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"You must understand, Will,” Hannibal says, “that blood, and breath are only elements undergoing change to fuel your radiance. Just as the source of light is burning."

Will has to catch his breath at the words, the taste of blood and Armagnac still sharp on his tongue. He sees the way Hannibal watches him, with such open admiration now, firelight caught in his wine red eyes. He feels more than radiant, when Hannibal looks at him like that. He feels ablaze.

"You said your heart rate remained steady as you killed Freddie Lounds," Hannibal continues, whirling his glass gently under his nose before he takes a sip, "a steady heart rate isn't just an indicator of one's capacity for violence, but other things as well."

"Such as?" Will's voice, if not his heart rate, remains steady now.

Hannibal just begins to pertly cut into his dinner. "Acts of passion, perhaps."

"Yes, that's an accepted indicator, isn't it? Elevated pulse, dilated pupils, shortness of breath -"

"A very similar set of circumstances, all things considered. Living, dying."

"Fear and passion?"

"They're branches on the same tree, arguably both driven by love."

"Love, Doctor Lecter?"

"Love, Will." He holds his gaze. It burns as hot as the ortolans' flame.

Will takes a steadying breath. "You have an odd idea of love, Doctor."

"Do I? I've never felt so."

Will notes his pulse isn't so calm now. "So what you did to me... you'd call that love?"

"Don't you feel it, Will?" Not even a flicker of ill-humor.

These are his favorite sorts of conversations, Will reminds himself, forking off a mouthful of meat so tender it would cut with a spoon. "You sent me to prison."

"It opened your mind."

"You might as well have used a hammer and chisel." He's struggling now, to keep a lid on how much it hurt; how close he was to giving in.

"I'm tempted to quote Michaelangelo," Hannibal murmurs. "You were trapped in the marble, and I let you out."

"You cut me out."

"Creation can be violent."

"So can passion, I'm guessing."

"Would you like to find out?" Hannibal murmurs.

Lips parting on his surprised breath, Will stalls, but Hannibal looks as serene as ever. The inference is plain, but misinterpretation on Will’s part could be catastrophic. Then again, so could the alterative. If Will starts to be able to explain Hannibal, he knows, then it means he could prevent him. Manipulate him. That belief seems foolhardy, and frankly, Will isn’t quite sure he wants to know how he personally could have influenced Hannibal’s selective violences over these months.

But - he wants clarification.

"Convince me," he says, taking a sip of his wine, watching the way Hannibal's eyes follow his movements. That's pretty convincing in and of itself.

Even so, Hannibal's shoulders get a little squarer, the shadows in his sockets growing as he dips his head and gives Will one of those smiles like he knows a secret.

"Would you care to stay for an after-dinner drink tonight, Will?"

"I would." He barely even hesitates.


Curiosity peaked, Will continues eating. The meal is as delicious as ever, but it's impossible to top the ortolans for sheer effrontery. They’re both quiet, shadowed by the great knowing that hangs over the table, an antlered beast.

When they’re finished, Hannibal whisks away the evidence with his usual efficiency, and in his absence, Will drifts up from the table and through to the sitting room. In the back of his mind, he knows he ought to be running.

No point running from smoke, he reminds himself, and no point in running from Hannibal. Will is fully aware of just how easily Hannibal would catch him, and he would, one way or the other, kill him. No illusions, no pretenses to imagining Hannibal is anything other than some creeping beast, ancient and unforgiving.

He keeps the awareness high in his mind as Hannibal returns to him, crossing to the bar to pour something rich and dark.

"Smells of heather," Will whispers.


When it’s presented with a flourish, Will steps forward to accept the glass, murmuring his thanks and Hannibal taps their glasses together with a gleam in his dark crow eyes.

He gestures Will to the couch by the fire, and then perches beside him, all neat long lines in his suit, one leg draped over the other and his head keenly angled.

Will is struck by his elegant profile; the way he glows. He's like nothing that Will ever pictured in his life; he doesn’t think he would ever have flattered himself enough to anticipate a man like him would be interested in him. His attention is a gift, his affection outright incredible. Will isn’t even sure he believes Hannibal to be capable of what he claims, at least not in the way normal people understand, and yet something dark curls out of him to meet it. Something horribly like curiosity.

There's so much to resent him for, but when Will reaches for that emotion, he finds it isn't there anymore. There's grief, but there's something else, too. Something offered by a snake, gleaming red in the light.

None of this is something he should be feeling. But, he supposes that's what a therapist is meant to be for. It's just too bad all these feelings are about him.

Who better than to deal with them? He thinks Hannibal would say.

But Hannibal isn't saying anything at all, merely watching him in the firelight.

"Enjoying watching my mental wrestling, Doctor?"

"Immensely. Though it isn't necessary, Will."

"That makes a change. Pray tell?"

"You're a man attempting to wear a too-tight suit, when you could simply... remove it."

"There's nothing wrong with my suit," Will snips back, "it even has breathing holes now."

"And for how long will they be enough?"

"Until you decide to uh, cut me some new ones, I suppose." He takes another gulp of his drink.

Hannibal, paused in the act of sipping his own, glances down at his own wrist. "Is it my turn, then?"

"You tell me."

"That's not what I want, Will."

"I don't care what you want." He meets Hannibal's eyes as he takes a drink of his own.

Instead of being affronted, Hannibal tilts his head, pleasure as clear on his face as the firelight.

"That's fairly clear."

"That makes a change too, doesn't it?

"You're making quite a few changes right now."

"I think it's about time."

"If you think I'll criticize you for being selfish, Will... I won't."

"I learned from the best," Will says curtly, "but I think I could use one more lesson."

"Is that so?" Hannibal murmurs.

"Sure is."

"What kind of a lesson?"

"A lesson in selfishness, Doctor. That's what you want me to do, isn't it?"

"If you wish."

Will sighs, and sips his drink. "I don't know."

