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Porridge

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Porridge

 

 

“I’d be delighted to, Dr. Graham.”

Even as the man who had spoken those words watched him with visible irritation, Will continued to wonder if everything that had happened during the night had been a vivid dream. Or that maybe Dr. Lecter had actually gotten him with the syringe, and was in fact currently watching him dying as a nice change of pace. If, in his last moments, all his usually unfathomable imagination could come up with was some kink involving the doctor watching him mopping up blood from his exam room floor, he was going to be one pissed off ghost.

“Stop trying to come up with reasons why you should be helping me. I can hear you thinking from here.”

When he was met with terse silence, Will glanced up and found himself being regarded with an unamused expression. The doctor had been visibly offended when Will had rebuffed his attempts to help him clean up, but he had managed to keep him on the cot with a reminder that pulling his stitches would negate all of his hard work, and wouldn’t that just be wasteful? It had been unabashedly manipulative, but it was also true; and so there the doctor lay, annoyed and restless.

“I am hardly invalid.”

“I know, I could tell by how you Houdini-ed your way off my table and onto my chest. Doesn’t mean you’re going to help me clean up the blood I made you lose in the first place.”

There was a pregnant pause, and Will waited patiently for whatever blunt observation the doctor would make of those words. It was why he’d chosen them, after all.

“You feel genuine regret. It’s not a feeling you’re familiar with.”

“That’s not true— I feel ‘genuine regret’ pretty often, it just usually isn’t mine. But I think it’s you that’s unfamiliar with it. You don’t understand why I feel bad about all this because you don’t regret anything.”

There was another long pause, but Will waited patiently. Dr. Lecter certainly wouldn’t let an accusation like that go unanswered.

“Perhaps if you were one of my patients, I would tell you that I believe a life without regret would be no life at all. But I won’t insult you with platitudes, Dr. Graham. The truth is that I find regret to be a useless emotion, and so rarely entertain it; it serves no purpose to look back at what you cannot change unless you are learning from it.”

“No use crying over spilt blood,” Will murmured and shifted awkwardly on his feet, wondering if his retort wasn’t just a touch too simple or puerile compared to the more finely crafted phrases from the doctor. But if he did find it distasteful, he did not remark on it, and just continued speaking.

“And what I do not understand is your self-flagellation at an admirable outmaneuvering. You triumphed over several formidable opponents, myself included. I am only alive because you deemed it so.”

Will shrugged as he wrung out the mop and wiped his brow on his forearm, stalling for time to think of something clever to say back to that. While he enjoyed this banter with Han—Dr. Lecter— he was damned exhausted, and he was worried about saying something ridiculous or non-sequitur, saying too much or not enough. Will hadn’t thought about how he sounded to others since he’d forcefully shaken his Southern accent nearly two decades ago, but this man was a cultured, lifelong intellectual with probably at least ten years on him. His accent made him sound elegant, mysterious— a far cry from the country boy twang that had plagued Will through his college years, always getting either laughs or poor attempts at imitation. Though Will might have won himself a few more hours with the doctor after this, if he proved a disappointing conversation partner, the man would definitely lose interest and he’d never see him again. What he really regretted now was his lack of sleep. Will decided to switch gears and just spoke honestly instead of relying on wit that was running on empty.

“It wasn’t my design. I follow my nature too, Dr. Lecter, and it isn’t always about destruction.”

The man was quiet after that, and by the time Will was satisfied with the state of the room, sunlight was starting to peek in through the eastern windows.

“I’m going to erase the tape now. Would you like to watch?”

“I trust you to keep your word, Dr. Graham,” was the only reply, and he bit back a smile at the Chesapeake Ripper’s totally bold-faced lie; Will knew he actually just didn’t want to disturb Stevie, the sleeping kitten still curled up on his chest.

Afterwards, with all evidence of the doctor’s visit completely cleared away, he returned to his stool beside the cot and reached down to scratch behind Winston’s ears. Zoe and the pups had taken up their beds once more, but Winston had remained vigilantly planted by the head of the cot, keeping close watch on the strange man and the precious cargo he held.

“My relief should be here in about twenty minutes. Logistics then—if you’re still up to it?”

“I defer the decision to you, Dr. Graham. You haven’t slept at all tonight.”

“Being unconscious from blood loss doesn’t really count as sleep either,” Will smirked, and found a minute grin as an answer on Dr. Lecter’s face. “But, since that wasn’t a no…,”

Will was alone by the time Abigail arrived, and while he was always glad to see her, today was especially good. There had been a moment during his night with the Chesapeake Ripper when he’d thought he might never see her again, might never hear the sweet sound of her voice as she snarked on the smell of cleaning solution that filled the room.

“Wow! Did you even dilute that with water? What happened, why are you suddenly cleaning?”

“What do you mean ‘suddenly’? I do this at least once a week.”

“No, I do this at least once a week. God, this is too much, I’m gonna open the side door. What happened, did you get bored?”

Will rolled his eyes as Abigail’s voice echoed down the hall, though she was probably a little bit right. His throat was burning quite a bit.

“The pups got excited,” was the only explanation that Will had to offer, and thankfully, Abigail shrugged it off and playfully chastised said puppies, who could not have cared less that they were convenient scapegoats.

“I’m gonna leave them with you until you’re off. Just drop them off in the dog run if I don’t answer the door.”

“Ok. Did you even get any sleep?” she asked as he started folding up the cot and tucking the bedclothes away. “You don’t look so good.”

“Not much. And I always look like this.”

“You usually have less holes in your neck,” she muttered, and stepped closer with a furrowed brow towards him. He’d forgotten all about the small injuries he'd gotten during the night. “What the hell made-,”

“Stevie,” Will said quickly, nodding towards the kitten who was staring at them through the bars of her cage. He could have sworn he saw a flash of indignation in her wide eyes at his lie. Abigail had nothing but confusion in hers. “That’s her name. She got too playful. It’s nothing, it’s fine.”

Abigail opened her mouth to speak, and there was something slightly like disbelief in her eyes. But then she stopped, seemed to chastise herself for being suspicious over a few scratches and just turned to frown at the kitten.

“I think that means someone needs a nail trim,” she said softly, fetching Stevie from her cage, lifting her up to eye level. “We don’t scratch our people, little miss Stevie.”

As Abigail turned away, Will locked eyes with Stevie and mouthed ‘I’m so sorry’ at her steady, accusing gaze. Then he shook himself out of it and sighed—he really was tired if he was apologizing to a kitten. He called Winston and Zoe after him with a whistle and headed to the lobby.

“I’m heading out. Call me if you need anything. Otherwise, don’t.”

“Whatever,” Abigail called back over her shoulder as a goodbye, making Will grin at how much she sounded like him. No wonder everyone thought she was his— they weren’t exactly wrong.

Outside, the morning cold was bracing; he took a few deep breaths, letting it clear his throat and wake him as he waited for the dogs to do their business. Then they were on the road to his home where Dr. Lecter would be waiting. At least he hoped he would be there. There had been enough time for second thoughts.

When he pulled up into his driveway to find a very nice, very expensive black car parked there, he had to bite back a smirk. He’d assumed the doctor was wealthy, but a Bentley? Really?

“Not the most inconspicuous vehicle,” he teased as Dr. Lecter got out to greet him. “Interesting choice.”

There was a brief moment of unsteadiness in his step, and Will wondered if it was real. He couldn't be entirely sure with this man, couldn’t know what was true and what was strategic fabrication —or even what was real and not concealed for some particular purpose. Dr. Lecter was a serial killer hiding within the breast of the FBI, leading them on a merry chase while he held leashes they weren’t even aware they had on. Even though they seemed to be on good terms, Will could not afford to drop his guard completely lest he end up with his own collar.

But he'd be lying if he said it wasn’t part of his appeal. He could only wonder what sort of tricks Dr. Lecter could make him do with the right manipulations.

“Perhaps you can tell me your thoughts on it?”

There was a tinge of challenge in the doctor’s voice, and it was clear what he was really asking for: he wanted more demonstrations of Will’s empathy at work. He decided not to nibble, if only to frustrate the good doctor. He was cute when he was frustrated.

“Maybe you just have better taste than I do,” Will shrugged and gestured to his beat-up truck.

“Do you have trouble with taste, Dr. Graham?”

