him and hands him a container of plain bolognese pasta (sans meat) and a coffee. She unwraps her own meal, a simple cheeseburger and a can of soda, taking a bite before she stares at him again.

“You lost time again?” she asks, worry crossing into her face.

Shaking his head, he takes the plastic fork from the container and slowly begins to eat, the pasta a little too dry for his taste but otherwise a serviceable lunch. Just another way that Hannibal has spoiled one of the simpler things in his life.

“I was just… thinking about the Ripper,” he admits, avoiding Beverly’s eyes.

“Any particular reason? I know Jack has basically given up on him, unless he drops another one of those sounders, or whatever it is that you called it.”

Will chews as he tries to think of a reason for why he’s doing it. He doesn’t really know the answer, truth be told. Maybe he’s trying to make sense of these senseless killings (a futile endeavor, and isn’t that telling), to find out how Hannibal picks his victims and why he sees them as pigs. He wants to know what exactly Hannibal was thinking of when he served these people’s meat to his colleagues and friends. He wants to know why Hannibal won’t leave his thoughts alone.

Outwardly, Will shrugs. “Curiosity, I guess. And it can’t hurt to look at it from different angles, since I have the time and all. Don’t tell Jack, though. I don’t want him getting his hopes up because I don’t really have anything new for him right now.”

He feels bad for lying to Beverly, but he thinks it’s probably for her own good that she doesn’t know that she’s been working intimately with the Ripper for the past few months. It’s better for everyone involved that he figures out how to extricate all of them from Hannibal’s clutches.

Beverly nods, taking a few thoughtful bites out of her burger before she speaks. “Since we’re not in the cafeteria right now… do you want to talk about it?”

Wincing, he buys some time by gulping down the rest of his pasta. “I’m not going to pretend that I didn’t see that coming.”

“Good, you know better than to play stupid with me, Graham,” Beverly replies, smiling. “Seriously, though, are you okay? You’ve been… I don’t know. You’ve always been a little different, but you look like one of those mad scientists these days.”

“What? I can’t be that bad.”

“Have you looked in the mirror lately? Your hair is kind of all over the place. I mean, it still looks kinda charming on you because you’re a lucky bastard, but… well, I’m just going to say it. It really looks as if you’re just getting out of a bad break-up, and honestly Hannibal’s not doing any better.”

Beverly waits until he finishes his coffee, staring at him in an expectant silence.

Twiddling with the cup of empty coffee in his hand, Will sighs and shrugs. “How is he?”

“I would tell you to go ask him yourself, but I think both of you still need to sort out your feelings.” Beverly sighs as well, taking a drink of her soda. “I’ve never seen him so unfocused before. He’s lucky that Jack is distracted these days, now that Bella is improving somewhat. There’s this case where we have this totem pole of bodies, and he just looks mildly nauseous at it all – he’s barely even helpful, to tell you the truth.” Beverly grins at him conspiratorially. “Don’t tell him I told you that.”

Will snorts. “Fat chance of that.” He can’t really say he’s faring any better. After all, he’s the one who has been staring at that photo of the three of them in that damned hospital every single night ever since Beverly sent it to him. He can’t even bring himself to tell Danielle the truth when the girl asks when Hannibal is coming over for their planned piano concert, placating her with excuses that basically amounts to a lie.

“Well, whatever it is you guys are going through,” she continues, “I hope you and Dani are doing well. By the way, I still haven’t received any invitation to her birthday party. Don’t make me crash your house this weekend, Graham, or you will regret it.”

He laughs at the threat, raising his open palms at her in a placating manner. “Okay, it’s just… I’ve been busy and haven’t really had time to plan anything. I’ll let you know.”

“Hmph, I’ll believe it when I see it. Why don’t you bring her around for a pizza and a beer, beer optional for the little Graham of course. We can have a sleepover party.”

“I might take you up on that,” Will says, grinning.

“Good.” Beverly smiles, apparently satisfied at a job well done. Gathering all the leftover wrappings and her empty can, she puts everything in the trash before rising up and stretching herself. “Well, I gotta get back to cataloguing all the bodies we’ve found on the beach. It’s so gross for some reason, and I’ve seen some weird shit. Can barely eat with how many limbs I have to go through on a daily basis these days.”

Will smiles, saluting her with his coffee cup. “Good luck with that. Let me know if you need any help. And thanks for lunch.”

“See you, let me know when you guys are coming over!”

He waves her off, his mood lifted somewhat at the thought of Hannibal being just as miserable as he is at this moment. It’s probably not for the same reason – maybe Hannibal just thinks that the totem pole bodies are cliché or too banal for a serial killer of his caliber.

Whatever it is that’s getting his tie up in a twist, Will celebrates the small victory in his mind before he returns to his Ripper pinboard, his thoughts on the Ripper drowning all other details in his mind while he swims through it all.

 

When he finally hears from Jack, he’s only surprised it has taken the other man so long to come barging into his classroom once more, though thankfully Jack chose the end of the class to approach Will with his news.

Will closes his laptop and begins to pack his things into his satchel while they wait for the rest of the students to file out of the classroom.

“Hi, Jack,” Will greets the other man when the room is finally empty. “How’s Bella? I heard she’s doing better these days.”