"You could allow me to decide for you," Hannibal murmurs.

"I could."

He feels a touch to his elbow, and turns his head, just to survey Hannibal's elegant fingers on his sleeve, barely a twitch of his chin.

"I would be thrilled," says the equally elegant voice.

A shiver crawls up Will's back at breath on his ear.

"Thrilled," he repeats.

"Of course, Will." His hand skims to Will's cuff, and then up to his chest, just like that, as easy as a blade between his ribs.

Will isn't sure the last time he's been touched like this, by anyone at all. He turns to look Hannibal in the face, slow, eyebrow arched when Hannibal feigns deference, lowering his gaze to his hand; two fingers slipping between two of Will's shirt buttons. He doesn't stop touching.

"Another radical form of therapy?" Will guesses.

"If you like."

"Tell me why you're doing this," Will bites, "or the game is over."

"It's an offering," Hannibal murmurs. "To you."

"Offerings are generally given to divine beings in exchange for protection."

"Just so."

Will meets his gaze finally, conflicted. He doesn’t think Hannibal is touched enough to think this could stop Will from handing him over to the police, and so this isn’t a bribe, so much as... conditioning.

"You don't care what I want," Hannibal reminds him softly. "Take what you want."

"How do you know this is what I want?"

"Am I wrong?" He tilts his head.

Will's voice sticks in his throat. It wasn’t, until the moment it was presented as an option, and isn’t that just like Will? His heart is thrumming steadily under the teasing pass of Hannibal’s fingers. "I don't know."

“Decide. Let me show you another side of my love, Will. Let me give you something without sharp edges.”

Even hearing the trap in it, Will can’t deny it sounds good. It’s a snare around his neck, the hope. Hannibal had startled him with his intuition, his ease at handling Will when they’d met, and he’d slipped so quickly into trusting him. Being betrayed had felt too sharp and acid to contain; a poison in him that leaked out and changed him. Changed him into what he is now.

Will takes a deep breath. Holds it, a beat, a few seconds, seven ticks on the clock, thirteen beats of his heart. Then, he lets it out. "Go ahead."

“Good.” Hannibal smiles with his eyes. His hands travel down Will's torso.

When he leans in, Will has to brace himself not to jerk back: teeth. He refuses to break eye contact first. Warm and soft, Hannibal's lips brush his own, obscenely gentle. He's always gentle with Will, he realises with a lurch. It makes his head spin. When Hannibal presses in closer, he cups Will's cheek and kisses him soundly. Gasping, Will’s own fingers tighten on the arm of the sofa, away from Hannibal. He can't let himself touch. He has to keep some semblance of control; self restraint. The upper hand.

Instead he suppresses his quickening breaths; parts his lips to Hannibal's tongue and lets himself be overwhelmed. Strange, he thinks, how many people have pressed intimacy into his hands lately, like a flickering light sheltered in cupped palms. It's so easy to take him over, and they all know that.

The thought stutters, and so does he, pulling back with his fingers to Hannibal's chin. So presumptuous to touch him there, near his soft gentleman's mouth, the mouth that has bitten and consumed so many things Will loves.

"Alana," he grits.

"What about Alana?"

"She is under the impression that you and her are an item. Or, she was at least."

Was she, when she accused Will of killing Freddie? When she told him Hannibal is 'bad for him'? She's so smart, but he can also imagine Hannibal tricking her so easily.

At the mention of her, Hannibal actually looks vaguely irritated.

"I think Alana knows we were merely amusing ourselves."

"Am I amusing you?"

"Do you think that's what I'm looking for, with you?"

"I think that's what you look for with everything."

"You're wrong, Will." Hannibal sounds almost hurt. "Not everything."

Will can't quite find it in himself to feel guilty. "Just where I'm concerned." He's not sure if he even wants a denial. It seems he's easier to read than Hannibal at least, because he strokes a tendril of Will's hair back, cut short to rid him of any molecules of prison still clinging.

"Aren't you simply flattered that you never bore me?"

"Flattered," Will repeats, baring his teeth around the word like the edges are cutting his mouth. "Do you really think that, Hannibal?"

"Don't you want to know what makes you so special?"

"Can I really avoid you telling me?"

"There are ways."

With an impatient sigh, Will pulls Hannibal in and kisses him again, almost spitefully. This is certainly one way to shut him up. He's not sure he's ready to see Hannibal's singular attentions as a gift just yet.

The way Hannibal melts into the kiss is tempting, however. He's more loose and fluid than Will has ever known him, like he’s moving in the tide of his ocean. It shouldn't be fascinating, but Will can't stop from making comparisons. To Alana... to everyone he's ever kissed. None of them have ever known him this well, even through that odd red lens. No one ever has.

The thought brings with it certainty like the scent of burning after a lightning strike. He'll take what Hannibal seems to want so desperately to give him, he decides. It's the least he deserves. The tip of the iceberg, where they're concerned.

Slowly, he breaks the kiss and lets his head tilt back, aware of Hannibal eyeing him contentedly; kissing gently under Will's jaw.

"What is it?" Will asks.

"I don't feel amused," Hannibal murmurs under his breath, lips traveling.

"What do you feel?"


"Show me."

Hannibal's eyes flash to meet his. They blaze crimson in the firelight as he starts to slip the jacket off Will's shoulders.

All of a sudden, Will wants to say no. It rises in the back of his throat, but something stops it. Even so, Hannibal pauses, like he can tell, and kisses Will's throat again, waiting patiently for him to decide again.

"Denying you... feels like an instinct," Will admits quietly.

"You're angry."

"You knew I would be."

"Anger is natural."

"You think so?"

"Of course, as much as I wouldn't prefer it."

Will grits his teeth at the way Hannibal purposefully ignores the sarcasm there. "What would you prefer?"

"Understanding," Hannibal whispers, hands slipping Will's shirt buttons free instead.

"I always understood you. That's what I do."