“My thoughts are not often tasty,” Will grinned wryly, then whistled for the dogs to regroup from where they had been wandering in the field. He led the way towards the front porch, Dr. Lecter just a step behind on his right, dogs on his left. Once he opened the door, he gestured for him to enter. “Wait inside while I put these guys away?”

The doctor murmured a thanks and stepped into the house, and Will ran the dogs to the locked gate of the dog run that hugged the entire west side of the house, and some of the back porch. It had taken him over a year after he’d moved in to build it in his spare time, and it’d been expanded several times since then. When he’d first opened the clinic, he’d always felt guilty over how long the dogs spent cooped up in the house, and after coming home to one too many accidents, he had decided enough was enough. The dogs were still allowed inside when he was home, but otherwise, they lived in their own little world on the side of the house, each with their own personal kennel. Once Remus and Romulus started growing, it was going to need another addition; he was starting to wonder if taking the pups on was such a good idea after all.

After greeting his pack and settling them down with some treats, Will locked the run again and took a deep breath to steel himself, running his fingers through his hair and smacking off the excess dog hair from his clothes. He couldn’t help but laugh as he walked up the steps to his porch. There was a serial killer waiting in his house, and all he could think about was if he looked as bad as Abigail had said.  

“Sorry to make you wait, Dr. Lecter—,”

He found the doctor turning away from the fireplace mantle, standing in front of Abigail’s high school graduation photo. Something dark and possessive shot through him at the sight, and he struggled hard to reign it back. He was shocked and unsettled by his overreaction to the man simply looking at a picture of his surrogate daughter. He hadn’t even felt anything close to it when Matthew had indirectly threatened her. Of course, there was more to unpack about it, but now was not the time for introspection. He aimed for being casual, with just a dollop of chagrin. 

“I know, she looks like me, but we’re not related. She’s just one of my techs.”

“More than that, I would say.”

There was a sharp edge to the doctor’s observation, and Will realized he hadn’t hidden his fierce reaction well, if at all. He was very, very tired, and now he’d done the human equivalent of baring teeth at the Chesapeake Ripper. He decided not to rise to that bait either— it would not lead to anywhere good.

“Can I take your coat?”

The doctor allowed the change in subject, and Will looked over the blood-stained remnants of his suit, pondering whether it would be polite to offer him a change of clothes. He must have been staring for a little too long, because the doctor arched a brow at him questioningly.

“Are you comfortable…um,” Will finally just spat out, gesturing towards his body awkwardly, “Like this?”

“I am for now, thank you.”

The doctor turned away and continued to appraise his home, his eyes flitting over the various bric-a-brac, his books, his fly-tying table and the row of rods that lined the wall. He felt a pang of embarrassment at the clutter, but there was little he could do now about the hideous dog figurines Beverly kept sneaking onto his shelves. It wasn't like he'd been expecting a guest.

“Do you play?”

Will watched as Dr. Lecter approached the old upright piano on the far side of the room, and saw a subtle move to touch a key, which was quickly aborted. He didn't want to leave unnecessary fingerprints or traces of DNA, most likely. It was probably why he wasn’t accepting the offer to clean up or change, too. While he wasn’t offended per se, Will did feel a little disappointed that they weren't on a more trustworthy level after all they’d been through during the night.

“No, it came with the house. Getting rid of it was more trouble than it was worth.”

“Pity. You have the dexterity for it.”

Will only just managed to bite back a joke about showing the doctor just how agile his hands really were, but he could feel his face heating regardless, and the doctor’s lips curled up ever so slightly like he could read his mind. He gestured wordlessly towards the kitchen, hoping that busying himself with breakfast would keep him from anymore slip ups Dr. Lecter quietly followed him and immediately gravitated towards the range. He looked at home and out of place all at once standing there. There was a reason why he’d gone there first, but Will decided not to comment on his inference; he would let the subject come up naturally in conversation and stop using his empathy like a party trick to impress the man. Will rooted around in the fridge, pulling out the Dutch oven full of leftover grillades from the previous morning, and ingredients for fresh grits. When he had everything laid out on the counter, he found Dr. Lecter still hovering.

“I appreciate that you're going to offer to help, but you really need to rest. Sit down—please?”

Even though that neutral expression was set in concrete, there was no hiding the pleasure in his eyes at the word ‘please’. Will hadn’t been sure what kind of reaction it would get, but he was glad now that he’d tried it. He was starting to think the doctor had a thing for manners.

“And I appreciate your concern, but I am sufficiently recovered to assist you. I insist, actually.”

“You're not used to being idle in the kitchen,” Will blurted out, completely forgetting that he was supposed to be shelving the empathy for now. But he’d already said it, so in for a penny.... “You cook a lot, and you do it well. Years of practice, experience, travel…you really don’t do anything halfway, do you?”

Dr. Lecter was clearly pleased at Will’s assessment. There was a pride on his face that was certainly not inflated. He nodded and looked down at the range, which thankfully had been cleaned more recently than the rest of his house.  

“Cooking is a great passion of mine. And anything worth doing is worth doing well, don’t you agree?”

Will gave a weirdly coordinated little nod and shrug that probably made him look like he was spasming, —he was really malfunctioning now. Though he had suffered from insomnia for most of his life, he always managed to get a few good hours here and there, especially when he stayed at the clinic. He had no idea how long he’d been out before the doctor had broken free and awakened him, but it probably hadn’t been more than an hour or two. He raked his nails through his hair and turned back to the counter to start breakfast. Staying hungry wasn’t going to help either of them.

“I doubt my simple southern fare will be up to your standards, so I apologize to your palate in advance.”

Will cringed internally at his own self-deprecating tone; he was intimidated by the obvious cultural differences between them, and it made him uncomfortable. He said stupid things when he was uncomfortable—double so when he was uncomfortable and attracted to someone. He hadn’t been this bad since that day with Alana.

“Southern, you say?”

The doctor had picked that grain of information out of his words as if Will had said nothing else of interest.

“Louisiana, born and raised. Amongst a lot of other places. Traveled a lot, was always the new kid in town. You’re really not going to sit down, are you?”

There was a flash of amused defiance in the doctor’s eyes as he glanced towards the items on the counter, as if silently asking what he would be assigned to do. Will sighed, but couldn’t help but grin. The doctor was a stubborn son of a bitch. He liked that. That made two of them.

“A compromise then,” he said as he walked over to fetch a stool from the far corner of the kitchen and placed it in front of the stove. “You can do the grits, but you have to sit down.”

Dr. Lecter -the Chesapeake Ripper himself – appeared to pout at the proposal of being made to sit while cooking, like a child being put into the corner for a time out. If Will didn't value the fact that the doctor was still entirely capable of killing him, he would probably have told him to sit with the same hand command he used on the dogs. Instead he waited until the doctor finally gave in and went to tend to the grillades. Though they were positioned close at the stove, they angled away from one another at a polite enough distance, just an inch away from awkward.

“What other places have you lived, Dr. Graham?”

“Most of the south, always near the coast. We moved a lot, always looking for work. My father was a mechanic, fixed boat motors. Any motor, really.”

“A skill you picked up as well,” Dr. Lecter stated, obviously referring to the motor propped up in the corner by the fireplace out front—the one Will had been casually tinkering with going on a year now.

“Not the only one. He was a vet too, unofficially. We always ended up in a lot of rural areas, swamps and woods. People were too far and too poor to take their animals anywhere, so we came to them. He’d have gone to school himself if he hadn’t had me to take care of. I learned most of what I know from him.”

“When did he pass?”

“Some nineteen years, now,” Will drawled before he could catch himself. Talking about his father often eased his old accent out, like his brain was reverting to the time when he was still alive. He snuck a look from the corner of his eye at the doctor to find him openly smiling. Will wondered how it would feel to say his name with his native twang. He wondered if the doctor would like it or if he would find it crude.

“You were quite young,” Dr. Lecter mused, examining Will’s face closely as if he was trying to deduce his age. He wasn’t wrong— Will had been just on the cusp of eighteen when he’d died. “You don't mention your mother.”

“Would if I’d known her. She was gone before I could crawl.”

“Ah, I see. How do you feel about that?”

“That's some lazy psychiatry, doctor,” Will scoffed, shifting slightly away from him, keeping his eyes on the simmering grillades.

