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We Could Be Perfect One Last Night

Chapter Text

Jack Crawford is the first agent on the scene.

He had expected the blood. The broken glass. The signs of a difficult struggle.

What he hadn’t expected was to find only a single corpse waiting for him when he arrived at Hannibal Lecter’s hidden little home by the sea.

Francis Dolarhyde lays torn and bloodied in the center of the little courtyard that stands between the back of the house and the cliff’s edge. Blood pooled around him like great terrible wings spread in flight. It only holds his attention for a moment before he continues his search for who he’s really interested in finding now that he knows the Dragon is dead.

“WILL! WILL CAN YOU HEAR ME?” he yells into the night, hoping the other man is still close by. The pool of blood surrounding Dolarhyde is already looking as though it’s frozen solid to the ground. It’s been a particularly cold night, and the wind off the ocean is amplifying its effects. Meaning he has no idea how long it’s been since Dolarhyde was killed. It could have been twenty minutes, or two hours ago for all he knows without more information from the forensics team.

Quick footsteps alert Jack of the other agents approaching from all sides. “Fan out! I want people searching the woods and the beaches nearby. And get an ambulance here, now. Both Graham and Lecter are likely injured and will require medical attention when we find them!” he orders as he follows thick trails of blood as well as a few bloodied shoe prints to the edge of the cliff. He looks down, shining a flashlight for a little extra illumination along with that provided by the slowly setting full moon. There’s no sign of any bodies in the water below, or on the rocks along the foot of the cliff that are peeking up from the water as the tide moves out. So that’s something at least.

“Sir, the dash-cam of the squad car was left recording this whole time,” an agent says as they approach from inside the house with cautious steps, trying not to disturb the scene of broken glass and bloody carpet.

“And?” Jack glances back at him, waiting for the agent to elaborate on the importance of that information.

“We’re pulling the footage now. The car had been positioned to get a full view of the house on camera. If they left on foot we’ll have an idea as to which way they went at the very least.” The agent looks nervous, knowing the alternative to leaving would be falling from the cliff into the freezing water below. This time of year that’s most definitely a death sentence. And with blood loss and possibly severe injuries on top of the freezing cold? A man wouldn’t stand a chance.

