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Will finding out that Hannibal is the Ripper is an inevitability. But from the moment he learns, from the moment he is behind bars, Will begins to plot. Hannibal can see the gears turning behind his eyes, moving the chess pieces in his mind to the metronome of a dripping prison faucet. He wonders if Will has slept at all since being admitted. Given the depth and color of the shadows painting his lids, Hannibal rather doubts it.

He does not know what Will is planning, but he expects an attempt at disillusioning all those around them to his endeavors. He expects Will to reveal him, and for Hannibal to have to create a gambit of shooting down his keystone speaking points one by one.

He finds himself surprised.

Will does not accuse Hannibal. Instead, Will simply maintains his innocence. It makes him sound more insane than anyone had figured him for—he offers no suitable alternative, no reasonable doubt. Will only maintains that he did not commit the crimes of which he is accused. There is no Jack Crawford willing to listen to him anymore; even Alana has stopped visiting, but Hannibal does not. It’s a strange and bittersweet joy to see Will whenever he is able, to hear his whispered accusations. Will is angry, but he does not endanger Hannibal’s reputation, even though Hannibal knows that Will knows.

It makes him infuriatingly curious.

They meet often in the lawyer/client privilege room where there are no recording devices. Even so, they speak in hypotheticals. Hannibal asks Will why he doesn’t lash out against him. Will replies that, despite all this, Hannibal is the only one who ever seemed to give a damn enough to interfere in his life. Jack and Alana, they let this happen. They let him fall, they let him down, they left him to rot. And with all that, what good would it do for Will to accuse Hannibal? He’s on the outside to circumvent any traps Will might set in place. Simply put, Will is the one who is screwed, here.

He seems resigned to it. Hannibal can’t deny that though part of him is intrigued, part of him is disappointed.

“Are you not going to fight this?” Hannibal asks.

Will replies, “How can I? There’s no evidence to exonerate me. I know I didn’t do it—but even as I know it, I can’t prove it. And I’m not even sure that I didn’t do it.” Will ducks his head. His curls fall around his face, untamed and illuminated by fluorescent prison lights. “If it was just Abigail, I would have believed you.”

Hannibal knows Abigail is not dead, of course. He says nothing.

“I miss my dogs,” Will confesses quietly. He looks up, smiles that sad puppy smile. He looks so young, swimming in a prison suit that is too large, too vibrant for his washed-out skin. He’s grown pale in the last few weeks. The lack of sun is not doing him well. Hannibal takes in all these things before he takes in the words, but once he does, he cannot distract himself from the sound of Will’s voice. “I miss you. I miss the friend I thought you were. The guy who put his coat around my shoulders, even when he thought I killed our—Abigail.” He swallows. “I think that Doctor Lecter was the only one who would have thought about me after they put me in the chair.”

Hannibal frowns and leans forward, elbows on the tabletop. It naggles at him that Will is confessing his attachment—and that he thinks Hannibal, the real Hannibal, has none in return. He didn’t miss Will’s slip, if it even was a slip. Hannibal doubts that very much. “There is no guarantee they will execute you.”

In contrast, Will leans back as far as he can with the chains holding him to the table. “Kade Prurnell says my fate is already decided. I’m already guilty. My hearing is just to determine whether I knew what I was doing when I did it.”

This annoys Hannibal. He will not admit that it partially worries him—he knew he was framing Will beyond a shadow of a doubt. What he didn’t expect was that no one else would fight for him. “Are you not innocent until proven guilty?”

“I’m a dead man walking is what I am,” Will replies softly. He opens his eyes to look at Hannibal. “So I guess the person who did this has finally won. Checkmate, and all that.”

Hannibal is quietly furious. “The person who did this cares about you, Will. I thought you would have cared more to fight for your own life. I thought you would be angry.”

“I’m angry,” Will replies. He does not sound angry. “But don’t elevate your opinion of me, Dr. Lecter. This has never been a game where I had any sway. The Ripper has had hands on both the black and the white pieces this whole time. Compared to him, I’m an amateur. No experience. I’ve failed pretty miserably. I’m not going to have the chance to learn any better, either.”

