Actions

Work Header

For All My Pride, You Were the Fall of Me

Work Text:

It made sense – disappearing.

After spending four months in a mental institution for crimes he didn’t commit, Will didn’t see any other option. People’s perception of him shaped their behaviors and colored their thoughts and intentions – made them blind to the reality of the situation, despite his insistence. Each person in his life that played a vital role in it expected something from him. Alana saw weakness and instability, Jack looked at him as a tool to be used, even Chilton glanced at him like a meal ticket. What they wanted held the hand of their decision making, and now that he was free, Will didn’t want to waste his time on people that turned on him so easily.

He worked himself into a severe brain swell and physical break to solve crimes of killers that haunted him; and when they weren’t creeping around corners, they were planting seeds of ideas and wants. The worst of which was one he practically invited into his psyche – the meddlesome Doctor Lecter; his words, machinations, and voice a constant presence there now. It was hard to find where Hannibal stopped, and Will began.

Though, that wasn’t a new feeling. From the moment they met, things shifted in Will. The initial hostility he felt towards Hannibal Lecter existed in defense of that noticeable change in feeling. There was a rawness that Will couldn’t hide with Hannibal around. During the time when there was no distance between them and Will trusted the doctor’s intentions, he invited the feeling. Glad that, after such a long time, someone saw him – no matter how frightening the novelty of it truly was.

And for a while, that was enough. The verbal sparring that occurred was interesting and kept Will on his toes. Hannibal’s perspective of things came from a whole lifetime of multiple experiences in so many different areas. Not only was Hannibal well read and educated, he went places and did things; the tangibility of his experiences shaped his worldview and ultimately, his perspective. Will liked that – liked the obscurity of another person that meshed so well with his own. They were in no means entirely similar, but their differences aligned – existing within the outskirts of society and seeing too much tethered them, making it easy to connect.

In all of his hedonistic glory, Hannibal pushed the envelope and changed the tide of their relationship swiftly. Two minds connecting wasn’t enough, not when sins of the flesh were palpable, too. After Alana’s rejection, Will wasn’t sure anyone could ever want the truth of him, so Hannibal’s attention was good in that way; like an affirmation that he wasn’t damaged goods, that when all was said and done, it simply took the right person to accept his differences and appreciate them for what they were.

When, after an intimate dinner of something so fancy, he didn’t even want to remember, Hannibal pulled him close and kissed him softly, Will didn’t try to fight it. A gasp left his mouth and admittedly needy hands dug into the careful styling of Hannibal’s hair. He returned the kiss with enthusiasm, deepening it with the slightest tilt of his head. Though they went no further that evening, the flood gates were open and trickling closer to raw animalistic pleasure with each passing second. The further he fell into mental darkness, the harder Will clung to the pieces of Hannibal that kept him feeling normal.

A thing that, after hours upon hours of contemplation, Will understood to be the entire point of it all. Hannibal took the world in his hands and did what he wanted with it. Moving pieces and people around and manipulating them until he got an end result was a favorite past time of the doctor – the ultimate puppeteer to his chorus of dancing monkeys that performed for his pleasure. The idea of doing whatever he wanted just to see what would happen played heavily on Will’s mind. Hannibal was like a candle in the darkness, a slowly flickering light of guidance that just felt right. Now that he understood the man, that thought didn’t change. Begrudgingly, Will adored him more – and that just wouldn’t do.

It felt real, every touch and kiss, the manifestation of their joint attitudes and visions. Hannibal truly felt like a paddle and as much as he wanted to deny it, Hannibal’s name was permanently painted on Will’s heart, the deep-seated ache that ate him alive, sitting just under the brand. It hurt to think that something like love could drive him to be so blind, and now so spontaneous that his only option seemed to be running in the opposite direction. Passion fueled his mistakes, and when the shame of trying to kill Hannibal set in, he started to develop the only levelheaded plan left, disappearing.

Putting enough space between himself and the rest of the people in his life was easy behind bars, especially when his tactic took a turn and became hostile towards someone they all believed to be genuine and good. Alana and the feelings for Hannibal she thought existed all but cut him off, the tepid call he made to her after walking out of his cell to get the dogs the extent of their conversations since his trial. Their exchange when she dropped the dogs off was aggressive, fueled by a lack of understanding on both their parts. And a little jealousy, Will couldn’t deny that.

Her hands touched skin that brushed against Will in such a promising way, he still craved it – his heart and soul were hollowed out, and he still wanted it, wanted him. Alana had no earthly idea who she was messing with and he told her so, the warning in his tone both caring and selfish; the thought of anyone else deserving Hannibal grated on him, the man’s mask one that Will saw through and understood. In his understanding, he knew the danger of it, too. When Alana came to realize where Will was coming from, it might already be too late. Hannibal didn’t give reprieves.

With all that in mind, Will worked to bring his plans of escape to fruition. He ignored calls and let the dogs bark visitors away when they knocked on his door. In his current state, Will didn’t have anything productive to contribute to anyone, least of all Alana Bloom or Jack Crawford. The audacity of demanding things from Will, especially crime scene help, made his skin crawl. Not too long ago, the very same people thought he killed others and deceived them all. How quickly the tide turned; their belief in him revolved strictly around his usefulness. They needed him, but the second he turned his back, they wouldn’t hesitate to stab him in the back and twist the knife when he didn’t perform according to their agenda.

But – not anymore.

Any notoriety Will had was for the wrong reason, so the place he went needed to be far enough away to keep his face from being immediately recognizable. Despite having a clean bill of criminal health, implications and accusations followed a person – especially serious ones that were attached to Will and always would be.

His need for isolation made it easy to pull the trigger on lots of space in the middle of nowhere. Much like his small house in Wolf Trap, the place Will found for himself and his dogs in Fort Worth, Texas didn’t have much size, but made up for it with the surrounding land that was spacious and blessedly empty of other humans – his nearest neighbor was more than ten miles away. The heat reminded him of Louisiana and if anyone wanted to look for him, he figured the Lonestar state was one many wouldn’t think to check right away.

Of course, he wasn’t trying to fool anyone, least of all himself. When Hannibal wanted to find him, he would. There wasn’t a stone the man would leave unturned after deciding that Will’s rebellion from him was finally time to come to an end. He could run to the end of the Earth and not escape Hannibal’s reach. In the same way Hannibal’s existence was palpable within him, Will took up a special spot in Hannibal, too. One day, the other end of the connection would tug ever so slightly; and the game was on again. Thinking about it over and over again, Will couldn’t pinpoint what would happen next – the magnetism would draw them back together, but that was at far as its predictably went.

Where Hannibal was concerned, Will didn’t have the same standards he did for everyone else. One would think, after getting put into jail by a person, that avoidance and a lack of forgiveness would take precedence. And though he wished to go as far away as possible, he couldn’t avoid Hannibal. Not when a thump of the man’s existence beat right alongside Will’s heart. Living in that close of a proximity, forgiveness didn’t matter. Duality called for exceptions – there wasn’t anything that Will dreamed up that Hannibal could do that would severe that tie.

Until that inevitability came to pass, Will planned to take advantage of the space he forged between them. With all of the dogs and little to no sleep, Will made it to his residence in Texas in less than a week – the limited amount of money and give-a-shit didn’t leave much room for stops or expenditures, anyway. The dogs controlled their need to stop and when it got to be too much, Will found somewhere to park and slept fitfully for a few hours before hitting the road again.

