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Götterdämmerung

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The Fall

The fall wasn’t endless, did not feel like flying. It was short and brutal, painful in the same way the Dragon’s claws hadn’t been. It pressed the air out of Will’s lungs and made his stomach churn as he plunged down the eroding bluff with his face pressed into the crook of Hannibal's neck and the wind howling in his ears.

He wanted to scream because when Hannibal’s arms grabbed him tight and the icy water engulfed them, Will knew that, despite the odds, they’d survive. He wanted to scream in desperation because he was glad of it. Instead, he clutched the bloody front of Hannibal’s shirt as they sank deeper into the sea, pried his lips open with his tongue and breathed air into the sweetness of Hannibal’s slack mouth.

Hannibal tasted like blood and wine. He didn’t return the kiss that was more bite than caress, body limp, seemingly lifeless, and it was left to Will to drag them back to the surface.

“Don’t you dare, you bastard,” Will grumbled as he hovered over Hannibal’s unconscious form, the water dripping from his messy curls pooling in the furrow of Hannibal’s collarbone.

With another growl, he ripped Hannibal’s shirt open, sending buttons flying everywhere. There was a certain amount of satisfaction welling up inside Will at the motion, to know that it would have appalled Hannibal endlessly had he been conscious to witness Will’s brashness. The feeling dissipated quickly at the sight of Hannibal’s unmoving torso, though, and Will didn’t think twice before he pressed his lips onto Hannibal’s, desperate to will the other man back to life. The cut on his cheek made it an almost impossible endeavor, the air escaping through the gaping wound almost as soon as he breathed in through his mouth.

“Come on!” he hissed out between clenched teeth, his hands moving in a steady rhythm on Hannibal’s chest. He wasn’t particularly gentle, pumping hard enough to bruise one or two ribs for sure, but this was not the time for misguided caution.

Despair crawled up his throat when his efforts remained fruitless and his hands shook harder with every passing second.

The water running down his face and over the curve of his mouth tasted like salt, like tears, but Will refused to think too hard about the obvious implication. It was water, nothing more.

Just as he feared his efforts were doomed to fail—his fingers already cramping with the strain—Hannibal’s chest heaved with such severity, it made Will stumble backwards in surprise. Hannibal curled up on himself, rolling to his side before he started to vomit violently.

Will let himself fall back into the coarse sand, overwhelmed by the sudden and unexpected relief flooding his system.

Only when he came to stand on wobbly legs and staggered to Hannibal’s side did he realize that he never once had considered simply leaving Hannibal to die.

He shook his head, slung Hannibal’s arm around his shoulder and, with pain vibrating in every cell of his body, made his way down the shore. There were more important matters at hand; Will could always torment himself and ponder the unfortunate implications of Hannibal’s survival later.

***

They didn’t talk about the kiss. Will wasn’t even sure Hannibal had been aware of his sudden and untimely advances, weakened as he had been from the fight with the Dragon and half delirious with blood loss.

Will wasn’t so foolish as to bring up the topic that Hannibal mercifully left undiscussed. Their relationship was complicated enough as it was—Bedelia’s words were still haunting him in the long hours of the night when he had nothing but the ghosts of the past as company—and there was no need to add to the overall awkwardness that had started to involuntarily seep into every single one of their interactions with questions Will didn’t want answers to. He was well aware that the unusual long silences between them were entirely his fault. After all, he was the one to avoid Hannibal’s questioning gaze whenever it fell on him and it was also Will who made sure to never let the little artificial banter he allowed between them shift into something deeper, or more profound. Always there: a little voice in the back of his head, whispering Not yet. Not now.

Hannibal, Will realized, would answer all his questions as soon as he could bring himself to ask them. The sudden rush of power surging through him at that revelation had almost made him dizzy and as it so often was with unexpected power, Will hadn’t known how to use it. One evening, while Hannibal had tended to his wounds, sitting hunched over on the edge of the bed to inspect the particularly deep cut in Will’s cheek, Will had been tempted to ask. Ask about the Dragon, the fall, their inevitable death and miraculous rebirth.

He hadn’t. When Hannibal had carefully dabbed the cotton ball drenched in antiseptic against his skin and pain erupted behind his closed eyelids, all of Will’s questions were forgotten once more.

As soon as their wounds had sufficiently healed they left the United States. The ease with which they fled the country was astonishing. Money, Will had to grudgingly admit, did open even the most tightly closed doors. It bought them new identities, a new life. Far away from Baltimore, from Maryland, from all which Will had tried so hard to make his home in the last three years.

Hannibal had no such concerns. He was positively brimming with excitement, no doubt relishing the thrill and excitement of their daring escape. And why shouldn’t he? It was downright comfortable. If not for the numerous cuts and bruises littering their battered bodies they could have passed for two gentlemen enjoying a hard-earned break from their tedious, ordinary lives. Once or twice, Will was tempted to ask how much money Hannibal had at his disposal. How much safely deposited in offshore accounts? How much in the form of properties, stocks and valuables? How much in cold hard cash?

He never did, in the end. It was enough money to tear down an old life and build a new one whenever and wherever Hannibal desired; that much he had proven already.

Will sighed in exasperation, eyes wandering to the small Airbus window where he watched the clouds underneath them move with lazy indifference.

Hannibal was fast asleep next to him, or pretended to be for Will’s sake, giving him as much space as the confines of their first class cabin allowed. Will appreciated the small gesture, unusual and unexpected as it was, coming from him. So far, neither of them had broached the subject of their survival. Will, because he simply refused to discuss what they had done on the cliff top that night. Hannibal because...well...

If Will didn't know any better, he’d have said there was a layer of hesitation and insecurity hidden underneath Hannibal’s display of consideration and care. A hesitation that seeped into all their interactions, leaving them fumbling around each other like awkward teenagers at their first dance. It left a bitter aftertaste in Will’s mouth.

Was this how it would be, now that they were supposed to be equals? Or was Hannibal incapable of dealing with what he had created after all?

Will sneaked a shy glance at Hannibal, still in deep slumber for all the world knew. Regal even then, with his hair artfully mussed, handsome, sophisticated, with an old-world charm surrounding him like a glowing aura.

The bride of Frankenstein no more, Will felt much more like Frankenstein’s monster.

“What have we done, Hannibal?” he whispered into the thin air, his words carrying not even far enough to leave the thin walls of their private compartment.

What had he done? He had left behind those that should have been dearest to him. And without hesitation he had tossed it all aside. Molly and Walter, who both deserved so much better. For their sake, Will hoped the authorities would declare him dead. Will Graham, loving husband and father,
sacrificing himself for the greater good sounded so much prettier than the truth.

“Will?”

Hannibal’s soothing, accented voice still startled him when it was laced with such genuine affection.

“You’re brooding. Again.”

Will sighed and sunk deeper into his seat, the cushions softer than the bed he had called his own back at Moosehead Lake. He didn’t like it.

“And you’re entirely too carefree. Again.”

“It’s not Jack Crawford or the FBI you fear,” Hannibal observed, his pale lashes fluttering as he willed the last traces of drowsiness away. “It’s something else that leaves you restless: anxiety simmering right underneath your skin.”

He looked at Will, the brown of his eyes warmed by the sunlight coming in through the tiny window. There was no tension in his body, no rigidness of muscle and bone, his hands folded in his lap as he regarded Will with eternal patience. He didn’t try and reach out to touch Will, seemingly content with just gazing at him.

“If you already know what’s bothering me, why ask? Aren’t we long past these little games?” Will whispered, his words without any edge.

Hannibal smiled, his cheekbones made more prominent by the motion. “I don’t think we’ll ever be past these games. We both enjoy them too much. Or do you still pretend to be merely tolerating?”

Will arched a brow.

"We're no longer playing games in the moonlight; we play in broad daylight."

"We play together as much as we play against each other," Hannibal agreed, voice placid as he shifted in his seat to find a more comfortable position.

An entirely futile endeavor, in Will's opinion. After six hours in the air and with another three ahead of them, no position would be comfortable for very long, not even if they hadn’t been wounded and still healing from their encounter with the Dragon.

"You still haven't told me where we're going."

"That would spoil the surprise, wouldn't it?" Hannibal hummed, pleased with himself and the allusion to times long gone.

"Forgive me, but I can't say I'm overly fond of your surprises," Will replied with no heat in his voice.

"And I can hardly blame you," Hannibal agreed, the corners of his mouth curling up into a subtle smile. "I once told you I would have liked to show you Florence. Unfortunately, that would be too risky an undertaking at the moment. There are other places I want to show you though, other wonders of this world that we could share."

"I have a hard time imagining a place that's worth a nine hour flight."

Hannibal laughed, the sound as clear as a crystal bell. "Have we finally found the limitations of Will Graham's remarkable imagination?"

"Possibly," Will allowed, graciously.

Warmth was spreading in his stomach, seeping into his bones, and Will realized with a start that it was contentment. He was content with Hannibal at his side and the steady sound of water in his mind.

"Is there a place you'd like to see, Will?"

Will shook his head and let his eyes flutter close. "As long as there’s a stream..."


The Town

There was no stream when they arrived, only the vast and beautiful sea.

Will didn't need to look to know that Hannibal was wearing an expression of complacent satisfaction as they watched the slow roll of the waves together, the taste of salt clinging to their lips.

"Oh, shut up," Will whispered, his eyes wide with wonder as he fumbled blindly for Hannibal's hand and intertwined their fingers.

***

Even though undoubtedly beautiful, Sperlonga wasn't as small and secluded as Will would have expected or liked.

Overrun with sandal-wearing tourists, sunscreen smeared across the bridge of their noses, it seemed a poor choice for a hideout, but too obvious a miscalculation to be anything but intentional.

Will didn't ask Hannibal what reasons he had for visiting a place like Sperlonga. He would reveal his grand plan soon enough; Will only had to be patient. After all, Hannibal's biggest flaw, apart from the obvious, was still his propensity to pompous gestures of grandeur.

"Would you indulge me and grant me the pleasure of your company tonight?" he asked three weeks after they had made themselves at home in the rustic villa he had insisted they rent. His words were pointedly casual, his visage carefully neutral as he polished a whiskey glass Will had used the night prior.

Both of them were hurt still, their wounds healing only slowly; the ugly mark on Will's cheek was particularly bothersome, itching and burning whenever he spoke.

He had avoided going outside, content with his tumbler of whiskey and the pleasant buzz of painkillers reverberating inside his skull.

Hannibal, on the other hand, didn't let bruises, cuts and a bullet wound stop him from exploring their temporary home. He went out in the mornings after serving Will breakfast in bed—fresh, sliced fruit, cappuccino and cornetto bought from a bakery not too far from where they lived. The owners were an old couple, married for decades already, and charmed by Hannibal's mastery of the Italian language, even though they refused to divulge to him the secrets of their craft, much to his chagrin if Will were to believe his words.

Not once had he accompanied Hannibal to the bakery, or the farmers' market he liked to frequent. Too broken was his Italian, too deep-rooted his aversion of superfluous social interaction.

And Hannibal respected it. Up until then, he had never once requested Will’s attendance.

"The pleasure of my company?" Will asked, a cruel smile curling his lips and tugging at the half-healed cut on his cheek. "What pleasure would you derive from that?"

"Self-deprecation doesn't become you, Will. Not anymore."

Hannibal looked at him then, soft and patient. He put the glass away—content with its polished shine—and turned towards Will.

The sight of him so casually dressed—a simple navy polo, a pair of cream chinos and light espadrilles—was still something to get used to  and Will couldn't help but marvel at the efficiency with which Hannibal had redefined himself without losing the essence of what constituted his person suit.

If only Will could say the same.

"And yet you avoid answering my question," Will shot back, his smile widening.

"Not because I agree with your own estimations concerning the pleasure of your company, mind you," Hannibal insisted. "I’m delaying my answer because I know you wouldn't enjoy it."

Will cocked a brow, accepting the implied challenge. "Try me."

Hannibal hesitated for a moment—the motion so utterly unlike him, Will found himself tensing up in his seat in anxious anticipation.

"You’re well aware of how much I enjoy your company. Now more so than ever and I wish to share some of the beauty the world has to offer with you. In particular the beautiful secrets of this town,” he said, voice low, eyes flickering to Will’s face.

The warmth spreading in Will's body at these words wasn't hot, wasn't scalding, or burning him from the inside out. It was slow and sweet, the comfortable warmth one might feel after a home-cooked meal, or the loving embrace of one’s mother. It felt like contentment.

"Are there any that haven’t been laid bare by hordes of tourists, trampled on and blemished by their destructive curiosity?” He was merely playing hard to get and they both knew it, but Hannibal indulged Will with a smile.

"You disapprove of my choice for our hideout," he acknowledged. "I'll have you know it's only temporary and there are reasons for our being here."

"I know," Will replied and got up from the antique chair he had claimed as his own after their initial arrival. It squeaked in protest, the leather cover sticking to his sweaty skin.

