In the spring, they left for Tuscany. Hannibal found them a small house with a tile roof, leaky plumbing, and a dribbling fountain in the courtyard. Will walked to the village most days to buy their food.
One day in April, just before noon, he unpacked asparagus and spinach and fish into the refrigerator. No sign of Hannibal. He went to their room to wash dust from his face and stopped short in the doorway.
Will had meant to wear a suit for the wedding. He’d bought a suit, for fear of what Hannibal might pick out, left to his own devices. Apparently, he shouldn’t have worried.
Hannibal had left Will’s wedding dress laid out on the bed. He sat next to it and touched one sleeve with as much fear as longing.
He didn’t wear any of it out of the house. At least not into town. Sometimes he walked in the garden with Hannibal, unsteady on the gravel paths, holding tight to his arm.
He didn’t even wear it inside that much. The underwear … well, most of the time. The nightshirts, always. But the rest of it often felt like something that should be reserved for a special occasion.
His wedding was a special occasion.
It wasn’t just the dress. Lingerie lay on the bed next to it, all white lace and bows and pearls. The shoes matched the dress, cream satin and higher than anything Will had worn up to now.
"What do you think?" Hannibal said from the doorway.
"I bought a suit."
"I know. You’re welcome to wear it if that’s what you want. I thought I might provide another option."
"Is this what you want?"
"I want you to be happy. I want you to have what you desire. Whatever that may be. You don’t need to decide now. There is plenty of time."
"Where are we … where’s the ceremony going to be?"
"There is a small church in the hills above the village. The priest is amenable."
"It won’t be legal."
"No. Do you need it to be?"
Will shook his head. "Amenable? What did you do?"
"Nothing you or Mischa would disapprove of, I promise you."
"Is he going to stay amenable if I wear this?"
"Yes." He hesitated. "Shall I leave you alone to think?"
"No. Don’t leave me alone."
Hannibal sat behind him on the bed and combed through his hair. Will liked wearing it longer. He liked the feel of it touching his cheeks and the way Hannibal wrapped it around his fingers when they lay in bed together at night.
"Don’t you ever think this is weird?" Will said, meaning don’t you ever think I’m weird?
"In comparison to the rest of my life?"
"Okay. Fair point."
Hannibal lifted his hair and kissed the back of his neck. Will bent his head.
"It’s a terrible suit," Hannibal said.
"I knew you’d have something to say about that."
"If you truly don’t want the dress—"
"I’ll wear it. It’s just us, right? Just us and the priest?"
"Yes. No one else."
Will touched the sleeve again. The tiny seed pearls slid under his fingers, smooth and cool. "I don’t want anyone to laugh."
"No one will laugh," Hannibal said, and his tone promised vengeance.
"And I don’t want you to cut anyone’s tongue out if they do. Just so we’re clear."
Hannibal pulled him close and sighed against his neck. "No one will laugh, my love. You don’t realize how you look."
Two weeks later, Will stared at himself in the mirror. Dress to the floor, white silk gloves, veil shadowing his face. He felt, at times, like someone in a fairy tale. He preferred it to the feeling he’d had the past few years of being a ghost in his own life.
They rode to the church in silence. It was a tiny building made of stone that seemed on the verge of toppling inward. The windows had no glass, and all the pews were stacked against the walls.
"How long has it been since anyone used this place?" Will asked.
"It is still holy ground."
The altar had been cleaned, and the priest waited for them with a smile that suggested actual good will in addition to whatever bribe Hannibal had certainly paid him. He was a small man with iron gray hair and dark framed glasses, and he clasped first Hannibal’s hand and then Will’s.
"Very happy for you both," he said, which turned out to be the only phrase he knew in English.
Will had a fair amount of French now and slightly less Lithuanian, but almost no Italian beyond the names of every vegetable in the market. The specifics of the ceremony were a mystery to him, but the symbology was universal. They received the blessing of a God neither of them believed in. They promised to be faithful. Hannibal took a gold band from his pocket.
Will took off his glove to let him slid it on. He’d painted his nails pale pink the night before. He’d expected it to be jarring, with the size and breadth of his hand, but it wasn’t. Hannibal lifted his veil and cupped his face with both hands as he kissed him.
