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Gold Rush

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Special Agent Will Graham presented Jack Crawford with numerous unique virtues and concerns. Lest those concerns blossom to full-on worries, Jack was eager to compel his best agent to undergo a psychiatric examination, but Will was an escape artist, well-schooled at evading Jack’s polite requests and warning looks. If Jack was going to achieve the level of certainty he needed regarding Will’s mental stability, he would have to resort to his own form of trickery.

He just couldn’t reconcile for himself how anyone, even a man as brilliant, confident and capable as Will Graham, could accomplish quite so much on a daily basis, effortlessly (so it seemed, at least) balancing a teaching schedule with heavy, demanding profiling for the Behavioral Crimes division, always appearing so perfectly calm and friendly, unbothered by diving headfirst into the most horrible serial killers’ inner worlds, emerging with the answers gleaming like gold in his hands after little more than a few minutes spent closing his eyes while immersed in the crime scenes.

Certainly, there were a few outward symptoms of potential humanity, limitations to Will’s smooth veneer. For one thing, the man had the dress sense of a dog-eared LL Bean catalogue from the late 1990’s and the tendency to blab on about his hobbies, the seven dogs for God’s sake (when did he have time to take care of them?!), fishing, it was mildly infuriating. Even Will’s personal pastimes sounded like excellently healthy ways to cope with harsh and potentially deeply draining work, and no one could be that healthy -- not doing this work, not in the long-term.

Will did not possess the ability Jack saw in Katz, Zeller and Price, for example, the way the squints could just toss off the day’s work when needed and revert to casual small talk; the ghosts of the cases always lingered in Will’s eyes even when he spoke the lightest. It got to him, the killing they waded into, the gruesome gore and terrible loss of it all, it ran through Will’s bloodstream, but the agent seemed to metabolize it better than Jack.

Was that what this was really all about? Jack cringed to think this was about envy, but that piece of the puzzle was undeniable. How did Will manage to feel these crimes so deeply, solve them at a faster rate than any agent in the unit’s history, and seem to be thoroughly okay?

Jack brought the demons home with him every night, it affected his moods, put space sometimes between him and Bella that made him hate himself. Did he want to protect the world from the consequences if Will’s well-preserved sanity suddenly split open under the crushing blows of these awful murder cases? Did he want a better idea for himself, to know if Will was genuinely that cool and competent and unfazed, how this was achieved? Yes, he was looking for just as many answers to his own problems as to Will’s, and that annoyed him, but there it was.

Best to get this over with so he could rest at ease, knowing that his most talented agent was in a good headspace, could be trusted in the long term, and could provide him with insight about how to do this everyday without corrosive and irreversible damage to one’s inner peace and home life. Jack had never even suspected someone on the profiling end of things could personify this coolness; it made sense for the forensic experts to maintain better boundaries; they dealt with the physical external manifestations of the horror; inner monstrosity was far, far worse. The killers were so much harder to forget than the victims.

Alana Bloom wasn’t up to the task, that much was certain. There was some kind of strange energy between her and Will, not that they were secretly dating, surely, although he’d detected an almost compulsory, low-level flirtation at times. Two young and attractive people naturally had to notice it in each other, and their personalities would seem, objectively, well-suited. But Alana distrusted Will instinctively, was certain something wasn’t quite right there or couldn’t be. And Jack needed an impartial judge of Will’s character to do this right. Alana might be onto something; Will’s smile often seemed eerie, his dialogues which took on the voices of killers were chilling, he could be an unsettling man to share company with. But Jack wanted to hear from a brilliant analyst what they made of Will in the here and now without previously formed theories and suspicions.

He turned at last to Alana’s mentor from her Georgetown days, a Dr. Hannibal Lecter to whom Alana referred him with a sigh of relief that she wasn’t being asked to draw up a profile on Will.

Jack applied his expert skills to flatter and convince Lecter into coming to the FBI offices at Quantico to lend his assistance on the Minnesota Shrike Case -- ostensibly, at least. While it was always worthwhile to have another brilliant mind on such a complex and disturbing case, and Jack was burning with desperation to catch this son of a bitch before another innocent girl was killed, there could certainly be no harm in asking Lecter to profile Will Graham along the way.

***

Another day, another notch in the headboard of Will’s boring routine. He’d been restless for months, struggling against the too-neat confines of the life he had built for himself between Wolf Trap and Quantico.

For a while, the job had been a good fit for his skills and a welcome source of application for them; his mind seemed to be racing always, his intellect in constant need of fascination, his thirst for righteous justice too ravenous to be satiated only in the occasional act of grisly vigilantism in which he eagerly indulged by night.

Will wanted something that would light up his life with vivid meaning and excitement, but he could never seem to find it. He still loved his little rustic house with its beautiful yard so close to the woods, perfect for long, existentialist rambles, loved his darling pack of former strays, the quiet days fishing in the river or tinkering with old boat motors. There was a certain wry enjoyment he took from solving murders for the FBI while simultaneously committing his own at every opportunity, sure. But the killers he caught for Jack weren’t like him; they were sadists with selfish and destructive agendas. Will only killed despicable specimens barely worthy of the name ‘human,’ the vile abusers of the world who would otherwise escape condemnation, slipping through the cracks of an often impotent justice system.

The only other killer with whom Will could identify, or perhaps it was more an idolization, was the Chesapeake Ripper. The Ripper was obviously a sadist, but so many of his victims, when you looked closely enough, turned out to be just the same sort of repellent people whom Will often hunted. And the Ripper had a talent which often made Will’s jaw simply drop, blue eyes widening in awe at his gorgeously macabre tableaus. The power to turn such beastly, ugly people into beautiful art...it was breathtaking. In his own hunts, Will was so often overtaken by the profound, savage thrill of the physicality, the prowess he exacted, the catharsis of causing pain to end pain...he never stopped to memorialize his acts. Perhaps he was worried that he would not be as good at covering his tracks as the ever elusive Ripper. Perhaps he could not summon the gumption to imitate the master whose work had him so often transfixed.

Even this hero worship wasn’t enough to fulfill his craving for that special something that was missing from his life -- a life which on paper looked, if anything, overfull.

Maybe it was time to move on, but where was he going to build himself a better, sturdier, more advantageous situation? Why should he cave to his own irrational, even immature wanderlust?

Work was getting boring these days; he closed most cases so fast and then the next one got tossed in his lap. He loved getting evil killers off the streets, but hated the neverending, numbing repetition of it...they were all the same, just variations on a wicked theme. Except the Ripper. And except Will himself. He was far from immune to taking pride in what he did, but it never seemed to be enough to make him feel whole.

Recently it had occurred to him, he might simply be craving a mate. Shoving thoughts of the Ripper out of his mind under the reminder it was ridiculous to construct an imaginary romance with an unknowable mystery of a man, Will decided to try dating again for the first time in a few years. It was easy enough to find men and women who were interested in dating him, completely doable to charm them, seduce them, but then what? No one fascinated him, no one brought the intensity he sought, and then of course he had to hide his killer side, so that he felt like a strange sort of anesthetized clone of Will Graham, a little too nice and good, the real, darker version of himself screaming to be let loose.

He practically sleep-walked through the morning’s lecture, yet another chance to give his “What is Your Design?” speech to the latest gaggle of FBI recruits who had started to resemble doppelgangers of themselves, the same youthful blend of ambition and cynicism. After class, he yanked his tie off and loosened his collar, annoyed to find that the headache and elevated body heat with which he’d struggled for days now had gotten even worse today. He couldn’t pin it down to any one particular ailment, and over the counter cold medicine had done nothing to soothe the aching fever of his state.

He wasn’t going to be able to go on much longer like this without taking care of it, and even that necessity was tiresome, but he’d get around to it. The truth was, he’d vastly prefer to stay busy tracking the Shrike rather than making himself rest in bed for a few days watching reruns of daytime soaps and game shows.

Making his way to Jack’s office, he hoped this day had something better ahead for him than was readily apparent, only to have this brief unspoken wish fulfilled to a shocking extent the moment he opened the door.

Who the hell is that? Will wondered, amazed as he was introduced to the gorgeous, cultured older man with an exotic, luscious accent and an ass so round and pert, he had to force himself not to stare.

Jack introduced the man as a Dr. Hannibal Lecter, a psychiatrist who specialized in social exclusion and its role in forming criminal minds. Given that the Shrike was a cannibal, and it did not get any more “freakish” than that in the eyes of civilized, “normal” society, Will could understand why Dr. Lecter’s insights might come in handy, although he was surprised Jack thought he really needed another profiler when Will was already on this case making his usual brisk progress.

Hmm. Will sank into the chair in front of Jack’s desk and cupped his chin, looking with interest at the stranger’s very attractive back, his broad shoulders and pretty hair in shades of light brown, blonde and silver. Whose profile is he really working on? Jaaaacccckkkk....

***

Hannibal was immediately intrigued by the clever young profiler, taking in Will’s obviously attractive features and the strikingly sweet heat of his slight Southern accent, his quick observations and dry quips while they discussed the case. And he had absorbed all of these qualities in Will Graham’s presence like a fact collector because that was how his own mind worked, coldly clinical, used to being unimpressed, never expecting any more remarkable influences than he normally encountered.

“Do you have trouble with taste?” he asked after Will called Freddie Lounds’ despicable antics “tasteless.”

He felt a strange thrum of nervousness which he could not quite put his finger on; he remained in front of the murder board, looking at the photos and evidence compiled there as if it held his interest when really, he was drawn with increasing fascination to converse with Will Graham.

“My thoughts are often not tasty,” Will said with a wry smirk which caught Hannibal’s eye when he glanced back over his shoulder.

“Nor mine,” he replied huskily. “No effective barriers.”

“I build forts.” Will took a sip of coffee; Hannibal strode over and sat beside him, carefully pondering his next observation. Jack Crawford watched them intently, curious to know what conclusions Dr. Lecter could draw based on his impression of the profiler.

And Hannibal could envision an inner world like that, the insistence on categorization to enforce some form of control over an unruly, powerful mind where impressions were otherwise so overwhelming. It was beautiful, the strength of control there, the defiant chaos always threatening to break loose beneath all that orchestrated restraint. He could relate to such a world, he lived in just such a world himself.

“Associations come quickly,” Hannibal guessed, thinking of the way his own thoughts built off of one another with organic speed, like vines racing to cover the walls of his memory palace, then slip through the windows, crawl over the halls in his tightly guarded corridors of vulnerability.

Will shrugged, “So do forts.”

“Not fond of eye contact, are you?” Hannibal was slightly frustrated, although his tone remained light.

He was frustrated with Will for not meeting his searching gaze, frustrated with himself for wanting it so badly without understanding why.

Will went off on a disgruntled tangent about why eye contact was so annoying, and Hannibal found himself charmed by the boy’s rough-hewn but smart comments, his disdain for common irritations in social interactions with which he could certainly sympathize. This boy’s direct gaze was a gift; when it landed on him fleetingly in the midst of this grumpy speech, Hannibal’s heart soared unexpectedly.

Who in the world was this intellectual, captivating, beautiful young man? The blue-grey eyes swimming with inscrutable mystery and a confidence he found, to his astonishment, intimidating -- the perfect jawline covered in softly bristly beard, the plush lips simply begging to be kissed until they were redly swollen and releasing countless moans, those pretty ears, the long, distracting neck and the rest of his body, slim but well-muscled, how Hannibal wanted to tear his clothes off all of a sudden and lean him over Jack’s desk, consequences be damned. Yet how, in equal measure, he wanted to be the one slung over the desk and fucked hard by this gorgeous, quick-witted, strong-willed profiler, he wanted all of the intensity Will had to offer, wanted it focused on him and all for himself; he wanted to let go of his own restraint and ego and be positively wrecked by this man.

Hannibal stared at him and blushed, utterly out of his depths. What was this terrifying sensation making butterflies swarm in his stomach while his cheeks flamed, his eyes suddenly seeming oddly wet, desire spreading tendrils of warm arousal through his whole body? What was this feeling which he had never experienced before but which seemed to be redefining his entire outlook on reality, without a warning, without his permission or his control? His heart slammed his ribcage as he hung on every potential reply which Will might give his next statements.

After nearly choking on a sip of subpar office coffee, Hannibal went on, “I imagine what you see and learn touches everything else in your mind. Your values and decency are present, yet shocked at your associations, appalled at your dreams.”

Will glared at him suspiciously, yet like a fool drunk on the chance to share his insights, idiotically imagining he would end up impressing the man, Hannibal plunged on, “No forts in the bone arena of your skull for things you love.”

“Actually, I’m perfectly capable of protecting the things I love, no matter how unsavory my daily ordeals,” Will retorted boldly.

He pressed his perfect, lovely hands over his knees and leveled Hannibal like a demolished building, the wrecking ball of his swift judgement startling.

“And to be quite frank, being profiled without my permission is offensive. I suppose this was your idea, Jack, since I’ve been dodging your attempts to get me into therapy for being too damn good at the job you so desperately rely on me to do?”

Jack shrugged, looking exhausted. “What other option have you left me, Will? I can’t have you out there without occasionally verifying you’re of sound enough mind to be tackling these cases.”

“I’m sorry, Will,” Hannibal added, mortified at how bright and hot his face still felt, how much he wanted Will to forgive him and want to be friends, or more, much more…

“Observing is what we do,” he went on awkwardly, taking another sip of by now cold and disgusting coffee, smothering the desire to shudder at the flat taste. Still, he needed something to do with himself other than talk because he was that unthinkably nervous. “I can’t shut mine off any easier than you can shut yours off.”

“I think we should test that theory out,” Will said, his annoyed features shifting into a thoughtful smile, as if Jack suddenly wasn’t in the room and he was entirely focused, finally, on Hannibal, occasioning the doctor a quick rush of raptured victory that frightened him.

“I don’t blame you for this ridiculous situation, by the way,” Will went on, looking so unbelievably pretty in that cheap shirt, probably bought on clearance at some department store, it wasn’t even any recognizable color but an unfortunate blend of blue and green that could not satisfy on either count, and those wrinkled khaki trousers had seen better days, but he looked beautiful.

Hannibal swallowed air that seemed harder to come by with every moment he passed in Will’s captivating presence. He should not have had the coffee; now he was going to have coffee breath, but wait, so would Will, thank goodness...why was he panicking?

“I think it would be a conflict of interest for you to profile me, Dr. Lecter.” Will’s mood seemed to have brightened the more he lavished that devastatingly gorgeous blue gaze upon Hannibal; he smiled now, and the world immediately lit up as Hannibal’s heart filled like a balloon destined to fly up to the heavens.

That smile could end him, easily.

“And why is that?” Hannibal hastened to inquire, running a shaky hand over his flawless shirt front, accosting himself inwardly for not wearing one of his very best suits today instead of this plain tan one. The blue plaid three-piece would have been much more impressive!

“I’d rather ask for your phone number, doctor,” Will said slyly, eying him up by now.

“My…” Hannibal’s racing heart seemed to be smothering his brain’s attempts to process thought.

Will said his name in that subtle drawl of his, so sexily, Doctah Lectah, and Hannibal felt teased, in the best way. He felt flirted with but his usual confidence was floundering. He was still chasing an understanding of the panic, the high voltage emotion that had come from locking eyes with this boy, at least ten years his junior and wearing an atrociously rumpled outfit along with a pronounced social awkwardness on his sleeve. Will was confident and ingenious, but he had trouble relating to other people; however, he was choosing now of his own volition to single Hannibal out as worthy of his elusive attention, and Hannibal found himself consequently overwhelmed.

“Are you kidding me, Will? Come on, now.” Jack looked at the profiler sternly and drummed his fingers on his desk in disapproval. “I ask a highly reputable psychiatrist to work up a profile on you, and you’re trying to pick him up in my office?”

“You didn’t have to pick a highly reputable psychiatrist who looked like this,” Will smirked, nudging his chair a little closer to Hannibal’s and batting his long, beautiful dark lashes at the bewildered therapist. “So, what do you say, doctor? Would you like to get a drink sometime?”

This was too much; Hannibal couldn’t bear being the focus of the very same attention he desperately wanted; it was as if he had lived for almost fifty years in the dark and someone had just turned on all the lights; it was as though he had never really experienced a feeling before. How could he be certain Will wasn’t asking him out in jest? He worried, growing paranoid, after all, it had been a bit in poor taste to profile him without permission, to offer his intrusive observations out of the blue...was this proposition Will’s revenge for his own discourteousness, which he now deeply regretted?

Even if Will was seriously attracted to him, how could Hannibal let him get any closer? This potential obsession was dangerous to Hannibal’s carefully guarded autonomy and independence, and he did not know what indulging this powerfully distracting emotion would ultimately do to him; who could Will Graham make him become? What if he didn’t want to be that man, some softly doting lover, growing weak and capable of having his heart broken because he let someone else be in control of his happiness?

“I can’t, I really must be going, I think, I...I should be going,” Hannibal blathered, horrified at himself for wasting this chance to go out with Will, but too terrified at what he might feel if he did, too bent on self-preservation and the need to be alone with his thoughts again, sort them out until they made sense.

“Wait, where are you going?” Will asked, disappointed.

“That’s alright, Dr. Lecter, I understand you have a very full schedule of appointments today,” Jack put in, letting him off the hook. The man probably assumed Will’s advances had made him uncomfortable, when in fact, the reasons for it were far too complicated for such a simple conclusion. “Can I call you later and follow up on today’s findings on the Shrike?”

“Certainly, I’m happy to continue consulting,” Hannibal said absent-mindedly, hardly registering that he was committing to keep helping on a case where Will Graham was lead investigator and their paths were sure to cross again. He wanted it, like he wanted to keep breathing, but he felt some desperate urge to protect himself from these feelings at the same time.

Chaos had overtaken his outlook on life, glorious, tumultuous, irresistible chaos by the name of Will Graham.

Chapter Text

Will walked into the forensics lab precariously balancing a big tray of iced coffees and several decorative bags of cookies on one arm, but the smooth way he propped the door open and slipped in made it all look deceptively easy. He had developed a certain knack for this casually unconcerned attitude which went well with his veneer of flannel and floppy curls, suggesting an innocence which did not match his interior make-up. But nobody else needed to know the real him to like him, get a job done or interact socially; Will had long doubted he could meet someone up to the task of taking in the Real Will Graham, living to tell the tale and wanting to keep doing it. It always seemed like way too much to expect from a world populated by people with one dimensional morality, those who could not see the beautiful in the macabre.

Now there was a certain sweet tugging sensation in his heart and stomach making him replay that first meeting with Hannibal Lecter from that morning, yet Will couldn’t fathom why he felt instinctively drawn to share himself, open up to a complete stranger.

Not, of course, that it hurt that said stranger was drop-dead fucking gorgeous, with a sexy accent, sophisticated style and a mysterious vulnerability which enticed him. During his lunch break, Will had looked into some of Dr. Lecter’s published works, just skimming a few to get the main idea. The man was brilliant, too, getting to the heart of problematic social constructs and their inevitable habit of ostracizing supposed misfits with prose so elegant yet lively. Damn, now what in the world was Will going to do with a crush? At least it was a first, and he’d been hankering for one of those, for true novelty, since his first kill had supplied the last most vivid inspiration of his life.

“Coffee?” Brian Zeller piped up enthusiastically, bursting Will’s thought bubble before he went totally nuts over a stranger, so probably a good interruption.

Zeller rushed forward and clapped Will on the shoulder, then took the tray and set it on a table at the front of the lab. “You’re a total lifesaver, man, thank you.”

“Weeding through all of the evidence from the Nichols house has been grueling,” Beverly confided with a yawn verging on a groan.

She stood from her work at a microscope, studying particulates, and stretched before coming to join her friends, taking an iced coffee for herself with a grateful smile to Will.

“I brought you all some of my Mom’s pumpkin spice latte cookies, too,” Will enthused, his blue eyes sparkling with conviviality.

“Does that mean you got her to spill the recipe?” Jimmy Price asked pleadingly, opening a bag of cookies and taking one out to examine it as if it was sacred.

“Oh, hell no, she won’t even tell me,” Will laughed, dropping into a chair across from the table where the others were eating.

He slid the chair flush against the wall, trying to anchor and center himself, get ahold of his racing nerves, but the nervousness was so new and exciting, too. Maybe he should just give in; who knew what might happen? The unpredictability of this scenario with Lecter had his heart racing.

“Aren’t you going to have some, Will?” Beverly asked, “Should we save some for you?”

“That’s okay,” he smiled, pressing his still-sweaty palms against his khaki-clad knees. “I don’t actually like pumpkin flavored things all that much. I do love the way they smell, though.”

That was mainly because the olfactory association brought back years of happy memories about his mother baking in the Fall. It was her favorite season, and Maddie Graham never tired of celebrating it to the hilt.

“Something’s distracting you today,” Beverly guessed with her usual wryly targeted incisiveness. “Something other than the Minnesota Shrike.”

“Ha, good for you, then,” Jimmy contributed, finishing his first cookie before carefully examining a second. Will wouldn’t be surprised if he put it under one of the microscopes next. “I’m jealous. It’s been nothing but Shrike tv around here for weeks now.”

“We’ll catch him soon,” Will mused. “I’m heading out to Minnesota in the morning, think I got a lead on the Shrike’s old job.”

“And the distraction?” Beverly harped affectionately. “C’mon, I’ve never seen that look on your face before. You’re all dreamy, and God -- are you actually blushing?”

Will patted his own flushed cheeks and chuckled. “I guess I am. Well, I did meet someone earlier.”

“Who the hell are you picking up around here?” Brian asked. “Is it Stacey in Administration? She definitely has a crush on you.”

“Naw, it’s not Stacey,” Will sighed, plucking at the plastic lid on his coffee cup. “It’s this therapist Jack brought in to psychoanalyze me against my wishes. A...Dr. Hannibal Lecter?”

“I don’t know him,” Beverly said, her brow furrowed as she took out her cell phone and typed the doctor’s name in quickly.

“Hey, don’t Google him,” Will laughed nervously. Jesus, he never got self-conscious like this, what was going on, anyway? Why was the feeling so addictive? This must be why people kept dating even after years of disappointment in the tiresome endeavor, always tilting at the windmill of this indescribable, obsessive infatuation.

“Okay, Google him,” he said immediately thereafter. He wanted to get his friends’ opinion, after all, and any excuse to talk about Hannibal suddenly seemed hard to resist.

“Oh, damn,” Beverly noted, Brian and Jimmy hovering beside her to evaluate the photos on her screen. “Look at those cheekbones.”

Will, with as much subtlety as he could muster, wandered over to them and got an eyeful of Hannibal in a tux at the opera, some sort of big charity gala, apparently the doctor was quite the toast of Baltimore society.

Well, of course he is.

Will felt an unusual twinge of annoyance with himself. Had he really tried to pick up this godlike apparition of perfection using the phrase “I’d rather have your number”?

“Good-looking guy,” Brian acknowledged casually, more interested in the next cookie he was stealing from Jimmy’s bag.

“In sort of a mysterious, gothic way,” Jimmy pointed out, slapping Brian’s hand away from the cookies while shooting him a flirtatious wink. “So, when are you two going out?”

“The twelfth of Nevuary,” Will grumbled, starting to pace around the lab. “I made the mistake of hitting on him, in front of Jack no less, with all the sophisticated skill of a thirteen year old in a 7-11 parking lot. Needless to say, he was unimpressed.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Beverly shrugged, “Maybe you just caught him off-guard. I mean no offense, but you can be sort of unpredictably intense. Plus, you’re very attractive. That combination can be intimidating.”

“You never tell us we’re very attractive,” Brian laughed as Will sighed, glancing down at his typically wrinkled shirt and wishing he’d bothered to drag the iron out last night to make sure he would be more presentable today.

He didn’t feel “very attractive,” and while normally he wasn’t too concerned with his physical appearance, it now seemed to abruptly matter how he looked. Normally, Will knew very well he was considered handsome by most people; he never had a hard time dating in the past, just a hard time caring or making connections. Now...he wanted to draw this guy he didn’t even know right to him like a moth to a flame, and this whole look definitely wasn’t going to do it.

“You could always try again,” Jimmy suggested, “If you’re that interested, it could be worth another go.”

“Yeah, I had to pursue this numbskull for months before he even agreed to go to dinner with me,” Brian joked, nodding at Jimmy.

“I was just trying to avoid the unfortunately inevitable result of ending up with the most infuriating human on the planet,” Jimmy replied drily as Brian fluttered his eyelashes and grinned.

“He turned me down flat,” Will complained, cheeks reddening at the recollection. “I don’t want to harass the guy by asking him out again after that.”

Still, there was no denying he had to see Hannibal again, he had to find a way. But what was the way, how did people navigate a situation this awkward, a fuck-up so profound, wasn’t there a method for…

“Ah!” He crowed out of nowhere, stopping short in his tracks while the lightbulb moment manifested in a huge grin on his face that took his friends by surprise. “That’s it! I’ve got it!”

***

The thing that most people did was to apologize; it had taken Will longer to figure out this simple approach because he really never had to say he was sorry for anything. Although he loved his parents and enjoyed his friendships with the forensics crew, none of these people had a clue about his murderous nature. He never spent enough time with any one person or let them see enough of his truth to get out of line and need to say sorry. In dating, for example, it always seemed easiest to cut ties rather than lower himself to admitting he was wrong for whatever careless behavior he’d exhibited in his cold, disinterested, continually disappointed forays into that realm.

So after work, he went to the liquor store and wandered it until he found a bottle of wine -- a bordeaux blanc to be exact -- that cost about a quarter of his next paycheck. Reasoning if it was expensive and had this much fancy French cursive on the label, it must be a good wine, Will purchased it, then went home to change.

He found the iron on the top shelf of his closet and blew a cloud of dust off of it that made him cough, wiping the sweat from his brow, irritated he still felt slightly under the weather. The dogs sat on their pillows watching his strange procedure with their heads tilted to one side.

Will slapped the ironing board down on the living room floor and plugged the iron in. Now, which shirt and pants should get this previously unheard of special treatment? He ended up settling for a plain white shirt under a sage green sweater and a pair of dark brown pants; there was no need to be too dressed up as that would just look pathetic. Showing up out of the blue for a mea culpa with no reason to think he wouldn’t make things worse was quite enough of a risk as far as Will was concerned.

He fed the dogs their dinner and let them out for a while, then when they went to sleep, he went back out, driving to Lecter’s house all the way in fucking Baltimore, not even caring about the distance when he already had commuter’s fatigue and just the weird tired sweaty thing, whatever it was, that wouldn’t seem to go away lately. He hoped he didn’t smell bad or anything as a result. Anyway, he turned on the radio to try and calm himself, running right into a song that made him almost fly through a red light in sudden, pained identification--

”If you could only see the beast you’ve made of me / I held it in but now it seems you’ve set it running free...The saints can't help me now, the ropes have been unbound / I hunt for you with bloodied feet across the hallowed ground…”

“Holy fucking shit,” Will muttered, switching the channel to try and harness his runaway senses.

How far would he go to make sure Lecter gave him the time of day, what would he be willing to do to make sure the obsession became mutual? He had always been so self-righteous that his murderous proclivities had seemed just, but this fixation, if it collided with his beastly side, what would he become then? What would it feel like to give full vent to a personal passion for the first time in his life? There was no justice in this craving, but it was full of teeth and claws. He might easily break them both in the endeavor to discover what these feelings meant.

***

Hannibal was settling down to a lovely dinner of bourguignon a la rude census taker, accompanied by perfect garlic parmesan duchess potatoes and a salad of baby greens with goat cheese and a honey-champagne vinaigrette, and therefore he was in no way contemplating his strange encounter with that handsome young FBI agent Will Graham. He wasn’t tempted to call the boy and resume their interrupted flirtation, wasn’t feeling unusually lonely this evening in the least.

Or so he told himself, unable to account for the way he couldn’t taste anything spectacular in his as-ever flawless cuisine, not at all certain as to why he kept glancing at his phone which sat on the table beside his plate. If he had guests, it would be intolerably rude of him to have his phone here during dinner, but somehow he did not care to be too far away in case it should ring, in case he should decide to make any calls, to whom of course he could not say…

The doorbell rang and occasioned him a shock which also would have been quite embarrassing had he been in company; rustled abruptly from his thick thought tangent, his lackadaisical turning over of the swirls of potato on his plate, he gave a small, startled noise low in his throat and jolted from his chair as if electrified.

What an immature and foolish impulse, he chided himself, standing and smoothing out his three piece plaid suit, the blue one he should have worn earlier, not that it mattered.

He forced himself to walk with languidly casual progress to the front door, and having convinced himself it would be anyone except Will Graham, he was decidedly unprepared for his eyes to light once more on those stunning sapphire orbs which still, on a second meeting, seemed capable of wresting vast hurricanes of feeling from his normally jaded soul.

“Agent Graham,” Hannibal greeted cooly, forcing his elated, terrified features into a resting state of unreadable response. “What a surprise.”

“I’m sure it must be, and I hope you won’t think it’s rude of me to just show up here uninvited,” Will began, nervous of course but sure of himself, that he had made a good decision, bewildering as that choice was to his sudden host.

"I brought wine!" Will added quickly, holding up a bottle of really quite decent-quality bordeaux blanc.

How charming he is. What lovely manners. Hannibal was smitten by this act, this gift, as if Will had arrived with an original Botticelli painting to hang on his wall. My good boy, Hannibal thought before he could stop himself.

Hannibal glanced over Will’s attire; under the boy’s coat, he wore a very nice outfit which was smoothly ironed and showed attention to color, composition and fit. In short, he looked divine, the look complimented exquisitely by the rebellious twists and twirls of his chocolate curls clustered about his face and his adorable ears. He was catnip, and Hannibal was highly tempted. There was no possible chance of him summoning the wherewithal to dismiss the beautiful young man, so instead he stepped backward with a cautious, small smile and said over the sound of his pounding heartbeat, “Please, do come in.” He took the wine bottle from Will's warm fingers, gleaning an instant sense of the perspiration on the boy's hands at the same time a hint of delectable fevered sweetness bewitched his senses.

He led the way on legs that felt wobbly, through to the dining room where his food still lay more played with than eaten on his plate, his glass of cabernet half-full.

“Aw, did I interrupt your dinner?” Will said with a moan of frustration that was altogether too beguiling. “Shit, I should have paid more attention to the time.”

“It’s of no concern to me, I assure you. Please, come to the kitchen and let me make you a plate, if you haven’t yet eaten.”

“That’s so nice of you, thanks,” Will grinned, encouraged.

In the kitchen, Hannibal reheated a plate of food; he always made far too much as if slightly desirous he someday might need to provide a meal that was less solitary, outside of his occasional and highly celebrated dinner parties. Perhaps the ritual also emerged from the harsh period of starvation in childhood which immediately preceded his sister’s death, but he kept those memories in a locked room deep at the back of his memory palace, and chose not to give the idea much contemplation now.

He did not normally care to use the microwave, a problematically artificial device whose stark modernity conflicted with his pristinely old world aesthetic, but he used it now as it was simply the best way to get good food into a tired, hard-working and baffling boy’s hungry stomach. He heard Will’s belly give a plaintive grumble and his heart softened even further, effacing, corrupted by an uninvited, absurd affection with no deep acquaintance to give it understandable substance. It was shapeless but all around and inside him, this inclination to keep Will close and learn everything about him, even gain the nerve to share of himself with intimate honesty, it was all Hannibal seemed to be about in this moment, which was frightening but devilishly exciting.

That was Will Graham all over.

They went back to the dining room for a surprisingly cozy meal, in the course of which Will praised his cookery to the high heavens and made Hannibal’s cheeks flush.

“Curious as to how you obtained my address,” Hannibal remarked, immediately thereafter making the mistake of placing a piece of meat on his tongue and finding the succulent, juicy meat too chewy and almost impossible to swallow. He cleared the food finally with an awkward gulp and took an unusually generous sip of his wine.

“Jack gave it to me, expressly because I begged him, it was embarrassing really, and told him I wanted to apologize in person.”

“Really? Whatever for?”

“Well, for...hitting on you? During a work meeting and when we don’t even know each other. I guess in retrospect I’ve been beating myself up about it all day. I’m not used to feeling guilty like that, but anyway. I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable, Doctor.”

“Please, call me Hannibal,” he said breezily, the lump in his throat still there after swallowing the offensive meat, making him realize it did not originate from the food.

Even his enjoyment of watching Will take his first few, unknowing bites of human flesh was muted by his overwhelming anxiety. How did he look? Was Will going to “hit on him” again or was that off the table now? If so, how to get it back on, or should he be running back to Lithuania in dread of this intense longing? Even the ghosts of his past were beginning to seem less imposing than a commonplace dinner conversation with a perfect stranger.

Problem being, said perfect stranger was far too perfect, and the indomitable Dr. Hannibal Lecter was dominated, was hypnotized by the very sight of him, the sound of his pleasantly manly, melodious voice traipsing lazily over words with utter frankness.

With almost vampyric skill, the boy wove an effortless reverie of charm through the very oxygen that parted them.

“You did not make me uncomfortable in the least,” Hannibal lied. “Perhaps I was merely surprised.” The latter was one hundred percent truth.

“Taken off-guard?” Will wondered. “I bet that doesn’t happen too often. I can’t help feeling a bit flattered.”

“Ah. A keen observation, but it does reveal you are equally as incapable of turning off your psychoanalytic skills.” Hannibal smirked, but he was still blushing, much to his own mortification.

Will’s haunting blue eyes fixed momentarily on Hannibal’s brightly tinged cheeks with unmistakable satisfaction. “You got me there. Does it bother you?”

“Not if we’re to be friends,” Hannibal mused. “Then I might be rather charmed to open myself up to your incisive perceptions of my nature.”

“Hmm.” Will finished a sip of velvety wine and contemplated before replying, “As long as I don’t penetrate too deeply, though, right?”

“You really cannot help flirting, can you, Agent Graham?” Hannibal smiled wider, flashing his pearly fangs, igniting a prideful look in Will, as if the boy was delighted to have brought him amusement and reciprocated engagement.

“I suppose not,” Will admitted, biting his lip for a second. “And please, call me Will.”

The line from Shakespeare pierced Hannibal to the quick -- “Oh, that I was a glove upon that hand!” Oh, to sink his own teeth into those gorgeously plump pink lips, which were in such magnificent contrast to the prickly-looking stubble he longed to feel rubbing against his thighs--

He cleared his throat, but failed to make the distracting, seductive thoughts disperse. “I see,” he said fumblingly, but he didn’t really see anything, or at least nothing appropriate.

“Does that bother you, Hannibal?” Will lavished his first name with throaty attention that raked heat up the older man’s spine.

Will dragged his finger slowly around the rim of his wine glass as something dark and deep sat in his blue gaze, fixated directly on Hannibal without wavering. Hannibal glanced down at the young man’s elegant, long fingers. What strong, working man’s hands, doubtless a little calloused on the palms but so perfectly formed, an extension of a beautifully powerful mind. Everything Jack Crawford had told him, all the rumors he had heard of the astoundingly brilliant agent who closed record numbers of harrowing murder cases, the boy who went to the dark and came back intact, it all felt entirely reductive to Will’s presence.

Hannibal wanted those perfect hands working by his side in the hunt, tearing flesh from bone, those pretty teeth sinking in to rip and taste, as much as he wanted those fingers devastatingly deep inside him, dragging heated pleasure and raunchy gasps from him. He had never considered a full partner, in every sense of the word, but now it was difficult to think of other things.

He forced himself to think of other things, for example that this was simply too perilous, and at any rate he was allowing lust to contort his emotions. How could he be falling in love with a complete stranger mere hours after setting eyes upon him? And if he was, how could he let this continue when it threatened all the independence he had so painstakingly worked into an art? He must remain protected in his haughty fortress, but that did not mean he couldn’t have a bit of fun, so long as he kept his thoughts properly organized.

“No, it doesn’t irk me a bit. All of my friends flirt with me,” he resumed smugly, and the corner of Will’s sumptuous mouth tweaked up in a naughty smirk.

"I bet they do."

Hannibal felt disorganized.

"Would you join me in the living room for another drink?" he asked after cheerfully refusing Will's attempt to help him clear their dishes from the table.

Will cupped the back of his neck and rubbed it, standing in Hannibal's kitchen as if he truly belonged there. Hannibal didn't want him to leave.

"I guess I really shouldn't; I have to fly to Minnesota first thing in the morning to follow up on a lead in the Shrike case."

"Very well, then." Hannibal closed the refrigerator door, having planned to pour them each a glass of the bordeaux blanc.

"I shouldn't," Will grinned mischievously. He had noticed where the wine glasses were kept and took out two clean ones from the cabinet, the movement so intimate somehow, lending Hannibal the fleeting fantasy Will lived here.

Will strode smoothly over to Hannibal and set the glasses down on the counter closer to the refrigerator, so that he lingered near enough to the older man for his delicious body heat and heady, enticing scent of excited desire to be more than evident. Hannibal raised his brows with an intrigued, questioning smile, and Will added in a low, saucy tone, "But I will. I'll stay."

Chapter Text

“You have a beautiful home,” Will smiled as Hannibal led the way to an attractive, but quite imposing living room decorated with numerous renditions of antlers.

Dark shadows seemed to drip from the green fleur de lis wallpaper, draping over the chairs and desks with their hooved feet and arching, jagged antlers, whispering unintelligible secrets, beckoning to Will not to get too comfortable or trusting. He liked it in here; it suited Hannibal perfectly. So many edges and angles, so much complicated emotion thinly veiled in ruthlessly pristine, grimly romantic aesthetic.

They settled into two soft chairs and enjoyed the wine with some more quiet, pleasant conversation, just slowly getting to know each other better. Their intrigued, contented voices followed a languorous path back to vague hints of their boyhoods, then college and career, favorite haunts and hobbies.

Will admired the way Hannibal looked by the low glow of the lamps, the same shadows that floated imposingly on the air sometimes obscuring one side of his face so that he looked wrought from marble, smooth, untouchable and irresistible.

He had always been prone to vivid daydreams and a habit of visualizing his feelings, his interpretations of people and places and experiences. He was used to it; if he saw a row of bright red roses, he might also see blood dripping from the smooth petals. If he looked at Hannibal from a certain angle, the man took on the appearance of a dark, strikingly feral stag. Still the shadows swirled and toyed with Will’s perception; Hannibal’s voice slid down his spine and under his clothes, the doctor’s softly charming wit pressing to his naked skin like clutching fingers, the sensuous rumble in Hannibal’s voice raising his fever.

What was underneath all these fine manners and that goddamn scrumptious three piece suit, and what would it be like to unmask Dr. Hannibal Lecter, expose his most carefully hidden layers and make him desperate for nothing else but more and more of what Will could give him?

His visions seemed more acute than usual, most likely owing to the weird fever and this absolutely wonderful wine, but Will enjoyed the challenge of the overwhelming sensations, a feast of novelty. Everything he saw, heard and felt seemed unbearably heightened, and this was one of the best nights he could remember for quite a long time.

“You play?” Will asked, nodding to the harpsichord behind his chair.

He set his almost empty wine glass down and leaned toward Hannibal, the curious expression on his face adding, is there anything you can’t do?

Hannibal cooked, on a five Michelin star level. He was an eminently respected psychiatrist, had a gorgeous, exquisitely decorated house that was practically a mansion, he looked like the star of an especially posh porno from Will’s outlandishly greedy imagination, and he dressed like a Garrison Bespoke model.

Seriously, if Hannibal was as good in bed as his cocky attitude, ego, intelligence and sexy body implied, how was Will even going to handle him?

With great enthusiasm.

“Indeed. And I compose. The harpsichord is a truly splendid instrument, bringing us back to a more regal and compelling time. I often find my music taking me places I had not intended, and the unpredictability of the instrument is part and parcel of its charm.”

“Can I hear something?” Will asked eagerly, and Hannibal looked so proud and pleased to have been asked.

Dr. Lecter might be a little buzzed himself by now; his words were ever so slightly blurring into that velvety accent, and the blush he’d worn all night was getting even brighter. His carefully slicked back hair had even loosened, falling over his brow so prettily, Will’s fingers longed to reach over and brush it back, then give all that soft, greying hair a few nice hard tugs while…

Easy, Graham, you’re in the middle of a conversation, and this isn’t even officially a date, it’s an apology visit for asking for a date.

“You certainly may.” Hannibal remained fluid in movement despite his slight intoxication, easily slipping out of his suit jacket and folding it carefully over the chair. That was for the best, after all; he wouldn’t want to lose the pocket square.

If anyone had told Will yesterday he was going to fall for a guy who wore pocket squares…

Hannibal upended the rest of Will’s thoughts on the subject by rolling up the sleeves of his brilliant blue shirt, showing off strong forearms and big hands lined in veins. His plaid waistcoat clung to his fit torso while the tie, in shiny paisley, glimmering shades of violet and gold, showed a flair so confident, it really made Will want to tie the good doctor’s wrists together and give him the pounding of a lifetime.

Ahem.

Will made no attempt to keep his eyes off Hannibal’s perfect ass while the older man went to the harpsichord, only complimented the lovely view with the last, long sip of wine in his glass. Yes, he’d love to cover those soft curves in his own claiming handprints, bite marks, nail scratches and bruises.

“....this is one of my favorite compositions by Bach,” Hannibal was saying, smiling shyly as he began playing The Goldberg Variations.

The music built so slowly, tentative at first as clock hands slowly shifting, time moving by reluctant increments, a tease. But then Hannibal’s hands were flying so fast over the keys, sending such lively, vibrant notes into the air that Will was almost dizzy.

“This is incredible,” he could not help exclaiming, staring at Hannibal in amazement.

His outburst threw Hannibal off his flawless game; his fingers stumbled over the next few notes and he stopped short, looking embarrassed.

“Hey,” Will smiled, going over to sit on the bench beside him. He bumped Hannibal’s shoulder with his own and exulted, “I’m not kidding, that was exquisite. I’m genuinely impressed, Hannibal.”

“Since I doubt that you are often genuinely impressed, I shall take that as a compliment,” Hannibal replied, calming down, as if Will’s praise had the power to heal his soul so quickly. That power felt like the best high Will had ever known aside from killing.

“You’re right about that,” he answered with a quiet tension. “Think I can impress you, too?”

Will wanted to make a move so badly, but if he went for the kiss and Hannibal wasn’t ready, it could shatter this magical evening. He was still testing the waters, content to do so for now, even as his desire roared inside him so profoundly.

“You already have.” Hannibal’s eyes were like amber blown glass, molten gold. His lips were so damn kissable, it hurt.

Will leaned in just a little closer and Hannibal didn’t move away. The tension between them threatened to ignite and consume everything touching Will’s senses. Hannibal smelled of luxurious cologne, spicy and seductive, and Will shifted even closer, smiling with gentle questions welling in his eyes.

Hannibal nodded and Will closed his eyes, then barely brushed their lips together, creating a warmth that flowed from the point of contact all through his body, sending electricity down his spine.

“This is kind of soon,” he whispered against Hannibal’s lips.

“Especially since you came here tonight to apologize for flirting with me,” Hannibal affirmed teasingly.

Will laughed softly, then grabbed him by the necktie and layed a harder, smoldering kiss on his lips, easing his tongue between them to caress Hannibal’s own, loving the moan that echoed between them, hot, slick, unidentifiable as separate to either, the product of their mutual yearning made real.

“Dr. Lecter, imagine the scandal,” he teased when they drew back again, “If Jack ever found out--”

Just then, as if he’d gone too far by mentioning his boss’s name and invited disaster, his phone rudely vibrated in his back pocket.

“Never mind that,” Will muttered dismissively, wanting more of the taste of Hannibal’s mouth, especially on the inside, the honeysuckle notes from the wine and Hannibal’s heat, how easy it was to give him pleasure and take his own. How tempting.

He took Hannibal’s face between his hands and kissed him with decadent slowness, tracing the shape of his lips with his tongue, sucking the lower lip and nipping it before lavishing his tongue against Hannibal’s with increasing boldness.

Hannibal clung to his elbows and moaned again, almost a whimper. “Will, I…”

The phone vibrated again. “Dammit,” Will grumbled, whipping it out of his pocket and checking the screen to see two missed calls from Jack, indeed as if his reckless jokes had summoned the interruption.

“Ugh, for fuck’s sake, I can’t have one night to myself,” Will frowned, “Sorry, I have to call Jack or he’ll never leave me alone. It’s probably important.”

“Not entirely to yourself,” Hannibal purred, slumping against him and kissing his neck with slow, expert precision.

Will’s cock ached, filled out and pressed against his trousers as he groaned in pleasure. Hannibal’s mouth was so good, pretty, hot, skilled, just begging to have Will’s dick plunging hard and deep inside, fucking right to the back of his throat so that sexy accent was going to sound so raspy afterwards, God--

“You need to fly to Minnesota tonight,” Jack snapped, apropos of a greeting so that Will knew there had been another murder right away. Poor Jack, this case was really eating him alive.

“I have a flight booked for the morning, I’ll be there by--”

“No, now. I’m on my way to the airport myself, I’ll see you in an hour.”

Will sighed, wrapping a lazy arm around Hannibal to encourage the doctor’s attentive nuzzling into the soft skin between his neck and shoulder, where the older man was laying a particularly sloppy kiss.

“Oh! Oh-kay, I’ll see you then,” he promised Jack, then ended the call.

“Do you have any idea how good that feels?” He sighed, running his fingers through Hannibal’s hair, enjoying the silky texture and the chance to mess him up, at least a little.

A sneak preview.

“I know how much I want you to show me,” Hannibal said thickly, his eyes half-lidded.

“Mmm, don’t tempt me. I’ve got to sober up and drive to the airport.” He kissed Hannibal’s forehead, then covered his own mouth as he yawned.

Standing, he stretched his arms and tried to shake himself from this stupor of infatuation. But Hannibal stared up at him with this adorably disappointed little pout and Will just melted automatically.

“Do you...wanna come with me?” he invited, “To Minnesota? To investigate a cannibalistic serial killer and hopefully catch him?”

Hannibal’s eyes flitted over Will’s face with a sudden flash of something he couldn’t quite read, as if there was some amusing or ironic component of the invitation in addition to the obviously morbid suggestion it contained.

“Our first official date,” Hannibal grinned.

***

After two cups of black coffee and substantial straightening out of both their clothes, Will called his parents to let them know of his earlier departure, although it wouldn’t much change what time they needed to take care of the dogs in the morning.

There wasn’t time to go home and get his luggage, so Hannibal packed some extra clothes from his own wardrobe in a separate, incredibly fancy suitcase for Will and they were off in the doctor’s shiny Bentley. Will felt like a million bucks, completely distracted from his impending work in the best way.

His floaty sensation lasted the whole drive staring at Hannibal’s beautiful profile by moonlight and enjoying the deft way he drove, sure and serene, his hand occasionally reaching for Will’s, giving a squeeze or a brush of his knuckles to make the younger man’s knees weak.

As they undid their seatbelts, Will suggested, “Maybe let me explain why you’re here? I’m pretty good at smoothing things over with Jack.”

“He’s your supervisor, feel free to do the talking,” Hannibal agreed. He got out first and circled the car to open the door for Will.

“What a gentleman,” Will marveled, feeling spoiled. Maybe the reason his other dates never turned him on or thrilled him this much was that nobody ever treated him with such thoughtful care.

As he got out of the car, Hannibal put one large, warm hand on the side of his stomach and poured hot breath against his cheek along with the husky words, “I can still taste your kiss.”

He pressed a soft one to Will’s cheek and smiled knowingly as Will took a few deep, bracing breaths.

***

“Dr. Lecter,” Jack said with surprise as the men approached him in the airport lobby, pulling their suitcases on wheels behind them. With the diminished personal space and automatically coordinating paces, they looked like a married couple. “Are you joining us?”

“Well, he was with me when you called. I went over to apologize for the way I acted at this morning’s meeting, and we ended up talking about the case for a few hours. Since he’s up to speed, I thought we’d benefit from having Dr. Lecter’s perspective on this.”

Jack obviously saw right through this threadbare explanation of their impromptu date night, not least of all because both men were still blushing and their mouths were slightly swollen from kissing. However, he was too busy and invested in the work to waste time complaining or accusing.

“Fine, I agree it’s a privilege to have your insight here, Dr. Lecter.” Jack looked about two seconds shy of rolling his eyes.

“Thank you, Agent Crawford, I appreciate the opportunity to see how the FBI operates and offer my services in helping good Will see this cannibal’s face.” Hannibal was so prim and proper, but his arm was brushing Will’s shoulder, they were standing so close.

“Right. Let’s go get you a ticket,” Jack suggested, heading for the booking desk ahead of them.

“I don’t think he suspects a thing,” Will whispered, kidding, making Hannibal chuckle.

“See if you can keep your hands off each other while we’re working,” Jack tossed over his shoulder, making Will cringe at the call-out.

***

“Today was grueling,” Will sighed the following night, flinging himself onto the motel bed as Hannibal closed the door behind them and smilingly guided their suitcases in.

“You did a remarkable job analyzing the murder scene,” Hannibal noted, sitting on the bed beside him. “It was an honor to watch you work.”

“Likewise,” Will answered, his eyes fluttering open as he regarded Hannibal with interest. “Your insights really helped. We work well together, Doctor.”

Hannibal leaned in to affectionately tap his nose. “I think so, too.”

“Is this place way too scuzzy for you to stand staying in?” Will asked, sitting up and caressing Hannibal’s arm lightly with one finger. The small, stolen, teasing touches between them had been driving him crazy all day.

“Normally, I would prefer the best possible hotel in the area, but I know you’re expected to use the accommodations provided by the FBI,” Hannibal mused. “I also usually choose a place that includes an en suite kitchen. I am very picky about what goes in my mouth, and as a consequence I tend to make most meals myself.”

“With a mouth like this, I don’t blame you for being picky,” Will answered flirtatiously, brushing his thumb over Hannibal’s lips. “Hmm. Are you heading out, then, to find a better hotel with a nice big kitchen? Escape this fearful hovel?”

“No.” Hannibal kissed Will’s finger. “I’ll stay here with you, unless you have other plans.”

Will smiled, calmed and centered by the idea of Hannibal staying. They felt inextricably bound already in a way that mystified him.

“In that case, let me shower, then take you out to dinner on FBI funds,” Will suggested. “There’s a Denny’s right next door that…”

He dissolved into laughter as Hannibal made a repulsed expression that was the cutest and funniest thing he’d ever seen.

“Okay, okay, I’m just kidding. You take me out to dinner, any place you like.”

Hannibal smiled resplendently and Will tossed him the visitor’s guide to Nowhere, Minnesota that sat on the bedside table.

“Even in the middle of nowhere, I’m sure you can find something special. Surprise me.”

“It would be my utmost pleasure to surprise you, Will.” Hannibal’s delighted face contained such multitudes, Will couldn’t stop thinking about the man’s complexities as he headed to the bathroom for a much-needed shower.

Hannibal was entirely composed of secrets, it seemed, and uniquely able to dangle them in front of Will’s face, then pull them away right before he could figure it all out.

Still, it was only a matter of time before Will got to the truth of Hannibal Lecter. He was an amazing detective, after all, with intense empathy and seasoned analytical abilities, even clouded by affection that was blooming far too quickly in his previously cold heart. As he massaged shampoo into his hair, Will thought he couldn’t wait to keep diving into this romantic adventure, certain there were many more sweet surprises to come.

***

When he reemerged, a towel around his waist and another in his hand as he rubbed his hair dry, Will saw Hannibal fast asleep on the bed, the city guide pamphlet still open in his hand.

Sighing at how sweet and peaceful, how beautiful the older man looked immersed in slumber, Will went closer and sat down beside him, examining his face and the way his brow furrowed as a frown formed in result of whatever dreams he was lost in. Will caressed his face, wondering if Hannibal’s demons were anywhere near as dangerous as his own. Whatever that danger was, he could taste it on the air between them, just as palpable as the sweetness and vulnerability. There were the teeth and claws, too, always, for them both. He saw it in Hannibal’s elegant features under increasingly restless repose, his hands now grasping the blanket as if in violent defense.

Still stroking Hannibal’s face slowly, Will hovered over him and placed a gentle kiss on his lips, then another. Hannibal half-roused, his hands relaxing on the blanket, then rising to frame Will’s hips. Will let himself sink against the doctor and moaned into the next kiss to find they were both equally hard. Their lips parted and Will looked into Hannibal’s still sleepy eyes, feasting again on the unknown, on this intense need burning him up inside.

“Hi there,” he murmured, reaching down to press Hannibal’s hand to the hasty fold of his towel which was the only fabric concealing his nakedness. He was still warm from the shower, his skin flushed and moist. Hannibal’s eyes widened and he looked up at Will with fierce yearning.

“I think we should eat in tonight, actually,” Will said with a smile that felt very serious, his voice sure but throaty with desire. He nuzzled his face into Hannibal’s, teasing him with another too-brief kiss, his breath tickling Hannibal’s lips. “What do you think?”

Yes,” Hannibal answered on a halting breath, deftly removing Will’s towel and tossing it aside, and then they were making out like shameless teenagers who had each never been kissed, never seen an attractive person naked before, like two horny virgins on the last night before the end of the world.

Hannibal groped Will’s ass and licked aggressively into his mouth, so greedy and fast it made Will dizzy. “Oh, God, Daddy,” Will moaned, then turned red in the face, straddling a clothed Hannibal while completely naked himself in many senses of the word.

But he hadn’t gone too far in letting this particular kink slip from his lips; it only made Hannibal moan back, the sound deep in his throat and reflecting a reciprocated arousal all too apparent as well from the thickening hard-on nudging the front of the doctor’s plaid suit pants.

“You like that?” Will asked, sitting up astride Hannibal and unbuttoning his shirt. “Like me calling you Daddy?”

“Yes,” Hannibal said again, so uncharacteristically monosyllabic in this encounter, as if his repeated assent was all that he needed to vocalize, and everything else he preferred to tell Will with his body.

“Yes,” he whispered, effortlessly flipping their positions so that Will lay under him.

With his blue shirt undone, showing off a broad, hairy, muscular chest and a toned stomach with a cute little roundness, Hannibal went back to his favorite new hobby of obsessively kissing Will’s neck. Will gasped and clutched Hannibal’s hair as the older man’s insatiable mouth seemed half-intending to eat him, the kisses so lush and savoring, building to experimental bites which grew more intense when Will cried out in obviously delirious approval. One hand still pulling Hannibal’s hair, the other under his shirt dragging nails down his powerful back, Will gave a wanton mewl when the doctor bit his soft, vulnerable neck hard enough to leave a claiming mark, then sucked the bite mark, drawing an ecstatic combined pain and pleasure from Will.

This was how Hannibal played the harpsichord, the opposite of the way he acted among others, so formal and refined. Here, playing Will’s body like his latest brilliant composition, Hannibal showed equal parts expertise and desperate passion, biting Will’s shoulder, his bicep, licking his collarbones and then his nipples, his big hand sweeping down over the younger man’s smooth chest and stomach with calculation, confidence, but so much need. His eyes were lust-blown and raging when he brought them back to Will’s face, before touching in such a more intimate way.

It was Will’s turn to say, with panting encouragement, “Yes, yes, yes--”

Hannibal generously licked his own hand, then wrapped it around Will’s rock-hard dick and began to slowly stroke, pleasure emanating from his every touch as Will sputtered out sighs and gasps.

“So, so good, Daddy, you’re so good to me, oh, please don’t stop,” he begged, throwing his head back as the sensation built too fast -- too soon to come, he wanted to save it all up until they had been at this for ages -- he bit his lip, but couldn’t help asking for what he wanted next, even knowing it was probably going to be the end of his endurance.

“I think it’s time we put that pretty mouth of yours to good use,” he said, his cocky brashness resurging despite the aching tremble in his voice.

Hannibal smiled smugly when Will put a hand on his head and pushed him down a little.

“Like this?” Hannibal suggested, delicately licking the tip and swallowing Will’s precum before he enveloped Will’s rigid length in his velvety, slick mouth, rocking his head back and forth in a perfect tempo.

Bliss such as Will had never tasted seemed to be blooming from inside him just as these tender emotions had grown, and his fascination with Hannibal’s mysteries, from the first time their eyes locked. Pleasure shook him like a storm and he cried out so loudly, as his toes curled and his fingers twisted in Hannibal’s hair, that he was sure someone would complain to motel management pretty soon.

“Hnnhh, fuck, oh-my-God--” He blurted, losing the ability to form even his simplest, coarsest words when Hannibal deep-throated him and Will almost convulsed with unbelievable pleasure -- thank goodness he didn’t come yet, he still really wanted to make this last, but God, God, God…

No one he’d been with before had been like this, powerfully skilled and one hundred percent focused on nothing but his enjoyment, and Hannibal was so unstoppably intense, it almost seemed as if Will’s pleasure brought him his own, and he was growing addicted. He pulled his mouth off of Will’s cock with a loud, wet popping sound, but went on stroking him exquisitely from base to tip as he sucked his balls with just enough pressure to bring increased pleasure with no discomfort, smiling delightedly at Will’s continued ragged gasps.

“Get your fucking clothes off and get under me,” Will ordered, at the moment he knew he was again right on the brink of orgasm.

Will’s rough insistence made Hannibal moan as the older man shrugged off his shirt, then undid his pants and bared himself. He lay down on his back with perfect obedience and Will got his first look at the everything he had wanted so deeply to see all along. Well, almost everything. He still didn’t know every motive, hope, fear and plot making the doctor’s heart thunder when he pressed his lips to his chest.

Look at you,” Will sighed, dragging his hands down Hannibal’s hairy chest and stomach, tracing his hips and squeezing his thighs. Every inch of the man was perfection, making Will want to commit himself to obsessive worship. “My handsome Daddy. Are you all mine tonight?”

Hannibal nodded, his brown eyes soft and intent on Will’s blazing stare.

“Yeah?” Will asked in a roughly teasing tone which somehow managed to hold all of his immense affection as well. “All mine, every stunning, delectable inch of you.”

He stretched himself over Hannibal, barely allowing their groins to touch, just a quick slide of their erections to make them both groan in immediate pleasure. Will kissed Hannibal’s neck, his own still joyously resonating pain from his lover’s bite. He marked Hannibal in the same exact place, and the doctor let out a coarse breath, rocking his hips desperately to try and get friction from Will’s cock. His hands slid down Will’s sweat-slick back and the fever pulsed wildly in the agent’s brain. “That’s right, you’re mine.”

Will pinned Hannibal’s hands down hard, his strong grip merciless on the doctor’s wrists shoved against rumpled grey sheets. The younger man’s powerful biceps flexed as he held Hannibal right where he wanted him, then leaned in to mutter in his ear, “I want to go all the way. Would you like that, Daddy?” With a devilish smile at Hannibal’s softly pleading moans, Will added, “Want me to fuck you?”

Hannibal’s eyes were filled with tears as he nodded, helplessly surrendering to Will’s whims.

“Say it,” Will commanded, rocking them together so that their cocks slid flush again, pleasure radiating from the contact, sizzling through his being and warming his core. “I want to hear you say it.”

“Please, Will,” Hannibal begged. He looked so lost and confused, as if he didn’t understand how he had been brought to this place of submissive need, lying there like a ragdoll pillow princess, about to break into a million pieces if he couldn’t have Will’s cock inside him.

“I want you to fuck me,” he added meekly, and Will kissed his lips, smiling with approval.

“I want to make you feel so good, Daddy, like you deserve.” Will got the bottle of lube which Hannibal blushingly admitted to packing in his suitcase, then wasted no further time in crawling down the bed to suck Hannibal off, displaying his own stunning oral skills as the size and weight of the older man’s gorgeous cock made him even hotter and harder himself.