"Am I no different than the evil minds you chase for Jack?"

"You're different than all of them, you know that." Will says, some distant signal of satisfaction firing in his hindbrain when Hannibal looks pleased. "It's your weakness."

Hannibal spreads the two halves of his shirt. "Weakness?"

"You always push when you should pull back." Will looks down at him. "Like right now."

Hannibal actually looks faintly unsure, an expression Will isn't sure he's ever genuinely worn before.

"I guess it works out pretty well for you that I expect you to,” he continues.

"I suppose so."

Those clever fingers trail down the center of his chest next, and then then he leans down to kiss Will's bared chest like he's taking Communion, lashes shading his eyes, perfect tawny hair dropping forward in soft strands.

Will lets a humiliating little noise escape: he’s never known a push to be so gentle.

"Pushing, I've found," Hannibal whispers against his skin, "always yields more desirable results."

Will takes a shallow breath. His fingers are so close to his waistband now.

"So push," he whispers.

Delicately, Hannibal sets a hand over him through his jeans and squeezes, and Will's startled grunt escapes him before he can stop it up. Hannibal hums in response.

"Fear and passion," he echoes softly, shaping Will slow and firm with a long drag of his hand, "which is this?"

"I'm not afraid of you," Will snaps.

"Passion, then." Again, he sounds pleased.

Will curls his lip, baring teeth: he wishes it was that simple. But Hannibal curtails any rebuke with another kiss, long and sweet and soft, setting Will trembling with an awful craving that he tries hard to hide. Judging from the smile he can taste, he isn't succeeding.

Incensed, Will gets a handful of perfect hair and snatches it taut, feeling only a sliver of satisfaction at the soft noise of surprise it elicits; Hannibal’s hands tighten on Will's shoulders.

"Allow me to continue?" he whispers.

"Yes," Will mutters.

Hannibal smiles against Will’s cheek, stroking it absently now, fingers creeping along his jaw. With Will watching him warily, he bends to cover his shuddering pulse with his mouth, kissing and then biting gently over his jugular.

Will pictures how easily the flesh would give; arches his neck into it unconsciously, baring his throat to death but Death doesn't take him, just presses a kiss to his skin and smiles. His hand works over the line of Will through fabric, making him arch minutely, body hissing yes even as his mind whirls.

Emanating amusement, Hannibal kisses his throat again, his hand creeping to the fastenings of Will's pants. This time, Will lets him undo them and slip his hand inside. He can't quite keep from gasping.

With a soft sigh, Hannibal brushes their lips together. "Will," he murmurs.

"What is it?"

"You feel wonderful."

"Hm," Will says.

"Trust me."

"Help me do that."

Hannibal hums, sounding elated simply to have the opportunity. He seems to weigh his options, before he shifts, stripping off his own dinner jacket and tie.

Will hears his own breath catch in surprise: the sight of Hannibal sinking to his knees before him on the floor is one he struggles to reconcile. And yet he wants it on some visceral level that doesn't respond to what he knows.

"Hannibal," he breathes quietly.

A slow scan of those maroon eyes, then his head dips. He unbuttons Will's flies, and they both pause for an endless moment.

"May I?" Hannibal breathes.

Will nods, wordless, noting how Hannibal's smile seems to glow from within before he bares Will to them both. Despite himself, Will can’t help but wonder briefly if Hannibal has ever seen him like this. All those times he lost hours, all the times Hannibal was in control... the thought makes him shiver. So does Hannibal's breath; the smear of his lips. The delicate sweep of his tongue. Will tenses and relaxes with every flash of his teeth, almost certain Hannibal can hear his gusting breaths, maybe even the sound of his thrashing heart, but his mouth stays soft and hot.

"This... is not what I expected," Will mutters.

Humming quietly in answer, Hannibal keeps his lashes shaded and his mouth deftly moving over Will’s steadily rising cock, skin glistening with the evidence of his lips.

Experimentally, Will tightens his hand in Hannibal's hair, and for his trouble gets nothing but a glance up; the hint of a smile in his gaze. Will's lips tighten, and so do Hannibal's, making him gasp. He lifts his hips on instinct, slides deeper, but Hannibal offers no resistance. If anything, he seems encouraging, with his mouth so wicked and his hands gently holding; pulling.

Will hisses through his teeth, overcome. It seems right, now, even necessary, his hands tight in Hannibal’s hair, hips hips flexing again and again. On a particularly vehement snap, he feels the answering flicker of Hannibal's throat and groans, the noise startling in the quiet room. It feels so sheltered in the temple of Hannibal's affections. It makes him want to fill that silence. Snatching another handful of Hannibal's hair seems as good a method as any, along with another low groan.

He likes to hear him gulp and groan softly around his cock, a little slip in control. Will wants the rest.

"I want to see your room," he mutters, "I want to see the place your dreams hide."

Hannibal pauses, then pulls off. "You'd have to look farther than that."

"You think I won't?"

A slow smile at that. "I know you will."

Silently, they stand, and when Will is decent again he lets Hannibal lead him upstairs. He looks everywhere as he goes. Everything feels new. Hannibal's house is warm, rich, hushed. It's a secret place, Will knows, as is Hannibal's own center, hidden amongst elaborate artefacts and distracting arrangements. It's the most Hannibal thing he can imagine. And so is his bedroom, blue and gold and swathed in faux intimacy.

Will closes his eyes. He can find Hannibal here if he tries. But a hand on the small of his back sways him. "You won't find me in there, today."

"No?" Will raises his brows.

"No, today I'm with you."

"I can feel you," Will whispers. The soft blast of breath against his shoulder turns his head, Hannibal's nose against the seam of his shirt.

"Can you?" he sounds moved.

"Always." Will mutters.

"I had hoped."

Will peers at him over his shoulder. "You've been inside me since day one."

