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Into the Wild

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Will doesn’t remember hitting the water.

He knows it happened. The sand beneath his palms is enough evidence of that, but he doesn’t remember feeling impact. The missed satisfaction that should have followed the sharp, cold slap of the ocean meeting his bones, the curiosity of what it felt like to plunge into the Atlantic after a freefall from space.

There’s blood everywhere, Will realizes, as a mild sense of dread begins to tentacle in his stomach. It’s in his hair, on his face, and dripping down both hands as he sinks his fingers into the wet sand and coughs a mixture of blood and seawater out. His lungs feel like they may never get enough oxygen again as he inhales loudly, sharply, his chest rattling desperately as he chokes on another cough and gags against the feeling.

It’s pitch black here, wherever they are. Will can barely see an arm’s length in front of him when he looks from side to side. The only light comes from the moon and surrounding stars, as they shine down from the sky and bounce off of the still waters that mirror them. Will considers this as he wipes his mouth and face off on one sleeve and then sits back on his haunches, breathing deeply - freely - as he stares up into the sky and pushes the wet hair back from his forehead.

Hannibal. A gut twisting spike of fear courses through his entire body as he gasps and staggers coltishly to his feet. He can barely hold his own weight up, body buckling against itself as his knees take the impact and scrape against the sand and rocks. Will can’t control the way his body sags and weaves through the sand as he tries to call Hannibal’s name, but can only cough and choke instead. He has to stop suddenly, steadying himself against a large rock before he’s able to go any further.

It takes a few rough moments of pulling himself together before Will finds the curve of Hannibal’s shoulder over a crescent of rocks washed out of the ocean. Hannibal is stretched out against the sand in the same position he sleeps, open palm stretched out yet holding onto nothing. As Will gets closer, it’s clear that Hannibal’s sweater is saturated with blood and seawater.

“Hannibal,” Will whispers, licking his lips. For the first time he is aware of the taste of copper tang, blood and salt.

Will stumbles down the remainder of the beach that separates them, unable to stop himself until he falls knees first into the sand at Hannibal’s back.

The wound on his face throbs painfully as he leans over to touch Hannibal’s shoulder, fingers curling into the wet fabric pathetically. Hannibal doesn’t respond to the touch, not to the first nor the last, when Will tightens his grip and shakes Hannibal’s shoulder roughly.

“Hannibal, wake up,” Will says, voice creaky and unsure.

It’s hard to stop the feeling of panic that begins to bloom in the pit of Will’s stomach. His heart begins to thump uncomfortably hard against the inside of his own chest as he shakes Hannibal again, tears beginning to gather in the corners of his eyes.

Hannibal almost looks the same as he has every other time Will has watched him sleep, except here, in the dark, on the wet sand, it’s all wrong. Hannibal’s hair has plastered flat against his forehead, and the color of his skin is pallid, faded. Will blinks the tears out of his eyes, frustrated with himself as he leans over Hannibal and presses his palm to Hannibal’s chest. Even though it’s cold to the touch, it’s moving - slowly - up and down.

He’s breathing, and his heart is beating. Hannibal is alive.

“Please, Hannibal,” Will whispers, greedily pressing his hand against Hannibal’s heartbeat once more. He coasts his hand from Hannibal’s chest, up over his shoulder and down his arm until he’s holding Hannibal’s wrist in one hand. Will presses his thumb against Hannibal’s pulse point and counts steadily, using Hannibal’s watch to track time.

His pulse is slower than it should be, but it’s there. Will wipes his eyes and frowns, pushing himself back into a kneeling position. As he does so, blood from his own face drips down onto Hannibal’s sweater. Will watches it as it blooms out in a pattern over the wet fabric. It isn’t until Will reaches a hand up to his own face that he realizes he’s still bleeding from the fight. Like a punch it all comes back to him: the knife wounds, the bullet to Hannibal’s stomach, Dolarhyde throwing them around like dolls.

They need help. They both need help right now, and Will doesn’t know what to do. Hannibal is unconscious, and Will can only assume it’s from taking the brunt of the impact when they fell. Even though Will had been the one to tip them over the edge, Hannibal had quickly dropped his weight and positioned himself beneath Will’s body as they free fell through the air.

Will hadn’t realized what Hannibal was doing until it was too late, and then the water was right there.

What he remembers most is looking at Hannibal’s face while they were in free fall. He doesn’t remember anything else, but as long as he doesn’t forget the way Hannibal looked at him in that moment, the rest didn’t matter.

They have to do something, Will thinks, touching Hannibal’s stomach gently. He gets close to the bullet wound, but Hannibal doesn’t react.

Hannibal needs stitches. Will has never put stitches in anyone before, but for Hannibal, he will.

Straining, Will gets Hannibal up out of the sand and half propped against him. He grunts, already out of breath, and closes his eyes. The harder he tries, the more blood gushes from his head, but he doesn’t know what else to do. There’s nowhere else to go but forward. The cliffs are deliriously high - Will doesn’t know if they’d be able to climb them on a good day - and the coast itself is jagged, made up of private land that no one else has touched in years and years.

Will could write a book of all the things he doesn’t know. He has no idea how far they’ve traveled from where they jumped. He doesn’t know if there will be another property further down the beach, or if he’s going to drag Hannibal in the wrong direction altogether and lead them back to where the FBI is likely already casing the safehouse.

Tonight, all Will can do is try. Hannibal would do the same if it were him; there is no leaving the other behind. Not now.

Crying out in pain, Will takes a deep breath and begins to walk forward in the sand. Hannibal’s weight is leaning entirely on Will’s right side, and it’s a struggle to move him at all. Hannibal is heavier than Will is on a good day, made of muscle and a long, lean figure. Now, soaking wet and unconscious, the dead weight of his body is almost too much to hold up, much less carry.

Will grunts and readjusts his grip around Hannibal’s waist as he moves them forward, one foot, and then the other.

He’s breathing so hard he thinks he might pass out. When Will looks down, he notices that Hannibal’s feet and ankles are completely covered in thick sand, two trailing lines behind them a direct result of being drug through the wet surf. They’re leaving tracks, Will thinks to himself, gasping against the cool night air as he takes one more step, and then another.

It takes twenty minutes for Will to begin getting light-headed from blood loss and fatigue. He drags Hannibal as far as he’ll be able to, until the wind begins to pick up and Will collapses, accidentally dropping Hannibal into the sand and falling on top of him. Will lays there for a moment, resigned, and presses his forehead to Hannibal’s wet shoulder. He takes a few deep breaths. There’s no way out of his but through. Will closes his eyes and steadies himself, thinking about the safety that came when he was warm under expensive bed linens and wrapped in Hannibal’s arms.

The memory rattles around inside of Will’s head like loose change. Grimacing, Will digs his palms into the sand at either side of Hannibal’s chest and pushes himself up, gritting his teeth at the pressure in his head as he rolls off of Hannibal’s body and onto the ground beside him.

Once he has himself upright, he reaches for Hannibal’s shoulder and rolls him over, onto his side. Will checks his breathing and his pulse one more time, relieved to feel warm breath against his hand, and then moves Hannibal’s legs so he won’t accidentally roll himself back over. If Hannibal wakes up like Will did, Will doesn’t want him choking on his own vomit.

With Hannibal temporarily situated, Will staggers back up to his feet and begins to undress himself. He should have done this before, but he was so dizzy with fear he’d decided to run instead.

He lays his pants against a dry log and peels his t-shirt off, wringing it out once before hanging it over the log’s branch.

It isn’t that far to the water’s edge. He stays out of the tide because he knows he isn’t strong enough to fight if he’s accidentally pulled in, and washes his face as best he can. When he’s done, he peels off his already wet underwear, and rinses them off in the water, too.

Once he’s done he makes his way back to where Hannibal is laying in the sand. It’s harder to rip fabric when it’s wet, but he manages, tearing it into crooked strips. One of the strips goes around his head, and another around his arm. He’s out of breath by the time he finishes tying the knots.

Will staggers back over to Hannibal, and uses the remainder of the fabric to wipe the blood from his face. He cleans Hannibal’s throat, his neck, and his collarbones even as they disappear beneath the neckline of his sweater. With the last strip of fabric, he delicately cleans the skin as best he can around Hannibal’s gunshot wound.

He needs medical care, Will thinks again, mind racing as he tries to remember the potential complications of an untreated gunshot wound. Internal bleeding and infection are the two that spring to mind first. Frowning, Will pulls Hannibal’s sweater back down over his stomach, and looks back at Hannibal’s face. There’s an angry bruise beginning to bloom there - Will uncovered it beneath caked on blood. The bruise travels from Hannibal’s temple, all the way up to the front of his hairline.

Will frowns again, feeling sad, and smooths Hannibal’s hair back as much as he can. Somehow Hannibal looks younger here, like the photo Will saw in Italy.

“I’m scared,” Will admits quietly, eyes flickering over Hannibal’s face. He leans in and presses his mouth to Hannibal’s bottom lip in a brief kiss before he stands to dress.

He watches Hannibal while he does so, pulling the cold, damp clothing back over his limbs. It’s uncomfortable, but the pressure the makeshift wraps have made on his open wounds are worth it.

“Hannibal,” Will says again, kneeling back down in the sand. He leans over Hannibal, one hand in the sand at his shoulder, and the other on Hannibal’s cold waist. There’s no change on Hannibal’s face; no reaction, not even a flicker of moving eyelids. Will doesn’t know how long it’s been since he first woke up, but it’s been too long for Hannibal to still be out. “Please wake up.”

He moves one hand to touch Hannibal’s cheek, tapping the skin gently. If Will didn’t know any better, if he stumbled upon Hannibal like this in the sand without knowing what had happened, he might… Hannibal looks like he might be…

“Hannibal,” Will snaps, and now there’s a spark of fear in his tone he didn’t have before. The tremor in his voice is also getting harder to control the longer Hannibal doesn’t wake up. Freshly awake Will had a goal, despite the shroud of trauma hanging over his head, but now - with the sky already beginning to lighten over the horizon, and Hannibal no closer to consciousness than he was when Will first found him - well. Will feels his skin beginning to crawl as desperation takes over. “I’m not doing this alone, alright? This was me and you, Hannibal, please.”

Will tightens his fingers against the flesh of Hannibal’s cheek without meaning to. He presses his thumb hard against Hannibal’s cheekbone as he leans in, and then moves his hand up, smoothing the hair back from his forehead even though it still sits the same way it had when Will last touched it.

Eyes wet, Will blinks back the tears of frustration he can feel, and frowns down at Hannibal’s lifeless torso. He remembers a story Hannibal told him once over dinner about a difficult patient he’d encountered during his short stint as a trauma surgeon. The nurses kept complaining that the patient was coming in and pretending to be unconscious to reap the liquid reward of IV drugs; Hannibal had resolved the issue in one late night visit by administering a rough sternal rub. If Will remembers the story correctly, the patient left that night and never came back for a follow up.

Pressing his palm flat against Hannibal’s chest, he traces his fingers upwards until they come to rest on Hannibal’s sternum. At the time, Will had been so intrigued by the amount of pain such a simple technique could cause, he’d asked Hannibal to demonstrate - lightly. Hannibal had been entertained at the notion, and so, between dinner and dessert, he’d rubbed his knuckles against Will’s sternum until he’d almost collapsed to the floor in pain.

Tonight, Will copies what Hannibal had done to him as best he can. He gets up onto his knees so he can really put his weight behind it, and rests his knuckles against the flat bone stretching the length of Hannibal’s chest. After taking a deep breath, Will presses his knuckles into Hannibal’s cold flesh, and begins to move his hand back and forth.

It takes less than ten seconds for Hannibal’s body to react. When he does, he jerks beneath Will and gasps loudly, one of his hands clumsily moving up to push the cause of the pain away. Hannibal wraps his fingers around Will’s wrist and digs his head back into the sand, breathing heavily through the lingering pain, squeezing the flesh and bone of Will’s wrist as he tries to ride the sharp aches out.

