After Hannibal left his uncle’s home as a young man, his unusual hobbies had meant that he could never let any of his friends or dalliances make themselves at home in his space. Indeed, prior to his incarceration, the closest he had come to cohabiting with anyone had been his extended experiment with Bedelia, who had been more or less terrified of him and therefore quite unlikely to argue over interior decorating or whose turn it was to do the dishes.
Given that Will had also lived alone for many years, and the state of his home in Wolf Trap, Hannibal had expected them to clash quite often over the design and management of their shared dwelling. To his surprise, and slight disappointment, he discovered that Will was actually quite easygoing and the only area he had strong opinions on was security. Once Hannibal and the dogs were safely walled in and surrounded by sufficient fences to repel even the most determined mob of infected, he seemed content to follow Hannibal’s lead, and had no issues with doing the all the washing and repair work if Hannibal looked after the food and garden.
He and Hannibal both agreed that it was more practical for Hannibal to remain behind when Will made his foraging trips to nearby towns and cities, though these were less and less necessary as Hannibal’s garden improved.
Will said lightly that he was happy to track down whatever Hannibal wanted for the house as long as it wasn’t ‘creepy swan porn’ or antlers, so Hannibal told him that he could choose any artworks he liked as long as it wasn’t dogs playing poker. He had braced himself for Will to deliberately bring back something awful, or, worse, to bring back something awful because he genuinely liked it. Instead, Will found stormy seascapes and delicate, colour-saturated fractals. He never brought anything with people in it, and his choices added to the strange, dreamlike quality of their new existence.
It occurred to Hannibal sometimes that this brave new world, completely isolated from the rest of humanity, was perhaps the only way they could ever have coexisted peacefully. Here, secure inside their fences, Will could be sure that Hannibal was safe from the world, and the world from Hannibal. They discussed philosophy, sometimes, had long rambling conversations about the nature of reality, but it was all abstract. Without potential victims or the disapproving gaze of society, neither of them needed to consider Hannibal’s crimes and whether or not he would like to go on committing them. And so they didn’t.
Will only balked at a request of Hannibal’s once.
Hannibal had brought it up after dinner, when they were sitting comfortably in the the living room. Hannibal was sketching Will while Will attempted to measure Anthony, a scruffy little terrier mix, for the jumper Will was planning to knit him. Will was muttering about needing more yarn while informing Anthony that he was still too thin, and Hannibal said carefully, “If you’re going out for supplies, there are a few things I would like.”
Will, fending off an excited and over-friendly dog who was trying to lick his face, said absently, “Sure, make me a list. Anything in particular?”
“If you could see your way to finding me a microscope and some slides, perhaps a few other things, I would greatly appreciate it.”
Will froze, Anthony making a startled yelp as his fingers tightened. Will hurriedly released the dog, making soft apologies and petting him until Anthony relaxed and began trying to lick him again, and then Will gently shooed him away and turned to Hannibal.
“Do I want to know what you’re planning to do with a microscope?” he asked tightly.
Hannibal set aside his pencil and closed his sketchbook. “I was considering looking at your blood, if you’ll permit me.”
“And what exactly are you hoping to learn?” Will demanded. “You already told me you’re not a virologist, and I’m hardly going to be able to find or transport the kind of equipment you’d need to try to make some sort of cure, let alone some means of testing it. It’s not… I don’t see the point, Hannibal, and messing around with samples of my blood seems dangerous.”
“While accidents are always possible, I am capable of taking precautions, Will. And I have no intention of testing anything on myself, I assure you. We have no way of knowing what about you or the method of your infection caused the result to be your current state instead of mindless hunger. I am… merely curious. Do you realise that it has been a year since you were infected?”
Will nodded slowly. “I know. But… It’s not as though we have any actual information on incubation periods or virus behaviour or anything else, really. All either of us know is what was on the news, and that was basically ‘it turns people into zombies, usually in under an hour, shoot on sight’. And everyone we’ve seen since then has been already infected. For all we know, I somehow got a mutated strain and I’m going to turn into something much worse but it just requires some particular trigger.”
“Really, Will. We had this discussion when you first agreed to let me stay with you, and if it was the presence of an uninfected human then the past year should have more than disproved that.”
Will sighed. “I don’t know, it might not be just humans. Maybe something more specific like a particular set of pheromones. Fear, for example.”
Hannibal blinked. “That might actually be plausible. Should we test it?”
“Sure,” Will snapped, starting to sound irritated. “What are you afraid of, Doctor Lecter? What makes you break out in a cold sweat and triggers your fight-or-flight response, hmm? Polka dots? Bad reviews in TattleCrime? Cheese in a can?”