He stroked Hannibal’s cock slowly, then dripped plenty of saliva on his tight hole and ate him out, rapturous at the chance to drive the polite, sophisticated therapist completely out of his mind with pleasure. He had never been this passionate with anyone, licking and fingering Hannibal open as the obscenities dropping from his tongue revealed how turned on he was by his lover’s submission and the clinging, warm clutch of his beautiful body. Then Will understood how Hannibal had managed to portray this same feeling when he was the one giving pleasure and Will received; there did not seem to be any line dividing their bliss as individual. Will’s long, slender fingers drove harder and deeper inside Hannibal, pressing to his prostate, and Hannibal’s startled cries of ecstasy mingled with the excitement making Will’s heart skip several beats as his cock throbbed with the need to be sheathed in the older man.

“Ready for me, huh?” Will smiled, his lips glossy-wet with precum and spit as Hannibal traced them, then pulled Will down into his strong arms for a long kiss.

“Fuck me, baby,” Hannibal sighed, and Will reached down to slick his bulging, needy cock to his lover's entrance.

“Just like this?” Will pushed inside slowly, his fingers curled against Hannibal’s face, his knuckles stroking the chiseled cheekbones tenderly.

Hannibal was incredibly tight even after Will’s lengthy and dedicated foreplay, and it had to hurt, so Will took it very carefully, waiting for Hannibal to get used to the fullness inside him inch by inch.

The tension of holding back from pressing in harder and faster was almost more than Will could take. Hannibal felt so indescribably good, as if Will was finally where he had always needed to be without realizing it. His body held Will close and tight, sucking him in slowly, and Will grunted while sweat dripped from his face onto Hannibal’s.

“You’re beautiful,” Will praised, unprepared for the way this made tears of exertion and pained joy stream from Hannibal’s eyes. “Oh, Hannibal.”

Realization dawned and he softly caressed Hannibal’s hip in soothing circles. “This is the first time you’ve bottomed, isn’t it?”

Hannibal nodded, bashful, and locked his legs around Will’s back, helping his cock to slide the last few inches in until Will was fully seated. They stared into each other’s eyes with ragged breaths, then Hannibal repeated in a broken whimper, “More, please. Please...Will…? Please.”

Will snarled in lustful ferocity and pinned him to the bed again, pulling out almost all the way before slamming in to the hilt. Hannibal went on moaning and crying, but there was no mistaking his response as that of pain or dislike of the experience. Every reaction painted an unforgettable portrait of a man discovering a pleasure so deep it resculpted him, and whenever he could summon the clarity to speak an actual word, it was always the same plea, “More, Will, please!”

“You’re so fucking needy, aren’t you? Aren’t you?” Will accused adoringly, fucking Hannibal solidly into the bed; the mattress was soaked in sweat and precum, musk and desire thick in the air, the weak bedframe loudly rattling with every rough snap of his hips.

“Yes,” Hannibal sputtered out deliriously, “Yes, just for you, Will.”

“Good.” Will grinned resplendently, like pure sunshine. He was so incredibly happy, he could burst in more than one way. “Because I’m the same way over you, Daddy. Roll over for me.”

He pulled out of Hannibal with a momentary groan of deprivation and waited for the older man to get into the new position in accordance with his order.

“Mmm.” Will’s palm circled Hannibal’s plush ass teasingly, then he pulled back and gave him one good, firm spanking. “Like that, too?”

Hannibal cried out in some foreign language that was goddamn gorgeous, the most profane poetry. “Yes, yes,” he added hastily in English.

“Your fucking perfect, gorgeous body,” Will murmured possessively. He wanted Hannibal to be his forever, and in the fever rush of this heart-pounding encounter, he had lost track of all the reasons why forming such a strong attachment a day after meeting was a terrible idea.

“Need it again, even harder, Daddy?”

Hannibal nodded, “Give me everything you have to give.”

He pressed his hands to the sheets as Will gripped his hip in one hand and used the other to ease himself back into the doctor’s still relaxed and slick hole.

Fuck,” Will grunted, shaking his head in disbelief at the tight, warm perfection.

Spanking Hannibal a few more times, he let go of his last fraying strand of restraint and pounded into him relentlessly, targeting the older man’s prostate so that a few thrusts later, Hannibal was red-faced and slightly drooling while his orgasm roared through him, making his whole body shudder. Will could only imagine the intensity of what was probably his first prostate stimulation orgasm, and he felt such prideful delight in being lucky enough to be the one to give it to him. The turn-on of this, and of Hannibal’s weak, nonstop begging for Will to keep going, sent him over the edge until his hips spasmed hard against Hannibal's pink, spanked ass and he came with a startled cry. His cum shot deep inside Hannibal and he kept on fucking, drawing every millisecond of bliss out to the longest possible depth.

Will’s body shook, his mind reeling in disbelief at the tremendous pleasure taking him over, but he made sure to take the time to soothe Hannibal’s overwhelmed state, withdrawing from the doctor’s body and draping himself over it with soft coos of further praise and lots of sweet kisses to Hannibal’s sweaty brow, his ears, his neck and back. Using his body weight to anchor Hannibal in affectionate solicitude, Will thanked him and told him how good he had been, how perfect he felt, how he couldn’t wait to do it again.

Hannibal remained silent but leaned into and accepted every drop of attention as if he was still starving and parched for it. Will knew the feeling: enough couldn’t possibly be enough.

Chapter Text

Hannibal was everything and everywhere at once in his emotions afterwards, and none of them the things he had ever wanted or expected himself to be.

Lying in Will’s arms like a broken toy, he was enraptured, baffled, sore in so many places, his skin buzzing with continual pleasure as his body had been made a monument to the memory of their lovemaking. The ache in the place where he had once been virginally tight, the shining bruises, handprints and bite marks, the scratches on his back, they made him shiver in joy and cling onto Will like a liferaft. This cheap bed in a random motel had become a terrifyingly immense stormy sea, ripping him from all of his moorings. For quite some time, he couldn’t speak. He thought he was still crying, but couldn’t be sure.

All he could feel, or wanted to feel was the welcome burn of Will’s sex-flushed skin beneath him; he inhaled deeply of the boy’s sweet fever and sensual musk, proud to find his flesh also bore the markings of his own cologne. But that wasn’t all he could feel, no matter how fiercely he tried to shut himself down to everything else.

The fear became so large, it threatened to swallow him whole, and finally Will murmured gently, “Come on, love, let me take care of you some more.”

Hannibal looked up at him, wide-eyed and puzzled.

He had never had someone inside him, never made love because he was falling in love. He had never let anyone call him “daddy,” certainly never said “baby,” and now he had done all of it without hesitation. He was about to submit to aftercare as he had submitted to the rest, and he worried that the tenderness would destroy whatever was left of him.

“I get the sense you’re not used to this bit, huh? Least not you being on the receiving end. But I’m afraid I really am gonna have to take care of you, Hannibal. Think you can stand it?”

I suppose we shall see.

He was in absolutely no condition to say no to Will Graham.

Will lamented that the tiny shower wouldn’t suffice for a bath, but he got into it with Hannibal and laughed off the older man’s quiet complaints at the cramped space.

“Don’t worry, I’m good at fitting big things into tiny places,” Will smirked, washing Hannibal so attentively, kissing all of his love-wounds, his eyes shining with happiness at the way he had marked his lover up, claimed his territory.

Hannibal laughed weakly at the joke and melted into the process of Will washing him. He was still half-hypnotized by the sight of Will naked, just by Will’s presence in his life for that matter, the long period of time they had spent together when he’d been so sure he had ruined any chance of them being romantic by his absurd fearfulness during their first encounter. It dawned on him, as Will sat him on the bed dressed in his pajamas (they both were, and it felt achingly domestic) and called for take-out from the finest nearby restaurant who would deliver. Before Will carefully, slowly fed him his dinner, bite by bite of duck l’orange and crispy dill white and sweet potatoes, smiling and pressing kisses to his lips between bites, pouring them both some wine in paper cups and sucking the sweet taste off Hannibal’s mouth delightedly.

He knew while he was waiting that he felt dependent on having nights like this always, together, and that he might not be able to bear this feeling much longer. His growing need for Will ballooned inside him so that he thought it would crush everything else, his ego, his meticulously curated lifestyle, his haughty disdain for vulnerability, being master of all he surveyed. How could he let those precious things go so easily, all for something so terrifyingly fragile that might end at any moment?

Any day now, and perhaps once Hannibal was far more attached, Will could wake up and decide it was over, Hannibal had ceased to please or fascinate him, and they would part; he would probably have to kill the boy in that case, but even if he did not, even if he had been made weak enough to let Will reject him and live, Will would be gone, and Hannibal with him, incapable of summoning a happy or hopeful emotion ever again.

He could not let this go so far, had to stop it like a bleed, be a surgeon again for this, this formidable danger looming over his destiny. He would have to find some way to be without Will, for the sake of his own sanity. But he couldn’t bring himself to kill his sweet, incomparable boy; as a consolation prize to himself, he allowed himself the perhaps temporary measure of leaving Will alive. Giving himself the pointless hope that perhaps he would change his mind and feel strong enough to return to Will’s arms, pathetic and weak enough to surrender once more to this sentimental addiction. It was the only way he could make himself leave.

Will was a clingy snuggler, and he talked in his sleep, adorable slurring comments jumbled by wild dreams; three times he sighed Hannibal’s name and held him tighter in the dark, formerly anonymous room that had become their sanctuary. Hannibal could barely stand to unwind himself from Will’s heavy embrace and creep from the room like a shadow. He left a note for Will that filled him with guilt, guilt which sat bitter on his tongue with agonizing, instant regret at his own coldness, the way he must force himself to be.

He still wanted to help Will with the Shrike case; his affection could not stand the thought of leaving Minnesota without also leaving Will a gift. A local farmer found the girl’s corpse in the morning, in a sun-soaked yet desolately cold field, mounted on antlers.

***

Waking up alone was like a slap of cold water to Will’s face. He thought he must be imagining it at first, but Hannibal was nowhere to be found; he’d taken his suitcase and just...fucking gone.

His stomach twisted in confused hurt feelings, and when he saw the note on the bedside table, he immediately regretted reading it.

I’m sorry Will, this is moving too fast for me. I need some space. -H.

Look at that exquisite, perfect cursive, twirled with a cheap plastic pen on a pad of “Moosehill Motel” paper. Will crumpled the note and flung it against the wall, refusing to let a single tear fall from his reddened eyes.

With prideful aggravation, he hauled himself into the day’s work, grateful when he soon ran into Jack in the motel lobby for check-out.

Well, grateful until he remembered about all the damn noise he and Hannibal had made last night. That had been pretty short-sighted, considering that Jack was staying in the same motel and the place wasn’t all that big.

“Did you, uh, get a good night’s sleep?” Will asked awkwardly.

“White noise app on my phone and excellent headphones,” Jack smiled, unfazed by the question. He obviously hadn’t heard a thing; Will felt some relief on this count, at least. “I always sleep like a baby on these trips.”

Will's supervisor scanned the small lobby expectantly. "Where's Dr. Lecter, isn't he coming along today?"

"He had to leave suddenly, head back to Baltimore to deal with a patient in crisis," Will lied, wishing that was the real reason. If Hannibal had to leave abruptly, it'd be nice to have it be the result of anything except escaping Will's arms.

Jack sighed in mingled annoyance and suspicion at the lame excuse. "Well, that certainly was sudden."

The awkward conversation ended when Jack’s phone rang with news of another murder, and by the time they got to the field, Will’s head was killing him. The crime scene annoyed him, some transparent copycat mocking the Shrike’s M.O.

“The real killer has no interest in, in field kabuki!” he insisted to Jack, flame-cheeked with indignation at this wretched day, following on from possibly his favorite night of all time. A rude awakening, indeed.

Jack looked unconvinced, so Will raged on, “He has a house somewhere in the woods, or a cabin -- some place with an antler room.” He began ticking traits off his fingers as they popped into his mind like magic, as if compelled into crystallization by the sight of the latest corpse. As if this copycat killer had to show him the negative so that he could see the positive.

“He has a daughter,” Will insisted, “She’s leaving home -- he can’t bear to lose her. She’s his golden ticket.”

The clues cascaded from the black-blurred blue skies in his mind like manna and led him finally to the correct former workplace, the right file of addresses, and the home of Garret Jacob Hobbs, an ordinary contract construction worker, but so much more.

***

Will rang the doorbell at the Hobbs house and cursed himself for not buying a second bottle of aspirin at the airport. He couldn’t wait to get this over with and get home to dive into bed and pull the covers up over his head, possibly for the rest of time.

But he knew this was the place, and he wasn’t about to let his personal angst distract him from putting a stop to these murders of innocent young girls. Time to end this once and for all and impale the Shrike on the antlers of his justice.

As it happened, the golden ticket herself opened the door. He was face to face with an endearingly vivacious college aged girl with wind-chafed cheeks and shining auburn hair. He had a weird feeling (but then, when did he not lately?) as if they had already known each other a long time.

“Hi, I’m Agent Will Graham with the FBI, I need to ask your dad some questions,” he greeted quietly and casually, flashing his badge; no need to get anyone worried or afraid by his arrival.

The girl crinkled her nose. “FBI? What’s it about?”

“Just some routine questions. Can you go get him?”

“He’s in the middle of making dinner and I don’t want him to burn it, why don’t you just come in,” she suggested with a shrug.

Will could tell she was really unsettled by his presence but cleverly sought to act like it didn’t bother her at all.

He trailed the girl to the kitchen where her father, a gaunt, blank-faced man with chilling eyes, was cooking sausage and eggs. Across the room, Hobbs’ wife was getting out plates and silverware. Just another night, another family dinner. Will felt an odd, fleeting twinge of regret that he had to tear the disguise of Hobbs’ goodness away forever. He analyzed the room and its occupants, sussing out any potential mishap that might occur from him showing up like this.

”Who was at the door, Abigail?” her father asked lightly.

“Dad, this is Agent Graham with the FBI, he said he’s got to ask you some questions,” Abigail chirped, unprepared when her father abruptly dropped his spatula, his dead eyes locking on Will’s face with silent shock and immediate planning.

Oh, God, he’s going to--

Hobbs lunged for the butcher knife on the center island and grabbed out for his daughter’s arm. If he was about to be stopped, he had to finish this first, had to kill Abigail.

I don’t think so. Will put a single bullet in Hobbs’ head and the man crumpled heavily to the floor, his hand falling from its clutch on Abigail’s shoulder.

The wife, Melinda, dropped the dishes to the floor with an almighty shatter and Abigail sank to her knees, staring in shock at her father’s dead body.

“Abigail,” Will sighed, “I’m so sorry, but I had to do that. He was going to kill you.”

Abigail nodded as tears streamed down her face. She reached out to touch her father as if to console his spirit, but dropped her hands before making contact. She looked up at Will with some kind of terrible acceptance. “I know. Thank you.”

***

She was a brave, strong girl. Jack was sure she knew about her father’s activities, might have even been helping him commit the murders. Will insisted this could not be the case; really he knew there was a decent chance Jack’s suspicion was valid, yet what would be solved by punishing Abigail for her involvement? She was a young, traumatized woman who had likely been too afraid to disobey her father, and Will just wanted her to have the time and space she needed to recover in a healthy way, with her mother’s support...to get the chance to see for herself, who she was and wanted to be.

“I’m going to be an FBI agent when I’m done with college,” Abigail informed Will when he took his leave of her, having accompanied her and Melinda from the police station where they had been questioned back home.

“I bet you are,” Will smiled. “Listen, if you’re ever looking for a mentor, feel free to look me up.”

Abigail took his card and thanked him again. Will hoped that if he ever had a daughter someday, she’d be like Abigail.

The flight home was mercifully uneventful, and when he got back home, he was glad for the distraction of a few pressing responsibilities that had to be taken care of. Otherwise, he probably would have surrendered to full-on depression over Hannibal, and his pride would never forgive him for that.

***

One Week Later

“Okay, I’m just gonna ask. What in the world is eating you, son?” Travis Graham set down his knife and fork and momentarily abandoned his ham dinner, giving his son a concerned look.

“Travis, don’t poke at him too much, he just got done with an exhausting case, he hasn’t been feeling well…” Maddie Graham frowned at her husband, who shrugged.

“Somebody hadda ask, he’s been sitting there staring at the wall for the last half hour…”

“He still has ears, though,” Will snarked, pointing to his ear. “I’m still here and able to converse, guys, even if I’ve been a little...off lately.”

“Is it about the Shrike case? Or are you still feeling under the weather?” Maddie asked, refilling all of their glasses of lemonade from a jug of fresh-squeezed in the middle of the table.

“Oh, it’s okay for you to ask,” Travis grumbled.

Will laughed, revived somewhat from his sullen mood by his parent’s good-natured bickering. With their thick Louisiana accents and laid-back manners, they never failed to help him relax, but his parents couldn’t fix his latest conundrum, even with their wisest advice.

“It’s neither, actually,” Will admitted. Hell, he might as well say it; they weren’t going to stop worrying about him until he stopped sulking, and that might not happen for months. If ever.

“It’s...well, I met this guy…”

“You’re seeing someone, honey? That’s wonderful,” Maddie enthused, immediately setting her glasses on her nose and reaching out her hand. “Pictures, please.”

“I mean, we’re not even dating,” Will sighed, rolling his eyes. Nonetheless, he took out his phone and showed his parents the photos of Hannibal which he had screen-shotted from the internet like a total stalker.

Dr. Hannibal Lecter,” Travis repeated, raising his eyebrows, impressed.

“Ohhhh, a doctor,” Maddie grinned.

Will groaned and held out a hand. “Okay, gimme that back, don’t get too excited. Yes, he’s a doctor, and he’s accomplished, handsome, sophisticated, but he also dropped me like a hot potato just when we were starting to get really close, so. You know. That’s why I’m feeling…” He roved his hand in the air in front of his melancholy expression and his clothes, which had reverted to rumpled flannel. “Like this.”

The borrowed clothing from Hannibal was still neatly packed in the doctor’s suitcase, stowed in a corner of Will’s living room. He hadn’t figured out yet what he wanted to do with it -- return it, keep the clothes as the only vestiges he got to retain and obsess over from the whole torrid affair, what? There were no easy answers, which as the man who always had the answers when others, even experts, remained clueless, was infuriating.

“Maybe he just needs time,” Maddie suggested, and Will sighed.

“That’s what Beverly said, too.”

“I like that girl. She and I always agree.” Maddie gestured with her fork and Will cracked a weak smile.

“He did ask me for space, but he hasn’t bothered contacting me in seven days, three hours, forty-seven minutes and…”

“Will, if you tell me the number of seconds, you know I’m gonna have to get the Ben and Jerry’s,” Travis observed.

“Ugh, you may as well get it,” Will admitted. He glanced at the clock on the striped wallpaper of his parents’ dining room and added forlornly, “five seconds.”

As they all tucked into bowls of Cherry Garcia, Will reflected, “I feel like I’m getting my heart broken right when I finally realized how to use it. It just doesn’t seem fair.”

“One thing I know for sure is this,” Travis mused, “The Will Graham I raised doesn’t give up this easy. If you really care for this man, you owe it to both of you to try and work it out.”

“Call him up, talk to him,” Maddie put in, “What harm can it do?”

“Um, he might completely destroy me all over again and leave me needing another three pints of this,” Will suggested, nodding down at pink, chocolate-flecked ice cream. “Honestly, if Hannibal Lecter rejects me one more time, I think I’m gonna need this stuff in an IV.”

***

Still, his parents’ advice had been sound, and Will couldn’t get Hannibal off his mind without some chance for closure. He swallowed his pride and dialed the doctor’s number, standing out on his porch that night after he’d left his safe, happy parents in their cozy little house and returned to his own brand of rustic solitude.

The dogs played merrily in the yard as Will scowled accusingly at the way the phone rang three times. The nerve...if Hannibal let him go to voicemail…

He leaned his arms on the porch railing and felt the cold fall air penetrating his thin brown jacket, saw his breath puffing in front of him and just wanted to get this fucking over with. The serene sound of Hannibal’s voicemail greeting sent him right over the edge of annoyance and he blurted out his message accordingly.

“Hello, Dr. Lecter. This is Agent Will Graham. Maybe you remember me, maybe not, I really can’t tell from your complete silence. I still have your luggage and the clothes you let me borrow when you thought I was worth your time, so if you want them, you’re gonna have to come get them yourself. Otherwise, I’ll probably sell them on e-bay. Bye!

With the sarcastically chipper farewell spoken, Will felt a grim satisfaction in at least lashing out. At least letting Hannibal know he didn’t get to shatter him like that and just move on with his life like Will didn’t even exist. He never expected to hear back from Hannibal, but whatever. This would have to be his closure.

***

Hannibal parked the Bentley in Will’s driveway and marched up to his door, compelled by that provoking voicemail to come here and…

That much was uncertain. It would be courteous to offer an apology and explanation for his behavior; it would be most prudent and expedient to kill the young agent; it was most tempting to fall to one knee with an offer of marriage; it was most appealing to simply turn and run away while he still could, before Will answered the door.

But the dogs were barking inside, having heard the car and footsteps, and Will appeared before his eyes before Hannibal had the chance to make a decision or a cowardly retreat.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Will asked with a sullen pout that went directly to Hannibal’s cock.

Will looked outrageously seductive, standing there in the doorframe wearing one of Hannibal’s button-down shirts, a lavender one, with the collar wide open showing off his gorgeous neck and collarbones. That was all Will wore aside from a pair of grey boxer briefs which were barely visible under the hem of the shirt, so that Hannibal was subjected to the sight of his sexy thighs and legs, his ankles and bare feet. The boy’s tempestuous hair was ruffled into a halo of discordant curls, and Hannibal could even see his nipples poking through the shirt in result of the frigid night and his scant attire. Worst of all was Will’s bratty expression and the way his vivid eyes bore into Hannibal’s very soul, making his palms itch to give him a good spanking for that obnoxious if justified voicemail and his attitude in the present.

“I came to discuss the charming voicemail you sent me earlier,” Hannibal announced primly, holding on by a thread.

He was dressed formally, three piece suit under his finest winter coat, leather gloves and slicked back hair. They formed an almost comical contrast in appearance.

“May I come in?” he asked stiffly.

“I don’t know, may you?” Will scoffed, turning to the dogs who were watching the scene like a soap opera. “Should I let him in?”

One of the dogs barked an assent and Will groaned. “Fine, you can come in, but only because Winston wants you to. By the way, it’s probably just because he thinks you might have doggie biscuits.”

Hannibal followed Will inside and shut the door behind him, accosted when he turned around to discover Will sitting on the kitchen counter, a single-portion plastic container of something orange and liquidy in his palm. He realized belatedly that Will had answered the door holding this unaccountable late-night snack.

“What on earth are you eating?” he inquired, peeling his gloves off and hanging up his coat on the hook by the front door.

“Mandarin oranges,” Will muttered, popping another moist, plump little orange slice into his mouth, then drinking the leftover juice right from the container.

“Did you eat a good dinner earlier?”

Will shot him an exasperated look. “I picked at the very nice dinner my Mom cooked. Seems I’ve been feeling out of sorts lately.”

“Are you blaming me for your dwindling appetite?” Hannibal asked with a disapproving shake of his head. “I would be more inclined to look at your workload at the FBI, in addition to your continued problem with headaches and --”

“I wouldn’t,” Will cut him off abruptly, his beautiful legs and naked ankles swinging from the counter; Hannibal was going to lose his mind any minute now.

He stepped closer and inhaled deeply, as subtly as he could, only to find Will smelled of Old Spice...and nothing else. Where was the encephalitis he had smelled on him before? He had managed to half-convince himself to prey upon the boy using psychic driving to worsen his symptoms and drive him to follow his darkest impulses. This had seemed like one possible solution to ensure Will was entirely co-dependent, too much so to ever leave him, but now…

“I’d been feeling sick lately, so I went to the doctor when I got back from Minnesota. We closed the case, of course, no thanks to you. And as it turned out, I had a rollicking case of encephalitis. I’m fine now; I just needed some meds, extra hydration and bed rest.”

Hannibal internalized his desperate frustration; he was not sure he did so very convincingly, as Will was staring at him in confusion.

What?

“Nothing,” Hannibal said, feeling intolerably foolish. “I simply...I wish I had known you were ill, I could have been there for you. But that is my own fault. I’m glad you are feeling better.”

“Damn right it’s your own fault. Is that all you came here to say, or did you come for your luggage? You want this shirt back, you can come get it yourself.”

Hannibal felt the same roiling wave of arousal course through him with each manifestation of Will’s petulance. “Don’t you have anything more substantial than that to eat?”

Anything, simply to change the subject before he burned to death on the spot with repressed desire. How he had missed his Will, so terribly, so miserably. He felt the boy’s presence like a drug running through his bloodstream and bringing him back to life.

“You’re such a snob. No, I don’t. Have a look around for yourself.” Will watched as Hannibal began exploring his fridge and cupboards, the older man’s disapproval growing with every discovery.

There was nothing in the fridge but homemade dog food, bologna and kraft American cheese, and French’s yellow mustard, plus a half-pack of cheap light beer. Nothing in the cupboards but cups of instant noodles and a loaf of white bread that probably had high fructose corn syrup in it.

Hannibal gazed forlornly at the cheerful cartoon of a polar bear in a sailor cap on the bread package. “This is a dire situation, Will.”

“I had some ice cream earlier,” Will shrugged, “I’m fine.”

“You’ve had nothing but sugar all night,” Hannibal scolded him, enjoying the blush this brought to Will’s cheeks. “If you can’t be bothered to take good care of your nutritional needs, I’ll just have to do something about it.”

“Oh, really?” Will raised his eyebrows, his luscious lips forming a faux-innocent “o.”

“Really. Stay right here, I will be back shortly.” Hannibal went to retrieve his coat and gloves.

“Whatever,” Will said to his back, his flat tone failing to conceal his curiosity.

***

“I did not come here to lament of my neglect towards you, nor to retrieve my suitcase and clothing,” Hannibal explained calmly about forty minutes later as he cooked a fancy omelette on Will’s stove.

Will grabbed the whiskey bottle from atop the fridge and poured himself a glass, sighing heavily. “You came here to inspect my food stores and teach me how to make a pretentiously upgraded western omelette, then.”

A fond smile ghosted Hannibal’s lips. He flipped the omelettes into perfect fluffy folds and plated the meal, then carried the food to Will’s little table and pulled out the younger man’s chair.

Will dug into the omelette. “I resent how delicious this is.”

“You most likely resent me as well,” Hannibal reasoned. “With strong enough cause that I cannot blame you. Will, the truth is, I do not quite know why I am here. I’m still not prepared to enter into a serious relationship after so brief an acquaintance.”

“The fucking nerve on you,” Will snarled, so infuriated that it took Hannibal by surprise. He looked wounded and morally offended all at once. “How dare you? Condescending, gourmet bastard.” He took another bite of his omelette and washed it down with whiskey.

“The level of arrogance it must take to sit there and act like I proposed marriage or something. We had two amazing nights together, and I had -- or have, who the hell knows -- feelings for you. I have a hard time making connections like that, and when you couldn’t even bother to wake me up to say goodbye --”

“Will, I am sorry for leaving so abruptly.”

“No you’re not, just shut up, will you?” Will finished his food and shoved his chair back, carried his plate to the sink and practically hurled it in. “You want to have your cake and eat it too, but I’m not that kind of guy. Think I’m gonna sit by the phone just hoping you call, saving myself up for your scraps of attention?”

“I have no such ludicrous expectation.” Hannibal stood and went closer to Will, who was fuming by the sink. “I merely wished to make amends--”

“It’s too late for that! You’ve ruined everything, and you don’t even have anything to say for yourself. We could have been great together, and you’re treating us like some forgettable footnote.”

“I am not--”

“Yes you are! I don’t have a blowtorch powerful enough to melt the ice around your heart; you’re so hellbent on protecting yourself from, God forbid, experiencing a human emotion. Just leave, why don’t you, that’s what you’re good at.”

“Please cease in this immature snapping at me,” Hannibal insisted sternly. He took another step closer to Will, who didn’t move an inch.

“No.” Will’s eyes blazed at him, his jaw tight.

“You lay all of the blame for this scenario at my door, yet you are the one who so blatantly pursued me after I declined your initial offer of a date…”

“Don’t try to do that,” Will said crossly, and Hannibal could not control how aroused he was becoming with every chance he had to make Will more aggravated; the intensity and how beautiful Will was when angry, it was too irresistible. “This isn’t my fault, this is your fault. You started it, not me.”

“I started nothing,” Hannibal said, agitation and excitement making his heart race. He took another step closer to the intoxicating boy, who turned to face him full-on and had the further audacity to point at him.

“Sure, I asked you out in Jack’s office. But you shouldn’t have been looking at me like that. Especially if you didn’t want me to want you.”

“Looking at you in what way, exactly?” Hannibal felt hot all over, tense and uncomfortably aroused.

“The same way you’re looking at me now.” Will gave him a cold, but clearly hurt smile. “Like you’ll eat me alive. As if you’ll peel me out from myself, pluck out every well-guarded secret from my armor and keep me all for yourself. You’re a forest fire and you want to consume me so we can burn together. But you’d rather make us both suffer by playing pathetic games that would be childishly out of line on a Tinder chat.”

“You’re behaving like an insolent brat,” Hannibal accused, glowering.

Will stepped closer this time. “That’s right I am. But guess what, I’m your insolent brat, Daddy. For some reason, you just don’t wanna admit that.”

Hannibal burst forward, yanked Will into a searing kiss, then swept him right off his feet and carried him up to bed. Will, in total shock, had barely begun to return Hannibal’s bruising kisses when he was unceremoniously flung onto the bed. He just stared with his mouth hanging open while Hannibal tore -- literally tore, there were buttons flying everywhere -- his pristine suit off and then loomed, naked, glorious and predatory above him, glaring down at Will’s blushing face and awestruck expression.

“Is this what you wanted?” Hannibal hissed.

He roughly tossed Will onto his stomach, then yanked his underwear down and used the same merciless grip on Will’s hips to shove his ass into a fully displayed position for the taking.

Hannibal pulled hard on Will’s curls to expose his neck, then bit and sucked wildly at his tender flesh, reversing the places where his older bruises had faded. His warm, smooth skin was Hannibal’s chosen canvas, his beautiful body the only home he’d been craving every moment since their parting. Like an animal, he dragged his aching erection obsessively between Will’s ass cheeks, groaning as excited, desperate perspiration dotted both their skin, precum dripping from Hannibal onto Will as pleasure pummeled him from this simple act of foreplay.

“Yes,” Will moaned, leaning into the hot, obscenely wet licking kisses which Hannibal laid crudely on his lips, “Yes you idiot. I want you to take what’s yours. Give me what’s mine.

“Already so spoiled.” Hannibal pulled his big hand back and treated Will’s exquisite, pert little ass with a brisk, rough spanking that made the filthiest moans cascade from his overkissed and bitten lips.

“Yeah, well, sex with you is enough to spoil anyone -- ahhhh, Jesus Christ, Hannibal--”

Hannibal smirked with a lethal, menacing glint in his eyes, then resumed what he had started, laving his wet, soft tongue with desperate hunger all over Will’s pretty hole, opening the boy with the same blend of expertise and unhinged passion that kept driving Will right out of his mind with bliss.

When Hannibal had added lube to the equation, driving two thick fingers right to Will’s prostate and alternating each inward glide with a harsh spank to his shaking, pink cheeks, Will exploded into helpless sudden orgasm, his cum splashing the sheets below him while he grabbed the bedding in a vain effort to center himself. He would have crashed on his wobbling legs in the unbelievable rush of pleasure, but Hannibal held him up insistently and pushed his cock in without warning.

Will’s orgasm was still vibrating through him with a shocking thrum of bliss, so that when Hannibal’s huge cock entered him it intensified his sensations and he let out a near-wall-shaking mewl.

Hannibal tsked. “I didn’t say you could come, naughty boy, so you deserve to be fucked with no warning,” he shoved his hips forward recklessly, pressing every thick inch of himself into Will’s tight walls, his breath sputtering as his hair fell haphazardly in his face. “No extra lubrication. But you like it, don’t you? I thought you were loud in the motel--”

I love it,” Will cried out, tears of joy flowing freely down his red face. Hannibal clutched his hip so hard it hurt and would leave fingerprints on his skin; his other hand flew up to grip and squeeze Will’s throat.

“Brat,” Hannibal chided, thrusting fiercely. “My -- pretty -- spoiled -- naughty -- little brat.”

Will would have answered in the affirmative for all of the above, but he couldn’t get a word out with the chokehold Hannibal had on him. The pressure on his throat, the thrill of danger had a second orgasm building inside him, his body screaming at the oversensitive feeling of having his prostate pleasured again so soon.

“Look how good you are, how well you take your punishment.” Pride shone through Hannibal’s raspy voice, his accent thickened by lust. Releasing his throat, Hannibal slid into Will much more slowly, then paused with his hips pressed tight to Will’s ass, just allowing them both to feel his immense cock buried so deep inside Will. The curve of his hairy belly bumped Will’s sensitive skin and the boy whimpered with erotic joy.

When Hannibal pulled out of him after that, Will thought he might die, but thankfully he didn’t have to wait long for more. The doctor flipped him onto his back, flung his legs over broad shoulders and slid back in at a new angle that let their eyes lock, Hannibal’s full of a longing, devastating and deep as his thunderous thrusts into Will, the younger man’s eyes open and glittering with need.

Will grasped Hannibal’s ass tight enough to leave new marks of his own, endeavoring to have all of him as deep as he could get him, and the older man crushed their bodies together to messily lash his tongue over Will’s mouth, dripping saliva into it, slamming into him with feral grunts.

“Did you really think I didn’t miss you?” Hannibal panted, and Will nodded from within his pleasure-glazed dizziness.

“I didn’t-- think you cared,” Will blurted amidst his whimpers of ecstasy.

The boy’s body was tight, heavenly perfection, his words so sad they agonized Hannibal, bringing his continued indecision back into focus.

“That was very naughty of you. Bad boy,” he sighed, reaching down to stroke the small bulge in Will’s low belly under which his cock was buried.

The strange savagery of the gesture made Will throw his head back with a broken wail as he came again, coating his belly.

Will went on trembling and moaning while Hannibal fucked him through the euphoric waves and then gritted out, “I’m giving you what’s yours now” right before he emptied into Will with a loud exclamation in Lithuanian.

It didn’t seem like the world would continue its normal functioning after something like that, or at least Hannibal fancied everything should have been burning down around them, singed to blackening by this overwhelming and frightening passion. But time resumed, even background noise came eventually back into focus from its fuzzy lapse into the oblivion of his and Will’s moans.

He lay exhausted on his back and Will curled against him, trusting as a child. The dogs were barking in confused alarm at all the noise, and Will chuckled, kissing Hannibal’s chest. “I should go calm them down. And well, I really need to clean myself up a little.”

The boy climbed from the bed on still shaking legs, looking as delicious as ever walking away with his scratched-up back and bruised ass. Hannibal was left with only his bullet thud rapid heartbeat and his fears for a few minutes of bewilderment.

Then Will returned with two glasses of whiskey and a smile, and Hannibal’s heart melted.

The agent got back into bed and sat with his back against two propped up pillows and his legs tossed over Hannibal’s. He passed Hannibal a drink and said, “Well, cheers to whatever that was.”

“Cheers,” Hannibal smiled, pathetically besotted. He sipped the spicy liquor thoughtfully. “Whatever that was, for me, it was...so extraordinary that my usually adroit descriptive phrasing is now failing me entirely.”

“I made your brain malfunction,” Will grinned. “I’ll take that. So, do you want your shirt back now?” He plucked playfully at the manhandled button-down in which he’d been fucked, and Hannibal laughed huskily.

“It looks much better on you.” Hannibal ruffled Will’s curls and the younger man gave him an equally infatuated look. “But nothing looks better on you than me.”

“There, we can agree.” Will surveyed him archly, from where he sat slightly above. With a mischievous twitch of his smile, he tipped his glass down and dribbled whiskey onto Hannibal’s chest, then left a line of amber liquid running down his stomach. “Oops.

“You aren’t fooling anyone, you incorrigible -- oh, Will…” Hannibal closed his eyes and sank a hand into Will’s sex-mussed hair as the boy licked up the mess with insatiable delight, lavishing his clever tongue over the older man's nipples, then down his abdomen, moving steadily lower…

“Just thirsty, Daddy,” Will smirked, soon applying himself with shameless fervor to getting Hannibal hard again.

Once he had, Will lubed himself up again and sank onto Hannibal’s cock, gripping the headboard on either side of the doctor’s head before riding the man with ardent, moaning insistence.

Neither of them lasted long this time; Will knew Hannibal wouldn’t by the way he held onto his back for dear life, too overwhelmed with delirious pleasure to hold out, and since Will happened to know just the right spot to get Hannibal to hit with every breathtaking stroke, he came at the same time, pulling the headboard so hard it almost disconnected from the bedframe.

They lay in a sweat-drenched, snuggling daze afterwards, until finally Will murmured sleepily, “I don’t expect you to be here in the morning, but don’t leave yet.”

“Why do you assume I won’t be there?” Hannibal rubbed his back, his brow knitted.

“Because,” Will sighed before drifting into a heavy sleep, “You already made me breakfast.”

Chapter Text

Will hummed woozily, half-asleep in bed as Hannibal’s warm lips brushed his forehead. “Whahh-time is it?” he mumbled, instinctively reaching his arms out to bring his lover closer. Even with his eyes shut, he could tell it was still dark in the room.

“Five o’clock,” Hannibal murmured, laying on his side next to Will and caressing his face. “I have several morning appointments and need to leave by seven. But I did not want to depart again without letting you know.”

“Oh?” Will squinted at him in the shadowy room, smiling in relief. “Okay. Thank you.”

“I’ve made coffee and I’ll soon bring you breakfast,” Hannibal proposed. “I can make some more omelettes in a slightly different variation of last night’s recipe.”

“You don’t have to make some big, elaborate breakfast.” Will snuggled his face into Hannibal’s neck with a happy sigh. The older man smelled of coffee and Will’s piney bath soap, and damn, that turned him on. “If you go in the lower cabinet in the kitchen, there’s a box of Fruity-O’s.”

“Are you entirely addicted to tooth-rotting sugary foods, my dear?” Hannibal looked at him so fondly that Will blushed and bit his lip. “Perhaps that is because you are so sweet yourself.”

Will played with Hannibal’s soft, silky hair, brushing the silvery strands which had fallen over his brow back behind his ear. “Someone woke up on the suspiciously upbeat side of the bed this morning. But flattery will get you everywhere, Daddy. You probably noticed by now that where you’re concerned, I’m easy like that.”

“Pleased to hear it.” Hannibal beamed, but he still seemed nervous. “I still can’t allow you to consume those dreadful orbs of Purple 7 and Pink 5. Omelettes will be up shortly. And afterwards, if you have any sort of healing ointment, I should like to tend to your derriere...I realize I treated it rather roughly last night.”

Will raised his eyebrows. Keep talking like that and you’ll be tending to my derriere again in about thirty seconds.

Mistaking Will’s lustful lapse into silence for rejection, Hannibal blurted awkwardly, “Unless, of course, you’d rather go back to sleep. I’ll leave you in peace, if that is the case. Perhaps I should not have assumed you would wish…”

Will pulled him lazily into a hot, slow kiss, then released him with a cat-like smirk of total contentment. “I’d love to have breakfast before you have to go. You know I love your cooking and your company. And there’s a salve in the bathroom I use for calluses and dry skin. I think that would do the trick...I am a little, um...delightfully sore.”

Looking relieved, Hannibal sighed and ran his hands down Will’s back over the borrowed, half-mangled lavender shirt. “Good boy. Just relax here for a little while and I will see to everything.”

“Thank you, Daddy.”

Will lay there in stunned, elated disbelief when Hannibal headed back to the kitchen. He heard his lover feeding the dogs, then going outside with them for a few minutes, and guiding them back in with relative ease. Next came the sound of pots and pans, soon followed by savory and delicious breakfast food scents.

He hadn’t even expected Hannibal to still be here, and just having the doctor wake him up briefly to say goodbye would have been enough to soothe Will’s worries about commitment phobia or unrequited intensity of feeling. But he was even going to make breakfast and tend to Will’s aftercare…

Will warned himself against what his mother always called “the danger of being too thankful to a man for just doing what he’s supposed to do,” which in her opinion could lead to having low expectations for one’s partner. As a couples counselor, Maddie had certainly witnessed enough of these sorts of relationships over the years that her advice carried the usual weight of well-earned wisdom.

A bar set too low could encourage said partner to do the least amount of work possible in the relationship to ensure his happiness and their mutual comfort. Plus, in today’s toxic dating environment, it was way too hard to find someone who even did the bare minimum -- and to find someone so capable and intoxicating who actually reciprocated the attraction on any level -- Hannibal was potentially a unicorn, a holy grail in a universe otherwise barren of romantic prospects for one Agent Will Graham. And he was once again in distinct danger of getting way too invested, far too soon.

So why did caring too much about Hannibal keep feeling so damn good?

***

“I meant to ask you how it felt, bringing the Shrike to justice?” Hannibal inquired softly as he gave Will a brain-meltingly wonderful massage with the salve.

As the doctor’s large, capable hands worked magic on Will’s love-bruised flesh and his muscles that were tired from long hours of work, Will sighed in pleasured distraction.

“Well…” He made himself focus, which was a difficult task. Hannibal’s fingers were so strong, finding every pressure point to relieve tension until Will thought he was going to dissolve into blissful relaxation.

He also had to remind himself to downplay the pleasure he’d taken in shooting Hobbs, the same way he was going to have to hide it from the therapist during his work-mandated post-kill-shot therapy session that afternoon. Normally, it was easy for Will to smoothly lie about his murderous hobby, but between his natural desire to be more open with the man he was falling for, and the almost narcotic effect the massage was having, the challenge felt much stronger. He preferred to use a kernel of honesty than to lie outright.

“I felt like it was over so fast,” he recalled, omitting the familiar, delighted head-rush of the kill itself. “It almost felt anticlimactic, which might sound terribly insensitive of me.”

“Not at all,” Hannibal reasoned, sweeping his hands up Will’s back to massage his neck and shoulders. “You’d been working on the case for over a month, exhaustedly. To have it all stop short must have felt something akin to a train abruptly reaching the end of the tracks.”

The creamy-sweet scents of coconut and cocoa oil from the salve were making Will more inclined to fantasizing they were on an island vacation than wanting to delve into a topic that might reveal some of his darker secrets that were, for now, best left hidden.

“Yeah, something like that.” Will closed his eyes and relaxed his body into the bed. He was still nice and warm from the bubble bath they had shared, and naked with Hannibal’s hands all over him...he could definitely get used to this.

“You ever kill someone?” he dared to ask, opening one eye to squint over his shoulder briefly at Hannibal’s face.

The doctor looked calmly curious, not offended in the least. “As I mentioned, I used to be a surgeon. I had my share of patients die under my care, but one in particular bothered me to the extent I stopped practicing medicine.”

“You’re a perfectionist. Psychology must be an easier medium for you, since the success rate is so much higher: most of your patients don’t come to you with a terminal condition.”

“A perfectionist?” Hannibal repeated amusedly, though a more serious rumble in his tone indicated some deep thoughts that resulted from Will’s quickly adept analysis. He leaned in to murmur warmly in Will’s ear, “Me?”

Will laughed. “So I guess you transferred your passion for anatomy into the culinary arts? All those extravagant dishes using cuts of meat I’ve barely heard of…”

“That’s not the only manner in which I like to indulge my passion for anatomy.” Hannibal smirked, finishing the massage.

Will sat up and took Hannibal’s hand, lacing their fingers together. “Apparently.” He grinned, then added after a thoughtful pause, “Are you a perfectionist about relationships too?”

“Concerned I may run away again?” Hannibal raised his light brows.

He looked charming in a snug pair of Will’s sweatpants and the only shirt Will had big enough to fit him, a Virginia State U sweatshirt from his college days that hung off one of his own shoulders when he wore it, but clung to Hannibal’s broader physique. He just looked so beautifully soft and domestic, Will almost wanted to cry.

“Well…” Will broke eye contact and looked down at the floor, feeling even more naked all of a sudden.

“And perhaps even when you least expect it? I have to admit that relationships have never been my strong suit, Will. This is all new to me. And I can be...ever so slightly...sometimes I feel greatly concerned about your acceptance of my more unusual qualities...those that might appear rather eccentric…”

Will met his gaze again, cautious, trying to understand. “Are you saying that you’re strange, and worried I might eventually reject you because of that?”

“On my best and worst days, which are often one and the same depending on one’s interpretation...I can be far more than strange.” Hannibal spoke with a wry humor blended in seriousness that felt poignant, making Will very aware these words were not easy for him to share. His pride must be making any mention of his insecurities deeply uncomfortable.

“I’m strange, too.” Will lifted Hannibal’s hand and kissed it, pondering some potential further replies he’d love to give right now.

I’m falling so hard for you, and it’s because of your strangeness, your beauty and mystery, how intense and overwhelming you are to behold, and to hold in my arms. I would never judge you, and I’m beginning to worry I’m incapable of rejecting you, no matter how you treat me. I’m scared, but I’ll keep coming back because I can’t help it. You’re the air I breathe. All I want is to make you feel safe in this love, to make you happy. But I can’t say any of this, because it might send you running for the hills.

“All I can really think to say to you now is, I can wait for a while to define this, as long as you’re honest with me.” Will pressed his lips together, thinking carefully, before he added, with his cerulean eyes open and truthful, locked to Hannibal’s fascinated expression, “If you quit running away from me, I’ll try to stop running at you quite so fast.”

“And then perhaps we can meet in the middle?” Hannibal suggested with a tentative smile.

Will nodded, trying to be satisfied with such a healthy, non-co-dependent, slow and sensible approach. If this is what Hannibal needs…

What about what I need? How am I gonna hold back or be patient enough?

“That’s the idea,” he said with a slightly forced smile.

“It’s asking you to be very patient.” Hannibal was suddenly very much occupied with fidgeting, tugging and otherwise examining the perfectly boring grey sleeves of his sweatshirt, once again fleeing Will’s incisive observations, intimidated by the emotional intimacy between them.

“Well, what can I say?” Will gave him a goofy grin, kissing his flushed cheek and ruffling his hair. “I’m kind of into you.”

***

“‘I’m kind of into you?’” Will repeated that afternoon to Dr. Hawkins, the FBI therapist responsible for evaluating his fitness for duty after the Hobbs shooting. “Who says that? Out of every possible thing I could have said, why do I come out with...an SWV lyric from the 90s?”

“The SWV lyric is ‘I’m so into you.’” Dr. Hawkins was a down-to-earth man, perhaps a decade older than Will, with a neat salt and pepper beard. He wore rock band t-shirts under his tweed blazer and was easy enough to talk to that Will took advantage of the chance to air his more pressing issues, never mind about the boring “oh no, my God I shot and killed someone!” routine.

“Jesus!” Will buried his face in his hands. “Even the pop song is better composed than what I said. ‘I’m kind of into you’? He’s not a limited edition flavor of Pringles! But on the other hand, really what was I supposed to say instead? Couldn’t say, ‘I’m crazy about you, can’t stop thinking about you’ or any of the other true sentiments that occurred. Any of those are liable to scare him away again.”

“It sounds to me as if this man you're interested in is much more held back by his own preexisting issues than any behavior you’ve manifested towards him.” Dr. Hawkins glanced at his watch and added, “However, since we’re actually here to talk about your kill shot on the Hobbs case, do you think we might get to that before time runs out on our session?”

“Oh, of course,” Will said hurriedly, annoyed but cloaking it in a polite smile. “About that.”

***

“He said that he’s ‘kind of into’ me,” Hannibal explained to Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier at his own therapy appointment, which took place in her elegant home.

Dr. Du Maurier observed the shy little smile that lit up Hannibal’s usually much more severe and unflappable features. Hannibal chose to ignore the slight look of amusement she wore, almost a “how the mighty have fallen” expression. He needed her insight, so he must control his own small annoyances.

“That seems to please you. And yet you have made a point of keeping Will Graham at a distance. You crave the way this young man can see the truth of you and want to keep looking, but you keep pulling back whenever emotional intimacy beckons.”

“I don’t know that he sees the truth of me.” Hannibal picked at a nonexistent piece of lint on the knee of his blue striped suit. “I don’t know that I’m brave enough to show him.”

“It was brave enough for you to admit that to yourself, and to me. You’re making real progress here, Hannibal, you should be proud.” Bedelia looked, much to her own surprise, really rather proud of him, too. Or perhaps simply relieved he had a new distraction in his life.

After all, she wouldn’t want him to be overly focused on her own recent ordeal with a patient which had led to her early retirement. As her only remaining client, Hannibal was very aware that he retained this status from the good Dr. Du Maurier’s fear of any repercussions that might result from breaking off the relationship. However, he had no intention of killing her anytime soon, since her brilliant understanding of psychology from the perspective of someone willing to commit murder herself was hugely valuable to his ongoing ordeal in understanding Will Graham’s impact on his life.

“It is difficult to be proud when I am feeling so particularly...exposed.” Hannibal folded his hands on his lap and shifted posture, unable to get comfortable despite the perfectly soft and accommodating chair. “It is as if Will Graham has the ability to make me...feel…”

“Yes, I believe that is the crux of the entire issue.” Bedelia flipped a glossy strand of ice blonde hair over one shoulder of her impeccable beige suit jacket.

With her petite legs crossed in front of her and her rail-precise posture, anyone else might be fooled into thinking her incapable of fearing her patient. Hannibal could read her smaller tells, the anxious microexpressions and occasional glances around the room as if evaluating its safety in case she ever needed to quickly escape his presence. And he enjoyed these signs of her fear, along with the faint scent of it mixed with her lovely perfume. However, as opposed to his former enjoyment, which had been laced with half-interested flirtation, sadistic entertainment, and the inflation of his ego as an uncatchable killer, Hannibal now found them more important as confirmation he was not the only one in the room experiencing an unwanted vulnerability.

“You’re not used to feeling in this particular shade, texture, and immensity,” Bedelia concluded thoughtfully. “Your challenge then becomes, whether to accept or flee from the unusual opportunity with which Will Graham presents you.”

“I rarely encounter the chance to begin a close friendship,” Hannibal admitted, “Much less…” He took a deep breath, then managed to force the words out: “Will Graham presents me with the opportunity for love.”

“Excellent, Hannibal,” Bedelia said with a cordial smile, her voice as warm as it ever got. “Perhaps the next time you approach Will Graham, you might try it in a setting where you feel more control over the environment and its developments. It could reduce your anxiety.”

“Are you suggesting that I am a control freak, Dr. Du Maurier?” Hannibal cast her an amused smirk, still reeling a bit inside over his profession of “falling in love” with Will Graham. Of being anxious, in some doubt of a return...he was again in uncharted waters, and naturally sought control.

“It takes one to know one. You can admit that some of your panic during the previous encounters with Will came from the element of surprise. I think we might also conclude that the unpredictability has excited you in equal measure. But you are overwhelmed.”

Hannibal sighed. All of this talk about him being “overwhelmed,” “panicked,” et cetera was becoming tiresome. Sometimes he missed his old self, the one who never felt these things, but that person felt like a mere robot, or to use Bedelia’s term, a “person suit,” compared with this more vividly alive man he now felt himself to be. There was no turning back, no matter how many times he ran from Will.

The evidence he had gleaned thus far of Will’s potential interest in joining his murderous pursuits had been encouraging. The agent showed a certain coldly casual attitude about the shooting of Garret Jacob Hobbs that greatly intrigued him, at the same time Hannibal was incredibly distraught to have missed seeing the event. He tried to imagine it, Will’s brilliant lethal instinct and insistent drive for justice, that hunger sizzling under his lover’s skin, perhaps it only required Hannibal’s attentive, caring encouragement to bring him all the way where they both needed to go. Then Will would join him in the hunt and they would be truly bonded for life, inseparable. Then Hannibal would not be bogged down by worries about whether he would be fully accepted when his darkest, deepest truths were unveiled before Will’s eyes. Their love would be free, wild and perilous, beautiful beyond belief.

“I’m uncertain how calm I can ever be when in Will Graham’s presence,” he confessed, voice straining at yet another intimation of weakness. “However, it may be worth a try, to see if I can find and keep the upper hand.”

Bedelia looked far too amused and entertained, but she contained it well with her usual subtle range of expressions. “Well, you may try. Glass of wine?”

***

Will brought the rubber stamped proof of his sanity and stability right to Jack’s office himself after the meeting with Dr. Hawkins.

“I could have told you this myself,” he maintained as Jack took the paperwork with a martyr’s sigh and placed it in the appropriate folder atop his overcrowded desk.

“You can’t know everything, Will.” Jack looked up at him discerningly. “Nobody can, not even me. That’s why I don’t make the mistake of putting my arrogance above the call of duty to ensure everyone I’m working with is in good health. I’ve made that mistake in the past, and I won’t make it with you.”

Will nodded, genuinely touched. “I appreciate that you care about my well-being. Sorry I tend not to show it very well. It’s just…always been easier to act like I do know everything. People don’t argue with me very often about it.”

Even now, Will had been right that his frame of mind had not been negatively impacted by killing Hobbs. Hell, shooting the Shrike had been one of the few highlights of an otherwise distressing second stay in Minnesota. But it was good of Jack to want to make sure Will didn’t end up like Miriam Lass, and Will was every so often aware he was lucky to have a boss like him.

Plus, Will had recently discovered he definitely didn’t know everything. It had been an exhilarating, scary rollercoaster of a learning curve that might never end...if he was lucky enough to keep having Hannibal in his life.

“Speaking of the gaps in my knowledge,” he segued, surprising Jack by sitting down when the supervisor had expected the meeting to be over now. “I’ve been wanting to pick your happily married brain about how to date someone who’s so grown and successful, it sort of intimidates you.”

Jack chuckled. “I guess it’s obvious that applies to my relationship with Bella. I used to feel like she was way out of my league, but that never stopped me.”

“How did you get over that feeling?” Will rubbed his stubbled chin, deep in thought.

“One day Bella told me she felt the same way about dating me, and we laughed about it. That’s falling in love, Will. You’ve really never been in love before meeting Dr. Lecter?”

“Never ever,” Will shrugged. “I’m realizing I don’t know a damn thing about it, and even less about courtship.”

“Just go with your gut,” Jack advised. “Don’t try to play games, don’t hide behind excuses for pretending to feel less than you do. Don’t disrespect his boundaries or push him when he needs space. Sometimes he’ll just need you to listen without judging, and that’ll be the greatest gift you can give. And in the meantime…”

“Yeah?” Will asked, intently focusing on every sage word of advice, craving the wisdom. Really, he should be writing this down.

“Try flowers. Bella likes flowers. Now get out of here, I’m busy.” Jack put his reading glasses on and picked up another folder.

“I’m gone. Thanks, Jack!” Will showed himself out with an extra bounce in his step. He was going to find a way to successfully court the intimidating Dr. Hannibal Lecter, if it was the last thing he did.

Chapter Text

It took Will long enough to find the perfect suit, and then he was so nervous he almost left the house with the price tag still dangling from the sleeve. That would have made for an interesting entrance to the Baltimore arts and culture scene.

Hannibal had invited him to come to the opera, and Will had gone right ahead and imprinted upon this date the idea that it would be their momentous night, the one that solidified their official status as a couple, his chance to prove to Hannibal he could fit into the doctor’s sophisticated, elegant world. That they were meant to be, and all sorts of other dreamy, obsessive sentiments right on par with decorating every one of his lesson plan books with “Will Lecter-Graham” alongside hearts with Hannibal’s name in them. Not that he had been doing that, of course.

Of course not.

The florist was confusing. Maybe it was because on a Friday night, the place was packed with other people buying flowers for their dates, and Will had chosen the nicest shop en route to Hannibal’s house. But damn, it was hard to find a place to stand long enough to get a good look at the arrangements of overpriced fresh blooms with everyone pushing past him and talking a mile a minute. Will was starting to really agree with Hannibal that discourtesy was “unspeakably ugly.”

“Excuse me,” he said exhaustedly to the nearest worker, a chipper young man with glasses and a bow tie who nodded with interest, his eyes flicking over Will in the dove grey suit with a black shirt underneath.

Please,” Will pleaded, “can you put an end to my agonizing indecision and recommend an arrangement...sort of like what you would bring Count Dracula if you were Mina and it was your first time accompanying him out on the town?”

“Certainly, sir, I have just the thing!”

After a twenty minute wait in line, Will was finally the proud owner of an impressive bundle of dark, richly fragrant flowers, black sunflowers, chocolate geranium, hellebores, and dahlias which had been meticulously arranged as to size and height to perfect effect.

He was so pleased with his purchase, yet irritated to find he was now running late to pick Hannibal up. Will had wanted to sweep Hannibal off his feet with the whole “picking you up and bringing you flowers” routine, but it would be utterly spoiled if they missed the first act of the opera.

With his heart beating triple-time, Will ran from his hastily parked car to Hannibal’s front door and rang the bell. He used the few moments before Hannibal appeared to compose himself and act like he hadn’t been riling himself up for hours over this date, only to nearly sabotage it by taking too damn long at the flower shop.

Will had to make this special. Anyone could tell Hannibal he was gorgeous, brilliant, irresistible. He must get that all the time; there must be a constant line of eligible singles salivating at the mere idea of getting more of Hannibal’s company, his kiss, his touch, someday his love. Will had to make it clear he was dedicated to romancing him, wrapping him up in passion such as nobody else could ever give him, making him feel so wanted that Hannibal never wanted to let him go. He wasn’t used to putting this kind of effort into any relationship, and it was starting to make Will feel almost as tired as he was excited and anxious.

Part of him would have much preferred to back Hannibal inside the house, slam the door behind them, make love all night and cuddle till morning light, forget about everyone else in the world. Confess all his secrets, compel Hannibal somehow to condone his wickedness, seduce him into wanting to kill together, live his own wildest fantasies. It all felt too untouchable, impossibly ambitious.

Hannibal opened the door with an expectant smile, and Will was relieved he didn’t seem upset with him for being late.

“Hi, I’m so sorry for being a little late, but it took me ages to get these,” Will held out the flowers, unable to control the breathless way he was blurting.

Hannibal was speechless for a few beats, his eyes traveling with surprise from Will in the new suit to the stunning bouquet. He almost looked frightened, for some reason, or perhaps Will was imagining it. Still, Will’s empathy rarely led him astray. Was Hannibal nervous about the date as well? He had seemed softly overwhelmed when they were in bed together the other morning after breakfast...maybe the crazy over-emphasis on this night wasn’t one-sided.

“Thank you, Will, these are exquisite.” Hannibal took the bouquet, then took the liberty of brushing a warm kiss to Will’s cheek, his hand landing with proprietary firmness on Will’s hip, centering the younger man with a quick rush of calming energy. “And so are you.”

“Gosh,” Will blathered, holy shit, did I just say ‘gosh’? I didn’t even know I knew that word. “You look amazing yourself.”

And Hannibal did. He had on a sleek black tux that somehow made his cheekbones look extra sculpted and shiny. His hair hadn’t been slicked back as usual, so that it rested neat but soft over his brow, and his lips were so plump and tempting when he licked them, his gold rush eyes swallowing Will whole. In the twilight, standing on the front step, Hannibal’s gaze was champagne glitter, but it was the milky lighting creating the shading, Will knew.