The priest kissed him too, afterward, on the cheek, and shook Hannibal’s hand. Either he was blind, or the bribe had been truly spectacular. Or he was just a very kind man. Will supposed that he had to allow for that too, given the improbability of every aspect of his current life.
Hannibal took him home. Again, the ride passed in silence. Will clung to Hannibal’s sleeve. A tight feeling had been growing in his chest since Hannibal put the ring on his finger. He didn’t know what to do with it or how to speak through it.
"I cooked earlier," Hannibal said. "Dinner is waiting for us in the refrigerator. All cold, I’m afraid, but we’ll have other things to think of tonight."
"I’m scared," Will said. He was. Not of the physical act. He’d done that before, and sometimes it had hurt, and sometimes it had been okay. Never spectacular, but he knew why that was now. He knew what he was looking for from it, and he knew Hannibal would give it to him.
"I’ll be very careful, my love."
"I know. That’s why I’m scared."
The wedding had been in the golden afternoon, and they arrived back at the house for sunset. Hannibal carried him over the threshold.
"I don’t think I can eat," Will said.
"You’ll be hungry afterward."
The angle of the sun turned their room to gold and then pink and then dusky purple. Will had half expected it to be bathed in blood red light like a prophecy. The tension in his chest eased for a moment and then wound right back up again when he saw how Hannibal was watching him: intent, hungry.
Will laid his gloves on the dresser. He glanced at himself in the mirror, at his pink nails and glossed lips. The lip gloss tasted like sugar. Hannibal had bought it for him. He took off the veil and set it next to the gloves.
"May I help you with the dress?" Hannibal said.
Will nodded. Hannibal moved to his back and unzipped him. The dress slid off like water and left him in panties, bra, garter belt, and stockings. And the shoes with their perilous four inch heels. He’d been taller than Hannibal when they stood together at the altar.
Hannibal offered him a hand for balance, and Will stepped out of the dress. Hannibal picked it up, but his eyes were on Will. Will swallowed.
"Just one minute, okay? I’ll be right back." He fled to the bathroom and locked himself in, leaned against the door, put his hands over his face. He hadn’t been anything like this nervous the first time he’d gotten fucked. Ridiculous.
He took a couple of breaths. His nerves didn’t change his purpose in here. Not that minor panic didn’t play a part. It certainly accounted for the locked door. But he also had lube in the medicine cabinet and a strong desire not to make Hannibal wait.
He took the panties off to do it. He didn’t want to get them dirty. One foot up on the counter, two fingers inside himself faster than he could comfortably take. He closed his eyes and listened to himself breathe and tried to stay quiet. Hannibal liked him loud, and it had become habit now. Hard to break.
Despite the discomfort, he was hard by the time he was done. When he pulled the panties back on, the length of his erection was obvious through the pale lace. His cheeks were flushed, lips bitten a deeper shade than the gloss. He reapplied it anyway and then stepped back out into the other room.
Hannibal was waiting for him, stripped down to just his suit pants, bare feet and bare chest, sitting on the edge of the bed. He rose and took Will’s hands and kissed them.
"You’re finally mine," he said.
"Yes," Will sighed. He leaned closer, and their lips met. "All yours."
"I mean to have all of you tonight."
"You said you’d be gentle."
"I will, my love. I’ll always be careful with you."
Will melted against him, and for a moment, Hannibal just held him. They swayed together, Hannibal kissing his neck, Will unsteady now more because of the way his knees no longer wanted to support him than because of the shoes.
Hannibal backed him up until he hit the bed and sat down abruptly. He could see the hard line of Hannibal’s cock through his pants, and at such a convenient height. He leaned forward and pressed his face against it. Hannibal breathed out slowly and sunk his hands into Will’s hair.
Will mouthed at it, rubbed his face against it, and Hannibal’s grip grew tighter and tighter. They’d waited for this, Will refusing Hannibal again and again, both of them steadily more frustrated and aroused. Will had almost brought himself to it more than once, but as much as he wanted to, he’d been stuck with this skittish, almost paralyzed desire to hold off, until he was sure, until the game had played out to its inevitable conclusion and become more than a game.