Jack nods his understanding and holsters his gun at last as he looks again at the blood that’s covering the ground. Streaks and pools of it cover the spacious courtyard. More than could have come from Dolarhyde alone if he had to guess. He definitely injured Will and Hannibal in their struggle. The question is, was it fatal for them as well, or only Dolarhyde?

~~~~~

Hannibal gasps for breath as he finally feels sand beneath his feet.

The water is so bitterly cold that he can barely feel his own body, let alone Will’s where he drags it with him through the churning waves of stinging saltwater.

Will went unconscious as they feel from the cliff. Maybe even before that. Hannibal isn’t quite sure. What he is sure of, is that the nearest house is still half a mile down the beach from where they’ve come ashore. And FBI agents will be arriving at his beach-side home sooner than later most likely, leaving no time to waste.

With a pained hiss, he pulls Will’s prone form onto the shore with him. Laying him out in the frigid night air a moment before mustering what strength he can in his sluggishly numb extremities and hauling him up into a carry with much more difficulty than he cares to admit to himself. Then, he walks, Will’s head tucked under his chin in a way that lets the blood still flowing from his mouth run down and be absorbed by their clothes. Keeping him from choking on it.

The waterfront homes in the area are empty along this particular stretch of the Chesapeake this time of year. It is both a boon and a curse upon their fortunes, as the odds of them getting away are contingent on what he finds in the nearest dwelling.

Turning his head, Hannibal can see the cliff that his old summer home sits upon. Sees the faint light that comes from the courtyard to cast out into the dark bluish-black of the night. The breeze picks up, sending an uncontrollable shiver through him, and he turns away to continue the difficult trudge through the sand. Will is heavy in his arms. Breathing shallowly as he too shivers almost violently from the harsh bite of winter, it’s effects no doubt amplified by blood loss.

The cottage they come to is smaller than his own. Tucked back into trees that block it from the view of his own dwelling less than a mile away. There are wooden lounge chairs set out in the back yard where it faces the water, and he rests Will on his side on one before searching for a key or some other means of entering the dwelling with as little disturbance to their surroundings as possible. He would prefer not to break anything if at all possible. Too likely to draw attention if any agents wander through searching for them.

The moonlight makes his search easier than expected, as it gleams off the shiny metal of a hidden key tucked under the rocking chair he tips over by the front door. Taking care, he rips off a piece of cloth from his ruined shirt and uses it to take the key and unlock the door.

To his surprise, the electricity is on when he tries the light switch. He grabs Will from the cold of the outside and lays him down on the sheet-covered couch before he moves to turn on just enough lights to see by without making it obvious someone is in the home to any passersby. \

He finds the door to the furnace, thankful it’s a simple electric one with a power switch. He gets that running before going to retrieve Will from where he set him on the couch.

They’re both hypothermic. Soaked to the bone with their clothes frozen to their skin in places thanks to the harsh bite of the ocean breeze. And worse yet, they’re both still bleeding sluggish from their wounds. 

So, Hannibal does the rational thing to help them both warm up quickly. He finds towels and what clean clothes he can that might fit either of them. Once they’re gathered, and with increasing difficulty, he picks Will up once again and sets him in the tub before turning on the shower as hot as it will go.

Will doesn’t so much as flinch at the feel of the almost scalding spray hitting him. Body still shaking from the cold in his unconscious state. Hannibal watches him a moment before kicking off his shoes and picking him up just enough to climb into the tub behind him.

It’s uncomfortable at best. Too small a space for two men of their size to really fit together. But discomfort is worth it as the warmth quickly starts to seep into both of their extremities. It burns fiercely as it does so. Nerves flaring back to life where they had been shut down from the cold in the on-setting hypothermia.

Hannibal finds he somewhat likes the sensation. It distracts him ever so slightly from the pain in his side where the bullet went clean through him. And from his worries for Will, whom he now holds a cloth to the face of to staunch the bleeding where he had been stabbed just below his right eye. The blade clearly went in at an angle. Going through the bones and down to come out the roof of his mouth.

They stay in the all-consuming warmth of the water until Will’s shivering completely stops and the room fills with so much steam that breathing becomes almost difficult.

That’s when Hannibal finally reaches out and shuts off the spray, much to the protest of his aching body. He wants more than anything to simply close his eyes and join Will in unconsciousness. But that would be foolish. And likely deadly to one, if not both, of them.

He leaves Will in the tub, curled on his side with his head propped on the edge, and drags himself out onto the cool tiled floor. His capability for focus and rational thought is dwindling. He knows he needs to act quickly. They’ve both lost far too much blood and need more than just a few cloths pressed to the wounds to stop the flow.

There’s a sewing kit in the small linen closet next to the bathroom door. That along with the first aid kit from under the sink provide him just enough supplies for what he needs.

He strips Will of his sodden clothes first. Assessing the wound on his shoulder as well as the one in his mouth. He doesn’t have the tools needed to close that one. But he has enough gauze to pack the side of Will’s mouth for now. He does so and then stitches his cheek quickly and efficiently before moving on to his shoulder.

When he’s done he does the same with himself. The entrance wound on his back is clearly one he can’t stitch himself, the angle is just too difficult even for someone uninjured to attempt, but the exit wound on his abdomen is one he can close himself. He does his best to apply a makeshift pressure bandage to his back before wrapping an ace bandage around his waist tightly. When Will wakes later he can talk him through stitching the wound on his back, but for now, the bandage will have to do.

Glancing down at Will from his place seated on the edge of the tub, Hannibal wonders if he will try to kill him upon waking. If he’ll try to turn him over to Jack Crawford like he’s planned to in the past. Based on how the evening turned, he doesn’t see that as likely. Not after the way Will looked at him. Held him close as they both stood soaked in blood in the brilliant moonlight. 

He doesn’t dwell on that train of thought long. His body feels heavy with exhaustion. So he gets changed into a dry shirt and a pair of slacks he found before hauling Will out onto a towel on the bathroom floor. He would rather take him into one of the bedrooms, give him a more comfortable place to rest, but it’s just too difficult to move him any further. So he gets Will dried off as best he can before getting him into a soft t-shit and worn jeans that are a hair too big for him.

Feeling the last of his energy leaving him quickly, Hannibal drags himself over to the linen closet once more, pulls out a thick blanket he finds there, and drags it back over to Will. He shows no sign of waking any time soon, so he might as well try to make him comfortable here. If not for Will’s take then his own.

Hannibal does his best to get Will covered in the heavy duvet, his head resting on a towel as a makeshift pillow.

With a small smile at what he’s managed to accomplish despite his own injuries dragging him down, he collapses beside Will a moment later, one hand still holding the blanket as the world goes dark and unconsciousness takes him.

Chapter Text

Will wakes with a gasp, his whole body momentarily curling in on itself as every nerve fires in pain upon regaining consciousness.

He doesn’t have to open his eyes to know he isn’t anywhere even remotely familiar. There’s a hard tile floor beneath him. The sensation of clothes that definitely aren’t his own rubbing against his skin. And a heavy blanket that feels nothing like his or the ones from his hotel or even a hospital covers him from chest to toe. 

His head feels like it’s been split open. Pain radiating out from below the corner of his right eye through his mouth and the rest of his skull. All he can taste and smells is blood. It seeps lazily from his tongue and the roof of his mouth to be absorbed by a thick roll of gauze that takes up half of his mouth. And his shoulder feels like it’s on fire, and he thinks he might have damage to the tendons or nerves. A tremor going down his right arm when he tries to move it, making his hand twitch out of his control.

He feels like he’s been thrown through a plate glass window. Or off a moving train. Either or.

It takes a moment, but the soft sound of breathing beside him finally draws Will’s attention from his overwhelmed senses. Cracking open hazy blue eyes, he turns his head to his left to find Hannibal lying crumpled on the floor beside him. He’s in clothes that don’t look like anything from his own wardrobe, with his body twisted like he fell unconscious rather than laid down of his own volition. One arm pinned beneath him awkwardly and the other outstretched with his hand clutching a corner of the down-filled navy blanket that covers Will tightly in its grasp.

Looking over Hannibal’s face, his confusion clears and he remembers the events leading up to the moment he lost consciousness.

Dolarhyde attacking the police escort. Hannibal taking one of the cruisers and bringing them to his secret home by the sea. Waiting for Dolarhyde to arrive. Hannibal being shot through the back as he poured them both a glass of wine. Dolarhyde attacking Will with a knife. Will and Hannibal both fighting back. Taking him down together. The blood. Holding each other in the moonlight after and marveling at the beauty of it all…

Then the fall.

He’s honestly not sure if it was actually a fall or if he pushed them over the edge in the final moment before he lost consciousness. He just knows they had to get away from that place. Away from the Dragon and out of Jack’s grasp. Even if that meant dying...

With a groan of pain, Will pushes himself up to a sitting position, the heavy blanket falling around his waist to reveal a soft grey t-shirt and blue jeans that are just a bit too big for him. His whole body singing with pain from bruises and scrapes where Dolarhyde threw him around like a rag doll. 

He needs to find out where they are. How they got here.

The most likely explanation is Hannibal. He must have gotten them both to shore. To someplace safe and warm. Tended to their injuries.

He reaches up and carefully brushes his fingers over the bandage on his cheek, feels the stitches beneath it. Then the ones in his shoulder. He has no doubt Hannibal is the one who took care of him. And from the looks of it probably to his own disbenefit.

There’s blood staining the back of Hannibal’s shirt where it’s seeped through the bandages from his gunshot wound. Turning the already dark material from a deep navy blue to an ugly wet black. When he notices it he reaches out and places a hand on the other man’s shoulder and shakes it gently. “Hannibal?”

There’s no response, not even a twitch. A spike of worry hits him, and he checks Hannibal’s pulse, finding it slow but somewhat steady beneath his fingertips. Who knows how long he was conscious after Will passed out. How much more blood he lost getting them here. It’s no wonder he’s out like a light right now.

Looking around, Will spots the sewing and first aid kits Hannibal had been using resting on the lid of the toilet on the opposite side of them. He knows enough from being a cop to at least temporarily close up a bullet wound.

It’s a little awkward, but he gets the older man laying on his stomach, his cheek resting on the towel Will had been using as a pillow as Will rucks his shirt up enough to look at the bloody ace bandage and mock pressure dressing Hannibal had used to tend to his wound.

Both are soaked through, and after a moment’s digging, he finds a small pair of scissors to cut through the bandage so he can remove both. There are some steri-strips at the bottom of the medical supplies. They’re nowhere near as good as stitches. But after he gets enough blood wiped away he manages to get the wound mostly closed with them. Once that’s taken care of he puts the last of the gauze from the kit over them and tapes it in place

Rolling Hannibal onto his back after he’s taken care of is difficult, especially trying to do so without ripping his stitches. But he manages eventually and checks the dressing over the exit wound on his abdomen before pulling the blanket he had covered Will with earlier over him.

Once he’s certain Hannibal is really alright and isn’t going to be waking up for at least a little while. Will forces himself to stand on shaking legs and wanders out of the bathroom.

The house they’re in his small. Barely warm where the bathroom had been near sweltering. And there are very few lights on. Just the one in the hallway the bathroom opens into, a small lamp where it meets the living room, and the hood light above the kitchen stove.

It’s still night time. And when he finds the back door where it resides in the kitchen, he sees the ocean through gaps in the trees beyond the far edge of the yard. The moon is still high enough in the sky that he can surmise it hasn’t been too long since they fell. Maybe an hour at most?

They must have come ashore nearby. Hannibal had to have carried him all the way up from there. Gotten them inside and both warmed and taken care of despite his own blood loss and injuries.

He can see it in his mind from Hannibal’s perspective. Picking him up after making it out of the freezing water and onto the shore, walking along the beach until they reach the clearing in the trees that leads to this house. There’s no sign of broken glass or smashed in doors. A key was found and used. Then he brings him inside before warming them both in the shower. He takes care in getting them both dried off and stitched back together. Hannibal passing out after making sure Will would be warm and safe. “This is my design,” he mutters as he closes his eyes.

The train of thought sends a shiver down his spine. That Hannibal still cared to save him after everything that they’ve been through. Everything they’ve done to each other.

He’s accepted how he feels for Hannibal. That it’s so much stronger than anything he’s ever felt for another person. Even Molly and Wally… He feels a pang of guilt at the thought of them. He does love them. But the pull to Hannibal is so much stronger. The way he makes him feel is so much stronger. He spent so long fighting it and now… Now he doesn’t want to. He’s certain that he couldn’t again even if he tried. 

Swallowing hard, he makes himself turn back from the door and further inspect his surroundings. They likely can’t stay here for very long. Probably too close to Hannibal’s cottage. The FBI could come through at any time searching for them. And he knows there’s no getting out of going to jail or the mental hospital after what he’s done. It was too savage. So far beyond what was necessary to survive.

He could have just stabbed Dolarhyde someplace vital and been done with it. Called it self defense. Could have distracted him in some way while Hannibal ripped his throat out with his teeth unassisted. He chose to participate. To gut the man that tried to kill him. Tried to kill Molly and Wally. To tear into him like the animal he had become. 

Will tries to force the train of thought to end there. He can still see it all. Feel the drag of the knife as it cut through him. The slick, warm sensation of blood on his skin.

The fridge and cupboards still have a few sparse items in them from the owner’s last stay. Only a few of which are expired. And he snags a rather large bottle of juice out of the fridge to sip as he continues his search. He’s a little light-headed from blood loss. Too shaky in his movements for his own comfort. He rationalizes the sugar will help. And the artificially enhanced taste of apple cuts the taste of blood for the moment at least.

There isn’t much left in the house of use from what he can tell. Some clothes in the two bedrooms and an old Remington rifle likely used for duck hunting. There’s a box of bird-shot stored with it in the coat closet and Will eyes them appraisingly a moment before closing the closet door. A small part of him wants to take them, but he doesn’t want to tempt fate given the night they’ve had.

He ends up drinking half of the juice as he picks through clothes in search of ones that will fit both himself and Hannibal better as well as provide additional warmth. Winter is drawing to an end but it’s still fairly cold out. He only manages to pick out a few things before his focus slips too far to regain. The pain in his head is making it too difficult to do anything for long. So he gives up and leaves the half-drunk juice in the bathroom by Hannibal along with a new shirt for when he wakes.

There’s one last door at the end of the hallway, and it leads into a garage. It’s hard to see, the light from the hall not reaching in very far. There’s mostly junk piled up as far as he can tell. Two kayaks, some folding chairs, a stack of life jackets, boxes full of what look like lawn games for children and ... And something large under a trap by the bay door.

Will makes his way over, careful not to knock over any of the other objects he can’t quite make out in the dark. Once he’s close enough he smiles, then winces from the pull of his stitches, as he realizes what’s under the dusty blue material.

The motorcycle is old. Older than Will anyway. Something made in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s if he had to guess from the look of it. Well taken care of and big enough for two to ride easily. For a moment he wonders if it still runs, but then he spots the can of gas nearby and the newer looking helmets and he figures it must. He can give starting it a try once Hannibal is awake.

Almost as if he knew he was being thought of, Will finds Hannibal sitting up when he comes back to the bathroom a few minutes later. He’s resting with his back to the wall, new shirt on and hand holding his side over his bullet wound as he sips from the bottle of juice Will left for him.

“Hello, Will,” Hannibal greets in his usual warm way, casual as ever while offering a tired smile.

“How are-” Will starts to ask, everything coming out a bit distorted around the bloody cotton in his mouth. He grimaces. Shifts it around so it’s still pressing against his stab wound, but taking up less space as he pushes it closer to his teeth with his tongue. “How are you feeling?” he tries again, words sounding much clearer now.

“As if I’ve just fallen from a cliff,” Hannibal replies lightly, his smile growing a bit wider. “It’s good to see you up and about so soon, Will. Are you feeling quite alright?”

Will moves to slump against the wall and slid down to sit beside Hannibal with a tired look to the other man. “I’ve been better,” he says with a mirthless chuckle. “That was…”

“Spectacular…?” Hannibal supplies when Will comes up short.

Tilting his head to the side, Will locks eyes with Hannibal, icy blue meeting honey brown. “I was going to say exhausting, but that works too.” The small laugh Hannibal gives at those words makes Will relax considerably, even despite his unease he generally feels when holding eye contact. There’s an understanding in Hannibal’s eyes that he’s never seen from anyone else. It’s part of what makes Will feel so drawn to him. Will doesn’t have to be able to envision things from Hannibal’s perspective to know he feels something similar when Will looks back.

“Were you able to find anything else of use in your exploration?” Hannibal asks after a moment of comfortable silence passes between the two.

Will looks away to glance out the open door. “Some clothes and a box of crackers that aren’t expired yet.” He looks back to Hannibal and smiles despite the spike of pain it brings. “And a motorcycle in the garage.”

Hannibal raises an eyebrow at that bit of information. “Our means of escape?”

“Maybe,” he pauses to reach out and takes the bottle of juice from Hannibal’s hand to snag a drink for himself. The taste of blood is grating at his senses, that, mixed with the pain in his face and shoulder makes it hard to focus, and talking makes it all the harder to ignore. “I didn’t try to start it yet.”

“And if it doesn’t run?” The question sounds simple enough, but Will gets the faintest sense of concern from it.

“I can probably get it running if it isn’t already. It can’t be too different from fixing a boat engine,” he tries to rationalize, more to himself than to Hannibal. He’s sure he could fix it if needed. Assuming they find the tools and parts needed. And he somehow doubts the owners of the cottage would leave all of those things here unattended. Even if they did leave the bike in the first place.

To Will’s surprise, after eyeing him carefully a moment Hannibal shifts beside him before pushing himself to his feet. He wobbles a moment, bracing himself on the wall before correcting his balance and stepping over to the sink. Once there he opens the medicine cabinet, digging around a bit before he turns and tosses a small bottle to Will.

It’s Tylenol. Nothing special. But it’s better than nothing. “Thanks,” Will says before dumping three in his hand and downing them with another gulp of juice. When he’s done he holds both bottles out to Hannibal, who studies them appraisingly before mirroring Will’s actions and downing three with the last of the sugary beverage.

“We shouldn’t waste time. My summer home is only a mile away by sea, and not much further by the roadways. Jack has no doubt found it by now, along with what remains of our Dragon.” Hannibal holds out a hand for Will in offering then. The expression on his face is one of the most open ones Will has ever seen from him. There’s a question there. Silently asking Will if he’s going to choose him, or try and go back to the life he’s built in the three years he’s stayed away.

He takes Hannibal’s hand and feels a shiver pass through him at Hannibal referring to Dolarhyde as their Dragon. Like he’s a work of art they created together. He truly did look like a dragon when they were finished with him. Laid out in the moonlight surrounded by wings of his own blood... It was a stunning sight.

Pushing past the thought, Will lets his hand slip from Hannibal’s, and the two make their way out of the small bathroom and into the garage. It takes some looking, but they find the light switch and dig around until they come up with two leather jackets and a funnel to gas up the bike with.

It takes a few tries, and Hannibal correcting Will on how to properly start it, but they get it running. Will cuts the engine and climbs off the bike with a small feeling of hope starting to bubble up deep inside his chest. “We should see if there’s anything else worth taking before we leave.”

Hannibal simply nods his agreement before turning to reenter the house first, Will following close behind.

They manage to find a few more articles of clothes to help them fend against the cold. Sweaters and thick socks hidden away deep in a closet. Things the owners likely stored here to use in the fall. And amusingly enough there is a small stash of cash hidden in a Hello Kitty cookie jar that had made Hannibal make a brief face of disdain upon touching it. They throw on the extra clothing, grateful for the extra layers, and pocket the cash.

It’s agreed after some debate that Will should be the one to drive, as Hannibal’s injuries will make it hard for him to maintain the proper balance to control the bike correctly; even though he’s apparently got years of experience doing so where Will has only ever ridden a motorcycle once and that was back in college. 

Will feels an odd mix of emotions as Hannibal climbs onto the bike behind him and wraps his arms tightly around his waist. Anxiety. Worry. Hope. Excitement. He leans into Will. Envelops him from behind in a way that feels so incredibly intimate that it steals Will’s breath and pulls him back into the moment.

Then Hannibal gives him a squeeze to let him know he’s situated on the back of the bike. Will starts the engine and turns his head enough to make sure Hannibal is certain. He more feels than sees the nod he gets in answer. And with that, he kicks off and they ride off into the waiting dark of night.

Chapter Text

Will takes the drive slowly at first. Getting a feel for the old motorcycle and how it moves like an extension of his body. Figuring out when to slow it down or give it more gas, shift his weight in such a way that lets him keep control without tipping over. And he has to account for Hannibal being on there as well, be mindful of how much lean to put into a turn and how to steer so as not to make the ride uncomfortable for either of them. A wrong move could send them both tumbling, and that’s the last thing either of them needs. It helps him to think of it more in terms of a boat than a bike in that respect.

He’s also trying hard to be mindful of their surroundings. Scanning along the sides of the dirt road for any lights peaking through the woods from a possible search party. Any signs of cars coming their way in the distance. It’s a fairly bright night thanks to the nearly full moon. That with the headlight of the motorcycle makes it easy enough to do so without worrying he’ll miss something as they follow the dirt road that cuts through the trees and make their way back towards civilization.

Hannibal is a solid presence against his back. Body molded to Will’s with his arms snugly around Will’s waist. It keeps him grounded. Able to breathe and focus despite the pain and slight disorientation that still clings to his frayed senses.

After what feels like forever they see the highway ahead. Will kills the headlights and engine, then slowly rolls up to the edge of the treeline to get a look in either direction. The road is clear, and he takes off his helmet before turning to Hannibal, who lets his hold on Will slip for now as he mirrors Will’s actions.

“Which way?” Will asks as he looks to the road again. He remembers the way they came to get to Hannibal’s home in the daytime. But he has no idea which direction that is from here or if they’re even on the same side of the bay anymore, given that the bluff Hannibal’s home sits on wasn’t surrounded by dense trees or a close to sea level as this area is. And he figures Hannibal must know the area well enough to know where they should go from here.

“To the right,” Hannibal says as he follows Will’s gaze and studies the empty stretch of highway before them. “I have a few secrets yet the FBI was never able to uncover, despite their best efforts. We should follow the highway north towards Elkton. There is a cabin on a remote road there we should be able to rest in undisturbed.”

“Just how many homes do you own?” Will can’t help but ask a touch incredulously. He isn’t really that surprised that Hannibal has multiple homes. Not after seeing the life he’s lived. Or the castle he grew up in. It just seems strange to have so many only a few hours drive apart.

“Several, but this particular one is not one of my own. It belongs to a former patient. It was left to him many years ago by his grandfather. Despite his disinterest in nature, he couldn’t bring himself to part with it. So he pays a caretaker to maintain the property for him. Assuming he keeps them on the same schedule, it should be vacant for another month before someone is due to come for the spring cleaning,” Hannibal explains before he puts his helmet back on. He keeps the visor up as he leans in and wraps his arms around Will’s waist once again. “Shall we?”

Shaking his head, Will puts his helmet back on before getting the engine started once again.

They pass FBI vehicles about half an hour later. A line of them going with lights and sirens blazing driving down the opposite side of the highway at full speed. No doubt headed to Hannibal’s seaside home. Both men feel a spike of anxiety at the sight of them, Will feeling it much stronger than Hannibal of course. 

He half expects at least one to cut across the median and chase them down. It’s a ridiculous fear. The stretch of highway they’re currently traveling on is actually quite busy for the time of night, and there are maybe a half dozen cars driving on their side along with them when the agents pass by.

Will can feel Hannibal relax against him the farther they get from the bay and those agents. It’s strange. That he can be so at ease given everything that has transpired in just a few short hours. But then again Hannibal has always been one that takes in the chaos around him and instinctively goes with it like it’s something as normal as making a little extra food when you hear another guest will be joining for dinner. It’s one of the things Will finds fascinating about him.

It’s close to dawn by the time they reach the private road leading to their salvation. The moon has long since disappeared behind dark menacing clouds that roll with the increasing wind of an oncoming storm. It makes Will feel all the more grateful to be getting off of the roads now. He feels ready to pass out again. And the sky looks like it’s ready to open up and pour buckets of freezing rain and possibly even snow.

The cabin is small. So much so that Will would almost argue that it was a shed and not really a cabin. It’s a single room. There’s a kitchenette tucked in the back left corner, a queen-size bed taking up the back right. There’s a worn leather couch to the right of the door. A wooden table at the center of the room with two matching chairs. And a dresser and fireplace to the left.

“Cozy…” Will mutters jokingly as they enter. It’s cold inside. Not as much so as outside, but still below fifty degrees at least from the feel of it. He rubs his hands together. Trying to warm them. He got a pair of cheap gloves when they had stopped at a gas station along the way in an attempt to save his fingers some potential frostbite. It was one of those little locally owned ones that don’t have shit for security cameras or pay you any mind so long as you don’t do anything to draw attention to yourself.

Hannibal had gassed up the bike while Will purchased what he could without drawing too much attention. In the end, they left with some cans of soup, a first aid kit, painkillers, ramen noodle cups, bread, peanut butter, half a dozen bottles of water and juice. He even snagged a few packets of disposable cutlery from the deli area when he grabbed a few sandwiches last minute. It made them look like they’re just getting an early start to road trip so they could beat the storm. This is exactly what Will said from behind the anonymity of his helmet when the old man behind the counter commented on them being out so late when there’s a storm coming.

“I admit, it is not what I had expected,” Hannibal confesses as he steps into the cabin behind Will and closes the door. He carries a duffle bag in with him. They had taken it from the beach house. Their bloodied clothes and towels stuffed inside along with some more clean ones and the supplies Will had purchased at the rest stop. “My apologies.”

“It’s fine. It’s someplace safe and out of the elements, that’s what’s most important,” Will notes as he makes his way over to the fireplace to check if they have what they’ll need to get it lit and warming the place up. 

While Will works on getting a fire lit, Hannibal takes the time to set their belongings out on the table and inspect what supplies Will acquired for them. “How is the wound in your mouth?”

Will blinks over his shoulder at the older man before hesitantly taking the bloody roll of cotton from his mouth. The taste of blood is still strong. But he can’t tell if that’s because of the blood trapped in the gauze, or because he’s still bleeding. His whole mouth feels wrong and he can’t distinguish saliva from blood right now. “I’m not sure,” he admits, carefully swallowing to try and get rid of the taste without possibly dislodging any clots that might have formed in his wounds. “I feel like I survived an appointment with the dentist from hell.”

“How fitting then, that our Dragon was formerly known as the Tooth Fairy,” Hannibal jokes lightly with a tired small in Will’s direction as he continues to lay their supplies out on the table.

Will can’t help but snort a laugh in response and give a lopsided smile of his own. Because he lined himself up for that one. “Why do you keep calling him ours?” Will asks as he gets a bundle of kindling he threw together haphazardly lit and set under a few logs. 

Hannibal beckons him over to take a seat at the table then.“Does that bother you?” he questions as he pulls a small flashlight from the duffle bag and places a hand on Will’s uninjured cheek. He uses it to gently guide him to tilt his head back and open his mouth so he can get a look at his injuries.

“No… It just feels… Odd, I suppose,” Will concedes before doing as Hannibal wants. It’s hard to have his mouth open so wide. The way it pulls the stitches in his cheek is uncomfortable on top of the still-present pain. The gash in the roof of his mouth appears to have stopped bleeding but his tongue still oozes a bit. Not surprising given how profusely tongue injuries will bleed.

Hannibal tuts at the sight and lets Will close his mouth before turning away to inspect the contents of their first aid kit. It has a set of angled tweezers. That with the needle and thread he took should allow him to at least stitch the few places that really need it. “He was brought down by our joint efforts. He came to kill us both and we left him a bloody mosaic of our own design. In a way, does that not make him ours?”

A small part of him wants to argue with Hannibal’s reasoning. But he can’t deny the truth there. It’s twisted. But beautiful. Art made of torn flesh and moon-black blood. The memory of it sends a shiver down his spine and he has to close his eyes a moment. “I suppose you’re right.”

Hannibal’s small smile grows when he sees Will’s reaction. “Your wounds will require a few stitches in order to heal properly. In both your tongue as well as the roof of your mouth. Do you think you can stay still for me while I do that?”

Blinking open slightly worried blue eyes, Will nods and looks around the cabin. “Maybe I should lay down for that.” He can admit he isn’t a fan of getting stitches. And the idea of getting them in his mouth with no kind of anesthesia or real pain medication to take the edge off is a tad unsettling. With the current state of his nerves, he’s likely to pass out or have an anxiety attack in the middle.

“Of course,” Hannibal agrees. He takes a step back from where he stands in front of Will and gestures for him to go lay down by the window where the light is a bit better.

The couch is comfortable. Soft under Will’s back as he lays down so his legs are up on one arm and his head is against one of the cushions. He finds himself rubbing his fingers against the worn leather. Forcing himself to focus on the feel of it and not his building anxiety at what’s to come next.

“Try to stay calm. Breathe only through your nose if you can. And if you need me to stop a moment raise your hand to let me know,” Hannibal instructs in a surprisingly gentle voice. He can see how close to the edge Will is. It’s understandable given everything he’s been through. And having to suffer through something like this when you just want to curl up and sink into unconsciousness has to be incredibly daunting.

“Raise my hand, right, got it,” Will repeats with a small nod before tilting his head back and closing his eyes tight.

Unable to help himself, Hannibal reaches out and runs his fingers through Will’s hair. The action earns him a surprised look from wide blue eyes. “It will be over quickly. Four stitches in total and then you can rest,” he does his best to be reassuring to him as he runs his fingers through Will’s hair again, this time letting his nails gently scratch at his scalp in an attempt to further calm him.

It works, and the tension evident in Will’s entire body is lessens just a little. It’s better than Hannibal had been hoping for, and he takes another moment to comfort Will like this before getting the supplies ready.

While he waits, Will goes back to focusing on the feel of leather beneath his fingertips. Tries to draw comfort from the phantom feel of Hannibal’s fingers combing through his hair. 

The first stitch is actually the easiest. Each after feels like it’s taking longer to complete. He hates it. It only takes about two minutes. But they feel like they stretch on forever as Will holds his eyes closed tight and breathes through his nose against the pull of nylon thread and sharp metal going through his flesh.

When Hannibal places some new gauze in his mouth and says they’re finished Will opens his eyes to find tears collecting at the corners of them to run down his cheeks. He blinks them away, letting himself take a shaky breath through his mouth before he sits up to see Hannibal cleaning up after himself.

“Thanks,” Will says weakly. He feels exhausted. Shaky. Ready to pass out.

“Get some rest, Will. I’ll put away our things and make sure we have enough firewood to get us through the storm.” The look he gives Will as he speaks is one of understanding. No pity. No judgment. Just the understanding that Will doesn’t handle things the same as most other people do and that sometimes it gets to be a bit too much.

“You should get some rest too,” Will counters as he shucks off the leather jacket he’d been wearing while being mindful not to pull the stitches in his shoulder.

“I intend to. I won’t be long, I simply want to make sure we’re well prepared,” Hannibal says with a glance past Will to the window behind him. The storm is almost upon them. Wind howling angrily and making the trees outside sway and groan. There was a pile of wood beside the cabin that was covered partially with a blue tarp, but who knows how dry any of it is. There are two other pieces left by the fireplace, and that won’t last them if this storm lasts more than a few hours.

“Alright, just… Be careful. It’s getting really bad out there,” Will finally says after a beat of silence passes between them.

“Of course,” he agrees with a nod before setting their first aid kit aside and reaches for his jacket, which he had taken off before getting Will stitched up. “You should take the bed. It’s likely to be more comfortable than that sofa.”

Will snorts at that and shakes his head slowly. “You should take the bed. You were shot in the back. If anyone deserves a real bed to sleep in it’s you,” he counters with a tilt of his head and narrowing of his eyes in challenge.

Hannibal tilts his own head in turn, eyes narrowing slightly at Will in much the same manner. “I do not suppose there is any argument I could make right now that would persuade you to take the bed, is there?”

“Probably not.” They both are injured, yes. But Hannibal was shot in the back. He remembers trying to sleep on his own after being stabbed as a cop and it was uncomfortable at best. Trying to sleep on something like a couch with a bullet wound can’t feel any better.

“Then might I suggest a compromise? We share the bed? It is big enough for two. And I would argue that the added warmth would do us both some good right now,” Hannibal suggests, words carefully chosen. He can see the gears turning in Will’s head. Know’s he’s considering the fact that they both could have frozen to death hours mere ago and then rode a motorcycle through the night in freezing temperatures. They’re both cold and both still susceptible to hypothermia.

“Fine…” Will agrees after a long beat of silent deliberation. 

Hannibal feels himself relaxing at Will’s agreement, and with that, he zips up his jacket with a nod. “Get to bed, Will. I won’t be long,”

Will watches him step outside, door slamming closed behind him from the strength of the howling wind. He forces himself to stand, wincing at the way his head throbs with the changes in pressure the simple movement causes. He feels like he has a migraine but with the pain amplified times ten thanks to the crack in the roof of his mouth the knife no doubt caused as it broke through.

He grabs the bottle of Ibuprofen he had bought at the store and dumps four of the little blue gel caps into his hand before downing them with a few swallows of water from one of the bottles Hannibal had set out.

All of their supplies, with the exception of the first aid kit, are arranged as if Hannibal had been taking stock of them. It’s oddly reassuring seeing everything together like that. But also a little worrying that they have maybe a week’s worth of food if they don’t eat 3 times a day every day.

Pushing the thought aside, Will makes his way over to the bed where he sits on the edge with a tired, somewhat pained groan. It’s a fight to get his shoes off, the laces giving him a little grief where the dried sea salt in them has made them stiff and unwilling to move.

By the time Hannibal comes back inside Will is under the thick blanket that covers the bed. He faces the wall, curled up in such a way that makes him look much smaller than his 5’10” stature. He’s asleep by the time Hannibal finally climbs in beside him under the blanket, and he subconsciously rolls over and curls close to him. Seeking warmth and comfort that Hannibal is happy to provide even if he thinks Will is likely to be embarrassed by it when he wakes later.

He can’t seem to be bothered by the thought, though. Too bone-tired and pained to do much more than scoot a little closer and let himself doze off to the crackle of the fire and the steady breathing of the other man beside him. Even in pain, it’s the most comfortable and content he thinks he’s been while falling to sleep in possibly his entire life.