A sigh of relief left his mouth when he turned down the dirt road that doubled as his driveway. Unlike Virginia, the majority of his land was taken up by ragweed, a bland, beige color scheme playing out over acres of pure Texas goodness. The wind blew through the foliage, each gentle shift and sway like sweet notes of Hannibal’s symphonies, the rhythm of it hypnotizing in the same way, too. After getting the dogs out of the car and the small house opened up, Will merely stood in the sway of it, watching the dance with relaxed eyes. For the first time since leaving the BSHCI, he truly felt free.

----

The oddity of missing someone wasn’t lost on Hannibal.

In fact, its rare nature made it more apparent than ever. There were times in the peaceful silence he created that Hannibal felt the lack of Will’s presence like a missing limb. Amputees often spoke of a concept called phantom limb – where neurons in the brain still fire to that area of the body, despite it no longer being there. Things like itches, aches, and pains were common, and without the limb to speak of, hard to soothe. Will’s absence felt like that – like an itch he couldn’t scratch, even when the man was within reach.

During his stay in the BSHCI, Will drifted between feeling betrayed and running hot with rage. Each of those emotions were completely acceptable for the situation he was in – especially when the object of them never relented. With his obsession in jail, all of Hannibal’s attention revolved around ways to enter the BSHCI to keep in contact with Will in whatever way he could. The first week the seat across from his in the office was empty during their usual appointment time, a wash of disappointment overtook him. In his mission to pull the strings and create the perfect narrative, Hannibal failed to understand the implications upon himself.

From the second the reality of his choices sunk in, Hannibal realized the depth of his mistake. It wasn’t so much the end result either – when the adventure began, he thought something like that might happen. No, the real mistake came from all the steps in-between. Seducing the beautiful man to be close and remain in control, realizing how much better life was with him, even memorizing the way his skin felt under Hannibal’s hands. Hurting Will didn’t matter as much as the pang of dissatisfaction Hannibal felt without him.

That was the biggest problem with playing games, especially against an opponent that was equally matched, despite not really knowing they were playing until the stakes were too high and time was up. Even in his desperation, Will performed to the best of his ability, solving the puzzle – just a little bit too late. By the time truth came from his lips, no one believed him, his word and reputation in the dirt where Hannibal planned for them to be. Will couldn’t speak loud enough for anyone to listen – at least, anyone that Hannibal couldn’t take care of with relative ease.

If things were different, Hannibal knew a sense of satisfaction would exist in his very core. In almost all ways, Hannibal’s moves were spot on. Yet, in his selfishness, Hannibal allowed himself to make a previously non-existent connection with someone actually worthy of his time and energy. When feelings, which he normally avoided with every ounce of try in his body, came into play – things fell apart. The route of his plans took a huge turn by adding a secondary end goal to the mix. His initial intention was to push Will Graham, not fall in love with him.

It seemed appropriate, then, that the feeling of loneliness smarted the way it did. Thursday’s at 7:30 were the bane of his existence, every minute of the hour like a laughing taunt, the echo of which sounded loudly in the empty room. He sat in his chair for all sixty of them in spite of himself. Having his cake and eating it too left behind a cloyingly sweet aftertaste in his mouth and brought on a stomachache that was never ceasing. Especially now, when there wasn’t even an excuse to visit Will at the BSHCI – he’d been released almost a month previously.

A part of Hannibal thought Will might approach him – the promise of revenge still prominent in the forefront of his mind. He still thought about the way Will’s eyes flashed when he spoke, the hatred of Hannibal’s actions mingling with the passion of his romantic feelings to form a ball of fury that burnt so bright. The intensity of it did something to Hannibal, stirred up a part of him that started to creep a little further out of the dark the more Will infiltrated his barriers.

When Will didn’t show up after three weeks of waiting, Hannibal started to get impatient. Without the whistle being blown by Will every other second, the heat trickled away from Hannibal like a slow leak. Because Hannibal took a break from his usual kills, there were no major crime scenes to dissect and profile for – no reasons to meddle. Jack stopped hounding him and their weekly dinners simmered down to an every now and again occasion. The need for Alana’s presence diminished down to nothing, too – her ability to provide an alibi and drive Will up the wall with irritation and jealousy weren’t necessary (or desired) any longer. Though she half-heartedly attempted to keep the relationship going, it seemed as if they both knew the spark was gone.

During their last meal together, Hannibal found himself drifting, looking longingly towards the edge of the room where emptiness existed – within that nothingness, Hannibal crafted his true desire, the rendering of Will almost perfect. If he focused hard enough, Will took his usual seat at the table and replaced the tense quiet with exciting chatter and quality minutes spent together. His wanderings were vast and when Alana grabbed his hand to get his attention, Hannibal visibly reacted, flinching ever so slightly.

“Where were you just now? I’ve been talking to a blank space for minutes,” Alana admonished, her touch already retreating. The tone of her voice held a quality of distaste, her annoyance of the situation evident in the words alone. She sat up a little straighter in her chair when Hannibal turned to face her more fully.

“Far away,” Hannibal replied simply, shifting the cutlery in his hand. He made a production out of cutting a piece of meat and assembling the perfect bite of all the components on the plate. “I apologize, Alana. The day has been uncharacteristically long.” He flashed her a forced smile before bringing his fork to his lips – at least if they were occupied, he wouldn’t need to talk, to apologize, to attempt to recover something that didn’t mean a thing to him.

There was a long silence where Alana merely stared at him, her eyes critical. In many ways, Hannibal respected her the most for that, her ability to minutely analyze a situation. She took him in, settling the surface information he allowed her to have in a way that was approachable. When an idea struck, Hannibal watched the cascade of schemes begin. “Have you heard from Will Graham lately?”

Despite being ready for the question, Will’s name on her lips stirred up something achingly sore within him. His stomach clenched and when he went to speak, Hannibal felt a heaviness in his chest. Was she fishing, or researching a theory?

“I have not. When Jack Crawford came for dinner last week, he mentioned not hearing from him, either. Have you? I assume you two are not on the best of terms, but he always respected you,” Hannibal reasoned, ditching his fork and knife for a grip on the stem of his wine glass, instead. The food carried a bland quality, anyway. Had for ages now – nothing tasted right since the world took a dip on its axis.

“I haven’t, either. It’s like he dropped off the face of the Earth. I drove out to Wolf Trap a couple days ago to see if he was home, but there was no one there – and looked to have been that way for at least a couple of weeks. No one has been in contact with him and it seems like that’s exactly what he wants.” Her shoulders sort of shrugged as she spoke, the remainder of her guilt and tenderness for Will fueling the desire to care the way she was. They all wronged him in a way – Alana included.

“I suppose it is only right to respect that, then,” Hannibal said, the words tasting like molten garbage on his tongue. He felt no ounce of truth in them – he intended to get to the bottom of the situation; Will deserved space and time, but they hadn’t made a clean break (and probably never would). A part of Will embedded itself within him, refusing to let go – never mind the hurt and the pain, the betrayal and gaslighting; the piece remained, holding on tighter than ever before.

The look Alana gave him personified her doubt hilariously, that particular poker face one that she never mastered. It was a wonder patients didn’t see through her in an instant. Stuffing his nose into his wine glass to cover up his amused smile, Hannibal took a long sniff of the chianti, then a sip that sat on his tongue deliciously. The tannins were heavy and distracting across his taste buds.

Conversation and the remainder of their evening fizzled as dinner drew to a close. Not even offering to help with the dishes, Alana made a quick excuse to leave, the door closing heavily behind her in finality. The cut was clean and efficient – it’d be a wonder if they saved their professional relationship, but Hannibal wasn’t one to hold a grudge or act immaturely. Hannibal would keep civil as long as the situation called for it. If the need to dispose of her occurred, he wouldn’t think twice, either.