"I wouldn't have stayed here, with you, if I didn't think you had."

"You’ve never asked me why," Hannibal mused.

"Because I figured you'd tell me soon enough."

Will walked over to where Hannibal was standing, careful not to put too much weight on the leg that had been broken as they tumbled into the all-consuming sea. With adrenaline rushing through his blood and panic settling in his bones when he had dragged Hannibal from certain death, Will hadn’t even noticed how badly he had injured himself. Now he paid the price for it, being barely able to walk while Hannibal had made a remarkably quick recovery.

It would heal in time, Hannibal had assured him. For now though, he had to be careful.

"And because I knew you could never keep your mouth shut about these kind of things,” Will added, eyes crinkling with mirth.

The shift in Hannibal's expression could only be described as a pout and Will didn’t even bother to suppress a hearty laugh.

"This is not about proving superiority. It's about the simple pleasure of shared knowledge," Hannibal insisted.

"Fine," Will relented and turned to make his way upstairs. "I'll visit the city with you; just give me a moment so I can put some proper pants on."

"That won't be necessary."

Will threw a look over his shoulder, one brow arched in disbelief.

Hannibal's face was a carefully controlled mask, but the mischievous glint lighting up his eyes told Will everything he needed to know.

"It's too hot to venture into town at the moment," Hannibal elaborated as he picked another glass to polish, inspecting its shine with pronounced carefulness. "The evening will be colder and much more pleasant for a stroll. Please be ready and adequately dressed at ten."


***

Will had been half tempted to dress in khaki shorts and the washed-out Iron Maiden shirt he had bought in a second hand store, just to spite Hannibal, but decided against it at the very last minute.

After all, Hannibal had been nothing but patient and accommodating during the weeks of their temporary stay. The least he could do was make an equal effort.

Two hours later, he made his way downstairs, clad in properly ironed dress pants and shirt, his hair neatly combed and his face clean shaven.

It was ridiculous, how Hannibal waited for him at the staircase, delight etched into every line of his face.

"My life is a damn teen romance movie..." Will mumbled, half expecting Hannibal to reach out and take his hand.

He didn't, and Will refrained from analyzing the pang of disappointment in his belly.

"You are quite stunning," Hannibal praised.

"Thought you might refuse to be seen with me if I wore shorts and white socks with birkenstock sandals."

"I would never refuse you,” Hannibal said with such honest conviction, all of Will’s attempts to suppress the flush blooming on his cheeks were in vain. He swallowed thickly and allowed Hannibal to lead them to the door without further protest.

They made their way through the sleeping city with the flat heels of their shoes and Will's walking cane clicking on the rough cobblestone. Moths were flitting around the antique street lights, dying with a sizzle whenever they fluttered too close.

"Will you tell me where we're going?"

Hannibal tore his eyes away from the night sky he had been watching with keen interest to look at Will.

"You weren't interested before."

"Before, I didn’t have to hobble through the whole damn town for whatever it is you’ve planned."

For a moment, Hannibal's glance flickered to Will's leg and his fingers twitched, as if he was contemplating whether to offer his aid or not.

"We'll reach our destination in a moment. I apologize; I should have been more considerate of your condition."

Will huffed. "I'll live." Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Hannibal smiling, but refused to meet the man's gaze.

"You will. You’ve survived far worse than an injured leg," Hannibal mused, his voice tinged with pride.

"I survived you."

Hannibal inclined his head, no witty reply resting on the tip of his tongue for once, just silent recognition for what he had done, what they had done to each other.

They walked mostly in silence—at times Will would curse colorfully under his breath and pretend not to notice the amused side glances Hannibal threw him—until they reached the shore.

The air smelled of salt, yet there were no seagulls crying, only the sound of the waves crashing against the ragged rock and the soft whisper of wind brushing through the branches of the holly oaks.

Will had been here before, during the day, when the sunlight refracted in the crystal water and the fishermen greeted each other in loud napoletano , their faces as craggy as the shoreline and their teeth black from the tobacco they chewed while waiting for the fish to bite.

He had never joined them.

"What are we doing here?" he asked without looking at Hannibal, his eyes drawn to the rolling black mass of water. For a moment, it was as if he could taste blood in his mouth. "You didn't bring me here to go fishing."

"No," Hannibal agreed. "I brought you here because there’s something I'd like to show you."

Wordlessly, he led them through the dark of the night and down the sloping terrain. Will felt soft grass underneath his feet, rugged stone as well, and patches of thick undergrowth. He stumbled twice and would have fallen if not for Hannibal's sure hold around his middle.

"I've let you pull us to certain death once, forgive me if I won't allow you to do it a second time," he explained, the corners of his mouth curling upward when Will shot him a questioning glance.

"This time the blame would’ve been on you, for bringing a cripple to a climbing tour."

Hannibal appeared almost wounded. "In my eagerness to bring you here, I may have overestimated your recovery speed, but that is no reason to refer to yourself in such derogatory terms. Come, lean on me. It will be easier that way."

It was a kind gesture, caring even, and it reminded Will of a time so long ago it might as well have been another life; when he was still Will Graham, profiler for the FBI, and Hannibal Lecter was a former surgeon, respectable psychiatrist and, most importantly, his friend.

The only remains of this life were their names; everything else was flame and ash. Will doubted he was destined to rise like a phoenix.

After what felt like an eternity, Will relaxed into Hannibal’s side and together they descended down the hill until they reached the entrance of a cave.

"The mouth of hell," Will remarked dryly as he examined the ominous entrance.

A pitch black hole, the stone surrounding it as sharp as the teeth in a beast's mouth.

"Quite fitting, don't you agree?" said Hannibal, and Will felt the grip on his waist tighten.

"Tell me you don't plan to go inside this cave in the middle of the night?"

“It’s not just a cave, my dear Will. It’s a grotto.”

Will shrugged. “Same thing.”

Hannibal didn't argue. With eternal patience, he led them closer and closer, until Will could make out flickering lights, too small to be lanterns, too big to be fireflies buzzing through the night.

"Hannibal," Will hissed, muscles tense and eyes narrowed.

It was impossible to discern if there were people lingering around the entrance of the grotto and Will's ears were not sharp enough to discern possible whispers over the sound of the crushing waves.

He gripped Hannibal's arm tighter and stopped dead in his tracks.

"There’s no need to worry," Hannibal assured and put a soothing hand over Will's own.

"I'm pretty sure we're trespassing," Will replied, eyes still on the flickering lights.

"Technically," Hannibal admitted, though it didn't hinder him from stepping closer to the source of light, pulling the reluctant Will with him until they stood at the edge of a small pool, half lying outside the cave, half disappearing into the complete darkness of it.

The water wasn't deep but pitch black.

"The light," Will observed full of wonder. "It’s dancing on the water."

Satisfaction tinged Hannibal's deep voice. "Not quite. Let me show you."

He was led to a small bridge, too narrow for two people to walk comfortably next to each other, so that Hannibal had to step in front of him and guide Will over it until they reached a small, artificial island in the middle of the pool.

Only then did Will recognize the dancing lights for what they were: Candles. Candles on a dining table set for two people, the silver cutlery shining red and orange as the flickering flames reflected in their polished surface.

The plates—finest china of course—were covered with antique cloches but Will could smell the rich food even then.

With a huff, he turned to look at his companion.

"You brought me here for dinner?"

Hannibal inclined his head and let go of Will's hand to pull out a chair, offering Will the seat with a wave of his hand.

"Please, would you be so kind?"

Will grumbled, but sat down nonetheless, unable to hide the smile tugging insistently on the corners of his mouth.

"This is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever done," he informed Hannibal as he took the pristine, white napkin from the table and placed it neatly over his lap.

"So," he huffed, "what are we having? Or should I ask who ?"

Keeping an expression of careful control, Hannibal moved to Will's side, every step as graceful and precise as a dancer's, and lifted the cloche on Will's plate with a flourish.

The smell of roasted meat immediately permeated the whole grotto and made Will's mouth water. His olfactory senses were by no means as highly developed as Hannibal's but even he had no difficulty identifying the sharp tang of vinegar, the sweetness of honey, together with freshly cracked black pepper and thyme. It smelled divine.

It must have shown on his face, for when Hannibal made himself comfortable in his own seat—back straightened, of course, all prim and proper—Will didn’t fail to notice the self-satisfied spark glimmering in the amber eyes.

"We're having ostrich, roasted, with a reduction of vinegar and honey. Prepared the same way Emperor Tiberius might have enjoyed it all these centuries ago, in this very cave, as you so aptly put it."

"I doubt he sat here in complete darkness, with just a few candles illuminating his table," Will said as he picked up knife and fork.

When he cut into the deliciously browned meat, it was buttery soft and juicy. He hadn't expected anything less from Hannibal. He also didn’t try to think too hard about where Hannibal had acquired ostrich meat.

"No," Hannibal agreed, mirroring Will's motions. "He'd dine here, under the watchful eyes of his revered ancestors, until one day, the roof of this grotto collapsed, burying most of his court underneath the debris."

Will smiled as he put the first piece of meat in his mouth, chewing slowly to savor the taste.

"Roof collapses delight you so," he observed in between two bites, not unkindly.

“Perhaps,” Hannibal allowed graciously. “But tonight, it’s your company I delight in.”

He raised his glass of wine, long fingers curling around the crystal stem with such delicate tenderness it made the breath catch in Will’s throat.

These hands were the hands of a murderer and yet all Will could remember was their gentle touch when they had brushed along his cheek all those years ago in a kitchen in Baltimore.

Will shook his head, partly because he wanted to dissipate the unbidden thoughts, partly because he still didn’t know how to accept the compliments Hannibal bestowed upon him.

“Why now?” he asked instead. “Why here?”

He stared at Hannibal, watching as he chewed, carefully as if the meat wasn’t so tender it melted on the tip of his tongue.

Finally, Hannibal swallowed and Will found himself involuntarily distracted by the movement of his Adam’s apple and the image of himself ripping out Hannibal’s throat, just as Hannibal had done with the Dragon’s.

“When Tiberius dined on this table, he was surrounded by the heroes of his past, their features carved into immortal marble. He was surrounded by statues telling the deeds of heroes and monsters long gone: the resourceful Ulysses, the many-tailed Scylla grasping the helmsman of a ship gliding by and Diomedes carrying off the Palladium.”

“We’re no ancient heroes, no demi-gods.”

“Are you not?”

Will faltered, if only for a moment, before he stubbornly insisted: “We’re no Achilles, no Patroclus.”

“No,” Hannibal relented. “Not anymore. We survived the fall of Troy and now we’ve left behind its ruins, our fate still undecided. There comes a certain freedom without the burden of expectation often interwoven with destiny. It’s on us to decide now.”

“Dying would’ve been easier.”

“Indeed, but when did you ever walk the easy path in life, my dear Will?”

Will gave Hannibal a wry smile. “Not for the lack of trying.”

“No,” Hannibal agreed. “Destiny and fate have a habit of putting obstacles in your way to see if you will emerge victorious.”

“Destiny and fate...or you?” Will asked.

“Is there a difference?”

Enraptured, Will watched as Hannibal put his fork down, careful not to stain the tablecloth, and moved to cover Will’s hand with his own. It was a simple gesture, casual even, if not for the soft tremor in Hannibal’s fingers that Will felt vibrating against his own skin. It felt intimate for reasons Will had no desire to scrutinize.

“Come with me,” whispered Hannibal.

It was a plea disguised as a command: Don’t leave me. Will heard it loud and clear in in the softness of Hannibal’s voice, in the way he lowered his eyes when Will tried to look at him—a mirror image of their first encounter all these years ago. Hannibal didn’t hide from God, he once told him. But he lowered his head for Will Graham.

And in this moment, realization settled warm and comfortable in Will’s stomach.

He shrugged, carelessly, nonchalantly, and with all the false bravado he could muster.

“Where else would I go?”

The Sea

Marettimo was smaller than Sperlonga, with only a few residents consisting mostly of elderly fishermen and their wives. A charming town, with pale-colored, square buildings, simple and humble-looking. Will had no doubt Hannibal chose Sperlonga not only because it was secluded, but also because he tried to be considerate of Will's social shortcomings. It was sweet in a way he wouldn’t have expected from a man like Hannibal.

Will figured it was only proper then to return the courtesy and endure the unavoidable dinner parties Hannibal hosted at their new home with as much grace as he could muster. 

With his impeccable Italian and irresistible charm, it had been an easy feat for Hannibal to ingratiate himself into the otherwise tightly knit community of Marettimo. All it had taken had been one dinner party on their obscenely large patio. And underneath the setting sun, accompanied by the chirping song of a chorus of cicadas, Hannibal had served a menu that had surprised Will with its lack of usual pretentiousness and grandeur. It had been delicious, of course, but there had been a comforting simplicity to it that reminded Will of his home and the sea, a meal close to his heart as well as to those of the locals.