A hand circles his flank to splay over his belly, pull him close. The heat of him down Will's back makes him shiver. He tests to see if Hannibal will let him turn, and then they're face to face, and Will can't help but fleetingly consider that he's alone in the den of the Chesapeake Ripper.

He wants to survive this. To see Hannibal. Hannibal is all he can see. His hands smell faintly of herbs when he lifts them to cup Will's jaw.

"Find me now," he murmurs.

"I need your help," Will whispers.

"How can I help?"

"Show me who you are."

"Oh, Will," Hannibal murmurs. He sounds overwrought. His hands are steady though. Slowly, their mouths tip together.

Will feels overtaken by an uncharacteristic patience. He lets Hannibal steer him and he's gently pushed up against a flocked blue wall and Hannibal sighs with satisfaction. "Your eyes glow like this, you know."

"Is that so?"

"They're astonishing."

"In what way?"

"So clear. So cold."

"You think I'm cold?"

"I think you want to be."

"So what am I?"

"Lovely," Hannibal murmurs.

"Prosaic, for you."

"Simple, because you prefer it."

"You don't."

"You don't care what I want," Hannibal says again.

Will bites his lip. He used to. "I want to be able to care. To trust you."

"As do I, Will."

He presses in, and they kiss again, that hesitant, teasing brush of mouths. Will thinks Hannibal would be willing to kiss like this for a long time. Until teeth took over. And with Hannibal, he thinks, wouldn't they always? Destined to be devoured and devour in turn. It sends a thrill through his nerves, already primed.

Getting a hand on Hannibal's chest, Will gives him a sharp, near-playful push toward the bed. "I've thought about you like this before, y'know," he says, shrugging off his own shirt; dropping it on the floor without ceremony.

"Tell me," Hannibal murmurs. His eyes track Will avidly, one hand drifting up to touch his shoulder; the bullet scar. His thumb circles it, presses. Will can't read his expression.

"When I trusted you," Will murmurs, "I think I saw you as someone who safeguarded my secrets. The intimacy... you know things about me no one ever has."

"I do safeguard them, Will."

"Do you?"

"Jealously," Hannibal murmurs. "Tell me how you first started to think of me, Will."

"You were so patient with me," Will mumbles.

"I've never found you to be tiresome."

"I know," Will whispers. He tilts into Hannibal's other hand now too, settling on his cheek. Hannibal hasn't questioned his statement about trust. A different person might've. Will takes a deep breath. "It started with thinking about you comforting me." He laughs. "Maybe everyone goes through that with their therapists."

"Therapists are often a crutch for these fantasies, yes," Hannibal supplies unhelpfully.

Will eyes him narrowly. "Oh, well if that's too banal for you..."

"Nothing is, where you're concerned," Hannibal murmurs, for the first time seeming almost irritated. Will slides into displeased silence: they're bristling again. This time, he tries another shove.

Hannibal stays put. "Tell me."

"I thought someone finally saw me."

"I saw your potential."

"Is that so?"

"It is."

"Is that all, Hannibal?"

"It's not all I saw, Will, no."

"Then tell me, or this stops."

Expression shrewd, Hannibal leans back. "I saw the potential for love, as I say."

Will scoffs. "Is that something you're capable of, Hannibal?"

But he knows he is. He can see it in the way he saw Garrett Jacob Hobb's love for Abigail - a love so fierce it took on a life of its own, and demanded blood for sustenance. He takes a deep breath.

"Are you, Will?" Hannibal breathes.

"Of course," he snaps.

"Even for me?"

"That's the unfortunate part of it all, isn't it?" He sees as Hannibal's expression flashes to that awful, delicate hurt. "I can. Even if I don't want to."

"You wanted to at first, when you started to fantasize, didn't you?"

Silently, Will nods.

"Because I accepted you," Hannibal whispers, "because I safeguarded you. Arguably, I went further than most in my efforts."

"You certainly did."

"Could you not find it in yourself to do the same for me?"

"How far must I go, Hannibal?"

"Only as far as I have."

"I am to love a killer, then."

"You love what you are."

Will stares at him, lips parting. Even if he had killed Freddie, it would be true. Maybe it's always been true. "I thought I could, before," he whispers.

"And now?" Hannibal wets his lips. His eyes brim with untold emotion. "Am I really any different?"

He's not. Will knows he's not. With a long sigh, he lifts a hand; touches his hair and skims his palm to his cheek. "Hannibal," he whispers. And then their lips are together again, and Will can taste that mutual desperation like the sting of Scotch on the back of his tongue.

They crave each other, and Will knows they always have. Hannibal wants to know him. Wants to see how far he can go. Will wants the same.

This time, Hannibal doesn't resist the shove to the mattress. He arches for Will's touch when he maps his torso with grabbing, greedy motions of his hands. The material of his shirt strains. Will knots fingers into the tails and tugs until the button strains. He looks up.

"What would you do if I ripped this, Hannibal?"

"Why don't you find out?"

It's a clear invitation. With a great breath, Will snatches the tails apart and watches the buttons fly. He grins at the expression on Hannibal's face, a mixture of want and regret.

"I'll buy you a new one," he whispers.

"Is that so?"

"What, don't you like that idea?"

"I didn't say that."

Will laughs again. "You do. You like the idea of me doing that for you as much as you hate it."

"I find it amusing, I can't imagine you shopping." His eyes flutter closed as Will strokes up his chest slowly. He's primal. Densely muscled but still lean, agile. Fitter than his stuffy suits would suggest, Always prepared to run, Will acknowledges.

But now, basking like a cat, he arches into Will's hands. It pleases Will to have him like this, not helpless, but vulnerable. Things feel more equal this way.

At the thought, he leans down, and levels the playing field more with a sinking bite. He can hear Hannibal's indrawn breath. His hand comes to Will's hair, but not pulling, just stroking through the curls. He lets Will bite again, hard enough to bruise, before guiding him up for a leisurely kiss. His other hand slides to the small of Will's back. He's gentle, nearly sweet. It feels like a trap. It feels true.

