Probably Jack intends for him to stay, but Will grabs a junior agent who was in his class two years ago—he struggled in class, but actually made an effort to come to office hours to do better, which was the kind of thing Will remembered—and asked him to drive him home to Baltimore.
Will is so furious he’s nearly numb with it.
He knows that a normal person would walk in the door, grab the baby, and run. A normal person would be terrified. A normal person might vomit from the knowledge that his husband has been killing people and almost definitely feeding him their organs.
Will is not and never has been normal.
By the time he walks in the front door, he’s spoiling for the most apocalyptic first married fight in the history of humanity. It takes some of the wind out of his sails to find Hannibal giving Maddie a bottle in the kitchen.
“Hi,” Will says. “Did you find someone to watch Maddie this afternoon?”
Hannibal shakes his head. “I did several of my appointments over the phone. Not ideal, but workable in an emergency.”
An emergency of his own damn making. Unfuckingbelievable.
“We need to talk,” Will says tightly.
Hannibal’s eyebrows go up. God only knows what he’s imagining this is about. Childcare. Backyard renovations. How fucking cold his feet are when he tangles his legs up with Will’s in bed. “Of course,” he says. “I’ll put Madeleine down for her nap, and join you in the sitting room?”
Will nods shortly and stalks off to the room to wait. When Hannibal comes back downstairs, he sits on the sofa and aims an attentive look at Will. “What would you like to discuss?”
Will sits down in a chair, then immediately springs back up. He’s full of a nervous, angry energy, and he can’t be still right now. He strides over the fireplace. Their wedding pictures on the mantel look back at him, and he lets his eyes slide shut for just a moment.
“This is our house, right. Yours and mine, together,” Will says.
He turns to look at Hannibal, who nods cautiously. “I had you added to the deed for this house and the rest of my properties. You signed the paperwork.”
Will barely remembers that, but it’s not the point. “This is our home,” he says. “We’ve built a life here—you and me and Maddie, and Abigail and the dogs. Tell me you understand that.”
Hannibal nods again. “Yes, Will.”
“Then I should get a say over any houseguests,” Will bites out. “You tell me right now, Hannibal—is there anyone else in our basement?”
Hannibal’s expression goes disturbingly blank. “Will—”
“Shut up,” Will hisses. “You just shut up and listen. This isn’t just you, anymore—and I can’t believe I have to specify this, but here is what I am not okay with: you keeping hostages and murdering serial killers in our basement. As in, in the same house with our daughter, who is going to be crawling and then walking before we know it. How fucking dare you take that kind of risk?”
Hannibal has the gall to look both offended and a little hurt. “I assure you, I took every precaution.”
“That’s really not good enough for me,” Will says. “You got lucky. The soundproofing isn’t as good as you think it is, because Miriam Lass heard me singing to our baby, and now we have to hope that your stupid fucking brainwashing holds and that Jack doesn’t get curious, or I’m going to be single parenting and you’re going to be—you’re going to be—” he stops, because taking in a breath is surprisingly hard just then, and his eyes prick with tears. “Tell me something— can you stop?”
“I did stop,” Hannibal says.
“Okay first of all—you didn’t stop, you made murder art out of Gideon and wrapped it in a bow for me, and second of all—you haven’t stopped because you wanted to. You stopped because you, what, didn’t have time for all your hobbies?”
“Childrearing and marriage on top of a full practice is quite time-consuming,” Hannibal admits.
Will gives him a flat stare, and stalks over to where Hannibal is sitting and looks down at him. “This stops. Right now. You don’t bring anyone into the house without running it past me. That’s some basic common courtesy. Promise me that.”
Hannibal tilts his head up to look at him. “You don’t wish to forbid it altogether?”
“I’d have to regret you killing Gideon,” Will says. He puts his hands on Hannibal’s shoulders and leans down. “I don’t.”
Hannibal’s eyes are wide as he gazes up at Will, as if he were the most extraordinary thing under the sun. “You liked my gift, then.”
“I liked it, except for the part where you recklessly endangered our family. If we’re in this together, I get veto power.”
