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It begins simply enough, almost innocently, if there was ever any possibility of something being that between them. 

Hannibal’s newest chosen identity has a profession to match his Eurotrash style, his hair grown long and thrown up in a messy bun at the back of his head and his clothes with more holes than Will ever expected to see on Hannibal Lecter. And though he insists his desire to offer tattoo services to the public at large is merely an outlet for his artistic indulgences, Will is fairly certain the former doctor just gets off on the thought of leaving a permanent mark on anyone foolish enough to trust him.

Just as he always has.

Of course, Hannibal has never before wielded a tattoo gun - guns in general, Will has come to find out, are not so much in Hannibal’s wheelhouse, though he still remains irritatingly superior in his skill and knowledge despite this. What else can Will do but offer himself as a willing canvas? It’s not as though he isn’t already riddled with the man’s marks, each and every scar that mars his flesh traceable back to the cannibal in some way, save one.

And at this point, given how familiar he is with Hannibal’s machinations and manipulations, he wouldn’t be surprised if the crackhead that stabbed him in New Orleans was connected back to the doctor a la Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

He might as well have a mark that’s meant to enhance, something pleasing to the eye, rather than repulsive. So, after a frank discussion discerning Hannibal’s commitment to this new identity and several fingers of whiskey, Will offers the canvas of his flesh for Hannibal’s use - willingly, for the first time.

He expected it to hurt. 

He didn’t expect to like it.

And, of course, Hannibal did a beautiful job, his artistic proficiency extending even to this medium. Will found himself giving pause every time he caught sight of the stark creature spreading its wings across the span of the top of his foot. Found himself going without socks altogether when he was home, though he’d never been in the habit of lounging about barefooted before. He likes the way the wings seem to flex and flutter with every bend of his foot, finds himself entranced by the sight for embarrassingly long stretches of time.

Will thinks about transformations and Becomings, chrysalises and whispers every time he gazes down at the moth, and it’s not long at all before he’s cajoling Hannibal into giving the creature a rack of antlers that stretch up and arch around his ankle.

It grows into something of an addiction, he’s self-aware enough to acknowledge that. Hannibal is so careful around him, so respectful of his space and his trust, and it drives Will mad not to have the killer’s hands in his inflamed brain or his marks on his body. His abdomen aches with the memory of how it had felt to be held so carelessly in Hannibal’s grip, carelessly but not without care. 

That’s how it always is with Hannibal. Or, at least, how it had always been. His regard for Will had been a heavy, weighted thing. Dangerous. Perched precariously on a ledge. 

Now he’s soft with Will where he isn’t with other people and how he never was before. His hands, when he drifts by Will in the hallway or in the kitchen are gentle, as though Will is a fragile teacup he’s too afraid to shatter against the floor because he knows it won’t come back together this time. 

Will is the first one to suggest Hannibal practice on him after the first tattoo becomes a second and then becomes a third. When the needles pierce his skin it feels like an electric current, shocking and somehow complete. It’s the one area in their life where Hannibal permits pain, and Will’s stomach clenches with it. 

Today they are working on his thigh, his left leg quickly becoming covered. Trees this time, jagged and stark against a dark backdrop of a night sky with a blood red moon. It’s the only color Will has requested in all of their sessions, the rest of his tattoos black and grey. 

Hannibal’s hands glide over Will’s body as effortlessly as his instrument, the needles sinking fresh ink into his flesh. The black shines in the little clear containers like a fresh oil spill, kaleidoscope colors shining on the surface as Will glances to the side. 

“We’re running out of space,” Hannibal murmurs, apropos of nothing. They’ve been silent since they started - a running tradition that began with Hannibal’s novice hands requiring his full concentration and stretched into the easiest peace they find with each other when they aren’t tearing someone apart. “Soon enough there will remain only conspicuous locations; face, neck, forearms, hands. You’ll run the risk of becoming memorable. An identity not so easily shed with a new ID and a box of hair dye.”

Will swallows around the lump in his throat, unsurprised by Hannibal’s deduction; he’d thought it himself months ago. Knew each tattoo was one more thing for strangers to catalogue about him. He’d shrugged it off at the time, told himself he didn’t care, that it didn’t matter if they were easily covered. Now, with the thrill and ache of longing for the next building within him even before they’ve finished this one, Will knows it is a problem that needs addressing.

“I don’t want to stop,” he admits softly, and is surprised when Hannibal gives pause at that, his foot easing off the pedal and the silence loud in the wake of the steady, soothing buzz of his gun.

“Are we finally to discuss your newfound penchant for masochistic tendencies?”

There’s a whole host of ways Will wants to respond to that; namely that, if he is a masochist, it’s because Hannibal made him that way. Used his sadistic hands to break Will down to something moldable and then gently and lovingly shaped him into the desired form.

“Just finish the piece,” Will mutters instead, twisting his head to cast his gaze out the window to his left.

There’s another moment of heavy silence, in which Will fears Hannibal will speak again, but then the buzz of the needle resumes, and with it the sharp sting of being shamelessly marked, and Will can breathe again.