"Will," he purrs, "you're exceptional."

"Yes," Will agrees softly. He’s not sure he was before he met Hannibal.

Their hands bump with their desperation to touch one another now. It's entirely mutual, nearly inelegant, except that nothing Hannibal does is. He smoothes a hand up Will's back and neatly twists them over, effortless. Will gasps, grapples only a moment, but Hannibal catches his hands smoothly in his own and kisses each.

"May I continue where we left off downstairs, Will?"

"Go at it," Will nods.

Hannibal's brows lift faintly, but he returns to Will's waistband. That brings a faint smile to the corner of Will's mouth: so eager, this man, almost like a stranger hiding in Hannibal's skin. But no, Will has always known about this. He's seen this mouth seeking skin before; seen him close his eyes and inhale, too.

"You really do want me, don't you?" he murmurs. "Always have. I didn't see it."

"Didn't want to, perhaps."

"You didn't want me to."

Hannibal hums noncommittally. "Would you have been comfortable with that?"

"It might have changed things," Will muses.

"It would have changed how suitable I was to be your therapist."

"I thought they were just conversations," Will twits softly.

"We decided that, not Jack Crawford."

"We decided many things without Jack Crawford."

"Some things," Hannibal allows. "My question," he murmurs, touching Will's cheek, "is how many things you have."

The tone of it makes Will swallow. He wonders how Hannibal would react to honesty. "Decisiveness can sometimes be better managed by two," he murmurs, "especially when the consequences of it could be disastrous for one."

"Are we having that discussion?"

"Seems a little like we are."

Seems a little like Hannibal hasn't stopped touching him, either. His hands travel idly over Will's skin, but his gaze is intent. Clearly he is not distracted.

Will takes a deep breath. "You know the truth of things, don't you?"

"I know... you. I know things that seem unlikely, when attributed to you by others."

"Tell me."

Hannibal wets his lips. "Randall Tier attacked you. He tried to take your life. How did Freddie Lounds attack you, Will?"

"One could say she's done nothing but attack me since she met me," Will prevaricates, but he knows Hannibal is baiting a hook. He's soothing his hands over Will's bare chest. He looks considering. 

"She has provoked you before without consequence. You have just gotten out of prison. Yearning for the return to those cold walls?"

"You know what that cost me, Doctor Lecter," Will hisses.

"And I know you value moral facets, I indulge myself the same fantasy."

"Do you?"

"On occasion. Only with you," he murmurs.

He's being incredibly forthcoming. Alarmingly, Will worries. Trust is still a foreign concept to him. After prison. After... Hannibal. It's fittingly biblical. There's nothing but before and after Hannibal. Not really.

He can't speak, because he really didn't think Hannibal would see through his deception so immediately - but he does know him. They know one another. Intimately.

"Desperation makes us strangers to ourselves," Hannibal muses, matter-of-fact, voice very gentle. "But we lose our footing all too easily when the path is treacherous. Tell me, Will. What did you do to Freddie Lounds?"

He knows. Will opens his mouth, feeling for the next step. Hannibal, he reminds himself forcefully, is not a fish. "I needed a way to make Randall Tier's death... palatable."

Hannibal is silent for a moment. They're both bare and vulnerable. Will thinks it's the best situation he could hope to be in for this conversation.

"And it was so easy to picture what I would do to her."

"Did you just picture it, Will?"

He had. "If I had just pictured it..." he whispers, "she still would have served her purpose."

It's still both the truth, and not the truth. Hannibal raises his chin. "Will," he murmurs. Infinite coaxing.

It feels dangerous, to utter the truth, going against his instincts. Will braces himself. "Not killing her... only solidified my wishing I had," he whispers. He meets Hannibal's smooth burgundy gaze.

His expression is ciphering; dangerously blank for a moment. Of course he knew, Will thinks. He's used to thinking of Hannibal as omniscient anyway.

"Uncle Jack will be displeased at you showing your hand," he observes.

"You think he wasn't before?"

"I think you don't even know who you're playing, anymore."

"I think I could allow myself to be convinced," Will whispers.

"It seems you already have."

"I would have expected you to be more pleased," Will says.

Hannibal considers once more, and then he smiles. "You're here. It seems your choice is made."

"It has," Will whispers. Maybe he didn't realize it until he said the words. He swallows heavily at the thought. "What does that mean to you, Hannibal?"

"It means there is still time for the teacup to come back together." Will nods, and Hannibal's mouth ghosts across his cheek again. "Jack will still think you're his man," he murmurs, "are you comfortable deceiving him?"

Will lets their cheeks press together for a moment, inhaling Hannibal's cologne. "Worryingly," he murmurs. He turns his head to press their lips together again.

Hannibal slides a hand into his hair; sealing the kiss, breathless now. Maybe they're done with words for the time being. Will doesn't know if Hannibal will be so calm about this when it's over. He's sure Hannibal won't be subtle about what he expects as recompense. Maybe it's just this. Then again, he's not sure this is appropriately - punitary.

"Hannibal," he whispers, against his mouth. He feels the broad shoulders tense. "I don't know who I'm playing. I'd like to know."

"Right now?"

Will takes a breath. "I'd like you to know."

"Of course." He gives Will an appraising once over. "A vulnerable position to tell a lie."

"Yes," Will whispers, "but you opened a door in me and I can't close it, no matter how much I want to."

"Do you want to?"

Another question Will isn't sure how to answer. He thinks he's not expected to. Not right now. He answers instead with another kiss, biting instead of contrite. He can feel the thrill it sends through Hannibal.

He handles Will closer, purposeful now. His fingers dig in a bit, and then he starts on Will's flies again, expression serene. Now, they're not stopping. Will is, as ever, surprised by his own susceptibility to Hannibal. He doesn't even want to think about stopping. He can't let this opportunity to see Hannibal cut loose pass him by. It will be quite a sight.

