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His Second Shadow

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For as long as Hannibal can remember, he has had a second shadow – the gardener's son, a gangly little thing always at least a foot shorter than Hannibal, with wild brown hair and big eyes that always seemed a little too sharp for his own good. Hannibal would have never gone so far as to consider them friends, but he appreciated having a little prowler around, if nothing else than because it served as an early warning system for when his parents were around and would catch him wandering parts of the estate which he shouldn't be in.

When the monsters came, he was taken along with Hannibal and Mischa. They were given rags and just enough food to survive. When Mischa disappeared, they both ate of the soup so eagerly. Hannibal didn't throw up when he figured out what the meat was.

Will did.

Hannibal doesn't blame Will for that. Nor does he blame Will for being afraid when Hannibal had woken him in the middle of the night, taken his hand, and driven a knife through the throat of every soldier they came across.

Will, after all, is the gardener's son. He would have never been exposed to things like war stories, battle, hunting. That's not his fault. He is a son of the Earth, taught only to nurture things and let them grow. But he remained, when all was said and done, as Hannibal's faithful second shadow, and so when they were found and taken to the orphanage in Russia, Hannibal held him close to his side and ensured they were placed together until someone from Hannibal's family could be contacted.

Will doesn't speak Russian, and Hannibal can make out the gist of most things, but he finds it difficult to muster the energy to attempt communication. All the boys in the orphanage are rugged and aggressive, and would rather hit than help. So, he keeps to himself. And he keeps Will by his side, protecting Will when the other boys turn their mean, angry eyes and fists on him.

In return, Will doesn't leave Hannibal, for anything. They even take turns in the communal bathrooms, guarding the other during bathroom or shower time. Will waits until lights out and then crawls from his bed into Hannibal's and they sleep with their eyes over each other's shoulders, ready to defend until they both fall asleep.

There is another reason Will sleeps so close to Hannibal.

Hannibal has nightmares.

Not about the men he killed, though sometimes they feature. There is no guilt, but there is horror. He dreams of Mischa's teeth and fingernails clawing at him from the inside, taking his flesh and sealing it to her own bones, as she screams at him for not protecting her like he now protects Will. He imagines the bodies of the dead men rising like weeds and groaning, tearing at the Earth on their way to exact revenge on Hannibal and Will.

He dislikes those dreams more than the others. The ones where it didn't matter what he did, he lost both his sister and his friend, and was powerless to stop them dying before his very eyes.

Will seems to know which monsters plague Hannibal which nights. When it is Mischa who haunts him, Will wraps himself up tightly in Hannibal's arms and puts a hand on his stomach as though physically keeping her locked inside. Their bellies are so empty at the orphanage anyway, he tells Hannibal he would feel if she was moving.

When it is the men that he dreams of, Will sits upright in his bed and has Hannibal's head in both hands, petting his sweaty hair and over his forehead and down his neck as though he can personally force Hannibal's heart to slow and go steady. It usually works.

"Hush," Will whispers, bent almost double so he can cradle Hannibal's face and shoulders and breathe the words into his ear. "We're safe. Hush. They'll hear."

It's what Hannibal's mother told him, the second before soldiers pulled her from where she had been sheltering Hannibal and Mischa. He doesn't like remembering the sounds she'd made when they took her. They seemed to take forever to actually kill her, by the time her screams went silent.

Hannibal shoves himself upright, almost knocking Will's head with his own, and then again before he remembers the bunk above them with the sagging middle from the boy who's almost eighteen and weighs down the flimsy mattress and rusting bars. Will is the one who catches Hannibal by the shoulder, who stops him hitting his head.

"Hannibal," he whispers, quiet as a mouse, and so earnest. Hannibal shoves his hands away and glares at him. There is but a single source of light during the night times, and that comes in from the two high windows in the room, that are barred like a jail cell, and let in the moonlight during certain hours. Will's eyes shine in that light, near silver for how full the moon is outside.

Will takes Hannibal's hand and squeezes. "I'm sorry you had a bad dream," he says, like it's his fault. Maybe Will blames himself for living where Mischa hadn't. He is, after all, almost as young, and just as gangly and soft. He's skinnier now, but he would have made quite a meal, before.

"Don't leave," Will says. "The -." Will hesitates on the word, not knowing it in Russian and therefore not able to say the right thing in Lithuanian. "The guard man will be angry."

Hannibal knows this. The man is big and brutish and solves everything with a belt. Hannibal nods, silent as he has been since they first arrived here. Will smiles, and nods back, squeezing his hand again as he scrambles to his feet.

"I'll come back if you have another nightmare," he promises, and hugs Hannibal tightly, nose in his neck, before returning to his own cot at Hannibal's side. Hannibal watches him go, a tiny slip of shadow just a little bit darker than the rest.

Hannibal lays back down, on his side, his eyes on Will's silhouette as Will tries to get comfortable. It's not easy on the beds here, and the air is cold, the blankets far too thin. But Will is no stranger to sleeping in uncomfortable places, and could likely find comfort in the roots of a tree with a rock for his pillow.

Will rolls to his side, and Hannibal can tell from the angle of the moon and the shine of his eyes that Will is watching him, too, attentive as a mother hen might fiercely guard her eggs. The space between their cots is small enough that, when Hannibal reaches out, Will can as well, and curl his index finger around Hannibal's pinky.

They fall asleep like that.

 

 

Will only had his father, who died during the massacre. When Hannibal's uncle comes to claim him, what feels like a lifetime later, Hannibal only recognizes him by virtue of the shared facial features with his father. He does not know the man personally, and cannot recall spending enough time with him to be friendly.

The prospect of leaving Will behind, therefore, is even more unthinkable than if he had been going to somewhere familiar.

Whether his uncle genuinely cares about taking one urchin or two, he is clearly in no mood to attempt glaring Hannibal down. Hannibal holds Will's hand tightly and will not go with him until he agrees to take Will as well, and the judgmental eyes of the nuns and the warning glare of the warden, who would rather have to care for as few children as possible, forces Hannibal’s uncle’s hand.

That night, when they are travelling in a coach and Hannibal's uncle is asleep, the driver continuing on dutifully, Will turns to Hannibal and holds his hand tightly. "Thank you," he whispers. Hannibal smiles, and wonders, internally, how Will might ever think he would be left behind.

From that moment, Hannibal vows to never make Will feel insecure, or unwanted. Ever. He will guard Will like Will so diligently guarded him, and nothing will ever break them apart.

He doesn't tell Will this, as Will's eyes are drooping and he's beginning to curl up in preparation to sleep. So Hannibal wraps an arm around his skinny shoulders and holds him steady, watching the landscape through the windows of the coach as they leave Russia and that terrible orphanage behind.

 

 

His uncle's home is one where the wealth is quietly understated on the outside, and then explodes in ostentatious display on the inside. Despite coming from a lavish family home, after the orphanage, all the gold leaf is incredibly jarring.

Will holds his hand so tightly he starts to lose circulation in his fingers, but doesn't make Will let go, as his uncle bids them adieu and leaves them in the hands of Hannibal's aunt, and her handmaiden, Chiyoh.