“Would that be enough for you? Would you be content to have my leash?”
“It’s going to be a short fucking leash to start with,” Will says, and it sends a thrill down his spine, which he is aware is fucked up, but this is all fucked up and he wants Hannibal all the same. “Promise me.”
“I promise,” Hannibal says, with all the solemnity of his wedding vows.
All the fight goes out of Will then. He kneels on the couch, straddling Hannibal’s lap, and tucks his face against Hannibal’s shoulder. “I should make you sleep on the couch for like, a year,” he mutters.
Hannibal’s arms encircle him carefully, as if uncertain of his welcome.
“And you’re going to clean out the freezer, you cocky asshole. I can’t believe no one’s figured it out before now.”
“Only you,” Hannibal says. “Clever boy, it could only have been you.” He strokes Will’s nape unsteadily.
Will feels shaky, himself. He clings to Hannibal and Hannibal clings right back. “Are we—okay?” Will asks.
“We compromised to resolve a conflict,” Hannibal says. “I think we’re doing rather well.”
Will takes in a steadying breath and lets it out slowly. “So, what. Is it time for makeup sex?”
“If we’re quick,” Hannibal says, and then Will kisses him and they frantically undo each other’s belts.
“Will, that case I had you look at—he killed an entire family last night. I have an agent on the way to pick you up—”
“Jack,” Will interrupts. He looks at Hannibal—anyone else might be afraid of a killer on the loose, but Will holds the leash of the Chesapeake Ripper and it makes him feel safer than any security system. It makes him feel powerful, and he finds the strength to do what he needs to do to keep his family safe in turn.
“Jack, I quit.”
“You could look maybe a little surprised,” Will grouses when he gives Hannibal the news that night over dinner.
“You’re an alumnus of the program, and you taught at the FBI Academy for several years,” Hannibal says. “I assume they gave you a full fellowship?”
Will narrows his eyes, and then heaves a sigh. “Yes. And they want to put a profile of me on the website.”
Hannibal looks unbearably smug.
“This means we really have to figure out an actual childcare situation, you know.” Will puts another spoonful of pureed sweet potato in Maddie’s mouth. Hannibal makes all the baby food, which is probably just as well, because it turns out their child can identify organic produce and at seven months, already has some very strong opinions about food. He wonders if she’ll ever go through a mac and cheese only phase as a toddler.
“I’ve been meaning to speak with you about that,” Hannibal says, and dabs at his mouth with a napkin. “Abigail has done very well with Madeleine. Perhaps we might negotiate a live-in arrangement.”
Will eats a few bites of his own dinner before getting another spoonful into Maddie. “She needs her own space. A crappy apartment with roommates is part of the college experience.”
Hannibal makes a moue of distaste.
“You’re going to be such a nightmare when Maddie goes to college,” Will says with fond exasperation. “We can talk to Abigail about watching Maddie when I’m on campus, as long as it doesn’t interfere with her class schedule.”
“Of course her education must come first.”
Will manages to eat more of his dinner. It’s gone slightly cold, which he knows drives Hannibal a little wild, but if Hannibal insists on them eating dinner together, it’s the price one of them has to pay. Maddie’s got sweet potato smeared around her mouth, and Hannibal is giving her a besotted look.
Will sighs and relents, just a little. “I know you’re going to pay her rent, and I don’t even mind. Just don’t go overboard on the place.”
“Dear Will,” Hannibal says. “I would never.”
Will wraps one arm around her shoulders. “You’re going to be alright,” he says. “And—it’s okay to ask for help if you need it. You’re not going to stop being part of our family when you’re done with school.”
Her mouth quirks up into a smile. “You’re going to have like, five kids by then. That’s a lot of saving for college in your future.”
“Two,” Will insists. “Two kids is plenty.”
“Sure,” she says, with affectionate disbelief.
Predictably, Hannibal redirects his impulses to a new wardrobe for Will for the fall semester. And because Will does, in fact, love him, he lets Hannibal talk him into all sorts of things that are finer and more expensive than he would ever buy for himself.