He’d seen those eyes turn chocolate brown and liquid amber in other settings, and it reminded him of how his own eyes tended to go from blue to grey or green. They were both chameleons in their own ways, masters of disguise, but could they let their facades fall away completely, if it meant they could both finally be whole? Had Hannibal been wandering listlessly through the world like Will until they met, so bored and hard to satisfy...and if so, could Will be lucky enough that he was the one person who fit his puzzle piece?

These thoughts were running roughshod over his confidence and making his mouth go dry. It occurred to him that they had been standing out on the steps staring at each other while Hannibal hesitated with the flowers in his hands for no particular reason.

“I suppose I should put these in water,” Hannibal said, reviving to the present moment. Once that was done, and the bouquet placed in a position of honor in the middle of the dining room table, which made Will blush, they left for their night of culture and hopefully, romance.

***

Hannibal really should have been frustrated with Will for being late. In fact, he had started to worry the younger man wasn’t coming, that Will had changed his mind or was “ditching” him -- after all, he’d done the same to Will in Minnesota, like a fool. He was too worried to even check his phone, because if there was a text saying Will wasn’t coming, he’d be shattered, and so he did not see the text saying that Will was running a bit late but still on his way.

When the doorbell finally rang a half hour after Will’s scheduled arrival time, he almost burst into tears. Instead, he squeezed his eyes shut and made himself take a few deep breaths.

Now here he was in Will’s neat but hardly luxurious little car, and he felt as if he might as well be in heaven. Will looked like a dream in that new suit with his hair brushed back from his face, one rebellious curl escaping to nestle over his forehead. His eyes had been so brilliantly blue as he blushed like a good boy and handed over the lovely flowers, Hannibal’s heart had skipped a beat that hadn’t seemed to stop skipping since.

The soft sound of classic rock music played from Will’s radio as the young man drove smoothly through the streets of Baltimore and found them suitable parking near the Lyric Opera House."Ohhh-oh, I would bleed to love her..." the song playing seemed to match his mood, unsettlingly accurate. He would bleed to love Will Graham, any day of the week, and with pleasure. It took all of Hannibal’s will power not to simply drag the gorgeous creature beside him into the backseat and pleasure him until their moans made them culpable for public indecency.

Will opened Hannibal’s door for him and offered his arm, dapper and charming. “Anyone would think you go to the opera regularly,” Hannibal smiled.

“I’ll fool them all,” Will joked, his eyes twinkling, although his grip on Hannibal’s arm tightened slightly.

“You don’t need to fool anyone, Will.” Hannibal glanced at Will’s pensive profile, enamored with his adorable nose, his perfect jawline, that scruff he could easily remember rubbing roughly against his thighs and ass.

It had become a beautiful night, the stars overhead innumerable as Hannibal’s disordered emotions, and Hannibal couldn’t possibly predict how this evening would go. Bedelia’s suggestion of choosing a setting where he could feel more in control had been overridden by his complete obsession with Will Graham, just as everything in Hannibal seemed to shift to fit the desperate craving of late.

“You’ll have the attention of Baltimore’s most elite socialites the moment you walk into the venue, and I am sure they will not be able to peel their eyes from you all night,” Hannibal predicted.

“Mmmhmm, I’m sure -- because I’m with you.”

“Yes, that will be part of it.” Hannibal smiled, relaxing a little as he flirted. He loved to find the right words to make Will melt. “But the rest of their fascination will come as a result of how devastatingly handsome you look.”

Will’s pupils dilated and the sweet scent of dopamine wafting from his skin was intoxicating. As they reached the entrance to their destination, with polite opera patrons passing by to find their seats for the performance and quietly gossip about everyone else in attendance, Will squeezed Hannibal’s bicep and leaned up to whisper emphatically in his ear, “Daddy.

It pleased and aroused Hannibal, his boy claiming him in public like this, yet with such divine secrecy between them. He wanted them to share all their secrets, down to the bone and further.

Smiling, he leaned into Will’s space and murmured, “Baby.

Will looked as if he was going to say something sudden and unexpected, his face expressive of desire and elation, making Hannibal feel heat pooling in his low belly. He hung upon the moment, eagerly watching his lover.

Hannibal,” piped up a lady with a shrill, imperious voice who had approached with a group of followers trailing behind her, looking for all the world like men and women in waiting upon her royal presence.

She was middle aged, with a dark bob haircut and blunt-cut bangs, wearing a ruby evening gown and a black fur wrap, and speaking to Hannibal with presumption earned by her status as a longtime, thoroughly cordial acquaintance.

“Mrs. Komeda,” Hannibal greeted warmly, turning from Will to clasp the woman’s outstretched thin hand. “Always such a delight to see you.”

“And for us to see you, Hannibal; it’s been far too long.” Mrs. Komeda spoke with that amusedly overwrought drama that made her such an entertaining fixture on the cultural scene. “But perhaps you’ve been busy lately.”

“I have indeed.” Hannibal smiled, brimming with pride as he gestured towards Will, who had stiffened beside him with a strange shift in his expression from happy to serious. “Allow me to introduce my very good friend Will Graham.”

***

Will could have screamed. ”My very good friend???!!!!" What the hell was that all about? He tried to calm himself down as he shook hands with that obnoxious woman in the lowcut gown who talked to Hannibal like she owned him, like she’d simply known him for ages and he’d fall at her feet with the slightest beckon.

What’s he supposed to say, Will? This is my not-quite-boyfriend, my lover, my fuck buddy who is desperately and unrequitedly in love with me?

He cleared his throat. “So nice to meet you,” he said through gritted teeth and a fake smile.

“And you, Will,” Mrs. Komeda smiled with genuine kindness, surprising Will. “Hannibal deserves to have a date to these things who is worthy of him.” Turning back to the doctor, she added, as if Will wasn’t even there, “Your taste is flawless as ever. He’s lovely.”

Will felt like an accessory all of a sudden, and very damn petulant about it.

Hannibal nodded politely, almost as if accepting the compliment, like Will’s loveliness was merely a reflection of his own good taste. “As are you. Shall we?”

Then they were all walking inside like this was a community outing, sabotaging the intimacy of the date. Will sighed, intimidated by the posh theatre and all the overdressed patrons, the sparkling flow of elegant conversation on various opera companies, orchestras, and productions he had never heard of and had nothing to say about. Mercifully, the small talk in the front lobby was accompanied by wine, which Will almost gulped down to steady his mood. But he had a pretty high tolerance for alcohol, and one glass of wine wasn’t going to make him tipsy enough to relax.

“I hope you’ll enjoy the performance,” Hannibal enthused, looking clueless as to Will’s inner struggle. Fuck, now he was being cute again and it made Will’s aggravation towards him fade. “It’s one of my favorite pieces, and Lenora Delville is one of the finest sopranos in the country.”

“Great,” Will said, disappointed to find that instead of one of those pleasantly isolated boxes, their seating was amidst a vast sea of people.

He’d been nurturing a little daydream all day about going down on Hannibal during the show, and it had been one of his main reasons for expressing interest in attending the opera. Thoughts of sinking to his knees, resting his hands on Hannibal’s thighs and surprising him with a saucy look right before he slyly eased the zipper down and went to work...ideas about Hannibal having to smother his gasps as Will deep-throated him in the middle of the show with the passionate sounds of the opera pouring over them as Hannibal’s cum shot down his throat...it had been distracting.

This seating arrangement simply wasn’t what Will had pictured at all.

He had spent so much time on sex fantasies, suit and flower selection that he had not so much as Googled the plot for this particular opera, and as a result had no idea what any of it was supposed to be about. When the show began, he could appreciate the remarkable vocal performances, the majesty and grandeur of the costumes and sets, but he couldn’t make heads or tails of the story. Everything was in Italian, of course. It just seemed like a lot of people scrambling around and acting distraught about developments he couldn’t quite fathom.

So Will ended up mostly staring at Hannibal’s gorgeous profile, enamored by his transfixed expression and how deeply he enjoyed the performance. That was almost enough for Will to feel this night was more than worth it, until he happened to glance behind them and saw two young men who were also staring directly at Hannibal Lecter with infatuated looks on their faces.

How dare...Will bristled, just barely holding back from glaring at them or shooing them away with his hands. They were a few rows back, a portly bearded guy with an endearingly cheerful look about him, and a sharply intelligent and serious-looking companion with an eerie gaze, both of them in nicer suits than Will, and both for whatever reason fixated on Hannibal.

Was Will just another idiot spending all his time crushing on the amazing Dr. Lecter? This was getting beyond annoying. Exactly how many people were in love with Hannibal?

Intermission was a disaster. They had to go back to the lobby where Hannibal said he was going to get them a drink -- that much sounded good. Will couldn’t wait for this ordeal to be over; his temples were pounding with irritated pain, sweat gathering on his palms with his quick, dark temper pulsating out at all the hangers-on, the socialites who immediately surrounded Hannibal at the bar and prevented him from being able to get back to Will right away. Everyone seemed to be intent on getting a little bit of Hannibal’s time and attention, from Mrs. Komeda and her clique to the two young men he’d noticed earlier, who also shook Hannibal’s hand and briefly conversed.

Will read Hannibal’s face and decided he was mildly annoyed but patient towards the bearded man, intrigued and somehow concerned regarding his friend, not necessarily attracted to either. In fact, Hannibal wasn’t flirting with anyone; he was just being flirted with and fawned over incessantly, and taking it like a pro, as if it happened to him on a constant basis just as Will had assumed.

And here was Will all alone in the middle of the lobby, watching the whole thing unfolding like another show in a foreign language he was shut out of. He couldn’t be making more of a spectacle of the fact that he didn’t fit in here, unless he got on top of the bar and started performing a striptease. At least that would get Hannibal’s attention. Probably.

His pride couldn’t bear for him to fail this test he had set himself, to prove he could belong in this fancy world; meanwhile, his frustration at feeling abandoned while he had to watch Hannibal bask in the glow of universal admiration had him very irked.

“Hey,” he said to a young woman in a glittering white evening gown who happened to pass by. “Would you do me a favor and stand here acting like I’m saying something really brilliant and then really funny and you’re totally charmed, just for a minute?”

Maybe if he could seem to be taking part in the buzz of conversation in the room, and if he had a chance to hit Hannibal with a zing of jealousy and frustrated possessiveness such as he’d been feeling since they arrived--

The young woman scoffed. “Why in the world would I do that?” She flounced away as Will stood there about ready to wring his hands.

By the time Hannibal came back, Will was at the end of his rope, especially at seeing that the two young men were still following the doctor like fanboys.

“Will, I do apologize for the delay in procuring your drink and returning to enjoy your company.” Hannibal gave him one of those knee-weakening smiles and handed Will his wine. Belatedly realizing that the two men were standing beside him and looking expectantly at Will, he added with strained patience, “This is a patient of mine, Franklyn, and his friend Tobias.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance,” Tobias said, shaking Will’s hand a little too hard, looking him up and down with the unmistakable attitude of considering the profiler a rival.

Will looked back, his gaze equally steely. “Tobias. Franklyn.”

Franklyn was far more overt in his envious confusion. “Dr. Lecter, you never mentioned that you were seeing somebody. Whenever I see you at the grocery store, you’re always alone.”

Hannibal sighed. “Nevertheless, Franklyn, I do see people on a rather frequent basis. And now if you’ll excuse us, I believe I saw the lights flicker. Intermission is almost at an end.”

The lights hadn’t dimmed yet, but Hannibal clearly wanted to get away from Franklyn and Tobias. This made Will feel better, but he still felt an insurmountable need to release some of the angry tension which had become more than he could internalize.

“What was that all about?” Will whispered as they took their seats and the lights actually did begin to flicker. “That Franklyn guy was acting like a stalker.”

“Indeed, I’m afraid I will have to refer Franklyn to another psychiatrist soon, and do my grocery shopping at an alternate location. He’s far too interested in me, and not interested enough in his therapy.”

Will frowned. Hannibal shouldn’t have to put up with someone treating him like that, as if he owed Franklyn his love simply because he was loved. Maybe there was some element of that whole formula that made Will self-conscious about his own obsession for his lover, a connection which annoyed him even more. His temper and possessiveness were tangling, which was never a good sign for anyone in his crosshairs.

“And Tobias?” Will asked quietly.

Hannibal gave an elegant shrug. “I’ve never met him before this evening. I gather he’s a violinist and music instructor of some local repute.”

“He seems quite taken with you.”

Hannibal smiled and looked Will over carefully before taking his hand on the armrest between them. He lifted it to his lips and kissed Will’s fingers several times, uncaring of the audience around them who must be ready to perish from envy.

“And I am quite taken with you,” Hannibal clarified.

The lights went all the way down and the show itself swept Hannibal’s attention away. Will glanced behind them again and saw Tobias watching him, then the violin teacher nodded. So, they were going to have it out right here at the Lyric Opera House?

Perfect, Will really needed to work out this agitation. He whispered to Hannibal he’d be right back and slipped away as if to get another drink or visit the men’s room.

In the lobby, Will shook Tobias’ hand again and asked, “You seemed to want to speak with me.”

“I’m just curious...if you know with whom you’ve become entangled,” Tobias said casually, and with a chilling smile. “I’ve learned a great deal about Dr. Lecter lately that makes me feel he and I have more in common. It is quite a challenge in these times, to find someone whose interests entirely align with one’s own.”

“I couldn’t agree more,” Will said serenely as blood pulsed behind his ears and his hands ached to enact violence. Soon. Very soon. Wait for your moment…

“I’m lucky to have found Hannibal,” Will added, “We’re soulmates. You couldn’t possibly understand. And now if you’ll excuse me…”

He wandered away and went into the men’s room, which was thankfully empty at the moment, although not for long. Tobias, with a deadly look flashing in his eyes, followed him, and unfortunately for Franklyn, he had chosen to follow his friend as well to see what was going on.

Will worked extremely well in small spaces. His rapid, brutal assault on Tobias overwhelmed the formidable adversary, who found himself quite literally speechless thanks to a harsh punch Will landed to his throat. He choked Tobias out using his arms so as to leave no prints, ecstatic on the high of the kill, overjoyed to have an outlet for this rage and frustrated love, his jealousy calmed by eliminating any rival, even ones whom Hannibal did not desire. They shouldn’t have wanted Hannibal, shouldn’t have been looking at him like that.

He would have loved to paint the walls with their insides, but his normally savage behavior was a bad fit for this public setting. Will would have to be satisfied with the clean kills.

His usual victims were those he found through FBI cases and the news, those despicable people whose vile actions deserved punishment although they evaded justice -- the abusers, especially of children and animals, the racists and homophobes unleashing their cruel and damaging vitriol. Will wasn’t in the habit of killing anyone merely for sharing and expressing an attraction for someone he was dating...until now.

Franklyn, honestly, was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, standing frozen in total shock at Will’s actions right up until he joined his friend slumped lifeless on the floor.

Will smiled to himself in the mirror, washed his hands and dried them, exited the men’s room and neatly placed the “Out of Order” sign on the door handle. It was a crowded performance and the opera house looked understaffed. There were three other men’s rooms on the premises. It was unlikely anyone would check the bathroom until later on, when Will and Hannibal were long gone.

Now. Will felt much better, and he had a very handsome date to be getting back to.

Chapter Text

“I hope the performance wasn’t terribly dull for you,” Hannibal noted when they got back to Will’s car and the younger man once again opened his door.

“Naw, not at all,” Will grinned, leaning his arms on the door opening as he looked down at Hannibal in the passenger seat.

He looked so suave in that moment, with devilish flirtation glimmering in slate grey eyes, framed by the dark night and that skinny-fit suit that clung to and accentuated his gorgeous figure. Hannibal caught his breath with some difficulty while Will licked his pretty lips; the word “studly” occurred to him, a new addition to the doctor’s immense and apparently still expanding vocabulary.

“What would make you think I didn’t enjoy myself?” Will asked, the coy way he raised his brows sending a shiver down Hannibal’s spine. He knew exactly what he was doing, and Hannibal loved it, intrigued by the sudden change in Will’s mood from irritated to smoothly upbeat. “After all, I was with you.”

“Really, Will, you will turn my head.” Hannibal smirked; Will shut the door and circled the car, then climbed into the driver’s seat and slid the keys into the ignition, his every move cocky and assured.

“Hope so.”

Hannibal rested a hand on Will’s elbow as the engine started up. “I noticed that you felt uncomfortable at several points. When I left you alone to go to the bar and became inundated by various acquaintances...I should not have left your side in an unfamiliar setting.”

“It’s fine,” Will said firmly, a flash of insecurity finally showing in his slightly tensed features. It passed a second later, but Hannibal saw he’d struck a nerve.

It stood to reason that his prideful boy was ambitious about proving he could move in Hannibal’s world with ease, and Hannibal therefore regretted his own short-sightedness in abandoning Will to the wolves of the Baltimore upper crust. They could be insufferable snobs on their best days, horrid prigs on their worst, and while Hannibal appreciated their high brow conversation and posh lifestyles that complimented his own preferences, he also understood that such an outing might be exhausting to someone more accustomed to relaxed, casual environments.

Will worked so hard every day, catching killers that would twist and destroy the minds of weaker profilers, and he had plenty of other responsibilities and pursuits to tend to. Still, he took the time to consistently let Hannibal know of his regard and romantic interest, time to buy flowers and drive to Baltimore to convey his date to an event in which he had no interest.

Appreciation and disbelief in his own luck filled Hannibal’s heart with unaccustomed sensations: gratitude, a desire to “make it up to Will” for the underwhelming start to the date, almost a twinge of...humility? How strange, yet sweet. Hannibal felt himself sinking like a stone under the storm waters of this fascinated adoration of Will Graham, and drowning had become a wonderfully appealing prospect somehow.

“I made reservations at Charleston,” Hannibal explained, “But I think instead I would like you to select the location of our dinner this evening. I would be honored, in fact, if you would take me to your favorite place for food and drink.”

“My favorite?” Will sat back and looked at him incredulously. “I don’t think it would be exactly your style, Dr. Lecter.”

“Exactly. It won’t be my style; it will be yours. I want you to have exactly what you like best, where you are comfortable and at ease, and share a part of your world with me, as I have tried, with mixed success, to show you something that I enjoy.”

“Hannibal.” Will loosed a husky chuckle and pressed his forehead to Hannibal’s, then clasped his face and kissed both his cheeks. “Please don’t feel bad that I didn’t have a perfect time at the opera. You didn’t do anything wrong, and I love that you wanted to share part of yourself with me. Okay?”

Hannibal nuzzled his face into Will’s and fondly kissed the tip of his nose, then ran a hand through slicked-back curls to ruffle them. “Okay.”

“Great.” Will turned the radio on and started driving, to whence his companion could not begin to theorize.

Hannibal enjoyed the immersion into Will’s world already, from the contemplative rumblings of the mellow rock classics, to the way the car smelled of Will’s newly upgraded aftershave. In fact, Hannibal had to wonder if Will was actively trying to drive him quite wild with salivating lust, between the suit and the sensuous, woodsy-citrus notes of Bleu de Chanel.

Two keychains hung from the rear view mirror in the front seat: a miniature faux-wood plaque which read “I’d rather be fishing” and a silver plate reading “Best Dog Dad Ever.” Will sang along quietly to the radio and drummed his hands on the steering wheel.

Drink up baby, look at the stars / I'll kiss you again, between the bars...” Will was only barely in tune, but there was something about how entirely relaxed and himself he was in Hannibal’s presence that felt like a privilege. His voice, manly and sweet with the barest twang of a Southern inflection, draped over Hannibal like irresistible honey. He could have listened to Will sing all night; he remained casually quiet for some time just hoping Will would go on and on.

Will drove them back towards Wolf Trap and pulled into a Barbecue Roadhouse called Wes’ which was located in the next town over from his own residence.

“Are you sure about this?” Will asked, pausing with his hands still on the wheel as Hannibal took in the sight of the gravel parking lot heavily occupied by motorcycles, the sound of country music emanating from inside, the bold red neon sign above the door with an image of a pig wearing a gingham bib, holding a knife and fork.

Well, Hannibal reasoned, novelty was always exciting, particularly where his darling Will was concerned. Moreover, the logo of this restaurant featured a blatant reference to cannibalism which amused him.

“Quite sure,” Hannibal nodded. “Take me to your world, Will.”

“Here,” Will suggested, pausing outside the car, backing Hannibal against it as he undid his bow tie and slipped it from his collar. With a naughty, intent smile, Will undid the first two buttons of Hannibal’s white shirt and helped him out of his suit jacket. He popped the trunk of his car and neatly stored Hannibal’s tuxedo implements, along with his own tie and grey suit jacket.

Will found a denim jacket in the backseat and slung it on, only to pause and question, “Hey, are you cold? I just have the one jacket, and you can have it if you need it.”

He looked incredibly sexy standing there in his element with his curls rifled and the casual coat thrown on over an untucked shirt; Hannibal wanted to eat him up in so many ways.

“I’m fine just as I am,” he lied; it was actually rather a cold evening, but it was such a short walk to the restaurant, and he wanted to keep looking at Will in that particular outfit. The pop of the jacket collar, the quick swirl of Will’s keys as he tossed and caught them, then put them in his pocket and pressed Hannibal against the car for a kiss.

“You’re so much more than fine, Daddy,” Will murmured, his kiss hot and deep, hands all over Hannibal, roving down his sides and swiftly untucking his shirt, clasping his hips before nipping his lower lip. “Mmm. You’re the yummiest thing I’ve ever seen.”

Hannibal turned red, beyond even being surprised by now that to be termed “yummy” drew this bashful response from his previously cold heart.

He couldn’t summon words, so Will spoke again. “That said, I’m fucking starving. Let’s go get something to eat.”

The roadhouse perplexed Hannibal immediately upon their entrance. It was cavernous and crowded with happy patrons, all around the large bar and dotting the many tables with brown paper tablecloths, dancing to the twangy jukebox music, swigging beer from massive glasses and wolving down racks of meat dripping with sauce which was a suspicious hue of red almost as bright as the sign outside.

His shiny black shoes crunched against something on the floor, and he glanced down in more fish-out-of-water confusion. “Is this an elephant habitat?”

Will laughed at Hannibal’s reaction to the peanut shells all over the floor. “It’s just an old tradition. There’s free peanuts in the shell for anyone who wants them, and you can just toss the shells on the floor when you’re done.”

Hannibal might have questioned if this was a health code violation, but Will’s cheeks were pink from the cold outside and he looked so happy to be here with Hannibal, so the sophisticated doctor did his best to “just go with it.”

Once they were shown to their very own paper-topped table complete with an extra roll of paper towels and an assortment of hot sauces, the waitress turned up. She was a bit younger than Will, with red hair in a ponytail tucked into a “Wes’” baseball cap, pretty freckles and a peppy attitude.

“Hey, Will, who’s the new friend?” Her eyes twinkled as Will glowed with enthusiasm at being asked which, in turn, eased Hannibal’s kneejerk reaction of jealousy at the obvious way the young woman admired Will upon greeting him.

“This is Hannibal. Hannibal, this is Pam, an old friend. She always saves a little leftover meat for me to take home for the dogs, so you know she’s good people.”

“Aww, isn’t he too sweet?” Pam laughed, blushing to an extent which Hannibal found quite unnecessary.

“A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Pam,” Hannibal managed with a flickering smile.

“And what can I get for you two handsome gents this evening?” Pam’s pen hovered over her notepad as Hannibal considered forgiving her since otherwise it was going to be a long night at Wes’.

He had entreated Will to order on both of their behalves, so the younger man requested with confidence, “We’ll have the Finger Sucker platter please, with the baby ribs and catfish.”

“That comes with cornbread and baked potato,” Pam noted. “You want the potatoes loaded?”

“Why the hell not?” Will decided, squeezing Hannibal’s knee under the table. “Let’s live a little. We’ll also have two Shipyard Monkey IPA’s if you have ‘em.”

“You bet, honey, ice cold,” Pam answered cheerily. She wiggled her curvy behind upon departure as Hannibal again reminded himself this was no occasion for homicide.

“Have you and Pam ever dated?” Hannibal blurted the second they were alone again.

“No, she’s just a friend. We went on one date a couple of years ago, but I wasn’t really feeling that ‘something more’ chemistry, you know? Hannibal, I wouldn’t take you on purpose somewhere an ex worked.”

Will nudged his foot against Hannibal’s with a soft smile. “Promise. As a matter of fact, I should probably use this occasion to let you know...I’m absolutely the jealous type.”

“Oh?” Hannibal slid his hand over the brown paper on the table, then fiddled with the salt and pepper shakers as his face felt progressively warmer with every word Will spoke. He felt deeply reassured that they were both inclined to possessiveness, and pacified for the time being by Will’s explanation that he would never intentionally provoke him into a jealous state.

“Yeah.” Will bit his lip, looking self-conscious. “I mean, that’s not telling you the half of it. I know we aren’t officially a couple or anything, but, um...just be forewarned, in case we ever are. If you were mine, and I saw someone flirt with you, lay a hand on you, try to take you away from me, I’d lose my damn mind. I guess that’s a character flaw on my part, and I know it isn’t the most attractive quality in a man.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, my dear.” Hannibal had melted entirely by now, and took both of Will’s hands in his on the table. Stroking thoughtfully over Will’s knuckles and his lovely long fingers, he added, “The news of your jealous nature has me feeling singularly aroused and appreciative.”

Will let out a sigh of relief. “Wow, that went so much better than I expected. Thought I might make you wanna come up with some excuse to get away from the crazy jealous guy. Some people think I’m a little too intense.”

“Then they don’t deserve your company or attention,” Hannibal concluded as Pam returned with their drinks and cornbread; this time, he barely noticed the waitress.

The beer was more palatable than Hannibal had anticipated; his sensitive and honed taste buds intuited a lively hops balance that made a wonderful compliment to the refreshingly scrumptious fare. For the ribs, with their spicy-sweet marinade, were perfectly prepared, and the baked potato with its excessive but savory toppings of bacon, cheese, sour cream and scallions he might call a ‘guilty pleasure.’

Will kept gazing at him across the table as they ate, as though no one else was in the room, and Hannibal was delighted with the way the date had continued to develop.

That was, until a couple entered the establishment and immediately made a beeline for their table.

The man was handsome, with wavy, greying hair and the same jeans-and-flannel apparel that Will often wore. He had his arm around a younger woman with thick glasses, a sunflower patterned babydoll dress and doc martin boots. In short, the duo bore every appearance of the prototypical “hipster” couple frequenting the barbecue roadhouse because it seemed like a “cute” and “ironic” thing to do. Hannibal disliked them on sight, not least of all because the man’s face lit up at the sight of his Will.

“Man, I haven’t seen you in ages, Will,” the man said in a booming voice overflowing with charisma that turned Hannibal’s blood cold.

Will, for his part, looked mildly mortified; Hannibal read shock and dismay in his eyes that filled him with possessive protectiveness and many distressing questions. “Carter, good to see you.” His smile was stiff, and his foot nudged Hannibal’s again, as if to say I didn’t plan on this.

This “Carter” fellow had the audacity to pause several moments before pretending he had only just observed Hannibal sitting there with his sleeves rolled up and a side plate of rib bones beside his half-empty beer glass. Out of his element and infuriated by the stranger’s pushy interruption, Hannibal’s eyes darted to the sharp knife on the tablecloth. A shame about the public circumstances of the moment.

“Oh, I didn’t see you there. Carter Jackson, how’s it going, buddy?” The man had periwinkle eyes that sized Hannibal up and seemed to find him immediately unimposing. What poor judgment, but then if this fool had once had a chance with Will and was no longer with him, that came as no surprise.

I’m not your buddy, Hannibal’s seething glare announced while his armored smile was lethal.

“Hannibal Lecter; charmed, I am sure. And who is your lovely companion?” Hannibal asked pointedly, since the poor, really quite attractive and kind-faced young lady had been completely ignored by her date this entire time.

“Oh! This is Mindy. We met at the Meadowbrook,” Carter elaborated with a meaningful look in Will’s direction which had Hannibal contemplating potential future recipes for the despicable would-be rival. “They were showing The Double Life of Veronique, I thought of you, Will. I know how you love Kieslowski’s films.”

“Right.” Will looked annoyed, barely cloaking it with politeness. He shook Mindy’s hand and said, “So great to meet you. I love your boots.”

“Thanks!” Mindy grinned, looking as if Will’s kindness eased the disappointment she was starting to feel about Carter’s behavior. “Hey, babe, let’s go get a table. I wanna try the rattlesnake margarita.”

“It’s delicious, enjoy,” Will encouraged. He reached for Hannibal’s hand, even chased it as the doctor edged his fingers away. Scooping his date’s hand up in his own, he gave it a warm squeeze and cut off all attention from Carter.

Hannibal took the hint and relaxed into Will’s hold on him, then kissed his hand, the public display of affection causing Carter to frown slightly before he and Mindy mercifully departed for their own table.

“Don’t start, please, and know that I get it, completely.” Will moved his chair next to Hannibal’s and looked at him imploringly. “I am so sorry about that, and you have to know he’s the last person I expected to see here. I just want to have a perfect date with you, and it seems like the universe is sabotaging me at every turn!”

Hannibal frowned at his lover for a few moments of bewildered, anxious attempts to properly assess the situation and his own feelings. On the one hand, he was desperately jealous and angry between Pam’s slightly flirtatious attitude towards Will, and then Carter’s unforgivably rude presumption. It especially wounded him to notice that he and Carter were roughly the same “type,” that Will apparently had a taste for older men with silvering hair, broad shoulders and sophisticated preferences in the arts. He wanted to tear Carter apart with his bare hands and teeth, and even that did not seem like a sufficient punishment for the crime of having had, in any capacity, his Will, not to mention openly showing his interest was still present whilst Will was on a date with Hannibal.

Hannibal, who was the only one Will professed to want. He let his burden of pained fury lighten a bit because Will’s luminous eyes were so full of a repentance which wasn’t truly earned.

“It isn’t your fault, Will,” he finally answered, unable to keep the throaty rasp of passionate jealousy and anger from his tone. “You couldn’t possibly have known Carter would be here. Tell me, were you in a serious relationship?”

“No,” Will recalled, “I wouldn’t even call it a relationship, really. We dated on and off for a while a few months back, I didn’t feel a connection and he did, then he didn’t really want to let me go and it got uncomfortable. I should have done something more serious to put an end to his fixation with me.”

“Something more serious?” Hannibal inquired, his rage diverted by the fascinating darkness in Will’s face, his poisonous tone when he spoke the regret.

Somehow, Hannibal doubted that Will meant he should have notified the police of any harassment on Carter’s part. “Something serious” sounded more like Hannibal’s usual method of dealing with the rude, and he was dying to hear more about it.

“Oops,” Will laughed awkwardly, “Got a little carried away there. I’m just really frustrated. I wanted to show you an amazing time tonight, and instead…”

“I am having one of the best nights of my life, Will Graham,” Hannibal insisted, “No complication, no inconvenient past acquaintances or mistakes, no regrets and no difference in our preferences for places to go and things to do could possibly prevent me from having an extraordinarily splendid time. I merely need your hand in mine, the gift of your continued regard, the chance to explore what we are finding between us. And…”

He cupped Will’s face, running his fingers adoringly over his stubble, tracing his jaw, then trailing his fingers down Will’s neck, worshipful even in these small, publicly decent gestures that did not come close to portraying his desperate ardor.

“And I come alive. As I have never come alive before. It’s all because of you, Will.”

“I don’t believe it,” Will said, a lump in his throat and tears dotting his eyes. “I’m sorry, I don’t meant to get all dramatic on you. It’s just that I’ve been so worried about driving you away from me that it never occurred to me, you could feel the same way I do. That I could be that lucky. I never knew how much I wanted to have something like this in my life, that I could need it so badly.”

“The feeling is mutual. I cannot recall a single moment of my life since childhood,” Hannibal said thoughtfully, drawing a distinction of before and after losing Mischa. “A single time since then that I have felt I needed anything or anyone. Let me show you I’m sincere, since you are so determined to worry.”

With a fond grin, he stood and offered his hand to Will. “Dance with me.”

Dance?” Will shook his head, “You don’t wanna dance to this music, do you?”

Hannibal paused to absorb the jaunty country rhythm and the husky female singer belting out, “If your heart ain’t busy tonight, I could keep it occupied for a long, long time.

“Indeed I do,” he said with an arch look that made Will blush. “As it happens, I am an exceptional dancer, and highly adaptable to many genres.”

***

“Wow, you weren’t kidding,” Will marveled as Hannibal led him onto the dancefloor and immediately began moving effortlessly, swaying on beat with sensuous expertise, as if he danced to Tanya Tucker songs all the time. “You really can dance to anything.”

Hannibal smirked and spun Will around, then caught him and dipped him backwards as the song ended, holding Will protectively in his strong arms. They let out breathy laughs of pure enjoyment as their eyes stayed locked, then a sentimental, romantic slow song started to play.

Will thought he would dissolve into a lustful, enraptured puddle as Hannibal drew him into a slow dance posture, not a polite waltz, but a handsy, snugly pressed school dance-style position. He snuggled his face into Hannibal’s neck as the older man held him tight, Will’s arms around his neck, Hannibal’s clasped low on Will’s back.

“There, now,” Hannibal murmured against Will’s ear before kissing it, his hands hot and heavy through the fabric of Will’s shirt, their groins pressed nearly flush as arousal coursed through Will at the brush of firmness he felt when Hannibal’s cock subtly rubbed against him. “Enjoy yourself, baby.”

He gasped and kissed Hannibal’s neck, his half-lidded eyes happening to dizzily glance over his lover’s shoulder to see Carter staring at them from his table with Mindy, disapproving and resentful. Will didn’t care about that, or his wish that he had killed Carter back when the man originally acted like an ass towards him; of course he hadn’t because anyone would be able to find out they dated, and he didn’t want any evidence of his involvement. He had been so upset with himself anyway, for letting Carter live so that he could tarnish this date and hurt Hannibal’s feelings even for one split second, but the angry self-blame faded, swallowed up by the perfect romance of loving Hannibal so fucking much right now, needing and adoring and being held like Hannibal could never want to be anywhere else, would never let him go.

Will stopped worrying about the opera and the other people who wanted Hannibal, and whether he could measure up. He slid his hand into Hannibal’s hair and savored their closeness, the slow rock of their hips to the gentle but sultry tune and wistful vocals. The steel guitar and fiddles represented the music of his childhood, where he felt comforted and at home, and now the sounds were fusing with Hannibal’s embrace and the older man’s murmuring voice, sighing affirmations that soothed his soul.

Find a truck and fire it up, Lean on the gas and off the clutch / Leave Dallas in the dust, I need you in a rush / So, baby, run,...”

George Strait was singing on the jukebox and Hannibal was swaying with him, saying under his breath and only for Will, “I’m here. Just be here with me, baby. Let Daddy take care of absolutely everything. I’ll give you whatever you need.”

Will moaned, caught up in the moment, as if the music and Hannibal’s arms showed how he could remember where he always felt safe and warm, when he was a kid listening to country songs in his parents’ kitchen in Louisiana while his mom boiled blue crabs and let him sneak bites of the peach praline cake she had made for dessert and his dad gardened outside, talking to them through the open window. Home and safe, just like this, the sensation deepened now by nostalgia and comfort fusing with heady lustful need. Will was where he belonged.

“I love you,” he sighed, his fingers clutching into Hannibal’s shirt, wrinkling the perfectly smooth fabric, and he was so drunk on the older man’s delectable body heat and spicy cologne, the thrall of Hannibal’s attention and precious words that it took several thudding, world-shaking heartbeats before he realized what he had just said.

They had barely noticed the song changing; this time it was Pam Tillis singing “I can feel that something pounding in my brain / Just anytime that someone speaks your name / Trumpets sound and I hear thunder boom / Everytime that you walk in the room…

It was a midtempo song, but they had stayed in near-scandalous slow dance position, Will drawing back now with his heart leaping into his throat, so afraid Hannibal would be dismayed by the too-soon profession of helpless love. He just hadn’t been able to hold it back for another moment.

If Hannibal didn’t want it, if he was scaring his lover off again, Will would try and take it back or laugh it off, or anything that would keep him here, with his wonderful strong arms wrapped tight around him. Anything.

Instead of the severe or disappointed expression Will feared, he found Hannibal beaming at him, his golden eyes glazed with tears. It was okay! He could say it, Hannibal wanted this.

Will laughed rapturously and kissed Hannibal’s mouth, once, twice, three times, accentuating each warm press of eager lips with more exultations of words he had repressed for weeks. “I love you,” he sighed, “Hannibal, I love you!”

Chapter Text

Will noticed that Hannibal showed a tiny flinch at the cold when they came back outside. His adorable micro-expressions were swoon-worthy. Will loved that he was getting to know how those brief nose crinkles and hand flexes portrayed disapproval, a mild chill, or his personal favorite, the small snarl that happened when Hannibal’s lust and temper collided. Memories of the last time they had sex came floating very pleasantly into his mind, and he smiled to himself, letting the smugness settle in, knowing they would do it again soon and he didn’t have to live in doubt of that anymore.

He shrugged off his jacket and put it around Hannibal’s shoulders. Hannibal intuited, without mentioning it, that Will had wanted to do that all night. It was just another small act of claiming; Will knew Hannibal knew. They felt so in sync, he wouldn’t be surprised if they finished each other’s sentences soon enough.

Hannibal let Will cling to his arm and nuzzle into his shoulder during the short walk; the younger man clearly couldn’t keep his hands to himself, and it was a sheer delight to his lover. He put his arm around Will and rubbed his firm bicep, then kissed the top of his head, inhaling the agent’s peppermint shampoo, high on life in a way he’d never experienced outside of the kill.

“I’ll drive this time,” Hannibal proposed, desiring to take care of his boy as he had promised.

He had not said the “three words” back, but he knew the moment for this all-important reciprocation would arrive organically, most likely when he least expected it. He wished for the words to fly his lips instinctively and because there was no other expression that could possibly do. He wanted all sorts of things that once seemed foolish...but underneath his former superior snobbery towards the idea of romance lay the truth of his fears.

After Mischa, he had vowed never to allow his contentment in life to be under someone else’s power, but here he was, wrapped around Will’s little finger. There was nowhere else he would rather be, even if he was still more than a bit scared at his own vulnerability. He considered that the fear might never fully dissipate, and he must acclimate, a fuller surrender, presenting himself as the banquet for Will’s senses and decisions. He needed the fire of that self-sacrifice simply to know he was awake these days, moving further and further away from the numb, ego-driven complacency of his former existence.

Hannibal Lecter had become reckless.

“Take me home, Daddy?” Will murmured with a warm, moist kiss to Hannibal’s cheek.

It was a mirroring act of claiming, Hannibal driving Will’s car. He adjusted the seat to suit his taller height and turned Will’s favorite music back on. Halfway to Will’s house, the younger man surprised him by suddenly jolting upright in his seat. Until that point, Will had slumped in a lustful, happy daze, watching Hannibal drive as anticipation for inevitable physical intimacy built between them, deliciously palpable. Normally Hannibal might find such slovenly posture unseemly, but in Will it was, of course, sweet and entirely forgivable.

“Oh, I completely forgot! My parents are at my house.” Will slapped his forehead. “I’m sorry, I assumed that if things went well, we’d head back to your place because I thought we were gonna be in Baltimore. So my parents were going to stay over to take care of the dogs.”

Hannibal smiled, easing the car down the bumpy country road that led to Will’s house. “If you do not think it is too soon, I would be delighted to meet your parents. They must be extraordinary people to have created and raised the remarkable son I see before my eager eyes.”

“Aw, come on,” Will blushed, “If you really want to meet my parents, you’d better lighten up on the praise, or you’ll have to peel me off of you.”

“I know what you like, and the more I can discover about how to please you, I will continue to give it to you in excess.” Hannibal parked next to Will’s parents’ pick-up truck and leaned in for a quick kiss, tucking a curl back behind his boy’s pretty ear.

“Likewise.” Will grinned. “Okay. Meet the parents time.” Jokingly, he rolled his shoulders back and stretched as if heading into battle. “Let’s do this.”

Hannibal tucked his shirt back in and swiped a hand over his hair which had been disheveled between dancing and kissing.

“Hiiii,” Will called out as he eased the door open, “I have company with me, so you two better not be making out on the couch!”

The dogs rushed up to greet their master as Hannibal stepped in behind his lover and Will crouched down to pet each furry head. The pets’ anxious impatience for Will’s affection rendered Hannibal a momentary pause of discomfort; he was not so different himself. He was certainly going to have to learn how to increase his humility along with his deepening love, an unexpected challenge.

“Okay, okay,” Will laughed, “Go back to bed everybody, it’s late.”

Obediently, the dogs trotted to the assortment of pillows which rested in a half-circle before the warmly crackling fireplace. Placed to the left of the room were several bookcases which Hannibal still wished to examine, in his next opportunity, to glean whatever insights he could into Will’s character. His love was not the man to purchase and display a book without intention; every item in this house had a meaning and expressed his personality.

Fitted snugly but cozily into this front room between bookcases and “dog zone,” a well-worn sage green couch and matching easy chair were arranged in front of a a medium sized television, not the flat screen which almost everyone had these days, but an “old school” version sitting on a wooden stand. Beneath the t.v. in the shelves of the stand was a collection of dvds whose cracked plastic covers showed they were well used. Hannibal would need to investigate those as well. He wanted to know everything about Will; he was nothing if not a sponge looking to soak up every drop of precious knowledge, and--

“You’re home,” said an attractive brunette woman in her late fifties, rising from the couch where a man of the same age was still sitting, giving an exaggerated yawn and stretch.

“We fell asleep, your dogs wore us right out. What gives, how come you’re back?” The man asked groggily, not having noted Will’s warning about company, and without having yet noticed Hannibal’s presence. “Thought you wanted us to take care of the doggos in the mornin’ too, cause you were gonna be canoodling with Dr. Wonderful--”

Honey,” Will’s mother hissed, leaning down to tap her husband’s knee. She whisper-scolded, “Dr. Wonderful is standing right there.

You guys.” Will sighed and dropped his head into his hand, adorably embarrassed by his parents’ antics. Waving his free hand, he added, “Maddie and Travis Graham, this is Dr. Hannibal Lecter.”

Hannibal absorbed the scene with deep interest. First, there was the support and love which he read easily from Will’s parents’ choice to accommodate his love life by dog-sitting. They were so comfortable here, it was obvious the family were close and spent plentiful time in each others’ houses. On the coffee table in front of the couch, a large bowl was half-filled with popcorn and two cans of soda sat beside it. An old rerun of Law and Order played quietly from the t.v.

He could not imagine what it would be like to have parents such as these in one’s life as an adult, the steadying influence, the unquestioned affection. The cozy scene made him immediately inclined to allow his positive predisposition towards Mr. and Mrs. Graham to grow into admiration and appreciation. Will only deserved the best, after all.

Then he observed with his usual acute attention to detail the physical resemblances, how the softly twining brunette curls had come from Will’s mother, while the auburn highlighting must have been from his father. Will had his father’s eyes and nose, but his mother’s plush lips and elven ears, and his parents showed a happy, healthy, mellow demeanor which was pleasing. Mr. Graham’s red and black plaid flannel shirt and faded blue jeans formed a clear “fashion” template for Will’s usual preferences in attire which was quite endearing, while Mrs. Graham wore cream colored wide-leg trousers and a matching linen cardigan.

Hannibal remembered Will saying that his father fixed boats for a living and his mother was a relationship counselor. White and blue collar soulmates. How intriguing, to see the “opposites attract” energy between his lover’s parents, which seemed almost a precursor to the differences in himself and Will. From the opera to the rib house, indeed. He liked the soothing sound of their thick Southern accents and their warm, sincere handshakes, the way Mrs. Graham looked nervous but excited to meet him, while her husband seemed to be “sizing” him up.

“So, you’re interested in my son, huh?” Mr. Graham cupped his chin the way Hannibal had seen Will do at least a dozen times.

“I admire Will deeply, and appreciate any time I am privileged to spend with him,” Hannibal answered smoothly and honestly.

His own sophisticated accent and manners seemed to have Maddie Graham charmed right away.

“Hush up, Travis, don’t scare the nice doctor boyfriend away,” She chided, elbowing her spouse. “Sorry, are we saying ‘boyfriends’?”

As Will mumbled “oh my God, please stop” into his hand, Mrs. Graham continued earnestly, “Or is it ‘partners’? ‘Lovers’?”

Mom,” Will said, turning scarlet.

“All of the above, in fact,” Hannibal confirmed. He felt Will staring at him in surprise at the “serious relationship” talk he had just approved, to his parents no less. It filled him with pride and joy to give Will what he wanted while showing off their connection. “I must thank you for raising such an extraordinary son.”

“You’re welcome,” Travis said, amused and beginning to approve. “And as for seeming suspicious of you, I’m just checking in on your intentions. A natural instinct for any father.”

“If I had a child, I would certainly do no less. Feel free to ask me any questions that may aid in your evaluation of my validity as a potential mate for Will.” With equal humor twinkling in his cinnamon eyes, Hannibal took up the easy chair while Will’s parents sat on the couch.

Groaning in continued embarrassment, Will sat on the arm of Hannibal’s chair. The older man immediately wrapped an arm around Will’s waist that made him let out a sigh of relief. Hannibal could imagine sitting like this with Will’s family, clearly marked as a couple, at holiday gatherings for years to come. He was unused to giving so much thought to the future, much less hope, even wistfulness.

“Well, I take it you treat him well,” Travis proceeded.

“Dad, I’m going to strangle you,” Will warned.

“No need.” Hannibal chuckled. “It is my highest honor to treat your son like the prince he is.”

“Good answer.” Travis’ eyes narrowed. “Maybe too good. We hear you’re a fantastic psychiatrist, so you spend most of your time helpin’ people. You must have some flaws, are you even human?”

“About an hour ago, I perplexed your son by eating a rack of barbecue ribs using a knife and fork,” Hannibal recalled. “As such, I certainly have much to learn in quite a few categories, casual food etiquette included.”

“How do you even eat ribs with silverware?” Maddie asked, bewildered.

“It took him ages.” Will grinned and looked at Hannibal as though he hung the moon. They both seemed to be glowing in this moment.

“And what do you like to do for fun?” Travis asked, his pretense of interrogation slipping into comfortable conversation.

“Do you do the karokey?” Maddie added excitedly. “We go every Wednesday night at Becky’s Tavern.”

“Mom, please,” Will put in, “I’ve told you, it’s karaoke, not ‘the karokey.’ And I’m sure Hannibal wouldn’t want to--”

“Actually, it sounds quite delightful.” Hannibal put aside his rational disdain for listening to terrible vocal performances and microphone feedback. If this was a Graham family tradition, he was “all in.”

“We always perform our wedding song.” Travis smiled nostalgically and spread his hands in the air. “‘After All,’ by Peter Cetera and Cher.”

“A classic,” Hannibal nodded. In truth, he had almost no knowledge of popular American music, yet there was some odd need he felt to fit in here. Perhaps he was overcompensating. There was nothing wrong with being a connoisseur of classical and opera.

“Hannibal is a bit of a musical genius himself,” Will bragged, bringing a flush to the older man’s cheeks. “He composes on harpsichord and theremin.”

Hannibal looked up at Will’s joyful face as the boy indulged in yet another round of talking him up. It was difficult not to simply cover Will in kisses, every moment of the night. The delicate fair skin, those soft pink cheeks and luscious lips, his eyes by lamp and dwindling firelight now shading glossy cerulean....too beautiful, too irresistible. He settled for gently squeezing Will’s hip and caressing his side, and could tell from Will’s soft sigh that his every touch ignited excitement while providing comfort.

“Harpsichord and theremin, how intriguing,” Maddie enthused. “Are those instruments popular in your part of the world?”

They began talking about Lithuania for some time, with Hannibal keeping his references carefully to the arts, traditional foods and the beautiful sights which any tourist should include on an itinerary of his homeland.

“And do your parents still live in Lithuania?” Maddie asked innocently.

Will tugged Hannibal’s sleeve subtly and gave him an apologetic look. Hannibal had confided to Will about his parents’ and sister’s deaths, although he had omitted a few more brutal details. But the young man clearly had not yet had a chance to tell his parents about it and avoid the awkward introduction of such a sad topic into a light ‘getting to know you’ chat.

Hannibal did not blame any of the Grahams for the situation, but he also did not wish to discuss his family’s fate at this time, after such a special date and when he and Will were floating in the ‘honeymoon phase’ of their relationship. Thinking about his parents and Mischa would drag his mood down to melancholy, and quickly.

Yet there did not seem to be a polite way to avoid answering directly, and Hannibal despised discourtesy enough to follow etiquette even when it wounded him.

“Actually,” he began, resigned, but Will interrupted him, squeezing his hand as if to say, ‘I’ve got this.’

“Mom, would you play something for us on piano?” Will suggested. He met his parents’ puzzled expressions at the abrupt topic change with a pointed look that said to go along with it. “Mom taught me to play.”

“True enough, but I taught you to dance,” Travis smirked. “This boy can two-step along with the best of ‘em, Hannibal.”

“So I’ve observed,” Hannibal beamed.

Will hugged him and kissed his forehead while his parents were occupied at the plain but clean, well-kept piano which sat behind the t.v. in front of the window. Now, Will could tell his parents about Hannibal’s childhood tragedy privately, rather than Hannibal having to dredge up his trauma. He had protected Hannibal, shielded him the very moment he sensed his lover was uncomfortable. And Hannibal would have been just fine if he had to talk about his family, but he was so grateful to have avoided it, especially because of what it showed him about the way Will loved. As he had never been loved: adored, possessed and guarded.

Will would never let anyone hurt him, and Will would never hurt him intentionally. He would move mountains to make Hannibal happy.

Maddie and Travis were prattling on about song choices as she sifted through the sheet music atop the piano. Her husband hovered behind her, insisting that there had to be something better in the Kings and Queens of Country book than “Your Cheatin’ Heart” or “Folsom Prison Blues.”

“Overplayed,” he insisted, clucking his tongue at the selection of maudlin ditties about infidelity and loneliness. “And completely wrong for the mood.”

“Yeah, honey, I realize that, but the only other book he has is rock, and I am just not a rock ‘n roll kinda girl.”

Behind them, Hannibal rose from the chair and took Will by the arm, giving him a searching look. Will smiled softly. “What is it?”

Hannibal swallowed hard past the lump in his throat and blinked away a few tears, happy for what he had found and sad for what he had lost. The present joy was almost too vivid compared with the gruesome misery of his childhood losses, then the solitude which while “safe,” had rendered his life unaccountably dull. He had assumed the only way to be shielded from heartbreak was to be alone, but Will had shown him another way to accept belonging.

“I love you, Will,” he murmured, his husky voice breaking on his lover’s name. “Very, very much.”

Will was so astonished, he froze in place for a few beats as his parents finally found a suitable song.

“Well, there aren’t any cheerful songs in here, but this one’s the prettiest,” Maddie determined, and then her able fingers traveled lightly over the keys, every note sparkling, smooth, connected.

“May I have this dance?” Hannibal asked with a courtly, almost bashful smile.

He took Will’s hand and gathered him into a chaste waltzing position appropriate for his parent’s presence. Will was still staring at him as if he had seen the most beautiful, unexpected ghost, as if he had never really expected Hannibal to say he was in love. It made Hannibal want to spend the rest of his life proving to Will just exactly how in love he was. Now seemed like a good time to start.

“What is this song called?” he asked as Will held his shoulder just shy of tightly, his palm sweaty and clutching Hannibal’s own.

“‘Don’t it Make My Brown Eyes Blue,’” Will replied, swaying gently to the slow song, following Hannibal’s lead again. “Never expected to meet someone I could dance all night with.” His smile was tremulous, wavering, half-disbelieving.

“Nor did I, but you have surprised and amazed me at every turn. I used to avoid what was unpredictable at all costs, little imagining that this very quality would define the man I have come to need so much. You follow your own incomparably unique, ineffably brilliant nature, and it is quite beyond me.”

Will looked up at him, his smile quivering again. He leaned in to say in Hannibal’s ear, “When my parents leave, I’m gonna fuck you so good.”

His voice had gone raspy with emotion and desire; he had noticed that Hannibal loved his dirty talk more than almost anything, yet another startling quality in their connection. He know how this promise would exhilarate Hannibal and show how deeply his words had touched him. For them, the raunchy profession was very much another “I love you.” They were growing their own secret language, the lexicon expanding along with every room in Hannibal’s memory palace where Will was taking over.

His eyes were large and dark on Hannibal when he drew back, his velvety voice still wrapping around Hannibal with the naughty words that echoed in his mind. Hot, sweet desire coiled tightly in Hannibal’s low belly, aching in his cock enough that he could only hope his lover’s parents would not notice the extent of his arousal.

Luckily, Will’s parents made no such observation, and after accepting a round of enthusiastic applause for her performance, Maddie bowed to them and said that she and Travis had really best be getting home.

“So absolutely lovely to meet you, Hannibal,” Maddie said kindly.

No longer able to use Will as a shield for his state of excitement, Hannibal had picked up a book about fishing, quite randomly, from the side table by the chair and held it casually at a good angle to conceal what he must.

Will noticed his struggle, and gave him a softly deliberate smirk that sent shivers down Hannibal’s spine and made his distraction even worse.

“And you as well, Mrs. Graham,” Hannibal smiled awkwardly, shaking her hand from a respectable distance before doing the same with her husband. “And you, sir.”

“I think he’s a keeper, Will,” Travis said, throwing his coat on without paying any heed to the barely shrouded seduction between his son and the good doctor.

“You know what, Dad?” Will asked with his eyes twinkling, “I think you’re right.”

***

Oh,” Will marveled after closing the door on his parents. He came back over to Hannibal and stared at the bulge of hard cock tenting the older man’s trousers. “I think you’re gonna need a bigger book to hide that.”

Hannibal smirked and tossed the book playfully aside, right before Will swept him into a commanding, heated embrace and laid a molton kiss on his lips. They were already tugging impatiently at each other’s clothes as Will backed him towards the stairs, and then they laughed into a few more messy kisses as their shirts hit the stairs.

They kissed their way into Will’s bedroom and collapsed onto the bed. Hannibal was getting used to being here, between light grey walls, atop the soft mattress with its indigo quilt in a geometric design, the sailboat painting above the bed, the neat arrangement of Will’s fly fishing implements on the desk under the slanted window. The moonlight slipping into the room to caress Will’s earnest features, his eyes almost black looming above Hannibal. He was losing track of what held him here, was it Will’s eyes or the strong, firm press of beautiful hands pinning his wrists to the bed? All Hannibal knew was that he felt almost more at home here, in Will’s space, under his control, than in his house or his fading, flickering person suit.

“Someday,” Will murmured headily, digging his fingertips into the vulnerable skin of Hannibal’s wrists, grinding with care so that their clothed cocks brushed with tantalizing awareness of mutual readiness, yet no discomfort arose from the friction. They both moaned into a wet, frantic kiss, then Will dipped his face to kiss and bite at Hannibal’s neck. The doctor tipped his head up, exposing his neck for Will’s lavishing tongue and bruising sucks, already lost and panting out his lover’s name, his sensitive skin damp and aching from the treasured bites, his cock thickening even more as heat coursed through him from head to toe.

Will hovered above him and smiled darkly, both of them feeling with elation the press of their naked chests, Hannibal’s scratchy-soft hair rubbing Will’s smoother pectorals, their nipples touching, bringing more shivering nuances of pleasure.

“Someday, I’m going to tie you up and edge you for hours, Daddy,” Will promised, his own breath catching at the ragged moan Hannibal let out. “Oh, you’d like that, too? I’d get you so close over and over, until you cry and beg to come, but I’ll keep saying, no, and you’d just have to take it. You wouldn’t be able to escape my bindings. I’m a sailor and I know...how to tie knots.”

“Please, Will.” Hannibal’s fingers flexed; he’d been obedient so far in Will’s grip, but these words were pushing him towards a loss of control.

“Already begging, so impatient. You need your boy too much to wait, huh, Daddy?” Will shook his head and his brow creased when Hannibal shuddered with overwhelming desire. “Shh, it’s okay. You know I’ll always take care of you, honey. Someday, I will I make you wait for hours, dripping in sweat and precum, bound and helpless, finally coming so hard it hurts but it’s so fucking worth the wait because you never knew you could come that hard. I want that for you.”

“Will, you’re killing me,” Hannibal sighed, lifting his head, straining for at least a kiss, his cock rigid and twitching in his pants. The gentle friction Will provided was making him dizzy, just enough to tantalize, not enough to provide relief.

Will smirked. “Not tonight. Tonight, I’m so gone on you, I need to have you right now. I’ve been dreaming about nothing but fucking you all day and night, you and your gorgeous face, your sexy accent, your perfect intoxicating body, the smell of you, the taste.”

He released Hannibal’s wrists and raked his hands down the older man’s body, savoring him, then undoing his trousers and kissing his cock through silk boxers. “My sophisticated, fancy daddy, look at this pretty underwear. Your big cock, all dressed up for me.” He licked and sucked Hannibal through the silk, breathing in the scent of his musky arousal.

“I wonder if I could get you to come just from talking,” Will mused, mercifully releasing Hannibal’s aching cock and stroking him slowly, easy lubrication from precum making it so good that Hannibal tugged Will’s curls and gasped. “You know that I probably could, but it’s not what you want, huh?”

“No,” Hannibal sighed, licking his lips, his hips bucking instinctively into the rhythm Will set with his stroking hand, “I want your mouth...and your cock.”

“That’s a good Daddy. I want to give you everything you need.” Will stood only to strip his pants off and grab the lube from his bedside table drawer, but Hannibal’s hungry eyes followed his every move and glanced something else of interest in the drawer.

“What’s this?” Hannibal inquired almost politely, naked and hard on the bed, lying on his side and reaching over to the drawer to pull out a sizable anal dildo.

He raised his light brows, and it was his turn to smirk, turning the softly bendable sex toy in his hands, admiring the eight inches of purple but otherwise quite realistic cock, complete with vein texture and a lifelike ridge at the tip.

“Well. That,” Will revealed, not embarrassed, but rather pleased at Hannibal’s curiosity and intrigue.

He straddled Hannibal’s hips, drizzled lube onto both their cocks and took pressed them together, both of them immediately groaning in pleasure.

“I named that Hannibal. You know, when we weren’t together-together...I missed you a lot at night. And during the day. I took it to work a few times--”

Will,” Hannibal moaned, drifting away in a sea of bliss with every knowing stroke of Will’s hand on them, pressing their hot, hard skin together, getting them close in seconds. “Will, not yet…”

“Mmm, you’re right.” Will sighed, “It’s just so hard to resist all the different ways to get us there. Like, how about…” Playfully, he passed the lube to Hannibal and prepared to sit on his face while reaching again for his lover’s cock.

Eagerly, Hannibal parted Will’s cheeks and licked his hole, reaching down to grasp and stroke the younger man’s rock hard dick at the same time.

“Oh, God,” Will gasped, taking as much of Hannibal as he could fit in his mouth.

It was a struggle but he was infinitely motivated, eventually pressing his lips tight to the base as light pubic hairs brushed his nose and Hannibal’s breath stuttered against his hole. Will let out happy choking noises and gripped Hannibal’s thighs tightly, possessively, silently saying, mine.

“Naughty boy,” Hannibal accused hoarsely as Will pulled his mouth off and shot him a wet smirk.

“For you? Always.” He raised his eyebrows and curved his moist lips in a devilish smile.

In delighted vengeance, Hannibal lubricated the dildo and positioned it teasingly at Will’s entrance.