Hannibal made a mild tsking noise. “Really, Will. I think you can do better than that. Not even Bedelia understood me as well as you do, and I gave her the answers myself.”
Will’s mouth twisted. “Yes, but it’s all such a complicated mess in there. I was hoping you might have just neglected to mention your terrible phobia of spiders, so we could get on with it without me having to tie you up somewhere cold and starve you for a couple of weeks.”
Hannibal felt his jaw lock up for a moment, and then he smiled. “See?”
“It’s what I do,” Will agreed, smiling back mirthlessly. “And I did visit your house.”
Hannibal’s breath caught. “And what is it that you saw there?”
Will raised an eyebrow. “You actually want to- of course you do.”
Hannibal made an enquiring sound, and Will shrugged. “You’re curious. You so rarely have emotions that when you do, they fascinate and repel you in equal measure. It’s why you like art so much, because it produces sensations in you but they’re still controllable. It’s why you reacted so badly when I hurt you, the very fact that I could hurt you, make you feel without your conscious choice to allow it, was deeply upsetting and you didn’t handle it well. Even when you have no power over your outer circumstances, your inner environment has always been entirely under your control. That really is the core of it, isn’t it? And you equate hunger with a catastrophic loss of control: that winter when you lost Mischa, and the time you spent at the orphanage, when you were still a child and had limited resources. You can deal with being hungry, but you hate it. It stirs up things inside you, base things, things you find... not unacceptable, perhaps, but certainly unbecoming.”
There were certainly a number of feelings being stirred up inside Hannibal now, the need to regain control of the conversation warring with the desire to see what else Will might be able to draw out of him, but something about the way Will spoke of hunger tugged at Hannibal. He focussed back on his companion, watching him intently. “Do you feel hunger, Will? What is it that you hunger for?”
Will’s shoulders locked up with tension. Hannibal leaned forward, fascination now mixed with concern. “Will?”
Will tilted his chin up slowly, and gritted out, “You smell like food.”
Hannibal opened his mouth, then closed it again with a click. He thought about Will’s aversion to physical contact, which had been consistent since Hannibal’s arrival at his home in Florida a year previously, yet was slightly different to the care he took with the dogs, which mostly involved not sharing bodily fluids. After a few moments of consideration, he asked slowly, “Is this a recent development?”
Will actually tensed further. “Ah, no. It’s been… the whole time.”
“You never mentioned it before.”
“You never asked.” Will blew out a breath, forcing his shoulders down from around his ears. “Look, it isn’t a problem, so I didn’t bother mentioning it, not that I thought it would worry you particularly but… You seem to be under the impression that I’m fine apart from the discoloured eyes and the fact that other zombies don’t see me as food. And I’m not.”
“Also your senses have improved, most notably your low-light vision though I believe your olfactory acuity may have outstripped mine, and you are much stronger than I would have expected given your lean build,” Hannibal offered. “Is it… If it helps, I had no idea. You have never been physically demonstrative and I thought your insistence on your personal space to be more about concern over possible contagion than avoidance of… temptation.”
Will give him a sidelong look. “The thing you should understand is, hunger doesn’t mean the same things to me that it does to you. That feeling you had in the orphanage, when you weren’t actually starving but you never had enough to be satisfied? To you, that was an indicator that something had gone horribly wrong with the world. For me, that was most of my childhood. You get used to it.”
“Hunger is your body asking for things that it needs,” Hannibal pointed out, frowning. “It isn’t healthy to ignore that.”
Will just shrugged. “Bodies complain a lot, wanting food and sleep and warmth and shoes that fit properly. If you can’t have those things, there’s a constant stream of complaints, and after a while it becomes background noise.” He sighed, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. If he’d been wearing his glasses, Hannibal knew, he would have taken them off and cleaned them. “I don’t know that hunger is the right word. Hunger implies a need, or at least desire. I don’t feel any actual compulsion to take a bite out of you. It’s just... as though you showed up covered in aftershave called ‘the best thing you’ve ever eaten in your life’ and you’ve been wearing it ever since.” He tipped his chin up and made eye contact, and said firmly, “Yes, I think you smell like food. That doesn’t mean I’m going to eat you.”
Hannibal spent a moment trying to decide how he felt about that.
Will’s eyebrows gradually scrunched together. “…Did you… want me to eat you?”
Hannibal folded his hands in his lap. “As a possible outcome of the situation, I would have considered it acceptable.”
Will said archly, “In the same way that you would have considered me murdering you with my bare hands an acceptable outcome of our previous interactions?”
Hannibal blinked, feeling the familiar flare of warmth in the pit of his stomach at both the words and the tone. “Yes.”
Will cocked his head to one side, and then he parted his lips and took a slow breath. “Really?” he said incredulously. “Is this why you used to spend our sessions sitting in an armchair with your legs demurely crossed while I talked about how much I wanted to wrap my hands around your neck and squeeze until you choked out your last breath?”