Hannibal realizes what is happening all at once. He jerks back in true surprise, a lapse in control—but the shock is immense.

“You want to learn,” he says. He eyes Will with open wonder. “You want him to teach you.”

Will taps his fingertips on the table. Hannibal stares at him.

“Why?” he asks. “You’ve dedicated yourself to justice. Why would you change that now?”

Will’s lip curls. He glances at the upper corner of the room, where he knows there is a camera, though no recording equipment for audio. Still, he lowers his voice to a whisper, shielded behind his hand as he places his chin in his palm. “Justice has failed me, in case you haven’t noticed. Isn’t this what you wanted?”

“I find myself suspicious when I acquire the things I want with too much ease.”

Will scoffs, incredulous. He tries to gesture angrily around the room; the chains clang, his chin drops free, and his arms hit the table. He hisses in pain and rubs his chafed wrists, the tips of his fingers pushing underneath the cuffs. “Do you call this easy?”

“Yes.” Hannibal stares at him. It’s almost too easy. “How do I know that you are not planning something, Will? You have a devious mind. Unparalleled creativity. You’re a wolf in hunter’s plaid, hiding behind drugstore reading glasses. Forgive me if I don’t wish to put myself in reach of your teeth.”

Will offers a truly terrifying smile. Hannibal’s heart rate speeds.

“Right now, my only pelt is a prison suit. Without you, it may be the only one I ever have. Talk to Jack,” Will says, and ticks off his fingers. “And Alana. Beverly Katz. Zeller and Price. Ask any of them if they believe me. Ask all of them. The only one who is assured of my innocence is you, Hannibal. I’m sure you can see the irony in that.”

Hannibal swallows at the sound of his name from Will’s lips. He likes it. He likes it a lot.

“You’re the only real friend I have,” Will adds quietly. “Well. You were.”

“I am your friend, Will,” he replies.

Will leans forward. His smile is sad. His eyes are sharp as knives. “Prove it to me,” he says. “Ask them. Hear what they say. They’ve all sentenced me to death.”

Hannibal goes.

He asks.

He hears.

He returns to Will.

“See?” Will says. “See?”

Hannibal kills the judge, kills the guard, exonerates Will.

When Will exits the courtroom as a free man, it’s with Hannibal’s hand at his lower back and his lawyer trotting proudly at his left side like a prized dog on a leash. He walks by Jack and Alana without a word.

They separate from the lawyer. Will gets into Hannibal’s Bentley without a flicker of hesitation or fear. Instead, he melts into the passenger seat. His lashes flutter at the scent of wood paneling and leather, and his throat rolls as he swallows the scent down, his forever to keep. It is the singularly most erotic thing Hannibal has ever seen.

“Where would you like to go?” Hannibal asks him.

Will tips his cheek against the seat. He cracks his eyes open, and it is a chimera who stares back—neither man nor beast, but something entirely new. Something hungry.

“Home,” Will says.

Hannibal does not ask what he means; he doesn’t have to. He types the address of Chandler Place into his GPS, and takes in Will’s smile from the corner of his eye. He waits for Will to strike. How, yet, he has not quite decided.

 


 

Will keeps his house, but rehomes most of his dogs. For all intents and purposes, Will moves in with Hannibal.

Hannibal allows him to keep Winston. It’s no secret that Winston is Will’s favorite, and Will is Hannibal’s.

In another world, perhaps Hannibal finally would have taken Alana Bloom up on the potential he had always seen in her face. In this world, he lets it pass. He sees the potential in someone else, and it is far more attractive to him. Hannibal does not start a relationship with Alana Bloom. Instead, an affair blooms with Will.

Hannibal keeps up his psychiatric practice. Will dodges calls from Jack Crawford, and when the inevitable happens that Jack goes to Will’s house and finds him gone, he goes to Hannibal. It is Will who opens the door.

Jack strides right by Will without so much as a welcome, bull-headed and unaware that this home now belongs to the man he’d disregarded. Whose custody he has come to discuss with Hannibal like Will is a child. Like Will is still a prisoner. Like Will is Hannibal’s pet.