During most of the dinner, Will had contented himself with resting underneath their colorful parasol, as far away from the assembled crowd as he could risk without being seen as rude. It had helped that his grasp on the Italian language was subpar at best. Nobody had sat longer with him than decorum required after they had come to the inevitable realization that he was neither capable of, nor particularly keen on, mindless chitchat. For the most part he had been left alone, the attractive but moody companion of Jonathan Reeder, an art dealer who had made a fortune in New York before he grew tired of the never-sleeping city and moved to Marettimo.

It wasn’t a bad life. They spent most of their days in companionable silence. Hannibal would read, or compose on the grand piano they now called their own, whilst Will was content to let his wounds heal and mind wander.

Since their fight with the Dragon neither he nor Hannibal had killed again.

“You’re restless today,” Hannibal observed, sipping on a cup of coffee Will couldn’t remember him having held when he had entered the living room.

When Will’s gaze fell upon the intricately carved table he was greeted with the sight of a second, steaming cup.

He took it with a resigned sigh, his lips pressing against the rim.

“I zoned out again?” he asked with all the exasperation of a man to whom this had happened way too many times.

“You did,” Hannibal confirmed. “What dark thoughts occupied your mind? They couldn’t have been very pleasant.”

Naturally, because old habits died hard, Will tried to avoid answering Hannibal’s questions by lowering his eyes and taking a large sip of his too-hot coffee, burning the roof of his mouth as a result.

He cursed underneath his breath and ignored Hannibal’s disapproving expression.

“They think I’m your lover,” he said, when saying something became inevitable.

Will raised his head, staring at Hannibal whose posture and expression remained unchanged, no trace of amusement clouding his deep-set eyes.

“Do they now?”

“Please, Hannibal, my Italian is shit, but even I understand when someone calls me a ragazzino .”

“Does it bother you?” Hannibal asked with infatuating calm.

“Does it bother me?” Will echoed, voice pitched high.

“That people assume we’re lovers,” Hannibal clarified.

Will halted. Unbidden, the memory of their first kiss came flooding back to the forefront of his mind. Heat flared in his stomach, his hands clammy around the still warm cup of coffee.

Did the notion of him and Hannibal as lovers bother him? He furrowed his brows and stared at the swirling dark coffee to avoid Hannibal’s searching gaze.

The word itself bothered him, banal and trite as it was, so utterly vacuous and insufficient to describe the convoluted workings of their twisted relationship. Margot and he had been lovers, if only briefly. Molly and he had been married for almost three years—he still had his wedding ring stashed away in the bottom drawer of his wardrobe. To put Hannibal in the same category would have been ludicrous. After all, Hannibal defied categorisation in so many aspects of his life; it was no surprise he did so in regards to his relationships as well.

And so, still insecure concerning the nature of his relationship with Hannibal, Will settled for indignation. “It bothers me that they believe I’m nothing but a toy that you bought with the inexhaustible wealth these people believe you to have.”

“It’s hardly inexhaustible,” Hannibal allowed and this time he didn’t hide the mirth coloring his accented voice.

Will raised a brow. “I didn’t hear you objecting to their estimation of me as your boy toy.”

Putting his newspaper aside, Hannibal rose to his feet, his movements fluid and graceful once more after the many weeks he had spent vulnerable and weak in bed. It was a surprisingly welcome sight.

He rounded the dining table and sat down next to Will, legs crossed, his hands folded neatly in his lap. The epitome of effortless elegance, made even more obvious by the stark contrast of Will’s own, slouching posture.

“No,” Hannibal finally relented, “you didn’t. But be assured that I don’t see you as a toy, or as something easily discarded. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Yet, there are things I’d like to give you. Spoil you rotten, as one might say. Given that you’d allow me to.”

“Why?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Hannibal asked, his expression unusually tender, tinged with a vulnerability Will couldn’t recall ever having seen on him before. “Because you deserve it.”

Will huffed, his body going rigid with sudden tension. “Because I deserve it? Is that what we’re doing now? Rewarding the dog when it sits up and begs?”

“You’re twisting my words. I only wish to bestow some kindness upon you.”

It was no accusation, merely a simple truth stated with infatuating calm.

He was acting unreasonably, it was downright childish; Will was well aware of it yet couldn’t bring himself to stop.

“Your kindness is a cruel thing, Hannibal. Only given when you consider someone worthy of it, measured by your own, arbitrary standards.”

Will shook his head, his ever-growing hair swinging softly with the motion and tickling the back of his neck.

“Will I find myself gutted once more as soon as I can’t live up to those standards? What happens should I decide to leave? Next month, or week, maybe even today?” he asked, unexpected bitterness souring his words.

If Hannibal was affected by the scorn in Will’s voice then he knew how to hide. “Then that’s entirely your choice. I’d want you to know though, that I would rather have you by my side.”

Will sighed, dragging a hand down his face in exasperation. His head was pounding with the sharp pains of a beginning headache, the room feeling stifling and too small.

He staggered to his feet, the half-empty cup of coffee forgotten.

“I’m going fishing,” he said as he grabbed his fishing rod, shoes and keys with shaking hands and headed for the door, shutting it close behind him without looking back.

***

When he reached familiar shores, the local fishermen already sitting in their prefered spots, chatting loudly amongst each other, most of Will’s anger had evaporated, only to be replaced by remorse.

The fishermen knew him, called him ‘boy’ with fatherly affection and had shown him how to fish with nothing but a piece of line and a lure made from simple wire. They taught him more Italian, mostly swear words and colorful insults Will stored away in his memory for the simple purpose of shocking Hannibal with their vulgarity.

Will was rather fond of them. They talked with him when he was amenable to it—often with the help of their hands when the few English words they knew didn’t suffice—and they let him be when he was in one of his sour moods and sought only the soft murmur of the sea and the shrill cries of the seagulls as companions.

Some days, when time ticked by too slowly and the fish didn't bite they would play bocce and cards with him, betting small amounts of money and jars of thyme honey from the macchia .

Today though, they greeted him with bright smiles that fell as soon as he came close enough for them to notice his forlorn expression.

A chorus of ‘Our boy! What’s wrong?’, shouted with all the affection of men who had been fathers once, followed and Will ducked his head in embarrassment. None of the disdain that came with the whispers of ragazzino clung to their words. They genuinely wished to console him.

When had he become so transparent that a bunch of fishermen could see through his façade and discern his sorrows with such ease?

“Love troubles,” Matteo, one of the younger, explained in broken English. “Always the same, make you look old, rough.”

“Love troubles?” Will echoed, fiddling with the line of his fishing rod to avoid meeting the gathered men’s eyes.

“No, not love troubles,” he insisted and shook his head.

He threw the line as they had shown him, unwilling to discuss the complexities of his and Hannibal’s relationship with them. After all, how did one explain a relationship build on carnage and manipulation to people like these?

Their love was a simple thing, a warm feeling of contentment, bright and nurturing. It was everything Will had once believed love should be.

Hannibal’s love was none of these things. It was a black flame, threatening to peel the flesh off his bones and turn Will to ash, yet he couldn’t resist the sweet temptation to reach out and burn himself.

How could anybody call the feelings Hannibal harboured, this frenzy of selfishness, devouring and destruction, love?

How could he begin to explain to Matteo that the man who he claimed loved Will was no human being, but a force of nature trapped inside a mortal’s body?

How to explain that Hannibal’s love was a knife plunged deep into his guts, tearing him open and spilling his blood, but instead of breaking away, Will only ever longed to be held closer?

“That gentleman of yours, he loves you,” Matteo continued unperturbed, nodding along to his own estimations, backed up by the concurring murmurs of the others.

“Does he now?”

The underlying edge was lost on Matteo and yet, Will immediately regretted his careless words. There was no reason to be cruel to Matteo—an honest, kind soul who only wanted to comfort a friend. It wasn’t his fault that Hannibal’s love was a twisted, dark thing, always taking, clawing at the very fiber of his being, demanding everything Will could give and more.

“He does,” insisted Matteo, tearing Will from his bitter thoughts.

“How would you know?” he asked.

Matteo laughed, amused by Will’s ignorance. “Because he’s still there when you return home after having left in the morning, isn’t he?” He shrugged, as if it were that simple.

Will opened his mouth to argue, only to find that words had abandoned him.

Mattheo was gracious enough not to comment on his stunned silence; he merely watched Will with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes and a knowing smirk tugging at the corners of his lips. As did all of the other men. Some of them even went so far as to shake their heads in fond exasperation at Will's antics before they turned back to their lures and lines.

With a blush high on his cheeks and a thousand thoughts crashing through his mind, Will did the same.

***

When the sun had already set, dyeing the sea a deep red and orange, Will realized that he could avoid Hannibal no longer.

With his fishing pole in one hand and his basket full of fish in the other, he made his way back to the villa when sudden movement to his right caught his eye. At first glance, he believed it to be one of the many donkeys that inhabited the island, but a second, closer look revealed something else entirely.

"Now look at you," Will whispered, delight brightening his features. He kneeled down, careful not to frighten the little creature.

The dog cut a pitiful figure: its matted fur was without shine, caked with dried mud and what seemed to be blood, the dark eyes bloodshot and terrified.

It was obviously a stray, one that hadn't been with humans for quite some time, underfed and drawn to the fish Will carried with him.

"Come here."

Ever so carefully, Will pulled a packet of bresaola from his pocket, neatly wrapped in parchment paper and  won in one of the many games he played with the fishermen. Tearing a piece off, Will gently placed it on the ground, stepped back and waited.

The poor thing was shaking, its snout twitching and paws drumming nervously. In the end, the fish proved to be too much of a temptation and with a piteous yelp, it pounced.

Will allowed himself a small smile. He waited patiently until the dog had satisfied its hunger and then got up, ready to leave.

He managed two steps before a pitiful whine made him halt. Will turned to see the dog sitting next to the pitiful remains of its meal, wagging its tail.

"You can come with me if you want, but I can't stay here with you forever. I've got a very moody cannibal back home who would be pissed if I didn't show up in time for dinner."

The dog tilted its head as if contemplating Will's offer and then jumped to its feet, grabbing the last remains of fish and tagging along after Will.

"Thought so," he chuckled.

When he opened the door to their shared home, the delicious aroma of seafood and spices immediately wafted up his nose and made his mouth water.

He didn't announce his return—Will was sure Hannibal had already smelled him. Instead, he calmly pulled off his sand-crusted boots and put his fishing rod aside.

With his new friend running around his feet, he made his way to the kitchen.

"You're quite late."

Hannibal didn't look up from his cutting board where he sliced onions with the same finesse and accuracy usually reserved for those who had made the mistake of earning his ire.

"I got held up," Will offered as an explanation, unsure how to proceed from there.

Hannibal had every right to be angry with him—after all, it had been Will who had run off—and yet he was so staggeringly calm, Will had trouble finding the appropriate reaction.

How did one resolve a dispute with a man who had slaughtered others for less?

"You brought fresh fish with you," Hannibal observed, effectively changing the subject.

"Ah, yes," Will stumbled, suddenly reminded of his teenage years. Strange, to experience the awkwardness of it all over again in the presence of a man who had killed so many in cold blood.

"You also brought something else with you."

Pausing his work, Hannibal eyed the dog shuffling at Will's feed with a crooked brow.

"Something quite muddy and dirty in fact," he added, wiping his hands on a kitchen towel.

Before Will could protest the prosaic, if accurate, estimation of their guest, Hannibal had stepped closer, kneeling down to observe the frightened dog with keen interest.

"A sheepdog breed I'd say. Not that I'm an expert on the topic."

Hannibal looked up, mirth dancing in his eyes and Will couldn't quite suppress the soft blush spreading over his cheeks and the bridge of his nose at the obvious implications.

"It's a Maremmano," he bristled. "Still a pup."

"And you've found him abandoned on the beach, I assume?"

"Yes."

Silence stretched between them and Will shifted his weight from one foot to the other, suddenly nervous for reasons unknown.

"Well, then..." Hannibal said with sudden finality and, to Will's utter surprise, gathered the shivering pup up in his arms, not caring about the streaks of dirt and mud it left on his dress shirt.

Will watched, rooted to the spot, as Hannibal carried the puppy to the stairs leading up to the second floor and the bathroom.

"Are you coming, Will? I'd appreciate a helping hand."

Stumbling twice on the way, Will caught up with Hannibal and together they walked up to the bathroom, where Hannibal lowered the dog into the empty tub.

Wordlessly, he turned on the water, careful not to scare the pup  too much as he proceeded to wash dirt and grime away. Even though he had asked for help, Will could only stand by his side, watching in fascination as Hannibal expertly cleaned the muddy fur and carefully checked for any open wounds.

Of course, he had to be skilled at such a mundane task as this, graceful even with mud splattered over his shirt and an unruly puppy in his arms. His gentleness belied the violence his hands were capable of and, once more, Will found himself conflicted.