“Hannibal,” Will breathes, unable to feel anything other than the joy blooming warmly in his chest.

Hannibal looks at Will curiously, face still twitching from the ebb of pain in his chest, and lets go of his wrist sharply. Will feels the very beginnings of terror begin to edge at his skin as Hannibal gathers himself up like an animal. He gets to his knees and crouches, wincing, one hand moving to the open wound on his chest.

“Where am I?” Hannibal asks. His voice is rough, and he sounds out of breath as he pulls his hand away covered in blood, both dried and new.

Frowning, Will begins to reach forward. When Hannibal moves imperceptibly out of his range, he stops immediately.

“We’re an hour outside of Baltimore,” Will starts to explain, eyebrows knotting. “In Chesapeake Beach. What do you remember?”

Hannibal frowns further the more he studies his hand, and the wound not-so-hidden beneath his shirt. He looks up at Will, and answers, “I just completed an on-call shift at Johns Hopkins. A young woman’s head required reconstruction after a fluke workplace injury. She survived.”

In the moment that follows, Will feels like he’s been hit across the face with a brick.

“Who - we - uh,” Will stumbles, frazzled as his entire nervous system goes on red alert. His hands begin to shake, he can feel the nausea creeping up the back of his throat, and sweat is beginning to prickle at the back of his neck. “This isn’t going to make sense, but I need you to trust me. We know each other, Hannibal, and we’ll figure this out, but we need to leave here.”

Hannibal regards him carefully, eyes flickering across Will’s face as he tries to read potential deception in Will’s expression.

“Please, Hannibal, trust me,” Will adds, raising his eyebrows slightly. He can practically taste the desperation dripping from his voice, and he only hopes that Hannibal can, too.

Even though he looks unconvinced, Hannibal asks, “Where do we go?”

Will’s heart begins to beat normally again, and, as if on cue, sirens blare overhead. A cop car races the wrong way down the highway, back towards where Hannibal’s cliff-side escape lays.

“Somewhere safe,” Will whispers, nodding further down the beach. He catches Hannibal’s eye and adds, “Just me and you.”

Hannibal nods once. He doesn’t seem truly convinced, but it’s enough to get him on his feet and moving.

Chapter Text

It’s almost morning, and the sun is beginning to rise above the quiet Atlantic.

The sky has turned purple where the ocean meets the clouds on the horizon, and Will can’t help but look at it every now and then as they make their way along the sand. He thinks about every time he’s looked at the early morning sky before today, and wonders if he ever would have believed that he’d end up here, like this.

He can feel Hannibal looking at him every now and then, too, which does nothing to soften the nostalgic flame burning low in his stomach.

Hannibal is trailing a few feet behind him, exhausted but still moving. Will knows Hannibal doesn’t realize it, but he can practically feel the laser focus of Hannibal’s curious gaze. It’s the itch that never goes away, trained on the back of Will’s head like a sniper’s rifle.

“Why are we running?” Hannibal asks, interrupting Will’s thoughts.

It’s strange, listening to Hannibal speak now. He has the same familiar voice Will has always known, but his accent is thicker, a bit clumsier coming off of his tongue. It’s as though English is not as fluent of a language to the OR doctor as it was to the psychiatrist and inevitable prisoner.

Will weighs the answer already curling off of his tongue, and instead replies, “How much do you want to know?”

“As much as is required,” Hannibal answers, easily. It’s hard for Will to remember that there is no hidden agenda or deeper meaning to his question and corresponding reply. Hannibal has no memory of the emotional chess game they have been playing for years.

Looking back over his shoulder, Will slows his pace and then stops altogether until Hannibal is within arm’s reach. When Hannibal looks at him curiously, he answers, “You’ve been in federal custody for almost four years. Today, we got you out.”

“We?” Hannibal asks, looking skeptical. He lifts one eyebrow cautiously, but cringes when it pulls at the bruise darkening on his forehead.

Will nods and licks his bottom lip. He pauses, debating his answer, and then clarifies, “You and I.”

“I see,” Hannibal replies. He traces along the sore spot on his head with one hand, considering. As Hannibal rolls the answer around, the animal part of Will’s brain can only see how big Hannibal’s hands are in front of him; how long it’s been since he got to touch them the way they deserved to be touched. Hannibal looks at him again, and asks, “And the memory loss?”

That brings Will right back like a bucket of ice cold water being dumped over his head. It doesn’t matter how big Hannibal’s hands are, because right now, they are hands that don’t belong to Will.

He thinks about the fact that Hannibal woke up missing the last ten years. When Hannibal talks about the memory loss is sounds practically clinical; simply working out the details of the current situation, and nothing more. If Will woke up without a decade of memories, he doesn’t think he could have followed Hannibal so blindly down the beach.

“We were attacked at your home, up on the cliff,” Will answers, voice coming out flatter than he means it to. He thinks about the blood, and the feeling of his cheek pressed against Hannibal’s chest. He closes his eyes briefly. “We jumped.”

Hannibal makes a small noise of understanding, and then replies, “Ah. A poor landing, then.”

“You, uh,” Will pauses. His feet stall in the sand again, until Hannibal is back beside him, watching carefully. Will touches the wound on his face, now out of habit, and cringes at the resulting sting. “I think you moved us around, so you would hit the water first.”

A haunted look passes over Hannibal’s face. Will realizes that Hannibal has begun to understand what the repeated use of ‘we’ really means.

It’s so, so stupid, but Will feels himself blushing a little. He’s getting uncomfortable under the collar, despite everything.

He starts walking again, leaving Hannibal behind.

“So, the wounds – we were not fighting one another, then,” Hannibal clarifies, hazarding a guess.

Will feels a laugh bubble out of his chest as he answers, “No. Not this time.”

“I see,” Hannibal says again.

They’re both out of breath, from the exertion and from the conversation. From the corner of his eye, Will catches Hannibal pressing one hand to his chest wound, and feels another firework of worry explode deeply in his chest. They’ve got to be close to something now, he thinks.

A silence falls between them as they continue to trudge through the sand, Will flinching when a siren begins to flare in the distance. Every time he moves his face, he feels his wound crack back open. He knows that it will scar, now that it is full of dirt and sand and repeatedly interrupted healing.

Will takes a step, and then a few more, before he opens his mouth to say something. A pause when it doesn’t quite come out, and then, finally, he admits, “You and I have had a very interesting life together.”

“Oh?” Hannibal asks. He looks surprised when Will glances over at him.

Will nods, and finally, finally sees a winding set of wooden stairs just around the curve before them. He points it out until Hannibal follows his gaze and looks forward, breathing a sigh of relief. It’s a new sound to Will’s ears.

“We only recently,” Will says, interrupting himself to gasp and press a hand against the wound in his leg as it stings sharply. “Reunited.”

A pace behind him, Hannibal’s voice is soft, eyes warm and curious as he replies, “I am sorry I don’t remember.”

Will’s mouth pulses in a tight, sad smile. He looks at nothing, and removes the hand from his leg before whispering, “I am too.”

~

It takes them less than twenty minutes to reach the wooden stairs. They climb each one slowly, carefully, and have to pause halfway up to gather themselves and catch their breath. Will’s leg wound has fully opened up again, blood blurting out of the incision every time he picks his leg up to the next step. Hannibal instructs him to apply pressure as best he can.

The top of the wooden stairs leads them down a short, overgrown walking path to a dock and an older looking marina.

For a moment he entertains the possibility of Hannibal secretly keeping an escape boat here somewhere, but quickly realizes how far away that particularly fantasy is when it’s clear the marina is rarely used. There is one fisherman already in the water, and a handful of old, rusty cars parked at odd angles in the attached parking lot. It would be too obvious here.

“Hannibal,” Will whispers, inclining his head towards one car towards the furthest edge of the lot. The plates are current, but covered with dust, and there are broken seashells on the roof from hungry seagulls dropping them overhead.

Hannibal doesn’t seem to understand what Will is doing until he’s already opening the driver’s side door handle. Unsurprisingly, it’s unlocked, and Will has to wonder if it even works at all. He gets the door open and slides into the driver’s seat before Hannibal has even reached the passenger side door.

Will leans over to double check Hannibal’s door is unlocked, and then begins to blindly feel around underneath the steering wheel.

“We are stealing this car?” Hannibal asks, voice soft and vaguely horrified as he lowers himself into the passenger seat carefully.

The engine crackles a few times as Will laughs and connects the right wires – one of the few useful, albeit inappropriate tricks his father taught him – it takes a few tries, but soon the car rumbles to life beneath them. It doesn’t sound like the most reliable car, but it will do to get them to their next location. Hopefully a high speed chase will not be necessary.

“We need it,” Will says, simply, reaching for his seatbelt. Hannibal does the same.

The simple action makes Will’s heart burst and ache for one moment. Choose one law to break, and break it well, Hannibal told him once, as they’d discussed ethics over dinner. But never get greedy and break two at the same time.

Hannibal’s rules to live your best life, Will used to think to himself, privately amused.

It only takes a minute to get the car out of the stall and onto the road. It’s still so early there are no other cars to contend with, with the exception of the odd delivery truck. Will takes them in the opposite direction of Hannibal’s house, hoping to avoid any potential police road blocks, and exhales heavily. Now they just needed to –

“We will need medical supplies,” Hannibal says, echoing Will’s thoughts.

They find a 24 hour pharmacy five minutes down the road, which is more convenient than they probably deserve.

“You wait here,” Will says, as he pulls into a spot in the middle of the parking lot.

The edges of the parking lot are completely empty, but there are a few other cars gathered in the center. One glance into them, and Will realizes they’re likely all homeless. Each car’s occupants are hidden behind bed sheets tucked carefully into the windows.

Hannibal nods and doesn’t argue or ask questions as Will pops the trunk and climbs out of the car.

He finds a dirty hoodie in the trunk, which will work well enough for what he requires. Will pulls it on over his head, grimacing at the smell of body odor and stale gas that he finds on the inside, and then tugs the hood up until the wound on his face is mostly shielded. He still has his wallet in the back pocket of his pants – small miracles – and even though it’s soaked through, it’s all the money they have in the world right now.

Will finds a lighter and a few more dollars in the pocket of the hoodie as he walks across the parking lot towards the pharmacy doors.

He’s as efficient as possible inside the pharmacy. His only concern is drawing as little attention to himself as possible, being that he’s bleeding, exhausted, and almost certainly on the run. Luckily for him, there’s already a semi-incoherent man dressed in flannel and various knits favoring the flu and cold medicine aisle; security is so busy keeping an eye on him, they don’t spare a glance as Will passes by.

It takes him less than ten minutes to find the supplies they’ll need to mend themselves up with, as well as new packs of underwear and undershirts.

As Will approaches the front of the store, he realizes that there’s still one self checkout still open, manned by a tired looking employee who is more concerned with picking her fingernails than anything else. Will takes the golden opportunity to check out quickly, using all of the damp cash that he has in his wallet.

His hands begin to shake as he throws the purchases into a plastic bag, and rips the receipt from the machine.

It’s a combination of nerves, exhaustion, and above all else, trauma. Now that the adrenaline of the fall and ensuing hike have worn off, he can’t stop thinking about what they’re doing.

They tried this once before, years ago, Will following Hannibal into the dark blindly. It had ended in a blood bath, and even though Will is confident it won’t be Hannibal behind the blade this time, he can’t tell for sure if it will turn out any better. What will happen to them if Hannibal has permanently lost his memory? He needs x-rays, and medical supervision, neither of which Will can give him. What if there is something that could be done, that they’ve both ignored in favor of running? Hannibal, blindly.

What if Hannibal decides to leave? What would become of Will then?

By the time Will gets back to their stolen car, he’s emotionally overwhelmed and teary-eyed.

Hannibal is still sitting in the passenger seat patiently, though he has pulled down the sun visor to look at his head wound in the mirror.

“I believe I must have encountered a rock after our initial impact,” Hannibal tells him, as Will drops into the driver’s seat with both bags heavy in his lap. Hannibal doesn’t seem to notice his anxiety as he continues, “Though it did not break the skin, I assume I am concussed. Heavily.”