In a way, Alana removing herself from the picture allowed Hannibal more freedom of movement. Without having to attempt the boyfriend façade, his attention could be placed in a direction that actually mattered. Finding Will Graham. Mending the bridge between them. Attempting, despite the unlikelihood of success, to get him back. It seemed silly, to even yearn for something that no sane human would even consider. Yet, Hannibal wanted it, anyway. Will Graham felt like his from the very get-go. The meaning of that changed, but the reality of it never faltered.

After finishing up the dishes, Hannibal took to his study and sat at his desk, pulling out his sketching material. Ideas always came to him best when his hands were moving and the visage of Will he pictured in his dining room earlier would make for a good artistic distraction for the evening. The hunt was on and for the first time since he got Will tangled up at the BSHCI, Hannibal felt the gentle stirrings of excitement. He wanted to attribute it to the act of the hunt again but knew the scent of Will Graham played the biggest part in the happy feeling, He planned to find the former profiler and enjoy the chase while he did.

----

For a few months, Will lived a pretty simple life. There was enough money left in his savings to make the rent payments of the house and keep them all fed, but not much more. Will wasn’t entirely interested in working in town, either – he had enough of people to last a lifetime and then some. It was luck, then, that a way to make money practically fell into his lap.

One Saturday a couple weeks after moving in, Will heard the sound of a car coming down the dirt road. It would be a lie to say that he didn’t pocket his hunting knife before going out to investigate. Though he didn’t actually wish anything terrible upon Hannibal, Will wasn’t about to walk into a fight empty handed – not anymore. Upon seeing the car that stopped in front of his house, Will felt a little silly for the dramatics. A woman and her young daughter were waving happily from the cherry red pick-up truck. It took him a second to calm down before he could plaster on a fake smile and return the wave.

His visitors turned out to be his closest neighbors and landlords – Ellen and Sky were inhabitants of the cattle ranch behind him. Will got into the house so quickly because Ellen and her husband Carl were entirely too helpful in the renting process. They wanted the lease filled and got him sorted out without questions or hesitations when he inquired about the place.

When he opened the door to greet them and all the dogs rushed out, the little girl, who didn’t try to meet his eyes, lit up. She ran away from her mother at high speed, coming at the pack with enthusiasm. Quickly recognizing how the dogs might react, he whistled shortly twice, stopping the collective with the noise. The dogs were sitting by the time she reached them.

“That’s some pack,” Ellen remarked, shooting him a warm smile as she looked between her daughter and Will. “And so well trained, too. Did you do it yourself?”

Intrigued by the question, Will nodded his head slowly, watching Sky interact with each of them, letting the dogs smell her while babbling with each lick bestowed. Unlike her parents, Will never interacted with Sky before – as someone who sat on the spectrum himself, he immediately recognized some of the signs. She didn’t try for eye contact or acknowledge him in any way. It was like watching himself at her age. Yet, her connection with the dogs warmed him up slightly, the reminder of genuine goodness so different than the rest of his life at the time.

“I have an affinity for collecting strays,” Will said plainly, running a hand through his sleep-wild curls. Luckily, he remembered to put on a shirt before opening the door – in his time without working, he took to laying around late into the morning, simply enjoying the fact that he could. “But yes, I did. I have a degree in Behavioral Psychology. Application of the information on dogs is much more efficient than humans.”

They watched Sky with the dogs for another couple of minutes, Ellen and Will making miniscule small talk. He liked that – the lack of pressure he felt from Ellen was so different than the last set of people in his life. Her patience must have come from dealing with Sky on a daily basis, the girl seemed to pick and choose when she talked and what she spoke about.

The dogs, though – they had her full attention. Ellen tried to pull here away twice before Will knelt down and got on Sky’s level, his voice soft. “You can come back anytime you want to play with them.” He looked at her with knowing eyes, his hands mimicking hers on the back of Winston’s coat. “Looks like it’s time to go, though. Give them each a scratch behind the ear before you do.”

With a concentrated effort, Sky pet each of their backs and gave their ears a good scrub before pulling away with a look of triumph on her young face. She looked over the group for another moment or two before finally turning around to tuck herself against Ellen’s leg. Though she didn’t say anything to him, Sky’s eyes were all over Will, watching him with interest.

“She doesn’t usually take to people like that,” Ellen muttered, running a hand through Sky’s hair with affection. The struggle of taking care of a little girl that was different played clearly across her face – the same lack of genuine understanding shone on Will’s own father’s expression more often times than not. He understood Sky and from all of his experience, he understood Ellen, too. People like him were work, especially to those that didn’t quite get it, no matter how hard they tried.

“It’s the dogs. They’re kind of magic that way,” Will answered immediately, leaning over to pet Winston, who butted himself against his leg and refused to move. Since his return from the BSHCI, all of the dogs were clingy – but Winston especially. Like he understood the wrongful placement of his master, like when push came to shove, he would protect Will with everything he had.

Ellen’s voice cut through the thought, a small smile sitting across her lips. “I think you might have a part in it, too. Would you think about training dogs for others? We’ve been contemplating getting a puppy and would love to have them trained like your dogs are.” There was a hopeful look in her eyes – a mother who struggled reaching out to what felt like a last-ditch effort.

Will understood the sentiment.

Before he could think or talk himself out of it, Will found himself nodding, the warmth in his chest from watching Sky earlier spreading out a little further – with all of the little jolts of life, he might find himself amongst the land of the living once again. Only time would tell.

And like that – Will Graham became the go-to dog man. He didn’t need to take on anymore strays because people were bringing him their dogs left and right. Once he successfully trained Chocolate, who made the job so easy, Will had an abundance of people looking for his services. As it turned out, Sky belonged to a group of other autistic kids that got together for support group and social interaction. When Ellen regaled them of Will’s work – well, there wasn’t any stopping those parents from seeking him out.

To stop himself from being overworked, Will developed a process that kept him, his pack, and the newest additions content. Unlike most dog trainers, Will boarded his latest clients and allowed them to live amongst his pack for the training period. Not only did it stop him from having to have people all over his land on a constant basis, the dogs got a taste of pack living and the presence of other dogs that were impeccably trained. He found that the full immersion approach worked and kept people happy.

Will got to keep his recluse lifestyle while working with his favorite beings on the planet and kids that he shared a kinship with. In all his days, Will never thought he would cater to a population of people like himself – let alone through the use of service and support dogs. Aside from Hannibal and the intimate way he understood him, Will couldn’t remember a time when he felt more seen, or like himself for that matter. Without so many people trying to shape him, the skin on his bones actually fit – the itch he wanted to scratch but couldn’t sat just below the surface, but he felt good – much better than before.

Which meant, in the subtle shift of life’s tides, that the happiness wouldn’t last. Nothing in Will’s life that touched even an ounce of greatness stuck – relationships, jobs, people. Contentment ran screaming from him in the opposite direction, and always would – he chose that lifestyle way back when and only exacerbated it by inviting Hannibal Lecter into the picture. The chance for normalcy was gone and the few months he got to touch it were nice; perfect in the way that a trip to Disneyland was – fleeting and full to the brim of memories to cherish.

It took Hannibal much longer to find him than he initially thought – which was a blessing in and of itself. The process of finding him was tough, made that way by Will himself in all of his attempts to protect his new life; not just from Hannibal, but his friends, too – Jack, especially. The house stayed in Ellen and Carl’s name, and his ties to his business were through word of mouth only. He didn’t purposely exist on social media or carry a phone on him all that often. There was a reason he disappeared, making it easy to find him wasn’t a part of the plan.