How tender Hannibal was with this helpless thing in his arms, his long-fingered hands caressing where they could crush, maim, kill.

“Will you keep it?”

Blinking, Will regained focus, having been momentarily distracted by the shifting muscles of Hannibal’s forearms.

“Will you let me?” he asked, brows furrowed.

"I'm not your guardian. You may do as you please."

Careful not to disturb the puppy, Will took it out of Hannibal's arms, wrapped it in a dry towel and held it to his chest as he approached Hannibal.

"Thank you," he whispered, so close Hannibal must have felt his breath against his curved lips.

Time stretched to infinity between them, neither of them moving.

"Why won’t you kiss me?" Will asked, accusation and demand all in one.

"I wasn't aware a kiss is something you desire of me," Hannibal replied, the movements of his lips vibrating against Will's mouth.

"Bullshit," Will groused and closed the distance between them.

The softness of Hannibal's mouth was just as shocking as the first time, when Will had tried to breathe life back into his body by the cliffs, and he could barely suppress a whimper when Hannibal surrendered to him without a fight, his lips parting with a gasp.

The taste of blood he had first attributed to the numerous wounds Hannibal had suffered at the hands of the Dragon was still there, lingering underneath the sweeter taste of wine.

Dizziness colored the edges of his vision a fuzzy black, but Will refused to step back, to break the searing connection that made his blood boil and legs tremble.

It was Hannibal who ended their kiss, with a heaving chest and a blush high on his cheeks that Will found, to his surprise, utterly charming.

Will wasn’t so easily deterred. He ran his finger over the smooth skin of Hannibal’s Cupid’s bow, slowly following the curve of his upper lip and, when he was satisfied, down to his lower lip. Putting pressure on the pink flesh, Will dragged his finger down, revealing sharp teeth before he moved further, rubbing slow circles into Hannibal’s stubble.

"Will..."

"No," he interrupted mercilessly. "Don't do this, Hannibal. Not now."

Clinging to the puppy in his arms, Will silenced Hannibal's inevitable protests with another kiss, feeling bad only for a split second, until Hannibal gave into him, opening his mouth for Will's insistent tongue.

"As you wish," he whispered feverently between kisses, eyes fluttering closed and breath coming shorter with every gentle press against his lips.


The Sky

"You bought me a boat."

"Not quite,” Hannibal corrected, positively smug. “I bought you a wreck."

"Why?" Will asked, gaze fixed on the rocking boat tied to the dock in the dimly lit marina.

It was a pitiful sight: the varnish had been chipped away almost completely, rust was spreading over hull and bow, and the sorry remains of its sails were tattered and torn.

"Because I wanted to surprise you."

"That's not what I meant and you know it,” Will tilted his head, eyeing the other man with waning patience. “Hannibal.”

"You're restless," Hannibal finally relented, voice soft. "Don't pretend you're not. I see it in the nervous twitch underneath your eyes and when awakening to the empty side of the bed at night, only to find you outside on the patio, gazing at the moon."

"So you’re giving me a boat?"

"I’m giving you something that will help keep your mind and hands occupied. Physical work grounds you. So this boat is yours to take. Or not."

Will stared at the unexpected present, syrupy warmth slowly spreading in his belly. Already, he could feel the phantom sensation of motor oil on his hands, the callouses on his fingertips after hours upon hours of hard work on the hull.

He didn't realize he was smiling until Hannibal's pleased voice broke him out of his reverie.

"I take it you'll accept my humble gift."

Will turned, his smile a tender, hesitant thing.

"I'll think about it."

***

It took him months to repair the damage done by harsh weather and years of neglect. There were times when Will cursed Hannibal's name, convinced that the man had given him the boat knowing full well that it was unsalvageable, a true Sisyphean challenge meant to keep him occupied for all eternity.

Hannibal had denied all accusations of course, and assured Will he had the utmost confidence in his abilities as a craftsman. At least one of them had.

These days, Will spent most of his time working on the boat with one-tracked determination, accompanied only by Orwell. The formerly shy pup had become an energetic and lively dog, not fully grown but fancying himself one of the big boys already. He favored Hannibal, much to Will’s chagrin he was convinced it had something to do with the homemade treats Hannibal prepared for him. Yet Orwell graciously accompanied him whenever he left the house in the early mornings.

Hannibal rarely kept him company and Will couldn't say he minded. The nights still belonged only to them and they  spent them sitting on the veranda, curled up in blankets, each with a cup of coffee to warm their cold hands.

After their first real, if clumsy, kiss, Will had snuck into Hannibal's bedroom, his naked feet silent on the plush carpet, and had slipped underneath the covers without announcing his presence.

Hannibal had shifted on the bed to make more space and Will had taken it as silent permission to stay. Once settled, Will hadn't dared to reach out and touch Hannibal, nor had Hannibal turned and brushed his fingers along Will's skin.

Yet when Will had awoken the next morning, without a single nightmare having disturbed his sleep, Hannibal had still been there, with his silver-blond hair fanned across his face and the lines around his mouth a little softer.

Orwell's insistent barking tore him from the pleasant memory and almost caused him to drop his paintbrush. With a sigh and raised brow, he looked down at the dog shuffling at his feet, demanding his attention.

"I know," he laughed, the sound not as foreign to his ears as it used to be. Gripping the brush a little tighter, he surveyed the result of his week-long labor.

"Today is the day."

Will didn’t harbor any illusions: the boat would never be as good as new; it had seen too much already, endured too much. With the sails torn and partially patched with flour sacks, the hull covered in scratches like wounds on a dying animal, and the keel broken nearly in half it had been more wreck than boat when Hannibal gifted it to him.

Now, after he had replaced not only sails and keel, but also the motor, wheel and mast with painstaking care, the boat was functional if not pretty. Dark spots where he had scrubbed away the rust had remained, just as quite a number of scratches that had proven too deep to be sanded or buffed out entirely. Will wasn't bothered by these small signs of imperfection. On the contrary, he liked the look of a life well-lived, a life with a purpose.

She would serve him well.

“She’ll need a name.”

Will jumped in surprise and threw an accusatory glare at Orwell who skipped over, tail held high, to greet the approaching Hannibal with an excited bounce in his steps.

Some watchdog he was, Will thought, entirely too spoiled by Hannibal and therefore loyal to him to a fault. It was Orwell who accompanied Hannibal to the market every few days, where they would spend hours sauntering through the narrow paths between provisional booths and examining the many herbs and spices, fresh vegetables and fruits up for sale, always accompanied by the excited chatter of the traders and their playfully protesting outcries when they bargained with a potential customer for their goods.

Even on these casual strolls Hannibal made sure to be impeccably dressed and it had quickly earned him the nickname Il gentiluomo among the locals. Will had the fleeting suspicion Hannibal was quite pleased by it, as he was with all things appealing to his vanity.

Today was no different; Hannibal wore properly ironed dress pants combined with a simple button-up that was just tight enough to accentuate the broadness of his chest without looking too small. Taking in Hannibal's striking figure, Will couldn't help but let his eyes linger a fraction longer than could be considered entirely appropriate. With his hair tied into a loose bun, a silver beard covering the lower half of his face, and the canvas tucked underneath his arm, Hannibal looked every bit the retired artist he pretended to be.

“I’ll start worrying about that after the coating has dried,” Will informed him.

“Naming a ship is an endeavor not to be taken lightly,” Hannibal insisted. “Names that imply hubris should be avoided.”

“Hubris?” Will asked, cocking a brow.

“Names like Victory , Hurricane ,” Hannibal specified. “One should not tempt the ocean to send its forces by daring to compete with its power.”

Chucking the brush he had used to paint aside, Will crossed his arms in front of his chest and mustered Hannibal with an unconvinced stare.

“I didn’t take you to be superstitious,” he said.

“Far from it,” Hannibal agreed, “I’m merely a traditionalist.” He paused, contemplating his next words carefully. “And I’d rather not have you take unnecessary risks.”

Will swallowed the lump in his throat, suddenly acutely aware of his heart beating in his chest, threatening to burst through his ribcage.

“You know, you could just say you’re worried. And then I could tell you there’s no need for it, that I will come back. I’ve let the sea swallow me whole once; I won’t let it happen a second time.”

“I suppose I could,” Hannibal allowed.

“But you won’t,” Will added, a teasing edge in his voice.

Hannibal didn’t argue, but Will could feel the weight of his gaze on his shoulders as he turned away.

"Will you wait for me?" Will asked, trying and failing to sound casual, while he hoisted the sails.

"I shall try and capture the vastness of the sea on canvas while you're gone. I'll still be here once you return," he assured.

"Good," said Will, relief spreading warm in his belly.

"I'll take Orwell with me, just so you know," he added a heartbeat later, in lieu of all the other things lingering on the tip of his tongue that he wanted, but did not have the courage, to say.

"Of course, you will," Hannibal replied, and was there a hint of fond amusement audible in his voice, or did Will just imagine it?

With the tips of his ears a tell-tale red, Will unhitched the boat, threw the heavy rope onto the deck and jumped on board with as much elegance as he could muster in front of Hannibal. His landing was accompanied by a questioning whine from Orwell and he turned to his dog.

"Well, come on, boy. I'm not going to carry you,” he said, tilting his head in invitation.

Another whimper followed as Orwell teetered on the edge of the pier, his eyes shifting between Hannibal and Will.

Neither man made a move, Will keeping his eyes on Orwell while Hannibal watched the whole affair with the keen interest of an innocent bystander.

Finally, with a high-pitched bark, Orwell made the leap, landing safely on all four paws, and was immediately scooped up in Will's arms and rewarded for his courage with enthusiastic praise and belly rubs.

"Enjoy yourself," Hannibal called out, "I expect a good catch. Tonight I'd like to serve fresh fish for dinner."

Will rose to his feet, Orwell momentarily forgotten, and leaned over the railing as the boat slowly but surely drifted away from the berth.

"Come here," he demanded, the scar on his cheek stinging with the intensity of the grin blossoming on his face.

Hannibal complied without question, as he always did these days whenever Will made one of his demands, rare as they were; yet, there was a crease between his brows, a slight hesitation in his steps as he made his way over.

Leaning forward, threatening to slip off the boat, Will grabbed Hannibal and held his face tightly between his hands.

"You seem awfully pleased all of a sudden," Hannibal remarked dryly, his cheeks squished between Will's hands. “Did you decide on a name for your boat?”

“I did.”

And before Hannibal could ask further Will silenced him with a sloppy kiss.

"When I get back," Will whispered against Hannibal's mouth as he pulled away, "expect another one."

He didn't wait to witness Hannibal's no doubt dumbfounded expression but busied himself with setting sail and steering the boat onto open water instead, sailing until Marettimo was little more than a spot on the horizon.

***

Fishing used to be a reprieve from the swirling chaos in his head, a place of peace and quiet. There was no peace to be found by gazing out at the endlessness of the sea now.

Will cast his fishing rod only because Hannibal's voice, asking for fish for dinner, still rang fresh in his mind.

"Oh, don't look at me like that," he grumbled and tilted his head to sneak a glance at Orwell who eyed him with what Will believed to be amused exasperation.

The kiss was born from an impulsiveness that had surprised him just as much as Hannibal. A spur of the moment thing that Will had a hard time justifying to himself, and apparently to his pet.

He put the fishing rod aside, careful not to disturb the line, and stepped back from the railing.

Letting his eyes linger on the calm surface of the sea, Will could, for the first time in months, breathe freely.

Driven by sudden restlessness he pulled off his clothes and, naked as the day he was born, jumped into the water, Orwell not far behind. It was colder than expected and Will couldn't suppress a gasp when the water made the tips of his fingers tingle.

Taking a deep breath, he dove under and let the sea envelop him, just as it had done when they tumbled from the cliff and into what he had thought would be their certain death.

It had been black then, a thick, impenetrable darkness pulling them deeper and down, icy tendrils of water clutching at their limbs and clothes. There was no darkness now, just the light breaking in the sapphire blue of the water. Nothing to pull him down but his own weight.

Will emerged from the water with a gasp, Orwell’s barks ringing in his ears as he pushed wet strands of hair out of his eyes. He forced himself to look directly at the sun, relishing the blinding light until dark spots danced behind his eyelids and he could no longer bear it.

Once upon a time, in a candle-lit corridor lined by the preserved corpses of holy men, under the watchful eye of God, Will had told Hannibal he'd forgiven him.

Maybe it was time to forgive himself as well.

***


He returned early in the evening. The sun had not set behind the horizon yet and her rays bathed the land and sea in a soft orange hue.

And as promised, Hannibal was there, sitting on an unsteady stool, painting and only occasionally throwing a glance at the sea. Paint was clinging to his fingertips and to the formerly white piece of cloth lying in his lap. He had taken off his hat, his hair golden in the light of the setting sun and suddenly, as if seeing him for the first time, Will realized how handsome a man Hannibal was.