“Oh, fuck, I love how your mind works,” Will approved, mouthing lazily at Hannibal’s cock as his lover began to press the dildo inside his tight walls, the rim sucking the toy in slowly.

That familiar tingle ignited in Will’s stomach, butterflies of pleasure at the penetration, much more arousing because Hannibal was controlling the long, firm strokes, until finally the toy was seated as deeply as it could fit. The purple PVC base protruded from Will’s hole as the older man admired his erotic mischief, Will’s shapely ass having never looked better to him.

Fuck, fuck-fuck-fuck,” Will gritted out weakly, so full that it almost hurt in the best way. “You know, just for that…”

He changed position, above Hannibal again and face to face, pressing full-body against the doctor, kissing his lips with fervent passion, while Hannibal gripped the base of the toy and slid it in and out a few more times.

“Oh my god, I’m going to get you for this,” Will insisted, red-faced and breathless, “I’m going to get you better than I ever have, Daddy.”

He sat back and widely parted Hannibal’s thighs, then used the rest of the lube left in the bottle to slick his hole. Still shivering with the dildo resting deep inside him, Will stroked himself and lined up to Hannibal’s entrance, his eyes burning down into his lover’s needy amber gaze.

“You haven’t had this in a while, Daddy. You miss it?” Will smiled in purest, dirtiest joy as he began to press inside Hannibal, his hands planted roughly under the older man’s knees.

“Yes, baby,” Hannibal moaned, “Please.”

His feet landed desperately against Will’s shoulders, and as he began to thrust in, Will licked and nibbled his toes, the soft bottoms of his feet. The younger man slid in to the hilt and cried out at the dual pleasure of fucking Hannibal with his own ass filled.

“Daddy,” Will moaned, sweat beading his brow.

“Come here, my darling.” Hannibal drew Will flush against him, where Will immediately kissed and bit at his shoulder.

Hannibal began gliding the dildo in and out again, following the timing of Will’s thrusts inside him, both of them loudly exclaiming various obscenities, Hannibal’s in three languages. Will nuzzled into Hannibal’s neck and wept with bliss, his tears of exertion and sensation hot and soft in comparison to the welcome, ragged scrape of his beard.

“Hnnnhhh, God, Hannibal, I’m gonna...I can’t last like this,” Will groaned, ecstasy building so fast and hard inside him, he couldn’t possibly keep up.

“I know, sweet boy,” Hannibal sighed, loving Will’s hands wrapped tight around the back of his neck, pulling at his hair. “I want this for you, for both of us. Give it to me now.”

He cupped Will’s ass cheek and squeezed, lightly spanking as he continued his ministrations with the dildo, then Will burst inside him with a helpless mewl, hips shuddering against Hannibal’s. His copious release was warm and wet inside Hannibal, who brought him back down sweetly, easing the dildo from the clenching hold of his hole, kissing flushed cheeks and drawing a love-addled boy to his chest for snuggles.

Chapter Text

Will woke with a smile to the sound of his piano in the living room, knowing Hannibal must have roused in the dead of night and wandered out there to play.

Naked and happy, he rose from bed with a long stretch and a yawn, scratching his underarm before heading into the living room with just a sheet wrapped around him, his curls rumpled, body still aching with resonating pleasure from earlier.

Hannibal sat shirtless in a pair of Will’s blue plaid pajama pants, playing the loveliest song. The melody was haunting; it seemed to drift through so many shades of joy and pain, it struck Will to his soul. He leaned over Hannibal and draped his arms loosely about the older man’s neck, then kissed his cheek.

The doctor smiled fondly and went on playing, so Will sat next to him on the piano bench, watching his fingers and his strong forearms, the play of dim lamplight over his chiseled features, the honeyed glow of his mysterious eyes.

When the song was over, Will gently bumped his shoulder and murmured, “That was stunning. What is that piece?”

“I haven’t given it a name yet.” Hannibal wasn’t meeting his gaze, which always meant he felt self-conscious. “Aside, of course, from ‘Will.’”

“You wrote that?” Will asked in astonishment. “When?”

“I’ve been toying with the melody in the back of my mind since we met.” Hannibal turned to Will at last, gazing at him in wonderment, soft and sure.

“I’m, uh...Hannibal, God.” Will clasped his jaw, stroked a lock of silver-strewn blonde back from his brow. “I’m so in love with you, it’s honestly scary.”

“Then we will be afraid together.” Hannibal smiled again, reassuring this time, and surprised Will by hoisting him up by the waist, then sitting him atop the piano.

Will giggled quietly, his feet landing with a sharp clang on the keys, the dogs across the room raising groggy heads to check all was well before going back to sleep. The curtains were open, snow falling outside in a silent cascade of fluffy, crystalline flakes, twirling in the wind.

Hannibal gently tugged the sheet from Will’s body and admired him for a few moments of intensity that made the younger man’s heart hammer incessantly. The doctor cupped Will’s face and leaned up to softly kiss his lips, electric tension immediately radiating between them. He grasped Will’s knees and parted his thighs, stood between them, then leaned the boy back so that he had full access to the body he longed to worship.

His big, powerful hand rested on Will’s collarbone, dragged down his chest and stomach before grabbing his hips. Will slipped down, ass bumping the piano keys, another chiming random note sounding as Hannibal kept him firmly in place before sucking his half-hard cock to full attention, Will’s arms spread like listless angel wings atop the piano, his ceaseless building moans Hannibal's favorite song of all.

He ate Will out with long, lingering attention, intent on having him sopping wet and relaxed, until he could sink a finger slowly inside his velvety tightness, then two...Will came helplessly when Hannibal crooked both fingers up to brush his prostate, and Hannibal lapped up every drop, then let his pants fall down around his ankles and replaced his hand with his cock.

“Hannibal,” Will cried out weakly, quivering.

The thumping motion of the older man’s hips firmly rocking against him made more chaotic music fill the air, piano keys attacked with every thrust. Hannibal held Will’s face at such an angle that he must meet the doctor’s demanding eyes, glittering with adoration and neediness while his girthy, solid cock slid in deeper. By the time Hannibal lost his cool and rutted with animal savagery, the music they made had grown cacophonous as the blinding desire between them, Will’s legs locked desperately around his hips, Hannibal grunting, the sound feral, full of gravel and fire. He spilled into Will with a sharp shove forward and scooped his body into a tight embrace. Will wrapped around him, clinging with arms and legs while Hannibal rode out his orgasm, pumping warm seed deep inside him, holding him so fiercely there would be purple fingerprints on Will’s back and ass.

“I don’t understand,” Hannibal admitted, his breath rough and wild when he stared down at Will. He carried the younger man to the couch and held him on his lap, where they remained with eyes fastened on each other, incapable of looking away. “I cannot make sense of the tragedy in my past, and the joy I feel now. After everything I have done, somehow I am here with you.”

“The happiness brings up the pain of the past,” Will nodded, massaging his back.

“I thought I buried it all, but it has become clear to me that my love for you is equal, if not more life-shaping, to that I felt for my parents and sister. If I let myself think of you as family, and lose you…”

“You won’t lose me,” Will insisted, tipping his lover’s chin up. Oh, that proud, noble, irresistible face. The elegance and the wildfire right under the surface, the palpable danger Will could taste in each moment he was exposed to Hannibal’s influence. He still melted every time, just looking at his lover. “I promise.”

“I want to compose for you across every medium I know,” Hannibal said intensely. His eyes were restless again, flitting around the room as his hands trailed over Will’s body, stroking down his spine, tracing his shoulders.

“I want to paint you with elements of blood and breath, and even that seems insufficient tribute to your radiance. I feel an irrepressible inspiration to affect change to the outside world, as your love is changing me. But there are parts of my life I have not yet shown you, and I fear it is a path you may not be able to follow.”

Will shivered with fascination. “I’ll follow you, Hannibal. I’d do anything for you and with you. Things maybe you can’t imagine. Acts I’ve already committed that feel as much a tribute to our love as what we just did, and that...I wanna show you. Do you think we’re ready?”

“I hope that we are, mylimasis.”

They both knew their secrets were converging. Each man suspected that their clandestine activities might be one and the same while fearing this was too wonderful to be the case, that everything would come tumbling down and they might lose one another after all. So they let the conversation fade, unwilling to venture forth until they felt more secure.

Hannibal never expected how soon he would find the next evidence that they were soulmates in the most profound, forbidden, glorious way imaginable.

***

The next time Will woke, it was with his face crushed against Hannibal’s chest. The tickling of crisp grey hairs made his clamped-shut eyes flutter open as he realized he had once again grabbed his lover into a near suffocation of an embrace while sleeping. Even unconscious, he was insanely possessive, pleased to see the bruising around Hannibal’s neck while brushing his fingers over the matching bite mark on his own skin.

Hannibal had somehow managed to stay asleep despite having Will Graham wrapped around him like a crazed spider monkey, so the younger man took advantage of this chance to examine him in the morning light. He looked like a golden god, tawny soft hair gone fluffy with the disheveling influences of sex and sleep, his muscled arms and torso bathed in the warm glow from the front window. Will’s mouth watered as he admired this gorgeous man whom he could finally call his own, and he started to notice a few more marks on Hannibal’s body while looking closer.

There were several scars, which Will traced gentle fingers over...like shallow knife wounds, two short lines on Hannibal’s side, one longer scar dragged across his upper arm. The scars were lovely, silver-pink and sexy, yet Will felt a fierce dismay that someone else had marked his lover. The question was...who? Why would a dignified doctor have three knife scars, and...what about the faded yellow-blue bruises on his stomach? Will hadn’t left those. Had Hannibal been in a fight recently and not told him -- furthermore, was this something of a regular occurrence?

He was going to wake Hannibal up and ask him these questions. Maybe, probably. But the doctor woke on his own, humming contentedly to find Will sitting there gawking at him like an obsessed lovesick fool, which of course he was. Hannibal wrapped the blanket more warmly around them, covering Will’s shoulders and drawing him close again. How could Will resist?

Inhaling deeply of Hannibal’s bewitching cologne, Will rubbed his cheek against Hannibal’s upper chest, then looked up at him enthralled. “Were we ever strangers?”

Hannibal gave him that adorable little musing, sleepy pout-smile and kissed his forehead. “It does seem hard to imagine. Perhaps we never were.” He smelled Will’s hair, brushing his hand over the younger man’s ribs and around to his back. On the way, he barely grazed the pebbled burn scar which Will had recently obtained during a memorable fight with one of his victims.

The chef had been poisoning innocent people and yet with so subtle a method that there was insufficient evidence to put him behind bars or even get him fired from the popular French bistro where he worked his evil. Will managed to subdue him after hours, but in the struggle, the bastard tried to throw a pot of boiling water at him. Of course, Will was too fast for that, but a spray of the searing liquid had barely caught his side, eating through his shirt to leave a dark pink, bumpy mark.

Will sucked in a breath as Hannibal touched the tender scar, then remembered he also still had the messy but sufficient stitching on the underside of his left calf from where that child abuser had sliced into him during their grapple before Will handed the killing blow. He and Hannibal were usually so feverishly fast and greedy in their affections that they didn’t spend much time just slowly canvassing each other’s skin. Will was made newly aware he was covered in tiny wounds for which he had no reasonable excuse aside from “I got it in the field,” which he supposed would be just barely sufficient.

That excuse was actually only true of the scar on his shoulder from his days as a cop in New Orleans.

He was so caught up in worry that Hannibal would start questioning his collection of odd injuries that he forgot to ask about Hannibal’s, and he was just about to save them both by suggesting they go get some breakfast at the classiest out of Wolf Trap’s three diners, when all of a sudden the doorbell rang.

Will’s mouth was half-open on the intended breakfast inquiry, while Hannibal was looking at him now wide awake and endlessly curious, his hand sliding down to cup Will’s calf. The younger man realized his lover had intended to carefully continue touching him all over in search of more scars, and his heart squeezed with equal parts suspense, stress, and the desperate desire to be fully open with Hannibal at last.

“Now who can that be?” Hannibal asked, very thoughtful still, fingers clasped over the subtle, small stitches on Will’s leg.

“We better get dressed.” Will snatched himself away in paranoia and called out in a louder voice, “Just a minute!”

Well, the crumpled white sheet on the floor by the piano wasn't going to be much help. He tossed Hannibal the discarded pajama pants and rushed up to his bedroom, where he hopped into grey sweatpants and grabbed two t-shirts at random from his bureau.

“Thank you, my dear,” Hannibal said, a little too archly as he pulled the shirt over his head. His mind was still working the mystery of Will’s scars, and he was more than aware that Will was being cagey even before they discussed it.

Despite his somewhat anxious mood and the distraction of wondering who was ringing his doorbell at 7am, Will couldn’t help laughing when he realized which shirts he had happened to snatch from his room.

Hannibal’s shirt featured a faded orange and blue horizon design, in front of which were the profiled figures of a bunch of dogs, varying breeds, with the slogan, ”Easily Distracted by Dogs.” His own shirt had been a gag gift from Beverly, and featured a cartoonish image of a fish on a hook with the words ”Master Baiter.”

Furthermore, Hannibal looked fucking divine in the most unexpected way, his hair sticking up in a few directions, the crinkles by his eyes slightly more pronounced first thing in the morning, and with Will’s ridiculous dog shirt absolutely glued to his firm pectorals and biceps. Still torn between confused worry that Hannibal would put two and two together about his murderous nature before he could come up with a good way to bring it up himself, and now dying to get him back into bed and fuck him silly in just the ridiculous dog t-shirt, Will was really annoyed that someone was once again jabbing at the doorbell.

He glanced once more at Hannibal’s mischievous smirk, the older man having clearly intuited his lustful line of thinking in addition to his bashfully overwhelmed secrecy.

Fuck, I’m too gay for this.

As near-impossible as it was to tear himself from the possibility of morning sex with Hannibal, Will got himself over to the front door. By the time he set eyes on an extremely annoyed Jack Crawford, the dogs woke up and started barking for their breakfast.

“Oh, sorry, Jack,” Will sighed, letting his boss inside. “I didn’t mean to leave you out here waiting.”

Jack waved off the apology, which had eased his irritated demeanor at being stuck on Will’s front porch on a bitter cold morning. “Well, it’s early and I’m unannounced. Which I wouldn’t have been, by the way, if you’d answer your damn phone.”

“Good morning, Jack,” Hannibal said lightly.

He was in the kitchen, getting the dogs’ food out while Will’s pets waited with excitement and bright eyes by his ankles, staring up at him beseechingly.

The scene could not have been more serenely, contentedly domestic; Hannibal fit right in here, part of the family, part of Will’s world. Jack took it in with a short nod, removing his hat and coat, which Will hung on the coat rack by the door.

Jack looked discerningly at their absurd apparel and bare feet, then studied the living room, including the sheet left by the piano bench because Will had been too distracted to remember he should get rid of it.

“Dr. Lecter. Don’t you gentlemen look sharp this morning.”

Far from offended, Hannibal gave a small bow and a pleased smile as he filled the dogs’ bowls. The pets eagerly started eating their homemade grub as Will grinned, adoring how proud Hannibal was to be marked even by wearing his funny t-shirt, proud that it was obvious they’d been up all night having sex to the extent Will had forgotten his phone even existed. Their shirt collars just barely covered the bright bruises they had left to claim each other with frantic, insistent heat.

Will scampered across the room about as casually as he could manage, grabbed the sheet, balled it up and popped into the bathroom to toss it in the laundry basket. He reappeared in the living room, bright eyed and bushy-tailed as his dogs but with a dutiful, expectant nod to Jack.

“Actually, I’m glad you’re both here,” Jack went on, more seriously, having repressed his one thousandth eye-roll at the brief scandal of the sheet and Hannibal’s continued smug expression. “I need to talk to you…question you, in fact.”

“Convenient then that we were together,” Hannibal answered, still glowing with pride, unflappable as to concern at Jack’s suggestion that he needed to interview them for some reason.

“Why don’t I get us some coffee and we’ll talk. You look tired, Jack.” Will made the offer smoothly, and Jack was grateful.

“That would be fantastic. I’m exhausted, actually.” Jack sat down at the table as Will plugged the coffee pot in. “Bella was up late binge-watching one of those Netflix shows and I sat up with her for emotional support, but now I feel like something the cat dragged in.”

Winston barked suspiciously at the mention of a cat.

“Sorry,” Jack told the dog. “And then we caught a new case. Didn’t get a wink of sleep last night.”

“Then, I will make pancakes,” Hannibal suggested brightly, having hunted through Will’s cabinet until he found a box of Bisquick buttermilk mix.

“Just hurry up. As much as I regret the circumstances, this isn’t a social call,” Jack reminded him sternly.

“I wonder why he’s here,” Will whispered as Hannibal frowned at the merry yellow box of pancake mix with its doubtless long list of artificial flavorings.

With a “beggers can’t be choosers” shrug, Hannibal poured powdered mix into a bowl and cracked a couple of eggs in.

“Do you have any theories as to why Jack would call on you in this manner?” He murmured.

Yes.

“No,” Will lied, biting the inside of his cheek, hating himself for the deception. He knew of course that Jack must be here because of the double-murder at the opera, which he had committed in the heat of jealous passion without caring for the consequences that had so swiftly arrived.

Will also knew he could wriggle his way out of this predicament easily enough; it remained to be seen if he could work out a solution to his lies with Hannibal using equal adeptness. The guilt over hiding the darkest layers of himself was really starting to take a toll, especially as it contrasted with the joy he had found in the doctor’s arms.

Hannibal didn’t open up easily, and while a man like him was more than worth the chase, Will worried that the reveal of his repeated lies would ruin the trust he had finally won from his lover. If it was lost, would he be able to restore it?

“I’m sure all will be well,” Hannibal said, noticing Will’s slightly flustered state. He heated a skillet on the stove and poured the pancake batter on to sizzle.

Will poured three mugs of steaming hot coffee and carried one over to a thankful Jack before letting the dogs go outside. The loyal pets knew better than to run past the confines of their large backyard. They were as well-trained as Will’s laser focused confidence, the charm he would need in surplus to finesse his way through this interview with Jack.

Jack seemed resigned to sip at his coffee for a few minutes while checking his phone as Will returned to the kitchen. He got back just in time to catch Hannibal sneakily tossing the contents of his box of Fruity O’s cereal into the trash.

“You are so busted. How dare you,” Will pouted, and Hannibal chuckled low in his throat before caging him against the sink.

Their hips almost brushed together, and Will’s head spun at how easily it was for the sexy games between them to resume. This wasn’t the time, but...damn.

“Daddy knows best, my dear,” Hannibal informed him.

He tweaked Will’s nose gently, then winked and returned to his work at the stove.

“I can take it upon myself to regularly stock your kitchen with healthful food, or else you can come and live with me. In either case, I must insist that you pay proper attention to your nutritional health.”

“What?” Will blinked, sure he must have misheard. Maybe anxiety and horniness had stuffed his ears with cotton. He blew on his coffee and took a sip, appreciating the quick fix of caffeine.

“Your choices as to cuisine influence every part of your health, including your mental health. Studies have linked poor eating habits with problems in executive functioning, and you cannot continue working yourself into exhaustion whilst casually skipping meals or indulging handfuls of ‘Fruity-O’s’ and those dreadful orange crackers I noticed in your cupboard. That color does not occur in nature, Will.”

Hannibal tsked and flipped the pancakes with flawless competence, sending the delectable aroma of buttermilk into the air. If he was going to make Bisquick, they were still going to be next level perfect, or his name wasn’t Hannibal freaking Lecter.

“Those are Cheez-its, and they are delicious, thank you very much,” Will said, setting his coffee down and going to Hannibal’s side.

His lover casually plated the fluffy pancakes and placed a pat of butter substitute onto each warm stack of breakfast yumminess.

“Au contraire, I very much can believe this is not butter,” Hannibal complained, sighing before putting the small yellow tub back into Will’s fridge.

He went on fussing, “I cannot understand why, with your stunning and flawless physique, you make such irrational and chaotic choices as to calorie cutting. A little butter fat is good for you, and light beer is absolutely repulsive. Yet, you consider sugar-riddled cereal a balanced meal.”

“I do put milk in the cereal sometimes. Are you gonna be okay?” Will huffed a laugh and lightly tugged Hannibal’s hair. The doctor, who had turned to the cabinet to take out a few glasses for orange juice, raised his eyebrows.

Will went on, “I can tell you’re nervously babbling about my admittedly confusing dietary habits because you’re worried I might not want to move in with you. Yes, I noticed the bomb you slipped in there. I mean, Jack’s waiting, but you can keep up the snobby, adorable monologue if you want to. Or I could just say, hell yes, I’d love to live with you, Hannibal.”

Hannibal had tried to provide a more elegant aesthetic by pouring the store brand maple syrup into a glass dispenser, but Will’s profession caused him to fumble and spill some of the syrup on his hand.

“Truly?” He looked so innocent in that moment, completely enraptured.

“Truly.” Will smiled and took his hand, sucking maple syrup from his index finger. Hopefully, Jack was still immersed in his many emails, because the half-wall between kitchen and dining area wasn’t really hiding much.

Still, Hannibal smiled back and it was as if they were all alone in the whole universe, held by perfect intimacy.

“Madly,” Will added, stealing a quick kiss from his lover’s mouth. “Deeply. A thousand times yes. But you realize the dogs are coming with me, and I’m probably going to sneak boxes of Fruity O’s sometimes.”

Hannibal chuckled fondly. “Of course. I would have it no other way. The dogs bring you such happiness, they must go where you do. And as to your wretched sugar addiction...it gives me the welcome excuse for administering discipline.”

“Will you stop?” Will laughed and batted his long lashes coquettishly.

Hannibal slipped his hand through Will’s hair, brushing back a silky, perfect curl which had caught his eye. He paused in every way, cupping the back of Will’s neck, hypnotized by his darkly sweet renaissance angel, forgetting place, time, safety for his very heart and soul; nothing else could matter but to have Will close. Will felt Hannibal’s gaze almost like a surgeon’s blade and, appropriately, blushed, a flower possessed by the sun, leaning into that light, ready to burn.

The secrets between them glistened, beckoned, immersed them in welcome suspense and curiosity. Moving forward together was everything, and the rest they believed would fall in place, however jagged, sharp, deliciously cutting the pieces of themselves which they had not yet shared. It all lay ahead of them, endless, a dominion no one else could fathom. Even they could scarcely fathom it, only keep wandering forward, hand in hand.

“I do have a few other things to do today!” Jack’s voice boomed. He had kept his back to the kitchen politely, but his patience was again thinning.

“Oops,” Will grinned. “C’mon, before he combusts.”

The moment was not shattered; its shining enticement lingered like the sweetest aftertaste, now gently accompanied by understanding humor.

Hannibal smiled, patted Will’s blushing cheek, then picked up the plates of pancakes, putting the third one on his forearm with exceptional balance, so fluid and effortless. Will was part of Hannibal’s fluidity, a helpless substance of blood, breath and need flowing, falling.

***

With matter-of-fact delivery and his usual subtle examination of the expressions and tones of those he interviewed, Jack explained about the new case that had kept him from sleep. Jack always seemed half-amused but deadly serious, Will thought...friendly but guarded, constantly thinking, dangerously close to seeing truths which for his own good he really should avoid. Will wanted Jack to avoid looking at him too clearly. He liked the man and wanted the best for him. This current situation was...awkward but he still hoped they could all survive it with their original relationships intact.

“Double murder?” Hannibal repeated with genuine surprise. “At the opera? How scandalous.”

“To say the least,” Jack replied.

He took a sip of juice and speared a bite of pancakes, looking back and forth between the profiler and therapist.

“I have to question you both because you were in attendance at last night’s performance. And Hannibal, I’m sorry but this is going to be especially shocking for you. One of the victims was a patient of yours, a Franklyn Froideveaux.”

“That man who came up to us during intermission,” Will frowned. “This is awful.”

Hannibal’s mouth dropped slightly open. He set his fork down and rapidly worked through a brief flash of sadness to hear of Franklyn’s demise. The young man had been rather obnoxious, but good-natured with only the best intentions. Furthermore, Franklyn’s loneliness had spoken to him of his own, helped him during sessions to contemplate his growing emotion towards Will, the desire to finally have a partner.

Still, regrettable as Franklyn’s death truly was, it saved him the mild inconvenience of confronting his patient about his inappropriate obsession with him, and the inevitable argument which would occur when he referred Franklyn to yet another therapist. And Hannibal was far, far more concerned with Will’s current attitude than the loss of Franklyn.

He remembered that Will had been bitterly jealous about all the admirers, the flirtatious attention Hannibal received at the opera, and Franklyn had been a main offender on this count. Will’s demeanor as Jack questioned them was almost perfectly believable. Anyone else would instantly accept Will as a man wholly astonished by this news and grieved, as well as mildly frightened by their own recent proximity to danger.

But Hannibal knew all about lies one told to cover murder, and he had gotten to know Will’s tells, too. The young profiler had a habit of quickly tugging his ear or his shirt sleeve, or else briefly biting the inside of his lower lip. In twenty seconds, Hannibal had seen Will do all three tics.

“Who else was killed?” Hannibal inquired, abandoning his food in his pretense of innocent dismay.

Really, the excitement growing inside him at the mere possibility of Will’s involvement in these crimes was blooming, warm and delightful.

“A friend of Franklyn’s, Baltimore-based violin teacher named Tobias Budge,” Jack recalled. “I’d show you the photos, Will, ask for your help but I can’t. Believe me, I wish I could get both of your insight on this, but…”

“Conflict of interest,” Will concluded. “I get it. Can you at least tell us time of death, and how they were murdered? Maybe we saw something, heard something…”

“Of course. Jimmy said lividity puts it around 8:30pm, which would have been during the second act of the show. It was a crowded audience, and people were coming and going all night, so it’s going to take us some time to question everyone and determine who exactly left their seats during that time.”

Hannibal was elated. Who indeed had left their seat at that time!

Hannibal sighed, pretending disappointment at his own limited understanding. "I'm sorry, Jack. I wish I had seen or heard anything out of order. We had a brief, cordial conversation with Franklyn, who introduced us to Tobias. It was a pleasant but superficial chat."

"The evening couldn't have seemed more orderly," Will shrugged, "Up until you told us about the murders."

Jack watched the other two men carefully. Hannibal could see the questions flickering in his dark brown eyes. The agent was trying to determine whether to add Dr. Lecter and Will to his list of possible suspects. After all, it was quite a coincidence that they had been at the opera and that Hannibal knew Franklyn. But then again, given the popularity of the show, almost anyone with an interest in the arts and money to spare might have bought a ticket. Furthermore, Hannibal’s own feigned naivete matched nicely with Will’s, especially as Will put on an act of frustration that he wasn’t allowed to investigate.

If Hannibal was not mistaken, he and his lover had evaded Jack Crawford’s suspicion. For now, at least.

“How did the FBI even get called in on this one?” Will asked. “No Ripper signs, and it’s an isolated crime, isn’t it?”

“I’m not so sure,” Jack answered, dabbing a corner of his mouth with his napkin. “There’s a chance I may need to bend the rules and bring you in on this later, Will. If my instincts are right, this is no isolated crime. I’ve been working up a file on a possible serial, a vigilante who’s been slowly picking off all sorts of disreputable scumbags up and down the Chesapeake. Similar geographical range in the killings, but no Ripper M.O., no tableaus, organ trophies and so on.”

“What kinds of disreputable scumbags are we talking about?” Will asked, lifting his brows.

“Those who...hurt innocents and evade lawful justice.” Jack waved his fork between bites, accentuating his next point. “This vigilante is usually brutal in his attacks, I mean he tears people up. A lot of gashes and severed limbs, ripped-out eyes, entrails yanked and left in a pile by the bodies. But on two out of twenty murders which I believe to have been perpetrated by this individual, he was forced to act much more subtly, times where he killed in public settings under tight timing. They were strangled and left exactly as Froideveaux and Budge were.”

“First I’m hearing of this vigilante case,” Will noted, looking worried but intrigued. “I wish you’d let me help, Jack.”

“I didn’t want to say anything until I had enough substantial evidence to call it a case.” Jack drummed his fingers on the table. “Let us handle the follow-up on Froideveaux and Budge. If I get the go-ahead to launch an investigation on the Vigilante, I plan to go back and canvas all of his crimes. Then I should be able to bring you in. Okay?”

“Okay.” Will look a long sip of coffee and nodded, reluctantly resigned. He seemed so restless in his desire to assist, help Jack catch this vigilante, even Hannibal was almost convinced.

Dare he hope? Hannibal considered. More than just this isolated crime of Tobias and Franklyn, was his brilliant, beautiful boy a repeat offender like himself? Did Will know and indulge the glory of the hunt? What if there was no need for him to gradually trick or seduce Will into his darkness…

What if Will already lived and thrived there, and had merely been waiting for him? Soulmates, in the truest sense.

Oh, my darling. What wonders you hold, how you never cease to amaze me.

With this realization dawning in almost-certainty, Hannibal knew he must find a way to send Will a message in response to the one he had been given by his lover.

The murders of Franklyn and Tobias told Hannibal he belonged to Will, and no one else should dare desire him, attempt to claim him. A thrill shivered through him. He had so much to say to Will in return.

Chapter Text

One Week Later

Hannibal sat in his office, across from a patient, attempting dutiful attentiveness and concern, yet subtly distracted because he had noticed the light flash of his phone on the desk. A text had come through. He assumed it was a message from Will, who would be bringing his dogs and some personal belongings over later.

There was no rush to sell Will’s house; Hannibal said they could keep it as Will’s fishing cabin, much to the younger man’s spoiled delight. Will was therefore in no hurry to bring every single one of his earthly possessions over; it could be a gradual, relaxed process. The important thing was that they would be living together, a fact that made Hannibal’s heart skip a beat.

The patient, a young man named Stephen, was going on at some length with complaints regarding his college and their insistence that he take general education courses instead of only classes related to his major.

“You know, the classes that I’m paying to go to college for?” Stephen fumed, his slightly hyper rant making Hannibal realize his eyes had wandered again to the phone on his desk, his fingers twitching on the armrest of his chair in the desire to make a wild grab and read Will’s message.

Had work always been this tiresome? The amusement of playing with his patients’ minds and morphing some them to murder had once formed one of his fondest hobbies. Stephen, for example, clearly had latent violent instincts. The slightest cultivation of them on Hannibal’s part would prove fruitfully destructive, but the project had lost its initial zest for him.

Just another potential killer. None of them could compare with Will.

“I understand you are quite frustrated,” Hannibal noted, incapable of caring less for the young man’s pathetic so-called problem. “Although you may wish to find a better system to express your feelings, rather than sending insulting emails to your professors. Have you tried journaling?”

Stephen’s disrespectful presumption on this academic subject was quite enough to have him transferred from the “possible murder protege” to “future victim” rolodex.

When 7:30 mercifully arrived, Hannibal was pleased to be liberated from the dull, grinding appointments which had filled his day. The only enjoyable part of the eight hours had been his lunch, which he had spent at his desk eagerly poring over every Tattlecrime article he had bookmarked on this tablet for review. Freddie Lounds had, of course, been on the scene gathering all of the brutal details of the Vigilante’s murders from the start...but she had never strung the murders together as the work of one person. It had taken Jack Crawford’s unique ingenuity; even Freddie’s razor-sharp eyes had failed to make the connections, which Hannibal could well understand.

Will had been clever, which came as no surprise. He never left a shred of evidence. And while many of the killings were gruesomely enacted, seldom were the very same methods employed. In fact, Hannibal was fairly certain that a few recent deaths which had been ultimately labelled as animal attacks were actually Will’s work as well.

The Vigilante’s work dated back to what would have been Will’s time at the FBI Academy. He had relocated from Louisiana to Virginia after a couple of years as a police officer in New Orleans. His parents had moved to Wolf Trap around the same time, a huge uprooting of their established life, all to make sure they remained close to their son. Still, there would always be clients seeking therapists and boat owners needing assistance with repairs, in any state.

Hannibal could empathize with Maddie and Travis’ priority to keep the family together. Perhaps through his association with the Grahams, he was gaining a much better understanding of how a happy family actually functioned. He had never experienced such a bond, outside of his relationship with dear, brilliant, kind little Mischa. While he had admired his noble parents, it was in the way one might look up to a distant star, always out of reach. They had not been as cold as his Uncle Robertus, however. Once, he had been close to his Aunt Murasaki, but even that had become...complicated, eventually untenable.

He suspected that Will had probably been killing long before the move further north...if his lover was anything like himself, he had first murdered as a teenager, and learned through repeated experience how to hone his skills since then.

With a thoughtful smile, Hannibal picked up his phone at long last and opened the text from Will, to find his lover had stopped for coffee on the way to their house in Baltimore.

”I got your favorite,” Will had sent, along with a photo of himself looking irresistible as ever in a thin green henley shirt under a grey blazer.

Hannibal loved the way the color of the shirt brought out emerald gleams in Will’s eyes, and the low-cut collar, the flimsy nature of the fabric were quite...thought-provoking as well. Will was grinning in the selfie, holding up a beverage which Hannibal easily recognized as an iced oat milk latte, which would still be cold and fresh by the time he got home. He was fairly sure they would arrive at around the same time, and sent back a quick reply.

”I’ll see you very soon, my dear. What did you have from the coffee shop?”

Playfully, Hannibal guessed Will would not want to admit the truth about this. He chuckled at the reply, especially the blushing, mortified emoji which Will included.

Will: ”There might have been a peppermint mocha frappuccino...with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.”

Hannibal: ”And?”

Will: ”And I got homemade biscuits for the dogs. They’ve been so good all day.”

Will’s attempted change of subject did not fool Hannibal for a second.

Hannibal: “And?”

Will: “And...well...they had these brownies…”

Hannibal sighed, shrugging his coat on and retrieving his car keys from the pocket. He shut all the lights off in his office and locked up, striding confidently to the Bentley. Once seated behind the wheel, he sent back, “And what did you have for breakfast and lunch earlier?”

Will: “........”

Hannibal: “Did you have breakfast and lunch, William?”

A long pause. Will knew Hannibal only called him by his full first name when he was being extra stern.

Will sent a photo of himself, back in the van he had rented for conveying a few boxes of his possessions and the dogs to their new home. He was pouting, his adorably plush lower lip sticking out.

Will: “Okay, I really meant to have a bowl of the oatmeal you made me, but I forgot because I had an early start at work and I was tired. When I realized I was hungry, it was after my morning lecture, so I grabbed a bagel from the break room. I also thought I’d get a salad for lunch but then I had to canvas a crime scene and work up another profile on this killer who cut her best friend’s face off. To be honest it killed my appetite…Sorry, this is too long for a text, Can I see you at home?”

Hannibal: “See you shortly x”

***

“Hey, handsome,” Will grinned.

He had arrived home prior to Hannibal and settled the dogs in the area Hannibal had designated for them in the study.

“We love the new pillows,” he added, greeting Hannibal with a kiss to his cheek while the older man ran a possessive hand through his curls and gripped the back of his head.

“You didn’t have to do all this.” Will was still blushing.

While he referred to the series of expensive luxury dog pillows (white faux sherpa fur) which Hannibal had arranged neatly for the dogs, the doctor knew his flushed state had nothing to do with the gifts and everything to do with his nutritional lapse.

“I intend to spoil you terribly, mylimasis,” Hannibal muttered, eyes darkly intent. “What do you think about that?”

“Nobody ever spoiled me before,” said Will with a boyish smile. “My parents are generous, but sensible, and I guess that made me act the same. But there’s something about the idea of you spending tons of money to give me things I don’t need that, um...drives me a little crazy in a good way. To say the least.”

“Good boy,” Hannibal smiled, enjoying the way Will’s eyes were all over him, drinking in his own attire, which admittedly bore an especially paternalistic appearance.

He wore a red zippered sweater over a white button-up shirt and below his tan plaid suit, his hair slicked back. Will looked from his outfit to his smile that was somehow very serious and assessing, and gulped.

Hannibal’s latte was waiting for him on the counter when they wandered into the kitchen. He took a few sips of the creamy, earthy beverage and waited for Will to notice the next treat he had set up in anticipation of this day.

Will let out a happy gasp, discovering the seven black ceramic dog bowls which had been personalized, each dog’s name appearing in gold cursive. They sat on top of a new mat, which was patterned with a cute dog paw print, quite whimsical for the pristine Dr. Lecter.

“This is amazing, thank you so much,” Will gushed. “I feel...welcome here, like you’re willing to make room and change a few things to have us with you.”

“I’m pleased that you are pleased, mylimasis.” Hannibal sipped his drink again, thoughtfully, then set it aside and invited, “Shall we go to the bedroom now? There is a certain matter I wish to discuss with you.”

“Um...okay,” Will agreed, blushing again and tugging at the collar of that tempting little green shirt.

They had barely gotten through the bedroom door before Hannibal had Will pressed to him, holding him in a vice grip, Will’s back to his front. “I understand your little games, Will.”

“Whatever do you mean?”

Will had moaned loudly whilst being grabbed and manhandled, bringing a grim smile to his lover’s face. Now the impish boy whispered, so innocently.

Hannibal was getting hard quite quickly, influenced by the combination of Will’s exaggerated, naive surprise and the naughty intentions under the surface.

“I mean that you claim to have eaten so chaotically today and then had too much sugar before dinner, quite by chance.” Hannibal breathed hotly against Will’s ear, then tugged it with his teeth, his palm planted firmly to the front of Will’s shirt. “I believe you did it intentionally to provoke me. I think you want to be punished.”

“Oh, but Daddy, I’m sorry,” Will moaned unconvincingly.

Hannibal pinned his arms behind his back and pushed him against the wall with such force that the lamp on the nearby table rattled.

“You are?” Hannibal hissed in his ear, then rubbed his hard-on between Will’s clothed ass cheeks, making his lover gasp. “Should I accept that half-hearted apology and let you go? We could go downstairs and begin making dinner together, talk about each of our days politely, if you prefer.”

“I don’t prefer,” Will gritted out, and Hannibal smirked at how desperate he was already.

The wicked boy had been waiting, planning for this all day. It was the least Hannibal could do to bring the handsome profiler’s naughty dream into reality.

“You need Daddy’s discipline?”

“Y-yes, Daddy, please...please.” Will batted his eyelashes and pouted, having determined that this was the secret code for getting absolutely anything in the world he wanted from Hannibal.

Hannibal released him, then gave him a light push towards the bed. Will hesitated, waiting on his next order.

With a brief curl of his lip and a huff of exasperated arousal, Hannibal said firmly, “Strip.”

He went to the bureau and opened the secret compartment of the left lower drawer. The right drawer’s secret compartment contained a collection of beautiful knives, but he could wait for another night to introduce that kink to their sex life.

Sitting obediently on the bed, entirely bared in all his beauty, hard and needy, Will bit his lip when he saw the leather paddle in Hannibal’s hand.

“Tell me what this says,” Hannibal demanded, holding the paddle up for Will’s closer examination.

Slut,” Will read the red letters engraved deeply on the black leather and blushed even more furiously.

“That’s right.” Still fully dressed, Hannibal sat down on the bed and patted his plaid-suited knee. “Now come to Daddy.”

Will lay across his knee and shivered in anticipation as Hannibal began to slowly stroke his pale, shapely ass.

“What safeword would you like to use?” Hannibal inquired, fuming, bristling with the desire to begin. Yet his tone remained ever so cordial, letting just a hint of his heated impatience show.

“Motel.” Will smiled softly at the reference to their first night together in Minnesota, and Hannibal caressed his tender flesh again, longing, in awe.

“You are so very exquisite, my darling.” Hannibal drew the paddle slowly, teasingly across Will’s ass, letting him feel the firmness of the leather. “Do you like this?”

“I want you to use it. Hard,” Will begged.

“You really are a slut, aren’t you?” Hannibal shook his head, snarling again, his heartbeat thudding in his ears. “For whom are you a naughty, insatiable little cock slut?”

“For you, Daddy, only you. I’d do anything to get you to fuck me. I’m greedy.” Will’s big blue eyes watched him eagerly, excited, unafraid. His skin was so warm and smooth under Hannibal’s hand, every detail of him a dream come true.

“Will.” Gravely now. “Are you allowed to skip meals, and to have sweet drinks and desserts before dinner?”

“No, Daddy. I’ve been very bad.”

Hannibal nodded. “On that we agree.”

With that, he drew his hand back and slapped Will’s ass with the paddle. Expertly, he applied the toy in such a way that Will felt the softness and sting of the leather in equal parts, not so hard as to satisfy Will’s request, but rather to give him almost yet not nearly enough.

“Oh, harder, please,” Will pleaded, trying to grind into Hannibal’s thigh. This earned him a firmer spanking, five quick, harsher blows which left the word “Slut” imprinted in lovely pink upon one side of Will’s pert, perfect ass.

“Terrible boy,” Hannibal accused, his voice a breathy rasp while Will’s moans grew high-pitched and ecstatic, plush, wet pink lips slack against the bedding, his pretty fingers clutching the smooth teal blanket, cute toes twitching with every spank.

“Shameless little slut for Daddy. You’re to eat solid, healthful meals throughout the day and keep well-hydrated. If you behave better, you may have dessert after dinner and then only, one that I will prepare for you. Do you understand?”

He paused in the punishment, breathing hard with need to be seated devastatingly deep inside his gorgeous boy. Mine, all mine. Meant for me…

“Don’t stop, Daddy, please. I promise I’ll be good from now on…”

Hannibal growled, “I don’t believe you” before administering the roughest spanking yet, printing the “slut” slogan in red this time on Will’s other ass cheek.

“Oh, God, God,” Will whined, eyes rolling back in blissful pain. Tears squeezed from his crystal cerulean eyes, and he licked his lips, still longing for more.

“My beautiful little brat.” Hannibal’s heart squeezed with confusing, adoring fury as even more indulgent feelings made his heart feel incredibly full. His formerly neat hair spilled over his sweaty brow and he palmed Will’s reddened ass possessively.

“I do love to spoil you,” he admitted, staring at Will’s enraptured expression and naughtily marked body, enthralled, helplessly fixated, obsessed. “Perhaps I’ll go on and on, and never stop. You’ll be uncontrollably demanding and selfish, and I’ll have to keep finding new ways to take it further.”

Hannibal leaned over to get the lube from the nightstand, still holding Will firmly to his lap with his other hand, gently stroking the skin he had marked.

“We’ll...never get bored,” Will sighed, trembling harder when he realized Hannibal’s next intention, felt his Daddy’s big fingers circling his hole. Hannibal had abandoned the paddle. “Yes, your hands now, oh, please…”

“I could never, ever be bored with you, my incomparable Will.”

Hannibal slicked Will’s entrance and teased it slowly with one finger before carefully pressing in, starting a gradual back and forth motion of his thick digit in the tight but beckoning heat. When he could finger-fuck Will in earnest, he resumed the spanking, keeping it to softer slaps on Will’s less marked cheek. Hannibal had entered an erotic daze, higher with every moan, every precisely targeted glide of his hand evoking Will’s mind-melting pleasure.

He could no longer recall how sex used to be nothing more than yet another of his entertaining areas of expertise; he understood in some distant way that the pleasure was once a fleeting, hollow distraction. Now it meant so much that it tore him apart and put him back together.

“Hannibal,” Will whimpered, fingers seeking frantic purchase again in the bedding. His luscious skin bounced so prettily with every light spank from the flat of Hannibal’s hand, as with his other one, the older man buried his finger deeper, igniting a volcanic cascade of bliss within Will. “Hannibal! Fuck, I -- yes, yes, yes, right fucking there--”

He came so hard he cried, his tears leaking down his soft pink face and wetting the blanket, his cum spurting all over Hannibal’s perfectly elegant suit pants.

“That’s my good boy,” Hannibal praised, besotted. “I don’t quite know how you manage to be my very good, precious beautiful boy and my wicked, sinful little brat at the same time. But you do have me thoroughly addicted.”

As Hannibal petted through his sweaty curls and cooed more praise, Will moaned, moving with trembling limbs to straddle the older man’s lap.

“Hurts,” Will sighed, wrapping his arms around Hannibal’s neck as the doctor held his hip in one hand and swept a desirous hand down the side of his body with the other. “What you’ve done to me. And not just the spanking, which...I love, you know I do.”

His smile did indeed look pained suddenly, even more angelic for the pang of something inconsolable. Hannibal clasped his face and asked raspily, “What else hurts, Will?”

“My heart. I never wanted anyone like this and now...I don’t want to do almost anything else...just this,” Will said in an aching tone.

He kissed Hannibal’s mouth with wet, searching devotion, their tongues moving in languorous, endlessly aroused harmony.

“And this,” Will gasped, reaching down to feel the large, urgent bulge of Hannibal’s erection through his pants. He knew it was all for him, and finally it was alright for Hannibal to know this and still feel safe. “I need more, so much more.”

Yes. He was all for Will, and Will would never be satisfied, would always want more, always keep him guessing, and that was perfect.

Hannibal had noticed how Will said, ”I don’t want to do almost anything else,” and he knew, knew what the one other activity was Will craved, that they should join in the bloody majesty of the hunt together, make love bathed in the viscera of their victims, those who would be sacrificed on the altar of their brutally regal love. They could paint the world together, make it new, so much better, soaked in delicious evil.

Soon, so soon. Hannibal’s heart beat faster.

Will slid from him, stood on wobbly legs and went to the full-length mirror mounted on the opposite wall, right in front of the bed. He looked over his shoulder to see the word Hannibal had left on his stinging, aching, sensitive skin, and traced the letters in obvious satisfaction. From the marveling gleam of Will’s eyes, Hannibal wondered if he would indeed like to be permanently scarred by his hand one day. The idea of them leaving their claims upon each other’s skin for life was intoxicating.

“So nice of you to buy me another present, Daddy,” Will smiled, charming. He really did want more.

Hannibal’s waning patience shattered. He took his own clothes off quickly and got the lube, so Will started moving back towards the bed.

“No, stay there,” Hannibal insisted. “On the floor. Hands and knees, naughty little cock slut.”

Will grinned, which was also very provoking, and got into position, his palms and knees planted on the beige and white paisley rug.

“I love your everything,” Hannibal sighed, parting Will’s cheeks and gliding his slick cock between them, breaching his lover with slow but firm insistence.

Will’s head dropped down as he moaned loudly, and Hannibal gripped his curls to bring him back up, arching his back as his hips met the younger man’s ass.

“Your darkness, your hidden layers,” Hannibal got out on stuttering breaths, his voice whiskey-thick with emotions and pleasure, rich with need. Their skin was hot and damp, slipping and sliding together wonderfully. “I’ll give you anything you want, Will.”

“I just want you,” Will groaned, moving his ass back to meet every more urgent thrust as Hannibal grew passionately rough.

“You know you have me.” Hannibal shifted their position, fucking Will up on his knees so that their stretched bodies were easily visible in the large mirror in front of them.

The rug burned their knees with each savage push of Hannibal’s rigid length inside Will. The doctor gripped his lover tight against him, delving his cock to the hilt and gasping into Will’s ear, “Look at us. You can tell me anything...and I’ll tell you everything.”

Will’s eyes had been clamped tightly shut as he took Hannibal in with shaky, whimpering joy. He opened them now and stared at their reflection, at Hannibal’s face so lost in lust and worship, not a trace of pride except for pure, arrogant delight in what they were together, how beautiful and destined. The power in the vulnerability they shared was palpable, terrifying, sweet. He looked at Hannibal’s strong body fucking him hard and holding him in place and his own naked shamelessness, giving into every thrust and begging for more. The visual feast sent him into completion again, spilling into Hannibal’s hand stroking him in time with the merciless thrusts, and Hannibal following soon after.

Will crumpled against him and Hannibal held him close, the way Will liked it, too tight, almost a constriction. A promise never to let go.

“You feel like heaven on earth, sweet boy.” Hannibal kissed his sweaty brow and Will laughed shortly, a new shade of tender fear lacing through his mood of afterglow.

“What if I’m much more like hell?” Will asked, nuzzling into Hannibal, kissing his chest over the thundering heartbeat.

“Hell looks very different depending on your perspective on life.” Hannibal slid a hand through Will’s hair, back and forth in a rhythmic, calming caress.

His boy smelled of amber, vanilla and cederwood, sex, mingled excitement and fear. A beguiling cocktail that had him inhaling deeply, massaging Will to help bring him down from the thrill of a second, deeper orgasm and his brave attempts to breach the thinning remaining fortress walls between them.

“Perhaps hell looks like heaven to me,” Hannibal added, the certainty in his tone taking Will by surprise.

Will fell silent, clinging to him, shivering into every warming touch.

“What is it, my dear?” Hannibal asked with some concern.

“I don’t know.” Will glanced up at him, tremulous. The brilliant, confident profiler. The bold, ruthless vigilante. He was a hapless mess for the first time in his life, and Hannibal knew the feeling. Being so bewildered at the avalanche of new emotions bearing down on him, with no recourse but to fall deeper.

“I just need you to take care of me,” Will admitted. “I don’t know anything else right now. Is that okay?”

“So much more than okay.” Hannibal smiled and rubbed his cheek against Will’s curls, hugging even tighter.

***

Hannibal gave Will a long, indulgent bubble bath, the frothy soap scented with cut flowers and watercress. He scattered peach drift rose petals over the thickly immersing bubbles, then helped Will into the comforting heat of the bath. The young man sank into the water with a deep sigh.

Will remained quiet, leaning into Hannibal’s touch while the older man slowly washed his hair, massaging in the shampoo with a fresh minty scent that left a cool tingle in its wake. He followed every softly spoken command as Hannibal bade him tip his head back to rinse his sopping curls, then slipped easily back into his lover’s embrace when the doctor joined him in the water.

Later, he curled up on the cozy chair in the corner of Hannibal’s kitchen, wearing nothing but the older man’s v-neck red sweater over his underwear.

“Can’t I do anything to help?” Will asked with a soft smile. It was the first time he had spoken in at least an hour. He had merely bestowed a puppy dog gaze and continued obedience when Hannibal towel dried him, brushed his hair, dressed him.

Quiet piano music played in the background from Hannibal’s phone plugged into speakers, Debussy, smooth and tender as the flow of water over riverstones and down a stomach-plunging waterfall.

Hannibal looked up from his place at the center island where he stood kneading dough, an assortment of intricately selected cut vegetables, cheeses and other culinary mysteries spread on the counter beside him with organized precision. He wore the silly dog t-shirt, which he had kept after the morning at Will’s, and his black silk boxers, his hair still damp from the bath.

“I want what you want, Will.” Hannibal went on forming the dough into a flatbread, adding olive oil and sea salt, occasionally pausing to look at his lover with doting happiness. “Simply to take care of you for the rest of the night. I could never want more than this, for you to stay there and relax, feel everything you need to. Let me see to all else.”

Will sighed, the too-long sleeves of Hannibal’s sweater wrapping around his tugging, savoring fingers. “Okay, Daddy.”

***

“You made me pizza,” he said with a delighted, surprised giggle when Hannibal had plated their food, seated Will at the place of honor at his long dinner table, poured the wine and waited cheerfully for the younger man’s appraisal of the meal.

“Fancy, fussy pizza, but...comfort food,” Will continued, and Hannibal gave a small nod with a prideful smile, blushing. “Something I would like. It’s perfect.”

“Then it suits you,” Hannibal acknowledged, “But this seating arrangement leaves something to be desired.”

He drew his own chair back and patted his leg. Will laughed again, the sweetest music, and climbed into Hannibal’s lap, where his lover fed him delectable little bites of the pizza, placing each one on Will’s tongue, allowing the younger man to suck, nip and lap at his fingers between morsels of food.

“Olive oil flatbread with ‘nduja, parmesan and anchovies,” Hannibal food-splained, knowing Will enjoyed his egotistical, self-congratulatory speeches about his recipes. “The ‘nduja is a spicy salami spread, which, paired with the softness of buffalo mozzarella and the arresting, prickly bite of anchovies…”

“Salty,” Will pondered, lavishing his tongue around Hannibal’s thumb, then gently biting the pad of his index finger. “Spicy. I love it.”

Hannibal gave him a sip of sparkling shiraz with notes of sweet plum and blackcurrant. He kissed the ripe black fruit taste from Will’s lips until they lost control again. It was easy, when Will reached down and took him in hand with loving strokes, easy to slide back into that heavenly heat, still loose and ready, Will riding him and kissing him nonstop, bringing them fast back over the edge. The pleasure burned through them so powerfully, giving them the hellish envelopment in danger they craved; before either knew what was happening, they had bitten into each other’s lips so that blood bubbled from them both in small sliver-cuts, flavoring their sloppy kisses.

The taste of Will’s blood, especially when it mixed with his own, made Hannibal’s hips spasm roughly up into his lover while he came, filling Will with his warm release, his nails digging into the strong, firm skin of Will’s back.

Will grabbed Hannibal’s shoulders fiercely, increasing his lover’s pleasure by bouncing expertly on his cock, his eyes going huge and bright when he, too, came with a ragged moan, blood dripping from his lower lip, a greedy boy who had been allowed entirely too much of what he liked best.

“There is dessert, too,” Hannibal sighed wryly, and Will bit his neck with another decadent giggle. Hannibal wanted to make him laugh and bring him pleasure a million times.

Chapter Text

Carter Jackson owned a vintage record shop on an artsy street in Baltimore. The formerly industrial, run-down area had recently been renovated into hipster-chic spaces and was now dotted with speak-easies, bookstores with bars in them where navel-gazers could sip literary themed cocktails and pore moodily over Kerouac and Ginsberg, and vintage clothing stores perfect for repurposing overpriced historic attire into glibly ironic posturing.

On his way to Train Stop Records, Hannibal noticed when he passed by the Avalon, an art house cinema where Carter most likely met Will. He could picture it easily, as he paused in the mid-afternoon, sleepy Sunday cold winter sunlight, gazing through his expensive designer sunglasses at the large posters in the windows for screenings of Truffaut, Godard, and Wong Kar-wai films, even an upcoming series in film noir which he knew Will would love.

His darling boy would be automatically attracted to such a place, with his love of great and challenging cinema, but it should have been Hannibal taking him on those dates, holding his hand at the movies, stealing kisses. It infuriated him to imagine Carter eying Will up in the lobby on some rainy evening when the profiler dipped into the theater to wile the evening away with a dreamy, evocative film. Will always said he liked the movies that tickled his brain and promised to show all of his favorites to Hannibal.

A confident, independent boy like Will would have no qualms about going to a movie alone, but after purchasing his ticket and turning around, perhaps Carter was waiting there with a friendly smile and the offer of buying him a glass of wine with which to enjoy the film. A bit of movie talk, a few pointed glances and flirtatious smiles later, Carter might have earned himself the honor of sitting with Will in the theater.

Hannibal fumed to think of what might have happened after that, but he had not been able to stop thinking about it with jealous, enraged obsession, since he was first introduced to that loathsome Carter who still saw fit to put his eyes all over Will like he owned him.

Will had gone fishing, happily promising to bring some beautiful trout home for Hannibal to cook as their dinner. They had been living together in domestic bliss for two weeks, while Hannibal waited for the ideal time to finally enact his vengeance upon Will’s would-be former paramour.

Today would really be the ideal time to begin the project. Killing Carter was no quick task, but a slow, methodical one which would take numerous days to complete. First, Hannibal would kidnap the man and hold him in one of his many local properties so that he could carry out the slow, meticulous torture at his leisure.

And when it was over, when this was done Will would see. He would understand who Hannibal was at his core. Will would know how terribly he was loved.

Hannibal still felt the anxiety over revealing his true self to Will, removing the final layer of his person suit to show off the monster underneath, but neither could they be fully as one until they were entirely naked in the light of each other’s soul. Gleaning the clues to Will’s own murderous proclivities had opened him in ways he had never experienced before, the hope no wistful dream, but a glimmering future, almost a certainty.

Obnoxiously loud punk rock music assaulted Hannibal’s ears as soon as he let himself into the record store. It was not that the music itself was bad, but that it had been turned so loud in order to prove the coolness of this establishment, he rolled his eyes and dragged a finger over the nearest assortment of records as another evil thought occurred to him. He savored the inspiration with zest and began hunting through the large collection of classic rock records, vaguely cataloguing his fellow customers.

There were two young women with many piercings and tattoos who were clearly in love, lingering near a rack of assorted accessories, picking out some patches to iron onto each other’s messenger bags. They were charming, and Hannibal smiled, recognizing true romance wherever he saw it these days.

A middle-aged man in a fedora examined a Rolling Stones record from every angle to make sure the packaging was in mint condition. A “nerd” loner obsessing over details to try and shield himself from the pain of his isolation, which only increased as the years yawned on. Hannibal felt a stab of pity, thinking how he used to be just like that without even realizing it until he met Will.

A smattering of assorted boho-chic intellectuals, cool rock boys and confused parents seeking gifts for their emo teen children filled the shop, making Hannibal realize with annoyance that this was a quite successful business. The strategic location at the beating heart of hipster culture in the city was perfect for attracting plenty of regulars and random foot traffic. No one else seemed bothered by the scratchy, overloud cacophony of The Clash and Replacements boring into Hannibal’s skull, but he resolved to punish Carter for the rude volume issue in addition to his other sins, and that eased the potential headache.

After looking with pickiness almost equivalent to the Rolling Stones fan he had observed, Hannibal found what he sought, a record with a sepia-tinted cover, bearing an image of a man in a baseball cap, a cigarette stub perched between his fingers. It was the Elliott Smith record which featured the song Will had sung along to the night they drove from the opera to the rib house. Hannibal’s heart squeezed at the memory of the nervous-happy look on Will’s face while he drove and sang,
Drink up one more time, and I'll make you mine
Keep you apart, deep in my heart
Separate from the rest, where I like you the best
And keep the things you forgot...

That look on Will’s face, the nervousness that ignited the electric-winged butterflies in his own stomach, it belonged to Hannibal alone. He felt again the low rumble of the car’s engine, the bumps in the country roads Will drove down, smelled Will’s excited infatuation and heard the adorable glide of his Southern accent over the familiar lyrics.

The quiet intimacy of a moment like that, the trust, the delicate yet somehow menacing romantic hope, it was theirs to share. Hannibal turned the record over between his hands, considering his decisions. Will would love this gift, and it would also be an important hint to him of what Hannibal was about to do.

He waited in the line leading to the register where Carter stood wearing an oatmeal-beige t-shirt with the single word "okay" in white font against a small black rectangle. A red scarf with a tiny white polka dot pattern was looped casually around Carter’s neck, and atrocious brown corduroy trousers finished off the look.

The man looked like a walking advertisement for F. Scott’s, the vintage clothing shop with exorbitant price tags which was located next door to Train Stop Records. Much to Hannibal’s irritation, Carter carried off the pretentious attire with effortless flair, and he was very handsome in a certain conceited, trendy way.

Out of all the many reasons to despise the man, his resemblance to Hannibal ranked almost at the top. It bothered Hannibal beyond description to know that Will had a type, a sort of look and personality to the men he had dated previously: older men with silvering hair and big egos expressed through a carefully curated fashion aesthetic. Hannibal was not just the next one in a line of lovers in Will’s life, he was the lover, Will’s soulmate. Carter was nothing more than a pale, pathetic facsimile, a misleading preview on the path to whom Will really needed, but Hannibal’s jealous, possessive nature would not stand for him to remain alive.

He was going to enjoy this kill, even more than usual. He relished the idea of making Carter suffer for touching, kissing his Will, desiring him...had they slept together? He flexed the fingers of his free hand as a vein throbbed in his forehead. He was going to tear Carter Jackson limb from limb, rip his throat out with his teeth, crush his skull with his foot...but not until he had plentiful fun making him suffer agonies beyond what any previous Ripper victims had endured. Then he and Will would feast upon his organs, forever bonded and united.