Will blinks a few times. When he realizes there are tears dripping down his face, he pinches the bridge of his nose angrily, digging his thumb and pointer finger into the corners of his eyes to roughly push the tears away.

“I’m sorry we can’t take you to the hospital,” He says, the severity in his tone betraying the emotions on his face. Hannibal looks at him curiously, one hand still braced against his own forehead. Will swallows and stares straight ahead as he adds, “If we go to the hospital they’ll take you away.”

Swallowing compulsively, Will glances over at Hannibal and snorts, like he’s embarrassed for himself. Maybe he is. They both heard the “from me” trailing the end of Will’s sentence, even though he didn’t say it out loud.

“Retrograde amnesia is common in head injuries, especially those that are traumatic,” Hannibal says carefully, still watching Will’s face as he reaches across the tight interior of the car and rests one palm on Will’s shoulder. “I am not worried. The hospital would do nothing for me, except for time consuming tests and x-rays.”

The assurance brings a shaky, if not forced smile to Will’s face.

“Sorry, I, uh,” Will laughs sharply, more tears dripping down his cheeks as he shakes his head. “It’s been a really long day.”

Hannibal frowns at him, concerned, and says, “I am sure it has. Were you able to secure the necessary medical supplies?”

“Yes,” Will gulps, handing one of the two bags over. The second bag contains the clean undershirts, two bottles of water, and some cheap snacks he thought to buy en-route to the registers. He places that bag in the back seat. “I had to make some substitutions.”

Rummaging through the bag, Hannibal pulls out the bottles of saline and betadine Will found in the first aid aisle.

“This parking lot does not have cameras, I checked while you were inside,” Hannibal explains, glancing up through the car window as if to demonstrate. He pulls the small sewing kit Will bought out of the bag next. “I will mend us both here.”

Will nods, and accepts the saline Hannibal hands him.

As Hannibal digs through the rest of the bag, it becomes clear that he’s not exactly happy about the materials. Will had to improvise, which means that they’ll be leaving this parking lot full of stitches made of less than medical grade material. Namely, dental floss. Hannibal’s reaction to the roll of dental floss makes Will smile again; it’s the same reaction he would have to pre-packaged grocery meat or imitation crab.

Outside the car, it only takes Will a few minutes to rinse the side of his face with the saline, and then flush the wound itself with betadine.

Hannibal makes him wait until the betadine is completely dry, which gives Will enough time to pop a few Tylenols for the pain, and then hand two over to Hannibal as well. If they were in a semi-permanent location he would have bought some booze, but they can’t afford to drink tonight – both literally, and figuratively.

Will gets back into the car, and Hannibal uses the overhead light to stitch Will’s face back together. It hurts, but no more than Dolarhyde’s blade. He is practically numb by now. He stares at Hannibal’s face to distract himself. Hannibal works quickly, efficiently, angling Will’s face with his hands, thumb on Will’s chin, long fingers stretched warmly across the length of Will’s jaw.

When Hannibal is done, Will rinses himself with saline one more time, and then helps ease Hannibal’s sweater over his head.

He tries to keep the car as free of their bodily fluids and belongings as possible. He balls Hannibal’s bloodied sweater up and tucks it into one of the empty plastic bags, and then presses Hannibal’s bare shoulder back against the seat with both hands.

Hannibal digs the bullet out of his own shoulder with a pair of tweezers fresh from the packet. He breathes heavily through his nose, trying not to pass out, and grits his teeth tightly. His body jerks roughly against Will’s grip whenever he makes a particularly painful maneuver. Will openly watches as fresh blood drips from the wound, leaving a line of red that runs the length of Hannibal’s chest and abdomen.

The bullet goes into the bag with Hannibal’s sweater, to be disposed of later. Hannibal gets out of the car to rinse the wound with the last of the saline and betadine, and then sits in the passenger seat to loop a series of quick stitches that will hold the wound together.

“We will scar,” He breathes, as Will helps him tie the final stitch. “But it will hold. The stitches will do what they need to.”

By the time they finish mending their wounds, the sky is a pale blue, and there are a few cars on the road. Will throws away the garbage from the supplies they used and then climbs back into the car, ripping open the pack of new undershirts. He peels the hoodie and his old shirt off and puts it with Hannibal’s in the plastic bag, then tugs the fresh shirt over his head. It makes him feel fractionally more human.

Before they leave the parking lot, Will also takes the SIM card from his phone and puts it into the bag with the bullet and clothes, along with the remnants of his wallet. They’ll burn all of the evidence later. He tosses his phone onto the concrete ground and drops the heel of his shoe against it a few times, and then tosses it into the nearest garbage can.

“Let’s get out of here,” He breathes, as he finally drops back into the car.

Hannibal is finishing up dressing his wound. Bare chested, he nods and reaches back with one hand for his seat belt.

They’ve already spent too much time here, Will thinks, reaching below the wheel to start the car.

Chapter Text

Will drives through the early haze of morning alone, leaving Hannibal to doze against the passenger side window.

It’s strange, to be in Hannibal’s direct physical presence again. Will is no longer simply on the other side of the glass cage; flesh pressed foolishly to the pane, heart heavy from pretending Hannibal was just a long forgotten artifact in the museum of his old life.

He thinks about all of the dark, inky nights he spent in Hannibal’s Bentley, tucked away safely among the expensive leather interior and Hannibal’s personal belongings. Will wonders if this is how Hannibal felt then; foolishly possessive, almost wild with the need to protect even though Hannibal was one of the few people in the universe who did not need protecting.

Will thinks about his own nights spent pressing his forehead to the passenger side window, watching quietly as Hannibal drove them beneath oak trees heavily bowed with snow.

This morning they are in a car that is neither safe nor expensive, and the sky is a hazy, heavy grey. It seems suitable, if unremarkable.

It’s a dangerous game to play alone, but Will can’t help looking over at Hannibal every now and then. It brings him a peculiar kind of calm to watch Hannibal so openly.

Will is a sensible guy. Realistically, he knows that Hannibal looks no different now than he had the day before, when Will spoke to him through bars and restraints, with that face mask and those familiar glass panels between them. And despite knowing that, Will is still taken aback by the way the fresh, dewy morning throws a slant of light across Hannibal’s face. With it, he looks younger. Gentler. Like the sun knows something he doesn’t yet.

Now Will can’t help but think of Il Mostro, and glance at the small space that separates he and Hannibal.

He may no longer physically stand beside the Chesapeake Ripper, but does he stand with a killer regardless? Even though the loss of a decade’s worth of memories has given Hannibal the allusion of seeming younger, edging on naïve, did that truly change anything? Will thinks of the black and white photograph he’d thumbed while in Italy, and glances again at the man sitting beside him.

Although Will is Hannibal’s to do with what Hannibal pleases, he is not Il Mostro’s. Will knows that the man who sits beside him remembers the deaths in Italy. Is that not why he escaped Florence for Baltimore in the first place? Will fidgets with his bottom lip, and thinks back to the quiet conversations they’d shared, where Hannibal had briefly touched on his family, his childhood, and his youth. There were large, purposeful gaps in-between growing up in Lithuania and becoming a well known surgeon in America. Will thinks that Hannibal liked that just fine.

It’s impossible to stop once he’s started, especially since these memories belong to a road that Will has not gone down in so many years. Will thinks of Hannibal’s memory palace, and wonders if its hallways are haunted once again. He hopes that Mischa does not wander the memory palace alone, leaving Hannibal to roam rooms that Will does not yet exist in.

The next time Will glances across the car, he is surprised to see Hannibal’s eyes open. He is quietly watching Will in return.

“Shit!” Will blurts, startled. As he jumps, the car swerves beneath them, wheels curving into the bike lane and then back out again. Will can feel his heart racing at the unexpected fright as he takes a deep breath, and presses a hand to his chest. He finally laughs, adrenaline making it sound shaky, and says, “Jesus, Hannibal. You scared me.”

Hannibal blinks, showing absolutely nothing on his face, before he replies, “I apologize – sleep disoriented me. I did not mean to startle you.”

“It’s okay,” Will frowns, trying to stay in his own lane even though he’d rather study the look on Hannibal’s face. Hannibal does look disoriented, a little unintentionally empty behind the eyes as he stares out the window, and then trails back over to Will. Will swallows the worry beginning to bubble up, and adds, “We’re almost in West Virginia. Are you hungry?”

As Hannibal shakes his head ‘no,’ Will offers up the plastic bag he’s been working on one handed. Its contents are all courtesy of the pharmacy: a supersized bag of jerky, candy that has mostly already been eaten, and a single unopened can of Pringles.

“I am not hungry quite yet,” Hannibal says diplomatically, leaving Will to hide his smile at the sour expression on Hannibal’s face. Hannibal reaches between their seats for the bottle of Tylenol Will stashed in the center console, and then picks Will’s water bottle up. He looks over at Will, and asks, “May I have some of your water?”

It brings another sad, crooked smile to Will’s face – manners, above all else – as he replies, “Yeah, of course. Head bothering you?”

“A very strong headache,” Hannibal winces, throwing back two pills.

Will has never seen Hannibal take medication before. It’s strange and new, like seeing a haunted house with all the lights on.

“I’m going to stop for gas at the next station,” Will says, fingers itching against his own thigh. He so desperately wants to reach out and touch the bruise on Hannibal’s forehead. He wants to see for himself what small thing has caused this man so much loss. Swallowing the feeling down, he adds, “I can get more water, or some ice. Or – whatever you want.”

Hannibal seems to appreciate that. He pulses a small, warm smile in Will’s direction.

“Thank you, Will,” He says gently, the tone of his voice low, familiar and intimate. It hits Will in the stomach like a punch to the gut.

He swallows tightly, compulsively, and manages a smile back in Hannibal’s direction, even though it feels stilted.

On the inside, he can feel the warmth ripple through him like raindrops falling against the ocean. There is no one part of him that wants Hannibal close. Intimate. Every cell in Will’s body aches to touch. Hannibal has no idea what he’s done to Will with only three words, how these small gestures break him down so well.

Will’s brain is saturated with a thousand sense memories of Hannibal sounding just like this. They play out over the walls of his mind like shadows on the pavement; standing with Hannibal over fresh crime scenes, and the long, elaborate conversations that would always follow with Hannibal’s office as the back drop. Will remembers what it felt like to wander from desk to shelf and back again, touching Hannibal’s belongings, leaning against Hannibal’s things. Watching Hannibal as he watched Will back in return.

Shaking the memories off, Will swallows again, mouth dry. He’s never been so thankful to see a gas station up ahead in his life.

~

As he fills the tank, Hannibal gets out to stretch. Will understands: it’s been a long, tense night, and the morning has not yet proven any different.

“This is not a busy town,” Hannibal comments, watching the intersection quietly as Will stands with one hand on the gas pump.

Wiping the sleep from one eye, Will shakes his head, and agrees, “No, it isn’t.”

Burkittsville, the small town they’re passing through, is barely more than a blip on the radar of horror movie history. The sign that welcomed them touted approximately 151 residents, which is just fine by Will.

They fall into comfortable silence, Hannibal stretching against the car, working one elbow and then the other. Will hangs the pump back on the machine once the tank is full, and heads inside to pay with cash. It’s unlikely, but Will thinks he also might be able to find something for Hannibal to eat, too. How offensive could gas station cuisine be?

Potentially very, Will thinks to himself, smiling as the automatic doors slide open.

A burst of stale, unconditioned air hugs Will in a dry embrace. Before heading towards the grocery aisle, Will sets two twenty dollar bills on the counter – enough to cover their full gas tank. The guy behind the counter isn’t paying attention. He’s safely behind a sheet of bulletproof glass like a bird in a cage, with his feet up on the rear counter, and his back turned to Will. Most of his attention is trained on the small television hung in the corner of the room, where an infomercial phone number rolls across the bottom of the screen.

Will frowns at the silent greeting, though he is grateful for the accompanying lack of interaction, and turns to head towards the deli corner.