Awed, Will stared at him, an invisible force pulling at his guts that beckoned him to step closer, while, at the same time, his feet remained firmly rooted to the ground.

Orwell announced their return with a bark before Will could do so much as cast the anchor.

The picture of calm concentration shattered as Hannibal looked up, his expression brightening as he took in the by now familiar sight of the painstakingly restored boat and Will at its helm.

Will didn't meet his eyes until after he had secured the boat and collected his fishing rod and catch. Only when he was on firm ground once more did he dare to raise his eyes and meet Hannibal's patient gaze.

"Welcome back," Hannibal said, the soft whisper of his voice nearly undoing Will with its tenderness.

He managed little more than a throaty thank you , incapable of summoning his previous boldness. "I brought fish."

Hannibal's barely-there smile widened and he reached out, combing through Will's hair with paint-covered fingers.

"You've been swimming?"

"My hair tends to curl when drying in the sun," Will offered as explanation, breath hitching when Hannibal touched his skin.

"And when you’re out in the sun for some time you get freckles over the bridge of your nose and on your cheeks," Hannibal observed further. "It's quite charming. All these things I am discovering about you, your secrets laid bare by the Mediterranean sun."

Will pulled back in embarrassment and shouldered his catch. "We should head home; the fish needs to be gutted and scaled."

Hannibal didn't move an inch. "Isn't there something you've forgotten, Will?"

Will blinked, confusion softening the edges around his mouth.

"You made a promise," Hannibal pointed out, insufferably smug. "And I firmly believe that one should always keep their promises."

Realization dawned on Will, his hands holding the catch suddenly clammy, threatening to let it slip from his grip. He could feel the blood rushing through his head and to the tips of his ears.

A kiss, he had promised a kiss.

“Will you break that promise?” Hannibal asked, arms clasped behind his back, ever so patiently waiting for Will to come to him of his own volition.

Will furrowed his brows and let his gaze wander over the marina and the adjacent town.

Now that the sun was slowly setting behind the horizon and the air had cooled down to a gentle breeze, many people, locals and tourists alike, had found their way outside their homes and onto the streets, strolling along the shore or sitting down for a glass of wine in one of the many cafés lining the shore. Their laughter was spilling from the open windows, seeping into the streets, reverberating from the cobblestones.

Anybody could see them if only they cared to look and it was, Will realized with wonder, exactly what Hannibal wanted.

No longer did it suffice that people talked about them in hushed whispers behind closed doors. Hannibal wanted, needed these people to see, claim ownership over Will and be claimed in return, making a public spectacle out of it.

Of course, he could always refuse, Will knew; Hannibal would accept his decision without protest and wouldn’t think less of him for it. Maybe Will would even go so far as to console Hannibal with another promise of more kisses in the privacy of their home.

He didn’t.

Closing the distance between them, he pressed the promised kiss to Hannibal’s waiting lips.

His mouth yielded to Will’s willingly, his breath vibrating against the curve of Will’s lips. Gently, ever so gently, Hannibal traced the lines of his face as he deepened their kiss, the tip of his thumb brushing over the raised edges of Will’s scar.

"Disgusting!”

Will pulled away, his lips tingling and regret thrumming through his veins at the self-induced loss. Turning, he saw a man approaching. He was tan, dressed in an impossible white shirt and shorts, with sunglasses on even though the sun had set by now.

He wasn't from the Island, not even from Italy or Europe judging from his accent. American, most likely.

"Hannibal..." Will warned, his grip on the other’s arm tightening.

"I know," Hannibal said, confirming Will's fear.

If this man was an American tourist then it was entirely possible he had seen their faces on the  Most Wanted list the FBI broadcast all over the country.

Will had been amused the first time he saw the pictures they had used: mugshots of both of them, taken during their respective times at the BSHCI. While Will had looked sufficiently grim, as one would expect from such a photograph, Hannibal had appeared downright pleased, his picture more closely resembling one taken for prom than for police files.

At the moment, it all seemed distinctly less amusing. And while they both looked different now—Hannibal's hair long enough to be put up in a bun and Will's curls reaching down to his shoulders—they had not bothered to alter their appearances drastically. How foolish a mistake it seemed now.

"Nobody wants to see that perverted shit you're doing with each other."

Will breathed in a sigh of relief and threw another look at Hannibal. The stranger hadn't recognized them. He was merely being a bigot.

"How rude," Hannibal tutted, one of his pale brows raised ever so slightly.

Putting a calming hand on Hannibal's chest, Will pulled him back and away from the man who was not only rude but also drunk out of his mind judging by the smell of alcohol that enveloped him like a fine mist.

Hannibal scrunched up his nose—no doubt that, for him, the stench must have been near unbearable—and let Will lead him back to his canvas.

The raging American weaved closer, almost tripping over his own feet twice. Another wavering step and he gave up and leaned against a pillar to keep himself from falling over, muttering slurs underneath his breath all the while.

"Mad fool," Will grumbled. "Let him be. He's not worth the hassle."

He could feel Hannibal's chest moving underneath his fingertips, pressing against him in the most gentle of resistances before his muscles relaxed and he gave in.

"He insulted you," Hannibal argued for argument's sake while packing his drawing supplies, covering the not yet finished painting with a clean cloth.

Will smiled, his chest expanding with fondness for the man in front of him so all-encompassing it felt like his rib cage would burst at any moment, incapable of containing his feelings.

"He insulted you as well," Will pointed out.

“All the more reason to make an example of him.”

“And a meal?” Will asked, watching the staggering man with contempt. "His liver is probably ruined and, judging from his yellowed fingernails, so are his lungs."

"There are other parts of him that could be used," Hannibal remarked while cleaning his paintbrushes and carefully storing them away in a wooden box.

"Or we could leave him be and hope that he topples into the sea and drowns. A feast for the fish," Will said.

"H-hey!"

Will glared at the drunkard who, tired of being ignored, had stumbled another step forward.

"Please, mister, be so kind as to stay right where you are," Hannibal commanded without raising his voice.

The man stilled, submitting to Hannibal’s authority without resistance, staring in wide-eyed wonder. Even through the alcoholic haze clouding his brain he had recognized Hannibal as the apex predator he was.

"Come," Will said to Hannibal as he turned away,  “I'm tired and hungry."

Leaving the dumbfounded and too-drunk-to-interfere man behind, Will made his way across the marina into the city, Hannibal's steps and Orwell’s pitter-patter right beside him.

He followed like a loyal servant and Will couldn’t resist watching him out of the corner of his eyes while they made their way back through town.

"You didn't kill him," he said after some minutes of comfortable silence.

"You assured me he wouldn't be worth the hassle."

Will snorted and adjusted the fishing rod thrown over his shoulder.

"Since when do you listen to me?" he asked.

"Since you battled with the sea to pry me from her cold, dead hands and brought me back to life with a kiss."

Will missed the next step and would have slipped on the polished cobblestone if not for the strong hand clasping his waist and preventing his impending fall.

"Forgive me," Hannibal mumbled close to his ear. "I didn't mean to startle you."

Flushing, Will struggled and failed to keep his composure, shocked to the core by this unexpected revelation. Wide-eyed and with his mouth hanging open, he stared up at Hannibal.

"Will?"

Hannibal's voice was laced with concern and Will snapped back to reality, straightening up until he stood by himself once more.

"I'm fine," he insisted, brushing invisible dust off his pants.

"You don't seem to be. You seem distraught,” Hannibal observed.

"Because I stumbled?"

"Because I revealed to you that I remember much of what happened at the bottom of the cliff all those months ago."

"I was merely surprised. Let's go home," Will insisted, unwilling to discuss the topic any further.

"Will?"

"What?"

He turned, only to be met with Hannibal's hungry mouth on his.

Any protest he might have had died quickly on Will's tongue as Hannibal pried his lips open, licking at the inside of his mouth, taking and taking and taking until all Will could do was to grab Hannibal by his arm and hold onto him for fear of his legs giving out underneath him.

Breathless, with a curse stuck in the back of his throat, Will broke the kiss and stared at Hannibal.

Hannibal smiled. "Let's head home."

***

The unpleasant incident with the American tourist was quickly forgotten and life went on almost the same as it had before.

Will was still going out to fish, either on his boat together with Orwell or on the beach where he traded jokes and stories with Matteo and the rest of the men, who must have noticed his improved mood as well—it was obvious in the way the lines around their eyes had crinkled in delight once they saw him—but were gracious enough not to comment on it or torment Will with well-meaning, if slightly smug ‘We-told-you-so’s.

Hannibal, on the other hand, contented himself with drawing, spending his days on the Porto Vecchio where he sketched the town and sea until the sails of Will's boat appeared on the horizon and he would take a break to greet him with a kiss.

For the first time since he was a child, Will slept peacefully. With Hannibal’s body pressed against his back and his fingers brushing over the scar on his abdomen Will allowed himself to be lulled into sleep.

His former bedroom stood empty, merely used to store Will's fishing equipment, even though Hannibal had furnished one of the many rooms of their house for this very purpose. Even his clothes now shared a space with Hannibal's in the massive wardrobe, flannels mixing with bespoke suits and vests.

"You're going out?" Hannibal asked, one day, as Will descended down the stairs with an excited Orwell skipping at his feet.

"Why?" Will replied, a smile playing around his mouth. He smiled more often these days, he had realized. The smile of a man content with his lot in life. "You want to join me?"

Predictably, Hannibal shook his head, a strand of his shoulder-length hair falling into his eyes. "The sea is yours, your sanctuary. I would not dare impose upon it."

"You wouldn't impose," Will argued, having stopped in his tracks to look at Hannibal. "You'd be invited."

Charming, in the way a cub was charming, Chiyoh had once described Hannibal, and Will couldn’t deny that there was a certain truth to her words. Hannibal may have grown up to be one of the big cats, but at times, the softness of the cub still clung to him and struck Will speechless with its impossibility. A big cat, lazing in the sun, the epitome of easy strength hidden underneath a façade of careless calm. The Hannibal Lecter before him was just as real as the Hannibal Lecter who tore out the Dragon's throat at the cliff house all those months ago. They were one and the same. Neither invalidating the other, but fusing into the very essence of what constituted the man he was.

"And yet I'd feel like Actaeon who stumbled upon the bathing Artemis, laying eyes on something sacred, something he had no right to see," Hannibal mused, tearing Will from his jumbled thoughts.

Will raised a brow, the whining dog so eager to go out and chase after seagulls momentarily forgotten.

"Do you fear being turned into a stag and mauled by bloodhounds?" he asked, his feet bringing him closer to Hannibal before his mind made the conscious decision to do so.

Standing like this—close enough so their feet would touch if Will so much as wiggled his toes—the tell-tale glimmer of adoration in Hannibal's eyes was plain to see and Will had to swallow the lump forming in his throat.

"I would rather have you tear me apart than any bloodhounds."

A rough bark from Orwell broke the tension and Hannibal turned away, eyes settling on the dog. He smiled and reached out to pet his fur, a perceptible fondness guiding his movements that had nothing in common with the feverish adoration burning in his eyes when he looked at Will.

"Certainly not this hound," said Hannibal with easy humor. Go, and enjoy your reprieve, Will. I shall be here still when you return."

As if sensing Will's doubts—they must have shown on his face, written into the lines around his mouth and eyes—Hannibal turned and gifted Will one of his gentle smiles, merely more than a twitch of his lips.

"When you come back," Hannibal assured, "I will have prepared Bayou stew with fried seafood cakes and crawfish bread for us to enjoy together."

Will's breath caught in his throat. His Louisiana roots were no secret but had only rarely been brought up in their conversations, not more than once or twice and yet Hannibal remembered, like he always did.

Forcing himself to breathe, Will relaxed his stance, his shoulders dropping slightly as a tension he didn't know he had been holding escaped his body.

"Alright," he said, comforted by the simple promise of dinner, "I'll be back in the evening."

He didn't specify a time, didn't feel like it was necessary. Hannibal would know, would hear the distinctive crunch of his steps on the gravelled path leading to their home, accompanied by their dog. He would know by the smell of sea water clinging to Will and by the scent of clean sweat typical for when one spent their day exposed to the sun.

Will didn't kiss Hannibal goodbye, didn't quite dare to yet, but left with the knowledge that, once he returned home, Hannibal would be there at the door, to welcome him with a kiss, first to his hand, then to his mouth. And Will would return it, leaning into the touch with a smile before Orwell’s insistent barking pulled them out of their reverie and they’d head inside.

***

The face wasn't instantly familiar; neither was the stinging smell of sweat that accompanied the man, somewhat sour, like milk that had been left standing in the sun for too long. Only when he opened his mouth—teeth gleaming white and all too straight to be natural—did Will recognize him.

"Hey, cocksucker. I'm talking to you."

Just as charming as the first time , Will thought as he looked at the man with barely concealed disdain. His whole attire was aggressively touristic, as if the whole point of his ironed dress pants and shirt was to set himself apart from population of the isle. A visitor to this land and proud to be only that, he showed a kind of contempt for the general populace that he didn't bother to hide.