With that in mind, he twists them over, rising on his knees to relieve Hannibal of the remainder of his clothes in turn. Then he just looks for a moment. He still doesn't look vulnerable, even with the angled softness of his jaw obvious; the lack of armor. He'll never look vulnerable, perhaps. Not to someone who knows what he is.

He's giving Will this smile, deeply satisfied. Will can see its bones, and he knows everything about it. He smooths his hands up his body, and goes down slowly to taste his skin.

It's good, not surprisingly. Everything about Hannibal is calculated to be pleasing. At least - for a select audience. Will is realizing how carefully it's been selected. For him.

"You've really wanted this from the beginning-?"

"Yes," Hannibal says simply.

Will nods, eyes down, hands still devouring muscle and hot skin. He believes it. He kisses his shoulder again; curls a hand around Hannibal's cock and slowly strokes, feeling him plump under the attention, warm and thick.

He hums under his breath. He can see Hannibal's teeth bare as his lips part on his little gasp. He thinks it might be surprise. Will smirks faintly. Hannibal isn't expecting him to know his way around this, clearly. He'd like to surprise him further still, so he keeps going.

"Will," Hannibal breathes.

"Yes, Hannibal?" He doesn't think there's any real intent behind it, just general admiration. He still wouldn't mind hearing it. He shifts between Hannibal's knees, and bends to kiss his stomach.

Hannibal doesn't do anything as prosaic as gasp. He seems to luxuriate in this the same way he might a hot bath, eyes closed and his head tipped back. His fingertips are resting on the crown of Will's head. Will senses how much he wants to sink them into his curls. He licks the cut of Hannibal's hip and waits for him to give in.

He does, finally, with a sigh. Will rewards him with a soft bite. He can feel the thrill that runs through him at that. He's thrilled, too. On the knife edge of it, lit with a curious hunger. It might consume him, but he might welcome it.

With a shaky breath, Will turns his head and lips the smooth, glossy head of Hannibal's cock into his mouth. This time, the thrill runs through them both. Hannibal's thighs tense, his breath audibly catching between his teeth. Will makes a quiet noise. It feels good to humanize him. Intoxicating, really. He has known Hannibal as a kind of God for so long, reposed and observing, amused at Will's human struggles.

He's not amused anymore. He doesn't look like his feelings are any less than celestial now. Overcome by his current situation, perhaps. Relentlessly entertained, regardless.

Will takes him deeper into his throat, closing his eyes. He thinks he's pleased too. This feels good. It feels like control. He thinks even Hannibal would be hard pressed to argue with that.

"Will," he breathes again. His voice is very gentle despite the edge of breathlessness beneath it. He looks up.

Hannibal's hand tugs delicately. Will allows himself to be pulled away, moves up into the kiss like the crest of a wave meeting land. He thinks Hannibal is tasting himself. The thought sends an electric little needle of arousal through Will's brain, and it resounds in the very pit of his belly. Of course he is, and of course Will likes it.

"Will," Hannibal murmurs.

Will kisses him again. He doesn't need an analysis. He needs Hannibal to let this happen. They twist in the sheets, Hannibal aligning himself on top, serpentine and smooth as he kisses the column of Will's throat. Will shivers internally at the thought of teeth. He thinks he'd be helpless to stop him. But they're only kisses. Relaxing incrementally, he arches, feeling their bodies align, hips sliding.

"Tell me what you want," he sighs.

"Everything I can have."

Of course. "What do you want most?"

"I want you inside me," Hannibal tells him.

It jars something loose inside Will, and he exhales as if kicked. He should have known. "Okay," he mutters. He can't say the concept doesn't have its attractions. Just visualizing it makes him feel hot and pierced with hunger. His mouth is actually watering.

With his voice dried up in his throat, he lets Hannibal sit up and kiss him. He cups Will's face like something delicate. "Turn over, Will. Sit up against the headboard."

Will draws himself slowly into the requested position. He watches Hannibal move toward him, hand skimming absently into the bedside drawer to retrieve supplies. Will doesn't allow himself to dwell on that detail. How often does this happen to Hannibal-? It can't be often. Just cannot.

Will wets his lips and realizes he's thinking about Alana too. He doesn't want to think about that at all.

"Will," Hannibal is watching him intently. He forces their eyes to meet and hold.

"Keeping lube and rubbers in the bedside drawer, how pedestrian, Doctor."

"I am but human, Will."

"Despite all evidence to the contrary." Will keeps his hands at his side with an effort. With a cat-like smile, Hannibal kneels over his lap.

"You're ready?" he murmurs.

"As ready as I can be." He bites down on his lip as Hannibal opens a condom. It's absolutely bizarre to see. It doesn't mean he doesn't feel himself hardening in anticipation. Something surreal and beautiful in the way Hannibal angles his wrist to stroke Will, peering from under the soft fall of his hair. Maybe Will has never been more ready for anything. Wordlessly, he helps with the prep before handling Hannibal closer, wiping one slick hand on the sheets to see the barest twitch of a snarl as he settles. "Go on, take what you want."

Chin raised imperiously, Hannibal takes Will in hand and presses smoothly down onto his cock with a low rumble, everything happening in one slow, tight slide. Will can't help but gasp: it's so much. Hannibal's hands settle against the jut of his clavicles as he seats himself, jaw tense and breaths coming quick.

"Tell me," Will grits.

"I don't have words."

"You? No words?"

A little near-laugh at that, more like a caught breath. "You feel -"

Will touches his ribs delicately; rocks his hips. He watches it bloom over Hannibal's face. His fingers tighten on Will's skin. "You like that," Will murmurs.

"Yes," Hannibal says, tightly.

"Having me inside you," Will specifies, voice crystalline.

"It's - one iteration of it I had only recently considered possible," Hannibal admits, voice barely audible.