And here they were now, Hannibal’s pants growing darker from Will’s mouth, Will’s cock so hard it was standing up with the head pushing outside the panties. He was still ready to vibrate out of his skin.
Hannibal held his head still and leaned down and kissed him. He reached behind Will to undo his bra and set it aside. His thumbs smoothed over Will’s nipples, and Will arched helplessly into it.
"Lie back on the bed, my dear. Spread your legs for me. I want to see you."
Will did as he was told, heels still on and forcing his feet to an unnatural arch, knees bent, cock thick and leaking on his stomach. Hannibal watched him with a dark, greedy expression as he removed his pants and underwear. He knelt naked between Will’s legs and spread them even further, stroked his inner thighs, kissed his stomach just above the wet patch left by his cock.
"I can smell how aroused you are," he murmured. "I could smell your desire all the way home. I’m glad you want this as much as I want to give it to you."
"I do," Will said, for the second time that day.
Hannibal kissed his stomach again, and his thighs, and laid a hand over his cock. He pulled Will’s panties to one side and ran a finger down between his cheeks. Will saw the moment he felt the slick there, and they both gasped together.
"Will," Hannibal said, breathless.
"You said you could smell it," Will said. He could feel his face heat, but he made himself meet Hannibal’s eyes. "Please, don’t wait. I want it. I’m ready."
Two fingers slid in easily, and Will’s back arched involuntarily. It was completely different from his own rough preparation. Hannibal stroked him inside with a reverent look on his face. His touch was so gentle. He seemed determined to find every sensitive spot Will had. His fingers curved and found the right angle, and Will twisted on the bed, unable to keep still.
"Please, come on, no more waiting—" The breath behind his words faltered as Hannibal’s fingers pushed into him again and again, so fast that they could both hear the slap of knuckles against skin, but his lips shaped them anyway, shameless, silent begging.
Hannibal bent over him to speak in his ear. "You’ve been such a good girl, waiting this long. I know it was as hard for you as it was for me."
That ripped a low noise from him, and Will groped for Hannibal’s shoulder. Anything to hold onto. He felt Hannibal shift and kneel closer, hands on his hips, pulling him. Arranging a pillow underneath him.
"Are you ready?"
Will stared up at him and nodded, torn between dizzying arousal and irrational terror. "I want it so much."
"I know you do, my love."
Hannibal held the panties to one side and pushed in. Will’s head fell back on the pillow, and his mouth formed a silent gasp. "Oh, God. Oh. Hannibal."
Another little thrust, and he was all the way inside, looking down at Will and stroking his thighs in slow, soothing movements. "All right?" he asked.
"It’s so good," Will murmured. "You’re so good. I knew you’d make it feel good for me."
Hannibal closed his eyes for a second, voice rough when he spoke. "I always will. Nothing but the best for you. My perfect girl."
Another wave of heat climbed up Will’s neck, but Hannibal didn’t give him much time to savor it. He was moving, thrusting in, not hard, but insistent. He raised one of Will’s legs to hang over his shoulder and bent forward, sliding deeper.
When Will pointed his foot, he found he could dig the heel of his shoe into Hannibal’s back. It made Hannibal clutch at him and shove in hard.
"Do it," Will said. "Come on, please, it’s okay, it doesn’t hurt at all, feels amazing—"
Hannibal took a harsh breath through his nose and gripped Will’s hips and started to ride him. Their eyes met and held. Will felt his body jarred by the thrusts, Hannibal’s dick shoving into him just right every time. His own cock ached, but he wanted Hannibal’s loss of control more than he wanted to come himself. He wanted to watch Hannibal fall apart.
Will squeezed his body tight around him and heard Hannibal’s faint choking noise, heard the slap of skin on skin. His rhythm stuttered, picked up pace again, and then Hannibal was almost motionless inside him, shoulders straining as he came. His face was so open. Will reached up and touched his lips. Hannibal licked at his fingers, and his hips jerked a few more times.
"Was I good?" Will asked, voice soft and light as he could make it.
Hannibal caught his wrist, and his hips stuttered again before he pulled out, panting. He nipped Will’s fingertips and kissed his palm and bent immediately to seal his mouth over Will’s cock through the panties and suck hard.