Will ignored him and continued to secure his boat, tying the rope to the mooring bollard just like his father had taught him when he was still a boy.

"You know, when I read that article on Tattlecrime about Hannibal Lecter running off with his FBI sweetheart, I thought it was sheer sensationalism, completely blown out of proportion," the man said, tapping his fingers against the bollard in a pointedly careless rhythm. "But then I saw you here and something was so familiar about your face, I had to look it up. Who would have thought Will Graham and Hannibal the Cannibal would actually be on a honeymoon in Italy?"

Will froze, his hands shaking as he tied one last knot. He turned around, the frantic sound of his beating heart drowning out the waves crashing against the shore.

The man smiled, showing off his teeth, one hand in his pocket, the other supporting his weight as he leaned against the wooden pillar.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Will grumbled, feigning ignorance.

"Oh, but I think you do. Admittedly, the mugshot the FBI has on their homepage isn't the best, but you didn't exactly try to change your appearance, did you?"

Will suppressed an annoyed huff. The man was playing with him, or at least he was trying to, getting off on his perceived superiority and the power he believed he held over Will. Not particularly intelligent—otherwise he would have informed authorities instead of seeking out Will on his own—and not motivated by a sense of justice, or altruism, not even by fear of two serial killers living in a small village in Italy. It was something else that had brought him here.

"Should I expect the police to apprehend me now?" Will asked, looking around as if waiting for the sirens to tear through the night, and blue lights to brighten the sky.

"I haven't decided what to do with you yet," came the smug reply.

The man stroked his clean-shaven shin, as if contemplating whether to throw Will to the hounds or show mercy, thinking himself an all powerful king with Will as a beggar at his feet. Will almost gagged at this display of misguided dominance.

"The price on your two heads is pretty high, but from what I've heard Lecter's personal fortune is worth much more than what the FBI is willing to pay for information on your whereabouts."

Greed, Will realized, little surprised, albeit slightly disappointed that the man’s motivations turned out to be so base, so trivial and trite. Hannibal would have killed him for that alone, Will was sure.

"And where did you hear that?" Will asked, hard-pressed to hide the amusement threatening to color his voice.

He stuffed his hands into his pockets, mirroring the impertinent swine's casual posture as his fingers curled around the handle of his flip-knife. The wood felt velvety smooth under his fingertips, the whole knife a comforting weight in his palm as he let his eyes flicker over the marina.

Nobody else had any business here at this hour, the only human noise reaching them the joyous laughter of those drinking at the bars and, from time to time, the insistent cries for more wine.

They were alone.

"Just look at how you live," the man shrugged, a grin parting his thin lips. "In that nice little villa at the edge of town. Bet he bought you that boat as well."

He paused, scratching his cheek as he sized Will up.

"Did you have to blow him for it? Or did he blow you? Takes some guts to let a cannibal suck your dick."

This time, Will didn't hide his annoyance. "Is there something you wanted other than talk about my relationship with Hannibal Lecter?"

Still oblivious to the danger he had maneuvered himself into and far too smug for his own good, the man made one step towards Will, an exaggerated sway to his hips.

"Actually yes," he said, all too sure of himself. "I'm positive you'd like to continue your quiet life here on Marettimo and really, I don't care. As long as I have other things to worry about. Like how to spend all the cash a generous but mysterious benefactor sent my way."

"So you want money," Will stated flatly. “And more than the FBI is willing to pay.”

Hannibal may have listened to this cretin’s demands, with a glint of amusement twinkling in his eyes as he envisioned the man’s death in a myriad of debauched but beautiful ways.

Will was far less tolerant.

“When browsing Tattlecrime,” Will spit the name out like an insult, “did you ever come across the name Rinaldo Pazzi? His greed proved to be his downfall as well and Hannibal was all too eager to help him to it with a little push.”

The man remained unconcerned, not an ounce of shame in his body. Will could smell the smugness clinging to the man's oily skin like tar. “Pazzi tried to sell Lecter. I, on the other hand, am just trying to make an arrangement here.”

“Mutually beneficial of course,” interrupted Will.

“Of course.”

He believed himself clever, and Will had to swallow the laughter bubbling up his throat.

“What makes you think Hannibal Lecter wouldn’t just kill you?”

"I’ve thought about that,” he allowed. “But I assure you it'd be in your best interest to let me live. It's a small island; somebody suddenly going missing would be noticed immediately. You'd have to leave this all behind. Your villa, your boat, all the comforts of a quiet, simple life. I'm sure you'll be reasonable."

He shrugged again when Will didn’t answer. "It's just money. Come on, you don't want your little faggot friend to go to prison, do you? Or worse, get the needle."

"My faggot friend?" Will asked, deathly calm.

“Well, that’s what he is, isn’t it?” he argued, words muffled as he picked at something stuck between his teeth. “Apart from being a cannibal, I mean. Guess eating dick wasn’t enough for the good doctor; he wanted to choke on it too.”

He laughed at his own joke, sucking in the dry air with a snort. Will didn’t join in.

Instead, he leaped forward and rammed the small knife into the man’s throat.

Blood spilled over his hands, the knife threatening to slip from his grip as he attacked a second and third time, every stab fuelled by scorching rage.

He soon lost count but one of his stabs must have nicked the lungs: the man's pained gasps had turned into a gurgle; blood was running down his lips and chin. When he sank down to his knees, arms trembling and body slowly but surely dying, his panicked eyes were on Will. Incredulity made way for realization, realization for pain and finally, pain was replaced by fear.

The man keeled over with a dull thud, lying helplessly as the life seeped out of him. There was little beauty to it, Will was well aware. No finesse, no refinement, just the slaughter of a pig, another Pavlov, another Mason Verger.

There was no beauty to his design, but at least there was satisfaction. It flowed through Will like liquid warmth, making his fingertips tingle and his cheeks flush.

He kneeled down, moving close enough to feel the man’s breath ghosting over his skin.

"You should have tried your luck with my faggot friend,” Will hissed, teeth bared. ”He's the reasonable one. Unfortunately, you chose to blackmail the former criminal profiler who snapped and ran away to get his dick sucked by a cannibal."

A pained moan was his only answer. Will watched, terrified and enchanted in equal measure, as the man’s breath grew shallower, the movements of his chest soon barely more than a tremor, until finally he stilled.  Silence settled over them as the last signs of life ceased. The rasping breaths had died down and what had been a human mere seconds ago was now an empty shell, nothing more than grey flesh.

Meat, a voice inside his head sounding suspiciously like Hannibal's provided and Will froze, still kneeling over the bloodied corpse.

There was no remorse, no panic settling in his bones, no fear rising like bile in the back of throat at the gruesome sight. All he felt was cold satisfaction coupled with grim determination.

With his mouth pressed into a thin line, Will rose to his feet and put the knife away. His hands were black with drying blood and he half-heartedly wiped them on his pants before he grabbed the corpse by its ankles and dragged it to the boat.


The Rise

Hannibal eyed the corpse on the boat’s only table with almost childlike curiosity.

"I distinctly remember you telling me that he wasn’t worth the hassle.”

"That was before he tried to extract money from me with threats of informing the FBI about our whereabouts," Will grumbled, arms crossed in front of his chest.

The stench of blood was suffocating, clinging to Will’s skin and clothes, permeating the air and making it hard to breathe, yet Hannibal remained unaffected. He went so far as to bow over the corpse, breathing in the smell of death and decay like he might have done with a bottle of fine champagne.

"Ah," Hannibal acknowledged, unconcerned. "So he had the presence of mind to look up our faces and names on the FBI's Most Wanted  list after making our acquaintance at the marina, but was not so astute as to follow his instincts and flee when faced with an apex predator."

"Greed trumps survival instinct," Will said, eyeing the dead man with unconcealed disgust.

"Is that why he had to die?" Hannibal asked and put on a pair of gloves before he cut the man’s shirt open with some scissors.

"You would have preferred it if he had called Jack on us?" Will huffed.

"If money was what he desired then we could've given it to him."

The snip-snip  of the scissors ceased and when Will turned to see what had caused the unexpected silence he was met with Hannibal's inquiring gaze.

Feeling a blush creep up his cheeks, Will lowered his eyes, suddenly glad for his long hair that fell into his face and hid its telltale redness.

"He was rude," he mumbled.

"More so than he was at the marina?" Hannibal pressed further.

Will sucked on his teeth, the phantom taste of blood heavy on his tongue.

"He called you a faggot."

Hannibal paused, straightened and then put the scissors aside, his eyes alight with a golden fire and his lips parting with a smile. "My dear Will, what a remarkable creature you are."

Startled by the fondness in those words, Will dared to peek up from underneath the curtain of his hair to see Hannibal gazing at him, the corpse on the table momentarily forgotten.

"Is that why you stabbed him no less than ten times?" Hannibal asked, the corners of his mouth turned upwards.

Will shrugged. "I didn't count."

"Just as you didn't count the bullets you left in Garrett Jacob Hobbs and yet the number seems to hold some significance for you, at least subconsciously."

"Are you going to psychoanalyze me, or are you going to help me get rid of the body?" Will huffed.

"Is there a reason why I can't do both?" Hannibal asked, bending down to inspect a particularly gruesome wound.

"You could, but then you'd have to sleep on the couch tonight."

Hannibal didn't argue further, but the amusement in his voice was impossible to ignore. "As you wish. I’ll help you dispose of it. I’ve done so before, after all, so why not make it a habit?"

"You helped me dispose of a killer you sent after me," Will reminded him.

"Randall Tier was a test, one you passed with flying colors."

"Was this a test as well?" Will asked, indicating the body with a jerk of his head.

"If it was then it was one you have set for yourself."

Pushing away from the wall, Will left the room and headed for the adjacent kitchenette.

When he returned, he held a carving knife and a saw. He offered both to Hannibal, handles first. "Cut out whichever part you like, but leave me his heart."

Hannibal raised a brow. "To devour?"

"To feed to the dogs."

Looking at Will from underneath his lashes, delight bordering on arousal danced like ghost lights in Hannibal’s eyes.

“Just to the dogs?” he asked, taking the knife and saw from Will’s hands. Putting the saw aside for the moment, he turned back to the corpse and pressed the knife against the grey skin with practiced ease. Will watched, enthralled.

As Hannibal dragged the blade from one armpit to the other, opening him right underneath his chest, flowers of blood bloomed on the unmoving chest and painted the dead flesh red.

“Just the dogs,” Will confirmed, the tone of his voice brooking no argument. “He doesn’t deserve any better. Doesn’t deserve being made into something beautiful.”

Hannibal hummed in agreement without interrupting his work, oddly cheerful as he separated flesh from bone and opened up the man’s torso with the help of the saw.

With a crack, the man’s thorax sprung open, sending splatters of blood flying everywhere. Blood clung to Hannibal’s gloves, to his forearms, to his face. Blood dripped down the table and seeped into the hardwood floor. It didn’t faze Hannibal.

“As ugly in death as he had been in life,” he said and opened the pericardium enclosing the heart. “This could have been far less arduous if only I had a Finochietto retractor on hand.”

Will rolled his eyes at Hannibal’s feigned indignation. “Take it as a challenge, doctor.”

Smiling a rascal’s smile, Hannibal made the final cut to separate heart from body.

He took it and held it up, cradling it in his palm like a sacrifice. Blood dripped through his fingers, syrupy thick, and, just for a moment, Will saw it move, beating still, despite its host lying dead on the table.

This was what he had demanded of Hannibal, a dowry fit for Frankenstein’s bride.

He took the offered gift, surprised to find it still warm to the touch. All the while, Hannibal was watching him, Will could feel his gaze like a tingle underneath his skin. It was clear what they both were thinking: Will had killed again, proof of it lay in his trembling hands, and he had killed willingly, enthusiastically, with a viciousness that rivalled Hannibal’s own.

Hannibal, who looked at him with a hunger so deep and burning, Will felt it like a hollow ache pulling at his guts.

The heart fell to the floor, forgotten and ignored, leaving a red trail of blood when it rolled to the side.

Will reached out and, wordlessly, Hannibal came to him, intertwining their fingers and lifting their hands to his mouth to kiss Will’s bloody knuckles.

“What do you see when you look at me?” Will asked.

“A god born in blood at the dawn of a new age.”

Will stilled, eyes on the curve of Hannibal’s Cupid’s bow smudged with blood. Blood that was neither his nor Hannibal’s but which belonged to a stranger that had insulted them both. Will wanted to kiss it off Hannibal’s lips.

He inhaled the scent of wood, of death and decay and then made his decision.

"Take me to bed."

***

Neither of them was a stranger to sex—even though Will was sure Hannibal's experiences had been far more diverse than his own—yet, Will couldn't help but feel sufficiently unprepared when Hannibal led him to one of their many bathrooms.