In any case: it keeps Hannibal occupied, and an occupied Hannibal is one that doesn’t have time to ask Will for any particular permission.
He does his coursework and preps for the class he’s teaching while Madeleine naps, and makes good use of the train ride to and from campus on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
“I miss being able to drive,” he tells Hannibal that night when they’ve settled down in bed. “But I think I’ll keep taking the train to campus even when I’m cleared. It helps me plug through grading.”
“And how are your students, Professor Graham-Lecter?” Hannibal leans in to kiss his neck.
“They exist,” Will says, and tilts his head to give Hannibal more access.
“Any particular teacher’s pets?”
“I changed my workplace, not my personality,” Will says acerbically.
He can feel Hannibal’s smile against his skin before he takes Will’s earlobe between his teeth. Will gasps a little, and then Hannibal kisses down his neck and starts to suck a mark into his skin.
“Quit,” Will says, but it comes out like a breathy plea for more.
“How else will I make certain your bevy of adoring undergrads know you’re spoken for?”
“I have a ring on my finger,” Will points out. Hannibal just sucks another stinging kiss where his neck meets his shoulder. “Let me guess—you think I need a pearl necklace.”
Hannibal sticks a hand down Will’s shorts. “Well, since you suggested it.”
Will laughs a little, but the laugh peters out into a moan as Hannibal wraps his hand around him, and then Hannibal yanks the cover down and pulls Will’s shorts off, and replaces his hand with his mouth. Hannibal’s blowjobs were plenty good when they first started having sex, but now—now Hannibal knows exactly what makes Will tick, and he doesn’t hesitate to get one slick finger in Will to play with his prostate while he mouths at the head of Will’s cock. It makes Will plant his feet into the mattress and push up into Hannibal’s mouth, and push down and ride Hannibal’s finger, and he writhes and pants and swears and then says, “Fuck me already, you know you want to be in me, you know you want—”
Hannibal pulls off, and then he settles between Will’s legs and Hannibal doesn’t even bother with more fingers, just slicks his cock up and pushes in, slow and confident.
“Might as well admit you want to tattoo me,” Will says, digging his heel into Hannibal’s back. “Might as well admit you want to be so deep inside me, no one else can ever touch me.”
Hannibal’s eyes are dark, and Will almost registers the sound of Hannibal smacking his ass before he feels it. “You’re mine.”
“Yours,” Will says, still reverberating with pleasure. “Do that again.”
Hannibal does—again, and again, and again, and Will feels like he’s out of his mind with how good it feels, how much he wants it, wants more, wants Hannibal’s mark on his skin, indelible, permanent—
Hannibal comes with a snarl, and he doesn’t even take a moment to catch his breath before he flips Will over and sticks his tongue in Will’s ass, licking and sucking his come out of his hole, and Will sobs and groans and shakes apart, coming over the sheets underneath.
“If you want to tattoo your name on my ass, we’re getting a professional,” Will warns him sleepily. “I don’t care how much you’ve practiced.”
Hannibal presses a kiss to his hole, long and lingering. “Marriage is a compromise, I suppose.”
The first letter comes in a campus mail envelope. His name and office number are scribbled on the front, and he assumes it’s yet another flyer for some campus event that someone is hoping he’ll post on his office door.
It’s not. It’s handwritten letter, effusive in its praise and unsettling in its fixation on him.
Professor Graham-Lecter, it begins. I think you’re the only one who can help me Become.
It’s not the first disturbing letter Will has ever received; this one isn’t even particularly threatening. His mailbox at the Academy was stuffed full of letters Will had no desire to read after shooting Garrett Jacob Hobbs.
The letter has a Chinese character at the end in lieu of a signature—it doesn’t take him long to figure out that it’s the character for dragon. Part of him wants to roll his eyes, because this reads like white male, 30-40, and frankly, Will would like this person to take their culturally appropriative crazy somewhere else. He doesn’t think it’s one of his students—he has a whole lecture hall full of fresh-faced undergrads, and very few nontraditional students.
He thinks about trying to get prints off the letter, but he knows there won’t be any. He tucks the letter in his bag, and between teaching and his own coursework, not to mention Maddie getting alarmingly better at crawling, it goes decidedly on the backburner.