Chiyoh ends up being the one to show them around. She moves swiftly and has no patience or notion of waiting for Hannibal and Will to catch up with her. Hannibal likes her immediately. She's a girl of few words and many sharp looks, as she shows them the kitchens, the dining room, the bathing room, and the bedrooms.

"You're in that one," she says, pointing to the larger room on the left. "You're in that one." She gestures to Will, and points to the other.

Will frowns. He doesn't know French, and frankly Hannibal barely remembers any from his lessons, but it's not hard to figure out what she means.

Will looks up at him. "That's far away," he says.

Hannibal squeezes his hand, and shakes his head. He tugs Will, wordlessly, into the bigger bedroom. Chiyoh doesn't seem to care enough about what they do to protest. The room that's meant for Hannibal is large, the bed could easily have held six of them in the orphanage.

Will releases his hand and goes to the bed, his eyes wide. He presses a hand tentatively on the velvety comforter, and laughs. "It's…soft," he says, like he'd forgotten how the word sounded.

Hannibal nods.

Will steps back and turns around, admiring the ridiculous sparkling light fixture as Hannibal examines the closets, which are very large and very empty. There's a broad bench in front of the window, that gives a view of the gardens. Will climbs on it and kneels, face almost pressed flush to the glass.

Hannibal smiles, seeing the look of pure joy on Will's face as he gazes down at the gardens. He knows Will has missed having things to plant, prune, and tend to.

Hannibal approaches him and tugs on the hem of his shirt, jerking his head when Will looks at him. Will scrambles down and takes his hand, in better spirits than Hannibal has seen him in for what's felt like a decade.

Their bags have been brought up by servants, placed outside Hannibal's and Will's room, respectively. Without a word, they pick up their meagre belongings and carry them both into Hannibal's room. They each have maybe ten pieces of clothing between them, Will inheriting Hannibal's clothes when he outgrew them, and Hannibal knows a visit to the local clothier is likely in their futures.

Will sighs, scratching over the back of his neck. There was a bout of lice a few months ago, resulting in all the boys having their heads shaved. Hannibal has mourned the loss of Will's wild hair since it happened. It's grown to just past the point of being pure fuzz, faster than Hannibal's hair. Hannibal smiles, and tugs on one of the strands at the top of Will's head.

"Ow," Will says, sullenly, without heat. He swats at Hannibal's hand, making him grin more widely. Will looks up at him. "Are you going to be quiet here, too?" he asks.

Hannibal tilts his head.

"I don't know the language," Will says, taking Hannibal's hand again. "You're better at them than me. You could teach me."

Hannibal looks away.

Will sighs. "You don't have to," he says, butting his forehead against Hannibal's shoulder like a puppy, since that's as high as he can reach. "Just…think about it? Please?" Hannibal nods – that's easy enough to do. And worth it, to see Will smile. "Thank you."

Hannibal squeezes his fingers, and leads him back out of the room. He can smell something delicious from all the way up here, and is determined to find it for both him and Will, and for them to stuff themselves so full they can't move for hours after.

 

 

His aunt decides, either of her own volition or for lack of anything better to do with Hannibal, to throw him at the mercy of the chefs. And Will finds his place in the gardens, tending to the plants and herbs that grow in the multitudes around the estate.

Hannibal misses him terribly during the day, but occasionally he can see glimpses of Will as he scurries between the flowerbeds and the bushes, carrying pots to switch out plants or wheeling barrows of soil back and forth.

And when Will is done for the day and comes in, tired and hungry, Hannibal gets to test new recipes on him. Will is an enthusiastic and honest critic, and Hannibal learns that feeding Will and seeing him smile is a unique pleasure; a highlight to the end of every day.

Whether or not Hannibal's aunt and uncle know Will has yet to make use of his room, Hannibal doesn't know. But no one stops them from sharing Hannibal’s. Will bathes after Hannibal, as the younger one and the one of lower social class. He and Hannibal climb into the big bed together, which has more than enough room to sprawl to their heart's content. Sometimes they pull the sheets over their heads and Will tells Hannibal stories his father used to share; myths and legends about spirits and monsters in the woods. Sometimes they just lay in silence, staring at each other, until Will reaches out and laces his finger around Hannibal's pinky and they fall asleep together.

The bed is big and warm and comfortable and Hannibal can't remember ever sleeping so easily.

Which is why it comes as a surprise when Will starts having nightmares.

Hannibal is not used to being awoken by someone other than him making noises of distress. The scent of another person's sweat, and fear, is unfamiliar in such a setting. He opens his eyes and pushes the blanket back so he can see, and Will is on his side of the bed. They'd let go of each other at some point in the night and Will is curled up tighter than a pup, sweat staining his pillow and his shirt all the way through.

Hannibal frowns, moving closer to Will's trembling body. Will has his arms wrapped around his legs, shoulders hunched as though braced for a blow.

Hannibal touches him, gently squeezing his shoulder, and Will lets out a noise. It's high and sharp and so full of raw terror that Hannibal tenses with him. And he can't think of anything else to do but wrap himself around Will, as tight as he can. Will curls up even tighter, and Hannibal puts a hand to his clammy forehead and pets Will's hair like Will used to do to him.

Will stops making that awful noise, thank God, but he's still tense and shaking so much it's like he's freezing to death, even though his body is radiating heat and he's soaked with sweat. Hannibal wraps his arm around Will's stomach and he buries his face in Will's hair.

It takes a minute. Hannibal's throat is sore from disuse, and his tongue is clumsy, heavy with sleep.

"Will."

There's no discernible change. Hannibal fights his hand up, underneath Will's arm, so that he can rest it over Will's skinny chest. He can feel how heavy Will's heart is racing, and closes his eyes. He takes Will's hand and squeezes his fingers. Will's knuckles go white.

"Will," he says again, and clears his throat. Will sucks in a shaky breath, his shoulders loosening just a little. "Wake up."

Will makes another sound, this one less overtly terrified and more curious. He shifts his weight, and Hannibal loosens his arms, no longer needing to keep Will from shaking himself off the bed. He pulls back and sits upright, tugging Will against his side as Will used to do for him.

He hugs Will tightly, shushing him as Will squirms and tries to fight himself free. "Will, hush," he says, running his fingers through Will's hair, now long enough to properly pet. Almost as long as it used to be when they were back home. "I'm here."

Will goes very still, and then jerks with a gasp, eyes flying open as he finally fights his way to awareness. Hannibal holds onto him, gentle but firm, as Will whines and blinks rapidly, getting his bearings.

He sucks in a breath. "Hannibal?" he whispers.

Hannibal smiles, and pulls Will back to his side. Then, down, so they're lying down facing each other, away from the damp spot. Will shivers, his cheeks red and the hue of them visible even in the low light. Hannibal runs his fingers through Will's sweaty hair again.

"What were you dreaming about?" he rasps.

Will blinks at him, eyes widening, startled at hearing him speak. He swallows. "It's nothing," he replies.