Jack seems to stop in his mental tracks, frowning a little before his face clears. “She’s still at home recuperating, but the doctor thinks she’s shown a lot of improvement in the last couple of weeks. We’re still waiting for an all clear, but she’s doing pretty good.”

Will nods, smiling at the news. “That’s great, I’m glad to hear that.”

“Thanks,” Jack says, returning his smile. “I’m actually here about the Ripper again.”

“I figured,” Will says, sighing heavily. It seems like Hannibal is finally getting antsy. “That’s one of the only reasons you would come here.”

Jack sighs. “Freddie Lounds reported on her website that the Chesapeake Ripper has been found and is in custody. Of course, she wrote it as if it was the gospel truth, and the higher ups have been breathing down my neck asking me if it was true.”

Frowning at the words, Will tries to think back if there has been any major news with Hannibal lately and comes out blank. “What do you mean? Who caught him?”

“Apparently he was caught years ago, and that’s why we haven’t had any new confirmed cases lately,” Jack explains warily. “Dr. Chilton of the BHSCI claims in the article that he has recently discovered that Abel Gideon is the Chesapeake Ripper.”

Will scoffs. “Yeah? How did he come across this discovery then?”

Jack sighs. “There’s a body in the institute. That’s why I need you there.”

He checks his watch, nodding in agreement. “Well. No time like the present. Shall we?”

 

The meeting with Dr. Frederick Chilton goes as well as Will would have expected, which is to say, not at all. The man keeps insinuating how fascinating he finds Will, hoping that he would be willing to lend his brain to be picked by the institute’s psychiatrists sometimes. Will keeps his tone dry and his wit sharp, though he’s busy imagining all the different ways he could flay Chilton while he’s listening to the man’s unctuous explanations. 

Chilton looks positively ecstatic at the thought of Will coming over to BHSCI to have a look at the suspected Ripper’s murder tableau, seemingly not concerned at all that a medical staff has died under his watch. He brings Will and Jack to the infirmary, where the body of the dead nurse was left for further examination. Will sighs heavily before Jack leaves him alone, nodding at Will before he pulls Chilton away with him. Jack is surprisingly protective of him these days, and he finds himself grateful for it.

Stepping into the infirmary, Will pauses at the door before he takes a few more steps forward. The chaotic scene before his eyes is something he never expected to see. The unfortunate nurse is impaled on the broken frames of the privacy curtains, her body suspended in the air in a macabre display. There are some metal and broken pieces of wood protruding from her body, the entire image looking like something that could come out from the Ripper’s playbook.

He doesn’t want to, but he forces his eyes closed, letting the pendulum swing to reveal the scene as it was a few hours ago, Will himself in the leading role while he escapes from the handcuffs, forcing the woman down onto the floor while his thumbs squeeze into her eyes. Satisfied with the results, he moves aside to break apart the frames of the privacy curtains surrounding him, turning his attention back to the nurse and watching her trying to blindly wander away. He smirks and catches up with her, straddling the woman to keep her in place as he drives a piece of the frame down into the body beneath him

Will forces his eyes open, gasping at the disturbing vision, blinking rapidly to clear it away. He hears two pairs of footsteps behind him, and he knows he only has seconds to get himself together before Jack looks to him for answers.

He takes a shuddering breath, turning to Jack and Chilton. “Based on the files and evidence I’ve looked into so far, the Chesapeake Ripper hasn’t killed anyone in over two years. When was Abel Gideon admitted?”

Jack stares at him wearily. “Two years ago.”

 

Will and Alana are called in on the next day to interview Abel Gideon. Will wonders idly why Hannibal wasn’t contacted to give Jack another perspective. It’s possible that Hannibal is still too busy with the totem pole case, but it’s also likely that Hannibal doesn’t want anything to do with someone who’s trying to steal his identity. He smirks at the thought of Hannibal irate at Abel Gideon’s claims on the Ripper’s name.

Abel Gideon is an interesting man – his own claim to fame was more straightforward, though that doesn’t mean it’s less gruesome. Gideon had butchered his own family over Thanksgiving dinner, and though the crime scene wasn’t pretty, there was nothing about it that stood out as the Ripper to Will, but that doesn’t stop Chilton from claiming otherwise.

They conducted their interviews separately, Alana going first while Will waited outside, refusing to stay in the same room as Chilton lest the man makes another request to study Will’s empathy in the name of science.

His own interview with Gideon was underwhelming; Will clearly knows that Gideon is not the Chesapeake Ripper, primarily because he knows who the real Ripper is. Even if he didn’t know of Hannibal’s serial killer persona, he would be hard pressed to believe that Gideon is the Ripper, given the many dissimilarities between the way the man kills his victims. Pointing these discrepancies out to Gideon seems to be a pointless exercise, however, since the man seems convinced that he is the Chesapeake Ripper from the way he speaks.

Will sighs in irritation at his insistent claims, but he sees no point in refuting them since he can’t very well say that he knows who the real Ripper is and that said Ripper has been fucking with him metaphorically and literally in the last few months.

Chilton seems to take everything in his stride, still completely smug when Alana and Will leave for Quantico later. Will muses on the reason for Chilton’s particularly self-satisfied smile, wondering if the doctor had anything to do with the reason why Gideon is so convinced that he’s the Ripper.