---

Will has two fingers of whiskey in a tumbler - and, Hannibal suspects, more than a few already settling heavily within him - when he finally comes to Hannibal ready to talk. 

“Okay, fine,” he begins after he saunters into the study after dinner and Hannibal doesn’t pull his eyes from the book in his lap. “There’s something... enjoyable about being under a needle.”

Hannibal waits a moment and, when Will offers nothing further, marks his place in the book and closes it. He sets it on the side table next to him and folds one leg over the other, hands resting on his knees when he turns his gaze to Will, standing before him. “You enjoy pain,” he deduces, continues when Will’s face screws up as though he’s about to argue. “Perhaps the experience itself hovers on the precipice of pain and pleasure.”

“It’s not the pain, it’s -” Will is quick to deny, but hesitates to offer the correct explanation, his cheeks growing rosy beneath the scruff of his beard. His lips falter, work wordlessly until Will puts them to better use by bringing his drink to his mouth.

Hannibal gives him time to draw in more liquid courage, pleased that Will seems ready to speak by the time he finishes his drink.

“It’s you,” he expels in the rush of a breath. Hannibal’s brow raises curiously, but Will begins again before he’s given a chance to comment on that. “It’s not just you, it’s...it’s having the chance to feel something when before this I had been nothing but numb for months. It’s having your mark on me and me...finally being ready to accept it. It’s the only time you don’t feel careful or safe. When you feel like you used to. And it’s the only time you’ll let me hurt.”

Once he allows the words to flow it seems as though Will is unable to dam them back up, the confessions and pent-up frustrations spilling from him with no way to stymie the rate at which they’re spoken. He clenches his jaw, nose flaring with irritation as Will glances away, the flush of his cheeks darkening in embarrassment. 

Hannibal doesn’t speak, sensing one last admission trapped between the grit of Will’s teeth. In this assumption he is correct, though surprised when it’s not anger or shame coloring his soft tone, but a wistful chagrin that makes Hannibal’s chest ache.

“You used to enjoy hurting me.”

It takes a moment for Hannibal to form a response to this, and then Will turns his gaze back toward him, his expression one that could only be described as bereft, and the words are punched from Hannibal just as surely as his breath. “Will…”

Will’s teeth worry his bottom lip, his eyebrows pinched over eyes wide and earnest.

“I don’t have any interest in hurting you any longer, Will,” he finally manages, and Will’s pleading expression morphs to one of bitterness seamlessly.

He gives an unamused huff, his eyes darkening as he sets his jaw in anger once more. “I don’t think that’s true at all. I think you have an interest in doing all sorts of things to me. I think you’re just too scared to. Why?”

It’s Hannibal’s turn for stony silence, to feel the heat creeping into his cheeks that will damn him, expose him even further than Will already has.

Will has always loved exposing him.

He doesn’t care to give Hannibal a chance to respond, in any case, stepping closer until he can abandon the empty tumbler in his hand to the side table next to Hannibal’s forgotten book. He nudges his knee against Hannibal’s folded legs and then doesn’t bother waiting for Hannibal to take the hint, clambering onto the couch to straddle his thighs without delay.

“I’m here, Hannibal. I chose this, chose you, because I wanted everything you had to offer me. Everything you’d been offering for years. And the moment I found the courage to accept it you ripped it away.”

He settles completely onto Hannibal’s lap, and Hannibal can’t stop his hands from reaching out, his body singing to be as close to his mate as possible. They seek Will’s hips, trail down his thighs, his left jerking away when it thoughtlessly brushes over the piece they’d finished only that afternoon, eliciting a surprised hiss from Will.

Will grunts out an irritated noise at the absence of his touch, his own hand darting out to seize Hannibal’s wrist, to force it back to his tender thigh, making contact with it harsher than necessary. “I chose you knowing what you are, and I want all of what that is. I didn’t free the hound just to muzzle him. I want your sharpest edges. I want the pain and blood and death and beauty.”

His own hands reach out to Hannibal when he seems certain that Hannibal won’t attempt to remove his hands a second time. They find his neck, his jaw, brush tenderly over the stark plane of Hannibal’s cheekbone. “I want the touch you hold back when you look at me that way. Like you’re almost content with only worshipping me with your eyes.” He dips his head lower, his warm, whiskey-laced breath puffing over Hannibal’s lips, and it’s the only breath Hannibal can catch, his stomach clenching pleasantly at the implication of Will’s words. “You’ve been holding out on me, Doctor Lecter.”

Hannibal hisses, unable to stop the sound from escaping through his teeth when Will grows bolder, rocking his hips in Hannibal’s lap. He wraps a palm around Will’s nape, scruffing him like he might one of his beloved pack, and pulls him closer still until their foreheads are pressed together. Will is sweating, Hannibal can feel the cool glide of it against his own flesh now, and he wonders at what other reactions he might manage to pull from the man. 

Will is pliant in his lap, melted like warm honey, the spiced scent of his arousal dizzying in its intensity. “If you want my teeth as well as my love, you can have it, Will. You only ever need ask and I’d give you anything,” Hannibal promises, and it sounds far more eager than he’d intended. He knows he means it, he’d give Will his life if he asked it of him. Give him his blood, his claws, his hollowed-out heart, vacant for so long after he’d lost his little bird all those years ago. 