It’s pretty clear the gas station caters to a majority of truckers and transients. They’re in the middle of nowhere, and the most well stocked areas of the store seem to be the condoms, pre-paid phone cards, and coffee. Will smirks, and imagines picking up all three: coffee to get through the remainder of the day, a pre-paid phone card to phone Jack, and condoms to – well.

That’s something he’s been trying very hard not to think about since the first moment he saw Hannibal in his prison jumpsuit and said “please.”

Will is standing in front of the refrigerated deli shelf debating their options – maybe turkey and cheese? – when he hears the cashier’s chair squeak, and the volume level of the small television increasing by a few notches. Half listening, Will reaches for the sandwich. It’s wrapped in cellophane and is likely a leftover from the day before.

He can tell that the television program is a news report, but he doesn’t clue into it until he hears the words, “Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham.”

“Although authorities indicate that all signs point to a murder suicide, the FBI are warning the public to be on the lookout,” The news announcer drones. Will’s blood runs cold, and he carefully, evenly places the sandwich back on the refrigerated shelf. Finger prints, someone clawing at the back of his brain says. “Baltimore PD have shared these photographs of the well known criminal and FBI profiler. They have asked anyone who sees them to call the FBI hotline immediately.”

Will’s system is on red alert as he steadies himself. He blinks, licks his lips. He can hear the lights buzzing overhead. Everything sounds loud.

He didn’t even check for security cameras before waltzing in, sandwiches on the brain.

“Do not approach either man,” The news reporter continues. “They are both considered armed, and very, very dangerous.”

Adrenaline is pumping through Will’s entire body, making him shake from the nervous system out as he turns and heads back in the direction he came from. He feigns interest in the magazine rack instead of looking in the cashier’s direction; he considers a six pack of energy drinks before pretending to pat his back pockets and come up empty.

The next goal is the door, which he reaches with blood thrashing past his ear drums. On his way out, he almost walks head first into another customer.

“Sorry,” He apologizes quietly, keeping his head down.

The customer brushes past him and heads for the cashier, knocking on the glass and already asking for his preferred brand of cigarette.

Hannibal is still standing outside the car where Will left him, his attention trained on the sky above them.

“Get in the car,” Will murmurs, hip bumping against the front of the car as he takes the angle too sharp. “Quickly.”

Unsurprisingly, Hannibal doesn’t ask. His eyebrows jerk up a thread before he simply moves for his door, too.

Will is already in his seat, trying to turn the engine over, when Hannibal closes his door quietly. Will can feel that his attention is frazzled into three separate, distinct places: the gas station, the car, and Hannibal. He watches over his shoulder for anyone who might have followed him out as he tries to hotwire the car again. Switching plates has just moved up to priority number one.

“What has happened?” Hannibal asks, turning imperceptibly to follow Will’s gaze.

The car finally rumbles to life beneath them. Will exhales sharply, feeling his pulse turn over inside of his stomach as he reaches for his seat belt and throws the car into drive.

“We’re on the news,” He whispers, hyperaware of their surroundings as he eases them out of the gas station lot. If they get caught speeding, it’s all over. If a cop pulls him over for a busted tail light, everything is done. That news report was a heavy, weighted reminder that they are both only human, not the bulletproof monsters they had become on the cliff.

Hannibal raises his eyebrows, clearly intrigued at his own media, and says, “Oh.”

“Yeah,” Will whispers, glancing back over his shoulder one last time.

They’re silent until they cross the state line into West Virginia.

~

In West Virginia, Will pulls into the first shopping center parking lot he sees.

“It is my turn to drive,” Hannibal says, as they begin to gather their shared belongings from the front seats.

Will feels his heart thump hard, twice. He hasn’t had Hannibal there to take care of him in years, with the exception of last night, and the small taste of what he’s missed so much is sweet. He feels himself nod without thinking much further than that; he needs the sleep. Although he’s no stranger to operating on a minimal amount, crashing the car due to depravation will do them no favors at this point.

“Okay,” He replies quietly, letting himself smile. He sets their few belongings down on the concrete outside the car.

Hannibal returns the smile. No teeth, just a quick pulse of warmth, and that familiarly defined cheekbone.

They set to work quickly, quietly. Once they’ve removed their things, they both use the bleach wipes Will bought from the pharmacy to wipe down the interior of the car. The trunk will come next.

“You have done this before,” Hannibal murmurs, amused. He glances over from where he’s wiping the door handle down.

A half smile creeps across Will’s face, as he finishes wiping the steering wheel, and reaches to pop open the trunk. He answers, “Not quite, but I have picked up a thing or two.”

That answer seems to satisfy Hannibal just fine.

In the trunk, Will finds an empty shopping tote bag that will be more conspicuous than their two plastic bags full of medical supplies and clothing, and a piece of curved metal he should be able to use as a makeshift slim jim. He leaves the trunk door open, and wipes as much of it down as he can.

Next, Will tugs the hoodie he wore into the pharmacy back over his head, and slides the makeshift slim jim up his sleeve. The plastic bags go into the tote bag, and then he closes the trunk lid, sleeve pulled down over his hand.

“Good?” He asks, meeting Hannibal around the side of the car.

Hannibal nods and takes the tote bag from Will’s free hand.

With the car wiped and freshly abandoned, they walk through the parking lot side by side, trying to be surreptitious. Will knows that his pants are dark enough to hide the blood spatters from last night, but he and Hannibal aren’t exactly blending in. Without the guise of the hoodie Will still hates the smell of, they’re wearing what are pretty clearly matching undershirts. It doesn’t exactly scream ‘just two normal guys at the mall.’

He thinks about getting a motel room tonight, so that they can shower and change and properly rest.

“That is not nice,” Hannibal laughs, amused. The novelty of it pulls Will’s attention from his day dream of shower steam and lumpy mattresses.

Will is confused, but follows Hannibal’s line of sight until he realizes Hannibal is amused by a bumper sticker that says You’re ugly and that’s sad. It’s on the back window of a mid-90s Toyota compact that has pretty obviously been spray painted hot pink.

A sliver of affection for Hannibal cuts through the terror that still lingers in Will’s system. This is the real Hannibal, he thinks he knows that now. The man who found humor in small pleasures, and enjoyed the way the English language could afford him so many puns. Will is absolutely unprepared for anyone to take that away from him again.

He doesn’t know what to say, so he responds, “I promise we’ll stop in the next state for new clothes.”

“I would like that,” Hannibal agrees, as they both come to a stop a few cars down from the pink Toyota.

It’s a perfect car for their needs right now – a family sized SUV with stickers all over the back window.

“This is us,” Will announces, quirking a look in Hannibal’s direction.

Before Hannibal can reply, or recommend the luxury vehicle a few more spots down, Will walks around the side of the car as though it’s his own, and slides the curved metal from the sleeve of his hoodie. It takes three passes of the metal through the bottom of the window until the lock pops; it clunks inside of the door with a satisfying thunk.

He gets in first, and lets Hannibal crowd outside the still opened driver’s side door as he reaches up underneath the dash and tugs the wires down from the inside of the steering wheel. Electronic components made newer cars more difficult, but not that much. Hannibal silently keeps an eye out as Will works.

In the middle of the afternoon, at the edges of a crowded parking lot, the car roars to life beneath them.

“I didn’t realize the life of crime would come so easy to me,” Will breathes, laughing a little with relief.

Body buzzing pleasantly, Will crawls from the driver’s seat, over the console, and into the passenger side. He accepts the bag Hannibal hands over before he too climbs into the car.

He watches openly as Hannibal looks back, fond.

~

They’re almost back on the main highway when Will says, “I think we should go to Oregon.”

He found a map in the glove compartment when they were three blocks away from the shopping center, and has been aimlessly flipping through it since.

Will looks up, and over to Hannibal.

When he was a kid, he always wanted to go and see the Oregon Redwoods. He never really understood his own childish drive to get there, but it had been real, and true. The way some people dreamed of Disneyland and New York City, Will dreamed of tall trees and never-ending forests he knew he could lose himself in.

He thought he might get to see them with Molly – her parents were born and bred in Oregon, and still lived in a little fishing town in the woods – but they had never really liked Will very much. Never enough to extend an invitation. He always understood why. Now, he knows that this will be the last chance he gets to see it. Even though he and Hannibal won’t be able to leave the country yet, Will knows that Hannibal already has a plan set to leave the country. He has faith that Hannibal has already figured things out.

The hard part will be asking Hannibal, a man who does not remember Will much less their plans to flee the country together, if he knows where his bank accounts and hidden properties are located.

“I have never been to Oregon,” Hannibal replies, after a moment of consideration. He glances across the car to catch Will’s gaze, and adds, “Now will be as good a time as any to visit.”

Will offers Hannibal a smile back across the center console, and feels the relief bloom deep in his stomach. Heading to Oregon will also put some much needed space between the two of them and the FBI, he thinks. If they can get there safely, it could give them six months together to heal and plan their departure. That could be enough time for Hannibal to… to recover.

The FBI won’t look for them in Oregon. In fact, Will would bet money that Jack is already on a non-stop flight to Florence.

In Oregon, they can hide in plain sight. They can shop at the grocery store, and buy their wine in the aisle between the cookies and crackers.

The anxiety that has grown inside Will’s chest in increments since leaving the gas station suddenly relaxes and fades.

It takes twelve days to drive from West Virginia to Oregon, he estimates.

Chapter Text

Will startles himself awake well into the late afternoon.

It’s disorienting, to say the very least.

The day comes back to him in pieces, so maddeningly slowly that Will’s brain begins to feel like melted honey; warm memories that drip along the curve of his skin no matter how much he tries to stop them. And, although he is relieved to see Hannibal’s bare hands wrapped around the steering wheel, some small, incremental part of him still expects to see Molly there instead.

In Will’s mind's eye, she is chewing on her fingernails and wearing that familiar purple knit hat low on the back of her skull.

For some reason, imagining her here like that makes Will think about the way she would laugh – at everything, at nothing at all – and he finds himself smiling crookedly at the thought. It’s strange, to think of her here, now, on the other side. Molly didn’t deserve to be involved in this – Will knows that, in the same way that an emotionally functional human knows an obituary is sad – but now, he can only feel relieved that it wasn’t Hannibal in their front yard that night.

He can only imagine what Hannibal would have left for him to find.

Will’s mind continues to wander as Hannibal drives them down the street. They’re on the main strip of what seems like a quiet, Sleepy Hollow type burg. It’s very small town, very east coast Americana. In one city block, Will spots three Colonial style buildings, a bronzed statue of Sam Adams, and multiple manicured flower beds full of little flags and tiny red, white and blue flowers.

Neither of them speak as Will goes through the remaining motions of waking up. He stretches his arms out, Molly still in the very furthest frays of his mind, and clears his throat. Despite the solid five hours of sleep he just had, he’s still exhausted, limbs cumbersome and useless, eyes heavy lidded as he stares out the window at nothing in particular.

The nervous twitch of anxiety he’s had in his chest since spending their last twenty dollar bill has been ignored up until now. There had been more important things to deal with first, but now, Will feels the elastic band snap when he hears the car dashboard alarm ding.

Will glances over, and is unsurprised to see the low gas indicator flashing.

What was a nervous twitch of anxiety quickly floods into a full tsunami of worry. Will feels it crash up against the inside of his ribs, and it makes him feel uselessly twitchy. Their daring cliff side escape will mean nothing if they can’t even afford to get into the next state; he can only imagine the fun Freddie would have with that headline.

He curls his fingers against his thigh, and grimaces at the gritty feeling of dried seawater and blood.

Will thinks about his wallet, completely useless, full of bank and credit cards he can’t use. It’s maddening, to know there is enough money to get them to relative safety, all of which is entirely out of reach. Not only is his bank account traceable, it’s also shared with Molly – she would have direct access to every withdrawal, every purchase, every ATM transaction... Will’s also betting that the FBI have already put out an APB on his credit cards.