 

Will gives the matter of Abel Gideon a bit more thought than he usually would under normal circumstances. This is not a normal circumstance.

He knows who the real Chesapeake Ripper is.

Abel Gideon is clearly not him.

However, that doesn’t mean that anyone else has to know that.

His thoughts might be racing, but Will feels the steady thrum of his heartbeat as he considers his options.

 

The house is unnaturally silent as he makes his way through the hallway, his feet the only sound he can make out until he reaches the spotless kitchen. It’s still early in the evening, though it seems that the kitchen is already occupied.

Sensing another presence, the man who was working on the meat at the kitchen counter stops his movement, his head lifting up to glance at Will in mild surprise. Hannibal slowly turns his body fully to take in the sight of him, both of them regarding each other in the heavy silence.

“Will,” Hannibal breathes out, his face working through various expressions, Will cataloguing each of them until the man decides on an emotionless mask.

“Hannibal,” he says, nodding. “Can we talk?”

Hannibal’s face is slowly becoming undone again at the words, and he doesn’t bother to disguise his bitter smile. “You weren’t so keen on talking a few weeks ago.”

“Yeah, well, and whose fault was that?” Will snorts, rolling his eyes. “So, can we? I’d rather not do this here.”

Pausing, Hannibal gestures his head to the other side of the kitchen. “The study, then.”

Hannibal calmly makes his way to the kitchen sink, where he fastidiously rinses his hands from whatever blood is coagulating on them while he’s been working on his fresh meat. The man wipes his damp hands clean with a kitchen towel and throws it away in the trash chute before he steps forward, approaching Will silently. Will wonders how he never noticed how measured and silent Hannibal’s movements are.

Will nods his head, glancing at the meat left on the kitchen counter. “Your ‘meat’ not going to spoil? This might take a while.”

Hannibal gives it a brief glance, ignoring it in favor of staring at Will’s face instead. “It will keep. Or it will not. The meat doesn’t matter.”

Will stares at Hannibal for a few seconds before nodding his acceptance.

“Would you like a drink?” Hannibal asks.

“No, I think it’s better that we both have clear heads while we talk about this… recent development.”

Hannibal tilts his head in curiosity, though he takes in Will’s silence as a cue to move them both to the study, the fireplace already roaring with warmth when they make their way in. They take a seat opposite one another at the fireplace, mimicking their long-gone therapy sessions, both of them leaning back in their seats and making themselves comfortable.

Will is silent for a long moment, contemplating the last time he sat here, staring into the fireplace in much the same manner now. He was confused, then, with the depths of his own feelings and the sense of betrayal he felt when he discovered Hannibal for what he truly was. When he finally saw what the man is truly capable of.

He’s not so confused now.

“What was so important that you felt the need to break into my house, Will?”

Will gives the doctor a smirk. “Not going to say that you’re pleased to see me?”

“I would, but I don’t know how you would take the sentiment after everything that’s happened.”

Will hums, studying Hannibal’s face. The other man looks impeccably put together still, though he has discarded his suit jacket while he was working in the kitchen. His hair looks slightly disheveled from his previous activities, and though Will thinks he looks a little more gaunt than usual, it could also be the trick of the light.

Crossing his legs and making himself more comfortable, he sighs. “Were you ever going to tell me the truth?”

Hannibal returns his gaze, his chiseled features giving him the image of a silent predator waiting to strike. It’s an apt comparison, Will thinks, considering what he is. “I have always hoped for you to see me, truly see me, dear Will.”

Sighing through his nose, Will shakes his head in disbelief. “Don’t use your pretty words on me. I want your honesty right now, doctor. There will be no more games between us, unless you want the FBI to see what lies beyond your human veil.”

Hannibal’s mouth quirks into a brief smile at the threat. “Very well. I promise you that everything I say between us will be the truth, at least from now on.”

“Good. Back to the question at hand, then.”

As usual, the doctor takes his time to formulate his response, licking his lips in an almost nervous tic if Will didn’t know any better. It might be an affectation, but it’s an effective one; the doctor seems almost apprehensive at the thought of revealing himself to Will.

“When I first met you,” Hannibal explains, “I was… fascinated. I had heard of you, of course – you were always one of the more interesting subjects in certain psychiatrist’s circles.”

Will lets out a snort at the admission, though he motions for Hannibal to continue.

“I admit I was drawn to your mind, initially, when I saw how your empathy could work in your favor and against it,” Hannibal says, his smile soft as he seems to reminisce about their earlier meetings, “and I wanted to see more of it. I gave you that rubber stamp of approval, hoping you would be coaxed to share your darker thoughts with me with no encumbrance and worries with regards to Jack finding out about our ‘conversations’.”

And it worked so beautifully, didn’t it, Will thinks darkly.

“You showed so much potential, and I tried to cultivate it, guiding you in a direction that would benefit us both. Though I admit it would benefit me more”—this admission given with a tilt of his head at Will’s disbelieving scoff—“but in the end, you were more susceptible to… another form of persuasion.”

His face colors at the words; he hopes the darkness of the room can conceal his flushing face, but he doubts the doctor would miss anything from the way his eyes are boring into Will.