Hannibal squeezes his palm harder against Will’s neck, letting his fingers wrap around the sides of his throat to feel the rabbiting pulse there. His free hand begins the slow descent up Will’s thigh, his heaving abdomen, his shoulder. Finally, after what feels like hours after the years long wait Hannibal has endured, he cups Will’s face and pulls him close enough that they are sharing air for several seconds, Will finally being the one to close the remaining distance with an agitated huff and roll of his eyes. 

It’s liquor-warm and faintly sweet, their lips sliding together in perfect synchronicity. Hannibal slips his tongue into Will’s mouth, licking behind his teeth and tasting him more fully even as the hand cupping Will’s face begins to move, settling on his flank. Once Will is wholly distracted by the kiss, Hannibal picks a spot along Will’s side by feel alone and then brings his two fingers together to pinch the skin harshly between them, letting his nails dig in a bit when he releases him. 

Will’s gasp is caught by Hannibal’s throat, the man’s body going taut with anticipatory tension and then falling completely lax against Hannibal’s chest, pressing into where his hand still rests against his side. Hannibal pinches him again, and though he cannot see the marks beneath Will’s clothing he knows they’ll be a beautiful sepia color by morning, edged in purple and red. He wants to trace them with his mouth, but continues kissing Will instead, keeping him occupied and whimpering as Hannibal litters his flanks with more bruising pinches. 

Eventually he makes his way between Will’s thighs, pulling him away from him far enough that he can see his eyes, dark with lust and reminiscent of a roiling storm at sea. Hannibal smirks, keeps Will pinned with his gaze as he pinches him harder here, in the sensitive skin of his inner thigh, close enough to his clothed cock that he can feel it twitch beneath the onslaught. 

“Is this what you wanted, Will? How you imagined my love would feel? Bright pricks of pain interspersed with the sharpness of my claws? Will you only be content with your blood in my mouth and your flesh between my teeth?” Hannibal leans forward enough to take Will’s throat between his teeth, biting down for emphasis even as he pinches him again, this time high up enough on his thigh that his knuckles brush against his balls. 

“Yes,” Will keens, rutting his body against Hannibal and pressing himself firmly against his seeking fingers. 

Hannibal’s curiosity finally overpowers his patience, and he allows the heel of his palm to rub firmly against the wet spot growing on Will’s pants where he’s leaked through his underwear and his slacks. He knows the friction can’t be comfortable, must be like a burn against sensitive flesh, but Will only whines and leans closer, trying to capture Hannibal’s lips again in a biting kiss. 

Hannibal allows it, continuing his ministrations even as Will ruts against him, the heady scent of his arousal growing thicker and thicker between them. Hannibal puts his claws in Will’s nape, drawing blood, and settles his teeth to his shoulder, biting down hard enough that he can taste warm copper on his tongue. He rubs Will harshly one final time before taking the outline of his cockhead between two fingers and pinching hard enough to pull a genuine groan of pain from Will, but the pain isn’t enough to keep him from spilling in his pants, his release musky and nearly cloying. 

Will arches into him beautifully, his own nails digging into Hannibal’s biceps fiercely as he gasps and shudders through his orgasm. He releases his hold on Will’s shoulder and licks into his love’s panting mouth, drinking down the next moan that spills from him when he tastes his own blood on Hannibal’s tongue.

“Christ,” he murmurs breathlessly when their mouths finally part, dropping his forehead to Hannibal’s shoulder and expelling a shaky breath across his neck. “Why did we wait so long to do that?”

“As I recall,” Hannibal murmurs, his hands growing bold to continue exploring the expanse of the man in his lap, “You were a frightfully stubborn creature.”

Will huffs out a laugh at that, pulling his head up to peer at Hannibal with mirthful eyes. “As though you were any better.”

“My stubborn nature pulled me through years of waiting for you, Will,” he can’t help but point out. “Through the darkest hours I only held vision of your light on the horizon.”

“Yeah,” Will agrees with a nod, petting down Hannibal’s arms and flanks until his hands are settled comfortably at his hips. “Thanks for that.”

“My pleasure,” Hannibal assures him. He cups Will’s jaw, draws him forward for a kiss, pleased when Will allows a sweet, soft press without attempting to insert teeth and claws into it. So he will accept Hannibal’s tenderness, just not when he feels as though he’s being patronized. Hannibal can live with that just fine. “I’d wait a thousand lifetimes for you, Will, simply for the pleasure of having you for one.”

Will’s eyes are damp with unshed tears, his smile soft and sure as he shakes his head. “No more waiting,” he declares in a breath before sealing his lips to Hannibal’s once more. Their tongues slide together, Will shifting forward again until chest and groin are pressed tightly together. Hannibal can feel the dampness of Will’s mess seeping into his own trousers, and his stomach clenches fiercely at the reminder he caused that.

Kiss-bruised lips find Hannibal’s ear, brush teasingly against him as Will’s voice, low and commanding, spills into it. “Now take me to bed.”

Hannibal doesn’t have to be told twice.