While he didn’t mind talking about his father, his abandonment issues with his mother were not a favorite subject of his. Dr. Lecter was clearly asserting his dominance through this line of questioning, feeling out Will’s weak spots. He didn’t deny he had them, but Will hadn’t invited him over to be dissected, not literally or figuratively. He’d been too timid since they’d arrived, too worried about keeping the doctor’s interest, forgetting that he was probably the closest thing the man had to an equal. He decided it was time to remind the doctor that he was no patient of his. 

“Maybe we shouldn't talk about family. It’s always a touchy subject for everyone. After all, you haven't mentioned yours, and I’m assuming there's a good reason for that.”

A tense silence followed, and the doctor’s hand stuttered almost imperceptibly in its stirring, a sure sign that his inference had been correct. But he didn't press any further, certain that Dr. Lecter would either answer cryptically or change the subject entirely if he wanted to move the conversation along. Will was starting to see the shape of the being who hid behind Bentleys and bespoke suits, and it was surprisingly human.

“What brought you north, Dr. Graham?”

Change the subject it was, then. He would be sure not to bring up family again until the doctor did. He had a feeling his story was much worse than a deadbeat mother. 

“College did— the campus was down in Virginia. I intended to go back down to New Orleans after graduation, but my first winter here, seeing everything covered in snow—it just felt like I was in the right place already.”

“You do look as if you belong out in these woods. I can imagine you walking through remote, mist-covered fields, a fine figure bundled against the snow.”

“You make it sound so poetic, but I just don't like neighbors,” Will laughed and bowed his head to hide his blush at the obvious compliments, earning another real smile from Dr. Lecter. He was relieved to see that his isolated, dog-riddled way of life hadn’t scared him off like he’d been worrying, and that if he was coming off less than witty, the doctor was graciously chalking it up to exhaustion. “If I ask you the same question, would I get an answer?”

“Yes. And it would be similar to yours- I did my residency at John’s Hopkins. I studied medicine in Paris before that.”

“And before that?”

There was just the slightest pause, but it caused the atmosphere in the kitchen to change, as if the air had become heavier, electric. Will looked over at the man beside him with an exciting sense of dread.

“I studied many things in many places, Dr. Graham.”

Dr. Lecter’s face kept that maddeningly neutral expression, but his hooded eyes practically gleamed with that feral pleasure Will had found so arousing back at the clinic; he didn’t find it any less affecting now. A pulse shot through his core, warmth flooded his pelvis, and his breath stuttered audibly. The doctor did not so much as blink as he took in Will’s reaction, looking delighted with the mess he was making of Will’s self-control. If the doctor wasn’t injured, Will would have already dropped to his knees by now. The darker part of him still wanted to make a move anyway—maybe because of it. There were so many images of what he wanted to do to Dr. Lecter spiraling through his head, that he felt physically dizzy. He was just within reach, a mere arm’s length away, and the doctor’s eyes were burning with a clear invitation for Will to act on at least one of the fantasies he was clearly having.

Instead, Will looked down at the stove, and took a deep breath to calm himself. Then he turned off the burner and turned to carry the pot to the table. When he returned for the grits, the doctor looked blank again, but his brow was ever so slightly furrowed. He was confused why Will hadn’t thrown himself at him when he’d so blatantly been laying more on the table than just breakfast. But it was a test, another exploration of his boundaries—that much Will was sure of. However, all it had done was reveal more of the doctor’s hand. He was a skilled manipulator, and he was trying to see how Will could be moved and twisted and made to dance for his amusement: wind him up and watch him go.

But the doctor was sorely mistaken —there were no toys to play with here.

“Coffee?”

Several minutes later, they were seated together at Will’s rickety excuse of a kitchen table, food plated and coffee poured. He tried not to seem expectant as he watched the doctor take his first bite, but he felt a great rush of relief at his slight pause and immediate second bite.

“This is excellent, Dr. Graham. I am impressed.”

“Thank you. You know your way around grits.”

“I have only recently become acquainted with them, coincidentally. An excellent pairing with liver.”

You made liver and grits?”

The doctor seemed to enjoy Will’s disbelief, and raised one shoulder in a move that was meant to be a shrug, but was far too elegant to be called such.

“It was a modest recipe that caught my attention on a bleary day. The appeal of simple comfort food is universal, Dr. Graham.”

They ate in silence then, their eyes meeting occasionally as they rallied from their exhausting night and equally intense morning, parsing the information they’d gleaned about one another. Surprisingly, it wasn’t awkward, and Will liked that they were both so clearly assessing one another, unhidden, unhurried. He’d filled in more blanks about Dr. Lecter, but there were still gaping holes that would probably never be explored—and that was ok with Will. He’d always felt there should be some mystery in a relationship, which was generally why his always failed. Mystery was scarce when he could read a partner like an open book. They did not usually appreciate being told this either; people wanted to be understood, but not predicted. When Will could start to guess what they would say next, even down to the tone of voice they would say it in, it was the death knell of the relationship.

There was no possible way Will would ever be able to fully predict the man in front of him, and while it was unsettling, it was also the thing that appealed to him most— at the very least, it would never be boring. He was sure he could grow to truly understand Dr. Lecter, and was even more certain that he could be understood in return. A relationship where he was truly seen was not something Will had ever allowed himself to dream of before, but he was daring to hope that the doctor was having similar thoughts as they sat there openly sketching one another’s characters. Now full and woken up by good strong coffee, Will felt an unfamiliar, heady contentment with his veil fully parted to the Chesapeake Ripper. Now if only he could get the doctor to feel comfortable enough to do the same, they would be able to talk about what might happen next between them.

“Where exactly is Matthew if you don’t mind me asking?”

“He accompanied me,” was the smug, concise reply, and Will had to laugh.  

“Trunk, got it. What are you planning on doing with him?”

“Nothing, I’m afraid. A waste, but a necessary one.”

“He’s too close to you too, isn’t he? Is he part of the investigation?”

“Not enough to cause concern, but it would be imprudent to make his death known.”

“What about Budge? Do you want him? He’s in pieces, but all accounted for. I’m sure you could create something amazing out of him.”

Dr. Lecter turned to him with a glimmer of interest in his eyes, and Will’s heart leapt at the thought of the Ripper creating a tableau from one of his kills. He would be part of a masterpiece, if only vicariously. It was no wonder Tobias had praised the doctor, even after his thrashing. It was hard to contain his giddiness when the actual Chesapeake Ripper was in his kitchen, talking shop.

“I’m afraid that would go against my pathology, Dr. Graham. The sounder of three has already been completed. I wouldn’t want to upset the profile I helped to create. But where is Mr. Budge currently?”

“In my freezer, in the barn out back. Ground is too hard to dig right now, so I’ll have to hang onto him a little longer.”

“I would suggest you get rid of him as soon as possible.” The doctor quirked his lips disapprovingly, and Will felt justly chastised for his laziness. “You aren’t open to other means of disposal? A pig farm perhaps? You are out in the country, I imagine one would not be too hard to find.”

“Well…I do know one,” Will mused, thinking of the pen at the Verger estate containing the feral pigs that Margot’s late brother had impulsively bought shortly before his death. Though he hated to admit it, they ought to have been put down long ago; they were far too vicious to be tamed, and letting them out into the wild would be too dangerous the ecosystem. But Peter had pleaded for their lives and now took care of them like they were any other creature in his barn—it didn’t matter to him that they would rip him to shreds given the chance. “I hadn’t thought of that. Approximately how long does it take a man his size to defrost?”

“It could take a few days, depending on the method.”

“I knew you would have an answer,” Will laughed, and got that adorable, amused huff in return. He wondered what the doctor sounded like when he actually laughed. He hoped he would find out someday.

“My studies were…extensive,” he replied, cryptic as always. “And I spent many hours with cadavers during my schooling in Paris—I often prepped them for other classes. I had more than one body come to my table frozen stiff.”

“Extra credit, Dr. Lecter?”

“Never anything halfway, as you said.”

Will laughed and sipped his coffee, then wordlessly offered a refill to the doctor, who declined. They had both finished their meals, and the doctor certainly had a lot to do after he left. It would be polite to give him an out, to walk him to the door and hopefully wrangle at least a tentative agreement to meet again soon. But Will felt greedy— he wasn’t ready to let him go just yet. There was so much he wanted to know, so many questions zipping through his mind. Though Will hadn’t often experienced the cliché, he did in fact feel like a kid on Christmas morning with the Chesapeake Ripper in his house, looking like he was not all that opposed to lingering as well.

“What do you do with the surgical trophies?”

The question slipped out of Will’s mouth without warning, and he winced at his own rudeness. He sighed and started to stammer out an apology.