~~~~~

Jack paces the room as he waits for the techs to get the footage from Dolarhydes camera set up to be watched on a projector in the crime lab back at FBI headquarters. It had recorded something. The entire small reel of film used up well before they arrived on the scene.

“Sir, it’s ready,” one tech says as they finish setting the projector up.

“Start it,” Jack says with a nod, one hand coming up to rub at his chin anxiously. He watches the screen on the opposite wall from his place at the back of the room. There are half a dozen other agents with him all seated in wait, plus Zeller and Price who of course wanted to know what happened.

The film starts with a close-up shot of Hannibal, laying on the blood-stained carpet as he holds his right side. His sweater and hand are stained with shining wet blood from an unseen wound, and he’s visibly breathing heavily. He speaks to someone behind the camera after a moment, but there’s no audio.

“Why isn’t there any sound?” Jack asks in annoyance with a glance to the two techs that had set things up.

“There is none, sir, the filming was done with an older type of film used for silent movies,” one tech informs him with a look of concern to his partner.

“Then get me someone that can read lips, now!” Jack orders without another look to the tech, his eyes glued to the screen. 

Hannibal glances up and to the right of the screen, looking at someone, most likely Will since Dolarhyde is likely behind the camera. His expression is serious. He looks towards the camera again a moment later, expression shifting to one of almost concern before he looks up to the right one more. The camera shakes and Hannibal grimaces as if he’s just seen something clearly unpleasant. 

The camera shakes again and after a long moment of Hannibal looking to the left of the screen, he suddenly is rolling out of frame in the opposite direction. Something, likey his foot, connects with the tripod, and the camera spins and falls to the floor. It’s now facing sideways out the shattered bay window. It gets a view of Francis Dolarhyde grabbing Will Graham by the shoulders from behind where he kneels on the ground near the center of the courtyard.

The image is a touch out of focus, but Will is clear enough to make out and it’s obvious from the look of him that he is covered in blood. There’s something sticking out of his cheek, and it’s only when Will grabs hold of it that Jack realizes it’s a knife. He was stabbed in the face. Possibly what Hannibal reacted to behind the camera before knocking it over.

Will swings his arm back, impaling the knife in Dolarhyde’s leg, making him throw his head back and shout before grabbing hold of it himself, and in one quick motion, removing it only to bury the blade deep in Will’s right shoulder.

Hannibal reappears on the screen then. Now minus his coat, giving a clear view of the back of his blood-stained sweater. Making it clear he was shot clean through the abdomen, which fits with the gun, spent shell, bloodied coat with a single bullet hole, and the bullet they pulled from the wall of the home.

He moves quickly despite his obvious injuries. Launching himself onto Dolarhyde’s back just as the other man had pulled Will back towards him once more. Hannibal appears to wrap around him in an attempted grapple, only to be flipped off the man’s back to land on his own to roll across the courtyard and out of frame. 

Dolarhyde stalks after him a moment later, leaving Will on his hands and knees with blood pouring from his face and mouth.

Will is visibly shaking, and as Dolarhyde walks away he pulls the knife from his shoulder. He forces himself to his feet just as Dolarhyde pulls Hannibal back into the frame. 

Dolarhyde holds Hannibal by the throat, with Hannibal struggling to grab him back in the same manner. He can’t appear to get a grip, though, and despite them being roughly the same height Dolarhyde appears to be pulling Hannibal off his feet.

Staggering, Will moves, lurching forward to stab Dolarhyde once in the lower back, making him drop Hannibal. Will manages to stab him once more in the side just below the ribs before he’s backhanded across the face and sent tumbling to the ground once more.

Dolarhyde turns once Will is out of the way, kicking a prone but quickly recovering Hannibal in the chest to make him roll back just out of the frame once again while Will struggles to regain his senses from being hit.

Hannibal appears in frame partially as Dolarhyde turns his back, swinging a hatchet to catch the Dragon in the leg, making him cry out. Will lunges forward then, stabbing him once in the opposite leg before he loses his balance falls back to the ground. Hannibal swings the hatchet once more, catching Dolarhyde in the leg again and causing him to stumble to his hands and knees a moment. He forces himself up again a beat later and staggers to the center of the courtyard. Hannibal taking a few steps closer as Will scrambles to get a few feet away.

Hannibal appears to be holding his own considering his injuries, able to stay on his feet for the most part where Will’s strength appears to be waning quickly and keeping him mostly on his hands and knees.

Dolarhyde manages to get to his feet without even swaying before turning to face Hannibal once more.

Hannibal appears to look past him to Wil, making Dolarhyde turn away to look as well. When Dolarhyde turns in Will’s direction Hannibal pounces, wrapping around him much as he had before in a grapple that he this time is able to maintain. One hand goes to grip Dolarhydes’s hair and pulls his head back for Hannibal to lean in as Will lunges forward with the knife.

They’re turned away from the camera. But everyone already knows what must come next. Will drags the knife across Dolarhyde’s stomach, gutting him as Hannibal rips his throat out with his teeth.

A second later Hannibal and Will both fall away as Dolarhyde stands another moment, blood spurting from his wounds as he sways then collapses to his knees.

Will and Hannibal back away from him. Hannibal forcing himself to stand as Will pulls himself up to an almost sitting position with the help of a small bench on the far edge of the courtyard.

A moment later Dolarhyde collapses and falls back. Dead in a pool of his own blood.

Will holds up a blood-soaked hand a moment later, looking at it as he says something with a look over to Hannibal, who is barely staying on his feet now. He sways and staggers to keep standing. When Will reaches his bloodied hand out in his direction, Hannibal steps forward without hesitation and takes it. Helping him to his feet.

They’re close, but standing at an angle so Hannibal’s face isn’t in view of the camera. Not that it would matter with how far away they stand now. The camera wasn’t focused to be filming anyone so far away, as they’ve stumbled closer to the cliff’s edge and father from the house by now.

They’re both shaking, swaying dangerously. Likely ready to collapse. Will, whos head had been tilted down as if looking at the ground, lifts his gaze to meet Hannibal’s, and then they’re both moving closer. It’s hard to tell with how out of focus they appear, but it looks like they’re holding one another, with one of Will’s hands gripping Hannibal’s shoulder visibly while Hannibal wraps an arm around Will’s waist to pull him in close. Then Will’s hand moves and his arm wraps around Hannibal’s neck making it clear they’re in an embrace. It’s an intimate scene, to say the least. Clearly not just the two of them seeking support anymore.

The sight of it fills Jack with anger. At himself for trusting the man. And at Will for so obviously lying to him about his ability to handle this objectively.

There’s an audible gasp from more than one of the other agents in the room as they watch the two turn so that now Will is back to the camera for the briefest moment before they fall together off the edge of the cliff. 

“Murder-suicide?”

“Wait, were Graham and Lecter lovers?”

“Did he push them off the edge?”

“There’s no way they survived that fall!”

“The closest beach is over half a mile away! There’s no way they swam that far in those temperatures!”

“Not with that amount of blood loss they didn’t! They both have to be dead by now.”

“ENOUGH!” Jack bellows, effectively silencing the chattering agents. He looks around the still darkened room, eyeing each and every one of them. “Keep your speculations professional here, people. I want additional divers out there now. As well as addition coast guard and our own boats. I want them found, now. And somebody give Molly Graham an update. She deserves to be told in person what’s happened to her husband.”

“Sir, the storm is already hitting the coast pretty hard and it’s only going to get worse. I’m not sure it’ll safe for anyone to be out there much longer.” The tech from earlier is the one to speak, concern on his face mirrored by those around him.

“Then get more people combing the nearby beaches and woods while there’s still visibility! Search summer homes and along the highway too while you’re at it! I don’t care what the weather is doing, I want them found now!” Jack shouts angrily before storming out of the lab to go back to his office. He has a lot to think on and several calls to make.

Chapter Text

“Dash-cam from the stolen cruiser confirmed that Dolarhyde was the last one moving about the property after Graham and Lecter entered the home. No sign of anyone coming or going from around the house or the surrounding treeline after that. If they didn’t fall into the ocean, they sure as hell didn’t climb back up any part of the bluff around the house and leave on foot,” Zeller informs Jack as he walks into his office. “Which isn’t surprising, given there was no evidence of anyone having done that.” The annoyance in his voice is loud and clear. He’s been over all the evidence they got before the storm hit. There’s no way Will and Hannibal got back up that cliff and left the way they came. They fell into the ocean below the bluff without question. No way around it.

“Then find me where they got out of the water and where they went from there. I refuse to believe they drown after everything we saw.” Jack feels ready to start shouting. The urge to bubbling up inside his chest. He’s spent the morning pouring over evidence. Making phone calls. He even tried to contact Alana Bloom and Dr. Du Maurier to get their insight as well as get them both into protective custody. Neither will return his calls and he’s waiting for the agents he sent to their homes to report in.

“Jack, you need to accept the possibility that they didn’t make it out of the water. It’s the middle of February. It was thirty degrees out at the estimated time they killed Dolarhyde. Even with the average temperature of the ocean being higher than the air temperature this time of year, the amount of time it would take them to swim ashore along with the amount of blood they both clearly lost makes their survival rate slim at best. And that’s assuming they made it to one of the nearby summer homes. None of which show any signs of forced entry,” Zeller argues further. He doesn’t like the idea any more than Jack does. But he doesn’t think he can ever look Will in the eye again if he did survive. Not after seeing how brutally he and Hannibal took down Dolarhyde. 

“I am well aware of the lack of evidence, Z, and I do not need a science lesson right now. I am aware of what the temperatures were last night and of their odds of survival. Now kindly return to your lab before I get any angrier,” Jack grits out before grabbing a stack of reports from the corner of his desk to start rifling through. 

Zeller looks ready to argue, but closes his mouth and walks out without another word. He does however slam the door behind him.

Jack watches him go before heaving an irritated sigh and rubbing at his forehead. He feels a headache coming on. Likely due to too much caffeine. He’s on his fourth cup of coffee as he tries to pour through everything they have on both Lecter and Graham as well as the field reports as they come. He knows Hannibal well enough to know he’s always got a backup plan of some sort. The trick is connecting the puzzle pieces to find out what it is.

It makes him wish Will was there. Which only serves to anger him further. He should have known better. He let Will’s reluctance and the fact that he had a wife and son now convince him that Will wouldn’t go off with Hannibal. That he had changed and he wouldn’t be drawn to him like he was before.

“Because I wanted to run away with him.”

“Part of me will always want to.”

Jack curses under his breath as he remembers Will’s words from years ago. 

A buzzer cuts through his train of thought, drawing his attention to the phone on his desk. With a growl of annoyance, he pressed the button for the intercom. “What is it?”

“Sir, Molly Graham is on the line. She wants to speak to you and she doesn’t sound happy,” the agent on the other line informs him.

“Thank you.” Jack briefly looks up to the ceiling and prays that she has some useful bit of information to help them find Will. He picks up the receiver then and clicks over to line two, which is lit up with a waiting call. “Mrs. Graham.”

“What the hell did you do, Jack! Where is my husband!” Her angry voice cuts through the speaker, making Jack wince. He was hoping whoever broke the news to her would do so in a way that explained everything. Apparently they did not.