“You were beautiful, then,” Hannibal continues, smiling softly at Will. “You seemed to be starved for affection, for some kind of connection. Every case you brought to my doorstep only served to highlight this. I thought it would be easy for me to give you that much. To offer you a different kind of connection – you thought us mere friends, but I was hoping for more.”

“To tie myself up with you, so much so that I can’t separate myself from you,” Will translates, narrowing his eyes at the other man.

“Just so,” Hannibal agrees, no shame at all in his words. “But then Jack almost destroyed everything I had worked for when he finally pushed you to your brink. When I heard that you had quit, I feared that I would lose you, though part of me was glad that you had severed your ties with Jack. After everything, I couldn’t leave things to chance, so I sought you out once more. The day I arrived in Wolf Trap was a revelation.

“Everything became so clear when I finally saw you with Danielle. Your reticence and reluctance to engage with Abigail Hobbs, why you had requested for an earlier appointment slot, why you were particularly affected by the Lost Boys’ case… I had never imagined that you could have something so precious hidden away from the rest of the world.”

He feels himself slowly thawing from the words, though he’s highly aware that Hannibal is a skillful manipulator. He’s clearly not above using Danielle to move Will’s emotions. “You caught me at a particularly turbulent time,” Will admits wryly. “Were you hoping to find a broken shell of Will Graham, so that you may put me back together again?”

“The thought had crossed my mind.” Hannibal gives him an apologetic smile. “But I was pleasantly surprised. You can think what you want of me, Will, but I have never pretended to be anything else than myself while I was with Danielle. She reminded me of my sister.”

He startles at the mention of a sister, the simple words making everything clicking into place. Hannibal’s eyes are moist with emotion, and he doesn’t make an attempt to look away from Will’s probing gaze. The barriers fall between them in that moment, and Will is left raw as he realizes that the sister is long lost to Hannibal, the pain in his eyes evidence enough of his loss.

“What was her name?” Will whispers, entranced by the unshed tears in the man’s eyes.

“Mischa.” The words are uttered with such reverence that Will feels envious at the obvious regard Hannibal has for her, though the ugly emotion is quickly replaced with sympathy at the pained expression on Hannibal’s face. It quickly becomes clear to him that Hannibal has seen Mischa in Danielle, and it explains the fondness he shows and his easy interactions with the girl, now that Will knows the reason behind it.

Will lets everything sink in, averting his gaze from Hannibal’s for a few moments to collect himself. “For all that you are a monster,” he murmurs, his voice hoarse, “Danielle liked you a lot. I can’t bring myself to tell her who you really are.”

“My affection for you and Danielle was never a lie, Will,” Hannibal says, his eyes intent on Will as he persuades Will to see the truth in them. “Perhaps my first intention was not so honorable in the beginning, but it became clear to me that I have been caught in the same predicament as you when it comes to our relationship. I feel… an inconvenient amount of compassion for you.”

Will huffs at that. “Yes, it must be inconvenient for you when your meals can actually talk back.”

“Will.” Even in the midst of all this, it’s truly amazing how Hannibal still manages to sound admonishing. “You called me a monster. Am I really so despicable to you now?” Hannibal asks him in a soft tone.

“How can you ask me that, knowing how far I’ve fallen for you?” Will sighs, keeping his stare on the fire instead of Hannibal now, his heart breaking anew at the man’s words. “You’ve accused me of withholding my emotional intimacy from you, but you’ve never shown me who you really are until tonight.”

A heavy silence descends then, both of them lost in their thoughts.

There’s no doubt in Will’s mind that Hannibal is finally telling him the truth – neither of them can hide from the other now, not after everything that has happened.

Here we are, two emotionally stunted men looking for a connection, Will thinks wearily.

There had been so many sleepless nights where Will tried to repress his feelings, denying himself the chance at happiness because it would come at a heavy cost. How can he reconcile his feelings for Hannibal with the knowledge that he’s the serial killer Will has been tasked to catch?

He knows there’s no easy answer to that. He also knows that he has never known himself as well as he does when he’s with Hannibal.

Perhaps it is time for him to be selfish, for a change.

“You’ve read the latest TattleCrime news,” Will mutters, breaking the silence. It isn’t a question; there is no doubt in his mind that Hannibal has been following Abel Gideon’s case as closely as he can. Freddie Lounds has her uses, after all, Will thinks wryly.

Hannibal nods minutely, his own gaze intent on Will, looking slightly surprised at the change of subject. There was a time when Will would flinch from the way Hannibal looks at him sometimes, and the urge to look away now has not completely disappeared, though Will forces himself to see Hannibal fully, making sure he doesn’t miss any emotion crossing the other man’s face.

“Then you’d probably know that I was called in, along with Alana, to interview him earlier today.”

Hannibal gives him another nod, the doctor so preternaturally still that every movement seems calculated to deliver nothing more than his outward intent.

“Obviously I know who the real Chesapeake Ripper is,” Will continues, narrowing his eyes, “but Dr. Chilton seems highly convinced that he has the Ripper already in custody. Considering the evidence and the interview sessions, however, Alana and I both concluded that it’s unlikely that Abel Gideon is the Ripper. We haven’t delivered our separate findings to Jack yet, however. I was planning to do it tomorrow.”