It’s not really a letter at all. It’s a photocopy of a painting in what seems to be an art history textbook. The caption says it’s a painting by Blake—The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed In Sun. The Dragon’s tail is curled around the woman, and below it, his mystery correspondent has written:
You didn’t recognize me when we met. But you will when I Become.
Will sighs, and texts Beverly. She’s waiting for him at the back of his classroom when he wraps up his lecture on criminal insanity.
“Looking pretty sharp,” she says, giving him a once over.
He narrows his eyes at her, but she just grins at him. He leads the way to his office—“Nice closet,” Beverly says—and he shows her both letters.
“I don’t think there will be any evidence,” he says. “But just in case.”
She takes the letters in the plastic bags he’s stored them in. “You didn’t have to wait for a second one to call me,” she says, and her eyes are concerned. “Why did you?”
“They aren’t threats.”
“Okay, but you’re also the person who doesn’t think the Chesapeake Ripper was threatening you, so let’s agree that our definitions of ‘things that should freak you out’ don’t look anything alike.”
It seems like forever ago. He remembers that smiling would be inappropriate. “This person thinks I can help them. If he’s telling the truth, he’s met me before. He could have come to my class—a lot of people came during the add/drop period, and I had to turn them away because the class was full.”
“Sure you don’t want to turn these over to campus police?”
He gives her a look that he hopes adequately conveys his scathing disdain. It earns him a snort of amusement.
“I’ll let you know what I find,” she says. “Come on, let’s go get some lunch.”
Hannibal, of course, packed him a lunch, but Will gamely follows her off to the horror that is the student union in search of cheese fries.
At home that night, he shows Hannibal pictures he took of both letters. Hannibal is intrigued.
“He believes you a source of wisdom, a guide,” he says thoughtfully. “This is a very shy boy, Will. He will not emerge from the shadows until he is driven to do so.”
“By whom,” Hannibal corrects, eyes hooded as he gazes upon the Dragon.
Hannibal tastes the sauce he’s stirring on the stove and puts the spoon down. Maddie toddles on unsteady feet into his legs and holds up a plastic cup for him to take. “Thank you, my darling,” he says, very sincerely. Maddie looks overjoyed and babbles at him. He hands the cup back to her. “Please take this to daddy,” he says, and Maddie begins the laborious process of making her way back to Will, before collapsing halfway in the middle of the kitchen floor next to a pile of her other plastic kitchen toys, and Winston, who views Maddie as a convenient purveyor of all kinds of snacks.
“I was not planning on a turducken,” Hannibal says, and Will can hear the air quotes.
“Right, you were probably planning on that with a goose in there, too.”
Hannibal’s amused-despite-himself smile is all in his eyes. “And if I was not planning on a goose?”
Will gives him a look. “You fell asleep on me last night,” he reminds him. “New house rule: you’re too tired for sex, you’re too tired for anything else.”
“I assure you, I won’t be too tired tonight,” Hannibal says.
It sends a frisson of heat down Will’s spine. He looks at Hannibal up through his lashes, just a little flirty. “We’ll see.”
Maddie chooses that moment to reign joyful destruction upon her pile of plastic kitchenware, and then tries to put her teething ring back in her mouth.
“I think that’s warm now, baby,” he tells her, when she gums at it unhappily. “Hannibal, can you give her a hand?”
Hannibal obediently pulls a frozen teething toy in the shape of a hand out of the freezer.
“That’s still not funny,” Will tells him.
They look at their child, gnawing on a blue plastic hand. Hannibal arches an eyebrow.
“It’s maybe a little funny,” Will concedes.
“This is the worst,” he complains to Hannibal one night.
“I also found myself having to relearn how to be a student when I went back for psychiatry,” Hannibal says. “It was challenging with adult responsibilities I did not have in medical school, and I did not have a family then.”
“That makes me feel a little better,” Will says, and kisses him, because honestly, Hannibal is always pretty great at telling Will what he needs to hear.