Hannibal frowns. "Don't lie to me," he snaps.

Will tenses, like he wants to recoil. "I'm -." His exhale is shaky, his voice weak. "I'm not lying."

"Yes you are," Hannibal insists. "I can tell when you're lying."

Will is quiet, for a very long time, tense as a bowstring as he stares anywhere but at Hannibal's face. Hannibal slides closer and settles his arm over Will's waist, resting their foreheads together as Will squirms and makes another soft, nervous noise.

"What were you dreaming about, Will?" Hannibal asks again.

Will shivers, and says, "I saw someone in your uncle's study." His voice is almost too quiet to hear. "He looked like he was taking things. That weren't his. And he saw me and said if I said anything he'd hurt me."

Will sucks in another breath, and swallows. "I don't want to get in trouble. I shouldn't have been sneaking around."

Hannibal presses his lips together, and puts his free hand beneath the pillow, gripping it tightly so that he doesn't hurt Will. "Who was it?" he asks, voice low.

Will shakes his head, pulling back. "Hannibal -."

"Who was it, Will?" Hannibal says, harsher this time.

“One of the servants,” Will finally admits. “I see him carry up Lady Murasaki’s breakfast every morning.”

The porter. Of course. Hannibal nods, and rubs his hand up Will’s arm, soothing his tremors. He shakes like a little mouse. “I’m glad you told me, Will,” Hannibal murmurs, as soothingly as he can. “You’re a good person.”

“I don’t want to get in trouble,” Will replies. “I was sneaking around, and then he said he’d hurt me if I told.”

Yes, there is that. Any threat to Will is not one Hannibal takes lightly.

He cups the back of Will’s skull and pulls him in for a hug, lips against the top of Will’s damp, messy hair. “I’ll make sure he doesn’t hurt you,” Hannibal promises. “Do you trust me?”

Will nuzzles against his collarbone and throws an arm and a leg around him, sighing happily. “I missed your voice,” he whispers, and Hannibal feels his entire body ache with affection. “Are you going to go quiet again?”

“No,” Hannibal says. He can’t, not after Will has said that.

He can feel Will's cheeks bulge in a smile. "That makes me happy," he says.

How easy it is, how satisfying, to make Will happy. Hannibal could be utterly content with whatever tomorrow brings, if Will still clings to him like this, and remains by his side. If Hannibal can make him happy, then nothing else matters.

 

 

It's easy to locate the porter. He does, after all, bring Hannibal's aunt breakfast every morning just as Will said. Hannibal has finished his immediate duties with the chefs, and normally he would retire to his bedroom to sketch. This habit is well-known, and will provide a good alibi.

He still has the reputation of a mute, which the servants accept because they are paid to. Still, it's satisfying to see the surprise on the man's face when Hannibal actually speaks to him, and requests some fresh towels be brought up to the bathing room.

"Unfortunately, I lost track of myself, and caused a bit of a mess," Hannibal says, easily affecting a sheepish air. "I can clean it up myself, if you wouldn't mind fetching the towels."

"Of course, Master Lecter," the man replies with a bow of his head. If he takes issue with being ordered around by a boy Hannibal's age, he doesn't show it. Hannibal is, after all, the heir to his uncle's fortune when all is said and done, as the closest living relative.

As the man comes up to the bathroom with towels packed high, Hannibal is lying in wait for him, with one of the butcher knives stolen from the kitchen gripped tight in his hand. It's much easier to kill a man with a weapon this size, he finds out, than it was to murder the soldiers with his pitiful little knife.

A single swift cut, the man doesn't even see Hannibal coming. The pile of towels provides a nice catch for the first wave of blood, and Hannibal wraps a second around the man's neck, kneeling on his back. He pulls it tight, both to cut off air and slow the puddle of blood on the floor. It's almost polite, he thinks, far too polite for the sins the man has committed.

Not just stealing from his uncle. That, Hannibal could almost forgive. It is his inheritance, but between his parents' fortune waiting in a trust, and whatever he will inherit from his uncle, Hannibal is going to be set for life.

No, the true sin was threatening Will, and frightening him. That, Hannibal cannot forgive.

The man dies quickly, and Hannibal cuts him into pieces and pours him down the chute to the large pipes below the estate that will carry waste out to the river, and the ocean. He cleans everything with an efficient and detached air. His sensitive nose tells him when the smell of blood is no longer noticeable, and there is no mess on the floor, no stain, since it was done so freshly.

He is smiling, when he washes his hands and returns to his room, unseen, to change out of his bloody clothes.

But Will is in the room. He looks up when Hannibal enters, and his eyes go wide. He scrambles from the bed and rushes to Hannibal, his hands shaking. "Are you okay?" he gasps, frantically pawing at Hannibal's chest and shoulders, searching for a wound. "What happened? Oh my God, Hannibal -."

"Will, hush," Hannibal says, taking his hands. He brings Will's knuckles up to kiss, as Will stares at him with terrified eyes. "I'm not injured. This blood isn't mine."

Will's brow creases. "Whose, then?" he asks.

"The porter," Hannibal replies.

Will's eyes widen again. He takes a step back, hands freed and held close to his chest. There is a very subtle stain of pink upon them, from touching Hannibal's clothes. "You…. What did you do, Hannibal?" he whispers, softly.

"I did away with a threat," Hannibal says mildly. "To both my uncle, his estate, and to you." His voice turns quiet at the last part, seeing how Will is looking at him. He has known the scent of fear on Will – during the raid, and the slaughter, and occasionally at the orphanage. And last night, when Will was having a nightmare. He's not used to being the cause of it. It sits on his shoulders uncomfortably, like ill-fitting clothes. "I won't tolerate anyone hurting you, Will, or threatening to do so."

"You killed a man for me?" Will says weakly.

"I would kill one hundred men for your sake," Hannibal says, and steps forward again, closing the distance. Will doesn't flinch from him, but Hannibal can smell his fear, his…. There is something else. Some bright note amidst the sweetness of fever in his brain.

"Are you afraid of me?" Hannibal asks, tilting his head.

"I don't…. I don't know," Will replies, shaking his head once, gently. "I don't like the idea of you getting in trouble."

"I assure you, no one saw me. No one will know," Hannibal assures him. He cups Will's face with a gentle hand and Will stares up at him, lips parted. "Will, you are my best friend. The person I want by my side when there is nothing else in the world. I will do anything I can to protect you, and keep you safe."

Will swallows.

"You are very precious to me," Hannibal continues. "You were with me in the darkest moments of my life." He tilts his head again. "I've killed before," he reminds Will.

Will's eyes darken. He presses his lips together and wets them. "You have," he says, nodding. His head tilts, subtly, into the pressure of Hannibal's hand against his cheek. "You have," he says again. "And you saved me, from everything. Are you going to keep killing?"

"If there is a threat to us, then yes," Hannibal replies without hesitation. It's the easiest thing in the world to say.

Will swallows, and nods. "I need to go back to the gardens," he says quietly, moving past Hannibal. The moment Hannibal releases him, he feels cold, when robbed of Will's warmth. "I'll see you at dinner?"