Hannibal gestures for Jack to join him in the study, and sees the furious flicker of Will’s expression over the man’s broad shoulders. Hannibal meets his eyes, inclines his head, and sees understanding. Will has always understood him so easily. He retreats for the moment, sulking without a sound.

They sit around the fireplace. Jack riles. Hannibal allows him to gain an impressive amount of verbal momentum that he would not usually tolerate. But he does, and he lets Jack rant, if only for the purpose of cutting him off in the middle of his tirade about ethics and trust and says, “I told you this wasn’t good for him. I told you I didn’t like it. You put Will in the path of madness and overwork, and then you put him in the crosshairs of killers. I won’t allow it anymore, Jack. Will deserves to feel safe and secure in his life.”

Jack stares at him. “You’ll lose your license.”

Hannibal’s eyes are cold. He inclines his head. “Why? My last appointment with Will Graham was seven months ago, for a single psychological consult that lasted an hour, clearing him for duty for the FBI. I have not had an appointment with him since.”

Jack startles. “But—”

Hannibal’s lip twitches toward a snarl. He bites it back, maintains his facade. On the outside, his expression only flickers, imperceptible. “If he were my patient, I would not have been able to discuss his confidences with you.”

Jack stares at him. “But you’re a doctor. Insurance—”

Hannibal’s fingers twitch. “I have never asked Will to pay for my company, Jack. Will and I had conversations that led to friendship. I never wanted to believe he would be capable of the kind of violence he was accused of. I submitted my concerns for his safety, and the evidence you requested when prompted, but I testified on Will’s behalf and for his benefit. I could see how he was suffering. When he left prison, Will was afraid for his safety. I allowed him to come here, with me.”

There is a knock on the door. Hannibal rises like he was expecting it. He finds Will waiting with a performatively guilty expression; Hannibal nearly smiles. Instead, he takes Will by the hand and guides him in. They both sit on the couch across from Jack.

Jack stares at their twined fingers.

“Jack…” Will sighs softly. He leans into Hannibal’s side, and Hannibal truly does enjoy the warmth and comfort it brings. Will is so familiar to him now. He’s not sure exactly when Will became a fixture in his home, but he is a presence Hannibal does not desire to cut loose any time soon. That in and of itself is an adjustment. It is the reason he discussed this with Will before Jack came; the reason why, at his core, his reaction will be genuine—to a degree. “I need more time. A lot of the things I trusted got broken. And I need to know that I can handle it before I go back to work for you.”

Hannibal and Jack both jolt. Jack is truly surprised. Hannibal is the finest replica of shock.

“Will, no, we talked about this,” Hannibal says, biting back the self-satisfied sense of victory. “Your mental health—”

Will squeezes his hand. He bumps his head against Hannibal’s shoulder in apology. “I know. I know. But this is what I do. It’s… who I am.” Will swallows.

Jack sits up straight. “You’ll come back?”

“I need some time,” Will warns. “But… yes. If you’ll let me.”

Hannibal looks crushed; disappointed and resigned. “If that’s what you want. I can’t recommend it, Will, it wasn’t good for you.”

Jack looks smug, but something in his expression also softens. Now that he knows he will have his way, he seems to regard Will and Hannibal in a new light. As though, perhaps, it will serve him to his advantage. He says, as though testing them, “Marriage is about compromise.”

Hannibal looks at Will. Will looks back.

He leans into Hannibal’s side, and Hannibal puts an arm around him. They paint the perfect picture of a couple in love, struggling through hard times, supported by one another.

“Yeah,” Will says, and shoots a private, secret smile up at Hannibal. “I guess it is.”

They have already passed Jack’s test. Jack does not know quite how thoroughly.

 


 

Will goes back to work for Jack, as he and Hannibal had planned. Hannibal continues to produce his elaborate menus, though no new Ripper victims surface.

No, their joint debut will be more spectacular. In the meantime, Hannibal teaches Will about the hunt.

In between their nighttime jaunts, he and Will make up for lost time with after-dark activities of a different sort.

