They crawled out of the ocean as two separate, broken beings but fell together - fused at the palms - onto heavy, wet sand. Collapsed on their backs - alive - their ragged breathing fell into parallel rhythm. The waves dwindled by their bare feet, shoes lost in the struggle. Hannibal winced as he shifted uncomfortably, his side in agony - fingers tightening in Will’s grip between them.
“We’re alive,” Will breathed, his voice stifled with brackish water.
Hannibal exhaled and placed his other hand on his weeping side. He gazed up at the black sky, at the edge of the bluff, listening for the wailing of sirens and the flash of red and blue.
“We are,” he responded, his voice rough. “If we intend to stay that way, it’s best that we start moving."
Struggling to his feet, Hannibal waited while Will pulled himself up and did the same, taking his hand and leading him towards the road. When Hannibal pulled his hand free to wave down a passing car, Will felt time come to a standstill - felt his heart race. Will watched as the driver rolled down his window at Hannibal’s feigned panic, the stranger’s neck soon broken with an expert twist of powerful hands. His dead weight pressed against the horn momentarily before Hannibal pulled his body from the car.
“Will,” he beckoned.
Together they hauled the body into the trunk and climbed into the car, Hannibal behind the wheel, Will’s fingertips grazing his thigh.
Will tried to focus on his bare feet in front of him but soon started to doze, fading in between worlds, until the car came to a stop at a rundown motel.
“Where are we?” he asked as Hannibal turned off the engine.
“Pennsylvania,” he answered.
Will nodded and pulled his hand away, instantly missing the feel of the wool of Hannibal’s pants that had slowly dried as they drove. He carefully stretched, taking note of the large black duffel bag that had appeared in the back of the car.
Hannibal was wearing boots now. Another pair was resting on the backseat, thick, clean socks tucked into them.
“Did I sleep the whole way?”
“You did,” he answered. “On and off."
“You could have woken me,” Will said. “No need for you to drive all this way on your own."
When Hannibal didn’t respond, Will looked at him to find that he was staring blankly ahead. The red neon of the “vacancy” sign in the office window reflected off his pale skin. Leaning back into the driver’s seat, he placed his hands in his lap and turned his neck to meet Will’s gaze.
“This can be where I leave you,” he said, his voice deep and rough. “I’ll call Jack and absolve you of everything that’s happened. All I would ask in return is that you allow me 48-hours.”
His eyes were shimmering, posture stiff - braced.
Will shook his head gently.
“I don’t want you to leave me,” he responded “Not here nor anywhere else."
His body relaxed slightly."
“You need to be sure, Will,” he continued, sounding almost as if he didn’t want to. “This may be your last chance to reclaim your life. Your dogs-"
“Your wife and son."
Will looked at the ring on his finger, the weight of it bearing down on his hand. He resisted the urge to touch it.
“I know,” he said, meeting Hannibal’s gaze again. “I’m right where I want to be, Hannibal.”
The older man nodded and climbed out of the car, returning a few minutes later with a brass key in his hand. Will opened the passenger side door, grabbing the bag from the backseat as he followed him.
“We should only stay here two days,” Hannibal said as he closed the door to the sparse room behind them. “If not less. We’ll need to abandon the car and its contents and secure another. And tend to ourselves.”
Will winced as Hannibal pressed his fingers against the gash in his cheek, leaning in to examine it.
“Come here,” he said softly, taking his hand and pulling him into the worn bathroom.
Hannibal turned on the shower, the room slowly filling with steam as both men stripped their ruined clothes. Will’s eyes shot to the angry wound on Hannibal’s side, purple, red, and swollen. In an instant he saw Hannibal’s entire body go rigid and grey, stiff and unresponsive. Cold.
“Will that-” he started. “Will you be okay?”
Hannibal unclasped his watch and placed it on the counter of the sink before stepping out of his pants. He stood naked, gazing down at his side.
“Yes,” he said plainly. “He managed to miss my vitals. Though I suspect that was part of his design. I will need to remove the bullet however.”