"Of course," Hannibal replies. "Will?"

Will halts, and turns to look at him.

"You're not going to tell anyone, are you?"

Will frowns. "Of course not," he replies, as though that's an obvious answer. "I don't want you to get in trouble. And…. And I understand." He draws in a breath, and nods. "I understand why you did it. And I want to thank you, for…helping me."

He looks at Hannibal, his eyes returning to their normal shade, no longer dark. He looks like the stained glass in the chapel, or like a clear summer sky, devoid of clouds.

He pauses for another breath, and then adds; "I care about you very deeply, Hannibal." Hannibal blinks at him, and it feels like his heart and lungs, for a moment, forget how to work. "I was just…shocked, is all. And I was worried that you were injured. But you're not." His jaw clenches. "You and I are alive. We deserve to fight for that right to live."

"Will," Hannibal breathes, and goes to him, taking his hands again. "I will fight for that right with my dying breath."

"I'm sure there's no need for that," Will replies, smiling. He bites his lower lip, and his fingers tighten in Hannibal's grip. "We're safe now."

"We are," Hannibal says, nodding. "Will, I want to ask -."

He pauses.

"What is it, Hannibal?" Will whispers.

"I intend to leave here, once I'm caught up with my studies," Hannibal says. "I appreciate my uncle's hospitality, but this isn't where I belong."

"Where will you go?" Will asks, frowning. "Home?"

"No." Hannibal is sure of that. He shakes his head. "No. Perhaps Italy, or farther still." He swallows, and meets Will's eyes. "Will you come with me? I could find you a garden, anywhere in the world. I could make you happy."

Will's eyes shine. "Hannibal," he breathes, and works one hand free so he can touch Hannibal's face. "I would go anywhere with you." It's a promise, a vow, sure as springtime and the sunrise. "I don't want to be anywhere you're not."

Hannibal smiles.

Will exhales again, and makes an unsure little sound. His eyes drop to Hannibal's mouth, and rise again, and drop again, further still, to his chest. Hannibal has gotten good at reading people – he always was, but at the orphanage, reading the subtle cues of another boy was a matter of survival. One must be able to anticipate an attack.

And as close as he feels to Will, he thinks he knows Will better than he knows anyone. Can read him, as easily as an open book.

He wraps his fingers around Will's wrist and squeezes gently. When Will sucks in another breath, eyes flashing with steely resolve, and lifts to his toes, Hannibal meets him halfway. He releases Will's free hand and curls his fingers in that wild hair he has spent so many nights petting, and had mourned the loss of for so long.

Both of them are untried, of course. Hannibal has never kissed another person aside from the cursory affectionate pecks shared by his family, on cheeks and foreheads, and he's sure Will hasn't kissed before either.

And yet, they fit together like puzzle pieces. Will's lips are soft, a little chapped from being outside. His mouth opens eagerly for Hannibal's first test of tongue. He gravitates closer, sweet and quiet, hand on Hannibal's cheek sliding down to his chest, his other gripping Hannibal's bloodied clothes in a white-knuckled hold.

Hannibal kisses him until there is no air, parts for merely a gasp of it, and leans in again. He tilts his head so he can deepen it, accepting Will's tongue in his mouth as Will mimics him. He catches Will's lower lip in his teeth and Will gasps, loudly, his fingers flexing and pulling Hannibal closer.

When they part again, they don't go far. Hannibal rests his cheek on Will's temple as Will nuzzles him, plaintive as a puppy, planting delicate and affectionate kisses along his jaw and neck. Will's scent has calmed, from fear to pleasure, now, the simple joy of giving love and having it be received.

Love. The word echoes in Hannibal's head. Yes, this is love. It is violent and absolute and undeniable. Inevitable. Hannibal loves Will, to the death.

"Will," he breathes, and Will shivers at the sound of his voice. "The gardens."

Will laughs, a weak thing. "Right, the gardens," he says, and pulls back. The way his eyes shine is like sunlight on the ocean. His fingers unwind like pulling stiches from a wound, reluctant and clinging. Will swallows, and wets his lips, now a deeper pink and slightly swollen.

"I'll see you later," he whispers.

Hannibal smiles widely. "I will miss you."

Will laughs again, as happy as Hannibal has ever seen him. "I'll be back as quickly as I can," he promises. He bites his lower lip, and leans in to steal one last kiss. It is chaste and fleeting, but it burns Hannibal to the core. "Make sure to change your clothes."

Hannibal nods. He watches Will leave, casting a look back every other step. It is all Hannibal can do not to give chase. He wants to. Now that he knows the softness of Will's lips, the sound of his laugh when it's so happy and breathless, he wants nothing else. Suddenly, the silence and solitude of his own giant room is so unappealing.

Will lingers in the doorway, a look on his face like he, too, wants nothing more than to stay. He doesn't, because he is a good servant and gardener, and does delight in the lives he tends to. Hannibal will be here, when he returns.

 

 

The hours drag on, but it eventually becomes dinner time. Will, as technically a servant, eats with them. Hannibal eats with his family, and then he bathes, and leaves the water warm for Will. When Will enters the room, dressed in sleep clothes a little too big for him, hair wet and clinging to his skull, Hannibal goes to him and embraces him as the door swings closed.

Will hugs him back just as tightly, nose in Hannibal's neck. "I missed you," he says, and he sounds like he's in pain. Hannibal smiles, and kisses his hair, and they go to bed together. It is the same as before – they pull the sheets high over their head and gaze at each other in the half-dark.

"Did anyone ask about the porter?" Will murmurs.

"My aunt mentioned his absence," Hannibal replies, "but no one suspects."

Will nods. He reaches out and laces his forefinger around Hannibal's pinky, as he has so many times before. But now, Hannibal can freely reach for him, and pull him closer, and kiss the fresh air from his eager mouth. Will has the scent of someone so overwhelmed with happiness, Hannibal drinks it down like wine.

"I've been thinking about what you said," Will whispers, when they must part for air, lips tingling and hearts racing quickly. Hannibal tilts his head. "About…going with you. About how you want to protect me. It goes both ways – I know I'm smaller, and younger, but I'll grow. I want to protect you, too."

Hannibal smiles.

"And I…." Will swallows. "I don't know if I can kill someone, Hannibal. But I will fight for you."

"Anything you do for my sake, I know you do out of love," Hannibal says, soft and soothing. His hand slides Will's wet hair from his face and Will shivers. "I could never doubt your loyalty, Will."

"Even if I can't do that with you?" Will asks, eyes bright, voice thick. "Even if I'm weak?"

"You're not weak," Hannibal says harshly. "You're not weak, Will. But you have to promise that you'll let me do what I must, to ensure our safety. If someone is unkind to you, or threatens you, you must tell me. And I will do the same with you."

Will nods, and leans in until their foreheads touch. "I promise," he says. "No secrets. No lies."

"No secrets," Hannibal replies, kissing the words to Will's forehead, his cheek, his lips. "No lies."