Will fills a hole in his life that Hannibal hadn’t been entirely aware of. He had known he wanted Will, yes. Hannibal is still ruminating on the best time to make him aware of Abigail, living at his house on the shore and taking online college courses under a false name, when Will meets Margot Verger.

Will often comes to Hannibal’s office after his classes; this time, he is stopped by her outside. Hannibal glimpses them from the window with a curious sense of intrigue. Margot is a favorite patient of his. She has such terrible potential, and he would love to see her shine. It’s so very rare to find a woman with the kind of instinct that Margot possesses. When he looks at her, he sees an echo of a young Bedelia. He has always wondered what Will might make of Margot with that curious ability of his.

Will comes into his office minutes later. “I just met Margot Verger. I assume that wasn’t an accident.”

Hannibal nearly smiles. “The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind.”

 


 

Will and Margot become unlikely friends. Hannibal suspects he would like it a lot less if he didn’t already know about Margot’s proclivity for parts.

But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel a thrill of anger when Will says, “I think I should help Margot have a baby.”

Will reclines across Hannibal’s lap in their home study, his head rested against the arm of the couch. Hannibal’s hand clenches in his shirt. The spine of his book creaks in his other.

Will laughs. Hannibal does not find it funny. “Oh?” He says.

Will lays a hand over the back of his. Hannibal doesn’t want to admit that the gesture serves to soothe him. “You’re a doctor. You must know an IVF clinician. Margot wants to be a mother. If we give her a son, she’ll have the means to provide for him with the Verger fortune. Mason Verger will be out of our hair.” Will’s expression twists with distaste. “He’s a pig, Hannibal. A rabid boar. Margot deserves better than that.”

Hannibal’s hand relaxes. He glances down, takes in the attractive slopes of Will’s features. Margot is a beautiful woman; she and Will would have a fantastically attractive child. Intelligent, exacting—traits he values. But the idea of Will as a father for someone else’s progeny doesn’t sit quite right with him.

He isn’t sure how to say it without sounding petty. Jealous. But there is something in Will’s face that makes him pause.

Will stares up at Hannibal, and he recognizes the emotion for what it is—hope. “IVF usually results in multiples. Fraternal twins aren’t uncommon. If Margot has a girl, maybe we could…”

Will trails off. He turns his face away and looks into the fireplace instead.

Hannibal’s fingertips rest on Will’s neck. His pulse races. Hannibal’s speeds to match.

“We could name her Mischa,” Will says softly. He deliberately does not meet the gaze that is locked on him, shining the same color as merlot in the firelight. “Mischa Abigail Lecter.”

Hannibal closes the book he had been holding. He sets it on the side table, and lets his fingers twine in Will’s hair.

A family. A daughter.

Two daughters.

“I have something to tell you.”

 


 

Will is angry. Of course he’s angry.

But Will cries when he sees Abigail anyway.

“I thought I killed you,” he whispers into her hair. She holds him tightly enough in return to bruise his ribs. “God, fuck, I’m so happy to see you.”

He stares at Hannibal over the top of her head. Hannibal lingers behind, allows them to have their moment.

Until Will raises one hand toward him, fingers outstretched. “Fuck you,” he says. “Get over here.”

They nearly crush Abigail between them. Hannibal has never seen her smile so brightly before.

 


 

The problem is, they cannot simply return Abigail to society when she’s been considered long dead. They will have to be smart about it.

Mason Verger, Will decides. Verger’s it.

After all, it was Will who went through Hannibal’s rolodex and suggested that both Hannibal and the Verger family haunted similar circles. Any victim of Hannibal’s could just as logically be Mason’s. They choose the next ones carefully—in line with Hannibal’s criteria and Will’s plan.

The Ripper slaughters two victims. The first is a veterinarian who consults at Verger’s farm. The second is a boy, barely eighteen, who had worked two summers ago tending Margot’s horses. Their presentation is not nearly so important as their identity. The relation is faint, so very faint, but it is enough.