With a tired sigh, he rubs at his forehead with his free hand once more and begins to explain what’s happened.

~~~~~

It’s sometime in the early afternoon when Will finally wakes again. Not that he really wants to.

His body still aches. Head throbbing sharply with the beat of his heart. He feels like he’s been cracked open and parts of him are spilling out with every beat. The only thing that helps him through the initial shock of pain is the feeling of what is definitely a warm, solid body pressed against part of his back. His sleep-addled mind connects the dots slowly. He knows where he is. Who he’s with. And he’s just too tired and miserable to be bothered or feel much of anything about that fact aside from relief that he isn’t alone.

Hannibal is asleep behind him. Breathing soft and even. Barely audible thanks to the crackle of the fire and the howl of the wind outside. There’s a distinct patter of freezing rain hitting ice somewhere above. The storm they had outrun having arrived a few hours ago blanketed the area in a layer of fresh snow before it changed to freezing rain.

Lifting his head with a wince and gasp at the way the change in position makes it throb and his vision go black a moment, Will steadies himself and looks out the closest window. It’s a dreary shade of gray out as sleet comes down at a harsh angle thanks to the winds that accompany it.

“You really should lay back down, Will. Overexertion will only make the pain worse,” Hannibal mutters sleepily as he shifts on the mattress behind Will. It’s more obvious now that he’s simply resting on his back behind the younger man, his arm pulled over his own chest in a way that allows Will’s back to press against his side. Giving them both a bit of extra warmth and comfort without making either man feel trapped or particularly awkward.

“I don’t think there is anything I could do right now that wouldn’t make the pain worse,” Will replies softly as he lets his head lower slowly back to his pillow. Even that is painful. So much so that he momentarily wishes he hadn’t woken up so soon.

A soft hum of understanding comes from Hannibal, who isn’t making any move to get up yet now that he’s awake. “Perhaps something to eat would do you good? I could prepare some soup if you like?”

Will can’t help but snort a laugh at that. The thought of Hannibal cooking anything that comes from a can feels like a joke. “I don’t need you to make me soup, Hannibal.” 

The bed dips slightly as Hannibal sits up, and it makes Will shift and roll onto his back to look up at the older man. “I know you don’t. I simply offered because I intend to make myself something to eat as well. It’s really no trouble.”

Studying him a moment, Will sighs and lets his eyes slip closed. “Please?” he finds himself asking a bit reluctantly. He would do it himself, but the thought of getting up, along with the pain it will cause his head, is unappealing, to say the least. He hates feeling like this. Useless and weak. It makes him miss his dogs. They always distract and comfort him when he feels this miserable.

Hannibal smiles down at Will, watching him a moment before finally climbing out of bed. The cabin is quite warm now. Thanks in part to his keeping the fire going. He had added another split piece of wood before laying down early that morning and added yet another when he woke to relieve himself a few hours later. It’s been maybe two hours since then and the fire is smaller now, but still burning nicely. 

There’s a collection of cast iron cookware hanging on the wall over the small woodburning stove that sits in the corner. Beside that is an old sink with a well-pump for a faucet, and a set of cupboards that contain a few pots and dishes. More than enough to work with for what they need.

“The last time I prepared a meal from a can like this I was a young man just entering university, if memory serves,” Hannibal muses as he sets a pot on the stove. There’s no sign of a can opener, but he finds an old churchkey in the silverware drawer and grabs that to use. 

“Somehow I find it hard to imagine you ever eating anything out of a can that wasn’t in some way extravagant or more expensive than my first car,” Will jokes as he opens his eyes and blinks up at the rafters above him. There’s various kind of gear stored up in them. Old looking wooden snowshoes, and what might be fishing equipment. He’s not entirely sure since he can’t get his eyes to focus well enough to get a good look through the shadows. 

With a chuckle, Hannibal glances over to Will before grabbing two cans of chicken soup from the small counter by the stove. He had placed most of their food in there before stuffing the small fridge tucked below full of snow and placing their drinks inside to stay cold. “There are still many things you do not yet know about me, Will.”

“Of that, I am well aware,” Will says with a sigh. He lets his eyes slip closed again as he listens to Hannibal putter around across the room. “So what do you plan to do after this?”

The question makes Hannibal pause in the middle of opening a can. He has to ponder it a moment because while he knows what he would like to do, he also wants to know what it is that Will wants. And how that could possibly work into his own desires. “This being?”

“Recovering, here, with me,” Will clarifies tiredly. “I assume once you’re well enough to travel there are people you intend to pay a visit to before relocating to someplace more comfortable.”

“There are a few people I would like to visit, yes… Would you perhaps have an interest in joining me?” Hannibal asks carefully. He knows it would be a stretch to think Will might help him kill Alana Bloom. Killing her can wait for now. But the others? He isn’t going to leave the country without giving them a final farewell dinner.

“That would depend entirely on whom we would be visiting,” Will counters just as Hannibal had expected. He still has his eyes closed. Body language not changing as he lays with the blanket pushed down a bit so his upper chest and shoulders are visible along with his face. He appears relaxed despite the pain he’s in.

“Bedelia Du Maurier and Jack Crawford,” he supplies as he goes back to his work preparing their meal. He knows Bedelia being someone he intends to kill isn’t a surprise to Will. Jack really shouldn’t be either. But then again he’s left him alive in the past so that does give reason to consider he might leave the man alone.

“Jack?” Will asks, finally opening his eyes to look over at Hannibal. “I thought he wasn’t worth the effort?”

“He wasn’t. Even after the trouble he caused me in Italy, I never considered him much of a threat. And I had no intention of causing him harm unless he got in my way again. But it’s become clear that he will never stop pursuing either of us. And to be totally honest, I find many of his actions, as well as his overall treatment of you, to be quite rude.” He can remember every conversation they had regarding Will over the years. Every time Jack referred to Will as a dog or some tool for furthering his own agenda. 

Hannibal takes some credit for guiding Will to who he is today. He’s proud of what the other man has become with his guidance. Of the evolution of his design. He probably wouldn’t bother with Jack if he was on his own now, but it seems Will might be here to stay and the man did spend the better part of three years silently gloating that Will had chosen to forsake the life they could have had together. And Hannibal isn’t going to let that stand. 

“Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude,” Will quotes Hannibal with a chuckle. He remembers the night that Hannibal spoke those words to him. The look of amusement on his face as he said them despite being frustrated that Will hadn’t killed Mason Verger and instead flipped the script to set the sick bastard up to try and kill Hannibal instead.

“A sentiment I still hold to this day,” Hannibal agrees with a fond shake of his head. 

“I think…” Will begins before carefully pushing himself up to sit. It hurts his head, makes the room spin, and his body sway a bit. But he holds himself steady and breathes through it before he opens his eyes and looks over to a worried Hannibal once he’s fully upright. “I think I would like to see that.”

“I have to ask. When Jack Crawford is dead and this is all over, will you try to go back to your family?” Hannibal keeps his eyes locked with Will’s. Reading his reaction to the question. He had briefly considered finding a more delicate way to ask. But he knows Will prefers him to be honest in his questions. So, he’s being honest.

Will’s face twitches like he doesn’t know if he wants to smile or frown. “They’re not really my family anymore, now are they,” he says in a tone that betrays his mixed emotions on the subject of his wife and step-son. Tears well up in his eyes and he has to break eye contact with Hannibal as he blinks them away. It’s too much right now.

“I‘m sorry, Will…” He knows what it means to Will. Having a family. Especially after the loss of his unborn child and then losing Abigail for a second time right before his eyes. It seems if he’s to be involved with Hannibal in any way, it means losing those he holds dear no matter the circumstances.

“I’m only going to ask you this once. Don’t mention them again,” Will says as calmly as he can with a glance to Hannibal before letting his gaze drift down to his hands. He has them folded in his lap. Eye’s roaming over the scrapes and bruises that start on his knuckles and move up his arms. His mind is spinning. Trying to accept the fact that who he is, who he really truly is, isn’t someone that could ever be with them again. It’s what’s best for them all. He’s suppressed his nature for years. He can’t go back to that after last night.

“Of course. I am sorry, Will. It wasn’t my intention to upset you.” He really hadn’t. He cares a great deal for Will. And seeing him hurting so deeply does affect him. Despite his best attempts not to let it. It makes him long to go back to a time when he could have chosen a different path. Saved Abigail and forgiven Will. Left for a life with them. The longing is fleeting. He knows there’s no going back and there is likely nothing he could do to make the loss of his children up to Will.

“I’m not… I’m not going to leave you, Hannibal. Not unless your feelings towards me have changed,” Will says after a few minutes of silence pass between them. It was hard to find the words. Get them out of his mind and past his tongue. 

“My feelings for you are exactly the same as they were the last time I saw you like this,” he settles on the answer as he studies Will. Remembering the night Will woke up tucked carefully into his own bed after Mason Verger tried to have his face removed so he could claim it as his own. “I think the real question you should be asking is have your feelings towards me changed since then?”

Will forces himself to look up and face Hannibal then, fighting back the urge to look away and retreat into himself at the intensity of his gaze. Wade into the stream and catch a few fish rather than confront and admit how he feels. “They have,” he finally says, knowing full well that Hannibal can see what he means from the look in his eyes. He doesn’t need to say anything more. And the smile that spreads across Hannibal’s face has an oddly calming effect on Will. It lets him take a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding back.

“Then there are some things we need to discuss once you are feeling up to it.” The smile doesn’t leave his face, even as he turns back to the simmering pot on the stove.

Will watches Hannibal serve up their meal, wondering what will happen from here. His mind sifting through all his knowledge and past experiences with the other man. Trying to find any tells or signs that his feelings aren’t genuine. He finds none. And it leaves an oddly warm feeling in his chest knowing that Hannibal appears to feel the same way.

Chapter Text

Will helps Hannibal lay back down once they’ve eaten lunch. It was clear the moment he sat down at the table that the simple act had taken all of his energy, leaving him pale and a touch dizzy. He admits as much when Will scolds him for pushing himself after warning Will against doing exactly that.

Despite being exhausted and in pain, Will can’t shut off his mind and rest. A part of him would like nothing more than to crawl into bed beside Hannibal and sink into unconsciousness. Another part knows if he tries he will either slip straight into nightmares or be unable to do anything but focus on the pain in his skull and the feeling of stitches in his mouth where they rub against the rolled-up gauze that covers them.

So, instead, he settles sideways on the couch with his back to one armrest. One arm thrown up over the back where his fingers fiddle with a torn bit of leather on the backrest near the top seam as he watches the storm rage outside the window beside him. The sight lets his thoughts drift in no particular direction while his eyes trace the swirling mix of snow and rain that come down to create a heavy blanket of white over the area.

The constant yet everchanging sight does so well distracting him that he doesn’t even realize how late it’s gotten until the wintery mix gets almost too hard to see without moving closer to the window thanks to the lack of light out. He watches shadows made of wind and ice dance in the darkness then.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

Hannibal’s voice cutting through the relative silence of the setting startles Will, making him jerk and quickly turn his head towards the man. The action makes his head throb sharply and he has to take a moment to breathe through the pain before he can say anything. “I was thinking that this weather is both a blessing and a curse.”

Hannibal hums in understanding and slowly moves to sit up in the bed. “The arrival of the storm was fortuitous, to say the least. Perhaps with a bit of luck that good fortune will carry on once it has passed.”

“I’m not sure luck has anything to do with it,” Will says as he looks from Hannibal back out the window. “After you’ve paid your final visits to Jack and Bedelia, where will you go?”

“That was one of the things I had wished to discuss with you. I have the means to get us out of the country and start a new life with new identities. We can go anywhere you like, within reason of course.” He had originally intended to stay at his family’s estate in Denmark for a time before arranging things to move elsewhere. Now, though, he really would like to know where Will would be interested in going. 

If he truly intends to stay with Hannibal then the least Hannibal can offer is to let him choose where they settle. He knows Will’s preference to live somewhere surrounded by nature to help him deal with the more inconvenient aspects of his empathy disorder and other neurodivergent attributes. Hannibal prefers to live somewhere a bit more urbanized. Someplace with culture and a balance of natural and manmade beauty. But he can find other ways to strike that balance in his life.

“The FBI had your assets liquidated and distributed amongst the families of your known victims,” Will points out with a brief glance in Hannibal’s direction.

“A pittance. The funds they seized were merely what I set aside while working as a surgeon and psychiatrist. I have considerably more tucked away in various locations under a few well-established aliases,” Hannibal explains with ease. “So, tell me, Will. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you choose?”

“You know me, Hannibal. Just give me a stream to fish in and I’ll be content…” Will says almost dismissively, clearly still a bit zoned out. The thought of actually leaving this place and going off together feels like a fantasy. He knows logically that the two of them working together once they’re recovered enough can take care of both Bedelia and Jack without question. But a part of him finds the concept hard to grasp. That they could actually do just that and take off together once the deed is done seems like something he fantasized in a moment of desperate loneliness. A fever dream.

“That may be, but there are many places with quiet streams to lose one’s self in. Finding one to settle upon should not be taken so lightly,” Hannibal reasons. He recognizes the look in Will’s eyes. He’s a bit lost in himself at the moment. Will tends to answer his questions more honestly when he’s like this.

“How do you feel about boats?” Will counters after a moment without looking away from the window. His fingers are messing with the bit of torn leather once again, drawing Hannibal’s gaze to it a moment.

“I have a fondness for them. They can be a pleasant means of transportation when one is in no hurry. Why do you ask?” Hannibal asks despite already knowing what Will is about to suggest. He wants to hear Will’s proposal. 

“We could take one and see where we end up.” He glances over at Hannibal as he makes the suggestion, watching him appraisingly through tired blue eyes. “Once we’ve gotten a safe distance away from anywhere that the authorities might think to watch the harbors for us, that is.”

That earns a smile from Hannibal. “When the storm has passed I’ll contact Chiyoh. She can make arrangements for us.” They set up a system years ago. People and places they can call or visit and leave a simple message to let the other know they need to meet if they cannot make direct contact. They may not have seen one another in three years, but she has sent him unaddressed postcards on his and Mischa’s birthday’s each year to let him know she is still out there and still considers him to be family. The FBI never questioned it since he’s received cards and letters from countless others. But only Chiyoh would know to send one with churches that have since collapsed on them.

“You’re still in contact with her?” Will asks, confusion and surprise clear in his voice as well as in the way he furrows his brow and tilts his head just a little. He only looks at him a moment before his gaze drifts back to the window. 

“We have our ways of getting in contact when needed. And she is no doubt aware of my escape as well as our disappearance by now. If she wasn’t already in the country she will be arriving soon,” Hannibal explains as he shifts so that he can open the drawer of the small bedside table to his right. He had taken a look earlier and found a notepad and pencil inside that he intends to make use of. 

He’s still feeling a bit drained, but he felt the desire to sketch strike him the moment he saw Will upon waking. The image of Will curled up in the glow of the firelight as he looks out the window and into the storm is one Hannibal wants to capture in some way other than simply in memory. “She will be more than capable of discreetly acquire anything we need.”

“Perks of having your own personal ninja in the family,” Will quips with another sidelong glance to Hannibal. “What if she doesn’t answer your call?”

“Then we are on our own. If for some reason she is unable to assist us we will make due. I have faith in our capabilities.” He doesn’t doubt Chiyoh will answer if he reaches out. They’ve always been loyal to one another. He can’t imagine her not coming to his aid, just as he would go to hers should she ever ask. “Which would you prefer, to sail or to command something a bit more modern?”

“Sails can be torn to shreds and rendered useless in a storm. Engines can always be fixed,” Will notes as he shifts a bit and pulls his legs a little closer where he has them bent on the couch before him. He’s curled sideways, knees pointing towards the backrest of the leather couch with the one unoccupied hand in his lap. His other is made the tear in the leather he’s been messing with a bit bigger in the time he’s been messing with it. He tugs at the small strip of torn leather, rubs it between his thumb and fingertips as his gaze stays on the frozen world outside the cabin. “Honestly I’m fine with either, but I prefer to have an engine on a boat. Especially if we’re going to be spending any real length of time on the water.”

Hannibal hums an acknowledgment as he finds a blank page in the notebook and begins to sketch. He briefly finds himself hoping that Will doesn’t feel inclined to move any time soon. Even if he does he can remember the details perfectly and easily recreate them from memory. But there is something to be said about being able to actively sketch your muse as they give you inspiration. For three years all he’s had to work with was the occasional guards and his memories to draw from. Having the opportunity to sketch Will in this moment is a true pleasure. And it is one he intends to savor.

“It’s rude to stare,” Will eventually says, earning a chuckle from Hannibal. It’s a familiar feeling, having Hannibal study and scrutinize him so. But it’s the first time the feeling has been accompanied by the sound of pencil scratching frantically over paper. It’s almost alien compared to the soft sound of pen gliding over page as Hannibal took notes during their conversations years ago.

“My apologies,” Hannibal offers, though he doesn’t really mean it. He can’t be bothered to feel truly sorry when he knows it doesn’t really bother Will to be subject to his scrutiny. It used to, years ago. Back before Will learned the truth of himself and who Hannibal truly was. “Do try to hold still, please. Your profile is quite striking at this angle, and the light of the fire is accentuating your features nicely.”

Will swallows back the urge to move out of spite. He doesn’t really have it in him to antagonize Hannibal at the moment, though that doesn’t change the fact that a part of him wants to. After everything, the urge to push the other man is there. Hannibal brings that out in him. Makes him feel like he’s free to act on his less savory urges rather than repress them like he’s had to for so long.”Whatever you say…”

They sit like that until Will has no choice but to get up and add more wood to the fire so that it doesn’t go out entirely. Hannibal continues to draw well after that. Adding details and shading while Will makes them a late supper using a castiron skillet to toast two of the pre-made deli sandwiches he had purchased and yet another can of soup to split between the two of them.

Hannibal goes back to the sketch once they’ve had their fill and still focuses on it even as Will carefully climbs onto the bed beside him and crawls under the covers to turn in for the night.

Back to, Will lays facing the roughly cut wood of the cabin wall. It’s much the same position he found himself in when he laid down to get some rest that morning, only this time Hannibal doesn’t appear to be joining him in sleep any time soon despite the few yawns that have escaped him in the last half-hour

It makes him feel oddly anxious. Like there is a buzzing under his skin that keeps him hovering at the edge of consciousness for the next few hours. It doesn’t leave him until he hears Hannibal set aside the pencil and paper.

A moment later the bed dips and shifts beneath him as the older man sinks down to settle on his back beside Will once again.

“This isn’t going to be a recurring thing, is it? You staying up all night sketching?” Will mumbles sleepily as he finally starts to settle and drift towards sleep

“I do apologize for that. The hour got away from me,” Hannibal admits as he stifles a yawn. “I promise to be more considerate from now on.”

“Good. Some of us need our beauty sleep...” Will jokes, voice barely above a  whisper as he shifts and rolls onto his own back. The change in position makes their arms press together and legs touch in a few spots where Will doesn’t try to keep his own together. He’s too tired to care if Hannibal and he are in each other's personal space. Not that it bothers him much when he’s fully awake either. A bit awkward feeling, definitely, but being so close to Hannibal doesn’t bother him anymore. It probably should, given the man has literally gutted him in the past.

Hannibal lets out a huff that sounds close to a laugh but says nothing. It’s clear Will is in fairly good spirits despite everything. He is as well. And so, so tired. But he couldn’t stop until the sketch was finished. It would have taunted him from somewhere in the back of his mind. Not let him sleep properly despite the bone-deep exhaustion that clings to him even after resting most of the day. He can mostly ignore the pain of his injuries, but he cannot ignore the side effects of them.

Neither man wakes to tend the fire in the night and when they do finally wake in the early hours of the morning it’s in unison. Both opening their eyes at almost the same time to find the cabin cold and Hannibal laying on his uninjured side with his forehead resting against Will’s temple and an arm slung loosely over the younger man’s waist while his other wraps protectively around his own to subconsciously protect his healing bullet wound.

Hannibal moves to slowly extract himself, expecting Will to be bothered by the intimacy of the position. “I should get another fire going...” he mutters in a much thicker accent than usual thanks to his sleep-addled mind first wanting to speak in Lithuanian and not English. Instead of Will rolling away or acting bothered by the intimate position, he finds his hand being grabbed in a lazy grip before he’s pulled back towards Will.

“Leave it. We’ll be warm enough in bed. Just go back to sleep, Hannibal…” Will protests softly as he stares up at him with bleary blue eyes. The room is just barely lit enough thanks to the uncovered windows for Hannibal to see them clearly. Letting him know Will is indeed awake as he speaks and pulls Hannibal back toward him under the covers.

He briefly considers getting up anyway. If only to try and give Will the space to realize what he’s asking. But Will still holds his hand and is seemingly completely comfortable and accepting of his being so close while in such a vulnerable state. He had expected more hesitance and discomfort on Will’s part. It would be understandable. Will is a guarded man by nature and Hannibal has hurt him greatly in the past.

They hold each other’s gaze a moment before Hannibal gives in to Will’s request and settles back down beside him. Though this time giving a little space between them. Testing what Will does.

Will bridges the small gap Hannibal creates the moment it’s clear Hannibal isn’t coming any closer on his own. Sliding into the negative space so that Hannibal is once again right against his side. His eyes are closed as he turns his face towards Hannibal’s, making their foreheads and noses bump gently.

Once Will is settled Hannibal finds he can’t look away despite the heaviness of his own eyelids. 

“I can feel you staring…” Will grumbles as he once again opens his eyes to look at the other man 

“You’re comfortable?” Hannibal questions despite the answer being obvious.

“Are you uncomfortable?” Will asks in turn. He still holds onto Hannibal, though now the hand that had pulled him in by his own is up higher on his arm, resting just above Hannibal’s elbow so their forearms are resting together over Will’s waist.

“Quite the contrary,” Hannibal concedes in a whisper. 

“Then go back to sleep, Doctor Lecter,” Will’s tone is chastising, but he has the smallest smile that reaches his eyes and gives away his lack of seriousness to his words.

“As you wish,” Hannibal replies softly before finally closing his own eyes once again.

Will moves his head, sleepily nuzzling their noses together without thought before drifting back off. Hannibal drifts with him. Mind committing this feeling of unfathomable warmth and contentment to memory in those last few moments of self-awareness before slipping away.

Chapter Text

“You’re sure you want to go alone?” Will asks for the third time since Hannibal announced he would be taking the motorcycle and heading into town to purchase a disposable phone at one of the mini-marts they passed on the way to the cabin six days prior.

After two days of snow and another four days of low temperatures, the weather had finally warmed enough to melt away the majority of the snow and ice that covered the dirt road that connects the cabin back to the highway. It’s a three-mile stretch. And another four to the closest shop. So they’ve had to wait for the weather to be on their side before either of them could attempt to go anywhere.

“Will, you know as well as I that the authorities are likely looking for us. If only one of us goes out at a time we are far less likely to be noticed. I should only be gone a half-hour at most.” Hannibal looks a touch amused by Will’s worries as he buttons the cuffs of his leather jacket. There’s a hint of mirthfulness in his eyes that’s hard to miss.

“Maybe I should go instead. You do have a fairly distinct accent. If you speak around the wrong people they could call the police,” Will finds himself suggesting. In truth, he doesn’t want either of them to go. But they’re running low on food and they need a phone to reach out to Chiyoh sooner than later.

Hannibal chuckles and shakes his head as he finishes buttoning his cuffs and quickly zips his jacket. “I am perfectly capable of concealing my accent when the situation calls for it,” he informs Will in an almost perfect British accent. “Or would you prefer I try to sound more like you, perhaps?” he tries in a more Americanized pronunciation. It doesn’t quite work, though. One would almost think it was a New England accent, except the vowels still sounding too European in pronunciation. 

Will can’t help himself when Hannibal tries to imitate an American accent, the urge to mess with the other man is just too strong to resist. “Not bad, cher. Sept I don’t tink you got dem vowels quite right. Might get people askin’ who dat if you not careful now.” The slightly over-exaggerated thick Cajun accent gets a look of clear surprise from Hannibal that has Will trying hard not to bust out laughing by the time he finishes speaking the words. “Mo chagren,” he adds with a grin that pulls painfully at the stitches in his cheek before going on. “I’m from Louisiana. I speak as clear and concisely as I do exactly because I knew no one would take me seriously if I spoke in that dialect or even just that accent this far east.”

“Shame. I would love to hear you speak French more often,” Hannibal laments with a small smile that’s all teasing. It earns him a hint of pink in Will’s cheeks that only makes his smile grow. 

“Unfortunately my French is abysmal at best,” Will informs him before clearing his throat a bit awkwardly. “We only ever spoke it when visiting my grandparents and cousins for the holidays, and that was over twenty years ago,” Will adds with a shake of his head as he avoids looking Hannibal in the eyes. “Just, be careful. Okay?”

“Of course.” Is all Hannibal says in return before he heads out the door.

Will watches him take off, not looking away until the motorcycle is out of sight. He knows Hannibal going on this run is necessary. That they need food and that phone. But that doesn’t change the anxiety he feels at Hannibal going without him.

They’re both recovering slowly. Hannibal still can’t stand for too long, but he can do so for long enough that this run shouldn’t be a problem. Part of Will worries it’ll be too much, but he trusts Hannibal to know his own limits. As for Will, he still can’t get up from a horizontal or even a sitting position without his head feeling like it’s going to explode, which is apparently common for skull fractures. He’ll take that over the irritating feel of stitches in his mouth any day. 

The only thing that’s helped him stay sane, aside from talking with Hannibal about nothing important, is the tackle box of fishing supplies he found in the rafters on the second day of the storm. There were enough supplies inside for him to make a dozen lures with plenty of odds and ends to spare. He would have made more, but without his glasses or a magnifying glass to help him work on the smaller details, he’s been working at a snail’s pace.

He eyes the lures where they rest on the wooden table in the center of the room. Hannibal had taken to watching him work from the couch more often than not, usually with that notebook in his lap as he continued to sketch. Will didn’t ask what he was sketching after the first day. He figures it’s a toss-up between Will being his continued subject, or he’s drawing places he’s been or other people he’s seen.

The notebook rests beside the tackle box. It’s open. Page showing a half-drawn landscape that Will doesn’t recognize. Curiosity gets the better of him after a moment and he picks the book up to get a closer look.

It’s a meadow by a stream. Dozens of tiny flowers stretching out over the page until they meet a rocky riverbed. The rocks and pebbles have the most detail so far. The flowers only faint outlines. The detail of the river is what really surprises Will. It has shading to it that in the right light makes it look like the water is moving.

After a moment, he flips the page back, wondering what else Hannibal could have been drawing these past few days.

Sure enough, there are a few sketches of Will in with various cities and landscapes. Not all are finished, like his inspiration shifted mid drawing and he had to move on to something else until later. 

The drawing Hannibal made their first night in the cabin has Will sitting down and studying it in awe. It’s the most detailed of the ones in the book. Capturing even the smallest details of the setting. The wrinkles in the shirt Will wore that was too big for him. The bit of torn leather on the back of the couch he had been tugging at mindlessly. The shadows cast by the firelight to his back. Even the faint bruises and scrapes on his hands and arms are there.

Despite it being a portrait of himself, Will feels like he’s invading Hannibal’s privacy looking at it like this. He flips the book closed and sets it down beside the tackle box once more before running his hands through his shaggy brown curls. He suddenly feels like the cabin is too small. Like he needs to get out.

He throws on his boots and jacket quickly, not bothering with gloves or any other layers to help him keep warm in his rush to just get up and go.

It’s early afternoon. Sun warm in the sky above. But it’s still only in the forties out and there’s a bit of a breeze that makes it feel just as cold as it actually is. Will feels like the wind cuts right through him the minute he steps out into it. It’s a welcome sensation. Letting him draw a deep breath in through his nose that fills his lungs and calms his nerves. 

There’s a shed behind the cabin. Hannibal had moved the motorcycle in there before the storm hit. Will hasn’t taken a look inside before now and he’s a bit disappointed by its contents. There isn’t much to be found. Some old tools, metal buckets, a large hatchet, and a rusty jerry can.

Eyeing the hatchet a moment, Will grabs it and turns to the stack of wood beside the house. It’s mostly down to larger pieces. Ones that need splitting. Hannibal had said they would be fine for a while with what was already broken down. But Will doubts it, eyeing the pile now for himself.

It’s stupid, he knows it is. But he needs to do something with himself. So, he grabs a piece of wood, gets it set out on a nearby stump that’s clearly where the previous occupants of the cabin cut wood before, and swings.

His shoulder protests the action. Arm twitching at the use of muscles and tendons that aren’t ready for this kind of movement. The pain it causes is grounding, though. So, he shakes the ax free from where it stuck in the wood, fixes it’s position on the stump, and swings again. This time cutting the wood clean through the center. The pieces fall to either side of the stump, clattering on the frozen ground.

“Still got it…” Will mutters to himself before he picks the pieces up and tosses them onto the short end of the pile beside the house. Hannibal will likely give him hell for this when he returns. But that’s a problem for later. He sets up the next piece of wood with a small smile to himself and gets ready for a workout.