Will smiles widely, and they push the sheet down from their heads. Will nuzzles close to Hannibal, wrapping himself up tightly in Hannibal's arms. With Will's scent in his lungs, his heat keeping Hannibal warm, the gentle pressure of his arm around Hannibal's chest, and the promise of Will's acceptance and love, Hannibal cannot remember sleeping so soundly.

 

 

And so it carries on like that. Will does hit a growth spurt, nearing almost Hannibal's height by the time Will turns eighteen, and Hannibal is twenty-one. Working in the gardens has given him the strength of a laborer, and he is absolutely beautiful in Hannibal's eyes. There are now smile lines around his eyes and mouth, evidence of how happy Hannibal makes him.

Hannibal continues his studies, and eventually finishes his time in Paris, and goes to Italy to continue his studies in surgery. Will doesn't know the language, but he learns quickly, though both of them keep the accents marking them as foreigners.

Hannibal, his appetites whetted, and combined with his culinary skill, branches out in his extracurriculars. At first, he only deals with those who are unforgivably rude to Will. Will takes a job working in the gardens of the rich, and they are insufferable if his stories are anything to go by. Hannibal is careful – he doesn't want to draw suspicion to Will, after all, nor rob him of his sources of income by completely decimating the families.

So he hunts, supplementing his stores with fellow medical residents, or random people he meets on the street who he sees behaving in uncouth ways. Will, with his sharp eyes and sensitive ears, listens in, for the rich are gossipmongers like the rest of them.

When Hannibal is twenty-five, Will comes to him one night with a frantic air, and says; "They talk about Il Mostro." He pauses only long enough for Hannibal to take his coat and kiss him. Will always smells, now, like mud and greenery. It's a wild scent, pleasant after hospitals and the sick and dying. "There are people looking for him, Hannibal. Is that you?"

"Likely," Hannibal replies. "Some of the kills attributed to him are mine."

Will nods. "We must leave," he says, imploring. "We must go far away. Somewhere less small."

"What a coincidence," Hannibal tells him with a smile. "I was offered a fellowship at Johns Hopkins. It's in Baltimore, Maryland."

"America?" Will asks, frowning.

"I've already looked at the area. There are houses with large gardens. Something you could tend to until you found permanent work."

Will swallows, and says, "I'll go wherever you ask me to go."

"I have one more request, Will," Hannibal tells him. Will tilts his head, gazing up at him with those lovely blue eyes. Hannibal could draw them for one thousand years and never get the shades quite right. So, too, does Will's wild hair remain permanently out of reach of his skill. "I have no intention of stopping my hobbies – any of them."

Will doesn't visibly react, except to make a soft, understanding noise.

"It will be easier to maintain an alibi if there is someone who could always vouch for me," Hannibal continues. "But, as well, in accordance with the law, someone who could never be questioned. Someone who would be protected. I know you are loyal to me, that you love me, but if I could legally make it so that you are never under threat because of my actions, I would ask you to consider it."

"What?" Will breathes. "What would you have me do?"

Hannibal cups his face, and rests their foreheads together. "Let me call you my husband," he breathes. Will gasps, eyes widening. "I already know that I love you, more than anything else on this Earth. And I will love you if you say 'No'. But say 'Yes'."

Will is quiet.

"Marry me, Will. Be mine, in all ways."

Will shivers, and kisses Hannibal so passionately that it sends him stumbling a step back. "Yes," he says, breathlessly, ardently. "Yes. Call me yours. Be mine."

Hannibal smiles widely, and kisses him again. They cannot legally be married, of course, but if they arrive in America with the right documents, and act as each other's husbands, then the law will recognize it in America. "I will get you a ring tomorrow," he says. "Take the day off."

Will smiles, and then he laughs. "Why don't we go now?" he asks. "The day is young."

It is, Hannibal realizes. Will came home early today. He won't question why. "Very well," he replies, eager and soft and pressing the words to Will's cheek. "I will not call you my husband without a proper ring."

Will laughs again, nudging their cheeks together like puppies, and the way he laughs, leans in, kisses so softly, could nourish Hannibal for thousands of years.

 

 

Will now wears a simple golden band on his finger. Hannibal, the same, though his is a thicker band. They clink together as Will takes his hand, and Will is smiling so widely, so happy. Whatever dour looks they might receive will be worth it, one thousand times over, for Will to smile like that.

Hannibal handles the preparations. They pack up and move to Baltimore, close enough to Hannibal's new job that the commute is not terrible, but far enough away that there is some separation from the bustle of the city. Hannibal makes sure that the front and back garden is large, to allow Will all the room he likes to plant and tend to whatever flora he desires.

The house comes fully furnished, so aside from their personal items, moving in is a swift and easy affair. When Will goes into the dining room for the first time, he laughs loudly enough to call Hannibal's attention to him. He enters the room and Will nods to the painting above the fireplace.

"Leda and the Swan," he says, smirking mischievously at the graphic portrayal. "Did you know that was here?"

"I knew our landlord was known for his eccentricities," Hannibal says, soft and amused. "Do you want me to get rid of it?"

"No," Will replies, shaking his head. "I like it. It's weird and wonderful." He fixes Hannibal with another cunning look. "And it will be a good ice breaker for any guests. Separate the wheat from the chaff."

Hannibal smiles, and laces their fingers together. Will turns to him eagerly, and kisses him. "Are you tired, Will?" Hannibal murmurs. The time difference is large between here and Italy, six hours lost of the day, and while the travel was straightforward, the day has been very long.

Will hums into the kiss, and then he sighs, and nods. "Yes," he admits, squeezing Hannibal's fingers.

"Come, let me show you the bedroom," Hannibal replies. "I admit it was a big selling point for me."

Will's eyes brighten with intrigue, and he follows Hannibal up the stairs, his ever-faithful second shadow. They enter the room, and Will's eyes widen with delight. It's not as large as their room back in France, but it's big enough to accompany the giant bed, and a small seating arrangement against the wall. The color scheme is all whites and soft blues and teal, complimentary to Will's eyes.

"It's beautiful, Hannibal," Will breathes, moving from him to approach the bed, just as he did in France. He tests the fabric of the comforter with a gentle hand. Then, he takes off his shoes and climbs onto the bed, testing the give of the mattress. He settles with a sigh, legs crossed and grinning at Hannibal, like they are boys again, ready to climb beneath the covers and trade ghost stories at night.

"The bathroom is also very comfortable," Hannibal says, approaching the corner of the bed. "The bath is large enough to fully soak."

Will hums. He bites the side of his lower lip, eyes dropping to his folded hands.

Hannibal comes to him, and takes his chin, making him lift his gaze. "What are you thinking about?" he murmurs curiously, noting the gentle blush beginning on Will's cheeks, the way his eyes are dark. He can see the wheels turning in Will's head.

Will sucks in a breath. "It's tradition for a newlywed couple to buy a new house together," he says slowly, dropping his gaze again. Hannibal tilts his head. "And to…christen it. Together. So too does a new marriage need to be consummated."