When Hannibal found him, it was little things that cued him in to doctor’s closeness about six months after his disappearance. A familiar looking shape took up residence at the edge of his land and trapezed across the acreage. A couple of weeks later, his landline rang at the same time for seven days. The calls stopped after he mistakenly grabbed it, the sound of the ringing too much for the headache he sported that day. He didn’t say anything into the receiver, just stood on the line with the slightest hitch of breathing on the other side. He wanted to scream, shout Hannibal’s name and curse him for finding him, for fucking him over, for breaking his fragile heart. Will stayed silent instead, releasing a shaky breath when, after three minutes of silence, the other side of the line finally went dead.

The weeks following that were spent on high alert. Because most of his work was done at home, Will didn’t have many ways to be surprised on his land. If someone wanted to catch him unawares, they needed to do it on foot. All other visitors had to come down the dirt road leading to his house, a process that was both loud and time consuming if keeping the front bumper of their car was a priority. In that way, his fort was relatively impenetrable. Probably not Hannibal-proof, but what on Earth was?

Will knew, however, that Hannibal wasn’t afraid to play dirty – to watch until he realized Will’s weakness and got an opportunity to expose it in whatever way got him what he wanted. He tried to keep himself a singular entity – Will truly did. His clients were good people and wanted to take care of him. With his services, he gave their children a sort of freedom that didn’t exist before he got there. Turning down their offers of friendship and food and human companionship wasn’t hard – it was the disappointment on the kids’ faces that he couldn’t stand.

Especially Sky; she took a liking to Chocolate just fine but found a way whenever she could to see the rest of Will’s pack. And when they were forced to leave, she usually fooled Will into attending dinner in town some other night, or a visit with Chocolate because “its been too long since he last saw you.”

In the grand scheme of things, Will never wanted kids – his genetics were cursed and his inability to truly connect with other humans couldn’t possibly be good for a child. In the separation of them not being his own, Will found himself bridging gaps and finding ways to interact where none existed before. And Sky, well, she dug herself into his heart and refused to budge, no matter how bad existing in his realm was for her. Much like Abigail, who he couldn’t save. The same ending for Sky wasn’t what he wanted – it was the one action that might rip Will away from Hannibal if push came to shove. Will didn’t feel sure that he’d survive another forceful separation from someone he grew to care about.

Cutting ties with the family wasn’t possible, he lived on their land and handed a check to Ellen every first of the month (right on the dot). It was nearly impossible to ignore them, with Sky’s weekly visits out to see the pack – but, he did what he could. Where they used to sit on the porch and play outside, Will ushered them in the door, confining interaction to the front room of his house. When they invited him over for dinner, he attempted to politely decline, claiming work or something of the sort – anything to keep them safe. The closer Hannibal got, the more danger they were in. And if the tug in his gut said anything, Hannibal wasn’t far away – hadn’t been for some time.

----

Finding someone that didn’t want to be found was a challenge – even for Hannibal.

In his quick and quiet departure, Will took almost nothing with him. After using the key he copied, Hannibal discovered that the house looked almost exactly the same as it did before – the half-hearted attempt at cleaning the police did still apparent in the disarray of the room. Upon closer glance, the only thing out of place was Will’s fishing equipment. The stuff that wasn’t processed as evidence was gone, the table and racks he used for storage and all.

When the exploration of Will’s house produced no clues, Hannibal took to the internet, using Google to track down the Will Graham’s he found in Virginia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama – each search brought up almost fifty names, each with a phone number and address that were only slightly worth looking into. Like the smart man that he was, Will kept himself protected under the guise of normalcy.

His first attempts were a total bust, even after moving south a bit more – Hannibal looked into Florida, Louisiana, and Texas, too. There were too many names to sort through and none of them were who he was looking for, anyway. After a bit of thought, it made sense that Will wouldn’t use his name, or if he did, there wouldn’t be a traceable component to his use. No houses in his name, no social media, no external world presence whatsoever. The realization took him back to square one, but one step closer than before.

For months, Hannibal scoured wherever he could. He took a hiatus from his practice and stepped away from major social engagements, crawling back into the woodwork of his creation little by little. When he found Will, and he would, Hannibal didn’t want anything holding him back. Still unsure of how things would actually turn out between them, he didn’t want to be distracted by anything or anyone. All the minutes of his day were spent perusing, anyway – Will was smart and the longer it took him to pinpoint his location, the more obsessed Hannibal became.

Finally, after almost six months of looking, Hannibal happened upon a social media post that raved about a dog trainer named Will Graham – the description of the man himself and the pack of dogs he used to train the other animals was almost picture perfect.

Finally, the piece he was missing.

It only took a few clicks from there – people were lax with their personal security and made it so very easy to find exactly where they were. Thanks to Ellen, who tagged her location, Hannibal caught the first plane to Fort Worth, Texas – the lack of hesitation in his next move almost scary. Compulsion didn’t often color his decisions. He claimed to be too sophisticated to fall into that trap. And yet, the second he caught wind, Hannibal ran as fast as he could – the lead wasn’t much, but he planned to follow it through in any way that he could.

Upon landing in Fort Worth, Hannibal checked himself into a nice hotel just out of town. The small, out of the way location that was tagged in Ellen’s post didn’t have much in the way of lodgings, and those they did have weren’t anywhere close to his standards. He planned to spend the next few days exploring the land outside of Will’s house, so the creature comforts were a must. Through process of elimination, Hannibal worked out the land that Will occupied – if his findings were right, there were more than ten acres to explore.

For the first couple of days, Hannibal watched Will from the front of his land – the little house reminded him so much of the one in Wolf Trap, the resemblance was uncanny. Now that he knew where Will was, the location and accommodations were right on par with the man himself; it felt almost silly, to have taken so long to find him. From his perch, Hannibal watched Will with his pack and a couple of new additions that must’ve been a part of his dog training program. Despite sheer quantity of four-legged animals, Will controlled them perfectly, even the rambunctious newcomers. The whole scene was a sight for sore eyes – Will looked beautiful and free.

His exploration of the land shifted after the first week – looking at Will without approaching him, or touching him, or even breathing the same air became harder the longer he looked. It wasn’t time to approach yet and more work needed to be done. Taking the temptation away, Hannibal took to the rest of the land, instead. Though there were no watering holes for Will’s recreational fishing, there was open land and space to call his own. The entire place was fitting, meant for Will in the same way that Hannibal was.

Getting a firm grip on Will’s routine and the space surrounding him, Hannibal felt with it enough to approach. Instead of doing it in person, he found the address’s phone number in the community phone book and called the house at the same time every day, hoping that just once, Will picked up. For days, it rang and rang, the shrill sound of it harsh in Hannibal’s ear. On the last day he was going to try, Will surprised him by picking up the receiver, the inhale and exhale of breath his only answer. It was enough, though – the shared breaths they took together over the phone almost too much after months of no contact at all.

With his appetite wet, Hannibal took his surveillance up another level. He stayed passive since arriving, but like a shark smelling blood in the water, Hannibal’s grip on control was slowly waning. His nose picked up Will’s scent and refused to be far from it. The first couple of days of the next stage, Hannibal kept some semblance of distance – he knew Will’s routine and understood that leaving the house didn’t happen often. When it did, there was a reason for it; usually the cute smile of a small child or one of the dogs. Taking advantage of that knowledge, Hannibal waited until Will’s typical Wednesday pilgrimage to step into the empty house and take stock.