~~~~~

The mini-mart is busy when Hannibal pulls up and parks on the far side of the lot. It’s a relief. Busy shops mean less likelihood of being noticed unless you act out of the ordinary. One of the things he prides himself on is his ability to act normal even in the most unusual of circumstances.

There are a few old bikers in the lot. Talking outside the front door as they smoke cigarettes and stand around their bikes. One spot Hannibal as he sets his helmet on the handlebars of his bike and grins.

“Nice ride,” the older man calls out as he nods to the motorcycle beside Hannibal.

“Thanks,” Hannibal calls back, taking care with how he pronounces the word to make it sound more Americanized. “Nice jacket,” he adds when he notices the various patches on the jacket denoting the man as being part of a group that he’s read about in news articles that helps protect children that were victims of abuse. He may find the culture to be crude, but what they do with their time is admirable.

The biker grins at the compliment, sporting a few missing and broken teeth that look like the guy might have lost in an accident at some point. Other than that they don’t say anything and neither does his buddies as Hannibal walks past.

The shop is a decent size on the inside. Sporting a liquor section and impressive deli and fresh food area. It’s almost all junk. But it has vegetables and fruit, of which Hannibal is grateful. He grabs a basket and makes a b-line for the small aisle with the disposable phones and other odds and ends first. 

He scans over the tops of the shelves as he walks, observing his surroundings and the other patrons as he starts filling the basket with goods. There are three cashiers working. Half a dozen other customers milling about, two more talking by the soda fountain in the back of the deli area, and another three at the registers buying whatever it is they came to buy.

Nobody pays anybody else any mind. Even the workers seem disinterested in everyone else. It’s reassuring. As is the fact that he only sees a single security camera and it’s pointed at the registers. He can easily stand so that his face isn’t in view and just make it look like he’s simply distracted.

There’s a stack of newspapers by the case the freshly made sandwiches are kept in, and Hannibal grabs one of each along with a few days worth of fruit and sandwiches. He’s already grabbed them some more drinks, not trusting the water from the well and not wanting to have to boil it every time they need some. And much as he dislikes it, he also grabbed some more cans of soup. 

Thankfully, though, this shop also had a dairy case with eggs and breakfast meats inside, which means he can cook a real meal for a change. In the end, he has much more than he intended to buy. But he wants to be able to make at least a few meals that aren’t made from cans and boxes or were pre-made by someone in a hairnet.

“Feeding an army?” the cashier asks as she begins to ring up and bag everything. She’s in her late teens, clearly bored and not even really paying attention as she works. For a second it strikes Hannibal how much she looks like Abigail and he has to shake the thought off before he can say anything.

“Lost power in that storm. Need some things to hold us over until they get it up and running again,” Hannibal explains in as dismissive a tone as possible while maintaining the accent he’s going for. 

“You must live pretty far out if you don’t have power back yet,” she notes, still not really paying him any mind.

That makes Hannibal huff a laugh and he almost turns to face her fully but stops himself so his face isn’t in view of the camera. He doesn’t answer her, and the girl doesn’t say anything else until everything is run up and bagged.

He pays her and hooks the various plastic bags over his arms before heading back outside.

The bikers are still standing around chatting, several looking over to give him a nod of approval for his choice of a ride once more as he heads to his bike and gets ready to leave.

The ride back is faster than his ride out. Anxious to get back to Will and to take a look at the papers he picked up. He also grabbed the more expensive disposable phone the shop had on the shelf. It’s a smartphone with internet capabilities. One he hopes will still have a decent connection this far from town. He would very much like to see what Freddie Lounds has written about himself and Will at this point.

The sight he arrived back to is an unexpected one.

Will is outside. Jacket off and sleeves of his dark red flannel shirt rolled up his forearms as he chops wood beside the cabin. He’s been at it for a while. Damp curls sticking to his forehead with sweat. He doesn’t pause in his work even as Hannibal pulls up a few feet away and parks the bike.

“You’ll tear your stitches,” Hannibal chides gently as he removes his helmet and studies Will with a tilt of his head.

“My stitches are fine,” Will huffs out as he swings the ax once more. He cuts clean through the log in one swing. His face is a mask of focus as he grabs the next piece and prepares to swing again like he isn’t recovering from multiple stab wounds and likely in a great deal of pain.

“Feeling a bit of cabin fever?” The question makes Will stop and tip his head back as if to look to the heavens and ask why he’s chosen to be with this man.

“I just needed some air,” Will explains with a shake of his head before laying the hatchet beside the tree stump he’s been using as a chopping block. “I take it your shopping trip went well?”

Hannibal nods as he finally climbs off the bike and grabs the plastic bags from where he had slung them over the handlebars. “It did,” he agrees as he holds a bag out of Will to carry. He takes it readily and follows Hannibal inside the cabin a moment later.

“Did you buy every paper in the store?” Will asks as he looks inside the bag. There are four different major newspapers, three local printings by smaller companies, and a single tabloid tucked under the cellphone and international phone card Hannibal had grabbed.

“I was curious to see what has been going on for the past several days,” Hannibal notes as he sets the two bags containing groceries on the small sideboard by the stove. “And I thought the reading material might be appreciated.”

Will snorts a laugh at that but says nothing as he steps up beside Hannibal, shooing him away to sit while Will puts things away.

Part of him wants to protest and assist in putting away their things, but he already feels his energy leaving him, so Hannibal goes and hangs up his jacket before taking his usual seat at the table. The bag with the phone and papers sits on the floor next to his chair, and he picks it up, pulling the phone from inside to begin removing it from its packaging.

“Is there anything in particular that I should ask Chiyoh to acquire for you while she’s making preparations for us?” Hannibal asks once he has the phone powered on and is waiting for the activation signal to go through.

Will glances over his shoulder at Hannibal from his place kneeling in front of the mini-fridge. “A pair of glasses? It’s going to be hard to read navigation charts without them,” It’s a minor inconvenience, but still one he would rather not deal with. He gets a migraine if he tries to read for too long without his glasses. He’s already got a near-constant one thanks to the fracture in his skull from being stabbed.

Humming his understanding, Hannibal looks back to the phone in his hands. He was never a fan of mobile phones. Too easy to track a person by or interrupt one's plans. At the moment, however, he sees it as a necessity they have to hold onto, at least if he’s able to contact Chiyoh.

The number he calls once the phone is activated is one he’s had memorized for ages. It goes to a small shop in England that an old family friend of his aunt owns. It’s run by her granddaughter now. She’s well aware of who Hannibal is and what he’s done. She only owns the shop now because of an unfortunate incident with her grandfather some ten years ago that left him comatose and her and her grandmother free of his abuse for the first time in their lives.

“Lorelai’s Sweets, how can I help you?” A familiar, warm alto voice answers after two rings.

“Hello, Lori,” he greets back, his own tone just as warm. She was always a kind girl and it seems that hasn’t changed in the years since he saw her last.

Will pauses in his putting away of their supplies to look over at Hannibal as he speaks on the phone. Clearly a bit confused by Hannibal greeting someone that isn’t Chiyoh.

“Hanni! Oh, thank goodness you’re alive! They said on the news that you and that former special agent friend of yours had drowned after escaping and killing the Red Dragon!” The relief in her voice is oddly comforting. “Are you alright? What can I do for you, love?”

A small smile tugs at his lips over her concern. “A bit inconvenienced, but otherwise alright, thank you for asking. I’m calling because I need to reach Chiyoh, have the two of you stayed in contact?”

“Chiyoh? Oh, yes! She started coming round to visit just after you turned yourself in to the authorities. She was here for one of her visits just last week, in fact. Left the day you escaped. I believe she’s in Maryland right now,” Lori explains as she shuffles about the shop, no doubt in the process of closing for the evening since there is a five hour time difference between the east coast and London.

“Wonderful. I suspect I know where she is, then. Thank you for your help, Lori. I’ll call again if I require any further assistance in locating her.” He doesn’t think that will be necessary, though. If Chiyoh is in Maryland waiting to hear from him, she’s likely in the small house he set up in her name by Snow Hill. It’s over two hours drive from where they are now. Neither he nor Will is up for that in their current condition, so he’ll have to hope she answers.

“You’re welcome, Hannibal. And please, give me a call to let me know how you’re doing once in a while, would you?” 

“I will. Thank you again for your help, Lori. Goodbye.” She says her goodbyes in return and with that, they both hang up.

Will is watching him when Hannibal turns his head, and Hannibal raises an eyebrow in question as he dials the number to where he believes Chiyoh to be located. The line rings once then goes to an automated voicemail box. “Hello, Chiyoh. Please call me when you receive this message.” he doesn’t leave the number because he knows she has callerID setup and the cheap mobile phone isn’t a private number.