Hannibal smiles. "Would you like to consummate our marriage, Will?" he purrs, stepping even closer until his knees hit the side of the bed.

Will's blush darkens, and he lets out a quiet, nervous sound.

"I understand if you don't think of me that way," he says quietly.

Hannibal blinks at him, and drops his hand. "What on Earth gave you that idea?" he asks, harsher than he meant to. Will winces, biting his lower lip. "Will, my darling." He cups Will's face and sits on the bed, forcing Will to meet his eyes. "I have loved you for so long, and devoted much of my life to making you happy. Having you by my side is the greatest pleasure I have ever known. If I've failed to show you how much I desire you, then I sincerely apologize."

"It's not that," Will says quickly, shaking his head. "I -. I suppose I just don't have a good handle, myself, on what makes me want things like that. But I know that I like being near you, and when you touch me, it settles me. And I want to make you feel as good as you make me feel. I don't know if you've…done it before, with other people – and if you have, I'm not angry about that. But I didn't want to assume."

Hannibal cannot help how he laughs, quietly. Will is so earnest, so devastatingly innocent. "Will, my love," he says, shaking his head, "you are my husband. If you're willing, I'll make you my husband in any way possible."

Will smiles.

"But not tonight," Hannibal continues, petting Will's hair from his face and kissing his forehead. "We're both tired, and could do with some rest. And I'd rather we do things organically, don't you agree?"

Will's smile turns slightly more relieved at that. He nods, and reaches for Hannibal, pulling him into a somewhat awkward, but powerful hug. "Of course," he replies, breathing the words into Hannibal's neck. Hannibal smiles, and kisses his warm ear, before Will lets him go and pulls off his jeans and his socks, his t-shirt, letting them all pile messily on the floor.

Hannibal tuts good-naturedly, and picks up the clothing, putting them in the hamper. By the time he's done, Will is under the covers, on his side, watching. He smiles when their eyes meet.

"Come join me?" he asks.

Hannibal nods. "I will just straighten some things in the kitchen," he says. "I will return as soon as I can."

"I'll wait up for you," Will says, even as his voice cracks around a yawn and his eyelids droop. Hannibal, again, feels his chest grow warm with affection. He turns out the light and goes to the kitchen, checking what was left by the landlord – a capable assortment of pots and pans, enough plates for a dinner party, and the normal stock of kitchen appliances. Hannibal will need to invest in some more specialized things, especially if he is going to put his culinary skills to use.

By the time he returns, not to his surprise, Will is asleep. Hannibal undresses down to his underwear quietly, and places his clothes in the hamper. He slides in on the other side of the bed and Will immediately turns with a sleepy murmur, worming his way into Hannibal's arms.

Hannibal sighs, and closes his eyes. For the first time in a long time, it feels like he's finally home.

 

 

Their relationship doesn't become physical for a while. Hannibal spends long hours at the hospital while Will tends to the garden and the home, and teaches himself English. They begin speaking to each other in only English so that they can both practice.

It's difficult, Hannibal realizes, to think about Will that way. They have been friends for so long and known each other for longer. In comparison, their relationship as lovers feels so new. Their kisses are no more or less lecherous than when they hug, or hold hands. All gestures of comfort and mutual support that Hannibal has never thought of as sexual. So, when they kiss, and Will is in his arms and stinks of happiness, Hannibal finds himself more content with the joy of his friend, than thinking about turning that joy to pleasure as a lover.

Not that he doesn't think about it. Now that he knows Will would be receptive to wandering hands and more intent in Hannibal's affection, the thoughts follow him like yet another shadow, like curious dogs that know he has food but cannot quite trust being close to him. He can feel their eyes on him. Feels, when the moment grows dull, that his thoughts always turn back to Will. Wondering how he's faring today, wondering if he liked the breakfast Hannibal left for him. Wondering which plant he has ordered online, if he has made friends with any of the neighbors. Wondering if anyone has been unkind to him, or perhaps overly kind to him.

This, he knows; Hannibal's love is a possessive thing. He has not strayed, insofar as the term applies, for he and Will were not always implicitly together, and he doesn't think Will – his loyal, beautiful Will – would even register another person's affection when it doesn't come in the form of Hannibal's own love.

But the thoughts, oh, the thoughts. Thinking of Will receiving a winning smile or flirtatious touch from another person. Thinking of Will being invited to lunch or dinner at someone's house. Of too much wine turning into messy kisses and fumbling hands. Those thoughts turn his vision red.

He knows Will would never. Hannibal knows he would kill anyone who tried.

Perhaps it is natural, then, that when things do finally cross that border, it's Will who initiates it.

"You've been feeding them to me," Will says, voice barely more than a whisper. Hannibal cannot tell if he's horrified, but his hands shake and he puts one to his mouth, his eyes wide. "Haven't you?"

"Of course," Hannibal replies. "Otherwise it would be a waste of meat."

Will swallows harshly, wincing. "For how long?"

"Regularly, since we moved here," Hannibal says. "A few times in Italy, when I found a particularly choice cut of meat."

Will looks down at their plates, now empty. He certainly didn't mind the consumption itself. "You said you would kill people who offended us," he says, and meets Hannibal's eyes. "What did this person do?"

"Said some rather disparaging things about homosexuals," Hannibal replies coolly. He is glad to see Will's eyes darken in answer, at that. "He noted my wedding ring and asked about my wife. When I corrected him, he was incredibly rude."

Will's eyes narrow, and his upper lip curls back in distaste. He looks down at the plate again, and presses his lips together. "I wish you had told me," he says.

Hannibal takes his hand. "I'm sorry, darling," he murmurs. He has been much more liberal with the pet names of late, because he loves how deeply Will blushes when he does so. "You're right. I promised I would never lie to you. An omission of truth is the same as a lie." He lifts Will's hand, kisses his knuckles, and his ring. "I will never do so again."

Will smiles at him, with such stark adoration that it takes Hannibal's breath away. He stands, their fingers still laced, and circles the corner of the table until he is next to Hannibal's chair. He leans down, free hand cradling Hannibal's cheek, and kisses him deeply.

"I want you," he breathes. Hannibal's own breath catches, his lungs seizing with sudden heat. He turns his chair so that Will can come ever closer. He sits forward, seeking more of Will. His hands flatten on Will's hips, slide up his flanks. Will has grown powerful and strong under Hannibal's care. Gone is the skinny, gangly youth from their childhood. Now, Will is a beast, a well-fed and well-loved animal. His ring catches in Hannibal's hair as he slides his freed hand back, cupping Hannibal's skull and pulling him into another kiss, that trickles heat down his throat like gasoline.

It ignites, when Will puts a hand between his legs and presses.

"Be mine," Will says. "Tell me you're mine."

"I am," Hannibal rasps. "I am, my darling. Always."

Will's smile could put the sun to shame. And, when he pushes Hannibal's knees apart, and sinks to his own, Hannibal is rendered absolutely powerless.

"What did you do to him?" Will whispers. There is no hesitation, no tremor in his hands, as he unfastens Hannibal's suit pants, pushes his shirt up so it comes untucked, and slides the zipper down. "Did you kill him mercifully? A knife to his throat like a pig in the slaughterhouse?"