The dogs remembered him almost immediately, the more rambunctious ones coming up to him without a single second of hesitation. Winston, Will’s most prized pet and smartest comrade, kept his distance – the dog’s eyes were knowing, and his distrust of Hannibal sat palpably in the air. There was no intention to approach and when Hannibal got near him himself, Winston stiffened and looked to be contemplating an attack. He really was the best boy.

Going through Will’s things didn’t give him much – Will wasn’t a materialistic person, that concept hadn’t changed. It felt good, though, to be amongst his personal possessions – like if he couldn’t have the man quite yet, being around things he cherished was a close second. The old familiar smell of wet dog and cheap cologne were nice, even; each scent reminding him of simpler times and memories of moments spent wrapped up in them.

It took way more will power to leave than should’ve been necessary. Being amongst the spirt of Will was agonizing; the closeness felt like a never-ending tease and the days he still had to wait were impending with a sort of dreary doom that spoke of loneliness. A concept that, until meeting Will Graham, Hannibal didn’t think about, let alone apply to himself. He was a lone wolf for so long that processing the actual feeling of being alone was hard – harder than cutting through bone or lying with that certain kind of ease.

The only consolation Hannibal gave himself was a timeline – now that he knew the way of the land and what Will did to occupy himself throughout the day, Hannibal’s work was done. Deciding the correct attack point for his next move took precedence now – his entry into Will’s new life needed to be direct and with little blood as possible (as long as things played out the way they were supposed to, of course).

He thought briefly about using the little girl as bait, but quickly nixed the idea. Hannibal wanted Will to come back, not run further and faster away from him. Removing obstacles wasn’t the right mechanism, Will’s time spent in the BSHCI told him that pretty clearly. The way to Will’s heart wasn’t through manipulation – backing him into a corner was the worst idea possible. He wanted to catch him up in honesty, instead; without any sort of barriers between them, Will couldn’t possibly deny him anything (he hoped).

In the week leading up to revealing himself, Hannibal watched and waited, following as closely behind as he could afford. When Will took off for the grocery store, Hannibal trailed behind him on the backroads, staying just far enough away to remain unnoticed. He watched from a back booth as Will enchanted his young friend, the girl lighting up in a way that struck Hannibal to his core. If he made the right decisions previously, that smile would be on Abigail’s face, and the three of them would be crammed into that booth. Instead, he forced himself to watch with jealousy – the idea that Will found happiness outside of Hannibal’s sphere was irritating and the slightest bit heartbreaking.

It took everything in him to stop himself from nursing the feeling. Jealousy was a strange animal, especially residing within someone like Hannibal. Contrary to popular belief, his brand of crazy felt – in fact, he felt things stronger and without as much of a barrier as the rest of the population. The things he did let seep under his skin took ahold and stayed there, festering. The heat of dissatisfaction burned hot, and the jaded feeling of jealousy rampaged through him – the combination of those feelings an inch away from breaking him completely. He needed a clear head and the cozy picture of family Will made with these people didn’t sit right.

Regardless of that fact, Hannibal pushed through it, silently seething just out of Will’s sight. As much as he wanted to storm in with a temper that boiled over, Hannibal understood the situation. Killing wasn’t an option and when all was said and done, didn’t suit his narrative, anyway. Young children and innocent mothers weren’t really his forte.

In the end, sucking it up was his only option. Hannibal grit his teeth and waited for Wil’s next free Wednesday – he planned to surprise him with dinner and needed a few hours of uninterrupted time in Will’s kitchen to pull the plan together.

----

It was almost a relief, finding tangible traces of Hannibal’s presence.

At least now, Will didn’t have to wait on the edge of his seat wondering when he would show up, or what sort of tsunami of destruction he might bring with him. Instead, he merely had to look out the window to see the silhouette of him camped out the edge of his land like the spot was inconspicuous, like Will wouldn’t know. Will could take a deep breath in and smell the remnants of Hannibal’s cologne – the olfactory memory hitting him the second he walked in the door. In actuality, he probably missed the man by a few minutes – if Hannibal knew his schedule, he knew the best time to maximize both his presence and escape.

The simple fact that Hannibal decided to grace his environment meant that the game of hide and seek was quickly coming to an end – gratefully so. Aside from the anxiety of waiting around, Will found himself missing Hannibal. Over the months he pulled himself away from the situation, he learned that he was simply waiting for Hannibal to admit what he did wrong. That the grudge he kept was surface level, hiding the true nature of the issue. Hannibal was right all along, trying to nurture the darkest part of him. It was his approach that was off, not the final destination.

After coming home to the tangible proof of Hannibal’s presence, Will waited impatiently for his grand entrance. Each day that past felt like a special kind of torture. There were so many emotions pumping through him, for once in his life, completely his own. The bitter tang of betrayal coated his tongue, making the sweet taste of anticipation a little more complex. Tottering the line of wanting Hannibal and wanting to be rid of him threw in another texture to the already intricate dish of their companionship.

More than anything, Will just wanted to see what would happen when things finally came to a head. Hannibal was always so unpredictable, his off the wall actions throwing a wrench in the plan when least expected – even after hunting him down, Hannibal just might surprise him. So far removed from their past, there really wasn’t anything to lose, though. They could play the cards in their hand without fear of outside intervention. Hannibal didn’t need to rip the rug out from under him to keep everyone else on their toes. For the first time in their relationship, Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter were the only people that mattered; not Abigail, not Alana, not Jack – not even the Chesapeake Ripper, the singular entity that changed the tide for them at the start.

Will was so preoccupied with the what if’s that he almost missed Hannibal in the flesh. Out with Ellen and Sky, Will looked up halfway through his story to see the unmistakable line of Hannibal’s lips and the stunning start of silver in his hair. There were no more than a handful of tables between them, but the distance felt monumental. He thought about purposely looking over, getting his attention; yet, something stopped him. They were playing this game for a reason, the sophisticated cat and mouse between them like a well maneuvered back and forth of chess. What good would it do to tip his king over before the final moves played themselves out? Will let Sky distract him, instead – her retelling of Chocolate’s latest shenanigans just barely enough to keep his attention.

A collective sigh of relief smacked Will in the chest that next Wednesday. For some reason, he felt a delicious tension play over him. The last time Hannibal made himself known was this very day a week ago. Despite his ability to act fast and hard, Hannibal kept to a routine. That much stayed the same. Will started the day with a different pep in his step, the anxiousness of waiting finally leaving him. No matter what happened, Will no longer needed to guess.

His latest addition to the collection of trainees needed a little personal work, so Will headed into town a little earlier than usual. With the rest of the pack used to his long pilgrimage, Will didn’t worry about being gone most of the day. Greenbriar Park had a great trail to walk Fruit Loop and a prime fishing spot. It felt appropriate, to wade into the stream and find his center.

The time with Fruit Loop felt pretty successful after a couple hours of getting nowhere. She was a rambunctious soul that didn’t like to take command right off the bat, but her brain worked well, and the learning process progressed accordingly. Once the signals were understood, she followed the order – even if it took her a couple times to get it right. He finished off her training with a long dip in the pond while he let his pole bob in the water. The fish weren’t biting, but that didn’t matter – the peace of it all was worth it. It may just be the last bit of it he got.

He pulled into his driveway a couple of hours later – a surprised gasp leaving his lips when he realized the kitchen lights were on. Letting Fruit Loop out and taking his time with the fishing gear, Will prepared himself for what was on the other side of the door. The front door was unlocked, so he pushed it open and let out a whistle, calling the dogs without having to enter the house. One by one, they came running at him, their noses brushing against him as they trotted out the door. Now that the pack was out of the house, Will felt better about walking inside.