It seems like Hannibal is barely breathing now – Will can hardly make out the rise and fall in his chest, but he knows the other man is transfixed at his words. He thinks Hannibal can clearly see where this conversation is going, and he settles himself into the silence once more, letting Hannibal gather his thoughts and piece his words together.

He sees Hannibal’s throat working, and he braces himself for the impact.

“You’re suggesting that you will be filing a report to say that Abel Gideon might be the Chesapeake Ripper.” Hannibal’s tone is low, almost sullen at the suggestion that Gideon will live in infamy if he bears the false title.

Will shrugs. “More or less. Do you know why?”

“I suspect I do, although I admit that you are often unpredictable in your ways. I could never truly predict you, Will.”

There’s no mistaking the awe in Hannibal’s tone, but Will keeps himself calm, showing no reaction to the words. “You’re going to retire your alter ego, Doctor Lecter. Abel Gideon will be known as the Chesapeake Ripper – and I will make sure of it – and you will let him be. You won’t retaliate with any evidence that can overturn my judgment, or I will make sure you suffer from my wrath.”

Hannibal blinks at Will’s sure words, the man clearly trying to think of a retort but finding himself at a loss for once. Will would laugh, but he’s banking on his final chess move on this one single moment, and he can’t quite look away from it until it bears fruit.

“Why?” is Hannibal’s only word after several minutes.

Will laughs scornfully at that. “Why do you think?” he hisses, glaring at the other man. “You’ve spent so many months trying to get me – no, trying to manipulate me to this point, doctor. I saw it then, when you first tried to manipulate me with Abigail Hobbs, not knowing then that I already have a daughter and have no need for a surrogate one. So when that didn’t seem to work, you started giving me gifts. Everything escalated from there, but I was so blinded by my own feelings, so pleased by your attention, that I never stopped to think why.

“You hid yourself well, doctor, but I’ve always seen you and your web trying to tie us together. At first I thought it was for companionship – you see me so clearly, after all, you know what I would be capable of with my empathy”—the word spat out like a curse—“and you wanted me to see you in turn. That’s when your plan to seduce me began. And I, like an idiot, fell for it because I was lonely. I had Danielle, but I’ve never met someone who sees me as plainly as you do; I feel bared to my very core whenever I’m with you, and you counted on that.”

His breathing is heavier now, the silence even more fraught with tension when he stops to calm himself down. “I was a lonely fool, and you used that against me. I can’t even blame you for it; it was truly masterfully done. Now that I see your seductions for what they were, I see your plan for me as clear as day.”

Will stands then, his eyes narrowing in on Hannibal, and he takes a few slow steps, bracketing the doctor in his chair with his arms.

“Did you like it when I killed Tobias Budge?” he whispers. “When I admitted to you that I wanted to kill him with my bare hands, if only I had the chance? You were the one he was serenading, weren’t you? And you rejected him, because of me.”

Hannibal’s eyes flash possessively, his hand shooting out to pull Will’s figure closer. Will catches his hand in mid-air, however, glaring at the other man.

“You don’t get to touch me, doctor,” Will continues, his voice low and dangerous. “I will give you only what you deserve, but you don’t get to reciprocate. Not until we’ve sorted this out. Do you understand?”

His hand caught, Hannibal can only stare at Will helplessly, swallowing harshly at Will’s words. “I understand.”

“Good,” he purrs, giving Hannibal a grin before he drops the other man’s hand and he straddles him, forcing him to bear Will’s weight on his lap. “You know what the worst part of this whole manipulation thing was? I fell for it, hook, line and sinker. You had me wrapped so tightly around your fingers, and I couldn’t get enough of it. You must be ecstatic that it was so easy for you to maneuver me onto the chessboard.

“Well, guess what, doctor. You have me now, and I’m willingly giving myself over to you, even knowing that you’re the Chesapeake Ripper. You sank your claws so deep inside me that I find myself obsessing over you and the Ripper at every moment – you will creep into my mind regardless of what I do to try and forget you. You and I are so intertwined now that I will only harm myself and Danielle in turn if I tried to extricate myself from you and the Ripper.

“So, I’m giving you an ultimatum, Hannibal, and I expect two outcomes based on your decision. Either you retire as the Chesapeake Ripper and let Jack think the Ripper is caught, forever silenced behind bars, or you continue your little murder spree and you will never see or hear from me ever again.” Will bares his fangs, grinning widely in satisfaction at Hannibal’s dilated pupils, his victory in sight. “What do you say?”

Hannibal groans then, his hands snared around Will’s neck and pulls him for a crushing kiss, uncaring of the repercussions. Their teeth clack painfully against one another before Will opens his mouth to Hannibal, the man not bothering to waste any time before his tongue slips in with a savage claim.

Will bites into Hannibal’s tongue then, hard enough to hurt though he knows he won’t be drawing any blood. Hannibal hisses in pain and they pull back simultaneously, their breaths mingling together, Hannibal’s eyes shining in adoration and lust as he stares at Will.

“You haven’t earned the right to kiss me yet, Hannibal,” Will growls, grinding his erection against Hannibal, their close proximity always so intoxicating. They both groan at the contact, but Will stops himself, pushing Hannibal away and slowly rising up to stand before the man once more.