"No," Hannibal admits, as Will worms a hand into the hole of his underwear and takes out his thickening cock. "I choked him. Put my hands around his throat. I robbed him of the air he used so undeservingly."

Will shivers, then, his eyes dropping from Hannibal's to the head of his cock. He leans in and licks, testing the taste of the single bead of precum. The light touch of his warm, wet tongue makes Hannibal snarl.

"I've dreamed of your hands," Will confesses, wrapping his fingers around the base of Hannibal's cock and giving it a single, gentle squeeze. Hannibal slides his fingers into Will's hair, his other hand cupping the side of his neck to feel how his pulse races. "Around me. Inside me, clawing their way out of me. Your skill, when you use them."

Hannibal's exhale is heavy, pushed out like a blow to his chest. "Why didn't you say anything?" he whispers.

"I can barely speak when I think of you touching me, Hannibal," Will replies. "Every part of me aches."

Oh, Will. Hannibal bows forward and yanks him up, kissing him with teeth as Will moans and squeezes his cock again. "How can I soothe that ache, my love?" he asks. He cannot remember needing an answer so badly in his life. "Anything, ask it of me, Will."

Will presses his lips together, already bruised, red as raw meat. His blush is similarly dark, and makes his eyes shine with fever. "I want you inside me," he says. "I want you to ache for me, too." Hannibal does, he does, so badly he feels blind with it.

Will smiles, like he can read the words in Hannibal's eyes. He breaks gazes, then, and parts his lips, sliding them with terrible slowness in a tight ring around the head of Hannibal's cock. Hannibal growls, tightening his grip in Will's hair. Already, he feels close to madness. Will's mouth is warm and wet and soft on the inside, his tongue a tentative flutter, and when he takes a little more in and sucks, Hannibal feels that last shred of control snap.

He grips Will's hair and tugs on it, making him take more. Will does, obediently, mouth stuffed and choking when Hannibal hits the back of his throat. The clench of muscle is Hellfire-hot and Hannibal's teeth feel too sharp in his mouth.

He pulls Will back and rolls his hips, making Will take him again, deeper this time. Will's lashes shine with reflexive tears and he whines, nostrils flaring as he fights for breath. But he doesn't pull back. He doesn't fight Hannibal's hold. He's so good, he's perfect, he's everything Hannibal wants and needs and, yes, he aches.

He pulls Will back slowly, and kisses away the saliva sticking to Will's lips. "Will," he breathes, cupping his face, "you make me ache."

Will smiles. "Take me upstairs," he whispers, "and I'll take you inside."

Hannibal stands, uncaring for how his exposed cock protests the cool air. He leads Will to the bedroom, kissing and pawing at him as they go as Will whines and arches against him, every inch of him burning with the need they've both held back for far too long. By the time they reach the bedroom, Will is almost completely naked, clothes left like breadcrumbs to the altar for their glorious love.

Hannibal puts Will on the bed, flattens him out, and undresses as Will kicks off the last of his clothing. Hannibal has seen Will naked before, it's impossible not to have with how they were raised, but he has never seen Will like this.

He is spread out like an offering, a monument. His skin, pale where clothes cover him, a fine golden tan where the sun has kissed him. More often, Hannibal is sure, than he himself has. He finds that thought terrible and the possessive feeling stirs.

He prowls over Will and pins him down, finds tremors in the space between his ribs, heat where his cock is hard against his stomach, leaking and red. His thighs, strong and thick, spread so eagerly to make room for Hannibal between them.

Will kisses him, nails in Hannibal's shoulders, raking down. Yes, he wants to say. To be marked, to be claimed by this man, is a victory more potent than any kill, any success in surgery, any accolade. Will clings to him as he always has, eager and breathless, blushing down to his chest.

Hannibal lowers his head, finds a patch of skin that tastes of sweat and desire, a hint after of wild air and damp Earth. Above Will's racing heart. He parts his teeth and traps it, sucking a deep, dark mark to Will's skin.

Will goes wild beneath him, panting and gripping Hannibal's nape, his hair, his shoulders. Stinging lines of heat drag up his back, pool low in his belly. The urge to devour, to sate this ravenous ache, is unbearable.

"I bought lubricant," Will says.

Hannibal lifts his head, brows rising. If possible, Will's blush darkens, and he gives Hannibal a sweet, sheepish smile.

"No lies," Hannibal teases.

"I bought it when we came here," Will tells him. "I hoped."

Hannibal sighs, and kisses Will. "That I have kept you waiting so long is a cruelty I cannot forgive," he says. Will smiles brightly at him, rolling his eyes as he so-often does when Hannibal says something dramatic. But Hannibal can smell, see, how pleased he is, to finally have gotten here. "Where is it?"

"Top drawer," Will replies.

Hannibal reaches for it, and finds that it has been opened, and a small portion of it is missing. His brows lift again and Will laughs, nervously. "Like I said; I've had dreams," he explains.

"I will have to ask you about these dreams, sometime," Hannibal says, as he opens the lubricant bottle and pours a large amount onto his fingers, rubbing them together so it warms up from the heat of his skin. Will bites his lower lip, eyes flashing with promise.

"Don't make me wait any longer," he says. Begs, so sweetly, sliding back to Lithuanian in the wake of his desire. Hannibal could eat him alive.

He slides back into place between Will's knees, one hand on his thigh to measure how it twitches and shakes beneath his hand. He slides two fingers behind Will's balls, getting his perineum wet. A doctor's instruction has taught him where the sensitive places on a man are, the places that can be stimulated to greatest effect.

Will swallows loudly, as Hannibal curls all but a single finger, and pushes it inside. The effect is immediate, as Hannibal crooks his finger up and finds the small nub of his prostate. Will arches against the bed, gasping, eyes falling closed.

Hannibal growls, tightening his grip on Will's thigh. "Look at me," he commands, their mother tongue coming back to him, helplessly. Will's eyes fly open obediently. On the far wall, cast by the light of the lamp, their shadows begin to merge.

"More," Will begs, tilting his hips up as Hannibal begins to slowly circle his prostate. He bends down and licks up Will's cock, sampling the taste of him. He's salty, a little bitter. He tastes like a live kill. Hannibal parts his lips and swallows him down as he adds a second finger, and Will's scream is barely held back behind his teeth.

"Hannibal," he gasps, holding Hannibal's hair in a white-knuckled grip. His other hand slides down, beneath Hannibal's chest, petting his perineum so he can put pressure on his prostate from the outside as Hannibal mercilessly touches it on the inside. "Oh, God, Hannibal, please, I -. I -."

That's all the warning Hannibal gets, before Will's cock is twitching in his mouth and the first spurt of come hits the back of his throat. He moans around Will, swallowing it down eagerly, as Will tightens up and bears down around his fingers, helplessly writhing like a trapped animal as Hannibal sucks him and pets him, forcing him through each tumultuous wave of his orgasm.