“Ah, I’m sorry, I just-,”

“What do you think I do with them?”

Will’s eyes snapped back up to lock onto Dr. Lecter’s. There was something simmering there in the black, something abstruse and dangerous. There was a warning there too, as if Will was trespassing in a place he had not been invited to explore, and it was only the doctor’s curiosity that kept him from being punished for the intrusion.

“I wouldn’t have asked if I had any idea. Is every conversation with you like a crossword puzzle, or is that just reserved for me?”

“You already know the answer to that. You can figure the other out for yourself. In fact, I look forward to it.”

 “I’m not one of my pack, Dr. Lecter. You can’t just snap your fingers and expect I’ll perform,” he spat out, even as his sense of self-preservation screamed for him to shut up. But he’d had more than enough psychoanalyzing for one morning. “And I don’t recall volunteering for another study, either.”

“Observing is what I do for a living, Dr. Graham. I can’t shut mine off any more than you can shut yours off.”

Those words drained some of Will’s ire—he had a point there. He looked down and rubbed absently at the cut on his neck from the scalpel, fully aware of how the doctor’s eyes followed every motion.

“I don’t have all the facts anyway, only the trash that Freddie Lounds spouts online. I’d rather not offend you with what I might glean from her half-truths and exaggerations.”

“If only I could open your skull and see what thoughts you must have racing through your brilliant mind right now.”

Will almost wasn’t sure he heard the doctor correctly, it was said with such an impassioned timbre, his accent thicker than ever. It took him a moment to gather courage to look up from the grain of the tabletop, and his breath caught when he saw the unveiled savagery in the Chesapeake Ripper’s eyes.

“Dr. Lecter…in our line of work, that’s tantamount to flirting.”

There was no response other than a grin that was more menacing than amused. It frightened Will, but it also made him want to crawl across the table and into the doctor’s lap, right into the arms of the devil himself. He wanted to take him to bed, to lay him bare, to peel back the person suit that he had so skillfully tailored and find the dark, wild thing hidden underneath. But even as he fantasized, the separate train of thought that had been running in the back of his mind was forming something vague, picking through their conversations thus far, seeking out hints and sifting through doublespeak. He felt very close to a revelation, but he was still missing something.

The cloud of lust between them dissipated as the doctor seemed to notice the shift in his attention, and the curiosity resurfaced. Will did not find that look any less arousing, but at least he could think more clearly now.

“You’ve already told me, haven’t you? In so many words. You gave me the pieces and you want to see me put the puzzle together,” Will sighed and rubbed a hand over his beard in frustration. He looked down at his plate and pushed around a leftover lump of grits. “It’s been a long night, Dr. Lecter, I might not be able to…,”

Grits. Liver and grits, only recently made. The last Ripper body missing a liver. Matthew Brown being called a waste, having sat out half the night. The refusal of Budge, too long in the freezer. Sounders of three. The gentlemen and butcher and chef sitting across from Will. The man he was very suddenly aware he knew almost nothing about.

But he did know what he did with the trophies, now.

“I had faith in you, Dr. Graham, and you did not disappoint.”

They looked at one another for a long time, and Will felt a harsh shift in the sketch he’d mentally drawn up of Dr. Lecter, as if all the colors had inverted. He had been right about one thing- this man did cross far more lines than Will could have ever imagined. His stomach soured, and he was thankful that he’d been the one to prepare their meal, because at least he knew where the meat had come from. He wasn’t so sure he could expect the same from the doctor’s kitchen.

“You disapprove,” Dr. Lecter said quietly, his face and voice unreadable.

That wasn’t a good sign. Will scrambled for an equally neutral response.

“I could hardly pass judgment on your proclivities, doctor. To each his own.”

“And yet you feel appalled at the notion.”

Will frowned, and leaned forward, finally getting over his shock.

“I didn’t say that. And you can’t pretend that cannibalism isn’t just a bit of a bomb to drop on someone you just met, no matter what darker paths we both frequent.”

“It’s only cannibalism if we’re equals, Dr. Graham.”

And he was back to being aroused again. That voice, that unfathomable and ravenous look —it was so unfair how much it turned him on. He grinned, shaking his head.

“Sounders. That word— it’s an official part of your profile, isn’t’ it?”

“Accuracy is important,” the doctor replied, and Will could see some of the amusement filtering through his neutral mask. There was something else there in his eyes though, something Will could not entirely make out the shape of, but it was not good. “Would you ever partake, Dr. Graham?”

It was a loaded question, and if Will didn’t know any better, he might suspect the doctor of being self-conscious about his cannibalistic tendencies. As honesty had served him well so far, he decided to stick to it.

“I don’t know. It’s not something I’ve ever had reason to think about until now.”

There was a weighted pause then, and by the time the doctor had pulled the blank curtain back over his eyes and expression again, Will felt like he had failed him somehow. Another test maybe? He hadn’t seen that one coming, and this time, he did not like that he hadn’t been able to predict Dr. Lecter. Things were going south fast, and he was starting to wish he’d just said yes, even if he wasn’t sure he could ever actually do it. It was time to change the subject, as delicately as possible.

“I suspect you won’t let me wash up in peace, so it’s a ‘yes’ as long as you sit.”

Dr. Lecter looked like he was jolted from some reverie at Will’s sudden words, but a gentle smile crept across his face, and he looked soft again like he had back at the clinic, still under the morphine.

“I wouldn’t dare argue with a medical professional,” he replied coolly and Will rolled his eyes and gathered the plates.

They stood at the sink together, Will washing as Dr. Lecter dried. They didn’t speak, but the quiet intimacy was intense nonetheless. They stood close, shoulders and thighs brushing, fingers meeting one another’s as dishes were passed between them. This was not something Will had ever done with a partner—or with anyone. Abigail always insisted on doing it herself, and there was no getting Beverly to use anything but a dishwasher. Meals with Peter were usually their catches cooked in tinfoil over a fire. He hadn’t ever experienced this sort of domesticity, and it seemed like the more he reveled in it, the faster it passed. Far too soon, they were done, and there was nothing to do but see him out. Dr. Lecter seemed well aware of that fact, too.

“I appreciate your inviting me into your home, Dr. Graham. And for a lovely meal.”

“Of course. I’m…it was nothing. Thank you for coming, I know you’re exhausted. Uh…if you…if you want, you could stay for a while and lie down—.”

As soon as the words were out of Will’s mouth, he cringed and he flushed bright red, rubbing at his neck again and avoiding the doctor’s surely amused look at the accidental innuendo.

“Forget I said that. I think I’m the one who needs to lie down.”

They started to walk towards the living room, both stiff and silent. Will was fairly certain this was going to be a real goodbye. Somehow, despite their obvious attraction and deep conversations, Dr. Lecter had slipped off of his hook and would not be coming back. Of course, Will could always track him down, but he had a feeling it would probably go as well as Budge’s attempted visit had. No, this was it. He might as well be straightforward about it.

“I understand that I won’t be seeing you after this. It’s probably for the best. I’ve always thought people like us wouldn’t do well in pairs anyway.”

Foile a deux: Madness shared by two. In some cases, it’s very successful.”

“Successful in getting matching gray jumpsuits in that hospital down the road, maybe.”

Dr. Lecter looked thoughtful as he accepted his coat from Will’s hands.

“You don’t believe in fate, do you Dr. Graham?”

“I do. But I believe fate is merely the current. We still steer our own ships.”

“And so you and I are to be two ships simply passing in the night, then.”

There it was— the gentle letdown Will had been waiting for. Though it felt awful to imagine that he would never see Dr. Lecter again, it was good to have closure at least. And TattleCrime would be a good enough seat to watch the ongoing wild goose chase for the Ripper from. The Ripper who was standing right in front of Will’s door, donning his coat as Will opened the door to let him walk right out of his life forever.

“It’s a shame, though. I could learn a lot from you,” Will winced and scoffed at his own melancholy tone, looking away in embarrassment at the words that had spilled out of him.

“I…I would…,” the doctor started in a choked whisper, and Will turned sharply back towards him. He was not a man to stumble over words, and it was alarming to hear.