Raising his eyebrow and smirking at Hannibal’s disheveled state, Will asks him again: “So, do we have a deal?”

Hannibal returns his smirk with a shark-sharp smile, his eyes promising retribution in the near future. “Yes, mylimasis. We have a deal.”

 

In the wake of Will’s report, Jack had called Will and Alana to further discuss the possibility of Abel Gideon being the Chesapeake Ripper.

Though he knows Jack won’t like the news, Will uses all of his mental capacity and his own penchant for manipulations to subtly persuade Jack and Alana in the general direction of his “newfound conviction” (never mind that said conviction is less than conviction than it is a way for Will to have his own selfish happy ending).

Jack is clearly not happy with the thought that the Ripper has been behind bars all this time and that he wasn’t the one who put him there, though he seems mildly convinced by the end of their discussions. Alana is harder to figure out; she wasn’t completely receptive to Will’s words initially and watches him with something close to suspicion before she weighed in with her own views on it.

At the end of the day, though, Jack dismissed them both, claiming that he would need to think their reports over and letting them know that he would be in touch after Gideon has given his own testimony to the judge in his trial.

It seems like Will will be needing some help to convince the rest of the world that Abel Gideon is the Chesapeake Ripper.

 

When Jack comes into his classroom once more, the first thing Will notices is how tired he looks.

Furrowing his brow in concern, he frowns at Jack. “You okay, Jack?”

Jack lets out a heaving sigh, shaking his head wearily. “I need you to come with me to another crime scene.”

“Something happened with the Ripper?”

“Abel Gideon has escaped from the transporter carrying him to court,” Jack says stiffly.

Dropping his shoulders in defeat, Will sighs. “Let’s go, then.”

The crime scene is… something. Abel Gideon is clearly still under the impression that he’s the Chesapeake Ripper, judging by the decorations he’s made out of his victims’ organs. The transporter van sits at the roadside, the insides of the van a veritable mess. Outside, the nearby trees are decorated with various organs of the policeman, suspended in the branches by the victims’ veins. With the snow melting off the tree branches, it looks like a bastardized version of the Chesapeake Ripper’s Christmas tree.

Ho ho ho, Will thinks darkly, glaring at the theatrical show Gideon had apparently decided to put up.

Beverly, Price and Zeller are busy at work already, and Will gives them a cursory nod before he goes inside the transporter van to do his own party trick.

Affecting a deep sigh when he finally emerges out of the van, he shakes his head morosely at Jack. “You’re not going to like what I’m going to say,” he warns the other man.

Jack glares at the various organs littered around the trees while the forensics team are busy cataloguing the evidence. “There’s nothing about this I do like,” he says wearily. “Out with it, then. I need to know how bad it is.”

“I think Gideon’s slipping,” Will says slowly, his voice low and steady. “It looks like he’s having a difference in opinion regarding who he is. He sees this as his final chance to escape Chilton’s clutches, and he’s now off into the world, free again to practice his brand of destruction on the rest of the world.”  

Jack frowns. “So, he’s either the Ripper and he’s beginning to doubt himself, or he’s not the Ripper but he thinks he is?”

Will shrugs listlessly, running a hand through his hair. “I think Gideon is a very confused man. Hard not to be when you’re under Chilton’s treatments all day.”

Mulling that information over, Jack’s eyes narrow at the insinuation in Will’s tone. “Why didn’t he take the organs then, if he’s the Ripper?”

Another shrug. “Maybe he thinks this is his final swan song. A final tribute to his Ripper persona before he fucks off to God knows where. It’s a terrible feeling, to have your identity taken away from you.”

Jack’s face looks grim as he swings his head to look for Beverly. “Katz,” he calls out. “You said something about a foot trail?”

Beverly looks up from the evidence she was cataloguing, and gestures towards the woods at the side of the road. “Local PD picked up a trail leading out of the woods. Boot soles were consistent with what we had at the crime scene. They think he’s heading to Baltimore.”

 

The trail turns cold for another two days until Jack receives a rude wake-up call in the middle of the night, Miriam Lass’s voice spooking him with her calls for help.

Will listens in grim silence as Jack replays the message to him in Jack’s office afterward, Miriam’s voice sounding even more distressing in the light of the day.

“Bastard must have called me just to taunt me,” Jack grits out, his face lined with anger and worry. “He’s lucky I haven’t gotten my hands on him, or I would’ve killed him myself.”

Will nods in commiseration, squeezing Jack’s shoulder before looking away. “We’ll catch him.”

Jack sighs while they wait for the forensics team to finish their processing of the phone call – Beverly was put in charge of tracing the call, in light of her success with the Silvestri case.

Once Beverly manages to track down the call, Jack calls in a team of FBI agents to accompany them to a barn in Virginia. The space looks mildly rundown, cobwebs and mildew greeting them when they step inside. The agents are doing a final sweep of the area when one of them calls out to Jack, his voice slightly shaken as they report they’ve found a live body.

Jack steps closer to the edge of a cistern, Will following closely behind as they peer into the hollow space below them.

There are a myriad of emotions passing through Jack’s face before it settles on a devastated expression, his mouth working soundlessly when he sees who it is. “Miriam?”