Will sobs, pawing at his hair, his knees drawing up and hips tilted as though to offer more.

It is an offer Hannibal is more than happy to take.

He pulls his fingers off and lets Will's softening cock slip from his mouth, flopping wetly on his tense stomach. His chest is heaving and red, the bruise Hannibal gave him already darkened to purple. Will stares up at him with glassy, desperate eyes, and reaches for him as he used to, all those years ago, across the space between their bunk beds.

"It may be uncomfortable, with you so sensitive," Hannibal warns him, even as he slides closer.

"I don't care," Will replies, shaking his head. He cradles Hannibal's nape and kisses him, eagerly licking the taste of himself from Hannibal's tongue. "I need you. Please."

And Hannibal vowed he would do anything to make Will happy.

He spares another large dollop of lubricant, coating his cock with it. Will's entire body is soaked with sweat, trembling, utterly delicious with pleasure as Hannibal tastes him – his mouth, his jaw, his neck where he can feel Will's pulse rushing. Will wraps his free arm around Hannibal's shoulders, clinging to him just as he has every night they've spent in the same bed.

Hannibal will do this, every night. Every morning. During his lunch break. He will take entire hours out of his shift to come home and do this with Will. It's a fire he knows he will never douse. He will claw Will open from the inside, pour himself within his second shadow, make him a creature of darkness and steel.

"Will," Hannibal breathes, wrapping his dirty hand in Will's hair, tilting his head back so that Hannibal can kiss him deeply. "I adore you."

Will smiles, petting a hand down Hannibal's chest. He lingers on the hair, just starting to get thick there. Will himself is much smoother than Hannibal, more finely muscled. "Mark what you adore," he breathes in challenge. "Feel how much I love you, in return."

Hannibal cannot help kissing him, and as he grips Will's hip and holds him steady, and ruts between Will's legs until his cockhead catches, and sinks in, he drinks the ragged moan from Will's mouth, swallows and devours his air. He seizes every tremble of Will's muscles, every hitch of breath for his own. He takes it all, feels it feed the fire in his own belly.

He thrusts in, smooth and controlled, and this. This is his home. This is where he belongs.

Will's eyes shine, lingering tears and pure, radiant joy. He wraps his legs around Hannibal and digs his heels in, encouraging him to thrust harder, deeper. The bed soon begins to rattle, headboard knocking the wall. If they had neighbors, they would surely complain.

Will is loud, untethered. He moans and whines, whimpers when Hannibal gets him where he's most sensitive. He claws deep furrows into Hannibal's back as easily as he might plow a field for a harvest. Hannibal is his, to plant and nurture and tend to. To see grow, and flourish under his capable hands and his pure adoration.

Hannibal is lost. Will clings to him like a vice, just as warm and wet and tight as his mouth. And the way he stares at Hannibal, as though Hannibal himself hung the stars and the moon, leaves Hannibal breathless. It feels like he's going to die, or close to it. It's a starvation he hasn't felt since the orphanage, a frantic and possessive need that first reared its head when Will had a nightmare in their bed.

He will kill for Will, die for Will, if he has to. He will burn the world to the ground to make Will smile.

He shifts his weight, widens his stance, and wraps both arms around Will's head, pulling his face against Hannibal's neck as his thrusts gain power and desperation. Will clings to him, weak sounds like music to Hannibal's ears.

When Will cries out, suddenly, and his teeth find Hannibal's shoulder and bite down, Hannibal loses the last shred of self control. He snarls, bowing his head, holding Will as tight as he can. He fucks in, deep, every inch of his burning back, his thighs, that fire low in his gut suddenly flaring, and emptying like a burst dam.

He rocks his hips through it, relishing the knowledge that it is his own come slicking the way, now. Planted deep, coating Will, marking him. Will stinks of Hannibal's sweat, of his own scent, he'll drip for days, forever, if Hannibal has his way. He will be as fertile and well-watered as the gardens he grows.

Hannibal nuzzles Will's rushing pulse, and parts his lips, sucking another dark mark far too high for shirts to hide. Will whimpers, gasping, hands turning flat and gentle on Hannibal's back as he pets down the marks he left behind.

"Hannibal," he breathes, and tightens his legs when Hannibal goes still. His breath hitches. "Stay. In-. Don't leave."

"Never." Hannibal holds Will even tighter. He's sensitive, and sore, and Will's body still trembles with aftershocks that feel suffocating around his overstimulated flesh, but he will not leave Will, not until he must. He kisses the mark he left, finds another patch of pink, sweaty skin, and lays another. He will plant a collar of bruises, for the neighbors and onlookers to see and admire.

By the time Will finally loosens for him, exhausted and spent, there is a growing splatter of marks on his neck and shoulder, all in the shape of Hannibal's mouth. Hannibal smiles when he sees them, and his smile widens when he meets Will's beautiful eyes, hazy and dark.

Will cups Hannibal's face and bites his lower lip. "I love you," he whispers, slurs. Drunk on happiness. Hannibal will happily keep him like this forever.

Hannibal leans down and kisses him, finally pulling out. A thick dribble of come follows, and without thinking about it, he covers Will's red rim with his fingers and works the mess back inside. Will shivers, eyes going black as Hannibal pushes his fingers inside Will. He doesn't seek to stimulate, merely holds them there.

Will gazes at him, curling up into Hannibal as they settle on their sides. It is much too hot to go under the covers, yet. Hannibal pulls his fingers out slowly, flattening his hand on Will's hip.

Will smiles, and leans in for another kiss. It's breathless and chaste but no less passionate than any of the others they have had. Their shadows have merged, behind Will. No longer two separate ones, but a single gigantic entity, full of strength and power and promise.

"When the law allows," Hannibal says, "I will marry you for real."

Will laughs, at that, throaty and low. Hannibal so adores that laugh, that lopsided smile, the dimples in Will's cheeks. "No piece of paper will change what you are to me," he says, as solemn as a wedding vow. "And…."

He pauses, biting his lower lip. Hannibal brushes his thumb over the jut of his hipbone, back and forth, while Will thinks.

"…Since we have agreed omissions are lies," Will finally says; "There is someone, a fellow at the plant nursery. He didn't like that I was a foreigner."

Hannibal frowns, his hand tightening.

"Do you think…we could go together?" Will asks shyly. "I could show him to you. I could…watch."

While Hannibal is no longer a teenager, he cannot deny the powerful surge of heat that runs down his spine, that makes him twitch, a flicker of new fire raging as his thoughts, readily, turn to lust again. The idea of Will participating in his kills, even if he does not wield the knife or strike the killing blow, makes him ache.

"Yes, my love," he breathes, and kisses Will. "Of course, yes."

Will smiles.

"Are you sore?" Hannibal presses, his hands wandering down. "I have so much time to make up for. Tell me now before I lose the ability to control myself."

Will's eyes darken, and flash with challenge. His smile is wide, taunting, smug. "I have no interest in your self-control," he replies, arching a brow. "Come, husband, mark me again."

Hannibal growls, and lunges for Will's smile, kisses the air from his lungs, and eagerly obeys.