Hannibal swallowed, throat clicking. The way Will leaned forward, eyes intent, was the way he’d always looked when he was talking about how much he’d like to kill Hannibal, but there was something… avid, greedy, about his face, the way he tasted the air, and-
“Would you let me?” Will asked, voice lower than it had been a moment ago. “If I ripped open your shirt and tangled your arms up in the sleeves, pinned you to the floor so that you couldn’t get away. Would you fight me? Or would you let me put my mouth on you, get my teeth into your belly where you’re soft and tender? I can smell that, you know, how much this arouses you. Would you let me kill you, Hannibal?”
Hannibal made a sound that he might, under duress, call a moan, his hands clenching tightly into fists. “Will,” he said hoarsely, “Will, what are you doing?”
He could feel the blood rising into his own face, knew precisely what he must look like, but besides sharply dilated pupils and a fascinated expression, Will appeared entirely unaffected. His mouth twisted. “I don’t- know, exactly. I’m not… wired for sex anymore, it doesn’t work, but… I like this, watching you lose control. Do you want me to stop, Hannibal?”
“No. But-” Hannibal took a breath, let it out slowly. Will had just said a number of things he would like very much to discuss in greater depth. “We should probably talk about this.”
Will hummed thoughtfully. “Do we need to? I know you want me, want anything you can have of me, you’d like to open me up and pry out all of my secrets,” He paused, eyes going distant, then focussed again, sharper, “Ah. That’s why you want to look at my blood, isn’t it? You don’t care about a cure, you just want to see.”
Hannibal dug his fingertips into his thighs, the slight pain grounding, but Will’s gaze slid to his hands, then up to where he was clearly erect in his trousers, and he said, “You could touch yourself, if you’d like.”
A fresh wave of heat washed through Hannibal’s body, and he felt his cock twitch. “Will,” he rasped out. “Don’t say that unless you mean it.”
Will raised an eyebrow. “And what if I do?”
Hannibal swallowed audibly.
Will smiled. “Hannibal. We can talk about it later. Let me see you touch yourself.”
Hannibal was flicking open the button on his trousers before he’d fully processed the sentence, shoving his trousers and underwear down enough to expose himself and hissing in relief, curling his fingers around his throbbing erection.
His hand was dry, a little uncomfortable, and Will murmured, “Lick your fingers, get yourself wet for me,” and he did, and then it was so good, Will watching him while he stroked himself, and then Will started to talk again.
“Did I ever tell you that I used to dream about killing you? There was one I had, you were tied to a tree, the stag was harnessed up to the ropes and every time I whistled he’d pull harder and the ropes would tighten, creaking as they dragged you tighter against the tree, crushing you, while you talked to me about love until the ropes sank into your flesh and tore you apart, and covered me in your blood.”
Hannibal found his hand speeding up, little noises dragging their way out of his throat at every stroke, and Will braced his elbows on his knees and leaned forward, eyes flicking between Hannibal’s hand and his face, and he murmured, “I don’t think I could do it like that now, though. If I was going to kill you now I’d want to touch you, bite you, get in close and taste, and you’d let me, wouldn’t you? Let me tear open your flesh, slide my fingers into your slippery viscera, swallow you down raw and still warm. Would you watch me? Would you struggle to stay conscious even while you were bleeding out, so you could watch me eating you? Making you a part of me, inseparable, nourishing myself with your life... Would you enjoy it as much as you’re enjoying this, I wonder… Would you get hard for me while I was killing you, Hannibal? Would you come for me?”
Hannibal groaned Will’s name as his cock began to spurt, thick ropes of come splattering across his fingers and his shirt, and he sank back into the armchair, panting. Will hummed thoughtfully, gaze settling on his face, shifting around but occasionally meeting Hannibal’s own.
He got up abruptly, but Hannibal made a distressed noise as he turned to leave, so he padded over to Hannibal’s chair instead.
Hannibal gazed up at him mutely, not entirely sure what expression was on his face, but suspecting that an honest description might include the words ‘worshipful’ and ‘pleading’.
Will looked down at him, and his mouth curled up at the edges. “Despite... everything, I am glad that you’re here. Not sure I ever told you that, but I am.” He leant forward and pressed a soft kiss to Hannibal's temple, nosing into his hair briefly. “I’m just going to get something to clean you up with, alright? Back in a minute.”
Reassured, Hannibal relaxed back into his chair and watched as Will walked towards the bathroom. He wondered vaguely if Will would get him canvas and paints, instead of a microscope. He wanted very badly to capture that gentle expression of Will’s and he wasn’t sure that he could do it justice with pencils.