 

Following their discovery, the BAU sends every spare forensic technician they have to sift through the evidence from the barn, though the strongest evidence is arguably Miriam Lass herself, rising back from the dead.

Will could finally breathe a silent sigh of relief when Beverly told them that the fingerprints and DNAs found in the barn matched Abel Gideon’s database. They also found some of the Ripper’s victims’ DNA mingling in the mix, and though Gideon himself was not present at the premise, everything they had encountered and catalogued from the barn points to him being the Chesapeake Ripper.

Jack sighs heavily when presented with the undeniable proof in front of him, his eyes forlorn as he watches Miriam Lass being processed by the technicians from afar. She’s missing her left arm, but looks healthy otherwise – an amazing feat, seeing how she’s been kept in captivity for two years. 

“I’m sorry, Jack,” Will says. “I know it’s not the closure you were looking for, but considering everything… I’m glad you found her. We’ll catch Abel Gideon eventually, now that we know who he is.”

Jack gives him a haunted smile, shaking his head morosely. “I just wish I could catch the bastard myself and… well, I don’t know what I’d do, but I know that I’d make him pay for everything he has done. But I guess this is as good as it gets for now.”

Will nods, patting Jack on the shoulder before he moves to walk away.

“Will,” Jack calls out, stopping Will in his tracks. He turns his gaze back to Jack’s grim face. “Thank you.”

Shrugging listlessly, Will gives Jack a genuine smile, hoping the man will be happier now that the Ripper is finally out of his life. “Anytime, Jack.”

 

He tells himself that he was just curious as to Abel Gideon’s fate when he stands in front of Hannibal’s house a few hours later.

He doesn’t bother ringing the doorbell, using the key he has to Hannibal’s house to let himself in instead. Locking the door behind him, he hangs his coat before silently making his way to the kitchen, to Hannibal’s private domain.

Hannibal looks up when he makes his way in, Will pulling up a chair to the kitchen counter to observe the other man.

Hannibal gives him a small smile before he returns his attention to the meat in front of him. He has rolled his sleeves up to his elbows, his forearms glistening with a fine sheen of sweat as he kneads the lungs under his skillful hands, the movements practiced and elegant somehow. Will finds himself transfixed by the ripple in the man’s arms, his eyes unwavering even when Hannibal’s hands pause in their movement. He should probably be more concerned that the other man is actually preparing to cook actual human lungs, but he thinks that he’s now past that point of outrage.

Will looks up to see Hannibal grinning at him. “What? I’m just appreciating the view,” he says, shrugging.

Hannibal hums and returns to work, and Will notes the lack of complaint when he resumes his staring. The narcissist. “Would you like to stay for dinner?” he asks Will after a few minutes of silence.

Shaking his head, Will gives him a wry smile. “Can’t. Dani and the dogs are still waiting for me at home. Plus, I don’t quite have your appetite for it just yet. Any special occasion for the lungs?” he asks wryly.

Giving him a sly smirk, Hannibal looks down again as he wraps the organs into a plastic wrapping, carefully tucking the corners in before he puts them in the fridge, clearly satisfied with his work. “Just having our old friend for dinner.”

Will huffs. “Really? Cannibal puns? It’s a wonder you weren’t caught earlier.”

Hannibal chuckles, washing his hands and wiping them clean, his eyes shining with mirth when he turns to Will. “I will only let myself be caught by one person in this world.”

Will smirks at that, rising from his seat in a fluid movement and taking a few steps closer to Hannibal, their bodies inches away. “Going for flattery so soon?”

“You deserve all the flattery in the world,” Hannibal says, unrepentant. “Magnificent, cunning boy.”

He shivers from the words, from the raw desire apparent in Hannibal’s eyes.

Slowly closing the distance between them, Will smiles at Hannibal. “Thank you for taking care of our old friend,” he whispers, breathing against Hannibal’s lips. “I think you deserve a reward for that, don’t you?”

He laughs when Hannibal growls against him, the man losing his patience as he finally wraps his hands around Will and kisses him roughly, his teeth immediately biting into Will’s lip. As far as tactics go, Will can admit that giving his mouth something else to do is a pretty effective way of shutting him up, his laugh faltering into a series of pleased grunts and moans as they christen Hannibal’s kitchen floor with something other than blood.

 

Christmas has always been a quiet affair for Will. It’s actually safer to say that he never celebrated Christmas at all, though his father did manage to give him a present of sorts, transferring his extensive mechanical knowledge on the workings of motor boats and his affinity for whiskey down to Will. Once he was truly alone in the world (at least until Danielle came crashing in), he never bothered to celebrate the holidays at all, because honestly what was the point?

This Christmas is a little bit different, however.

Will sits in contentment on the floor of his living room, drinking his eggnog while he looks on as Danielle opens her countless presents, Hannibal sitting cross-legged next to her. The dogs are yawning happily from their beds by the roaring fireplace, and winter is definitely in the air with the snow blowing noisily outside while the lights from the small Christmas tree blinks at them in cheerful vivacity.

“You got me more dresses?” Danielle shrieks happily, holding out a few dresses in multiple colors and various styles. She immediately rises from her position, putting the dresses against her figure happily before she turns to give Hannibal a hug, thanking him in her excitement.