"Are you sure?" Hannibal asked after he had closed the door behind them.

His fingers brushed over Will's knuckles while his eyes searched for the slightest hint of doubt in the tense lines of Will's face.

"Yes,” Will said.

The conviction in his voice came as a surprise not only to himself, judging from the widening of Hannibal’s eyes and the tightening of his jaw.

"Have you ever been with a man before?"

Will shook his head, gaze still on Hannibal, drinking in every subtle reaction, every twitch of his hands, every intake of breath that made his Adam's apple move underneath the skin of his throat.

"No," Will paused, tilting his head to one side. "Does that please you?"

Will didn’t need a reply to know it was true and he answered the glimmer in Hannibal’s eyes with a smile.

"I would have thought you above such antiquated views on virginity and pureness," he mused.

"Your lack of homosexual experience isn't what pleases me.” Hannibal argued. “The prospect of showing you what pleasures your body is capable of is."

Will swallowed, willing the sudden tightness in his chest away.

"You think nobody has ever been able to pleasure me properly?" he asked.

"I think nobody has ever been able to bring you to the point of rapturous delight."

"And why do you think that is?" Will asked, partly to indulge Hannibal, partly to satisfy his own curiosity.

Hannibal's smile widened and his fingers resumed their journey, moving from Will's hand to the crook of his arm as they followed the forked paths of his veins.

"Because they haven't been me."

It had been barely more than a whisper, yet Hannibal's words struck Will with a force he might as well have shouted them.

"That's presumptuous, Hannibal," he gasped but didn't pull away from Hannibal’s touch.

"But is it true?" Hannibal asked in return.

Will twitched when Hannibal's fingers found the spot behind his ear and pressed against the skin to rub soothing circles into it.

"Do you think only you know what real pleasure is, that you would presume to be the first to teach me its meaning?" he countered, watching Hannibal from underneath his dark lashes.

"Maybe," Hannibal allowed. "Or maybe I’ve been indeed presumptuous and this will prove a valuable lesson for both of us."

He paused, his eyes falling to the first button of Will's shirt.

"May I?" he asked and the knot in Will's stomach tightened.

"Do you have to ask?"

Hannibal tugged at the button with shaking fingers—Will could feel the subtle vibrations against his own skin—until it came loose.

A second, third and fourth button followed and soon the shirt was pushed off Will's shoulders. Ever so carefully, Hannibal brushed his fingertips against the edge of the scar Chiyoh had left Will all those years ago.

"Does it bother you?" Will probed. "That another has marked me in such a way?"

Hannibal didn't answer immediately, too caught up in the sensation of Will's skin underneath his fingertips, it seemed.

When he finally spoke, he didn't meet Will’s eyes.

"Clever boy," he said, voice dark with desire. "Wicked thing, knowing just what to say to awaken the raging beast inside me that wants to hunt and claim and take."

For a moment, it felt as if Will’s heart had stopped. He swallowed doubt, insecurity, shame. When he said, “Show me,” he held his head high.

Will had expected Hannibal to come over him like a storm at the sea, all unleashed power and destruction. Instead, he contemplated Will’s chest with pronounced care, eyes lingering on the many scars and blemishes littering the skin, and, suddenly, Will was all too aware of his many flaws.

A ragged intake of breath made his belly move and caught Hannibal’s attention. His never idle hands moved lower, pausing briefly at the dip of Will’s belly button, before combing through the hair trailing down his legs. At first, Hannibal paid no mind to the scar on his abdomen, seemingly content to leave it unattended and concentrate on a small birthmark on Will’s hip instead. When he did press his fingers against the flesh of the scar and traced its outlines, Will couldn't suppress a gasp.

"It's sensitive," he said, too quickly.

It was a lie; they both knew it and yet Hannibal was gracious enough to let it slide.

"I shall be more careful then."

Without warning, he dropped to his knees and pressed his lips to the raised skin.

"Hannibal…" Will stammered, eyes wide with wonder as he looked down at the man worshipping at the altar of his broken body.

"Indulge me," Hannibal pleaded and, with a hesitant touch to his silver hair, Will granted him permission.

Hannibal's nimble fingers found the button and zipper of his jeans soon after and he didn’t hesitate to pull pants and boxers down so that they bunched unceremoniously around Will's ankles. He nudged at Will's thighs, beckoning him to step outside his clothes.

With quivering legs Will followed the instructions, stepping away from Hannibal and allowing the other to take in the sight of his naked body.

"Look at you," Hannibal whispered, his voice so low Will could barely hear him over the frantic beating of his own heart. "Divine beauty in its quintessence."

Will felt himself flush. "Hardly beautiful, let alone divine.”

Propriety was no concern of his—had he not welcomed Hannibal at his door with nothing on but a pair of boxer shorts when they had been mere acquaintances?—yet he felt the urge to cover himself and avert his eyes when faced with Hannibal's ardent admiration now.

Standing in front of him, quite literally and figuratively naked, Will felt as if Hannibal’s gaze was tearing skin and flesh and bone off him, until there was nothing left but his bared soul.

"But you are all of these things," Hannibal insisted as he let his hand explore the dip of Will's hips. "And it feels only proper to kneel before you."

Arousal stirred in Will's groin as Hannibal pressed his mouth against the base of his cock.

"Hannibal..." he mumbled, hands hanging uselessly at his sides, unable to decide whether to reach out or stay put.

"I apologize, I couldn't resist."

Hannibal looked up at him, mischief coloring his eyes a dark red. Taking Will's hand, he rose to his feet and kissed the inside of Will’s wrist.

"You should take a shower before we proceed," he said.

Will raised a brow in question and Hannibal chuckled, his breath ghosting over Will's skin.

"As much as I enjoy the smell of blood on you, the things I intend to do require certain kinds of preparation, including a shower."

"Oh..." Will said, feeling very much like a teenager when the implications of Hannibal’s words registered.

Do you require assistance?" Hannibal asked.

"I think I can manage a shower," he huffed, hiding his insecurity beneath a layer of sarcasm.

Hannibal didn’t take offence. On the contrary, as Will had come to understand it, Hannibal was amused, charmed even, by his brusqueness.

"As you wish." He relinquished his hold on Will and stepped back, taking the warmth of his body with him. "I shall wait for you in our bedroom."

After Hannibal had closed the door behind him, Will found himself left alone and aching. There was little he could do but follow Hannibal's suggestion and step into the tiled shower.

The hot water did nothing to quell his rising erection and more than once he was tempted to take himself in hand and release some of the tension vibrating underneath his skin.

In the end, he let it be and, instead, concentrated on washing away the last traces of blood and sweat, scrubbing at his skin until it turned a bright red.

He tried not to think of Hannibal in the other room. Tried not to think of him undressing while waiting for Will’s return. Didn’t dare imagine what Hannibal would look like spread out on the sheets.

Sliding a soaped finger inside himself proved easier than he would have imagined, the sensation neither painful nor particularly pleasurable. There was merely a slight discomfort at being stretched in such an unusual place. He moved the finger in and out of himself, experimentally bending it from time to time. It was a curious feeling, a soft, tingling sensation, but nowhere near the mind-blowing pleasure he had somehow, naively, expected.

When he emerged from the shower his erection had gone flaccid again, yet the flutter in his stomach remained.

Barefoot, with water dripping from his hair, he stepped back into their bedroom to find Hannibal sitting at the edge of the bed, his shirt unbuttoned and revealing the silver triangle of hair on his chest.

When Will closed the door with a click, Hannibal raised his head, his unblinking eyes drinking in the sight before him.

"I'm here," Will said as he made another step forward, his feet leaving wet footprints on the plush carpet.

"That you are," Hannibal agreed and offered a hand which Will took gratefully. "And I'm glad for it."

Will let himself be pulled close, coming to stand between Hannibal's legs.

"You're still dressed," he remarked, fingers plucking at the collar of Hannibal's shirt.

"Partially," Hannibal argued. "But my state of dress should be of no concern to you. All I want is pleasure you to the best of my abilities."

Will smiled down at Hannibal, his hands settling on his shoulders.

"You'd please me by undressing, so I can see you as you see me.”

Hannibal's hand, which had brushed along Will's calves, stilled.

"With all the secrets of our flesh laid bare before the other’s eyes.” he agreed. “If that’s what you desire.”

He moved to take his shirt off, only to be held back by Will.

"Let me," Will demanded, swallowing thickly as Hannibal's inquiring gaze met his own. "I want to do it."

Without another word, Hannibal's hands fell to his sides, silently granting Will permission to do as he pleased.

Will didn't waste any time and pushed the shirt off Hannibal's shoulders before his newly found confidence could abandon him.

The hair that covered his chest was thick but soft to the touch, and when Will combed through it and grabbed it tightly, it elicited a groan from Hannibal that sent a shiver of want tingling down his spine.

With quickening breath, Will followed the trail of hair down Hannibal's abdomen, fingers brushing over the bullet wound left by Francis Dolarhyde.

It had healed by now, leaving nothing but a deep scar, twin to the one Chiyoh had gifted him with in Florence.

"Are you pleased?" Hannibal looked up, hands balled into fists at his side, the veins protruding.

Will nodded and pulled his lips in between his teeth, eyes never leaving Hannibal’s. It earned him a growl.

"Allow me to do something for you," Hannibal asked with an such urgency one might have believed his life depended on Will granting him this request.

"For me?" Will asked, tilting his head to the side as he regarded Hannibal. "Or to me?"

"Why not both?" Hannibal smiled, revealing worryingly sharp canines.

"You're not making a good argument for your cause," Will pointed out, playful but hesitant.

"Would you have me beg? I'll do it gladly if that's what it takes to convince you my intentions are genuine and not motivated by malice."

"No.” Will took a calming breath and shook his head. "I believe you."

Hannibal smiled, but commented no further. Instead, he shifted on the bed and opened his legs wider, allowing Will more space to navigate in between.

"Please, turn around."

Hannibal’s voice was controlled, calm even, yet, when Will turned and his thighs brushed against Hannibal's legs, he froze.

A moment later, Hannibal’s hands were on Will, fingers digging into the soft flesh of his behind and parting his cheeks without further preamble.

"Hannibal?"

Will was neither naive nor ignorant regarding the mechanics of sex between two men, but the suddenness of it made his stomach churn with anxiety.

"Are you uncomfortable, Will?" Hannibal asked and the deep timbre of his voice did nothing to dispel Will’s concerns.

"Just feel like I should have shaved."

Hannibal chuckled. "I can assure you that’s entirely unnecessary. But maybe you would prefer to lie down?"

"I think I would," Will agreed, thankful when Hannibal moved away to pull him onto the bed, rolling him carefully on his stomach and spreading his legs until Will lay completely exposed.

Will let him do as he liked, glad that he could press his burning face into the cushions and not see Hannibal's expression.

"Are you ashamed, Will?" Hannibal asked, his concerned voice coming from somewhere above.

Will turned his head to the side, if only so he could talk without his words being muffled by the pillow.

"Not ashamed," he insisted. "Just insecure."

"Because this is your first time with a man?" Hannibal asked, planting a gentle kiss onto Will's exposed neck.

"No..." Will whispered, eyes closing with a flutter. "Because it's the first time with you."

He shivered as the hard curve of Hannibal's erection pressed against his backside, leaving a trail of precum sticking to his skin. His own erection had risen once more, digging into the bedcovers, creating deliciously torturous friction that left him panting and sweating.

All too soon, Hannibal's weight on top of him disappeared and for a moment Will feared that he had been left alone.

His fear proved unfounded when Hannibal settled in between his legs, spreading them further as his hands glided up his inner thighs.

"Please lift your hips."

Will obeyed, incapable of denying Hannibal anything. Soothed by the gentle commands, he found himself all too willing to relinquish control and put himself into Hannibal's capable hands.

Hannibal placed a pillow underneath Will's waist, careful not to touch his leaking erection.

"Your smell," Hannibal all but purred as he pressed his face against the curve of Will's ass, "is addictive."

When Hannibal spread his cheeks once more and licked along his hole, Will squirmed, unfamiliar with, yet intrigued by, the new sensation.

The first careful lick was followed by a second and third, each bolder than the previous one, and soon Will found himself writhing on the sheets as Hannibal's tongue worked him open.

All the while, soft grunts escaped Hannibal, as if he was the one deriving pleasure from it. Maybe he was, Will thought, crying out at another thrust of Hannibal's tongue that was followed by a kiss pressed to his twitching hole.

When Hannibal pulled away to catch his breath Will turned his head, both glad and disappointed that this sweet torture had ceased for the moment.

Another flush worked its way up his chest at the sight Hannibal made: His hair dishevelled, his teeth bared in a feral smile and his chin glistening with saliva.

He reached out then, covering Will's shivering body with his own, and procured a bottle of lube stashed away in one of the drawers of the bedside table.

"Please," Hannibal whispered, his breath a gentle caress against Will's skin, "I want you to tell me should I cause any discomfort."