During Hannibal’s wait in line, Carter had wasted time and made numerous other customers stand here longer than necessary so that he could indulge long, snobbishly specific, show-offy tangents with each music fan who approached. Carter spoke loudly enough even to be heard above the infernal racket he called music, with his observations such as “Maybe, but no one will ever touch Lindsay Buckingham’s intricate guitar work on tracks like ‘Big Love.’ It may be a rock faux pas because Fleetwood Mac are now considered so generic, but I’ll stand my ground on that.”

Hannibal’s fury worked inside him like clock gears tightening. He was about to detonate. Will loved Fleetwood Mac and had made a similar comment to Hannibal about Buckingham’s contributions. He hated that there was a shared world of interests between Carter and Will, in which he himself possessed only a passing beginner’s knowledge gained from loving Will and hanging on his every word, cataloguing each like and dislike to memory.

Fortuitously enough, the playlist ended just as Hannibal finally got to the front of the line, the cessation of racket coinciding with Carter taking the record from Hannibal with a cursory, “Oh, great choice, man, you’re going to love this,” along with the automatic assumption, from a quick glance at this customer’s tailored three piece suit, that he must have no prior familiarity with the music.

“It’s a gift, actually,” Hannibal returned with a smug, small smile.

Carter looked up for a longer time, his periwinkle eyes finally registering recognition. “Oh, hello again,” he chirped, “What a coincidence. I guess this must be for Will, then.”

His jaw had tensed slightly, and Hannibal could tell he was annoyed by the clear implication that far from a flash in the romantic pan such as he had been, Hannibal was still very much in Will’s life.

“Yes, I thought I could probably find something to his taste here, given your eclectic offerings. It is so entirely delightful to pamper Will, I must admit I buy him presents nearly every day.” Hannibal haughtily slid his sleek black credit card with its astronomically high spending limit through the card reader.

His outward cordiality formed an unconvincing veneer over simmering hostility and the need to make his claim on Will clear. Show off, hurt Carter with the knowledge of how much he shared with Will that outshone anything which had come before.

The man deserved to suffer, not only because of Hannibal’s jealousy, but much more because he had dared to hassle Will with unwanted attentions after Will ended things. Hannibal’s sadistic side could have a “field day” with an opponent so thoroughly unprepared to take him on.

“Well.” Carter’s mouth drooped as if he had tasted something sour. “Good luck with that.” He stuffed the record into a brown paper shopping bag, his voice flat. “Because you know, Will’s not a materialistic person.”

“Do you consider yourself an expert on what it is that Will likes or wants?” Hannibal took the bag from Carter, a frozen, insulting smile of lethal hatred on his face.

“Sure. I know him pretty well, after all.” Carter met Hannibal’s eyes, stubbornly refusing to admit defeat, even now. “Still, I hope he likes the present.”

“Thank you, Carter,” Hannibal said smoothly, “Have a wonderful evening.”

“Even though he probably already has it,” Carter called after Hannibal as the doctor stalked away, murderous intent darkening further in his deceptively pretty caramel eyes.

He turned back when he had his hand on the door. “We shall see,” he replied, then stepped back out onto the sidewalk as the next ear-jarring playlist began.

***

It was no difficult task to obtain entry to Carter’s fashionably faded station wagon. Once inside, Hannibal need merely wait in the backseat for the ill-fated man to hop into this eyesore of a vehicle. Happily, the car was parked on a dark side street quite off the beaten path, between the thoroughfare of businesses and a woodsy bike path whose tall trees provided further shadowy cover.

The store closed early on Sundays, and it got dark by 5:00 at night at this time of year. Predictably, Carter walked to his car around 5:15 and climbed in without ever glancing at the backseat.

He moved to put his key in the ignition, and Hannibal had the needle sunk in his arm before the man even realized someone else was there.

***

“I hope I’m not too late,” Hannibal apologized when he arrived home two hours later. “I would understand if you had already eaten.”

Will was freshly showered, sitting in the study with the dogs laying around his chair. He set aside the book he had been reading, a collection of poems by Wislawa Szymborska.

“I waited for you, of course. Fish is in the fridge.”

He gifted Hannibal his smile of pure sunshine and came eagerly to greet him with a hug and kiss, smelling wonderfully of his nicest cologne, his hair neatly brushed back, curls nonetheless slipping loose and twisting around his face with the usual, breathtaking lushness of a handsome wood nymph.

Hannibal held Will’s face between his big hands, feeling suddenly small, eclipsed by the simple, open immensity of Will’s affection and the life they were making here together. Sometimes he still looked at Will without being quite able to convince himself the boy was real, intimidated all over again, wanting to impress him.

Now he kissed Will’s lips gently and murmured, “You were reading. Anything of interest?”

The dogs milled around their feet in the futile hope of extra treats; Will would have already fed them their dinner.

“Sit down, guys,” Will laughed.

Buster gave a single bark of complaint, but Winston whined at him to stop and Zoe led her brothers back to their cushions where the other dogs were sleeping.

Returning his attention to Hannibal, Will slid his palms up under the doctor’s light grey suit jacket, running fond fingers over the older man’s back through the fabric of his pink shirt. Every touch from Will sent small and building shivers of delicious electricity through Hannibal that made him slightly dizzy.

The corners of Will’s naturally rose-shaded, pillowy lips tweaked in a twitchy, bewildering half-smile.

“Um, yes, it was of interest.”

“How so?”

Hannibal could have swooned at the cute way Will’s brow furrowed as he tried to remember a sample line to illustrate why the poetry had intrigued him. They loved to talk about what they were reading, trading literary quotes like kisses.

‘One day, perhaps some idle tongue
mentions your name by accident:
I feel as if a rose were flung
into the room, all hue and scent.’”

“Surprisingly melancholy,” Hannibal observed, running his knuckles down prickly-soft stubble, tracing his boy’s exquisite jawline, then stroking the long line of Will’s beautiful neck.

Will wore another henley, this one rust-colored, bringing out auburn hues in his ceaselessly pretty dark curls. His smile remained delicately hesitant.

“I can imagine,” Will said softly, slipping Hannibal’s jacket off and unbuttoning his waistcoat, an expert by now at undoing all of Hannibal’s complicated sartorial armor.

The younger man shook his head, wrestling some unseen specter in his mind and heart. “If I ever lost you, Hannibal, if we fell apart, I can imagine how I would feel. It would be like the poem, but so much more...immense. That ‘rose,’ the mention of your name when you weren’t mine anymore, three syllables tossed into the air, would collide into my skin like a dagger of hot ice. I couldn’t bear it.”

“You were impatient when I was a bit later than expected coming home,” Hannibal surmised, submitting fluidly as Will undid his shirt buttons and pushed the garment from his shoulders, then pulled him into a smoldering kiss.

His boy’s persistently obsessive need for him had Hannibal’s heart galloping into the red again, pushing him past all restraint he had previously understood of how much he could care for someone, body and soul, with every breath. He kissed Will back, sliding a hand into his hair, gathering the silken brunette curls and tugging hungrily, reaching under Will’s shirt to drily tweak his pretty nipples, knowing how Will loved the brisk pain of teasing roughness.

“I wanted you to come home to me,” Will said tightly between kisses and moans, groping Hannibal’s pectorals, dragging his nails through the older man’s chest hair, enough to leave scarlet scratch marks, staking his claim.

Hannibal let out a pleasured hiss at the sweet little slice of pain, and only kissed back harder, pulled his boy’s hair again just the way Will liked, consuming his mouth with feverish, demanding pressure. He pulled at Will’s lower lip with his sharp fangs, then licked the line of the bite mark still marring Will’s lovely pink flesh from the other night.

After a savoring suck and another teeth clashing kiss, he breathed hard against Will’s irresistible lips, “I belong here, home with you.”

Hannibal lifted Will’s shirt over his head as the younger man raised his arms to accommodate him, trembling with lustful frustration. His overkissed lips wobbled as his eyes glazed with barely held-back tears, stormy oceans blazing. All because Hannibal had come home later than planned. What a dear, terribly needy boy loved him, Hannibal thought. How unbelievably lucky he was, to be the center of Will’s perilous universe as they controlled each others’ gravity.

The doctor leaned down to press a kiss to the scar on Will’s shoulder, wishing he had made it, or better still, that one day he could cover it with a new scar, reversing the damage with joy.

“My baby. My Will, my infinitely good boy. I’ll always come back.” Hannibal smiled, the way he did when he was prefacing one of his many special treats for Will.

Will recognized his look and giggled when Hannibal swept him off his feet and carried him away.

He smirked when Hannibal only went so far as the dining room, then sat him on the table, eagerly kissing his neck and unbuttoning his pants.

Will’s eyes rolled back at the sloppy, fervent, wet glide of Hannibal’s mouth and clever tongue on his sensitive neck, his teeth teasing him with a long graze before nipping and licking again.

“Mmm,” Will sighed, “I thought we would go to the bedroom?”

Hannibal was delighted to have changed Will’s insecure misgivings to tender amusement. “That was my initial plan, but then I found I simply didn’t have the patience. This is closer.”

Will gasped as Hannibal pushed him back so he lay on the table, then peeled his pants down and tossed them aside. Once again they had left a littered path of clothing all over the house.

“And I’m in the mood for an appetizer,” Hannibal added, his accent thick and husky.

Soon Will’s legs were over Hannibal’s shoulders, his weeping cock deep in the doctor’s throat, Hannibal stroking his perineum just so, then lightly squeezing his balls, loudly slurping and drooling all over Will’s rock-hard erection, dedicated to his pleasure to the exclusion of all else, messy and shameless.

Will came with a shaking spasm and a high-pitched cry, the salty musk of his cum coating Hannibal’s tongue as the older man went on stroking and sucking him into overstimulation.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck--!” Will’s back arched off the table; his feet dug into Hannibal’s shoulders and back. “You have to stop, don’t stop, don’t-- Jesus Christ--”

Hannibal’s excessive attentions had brought Will a few stolen, extra waves of unbearable bliss. He slammed his hand down on the table, threw his head back and struggled to regain his breath, soon collapsing on Hannibal’s fancy dinner table with a lust-drunk grin.

“Every time I think you’ve outdone yourself definitively…” Will panted, trying to lift himself on elbows and failing pathetically. “God, who are you?”

Hannibal gathered him into a sweet hug, kissed his head and rubbed his back, instinctively adding the right amount of extra pressure to ease the tension that always gathered in Will’s shoulder around the old injury.

“Whatever else I am,” he murmured devotedly, “I am entirely yours. I wanted you to feel it.”

“Okay, I…wow, I get the point, Hannibal.” Will drew back from his favorite snuggling spot against his lover’s chest, enough to get a good look at the doctor’s face.

He caressed Hannibal’s strongly defined cheekbones and let his lover’s amber gaze wash over him like a wave.

“Thank you.”

It was a complicated ‘thank you’ that needed no elaboration. They both understood Hannibal had satiated Will’s need to be needed. And Hannibal was never frustrated but always elated that it must be done so very often.

“Thank you for all that you are, my dear.”

He helped Will down from the table and added playfully, “And you must know that as usual, one reason for my lateness is that I have been buying you gifts.”

Will blushed and grinned, a vision with his well-fitting blue jeans now pulled up around his waist. He had left the fly undone so that Hannibal could still admire his slender hips and lovely firm stomach, even the subtle line of dark hair disappearing into the open jeans, making the older man’s mouth water as only Will could.

“Spoiling me again, Daddy? After you just made me come so hard my vision blurred?”

“Spoiling you is Daddy’s very favorite thing of all, my beautiful boy.”

He patted Will’s cheek, glancing again at the younger man’s distracting naked chest and arms, wanting to wait a while before pouncing again, let his own arousal build to a breaking point that ensured Will was fucked as hard as he truly deserved.

“Shall I go and get your presents?”

“Yes, please,” said Will, and soon he was back in the study being showered with yet another over-the-top series of gifts, although it was nowhere near his birthday and Christmas was still a month away.

Hannibal could only guess how overly indulgent he would be with his sweet Will on actual holidays, but for tonight he would gladly settle for the four flat gift boxes wrapped in silver and blue bows from the finest men’s clothing stores, the dog-patterned gift bag and smaller jewelry box, two big bags from Sephora, and the Elliott Smith record which he had wrapped carefully in black tissue paper at his cliffside house while Carter groaned weakly with pain in the corner of the kitchen.

“Daddy,” Will smiled, still blushing bright red at the extremes of spoiling to which Hannibal had already become accustomed. “How much did you spend on me today? After all that stuff you got me yesterday and the big fancy dinner at that expensive sushi restaurant…”

Hannibal's face was so full of joy, anyone would have thought he was the one being pampered with gifts. “Which one do you want to open first?”

He sat on the floor next to Will, their backs resting comfortably against the bottom of the couch, their feet casually overlapping, the dogs dozing across the room as lazy flames crackled in the fireplace. A short glass of whiskey sat on the floor beside each man as another before-dinner aperitif.

Will bit his lip and reached for the jewelry box. He undid the velvet ribbon and lifted the lid to find a bracelet of beautiful black braided leather. A 24 karat gold charm hung from the bracelet, personalized with words engraved in black to match the leather bands.

“Oh, Hannibal,” Will sighed, immediately recognizing the words.

It was a line from their favorite poem by e.e. cummings, "[i carry your heart with me](i carry it in)": “(for you are my fate, my sweet)

“Let’s see how it looks,” Hannibal said with quiet excitement. He fastened the bracelet around Will’s wrist, beaming. “How lovely.”

I fear no fate,” Will murmured, thoughtful, touching the bracelet dreamily. “For you are my fate.

My sweet,” Hannibal finished the line, pressing a gentle kiss to Will’s brow and smelling his hair, his skin, the lingering scent of himself all over Will.

“Now everyone will know I’m yours,” Will said shyly, still stroking the delicate leather bands and marveling at the shining gold charm. “Everyone who can’t see me naked, anyway.”

They both chuckled. Beneath his collar line, Will’s whole body was covered in bruises of various shades as a result of Hannibal’s near-constant sucking and biting, while Hannibal’s own body bore matching love wounds.

“Any road I take will always lead me back to you, my darling," Hannibal assured him.

“And I’ll always keep a light on for you,” Will said, nibbling his lip again where Hannibal had sucked and bitten it. He had his eyes cast down on his wrist, safely admiring the bracelet, but he brought them up to Hannibal again now, beseeching blue. “I’ll always wait up for you.”

Touched, Hannibal squeezed his hand. “Won’t you open another?”

Will took his time enjoying the reveal of every extravagant item, from the tailored shirts with his initials stitched into them, to the chubby corgi plushy which he immediately hugged to his chest with a bright laugh, and the elegant set of shower gel, aftershave and lotion from Sephora.

“Dior Sauvage?” He read on the grey and black shower gel bottle, his eyebrows lifting saucily.

“The perfect choice for my wicked little savage,” Hannibal teased.

Intrigued by the shape of the gift, Will had saved the record for last, and unwrapped it with a huge smile.

“My favorite. Let’s listen to it right now.”

“In that case,” Hannibal replied smoothly, standing and reaching a hand down to help Will up. “I request the honor of your hand for a dance.”

“Then I’m all yours,” Will agreed, softly elated.

He placed the record on Hannibal’s old-fashioned, mahogany record player. A sentimental slow song began, the words warmly embracing, as they danced wrapped around each other, naked chests pressing close, hearts thrumming with a duet of happiness.

I’m in love with the world, through the eyes of a girl / who’s still around the morning after.

Will nuzzled into Hannibal’s neck and sighed. And Hannibal thought about all the years during which he had seldom been “around the morning after” for anyone, simply didn’t care who he hurt, because he himself was never hurt. Now Will was all of his morning afters, his sunlight and joy, the only vision he wanted waiting in his bed each day.

When the song ended, they were going to head to the kitchen to finally make dinner, but Will’s phone vibrated.

Hannibal’s heart leapt into his throat. Was this the news about Carter’s disappearance? Who would have noticed so soon, or saw fit to tell Will? His paranoias about carrying off his plan perfectly were threatening to run away with him, so he forced his mind back to reason.

“It’s my parents,” Will told him, shrugging, oblivious to Hannibal’s inner tumult.

“Hi, Dad. What’s up?”

A pause.

“Huh, tonight?” Will yawned, reached for Hannibal’s wrist and checked his watch, which was all the doctor was currently wearing, except for his suit pants. “I don’t know, we were planning to stay in. What? Don’t you pull the ‘which of us is a senior citizen’ routine with me. You’re barely old enough to order off the senior menu.”

Will listened as his father elaborated on whatever invitation had been offered. “Well, you’re right, it’s not that late. Hang on, I’ll ask Hannibal.”

Rolling his eyes with good-natured affection, Will asked under his breath, “Do you want to go to Becky’s Tavern for karaoke with my parents? We can always freeze the fish, they have good food at Becky’s. But it’s okay if you don’t wanna--”

“I would love to go.” Hannibal raked his eyes over Will, enamored with his naked torso, his firm pectorals and powerful biceps, the ever-so-kissable softness in his belly.

Hannibal had to change modes rather quickly, from paranoid curiosity to domestic sweetness, but he was nothing if not adaptable, especially where Will was concerned.

“Really?” Will asked, “I mean, some of the singing is pretty awful.”

Travis Graham’s voice could be heard on the phone, replying, “I heard that, Will.”

Hannibal chuckled and took the phone. “What time should we be there, Mr. Graham?”

Chapter Text

Unlike the cavernous, peanut-shell scattered realm of Wes’ Ribhouse, Becky’s Tavern turned out to be rather a cozy and comparatively intimate place. The small bar was gleamingly clean, well-stocked with quality liquors, and given the dim lighting, the votive candles on each table added a nice bit of ambiance. Hannibal could even forgive the football game playing on mute over two screens somewhat crammed on either side of the bar.

However, the smaller space allowed for excellent acoustics, and there was no escape from the vocal gymnastics with which Hannibal and Will were confronted immediately upon entry. Murderous ideas began floating into Hannibal’s mind as he smiled pleasantly and bore with the earnest, leather-vested, 60-something man with a long beard who was belting out “Every Rose Has its Thorn.”

It was a wonder the large “Guinness” mirror behind the bar did not shatter, nor Hannibal’s eardrums. After his recent visit to Train Stop Records, he considered himself worthy of some sort of award for enduring loudly irritating music, but had no intention of complaining to Will.

“Sorry,” Will winced, slipping his arm comfortably through Hannibal’s, blushing slightly in anticipation of Hannibal’s reaction to the vocal histrionics of the man soon named by the MC as “The Legendary Ray.”

“What he lacks in tuneful delivery, he makes up for with enthusiasm,” Hannibal answered, brushing a warm kiss to Will’s cutely flushed cheek. He squeezed Will’s arm, rubbing his thumb right over the firmest bulge of muscle that had him continually obsessed, and smiled.

He wished he could find the words to tell Will how much it meant just to be here on a casual night out, meeting his parents, part of the family almost! Doing “couple things.” Far from annoyed at the “cheesy” scenario, he was almost dreadfully pleased.

“Boys, you’re here,” Maddie Graham greeted them, rising from a nearby table and coming forward to give both men a warm hug.

She looked quite festive in white trousers and a coral blouse with a matching sweater wrapped around her shoulders, strands of lightly grey-strewn brown hair escaping a loose bun to frame her face, microphone earrings dangling as she grinned.

Travis approached, looking especially like an older version of Will in a plaid shirt under a tweed blazer with elbow patches and jeans, the Graham men’s version of dressing up. The silver in his auburn hair continued into his beard, and his smile made something in Hannibal’s soul clutch, not for Travis, but the way it was almost exactly Will’s smile, carrying a meaning which the cannibal’s formerly cynical self never could have anticipated. Quickly, he discerned what he had not contemplated before, that he was actually closer in age to Travis than to Will. There was a naughty thrill in that, a reminder of the age difference between himself and Will, the sexual play it inspired, but the moment held further, deeper truths.

Hannibal’s head spun a little; he had not yet gotten used to the strong resemblances between Will and his parents, wasn’t used to thoughts like look how gorgeously they are aging. He will always be beautiful, not that I ever doubted it, ideas of growing old with someone, forever lovers, besotted to the end and beyond.

And Hannibal realized that Will grew up dressing just like his father, jeans, plaid, tweed, boots; it was only when Will met him that he started dressing up more, buying a new suit for the opera and a finer cologne, knowing just how to bait his lure. It flattered, enticed and enamored him to know Will found him worth such efforts of careful, calculated courtship.

He felt his cheeks glowing and hurting from the genuine smile that ached in his soul, looking from Will to his parents and back again while they all chatted fondly, and yet another regrettable performance echoed from the stage to fill the room with wretched cacophony, and he belonged, he was part of it, the humor and fun, the simple recreation, down to earth, the secrets shimmering between himself and Will, all of it somehow perfect. He was expected to be right by Will’s side, welcomed into the fold.

“Mrs. Graham,” Hannibal smiled, maintaining his formality no matter how many times he was bade call Will’s parents by their first names.

He preferred the courtly, gentlemanly habit, and noticed it impressed the Grahams -- Maddie overtly, Travis with the usual cheerful begrudging manner he probably directed at anyone dating his son.

He would show them through his flawless manners and attentive behavior with Will, that he was the last one their son would be dating. He was the one, and someday he knew he would earn Travis’ trust.

“Don’t listen to anything Maddie says,” Travis advised by way of greeting. “She’s had a white wine spritzer, all bets are off.”

He gave Will a quick hug and shook Hannibal’s hand, then Maddie faux-slapped her husband upside the head.

“Hush, you. I’m not that much of a lightweight,” she insisted as they walked over to the table where the Grahams had settled for the evening.

They had to speak a little more loudly to be heard over the following performance. The chipper MC, Earl, was a portly bald man wearing an Earth, Wind and Fire t-shirt. He introduced the next singer as “The Lovely Kate,” a tall, red-haired young woman dressed all in black whose intentions seemed as sincere as The Legendary Ray.

Kate launched into a song with which Hannibal was unfamiliar. It seemed to make her quite irate as she soon screeched, “I am here! To remind you! Of the mess you left when you went away!”

Hannibal blinked and looked back and forth between his companions with bewilderment.

“Aww, she’s back to Alanis,” Maddie almost shouted to be audible above the din and other patrons yelling, “You tell ‘em, honey!”

“Guess it didn’t work out with that Sam fella,” Travis noted, shaking his head and taking a sip of his drink. “You know, I thought his performance on ‘You’re the One that I Want’ from Grease was downright subpar. Kate carried that whole thing.”

“She’s better off, then,” Will chortled, plucking a laminated menu from the ketchup-mustard stand on the table and placing it between himself and Hannibal.

Hannibal loved the way Will used the excuse of perusing the menu together to lean so close, beguiling him with the scent of his latest new cologne, dewy citrus and pepper, and another note to the smell, that something underneath that was only Will: sweet Southern heat, rough and tumble danger.

As soon as he’d placed his coat over the back of his chair, Will had rolled up the sleeves of his new white button-up shirt, showing off strong forearms, beautiful hands and wrists that always had Hannibal mesmerized with their easy, quick power. Now that overflow of distracting male beauty was set off by the bracelet around Will’s wrist. He was showing that off too, drawing Hannibal in even further at the same time he let everyone, including his parents, know how close they were getting.

Will was dressed up just the way Hannibal liked him, and while he often jokingly pretended not to approve of his boy’s faded blue jeans, there was something about the way they hung on Will’s frame and hugged his ass that made the casual attire surprisingly delightful. And Will was so relaxed and natural here, none of the exhausted superiority of his work life, the stressed attempt to fit in which Hannibal had seen from him at the opera.

Someday, he wanted to take Will back to his own world again and treat him so much better, the way he deserved, confidently let everyone know this stunning creature belonged to him. His heart held no further pride or hesitation; only a continually unfurling urge to bring Will joy, and his own joy wrapped inextricably in the process.

“Everything here is good, basically,” Will noted, thumb planted to his lower lip, absent-mindedly stroking the small scrape left behind by Hannibal’s teeth.

His other hand was on Hannibal’s knee, massaging him, warm tingles spreading from the small point of contact and sending an automatic cascade of butterflies through Hannibal’s stomach. Will Graham was the effortless conductor of the opera that was Hannibal’s nervousness.

“I believe you.” Hannibal’s unusually short statement, especially considering that Kate’s performance had ended and there was again a lull in the noise level, caught Will’s attention.

The younger man smiled thoughtfully at Hannibal’s lovestruck stare and planted a kiss to his cheek.

“Daddy, you’re so cute. Wanting me, huh?” He whispered in Hannibal’s ear, that dominating rumble coming back into his tone.

Hannibal shivered, embarrassed but desperately excited to be feeling this particular way in public. It threw him for a loop, the seamless manner in which the tables turned in their dynamic, the fluidity of their roles, how easy it was for him to go from stern dom to begging sub for Will, and vice versa.

“Yes,” he muttered, touching Will’s hand where it lay on his knee, longing to move it further up, but knowing they actually had to break apart fairly soon; they were not only in public, but Will’s parents were sitting right across from them.

At present, Maddie and Travis were flipping through the big book of karaoke song choices, but Will and Hannibal couldn’t carry on in this saucy way much longer before they noticed. They could steal a few more seconds of quiet raunchy heat, however, so they did.

“When we get home,” Will purred, sliding his index finger down the curve of Hannibal’s thigh. The older man had melted to his lover’s wishes and recently purchased a few items of more casual attire for outings such as this; therefore Hannibal wore a pair of fitted dark wash jeans, and the scratchy-tight fabric combined with the feeling of Will’s firm, commanding touch and its too-tentative nature to draw a soft, needy moan he half-smothered, his light lashes fluttering.

“When we get home, Daddy. I’ll give you what you’re needing.” Will squeezed his knee again and leaned into his other ear. “I wanna lick you, bite you right now so bad, all over. I know how you’d like it if I took you right here in front of everyone while you moaned and begged me to fuck you harder. Huh? If my parents weren’t here, mmm?”

“Yes, baby.” Hannibal’s heart hammered and his stomach somersaulted. Sweat broke out on his forehead and the back of his neck, small pinpricks of agonized desire darting down his spine, lightening in his blood. The feeling had one name. Will. “Yes.”

“Hmm. Oh, yes. Damn right.” Will leaned back, glanced over to where Maddie and Travis were still debating the virtues of Sonny and Cher vs Donnie and Marie. Then he tugged Hannibal’s light beige cotton raglan sweater and added, “I’m gonna call you ‘honey’ when we’re in public. And I like that because it suits you, you’re always so damn sweet to me. But you know what I really mean, too, right?”

Hannibal nodded, his eyes big and gleaming amber in the candlelit softness of the tavern. Will was sitting so close their knees touched, and it seemed they were alone for a second.

“I’m going to the bar,” Will said more loudly. “Waitress probably won’t be over for dinner orders for a while, it’s so crowded. Mom, Dad, you need anything?”

“White wine spritzer,” Maddie chirped, still perusing the songbook, Travis’ arm around her shoulder.

“Hmm?” Travis looked up distractedly, not responding to the way Will and Hannibal were both flushed with barely smothered desire. Hannibal was slightly amused and deeply pleased to think others were getting used to how overtly in love he and Will were. Travis’ only reaction was to add, “Oh, sure, I’ll have another Seven and Seven.”

Will stood with his eyebrows raised, lashing a roguish smirk down at Hannibal. “You want something, honey?”

Honey meant “Daddy.” Hannibal licked his lips and let out a husky chuckle.

“Yes, please, a glass of cabernet sauvignon, please.”

A pretty thirty-something woman with intricately braided hair and pink-framed glasses had taken to the stage to sing a sweet ballad, so Will had the padding of background noise again when he leaned down and murmured to Hannibal, “You said please twice. Don’t worry, you’ll be saying it a lot more later.”

With another knowing smile, Will sauntered off to the bar, swinging his hips a bit, showing off his strong back and tight but round little ass in those damn snug faded jeans. Hannibal wanted Will to tear him to pieces.

“So,” Maddie piped up, “That’s a beautiful bracelet Will has on. A gift from you?”

“Yes,” Hannibal said almost shyly. He felt a bit anxious again for Will’s parents’ approval and fidgeted, playing with a napkin on the table, shifting it in a circle. “Thank you.”

“No occasion?” Travis questioned with an unreadable look.

“Only my astronomically high regard,” Hannibal explained. He fell unintentionally into a complete honesty that left him feeling exposed. “I want to make your son as happy as possible, every single day. He deserves it.”

“Humph,” Travis marveled. He sat back and glanced at his wife, who looked delighted at Hannibal’s professions. “I guess you really are on the level, Dr Hannibal Lecter. Next thing you know, I might actually have to approve of you dating my son.”

Maddie laughed and swatted his arm. “You old phony. He actually thinks you’re wonderful, Hannibal, really. He even said he thinks you’re the first person Will ever ‘brought home,’ so to speak, who seemed remotely worthy.”

“Did you have to tell him that?” Travis complained, but he couldn’t hide his smile. “Okay, maybe so, but just don’t go gettin’ any high-flung ideas and slackin’ off in the way you treat Will. We’re awful picky about who is good enough for him, you know. He plays it off like he doesn’t care, but he’s been so disappointed in the past whenever he dated.”

“Really?” Hannibal asked, leaning in across the table.

Luckily, and rather hilariously, it seemed that Maddie was not the lightweight of the family after all, but actually Travis, with a few drinks, could be relied upon to begin waxing nostalgic and sentimental with no restraint. Travis’ normal attitude of amused, jaded sarcasm melted into pure love for his family that he could go on and on about.

“Yeah, don’t you think, Maddie? He always was a romantic, but so cautious about it, sensitive. Didn’t wanna get hurt,” Travis recalled.

“Oh, sweetie, yeah,” Maddie sighed, patting Travis's hand and confiding to Hannibal. “There was that whole thing at senior prom…”

Senior Prom. Immediately, Hannibal pictured a seventeen or eighteen year old Will, lithe and pretty, dressed to the nines in his first tux, pinning a flower to his lapel, excited for a night out with whomever he had chosen to be his lucky date. How nervous and elated he would have been. Hannibal felt unreasonably jealous of whoever got to be on Will’s arm that night in the sticky Louisiana heat, riding in a rented limo and dancing the night away in a function hall decorated in some theme appropriate to the mid-1990’s, what would it have been? Hannibal did not know enough about the pop culture trends that must have defined Will’s youth…

“It was the silliest prom theme, Jurassic Park,” Maddie laughed, “But Will was so damn excited. He was on the prom committee, and actually they made the place gorgeous, like an enchanted jungle, vines and fairy lights everywhere, adorable themed snacks and green punch. Will was so proud. And he had asked this girl, Viola Chisholm, who said yes. He had a crush on this girl for two whole years but she was always with that real popular boy, what was his name, Travis?”

“Kyle Bartlett,” Travis recalled, looking annoyed. “Well, wouldn’t you know, Dr. Lecter, on prom night Viola called Will to say she changed her mind, got back together with Kyle, and wasn’t gonna go to the dance with him after all.”

“He was so crestfallen, he didn’t even go to the prom after all that work he put in,” Maddie sighed. “But he wouldn’t ever talk about it with us. I don’t know, ever since then he’s been kind of cynical about love. Maybe it seems strange to let something affect you that much when you’re only a teenager...maybe we dote on Will a little too much because he’s an only child, but I always felt real bad about it.”

Hannibal was seized with an impossibly deep desire to take hold of time itself and go back to that night, go to Will and give him the romantic night he had been denied by this thoroughly despicable “Viola,” make it all better.

Onstage, the woman in glasses was belting out a poignant, soft ballad with the first genuinely decent performance of the night. She had a gentle, crystalline tone as her voice caressed the romantic, yearning lyrics over an acoustic track.

I’ve got a crush on you...I hope you feel the way that I do...I get a rush when I’m with you...ohhh, I’ve got a crush on you, a crush on you…”

Hannibal swallowed and looked from Will’s parents to the bar, where Will was politely placing his order, leaning slightly across the counter so that the bartender could hear him. My good boy. He was heartbreakingly beautiful, with his stubbled profile, the lines of his slender-strong body, the movement of his plush lips and long neck. The words of the song seemed, in all their adolescent intensity, to be derived from Hannibal’s own feelings.

“It isn’t strange at all,” Hannibal replied belatedly. “And I’m glad you confided in me about this, Mr. and Mrs. Graham. Some of the sadness I suffered in youth has marked me as well, and I understand how profound that can be.”

“Oh, Hannibal,” Maddie said, sad and sympathetic. “Will told us about...well, we’re so sorry for what happened when you were a boy. And we don’t mean to compare that with…”

Travis seemed momentarily lost for words except to nod and add, “Honestly, son, there aren’t words for what you went through, but we’re so sorry.”

Mischa. The terrible men taking away young Hannibal’s only delicate happiness.

In the here and now, Hannibal nodded, feeling strong enough somehow to metabolize all of this grief commingled in present happiness. Feeling like a survivor, who had fallen in love with another survivor. Knowing there were much darker, more devastating incidents from Will’s teen years and beyond, of which his parents knew nothing. The flash of Will’s teeth in the dark, the surprise grip of his strong hands and the tip of his blade. Stories Hannibal still longed to know, but now he thought of how that darkness balanced and somehow matched Will’s heartfelt romantic yearning. They really were two of a kind.

“Thank you, truly,” Hannibal smiled, reassuring the Grahams. “I understand you perfectly. And now, I think I should go and help Will with those drinks.”

Will’s parents looked relieved that their son’s partner understood the condolences they wanted to express for his loss. Hannibal navigated the crowded tavern with sinuous ease, winding between tables to arrive at the bar, where he took two of the drinks from Will so his lover could carry the other glasses.

“You’re here,” Will said softly, and they knew he meant that Hannibal really had understood he didn’t like to be without him for too long in a crowded setting. The feeling was completely mutual.

Hannibal’s voice was throaty, rich with reciprocated need. “Always, mylimasis.”

***

The menu had similar fare to Wes’, old-fashioned comfort food with an emphasis on barbecue sauce and “slow-roasting.” Hannibal was about to ask that Will order for him again, not least of all because this evening he was feeling at least as submissive as he was protective of his lover. But before he could voice the request, Travis dared Hannibal to eat barbecue ribs with his hands this time.

“C’mon, you can do it!” Travis laughed.

“You’re such a toddler,” Maddie put in, “Order whatever you want, Hannibal, don’t listen to him.”

“Agreed,” Will added, that possessive hand flying back to Hannibal’s denim-clad knee. “You don’t have to listen to his dares, honey. Look, they have lamb kabobs with white bean hummus and chimichurri, that sounds good.”

“It does indeed.” Hannibal sat back with a smug smile, meeting Travis’ challenging smirk. “Perhaps you should have the lamb, my dear, and save a bite for me. I’ll be feasting on the half-slab of ribs in Becky’s own signature sauce. No silverware needed.”

“This’ll be good,” Travis hooted, slapping his knee as Maddie flicked a cherry stem at him.

His dare, however perilous to Hannibal’s overall aesthetic, was far from offensive to the doctor. Hannibal saw through the joking challenge to the man’s genuine regard and continued attempt to include him in the night’s rituals, even creating new ones and funny stories to retell in the future. Again, Hannibal felt like family for the first time in many years.

Then the MC called out, “I’m looking for everyone’s favorite couple, the incomparable Maddie and Travis!”

And Will’s parents took to the stage, launching into a syrupy ballad from the ‘80s, their wedding song.

After all the starts and stops / we keep coming back to these two hearts / two angels who’ve been rescued from the fall…

“They are quite gifted vocally,” Hannibal noted, sipping his wine and kneading Will’s hand on the table, easing the tension from Will’s various hands-on occupations.

Between typing, writing case and lecture notes, wielding his gun on duty, fishing, tinkering with boats and...the other proclivities they had yet to discuss, it was little wonder his dear boy’s hands were often a bit achy. Hannibal knew Will never had someone before who had his body memorized, every sensitive spot, every twinge of quirky pain. He gloried in being the one to show Will, finally, definitively, how deeply he could be loved, treasured and spoiled.

“Yeah, a couple of songbirds,” Will chuckled, taking a sip of his own drink, a whiskey on the rocks.

At the bar, Hannibal had insisted on picking up the check for the whole night of food and drink, and Will had whispered another mischievous promise to “fuck his brains out” later.

“Did you inherit the talent?” Hannibal inquired, feeling playful.

“Oh, me? You’ve heard me sing, I definitely did not inherit the talent from Kenny and Dolly up there.” Will gestured at his parents as his cheeks turned pink.

“I beg to differ. From the first time I heard you singing, I thought I could listen to you all night. Won’t you sing something for me again?”

Will grinned and grabbed the songbook, flipping through it gamely. “Anything for you, honey.” He winked, dragging his long, pretty finger down the list of available tracks. “It won’t be the first time I’ve slung back a couple of whiskeys and tortured this place with my so-called ‘singing.’”

But when Will was onstage, soulfully performing a ‘90s rock ballad, batting his eyelashes at Hannibal and clearly singing to him alone, the older man locked eyes with him, enraptured. Will had chosen a song that seemed to describe the listless, lost sadness of his youth, never finding a peer who could return his wild fits of violent passion. He also seemed to be telling Hannibal what the doctor had told Will first: he could confess everything and be accepted. He could be Seen, and loved.

Grew up way too fast and now there’s nothing to believe / reruns all become our history / a tired song keeps playing on a tired radio / and I won’t tell no one your name..

If Hannibal told Will he was the Ripper, Will would tell no one this deeper identity, his true Name. What he did and how he felt no remorse, it would be more than forgiven or embraced: Will would worship at the altar of all Hannibal was in his most destructive moments. Hannibal had never felt so sure of acceptance, nor so smitten. He loved the sound of Will’s voice, not perfectly in tune, but deep, manly, sultry, a voice he wanted in his ear all night pouring wicked obscenities and sweet words of adoration.

Hannibal realized he was never stronger than when he was weak for Will. And it would not be much longer now before Will knew it all. He had so wanted to take his time drawing out Carter's demise, yet his bitter jealousy had mastered him, causing a much swifter end to his would-be rival's suffering than the vile man deserved. Still, the kill had been vastly satisfying, and the sooner Will heard about it, saw it for himself, the better.

“Now see, I always thought Will had a nice tone to his voice,” Maddie reflected, and Travis nodded.

“He never wanted to join band or chorus in school, but he woulda been good.”

“I thoroughly agree. It’s a delightful treat to listen to Will sing.” Hannibal sighed, never feeling more easy agreement.

“Know what you look like?” Maddie asked, stirring her drink while contemplating Hannibal’s expression. “Mr. Darcy. Mmmhmm, Mr. Darcy, in Pride and Prejudice.”

“Oh, not this again,” Travis sighed. “Here she goes. Hannibal, the number of times I’ve had to sit through that six hour movie with Colin what’s-his-face jumping in the damn lake…”

Ah. Travis had finally called him ‘Hannibal,’ rather than Dr. Lecter. Hannibal was sure he was only a few steps away from son-in-law status.

“Colin Firth,” Maddie corrected him, rolling her eyes. “And he’s full of it, as always. Travis cries his eyes out when Mr. Darcy proposes again at the end of the movie. Anyway, Hannibal, a cultured man like you has likely read Jane Austen.”

“Of course,” Hannibal confirmed. He smiled, thinking it would be a good idea to reread Miss Austen’s works soon. After all, he could use all the insight into tender courtship which he could gather. “In what specific way does my conduct call Mr. Darcy to mind, Mrs. Graham?”

“It’s when Elizabeth plays upon the pianoforte,” Maddie explained. “And she’s just okay at it really, kind of proficient and awful cute, but nothing special. But Mr. Darcy is so completely in love with her that he just stares and never wants her to stop playing. He just wants to look at her, you know? That’s you, with Will.”

Hannibal blushed, feeling rather “called out.” He ducked his face and cleared his throat. Mrs. Graham had him dead to rights.

“Hey,” Will said, brushing his hand over Hannibal’s shoulder and sinking back into the chair beside him. “How did I do?”

“It was so lovely,” Hannibal praised.

“Aww, thank you, honey. Oh, look, dinner’s here, finally. I’m starved,” Will sighed, patting his stomach.

Ah. Hannibal had very nearly forgotten about the upcoming ordeal of consuming barbecue ribs sans knife and fork. He must indeed lift, with his bare hands, these slippery pieces of meat coated in dark reddish-brown sauce. The food was fragrant with tangy, spicy-sweet flavor and did look delicious, but the manner of consuming it was...uncouth.

“Here you go, love.” Will smiled so sweetly and tied a plastic bib around Hannibal’s neck.

The Chesapeake Ripper looked down at the bib with its bright red slogan, “I <3 BBQ” and heaved a sigh fit for a true martyr to his cause.

“Very well,” Hannibal conceded, picking up the meat as Will smiled over at him in solidarity. He took a small bite of the ribs, making each confrontation with the messy meat as brief and precise as possible, but his face and hands were soon covered in sauce anyway and he felt utterly ridiculous.

“I simply wish to know,” he added primly, employing the welcome assortment of “wet wipes” to cleanse his sauce-dripping face and hands while Will watched with great interest. “What reward have I earned for embarking upon this culinary adventure?”

He took a long sip of his wine, draining the glass, and Travis laughed, “I gotta hand it to you, Hannibal, you’re up for anything. I admire that about you.”

Hannibal gave a small, gentlemanly bow. “Thank you, Mr. Graham.”

Will couldn’t seem to peel his eyes off of Hannibal, who still sat proper and elegant as ever, but with the plastic bib over his shirt and a tiny blot of barbecue sauce at the corner of his mouth. The younger man reached over and wiped the sauce off with his thumb, then kissed Hannibal, the contact delicious and too brief but somehow absolutely perfect. Will’s cobalt eyes sparkled.

“I think he should get to choose his own karaoke song,” Maddie declared. “After that. I mean, he ate every bite of those ribs without even reaching for the fork.”

“My own...song?” Hannibal removed the bib and looked at Will with an “S.O.S.” expression.

Eating inelegant food with his bare hands was one thing, but singing onstage? Hannibal did not much like to speak of it, but he had not been blessed in the area of song, and aside from the occasional shower performance, never sang.

“It’s the karokey,” Maddie encouraged, “You oughta give it a whirl, Hannibal! It’s fun, no one judges. It’s just a way to let go and enjoy yourself.”

Hannibal shrugged. “Very well, then. What do you recommend?”

It really could not be much worse than covering his skin with Becky’s own signature sauce, and that he had rather enjoyed in the end. He felt triumphant and ready to take on another herculean task in this gambit of impressing Will’s parents.

“I see your challenge, Dad, and raise you this,” Will said, reaching for the binder of songs. He handed the book to his father with a confident smirk. “You pick the song. We’ll perform a duet. Knock all y’all’s socks off, right honey?”

Hannibal felt he would dissolve into lustful worship. With a couple of drinks and enough time relaxing around his family, Will’s Southern accent had completely taken over his voice, and he had said “y’all” for the first time in Hannibal’s presence. That his reaction to this should be feverish lust no longer could surprise Hannibal. He just wanted Will to keep talking.

“Of course,” He said, feeling more certain, gazing at his lover. They were a team, after all. “Of course we will.”

***

With a somewhat evil grin, Travis had selected the song and neatly written Will and Hannibal’s names on the paper announcing their intention to perform, and walked the request up to the stage with great enthusiasm.

Soon, Earl the MC was beckoning “The Talented Hannibal and Will” up to the stage. Will’s heart beat faster as he took Hannibal’s hand and led him to the small platform that served as a performing space.

The sophisticated doctor stared out at the tables of happy karaoke fans looking up at them. He blinked at all the faces that seemed to swim in a sea of bright lights from the cheesy multicolored system Earl brought with him to all his gigs. Hannibal swallowed nervously.

Will knew Hannibal probably felt more like turning and running than submitting to this experience, but he wanted his lover to have fun and let loose. This was such a couple’s thing for them to be doing, despite its obvious silliness, Will was on cloud nine. He could tell his parents were getting to love Hannibal almost as much as he did and welcome him into the family. One of these days, he was going to put a ring on Hannibal’s finger and his parents would cry like babies through the whole wedding, then both accuse the other of weeping while pretending they had remained magically aloof. Will could hardly wait.

“Hey, it’s just silly,” Will reassured Hannibal, slinging an arm around his waist and giving him a side-hug, bumping their hips. “It’s just fun. Let go a little with me.”

Hannibal rolled his shoulders back and cleared his throat, appreciative of Will’s encouragement, but still looking tense. “Very well, my dear, I will do my utmost. However, I warn you that Earl may soon recant his moniker of ‘The Talented Hannibal.’ Talented I may be--”

“Very,” Will grinned.

“Very,” Hannibal repeated with a bit of his egotistical vigor returning, so fucking adorable to Will, so precious. “But my talents do not lie in the area of--”

A bubblegum pop song with extra sugar began booming from the speakers behind them, and Hannibal froze in terror while Will laughed so hard tears streamed from his eyes. “My dad is such a bastard! Britney Spears! Okay, well, we’re gonna sing the hell out of this, then, come on.”

You tell me you’re in love with me,” Will sang, barely looking at the monitor. This song had been played a zillion times when it came out, and he had always sort of had a soft spot for a well-executed pop song, although rarely admitting it. “Like you can’t take your pretty eyes away from me…"

Hannibal’s eyes really were so pretty, especially as he squinted at the karaoke lyrics on the tv screen in front of them, the white cartoon ball bouncing quickly over the words, so that he seemed to struggle with the Lithuanian-to-English translation by the time it was his turn to sing.

It’s not that I don’t want to stay,” Hannibal sang awkwardly, off-key but in this gruff, sexy tone that still turned Will on. His inability to stay on beat with the song was so cute, Will wanted to tear his clothes off. “But every time you come too close, I move away…"

He was barely audible, staring only at the microphone, the screen, or Will, as if the younger man would save him any moment. But then the chorus came and something shifted between the two of them, lifting Hannibal’s mood.

Sometimes I run, sometimes I hide,” Hannibal sang more confidently, still not remotely in tune, but louder and finally starting to enjoy himself. “Sometimes I’m scared of you. But all I really want is to hold you tight, treat you right, be with you day and night, baby all I need is time…

The song suddenly reminded Will so much of the early dates between them, how their emotions and desire seemed to be running so far ahead of Hannibal’s fear of falling hard, how he had tried to resist and run from Will. How Will now understood completely that Hannibal had simply been terrified of emotions he had never felt before, but had since surrendered to. And he knew, without asking, that Hannibal had realized the same thing, and launched into more enthusiastic, if very comically bad, vocalization.

Actually, Hannibal was almost as bad as The Legendary Ray, with apparently no notion of how to accurately sing a single note, which came as a surprise given his stunning talent on the harpsichord and theremin. Still, Will reflected, nobody could be good at everything, and Hannibal possessed more talent in his little finger than anyone else he’d ever met. He was so damn attracted to competence, confidence and pride, and Hannibal had all three with so much powerful, sexy intensity. Even when he was doing an activity at which he completely sucked, Hannibal never backed down from a challenge or half-assed a thing.

Plus, the cuteness factor was through the roof. Hannibal, with his chiseled features, his dapper style even when dressed down a little, his tall, strong physique and pretty sweep of hair over his brow, struggling through a Britney Spears song -- nobody had ever been so irresistibly endearing. Will was a goddamn goner for the way that beige sweater clung to Hannibal’s pecs, arms and stomach, the fabric soft, thin, almost see-through, the vague hint of the older man’s nipples making him a bit feral. The jeans, such an unusually laid-back look on Hannibal, clung to his curvy thighs and gorgeous ass, and it was altogether too much.

The song ended and thunderous applause bloomed from the audience. Maddie whistled, “Awesome job, boys!” and Travis called out, “Here, here, excellent! Way to go!”

“Is it over?” Hannibal whispered as Will gathered their microphones and returned them to Earl, who was discreetly tugging one ear as if it had been injured by Hannibal’s singing.

Will hugged him and rubbed his back. “Yes, honey, all over now. You did amazing! I had so much fun, did you?”

He pulled back and looked into Hannibal’s deer-in-headlights face. “Yes,” Hannibal answered, clearly surprising himself. “Yes, my dear, I truly did. But then, perhaps that is no great shock. I was with you, after all.”

“You guys are so cute!” The lady with glasses and braids called to the stage.

“Brought a tear to my eye,” said The Legendary Ray, placing a hand on his leather-clad chest. “Encore, encore!”

“No,” Hannibal begged, looking at Will in desperation.

“We’re gonna leave y’all wanting more,” Will called to their newly adoring fans. “Goodnight, Becky’s!”

With that, he guided poor Hannibal from the stage. “You’re free now,” he assured the older man, who sighed in deep relief.

“Thank heavens. I’m instilled with a whole new respect for all professional singers,” Hannibal sighed.

“We’re exhausted, boys,” Maddie admitted when they got back to the table. “Gotta head home. Thank you so much for coming, Hannibal, it was an absolute delight.”

“For me as well,” Hannibal nodded, then helped Maddie on with her coat and shook Travis’ hand. “Always a pleasure, Mr. and Mrs. Graham.”

When his parents were gone, Will gave Hannibal a Look. “Ready to go home?”

Hannibal shot him a bashful gaze in return. “Lead the way, mylimasis.”

Will knew they were both thinking of his own promises from earlier, and damn, after the ribs and karaoke, Hannibal was really going to get it for being so freaking cute. He could barely wait.

But when they walked out into the parking lot, arm in arm against the late November cold and the slushy snow falling lazily into half-frozen puddles on the ground, Will’s ever-inconvenient cell phone vibrated in his coat pocket.

“If this is Jack,” he announced, pausing to fish out the phone, “I’m going to disassemble this phone and throw it in that dumpster, immediately.”

He sighed as the screen lit up, Jack Crawford. So damn predictable, as much as Will’s kneejerk need to know if he could be of help, if innocents were in danger or had already been harmed. He couldn’t help but go to work if that was true, even though he wanted more than anything to go home and make love to Hannibal.

Hannibal was used to Will’s struggle of feeling torn between work and his personal life, his complicated morals and sense of obligation. “Don’t worry, Will, I understand. It’s as we always tell each other. Go where you need to. I’ll be waiting at home.”

“Thank you,” Will said with a frustrated flinch of a smile. “I wish I could get a break sometime--”

He took the call and said gruffly, “Jack?”

Hannibal waited, the snow falling into his hair, clinging to the silver, blonde and brown, gathering soft and wet on the shoulders of his black wool winter coat. He seemed almost eerily patient but expectant in a way Will did not yet understand.

“Okay,” Will said after hearing what Jack had to announce. “Yeah, no problem. I’ll be there in thirty.”

He pocketed his phone and gave Hannibal a careful look. Not so much questioning as confirming.

“The Ripper took another victim,” he shared, as if it was really necessary. Hannibal’s expression, hanging on Will’s reactions, cautiously optimistic, did not change.

“Then you must go.” Hannibal passed the Bentley keys to Will. “Take the car. I see your parents’ truck just over there, and they can give me a ride home. Your mother is quite sober after her white wine spritzers, and I notice she’s in the driver’s seat.”

They shared a wry smile at Travis’ proclamations of his wife having a low tolerance for alcohol when he was the one who got quickly tipsy and sentimental as Meg Ryan in a romcom.

"Are you alright to drive, Will?" Hannibal asked.

Will nodded. He took after his mom, and was clear-headed. "Yeah, I'll be okay."

A few more beats of heavy silence followed before Will added, “You’ll wait up for me, Hannibal.”

Not a question, a command. Hannibal submitted with a soft smile, something pleading in his eyes and wet on his warm lips in the cold night air and snow, a longing for recognition and acceptance.

“I’ll wait all night if necessary,” he promised. “I look forward to hearing all about your investigation when you return home.”

Chapter Text

Will remembered Carter’s apartment from the few times he’d half-heartedly come back to it with the man after their handful of dates. Carter was always so eager to please, and Will was lonely, enjoying the attention until his inability to reciprocate it became tiresome. That was the familiar, exhausting pattern of Will’s dating history, making him feel empty inside, as if he was either too much or not enough for anyone he tried to connect with...until meeting Hannibal of course.

Carter’s place was great, actually, window-dressing over a vacant soul, like his charm and impeccable taste in films and music. The airy studio apartment was done up in vintage 1920’s furniture and decorated with framed posters of classic films, and he had an antique record player almost as pretty and impressive as Hannibal’s. A vast collection of vinyl had once filled a bookcase in the living room which had recently been tipped over, leaving a spread of shattered record pieces on the hardwood floor, along with a broken goldfish bowl and a destroyed potted fern, dirt mixed in glass.

When Will came in with Jack, Jimmy held up a ziplock bag full of water with a small orange fish darting around inside. “I saved her! I think we got here just in time. There was just enough water left in the half of the bowl she landed in when the Ripper knocked her over--”

“Jimmy,” said Jack drily.

Jimmy set the bagged fish down on a table that was one the few pieces of Carter’s furniture which hadn’t been brutally torn apart and left in shambles.

“It may not be the most important part of the case, but it does tell us something,” Jimmy said pridefully. “The Ripper trashed this place, viciously murdered this man, and he even tried to kill the fish. The fish. That’s petty.”

Will paused briefly by Jimmy’s side and murmured, “I’m glad you saved her,” flashing a brief conspiratorial smile.

Beverly Katz crouched by what had once been an apple-red sofa. During the killer’s chaotic outburst of destruction, the couch had been rendered nothing more than a pile of cushions, stabbed and unstuffed, feathers and cotton filling all over the place. She picked up a feather caked in blood and bagged it.

“Hey,” she nodded at Will, her mouth set in grim dismay. “This is a hell of a scene. The Ripper’s M.O. is definitely changing.”

He’s changing,” Jimmy Price affirmed. He was across the living room now, photographing Carter’s bloodied corpse while Brian Zeller examined the dead man carefully, his blue gloves pressing key places on the body to draw fast forensic conclusions.

“Yup. This is the Ripper alright, no question, Jack,” Zeller noted. “Everything here has been carried out with effortless surgical skill. Even with how upset the Ripper apparently was, many of the cuts were done purposefully, showing expertise in anatomy. He also took a lot of trophies, much more than usual.”

“The Ripper seems unhinged,” Beverly said, standing up and frowning at what was left of Carter, who was more of a stump than a corpse, really. “It’s scary. Scarier than usual, I mean. What happened to his almighty coldness?”

“Someone melted him,” Jack theorized. He stroked his beard and paced the room, batting ideas around his head like fireflies he had to catch. “Someone melted him right down to the ground. He’s mortal now.”

Will approached Carter, his brow furrowed in feigned concern as his heart fluttered in purest, most flattered bliss. He was so impressed, so honored. This was all for him.

Carter’s arms and legs had been cut off, most likely while he was still alive and kept conscious as long as possible. His eyes and tongue had been more violently removed, left in a grisly satire of a face on his chest. The record store owner’s chest and stomach had been sliced, his heart taken, along with his lungs, kidney, liver, intestines and spleen. The limbs and other organs had been taken as trophies, but Carter’s heart was crammed down his throat, which was disgustingly engorged by the intrusion. As a finishing touch, The Ripper had scattered peach drift rose petals all over the body.

The same roses Hannibal had used to decorate the bubble bath he drew for Will during after care. This was a valentine, addressed directly to Will, a loving confession, a tribute. Like the bracelet, the composition for him on piano, the extravagant meals, and the way Hannibal made love, as if Will was the most precious, irreplaceable joy of his life, to be endlessly spoiled and adored.

The murder must have happened earlier today, recent enough that the flowers were still fresh and Carter was just barely beginning to smell rancid beneath their sweet aroma. The blood was still wet and shining, and Will could see the reflection of his own rapt expression in the gleaming maroon pool spilling out around Carter, dripping through the floor boards to splatter the apartment below. This was how the downstairs neighbors had realized something was wrong and called the authorities.

Jack silently beckoned to the other team members to give Will space, and the profiler made a great show of closing his eyes and letting the pendulum of his almost supernatural empathy into killers’ minds drop across his consciousness.

Really, he didn’t need a play by play in his vividly accurate imagination to know, beat for beat and blow for blow, exactly who had done this and why. Perhaps he had never known a happiness so powerful and true. Hannibal, his Ripper, his vicious cannibal, losing his cool because someone else wanted Will, had touched and kissed him. Had bothered Will, inconvenienced, made him uncomfortable. That wasn’t allowed.

On the couch Hannibal had ripped apart, Will and Carter had once made out and exchanged oral sex while listening to a Sam Cooke record. Will recalled how it was hard to summon passion, and the pleasure which he gave and offered felt so superficial. Now this pleasure, the taste of Hannibal’s obsessive love, the artistry of the Ripper’s evil games, it was truly transporting...sublime.

Jack approached him cautiously a few minutes later. “You okay? Got anything?”

“I’m fine,” Will answered briskly, trying to look wan with stress at this latest “awful” violence. “Just can’t believe we haven’t caught him yet. He keeps slipping through our fingers, and now...I almost feel he’s mocking me.”

“You, personally?” Jack grimaced. He’d been the victim of the Ripper’s taunts before. “Because you’re lead on his case?”

“I dated Carter Jackson,” Will admitted, because it was necessary, it would come out eventually, and he could step so easily into the ready-made excuses Hannibal had left for him. “Briefly. But the Ripper might have assumed it was something more serious. At one point, Carter wouldn’t stop texting me, after I called it quits. The phone records would have looked excessive.”

“So the Ripper is angry with you for being close to catching him, and takes it out on a man he mistakenly assumes is your former soulmate.” Jack shook his head. “We’d better assign some protection for you and Hannibal, then. If the Ripper has some vendetta against you…”

Will nodded, looking very serious and not at all amused at the idea of the FBI sending an agent to watch the house where the Ripper and his lover the Vigilante lived, to keep them safe.

“I guess we could use the protection.”

“Why should it bother the Ripper so much that you’re close to catching him?” Beverly wondered. She put a hand on her hip beneath her butter-beige leather jacket. “Never did before, he seemed to love the challenge.”

“He's still flattered, but it's beginning to frustrate him that he might not win. He much prefers to be proven cleverest,” Will surmised. “This is what he considers a polite warning for me to back off while I still can. Before I’m the one in his crosshairs out of necessity. He can’t leave me in the wind much longer if I’m determined to catch him. I just might succeed.”

“Sending me Miriam Lass’ arm,” Jack wondered, shivering at the traumatic memory. “Was that a similar message?”

“Yes,” Will agreed. “That was the Ripper telling you that you’ll never catch him, just keep throwing your life away needlessly, losing his trail until you lose yourself.”

“It’s almost as if he feels some sort of...friendly comradeship towards us.” Jack winced. “That gives me bad goosebumps. It’s chilling. Ghastly.”

“Maybe so,” Will reasoned. “But everybody needs a friend sometimes.”

***

Hannibal had fallen asleep in the study at home waiting up for him, Will’s book of poems pressed in hand against his stomach. The fire had dwindled down in the grate to a half-hearted flush of orange-gold embers, gentle light gilding Hannibal’s already regal features, the high cheekbones and luscious lips, his long pale lashes, and the firm strong lines of his neck, collarbone exposed by his unbuttoned shirt collar. Will smiled. He could see one purple bruise left by his own teeth that morning.

Mine, all mine. Mine forever.

He paused on the way to his lover to crouch by the dogs and give them each a soft pat of greeting. They only barely roused at his entrance, then nuzzled into their fancy new cushions and drifted back into the calming ether of the deceptively soothing night.