He turns in his final papers, and somehow finishes all of his grading and makeup exams, and takes his stack of final exams home to grade. He has until Tuesday to turn the grades in, but he’d like to get through as much as possible before the holiday party Hannibal talked him into letting them host this weekend.
He’s grading in the sitting room when he opens one blue book to find the Dragon’s handwriting.
It’s not enough. I need more—I need your help to find what I need to Become.
Will frowns. The rest of the book is full of more of the same, all of it vague and unhinged and talking about needing to consume power. The last page says: You will See me.
He scrubs his eyes. He’s too tired for this shit, and he has another 75 exams to grade. His phone is charging in the kitchen, so he sighs and levers himself out of his chair. Beverly will want to know right away, and frankly, it’s probably time to let campus police and his department chair know as well.
Hannibal is upstairs giving Maddie her bath and going through her bedtime routine, which is why Will freezes when he hears the floor creak right outside the back door mudroom. He slides a knife out of the block on the counter.
“Who’s there?” he says steadily, a kind of calm coming over him from his years as a beat cop.
He sees a shadow move, and a tall figure comes just enough into the light that Will can see his face. He’s met this man once before—fuck, at the opera, he’s been stalking Will for six months at least—no, more than that, it wasn’t the Tooth Fairy who broke into his house in Wolf Trap, it was —
It was him. This man, the Tooth Fairy, the Great Red Dragon, they’re one and the same.
“Professor,” the Dragon says. “I need your help. I need to find the Chesapeake Ripper.”
Will does the least helpful thing he could do in the moment: he laughs, because of-fucking-course.
“I can’t help you,” Will says.
“But you know,” the Dragon says. “You must know. He killed for you, he must—he must—”
Will adjusts his grip on the knife he’s holding behind his back. “He must what?”
“He gave you power. He clothed you in sun and crowned you with stars. How could he, unless you See him?” He sounds anguished, and in that moment, Will sees not the Dragon, but the man, and this one has loved and fears for the one he loves, so much.
“I can’t help you,” Will repeats softly.
The Dragon twitches. “You won’t help me. You won’t, but you know,” he says heavily. His shoulder shift and his body moves sinuously, restlessly. “I will consume the Ripper’s power, and I will Become, and you will bear witness.”
Will imagines ten ways to incapacitate him, and then the Dragon says, “I will persuade you,” and heads for the door out of the kitchen that leads for the hall and the stairs to the second floor.
And in that moment, Will knows he cannot allow it, that if the Dragon leaves this room, he will rain destruction on his family and his home.
Before he crosses the threshold, Will clenches his hand around the handle of Hannibal’s knife and stabs the Dragon in the back, once, twice, blood spilling over his hands before the Dragon roars and turns on him.
The Dragon has the advantage of both height, reach, and weight. Will has the advantage of having delivered a serious wound and being in his own home, and he is sure as fuck not going to go down here, not when Hannibal and Maddie are depending on him. He keeps the kitchen island between them, but he’s not entirely expecting the Dragon to rush him, vaulting the island to get within reach.
Will grabs the cast iron skillet off the stove, and his first swing is off target—he gets the Dragon in the shoulder, who grunts and falls back a few steps. It’s just the time Will needs to heft the skillet again, and this time, swing it hard into the Dragon’s skull, which drops him like a rock. He’s dazed but still grabs for Will and brings him down to his knees before grabbing for Will’s throat, and the knife handle is slippery with blood but Will hangs on, and stabs the Dragon over and over and over until Hannibal’s voice breaks his trance.
“He’s dead, Will,” he says gently.
There’s blood everywhere, and Will is breathing hard, and in that moment, he’s never felt more victorious, more alive.
“Maddie—is Maddie okay?” he asks, adrenaline thrumming through his veins.
“Madeleine and I are perfectly safe,” Hannibal assures him. He looks at Will with such awe, with such all-consuming love that Will thinks the Dragon was half right. Hannibal gave him power, but it was to have something worth defending at all costs. Will himself slew the Dragon in defense of hearth and home, and he stands over his corpse with no remorse or regret.