Although Jack may have given Will the benefit of the doubt last time Hannibal managed to slip away, now – during what he hopes will not be their sophomore slump – there is no denying his involvement. Will thinks about all of the things he told Jack, back when he used to visit Will at his old house in Wolf Trap.

He spent a lot of time out in the snow alone, wishing that the cold weather would simply numb the way he felt.

Will frowns. Jack aside, if Will had any idea this was going to happen, he definitely would have made sure he had more than a hundred dollars in his pocket when he pulled them both off the cliff. Maybe he would have asked Hannibal to write a few of his aliases down, at the very least.

“I’m worried about money,” He finally admits, breaking the silence. Will rubs both hands over his face tiredly, rough with himself, and turns to look at Hannibal.

Surprisingly, Hannibal is chewing on a piece of Will’s pharmacy jerky. Desperate times, Will muses.

Hannibal looks thoughtful for a moment, and then says, “This is a sleepy town. Most of these stores are not open on a Sunday.”

Confused, Will frowns again, and turns to look back out the passenger window. Hannibal is right – Will didn’t really notice it before, behind all of the patriotic décor – but most of the storefronts are darkened, quiet and still in the late afternoon sun.

Regardless, Will doesn’t really know what Hannibal’s getting at.

“Did you want to go shopping, or something?” He asks, mostly kidding.

Hannibal doesn’t answer him right away, and when he does, it isn’t direct – some things, obviously, never change.

“In some places of the world, Sunday shopping is still prohibited,” Hannibal says, with the warmth of a smirk hidden behind his words even though his expression does not betray him. He slows the car down, and flips the blinker on to turn right. “Although it is not frequently observed in North America, at one time, Sunday was considered a day of rest. In the early 1900s, engaging in labor on this day would result in a fine for the businessman. Some fines could be as expensive as five hundred dollars, which is roughly the equivalent of fourteen thousand dollars today.”

Will watches Hannibal’s face curiously, glancing out the window only when they turn onto a side street.

“In some communities, this outdated practice prevails,” Hannibal continues. The car bounces as they pull into a small back alleyway that runs behind a strip of boutiques. As Will realizes what Hannibal is about to do, his heart begins to thump wildly. “Though it is no longer prohibited, in the legal sense of the word, the practice is observed when a city is largely ruled by the church and other outdated American practices. Will, please leave the car running.”

With that, his cheekbones twist into a smile, and he looks at Will’s face carefully before getting out of the car.

“Jesus, Hannibal,” Will sighs to nobody in particular as he watches Hannibal walk away.

Hannibal crosses the alleyway and disappears behind a dumpster, like the air is water and he is simply sinking into the deep blue sea. The ultimate chameleon, Will muses, able to blend with the animate and inanimate alike.

For the most part, Will sits there and fidgets, eyes wide as he watches out for witnesses. A few minutes into restlessly scratching his nails against the fabric of his pants, he realizes he’s more terrified by a little break and entry than he is by literal cold blooded murder.

The realization makes him laugh abruptly, a bark of laughter that quickly ends when he realizes how ridiculous it all is.

He’s chewing his nail when Hannibal returns. It didn’t take Hannibal very long at all - maybe four, five minutes tops. Will has gone grocery shopping longer than that, has aimlessly wandered aisles looking for something to satisfy an itch he couldn’t quite place. Salt, Molly used to tell him, throwing a bag of potato chips into the cart. It’s always salt.

Or - Hannibal.

Hannibal looks no different than he had upon departure. With a little twist of realization in his chest, Will thinks about the way that Hannibal’s face still holds the same studious expression, posture wholly relaxed yet entirely confident for someone who just finished robbing a store.

The only thing that has changed is the expensive looking paper bag he’s holding. It’s the kind of fancy bag that would only carry an equally fancy gift, Will thinks, as he notes the boutique’s name, and the way its curled into the side of the bag in thin black cursive.

“Here we are,” Hannibal announces, opening the door. He hands the bag over to Will, climbs back into the driver’s seat, puts his seatbelt on, and slides the car into drive.

Will’s fingers curl around the bag’s twine handle automatically.

He can’t help the way his mouth hangs open a little bit as he stares over at Hannibal, and then down into the bag. Will is both surprised and not by the bag’s content; he wasn’t under the naive assumption that Hannibal was taking a brisk walk to stretch his legs, but he wasn’t exactly expecting this.

Though, knowing Hannibal the way he does, he isn’t necessarily surprised.

Inside the bag there is a thick, short stack of loose cash, and a few pieces of expensive, soft looking clothing. Will doesn’t stop to count the money, but he can see that there’s more than enough to get them through the next few days.

As Hannibal pulls back out onto the main thru road and resumes their route, Will turns around to look out the rear window.

There is nothing amiss. No alarm, no echoes of shattered glass. Will sees nothing that indicates they’ve just robbed a small business owner of his livelihood in less time than it would have taken to choose a film to watch.

Will doesn’t realize he’s just been sitting there, one hand in the bag and his mouth hanging open, until Hannibal speaks.

“It seems as though the life of crime comes easily to myself, as well,” Hannibal says, openly amused at Will’s reaction.

~

Halfway down a stretch of long, winding rural road, Will points them towards a bumpy side trail to burn the evidence.

This pocket of rural West Virginia reminds Will of home. To be more specific, it reminds him of Wolf Trap, and his fish bowl in the middle of the forest. He vividly remembers what that house looked like lit up, alive with golden light beneath the black canopy of night sky. Even though Hannibal won’t remember the similarities tonight, Will will remember enough for the both of them.

The first time he kissed Hannibal, they were standing in his front yard, with snow up to their ankles.

Will thinks about how dark the night sky was then - just as it is now - and how much brighter it made the white covered ground seem. Hannibal’s skin was warm, surprising the small part of Will that was secretly convinced the man was a Lithuanian vampire, and worth touching more than once. Will remembers the breath of surprise Hannibal puffed against the bridge of his nose when he’d slid his cold hands beneath Hannibal’s jacket, fingers clutching at the expensive fabric over his flanks.

It happened for the first time a few nights after Will murdered Randall Tier, and tonight, under the ink black night skies, it’s all that Will can think about.

“Luckily the owners of this property have a boat house,” Hannibal announces, jerking Will out of his fantasy. Will clears his throat and watches Hannibal as he walks back out of the forest and into the small clearing Will has piled the things they will need to burn: their bloodied clothes, his cellphone SIM card, and the paper bag from the boutique. They’ll bury the bullet dug from Hannibal’s chest here, too. Hannibal holds up a small jerry can, and smiles, “I was able to find adequate accelerant.”

Will nods and takes an instinctive step back as Hannibal douses their small pile of belongings with gas.

“We should burn all of our old clothes,” Will says, thinking out loud. He stares at the way the gas soaks into the sweater Hannibal was wearing at the house, the sweater Will pressed his face against and curled his fingers into, and then glances over with his eyebrows raised to add, “Leave all of the evidence behind.”

Nodding, Hannibal sets the jerry can against the dirt and heads back towards the car.

They’d shoved the cash into the glove compartment, which was fine for now. They’ll need to change cars again soon, maybe in the morning, definitely before they cross the state border into Kentucky. After that, they could probably get away with only switching plates until they reach Oregon.

Hannibal walks back towards Will with one arm outstretched. In his hand is a pair of dark grey trousers.

“I apologize if they don’t fit,” He says, preemptively, working his own pants open one handed. “I did not think to ask your size before entering the store.”

Will winds his fingers into the soft fabric, grip unintentionally tight, and feels his face redden just a little bit.

“That’s fine,” He murmurs. For some reason, he can’t meet Hannibal’s curious gaze. At one time, the man had a tendency to spoil Will with good food, good booze and good fucking, but he’s never bought Will clothing before. Will is sure Bedelia would have something to say about this. He manages a, “Thank you.”

Oblivious to Will’s internal thoughts, which are beginning to circle the drain between ‘desperate’ and ‘filthy,’ Hannibal pulses a short, sharp smile in his direction.

Will doesn’t mean to, but he finds himself watching as Hannibal changes.

It’s deeply intimate, to see Hannibal standing barefoot, his dirtied, torn trousers in a puddle at his feet. Will looks away before Hannibal inevitably catches him openly gawking; by the time he glances back, Hannibal has changed into a fresh pair of plain black pants. The worst part of Will’s hindbrain also notices that Hannibal is wearing a fresh pair of underwear snagged from their now dwindling pharmacy supply.

With his brain suddenly on one very specific task, Will shakes himself out of it and switches pants quickly. He doesn’t even stop to get underwear, simply pulling the new pair of pants over his bare skin instead.

“We will ensure this burns to ash before we leave,” Hannibal says, tossing his bloodied pants into their small, makeshift bonfire. He looks over at Will expectantly, and nods when Will hands his own pair of pants over instead of simply dropping them onto the pile. Hannibal does the honors, and adds, “Though I believe this to be a seasonal property only, we will not want a nosy neighbor calling the fire department if smoke remains in the morning.”

Making a soft noise of agreement, Will nods and scratches the back of his head.

He watches as Hannibal pours another dose of fuel onto the top of the pile, saturating their clothing, and then steps back to put the jerry can a safe distance away. The last thing they need is for the entire forest to go up in flames. Using their lighter, Hannibal ignites a crumpled receipt taken from the car, and throws it atop their belongings.

It goes up quickly. Will feels the sudden heat of the fire against his clothed shins as Hannibal finds a stick and begins to poke at the hottest embers, ensuring everything above them burns evenly.

Will can’t help but watch Hannibal’s face as the glow from the fire licks his features.

The plan is to show their faces as little as possible until they’re at least a few states over. Even then, Will thinks, they will need to be careful. Hannibal already has stubble on his face, something that Will has never seen before, and in the low light of the fire he already looks different. Will thinks with a few more days, Hannibal will look as close to a funhouse mirror of himself as he ever will.

Without the plaid suits and the closely shaven face, Hannibal won’t look very much like himself at all. It warms Will’s heart to know that Jack and Alana are likely already following the same pattern that Hannibal laid out for them before: expensive flights, expensive food, and expensive accommodation. The same old Hannibal, as far as they believe.

Will is proud that, so far, they’ve been able to stay as under the radar as it gets. When all of the states surrounding Baltimore are running the same wanted ads that feature their mugshots, Will thinks being under the radar at all is a small victory.

It takes an hour to burn their prior belongings to ash. Once there’s nothing left but smoldering black pieces of burned up nothing, Hannibal covers the pile with damp dirt, and then takes the time to arrange another layer of grass and ground debris over it. By the time he’s done, the patch of land no longer looks freshly disturbed.

Will throws the bullet from Dolarhyde’s gun into a well that is clearly no longer used. He feels a piece of himself relax when he hears the soft ‘plink’ into water. By the time he gets back to the small clearing they pulled the car into, Hannibal is already inside with the engine running.

“There is a motel less than an hour away that does not require photo identification, or a credit card,” Hannibal says, as they begin down the long gravel driveway with the car headlights off.

Will doesn’t ask how he knows; it isn’t important.

“Please,” He sighs, leaning his head back against the seat.

He closes his eyes.

~

It’s Will’s job to check into the motel Hannibal takes them to.

Even though they’ve both been classified as ‘on the run and extremely dangerous,’ Will isn’t as memorable as Hannibal is, and can hide under the guise of ‘weary American traveler.’ It works, and the teenager alone behind the front desk takes his hundred dollar cash deposit along with the room fee.

“Here’s your towels,” The kid says, not making eye contact as he hands over two musty smelling hand towels. Hannibal will love these, Will thinks, accepting them with an amused smirk on his face. “You need to return the key when you leave, and check out is at eleven.”

Will nods, says ‘thank you’ quietly, and heads back through the front doors, letting the bell above jangle behind him.

It takes a minute to find Hannibal in the parking lot. Rather than idle in front of the office doors, Hannibal has parked nearer the end of the lot and sits in the front seat quietly, gaze trained in Will’s general direction. Will waves a little as he crosses the parking lot, key in one hand and towels tucked beneath the opposite arm.