Pulling in a deep breath, Will felt his mouth start to water. The fatty smell of butter braised meat and fresh bread hit his nose, his stomach grumbling in a way that spoke to his earlier meal neglect. He kept his eyes closed for a second, soaking up the sensory sensation of Hannibal’s presence before the man actually made himself known. There were plates being moved in the kitchen, solid soled shoes on the floor, and the lightest hum at the back of Hannibal’s throat – a collection of the man’s finest qualities that overrode the shitty parts of him, simply because they were so desperately charming. Will wanted to melt at the domesticity of it all, fuck his pride and all that came with it.

Will shook himself of those thoughts, clenching his fist in an attempt to find some footing. With as clear a head as he was going to have, Will shut the door behind him, alerting Hannibal to his presence. “Who are we having?” Will asked, sarcasm dripping from his voice. It was on the right side of rude – the perfect way to break the ice.

Hannibal dropped what he was doing and turned on the spot, the move shuffling his loose tie ever so slightly. His face didn’t shift, but the maroon color in his eyes deepened, the darkness of his pupil contributing to the shade. “Will,” Hannibal said simply, walking until only the small counter separated them. “It is beef tenderloin. I have been otherwise occupied.” Long fingers dug into the towel across his shoulder, Hannibal’s nervous tick showing its face.

“Stalking me, you mean?” Will fired back, narrowing the distance down between them even further. “You made me wait a lot longer than I thought you would. I guess I did a good job covering my tracks.”

“I would call it researching. It took a lot of cross referencing to find you. I never want to use Google again.” Hannibal muttered. He looked at Will unblinkingly for a while, his glance deep and exploratory – like trying to find all the answers without having to ask the questions. “Are you hungry?”

A swift nod brought the conversation to an end for a few minutes. Will put his fishing gear away and glanced out the front door to check on the dogs, giving Hannibal a minute to create his masterpiece, allowing them both space to get their shit together. The popping of a cork drew him away from the door and back into Hannibal’s orbit, his wits about him and all the things he wanted to say sitting on the tip of his tongue.

The fancy dishes sitting on his table made his heart lurch, a chuckle falling from Will’s lips without his permission. If he closed his eyes and thought hard, he was transported back to Hannibal’s dining room in Baltimore. The shift back to a time and place where things were different between them made sitting down at the table easier, his nose picking up the all too familiar scents lulling him into that sense of comfort – the obviousness of Hannibal’s intention not offensive in the least. Predictability felt good, they were just steps away from unchartered territories and the normalcy was grounding.

Settling into a chair at the middle of the table, Will watched Hannibal with interest, the man serving them both without the usual fanfare – he too seemed to be distracted by being in Will’s presence. Hannibal sat down after pouring them each a glass of wine, his fingers immediately finding his silverware at the side of the plate to fiddle with it. Will could tell he was practically bursting at the seams, trying his hardest to keep the peace while breaking the almost year long silence. It was enjoyable, watching the nervousness bubble from him – Will couldn’t recall a time when he saw anything like it. Hannibal kept himself so controlled at all times yet couldn’t keep still in front of Will after months apart.

“So, what gave me away?” Will asked, the enjoyable silence now a little heavy – too stiff for such an interesting occasion. He picked up his fork and knife to cut into the meat on his plate, the recognizable smell of a good steak making his mouth water even more. Whether it truly was beef or some poor unsuspecting person, Will couldn’t wait to put it in his mouth.

Across the table, Hannibal watched him, letting a buildup of silence accumulate before answering the question. “Nothing you did, I assure you,” Hannibal replied immediately, cutting into his own meal as he spoke. “Your neighbor, Ellen – she raves about your dog training prowess on social media. You and I both know most people are negligent with personal safety.”

A prickle of unease ran down Will’s spine at the mention of Ellen – he assumed Hannibal knew about them, as he knew about everything in this new life. Yet, it still made his skin crawl, knowing that Ellen and Carl and the precious Sky were in danger. Simply because they were in Will’s life. “Don’t hurt them – please.” Will dropped his silverware on the plate, the delicious food like dust in his mouth.

“Why would I do that, Will?” Hannibal questioned, his brow raising. He took another couple of bites before copying Will’s posture, his hands free, the food forgotten. “Contrary to your belief, I can control myself.”

Will snorted with exasperation, his heart starting to slam against his chest. “They mean something to me, that’s why. You’ve taken everyone from me. Even you. Your companionship and my trust in you. You robbed me of that, and I won’t let you do it again.” He sucked in a deep breath, struggling to find the right words. After months of thinking and pining and rehearsing, Will couldn’t cope.

“You have my word, Will,” Hannibal tried to say, the last of his words cut off by Will’s loud scoff.

“Your word means nothing, Hannibal! Absolutely nothing. Months and thousands of miles between us hasn’t changed that.” Closing his eyes, Will let the words sink in, the truth of them radiating to his very core. Actions were their only gage of true intent.

“I have already done enough damage. I am not here to continue the trend. Spending months finding you did not come with the intention of annihilating my chances right from the start. I made a mistake once; I do not plan to do so again.”

Taken aback, Will’s eyebrows shifted together in confusion, so many thoughts racing through his mind at once. What did something like that mean coming from Hannibal? Did he just admit that he was wrong? Will struggled to decipher his own wants and needs from silver-tongued words and the figment of Will’s best dreams and worst nightmares. “You were the fall of me, Hannibal – I trusted you and you turned everyone against me.”

“In a misguided attempt to free myself. There were plans in the making long before I realized the depth of our connection. I have never made a habit of cutting my own foot off before, I felt your absence and longed for that missing limb. I made a mistake, Will.”

Shoving a hand in his hair, Will gripped the strands and pulled slightly, attempting to ground himself. He couldn’t remember the last time he felt the need for something like that, but Hannibal was overwhelming – and the room seemed to be spinning. He clenched his teeth and pushed back from the table, the need to create a bit of space staggering. “This is absurd, you know that right? The whole sequence of events. You had me exactly where you wanted me. I was melting for you and that wasn’t enough.”

“I did not believe you were ready to see me. Or yourself, for that matter. You were too close and when I realized I stood there beside you, it was too late. You left before I thought of my next step. At that point, the only thing that mattered was finding you.” Hannibal moved back from his plate, picking up his wine glass and starting a slow circle around the table. They were close now, closer than they’d been since Baltimore – since before.

“And what now? You’re here, you’ve found me – what comes next?” Will asked, a sharp edge to his voice. He was plastered against the back of his chair, his eyes flitting between Hannibal and the remaining space separating them.

“In a perfect world, you and I stay together – wherever you want to go. I have houses all over the world.” Hannibal took a sip of his wine, then continued. “The world is ours now, if you let it be.”

“Let it be? You framed me for murder! How do I trust you after something like that? Or do I spend the rest of my life watching my back? Moving through our home while trying not to leave fingerprints anywhere. I can’t do that. Not when the things between us weren’t even real.”

Hannibal looked like he took a slap across the face, his head tilting back slightly, the pink of his lips going white from the pressure of being pursed together. “It was real. What do you need from me to show you that?”

“You owe me an apology, Hannibal. I want to believe that you’re not completely unfeeling, but you just keep saying you made a mistake. That’s pretty obvious. Do you feel bad? Would you take any of it back? I would have kept on giving myself to you. You were right, about me. About what’s inside and how badly I crave the feeling of it. But you fucked up – and I want to know that you know that.”

Will watched Hannibal’s nose crinkle at the curse word, the uncouth nature of the language grating on him, even now. He didn’t comment, however – his lips occupied the rim of his wine glass, instead. It looked like he was thinking, mulling everything over in the complex network of rooms in his brain.