The record player had been left on, circling the tracks of a Bat for Lashes album Will had given Hannibal, hoping he’d like it. The singer’s lush voice draped lovingly over velvet-lust lyrics,

Let's lay in your bed and dream together / In a world of our minds
Just spending time in your bed / And walk forever in a silence divine
Just spending time in your bed…”

And Hannibal, Will’s splendid, majestic, blood-dipped ravenstag, his spectral heat of violent ecstasy. He had been allowing the tension of suspense to quietly build as they both wondered about each other’s secrets. Waiting, waiting, waiting for Will to See. Hannibal with his soft sleepy face and adorable bare feet sticking out of the jeans he’d bought in a careful, confused attempt to be “cool and casual” for Will. Hannibal, once so cautiously quiet with his feelings for Will, now unable to stop showing them, again and again, what a gift. He had finally shared all of himself with Will, taking the biggest risk of his life.

Hannibal, wicked and shameless, methodical in his brutality, horrifyingly dangerous at his most intellectually, subtly intent. How had Will been lucky enough to find this man, his beloved monster?

How beautiful, Will thought, as he always did when he watched Hannibal sleep. His attraction, his obsession was so magnified now it enveloped him entirely. Nothing had ever seemed more destined, and once he had thought “destiny” was just a lot of childish nonsense, a fantasy to try and make sense of life’s chaos. Only with his beautiful beast did Will understand, the sense was to be found in the chaos. Their design.

Will hovered above Hannibal in the shadowy room before sinking into his lap, slipping one hand into the soft hair at his nape. “Honey, I’m home,” he purred.

“Oh…” Hannibal sat up in surprise, distraught. He blinked slowly, pursed his pretty mouth, and Will petted through his sleep-rumpled hair. “I didn’t intend to fall asleep...you told me to wait up.”

His hands flew automatically to Will’s hips as the younger man straddled him. Darkness and danger brewed in the profiler’s eyes as a roguishly intent smile curled his sumptuous lips.

Hannibal remembered in a flash of panicked anticipation that Will had been to the crime scene by now. Perhaps the best indication of Will’s reaction he could have hoped for was happening: Will, in his lap, instead of charging in to arrest him, FBI agents flooding into the house behind him. No, they were quite alone.

By faint fire and lamp glow, Will was a menacing angel. Dim stripes of yellow-orange light streaked the parts of his handsome face not cloaked in shadow. Will, quietly terrifying, looking down on Hannibal from the lofty new height of truth.

Hannibal was completely intimidated, seen now fully naked in Ripper form. His heart thudded as his stomach swooped, like a rollercoaster plunge. But Will was warm, real, and fully present. He cast no judgement, anger or betrayed resentment down on his lover. He seemed, instead...

Euphoric.

Tell me how you did it.” Will cocked his head to one side and began unbuttoning Hannibal’s shirt, nice and slow.

Hannibal swallowed hard as passionate longing dilated his pupils. His hands tightened on Will’s hips but the profiler clucked his tongue with a soft smile and firmly pinned Hannibal’s hands to the arm rests.

“Keep your hands down, Daddy. I’m in charge tonight. Now, describe what you did to Carter. How did you begin?”

“I...I wanted to draw it out for days.” Hannibal’s husky voice trembled over the admission as Will nodded, touching him too tentatively, running his fingers down his monster’s skin like gently rippling river water in rhythmic caresses. He stroked Hannibal’s face, as if learning him from scratch all over again, then traced his neck and pressed his thumb into the bruise he’d sucked there at the base, drawing a blissed-out gasp from the older man, whose hands clung to the chair.

“I thought so,” Will murmured, honey sweet poison in his loving tone. “I was a little surprised that you ended up finishing him so quick. What happened?”

“I hated him.” Hannibal closed his eyes and submitted to Will’s feathery touches with abandon, his lips parted around another breathy moan when the profiler slipped his shirt off, then circled his fingertips all over needy flesh that heated up, tingled and craved so much more.

“He touched you,” Hannibal frowned, “he kissed you, possibly even seduced you...I despised him for that.”

Will paused with his hand planted on Hannibal’s chest, where he’d been slowly massaging his lover’s pectorals and lightly dragging his nails through the silvery curls there. Hannibal’s eyes opened wide again, glowing with vivid wrath; he snarled.

“I lost my senses at the thought of his hands and lips on yours, on your body, that you might have loved him instead of me.” His voice was an animal thing now, hoarse and unrepentant. “I forced myself to proceed as slowly as I could tolerate, at first...removing his limbs, keeping him awake, making him feel it…”

Will thumbed his lover’s nipples, his own expression thoughtful, brow creased, mysteries simmering in his deep blue gaze. Hannibal moaned into the dry flick of Will’s fingers over his sensitive nipples and bit his lip.

“He was helpless, in agony, and still, it wasn’t enough,” he recalled. “I tore out his eyes and tongue with my hands, sliced harshly when removing his organs, then I stuffed his heart down his throat.”

It was Will’s turn to moan as his cock filled out at the violent description.

“He never should have touched you,” Hannibal added in a rush of breath, “never should have harassed you later, when you wanted to be free again. I needed…I needed to show you, Will. Who I am. What we can Become.”

“I know that, love, and I’m grateful.” Will put his hand over Hannibal’s pounding heartbeat and smiled, his eyes sparkling with tears. “This metamorphosis is ours to share. We’ll kill together, and soon.”

“I’ve longed for that.” Hannibal’s own smile was almost meek, as if the light of Will’s reciprocation blinded him in disbelieving wonderment.

The record needle came to a slow halt with a fuzzy, quiet pop, the fire diminished entirely, the dogs dozed, and Will brought Hannibal up to bed.

He laid his lover down and loomed over him, delicately licking and biting Hannibal’s neck, his chest, then lapping and sucking his nipples, gliding a knowing hand down to the front of the doctor’s jeans where his cock bulged hard and ready.

“How long?” Will sighed, delighted at Hannibal’s pliant behavior and his continued litany of raspy moans. “Before Georgetown?”

“Long before,” Hannibal admitted, his chin tipping up as Will bit his low belly and undid his jeans, then licked his hip and sank his teeth there too, marking the vulnerable skin. “Oh -- Will--” He sucked in a breath, his stomach with hard abs and that hairy little curve going from concave to soft again in a few fluttering moments of painful yearning. “I began when I was fifteen. And for you? How long?”

“Oh, Hannibal. Love.” Eyes shimmering in shocked joy, Will reached up to cup his face, brushing fingers over his cheek. “Since I was fifteen.”

“My darling.” Hannibal was crying now, gently, tears leaking from his eyes.

He was going to cry so much more tonight, if Will had anything to do with it, but the pain would be pleasure, delectable, cutting and sweet. They had each found their perfect other half.

Hannibal blushed and tried to wipe his tears away, embarrassed by his sentimental reaction, still unused to this level of profound openness, but Will grabbed his hand and repeated gruffly, “I said don’t.

He covered Hannibal’s body with his own and pinned his wrists beside his head. The doctor let his hands go limp and made himself subject to Will’s every whim, his breath shuddering, heart pounding incessantly against the answering bullet thud of Will’s tender organ pressed to his chest.

They were both rock hard, cloaked by inconvenient textures of clothing that tormented them in the deprivation of bare contact. Will could feel the thickness of Hannibal’s urgent need, flush against the impatient erection in his own jeans, and muttered, “fuck,” forgetting himself for a few moments as he ground his hips into Hannibal’s, stealing a few brief flashes of almost uncomfortable pleasure, intense ripples of it shooting from his groin through every pore and vein of his body.

He kept hard eye contact and brought their clothed cocks together one more time, then stopped again with his smooth, narrow torso on Hannibal’s rougher, broader one, long, powerful fingers laced through Hannibal’s bigger ones in a vice grip. Sweat glistened already on Will’s biceps as in a daze of lust he finally remembered he had to talk to communicate certain specificities.

“Don’t hide from me,” Will commanded, sterner than Hannibal had ever seen him.

The younger man shook his head, disapproval at Hannibal’s shyness and withered final defenses tempered by pure worship. As a mild form of punishment, a suitable prelude for what he had planned, Will lightly slapped both sides of Hannibal’s face, then entreated, “Are you listening to me, Daddy?”

Hannibal trembled, accepting the soft punishment with bliss. “Yes, baby. I promise to stop hiding. I’ll do anything you want, whatever you need. It’s what I was made for. I tried to show you that, with Carter…” Hannibal’s lips shook and more tears squeezed from his eyes; frustration shivered through him at the vulnerability that still hurt him, his pride falling away like a false second skin. He was reborn with every second in Will’s hands.

“The way I showed you, with Franklyn and Tobias.”

Hannibal whispered: “Yes.”

He looked up at Will like a saint gazing upon the consecrated host, the flesh of Christ made vivid sustenance. A God to pray before, be prey to, and prey upon in equal measures.

“I got your message, Will, your love letter scrawled in a gut-clench of jealousy and the stunning iridescence of your rage. So many shades of you, your limitlessness. You consume and baptize me. Show me a new faith. I hoped you’d approve of my prayer.”

His words intoxicated Will, falling onto his lips like forbidden holy wine to be licked and sucked down to the last dreg. Will loved his deep voice, his luscious accent, the poetic turn of his phrase, especially when he had no boundaries, no masks, only pure honesty. These lovely professions were pulled deep as marrow from Hannibal, and Will would treasure every one.

“My beautiful Ripper,” Will praised, making Hannibal try to rut against him with a ragged gasp. “My ruthless devil. Be mine, give me all your joy and pain, let me hurt you better than anyone ever has, and then heal you. Again and again. Will you depend on me, can you let go?”

Will gave a fondly reproving smile and let go of Hannibal’s wrists so he could tightly pin his hips down to the bed. “Uh-uh, that means, you’ll do as you’re told all night long, until dawn breaks and I finally show you some mercy. Do you know how goddamn elated you have made me, how I feel seeing you? Knowing that mine is all you ever wanna be?”

“I promise, I give myself entirely over to you, baby.” Hannibal quivered when Will leaned down with unpredictable, lightening speed and bit his neck harder than ever. Pain radiated immediately from the soreness of the fresh wound, and Will sucked the mark, drawing the devastating sensation out further. Hannibal lay very still and simply moaned, returning the wet, profane open-mouthed kisses which Will then laid all over his aching lips.

“I want you to turn over for me now,” Will murmured, guiding Hannibal as the older man turned onto his stomach. “Present to me, please.”

Hannibal went up fully on hands and knees, and Will began slowly pulling his jeans down, stopping when he had just exposed his lover’s round, smooth, ever-tempting ass.

“Mmm, yes,” Will said deliriously, jerking his own pants down and taking himself in hand; Jesus, he’d never been this hard; it hurt and ached through him, but he was going to make this last. Exactly like Hannibal deserved, like Hannibal had waited to be loved all through his life. Will understood all too well. He’d been in the same waiting room, only they hadn’t been able to see each other until now.

“You’re so goddamn perfect, it takes my breath away,” he sighed, gripping Hannibal’s ass tight on both sides, then sliding his heavy, reddened cock between the older man’s cheeks.

Hannibal felt the weight and hardness of Will’s arousal and clung to the bedding, letting out a noise that combined a mewl inextricably with a filthy declaration in Lithuanian. Will’s wolfish grin widened as a shudder of pleasure rippled through him.

Every teasing stroke of his erection on Hannibal’s ass, so close to his entrance, had Will salivating and keening to fuck in, but he held back and leaned over Hannibal so he could whisper in his ear.

“I want you to understand, you’re not going to come for a very…” Will licked Hannibal’s ear and bit the soft lobe, “Very....” He traced Hannibal’s lips and allowed his Daddy to press little weak butterfly kisses all over his fingers. “Very long time. Are we clear?”

“Will…please.” Hannibal licked Will’s fingers as if begging, asking permission for more. Anything Will would give him.

Will spanked his ass roughly, enjoying the way Hannibal’s soft curves bounced and turned rosy pink. “I said, are we clear?”

“Yes! Please, baby, yes, it’s what I need and you know it.”

“Why?” Will began kissing his back, tonguing his warm skin messily, savoring him.

“I don’t know.” Hannibal blushed redder. “Because I’m lucky enough that you love me.”

“I do love you, Hannibal.”

Will pulled Hannibal’s jeans the rest of the way off and kissed his neck and shoulders some more while he slid his hands down to caress his stomach and chest again, with wide, rougher ministrations this time. “And you gave me such a beautiful gift. You deserve to come harder than you ever have in your life. Would you like that?”

“So much,” Hannibal gasped. “You’re so very good to me, Will.”

Will went on groping Hannibal’s ass while at the same time, he reached down and gave his lover’s thick cock a long, firm stroke. “Oh, Daddy, look at you. So gorgeous.”

Hannibal moaned at the praise as his fists tightened on the bedding.

“Here you go,” Will invited coyly, giving Hannibal his fingers to suck on.

Hannibal fellated him with wild eagerness, swirling his tongue so that Will was soon coming undone, longing for his handsome Daddy to give him head. He knew that’s what Hannibal wanted, to get Will so dizzily aroused, he’d get fucked faster, even get to come a little sooner, just a little. Hannibal loved to be edged, but he was also weak when he wanted Will inside him, prone to greediness that put a lovestruck smile on the younger man’s face.

“Ahhh,” Will sighed, “Your mouth is so good, perfect. Now then…”

He used his wet hand to stroke Hannibal’s cock again, working the foreskin just right, brushing his thumb over the exposed tip at the perfect moment to make more precum dribble out, exactly on his command. Hannibal was close, so Will bit his shoulder from behind, humped his ass with reckless abandon, stroked him faster.

Right before Hannibal would have disintegrated into orgasm, Will took his hand away. “No,” he said simply, while Hannibal let out a disappointed moan.

“Oh, you’re lovely. Everything I would want you to be, and so much more.” Will stroked his hair and kissed his forehead. “You know I like it when you beg.”

“I can’t help myself.” Hannibal shivered and used the leverage of his hands planted to the bed to try and rock his ass against Will’s cock. His own erection stood to proud attention, so sensitive that Will’s slightest touch could send him over the edge. Will knew he’d have to be very, very careful.

“Hmm, I don’t think so, Daddy, but nice try.” Will went up on his knees and dragged Hannibal with him, yanking the older man against him, seizing both wrists and holding them firmly behind Hannibal’s back.

“I was just…” Hannibal muttered out a half-hearted, somewhat teasing excuse.

“Uh-huh, you were.” Will tortured him with one more quick slide of his cock under his ass and then added saucily, “I’m going to tie you up now.”

“Will--”

“Hannibal.” Will’s curls bounced around his face in a sweaty halo as he got up briefly to grab one of Hannibal’s ties, a paisley one much too elegant to have been designed for such a naughty purpose.

Like a good Daddy, Hannibal stayed right where Will left him, on his knees with his hands behind his back. Will grinned and wrapped the tie several times around Hannibal’s wrists, applying his fisherman’s expertise to ensure his lover had no hope of escape.

“Last chance,” he teased impishly. “Do you want me to tie you up, or let you go?”

“Tie me up,” Hannibal begged, “Never let me go.”

The mere oxygen in the room was enough to make either of their cocks jerk untouched, they were both so hard and needy. Will realized he was edging himself, too, and enjoying it thoroughly.

“There....not too tight?” He knew it was just right; he could side a finger under the bindings, but Hannibal wouldn’t be able to get out of the knot unassisted. The Chesapeake Ripper was entirely at his mercy.

Hannibal wriggled his wrists in a vain effort to loosen the bondage. “I’m quite helpless, Will. What do you intend to do with me?”

Will flung him face-first down onto the bed and came up behind him, putting his hands on the inside curves of Hannibal’s calves. “First, I wanna taste you.”

He cupped and squeezed Hannibal’s ass, licking his hole obsessively, lapping at him and kissing, humming in pleasure as the older man moaned, his fingers shifting nervously in the desire to touch Will.

The sound of Will’s excited moans and the wet smack of his lips, the way his tongue laved broadly all over Hannibal’s hole, then curved to lick at him like the most scrumptious delicacy, had Hannibal crying out in ecstasy. The older man gave a single, desperate rock of his hips against the mattress as Will continued his raunchy, insatiable licking and groped his ass possessively.

Will gave one more naughty flick of his tongue over Hannibal’s relaxed hole and slapped both ass cheeks hard. Hannibal moaned and Will shoved him fiercely down on the bed so that he couldn’t move again, then climbed on top with almost all his weight pinning his lover in place.

“What pleasure are you allowed to take, Daddy?” Will asked, staring at Hannibal’s red face pressed to the bed, his wild need so gorgeous.

“Only what you give me.” Hannibal gulped. “I’m sorry, baby.”

“I forgive you. But don’t let it happen again or I’ll tie up more, have you dangling from the ceiling and leave you here alone for a while until you’re ready to behave.”

“I’ll behave,” Hannibal promised. “I’ll be good for you, Will.”

“I know you will. That was a very nice apology.” The profiler smiled indulgently and ruffled Hannibal’s sweat-strewn hair. “I love you so much, Daddy, I’m going to give you a treat now.”

He leaned back and got on his knees behind Hannibal, drizzled lube liberally on both of them, then lined up and pressed his cock slowly but very firmly into the older man’s tightly embracing hole. Will let out a delighted, feral hiss at the much-awaited pleasure of being inside Hannibal.

Penetration was still newer for Hannibal, so the sudden, blunt intrusion of Will’s rigid cock in his well-lubricated and prepared, but very tight body made him moan in shocked overwhelm. His bound hands reached up from behind to press to Will’s stomach, silently entreating him to go in carefully.

“Too much?” Will asked, pulling out almost all the way.

Bewildered by the sensations, first feeling Will’s cock was too big and sudden, now needing it back again, all the way, so badly it hurt, Hannibal cried hoarsely, more crocodile tears dripping to the teal blanket. “No, please fuck me, Will, give it to me again, if you think I deserve it.”

Hannibal really had a way with words, even when he was being completely dismantled by pleasure and pain. Will draped his whole body over the doctor again, put his arms around Hannibal’s neck in a loving headlock, and let his entire, slick, long member go deep inside, as far as he could fit.

“Oh, Daddy…” Will pulled his hips down and back, fucking in long, slow strokes, kissing Hannibal’s face lazily, and the older man’s legs came up to encircle Will, feet pressing to the profiler’s ass to push him in tight and deep.

“Naughty, naughty.” Will clucked his tongue, reached behind him to shove Hannibal’s feet down, and gripped his neck, fucking him so slow, painstakingly gradual thrusts, shallow and barely grazing his prostate.

He squeezed Hannibal’s neck and said in a heated rasp, high on the sweat slick of their bodies slapping together in a sinful duet, “If I ever tried to leave you, would you kill me?”

“Yes,” Hannibal admitted when Will loosed his grip on his neck to let him answer. “Oh, Will -- ah, ah--” Every thrust of hard cock into tight heat made him shiver and sweat, moaning like the greedy pillow princess only Will could make him into.

“I thought so. I’d kill you if you tried to leave me, too. Would you eat me, if I died?”

“I’d have to,” Hannibal sighed, moving his head desperately to try and kiss Will’s hand. Will took pity on him and let him kiss, then kissed his hot cheek.

“I understand. Don’t worry, my love, that will never happen. I’ll always stay with you, and you’re not going anywhere unless I let you. I don’t want you to have a damn thing in your life that matters as much as me.”

“Nothing ever could.” Hannibal reached up with his tied wrists, just briefly feeling the motion of Will’s hips slowly sinking against his ass, the profiler’s sizable erection gliding in again to the hilt, taking all the breath in his lungs.

“Ohhhh, Will,” he panted, and there followed a long statement in blurry, pleasure-drunk Lithuanian, with what sounded like some French haphazardly mixed in.

“You’ll let me crush you and smother you in my love. You won’t mind if I’m outrageously needy and spoiled, taking up so much of your time and energy, always wanting more.”

“Mind?” Hannibal grinned up at him so adorably, out of his mind with bliss as he was fucked more solidly into the bed, “Ahhh-- I’ll love it. I -- ohh, Will, baby, mylimasis, aaahhh-- I would not have it any other way.”

Hannibal’s body felt so damn good, and looked fucking amazing with Will’s cock going in and out, the doctor’s ragged cries filling the air along with his own grunts and gasps. Will looked over his shoulder and watched it happen for a few delicious thrusts, saw their reflection in the mirror and thrilled at the savage delight of their oneness.

He lost himself for a minute and took hold of Hannibal’s hips, making his lover’s ass bounce faster as he fucked to his heart’s content, pressure of joy building inside him like the sweetest electricity, lighting up his world. Hannibal started to back his ass up in time with Will’s thrusts, and the ease of the glide made the younger man’s eyes roll back.

“Fuck, fuck, fuck, Daddy, so good,” he muttered, pleased by the rising volume and pitch of Hannibal’s moans. “Don’t come, though.”

“Oh, please, Will, please, so close,” Hannibal begged, and Will smirked.

He grabbed Hannibal’s ankles and gave him a good pounding, getting him right to the precipice in no time. “So close, huh? Feels so fucking good you’ll burst, you’ll just die if I don’t let you come. Yeah?”

“Yes!” Hannibal whimpered. “Please!”

Will stopped thrusting even though it almost killed him, and dragged his sensitive, aching cock from Hannibal’s exquisite body with a deep shiver. He whispered in Hannibal’s ear. “No.”

Hannibal’s fingers curled into his hand, nails digging half-moons in his palms. He cried some more and Will soothed him.

“Shhh, shh-shh, Daddy. Come on now, you said you’d be good. Tell me why I’m making you wait.”

“To-- because…” Hannibal stopped flinching and relaxed his hands again, breathing deeply in and out, calming at Will’s command. “Because when you finally let me come, it will be much more intense because you took me to the brink and stopped me so many times.”

“That’s right.” Will smiled and guided Hannibal to turn over.

The doctor’s cock curved heavily towards his stomach and he was red-eyed, scarlet-cheeked, panting. So, so beautiful like this, as no one else would ever see him.

Will spent some time languidly alternating between teasing sucks on Hannibal’s dick and balls, then worshipped his feet, one at a time. Hannibal sighed and moaned as Will massaged and licked his toes, softly kneaded his skin and pressed his solar plexus points, making him relax at the same time his arousal built at the lingering, wet and soft attention. Will walked his thumb from the base of Hannibal’s foot to each toe, then kissed and lovingly bit his ankles and started all over again.

Hannibal had been close again when Will sucked his cock and played with his balls, close when Will kissed and massaged his feet, knowing every perfect sensitive place and pressure point, and he nearly shattered again when Will introduced a candle.

“Shhhh, it’s okay,” Will soothed, dripping hot wax down Hannibal’s chest and abs.

Hannibal held his shaking arms aloft, his bound hands grabbing at the headboard for leverage as the hot dribble cascaded down his sensitive skin. His back arched off the bed and Will stroked his face. “The candle was made for this, I got it just for you. The wax is good for your skin, Daddy. Smells good, too, huh?”

“Yes, thank you, baby.” Hannibal closed his eyes, relaxed his body into the bed again, and inhaled deeply of the candle wax aroma, cedar, jasmine and mandarin. He scented out Will, too, his new cologne and the sticky-sweet smell of their sex, and as another light smattering of wax poured down his skin, aimed by Will’s careful hand to stimulate and arouse, his cock twitched and leaked precum.

“No,” Will sighed, so lovingly. He stroked Hannibal’s stomach. “No, I’m sorry, but it’s still too soon.”

Only after he had played with Hannibal’s hole using a vibrator, then a dildo, and then ate him out again, Will slid his cock back into his shaking, weeping lover.

Dawn was beginning to break, blue-grey clouds shot through with brightest orange and softest pink, vaguely visible through the gauzy curtains. Hannibal had been so incredibly strong, so brave. Will had never been prouder.

He had Hannibal on his stomach again, pressed tight to the bed with Will’s hand pushing his tied wrists to his back, rutting in with solid, quickening thrusts. But Will needed even more, deeper, closer. He climbed further up the bed, knelt over Hannibal, then fucked fast, straight to his prostate, building it up and up and up.

Hannibal, at this point was past defenseless. He wasn’t even entirely awake, just conscious enough to emit continuous “uhh-aaahhh, ahhhh” whines and take what he was given.

Now, as Will shifted to a position which allowed for the utmost depth and fucked him aggressively, Hannibal roused with a hungrier cry.

“Yeah,” Will encouraged, “That’s it, there you go. It’s all for you, sweetheart. Come on, give in. It’s okay. Come for me. Say my name. Tell me who you belong to, who you’ll live and die and kill for.”

Will!” Hannibal’s body convulsed as he came with thundering intensity, cum thickly spurting from his cock, pleasure roaring through him from head to toe. It was so powerful he panicked and shook like a leaf, crying his eyes out.

“Aww, it’s okay, Daddy, that’s okay.” Will untied his hands, massaged and kissed his wrists, then kissed all over his face and cupped it. “You just never knew you could come that hard. You’re fine, I’ll take care of you.”

Hannibal closed his eyes and lifted his weak elbows, pulling Will down into a hug. “Thank you, baby, so much...so...I….ohhhh…”

“I know.” Will kissed his forehead. “Do you want my cum now?”

Hannibal had finally recovered enough to smirk up at him, giving Will back his naughty sass in equal measure. “You know I want it.”

Will leaned over his chest and thrust into Hannibal’s eager, open mouth, careful not to give into the urge to deep throat him. His lover was too tired for such rough treatment, and even offering his wide, slack mouth and his lazy but adoring licks was a lot of work for Hannibal in his current state. It didn’t take much, though, not after hours of waiting and witnessing Hannibal at his most gorgeously broken.

He pulled out just in time to come all over Hannibal’s face, groaning and swearing loudly as the euphoric sensation of postponed release poured through him. Hannibal caught as much cum as he could on his tongue while the rest of it looked very fucking pretty painting his elegant cheekbones and sticking to his five o’clock shadow.

Hannibal was asleep for most of the aftercare, but Will had expected that. He took his time gently cleaning his lover with a warm, wet cloth, then rubbed salve over the places where he had spanked, scratched and grabbed hard, leaving countless marks. Then he tucked Hannibal in and gave a huge yawn and stretch. It only took him a couple more minutes to clean himself up in the bathroom; they could take a nice long bath in the afternoon...Hannibal would surely sleep until noon at least after the treatment he’d had.

Will would wake when the alarm on his phone chimed in a few hours, feed and walk the dogs, then climb into bed with Hannibal and cuddle him until the older man woke. Then Will would make breakfast, scrambled eggs, bacon and toast, simple but delicious and restorative, and they’d feed it to each other in bed, laughing and kissing and stroking each other’s bodies.

Jack would be calling upon Will one of these days fairly soon, following up on the Ripper and Vigilante cases separately. A plan was obviously needed for navigating through the FBI’s various suspicions and investigations, but Will wasn’t worried. He’d never been happier or more hopeful in his life. He and Hannibal could talk about it tomorrow, while he rubbed gingery shampoo into his beautiful monster’s hair and kissed his wet shoulders. They’d figure it out.

With a peaceful and rapturous hum, satisfied and excited for the future, Will snuggled down under the covers and put his head on Hannibal’s chest. Hannibal’s arms automatically went up around him as the Ripper loosed a happy sigh and slipped deeper into sleep. Will nuzzled into all that firm muscle and tickly chest hair just the way he liked best, and surrendered to his own gory and blissful dreams.

Outside, parked on the street next to Hannibal’s house, the second shift of FBI security took over from the first, two yawning officers going home after an uneventful night of watching a peaceful home. Two more agents would be posted there on the quiet, nobly posh street for hours, with more sent to Hannibal’s office to ensure his safety.

Chapter Text

“So are we allowed to kill independently anymore, or...is that too much like cheating?”

Will smiled up at Hannibal from where he lay in bed with his head nestled on his lover’s thigh, Hannibal’s fingers running through his curls that were still damp from their bath.

“Are we allowed to kill separately, 1-2-3,” Will counted, their cue to answer the question in unison. He ticked the numbers off on his fingers as Hannibal chortled, picking another fresh strawberry out of the bowl on the bed, dipping it in whipped cream.

“No,” they said at the same time, then laughed rapturously. Hannibal fed a bite of the strawberry to Will, who nibbled and licked the whipped cream from his big fingers, wriggling in delight.

He loved this, their lazy day together, the morning after they finally confessed their murderous alter egos. The total openness of lying there, wrapped in nothing more than a fresh set of Hannibal’s ridiculously soft billion thread-count creme-colored sheets and each other, Will’s fingers traipsing slowly up Hannibal’s arm to caress his bare shoulder, his eyes bright on the older man’s face, happily entrapped in a liquid amber gaze, ready to drown there forever.

Will had one knee bent against Hannibal’s torso while the doctor massaged his leg. The Chesapeake Ripper was a notorious snuggler, as it emerged, much like Will himself, and they both ran naturally hot, making for a delicious press of skin that went from warm to burning the more they touched.

“Annual vacations where we throw all responsibility aside and go somewhere fantastic for an adventure?” Will proposed. “1-2-3--”

“Yes,” they both said, grinning.

“Paris?” Will suggested.

“And Florence.” Hannibal traced his finger from Will’s forehead all the way down his nose, treating it like the cutest little ski slope. “I would dearly love to show you Florence, Will.”

“Take me all over the world.” Will leaned over and kissed Hannibal’s thigh, then his knee, and gave him another pampered, adoring smile. “You know I’d follow you anywhere. Can I take you on a sailing trip, too? You can just sit back and relax, let me do all the work…”

“Let you walk about the boat completing nautical-mechanical-navigational tasks of which I have little understanding, preferably whilst you are shirtless, in a pair of those dreadful little blue jeans?” Hannibal smirked and raised his eyebrows. “I would be only too happy. If you engage me as the ship’s official chef, of course, and if I can wear one of those white sailor’s hats--”

“You’ll be wearing nothing else by the time I’m done. I’ll fuck you below and above deck, especially if there’s a vague chance someone else might see.”

“Aye, aye, Captain.” Hannibal flashed his fangs and saluted Will jauntily. His fingers kneaded Will’s calf and then wrapped around his ankle, feeling the bump of his bones, the softness of his skin as he added more seriously, reflectively, “Stay here in this life unless we are ever apprehended and must flee? Keep our current cover lives intact, the proximity to your family?”

Will returned his gaze with equal thoughtfulness.

“1, 2, 3,” Hannibal added, then they said together, “Yes.”

Hannibal guessed, “Your parents know nothing about your--”

“No, and they can never find out.” Will shook his head firmly. “That means we’ll have to be exceptionally careful. If my mom and dad ever knew...it would destroy them, break their hearts. I can’t lose them, Hannibal.”

“Of course, mylimasis.” Hannibal swept Will’s curls back from his brow and let them drop again before twisting a few around his fingers to watch them spring free. “I promise to keep your secret locked deep in my heart forever. And to protect our cherished life here with all my strength.”

“You’re very strong. I trust you. I trust you with everything I am and all that I have.” Will caught Hannibal’s hand when the Ripper moved from playing with his curls to caressing his cheek.

“As I trust you, dearest.” The soft rumble of his voice sent a shiver of poignant love down Will’s spine.

Kissing Hannibal’s knuckles, he added cautiously, but a bit sternly, “And I want you to let Miriam Lass go.”

“I certainly shall. Ms. Lass has done nothing to offend me, and her status as my prisoner has only ever been a result of her ingenuity, and the need for protecting my interests in result. She will also play a key role in an upcoming drama which will ensure Jack Crawford never learns who the real Chesapeake Ripper is.”

Will lit up with interest. “You made her think the Ripper is someone else? So fully that she’ll identify this other person as such to Jack?”

Hannibal nodded. “You and I, so long as we remain eminently careful, need not be too fearful of Jack’s snares.”

“Who the hell is vile enough that you thought they deserved to go down for your crimes?” Will asked, more out of curiosity than pity. He didn’t doubt Hannibal would only do this to a truly awful person.

Dr. Lecter had seldom looked so amused. “Have you ever met Dr. Frederick Chilton?”

Will blinked up at him for a few suspended moments as he considered this revelation before he dissolved into laughter, curled up on Hannibal’s lap while the older man chuckled along and hugged Will close, preparing another strawberry with a dollop of whipped topping.

They ate the strawberry together and Will settled sitting up more, head against Hannibal’s shoulder, held nice and snug there while sweet fruit and sweeter kisses were offered his eager lips. Hannibal nuzzled their noses together, placed a smear of whipped cream on Will’s lips and licked it off, then kissed both his cheeks, ecstatic, unable to stop showing it.

“You teaching me how to cook?” Will asked, “1-2-3--”

“Yes,” they agreed, and Will laughed, “You just want to come up behind me and put your arms around me, kiss my neck when I’m trying to make one of your fancy recipes to see if you can throw me off enough that I burn something.”

“I’m sure you’ll learn something,” Hannibal retorted cheerfully. He stretched his long legs and flexed his feet under the sheets, pondering the idea. “Which counter smarts the most when you are shoved up against it and fucked senseless, for example. Which condiments you most like to be slathered in while I lick it all off you...strawberry sauce, marshmallow? Chocolate?”

“Take your pick,” Will laughed, “I look forward to it, Daddy.” He waggled his eyebrows and squeezed Hannibal’s thigh, then added another question. “Can I teach you how to fish?”

Hannibal groaned and rolled his eyes, making Will laugh even harder. His stomach ached with all the giggles and joy.

“1,” Will snorted, clutching his tummy as more giggles came, “2, 3--”

“Yes,” Will insisted while Hannibal glowered, “No.”

You,” Hannibal accused, “Only want to see me completely out of my depth and up to my stomach in cold river water, tangled in fishing wire, wearing a set of those unfortunate ‘waders’ and desperately in need of your assistance.”

“I’ll save you, don’t worry.”

“I never doubted it for a moment, my dear. Very well, but only if....I may take you back to the opera,”

“Reaaallly?” Will pouted, playfully kicking Hannibal’s leg under the sheet. “It was boring, Daddy, I didn’t understand it and all your snobby friends were pawing at you and flirting. I can’t promise I won’t get bored, annoyed and possessive again, and kill more than two this time.”

“Will Graham,” Hannibal said, solemn despite the amusement still twinkling in his eyes. He kissed Will’s hand like a courtly gentleman, Mr. Darcy incarnate, and promised, “I thoroughly regret my mistakes the last time I attempted to bring you into my world. I want another chance to do it properly, treat you as the Prince you are and make all of my ‘snobby friends’ bow at your throne, showing your beauty proper deference.”

“Well,” Will stalled, pretending to hesitate in bristling residual irritation, really completely charmed by his romantic hero, his king. “I don’t know…”

“1, 2, 3,” Hannibal prompted -- “Yes--”

“Yes, yes, okay, yes,” Will allowed. “You are altogether too charming for either of our good, I hope you know.”

Smugly, Hannibal took a sip of the mimosa Will had made him, and passed Will’s own slender flute of bubbly orange drink to him.

“Mmm,” Will said, savoring the tart burst and the tickly bubbles giving him a quick rush of flavorful liquor.

Will’s toe dragged down Hannibal’s ankle and he sipped his drink again, then put it on the table next to his side of the bed before returning his appraising gaze to Hannibal’s face.

“Open relationship?”

Hannibal looked suddenly very cross and Will fought back the urge to tickle his irresistibly hairy, soft belly. Will would never want an open relationship, of course.

“Well, we both know we’re too jealous to stand the other cheating,” Will went on teasingly, knowing he was getting himself in deep trouble and loving it. “At least if we have a previously agreed upon arrangement, with the requisite understood limits and such, we can avoid any hurt feelings…”

“Will,” Hannibal growled, lifting Will like he weighed no more than a feather and positioning his naughty boy right in the center of his lap, Will’s arms instinctively circling his neck, his thighs pressing warm to Hannibal’s waist.

"Okay, okay, I'm just kidding, really! I can't stand the idea of other people even wanting you, never mind having the nerve to touch you. C'mon, you know that."

“I’m going to kill you,” Hannibal said, strict and rough, and Will nodded with a besotted sigh.

“I’d let you.”

“I know you would,” Hannibal swooned, leaning in to kiss Will’s lips, sharing the strawberry-orange-alcohol flavor of their joining wet heat, tongues lashing and tangling, slow and deep, ready to eat each other alive, always.

He grabbed Will by the back of his hair and dug his fingers in tight, forcing Will’s unrelenting eye contact, his own face torn asunder by desperate, obsessive infatuation.

“And you would enjoy it,” Hannibal predicted.

“Yes.” Will whispered now, eyes shining with tears of pleasured pain at the tight tug of Hannibal’s powerful grip on his soft curls, lips reddened and plump with devouring kisses, tingling for more. “You’d like me killing you, too. You know I’d make it good.”

“So good, my darling. Nobody could do it better, I’d only want you.”

Their cocks had reawakened finally, arousal reviving at the raunchy entendres of their murder talk, Hannibal’s thicker, heavy uncut erection pressed right to Will’s longer, firm, circumcised cock as their balls brushed together. Will’s nails sank into Hannibal’s back, right into bruises he’d left with his teeth the night before in the blinding smear of edging his lover out of his mind. Hannibal moaned and looked at him, dark and feral, the beast, casting a thrall of fascination over Will like a net he let take him, a cage he walked right into.

“You took a lot of trophies from Carter. More than any of your other victims, Zeller said.”

His cannibal was blushing, beautiful, shy. Shy for Will and no one else. How Will adored him like this. Hannibal was cruel and vicious enough to chill anyone’s blood, but that’s what heated Will’s up like wildfire, licking the inside of his skin. And with his Will, he was always prone to these surprising lapses into delicacy, uncertainty, tentativeness.

Hannibal’s tender, bruised heart was right in the palm of Will’s hand, forever to be treasured and protected, honored. Hannibal’s heart was home.

The Ripper ducked his face. They were still pressed together in rigid, leaking arousal, sweat beginning to bead their brows, backs and biceps, but heartfelt longing for acceptance had come in to flavor the mood with more than lust.

“Look at me, honey.” Will tipped Hannibal’s face back up, but the older man still avoided his searching gaze. “C’mon. What is it?”

“I thought...if you wanted to…”

“We could eat him together?” Will smiled, caressing his thumb over the five o’clock shadow on Hannibal’s cheeks. He’d encouraged his lover not to shave that morning, because the idea of a bearded Dr. Lecter turned him on.

Hannibal looked stunningly handsome like this, a little rougher with the beard growing in and his drying hair slipping down across his forehead, obscuring one big brown eye. Will brushed the errant silky lock back and looked deeply into both of those pretty caramel eyes that shimmered with fear of rejection that had been built into him by virtue of his monstrous secrets. What he did was so shockingly taboo, he’d long ago assumed no one else would want this.

“Yes. Only if you wanted to.”

“I know, I get that, sweetheart. We’d begin with cuts of his flesh, from the limbs you kept, and then…? Tell me, Hannibal, I’m right here, with you, for you.” He lifted Hannibal’s hand and pressed it to his steady heartbeat. The Ripper would find no fear in the reassuring pound, only love and longing.

“Then his kidneys, his liver...it would be...ceremonial. An initiation. I’d make blood pudding in oranges, spiked with absinthe. We could...indulge a bacchanal, feast upon the flesh and blood of our enemy, together.”

Hannibal whispered the word “together,” soft as crushed rose petals.

“We could make love on the table-top,” Will suggested. “Surrounded by human bones and extravagant centerpieces, black orchids, ripe berries. Tasting the blood and flesh on each other’s lips while you drive so deep into me…”

“You…” Hannibal took Will’s face in both of his hands, overcome with astonished worship. “Will, you would…”

“I want to share everything with you.” Will vowed. “Everything,” he whispered, and they kissed, gently, soulfully, feeling complete.

“You’re so lovely like this,” Will added, pressing his forehead to Hannibal’s. “So perfect. Wanting and doubting, but...why is it you still wonder if I’m all in? If I’ll love you forever, if nothing you could ever say or do, nothing in your past could ever turn me away, when I’ve told you so many times…”

“I’m sorry,” Hannibal sighed, and the deep breath he took was raspy with feeling. “I. Will. I don’t doubt you, not exactly. Except in questioning how such a vision of perfection could take apparently mortal form, and that fills me with urgent protectiveness. No, it isn’t doubt. It is only that…when I look at you…”

He did so then, his fingers so tender and gentle under Will’s chin, stroking his jaw. The Ripper’s lips curved in a shuddering smile. “When we go out together somewhere and I see you across the room when we’ve been parted for a few minutes, and I see again, as if for the first time, how magnificent you are, how radiant, feeling how anyone would die to love you, touch you, belong to you, it strikes me so deeply. And then, when we come home together, and you tell me you love me, want me, for all that I am…”

Will smiled attentively and slid his thumb along the path of salt a tear left on Hannibal’s cheek. “What? You can tell me anything. And I’ll tell you everything.”

Hannibal nodded, recognizing the same words he’d said to Will a few weeks ago, making love before they shared the whole truth.

“You still make me nervous,” Hannibal admitted. “Will...I think you’ll always make me nervous.”

“Yeah?” Will closed his eyes and placed the most amorously sensitive kiss on Hannibal’s lips, light and careful, his fingers trailing down Hannibal’s face. “Will you make love to me? I want to show you something.”

Hannibal, lost in bewildered oceans of feeling, used Will for a compass. He put his large, warm hands firmly on Will’s stomach, but went no further, his eyes darting down, and Will could tell he wondered if the younger man would like to ride him, if he should shift position to accommodate -- because he would always make love to Will, could never say no, was thinking of it incessantly anytime it wasn’t happening.

“No, not like this, like…” Will took Hannibal’s hands in his and fell back, lying on his back, pulling Hannibal over him missionary style.

Soft. Almost...healthy, “normal,” vanilla. All words that had no meaning or value to either of them. They felt the dagger’s edge in this gentle intimacy, digging deeper into their connection, merging two mind palaces that once felt so lonely.

Hannibal smiled and kissed down Will’s neck, chest and stomach, brushing warm, wet lips, bringing Will’s nipples to rosy moist attention, licking the stiff nubs then biting softly. Will moaned and surrendered, more so when Hannibal went down on him, slowly sucking his engorged length, taking him to the base while his fingers remained on Will’s chest, toying exquisitely with his nipples.

Will’s legs shook, hips arched off the bed as his toes curled. He met Hannibal glide for thrust, pushing his shaft into his lover’s throat, pulling out again and putting his hand shakily in tawny hair that shone in golden afternoon sunlight. Hannibal grinned, content as a cat with his throat newly wrecked.

“Need you, Daddy,” Will begged in a whimper like spun gossamer, pulled so tight and needy by Hannibal’s every breath-stealing move.

Hannibal’s lips turned up in a sweetly naughty smile full of so much admiration and desire. His mouth was slick with Will’s precum and the saliva he’d left all over the younger man’s cock. After locking eyes again, Hannibal groped Will’s soft thighs and leaned down to blow on the profiler’s achingly hard dick.

“Hnnnhhhh--- Haaannnnibal, fuck,” Will blurted, pleasure skating up his cock in a steady breeze as Hannibal’s breath met the wetness on his skin.

“My good boy.” Hannibal bit both his thighs, then readied him for the taking with extravagant lapping and twirling of his tongue, until he dipped it barely into Will’s entrance. He felt Will tugging impatiently on his hair, lost in the decadent tease of foreplay, and knew his lover was fully prepared.

He stared into Will’s eyes as he eased a lubricated middle finger into the slick, tight warmth inside him, and Will sighed, holding Hannibal’s back with patient tenderness, keeping his legs nice and wide, making it easy.

“Do you know what I thought -- ahhh! Yes-- what I thought the first time I saw you?” Will gasped.

Hannibal shook his head, adding a second finger and crooking both to pleasure Will’s prostate before beginning a steady in and out thrusting, his cock throbbing with the sensation of the agent’s luscious desire, the way Will clenched and relaxed in time with his movements, moaning and throwing his head back.

“I thought, I want to fuck him more than I’ve ever wanted to fuck anyone in my life.” Will’s breathy recollection dissolved into heady whines of bliss as the saucy remark made Hannibal slam his hand in faster and faster. “Then, when I...when I got to know you, I thought, how can I ever hope someone so perfect and -- ahhh, so above me, this god of a man, how could he ever want me, what can I possibly do to make him mine?”

“And then?” Hannibal kissed his mouth so passionately it took Will a few moments of world-tilting distraction to answer.

“Then you let me fuck you, and it was everything,” Will remembered as Hannibal kissed his face, his neck, ran fingers through his hair and slicked his bulging cock between the younger man’s thighs, barely grazing Will’s sex, “Everything…”

Will’s eyes dropped shut as he moaned into Hannibal’s frotting, the older man picking up speed, sliding their lengths together to create perfect friction.

“But you wouldn’t let me in your heart.” Will flung his legs back in effortless time with Hannibal’s body sinking forward on top of him. “I almost gave up. I thought not having you again would kill me.”

Hannibal’s strong biceps pressed to the backs of Will’s legs as he kissed him more and entreated, “What then?”

“You came back to me.” His fingers pressed to Hannibal’s broad, fuzzy chest as the older man crushed closer against him, raining kisses all over his face, his lips, his neck. “You -- oh, God, look at you, you’re so fucking sexy, Hannibal -- this time you came back to stay, and…”

“Mmm-mmm-mmm,” Hannibal replied with three wet, smacking kisses to Will’s swollen lips. “And--”

“Then I heard you sing Britney Spears,” Will laughed with his legs dangling around Hannibal’s shoulders, feet up in the air.

Hannibal chortled and bit his neck. His new beard felt almost as good rubbing there with scratchy-soft friction, as it did against Will’s thighs.

“Yes, it made me fall even more in love with you, but when -- mmm, that’s nice, kiss me there again...I saw what you did to Carter, I thought, I want to spend the rest of my life with you. If you’ll let me.” Will turned pink and hoped he hadn’t said too much.

The smile faded from Hannibal’s face and he looked very serious then. He sat back, one hand on Will’s thigh, kneading, while Will lay there open and waiting with his fingers latched to Hannibal’s thigh. Hannibal spit into his hand and stroked his cock, then pushed inside Will and hugged him close again, covering Will with his warm body like a blanket while his girthy dick stroked deep.

“Aahhh, Daddy, Daddy,” Will cried out, clinging to Hannibal’s shoulders, folded in half with his legs pinned in place around his lover. “Fuck, so good--”

Je t’aime de tout mon coeur,” said Hannibal huskily, working his cock in and out, slow, deep and hard, his teeth back in Will’s neck, grazing, nipping, biting and sucking, tonguing, too much, his murmurs in French going to Will’s heart and dick in equal measure.

Je veux être avec toi pour toujours.” He moved back, knelt and lifted Will’s lower body, fucking faster, groaning in pleasure as Will let out a pained, euphoric plea.

“Ohh --- oh!” Will hadn’t been ready for how enormous Hannibal felt from this particular angle, as if he would be split open, and his astonished concern at the confusing blend of sensations made the older man laugh gently and ease up on him.

“Daddy’s awfully big like that, isn’t he, baby?”

Hannibal solved the “problem” by picking Will up and arranging him in front of the dresser, where there happened to be another mirror.

“Try it like this.” He bent Will’s leg and put it on top of the dresser, then pressed back in with one firm stroke, pulling jagged moans from them both. “Is that good, Will? Is this what you need?”

Hannibal spanked him and admired his pretty, pale ass, driving his cock in and gripping Will’s waist while the younger man jerked off in front of the mirror, panting and crying out curses.

“I know you like to watch yourself being fucked by Daddy,” Hannibal grunted, and Will almost howled his helpless assent while the older man pounded into him and their skin slapped together loudly.

“You’re a very naughty boy, Will. Look how well you take it.”

Will didn’t need to be asked twice. Few things excited him quite so much as watching his own red-faced, near-drooling, whorish expression close up in a mirror he was fogging with cries of “fuck me harder, Daddy,” and watching how powerful and fierce Hannibal looked rutting against him, his hair hanging in his face.

“Very, very naughty boy. You drive Daddy mad, and you know it. Je suis amoureux.”

He fucked Will so hard the dresser knocked against the wall and Will would have gone flying right across the top of it if Hannibal hadn’t had a hand tight on his shoulder while the other one dipped fingers into the profiler’s mouth in rhythm with his thrusts.

“I love it when you speak French to me,” Will moaned, “Oh, God, your voice, never stop--”

“Je t'adore...mon tresor…” Hannibal grabbed Will’s hips and gave an especially hard thrust which, coupled with his words, made the younger man come all over his hand and the dresser, shivering and mumbling Hannibal’s name as his body went almost numb with shocking pleasure.

“Yes, baby, that’s it --” Hannibal fucked Will through his orgasm, making the throes of so much better, and then he pulled out and pushed the agent to his knees, stroking his cock with clear intent.

“My pretty little slut, so perfect for Daddy,” Hannibal exulted as Will looked up at him in a haze of feverish post-orgasmic joy, placing his hands on Hannibal’s hips and leaning in to envelop his cock in exquisite soft, wet heat.

“My angel,” The older man sighed hoarsely. He grabbed the back of Will’s head and fucked deep into his mouth, then Will bobbed his head so expertly that Hannibal let go and allowed him to take over. In no time flat he was growling, taking his cock in hand and bringing himself off with a few swift strokes, coming onto Will’s tongue and splashing more thick white seed on his face.

Will batted his eyelashes, some of which were covered in cum like his eyelid, and Hannibal cried out in ecstasy at the erotic sight and the pleasure still flooding his body. The younger man slurped and sucked at him, sighing “Mmm, yes,” over and over until Hannibal had to detach his aching, oversensitive cock from Will’s obsessive worship.

“Oh,” Will sighed, melting as Hannibal picked him up in a bridal pose and carried him to the leather chair by the bed and held him tight on his lap, Will curling up and clinging.

Hannibal couldn’t seem to stop breathlessly kissing him, hugging him as if he was frustrated by the inability to get Will closer than was actually possible.

“What is it?” Will asked in concern, knowing the signs of Hannibal’s anxiety flaring up.

“You’re…” Hannibal frowned and sighed, disappointed in some perceived weakness on his part, and admitted finally, “You’re very, very good at lovemaking, and sometimes I can’t contain my jealousy, wondering who taught you so well, who had you before me...please understand I am not judging you for having past lovers...I’ve had them too, I’ve done everything I could think of to try and shake loose a human emotion from my soul and finally feel...”

“I haven’t been with that many people, I’m too damn picky,” Will said with a gentle laugh. “I know you’re not judging me, and I know you have to hate anyone who’s touched me in the past, the way I want to kill your old lovers…”

“Old?” Hannibal smirked through his conflicted mood, “An intriguing way for you to conceive of them.”

“Shut up,” Will pouted, grabbing a blanket from the top of the chair. He cleaned off his face, then added petulantly, “I like to think of them as old and boring.”

“I’m older than you, and you don’t seem to find me boring.”

“Not sexy-old like you, just...you know. Unattractive, dull, you can’t imagine how you ever spent time with them when you have me now, that sort of thing.”

“Yes,” Hannibal conceded, wrapping Will up in another embrace. “That sort of thing.”

“Anyway. Most of what I learned about sex comes from masturbation, toys, and a really embarrassing amount of porn,” Will confessed. “I’ve had my tries at romance over the years, but they just weren’t you, and it wasn’t this. You bring it out of me, whatever it is that makes you think I’m good in bed. It’s all you. I just want to adore you in every way I can, and...this is how it comes out.”

“Lapis lazuli,” Hannibal said in a quick burst of inspiration. He cupped Will’s face, staring into his eyes with an almost scientific fascination.

“Uh...that isn’t French. Isn’t lapis lazuli a gemstone?”

“Indeed, and it is also the precise shade of your eyes in this moment. Please stay just there, as you are, indulge me--”

Hannibal darted across the room, which would have been pretty funny since he was still naked, but since he resembled a Greek God, Will was too busy staring at his broad, powerful back, his scrumptious ass, his long legs, et cetera, to even think of moving, not that he really had his own land legs back yet. Hannibal was still walking crooked too, which amused and pleased him. He was proud of rendering those elegant dancer’s legs wobbly and weak.

Hannibal sat on the rug in front of Will’s chair, another blanket loosely tossed over his legs, and started sketching on the pad he’d brought. They’d made love so long and hard that Hannibal still had a thin sheen of sweat all over his body, so Will knew without asking that the blanket was so the sketchpad didn’t dig into his lap.

Will glanced at his lover’s art supplies. Hannibal had a box of charcoal pencils, a smudging stick, and a tin of wax-based colored pencils fanned out in a vivid row of lacquered shades. The younger man felt a quiver of excited self-consciousness in realizing all of this preparation and focus was to do with him, capturing him on paper like pressing this memory between wax sheets, a butterfly trapped in time, preserved. Always accessible, never fully lost. The wistfulness of the act, and in Hannibal’s expression, haunted him.

“Wait, wait, what are you doing?” Will blushed, nibbling his lower lip. “I’m naked.”

“Yes.” Distracted by his sketching and intense looks back over at Will, Hannibal added quickly, pencil flitting deliberately over the sturdy ivory paper, “Are you cold?”

“No, does it look like I’m cold?”

Will glanced down at the semi he almost always seemed to have, even when not fully hard, around that human dose of viagra across from him sketching on the floor. Hannibal had him continually in a state of almost painful excitement that had become Will’s favorite masochism.

Hannibal made a funny noise with his nose like a laugh-snort and shook his head. “You still look quite virile, my dear.”

“Well, this isn’t much of a pose,” Will sulked.

He was casually sprawled on the chair, but didn’t dare shift into a more dignified posture because Hannibal had said to stay the way he was, and well...he didn’t want to ruin Hannibal’s plans when his lover looked so serious and intent.

“I’m nearly done,” Hannibal muttered, reaching for the brightest blue pencil, then a sage green and a gold, adding color hurriedly to key places. “I would not cause you discomfort by this impromptu posing for me.”

“I’m not posing,” Will sighed. “I look like a naked mess right now, I’m pretty sure.”

“Finished.” Hannibal nodded down at his work, looking distinctly unsatisfied but resigned. “Thank you, beloved, you were an exceptional model.”

He made to carry the sketch away, to put aside in one of his many drawers of secrets, but Will sat up straighter and reached out a hand.

“Can’t I see it?”

“I’m afraid my attempts to recreate your beauty fall pathetically short of the mark,” Hannibal fretted. However, he brought the portrait to Will and let him hold it for a few minutes of careful examination.

The Will in this sketch did not look like a ‘naked mess,’ far from it. He was lusciously relaxed, casting a vulnerable, lovestruck gaze upon the artist, and he had been drawn almost entirely in black and white, masterful shadowing employed in highlighting every curve of his face and body. The only exception to the monochromatic theme was Will’s eyes, shaded in lapis blue, feline gold and ivy green. It seemed the colors were dancing with light and life on the coldly inert page, and Will’s bashful smile, his lightly shaded cheeks showing how he blushed...the way Hannibal had drawn his body, it was kind of ridiculous. Will’s face flamed. He looked like an exquisitely sculpted specimen of male perfection, but all of his quirks were intact, the small round of his stomach when he sat, the scar on his shoulder, his disheveled sex hair…

Overwhelmed, embarrassed and honored, Will handed the portrait back to Hannibal. “Thank you, it’s...I almost feel like I don’t deserve how much you...I...thank you?”

Hannibal put a hand into Will’s mussed curls and stroked back and forth with a sad smile. “It cannot come close to approximating your vivacity. I’ve never felt my artistic limitations in quite so profoundly humbling a light.”

“It’s important for you to try and keep me and these times together in your memory,” Will ventured. He stood and wrapped his arms around Hannibal’s waist. “But I’ll always be with you, I promise. Don’t worry. If we go down, we go down together. Believe me?”

“Life isn’t so easy to plan and predict. If something should happen to you…” Hannibal shook his head.

“Don’t get so caught up in worries that you can’t be present with me. Come back, now, honey, please?” Will went up on his toes and kissed Hannibal’s forehead.

“I’m here, Will.” Hannibal’s voice was tight, his eyes gleaming with unshed tears.

Will squeezed his hand. “Have you spoken to Dr. Du Maurier about these worries?”

“Not yet.”

“It might not be such a bad idea to bring it up in session. You have that appointment with her later today...would you do that for me? I don’t like to see you so upset.”

He hugged Hannibal like a big, deadly Lithuanian teddy bear and sighed, kissing his chest, rubbing his back. Hannibal held him back as if Will was made of glass.

“I can do that for you, Will. For us.”

“Good.” Will looked up at him, using mischief to cut the tension and give Hannibal a break from the close scrutiny that sometimes made him anxious. “Want to play the game again, before I get dressed for work?”

He’d promised to go and meet with Jack Crawford at the Academy regarding the pressing cases. Although he had assumed he might be able to steal a few days worth of stalling before dealing with the complicated situation, Will didn’t particularly mind Jack’s quick follow-up. Better to get the loose ends squared away as soon as possible; then Hannibal could release Miriam and the rest of the dominoes would fall, sadly enough for poor, clueless Chilton.

“I suppose we have time for a few more rounds before we each must depart,” Hannibal said with a wry smile. He saw directly through Will’s ploys to cheer him up and gave in easily.

Was there anything his Daddy would deny him? Will had to wonder. He had a sneaking suspicion he could bring home five more stray dogs and Hannibal’s only reaction would be mild annoyance and asking what their names were and if he should start a bath for them upstairs.

“Okay.” Will shrugged on a blue terry bathrobe that he’d officially stolen from his lover, all over-large on him and smelling of expensive cologne, wonderful, and tossed Hannibal a maroon one. “You and me going to McDonald’s once a month. 1, 2--”

“Will Graham.” Hannibal scowled hilariously while belting his robe.

“Hannibal Lecter.” Will tied his own robe as if it wasn’t going to hit the floor in about thirty seconds and stared him down. “I like McNuggets. With honey mustard sau--”

“Terrible boy.” Hannibal gave him this heartbreaking, tearfully enamored smirk and swept him right off his feet again, flinging him to the bed and climbing on top of him, holding Will’s wrists down beside his head on thoroughly rumpled sheets.

“You didn’t answer me,” Will giggled, wrapping his legs around Hannibal’s hips and merrily crossing his ankles in place where they belonged. “I’ll start the count again from the beginning -- 1, 2, 3, yes--”

“No,” Hannibal retorted, kissing Will’s mouth hotly, no suggestion of a chaste “see you later” peck but a clear prelude to both of them being late to their commitments.

“Yes, I need...need my Mcnuggets…” Will laughed as Hannibal’s rough new beard tickled and chafed at his neck where his lover kissed and bit, his obsessive attentions never fading with time, only growing more intense. “I need...fuck, Hannibal, yes…”

The doctor had rolled his hips, bringing their cocks together for a calculated stroke, and Will could really find it in him to wish Hannibal wasn’t so damn good at that if it was a little less spine-tingling, immediately lighting up his ever-eager erogenous zones like a jumbotron. His body had started to get so spoiled and used to the excessive pleasure, he didn’t have a prayer of escaping this without coming at least twice.

No, Will wasn’t about to complain.

Hannibal smirked again and let go of Will’s wrists, giving him a warning look not to move without permission. He kissed the younger man deeply, their tongues tangling delightedly, as if they had hours and hours of free time. This was too fucking good, how could they resist savoring every tiny nuance of each other, pulling every last gasp and moan from the other’s lips?

“We have to stop,” Will suggested, hands still obediently prone on the bed as Hannibal lifted his robe and groped hungrily at his ass, squeezing the pert cheeks and humming against Will’s neck. “Don’t give me that innocent look, you--”

Will’s voice broke off “You...oh, for fuck’s sake, Hannibal, don’t do that, we’ll be so late…”

“Mmmhmm,” Hannibal murmured, his tongue swirling around Will’s nipple as his confident hand parted Will’s cheeks and teased his entrance. “Yes.”