Will rocks up again. "One track mind," he quips, his own lip curling against the fierceness of his pleasure.

"I doubt that very much."

"Predictable." He snaps his hips up again, picking up a rhythm now, enjoying the way Hannibal silently gasps. "You love to ascribe me motivations."

"And you don't?"

"Fair," Will murmurs, hands settling hard at Hannibal's hips. He pushes his face in to kiss him, done with words for now.

Hannibal's hands ring his collarbones. He makes a pretty sound of satisfaction as he circles his hips. He's more in control of himself now, but Will doesn't want him to be.

He bites at Hannibal's lower lip to feel him flinch; grip at Will's hair as he presses it into a kiss instead. Will doesn't let him gentle it, just grasps his hips tighter and grinds up into the hot clasp of his body, teeth bared.

"You feel like you were made for me," he grits.

"Will," Hannibal breathes, tipping his head back.

"What? It's true."

No response outside another shaky breath; the tension in Hannibal's thighs palpable as he rolls down to meet Will's movements. Will lies back, eyes half-lidded as he surveys the man above him.

He feels the trickle of water around them, seeping over the mattress; the bedding, up around their thighs. Creeping up his ribs. He's drowning in Hannibal, he thinks. Being pushed to the riverbed. The stones in his pockets are all Hannibal. His eyes glitter down like stars through the water. When their mouths connect, Will can breathe again.

"God," he groans, “you’re taking it so well."

"Better than you've had before?" Hannibal bites, and Will feels a little flash of surprise at the jealousy. Surprised, at least, that Hannibal showed it to him.

"No one's ever had me like you have," he offers.

"I suppose not," he breathes. His hands on Will's chest creep up, clasped to the base of his throat, not choking but pressing.

It occurs to Will that Hannibal feels threatened, but he doesn't say a word, merely meets his burgundy eyes. Hannibal bends to kiss him again, starting to rock with more purpose. His hands tighten fractionally. Nerves pricking, Will arches into his touch. He rocks up to meet each roll of Hannibal's hips. Their gazes locked, teeth bared.

Neither of them have breath for words anymore. Their movements are taking on urgency, the water around them thrashing with their kinetics. The sound of waves breaking fills Will's ears. He's always found fear in open water, not the serenity of his stream. This feels different. Everything will be different now.

"Hannibal," he breathes.

"My love," Hannibal murmurs in his ear.

Will holds him tighter at the words. It sounds sincere. He takes a deep breath and dives, tipping them down to the mattress, Hannibal elegantly splaying on his flank now. He looks so godlike, his legs spread and his heel braced against Will's back as he lets him fuck him with intent, everything about him elegantly reposed but for the way he grips Will's shoulders and hisses his encouragement. Will grasps the sheets and drives his hips fast and slick.

His hair tumbles in front of his face. 

Hannibal tips his head back and breathes in raggedly. He wants to be overcome; compacted under the force of Will's need.

It's a need Will hates admitting, except for how that answering ragged noise makes him feel. He pushes his face into Hannibal’s shoulder and grips him tighter, strangely grateful to know him then. They're a matched set of teeth and darkness, closing on the throat of sanity and squeezing. But they're together, for better or for worse. For always.

Will groans at the realization. "Conjoined," he whispers.

Hannibal snarls a nod. He looks torn about it too. His hand tangles in Will's curls keeps them close. They both want to be close, despite it all. Will feels like his skin is too tight; like his pleasure has spines and they're bursting out where it's stretched to transparency. Like they'll both bleed if he breaks. They're both inside the same strange shark egg, he fears, turning over within its rubbery confines, sharp edges threatening to let the ocean in.

He clutches Hannibal closer and buries himself within him. It's crackling all over him like electricity, sparking off sweat and slick, the sounds of their skin like the static charge of loose wires. Will fucks Hannibal to gasping in a sharp burst of motion, incensed by his glistening skin; bitten lips. He's seeing red, and then all of a sudden, seeing white as his body stutters. He tries to stall himself, to wait, but Hannibal grasps him closer. He grinds up until Will has no choice but to let go.

"Hannibal-" he gasps.

"Inside me," Hannibal whispers.

Will chokes on his breath; folds down to kiss Hannibal hard as the tide crests over him. He empties out, loses himself a little in the rush. He doesn't know if he's Hannibal or Will for a moment, only that he's dangerous; that he's alone, and not alone.

These things have always been true. Now, they're doubly true. He grits his teeth and keeps moving.

Then he pulls back, snatching off the condom before pushing Hannibal onto his back and sinking down his body, to where he's flushed dark and so hard Will is sure he must ache. Will isn't going to give him a chance to think about it. He strokes him; feels his tension re-emerge in the form of a low groan, then he takes him in his mouth.

His gasp is barely audible, the sharp cut of his teeth glinting in the dim light. Will doesn't give him a chance to breathe. He sucks him deep, fingers skimming up his belly; the fine trail of hair there. He can feel the heaving of Hannibal's breaths. Will savors the taste of surprising him once more. Savors it as much as his body. Hannibal is so close. He can taste it.

His hand fastens in Will's hair, snatching tight, almost rude - but Will hums with encouragement. It means he's close to letting go. Will needs to taste him. He sinks his nails into Hannibal's hip. Feels the jerk of his body in turn. Feels him tighten and pulse.

Will buries his nose against the skin between Hannibal's hips and desperately swallows. He hears Hannibal make a ragged noise. His voice trembles when he breathes Will's name.

Will just keeps suckling him. He doesn't want to stop. Hannibal tastes too good. A little, oversensitive twitch from him is enough to dissuade him, but he’s reluctant as he se sighs and lets him slip from his mouth. Then he goes up, beckoned by gentle hands. Very, very gentle hands, now.

Hannibal seems an almost entirely different creature to the one who bore down on Will's body only minutes before. Soft, sated. Tamed, at least temporarily.

"My darling," he's murmuring.