Dr. Lecter seemed so pained suddenly, and there was a sheen to his eyes—tears, if he wasn’t imagining things. Concerned, Will’s hand automatically reached for his injured wrist to check if it had opened, half expecting to see another puddle of blood at their feet. He instead found his forearm caught in a grip that was just the wrong side of too tight. Looking up, he saw that same indecipherable emotion from the kitchen shimmering underneath those gathering tears, and it made his heart ache for a reason he still couldn’t understand. There was an ever so slight tremble to the doctor’s bottom lip, drawing Will’s gaze, making him shudder with the desire to catch it between his teeth. Both of them seemed to be thinking the same thing, and they drifted close together until they were just past a polite distance apart. If ever there was a moment where they might be in danger of consuming one another, it would be now. Desperate hope flowered inside of Will, but he was petrified. He didn’t know if this was another test; if it was, it was the final one, and he had no idea how to pass it. What did this man want from him? What did he have to do for just one more chance to see him again?

For the umpteenth time in less than six hours, Will decided on throwing caution to the wind and just saying what he really wanted to say. The worst the doctor could do was leave, and he was already prepared for that now. So what the hell?

“That offer to lie down is still on the table.”

The sentence was barely past his lips before they were captured by Dr. Lecter’s. And just as quickly, the door was slammed shut and Will was pushed up against it with just enough savagery to make him groan. The doctor chased that sound with a confident tongue thrust past his parted lips as he crushed him up against the wood, with Will’s wrists caught up and pinned on either side of his head. He was trapped, completely at the doctor’s mercy, which Will suspected him to have so very little of. It was intoxicating and thrilling, and he felt himself start to get hard almost immediately as he struggled to move, only to be restrained even more severely. He could get free, he knew that; it would be a spectacular fight if he did, and the dark part of him was tempted to see that apex predator stalking him through his own home. But getting the good doctor up to his bedroom was much more desirable than getting a beatdown in front of his dog figurines, and so he managed to pull back just enough to speak.

“Be careful with those stitches, Dr. Lecter. Wouldn’t want you to waste any of my blood inside you.”

Will could only assume that the keening sigh those words exorcised out of the doctor was not a sound he’d made before, as he watched a flash of surprise light up the man’s face. He was neutral no more; he looked hungry now, nearly feral with lust he’d probably find easy to hide with anyone else, if he ever felt it at all. But Will undid him: he could see it, could see the veil torn open and pulled apart, and the darkness behind it beckoned with honey eyes and bruised red lips. Will threw himself towards it with a recklessness that he would usually only reserve in a fight for his life. If the doctor was going to leave, he was going to do it after he’d been thoroughly wrecked. He would make this man regret ever thinking he could simply walk away and not be changed.

His wrists were released and they were both free to explore one another. The doctor sunk one hand into Will’s hair, and the other traced his jaw and closed teasingly around his neck for a moment before continuing down his torso. Will went straight for what he’d wanted the entire night: he slid his hands beneath his overcoat and pulled the doctor to him by the ass, grinding their erections together so desperately, it nearly hurt. He could feel the jolt of shock and pleasure go through him, both of them gasping to one another’s mouths, and in the next instant, the coat was on the floor, and the doctor was gripping his hips and answering the movement with his own thrust forward. 

And that was when the syringe that had been concealed in the sleeve of his injured arm fell out and clattered to the floor.

The sound was unmistakable to two doctors, and Will knew without looking to confirm it had been the same one the doctor had first threatened him with. He still had no idea what was in it; he did know it had not just magically appeared inside of his sleeve, though. They both stood there frozen en flagrante, and for once, Dr. Lecter had the decency to look ashamed.

“You,” Will started softly, then tilted his head back against the door and pounded it gently a few times, his hands dropping to his sides, fisting in anger. “You were going to kill me. After everything…,”

To think, Will had been worried about never getting to see the man again. He hadn’t even imagined it might because he'd be dead.

“I did not-,”

“I thought you were just going to leave,” Will interrupted, giving him as icy a glare as he could manage when they were still so close, they were practically in the same pants. “I was worried I’d never see you again, and—and you were just trying to figure out the right time to kill me! And for what?”

“I believed that you—,”

But Will didn’t let him finish, and growled in frustration, banging his fists against the door behind him.

“Please, don’t lie to me. You don’t really think I would have turned you in. You’re just disappointed that I didn’t go out and grab Tobias’ arm to gnaw on just to please you. Fuck, we don’t have to be same in everything for us to be together, you know!”

Dr. Lecter stared at him with such an abject confusion that Will wondered if he’d mixed up his wording in his exhaustion and anger, and started to feel embarrassed that he’d goofed up telling off the man who’d almost killed him as a parting gift. But after a heavy silence, the doctor spoke, his voice thick with emotion.

“No. No, I don’t know that. I have never been…no one has ever seen me as you do. I’ve never been so unsure.”

“And you just figured killing me was easier than trying to figure out your own feelings? You're a pretty shitty psychiatrist, doctor!”

The tension was suddenly broken by a deep, throaty sound, and Will almost couldn’t believe his wish was being granted: Dr. Lecter was laughing. Really laughing. There were delicate creases on his face that told Will he didn’t do this often— either because he didn’t allow himself to, or because no one else could draw it out of him. He decided to be selfish and assume the latter.

“It’s been a long time since I've been made to feel a fool, Dr. Graham,” he finally said with a sigh.

In a move that could only be called bashful, he rested his forehead against Will’s shoulder as if to hide his face. He felt a surge of tender affection for the dangerous man in his arms, and he pulled him closer, running his hands through his sandy blond hair. They stood there for a while, just listening to each other breathe, bodies slotted together like puzzle pieces, ruminating on what had just happened— what was still happening.

“I’m still upset with you. But I understand.”

The doctor tensed in his arms when he spoke those words, and Will cradled his chin and lifted his head to see his face. He found a man torn by a multitude of emotions, and once again, his eyes were wet and shimmering. He watched as a tear escaped and trailed slowly down his cheek, as if magnetically drawn to where Will’s thumb rested. He wiped it away and forced himself to keep eye contact with the doctor to fully convey the importance of what he was about to confess.

“I understand you, Hannibal,” he whispered, and there was a stifled gasp in response “I see you, and I even though you scare me, I like you. I accept you. And I want more. I want everything—,”

For a second time, Will found himself effectively shut up by a mind-blowing kiss. The doctor took his mouth with such a desperation, it made his chest ache with second-hand grief. Inferences flooded his mind as it worked back through the doctor’s words and actions, fleshing out his motivations for the attempted murder. As he was thoroughly kissed and caressed, hands carding roughly through his hair and over his back, Will could almost taste the disbelief on his tongue. He had really thought he would be betrayed, that the cannibalism had been too much for Will to accept—and if Will could not take him as he was, then no one ever truly could. He had lived his entire life hiding his true nature in some way or another, and it was only when he’d encountered someone who could not help but understand, that Hannibal had imagined he could shed every layer of his person suit and show himself. Then Will’s hesitance at his darkest secret had broken that fragile trust. He understood that strange, pained look now; the doctor had been heartbroken that he would have to kill Will to protect himself.

But he was wrong, and Will fully intended to let him know it—once he got up him upstairs and undressed, of course.

“Come to bed with me,” Will murmured when they parted for breath, and there was the briefest nod of consent before Hannibal returned to his lips with continued fervor, showing no intention of stopping.

Will almost begrudgingly broke away and slipped from his hold, grasping his hand to lead him upstairs. They made it to his bedroom, and Hannibal looked almost lost like the predator in him had been replaced by a mere man, and the man was hopelessly out of his element.

Will took charge them, understanding that he was probably still in shock. He guided him towards the bed and kissed him softly, gently, trying to wake him from his trance as delicately as possible. Will wondered when was the last time Hannibal had not been in control of a situation, had not been executing some nefarious, well-laid plan. He wondered if he had ever surrendered to someone else’s guidance. When he pulled away from Will’s lips and cradled his face with shaking hands, it was clear that the answer was “never".

He was the first. It was an honor he didn't intend to waste.

“You shouldn’t be possible,” Hannibal said softly, then pressed his lips together tightly as if he hadn’t meant to let those words escape. He shook his head and dropped his gaze to Will’s lips, unable to look him in the eye.

“But I am. And I want you.”

As Will kissed him, Hannibal gripped his arms tightly, as if trying to keep a him from slipping away, like he was a dream or an illusion. Will moved his lips down to a lightly stubbled cheek, to his jaw, and when Hannibal tilted his head back in utter submission, Will mouthed at his neck, seeking out the places that made him squirm and gasp. Eventually, Hannibal started to come back to himself, started to reciprocate; he ran his fingers through Will’s hair, pulling his head closer and maneuvering him to where he wanted. When Will’s fingers started to work at the buttons of his shirt, Hannibal’s rushed to do the same.