The raid on the Verger Estate comes as a surprise to everyone who is not Margot, Hannibal, and Will.

The FBI finds enough bone fragments in the manure pit that no one hesitates to call it as they see it. There’s enough human blood in the meat processing machines that no one blinks.

Margot, sobbing and shaking, is discovered in her room once SWAT kicks the door in. Mason has been shot in the head; a thin line of blood drips from Margot’s throat. A knife lays discarded on the floor. A stylish revolver quivers dramatically in Margot’s hand, one bullet missing. It is kindly, carefully taken from her hand by a sympathetic, shaken rookie. She is rushed to the hospital when he sees the swell of her stomach.

She tells the paramedics she is three months pregnant. They tell her she is having two children, a boy and a girl. She cries, even though Hannibal had given her a private ultrasound just days before and told her the very same.

Abigail Hobbs is discovered in a false room inside the slaughterhouse. She is not the only child there. Only one of those things was Will’s design, but they knew that he and Hannibal were not the only monsters lurking in the shadows of Baltimore.

Jack Crawford is blindsided. Alana breaks down in tears.

The Chesapeake Ripper dies that day with Mason Verger, but Abigail Hobbs is alive.

She runs to the waiting arms of Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter.

 


 

Margot meets Alana Bloom during her debriefing by the FBI. She feeds Jack Crawford a story about Mason, his abuses, how he regarded everyone around him as pigs, how he took humor in making his victims “high art”, and had the money and the time and the power to get away with it. There was so much blood on the Verger Estate that no one would ever know what was human. Mason could have worn one of the processing suits from the slaughterhouse. He had left no evidence on his victims. Luckily, his living victims are evidence enough.

Margot tells Alana of her mistreatment at Mason’s hands. How she knew, the moment the lights broke through the trees of the estate, that Mason would kill her if she didn’t do something. Margot places a hand on the slight swell of her belly, and tells Alana that she hadn’t told Mason about her pregnancy. She was scared to.

Mason was terrified of Will Graham, she says. Alana looks startled. Margot continues that it was only once she told her brother about her friendship with Will and saw his reaction that she started to put the pieces together.

She tells Alana she met Will Graham months and months ago, that they had become good friends. That she knew Hannibal through his ties to high society, but had only come to know him personally through Will. That she had agreed to be a surrogate for them, as long as she was allowed to keep one of the children.

Alana’s mouth falls open in shock.

Margot shows Alana and Jack a signed and notarized contract, signed by Hannibal and Will Lecter.

Will and Hannibal show them a marriage license, dated shortly after his release from the hospital.

The pieces line up, a puzzle made so simple that even the FBI cannot ignore the picture it paints. Jack Crawford closes the case on the Chesapeake Ripper with a smile.

 


 

Abigail Hobbs moves in with Hannibal and Will.

The fictitious Abigail Lecter withdraws from her online college with no fuss. The real and living Abigail Hobbs is accepted tuition-free to George Washington University, courtesy of her adopted father and adjunct professor, Will Graham-Lecter. They carpool to class together every morning, and slowly work their way through the winter semester. Hannibal often arrives home before they do. Most, but not all nights, they eat dinner together as a family.

Abigail makes friends. Far away from Minnesota, no one knows her as the daughter of Garret Jacob Hobbs. The student body only knows the details that the FBI released: she is the adopted daughter of the prickly Professor Graham-Lecter, who is rumored to only smile when she is within eyesight. That she was kidnapped the prior semester by a suspect of the FBI, and her father promptly retired. That the FBI was terribly sad to see him go, but Will’s husband, the acclaimed psychiatrist Dr. Lecter, insisted upon it for the safety of their family—a family that was expecting a new addition in just a scant few months.

Understandable. With time, the shock and awe fade. With it, Will’s lingering reputation as the guy who didn’t kill all those people, and Abigail’s as the devil’s daughter. For once in his life, Hannibal is content with being seen as the boring one to the general public. What he and Will do outside of public view, well—missing people are simply missing if their remains are never found.

Strangely, Hannibal is content with that.