“I do – I feel empty and alone for the first time in my life. I crafted my identity around being alone and now it is just lonely. Without you. I do not regret what came about – we are both free because of it. My heart aches to know I ripped us from each other. Carelessly. I am sorry for that.”

There was a beat of silence, then a loud scrape of wood on the floor. The next second, Will threw himself into Hannibal’s arms, the suddenness of it spilling wine everywhere – down Will’s back, over the floor. The red of it soaking into the light color flannel Will had on, the stain meaningless. Hannibal gripped his back tightly and narrowed the space between them down to nothing – closeness the only thing that mattered.

“I want so badly to hate you,” Will stuttered out, his nose pressing into the space between Hannibal’s neck and shoulder. “I want to, but I can’t. I can’t and that makes me want to hate you even more.” His eyes were tearing up, the wild nature of his hands clawing at Hannibal wherever he could reach. A part of him wanted to bang them on the man’s chest and beat out the hurt he caused. He wondered what the rhythm of that might sound like – how, after he cored Will so carelessly, Hannibal played under the pressure.

----

Holding Will in his arms, feeling the chest wracking shakes, Hannibal fought with conflicting emotions. He felt elated, proud and triumphant in his ability to keep Will tied to him – so much so, that after all he did, Will still welcomed him. Despite the lack of warmth in his reception, Will sat down in the seat across from him, ate his food, even made conversation. On the other hand, Hannibal got hit with the wave of grief and frustration Will projected into the universe. Since the beginning of their relationship, Hannibal looked at his endgame, and his alone. It didn’t occur to him, even just seconds before Will’s words were out in the open, that the implications on Will echoed in his direction, too.

He felt it, Will’s deep desire to hate him with every ounce of his being. It was palpable, a sour taste in the air like that of an under ripened lime. Where the fevered sweetness once stood, the acidic taste replaced it, mucking up the base of Will’s scent even further. And when all was said and done, it was his fault.

Hannibal’s actions changed things – where blind trust existed beforehand, resignation and apprehension grew, instead. In his months searching for Will, Hannibal didn’t stop to think about what it all meant. Will belonged to him and nothing else mattered past that – except it did, all of it – every thought, feeling, and desire. Being so intertwined, the equal and opposite reactions reached him, too. How Will perceived the situation contributed to his subsequent actions and from where Hannibal stood, the correct choice would be to leave him in the dust – to follow gut instinct and hate him.

“Maybe you deserve to. At the end of the day, I wronged you. Despite the character change it brought about in you, despite the freedom you feel now, despite the openness you portray that I have never seen before. My methods were uncouth and sadistic. I might hate me, too, if given the chance.” Hannibal moved while he spoke, his hands tracing up Will’s sides until both palms cupped Will’s cheeks. “I hope you stay unable. Selfishly, I want you with me. At this point, in whatever capacity you will allow me.”

Will’s eyes were red, rimmed with tears and filled to the brim with anticipation and fear. He blinked a time or two, the former profiler obviously trying to regain his footing. His long fingers burned a hole of warmth in Hannibal’s side as he clenched onto him there; almost all points of their bodies were touching at that point, everything Hannibal overtaking Will. His home, his head, even his heart. “I don’t know yet, Hannibal. I have to deal with you and my feelings about you. I think it’s best if I do that directly, now.”

Before Hannibal could absorb the words, or think to react, Will used the leverage on his hips to pull him forward, their lips meeting in a bruising kiss. Flashes of bright color popped off behind Hannibal’s eyelids, a punched-out breath streaming from his nostrils. He tried to slow the kiss down some, savor the taste he didn’t get to cherish for so long – but Will had other ideas.

His tongue and teeth were wild, Will pulled Hannibal’s bottom lip into his mouth, biting down on it hard – the taste of copper heavy in the joining between them. Though he wished to sip from Will and relish in his closeness, Hannibal fought back just as well. Breaking away from the kiss to run his tongue across his bloody bottom lip, Hannibal groaned, the sound echoing around the room. Blood’s earthy taste and the natural freshness of Will on his tongue was tantalizing; Hannibal’s grip on control split down to the very base.

They shared a look for a few moments, their heartbeats slamming against each other, the dissonance of it dramatic in its own right. Will’s chest was heaving, adrenaline and want and a passionate sort of heat keeping his fight or flight system intact. Pink cheeks and a line of sweat on Will’s brow personified his confusing interest. Wanting so desperately to wipe that look off of his face, Hannibal leaned forward to seal their lips together again – the huffed breaths against him were so much better than that lost look.

Hard kisses were shared, the two of them pushing and pulling in unknown directions. Hannibal went for every flat surface that he could, pressing Will up against each vertical stabilizer to devour him. There were pants and spit shared between them, teeth yanked at lips and when a loud groan sounded in the air, Hannibal couldn’t decide who it belonged to. They fought and tangled themselves up all the way to the front door, where Will broke away to catch his breath and let the dogs in. His movements were distracted and when the front door closed, Will practically yanked Hannibal towards the stairs and up them. He didn’t stop until they were behind the closed door of his bedroom, the unmade sheets so recognizable in their disarray that Hannibal felt like he’d been punched in the gut.

Across the distance and over time, Will wasn’t the one changing – Hannibal was.

The simple vision of Will and his natural habitat reminded him of the foreign feeling that coursed through him the last time they were here – different bed, but same situation. Will was right; he gave himself to Hannibal freely and planned to do it again – consequences be damned. Harshly breaking the kiss, Hannibal took a long look at Will in an attempt to process the situation.

Over the last few months, nothing but Will mattered. That spoke louder than any plan of his from before – anything but embracing the change and caving in would lose him this. After everything, the fighting, the betrayal, the running away – grabbing small chances was the only thing left to do.

They were conjoined, neither able to survive the separation.

Making the decision and letting go, Hannibal redoubled his efforts, kissing Will passionately. He tilted his head and deepened the kiss, letting the other man control the tempo. When Will’s hands started to fiddle with the buttons of his suit, Hannibal helped him – the garments came off much faster with two pairs of hands instead of just one. By the time that Hannibal was down to just his underwear, Will was still fully dressed, the fabric of his shirt and pants pressing against Hannibal, chaffing his skin deliciously.

With lightning speed, Will had them turned around, his greedy hands pushing Hannibal until he felt the edge of the bed and toppled down onto it. He scooted back more fully onto the bed, long limbs and already hard cock on display. Hannibal’s length proudly pressed against the front of his boxer briefs, a needy pool of pre-cum making the fabric soppy and wet. Though he ached, Hannibal forced his hands to stay down by his sides, wide maroon eyes watching for Will and his next moves closely.

Will didn’t break eye contact, either. He let shiny blue eyes roam over every inch of Hannibal’s skin, his hands halfheartedly working at his own clothes as he perused. His shirt hit the floor first, followed closely by the undershirt and dark jeans. Only when they were on equal footing did Will climb onto the bed, his weight settling across Hannibal’s hips.

Strong hands gripped Hannibal’s, pulling them over his head. Will pressed down where Hannibal’s wrists met, his grip tight. “I don’t want you to touch me,” Will remarked, rolling his hips and leaning more into Hannibal as he spoke. “Move them,” he said, looking up at their hands, “and we’re done.”