Twirling her way to Will, she gives him a wide grin. “Daddy, I’m going to go and try them on!”

Smiling and nodding his permission, Will watches on when she hurriedly makes her way upstairs, Zoe and Buster yipping after her as they follow her to her bedroom.

“No running on the stairs!” Will shouts, even though he knows Danielle will barely hear him by now. Winston gives a gruff huff as he stares upstairs, probably internally rolling his eyes at his sibling’s antics, if Will were to explain his behavior. 

Will hears a soft chuckle from Hannibal, and he turns to smile lazily at the other man. “Why did you have to get her so many presents? You know I don’t want to spoil her,” he sighs, taking another sip of his eggnog. It tastes good, which is expected since Hannibal had gleefully made it for him with whiskey, citing the internet when he guilelessly said “I heard they’re a traditional drink”.

Hannibal gives him a nonchalant smile, picking up the discarded wrapping papers and folding them into neat stacks to be put away later. “I had gotten half of them for her previously. For her birthday.”

Will snorts. “Right. That’s from when I was still ignoring you.” He narrows his eyes at the other man. “How did you know it was her birthday?”

“I have my sources,” Hannibal says, his eyes dancing with mischief.

He rises from his sitting position and makes his way to Will, repositioning himself in front of Will. Hannibal gives him a soft smile then, his hand gently pulling the glass of eggnog from Will’s fingers and putting them aside on the floor before he laces their fingers together and pulls Will in for a soft kiss.

Closing his eyes, Will lets out an appreciative hum at the gentle kiss, their tongues slowly exploring each other’s mouth for a few minutes before Hannibal slowly pulls away.

Will opens his eyes again, his mouth twisting into a smirk. “What did you do to deserve that?”

“For indulging Danielle for the day,” Hannibal answers.

“I believe you’ve already claimed that this morning,” Will murmurs, shivering lightly as he remembers how Hannibal had pulled him apart and taken him in a slow, leisurely pace earlier this morning. After their previous weeks apart, the slow, sensuous coupling was something he had been looking forward to, both of them struggling to keep their noises down to avoid waking Danielle up. He still feels sore from their activity, though he wouldn’t mind a repeat performance.

Hannibal smirks, as if he can see what’s playing through Will’s mind. He silently pulls a nondescript envelope from the stack of presents, handing it to Will and urging him to open it.

Ripping the envelope apart, Will finds himself flummoxed when he takes out several sheets of paper, though his bewilderment gives way to shock when he peruses through them. He’s speechless for a few seconds, and when he looks up, he sees Hannibal carefully watching his reaction, the man smiling slightly at the sight of Will’s surprise.

“You bought us tickets to Italy,” Will says dumbly, stating the obvious. “And we’re supposed to leave in a week?”

Hannibal gives him a warm smile. “It will give us time to make the necessary arrangements.”

“You say that as if you haven’t done that already,” Will scoffs, sifting through the boarding passes until he gets to another piece of paper. He reads it silently, though he can feel his eyebrows shooting up when he sees the name at the end of the letter.

“Hannibal,” Will says slowly. “Care to tell me why there’s a letter from Abigail Hobbs inside this envelope?”

There is no other way to describe Hannibal’s demeanor other than “excited”, and Will imagines Hannibal would wag his tail if he had one. “I thought it would be a nice surprise for you to learn of her fate.”

“She… she’s been alive all this time?” Will asks, flabbergasted. “I thought you killed her and dumped her into the Chesapeake Bay or something when we only found Miriam in that barn.”

Hannibal shakes his head. “I believe she was just trying her best to put her past behind her when she approached me last. I gave her the means to forge her own path and do what she would with it, provided she kept her silence about my past time. Whether she succeeds or not after this, it’s out of my hands. But I have heard from her regularly, and I think she’s finally finding her footing in the world.”

Will shakes his head, sighing. “I’m glad to hear she’s doing well,” he admits, “though I hope she doesn’t bring trouble to our doorstep, if you want to outlive her.”

Grinning at the warning in Will’s tone, Hannibal lifts Will’s hand up to plant a soft kiss on his knuckles. “No need to trouble yourself, Will. You know she will do anything to ensure her own survival, and she has long learned to keep her silence for her father before this. She knows that I have the means to bring her connections to the Copycat Killer should she accidentally let herself slip up. I promise that all will be well for our little family. I won’t let any harm come to you or Danielle or even your dogs. You have my word.”

Will hums in satisfaction. “Good.” And well, that sort of behavior deserves another reward.

He leans in to Hannibal then, bringing his lips closer to the man’s ear. “When we go to bed tonight,” he whispers, “I want you to fuck me for hours and make me forget my own name; I’ll even beg you for it if you want me to. But you only get to come once. If you can restrain yourself until you satisfy me, I’ll let you fuck me six ways to Sunday and do anything you want with me. If you can’t manage that, then you’ll only get to touch me again once we’re in Italy.”

He’s satisfied to see the effects of his words when he pulls back, Hannibal practically vibrating with possessive desire as he stares at Will. Hannibal looks like he wants to consume Will alive.

And Will is only too happy to let him.

Chapter Text

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.