“We’re right here,” He says, as Hannibal cracks the car door open. Ground floor, just what Will likes.

In case a quick getaway is necessary, the unhelpful part of his brain supplies.

They take all of their belongings inside, just in case. They have very few left in the world, Will muses, feeling oddly protective of their lingering medical supplies and bad road trip food.

The motel room has two separate double beds, with a single bedside table wedged between them. The entire room is coated in a fine layer of stale smoke, and the decor hasn’t been updated since the late seventies at least. It’s perfect for their needs, and Will eyes the mattress longingly, already imagining what it will feel like to curl up against the pillow.

“Do you mind if I shower first?” Will asks, to be polite.

Even though Hannibal doesn’t know it, Will is historically faster in the shower. He always goes first.

Hannibal waves him off with a soft sound, so Will quietly closes himself into the bathroom.

On the other side of the door, he feels safe. Contained. Kept.

Inside the shower stall, Will turns the tap as far as it will go and lets the steam creep up around him. He’d like to disappear into it, if that were an option, but for now he will have to settle for simply being enveloped by its warmth.

He leans his head against the light pink tiles, and rolls his forehead against the cool surface. The closer he allows his face to get to the cracked grout, the more mildew smell creeps into his nose. He hardly minds it, though, it’s almost comforting.

As the shower water rains against his back, Will leans one arm against the wall beside his head, and lets the other hang down at his side. His fingers curl and uncurl uneasily. He’s been wound as tight as a piano wire since the moment he let himself ask Hannibal “please,” and their ensuing getaway has done nothing to calm his jangled synapses.

He’s half hard, has been since watching Hannibal unceremoniously strip out of his pants.

Will is a little embarrassed to admit that he’s regressed to being a teenage boy, as far as rampant sexual urges go. It makes it easier, he muses. It doesn’t take much, a tight hand around his shaft, a gasp against the swamp sticky shower tiles, and he’s fully hard. Will’s dick curves up against the muscle of his lower belly like it's expecting Hannibal to step into the shower next, after being in such close proximity for so long.

Hannibal, Will gasps to himself, fuck.

It’s something he never let himself have when he was with Molly. It felt too much like infidelity, to jerk off and think about the way that Hannibal would fuck him; thoroughly and deeply, reaching parts of Will that he hadn’t known existed. Will wouldn’t let himself think about any of it, too consumed by guilt to bare damaging the few memories of Hannibal that he still held so closely to his heart.

And other body parts.

Tonight, Will lets himself remember. Tonight, the memories are made much more dangerous with the man on just the other side of the door. Will thinks about the way that Hannibal could bend him in two; how he would hold Will’s legs by the softest spot behind his knees as Will’s feet hung in the air, unrestrained. Will thinks about the way Hannibal would fuck him against the wall, until he was overstimulated and standing on the tips of his toes to get away. It was as close to dancing as Will ever got.

It doesn’t take much before Will knocks his head against the wall and comes down the shower drain, breath aching sharp and harsh in his chest. He goes a bit dizzy with overexertion after not eating or sleeping right in days.

Jerking off helps a little, he thinks, breathless, but it hasn’t solved his problems. He reaches for the shampoo with the phantom touch of Hannibal’s hands on his hips fresh on his mind. At least now he won’t have to walk around their small motel room with half a boner in his pants.

He washes off quickly, taking care to not be too rough with his stitches, and rinses the bar soap from his body.

Will doesn’t bother trying to dry off with the dish towel he received from the front desk. Instead he stands in front of the steamed up mirror soaking wet, and runs his palm across the otherwise cool glass to clear the steam. He stares at himself in the mirror for the first time since Hannibal’s oceanside house, and studies the stitches Hannibal gave him in the car.

They’re small, tight, precise. They run along his reddened, irritated skin in a perfectly curved line.

He should probably dab some antibacterial cream on them, he thinks, moving to tug a pair of clean underwear on over his still wet sticky skin. He grabs the pants Hannibal gave him, and hits the lights before leaving the bathroom.

It takes Will a moment to put together what’s going on, but his stomach drops down to his toes when he realizes Hannibal is on the floor in the main area going through his things.

Hannibal is crouched over Will’s wallet, carefully kept away from the pile of incinerated evidence, with its contents spread openly over the floor. Will can see the familiar colors of his credit cards, a few rumpled grocery store receipts, and the membership card from the gym Molly signed him up for, that he never went to.

“Hannibal,” Will starts, and then stops, and then starts again. He finds himself fumbling for his words for a moment, unable to do anything other than openly stare at Hannibal. Hannibal doesn’t look guilty - in fact, Will sees a flash of the Hannibal he knows so well for the very first time. “What are you doing?”

Hannibal’s eyes flick down Will’s - mostly naked - form, from eyes down to toes, and then back up again.

Will is now entirely relieved he jerked off in the shower.

“You work for the FBI,” Hannibal finally says, though his tone is far from accusatory. He sits back on the balls of his feet, hands hanging between his knees. He looks up at Will’s face, eyebrows raised, and adds, voice pointed, “The very people you say we are running from.”

Frowning, Will looks at Hannibal’s face for a second longer, and then drops his gaze to the wallet. He quickly realizes that Hannibal has found the temporary access ID badge Jack presented him with: a shitty four year old black and white photo of his face, along with his name in capital letters and the bureau’s logo.

“You’re right, I did. Do. So did you, for a time,” Will replies, finally able to loosen his grip on the pair of pants in his hands. For lack of anything else to do, he lays them over the back of the chair he’s standing beside. Because tonight has him feeling nostalgic, he adds, “That’s where we met.”

Hannibal doesn’t say anything to that. Instead, he bows his head and continues to study the contents of Will’s wallet.

“I investigated crime scenes for the FBI. I had my own way of… seeing things,” Will continues. He doesn’t want to go down the road that leads to his empathy, so he steers clear of that for now. “You used to look after me.”

At that, Hannibal looks back over, interest piqued.

“You did it in your own way,” Will explains, bringing a hand up to the back of his neck. He grins crookedly and sits at the foot of his bed, gaze flickering back to catch Hannibal’s. “I was never a real FBI agent, though - I was just a consultant. You were, too, before you turned yourself in. The last case I consulted on was yours… I don’t know why they allowed that.”

Hannibal weighs Will’s response as he looks back down at the FBI badge.

“You told me that I was in a federal prison,” He states. Will nods. “You will not turn me in now?”

Despite everything, Will feels his stomach turn over uneasily at the thought.

“Never,” Will whispers, no hesitation behind his voice. He smiles sadly, and adds, “I couldn’t, even if I wanted to.”

The answer seems to satisfy Hannibal, even though it still terrifies Will.

Hannibal begins to gather Will’s things up from the floor. As he does, a worn, old business card slides out of one of the loose back pockets in Will’s wallet. Hannibal bends to pick it back up off of the floor, thumb pressing into the well worn paper as he lifts it from the dirty carpet.

Will feels his face go red; he knows what it is before Hannibal even asks.

“This is my name,” Hannibal says after a long moment. He looks over at Will curiously. Between his thumb and pointer finger, he holds the first business card Hannibal ever gave Will, with their first appointment date and time noted on the back in careful black ink. It’s embarrassing, overly sentimental, but Will could never bring himself to get rid of it. “I was your psychiatrist?”

Nodding, Will chews his bottom lip thoughtfully, and then screws up his face to say, “It was really much more ethical than I’ve made it sound so far.”

Hannibal seems entertained by Will’s genuine attempt to break the sudden wave of heat that settles over them both.

“I am sure it was,” Hannibal murmurs, carefully tucking the business card back into its rightful place.

Chapter Text

The wallet lays discarded where Hannibal left it on the carpet.

While Hannibal showers, Will lays down on one of the two matching motel beds. Despite edging ever closer to the midwest, this particular room is decorated in beachy peaches, turquoises, and - Hannibal’s bête noire - tangerines. Will spreads his fingers out over the itchy bed cover fabric idly, and looks at his discarded wallet on the ground.

Inside it, there is an entire identity for a person who may as well no longer exist. Someone who has already been determined dead, if they’re lucky.

Will thinks about how the wallet should have been burnt along with everything else. He’ll never need its contents again - what kind of dead person had use for a coffee punch card and a bulk barn membership? He smiles a little to himself when he thinks about Hannibal coming anywhere near either.

After that, it only takes five minutes of staring at the floor - body finally content beneath the safe weight of his thoughts - before Will drifts back to sleep once more.

~

When Will blinks himself awake again, he has no concept of how long he was asleep for.

It couldn’t have been more than twenty minutes, he thinks, brow creasing as he looks over at the opposite bed.

Hannibal’s skin is still noticeably damp, so Will’s estimation seems feasible. Even from here, he can see how the bedside lamp between their beds catches the way the shower water drops down into the hollow curve of Hannibal’s throat. Much lower than that, Will studies the lean muscle that runs along the stretch between Hannibal’s belly button and lower stomach.

The skin there is shiny with humidity; Will feels embarrassed that he wants to press his open mouth against it just to see how warm Hannibal truly is.

Flustered by the thought, Will moves his line of sight back to Hannibal’s folded hands. It’s hardly a safer bet, but at least Will won’t be caught staring at Hannibal’s hips beneath the blanket this way. Hannibal’s hands are intertwined with one another, both palms laying flat against the sides of his bare stomach, fingers looped through one another as he watches the ceiling silently.

Will can practically see the way Hannibal’s eyes paint The Creation of Adam over their balmy popcorn ceiling.

Truth be told, it’s a novelty to wake up to Hannibal beside him again, even though it’s the middle of the night and they’re spending it in a less than savory motel on the West Virginia state line. The freedom of the thought allows Will’s mind to wander. It’s a dangerous game, even more so now that he’s the only one knowingly playing it.

He wonders for the first time what Hannibal would have done if their roles were reversed?

Will’s gaze skitters up Hannibal’s torso to his face. Hannibal looks lost in thought, eyes soft, expression pensive. For some reason, that more than anything else brings a frown to Will’s face. He moves against the bed clothes, rubbing the sleep out of one eye with the rough ridge of his knuckles, before he pushes himself up a little. Thoughts scattered, Will thinks that if is is going to fall back asleep anytime soon, he should at least attempt getting underneath the blanket first.

It isn’t going to be the most glamorous night’s sleep either way. Will’s hair is still uncomfortably damp from his shower, making the base of his scalp itchy. Inevitably, it will make him scratch and fidget throughout the night.

“Are you alright?” He asks Hannibal, reminding himself that they’ve got bigger problems than a mildly uncomfortable sleep.

Hannibal’s mouth turns down slightly at the corners. He doesn’t look upset, or unsure. Thoughtful, yes, though there is nothing on his face that betrays the quiet emotion Will can feel rolling off of him in waves. It’s so strange, he muses again, to have Hannibal back like this.

“I am thinking about the last thing I remember,” Hannibal answers, quietly.

Still scratching his scalp, now unable to stop, Will sits up and swings his legs over the side of the bed.

“You mean the surgery you performed on that woman?” He asks, clarifying.

Hannibal frowns. His eyes flick back and forth over the cloudy water stains spread out in webs over the ceiling.

“I am no longer confident that is the last thing,” Hannibal murmurs. Will frowns at the admission, lips twisting before he’s momentarily distracted by the sheets still wound around his feet. He kicks aimlessly, trying to free them, before stopping short with a pained breath and a hand to his wound. “I have… an island of memories. Now, it is not clear which is the last.”

Will manages to wrangle himself free of the sheet, and then rip it from the mattress entirely.

“What do you mean?” He asks, still balling the bed clothes around and around. The more he pulls, the more linen seems to unravel from the bed. “What do you remember?”

It takes Hannibal a long while to move his thoughts into words. It’s strange, to watch Hannibal’s face change in this way, to watch as Hannibal openly arranges his thoughts, constructing each sentence before letting them carefully spill over his tongue. Hannibal takes long enough that Will has time to practically strip the entire bed, determined not to feel claustrophobic beneath the unfamiliar weight of the wool blanket.