Will heaved a laugh, amused by the ridiculousness of the notion, and rolled onto his side to look at Hannibal, the space between his cheeks unusually slick.

"Quite the opposite," he said, strangely elated even though he was hard and desperate to come.

Nothing hindered him from reaching out and grabbing his cock, jerking himself with Hannibal’s body a comfortable weight on top of him until he reached completion. And yet, he didn't dare touch himself, unwilling to disrupt the slow pace Hannibal had established.

"Lift your leg," Hannibal instructed, uncapping the bottle and squeezing a generous amount of lube onto his fingers. Will scrunched up his nose at the obscene sounds, but did as he was told.

Hannibal took it, placed it over his shoulder and gently pulled him closer until he could reach comfortably between Will’s spread legs. The first careful nudge of fingers against his hole made Will’s breath catch in his throat, the sensation so unlike anything he had ever experienced he couldn't suppress a shiver.

"Breathe, my boy. I won’t hurt you."

"I know," Will said, eyes seeking Hannibal's.

There was no pain when the first finger pressed inside him, not even discomfort—Hannibal had made sure to use plenty of lubrication—but Will found himself squirming nonetheless.

Silently, Hannibal put his free hand on Will's chest, holding him in place while his finger moved in and out of him.

"It's...a strange feeling," Will whispered, tempted to throw an arm over his face and hide from Hannibal's piercing gaze.

"Unpleasant?"

"N-no, just unusual," he said, teeth gnawing on his lower lip and breath hitching with every experimental thrust of Hannibal's finger.

Slowly, he allowed himself to relax into the foreign touch, soothed by Hannibal's tenderness.

"How does this make you feel?" Hannibal asked, and Will had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing out.

"How does it make me feel?" he echoed, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips. It vanished when a second finger joined the first and Hannibal started to stretch him wide, causing all coherent thought to flee his mind, his mouth falling open in a silent moan.

Pleasure tingled down his spine, not originating from his cock, but from where Hannibal’s fingers were buried inside him, moving in a slow rhythm and making Will shiver at every move.

"Are you enjoying yourself, Will?" Hannibal asked, seemingly unperturbed, if not for the roughness of his voice and the light tremor in his fingers.

"Y-yes!" Will cried out. There was no point in pretending otherwise, not with how his hips instinctively moved to meet Hannibal's thrusts.

No doubt, Hannibal could feel it in the tension of his body, could see it in the blush reaching down all the way to his glistening cock.

Through the fan of his lashes, Will could see pleasure overtaking Hannibal's face.

"Hannibal..."

The question rang loud and clear without any need for Will to put his desire into actual words.

"Patience, Will," Hannibal admonished, even though it was obvious Will's eagerness pleased him. "I don't want to hurt you."

"What if I want it to hurt?" Will challenged and the fingers inside him stilled their movements.

Hannibal looked at him, contemplating and no doubt tempted by the implications of Will's words.

"Next time. If it’s something you still desire after the initial rush of pheromones has subsided."

Will swallowed and dug his heel into Hannibal's back, lifting his hips in invitation. "Next time," he relented and licked his lips.

Slowly, savouring every moment, the fingers inside Will picked up their rhythm once more and this time Will moved to meet them whenever they thrust deep enough to graze along his prostate. Even when a third finger joined the other two Will's enthusiastic movements didn't cease. It burned—if just a little—and Will was sure that Hannibal would have stopped immediately had he known. Pleasure mingled with pain and left Will dizzy and desperate but he endured this different kind of torture willingly.

"I'm ready!" he groaned when another thrust of Hannibal’s talented fingers made his cock leak precum, the near-translucent drops sticking to his pubic hair like pearls.

"Are you certain?" Concern laced Hannibal's voice but it couldn't hide the teasing edge lurking underneath.

"Yes!" Will pressed out between clenched teeth, holding onto the sheets like a lifeline.

A mischievous smile was his only warning before Hannibal pulled away and grabbed him by the hips, hoisting him up and switching their positions, so that it was Hannibal who rested on the mattress and Will the one to loom over him, comfortably seated in Hannibal's lap.

The wet glide of Hannibal's cock between his cheeks elicited another shiver and Will couldn't help but grind against it, thrilled when the tip caught on the rim of his hole.

"Will," Hannibal warned, hands on Will’s hips and nails digging into his skin, no doubt leaving crescent-shaped marks.

Will couldn't bear to meet Hannibal’s gaze for very long, too overwhelming was the adoration in it, too strong the emotions that Will felt wash over and penetrate him as if they were his own.

"Don't you dare make me wait any longer," he warned, voice barely above a whisper.

"I won't," Hannibal assured. "But now it's on you to take what you want from me."

Will stilled, eyes wide as he returned Hannibal's watery gaze. His thighs were shaking with the effort it took to hold himself up.

"It will be easier this way," Hannibal explained, his expression soft, even though his hold on Will's hips tightened with poorly suppressed urgency whenever the tip of his cock grazed Will’s skin.

"And that's the only reason?" Will asked, ignoring his arousal and the insistent voice in the back of his head screaming at him to fuck himself on Hannibal's cock already.

Hannibal was not much better off: the strain in his laugh was unmistakeable and his hips bucked underneath Will before he could regain control over his body. What a curious thing it was, to see him struggle so visibly. He who prided himself on his mastery over all things.

"You believe there’s another?"

"I do," Will replied and his fingers tightened in the hair on Hannibal's chest. He leaned down, close enough to feel Hannibal's quivering mouth against his own.

"Enlighten me," Hannibal whispered and their breaths mingled in the ghost of a kiss.

"You delight in my taking as much from you as I can, without shame or false bashfulness," Will whispered, biting down on Hannibal’s lip before releasing them again with a satisfied hiss when he tasted blood.

"What a cunning boy you are," Hannibal smiled and, with a growl, Will lowered himself on his hard cock.

The first breach was uncomfortable and Will couldn't hide the discomfort flittering across his face when the thickest part of the head stretched him wider than Hannibal's fingers had done.

"There’s no need to rush things, Will. We have all the time in the world," Hannibal placated him, his voice barely audible over the sound of Will's own ragged breathing.

Will closed his eyes and leaned back, struggling to find purchase on Hannibal's knees as he took him in inch by inch. Fevered triumph shot up his spine when he felt that he could move no further, Hannibal as deep inside him as his body allowed. Grinning, Will opened his eyes and looked down at Hannibal, giddy with excitement despite the pain; his body not quite used yet to being stretched in such a place.

“How are you faring?” Hannibal asked, his hands resuming their previous activity of rubbing soothing circles into Will’s skin.

“Better than you, judging from the look on your face,” Will teased and pushed a stray lock of hair behind Hannibal’s ear.

“It’s more intense than I had anticipated,” Hannibal admitted, voice cracking.

“Tell me,” Will demanded, overtaking by a sudden curiosity, “how does it feel? Being inside me?”

The hands on his hips stilled and for a moment, Will feared he had gone too far, had been too greedy.

“Being inside you,” Hannibal whispered, like a sinner confessing at church, “is both the most pleasurable and painful sensation I have ever experienced. The heat of your body, the tightness surrounding me, that silky smooth feeling of your flesh. I suffer terribly at the mere thought of us separating again.”

Hannibal rolled his hips and Will fell forward, fingers slipping from Hannibal’s knees and scrambling to find purchase on his shoulders instead.

“Look at me, Will.”

He did, meeting Hannibal’s gaze without hesitation, breathless with wonder at his willingness to please, to obey.

Hannibal moved in undulating circles, filling Will and leaving him bereft in cruelly tender turns. Hesitant at first, but soon more enthusiastically, Will met Hannibal’s thrusts with his own, sinking down on his cock with urgency.

“Will…”

“I know…” he gasped, his knees arching with the strain, but determined to uphold the rhythm they had established together.

His vision whitened at the edges and his ears rang with his own moans. Hannibal’s mouth was forming words Will couldn’t understand, but which he recognized easily enough despite having heard them so rarely in his life.

He kissed Hannibal then, swallowing his whispered words and silencing Hannibal as only he was allowed to do without risking terrible retribution.

He was met with no resistance; Hannibal yielded to him willingly, yet when Will pulled away, with the taste of him filling his mouth, his eyes posed the question Will hadn’t allowed him to ask.

Desperate, Will dug his nails into Hannibal’s back and claimed his lips once more.

“I will say it on your mouth,” he whispered, words almost drowned out by the sounds of flesh against flesh.

Another kiss, all tongue and teeth, and Hannibal stilled, his hands gripping Will so tightly it would undoubtedly leave bruises. He emptied himself inside Will with a low moan, both his hands on Will’s hips as he pushed him down on his cock.

The sensation of warm wetness spreading in his body was so startlingly new, Will didn’t dare do so much as breathe.

He jumped when Hannibal rested his forehead on his shoulder, his fine hair tickling Will’s skin. Silence fell between them and it would have been comfortable if not for the insistent throbbing of Will’s cock.

“Hannibal,” Will urged and wriggled on top of the other man, the softening cock inside him threatening to slip out.

The unasked question hanging between them transformed into a surprised gasp when Will suddenly found himself pressed into the sheets. Hannibal was on top of him, on all fours, eyes narrowed to slits.

Will felt himself flush, reminded of the night on the cliff when Hannibal had regarded him with a look not unlike this one.

Whispering words of adoration, Hannibal kissed down Will’s chest, following an invisible path between his legs, until he reached his goal and swallowed Will’s cock.

Will cried out, hips arching off the bed and thighs falling open to grant Hannibal easier access.

Hannibal sucked with vigor, gentle but unrelenting, taking him so deep Will wondered if he was trying to devour him whole. He wouldn’t last much longer, not with Hannibal’s teeth grazing the vein running along the underside of his cock.

He came with Hannibal’s name on his lips and his toes curling in the sheets. Hannibal swallowed thickly and Will squirmed underneath him, his whole body on the verge of breaking.

Slowly, as if hesitant to separate them once more, Hannibal pulled away from Will.

His lips were red and swollen, glistening with saliva and Will’s bodily fluids. A sight as vulgar as it was enticing. If not for the sudden fatigue settling in his bones, Will would have reached out to wipe the mess off Hannibal’s mouth and have a taste of himself to see if it was really as delicious as Hannibal made it out to be.

Instead, Will rolled off him, breathing returning to normal slowly while Hannibal lay down next to him. They spent a few blissful minutes breathing in each other’s scent, content with sharing the same heavy air and little else, until Hannibal moved to get up from the bed. Grumbling, Will pulled him back, his arm settling over Hannibal’s chest, effectively trapping him underneath.

“I’m as reluctant as you are to leave this bed but sooner or later we will have to clean ourselves and dispose of the body.” Hannibal hummed, his fingers playing idly with a curl of Will’s hair.

Will smiled, body pleasantly sore and aching in all-new places.

“Is that your idea of pillow talk?” he whispered into the curve of Hannibal’s shoulder.

“Enlighten me then, what constitutes proper pillow talk in your opinion?” Hannibal asked, good humor evident in his voice.

“I don’t know. Pillow talk isn’t something I usually do,” Will admitted, pushing to the back of his mind the memories of him and Molly in bed, where they had lain in the dark and she had to bite her tongue to not ask the question she knew he would refuse to answer. “Pretty sure that it’s not chatting about the dead body rotting on my boat though.”

“Fair enough,” Hannibal allowed and shifted on the bed to move even closer to Will. “Nonetheless, it is something we should talk about. You’re aware that his sudden disappearance will raise a few brows? Authorities don’t take to tourists vanishing lightly. They will search for him.”

There was no accusation in Hannibal’s voice, no disapproval, yet Will couldn’t ignore the pang of guilt in his chest.

“We’ll have to leave Marettimo,” Will said, sadness taking hold of him. Unknowingly, the little village and its people had wormed their way into his heart. All the more painful was it then to know that he and Hannibal had to leave it all behind.

“You feel guilty when there is no reason to,” Hannibal observed. “That man would have sold us to the FBI sooner or later.”

“We could’ve given him the money,” Will argued.

“Yes, and then he would have taken it and sold us to Jack Crawford anyway.”

Not convinced, Will furrowed his brows, grumbling as Hannibal leaned forward to kiss the crease between his eyes.

“At the risk of repeating myself: you worry too much, Will. We have money and we have a boat. We can be gone in a month, a week, in a few days, as soon as you are ready to leave.”

Will huffed and opened his mouth to argue before he thought better of it and pressed into Hannibal’s warmth. The afterglow of their lovemaking had made him pliant and more susceptible to the easy solution Hannibal offered to their problem.

He kissed a mark on Hannibal’s shoulder, fingers searching for the bullet scar at his side. It earned him a low hum.

“Have you decided on a name for your boat?” Hannibal asked.

“I have.”

“Will you indulge my curiosity and divulge that secret to me?”

Will laughed and, closing his eyes, said:

God has been gracious.”