Will nodded and shed the rest of his clothes without another word. Hannibal opened the door to the shower and carefully stepped in, leaving it open for Will who followed and shut it behind them both. They didn’t speak, only moved their arms around each other gently wiping away salt, dirt, and blood. Hannibal’s fingers worked around the red edge of the slash at Will’s cheek, his eyes focused on the wound. As he did, Will took in his face - the old scars over his nose and at the high arch of his cheekbone, the wrinkles around his eyes.
“I will need to stitch this,” he repeated.
“Okay,” Will answered.
Will leaned his head on Hannibal’s shoulder, nose buried in the crook of his neck as the older man’s hand came around his waist, a warm follow up to their frigid plunge. They stayed under the spray of the water until it began to grow tepid, hands running slowly over each other’s bodies in small, reassuring caresses.
They dried and moved back to the main room. Will watched as Hannibal removed a medical kit from the large bag.
“Please,” he said, motioning for Will to sit on the edge of one of the two full beds.
Will tightened the starchy towel at his waist and sat as Hannibal gathered what he needed and kneeled at his feet. Pulling a pair of disposable gloves on he ran an alcohol soaked cloth around the ripped skin, holding Will in place with his other hand as he did.
“Would you like anything for the pain?"
Will leaned into his touch, his fingers gripping at the towel over his thighs.
He held as still as he could, concentrating on his breathing as Hannibal pushed the suture through his skin. In a flash he saw himself strapped to a stretcher in the Verger operating theater, Hannibal leaning over him and doing the same to the other side of his face. The disjointed memory of Hannibal’s arms under his upper back and knees pulsed - foggy - into his consciousness.
In the present, Hannibal tied off the suture and ran his thumb over the raised tip of the sewn wound.
“Good,” he said as he came to his feet and moved to sit in a chair by the table which held the medical supplies.
“Do you need help?” Will asked as he picked up a small pair of forceps and snapped on a new pair of gloves.
“No,” he answered as he turned his eyes down towards his abdomen.
“Would you like help?”
He lifted his head and found Will’s gaze, nodding once.
Will came to his feet and then fell to his knees as Hannibal had, taking the gloves handed to him and pulling them on. He took the forceps from Hannibal’s grip.
“It is rather near the surface,” he said. “You should feel it almost immediately.”
Holding in a breath, Will pushed the steel inside him, pulling the forceps open and slowly feeling until he felt the edge of the bullet. He pulled it out, Hannibal’s unflinching gaze locked on him. Placing the red tinged forceps on a pad of gauze on the table, Will stood and took Hannibal’s hands, pulling him to his feet as well.
He gently cleaned the wound on his belly and moved around to do the same to the entry wound on his back, his free hand pressing gently on the uninjured flesh there. Once he’d finished he circled Hannibal’s body again, pressing medical dressing around him as he passed several times. When he’d finished, he pushed lightly to secure it.
“Thank you,” Hannibal said.
“We can pick up clothes for you tomorrow but in the meantime you’ll find something to sleep in and wear in the bag.”
As Hannibal returned to the bathroom to gather their soiled clothes, Will pulled out a pair of boxer briefs from the duffel bag and slipped them on, leaving everything else inside. Moving to the bed furthest from the door, he pulled back the covers and slipped under the sheets. Hannibal left the remains of their clothing in a pile by the door to be disposed of along with the car and the stranger in the morning.
Checking the deadbolt, he turned and took another pair of underwear out of the bag, hanging his towel off the back of the chair as he carefully pulled them on. After he finished, he walked past the empty bed closest to the door and around to the other side as Will pulled the covers down for him.
The old mattress groaned with Hannibal’s added weight as he settled and turned onto his side. Immediately, Will did the same, meeting him in the middle of the bed and tucking his head into the side of his neck, one hand on Hannibal’s hip and the other between their bodies. Hannibal’s own arm came around Will’s side, fingers slowly trailing up and down his bare back.
Tilting his head, Hannibal pressed his lips into Will’s hair.
“Will you be here in the morning?” He whispered.
Will was asleep before he could answer.