Well, maybe one regret. “Sorry about your knife,” Will says. The edge is probably all fucked up. “And your pan.”
“Oh, my love,” Hannibal breathes, and pulls Will into his arms, blood and all. “Didn’t I tell you? Every knife I have is yours. Will, my darling, you’re glorious, you’re perfect—”
Will kisses him, because that’s about enough goopy cannibal lovetalk, and also, he needs in Hannibal’s pants right now.
“Let’s get him down to the basement first,” Hannibal says, stilling Will’s hands at his belt buckle.
“Right,” Will says. He has an almost out of body experience when he looks at the blood-covered floor. “We’re going to have to replace the flooring in here before your party this weekend.”
“Well worth it,” Hannibal says, and kisses him again before going to fetch plastic sheeting.
Will didn’t fight Hannibal very hard about Paris for their second wedding anniversary. They go over New Year’s, which is kind of insane and a lot of people, but since they leave Maddie with Alana and her new wife, it’s not as stressful as it would have been with a two-year-old.
Paris is a glittering dream, and Will appreciates the chance to walk along the avenues in the evening, Hannibal’s gloved hand in his. But he’s glad to come home, glad to pick up Maddie from Alana and Margot’s house.
“She was so good,” Margot says. She rests a hand on the rounded curve of her stomach, and she and Alana trade a smile. Maddie is sleepy-eyed and attached to Hannibal’s leg like she’s never going to let go.
“Thanks again,” Will says, and Hannibal hefts Maddie up into his arms and they say their goodbyes and get the dogs and Maddie settled in the car.
When they’re home, Hannibal pulls a container of bolognese out of the freezer, because he’s pathological about clearing out the fridge so nothing spoils when they’re out of town, but also refuses the concept of post-vacation takeout, so this is his version of a compromise.
Will doesn’t mind. It’s delicious, and he doesn’t even give Hannibal any grief over having frozen fresh pasta to go with the meal, too. Maddie should sit in her booster seat, but Hannibal lets her sit in his lap and feeds her off his plate, so evidently, they’re all feeling a little clingy tonight.
“We can go to the grocery store in the morning,” Will says. “How are we doing on freezer space?”
Hannibal purses his lips in thought. “Still quite full.”
Which stands to reason—Will let him kill Mason Verger just before the holidays, which both got Margot and Alana out from under his hideously abusive thumb, and neatly solved the problem of what to get Hannibal for Christmas.
“Try to restrain yourself at the butcher’s, then,” Will says dryly.
“I make no promises,” Hannibal says. He looks a little travel-worn, but there’s a soft happiness to his expression that Will wants to look at forever. “One more bite?” he asks Maddie, who obediently opens her mouth for a little more Verger-free bolognese, because Hannibal takes parenting very seriously and refuses to feed their child any meat that isn’t organic and free-range. Apparently, monstrous pedophiles who have put god knows what in their bodies don’t make the cut.
After they put Maddie to bed, they decide to turn in early.
“My body doesn’t know what time zone we’re in,” Will complains when he slides into bed.
“It’s been 24 hours since your last suppressant,” Hannibal says after a moment.
Will’s brow furrows as he does the math. “Crap,” he says, and sits up to get out of bed to go take it.
Hannibal stops him with a hand on his shoulder. “Will,” he says softly, meaningfully. His entire heart is in his eyes. “What would you say to expanding our family?”
Will leans down and kisses him. “We’ll have to wish very hard, I hear,” he says.
Hannibal pulls him close and then rolls them over. “Tonight?”
“We might not get it on the first try,” Will warns him, because someone around here has to temper expectations, and it’s clearly not going to be Hannibal ‘Overachiever’ Graham-Lecter.
“Not with that kind of attitude,” Hannibal mutters as he sucks a kiss into Will’s neck.
“If I could make a suggestion?”
“By all means.”
Will tries not to smile, and murmurs in Hannibal’s ear, “Fuck me like you’re going to put a baby in me.”
“Darling,” Hannibal breathes, and does his very best, which is very good, indeed.
The next morning, Will wakes up to hear the dogs barking their heads off downstairs, and he smiles.