Things went fuzzy from there. Will was lost in the act of undressing the doctor as he himself was bared. He felt lips and teeth and hands all over his neck and chest, Hannibal’s shock giving way to something more urgent, more primal. He grinned as hands tore roughly at his belt, knowing that the pantomime and pretense of controlled seduction Hannibal may have shown other lovers was tossed aside now in the wake of real desire.

“Lie down. I want to see you,” Will whispered when they were both completely undressed, and he was surprised at how quickly and willingly he was obeyed.

Hannibal lay down in the middle of the bed, his back propped up against the wall, the well-muscled body Will knew he’d been hiding under that suit now on full display. Will drank in his fill, memorizing every line and angle, knowing he would be visiting this sight in his fantasies for a long time to come. The man that Tattlecrime called the Chesapeake Ripper was naked in his bed, and he was looking over Will with a slack mouth and awed expression, a mirror image of Will’s own face.  

“I was watching you die,” Will said as he climbed onto the bed, slowly and languorously. “And I couldn't let you go. I wanted you for myself—I wanted to know you, and I wanted you to know me. That's why I saved you. "

Will was kneeling between his legs now as he spoke, running his hands up and down Hannibal’s well-toned thighs, unabashed at his own nudity, something he’d never experienced. He was so accustomed to concealing his darkness— shielding his eyes behind his glasses, feigning shyness, playing up his natural awkwardness—but there was nothing to hide from here, and he bared himself in a way only people about to die had ever seen. He relished the feel of Hannibal’s eyes tracing over his body, lingering on his eyes, reading the power and the hunger there, seeing it reflected back at him.

But Hannibal didn't move to touch Will, instead gripping the sheets at his sides tightly, his knuckles white with strain. He obviously wanted to, but he was holding back; it was as if he had put a collar around his own neck and handed Will the lead. It was a welcome change of pace, a surprising shift in the power dynamics that he’d been expecting from a man like him. He’d expected Hannibal to twist him into submission and pound him mercilessly into the mattress, savage and frenzied. And while that was definitely going to happen someday, this slight submission from him was exactly what Will wanted for their first time.

“I’ve been thinking getting you in bed all night. All morning. You know, you’ve been stoking it. You teased me, tested me, tried to see what you could use against me in the future— just like you do with everyone else in your life. But I’m not like everyone else, am I? None of your games worked on me. That's why you told me what you do with them, as a test.  You had to see if I could take it, if I could share your appetite. To see if I could be like you.”

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Hannibal said breathlessly, watching him settle belly down on the bed with his face just inches from an erection Will was responsible for in more ways than one.

“You sure about that?” he asked, leaning down so that his breath would flow over Hannibal’s cock. Judging by the moan and shiver he received in response, it was very effective. “You almost killed me because I hesitated. You overreacted. You almost lost this, all because you felt insecure, because you didn’t trust me, after all I did to save you.”

“A mistake,” Hannibal breathed out, his voice strained, his eyes threatening tears again. “A regret.”

“It better be your last. I won’t be your puppet, Hannibal. You’re going to have to find your fun elsewhere, because the only games I want to play with you are the kind we’re playing right now, when I have you like this,” Will ran the tip of his index finger down the side of his shaft, sighing when his magnificent cock jerked in response. He looked up at Hannibal with no barrier between his emotions, raw and ravenous and still slightly miffed at almost being killed. “Don’t lie to me and don’t try to manipulate me.  Can you promise me that?”

“I do,” Hannibal gasped out quickly, almost too quickly for his liking. Will raised his eyebrows at him expectantly. “I promise you, Will. I always keep my promises.”

That was enough for him, at least for now. They could negotiate the finer details later; one could only trust so much from a man on the brink like this. Will lowered his head again, his cheek just barely grazing the shaft, down until his lips met the matching sandy blond curls the base of Hannibal’s cock. He kissed him there gently, reverently, down to the crease where his thigh and hip met, dipping his nose there and breathing deeply.

“You smell so good,” he murmured, and licked a stripe up that sensitive patch of skin, getting a ragged gasp in reply. “You taste good, too.”

He repeated this on the other side, went on kissing every bit of skin in his reach— his belly, every so gently rounded, his taut thighs and the jut of his hipbones—everywhere except his straining cock. And when he was writhing and panting beneath him, Will took mercy and brought his lips to the nearly purple head, glistening with little pearls of precome. With a steady gaze into Dr. Lecter’s eyes, Will licked the head clean with a broad swipe of his tongue.

Will,” Hannibal sighed out as his cock was finally enveloped by the slick heat of his mouth.

Finally, he couldn’t restrain himself any longer, and Will groaned as fingers raked through and curled in his hair, guiding his head down, up, then down again until he could feel himself nearly gagging on the head at the back of his throat. It had been a long time since Will had done this, and he had never allowed anyone to control him during the act; either he was free to go at his own pace, or he would stop altogether. But surprisingly, he was enjoying the subtle shift of dominance flooding back to Hannibal as he used his mouth. When the doctor pulled him back up and off his cock, their eyes met, and Will felt a terrified chill go through him.

The deadliest man he'd ever encountered in his life had him in a completely vulnerable position. He could do anything to him right now and it would be well deserved. He could twist his arms and snap Will’s neck with ridiculous ease. He could wrap his hands around his neck, legs over his shoulders, and he could strangle Will before he even knew what hit him. As he was held there at the absolute mercy of the beast he’d invited into his bed, Will’s mind spun a dozen other violent ends for himself. Each time he died in his imagination, his hips jerked automatically, until he was practically rutting the bed beneath him, all to the delight of the Ripper, who seemed to know exactly what he was thinking and what it was doing to him.

“You wouldn't let an inch of me go to waste, would you?” Will choked out, his voice hoarse from his strained position.

Hannibal groaned and his cock let out a few more pearls that Will pulled against the restraining hands in his hair to lap up. It hurt a little, but in the best of ways, and above all, it pleased the doctor to see him so eager for a taste. Suddenly, his hair was released, and those hands cradled Will’s face instead, guiding him up towards Hannibal’s lips. He settled on his stomach, relishing the first touch of his cock against the doctor’s skin. But his attention was drawn to the serious expression that met him, that sad look back in the doctor’s eyes, the sudden gentleness of his touch.

“I should have trusted you. I did not expect…I have never—,”

“I know,” Will said, shushing him with a gentle little kiss. “I know you’re sorry. You don’t have to say it. You just have to show me.”

There was a mix of relief and adoration shining in his eyes, wide and brimming with tears again. He would’ve never expected the Ripper to be so openly emotional under that mask of neutrality, but he liked it, he appreciated seeing what no one else would ever see.

“I would like to feel you inside of me, Will,” he said softly, dragging his thumb over Will’s bottom lip.

“More than I already am?” Will teased back, getting a shudder from the doctor. He was glad he wasn’t the only one getting off on the whole transfusion thing. “Maybe next time. Those stitches are going to open if you let me take you. So you’re going to stay right there and let me do all the work.”

“You’ve already done that, the entire night.”

Hannibal was protesting, but there was delight gleaming in his eyes, like he enjoyed Will’s refusal, enjoyed not getting his way so easily.

“You’re my patient, Dr. Lecter. Just let me take care of you.”

That sealed it; Hannibal panted out a little moan and involuntary bucked upwards, making Will’s thighs grip him tight. He had never been much of a talker during sex, but he could hardly shut himself up when there were so many wonderful little reactions he could draw out of this man, noises he was fairly certain he’d never made for anyone else before. Had the doctor ever had real sex, or had it always been some well-played dramatic performance, each move and moan and sweet word chosen with purpose instead of passion?

And to that end, had Will ever had “real” sex? Had he ever been able to focus his mind on one thing, to be so fully enveloped by a person that nothing else existed outside of the sensation of their skin against his, their lips, their eyes, their breath, their pleasure? He could not even think of a time that would come close to what he was sharing now with the doctor, every previous experience feeling more like a distant dream than a memory. No, this was a first for the both of them, and though neither were fumbling virgins in the act, they were beginners in the truth of it.

“It’s never been this way before,” Will murmured between kisses, trying to reign in his excitement, but he couldn’t keep his hips still, and ground himself uncontrollably against Hannibal’s abdomen. “I couldn’t even hide from you if I wanted to.”