Their lips met before any other words could be exchanged. Already, Hannibal felt antsy with the need to touch. He clenched his fingers, the nails of them starting to dig into the palm of his hands. Will, on the other hand, roved his hands all over Hannibal’s body without abandon. His fingertips trailed down Hannibal’s arms, across his pits, around his pecs (circling nipples while he did), and along both of his sides. Hannibal felt his cock pulse, the head of it now tucked at the very edge of his waistband. Hips rose to get more contact, but Will kept his own pace, only moving where he wanted to go.

“It sucks, doesn’t it? Feeling helpless. Knowing that with one move, you could have your hands on my hips and my back on the mattress. Understanding that, at the end of the day, I have a power over you.” Will’s words were juxtaposed by soft kisses and licks, his mouth warm on Hannibal’s lower stomach – the edge of his bottom lip just barely caressing Hannibal’s underwear.

“Will,” Hannibal groaned out, unable to formulate words. They wouldn’t matter, anyway, not when Will had something on his mind. He gasped out a second later, Will answering the groan of his name by swiftly pulling Hannibal’s boxer briefs down. It was followed by bereft contact, Will’s heat leaving him before he could even process the feeling of skin on skin.

Will didn’t make him wait long, however – the former profiler climbed back onto the bed with lube in hand, his lower half now completely revealed, too. For a second, Hannibal forgot himself and reached to touch, the tips of his fingers screaming for warm contact. Will tilted his head, looking at him with interest – the glare stopped him in his tracks, both hands retracing steps and holding still above his head. Hannibal forced himself to suck in a deep breath, his teeth gritting against the desperate need. He didn’t like the feeling of Will removing himself the first time – Hannibal wasn’t sure he could survive it a second time.

The snap of a lube bottle opening brought his focus away from his thoughts, his brain latching onto the sound, instead. Maroon eyes were wide, his breath leaving him as Will dripped an excessive amount of the slick over his own fingers. Hannibal wondered for a second, what it would feel like to be penetrated again after so long, when a low sound caught his attention. Will’s head was thrown back and those lube covered fingers were behind him, both of them deep within Will’s ass despite the angle.

He watched transfixed for an underdetermined amount of time, the hunger of his vision moving between where Will’s fingers disappeared within himself and his precious face. With every drag and press, Will’s facial expression changed. From pain to a delicate sort of pleasure, the feelings were coupled with a look, or full body sigh if he were lucky.

Each passing second that Hannibal didn’t get to touch drove him up the wall. In the position Will was in, the gap of his thighs was the only thing really touching Hannibal. His cock lay neglected against his stomach and the weight of Will over top of him made it impossible to thrust up or gain any sort of friction without moving or repositioning. In the simplest of words, they were making love without really touching at all.

The next few minutes were a rough torture, Will added a third and then forth finger. With each new one added, Will pulled his fingers out and back around front to coat with lube, the whole production of it done while never breaking eye contact with Hannibal. Where he never wanted to make it before, Will used the connection of their eyes to tantalize and control. And that’s really what it all was about – control. After the whole show and the tight grip Will handled him with when he lubed up Hannibal’s cock, Hannibal understood that concept immensely. With his prior actions, Hannibal tore Wil’s control away from him. Though it was a small act, dominating Hannibal this way took some of it back.

Biting down on the tip of his tongue, Hannibal balled his hands up into fists, the warm and oh so slow glide of Will sinking down over him was too much – so close to the edge there that he barely held himself back. Will’s hipbones called for his tight grip, the circle of bruises he usually put there vivid in his mind’s eye. He gripped both of his wrists, his fingers squeezing his own skin instead.

Will didn’t stop the slow drop of his hips until they were flush together, Will’s ass resting delightfully against Hannibal’s groin. His hole twitched for a couple of minutes in adjustment, each random clench and pull absolutely maddening for Hannibal. After a couple of minutes, Will threw his head back with a groan, the man’s hips swiveling to gain access to the last inch or two Hannibal had available for him.

Greasy fingers gripped Hannibal’s cheek then, Will’s full body move pulling a long moan from Hannibal’s chest. He wanted to close his eyes, the overwhelming moment of the situation was so much, but Will didn’t let him – his thumbs pressed into the bones of Hannibal’s cheeks and he shifted again until they were looking eye to eye.

Only then did Will start moving.

With every move up and down, Will’s cock bounced and slapped against both their stomachs. Hands where they were, Will was bent just enough to have Hannibal brush against his prostate with every downward thrust, while each upward shift brought delicious friction against hairy and smooth skin – all of Will’s moves made to maximize his pleasure and tease Hannibal all at once. From the shouts and sounds seeping from both their lips, Will’s goals were being achieved twenty times over. His hands itched and when he let go, his wrists would be bruised from the sheer determination of doing what he was told – of following Will’s directions and taking his wants into account, too.

Their rhythm started to break down after Will let go of Hannibal’s cheeks and sat back up, the posture change pushing Hannibal further into Will’s heat and more accurately against his already oversensitive prostate. With one hand, Will leaned back and grabbed Hannibal’s thigh, while the other worked himself over. As Will’s thumb rubbed over the spongy mushroom head of his cock, Hannibal felt a tight pulse and clench, his mind and body going haywire every time.

As the end approached, Hannibal found himself suddenly desperate – to touch, to thrust, to finally feel the completion that came from bonding like this. He let out a breathy shout, his stomach rippling like harsh waves during high tide. Both feet moved up the bed slightly, the bending of his knees giving him the slightest bit of leverage to finally thrust up. So lost in it all, Will didn’t stop him; he simply looked down with bright blue eyes, the pupils blown wide and the depth of them open and vulnerable.

“Please, Will,” Hannibal muttered, pleading for he didn’t know what. There were so many things rushing across his brain, so many thoughts and needs. And yet, the only want he had was Will – however he could get him. He tried to hold back, but couldn’t – not when Will nodded at him, the man’s hands reaching out to grab his and place them on the length of his skin.

The newfound permission was the last straw. Without disrupting their pace, Hannibal used the grip on Will’s hips to flip them over. Will hit the mattress with a grunt, his blue eyes bulging at the move. He didn’t try to pull away, however; Will’s legs wrapped tightly around Hannibal’s hips. The hand on his cock before drifted down that way again, the sticky purple head disappearing into Will’s fist in perfect time with Hannibal’s thrust. A soft “fuck” fell from Will’s lips and just like that, he jumped over the precipice. Hannibal kept his thrusts up and only let himself totter over when Will was spent and the visual pleasure of his falling apart was over.

In the position they were in, Hannibal got to tuck his head into Will’s neck; the messy wetness of sweat and slick and warm breath the single greatest thing in the world. He took in long pulls of oxygen and slowly came back down, the drifty feeling like so many times before now, where they took each other apart and rebuilt one mind-blowing orgasm at a time. It was reassuring, and in the same breath, terrifying. The ease in which he gave it up last time was unprecedented, and now that he understood what consequences came with it, Hannibal wanted to cling – he wanted Will and that meant all of him, not the half-baked version he allowed to come to fruition under the guise of manipulation and sickness.

There were a few minutes of silence where Will laid lax against the bed with Hannibal cradled between his widely splayed thighs. They didn’t talk or look at each other, even – the points of contact were more than enough. Fixing everything at that very moment wasn’t an option, but Hannibal had to start somewhere.

“I love you, Will.” It felt cliché to say so after sex, but the words were precious, never before said and until Will, never felt, either.

“I know. Me too. Despite all you gave me and took away, you were the fall of me – in every single way.” Will’s reply was soft, his voice scratchy from yelling and moaning and keeping things bottled up for so long. “Will you stay with me?”

Glancing up, Hannibal brushed their noses together, the softness of the touch a sweet juxtaposition to the near brutality of their joining. “Where else would I go?”