To say that Will is not expecting the words that spill from Hannibal’s mouth next would be an understatement.

“I remember the smell of you,” Hannibal finally explains. “I couldn’t place it before, but it is clear to me now.”

Will’s body runs cold. It feels like someone has dumped an entire bucket of ice water on his head.

He freezes, his knuckles turning pink and then white as his body misfires and he tightens his grip around the rope of sheets wound through his fingers. Like that will save him from falling in the way that he always does when Hannibal is near him. He thinks about how bad he must have smelled after crawling out of the ocean. He thinks about how his scent was compromised by the hoodie he wore out of the stolen car trunk. He thinks about how, for the last day, he’s smelled of nothing but exhaust and someone else’s stale body odor.

The Hannibal that Will once knew would have eaten him alive before ever allowing him to unknowingly change himself in such a way.

It only takes one more click of the synapse for Will to realize that, post-shower, he must smell like himself for the first time since falling. Since Hannibal woke up on the beach, bloodied and unable to remember Will at all.

He is utterly dumbstruck.

When Will doesn’t immediately reply, still too caught up in his own thoughts, Hannibal takes it upon himself to look over and say, “Tell me about the relationship we shared, Will.”

Will licks his lips and then swallows. Listening to Hannibal address him by name warms the very pit of Will’s stomach, and counteracts the ice cold feeling that had suddenly crawled along the lattice inside the confines of his chest. Hannibal’s request hangs heavy between them, echoing throughout the sudden cathedral that surrounds their twin unmade beds. It clenches Will’s heart like a vice.

“We, well,” He starts, before a nervous clench of his molars brings his words to a sudden stop. Will pushes his tongue through the backs of his front teeth, wetting his lips, and admits, “I would hesitate to call the relationship we shared anything less than entirely codependent.”

When he lifts his gaze to Hannibal’s face, he is unsurprised to see the man’s expression slightly bewildered. Will assumes that Hannibal would have never thought himself capable of being codependent with anybody - and, to be fair, Will thought the same thing about himself for a long time, too.

“Our relationship has been a long, complicated road,” Will continues, purposely vague.

This is the first time he’s talked openly to anyone about their shared history - including Hannibal, his great love and supposed counterpart. Truthfully Will does remember telling Molly a few things, but that had been when they were newly dating and Will was still freshly broken inside. It only ever happened when he was deeply drunk, and was never anything of importance. Certainly nothing that would have given he and Hannibal away.

He still has no idea how Molly cared for him in the way that she did, being given so little in return.

“From the little you have told me, Will, I would have expected nothing less,” Hannibal says softly, a small smile on his face.

It makes Will feel hot under the collar, stupid and bashful to crumple so easily beneath Hannibal’s quiet gaze.

“I - yeah,” He manages - a great recovery - and grabs at the back of his bare neck with one hand. He stares down at his own feet, toes curled into the ugly old carpet, and murmurs, “You used to chase me. It was like a game, and I - I liked it. More than I ever let on.”

Will pauses, and lets out a shaky, breathy laugh at the admission.

“I chased you until the very end,” Hannibal surmises, fingers flexing against his stomach. He hums low, a quick, quiet sound, and then asks, “Was I in handcuffs, the last time we played our game together?”

Will’s heart tumbles against the inside of his chest. He shakes his head, but then makes a noise of indecision.

“You saved my life once, as a personal favor to a good friend,” Will replies, lifting his gaze to look at a faraway spot on the wall. He should get up and find a liquor store. He can’t believe that they’re having this conversation stone cold sober. He thinks of Alana, and adds, “Maybe you would have done it regardless, I’m not sure. I don’t know if I was surprised when I woke up in my own bed, but I know I wasn’t expecting to see you sitting there beside me.”

Will thinks back to that afternoon. If he tries, he can still feel the chill of the cold air that crept through the uninsulated windows of his home in Wolf Trap. He can still feel the pillows beneath his back, and the weight of Hannibal’s notebook open against his thigh through the bed covers.

“The FBI was looking for you - by then it was an International manhunt and the cause of a lot of embarrassment and department funding,” Will continues, the hint of a smile echoing across his face as he remembers Jack; remembers the moment he knew he had the man’s trust in the cold, dead palm of his hand. Will continues, “I told you to leave. I said some malicious things, mostly because I wanted you to go… but, I think - I mean I guess - I meant some of them, too.”

He looks up, swallowing tightly, and meets Hannibal’s gaze. Hannibal stares back, listening.

“I watched you,” Will laughs, suddenly breathless as the memory washes over him like the warm water from the showerhead in the bathroom. He feels his body dethaw beneath Hannibal’s steady gaze. “I watched you go - you left through the front door. And then I waited, and I waited, and when the cavalcade came, I told them you were already gone. You weren’t. You were outside, waiting for them, and you turned yourself in. You wanted me to know where you were, always.”

Hannibal’s face twists at that, like Will has unintentionally poked at his open wound. Will is breathless at the idea.

“I was relieved,” Will laughs again, splaying a palm over his own face as he takes a deep breath, steadying himself, pressing forward. The only person he’s ever come close to telling about this is Bedelia, lifetimes ago now. He feels his voice break, soften, as he admits, “I didn’t want you to run again. I was afraid that I would run with you.”

Despite not remembering the night Will describes, Hannibal smirks softly, serenely, and says, “And now here we are.”

“Here we are,” Will echoes, lips pressing together in amusement as he looks at Hannibal again. “This is where I was always supposed to be.”

Hannibal’s expression softens at that, and just for a moment, Will lets himself believe that everything is normal.

~

The sky is still dark when they leave early the next morning.

Will brings their room key back to the office while Hannibal arranges their belongings in the car and wipes the frost from the front window. It’s early enough that the same lanky teenager is still on duty alone at the front desk, now bleary eyed and fading. He presses the room’s cash deposit back into Will’s steady palm, and then points out the complimentary coffee station set up in the corner.

Mostly because it’s free - and brimming with murky nostalgia that brings him right back to his college days - Will snags two cheap styrofoam cups and fills them with free coffee from the pot that rumbles away gently in the corner of the room. It sure doesn’t taste like much, but it’s boiling hot and wipes the lingering taste of saline rinse from his mouth.

Hannibal won’t be happy with the gritty coffee grounds that float around and stick to the rim of the cup, but something is better than nothing and that’s just what Hannibal is going to have to deal with today.

And, complimentary coffee aside, Will is relieved to know that only one person has seen he and Hannibal in this location at the same time. He knows that Hannibal would feel the same way, too.

By the time Will returns to their car, Hannibal is in the passenger seat tapping another round of pain pills into his open palm.

“Onto Kentucky,” Will breathes, dropping down into the driver’s seat gracelessly. He overbalances, holding both of his arms up to ensure he doesn’t slosh coffee everywhere, and then smiles as he hands one over to Hannibal.

The look Hannibal gives him in return is terrifying, and has nothing to do with the cheap, copper coffee smell that drifts between them.

“What’s wrong?” Will asks, sharper than intended when he notices the hazy, far away look in Hannibal’s eyes.

Hannibal is disoriented, Will thinks distantly, watching the way Hannibal’s eyes focus and then unfocus on his face. Will is quiet, letting Hannibal regard him for a moment. He watches as Hannibal’s gaze narrows before he throws the pills back like candy, and then uses the cheap coffee Will unceremoniously hands him as a chaser.

He grimaces as the hot drink and sticky, coated pills move past his gag reflex thickly. Will feels the nervousness begin to tremble along the inside of his own chest as Hannibal presses one palm flat against the dashboard and then shakes his head, working against his involuntary reaction to throw the pills back up.

“The headache,” Hannibal breathes, taking another swig of the disgusting coffee, “Remains.”

Will frowns, knowing it’s an attempt by Hannibal to minimize what is currently clearly happening beneath his skin. He watches as Hannibal shakily sets his coffee into one of the monster cup holders carved in the console between them.

“Would something stronger help?” Will asks, feeling at a loss as he reaches back one-handed for his belt.

Hannibal breathes out sharply, a strange, short breath he pushes through his nose, and waits a beat before replying, “I believe an anti inflammatory would prove to be useful.”

“Wait, what?” Will cuts himself off as his hand gets tangled in the seat belt.

Over the years he has cultivated an extensive collection of Hannibal’s smallest ticks. He knows that something isn’t right.

“Although a standard painkiller would suffice for my head wound alone,” Hannibal begins, pausing to take another short, sharp breath that sends Will’s stomach skidding right down into his toes. “In my case, I believe an extra strength anti inflammatory will prevent any further swelling, and its associated pain.”

Whatever minimal interest Will had in self preservation immediately flies out the window.

“You want to prevent swelling?” He asks, already halfway to hysterical. “In your brain?!”

Hannibal purses his lips and stares out the passenger window like an angry child. Will gives him three seconds - and that is on this side of generous - before he plans to shake the shit out of him, edema or not. By the time Will counts to two, Hannibal has moved his pointed gaze to the plastic dashboard spread before them.

He quietly admits, “I do not mean to scare you.”

“Consider me sufficiently terrified,” Will snaps. Adrenaline floods through his body in waves as he jerks his seat belt to click into the buckle and then reaches beneath the column of the steering wheel.

All of a sudden he longs for the days of using a car key to start the ignition. Small things, he thinks to himself, violently.

Will can handle a concussion - even amnesia is starting to seem manageable - but if Hannibal’s brain is swelling, time isn’t going to fix it. Things are only going to get worse. He can’t believe Hannibal would be so stupid, so selfish, so -

“You’re going to a clinic,” Will announces, unable to stop the tone of his voice from unfurling between them like rope falling fresh from a ceiling rafter. The car revs to life beneath their tired bodies, and they drive out of the parking lot more aggressively than Will means to. He swallows, digs his fingers into the leather of the steering wheel, and adds, “As soon as we get into Kentucky.”

Hannibal is mad. In fact, Will would even go as far to say Hannibal is pissed off, like a common citizen of the world. That is tough fucking shit for Hannibal, Will decides. Hannibal is going to have to get used to this new feeling, just like Will has to every time he looks in the rear view mirror and sees his own stony expression staring back at him.

“Your main concern is not attracting attention,” Hannibal finally says, like that fucking means anything to Will.

Will barely has time to catch his tongue before he snaps back, “My main concern is you.”

The back road they’re following spills out in front of them, dark and serene and covered in a light film of early morning ice. He thinks about that as he sinks into the feeling of Hannibal staring at him. He thinks about jerking the steering wheel, and sending them both crashing into a telephone pole. Sometimes he thinks that would be the easiest way.

Hannibal can stare at him as long as he wants, Will decides, keeping the wheel steady. He doesn’t relent. He drinks his shitty coffee, and he gets them back on the highway as efficiently as he can instead.

~

It starts snowing the moment they cross the state line.

An hour into Kentucky, Will takes an exit that promises multiple gas station and fast food restaurant options. He finds what he’s actually looking for - a second hand store - not long after, nestled between a KFC and a nail salon.

He parks a few storefronts down and leaves Hannibal in the car, which seems to suit Hannibal just fine. Hannibal is happy to ignore Will as he snags a wad of cash from the bank of dashboard that rests between Hannibal’s knees. Murder husbands, Will thinks, imagining what Freddie Lounds would think of their mutual ice-out over Hannibal’s health.

Fuck that, Will grimaces to himself, trying to think about what awaits him on the other side of the sidewalk instead.

They need conspicuous clothing. Not just conspicuous, he decides, as he marches down the thin sidewalk that runs the length of the outdoor strip mall. Something new. Something that will make them both entirely different people, born again and again and again until their identities are nothing more than the glass cup a painter rinses their brush off in.

Inside the thrift store, it takes Will a few minutes to formulate two new identities.

A pair of skinny looking black jeans and a light grey trouser, first. Next, a plain black t-shirt and a navy blue sweater that looks stretched out, worn in, and frequently washed. Both will work just fine, Will thinks, as he walks down the next aisle cautiously. He finds a brightly colored baseball cap, a heavy dark green jacket, and a pair of sneakers that are destined more for a garbage can than anywhere else.