“That’s it?” Will asks once Hannibal has hung up and set the phone down on the table.

“That’s it,” Hannibal reiterates before reaching for the first of the papers he had purchased. “We made international news, it would seem. It was reported that we drown together after killing our Dragon,” he informs Will as he unfolds the paper and skims the headlines.

“Seriously? Somebody higher up in the FBI had to have made that call. There’s no way that Jack would declare us dead without physical evidence,” Will balks as he closes the mini-fridge and moves to join Hannibal at the table. He ends up grabbing one of the other papers and starting to skim for any articles about the two of them as Hannibal starts reading his own paper from the beginning.

“Perhaps. Or perhaps they declared us dead in the hopes we would become careless and slip up in the belief that they are no longer looking for us.” He doesn’t honestly believe that. But it wouldn’t surprise him if somebody other than Jack was pulling the strings in the hopes that would be the case. “Either way it seems a bit foolish on their part.”

By the time Will has checked the last paper, Hannibal has finished reading the first one in its entirety. He quirks a brow at Will upon seeing the papers strewn haphazardly across the table.

“All these papers and there were only two articles about us,” Will notes as he folds one paper over to show a small article about how the search for their bodies is to be called off if they aren’t found the following day. The other article being in the paper Hannibal read, which was more substantial. Talking about the Chesapeake Ripper and former professor from the FBI academy at Quantico who took on the Red Dragon and lost their lives in the process of ending his murder spree.

“We’re not celebrities, Will. We spark and fade into obscurity, just as everyone else does,” Hannibal says as he folds his paper and sets it atop the messy pile Will has made of the others. 

“That’s not as comforting as you think,” Will says with a sigh as he slouches in his chair a bit. His gaze drifts over to the fireplace, which needs lighting soon. The sun is starting to set and the cabin is growing colder.

“Operating under the assumption that neither of us survived so soon after our fall would imply that they found some kind of evidence to suggest as much,” Hannibal suggests as he watches Will get up and move to get a fire going. 

Will pauses in front of the fireplace, hand hovering over a piece of wood as his brow furrows. He lets his hand drop to his side and closes his eyes in a way that Hannibal hasn’t seen in years but recognizes immediately. He’s recreating the scene in his mind. Using his memories of the night to reconstruct the scene.

“The camera,” Will eventually says. “It fell over sometime after he attacked me and left you alone inside the house. It was on the floor facing outside when we were fighting Dolarhyde. It likely caught most, if not all, of the fight. That combined with the sheer amount of blood we both lost at the scene and the bloody footprints we left leading up to the edge showing we fell from the bluffs would give enough evidence to suggest we didn’t survive.” His eyes are closed the entire time he speaks, head tilting and brow furrowing further as he relives the event in his mind. Blood spraying behind his eyelids as they move in almost a dance with the other man before it ends in his death.

“I knocked the camera over while getting to my feet,” Hannibal clarifies, causing Will to open his eyes and look over at him. 

“You wanted it to record us,” Will realizes then, eyes going a bit narrow as he studies Hannibal. “You wanted there to be evidence of what happened with him.”

“How else would we prove you were defending yourself?” Hannibal counters easily. “I confess I had initially thought you would take out your gun and shoot him when given the opportunity. Play the part of the special agent doing his duty to stop a madman.”

Will snorts indignantly at that and turns his attention back to getting a fire started. “After everything we’ve been through, you really thought that was what I would do?”

“Three years is a long time to be apart from someone, Will. People change. You’ve changed, in some ways. I hold no illusions of knowing who you are anymore,” Hannibal says almost softly as he reaches out and grabs his notebook and pencil. He flips the book open to the half-finished meadow, eyes roaming over it a moment before he starts working on the flowers.

Will’s shoulders visibly sag as he lets his head drop forward. His eyes closing as he takes a deep breath. “I’m exactly who I’ve always been, Hannibal. Who you helped me to become. The only difference is that now...Now I’ve stopped fighting my true nature.”

When Hannibal looks over, Will is looking back. Blue eyes locking with amber brown in the faint light of the newly lit fire. “And that nature would be?”

To his credit, Will looks only momentarily annoyed by the question. “The nature that drives me to gut a man with his own knife rather than shoot him like any ordinary ex-cop with a firearm on him would have.”

Hannibal can’t help the genuine smile that breaks out at Will’s choice of words. “Do you regret your actions that night?”

“No.” Will doesn’t hesitate in answering. “I don’t regret anything about that night,” he adds before turning his gaze back to the fire.

Hannibal almost doesn’t believe that. Almost. The look in Will’s eyes as he turns away is clear. He doesn’t regret that night. He might be struggling with leaving the life he had and the family he built. But he doesn’t regret letting himself be who he really is for once. It leaves Hannibal feeling reassured. Content even. Knowing that Will isn’t running away from this. From him. 

They’re finally beginning to see one another as Hannibal had once hoped they always would. As equals who share an understanding of one another and a taste for the beauty of blood and the suffering of those who are less than they are. 

His mind wanders to Bedelia and Jack. To what kind of beauty he and Will could create from them. It sends a pleasant shiver down his spine imagining Will gutting Jack like he had gutted their Dragon. He’ll have to share that thought when the time comes for them to pay the man a visit. But for now, he’s content to simply imagine and enjoy the glow of the fire while Will feeds the flames and hums softly to himself. Now is a time for rest and recovery. Bloodshed and revenge can wait until another day.

Chapter Text

Three Days Post Fall - One Day Post Storm

“I don’t think you understand the gravity of the situation here, Agent Crawford,” Kade Prurnell says as she comes to stand before Jack’s desk. She’s clearly agitated, not that she ever appears not to be, with her shoulders squared and arms crossed tight over her chest as she glares down at him. It’s he0r second visit to his office in as many days, and it’s clear it won’t be the last.

Jack, to his credit, doesn’t let show how irritated he is with her presence and attitude. “I am fully aware of the gravity of things, Mrs. Prurnell.”

“If that were true I highly doubt you would have gone along with Mr.Graham’s plan to stage Hannibal Lecter’s escape in an attempt to capture Francis Dolarhyde,” she bites back incredulously. “Do you have any idea what kind of nightmare you’ve created? The media is going to have a field day with this! If word gets out of what your actual plan of action entailed the FBI will be open to multiple lawsuits. Several of which will be aimed directly at you for giving this operation your approval without first receiving approval from higher offices.”

“That operation was our best shot at drawing Francis Dolarhyde out given the way he was escalating. Dolarhyde had developed a kind of respect for Dr. Lecter. He admired him. We had no way of knowing he would strike before the escape could be staged and we certainly had no way of knowing he would take out that many armed police and federal agents,” Jack defends as he sets aside the pen he had been writing notes on the case with and rubs at his forehead with his other.

“Dolarhyde was former military and a decorated marksman. Your people underestimated him and now we have half a dozen dead officers and agents. Not to mention a missing, presumed to be dead special agent and a missing known cannibalistic serial killer. I don’t care what you thought at the time, you thought wrong and now you’re going to have to answer for it.”

“And if we hadn’t gone ahead with the plan we would be looking at countless more dead families before we could have even come close to catching this man. Those officers knew the risk when they agreed to the assignment. I feel for them and the families they left behind, but I stand by my decision to use Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter to draw out Dolarhyde. The end result isn’t what we intended but they did stop him. As for Graham and Lecter, it is my belief that they are still alive. We simply need to expand our search efforts now that the weather has cleared. Get dogs and search crews out searching the beaches and woods to the south of the cliffs. They could have come ashore somewhere in the area and the storm would have provided ample cover for them to escape,” Jack argues as he moves to stand, hands fisted on his desk in front of him. It’s been three days since Will and Hannibal went missing. Aside from finding Will’s gun on the rocks below the bluff at low tide that first morning, they’ve found no evidence of the two men having survived. He refuses to believe they didn’t make it.

“There won’t be any additional search crews called in, Jack. I saw the footage taken from Francis Dolarhyde’s camera. Blurry as it was, I’m inclined to agree with the forensics analysts, as are my superiors. If no evidence is found to suggest otherwise in the next twenty four hours then Graham and Lecter will be declared dead and the search for their bodies will be called off after the seventh day, with the final report stating their bodies were lost at sea due to the unusually high tides caused by the storm that hit after their encounter with Dolarhyde.” Her tone leaves no room to argue as she locks eyes with Jack. “I suggest you get your reports in order and prepare yourself for another investigation, Jack. This one won’t be like the last. You’ll find the FBI isn’t so forgiving when an agent shows this kind of lapse in judgment more than once.”

Jack bites his tongue and watches as she leaves his office with all the arrogance of a woman who believes she knows better than anyone else. The urge to yell after her, tell her she’s wrong and knows nothing of the situation or the kind of men Will and Hannibal are, is so strong he lets out a low growl of frustration because of it. 