He bit delicately down on Will’s other hardened nipple and repeated with a wicked rumble in his voice, “Yes?”

Will’s fingers grabbed the sheets and held on tight as Hannibal opened his robe and kissed his stomach, his hot, wet mouth moving ever lower, fingers still circling his hole suggestively.

The profiler gasped while his hips bucked, soon stilled by his lover’s firm hands. Will considered himself one hundred percent innocent of any blame in this time-stealing extra tryst, and eschewed all guilt accordingly as he whimpered wantonly, “Yes, Daddy, yes…”

Chapter Text

“Will, I don’t want to overburden you with two cases at once, but I’ve got to have my best minds on both of these,” Jack said, a compulsory apology somewhat nullified by the thick case files he had placed on the desk in front of Will like homework.

“I’m happy to do all I can to help,” Will nodded. “I think we’d better prioritize the Ripper, though. At least the Vigilante targets terrible people, absolute villains from what you’ve told me so far. The Ripper could hurt innocents, and...I’m worried about Hannibal.”

Before coming to Jack’s office, Will had gone into the men’s room and pinched both his cheeks in the mirror to look flushed with worry and stress. He squeezed saline into his eyes and let it leave them convincingly moist. Pretty convincing, if he did say so himself. He didn’t even need make-up to show dark circles under his eyes; he looked genuinely exhausted, although the cause was all-night sex followed by another afternoon marathon of it. He bore every appearance of the frightened man thinking his beloved partner might be in mortal danger. As a nice little bonus, he liked to throw in some professional disappointment in himself at not having caught the Ripper yet, conveying himself as deeply angry and frustrated on the topic.

He looked very much forward to capturing the Ripper between his thighs again later, but that was a sweet secret designed only for two.

“I’m used to being targeted by killers, it’s just part of the job,” Will explained with a world-weary sigh. “But this is all new to Hannibal, and he’s pretty upset. I don’t want him put through hell looking over his shoulder for the Ripper, and I can’t have him in harm’s way. We need to catch the Ripper now.

Jack nodded, taking this all as seriously as Will intended. “That’s what we’re going to do, Will, promise you. I wouldn’t put you out there if I couldn’t keep you safe…”

In the chair next to Will in front of Jack’s desk, Alana Bloom smothered a cynical, humorless laugh. Jack gave her a Look and she raised her eyebrows, silently reaffirming her belief that Will Graham wasn’t stable and shouldn’t be in the field.

Will glanced at Alana, careful to look perplexed by her attitude and definitely not smugly superior, laughing inwardly at her pathetic inability to ever figure him out. Embarrassing, really, to get so close to realizing what Will was, only to never be able to conclude or prove a damn thing.

Oh, Alana, Alana. Well-meaning, reasonably clever, annoyingly holier-than-thou Alana. Will would have no problem strangling her with the silky belt of her wrap dress if she didn’t stop needling him with unprovable suspicions. Time, and Alana’s own choices, would tell her fate. Dr. Bloom could just as easily prove an unknowing ally to his and Hannibal’s cause, as a comic foil or a future victim. Will let the trains in his mind chug along down these three separate tracks, not bothered as to the final result. Alana was already a being composed of so much insubstantial ephemera in the larger scheme of their glorious destiny, and Will most often found her presence droll at best, dull at worst. She was like fingernails filed down to the nubs still trying to scratch the chalkboard, producing nothing more than faint background noise.

“As I was saying,” Jack resumed sternly, “We’ll keep you safe while you catch the Ripper. And we’ll keep Hannibal safe.”

“Thank you, Jack,” Will acknowledged, his tone wan with emotion.

He did so enjoy being Jack’s precious protege while Alana dwindled in distant second position.

Will flipped the Ripper file open in his lap, admiring a color photo of the job Hannibal had done on Carter. So impressive, he really had scored in the love department…

“Funny how you said the Vigilante only goes after so-called villains,” said Alana coldly.

Will sat back in his chair and rubbed his chin, pressing his lips together as his eyes narrowed. Time to give her the old “self-righteous” routine which he had down to an art by now.

“If you want to say something, Dr. Bloom, how about you just come out with it. Your insinuations are somewhat exhausting at the moment. I’ve been designated the Ripper’s nemesis while my partner may be targeted as the next victim, so you’ll excuse me if I have little time for you questioning my motives.”

“Okay,” Alana agreed, pursing her mauve-colored lips. Her hands were neatly folded on her lap right where her red floral skirt ended and her slender legs were elegantly crossed.

Without flinching, but with an interesting mixture of careful loyalty and regret towards Will, she proceeded, “Villains only exist in fiction. We have no way of knowing the Vigilante will only target those whom you illegally and dismissively term worthy of being brutally murdered."

Will frowned, "shocked" by the accusation. "I never said we shouldn't pursue the Vigilante, only that the Ripper case is more pressing. Wouldn't you agree, based on statistics alone, that we're likelier to protect innocents that way?"

Alana sighed, looking slightly penitent of her aggression. "Look, Will, I know you're worried about Hannibal--"

Will's eyes widened. Hannibal? Excuse me? Don't you mean Dr. Lecter?

"...But it would be wrong to recommend that the Behavioral Crimes Unit devote more time and resources to one case when both killers have a near-equal number of previous victims and both are obviously going to continue killing. I'm concerned for Hannibal's safety as well--"

Oh, are you? Will let her keep spouting her sanctimonious b.s., but for once Alana had his attention.

"...But I think we need to be actively revamping both profiles, and have task forces assembled with equal focus on both. The Vigilante’s never been more active than he has been in the last two months.”

Despite his irritation at her familiar references to his lover, Will noticed that Alana seemed a bit guilty about this speech, even though she thought he had sociopathic qualities and probably shouldn’t be in the field without further psychological evaluation and documentation of his fitness for duty. She must have placed more meaning on their fleeting quasi-friendship from the few cases they’d worked on than Will thought. A useful advantage. Alana was just trying to be fair and honest, not to specifically tamper with Will’s career. Most conveniently of all, she blamed Jack for any potential wrongdoing on Will's part, since it was his supervisor who kept putting him front and center on the toughest serial killer cases.

“Maybe my eyes are clouded by Hannibal’s proximity to danger, but I still see clear enough to know which one of these killers is most pressingly perilous at this juncture.” Will sighed (this was like a sighing contest now, but he was going to win), pinched his brow as if ready to assent to Alana’s suggestions, at least in part.

“It’s understandable that you’d be intensely motivated to find the Ripper, and I can admit to using that to our mutual advantage,” Jack allowed, sweeping his hand forward between Alana and Will, tying together what they had both said.

“Will is too close to the Ripper case,” Alana stated flatly. “Point of fact. But I know you, Jack, and I realize you have no intention of taking him off the case when he’s the best qualified to close it.”

“You do know me, Dr. Bloom.” Jack smiled, ironic, mildly irritated at the accurate call-out, and smoothly cordial all at once. “But as a matter of fact, I’d like to combine both of your perspectives to provide our best solution here. Will, I want you to go back to your profile on the Ripper. Go back through every detail you have compiled, every assumption, every photo and forensic fact. Come up with our next move. And Dr. Bloom, I’d like you to draw up a profile on the Vigilante. I’d be extremely grateful if you could have it on my desk soon as you can compile your findings based on what I’ve given you from my own investigation.”

Alana nodded, mildly appeased. At least Jack wasn’t going to rest on his laurels regarding the Vigilante; this showed he trusted her judgement. It was fair, and despite unconventional methods, plus a tendency to let Will Graham color outside the lines, Jack Crawford was nothing if not trustworthy and fair.

Outside Jack’s office, Alana put a gentle hand on Will’s arm. “How are you holding up?”

Will sighed and pressed his fingers to his closed eyes. “I’m okay. I just…” He let his lower lip wobble, knowing it was important to sabotage her suspicion of him being so cold and detached that he might be a sociopath or an egotistical psychopath in the making. “So worried about Hannibal. I need to keep him safe.”

The small, delicate hand squeezed his arm as Alana’s pretty face softened into sympathy.

Bingo.

“I know how special Hannibal is.” Her voice, so knowing, took him by infuriating surprise. He had to force his hands to remain tensely by his sides unfisted, avoid slamming her against the wall by her throat.

“He was such a nurturing, caring mentor to me at Georgetown,” Alana continued, “And we’ve remained close friends ever since.”

Will regarded her in a whole new light, while keeping his features fastidiously locked in stress, appearing basically receptive to her pity and compliments about his partner.

Her eyes were crystal blue, her skin pale and creamy, her figure petite, appealing, dress sense lovely and stylish. He pictured her ten years ago, a plucky twenty-something fledgling psych student with the sophisticated, handsome Dr. Hannibal Lecter as her advisor. Late night consultations, perhaps...dwindling personal space and lingering glances?

The worst part was, he wouldn’t be able to blame Alana for being attracted, even magnetically. He knew how irresistible Hannibal was, how completely unique in his many charms.

Alana smelled great, iris and orange blossom, a pricey perfume no doubt, something Hannibal would approve, or might buy as a gift if he was dating her. Spoiling Alana, instead of him. Will’s jaw tightened and his fingers ached to strangle her. She was going on and on about how Hannibal trusted her insights on patients and wrote her the best letter of recommendation of her academic career, one that helped her advance in her post-graduate studies.

Hannibal had singled her out, it seemed. And she was still alive, which made her special. Very few people benefited from Dr. Lecter’s particular notice and lived to tell the tale instead of ending up as dinner.

“He’s, um, brilliant,” Will managed to agree, keeping his tone friendly and soft, on the verge of breaking. “So wonderfully caring.”

“Yes. I’m so happy you two found each other,” Alana smiled. “I think your personalities are ideally matched. You can balance each other.”

That might be truer than she could possibly imagine, but Will noticed how she tossed the kind words about his intimate relationship at him like a guilty afterthought. She’d never got over her infatuation with Hannibal, that was obvious.

Alana couldn’t even talk about Dr. Lecter without her schoolgirl crush showing. And as for being happy Will had met Hannibal, ha. Will knew perfectly well she had wanted to sleep with both him and Hannibal at different points, and was a little disappointed at her failure to land either. With Will, Alana held back because he wasn't stable enough in her eyes, and with Hannibal, she'd simply missed out on the chance to get close while he was still single. This regret was all buried underneath a genuine concern for Will’s situation and Hannibal’s safety, but it was there, and Will’s vague dislike of her hardened into hatred on the spot.

Did they have an affair all those years ago, when Hannibal was her mentor?

Oh, God, if they had -- Will had to shove the thought away, make himself continue the day as he had carefully planned. Otherwise, he'd fall further into these conjectures and be unfit to be there at all.

“I have to head down to the lab,” he said after a little more pointless conversation had passed with them discussing the Ripper case and his best next leads.

In conversing with Alana, Will had planted the seeds of suspicion he needed to as to Chilton’s eventual emergence as the Ripper, knowing how to embed the concept in Alana’s subconscious without her even realizing it. But while capably twisting her mind, Will would have preferred to bash it in with a brick.

He left her in the hall with a sadly resigned smile that made her think he was so innocent and distraught, poor Will, and nothing like the potential ticking time bomb she had once thought he might be. But Alana wasn’t the only one whose perception of a person had undergone sea changes in a single hour-long meeting.

***

“I think you need a break, Will.” Beverly leaned across the table in the lab where Will had spent the last few hours poring over the forensic evidence from the last few Ripper murders. “You’ll hurt your eyes staring at all this carnage...I know I do after a while.”

Will smiled a reluctant assent. “You’re right. A break will make me more clear-headed when I go back to working on this. And I think I’ve come to enough conclusions today to finish up, head home soon and check on Hannibal.”

“Sure, well, what do you think?” Jimmy paused by the table where Will was sitting, which was covered in files and photos related to Ripper kills. “Any fresh insights?”

Brian whacked him on the shoulder. “He said he’s tired and needs to take a break.”

“I was just curious!” Jimmy shrugged.

Will laughed gently, mostly at how Price and Zeller reminded him of his parents sometimes.

“That’s okay, Jimmy. I’m seeing some breadcrumbs that lead me pretty specifically to a man who’s been working in medicine and psychiatry for many years without ever building the reputation he craved. This is a pathological narcissist with a bruised ego, and he’s trying to tell us, he’s so much more than his colleagues and patients ever gave him credit for. He deserves worship from the press, from the world, for his genius and power are legend. He...he’s going to show us all.”

Will gave his three friends a haunting smile, having allowed his voice to fall into a convincing approximation of the conceited, insufferable way Dr. Chilton talked. He sounded uncannily like Chilton, and his FBI colleagues all knew of Will’s talent for “hacking” killer’s minds and taking on their personas so that his features and speech patterns seamlessly blended with theirs. More clues to make everyone suspect someone with Chilton’s profile, getting ready for the big reveal which Miriam had in store.

He could see the hooks of understanding sinking into his friends’ minds as he spoke, that none of them would be even slightly surprised when the notoriously ambitious, yet dangerously reckless BSHCI administrator was shown to be the Chesapeake Ripper. Will "decided" to compile a list of well-known braggarts among the area's medical community, tracking boastful published articles against quantifiable success rates in their care and reputations. And while the team approved this course of action, it was clear there was one obvious name right at the top of their lists. Chilton had published quite a few journal articles describing his supposed breakthroughs with patients that had complicated pathologies, and more than once the journals had later retracted some of his statements as unproved or faulty. He loved to be called in as a consultant on FBI cases, and whenever he did, he made a point of going on and on about his amazing accomplishments; everyone at Quantico was familiar with the man's eye-rolling, predictable habits.

All in all, despite his smoldering aggravation regarding Alana’s apparent feelings for Hannibal, and the slightly tiring effort of keeping this complicated act and game in motion all afternoon and into the early evening hours, Will had to deem this a highly successful day at work.

He could relax a bit now, and agreed to have coffee with the forensics team in the Academy’s cafe. The coffee bar was pleasant with its airy ambiance, the smooth dark wood counter where one could get pretty much any variation of coffee or tea, and the long table with its tall chairs where he and his colleagues sat in front of a large window facing the quad.

The night had fallen over the strangely tumultuous day which had carried Will from domestic bliss to flashes of anger and jealousy and now back to quietly accepting calm. He couldn’t predict himself anymore than Hannibal could, or any better than one could know whether to expect early December Virginia-Maryland weather to be bitter cold or indecisively mild. The aggressive chill in the November air had slipped into a sublimely wistful prelude to the holidays, still seasonably cold but gentler somehow, a pill under time’s tongue.

Through the window, over snowy hills with trainees trudging through soft snow piles, following the wide trails of predecessors’ boots, the purpling twilight sky surrendered like a sleepy blink into star-dazzled onyx. It was lovely here, chatting fondly with his friends, quieting his nerves, remembering that he had places to belong and a dear lover waiting for him at home. He’d be there soon.

“How can you drink that, it smells like something we pulled off a morgue slab,” Zeller accused Price as his partner stirred the green juice smoothie he had ordered.

“I’ll have the last laugh when I reap the health benefits of a full serving of leafy greens while you choke down that black coffee that’s only going to make you stay up all night with the jitters.” Price smiled, resplendent in his superiority on this topic that made Brian groan and roll his eyes dramatically.

“Oh, like you mind me staying up late with a high energy level,” Brian countered.

“We’ll just have to see who has more stamina.” Jimmy shifted slightly so that Will could tell he had nudged Zeller’s knee with his own under the table, and they seemed to be holding hands, both slightly blushing now.

Beverly and Will laughed and she added bluntly, “Well, I’m not with either of you on the drink choices. I couldn't live without my 5pm iced vanilla macchiato wake-up call. How about you, Will?”

“Hmm?” Will glanced down at the berry hibiscus iced tea he had ordered because it was tasty and refreshing but healthy and it gave him a little boost to please Hannibal with his choices even when his lover wasn’t present. Their ongoing playful game involving his nutrition, veering from obedience to coy defiance, kept him amused and excited just like all of their other rituals.

“Oh, I used to get the macchiatos a lot, especially the caramel ones. I still get them sometimes, even though it drives Hannibal crazy.” He laughed, open-hearted and sentimental. “He’s so cute.”

He took a sip of cool, raspberry tea and grinned like a besotted schoolboy, cheek resting on his hand.

“Awww, remember when you used to look like that talking about me?” Jimmy teased Brian.

“No,” Brian retorted before feeding Jimmy a piece of the chocolate chip blondie he’d ordered.

“Soooo,” Beverly’s dark eyes sparkled as she grinned, “How are things going with you and Dr. Lecter?”

“Great,” Will shared, as just saying it aloud, even thinking about his happiness, took him by sweet surprise all over again. Talking about it made it so real, unlike all the other things he had to lie about. Those lies never seemed to matter, but he could never hide how much he loved Hannibal.

“So great it doesn’t seem fully real yet,” he admitted, “I’ve never been in a full-fledged romance before where the word ‘soulmate’ doesn’t sound like a lot of bullshit invented by greeting card companies.”

“You like living together?” Beverly added, taking a bite of her yogurt. “It’s so different from your whole-- rustic chic sort of life in Wolf Trap.”

“Rustic chic,” Will chuckled, “Hannibal would love that as a description of my aesthetic. I mean, I get the best of both worlds because I kept my house, for fishing and keeping some of my extra stuff, my boating projects, the artist one day to be known as Nola.”

He grinned as his friends recognized, from his many previous tangents, the name of the sailboat Will had been working on building for a year.

“You mean, you moved into Dr. Lecter’s quasi-mansion in bougie Baltimore elite territory, and you could still afford the mortgage on your sweet farmhouse?” Brian’s eyebrows shot up. “What are they paying you and did I get into the wrong area of crime investigation?”

“You as a profiler, I’d like to see that,” Jimmy snickered.

Zeller guffawed, “Yeah, well, just think, you could have been a goldfish conversationalist. Just so you all know, he pays more attention to Cate these days than me. ‘Is it time to change your water again, sweetie? Did you want a little more gourmet fish food, honey?’”

“You named the fish ‘Cate,’ after Cate Blanchett?” Will chuckled, amused to hear the continued saga of the goldfish who survived Carter Jackson’s murder. “This is serious.”

“One queen deserves to be named for another,” Jimmy said proudly. “Brian secretly loves Cate-fish. I caught him singing to her the other night, late, when he thought I was asleep.”

“I was not,” Brian insisted, still sitting almost in Jimmy’s lap. “You were having a weird dream.”

They had completely forgotten about Brian’s question to Will about how he afforded to keep his old house. Beverly, however, still wondered.

“Will, should you be giving money-saving advice on informercials, or what?”

“Uhum...Hannibal offered to buy my house outright and let me keep it just for my own enjoyment…” Will drummed his fingers on the table, just a little self-conscious as he had never really discussed this dimension of their relationship before. It was specific enough a pattern to be quite recognizable.

Did he?” Beverly grinned, looking totally delighted for Will. She nodded coyly at his Emporio Armani dress shirt, perfectly fitted to his figure like his dark grey trousers.

The clothes felt so sumptuously indulgent against Will’s loved-up skin, the fabric hugging him close and showing off his body the way Hannibal liked. The white shirt with its plum gingham pattern was a suitable nod to Will’s habitual reliance on plaid, a shift from flannel to formality that still matched his personality while making him look debonair. He’d been turning more heads than ever as he walked the Academy halls in his dapper new attire lately.

“New suits all the time lately, and that gorgeous bracelet,” Beverly marveled. “Stop me if this is TMI, but...is there a sugar daddy vibe going on?”

“So you noticed.” Will huffed a laugh and blushed down at his almost empty plastic cup of iced tea. He tied his straw wrapper in a few knots and admitted, “Yeah, he does. Hannibal loves that, spoiling me, showing me off, bossing me around a little. I like to let him. Never knew I’d like it so much.”

“Your relationship is bringing out new sides of you, that’s…” Beverly sighed, looking envious. “Amazing, Will, I’m so glad for you both.”

“So you’re not judging me for allowing my lover to pamper me with excessive shopping trips and extravagant presents like, you know...a whole house?” Will was relieved, not that he’d been judging himself, but he didn’t want his friends to think he had become someone shallow.

He had heard enough people misunderstanding and casting petty judgements on relationship dynamics like those he and Hannibal had and exchanged, sugar daddy/baby, dom/sub (their roles an exhilarating revolving door in that sense), older/younger…

“Of course not,” Beverly laughed, incredulous he would even worry about her casting judgement like that. “Damn, I only wish Dr. Lecter had a brother or a sister, for that matter, for me!”

Will grinned and leaned into the side-hug Beverly gave him, then she asked with undiminished interest, “So, with how well things are going, are you planning to put a ring on that?”

His heart pounded faster as the idea which he’d been toying with since meeting Hannibal continued evolving from an insanely ambitious impossibility to a true hope. Hannibal, as his husband...the mere idea made Will feel high, bouncing on clouds, incredibly proud and possessive and home.

“I have. I have wanted that all along, even when it was much too soon.”

Will’s smile quirked in one corner as he went elsewhere in his mind’s eye, to the future, Christmas mornings, New Years Eves, birthdays and summer fireworks bursting, blood-soaked valentines carved and shaped from flesh and bone, decadent holidays and soft, quiet domesticity, sharing and building families, making a life for the rest of their days. He wanted it so much, it hurt in the most frightening, beautiful way. The yearning made him a whole person somehow.

“Maybe it’s time I got more serious about it,” he reflected. “Life is too short not to make the most of every second.”

“That’s right, go get him,” Beverly encouraged. “You’re an inspiration.”

“You’re a good friend, Bev,” Will answered warmly. “Thank you for listening and understanding.”

She’s a good friend?” Jimmy interrupted, cluelessly returning to the conversation. “What about us?”

“I feel like chopped liver,” Brian added, his eyes twinkling with amusement.

“Oh, I could never neglect to acknowledge what appalling -- I mean outstanding friends you both are,” Will said with his hand on his heart, affecting sincerity while also genuinely feeling it.

If it weren’t for Will, his forensic analyst friends might have found themselves in the Ripper’s crosshairs, given their casual genius and insight into the case. Luckily, with Will looking out for them and guiding them onto a safer path of investigation, they never would end up as chopped liver.

***

“I find myself...singularly concerned with the passage of time, its inevitability, my accompanying inability to fully possess any given occasion.” Hannibal sat ramrod straight in his usual chair across from Bedelia in her bone and grey-colored home, an eerily delicate safe haven for his ever-insightful psychiatrist.

“Singularly concerned?” Bedelia prodded, flawlessly pristine as ever in a bronze shift dress and matching pumps, her ice-blonde hair framing her dainty face.

Hannibal sighed, annoyed but defeated by her refusal to accept his vague descriptions. After all, they were both well-aware therapy would not work without his full, trustful transparency. With the obvious exception of certain details regarding his murderous activities, which she understood enough of sans exposing any specifics, Hannibal must submit to the mild humiliation of honesty to benefit from her advice.

“Obsessed,” he therefore admitted, brushing nonexistent lint from the knees of his black pinstriped suit. Giving up when he ran out of minuscule distractions, he met Bedelia’s glacial gaze and opted again to ignore the subtle amusement he found there at his human predicament. “Paranoid, restlessly unable to find satisfying answers. Why must love be finite within the mortal realm, why must I content myself to letting go of each second in Will’s presence, when for all I can glean of the future’s grip, he could be taken from me by accident or other disaster?”

“Your partner has an inherently dangerous career. It’s entirely understandable that you would be upset in considering his proximity to risk on a daily basis.” Bedelia’s words, crisply matter-of-fact, were on point yet somehow paled in comparison to Hannibal’s deep upheaval on the subject.

“Will can look out for himself...I heartily pity anyone who should attempt to do him harm,” Hannibal mused, his irritated features shifting into an adoring haze. The Will Effect. Even Bedelia was growing accustomed to the profiler’s unheard-of power over the intimidating Dr. Lecter, he was sure.

“Yet you are upset. Enough so that Will has noticed and expressed concern for your turmoil. Beyond what he seems equipped to comfort.”

“I’m not upset,” Hannibal insisted, adjusting his jacket cuffs, turning with care the gold-plated cufflinks and then curling his lip, licking it, metabolizing the uncomfortable truth of Dr. Du Maurier’s observations.

His eyes flicked towards the ceiling in frustrated partial admittance of the weakness that had taken him over lately.

“It is not as though I have taken to researching various methods of time travel in the hope of one day rebelling against life’s temporal flow and taking back my lost time with Will,” he maintained with steely resistance to a full confession.

He had only filled three journals with research notes and formulas regarding the turning-back of time, in case he should ever lose Will. His fixation was far from getting out of hand, surely.

“Oh, well.” Bedelia smiled, and Hannibal thought she seemed to have swallowed a laugh. “So long as you have not transgressed that far into obsession where time, teacups, and Will Graham are concerned.”

Hannibal regretted that he had several times alluded in session to his long-held fantasy of repairing a shattered teacup through the sheer power of his will over destiny.

“If I had,” he ventured, glancing over at the large selection of well-curated wine behind the doors of Bedelia’s glass cabinet just behind him, longing for a very large glass of something strong, “If I had lost myself to the fear of losing Will, sank into a preemptive mourning for our love when in fact I may be able to enjoy it forever after, I cannot help but wonder if there is some measure I might undertake as antidote.”

“What do you see as the potential damage wrought by this problem?” Bedelia tilted her head to one side, her shiny hair swinging with the tiny preciseness of her movements.

Every nuance of her demeanor was crafted, under considerable anxiety and trauma, to keep her only patient happy and satisfied with her efforts to assist him. She knew that the consequences would be dire and swift should she cease to prove useful, or worse, more broadly offend him.

Appreciative of her wise choice to respect his power over her fate, Hannibal replied in a quiet, contemplative tone, “I can’t be with Will in the present if I am constantly worried about the many unknowable twists of the path that lays ahead.”

“Precisely,” Bedelia beamed, a rare flash of genuine warmth that immediately thereafter froze over.

Still, to be congratulated on preciseness by the most meticulous person he knew aside from himself...it bolstered Hannibal’s confidence. He let his walls down a little, about as much as he ever would to anyone but Will, who was already inside his memory palace, triumphant.

“What can I do?” He asked, pushing himself over the instinctual pain of admitting he did not know everything. “I would not wish to allow this complex to metastasize, ruining my ability to be a properly supportive lover.”

Bedelia was still on the outside of the veil, but she noticed his receptiveness to improvement here.

“I believe the resolution lies in your past, in the burden it has imprinted on your mind to remain stronger than anything else life may place in your way. By accepting your past trauma, perhaps even sharing more of it with Will, you may find peace enough to work through this terror of losing him.”

Hannibal wished she had said almost anything but that. To remove the many padlocks, triple encoded safeguards and wooden planks which he had long since nailed over the door of his childhood ordeals...this was nearly as formidable a task as admitting he was no match for the power of true love. But if Bedelia was right, to fully embrace this love with Will, he had to return to places inside his mind which scared him.

He had much to consider, including his own bravery, but he only hoped he would prove strong enough to confront even the most disturbing truths of a grotesquely bizarre life which had ultimately shaped him into the man Will loved.

For better, or for worse...

Hannibal cherished the rose-gauze-tinted fantasy of marrying Will one day, watching from the altar as his beloved walked towards him both confident and shy, exchanging rings and trembling vows...sweeping Will off on the most luxurious, marvelous honeymoon, knowing Will was his alone for life.

But how could he hope to be worthy or ready to be Will’s husband, until he properly resolved the demons that might hold him back from giving Will the very best of himself? He felt unworthy of any such splendid privilege, at present.

Bedelia had remained politely quiet, noting that Hannibal had disappeared into a murky place of self-doubt and confusion, tangled in hope and fear.

However, after a few minutes of this had elapsed without Hannibal achieving any satisfactory decisions, Bedelia stood, smoothed her skirt, and strode to the liquor cabinet.

“Tonight, I think, a bourbon barrel-aged cabernet,” she proposed, removing a jam-red bottle of fine wine.

“Thank you, Dr. Du Maurier,” Hannibal replied with a glaze of sad bewilderment still clinging to his voice. “I thought you would never ask.”

Chapter Text

Will waved cordially to the bored-looking security detail agents in the black SUV behind him when he parked in the driveway of Dr. Du Maurier’s remarkable home.

The place wasn’t at all what he had expected. Instead of something palatial yet demure, in keeping with the way Hannibal had briefly described her personality, it was some kind of post-contemporary monstrosity, tall grey-brick pillars stuck to the sides of two big white octagons. Since Dr. Du Maurier had always been so helpful, according to Hannibal, Will decided not to judge her too harshly on a house he had to dub an eyesore.

He wanted a bit of fresh air without intruding on Hannibal finishing up his session, so he got out of the car and stood leaning against it, hands tucked in his black peacoat, collar popped, his eyes shading azure grey in the misty, snow-drifting evening. He’d slicked his thick curls back from his brow and adopted a ruggedly picturesque pose in anticipation of Hannibal coming out of the doctor’s house and setting eyes on him. Will did like to look his best for his boyfriend...okay, he loved it, and riling up Hannibal’s doting sex drive by teasing him with his outfit choices plus flirty looks was never going to get old.

“Will? I mean -- ahem, Agent Graham?” A polite male voice piped up out of nowhere.

Will glanced to his right, where in the driveway of the house next door to Dr. Du Maurier’s, a yellow Jeep Wrangler had just been parked. And standing outside of it, looking at Will with cheerful recognition and a bit of nervousness, was Dr. Hawkins, the FBI therapist who had evaluated Will after he killed Garrett Jacob Hobbs.

Shit. Will looked from Dr. Hawkins’ almost idiotically pleased-to-see him smile to Dr. Du Maurier’s atrocious house. Well. He knew what happened next when a man gave him that look, and he really didn’t need Hannibal to come outside and “catch” him letting a work acquaintance flirt with him.

At least he had the comfort of knowing Dr. Hawkins actually couldn’t come right out and hit on him, since there was an obvious conflict of interest in their respective positions at work. Will might technically still be Hawkins’ patient, actually, although he had “forgotten” to schedule his follow-up consultation.

“Hi, Dr. Hawkins,” Will said with a friendly smile, slightly strained. He needed to get rid of this guy, ASAP, but he didn’t have the heart to be mean. The therapist was a really nice person...he just happened to have the unfortunate judgement to live next door to Hannibal Lecter’s own psychiatrist. “What a coincidence!”

“Right?” Hawkins looked so delighted, he couldn’t believe his luck, how wonderful.

Oh, boy.

With his greying beard, cute designer-frame glasses, corduroy pants and bright blue parka, Hawkins pulled off a certain grown and sexy look, comfortable in his own skin and naturally upbeat, that might once have appealed to Will. And he had just hopped out of his sporty jeep and right into seriously hot water, staring with admiration at the “sensuous pensive winter Will” look which the profiler had cultivated in order to knock Hannibal’s socks off.

“So…” Hawkins rubbed a thumb to the side of his face and took a few shy steps in Will’s direction, just a waist-high hedge between them. “I guess I shouldn’t ask if you never booked your follow-up appointment with me because you became a patient of Dr. Du Maurier’s instead.”

“Oh.” Will wondered if he should use that excuse, if the rudeness of that might get rid of Hawkins fast.

“Don’t worry,” Hawkins laughed. “I actually left my job at the FBI last month, joined another practice in Baltimore, specializing in pediatric neuropsychological evaluation. It’s the work I’ve always wanted to be doing.”

“Congratulations,” Will said awkwardly, adding as an afterthought, “I’m actually not a patient of Dr. Du Maurier’s, just waiting for one of her patients--”

Who I’m dating! Because I am not single!

But Hawkins, in his crush-blind enthusiasm, bulldozed over Will’s intended explanation.

“That’s so nice of you to give a friend a ride. Listen, Will -- mind if I call you Will?”

“Well, see, the thing is--”

“I’ve been thinking of calling you ever since I left the bureau.” Hawkins shrugged, with that ‘fuck-it-I’ll-shoot-my-shot’ smile which Will had seen on many a person’s face turned in his direction. “I guess I never got up the nerve, but it seems so...kismet that you would be here, of all places…”

“I don’t think so,” Will said with a combined wince and chuckle, glancing nervously over at the door to Du Maurier’s house and back at the doe eyes of his former therapist.

Hawkins blathered the rest out in an admirable, but ill-judged rush of bravery: “I really liked you, when we met earlier this past Fall, a lot. And I can’t help but wonder, now that there’s not technically any professional or patient-doctor faux pas involved...would you maybe want to grab a drink sometime?”

“I--”

“Good evening.”

Hannibal must have come up behind him while Will was trying to dissuade Hawkins from flirting, and happened to arrive right at the worst possible moment, when the naive therapist asked him out.

Will closed his eyes with the brief wish of the earth opening to swallow him up.

“Dr. Lecter, right?” Hawkins extended his hand across the hedge with a goofy grin. “Beckett Hawkins. So great to meet you in the flesh.”

Hannibal looked disdainfully down at Hawkins’ offered hand, then gave it the briefest of all clasps, along with a deadly glare.

“I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure, Mr. Hawkins, yet you seem familiar with me.” Hannibal waited, with his crisp tone and stiff bearing, for some kind of reasonable explanation. But Will knew even this was merely a facet of his lover's impeccable manners, and Hannibal had already decided there was no such good excuse for what he'd walked in on.

“Dr. Hawkins, actually, I'm a psychiatrist as well. I’ve read your article in Psychology Today, the abridged version of your views on Social Exclusion, keep meaning to track down your original, full thesis. Fascinating stuff. Um, the magazine included a little photo of you at the top of the article?”

Belatedly, Hawkins had realized that Dr. Lecter’s narrowed eyes were boring into him with pure acid hate. He gulped, scratched his ear, seemed bereft of further small talk.

A pregnant pause ensued.

“I can send you a copy of the original, unabridged version,” Hannibal offered finally. “I suppose in order to do so, I will not need to ask for your home address. You live here?”

“We really should be going now, honey,” Will said through gritted teeth, slipping his arm through Hannibal’s and attempting to move him towards the car. It was like trying to casually lift a building from its foundation and he had to give up before he was slingshotted into the Bentley.

“I'd love to read the full article. Thanks, Dr. Lecter, how generous.” Hawkins had realized that Hannibal was Will’s lover and finally seemed to be attempting a recovery from his previous flirtations with the profiler. However, he seemed to be accepting Lecter's jealousy and resentment as those of a sane, ultimately sensible person. He remained relatively cheerful, adding, “Will and I know each other from the bureau, but I don’t work there anymore.”

“Would you look at the time!” Will put in, almost hyper.

“That is probably best for all concerned.” With his steely expression and broad, effortlessly menacing figure in that Burberry coat that made his shoulders look ginormous, Hannibal only got scarier-seeming when he laced his words with poisonous warning.

“Ha, um, I guess, it’s always better to chase your passion, I mean career-wise, and…”

“Hannibal, I’m hungry. Let’s go get some dinner,” Will urged, starting to get annoyed now. He didn’t deserve Hannibal’s suspicion that he enjoyed the attention from Hawkins, and Hawkins didn’t deserve to be marked for death.

“I highly recommend that you chase your passion in the romantic realm elsewhere,” Hannibal said to Hawkins with an absolutely terrifying variation of his classic “prelude to murder” scowl. “As Will’s drinks and evenings are spoken for.”

“Of course, Dr. Lecter.” Hawkins nodded so fast, Will thought his head might fall off, and even that would be less painful than what Hannibal probably had planned. “My mistake.”

“I should say so,” Hannibal replied with that horrifying cordiality that spelled certain doom.

“I’ll be in the car,” Will huffed, striding right for the Bentley and getting in on the passenger side. He stuck the keys in the ignition and twisted hard.

The engine purred, calm and perfect despite Will’s tempestuous mood. Hannibal gave poor Dr. Hawkins one more lethal smile and climbed into the driver’s seat, silently backing out of the driveway and beginning the journey home.

Hannibal remained eerily quiet for most of the drive while Will seethed beside him.

“That was unnecessarily dramatic,” Will finally accused when they were stopped at a red light close to home.

“My apologies. I thought you had told me you understood and embraced my jealous side.” Hannibal stared daggers into the road ahead as the light turned green and he drove slightly over the speed limit. “I distinctly remember how you made me feel safe and accepted with your promises of understanding and sharing the same possessive instincts regarding me.”

“That’s all still true,” Will complained, smacking his own forehead. “But it doesn’t give you a free pass to--”

“To feel disturbed and infuriated at the sight of you smiling and letting a good-looking man who you have never previously mentioned to me, but are clearly acquainted with, attempt to romance you? Can you not be left alone for five minutes before you collect yet another admirer?”

“Can you?” Will felt his face turning that special shade of orange-red it got when he was both guilty and bitterly resentful of having been made to feel guilty. “God, as if you don’t have your admirers lined up around the damn block. And I was only smiling at Dr. Hawkins because he’s a nice guy and I didn’t feel like being rude to him, okay?”

“A nice guy who has no reservations about attempting to seduce another man’s lover.”

“He didn’t know I was taken.”

“Why is that?”

Hannibal glanced at him, hurt and offended way beyond what the situation called for. Will knew he had to be upset about more than just this tiny non-infraction, but he was now mad enough himself to plunge deeper into the argument without stopping for more sensitive considerations.

“Believe it or not, I did mention you to him during the one session we had in October. Told him I was totally smitten with you, but I guess...I didn’t use your name. And he had no way of knowing if we ever officially got together, he was just checking if I happened to be single.”

“And you don’t happen to be single. Would you prefer to be?”

Hannibal. I know you know that’s absurd. But you’re hurting me now.”

“I’m a sadist. So are you, if you recall.”

“And a masochist. Just like you. That’s why I know you’re hurting yourself by hurting me, because something else is bothering you, but rather than -- God forbid -- open up and tell me what’s up, you’re -- freaking out over some guy I barely know.”

“Freaking out. Over...some guy you barely know.” Hannibal pulled into their driveway and stopped the car a little short.

Will rolled his eyes at the childish fits of temper that simultaneously made a shiver of arousal run through him, involuntary and inevitable.

“How would you describe your conduct towards Franklyn and Tobias at the opera, William?”

William. Shit, he’s really mad at you.

“As…” Will slumped in his seat, cheeks turning scarlet because Hannibal had called him his full name and admonished him with a fair fucking point. “As freaking out over some guys you barely knew just because each of them, in their own way, wanted you.”

“The hypocrisy, while hardly surprising, is stunning.” Hannibal leaned across the seat, transparently scenting him, incapable of resisting the sweat-citrus spike of an angry Will. But he was still glowering down at Will from his moral high ground.

“You know what? Why not? Thought I was full of surprises and that was half of my charm. Wouldn’t want to disappoint you by being too well-behaved.”

“No danger of that.”

“What is that smell?” Will shifted towards Hannibal and inhaled close to his mouth, double-checking what he was almost certain he had just detected on his hot breath.

“Were you drinking wine at your therapy appointment?”

Hannibal pulled away and sighed, righteously indignant. “Dr. Du Maurier is an old friend. We often share a glass of wine after appointments.”

“Is that so.” Will undid his seatbelt with aggression that almost ended in whacking himself in the face with the buckle, then wrenched the car door open and stormed inside.

***

In the SUV, Agents Ross and Liu finally looked entertained, watching the argument unfold as they munched on sandwiches and chips.

Hannibal paused in consternation when he exited the Bentley with ragged dignity and saw the security detail using his personal conflict as their evening television drama, but he had larger matters to deal with at present.

He comforted himself with the knowledge that the agents’ vehicle would reek of cheap “Italian grinders” soon due to their ill-selected cuisine, and followed Will into the house, closing the door behind him calmly.

Hannibal was not calm.

“Where have you fled to, Will?” He took off his coat, hung it properly on the rack, and tossed his keys on the side table in the front hall, sighing at the sight of Will’s own jacket and gloves which had been unceremoniously thrown on the floor.

“The study,” came Will’s muffled, accusing voice from down the hall. “I needed to check something.”

Hannibal entered the study to find Will standing by his desk, the profiler’s slim Macbook open as he stood scowling at whatever was displayed on the screen.

“I thought so,” Will fumed, pointing at the screen.

Hannibal rounded the desk and saw the large, glossy photo of Bedelia in all her prim, glamorous glory, the one that came up first on Google searches due to the interview conducted after she was attacked by her patient and bravely survived.

“Will,” Hannibal began rather weakly.

Dr. Lecter.

Dr. Lecter. You’ve really infuriated him now.

Will slammed the laptop shut, then poured himself a ridiculously generous amount of Hannibal’s most expensive fine brandy from the crystal decanter on the desk. He took a good, long sip, having filled the heavy tumbler right to the brim, then shot Hannibal a bitter look before charging away, the drink clutched in one hand.

Hannibal followed Will to the kitchen with a sinking heart. By now, he regretted his hasty loss of temper and wished the fight to be over. As bewitching as Will was when aggravated, still he did not want to risk real problems between them by prolonging his lover’s ire.

“That was a generous pour,” he said in a feeble attempt to change the subject.

“Well, I’ve got some catching up to do,” Will snapped.

He stood at the counter, opening a bag of pickle-flavored potato chips and pouring them messily into Hannibal’s nicest gold leaf porcelain serving bowl. “My drinks and evenings may be spoken for, but you’re free to keep me waiting outside in the cold while you imbibe what smells like a rich, fruity burgundy with the good Dr. Du Maurier-- who I have been encouraging you to consult about our problems, like an idiot. I never looked her up because I wanted to trust you, but deep down, I knew. She may be your 'old' friend, but she's definitely not old or dull, is she?”

“It was a cabernet, actually.” Hannibal hoped his soft tone and gentle, open bearing would show Will he was backing down.

“Your favorite. Even fucking worse,” Will groused, nibbling a chip and chasing it with more brandy.

He groaned and poured the chips back in the bag, rolling the top up and sticking a bag clip on it, flinging it to the top cabinet where, to Hannibal’s full knowledge, he’d been secreting junk food since moving in.

“That was an absolutely disgusting flavor combination,” Will sighed, chugging more brandy until his pretty cheeks were cherry red with a rush of quick inebriation.

Hannibal felt dizzily torn between arousing, distracting sensations, protective instincts tangled with anger at the provocative behavior. He had nearly forgotten how powerful an effect an angry Will had on him, but the more this went on, the more he found himself slightly reluctant to end the fight after all.

“I might have told you that those repulsive chips would pair poorly with Grand Marnier.”

Hannibal smirked darkly, standing on the other side of the island counter from Will, whose petulant scowl deepened, sending an attractive flush down his neck, where his top two shirt buttons were undone.

“You might have told me a lot of things, like that your wine friend Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier looks like a posh lingerie model!” Will pointed at Hannibal, which was especially rude and made Hannibal’s wakening cock twitch firmly in his trousers.

“Dr. Du Maurier and I have never been intimate.” Hannibal inhaled of Will again, sweet, sultry rage, now mingled with the vanilla-oak notes of the heavy liquor.

What with Hannibal’s besotted, awestruck expression, it was somewhat of a wonder to him that Will did not relent in his infuriated mood and notice that the older man was dying with the need to make love to no one else but him.

However, his lovely boy had by now gotten himself so riled up that it would take some time and raging before he would be fully perceptive of details.

“But you’ve thought about it.” Will took a slice of leftover black forest cake from the refrigerator, whipped the plastic wrap off the top and flicked it aside to the floor, then took a bite of the pre-dinner dessert in further defiance of his Daddy’s preferences.

That’s evident,” he added with a mouth full of chocolate-cherry gâteau.

Hannibal felt the heat pressure rising inside him as his irritation was finally stoked by Will’s continued bitter naughtiness. Anger of his own returned to make him determined to provide proper discipline for this sassy outburst.

“I know you have rightfully earned a reputation for being a brilliant psychoanalytical profiler, Will, but you cannot actually read my mind.”

“Ha!” Will drained another quarter glass of golden brandy. “I don’t need to read your mind. You’re obvious.” He licked messy chocolate frosting from his tempting, liquor-kissed lips. “You only associate with pretty people. And it’s annoying. I’m sick of it.”

“You will make yourself truly sick if you intend to continue drinking that quickly.”

“That’s my problem,” Will grinned with sarcastic faux-amusement at Hannibal’s flustered state. “Are you denying that you’ve thought about banging your wine snob bra model blonde, fancy, super-accomplished, blonde--”

“You’ve said blonde.”

“Therapist?” Will finished his sentence, ignoring Hannibal’s remark. “You can’t deny it.”

“I don’t see why I should be required to.” Hannibal shrugged. “I had considered it several times, but that was before I met you. After we became close, the idea of intimacy with anyone else held no interest whatsoever.”

“Hmm. Okay, Dr. Charming, Dr. Perfect Know-it-All,” Will retorted, his Southern accent in full swing by now, desperately sexy, layering every saucy accusation with adorable, sweet sensuality that made Hannibal’s whole world seem to sway.

“You’re out of line, William.” Hannibal stole Will’s brandy glass and drank the rest of it down, returning his lover’s wrathful stare. “And lest we forget, you are still owed the spanking of your lifetime regarding Dr. Hawkins, and the way you neglected to mention that you had a handsome former therapist who salivates at the sight of you.”

“That’s outrageous. I didn’t even realize he had a thing for me.”

“A likely story.”

“Ugh! You just need to believe I’m this slutty, intentional flirt trying to lead people on and get you jealous. Does that make you feel better about your own total lack of boundaries and self-control?”

“I have self-control.” Hannibal wrapped his hands into fists and pressed them to the counter as he leaned, biceps flexing under his snugly fitting purple dress shirt. “Which is more than I can say for you at present.”

Will glanced at Hannibal’s tensed arm muscles, then the fit of his waistcoat around his trim middle and broad upper body. The younger man wiped a bead of sweat from his upper lip.

“What about Alana Bloom?” Will flushed brighter and looked down at the counter.

Something about saying Alana’s name had set off a different set of emotions and sent tears into the profiler’s startlingly beautiful cerulean eyes. Hannibal did not quite know what to say.

“Did you two have an affair?” Will looked back up at Hannibal, then away again, at the cake on his plate. He threw it in the trash, plate included, and Hannibal was too confusedly distracted to care. “When you were her advisor at Georgetown, and she was a sweet-faced, nubile grad student who hung on your every brilliant word. Did you seduce her? Let her seduce you?”

“Will…” Hannibal’s breath cut out on a note of sharp surprise. Will seemed not only angrily curious and demanding, but deeply wounded.

“Just answer the damn question. Tell me.”

“No, we never had an affair.” Hannibal stepped backwards when Will gave him a terrifying sneer. He realized that he had even raised his hands in a show of defeat, and blushed before lowering them. “We were never, ever intimate,” he added belatedly.

“That’s good for both of you.”

“Why does my possible, past attraction to Alana Bloom bother you even more than a trifling interest in Bedelia Du Maurier?” Hannibal regarded Will with genuine bafflement that only hardened Will’s miserable temper further.

Because.” Will wiped at his wet eyes, clearly furious with himself for beginning to cry now. “She looks like me.”

He tried to storm away again, but Hannibal caught him by the elbow. “And?”

“And you have had other pretty people before me, and at the same time as me, collected like trinkets on a shelf to entertain you. What’s so special about me that means you won’t get tired of me someday and find a new brunette with big blue eyes?”

Will was so vulnerable in this moment, but his suspicious, insecure words ignited a fresh wave of molten anger in Hannibal.

“How dare you?” The older man demanded, letting go of Will to pace the kitchen. “The egotistical posturing. Thinking me guilty of such flighty affections, as though I am a creature of superficial aesthetic habit, when you yourself are absolutely incapable of resisting older men with silvering hair who are taller and more broadly muscular than you, with sophisticated taste and pronounced professional competence?”

“Huh?” Will put his hands on his hips, then dropped them as his jaw went slack. “You mean because Dr. Hawkins has a few traits distantly in common with you--”

Distantly?” Hannibal felt the nauseating jealousy rising like bile in his throat, twisting in his stomach. He wanted to viciously slaughter them all, anyone who had touched Will, and nearly wanted to tear Will to shreds for putting him through the knowledge of it.

He stroked his own newly bearded jaw and blinked back stinging tears. “Do I look even more like Hawkins or Carter now that I’ve grown a beard in accordance with your wishes, mylimasis?”

Don’t you say mylimasis sarcastically when you’re mad at me, Hannibal.”

Will had never looked more heart-breakingly beautiful, his curls softly rumpled from his sulky posture in the car and subsequent raging, his gorgeous physique displayed to aching perfection by clothes which Hannibal had lovingly selected. That only made it worse.

“I don’t want you to look like anyone else--”

“You have a type, that’s evident.” Hannibal lavished his repetition of Will’s earlier wording with more sarcasm. “I went harder on Carter because he looked like me. I never tortured anyone so maliciously, or derived so little satisfaction. Did you let him make love to you?”

Months before I met you?” Will threw his hands up. “He’s dead, you killed him, we ate him together because we agreed he’s in the past and you’re the only future that matters to me, so do you really need to know, Hannibal?”

“I’m a masochist, as you say. Yes. I need to know. I need to hurt to the maximum intensity possible in regard to this, or I fear I will never shuck off the continual dread of Knowing or not Knowing. He came to you in my presence and spoke to you with such intimate expectation. Had he kissed you, undone your clothing, put his hands on your bare body, been hard for you, been inside you?”

Will blinked helplessly at Hannibal. A tear slid down his face which had gone from beet red anger to white as a sheet. “Yes,” he admitted, “But Hannibal--”

Hannibal grabbed a heavy Rococo style vase from the counter, currently empty as the flowers most recently placed in it as a gift to Will had withered, needing to be followed up with a fresh bouquet soon. The extravagant porcelain vase, with its intricate design of the four elements as half-naked wood nymphs, had cost him 50,000 at auction. Hannibal had also fought tooth and nail for the beautiful piece against a competing bidder who nearly wrested it before he won out.

Now, he heaved the vase behind him through the window, which caused an enormous racket of shattering glass, sharp fragments of the window and broken porcelain showering in and out of the house, an explosion of chaos.

Hannibal stood there panting, hair falling across his sweaty brow, pure agony painting his features.

Will stared in shock, until his phone vibrated and the dogs started barking. “Great,” he muttered, making Hannibal feel humiliated, as if his feelings were so inconvenient to Will.

The agents in the SUV outside were concerned about the sudden projectile, of course, so Will sent a quick text to let them know everything was alright and the Ripper had not somehow slipped past their watch and broken into the house.

“The Ripper breaks his own house,” Will grumbled.

He got out the dogs’ food and poured it into their bowls, whistling to them that it was dinnertime, then carrying the seven bowls into the study over two trips, keeping his pets safe from Hannibal’s wild mood and the disaster of jagged glass and porcelain all over the floor under the gaping maw of the broken window.

Will then disappeared for about a half hour. Hannibal sank to the floor next to the broken glass, his back against the wall as he pridefully fought back tears of heartbroken despair. His body shook but he choked back the sobs, grasping a large piece of the shattered vase and letting it slice into his palm.

When Will returned home, Hannibal gradually realized his lover had taken the dogs for their post-dinner walk around the neighborhood, then put them to bed as usual in the study. The kitchen was dark, and Will’s footfalls approaching felt like a light he did not want to let in. Everything hurt, and nothing was to be trusted, least of all his own abominable weakness for that beautiful boy.

“That’s enough.” Will’s voice was sharp as flint when he arrived in the kitchen and flipped the light on.

When their eyes met, Hannibal realized that he had mistaken Will’s reaction to the vase incident for disdainful annoyance. Will’s eyes were burning with furious accusation and other, unreadable fires he did not understand but longed to be consumed by, to the death if necessary.

The profiler lunged for him suddenly, grabbing him by the collar and hoisting him painfully up to his feet before pinning him to the wall.

“What’s this?” Will examined his palm where blood oozed freely and then licked the wound with a long, savoring sweep of his broad, wet tongue.

Hannibal moaned as pleasure sang through his body with the angrily lustful gesture, proof Will still wanted him, so long as this wasn’t mockery…

“Did I say you could hurt yourself, Hannibal? Are you permitted to hurt yourself, or is that my job?” Will’s voice poured over Hannibal like the sweetest drug, softly menacing and so purely exquisite.

“It’s your job,” he whispered tightly.

“What is it going to take to get you to realize that it’s you, it’s you. You!”

Will kissed his mouth hard, then wrenched his shirt and vest open, licked his bloody hand again even more voraciously, got a knee between Hannibal’s thighs and groaned at the hardness he found waiting.

“What will it take to make you realize the same?” Hannibal asked on bated breath. “Enough is never enough with you, Will. You see me in more pieces than that window or vase, and still you want more of me. You demand it.”

Yes.” Will reached down to the floor and brought up a shard of glass, which he pressed teasingly to Hannibal’s throat.

He gasped at the way the older man instinctively stretched his neck towards the threat, and Hannibal closed his tear-reddened eyes as another thrum of helpless arousal coursed through him. He longed for the touch of Will’s hand, his mouth, the soothing clutch of his hot, tight body around his cock, and he longed for the weapon in Will’s grasp to cut him open, if that was what Will needed.

“Love. I warned you. I will. Break you.” Will dragged the tip of the glass shard down Hannibal’s arm, barely breaking his skin and leaving a long, angry scratch mark before he let the makeshift blade drop to the floor. “Over and over and over, and enough will never be enough. You have to love that about me, or you can’t love me. Understand?”

Hannibal nodded, enraptured by Will’s brutal intensity. The younger man licked his cheek, sliding a confident open hand down his torso to grope at the bulge in his pants. Hannibal bucked into his touch and sighed, “Mylimasis.”

“That’s more like it. Don’t you ever throw that word at me in anger again. I love you and you’re mine, whether or not we’re having some idiotic fight about other people neither of us want. Are you mine, Hannibal? All in.”

“I’m yours, Will. I’m sorry that--”

“Don’t want your sorry. I want your devotion, until you’re drowning and begging me to push your head harder under the water. Why do you think Carter and Hawkins look like you?”

“I don’t know. We don’t have to talk about it anymore.”

In a light, encouraging, no less haunting tone, Will said, “We’re almost done.”

He ran his hand with sloppy greed over Hannibal’s face, a feral swiping pet of his beast. “Until the next time we lose our minds with jealousy. I really hate it, until I fucking love it. Same for you?”

“The same.” Hannibal leaned forward and pressed apologetic, needy kisses all over Will’s face. “Please, Will, break me.”

“I can’t, not tonight.” Will gulped and pressed his groin to Hannibal’s with a heated moan, his face buried now in the older man’s neck as he kissed, too soft, too tender, painfully so.

“We need to resolve this,” Hannibal insisted throatily, keening at Will’s gentle touch while the younger man thumbed his fly open and eased his zipper down, then undid his own pants and let it all fall heedlessly down, pants around ankles, rock hard cocks brushing together in tantalizing flashes of almost-enough, not-enough.

Never enough.

“We’ll resolve this.” Will licked his hand and took both their cocks in a hot grip slick with precum and saliva. “Ahhhh, fuck.” He squeezed his eyes shut and shuddered with pleasure as Hannibal tossed his head back with a ragged gasp. “We’ll resolve this tomorrow. Right now, I need to make you come and I’m going to be kind, generous and good about it, so good, doesn’t baby know how to get you off, Daddy?”

“So good, Will, God,” Hannibal moaned, destroyed by the easily skilled way Will worked their cocks together, the strength of his long fingers and the perfect gliding strokes.

The stark, sinful dirtiness of their cocks sliding back and forth in Will’s hungry grip would have been quite enough to annihilate Hannibal’s senses with breathtaking pleasure, but then his voice, still Louisiana drowsy-deep, made it so much more intense.

“God?” Will sighed, still moaning as he worked them steadily towards a euphoric burst, “You don’t offer him credit too often. What brings this on?”

“Your...hand, your...ahhh-- Will -- yes, yes, aaahhh! Your beautiful, perfect hands, your voice, your eyes and lips, I love you...I need you.”

“Hell yes, you need me, and I’m going to make you feel so amazing you never forget it again and make, mmmmm, ahhh-- assumptions about me when I fucking adore you. Tell me how I taste.”

He leaned in, still stroking in a steadily building rhythm of long, firm moves, their aching lengths together feeling so divine, so right. He kissed Hannibal’s mouth, barely able to press his lips with the number of breathy, whimpering gasps that were growing wilder as his hand quickened.

“Chocolate...cherries…” Hannibal licked Will’s plush lips, kissed and sucked at his lower one, tasting again to his heart’s content. “Hmm, ahhh-- faster, more -- vanilla and tropical orange from the brandy...and blood, tangy and bittersweet.”

“Ever taste something better?”

“Your cum,” Hannibal answered instantly, surprising Will with his shamelessly profane reply.

Just as he had hoped, Will cried out with a whine of joy at the coarse words spoken in his lover's sophisticated, husky accent. Before Will, Hannibal never cared for dirty talk, but now he loved it, giving and receiving. “Will, you are always delicious," he sighed, "every inch of you.”

“Why -- why do I look like Alana?”

“Because I was looking for you.” Hannibal clasped Will’s face and kissed him, hotter, harder, desperate, thrusting his cock into his lover’s capable hold.

“Why did Carter look like you? Why did I feel some stupid, fleeting attraction to Hawkins -- mm, so good, fuck, aaah, Hannibal…” He returned Hannibal’s kisses, struggling to focus on what he was saying. The pleasure between them was neon bright, all-encompassing, getting so close now… “Before I immediately -- ooooh, kiss me again -- pushed it away and forgot all about him? Ahh, fuck, again, again. Why?”

“Carter looked like me....because you were looking for me." Hannibal could barely process thought, disintegrating as they kissed and moaned out their realizations between strokes and gasps. "Hawkins-- you liked because he reminded you of me in some small way.” The words came out as gravelly grunts.

“You do understand, when you let go enough. See me?” Will watched Hannibal watching him, pleasure-drunk and shivering. “To whom do I belong?”

“Me, you’re mine. Mine! God--Will--”

Hannibal blasphemed in a hoarse cry as they came so hard it hurt, their cum mixed together while Will stroked them through the waves of bliss, ably making use of the added lubrication the sticky-sweet release provided.

Fuck.” Will trembled harshly. “Tomorrow, I want the animal. I want who Carter saw last, right before he lost his life feeling so grateful the pain was ending. I don’t want to have to envy him that anymore, seeing you unchained, my beautiful beast. I’ll run, and you’ll chase me. Make me your prey, then make me take what you choose to give me, let me beat my fists into you and scream, slam me down and take me, make me believe how you feel, don’t you ever dare question my feelings for you or try to hide from me behind your pride again.”

“Yes, yes, baby, yes.” Hannibal kissed him repeatedly, his face, his neck, his ears and nose, his precious soft, over-bitten lips. “It’s yours. I can hardly wait.”

“Ohhhh…” Will collapsed against Hannibal, finally letting go of their cocks after he had wrung every last drop of pleasure, letting his Ripper wind strong arms around him and rock him slowly, humming a lullaby, murmuring their favorite love poems.

“Tomorrow,” Hannibal smiled when they got into bed together and snuggled close in the dark, inseparable. “Tomorrow, my love.”

He kissed Will’s brow and let the younger man hold him fiercely, an unstoppable claim. On Hannibal's hand, a bandage was wound about his cut, but he could still feel Will's mouth searing into his open skin, and it was all he wanted, to be one, forget how to be two, lose his collection of sad paranoias in the process, the culmination, the essence of their joining a new Becoming. Signifying everything.