Morgan Verger and Mischa Lecter are born in the summer. Alana Bloom and Margot Verger are married in the fall. They stay close; the twins display an exceptional symmetry despite being fraternal, and both Hannibal and Alana are curious and eager to study their children in their natural environment. Impossibly, Will and Margot find themselves somehow becoming the reasonable ones.

With Hannibal satisfied and kept busy, Bedelia Du Maurier is finally able to retire. Occasionally, she stops by for glasses of wine. She is certainly not Will’s favorite person, but Mischa adores Tatie Bedelia, and Hannibal believes strongly in Mischa growing up with as many intelligent female role models as possible. Will grumbles, but never turns her away from their door.

Chiyoh stops by with the first snows of winter and stays through the season. It is with great exasperation that Will looks at Hannibal and says this is your fault when Abigail announces her intention to become an Olympic shooter the following spring.

There are no more Ripper killings. The Verger and Lecter families live in unremarkable peace, but with quite remarkable children.

Life goes on. Will teaches. Hannibal practices psychiatry, plus or minus some unconventional therapy techniques.

Every so often, The Baltimore Sun will detail a missing person in the center pages of the Sunday paper. Will frowns thoughtfully about it over siphon-brewed coffee; Hannibal reads Freddie Lounds’ interpretations of more significant events on Tattlecrime.com. There are dark circles under Will’s eyes, though perhaps not any more dark than they had been when Hannibal had first met him. He glances over the top of his tablet and watches Will’s leg bounce with a flicker of amusement. Winston, sleeping beneath his chair, does not even twitch at the movement anymore.

“You are aware that Mischa is with her mother this morning? There is no need to rock her when she's not here.”

Will startles; then he looks down at his wobbling knee as though he were betrayed. It slows to a stop. He takes a long sip. “I don’t know if I’m over-caffeinated or over-tired. I haven’t drank this much coffee since I was a cop.”

“Parenthood is grueling,” Hannibal replies with a sympathetic hum. He presses the lock button on the side of his tablet and sets it aside. He reaches for Will’s hand atop the table and is met with fingers stretching outward and uncurling, reaching for him right back.

It warms him. Will’s exhausted smile fans the embers into a flame.

“You’ve lost a lot of sleep since you met me,” Will says, and his smile turns wry. There are silver hairs glimmering at his temple, the beginnings of wrinkles at the corners of his eyes. Hannibal is pleased that they are imprints from the shape of Will’s joy, rather than his sorrow. He’s not sure when that changed, but it was surely long ago. “Regret getting involved with me yet?”

Hannibal stands. Will looks up at him, full of warm regard and tired love. Hannibal does not need to share Will’s gift to read his expressions. He bends over to kiss the crown of Will’s head, and briefly revels in the oddity of his life. Il Mostro and Chesapeake Ripper; dutiful husband and loving father. Mischa returned to his life. Abigail and Will as permanent residents in his home that had once only been a monument to his own sense of superiority.

How strange is life, is God, that one could commit such acts of cruelty and be rewarded so richly?

Life isn’t fair. Hannibal is glad of it.

On the table sit two teacups, and both of them are whole. Full.

“I’m afraid not,” Hannibal murmurs. He twines his hand in the hair at the base of Will’s neck and breathes. It has been more than a year since Will gave up his terrible aftershave, since the scent of fevered sweetness faded from his skin. Now, he smells of Hannibal’s shampoo, sex and sweat, coffee, the ink of newspages on his hands, baby powder. All the scents Hannibal now associates with his home, because of Will. “And you?”

Will licks his lips. The pages on the table detail the disappearance of a local overnight stockman (homophobic, sneering insults, taken apart at every major joint, vivisected and harvested while he cried louder than Mischa). Will does not spare a glance to them.

“No,” Will says, and tips his chin up to whisper against Hannibal’s lips, “I never needed much sleep, anyway. This is a much better reason to go without.” He kisses Hannibal. His leg bounces, and he pulls away. Despite the lilac shadows beneath his eyes, they shine. “What’s for breakfast?”

“Darling Will,” Hannibal says, and he smiles. “Do you have to ask?”