Once he’s alone again he steps away from his desk and reaches for his coat. If they won’t approve additional agents to search, he’ll just have to go out there and look for himself.

~~~~~ 

Six & Seven Days Post Fall

Chiyoh returns Hannibal’s call that same evening. Their conversation is brief. He explains that he is someplace safe and with Will. He tells her what they intend to do, excluding the visits to certain parties, once they’re well enough to travel, what supplies they’ll need, and most importantly what she can do to help them in the meantime. She agrees readily, glad to hear that Hannibal is alive and not alone.

The following morning she arrives in a nondescript SUV with two bags of clean clothes for Hannibal and Will, antibiotics, more powerful pain medication, and a physician’s bag with enough supplies for Hannibal to properly treat their still healing wounds. She even brings a cooler full of groceries, none of which were asked for, but it’s clear from the look on Hannibal’s face that they’re greatly appreciated as there are a few bottles of wine and some of his favorite fresh ingredients packed inside. 

She only stays long enough to deliver the supplies, find out how to get Will’s prescription for a new pair of glasses, and to be told what kind of boat they would like to acquire. She already knows where she can go to access the funds needed for making their arrangements. And the rest of the details are already known from her short conversation with Hannibal the night before. So she leaves without preamble and with a promise to contact them when preparations are complete.

“Remind me, why aren’t we going with her again?” Will asks once they’ve been left alone again. Not that he has a problem staying in the cabin. He enjoys the quiet and peacefulness of it. But there’s a part of him that would kill for a hot shower and some electricity right now. Washing up with old soap and scrap of cloth in water you have to boil on the stove first gets tiring after a while.

“We’re far less likely to draw attention to ourselves if we stay here for now,” Hannibal explains needlessly as he rifles through the bag of clothing Chiyoh brought him. Most of the contents are from his own wardrobe that he kept at the house she’s currently staying in. But there are several new items mixed in that she undoubtedly purchased having his comfort in mind while he recovers. “If you like, I can call her back for you? I’m sure she won’t mind a bit of company if you require a change of scenery for a few hours.”

“The last time she and I were alone in each other’s company she threw me off of a moving train in the middle of the night,” Will reminds him sardonically with narrowed eyes from across the room. “I’ll pass.”

With a mirthful little chuckle, Hannibal pushes the second bag of clothing Chiyoh provided them across the table, beckoning Will to come and inspect them. Everything inside is to Will’s measurements and looks to match his general taste in attire. “Come now, don’t hold it against her. After all, you had been intending to kill me,” he reminds, tone light as he smiles at the other man.

“I hadn’t entirely made up my mind about killing you yet when I was with her. My only real intention at the time was to find you so that I could make up my mind,” Will mutters as he steps up beside Hannibal and has a look inside the offered bag. He keeps his head tilted down, eyes locked on the various articles of clothing inside, and pointedly not on Hannibal’s face.

“Come again?” Hannibal asks, turning slightly and tilting his head in a way that makes Will have to look him in the eyes. He knows what he heard. But he wants Will to elaborate. He had wondered for a while what Will’s thoughts were leading up to their reunion in Italy. Now seems as good a time as any to ask.

“I hadn’t set out with the intention of killing you, Hannibal. My mind wasn’t yet made up on the matter. Just like it wasn’t when I called to warn you about Jack the night that you…” he trails off, eyes closing against his will as he remembers the night he told Hannibal to run, only to arrive at his door and find him waiting with Abigail at his side and a knife in his hand… 

He has to take a slow breath through his nose and fight back the flood of memories that comes before he can say any more. He needs to say more. To tell his side of events for Hannibal to understand. ”Alana called me that night. She warned me that agents were on the way to arrest me for the murder of Randal Tier, and that the plan to arrest you had been shut down. She told me Jack was going against orders and was already on his way to your house. I knew he was going to try and force your hand. I didn’t know what I was going to say when I made the call, not until I heard your voice. Despite everything else I felt for you back then, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you like that. You were still my friend, and I wanted you to run even if I couldn’t run with you.”

“And when you came to me in Florence?” Hannibal further questions, ignoring the twisting feeling he gets deep inside at the knowledge that Will felt that way when he called on him that night. That he still considered him to be his friend. “You say your mind wasn’t made up, yet you traveled all that way in the hopes I might be there upon your arrival. You followed the echos of my past to the Norman chapel, and for what? To sit in the nave and look upon the mosaics of the saints until you found your forgiveness?”

“I forgave you the moment I decided to leave for Italy, Hannibal. Other than that I held no illusions of what our reunion might be. Until we met again all I had were fantasies. I imagined countless scenarios of what I would do when I finally found you. But nothing came close to what it actually was and nothing was ever decided,” Will informs in that way of his that is so like a teacher reciting some information from a textbook and not as if he’s expressing his own thoughts. The feelings are there, but he’s detached himself from them ever so slightly in the way one does when they don’t want to be affected by a memory any longer. “Even then, sitting beside you in that gallery in front of your favorite Botticelli. I still hadn’t made up my mind completely about you.”

“All of that indecisiveness and yet you were still going to stab me in the back as we walked side by side,” Hannibal notes with a tilt of his head as he studies Will’s features. With his eyes closed like this, he’s able to better mask how he’s feeling from Hannibal, but there are still signs. Ones that he recognizes and understands completely. After all, he had contemplated stabbing Will back then as well. And then again with that corkscrew the night they fought their Dragon, despite his conflicting feelings and his fully knowing that he would need Will’s help to take the beast down when he finally showed himself.

“Spare me. You were ready to do the same in the moment before that shot was fired,” Will’s tone shifts to something almost tired sounding. A heaviness to it that’s something akin to resignation. “I saw the knife in your pocket when I came and sat beside you in the gallery, Hannibal. Even if I hadn’t seen it, you wouldn’t sharpen your pencils with anything other than a well sharpened blade or scalpel. Your pencils had been freshly sharpened just before I joined you.”

Hannibal feels a mix of pride and overwhelming fondness flood him. He had been certain back then that in the moments before Will was shot that he had no idea Hannibal was reaching for the knife in his coat pocket. It seems he should have known better, as is often the case where Will is involved. “After all that, when I liberated us from Mason Verge’s grasp and brought you safely home again, you said you wouldn’t miss me. That you didn’t have my appetite for violence. You said you merely tolerated it. Did you honestly believe that at the time or were you simply hoping that saying it would make it so?”

“At the time I thought it would become true if I could distance myself from you. Get out of the mindset of a killer that you facilitated in me. Your influence over me felt like a fog back then. A great haze that came over me but would dissipate if I could get back into the light,” Will admits as he finally opens his eyes and turns to meet Hannibal’s gaze again. They’ve both turned away from the table, facing one another fully now.

“And when you turned your back on me and went into the light, did you find yourself a changed man?” He saw the look in Will’s eyes when he first spoke to him back in the hospital. When he pushed all his buttons about his wife and step-son. And most important he saw the look in his eyes when it came to discussing poor Dr. Chilton and then later when they killed their Dragon together. He knows the answer, but hearing Will say it aloud is something he thinks they both might need. 

“No,” Will utters almost too softly to be heard, with a shake of his head. He closes his eyes again, this time by choice. Head tipping forward just a little as he swallows audibly and finds the words to continue. “Despite leaving that life, that mindset, behind me. I could never truly be free of it. Even when I wasn’t thinking about you, the shadow of your influence lingered. It didn’t matter what I was doing or who I was with, I still felt the darkness inside of me on some level. Like a caged animal biding its time in the dark until inevitability and circumstance set it free.” He knows Hannibal understands this. The feeling of having to suppress a part of yourself. A part of him thinks he could have gone on doing it for years, if Jack hadn’t asked for his help and Molly hadn’t encouraged him to go. But that’s something he can never know for sure now.  

“If I hadn’t waited with the intent to surprise you with Abigail, told you she was alive the night you arrived at my door with Randal Teir’s corpse at your feet, would you still have gone running to Jack? Made your plans to take away my freedom and cast aside my friendship?” Hannibal asks softly after a long moment’s silence passes between them, words carefully chosen. 

He had contemplated telling Will several times in the weeks they had spent together after Will’s release from custody. But he was worried it would negatively impact his greater goal at the time. He cared too much for Abigail to risk exposing her secret before the time was right. But now, he wonders if he might have made the wrong choice in his decision to wait. He’s not one for regrets, but he thinks this is something he always will…

Will keeps his eyes closed. Clears his mind and pictures a world where he arrives on Hannibal’s doorstep after killing Randal Tier only to have Hannibal confide in him that Abigail is alive and safely waiting for them both someplace far away. He was still so scared of who he was back then… But he thinks, no, he knows that learning Abigail was still alive would have been a tipping point. He doesn’t doubt that his resolve would have crumbled and his desire to fight his darkness would have vanished if accepting it meant that they could be together. The way Hannibal had hoped they would all be before he discovered that Will was playing both sides and betrayed his trust.

There’s the gentle brush of fingertips on his cheek, soft and unexpected, and he flinches despite himself thanks to his heightened state of emotions. He doesn’t realize he’s crying until Hannibal’s thumb brushes away a stray tear as it escapes the corner of his eye. Hannibal makes Will tip his head to look at him then. Blue eyes opening to shine with the regret and longing for a life that never was. 

“I never understood how you could betray my trust back then. You hid your true feeling so completely while still sharing so much of yourself,” Hannibal says softly as he moves in closer, invading Will’s personal space as his hand settles fully against his cheek. 

“After everything you did to me, took from me… Is it really so hard to understand the reasoning behind my actions?” Despite looking like physical contact is the last thing he wants, Will doesn’t pull away from Hannibal’s touch. It grounds him in the moment. Keeps his mind from spiraling back to all the times they’ve hurt one another in the past. All the pain and blood and betrayal. The loss of Abigail and of the promise of a child he never got the chance to know. Now the loss of Molly and Walter. The lies and deceit on both sides that brought it all upon them.

“I suppose not…” Hannibal concedes after a moment’s consideration. His left hand comes up to rest on Will’s hip then. Thumb moving slowly to brush over the edge of the scar he knows runs across the expanse of Will’s abdomen. He can easily feel the raised line of scar tissue under the thin material of his shirt. A permanent reminder of everything he took from Will. And from himself in his moment of anger and spite.

“Just…” Will begins, drawing Hannibal’s gaze back up to meet his own. He bites his lower lip briefly and sucks in a breath through his nose to try and settle his nerves even the slightest before asking “Promise me there won’t be any more lies. No more tricks, no more games. I promise I won’t lie to you again, but I need you to promise me the same, Hannibal…”

Hannibal’s eyes move over the features of Will’s face, once again searching for any indication that he doesn’t honestly mean his words. When he finds none he nods. “I give you my word. I will not lie to you again.” He moves to step back then, but Will reaches up and grabs the wrist of the hand that had been touching his cheek, not letting him get more than a few inches away.

“Thank you…” Will looks a bit lost, holding Hannibal so that he can’t back away but appearing not to know what he wants to do now that he has the other man captive.

Slowly, Hannibal steps into his personal space again, his hands returning to where they had been before on Will’s uninjured cheek and right hip. Once there he moves in just a hair closer, noting the way it makes Will’s pupils dilate and breath hitch. 

He doesn’t say anything, just tilts his head ever so slightly forward so that their foreheads touch and their noses bump gently. It’s something that’s happened often when they’re lying in bed together at night and in the early hours of the morning when neither wants to wake quite yet. Holding on as if neither has ever done any of the terrible things that they have to one another. 

Like they’re simply two people that love each other and don’t want to let go. It’s something Hannibal almost expects at this point, when they inevitably crawl into bed together at night. However, this is different. The first time one of them has dared initiated such contact out of that safe space. It’s a show of trust, on both of their parts.

Will’s eyes go impossibly wide a moment, uncertainty clear in his soft blue gaze. But he doesn’t try to shy away or speak out against the intimate gesture. Instead, he lets his free hand come up to gently touch Hannibal’s cheek in a similar manner to how Hannibal touches his own, the pad of his thumb brushing lightly over Hannibal’s cheekbone in the process. Something seems to shift between them in that moment, and his whole body relaxes as he closes his eyes and simply breathes in the air shared between them.

Hannibal lets his eyes slip closed as well, as a feeling of calm contentment settles over him. It’s unexpected. Nice. A sensation he accepts greedily. The warmth of such an intimate yet innocent touch as they share a moment of understanding. Forgiveness. Trust.

They stay like that for a long moment, neither wanting to let go just yet. But eventually, they must part and they simply spare each other a lingering glance before retreating to opposite sides of the cabin to change into some of the clean clothes Chiyoh has provided. Once that’s done Hannibal settles on the couch with his notebook to sketch, and Will takes a seat at the table with everything he needs to start working on a new lure. 

They don’t talk much throughout the day and on into the evening. Will needs time to sort things in his own head and Hannibal knows him well enough to give that time and quiet to him.

Given the nature of the day, he expects to be left alone on his side of the queen sized mattress when he climbs into bed after Will that night. But once he’s settled in he finds WIll turning over and wrapping an arm around him beneath the covers. Hand resting over Hannibal's own where it had settled over his bullet wound. Curious, Hannibal splays his fingers just enough to lace Will’s between his own. Will doesn’t stop him or pull away, and that’s when it occurs to Hannibal that he’s taken off his wedding ring.

It had been almost a subconscious tick for Will to fiddle with it over the past week. Twist it around his finger absently while lost in thought. It’s absence now, after what they spoke of that day, makes Hannibal hold onto Will’s hand just a little tighter for the briefest of moments. Any lingering concerns about Will’s feelings for him melting away with the last wisps of consciousness before he lets himself slip into the peace of oblivion.

Chapter Text

Eight Days Post Fall

“Did you get the video?”

“Yes, Jack, I got the video,” Alana confirms with a sigh over the phone. She watched it three times before calling.

“And?” Jack asks expectantly.

“You want my professional opinion?” she asks, a hint of annoyance creeping into her voice. She only reached out to Jack via email earlier in the day to see if he had any information not shared in the news regarding Will and Hannibal being declared dead. She figured he would email her back with something other than a video of Will and Hannibal killing Francis Dolarhyde then falling off a cliff.

“That’s exactly what I want. I want to know what you think happened. You know Will better than I do. Do you think it’s possible he pushed them over the edge, or do you think that they fell? And do you think it’s possible they’re still alive.” It’s all he’s been able to think about for the last week. Did Will push them, or did he fall with Hannibal in some sort of staged plan to escape? Whatever the answer he won’t be satisfied until he has some kind of solid evidence. Which he, unfortunately, found none of while searching the area around the bluffs.

Half of the homeowners in the area refused to allow their vacation homes to be searched. Some stated that they had already been down to check the homes themselves and found nothing out of place. Others just ignored them or said they could search them if Jack got a warrant. With no evidence leading anyone to believe Will and Hannibal made it out of the ocean, no judge would issue one.

“I think that given the frame of mind Will had been in while helping you track down Francis Dolarhyde, he probably came to some kind of truce with Hannibal despite his feelings towards him to take the psychopath down. As for how things went with Hannibal in the end, Will knows how ruthless Hannibal can be, he probably saw no other way of dealing with him and pushed him over the edge the only way he could. The way they turned before falling would seem to support that.” Alana manages to sound professional as she gives Jack her assessment of things. Honestly, she has some very small doubts. But she isn’t going to voice them. Jack is wound tight enough as it is, she doesn’t want to agitate him when it’s likely pointless.

“I was afraid you were going to say that,” Jack confesses with a sigh. He remembers the three of them deciding they needed to kill Hannibal after Hannibal helps him kill Dollarhyde, but he never meant for it to go down like this. “Molly Graham is speaking at my suspension hearing next week. She wouldn’t return any of my calls after we initially spoke the day Will disappeared. I don’t think I’ll have my job for much longer…”

“Well, you did want to retire soon,” Alana notes, trying to lighten the mood of the call even just a little. She hasn’t met Molly, but knowing the kind of people Will is attracted to, she can imagine what she must be like.

“I had been hoping it would be at least a few more years away. When I was completely grey and too tired to hold a gun,” Jack says woefully. “Is everything alright with you? How are Margot and Morgan holding up?”

“We’re all just fine, Jack. Margot is busy teaching Morgan how to swim right now. I tried to tell her he’s a little young for that, but they’re having a good time so I won’t spoil their fun,” Alana tells him with a small smile to herself. She can see her wife and son out swimming through the window of her office. The estate they’re staying on is big. Not as big as the one in Virginia. But it’s substantial. And it has a pool. Which works in their favor since it’s summer in the southern hemisphere. 

“Must be nice. It’s still cold here,” Jack tells her with a chuckle. It’s warmed up a little since the storm that made the search for Will and Hannibal difficult, but it’s still only in the forties out most days.

“It is… Listen, Jack, I don’t honestly know if Will and Hannibal could have survived that fall or not. But I think if they had we would have had some sort of sign by now. Will would reach out to Molly or you if he could. Hannibal can bide his time when he wants something, but if he’s got Will with him I’m not so sure he would hold back for long.”

“It’s a waiting game. One that might never end…” Jack says as he turns in his chair to look out his office window. It’s a nice enough day out. Warming up enough to allow more snow to melt. 

“I need to go. I promised Margot I wouldn’t be too long. Email if you need to get in contact with me again. You’ll forgive me for not giving you another way to contact me, but we can’t be too careful,” Alana says, feeling just a little bad. She knows she can trust Jack. But wants to protect her family, and that means not trusting anyone despite what her gut tells her.

“I will. Thank you, Alana. Take care.”

“Take care, Jack.”

~~~~~

Twelve Days Post Fall

“You’re certain you’re ready to move forward with things?” Will asks as he removes the last stitch from the healed gunshot wound in Hannibal’s back. Hannibal removed the ones in the front on his own, but he needed Will’s help with the ones in his back just as he had in getting the wound stitches properly closed a day after receiving it. 

“Absolutely,” Hannibal answers with a glance over his shoulder at Will. He’s seated in one of the wooden chairs at the table, Will kneeling behind him. He would have liked to take the stitches out a little sooner, but Will had taken one look at them after nine days and said he needed more time to heal. He finds that hard to believe, but he went with Will’s judgment in this case. He suspects it was something more along the lines of Will not feeling ready to remove them for him as he still felt off-kilter from dealing with his own.

“Then we should go for Bedelia first. She more than likely went off on her own again rather than going into FBI protective custody. And even if she had that would have ended shortly after we were declared dead,” Will notes as he moves to help Hannibal put his shirt back on. Not that he needs the help, he just doesn’t know what to do with himself anymore. He feels cooped up. And he misses his dogs.

“Tracking her down won’t be difficult. She let slip one night that she used to summer in Connecticut. I believe her family still owns a home there that we can locate easily enough.” She had made the comment at a party they attended when first arriving in Italy. She didn’t think he was within earshot at the time, or she never would have said it. Everything she told the people they met was either a half-truth or some other variation thereof. He could always tell when she was lying. And she knew it. So, she didn’t bother lying beyond the deception of their true identities. “Tell me, do you intend to help me deal with her, or do you simply wish to watch?”

Will steps around the chair Hannibal sits in to stand in front of him, watching as he carefully buttons his shirt while he thinks on his answer. A small part of him almost likes Bedelia. But knowing she got away with the lengths she went to lie and cover her own skin after willingly leaving the country with Hannibal bothers him on some level. She was honest with Will in private. He can appreciate that. But she’s used her experience with Hannibal to make a name for herself and gain a level of professional esteem that she never would have achieved otherwise. It’s almost as irritating as what Chilton did with his damn book.

“What exactly is it that you plan on doing with her?” Will asks leu of answering right away. He knows Hannibal intends to eat her. The question is, does he plan to kill her and then eat her, or keep her alive like he did with Miriam Lass so he can toy with her first?

“I was thinking I might like to give her a similar treatment to that of the one I gave Dr. Gideon,” Hannibal explains as he finishes buttoning his shirt and moves to stand so that he and Will are eye to eye.

“The forensic report said his limbs had been amputated,” Will recalls with a tilt of his head. He didn’t ever get a look at the body in person, just read the paperwork and look at photos later on. “Taken one by one over the course of roughly two weeks. His stomach had his own partially digested remains inside.”

The smile on Hannibal’s face is one of his rare genuine ones. “He made for a most fascinating dinner guest. It was almost a shame to kill him. He ate everything I prepared and served him. Even when he was down to a single arm and had very little appetite left,” Hannibal recalls. The man was absolutely insufferable on some levels, but he took his fate in stride and could keep up a conversation. He can respect that at least.

“I don’t know if I’m more impressed or disturbed by that,” Will says with a shake of his head. He’s joking, just a little.

“I seriously doubt that you find anything I’m capable of to be truly disturbing at this point,” Hannibal speculates. “If the idea of my keeping Bedelia alive bothers you, you don’t have to participate. I’m more than capable of taking care of her on my own.”

Will considers the offer. Thinks about what it would be like to sit at the table with her and Hannibal as he serves up some piece of her like a fine holiday meal. See the look of defeat in her eyes as she accepts her plate. A small, fading part of him still screams somewhere deep down that it’s wrong. But he doesn’t honestly feel bothered by the idea. Especially given the fact that he knows he’s eaten people before… Unwittingly as it was at the time. “It doesn’t bother me,”  he finally admits as he turns away to look out the window.

“You’re certain?” Hannibal questions carefully. They’ve not really talked about this yet. Killing Jack together was a given. But Bedelia is Hannibal’s own personal vendetta. He knows Will accepts that Hannibal intends to eat them both. But he hasn’t said if he intends to join him or not. Which Hannibal won’t push. He won’t force him to do something he isn’t interested to in this case.

“I don’t feel any desire to eat her, but I would like to see the look on Bedelia’s face when you serve up a piece of her up for dinner,” Will admits as he glances back to Hannibal. He doesn’t miss the way his words affect the other man. Something in his eyes becoming almost primal. It sends a shiver down his spine as it reminds him of the look in Hannibal’s eyes when he ripped out Francis Dolarhyde’s throat with his teeth. “Do you intend to do the same to Jack when we go after him?”

“The thought had crossed my mind, but I leave that decision up to you. After all, you are the one who was most wronged by him. He treated you like an animal, Will. And an ill cared for one, at that. I think it’s only fair you should be the one to decide what’s to be done with him in the end,” Hannibal says as he turns to grab his notebook from where he left it beside the bed. He doesn’t doubt that whatever Will decides upon will be in some way satisfying for him also. He remembers quite well how vivid the other incredibly man’s imagination is. “You should take your time deciding. Nothing has to be settled upon until after we’ve finished with Bedelia.”

“I already know what I want to do with Jack,” Will says plainly as he watches Hannibal walk over to take his usual seat on the far end of the couch. He always lets Will take the side closest to the window so that he can sit and look outside if he likes. It also means he’s facing Hannibal if he does so. And he’s not blind to the fact that he’s been the subject of more than one of Hannibal’s sketches in that situations.

“Oh?” Hannibal doesn’t look up, just turns the pages of the notebook until he finds the latest sketch he’d been working on.

“I was thinking about how he and I first met,” Will begins as he takes his seat opposite Hannibal on the couch, body turned towards him with one leg pulled up onto the space between them at an angle. His posture is wide open. One arm resting on the back of the couch while the other rests so his hand is in his lap.

That gets a curious look from Hannibal, who pauses in the shading he’d begun to work on. “The museum opening?”

Nodding, Will scratches at his jaw and looks out the window once again. There are still patches of snow on the ground. Early March weather changing the landscape to a muddy semi-frozen mess. “I have some ideas on how we might contribute our own exhibit to it.” 

The smile that creeps on to Will’s face is enough to give Hannibal an idea of what the other man is thinking, and it sends a thrill through him at the thought of Will having thought this through already in detail. “He did seem quite invested the one time we spoke of the museum.”

Will huffs a laugh, because that is a serious understatement. “Jack was intimately involved in creating and establishing that museum. He helped track down half of the items on display personally. He was like a proud parent come to watch their child graduate when it finally opened.” He remembers their argument over the name that night well. And he remembers thinking Jack was a fool that would probably end up part of a display in his own creation someday. It only seems fitting that he and Hannibal be the ones to put him there. “He was almost as invested in the forming of that museum as he was in finding the Chesapeake Ripper,” he notes. “How do you feel about making him into an exhibit in his own museum? I was thinking something along the lines of the Chesapeake Ripper’s greatest hits?”

“A mosaic forged from the elements of my previous kills?” Hannibal finds himself imagining Jack strung up like a mannequin, body cut open, various pieces missing or artistically arranged along with him. Posed in a way that lets everyone who lays their eyes upon him see the scope of their work at a glimpse. It gives him an idea of what to do with the rest of Bedelia when he’s finished with her as well. “Beautiful.”

“I thought you might like that idea,” Will says almost fondly with a shake of his head before looking outside once again. The sunlight makes his eyes sparkle with an almost ethereal glow. 

It makes Hannibal want to flip the page and draw him yet again… “What about your own contribution? This would be your work of art as well as my own,” Hannibal reminds him. He honestly loves Will’s idea, but he wants him to contribute his own elements to this creation.

“I have my own twist to put on things,” Will says vaguely as he turns his head and glances towards the tacklebox where it rests by the table. “Don’t worry, Hannibal, I intend to leave my mark alongside yours when the time comes.”