“Tomorrow," He smiled, "...and tomorrow.”

Chapter Text

You're mine and you know it
I'd still do it even if we were cursed
Won't you be my problem, it's okay with me if it hurts

-Banks, “Under the Table”

Will crouched and glanced around him with the instinctual prowess of a hunter, senses prickling at the noise of a branch snapped underfoot nearby. Someone, or something, set a slippery footprint down on a pile of snowy rain-dappled leaves nearby, and above Will, a gust of wind suddenly sent a pelting spray of cool rain shaken from naked black tree limbs.

He shook his curls out, dappling the cold, damp ground with water. Fingers dangling over his knees, ready for defense at any moment, Will scented out the air, attempting to discern if the mild racket had been caused by an animal, an unlikely random stranger, or the very specific individual currently sneaking through the woods, tracking him as prey. Hannibal might pounce now, or else it could be hours.

His senses were highly attuned, but not as acutely perceptive as Hannibal’s. He could not quite discern the aroma of anything beyond the fresh, clean snowfall over woodsy vanilla and smoky cold mystery. Hannibal would likely smell Will before the reverse ever had a chance to happen. He doubted he had a shot at the upper hand over the Chesapeake Ripper, but the game would be negated if he didn’t try his best, all the same.

Every noise, every shift of the environment around him sent a thrill of expectant suspense down his spine, electrifying and further awakening his senses, from hunter’s third eye to a lover’s arousal. He was an offering, scurrying artfully around what felt for all the world like vast landscape, but really enclosed him within Hannibal’s sights, as if he was trapped in a snowglobe.

Will’s heart pounded with fear-spiked excitement. This was going to be fun. He was almost sure this was going to be fun.

Running from one clearing to the next meant darting across the more exposed spaces between looming oak trees, old ones with skinny gnarled branches thinned and twisted by time, gothically pretty. Will moved with the sinuous stealth of a seasoned FBI field agent and a ruthless killer, a combination that had to be providing Hannibal a welcome challenge.

His clothes were soft, blue-grey henley beneath his warmest beige sweater, a pair of insulated tan hiking pants, which Hannibal once found in the closet and begged Will to dispose of for fear of eternally offending “the Gods of fashion.” However cheesy the inner layer of red plaid flannel, they kept him very warm and made no noise when he moved. He had opted to pile on cozily protective garments instead of a coat that would only restrict his mobility.

Giving Agents Liu and Ross the slip for one evening was no big challenge. The daily shift change, when Agents Perry and Hollinghurst departed their thankless afternoon hours of watching apparently fuck-all happening at Hannibal’s office and greeted their co-workers with mind-numbing chit-chat, left the ideal opening for escape. All four agents, though normally capable enough, were useless put up against Will and Hannibal, and the murderous lovers were gone long before anyone noticed.

Will chose this part of the immense forest sweep in Wolf Trap quite specifically. The area was too isolated for anyone to hear his imminent screams and come running to help, and free enough of the more dangerous wildlife that they didn’t have to worry about the actual wolves interrupting their game of naughty, perilous hide and go seek.

He’d killed here before, several times, without consequence. It was a perfect place for burying secrets under a wide, encompassing full moon which cast no judgement, but seemed rather to encourage the feral heat in the hunt, the blurred line between man and what Will became when rage pushed him over the edge inside himself. When the time came to howl, this eerie, chillingly lovely, snow-misting wasteland beckoned.

With a smirk as he pressed his back against a tree and scanned the woods for Hannibal’s shadowy figure, Will thought that prior to their arrival, the most dangerous thing here was the odd squirrel or swooping crow braving the cold in search of bits of nuts, leaves and winter berries which less hardy animals would miss out on in their hibernations and off on Florida vacations.

After forty minutes had seeped into the snow slush and dripped lazily down the frozen stream, the crystalline peace of the haunted night shattered, almost abruptly.

One half choked-out breath and a stuttering heartbeat before Hannibal had a hand slammed over his mouth and an elbow crushing into his chest, pinning him tight to the rough tree bark, Will felt his presence like a twinge of fond, scary familiarity. It tugged in his stomach with a warm swoop of arousal, and Will moved to bolt away, one second too late.

Hannibal, obviously Hannibal in form, was entirely unrecognizable as to feature, an alternate universe version of his ever-so-elegant lover, gracious, courteous, even a man who could be softly needy when Will topped him. Even the one who wept when his lover edged him and bought his boy excessive gifts every day, woke at the crack of dawn to make sure Will ate a solid, healthy breakfast, fussed over his well-being and happiness as no one ever had.

There was nothing now but the hunter: fierce, blank, savagery written all over Hannibal’s face. Instead of the eloquent European paragon of fashionable good taste, always with a naughty glimmer in sweet brown eyes and a gentle, mischievous smile for his precious Will, this was a blood-curdling monster. Staccato flashes of Will’s recurring nightmarish fantasy, Hannibal as the wicked black stag, gutted his senses with terrified ecstasy while his lover gave him a sickening grin. His eyes were polished onyx, cheekbones sharp as knives, plush lips pulled back revealing deadly fangs that hungered, as Will well knew, for human flesh.

Hannibal, the connoisseur, mustn’t he crave Will’s taste most of all? The profiler knew that Hannibal must have considered eating him many times in the early phases of their love, when he was still half-inclined to kill the one he adored instead of collapsing into the undiscovered country of devotion, from whence no traveler returns. He must still occasionally nourish his vivid imagination with the dream of consuming Will, lapping up gushing blood from a knife he embedded in that place on Will’s belly that he seemed obsessed with, a fixated kink for soft, tender skin, or eating the brain which so fascinated and enthralled him with all its unpredictable, brilliant nuances.

Did Will really know Hannibal wouldn’t snap one day during a misunderstanding and do it, remove him as a threat to his emotional safety, memorialize him through the only sacrament he had cherished prior to their love -- that of the richly ceremonial, taboo banquet? Part of him was honored by the thought, prized the knowledge that whether or not Hannibal ever enacted the ritual, he would never yearn to eat anyone else with the feverishly insatiable way his mouth watered for Will.

However, another instinct in Will, the all-too-human element of fight or flight, self-fucking-preservation, keened in pain at Hannibal’s rough attack, pushed back with fast, strong hands, shoving at his lover’s broad shoulders. It made his blood run hot and cold, longing to be a present laid out on the table of Hannibal’s obsession, leaning into the wound of their love, and wanting to run until his lungs screamed and his legs gave out rather than submit to the pain of the Ripper’s vicious blade.

Those hands, with the moonlight lovingly painting the bulging veins in white glow against the magic-seeming swirl of crystal snow, the dark specters of the towering trees with their canopy of bare, beautifully deformed branches, merciless. Those hands seemed suddenly immense, capable of plunging right through Will’s chest to tear out his heart and eat it. Savor the still-warm flesh and oozing blood while the light dimmed in blue eyes dilated in rapturous agony. Deep, red life's essence would smear down Hannibal’s gorgeous, feral face like pomegranate juice, dropping onto the snow. Crimson paint on the canvas of their souls, a rebellion against the moral underpinnings of society that never held them, the concept of love as something soft and safe, all of that rejected, disproved. Proof positive that no love could be so vivid as the killing kind. Was that why they were here?

Will’s fast, panicked thoughts skidded past the common sense reminder, it’s just a game, you established rules and limits, you have a safeword, and you both need this. He needs this, needs me… Because what did Hannibal need most of all? To have and to hold, or to rip and destroy? When your lover believed both could be one and the same, you walked a treacherous path.

He hadn’t counted on this adrenaline shooting electric waves of fear and self-protecting instinct through his body, heart beating too fast as Hannibal inhaled of him deeply, eyes closed for a moment of joyous palating of his prey, and reached into his coat pocket, drawing out his knife --

“No!” Will screamed, stomping on Hannibal’s foot, pushing him away with all his might -- the fuel of fear made him twice as strong, and the Ripper stumbled back long enough for Will to run.

“You can’t hide from me, Will,” Hannibal called, only a little breathless from the fall backwards into the snow crush.

The truly awful thing was, even when Will ran at full speed, Hannibal walked, slow, steady, intent. Will ran so hard that the forest flew by his peripheral view like a movie on fast-forward, surreal, unfocusing, his heart open, closed, open, closed, his blood burning blissful horror, blazing thoughts pouring over his mind, Hannibal, Hannibal, Hannibal, my love…

...And Hannibal walked in a deliberate, unhurried way in his exact direction, as if he knew something Will didn’t. Will bumped into a tree, making the mistake of looking back and seeing Hannibal getting a bit closer, imposing and sure-moving as a pagan God of the hunt, and swore as pain seared through his arm and shoulder. He pushed on, trying to go in weird directions and avoid being caught again, but he lost track of where he was going, right at the same time he realized he let himself lose track. He knew these woods, but he wanted Hannibal to do what he would, take what he needed,

So when Hannibal appeared in front of him as Will half-ran, half-slid down the next hill, the profiler let out a genuinely frightened mewl, then tripped on purpose.

The Ripper was on top of him before Will could summon another broken breath, big body shoving him into the cold snow, cruel lips smirking as Will cried out in pain at the impact of the hard ground to his low back. The snow, while softening the fall slightly, also soaked right through the back of his sweater, sealing the henley to his skin. He shuddered at the freezing intrusion against his tender flesh, the colder malevolence in Hannibal’s hard eyes, the glimmer of his curved knife held high in the moonlight. Hannibal’s knee was pressed to Will’s stomach, almost effortlessly keeping him down; Will genuinely couldn’t escape now if he wanted to, and fear painted him in shades and contortions that changed his lover in return.

“So beautiful,” Hannibal cooed, the words dripped in threatening, sadistic admiration, “Beautiful lost boy. Why did you come here? Is this not what you wanted? To end it all, let me make it quiet? So many voices in your head...they can all go away.” He caressed Will’s face, dragging the knife’s edge down Will’s sternum, savoring every breathy moan he evoked.

He was playing Will again, his favorite instrument, weaving a new melody through the air that bound them, a pitch-black ode to the love hunt, no less lovely than all his other compositions pressed with kisses, bites and scratches, culling whimpers and gasps and collecting them to fill his memory palace forever.

“Sweet love.” Hannibal cocked his head to one side, licking his lips as he used the knife to cut surgically through Will’s sweater.

As the soft fabric gave under the lethal blade, Will forced himself to hold still, but his whole body tried to quiver, a perilous natural response to clear threat and pulsing, building erotic fascination.

“Any last words, before I savor you as the incomparable delicacy you are, take all your radiance to fill my belly with light?” Hannibal’s voice was lush with decadently violent desire. “It will be the height of my mortal existence, you should know. Nothing else I do will ever come close to having you in the deepest sense possible.”

“N-no, no, no, no, stop, please,” Will blurted in staggering moans, getting hard when Hannibal teased his face with the knife, barely grazing his uplifted pink cheeks, not enough to scratch, just enough to make terror flood Will’s system, sure as the ache of his erection pressed urgently to his pants, a visible line.

“No” was not the safeword, and nor was “stop.” Of course.

Hannibal set the knife aside thoughtfully. He was dressed all in black, much more casually than usual, loose long-sleeved shirt hanging from his powerful frame, plain trousers designed for blending into the night. Hair loose, too, kissing his brow, silver highlighted by the stars and moon.

But rather than letting himself be transfixed by the sight of his stunning beast, Will took advantage of Hannibal’s fleetingly vulnerable position. He grabbed Hannibal by his shirt and flung himself up and over with a burst of determined energy -- he wasn’t a killer to be fucked with either, and he could hold his own in a fight. Will tumbled them to the ground, him on top now, and wrapped his hand around Hannibal’s throat. He felt the hard nudge of Hannibal’s thick erection under his own cock and fought a dizzying need to grind. Hannibal read his face smugly, wrenched Will’s grip from his neck and bit his hand, viciously.

Will screamed as blood dribbled from the indentations of Hannibal’s teeth in the soft place between his thumb and index finger. He slapped Hannibal’s face, leaving a streak of blood, then lay bodily over him, so good, warm amidst the cold, precum dripping from Will’s cock now, dampening the front of his underwear, blurring his vision, but he held Hannibal down and insisted hoarsely, “Stay fucking down while I call Jack. It’s over, Hannibal, you have to pay for your crimes.”

He got Hannibal’s knife, made to use it to threaten the Ripper and keep him down, but while he was reaching, his lover managed to flip them again, so that they lay panting, Will writhing under Hannibal, who licked as much of Will’s blood as he could reach with his tongue at the corner of his mouth where a drop had fallen.

“Let me go!” Will cried desperately, pounding Hannibal’s massive-feeling chest with his fists, wriggling his legs where they were trapped under the older man’s, “I’m not yours! You can’t have me!”

“I’ll have you, here and now,” Hannibal said huskily, delighted, batting Will’s fists away with perfectly coordinated reciprocal jabs of his hands and arms, and it was fucking cold and creepy out here, Will’s lungs were killing him from running, his heart hurt from beating too fast, back ached and all his dick cared about was Hannibal’s. He couldn’t see straight anymore.

“No, no, stop, you can’t,” Will begged, exhilarated, shaking with pain, arousal, fear, everything mixed together, everything sublime.

Hannibal stopped, actually stopped for a second and looked down at him in pained confusion. Will had touched on a nerve, his lover’s insecurity about whether Will would abandon him one day. While Will wasn’t quite sure where the fear came from, it felt very old and fragile, childish. He knew he must take care of this fear, massage it in his hands, kiss it and heal it slowly over time.

“Yes,” he smiled tenderly, “My beast, my ravenstag, you’re the beat of my heart. You can have me, any time and any place, including here and now.”

The role-play had dissolved, and Hannibal fell on Will with desperate kisses, devouring his lips with fiery passion, hot, open-mouthed kisses searing down Will’s neck. Will gasped in purest joy, slipped his hand under Hannibal’s sweater and rubbed, scratched and clutched at his smooth back, then in a blurring rush Hannibal’s hand was up under Will’s henley, feeling up his chest, making Will’s hips rise and fall in eager search of friction to satisfy the rising pleasure which the older man drew out of him.

A flood of crows scattered across the sky overhead, stars shimmering, visions of heaven and nature twisting and writhing in flashes caught between fluttering eyes falling further into erotic rapture, and Will’s hips kept twisting and writhing, his nipples lapped and nipped in Hannibal’s exquisite connoisseur mouth, Hannibal’s burning lips laying wet, sloppy siege to his belly, Will’s trembling hands fumbling with the older man’s trousers, grabbing at the button, losing patience -- too complicated -- Hannibal yanked Will’s pants down to his thighs and, and his tongue, dripping and slick, circling the leaking tip of Will’s cock, swallowing him down, grasping Will’s ass tightly when the profiler’s entire lower body arched into his intense consuming. His dick brushed the back of Hannibal’s throat, and Will arched higher, whining in euphoric torment. The bite wound in his hand throbbed, leaving red trails all over Hannibal as he desperately grabbed at warm, smooth skin and hard muscle. Hannibal pulled his mouth off and hit his elbows on the frigid, snow-wet ground. Both of them streaked in dirty blood, soaked in melting snow, but sweating with the thrill of the game, the emotional tumult of its breaking point.

Will didn’t know anything beyond Hannibal’s big, strong hand now stroking his aching length, slow and firm, thumb rubbing expertly over the head, gathering more precum to smooth the already perfect glide. He was sure he was still moaning, babbling something about “God, please, Hannibal, don’t stop,” which only made Hannibal love him harder, more excessive in his obsessive worship, spitting on Will’s entrance, licking it, the rim already lubed and relaxed because of course Will wanted to be ready. Rugged, killer’s hand sliding up and down his cock, gourmet tongue laving over his hole like the most delicious treat of all, scratchy beard rubbing his sensitive skin, Hannibal pouring hot breath and praise all over him, groping and squeezing his ass, spanking -- Will came with a shocked cry which went louder and higher as Hannibal first sucked him rough, wet and fast, swallowing every drop of extra release he commanded, then folded Will’s legs back just as fast, pressing his warm, thick cock directly into Will’s tight body to the hilt.

“Fuck, fuck! Hann--Hahhh---hnnggggghhh, oh-my-god--” Will’s head flew back and slammed into the snow, sending sprays of it cascading as the cold kept eating into his skull through his wildly disheveled curls.

Hannibal must have brought extra lube for himself, because he went in easy and fast, and Will hadn’t recovered from the orgasmic bliss, so it hit him even harder. His prostate blossomed with new pleasure when Hannibal pushed as deep as he could go, then rolled his hips, making Will feel the maximum penetration and shocking fullness to the utmost extent possible -- then kissed him like a soulmate, like a bridegroom saying thank you for the rest of their lives together, no mistaking the absolute love letters on Hannibal’s lips, warmly caressing over Will’s mouth, thumbs stroking his quivering legs, where at some point he’d shoved Will’s pants all the way off, Will couldn’t remotely fathom when -- how --

How Hannibal kissed him and tugged affectionately at yet another thin, clingy henley torn asunder by his lustful appreciation for this fit and fabric of shirt on Will’s body, fucking Will with long, slow, hard thrusts and murmuring to him, voice hoarse over shallow, quickening breaths, “Je suis accro à toi....Je t'ai dans la peau...Tu fais battre mon cœur..."

Colors, sensations of hot and cold, emotional extremes ran through Will at the speed of light, and Hannibal’s silver beard burned sweetly against his blushing face. The Ripper's deep, manly voice was undone by feeling, more praise falling from his lips direct from his soul, couched in whispery, pleasure-broken, sophisticated French. God, God, God… Will never had anyone who could get him this fucking hard and wet on a regular basis. It was insane. It was like the sex that annoying, smug people bragged about to their friends but no one really believed actually existed. Will was losing his goddamn mind over this man, again.

“Let me ride you, Daddy,” Will pleaded, still clinging with his hands under Hannibal’s shirt, nails scoring his back, legs hitched up almost as high around his lover. His voice sounded very far away but certain, too. He needed to show Hannibal his own adoration in equal measure.

Hannibal flipped them, cradling Will in a fluid motion and then lying with a besotted, lop-sided, blissed-out smile, reaching to help guide Will when the younger man leaned over him and grasped his cock, pressing it into himself, groaning in immediate euphoria.

“You’re the only one I’ll -- ever want,” Will promised, sinking down and enveloping Hannibal. He shoved Hannibal’s sweater up and groped his pectorals, roved his fingers through the crispy soft hair, rode him fast and hard with the laser-focused desire to make his Daddy come good and hard finally breaking through his thick lust haze. “My body is yours, my life is in your hands -- do anything you want to me -- I’ll take it -- would never reject you, I’d die first -- yes -- feel you getting close, give it to me, it’s mine, you’re mine -- you know it now, yes?”

Will’s exultations were gritty with overpowering pleasure while he let Hannibal grasp his ass and fuck up into him at a brutal, sweetly punishing rate, but he didn’t expect to come again himself until suddenly he was spilling all over Hannibal’s cute, hairy belly, mouth falling open at the realization that hit him, along with a tsunami of ecstasy tinging all over his body --

That like an evil sex mastermind, Hannibal had pummeled his prostate with devastatingly divine pressure right when he knew he was about to come himself -- so that the older man’s release coated Will’s clenching walls at the same time Will’s untouched cock painted Hannibal in sticky white seed.

Pleased as punch to have made Will come a second time, smug at shocking his boy with the simultaneous orgasms, Hannibal lay back, contented in the snow as he might have looked lounging on a sunny beach. His arms were stretched above his head, hair delightfully messy, face flushed with afterglow, and he was sweaty, snow-drenched, sweater still hitched up to the top of his chest with Will’s hands planted hard to his pecs. Will finally came back to himself with an aching, blushing, oversexed laugh of disbelief, belatedly understanding there were tears streaming down his face.

“My beauty,” Hannibal praised huskily, stroking Will’s face with the back of his hand, letting the younger man nuzzle into his touch. He lost his bravery and switched back to French, incapable however of not saying, “Tu es l'amour de ma vie."

Even if only he understood it, Hannibal needed to let it out, and Will loved that. But there was something he needed to tell his lover in return.

“I hope you’re happy,” Hannibal said with a throaty laugh into Will’s neck once the profiler had fallen against his Daddy with a huge, crushing hug.

Hannibal wrapped his arms around Will, rubbed his back, tousled his snow-damp, sweat-tossed curls, massaged his ass cheeks in slow, comforting circles.

Very happy, thank you for asking.” Will brought his head up from its exhausted hiding place in Hannibal’s neck and grinned, mischievous and tender in equal measure.

“Hmm. Demanding, insatiable boy.” Hannibal chuckled.

“Needy, pushy, wonderful Daddy.” Will clasped his face and kissed all over it. “Don’t you know that I’ll love you no matter what, at your ugliest, your most annoying, when you lecture me--”

“You love when I lecture you,” Hannibal teased, tracing Will’s shoulder blades, then his spine, memorizing him yet again, a nervous but happy habit.

Will laughed, slid off Hannibal’s body and onto his side, tugging Hannibal around to face him in a face-to-face snuggle. They had melted the snow beneath them, a fact both convenient and hilarious.

“Even if you get sick, and you’re disgusting, sneezing and throwing up and fussing because every doctor is an awful brat of a patient--”

“I never get sick.”

“See what I mean? And even if you eat too much people souffle and get a terrible belly-ache, I’ll cuddle you and rub your tummy until you’re better.”

“People souffle. I have yet to try that recipe, but you are giving me new ideas.”

Will snorted, kneeing Hannibal’s leg before flinging his own over the older man’s thigh. He smoothed a hand over his lover’s shoulder and added more seriously, “Even if you track down and kill every person who’s ever flirted with me, if you say stupid things and hurt both our feelings, if you never one hundred percent believe how much I need you, or that I’m never leaving your side, it won’t matter. I’ll still--”

Hannibal kissed his mouth with reviving passion, and Will giggled, “Jesus, I’m trying to talk, this is important -- shit, cut that out, Hannibal, I’m cold and tired, ohhh, that’s nice...hmmm…”

They made out, slow and lazy, for a few more minutes, mapping each other’s mouths with hotly roving tongues, biting and sucking, then Will insistently muttered, “I’ll still love you.”

“You did insist on finishing that sentence,” Hannibal huffed.

“You do insist on doubting I’m real.” Will pinched his arm; Hannibal scowled and tugged his hair. “See, real?”

“Tonight meant a great deal to me,” Hannibal confessed, his smile fading along with his wandering eye contact. This was what he’d tried to kiss his way around saying out loud, in English, directly. “I needed to know you could see me as the beast and embrace that darkness.”

“You already knew,” Will shrugged, fingers stroking over Hannibal’s collarbones, then tipping up his face before his eyes ran away again. “You needed to feel it. Something made you stop believing in fairy tales. Now that you’re in the middle of one, I think you don’t quite know where to go or what to do.”

“I sense there’s a ‘but’ coming,” said Hannibal, reluctantly allowing his deep, cinnamon-brown gaze to land on Will’s searching cobalt one.

But this Beauty was always meant to fall in love with his Beast. You’ll see. I’ll keep showing you; it’s not like I’ll ever get tired of it.”

“Truly?” Hannibal was incredulous. He pressed his lips together, considering, then added, “I should think that constantly validating an insecure lover might become exhausting over time.”

“Oh, you’ll see. Stick with me, that’s all I’m really asking. As long as you never lose faith in us enough to run again, I’ll love you all better day and night. How could anything make me happier?”

“Has a couple ever been this intent on spoiling one another?” Hannibal brushed away tears caused by Will’s sweet words, and Will kissed the adorable, salt-moistened crinkles beside his eyes.

“Nope. I do have one more confession, though. I hope you don’t get mad…”

“Whatever can it be?"

Will stroked Hannibal’s beard-bristly jaw and brought him closer for another soft, wet kiss. Then he murmured silkily, “Tu es un beau parleur! J'en pince pour toi. Prends-moi dans tes bras.

His pronunciation was flawless, drenched in Southern drawl.

Hannibal pulled Will into a snug embrace, groaning in aggravated mortification as Will giggled, rubbing his face against the older man’s firm, hairy chest.

“I’m from the Bayou, Hannibal, how did you think I didn’t speak French?”

“I did not realize...that means that this entire time...you’ve understood the things I’ve said…”

“Well, I didn’t want you to stop. If it makes you feel any better, you can switch to Lithuanian from now on, when you want to say something that makes you feel shy."

“You’ll just teach yourself Lithuanian, then,” Hannibal pouted, swiftly spanking Will’s ass.

“Youch! Maybe, but you don’t have to be so shy with me anyway. Nah, forget I said that.” Will kissed his chest, his chin and cheeks, then drew himself up to press light kisses to plumply swollen lips. “I love your shy. It’s just for me. It’s safe with me, Hannibal...and so are you.”

Hannibal did not answer this last remark, but he did blush and bite his lip while his heard thudded rapidly under Will’s hand.

Satisfied, more than, Will stood on wobbly legs and reached a hand down. “Let’s go home.” He helped Hannibal up and got dressed again to the extent it was even possible. “You’re buying me a new sweater, and not an upgraded designer one, but that same department store oatmeal-yuck color dad sweater.”

Hannibal rolled his pretty eyes and buttoned his own trousers with a saucy smirk. “You do make the most appalling so-called fashion look shockingly appealing, my dear.”

“Humph, I never called it fashion.” Will slung an arm around Hannibal’s waist, the older man tucked his knife back into his pocket and put his own arm about Will’s shoulder, and they walked happily back to the place where the Bentley was parked on the nearest road.

“That was wise of you.” Hannibal kissed Will’s forehead, took out the keys and beep-beep unlocked the Bentley.

“Look at that,” Will marveled, nodding at a row of orange-lit street lights placed on the opposite side of the country road across the street from the woods. “The way those street lamps look against all the snow, in this quiet. Reminds me of Narnia.”

“That wretched Christian treatise with the talking tiger masquerading as Jesus of Nazareth?” Hannibal inquired tartly.

“That ‘wretched Christian treatise’?” Will chortled, getting into the car when Hannibal opened the door for him. “A tiger?”

“Was I mistaken?” Hannibal asked, starting up the car, still dripping a bit of melted snow-water from his loose sweater sleeves, dirt smudging his brow in a way that was much too attractive.

“I know what we’re doing later on,” Will announced, with that highly amused ‘I mean business’ tone that let Hannibal know he wasn’t getting out of whatever the proposed activity might be.

***

“We’re sorry,” Will said with highly convincing penitence when they got back home to find two very annoyed FBI agents sitting on their front steps.

Will liked the sting of the first aid ointment still smarting on his injured hand, which he kept tucked in one pocket. The double bandaids kept the bite mark well-covered, but there was still dark blood blotting through the sticky fabric.

“You’ve been missing for two hours,” groused Agent Liu. “Another thirty seconds and we were calling Jack Crawford.”

“Oh?” Hannibal squared his shoulders with a surprising amount of dignity considering he looked like he’d been dragged by wild dogs across Antarctica, then won a mud wrestling contest.

He stood next to Will on the front walk, hands neatly folded in front of him like he was wearing his best three-piece suit. “Was two hours and thirty seconds the cut-off point? Anyone might rather assume you would have procrastinated for quite a while longer before admitting to Agent Crawford that you let the Chesapeake Ripper likely make off with your two charges.”

Agent Ross blinked slowly at Hannibal. “Would you like us to call him now and tell him you snuck off without telling us and put yourselves in danger? Agent Graham, I think he’d be disappointed in you. And you know how much fun Jack is when he’s disappointed--”

“That won’t be necessary,” Will rushed to say, discreetly shooting Hannibal a look of death. He passed a plumply packed drive-through bakery bag to Liu. “I’m really sorry, it’s just that we needed some time to ourselves, to...enjoy nature.”

Liu and Ross looked with bafflement at Will and Hannibal’s deranged-looking appearances.

“Gentleman, is there a higher calling than to commune with nature?” Hannibal put in more helpfully.

“We brought you donuts,” Will explained as the agents peeked into the paper bag.

“It’s midnight,” Liu complained, but Ross shrugged, “That’s only going to make them taste better.”

“No more communing with nature until the Ripper is caught,” Ross warned as he and his partner bit into their apple cinnamon donuts.

***

“Everything’s ready,” Will said to Hannibal after they laughed and kissed their way through a much-needed shower.

As they loaded up the washing machine with the salvageable laundry from the night, Will added pointedly, “I think it’s time I ask Beverly to clean up the volume on that voicemail Miriam left for Jack. What about tomorrow?”

Examining the background noise on the recording would lead Jack to the cabin where Miriam was still kept prisoner, mostly sleeping in a drug-induced near-coma, between Hannibal’s sessions of brainwashing her to accuse Chilton, and his measures to ensure she remained nourished, clean and in good health. Will had insisted that he move the poor woman from the deep well in the floor to a bedroom, and Hannibal conceded he should have treated Miriam more humanely, a rare admission of fault on his part.

“I agree the situation is more inconvenient by the day. I should like to regain our freedom of movement as soon as possible, and Ms. Lass has suffered enough for her cleverness.” Hannibal nodded. “As you would say, mylimasis, it’s a plan.”

"I can't wait to see the look on Chilton's face," Will said with a dark smile. "You know, he's more than once suggested that I'll walk into BSHCI someday as an inmate."

"An ill-thought discourtesy." Hannibal's own prim look boded nothing but pure doom for Dr. Chilton.

He tossed Will’s flannel-lined khakis into the washer with a disdainful grimace. “These hideous pants of yours. Entirely too difficult to extricate you from, in addition to their original sartorial sin of existing.”

“You extricated just fine.” Will smirked and poured the correct amount of Hannibal’s overpriced detergent into the washer. The powdered soap admittedly did smell amazing, fresh and daisy-light like Sunday morning sunshine.

His flannel and jeans had never come out softer nor more fragrant, and it always amused him to see the combination of his casual clothes mixed up with what little of Hannibal’s laundry could be done at home rather than dry cleaned into pristine stiffness again.

He shut the machine with flourish, then grabbed the hem of Hannibal’s light blue poplin pajama top, playing at making his lover follow him, when really, his ulterior motive was he couldn’t keep his hands off Hannibal’s tummy.

“Let’s go, we’re falling asleep to the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.”

***

Will got Hannibal to make him his gourmet hot cocoa with real milk and dense homemade whipped cream, even wheedled a maraschino cherry on top, although he had to lie that he’d make himself stay awake to brush his teeth before bed.

He did stay awake longer than expected, partially because Hannibal also made three different flavors of popcorn. His post-hunt appetite was satiated by fluffy, salty, buttery perfection melting on his tongue, flecked with rosemary and parmesan, truffle oil, and brown-butter-lemon respectively. The other reason was that in addition to holding Will’s legs in his lap and massaging his calves, ankles and feet with his professional masseuse-level skill, Hannibal kept asking questions about the film.

“Especially considering that she is by far the best-dressed character, don’t you think everyone is judging this White Witch rather harshly?” Hannibal frowned as Will hummed groggily.

“No.”

He looked up from his position slumped across the couch, luminous sapphire eyes blinking lazily. His comfy white pj pants, patterned with ships-in-bottles, anchors and life preservers, were a recent present from Hannibal, and he really loved pairing it with his tightest little t-shirt to get the most lascivious looks from Hannibal, even when his adorable cannibal was tired.

"The White Witch made it always winter and never Christmas," Will reasoned with a yawn as Hannibal ran an open hand over his ass and squeezed lightly. "The biblical devil is more sympathetic than her.”

“Once I wouldn’t have thought stealing Christmas was such a despicable crime.”

Hannibal clasped Will’s ankle, checking again that Will was solid and real while silently expressing one of the many fetishes he had for delicate little places on Will’s body, the sensitive spots.

“I used to exhibit a Scrooge-like abhorrence for the entire holiday season," Hannibal admitted. "The festivities seemed a cruel way to remind me I was fated to remain eternally single and untethered to any family unit. It isn’t as though I had the religious inclination to bring other meaning to the time.”

“You won’t hate Christmas anymore now. You’re with me, and you’re part of my family. We’ll wake up early Christmas morning…you can fuck me first thing, I'll be wearing a reindeer sweater. Then I’ll make you dress like naughty Santa while I rail you senseless...we’ll feed each other eggnog pancakes in bed, then go down to the study and exchange gifts under the humongous real tree you’re going to buy us and help me drag in here.” Will yawned again, lay down with his chin nestled into his folded arm, let Hannibal keep reaching under his pant leg to stroke his calf.

“Is that so? I suppose that after exchanging gifts, we might have a peppermint bubble bath. And later...invite your parents for Christmas lunch?”

“We should go to their house. My mom does an epic Christmas display, and she’ll bring out all the embarrassing old photos of me…”

“Your parents’ house it is,” Hannibal affirmed, suddenly very invested in the idea.

Will knew he just wanted to see every photo of him that existed, and it warmed his soul. He’d love to see photos from Hannibal’s childhood, too, but he knew better than to ask if any even survived. Protectiveness filled him, potent with longing. Maybe their future couldn’t make up for the past, nothing could, but Will would keep trying anyway.

The whimsical soundtrack, ambient fantasy noise and soothing English accents from the movie had Will comforted enough in nostalgic wistfulness, but adding in his lover’s touch...he smiled and closed his eyes, drifting deeper, carried off by many different hopes and into dreams.

“Will,” Hannibal whispered, “You forgot to brush your teeth. Will?”

Chapter Text

Will woke the next morning with his face crushed into the couch pillow, which he must have clung onto thinking it was Hannibal. He only roused because of the gentle hand on his shoulder and the soft, deep Lithuanian voice murmuring, “My darling, you must wake now.”

The profiler’s body was curled, fetus-style, feet hanging off the edge of the sofa, mouth open with a small string of drool wetting the fussy, eccentric pillow, a zebra print one with tassels on it that were stuck to his stubbled cheek.

His hair was matted to his face like glue, and he let out a reluctant noise at establishing half-consciousness, a language-less grunt of disapproval sort of like “no-ish-tooearlygoway.”

He batted at Hannibal’s hand, then wriggled his butt around trying to figure out where he actually was and how to lie down and find a blanket.

“Oh, dear,” Hannibal chuckled, catching him before he fell to the floor in a pile of grumpiness, flailing limbs and messy curls. He cradled Will’s warm, snuggly body in his arms, then sat his lover right in his lap, where Will nestled in catlike and grabbed around Hannibal’s waist with every intention of going back to sleep.

“Goodnight,” Will sighed, smiling and nuzzling into Hannibal’s belly, having descended back into chaos, lying flat with his legs hanging backwards off the couch, Hannibal’s long fingers stroking through his hair.

“Content as I would be to stay like this all day, you did mention wanting to see to Miss Lass’ release and Frederick’s comeuppance,” Hannibal reminded him, prompting Will to sit bolt upright.

“Huh? Oh. Right.”

Will blinked and rolled his tongue around his mouth. He realized with embarrassment he must look beyond ridiculous, waking up like a bat out of hell talking nonsense with drool on his face, one pajama pant leg rolled up to his calf, and hair like he’d stuck his finger in a socket.

But Hannibal, perfect Hannibal, was soft in morning cuteness, black silk bathrobe knotted over his light blue pj’s with just that little peek of silver chest hair showing, coffee-colored eyes glowing with admiration at Will’s almost assuredly disgusting appearance -- he clearly thought he’d never seen anyone so stunning. It made no sense, but comforted Will, and he glanced from the doctor’s expectant, fond smile and raised light brows under loose bangs to the silver platter laid out on the nearby table with all his favorite breakfast foods that weren’t the dreaded Fruity O’s.

“I thought you might be hungry,” Hannibal explained, blushing.

As if he didn’t do this every day, wake up at 5 because Will had to leave by 7, and spend his first bit of morning energy making his lover a breakfast that pretty much ruined Will for his previous delight in greasy diner eggs.

As if Will didn’t know his Daddy would always look after him and make sure he left the house with a belly full of food which the older man deemed appropriately nourishing and tasty. Will knew that taking care of him was the joy of Hannibal’s life, and he luxuriated in the sense that this feeling went both ways. Two selfish people dedicated to lavishing the other in generous devotion...what could be sweeter?

He licked his lips again, still processing every nuance of the slow, pleasing morning, and confirmed he tasted like peppermint-lavender-vanilla from the imported French toothpaste Hannibal always bought at a hundred dollars per tube.

“Did you brush my teeth while I was sleeping?”

“You aren’t going to develop any cavities under my watch, Will.”

Hannibal rearranged each small plate on the tray, completely unnecessary small shifts of the porcelain dishes with their fluffy clouds of sunshine-yellow eggs, plus sweet-and-spicy bacon sprinkled with cayenne and brown sugar. He’d made a winter fruit salad of pineapple, kiwi, mandarin oranges and pomegranate arils, drizzled in honey and lemon, topped with mint leaves, every color meticulously arranged for aesthetic effect, a swirl of vivid, freshly plump flesh glistening, irresistible.

But as good as it all looked, Will needed a taste of something else first. He was wide awake now, eyes raking down Hannibal’s well-defined body in his deceptively innocent pj’s, barefoot with his strong ankles on display above fine-boned dancer’s feet. Dammit, who had noble ankles? It just wasn’t fair.

“Will?” Hannibal asked, genuinely surprised when Will fell to his knees before his lover and flipped the robe off to the side, then spread the older man’s thighs and went to work. “Will? Ohhh...but you were so tired…”

Will mouthed sloppily at the curves of Hannibal’s thighs through his pants, then hooked his fingers in the waistband, savoring the feel of warm belly as he tugged the fabric down and Hannibal automatically lifted up to accommodate the impromptu stripping.

The Ripper’s breath caught hectically in his throat as his gloriously dependable morning hard-on sprang free, Will’s hand flying to it with such love, Will’s eyes big, blue and longing.

“You’re too goddamn gorgeous in the morning, Daddy,” Will smiled, amazed as the mere sight of Hannibal’s raging arousal, the feel of the hot, hard skin groped in his eager hand, made his own dick throb, and he was one hundred percent alert now.

He loved this so much, the heavy, slick push of Hannibal’s dick stretching his mouth and throat, the ache and heat, raunchy taste of bitter-salty desire, all for him, and best of all Daddy’s panting, grunting, gasping responses.

“You wake me up better than the strongest coffee,” he sighed, “and then I’m so hungry for this…”

“But you might...be...be late,” Hannibal warned in a whispery voice, sighing as Will gently clasped his rigid cock, licking again and again in dripping swirls of his tongue so that when he stroked, his tightening fingers could glide up and down with ease.

“Then I’ll be late. Tell me what you want. Do you want this, Daddy?”

“Yes, of course, I always -- always --” Hannibal lost the power of speech and his breath as Will began to suck.

Vivid blue eyes shot him a commanding look, one he knew meant tell me what you want, exactly-- and he added with hard-earned cogency, “Stroke and suck at the same time, baby -- that’s it, yes--”

“Yes?” Will smirked his wet lips, batted his pretty dark lashes, long and lustrous as the wicked fairy tale prince he was to Hannibal, never lovelier than when driving his beast wild with pleasure. “Faster?”

“Huhhhh--- yes, please…” Hannibal moaned hoarsely as Will moved his foreskin in a slick, snug grip and bared his cockhead to be kissed, licked, sucked, to envelop every solid, burning inch deep in his mouth. The doctor sank both big hands into Will’s hair and shoved his hips forward, fucking into Will’s mouth until he came all over his boy’s pretty pink, outstretched tongue.

Will licked his lips, stood and shoved his own pants down, then grabbed his lust-addled lover and flung him around, enjoying the way Hannibal gasped and immediately got into position, presenting his ass for the taking.

“Mmm,” Will smirked, giving him a swift spanking, not too hard, just a little taste of pleasurable domination to start the day. A preview of much more to come for his gorgeous Daddy, who deserved all his most devoted attention. “You really, really think you’re gonna come in here all fucking adorable in that sweet little outfit with your blushing, shy face and a fancy, yummy breakfast for me and I’m not gonna fuck you till you scream?”

Hannibal moaned, face pressed into his hands which clung to the couch cushion while he knelt and waited, still trembling with orgasmic afterglow, well-used to the way Will liked to push him into overstimulation and beyond with multiple pleasurings, as often as they could steal the time together, day and night.

“I was hoping,” he admitted, blushing redder. “I need you, Will.”

“There’s a good Daddy,” Will sighed approvingly. He kept Hannibal’s robe swept over to one side, exposing the round, supple curves of his ass as much as the light blue pants shoved down roughly to his noble ankles. His lover, so untouchable, so above it all and elaborately armored to the world, but for him, raw in his primal submission.

“I’ll never get over how perfect you are, Hannibal. Just look at you, all ready for my cock, begging for it like you know I like best, but you can’t stop yourself anyway, huh? Never could?”

“N-no, no, I can’t stop. Please give it to me--” Hannibal stammered and shook, fingers digging harder into the cushions as Will grabbed the bottle of lube he’d stuffed between the couch pillows in a recent fit of naughtiness (they were hidden in other key locations all over the house, too, waiting to surprise Hannibal whenever Will suddenly wanted to fuck his brains out).

“Here you go, honey. Good morning,” Will cooed, gliding his engorged cock, dripping with lube and desire, slowly into Hannibal’s tight, velvety heaven. His head dropped as he immediately let out a hoarse curse, grabbed Hannibal’s hips, and sank in carefully until he was balls deep and groaning louder, leaving new bruises on his favorite spots on the insides of Hannibal’s hips.

“Feel that?” Will teased, rolling his hips to let Hannibal feel his full girth because two could play at that game. Nothing felt better, either than Will letting Hannibal fill him and fuck him into ragdoll senselessness, or to do the same to his man.

Everything and anyone else on their schedules, no matter how pressing and essential, could absolutely wait.

“Ahhh-aaaaahhhhh,” Hannibal cried in a wild whisper-wail, the brutally deep penetration making him keen, whining at the sudden immensity of sensation at the same time he arched his strong, golden back for more.

Will shivered in delight, but needed something more. He’d always be selfish with Hannibal, and for him -- enough is never enough --

He’d had the worst fever of his life mere months ago, but no fever could come close to this heated pitch of moans and erotic bliss, drawing his aching length from the slickly embracing walls he loved best, then grunting, “On your fucking back, I want to look at you.”

Hannibal shakily obliged, raising his legs in the air and holding them in place, his cock reawakening slowly but inevitably, half-alert now and twitching at the sight of Will looming above him, rapidly flinging off his white t-shirt and throwing it to the floor, naked with his curls wild and a bit overgrown now. Hannibal looked somehow so sweet and innocent, even sex-drunk and loosing whorish moans of begging, pleading for more cock, staring transfixed, glazed amber eyes flicking from Will’s bossy, wicked smile to his long fingers gripping and stroking fast his own erection, getting himself ready.

Will knelt in front of Hannibal and clutched his soft ass cheek in one hand, leaving fingerprints, possessing. He guided his rigid cock back in, swearing again when Hannibal reached down to help him, spreading his cheeks and opening a little more. Hannibal moaned so loud, letting out exclamations that probably made little to no sense even if one spoke Lithuanian, feeling Will so deep that the younger man’s dark, curly pubic hair pressed to his entrance while Will’s balls warmly touched his ass.

This was so much better, looking down into Hannibal’s desperately overwhelmed face, pulling him apart at the seams. He couldn’t possibly resist Hannibal’s now throbbing, hard cock, standing to stiff, thick attention, so he pulled himself out again only to envelop that delectable erection between his tight, insistent lips, fucking his slick, wet warmth down again and again, continually humming vibrations of “mmm, mmm, mmm,” and the soft yellow sunglow slipped through the thin part in the curtained window behind them, basking their naked, sweat-drenched bodies in more of the timeless, incandescent gold that defined their love.

Will slid two fingers in and kept fucking Hannibal’s hole, curving them to find the sweet spot while his concentration on this made his mouth temporarily slow on the older man’s cock. Hannibal moaned in weak, needy demand for release and stroked himself, earning a reproving look from Will, even as the profiler slammed his hand faster and licked his lips at the sight of Hannibal spread out and glistening in morning sun, sweat and arousal.

“You’re breaking the rules, but I’m gonna let it go today because you’re so goddamn cute,” Will grunted, devastatingly in love, high on the way Hannibal’s beautiful body squeezed his cleverly questing fingers, adoring Hannibal’s whines of appreciation at the indulgent forgiveness.

“I’m sorry, baby, I didn’t mean to touch myself without permission,” Hannibal sighed, taking Will at his word, however, as he kept jerking himself off, horny beyond control.

“I love you, Daddy, take your pleasure, show me. How you touch yourself for me and put on a show while I finger-fuck your gorgeous body, come on.” Will smiled with devilish heat and blazed down on Hannibal with his bright blue, owning gaze, bore down and in with his knowing, targeted finger thrusts, finding and rubbing the exact place inside Hannibal that made the world blur.

Hannibal’s hips spasmed roughly as his legs trembled even harder and thick dribbles of seed spilled from his cock all over his hand, and he muttered desperately in French, this time knowing Will understood, “Je t'aime pour toujours” -- it sounded like he was choking on his own breath in the throes of euphoria, poor thing. Will took mercy, caressing his thighs, murmuring “I know, I know, sweetheart. Love you forever, too.”

But Hannibal, lost as he was to the tingling waves of pleasure still roiling over him, swallowing him whole, he still managed to blurt insistently, with another of those sweet little stubborn, needy pouts of his lush lips, “Want your cum now.”

“Hmm. So naughty.” Will batted him playfully about the face, making Hannibal flush red again and bat his light lashes before opening his mouth expectantly.

“Yeah, I think…” Will paused as his stroking hand on his own aching, ready-to-blow cock made his thinking stop for a few seconds. “Shit, I can barely hold it together -- I wanna come on your sexy beard again, but I’ll give you some to taste, too, okay?”

Hannibal nodded excitedly and stuck his tongue out, unrecognizable as his eloquent, uptight former self or the one he still offered to everyone else. No remnant of the person suit with Will.

“Ahhhh, so close, God, Hannibal, yes,” Will drawled in thick Louisiana tones, “Oh, fuck --” He spilled chaotically, hand quickening on his dick, making more sticky white cum splatter on Hannibal’s blonde and grey beard, and over his offered, soft pink tongue, where the older man eagerly savored and swallowed.

“Thank you,” Hannibal sighed, completely undone, sticking his fingers in the droplets of cum on his face and licking them, earning another spanking right away.

“You are a bad, bad, naughty, greedy gorgeous man,” Will accused, heart-racingly fond. He tugged Hannibal’s hair and added, “I do have to get ready for work, but later on, you’re in for it.”

“I...hope so...my...dear,” Hannibal said on still stuttering breaths, hair flopped over in his eyes, beard splotchy with cum, curves and muscles decorated with lovely darkening bruises and suck marks.

His limbs were spread wherever they landed on the couch, but to Will, he still resembled a debauched, muscled god from one of those Renaissance paintings of which the older man was so fond, or, well...a super-artsy and impressive porno shoot. Will would wear that magazine out if it existed; every page would be faded and crinkled at the edges from overuse.

He stood up next to the couch with great effort, unable to peel his eyes from Hannibal’s naked, temporarily sex-sated body. Hopping back into his pj pants, Will sat down and picked up a plate of breakfast while Hannibal just lay there breathing heavily and stared into space.

“Good morning, Will,” he said after a few minutes had passed and he returned to somewhat logical abilities of speech.

Will had been there meanwhile, admiring him smugly and eating toast, eggs and fruit, sipping the excellent coffee not really minding that it wasn’t hot anymore. He was burning up, and only a cold shower would get him into anything like an appropriate headspace for the day ahead.

“You got it, hot stuff,” he winked to Hannibal.

Hannibal turned from pink to scarlet all over again. Will knew perfectly well that not only had no one ever talked dirty to him like Will did, but no one in their right mind, who wanted to keep their spine, would dare to call him “hot stuff.” Yet now, coming from Will, he liked it excessively.

“Don’t be embarrassed, Daddy,” Will smiled, reaching over to rub his belly adoringly. “But you keep right on being shy. I can’t begin to tell you what a huge turn-on it is.”

“Will,” Hannibal said, flustered, rising slightly on his elbows before giving up and collapsing again, needing more rest. Will had worn him right the fuck out, and it inflated the younger man’s eager ego and libido every time he did it.

“As far as I’m concerned, if you’re able to move when I leave for work in the morning, then I ain’t done my job.” Will took another sip of coffee and popped a tart kiwi wedge in his mouth.

He liked to let his voice slide all the way back down South for Hannibal. It didn’t really happen with anyone else but his parents, that he relaxed enough for it. His youth held as many troubling memories as it did happy ones, and to revert to his more naive optimism, pouring it like syrup over words tripping heedlessly from his tongue...he really had to let go for that. With Hannibal, he could let go, and plus...he knew exactly what it did to his lover when he brought out the “y’all,” “I’m fixin’ to,” and “ain’t.”

“For goodness sake, mylimasis,” Hannibal complained weakly, accepting the juicy orange slice which his lover poised at his lips.

“Eat your vitamin C. I gave you most of your nutrients already, but not all of ‘em. Mon petit chouchou…”

Hannibal groaned and finished his bite of orange in time to hide half his burning face behind a big, strong hand.

Will chuckled, loving the bashful way he reacted to being called “my darling little cream puff,” the expert French inflections drawled in New Orleans style, the cutesy word choices with their obvious double entendre.

“You’re killing me, Will,” Hannibal mumbled, nudging Will’s thigh with his foot.

Will winked again, kissed his hot cheek and ruffled his hair. “I hope so. Once you get your stamina back, try and keep it, and don’t you dare lay a hand on yourself until I get you naked and all to myself again. Have some protein for lunch.”

“I always do,” Hannibal retorted saucily, with a sly smile, casting his hazy autumn gold eyes up on Will, who hesitated behind the couch, finding it hard to leave him, even more so than usual.

“Are you going to obey me, Daddy?” Will murmured, dragging his thumb over Hannibal’s over-bitten and wildly sucked, swollen-red lower lip with a teasing hint of a touch.

“Yes,” said Hannibal obediently, in a whisper that took Will’s breath away.

“Even in my most sensationally over-the-top fantasies, I never pictured having such an absolutely perfect sub, such a wonderfully handsome, well-behaved Daddy.” Will patted his cheek and swept Hannibal’s bangs more gently off his forehead, leaving another lingering kiss there. “I just had to tell you that. You made my heart skip a beat.”

“Then I have done my job properly,” said Hannibal, so very proud.

“Always.” Will sighed at the necessity of making it to his 8:30 lecture, then meeting with Jack regarding the sound quality on Miriam’s voicemail.

He circled the couch and leaned down to pick up the random pajama pieces littered all over the floor from their hasty disrobing.

“You may leave that, my darling,” Hannibal offered. He had casually arranged his robe to a position that could basically be called “on”, still loosely belted and showing off his mouth-watering hairy chest and tummy. “I don’t mind doing a bit more laundry before leaving for the office; I have a shorter drive after all.”

He sat leaned over his breakfast now, with as polite a comportment as anyone could manage under the conditions, nibbling the scrambled eggs and bacon with transparent hunger. He had quite the workout already, after all.

“Thank you,” Will replied, gathering the laundry into a pile in his arms, “but I’m not about to leave the clothes all over the floor. My mama raised me better than that. I’ll put them in the hamper when I go in to take my shower.”

“Your mother raised a very good boy, Will.” Hannibal sucked some honey-vanilla drizzle from the fruit salad off his fingers and Will’s knees went weak.

Fuck me. How do people in love leave each other and go to work every damn day?

“Well, you do most of the cooking and cleaning around here. I know it makes you happy, and I love that about you. I wanna put in my fair share of work, too. Pretty sure that’s what good boys do.”

“Among other things.” Hannibal stroked his neck where an especially shameless hickey shone.

“Among other things is right,” Will laughed. “And I love you being such a devoted house, um,”

He stopped before saying the word that naturally came next, “house husband.” Whoops, that would be a bit presumptuous. Sure, Will had been dreaming about proposing, but he didn’t want to scare Hannibal with any suggestions of walking down the aisle when just yesterday his lover had felt so frightened by the intensity of their bond and his own confused insecurities.

Will kind of wanted to go “fuck it” and say “husband” anyway to get a read on how Hannibal reacted and if he should go back to that antique store where he kept hanging around on work breaks, staring in through the windows at a handsome ring of gold with black flowers and twinkling diamonds. So what if he’d been doodling “Will Lecter-Graham” on everything his pen touched since October and he had his vows all planned out in his head? That was standard “falling in love” stuff, right?

Still, his nerve on this subject ran for the hills in an annoying flash of cowardice and he ended up blabbering, “house boyfriend” because “house lover” sounded like a real estate mogul.

A change came over Hannibal then. He sat up straighter, put his fork down and looked Will full in the face, very seriously. “I simply love you,” he said frankly.

“What is it? Something just happened,” Will guessed, nervous but intrigued.

“I made up my mind about something,” Hannibal smiled, “But I must keep it a secret for now, my dear.”

“Oh, really?” Will flirted. “I might see if I can wheedle it out of you later, anyway.”

“You won’t,” Hannibal insisted, beginning to stack the breakfast plates to clear them to the kitchen. He’d load up the dishwasher, with plenty of time to grab his own shower when Will was on the road to Quantico.

“I have my ways.” The younger man chortled. “I will!”

***

Hannibal laughed, too, making a careful pile of plates on the tray while Will headed off to the bathroom. “No, you won’t.”

He was in the kitchen, seeing to his housework, when he heard Will’s voice call again distantly, over a spray of shower water, “Yes, I will!”

Hannibal was so giddy with his sudden determination, perhaps more excited than anything had made him, even he and Will sharing their murderous secrets.

This type of morning was nothing unusual, which was what made it so special, irreplaceable, the sort of magic he longed to hold onto forever after. Hannibal always seemed to stay up slightly later at night and wake earlier than Will, which gave him a precious vantage point into his beloved's sweet sleepy face and humorously contorting slumbering positions.

Last night, for example, Will had drifted off by the time Edmund regretted his alliance with the White Witch and reconciled with his siblings. "Huh," Hannibal had huffed, "It is too little, too late so far as I am concerned. I can assure you that Turkish delight was nowhere near as delicious as the ones I make." When he glanced to the other side of the couch, there was Will, fast asleep and softly snoring, rather than correcting him with the reminder that forgiveness and redemption were a main theme of the Narnia stories for a reason.

Hannibal had watched the rest of the movie, studying every nuance carefully for future discussion, considering every bit of shared pop cultural nostalgia another window into Will's soul and the mysteries of his lover's youth, the days they never had a chance to share. Then he turned the television off, placed a blanket over Will and crept to the bathroom past the dozing dogs on their cushions by the dwindling glow of the fireplace, and performed his nightly beauty regime of facial wash and moisturizers. His products were all habitually imported from the very best European men's stores, one more ritual that comforted him with the familiarity of preferring the loveliest, most pampering choices that life had to offer. His endless financial resources, after all, were one of the only advantages of being a Lithuanian count, one step down from outright royalty. As he lathered his high cheekbones and the fine lines beside his eyes (which always made him somewhat paranoid about growing older, looking older, and if Will would like these small, growing signs of the gap in their ages), generous with the foaming gel of alpine caribou moss, activated charcoal powder, and palm oil, Hannibal wondered for the first time why he never had mentioned his social status as millionaire nobility to his beloved partner.

He dried his face on a plush ivy green towel and examined his slightly dewy face in the mirror, concluding as he applied his under-eye cream that he did not wish to discuss his remaining family members, nor his relationship to them, uncomfortable in so many ways, and humbling compared with Will's wonderfully loving parents. How could he tell the Grahams of his coldly manipulative, often subtly cruel Uncle Robertus, his awkwardly complex bond with Robertus' wife, Lady Murasaki? Someday, of course, he wanted to introduce them to Chiyoh, practically his sister and formerly his ally in many a Lecter family crisis. But how to invite Chiyoh without involving Robertus and Murasaki? The social slight, the ruffling of his uncle's mean-natured temper and taste for vengeance, Hannibal wanted none of it.

It soothed his tired thought tangent to go back to Will and gently brush his teeth, then return the brush to its cup beside his own in the bathroom, turn off the lights and climb back onto the couch, stretching out on the opposite side with a throw pillow under his face. They were too big to fit side by side on the dainty furniture unless they were on alternate sides, which made Hannibal decide they needed to purchase a larger couch for their movie nights. Still, while Will's head was all the way on the other end of the couch, Hannibal could snuggle their legs and feet together, warm under the faux lynx fur Australian geelong wool throw which Hannibal had selected to compliment the playful zebra print pillows.

He closed his eyes and had nearly fallen asleep when suddenly Will stirred, not even opening his eyes in the dim room before crawling over to Hannibal and laying his body over the Chesapeake Ripper's with a few nonsensical sleep-talk murmurs. Hannibal smiled, sliding Will's weight just enough towards the back of the couch that he himself could comfortably breathe. With Will settled 75% slung over him in typical spider monkey style, Hannibal finally slept. He woke at five as usual, unpeeled Will from him with multiple kisses to soft pink cheeks flushed with sleep, and replaced his own body with a pillow which Will immediately grabbed onto, snoring even louder.

Hannibal fed the dogs, who had adjusted to their new co-master's rituals and realized they could have an earlier breakfast by rising with him. Then he took the pets on a brief walk, simply putting his winter coat over his pajamas, enjoying the relaxing, casual moments, the quiet of this time of day when much of the world was still asleep. The dogs were happy to play in the fenced yard while Hannibal cooked breakfast, and well ready for a nap by the time he was finished plating the food and they had worn themselves out. Then, it was time to wake Will, to be the one gifted with his first smile of the day as he had been blessed (yes, sometimes he really thought such oddly religious words, out of sorts with his long-held hatred of God, but he had yet to make sense of the new, divine associations of love aside from worshipping Will), blessed with his last sleepy giggles the night before.

They woke up in rooms other than the bedroom often enough, between the affectionate habit of the late-night film viewings and their even-more-frequent tendency to have sex all over the house until they both collapsed into unintended slumber, only to rouse hours later in disoriented bliss.

How could Hannibal go back to living in any other way than this, and what more could he ask than that it could last always?

In the here and now, he pulled out the bottom rack of the dishwasher and slotted every plate without paying a bit of attention to the mundane task. His mind was rushing over a thousand new ideas and plans sprouting all over his mind palace, a new garden for him to water and grow. No more smothering the crops of his romantic dreams in the hopes of self-preservation.

“No, you won’t,” he murmured with a huge grin. Although he said it in response to Will's insistent "Yes I will!," the words were also for himself, full of certainty he could pull off his ideas with a bit of help, increasingly confident he could defeat his masochistic reliance on loneliness.

Accordingly, once his darling Will finished tending to the dogs’ needs and set off for Quantico with the lunch Hannibal had packed him, the doctor showered, put on a three piece suit with a stylish and daring enough pattern combination to provide a needed boost of confidence. He sat down in the study and picked up his cell phone, tapping the contact number which said “Maddie Graham.”

“Oh, hey, Hannibal,” Maddie said breezily when she picked up on the third ring.

“Hello. I have something of great importance to discuss with you, Mrs. Graham, if you should be amenable.” He started fidgeting with his sketchbook, pencils and scalpel on the desktop, then needlessly opened his murder rolodex and flicked the cards back and forth. But despite the serious of anxiety-fighting stims, his heart was still pounding fast, hoping for approval from Will’s parents for what he had conceived of doing.

“Sure! You just got me between a couple of early client calls, I have a few minutes. What’s up?”

“I wonder if you and Mr. Graham might set aside some time this week to meet with me in person. You see, I would like to ask you both for Will’s hand in marriage.”