The doctor showed his agreement by grabbing his hips and pulling him down harder against him, making Will hiss and jolt as he felt himself leaking. He pulled away to reach into the nightstand for the rarely used bottle of lube. He found it immediately snatched from him by a mischievous looking Hannibal, who was already popping it open and preparing his good hand by the time Will found the capacity to scold him.

“You’re supposed to—,”

“Let me do this much at least,” Hannibal answered, pulling Will down closer, nipping wickedly at his bottom lip. “Please.”

Now that Will was on the other end of it, he understood how very powerful that word could be. He could only nod and let himself be shifted into a more comfortable, reachable position. Hannibal captured his lips as he trailed warm, slick fingers down the cleft of his ass, and though it had been nearly five years since he’d been with another man, he found himself relaxed and eager to be worked open. When he felt the first exploratory touch at his rim, he arched his back towards it, his tongue buried deep in the doctor’s mouth as he was touched. The doctor was gentle, patient, maddeningly polite; every time Will would push against his fingers, seeking penetration, Hannibal would pull back ever so slightly, making sure he was properly prepared. It was appreciated, of course it was, but Will was probably going to die if he didn’t get this man inside him soon.

“Please,” he huffed against those lips once again bruised red. “More, I need more.”

“You’ll have everything soon enough. Let me savor this.”

Will groaned impatiently, but he moved his attentions down to the doctor’s neck and let him have his fun while he had his. With his new knowledge of Hannibal’s most sensitive spots, he licked and sucked and breathed over moistened skin while trembling fingers slid inside of him, at first only one, then followed by another, his thicker middle digit. Will tried his best not to buck against them, but when he felt them scissoring him open, grazing his prostate, he cried out against Hannibal’s neck, earning a whisper of something gentle he could not make out. More lube was added, pushed deep inside of him, while expert fingertips worked teasingly at that sweet spot, drawing even more unbidden noises from him. He didn’t shy from it, or try to muffle himself against Hannibal’s thickly furred chest. Instead, he rested his head on his shoulder so that he was right next to his ear, and he let him hear it all.

“So good...I want you now,” he whispered, then harshly gasped when his cock jerked against Hannibal’s stomach at a particularly delicious little twist of his hand.

“Then take me,” Hannibal urged, his fingers withdrawing, rubbing lovingly over his wide, puckered rim.

Will exhaled harshly, trembling with relief and anticipation at the thought of Hannibal inside him. His hands shook as he slicked up the doctor’s thick cock, and shifted backwards, guiding it to his eager, dripping hole.

“Look at you,” he purred, circling Hannibal’s throbbing tip against his rim. The doctor’s hands ran over his chest and shoulders as he watched Will’s face with abject fascination. His hair was hopelessly mussed, his face was flushed a delicious shade of pink, and his eyes were full of unconcealed adoration— it was undoubtedly a sight no one else had ever seen before. “You’re a wreck. You let me take control so I could do this to you, so you could just feel something for once. So you would know what it was like not to pretend.”

Hannibal opened his mouth to respond and instead groaned shamelessly loud as Will slid down, the head of his cock spearing him wide open. He felt sweat spring up at his brow, gritting his teeth against the initial burn of penetration. He’d been well prepared though, and he felt Hannibal’s cock easing into him little by little. The man had not taken his eyes off Will’s face as he brought them together, and the awe had not faded.

“Tell me,” Hannibal murmured, his hands gravitating to Will’s hips. “Tell me more.”

Ah…y-you’re always on, every minute, even when no one can see you. You carry walls with you everywhere, always hidden, always alone— fuck, you feel so good” he groaned out and continued to spout inferences as his hips met Hannibal’s. He circled his hips just slightly to help loosen himself up more. “Sometimes you even hide from yourself. There are things you don’t want to remember, but you do: more walls, more layers, another veil. But you blinded yourself, doctor. You never saw me coming.”

“How could I? You are the impossible. Something I never dared to dream of,” Hannibal replied fervently, his fingernails digging hard into Will’s hips. “I thought I would have to shape my equal from clay. But here you are, sprung fully formed from my mind, like Athena from the head of Zeus.”

“You would corrupt me, doctor? If I were innocent?”

Will leaned forward now, resting his hands on Hannibal’s chest as he started to move, muttering curses and praises under his breath. It was almost profane how good this man felt, filling him in a way he’d never felt before. He brought his face close to the doctors’, just out of reach of his lips, waiting for a response.

“I would guide you,” Hannibal demurred, but Will raised his brows disbelievingly, grinding his hips down hard against his, as if trying to fuck the truth out of him. With a strained cry, the doctor bared his teeth at Will like a feral dog being threatened, and his still slick hand reached between them to stroke Will’s cock at a desperate pace. “No. I would tear you apart, raze you down until you didn’t even recognize the man in the mirror. Then I would put you back together only to please me, to suit me. You would hate me and worship me and you would burn the world for me if I so wished. You would never be free of me. I would be the voice in your head, a God you feared and loved in equal measure.”

“That’s sick,” Will said, his eyes nearly rolling back in his skull as Hannibal pleasured him with his hand and spouted his monstrous fantasies. “Fuck, I would let you.”

Hannibal moaned and angled his hips up, finally finding that sweet, electric spot inside of him. Will keened loudly and kissed him with a vicious fervor, biting down just a little too hard on the doctor’s lip. When the copper tang of blood hit his tongue, he let out an embarrassing little whine.

“Taking your blood back, Will?” Hannibal asked, rubbing his thumb over the slit of his cock as he fucked up harder into him, the slap of their skin obscene in the otherwise quiet room. Will stared down at his broken lip with a hunger he hadn’t felt before, and he felt himself leak and groan at the sight of their mixed blood. “As if you don’t have enough of it inside you right now?”

Even as his mind was swimming with fantasies about bloodying up the doctor in other ways, Will could not let that one slip by without comment.

“Are you seriously making a dick joke right now?”

He only grinned and increased the pace of his hand. Will leaned up, using his chest for leverage as he rolled his hips, keeping Hannibal deep, and getting a surprisingly loud cry from the man beneath him.

“Tell me what you were going to say downstairs. When you decided not to kill me.”

“I wanted…I wanted to say I would teach you anything – everything. That your curiosity would never go unsated, not if it was in my power to show you.”

“You’d let me watch you, then? Watch you transform them from pigs into your supper?”

“I would insist on it,” Hannibal said with a ferocity that reminded Will of what he’d brought to his bed: this was a monster in the shape of a man, a beast with an appetite darker than Will could have ever imagined. He would not come out of this encounter unchanged; he could only wonder how soon the doctor was going to invite him to dinner to partake and learn.

“I would try it.”

With that, whatever remaining control Hannibal had been hanging onto was utterly shattered, and he planted his feet firmly into the mattress before his hips began a brutal assault upwards, his injured arm thrown over Will’s back to grip his opposite shoulder. Will’s own motions were stilled as his pleasure began to build almost immediately, and he arched his back just so to guide every thrust right where he needed it. When his orgasm crested, it washed over him with such intensity, Will cried out Hannibal’s name over and over, flooding his stomach with thick spurts of come. The doctor was still pounding roughly up into him, eyes glowing with feral delight at his undoing. On an impulse, Will swiped his fingers through the mess between them, then shoved them between the doctor’s lips. Hannibal grunted out in what sounded like surprise as he was pulled over the edge, sucking hard on the fingers in his mouth as if he was loathe to waste a single drop. Will could feel the pulsing warmth inside him as his hips thrust erratically, the reverberations of his moans traveling up through Will’s finger’s, filling him in a different way. If he hadn’t been so tired, he very likely might have come again just at the sheer carnality of it all.

Will laid down onto him, and they kissed in the languorous afterglow, long after Hannibal had slipped out and the mess had leaked out and down his thighs. They were sticky and sweaty and exhausted from a wild night and an even wilder morning, but they kept kissing until Will felt himself almost nodding off against his lips.

“Please stay,” Will said in a near slur, before rousing himself enough to sit up beside Hannibal. “Just for a while. Get some sleep before you go.”

“I think that would be wise,” the doctor replied, and he looked a little shocked at how easily the answer had fallen from his lips.

It was very telling that Hannibal was speaking reflexively rather than strategically – which Will could assume was how every conversation in his life usually went. But it was different with him; it was safe and comfortable and it was honest, and even at his most vulnerable, he made no attempt to hide himself from Will.