“I look forward to it,” Hannibal confesses with a small smile. He’s watched Will for almost two weeks now. Making his fishing lures and daydreaming. He wishes he could see the things that come to that fascinating mind when it drifts. He knows Will likes to go to his stream when he has nothing else to do, but he also lets himself wander to darker places from time to time now that he only dared go when Hannibal asked. Because of that, it’s easy to spot when he does. His eyes take on a more feral sharpness that isn’t there other than when he’s ready to kill. It never fails to bring a similar desire out in Hannibal when he sees it.

“When do you want to leave?” Will asks with a tilt of his head after a moment silence passes between them. His gaze has drifted to the sketch in Hannibal’s hands. It’s of his old office. The furniture and fireplace are what give it away at a glance. Will still sees the room in his mind regularly enough to recognize the half-drawn shapes.

“I’ll give Chiyoh a call tomorrow and ask her to bring us to my house in New York. She can get us a temporary vehicle and more supplies while we get the house ready for guests.” He hasn’t been there in over four years. Having last gone some time before ever meeting Will. He’ll need to get new medical supplies and restock the pantry before they make their move to retrieve Bedelia.

“How far away is this place, anyway?”

Humming, Hannibal thinks a moment. “About four hours or so. It’s in the lower mountains, close to a town called Rhinebeck.”

“Great,” Will mutters with a slight look of discomfort flashing across his face. He doesn’t know how to feel about being in a car with Chiyoh for that long. He’s still a little bitter about their last interaction on the train. Her visit to bring them supplies was awkward enough for him as it was. He can only imagine what a road trip with her would be like. Especially with Hannibal and his ability to read people most of the time.

“You worry too much, Will. Chiyoh holds no feelings of ill will towards you. She is aware of how important you are to me. That makes you important to her as well. You’re family, and she would never do anything to hurt family,” Hannibal does his best to assure. He had spoken with her in private outside before she left the other day. She could tell from one look at the two of them together that something had shifted in their dynamic. He didn’t need to explain and she didn’t ask. Only promised to help the two of them finish what they needed here so they could find a quiet life together when all is said and done.

Will shifts almost uncomfortably in his seat, hand going to that torn bit of leather on the couch back to fidget with. “Did she tell you that or are you just making assumptions based on interactions?”

“She gave me her word,” Hannibal says in way of clarification. “She promised me to assist us in getting our affairs in order so that we may leave together after things have been taken care of.”

Will raises his eyes from Hannibal’s drawing and once again meets Hannibal’s gaze, uncertain blue meeting confident whiskey-brown. He relaxes after a beat and nods. “Alright,” is all he says before averting his gaze again and letting his thoughts drift. It’s good to know she’s willing to help them in some way. That she made that promise to Hannibal. 

His thoughts find their way to images of them confronting Jack. Going through various scenarios of how they might surprise him to get the upper hand in a fight against the well-trained agent. What things they might do with his body after to leave their farewell masterpiece. 

The only thing that draws his mind away is the realization that Hannibal is watching him from mere feet away with a smile on his face. It makes him look younger. And draws Will’s gaze to his lips more than once. He tries to hold back the thoughts that come with looking at them. He’s not quite ready for them. At least not yet.

Chapter Text

Will doesn’t know what to feel when he climbs into the backseat of the SUV Chiyoh brought to spirit them away. He’s grateful to be leaving for someplace less damp and confined. But a part of him feels like he’s leaving some part of himself behind as he watches the cabin shrink in the distance through the rear-view mirror.

It doesn’t help that he’s feeling mixed emotions from Chiyoh that he has to separate from his own. He can tell she’s happy to see Hannibal again. But there’s something else churning beneath the surface. An unease that he suspects has to do with old worries he might ask her to go back to a life of solitude somewhere for his own amusement. Given the life Hannibal has had for the past three years, he doesn’t see the man being so cruel as to ask her to seclude herself again.

And then there’s Hannibal, who masks so much of what he’s feeling. What he does give off is usually faint and easy to navigate. It’s nice, not having to sort out if he’s feeling his own emotions or someone else’s when it comes to being with Hannibal. Yes, Hannibal has a presence that draws out Will’s darker nature. Which he initially mistook as belonging to Hannibal and Hannibal alone. He knows better now. It’s not that Will was mirroring Hannibal when he wanted to kill or hurt him or others, it was Hannibal drawing his own suppressed feelings to the surface.

“Are there going to be any stops along the way?” Chiyoh asks once they’re on the highway. She’s behind the wheel, Hannibal riding in the front passenger seat beside her and Will in the seat behind him. It’s the first time she’s spoken in the ten minutes she’s been with them, aside from greeting them both upon her arrival. She believes Hannibal would have informed her in advance if they were picking up any… guests… But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

“Not today, no,” Hannibal says simply as he watches the trees pass by. “I believe Will and I both would benefit from a few more days to recover before we should attempt anything strenuous. And I would like to take some time to get the house ready for guests first.”

“Will you be needing my assistance then? Or am I free to go once you and Will are settled?” she asks carefully. She’ll help if asked, but she doesn’t want to kill anyone if she doesn’t have to. And she doesn’t want to bear witness to the things he intends to do to his enemies. She accepts Hannibal, loves him in her own way, but she won’t be a part of the things he does to those he deems to be less.

“Depending on how things go after we’ve dealt with Bedelia, having back up when we go after Jack might be a good idea,” Will suggests, earning a questioning glance back from the woman. “Hannibal filled me in on your aptitude with a sniper rifle. Thank you, by the way, for not aiming anywhere vital when you shot me back in Palermo.”

“Thank you for not giving me a reason to,” she counters with the faintest hint of a smile. Will can see it when he looks in the rear-view mirror. “I promised Hannibal once before that I would watch over him. If he needs me to, I will be there to keep watch while the two of you do what needs to be done to Agent Crawford.”

“Thank you, Chiyoh.” The warmth in Hannibal’s voice is as evident and clear as the smile on his face.

Will catches sight of it when he looks to the mirror on their side of the vehicle. It’s nice seeing Hannibal so open with his feelings towards others. It’s a stark contrast to how he acts when those he doesn’t consider to be family are present.

“I was able to locate and purchase a ship similar to the one you described,” Chiyoh notes with another glance in the rear-view mirror to Will. “It has sails, as well as a diesel engine. It was well cared for by the previous owner and should meet your needs. I was told it would be ready to sail by next week. I paid an additional sum to have them upgrade the navigational equipment and install a new engine.”

“That’s great.” Will can’t help being a little surprised that she found a boat like the one he wanted so quickly, given how specific he was about what it needed to have. Hannibal insisted on Will giving her exact details for what he would feel most comfortable sailing since he would be the one captaining and maintaining the vessel. He really needs to stop underestimating her. “Did you ask them to order spare engine parts?”

“I did. They said you would be more than prepared should anything happen while at sea,” Chiyoh assures. She sat with the people at the marina for several hours working out every aspect of the transaction and the services they would provide to get the ship seaworthy in a timely manner.

“That’s wonderful news. I look forward to seeing the ship when the time comes. What is the name of the vessel?” Hannibal asks, tone of voice never wavering from the openly pleased tone it caries. He never doubts in Chiyoh and her abilities to carry out a task with exceptional results.

“The Black Stag.” She’s about to explain that she already placed an order for most of the other supplies they would need now that the ship is taken care of, but she’s cut off abruptly by the sound of sudden, near-hysterical sounding laughing from the back seat.

Hannibal actually turns in his seat and peers over the back to get a look at Will. He’s doubled over, arms wrapped around himself as if his sides hurt from the action, laughing so hard it sounds like he’s on the verge of hyperventilating. “I take it there is something you find amusing about that name?”

“It’s…” Will manages to say in a wheeze before another loud laugh escapes him beyond his control. “It’s just that… When I… When I had encephalitis… That was what I saw… that made me realize something was wrong with me… A massive black stag.” His laughter starts to calm down as he explains, and he gasps in great lungfuls of air as he tries to calm himself from the manic reaction to hearing the name of the ship Chiyoh found them. It’s impossible. He doesn’t believe in God in any form of the traditional sense, but that name has him wondering if this is some kind of a sign from above.

Hannibal thinks back, remembering Will talking about antlers after killing Garret Jacob Hobbs, and then later mumbling about a stag when he would use the phototherapy lights to help him get inside Will’s mind and nurture the seeds of change sprouting inside of him. “God has quite a sense of humor. Tell me, Will, when you saw this stag, what was it the creature would do?”

“Usually? It would follow me. Or just stand off to the side watching. I saw it at the hospital, work, home,” Will explains as his breathing starts to go back to normal at last. “The real irony is that it still appears in my daydreams and nightmares sometimes. But its shape changes depending on where I am and who I’m with. It becomes humanoid. Takes your face but remains a monstrous black being with antlers and the twisted body of a man.” Will scrubs his face with both hands, trying to calm himself down just a bit more. He still feels the urge to laugh despite himself. It’s just too crazy.

“Like a wendigo?” Chiyoh asks out of the blue, surprising both Will and Hannibal.

“Yes, exactly like a wendigo!” Will exclaims as he finally sits up straight in his seat once again and runs a hand through his hair, brushing his bangs back from his forehead in the process. He blinks in confusion a moment later when he notices Hannibal still staring at him from over the edge of his seat with a look that Will can’t read. It takes a second for him to realize what Hannibal is looking at. He now has a clear view of the scar on Will’s forehead. He’s been letting his hair fall over his forehead for the past two weeks, unintentionally keeping the mark covered.

Will runs his hand over his forehead, fingertips skimming over the raised line of tissues as he averts his eyes from the other man’s. He can still remember the feeling of the saw despite the haze of the drugs Hannibal had given him. The way it sent vibrations throughout his skull and down into the rest of his body as it ripped its way into him. The horrible sound of it beginning to cut bone that still echos through his skull in his nightmares. “That actually makes a lot of sense now that I think about it…”

Hannibal hums at that, understanding what Will means. It started appearing to him when he had to hunt down a cannibal. The fact that it stuck around after clearly shows how that case affected Will. And then for it to take on the appearance of Hannibal? He’s not sure how he feels about that exactly, knowing the legends of the wendigo and their association with madness as well as cannibalism. Hannibal is far from mad. And he imagines if one were ever to become such a creature, he surely would have long ago.

The conversation is dropped there. None of them feels the desire to continue on or change the subject.

Will is grateful for the quiet after everything he just shared. He never even told Molly about the stag. She knew about his nightmares. How they would creep into his mind even when daydreaming or spacing out and leave him shaken at times. But he could never bring himself to try and explain it to her and she didn’t push.

He feels oddly hollow now. Not in a bad way. It’s more like the feeling of relief one gets from finally being able to tell the whole truth about something. He always felt he couldn’t talk about the stag. Like it was a sign of how deeply messed up he really is. And he was certain that he would be sent back to the mental hospital if he told anyone about it. Put on medications and told he’s crazy.

But Chiyoh and Hannibal aren’t like the other people he’s known in his life. They don’t seem to think he’s crazy. And they don’t look at him like he’s lost his mind for admitting to seeing this imaginary creature. Hannibal knows and understands how Will’s mind works. Almost better than Will does at times. He gets that he has the imagination of an overactive child but the dark impulses of a man.

It shouldn’t surprise Will that the other man would be accepting of this quirk as well as all of his others.

But it does surprise him. Leaves him feeling strange. In the end, he decides not to think too hard on it or the feeling, and ends up turning his head to watch the scenery go by through the dark tinted windows of the SUV. He falls asleep less than an hour later.

~~~~~

The house is about what Will had expected for one owned by Hannibal. It had the exterior aesthetic of a log cabin, with the modern interior of a luxurious modern house. All dark woods and sleek designs opposed to the softer outside. There are two floors and a basement, obviously. As well as a garage and a fenced area out behind that looks like it might be for a garden of sorts.

Hannibal walks into the house ahead of Will. He immediately hung his coat in the small closet next to the entrance before taking a few steps to enter the living room. It’s a bit dark. Some light filtering in around the curtains that weren’t closed properly the last time someone had been there. He doesn’t seem to notice though, as he immediately goes to the closest armchair and pulls a dusty sheet off of it, which he begins to fold meticulously.

“What can I do to help?” Will asks, standing in the doorway still. He’s looking around slowly. Taking in the few pieces of art he sees on the walls and the comfortable-looking furniture that Hannibal is beginning to uncover in the living room area.

Hannibal pauses in his folding to look across the room at Will. He seems to consider the question a moment before glancing towards the windows behind him. “Opening the windows would be a great help. It’s been quite some time since this place got a bit of fresh air.”

“Sure, I can do that,” Will agrees as he shrugs off his coat and hangs it in the closet beside Hannibal’s. The air does smell fairly stale. Musty almost. Full of dust. It makes his nose itch with the urge to sneeze that isn’t quite strong enough to actually come forth on it’s own.

Pulling the curtains open floods the room with light, making the dust motes floating in the air strikingly obvious. The fresh gust of cool air that comes in when Will opens the window only adds to the effect, making them swirl and dance in the open space.

Once all the windows in the living room are open, Will looks around and notices the doorway that leads to what he assumes is the dining area or kitchen. With a glance to Hannibal, who is still uncovering furniture, he heads that way to open more windows.

The kitchen is so strikingly similar to the one in Hannibal’s old house that Will actually freezes in the doorway upon seeing it. The only real differences that Will can see are that the fridge is on the opposite wall, and the counters are a different color of marble. It’s like stepping into an alternate reality for a moment. And he has flashes of himself and Hannibal there. Chatting over coffee. Watching him cook the two of them dinner… And then it shifts and twists back to the kitchen in Baltimore, to blood and Abigail and ungodly pain. And then finally to a bloody Hannibal walking away from the two of them...

Hannibal sees the way Will’s body locks up momentarily upon seeing the kitchen before he clearly forces himself to walk into the room in an unusually stiff manner. It makes a pang of something that feels dangerously like guilt hit him. He can imagine the things that have to be going through Will’s mind in that moment, and they’re far from pleasant he’s sure. He can only imagine what kinds of things might trigger Will to relive the more horrible moments of his past. Moments that Hannibal caused...

It takes about an hour to get things in order. They get all of the furniture uncovered, windows open, electricity and water turned back on. Chiyoh shows up with groceries just after they finish getting things in working order, and she helps them clean things up a bit before bidding them goodbye for now and heading off to wherever it is that she intends to stay, since she declined to stay with the two of them. She lets Hannibal know there is an SUV in the garage now that they should be travel in without issues. He thanks her, and with that, she’s gone.

They don’t talk much that evening, Will and Hannibal. It’s been a long day and they’re both tired. It isn’t until late that evening when Hannibal comments on going to sleep that it strikes them both that the house has multiple bedrooms. They don’t -have- to sleep together. But one look shared between them makes it clear that isn’t what either man wants.

So, Will sets aside the now empty glass of whiskey he had been sipping as they sat by the fire, and walks over to where Hannibal stands beside the stairs that lead up to the second floor. He reaches out slowly, as if afraid of being rebuked for the action, and gently takes Hannibal’s hand in his own, lacing their fingers together.

His eyes are downcast, looking at their hands and pointedly not at Hannibal’s face. A mix of anxiety, embarrassment, and whiskey coloring and warming his cheeks. He feels ridiculous. Like a schoolboy with a crush. But he just doesn’t know how the hell to feel about the other man in that moment or what to make of Hannibal’s feelings towards him. He just knows he doesn’t want to be away from him if he doesn’t have to be...

Hannibal turns towards Will, making the other man’s breath hitch audibly as he draws closer. He raises the hand not currently being held, and uses a finger under Will’s chin to make him look up, worried blue meeting warm brown. “Stay with me, Will?”

Will seems to relax at the question, shoulders sagging just a little as he looks Hannibal in the eye and nods. Hannibal’s finger stays under his chin. Keeping his head tilted and eyes locked with the older man’s. He can see the longing in them. Feel it. It mixes with his own... And before he can overthink it, he leans in, tilts his head ever so slightly, and brings their lips together.

It’s soft. Brief. And Hannibal returns it readily. His every nerve singing with the pleasant shock of it. When they part Will has a questioning look in his eyes. Wanting to know if he read the moment wrong. If he’s just made a huge mistake. All Hannibal can bring himself to do in answer is gently slip his hand around to the back of Will’s neck and pull him into another soft kiss.

They stand there a long moment, Will hedging closer into Hannibal’s space as they give in to the desire that’s been building between them for some time. They finally part when Hannibal needs a breath, and he opens his eyes to find a small smile on Will’s lips. “Let’s go to bed?”

The question is innocent. No implication of wanting any more than what Will just shared with him. It’s late, and they’re both still healing. In more ways than one. He has no intention of rushing this. And Will seems to feel the same.

“Lead the way,” Will utters before stealing one last, quick kiss. Because he can. Because it feels like he is allowed to do that. And because it lets him know that what just happened was real and not some imagined moment in his overactive mind.

Hannibal does lead the way. And they take their time changing into nightclothes before slipping under the covers of the king-sized bed of the master bedroom. Even with the much larger sleeping space, the moment they are in it together Will gravitates towards him. Seeks him out and moves in close enough to feel Hannibal’s warmth and solid presence.

They fall asleep curled together much like they would back in the cabin. Only now, Will leans in and gives Hannibal one last kiss goodnight before they both drift off.