Will sinks gratefully into his arms, shockingly easy. He's lost, he knows. "I chose you," he whispers, "did you always know I would?"

"It is difficult to predict you," Hannibal murmurs. "But somewhere between one hurt and another, I started to hope."

"Whose hurt was that, Hannibal?"

"A constellation, too many to count."

Will nods slowly. "We're a black hole, together."

"Do you think so?"

"Swallowing everything that crosses our path, warping it beyond recognition."

"But we are together," Hannibal murmurs.

"We are. Ever since we met, we've been magnetized."

He can tell from Hannibal's face that he agrees.

“And now our poles have matched up, so to speak,” he murmurs, “where do we go from here?”

Will sighs, debating internally for a moment. "I think... we should disappear."

"I can give that to you," Hannibal murmurs.

"I thought I wanted... closure. Some kind of resolution to all this madness..." Will takes a breath, and touches Hannibal's chest. "But I think maybe I could find it somewhere else."

"I believe you," Hannibal replies.

"The question is," Will continues, "could you? Can we move past this?"

"I had hoped...." Will waits for him to solidify the answer. "I gave you a child once," Hannibal murmurs.

"And you took her away."

"And if I would like to reverse that decision...."

Will's heart stutters in his chest. "Is that possible?" he hisses.

"The only way to reverse time, I've found, is through the art of deception. You'll know a little about that, yourself."

Will nods to acknowledge a point well-struck. But he can't find his voice, his hope barreling up in his throat, throttled by the efforts of holding it back.

"Sleep, Will," Hannibal murmurs. "I'll take you to see her tomorrow."

"I want to go now," Will says, unable to stifle the urgency.

Hannibal hears it, because he stills. "It's a long drive."

"Is it?" he says sharply.

"Yes, and you are overwrought."

He is, he realizes.

"Abigail will be rattled. I would rather she had time to prepare."

"But she's okay-?"

"Yes, Will," he murmurs.

Will's view of him, serene and flushed, blurs as his eyes mist. He had to turn his face into his palm, breaths shaking out. Hannibal's hands settle on his crown.

"Will..." he soothes him gently with his hands; keeps him close. It's astounding how he can be both source and cure of all of Will's anger. The honey, and the lion.

Will sighs, feeling the shakes travel through him. He wipes his eyes fast, like he's trying to hide the pale underbelly of his heart. It's impossible to hide anything from Hannibal.

"Will," Hannibal murmurs, gathering him close. "We're her fathers."

"Her father tried to kill her," Will says thickly, "and you tried to convince me that I had done the same."

"We hadn't yet come to an understanding."

"And what is it now? I toe the line, you let her live?"

"This isn't blackmail," Hannibal says stiffly. When Will tries to pull away, he holds him fast though. "I want to give her what her father couldn't. I want you to." He looks into Will's eyes. "I want us to."

Will takes a shaking breath. Not blackmail, then. Just Hannibal Lecter's idea of a family. "We need to get her away from here."

"She's safe where she is, for now, but I agree."

Will sits up in bed, needing space for a moment, wiping his face and trying to breathe while Hannibal gets up to fetch them both a dram of whiskey from the bottle on the dresser, unconcernedly nude, looking like Greek marble in the golden light. This is where he's found himself in life, then. In bed with a murderer, planning to visit a girl he thought was dead. He ought to be more afraid, but that isn't what he feels. No, he feels like a window has opened onto a strange landscape.

He accepts the glass when Hannibal returns to bed, mind awhirl with images; memories not entirely his own. He can see it now; Hannibal's plan to hide Abigail, both selfish and selfless. Like the whim of a god. Will sighs, swirling the bowl under his nose. "We'll go tomorrow?"

"Yes, in the morning. After breakfast," he adds.

Will nods, mollified. Hannibal does make an excellent breakfast. The thought is so absurd he has to contain a bubble of laughter. At least some of this ought to be bothering him.

"Why didn't you tell me?" he whispers.

"I didn't know if you were my man or Jack's, Will."

"You don't think that might have swayed me?" He didn't want it to, Will realizes. He wanted Will to forgive him. He still does. He's sitting close, expression strangely guarded. Nearly blank, which tells Will there's something behind it. "Hannibal," Will murmurs, "what's on your mind?"

"You, Will, as always."

"Tell me... about your best possible world."

Hannibal takes a sip of his own drink. "I'd like to show you and Abigail Florence," he murmurs.

"Florence is a special place to you?"

"It's where I became a man."

Will nods. He sees it now: his boyhood hunting grounds. It's where he wants Will to become a man too. And, perhaps, for Abigail to empower herself as well.

"We'll take care of our loose ends," Will deciphers, "and then we'll leave. Let Jack think he's won for now."

He sees the smile enter Hannibal's eyes again. He reaches out for Will, cupping the nape of his neck so delicately it makes him swallow. When he pulls him in, it's to softly kiss his mouth.

Will sways toward him. His hand finds purchase on Hannibal's chest. It's warm, and strong. Will had half expected steel. But no, just flesh, and Hannibal's beating heart. A heart Will possesses all the tools to break, one way or another.

Will isn't really in the practice of breaking things, though, is he? He flattens his palm there, and kisses Hannibal with more genuine intent. It's how he feels the intake of breath Hannibal can't control. It's precious to Will in a way he can't name. It just tells him that they've changed one another.

"See?" Hannibal whispers, stroking his hair back.

"Yes, Hannibal. I see everything now." He presses their foreheads together with a sigh.

Hannibal holds them together. "Stay with me?"

"Yes," Will whispers. "I'm staying."

He's not sure, but he thinks the way Hannibal tightens his hold on him is almost comfort seeking. Hannibal is a monster in the form of a man, but monsters must get lonely too. Laying his head against his shoulder, Will realizes he must make his peace with being a monster, too. He's tried so hard not to be, for so long. Now it's time to try something new.