“I should clean-,” Will started to get up, but found himself being pulled into Hannibal’s arms, gently, possessively.

“I don't mind if you don't.”

Too tired to argue about hygiene, Will let himself be guided to lie down, and he breathed deeply as he snuggled against the thick down of Hannibal’s chest, running his fingers through it absently as he drifted off.

“Don't you dare leave without waking me up.”

There was no response, save for deep steady breathing, which was what lulled Will to blissful sleep shortly after.

****************

“Will?”

It felt like only minutes had passed since he had closed his eyes, but he roused quickly at the sound of his name spoken so lovingly, it was almost an endearment in itself.

“Good afternoon,” Hannibal said softly, leaning down for a kiss with soft eyes and an easy smile. Will rose to meet him, and sighed at the reassuring feel of his lips – so, getting thoroughly reamed by the Chesapeake Ripper hadn’t just been a fantastic dream after all.

 They parted quietly, both assessing each other in the vulnerability of their waking moments.

“I expected you to sneak out on me. Thank you for staying.”

“It would have been rude not to given that we haven't arranged our next meeting.”

Will smiled, so wide he felt a tinge of embarrassment, and dropped his head as he flushed.

“Right. I guess this is where we trade numbers and all that.”

“And all that,” Hannibal murmured, lifting his head and kissing him again.

Though it was hard to peel himself away, Will finally escaped the bed and brought back a wet washcloth to clean the doctor up. He got a flat glare when he decided to be a little shit and educate the doctor on how to care for his stitches, but there was a dancing amusement in his eyes that made Will’s stomach feel full of butterflies. They started to get dressed, Hannibal grudgingly accepting that it was best to just trash his suit that was far beyond saving. Will was plugging his number into his phone, watching Hannibal don his t-shirt, a look that was blasphemously sexy on a man as refined as him.

“How about you leave him here? Matthew, I mean. I can take care of it – he’s kind of my mess anyway. And you’re in no condition to be hauling bodies anywhere.”

“You don’t seem to have much faith in my resiliency, Dr. Graham, despite my best efforts to reassure you I am fine.”

Will snorted at the innuendo, then stopped and shook his head.

“Oh god…you make a lot of puns, don’t you?”

Hannibal chuckled as he pulled on the scrub pants Will had loaned to him – his favorite pair, as it just so happened.

“More than anyone else knows,” he grinned, then his eyes darted away from Will’s, as if it was hard to look at him suddenly. “You truly do see me.”

“I do. Maybe if I wasn’t the same as you, I couldn’t. Lucky you.”

“Lucky me, indeed.”

In the end, Hannibal did allow Will to take Matthew off his hands, and he felt a brief pang of sadness for the kid as he saw him lying haphazardly in the plastic sheeting covering the trunk. It didn’t have to end the way it did— if only he’d just learned how to take a hint.

“Any regrets, Dr. Graham?”

There was an iciness to his tone that was not lost on Will, and he turned to find the doctor trying and failing to keep his face neutral. There was a fierce jealousy there, a terrifying look that Will immediately decided he never wanted to see again. The truth had always been his greatest asset when it came to him, so he used it to diffuse the growing tension.

“No. I just feel sorry for him. He really was in way over his head, probably just lonely,” Will admitted, and he was relieved to see Hannibal start to relax, hearing the truth in his words. He would need to be diligent about reassuring the doctor that he had no reason to feel envious over anyone else in his life. He didn’t want himself or any of his friends to wind up where Matthew was now. “Makes me think about who I might have been if I didn’t find my peace when I did. How blindly desperate it would have made me. Do you ever think about that?”

“Who I would be without acceptance of my nature? Yes. Often.”

There was a lot the doctor was leaving unsaid, and the way he averted his eyes from Will spoke of pain he wasn’t ready to share yet. But that was alright with him. There would be time for that.

There would be time for everything now that their worlds had collided and they’d made it out alive together.

“Get his feet?”

Will did his best to take on the majority of the literal dead weight of Matthew, and when he was situated well enough in the freezer with Tobias, he turned to the doctor, finding him looking over the contents of the barn.

“You’re a sailor as well?”

Hannibal walked towards the hull of the sailboat Will worked on when the boat motor in the living room lost its appeal.

“Didn’t just fix boat motors,” he said, then hesitated before he continued. “I…I thought it would be a good idea to have an alternative to an airport. You know – if it ever came to that.”

“An excellent idea, I would say. I would not have considered the sea as a means to escape,” Hannibal said, looking openly proud. “You never fail to surprise me, Will. We could learn a lot from each other.”

Will felt his face flushing at the doctor’s open praise. Had he really thought of something the Chesapeake Ripper hadn’t? He turned away and pretended not to notice the fond eyes on him as he toyed with a wrench on a shelf beside him. He found himself wishing for his glasses, which he was just realizing he hadn’t worn once in Hannibal’s presence.

“Honestly, I’m not as brilliant as you make me out to be. I’m simple, practical, economical. I don’t have your vision, I’m uncultured –,”

In what was clearly becoming a favorite means of shutting him up, the doctor was kissing Will before he could say another word against himself.

“You are everything I did not know I wanted,” Hannibal whispered against his hips, pulling him into a tender embrace that made Will’s eyes water with emotion. “You are a revelation, an unanticipated wonder. Even with all my knowledge and experience, I doubt I could ever fully predict you, dear Will. I could never control you.”

It was as if the doctor had ripped the words from Will’s own mind, and it sent a shiver through him.

“Doesn’t that worry you? Because it scares me that I couldn’t possibly predict you either.”

Hannibal gave him a thoughtful look as he mulled over his response. Again, he looked shocked as the truth came spilling from his lips, his voice low, just above a whisper.

“Yes. It seems I can still feel fear after all.”

Having gone his entire life thinking that ‘weak in the knees’ was a figure of speech, Will was caught entirely off guard by how he felt himself falter at the admission, grabbing onto Hannibal’s arms to keep himself upright.

“I think I just came again,” Will muttered, and got an amused huff from the doctor. “A little fear is healthy in a relationship, don’t you think?”

“I suppose we will find out,” Hannibal murmured as he pulled him close and took a deep breath against his neck.

“I really must introduce you to a finer aftershave, Will. This one hardly does you justice.”

“Already trying to change me, Dr. Lecter?”

“I don’t intend to limit your education to our shared delights.”

Will laughed despite himself and pulled back to look at Hannibal, feeling a contentment that made him think dangerous thoughts about the future he was inevitably going to be sharing with this man. Judging by the suddenly tense look that came over the doctor’s face like a shadow, he was not the only one who was realizing the seriousness of their budding relationship.

“It would be the death of one of us if this were to go poorly,” Hannibal said quietly, visibly saddened by the thought of it, remembering what he had almost done in haste. “Perhaps both of us.”

Though it had only been a few hours since this man had walked into his life with the intention of killing him, the course of his future had already been decided. Will knew Hannibal belonged to him now, and he belonged to Hannibal in turn, and the beautiful thing blooming between them was only theirs to ruin. There would be no amicable breakup, no soft goodbyes— if they ever parted, it would be with blood and malice and a lot of innocent people caught in the crossfire. And as spectacular as that might be, it was worth little against the radiance of they what they could be together.

 “You made a promise. Keep that, and everything else is negotiable.”

“I always keep my promises,” Hannibal repeated solemnly in agreement.

But he looked subtly pained at the loss of whatever terrible games he might have been able to play with Will’s mind in another life. He couldn’t hold that against him; he had the feeling that Hannibal was a psychiatrist because it gave him full access to the sandbox of people’s psyches, and his would probably have been the most fun of all. Asking him not to even attempt to play in it was sort of like asking the tiger to change his stripes. The fact that he was readily making this promise likely meant more than Will could possibly imagine, not yet at least. It made him think that maybe Dr. Lecter was already halfway in love with him— he hoped so, because Will was already halfway there himself.

“But if you do have to kill me someday, just promise me you’ll take me out like you did Matthew so I can at least die happy.”

And as the barn rang with the real, unbridled laughter of Hannibal Lecter, Will laughed too and rested his head on his chest, feeling the reverberations go all through him, echoing in his blood, his bones. Silently, he thanked the dead men in the freezer for inadvertently setting him down the path that led to his equal, his future, the killer of his dreams.