Will made a high, helpless noise and clutched hard at his hair with both hands. "Oh God, please, pull them down, I want your mouth on me right now, fuck, Hannibal—"
Hannibal made a soft sound against him and did as he asked. His mouth closed around Will’s cock and sunk down and down. There was no tease or build up, just perfect hard suction.
Will swore and held him there and dug his heels into his back as he came. His mouth was still shaping the word fuck as he slid down from the peak and let every muscle go loose and limp.
Hannibal stayed where he was. He nuzzled Will’s hip, and Will reached a shaky hand down to pet his hair and try to smooth the mess he’d made of it.
"Sorry," he murmured.
Will closed his eyes.
He must’ve slept and slept hard, because when he opened them again, he was clean, the panties and shoes were gone, and Hannibal was setting a tray of food down on the bed.
"Do you think you can eat now?"
"I think I could eat everything on that tray. What are you having?"
Hannibal smiled. "I can always get more."
He turned away to uncork the champagne, and Will stared at the long red marks on his back, with the occasional small purple bruise where the heel of the shoe had dug in. He got up on his knees to touch one.
"Shit, did I do that?"
"You did," Hannibal said, and he sounded smug about it.
"I liked it." He handed Will his champagne and got back into bed with him.
He pulled the sheets up to their knees, but they didn’t really need it. Even with the window open and the sun gone, the breeze carried no chill. He tucked Will into the curve of his arm and fed him strawberries until Will got too impatient and pulled the tray closer.
They ate sliced fruit and champagne, blini with caviar and sour cream, smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches cut into strips, and tiny honey cakes with orange syrup. They kissed between bites. The knot in Will’s chest had unraveled entirely, and he felt loose and happy.
"I’d like to take you to Florence," Hannibal said. "And Rome. Paris. London."
"London has cameras every ten feet."
"Morocco then. Perhaps Marrakech. Have you seen it?"
"I haven’t been anywhere."
"I’ll take you everywhere."
"And I’ll be happy to go, but not yet. I want to stay here for a while."
"In this house?"
"Yeah. I got you something. It’s kind of portable, but you won’t use it much if you’re distracted."
"A wedding present?"
"Yes. You want it now?"
Hannibal nodded, and Will slid off the bed to pull out the box. Hannibal peeled away the paper to reveal the wooden box inside with its lacquered shine and brass clasp. He opened it and laid a hand lightly over the rows and rows of pencils and oil pastels.
His face was expressionless. Will chewed the inside of his lip and stopped himself from saying anything.
"My uncle told me I had technical proficiency but no heart to my work," Hannibal said.
"Yeah. He told me that too. It didn’t stop you drawing. Your office was always full of—"
"He was right. You’ve seen them. The reproduction of reality is not art. It’s a pleasant way to pass the time, but that’s all."
"I saw that stag. I think Robert was full of it. Or just full of himself."
"What do you expect me to draw?"
"Whatever you want. Or nothing if you don’t want to."
Hannibal picked up a stick of charcoal and set it down again. "Suppose I wanted to draw you?"
"I wouldn’t stop you."
Hannibal looked over his naked body. "Like this?"
"Any way you want me."
Hannibal eyed him for a moment and then shifted to the end of the bed with a drawing pad and the box beside him. Will kept eating while he drew and then let his head tip back on the pillows to watch shadows move across the ceiling.
When he was done, Hannibal looked down at the paper with the sort of expression he used to direct at Franklyn.
"It can’t be that bad," Will said.
"You have no grounds for that assumption."
"You’re just used to doing everything perfectly. Or at least to thinking you do everything perfectly. Which is not the same thing, by the way."
"You haven’t complained."
"I didn’t say you didn’t do me perfectly."
"Shocking language from you, my dear," Hannibal murmured, with a small smile. He looked at his drawing a second longer and then balled it up and tossed it to the floor. He stretched out next to Will and laid his head on Will’s chest.
Will stroked his hair. "Try again in the morning. I hear sex is exhausting for men your age."
Hannibal made a disgruntled noise, but only pulled him closer. If Will had a premonition that Hannibal’s art might eventually tend more toward gutted bodies than his own live one, he kept it to himself.