It’s enough, for now. Will pays for everything in cash and declines an itemized receipt.

Back in the parking lot, he ignores Hannibal and dumps their purchases into the back seat.

Hannibal is pretending not to watch Will through the windshield twenty minutes later, when he walks out of an independently owned pharmacy with another small bag of purchases. In this one, he has a spray can of temporary hair color, a cheap black eyeliner pencil, and two pairs of off-the-rack sunglasses he found in an end cap; a pair of nondescript plastic things for himself, and aviators for Hannibal.

They change in silence right there in the parking lot. Hannibal is overly cautious in his handling of his new black pants and matching t-shirt. Will hands them both over gingerly before shuffling out of his own pants, figuring neither of them have much room for modesty this morning.

It’s immediately apparent that Hannibal isn’t happy about their alter egos, but that really isn’t the point.

“We need to be different people,” Will whispers, finally giving in and breaking the silence. He does his fly up, and then crouches to his knees outside the passenger side seat Hannibal is sitting in. He holds Hannibal’s face in one hand, and the eyeliner pencil in the other. “Just for a little while.”

To his credit, Hannibal doesn’t move as Will presses the sharp point of the eyeliner against his lash line, first the top and then the bottom. Hannibal watches him steadily, mouth closed in a straight line as his gaze flickers back and forth between Will’s eyes.

Will feels his heart ignite from the close proximity. He wants to press his warm mouth against Hannibal’s own. He wants to touch the bridge of Hannibal’s nose and the gentle slope of his forehead, first with his mouth and then with his hands. He would trace his fingers over Hannibal’s cheekbones, and press the pads of his thumbs against the smudged liner beneath Hannibal’s bottom lashes. He would rub the black liner down his cheeks, until it looked like dripping tears.

For one split second, Hannibal looks like he would let Will do it.

“How do I look?” Will asks after, once he has put an arm’s length worth of distance between him.

He’s wearing the old sweater and grey trousers, hair smoothed back and secured in place with the snapback hat. Even when he was in highschool he wouldn’t have dressed like this, but now, he knows he looks younger. Hannibal looks different, too, with the blood red hair dye drying in his hair.

“Like you are a different person,” Hannibal finally replies, rubbing at his bottom lashline.

The eyeliner smudges - just a bit, barely noticeable if Will hadn’t been the one to apply it - and Hannibal blinks, annoyed.

“Only on the outside,” Will breathes, before he succumbs to a nervous burst of laughter.

For a moment it looks like Hannibal might say something else. When he doesn’t, Will quietly gets back into the car.

~

They go to a small hospital after passing through another three small towns.

Will can feel his anxiety ramp up as they walk through the sliding glass doors. He is prepared to be caught, to be taken back, to be taken away from Hannibal.

Hannibal, in turn, walks quietly at his side.

They arrive at the emergency intake counter, and Will points Hannibal towards the waiting area.

The nurse sitting behind the counter is dressed in soft pastels and has a sparkly smiley face sticker pressed to the corner of her nametag. AIMEE, it says. Will feels his nervousness spike and bubble over, and then the adrenaline kicks in. It’s a different type of chemical than what floods through him in a fight; this is malleable, it makes him feel powerful and different.

“Hi there ma’am, afternoon,” He greets, sliding right into an over the top, almost sarcastic Louisiana drawl. Hannibal would absolutely hate the show he’s about to put on. Will leans both hands on the counter, and lets himself unfurl. “Listen, my boyfriend was up on our roof for about ten minutes before he managed to fall off. Cleaning the gutters - told him not to do it twice, three times, but he never listens to me. You ever got that problem? Anyway he hit his head real bad, I wanna make sure he hasn’t done damage.”

Aimee :) gives him the side eye and hands over a clipboard of forms.

“Sure thing,” She intones, speaking slowly like Will is the one with potential brain damage. “These forms need to be filled out. Insurance information is on the back.”

Will grins - big, blinding, completely out of character - and compliments her earrings before heading back to the waiting area.

“That was quite the performance,” Hannibal murmurs to him, watching as Will exhales softly and laughs a little in return.

Shaking his head, Will takes a deep breath and begins to fill out the forms. He replies softly, “I can do better.”

In the seat across from Hannibal, a little girl is crawling all over the furniture and staring at Hannibal curiously.

Will is in the middle of making up a fake street address for the fictitious house Hannibal took a tumble off of when he happens to glance up and catch it. Just a moment, a blip in the radar of time that he’s spent sitting beside Hannibal in a whole matter of situations, but it’s - it’s different, here.

He feels his heart flip flop as Hannibal raises one eyebrow at the girl, and then the other. She grins and leans forward, lured towards the man with the interesting features. One second passes, and then another, and then Hannibal pops both of his eyes open and makes a face. The girl startles and then starts to laugh; Will can’t help laughing too, when he sees Hannibal smile.

It’s real - canine teeth and everything - and it’s still on his face when he looks back over at Will.

Will refrains from saying something, the expression he knows is on his face is embarrassing enough. Instead, he smiles and shakes his head, ducking down to continue filling out the forms as best he can. The majority of it, he makes up.

“Are you allergic to any medications?” He whispers, tapping a pen against the associated line. Hannibal shakes his head.

The little girl is carried off as her sibling and mother come back from what Will assumes was the examination room. At the loss of his entertainment, Hannibal leans back in the waiting chair and sprawls out, both legs stretching comfortably but still crossed at the ankle.

Will makes up his own fake identity in the Emergency Contact section, and tries to remind himself to answer to Ryan.

When he takes the forms back up to the counter on Hannibal’s behalf, the nurse gives him a wry look.

“Your roof climbing boyfriend doesn’t know his ABCs?” She asks, arching one eyebrow in his direction.

The slow roll of unease begins again in the pit of Will’s stomach.

“He’s not from here,” He replies, voice equally dry. Will hands her pen back politely, and adds, “And not used to all the paperwork. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to read his writing anyways.”

It’s a total fabrication, of course. It’s an understatement to say that Hannibal has better penmanship than Will. Drunk and hung upside down Hannibal would still write better than Will could on his very best day. Every bad review he’s received as a teacher was directly related to his inability to write notes clearly.

“You’re cute,” Aimee says, staring at him. She reminds Will of Katz, which unnerves him, especially when she flicks her gaze over the curve of his shoulder to where Hannibal is still sitting quietly. “Take a seat. There’s an hour wait.”

Will pulses another smile, and goes to sit back down beside Hannibal.

“Give me your hand,” He murmurs, sitting down blindly, eyes still trained on the nursing attendant. She’s staring back at him with a level expression on her face, and is holding Hannibal’s paperwork in front of her.

Hannibal looks over at him curiously, but lets his fingers edge over the chair’s arm rest anyways. Will tries to calm his racing heart - honestly, he isn’t sure if it’s from the look the nurse is giving him, or having Hannibal sit this close to him wearing his new identity like a second skin - and reaches for Hannibal’s hand with one of his own. He winds their fingers together, and lets them sit together on top of the wooden chair arm.

If holding hands in an emergency waiting room doesn’t say ‘boyfriends,’ Will doesn’t know what does.

Either way, Hannibal doesn’t seem to mind. He tips his head back against the wall and closes his eyes. Will wonders if he’s still in pain, and then distracts himself watching the way his adam’s apple bobs instead. It’s more pronounced, now, from the way that Hannibal’s throat is stretched, head back against the wall behind them.

Will sits there nervously, and tries not to fidget with Hannibal’s fingers.

~

After Hannibal has his examination, he’s taken away for a CT scan. Will sits in the waiting room nervously, chewing his lips and praying to whoever is listening that they don’t admit Hannibal for further testing.

He’d do it - let it happen - whatever needs to happen - but staying in the hospital overnight will compromise the lead they have right now.

An hour after being called, Hannibal wanders back out into the waiting room with a clean bill of health.

“No swelling of the brain, thankfully,” Hannibal announces quietly, as Will stands up from his chair, eyes wide. “Just a lasting bump on the head. I was also given a prescription for a strong anti inflammatory.”

Hannibal holds up the little slip of paper, prescription made out to Silas Voss, which was the most German sounding name that Will could think of on the spot mid-fake paperwork.

Will feels his entire body relax.

He laughs, an expulsion of bottled up nervous energy, and then nods, navigating them back in the direction of the parking lot.

Chapter Text

In Missouri they switch their plates, but keep the car.

“I have grown quite fond of this great beast,” Hannibal admits, resting one palm against the side of the dusty van.

Will looks up from the gas pump and smiles without showing any teeth. It’s strange, but he knows what Hannibal means - he finds himself feeling the same way. This ugly, seven seat, mid-range family minivan has now seen them safely over two state lines, and through multiple cities.

Nobody is looking for a cannibal and his acquitted boyfriend in a mom van.

“How’s your head?” Will asks, squinting into the bright patch of early winter sun that blooms over Hannibal’s head. He detaches the gas pump from the car when the tank is full, and then turns and places it back against the gas station pump.

Hannibal has been in a noticeably better mood for the last two days, since he began taking the anti inflammatory. Since starting the regimen - two over breakfast, and two more with dinner - he’s regained a few more hazy memories, mostly of his early years in psychiatry and mentoring Alana. Of all the things Will has been waiting for Hannibal to remember, tutoring Alana Bloom is not in his top five.

“I am feeling much better,” Hannibal admits, handing Will the gas cap. As Will screws it back on, Hannibal moves around him and towards the driver’s side door. They’ve been switching driving duty every time they stop to refill the tank, and it’s been working out well so far. “I have had only one headache since beginning the prescription.”

That loosens Will’s shoulders. He climbs into the passenger seat and sighs, kicking his feet up onto the dashboard as Hannibal hunches forward to hotwire the engine. It took fifteen minutes in the back of a 7/11 parking lot for Will to teach Hannibal how to do it; he’d chugged an energy drink and munched on a stale pastry in-between explaining the steps.

“That’s good,” He sighs, belatedly, letting his eyes close as he tips his head back against the leather seat.

Their bruises are beginning to fade, Will thinks. And, further still, what were open wounds have now begun to heal. Hannibal’s memory has even begun to creep back towards the surface of the water again. It’s more than Will thinks he could have expected, after that first hour that followed waking up on the shore.

That being said, Will isn’t looking forward to removing their dental floss stitches - something that Hannibal tells him they will have to happen in the next couple of days. They’ll have to pick up another handle of booze before they do that, Will decides. He’ll let Hannibal pick the label this time.

He drifts in and out of his thoughts, relaxing against the now familiar feeling of the car rumbling beneath him.

Slowly, everything is beginning to fade away. The further they get away from Baltimore, the less Will hears about either of them on the news. With another school shooting recently under the state’s belt, he and Hannibal have been reduced to the red ticker tape that scrolls along the bottom of the screen.

Everyone on Facebook has forgotten their mugshots in favor of the recently released photos of the gunman. He was just a normal kid, how could he have?

With such perfect timing, too, Will thinks, and then feels bad for doing so.

“Would you kill someone with a gun?” Will asks, eyes still mostly closed. He crosses his arms over his chest comfortably as Hannibal drives them through the remainder of the small town. A roadside memorial for a car crash victim; on the next corner, someone spinning a sign that advertises five dollar foot longs.

The corners of Hannibal’s mouth turn down into a frown. He leans back in the seat, and admits, “A bullet would not be my first choice.”

Will accepts the answer, and watches Hannibal’s resulting profile quietly.

Hannibal still doesn’t know the extent of what Will does. In this moment, Mischa, Hannibal’s family, Il Mostro - they are all still shadows that play in the back doorways of Hannibal’s mind. He does not realize that he has released them into Will’s own ring of inner demons, as well. Death, decay, beauty. It all sits alongside Hannibal’s beautiful kitchen and wine collection and his ability to render the FBI blind. Somewhere in the same corridors Molly lurks, with Abigail and Will’s own father.

It’s strange, to think Hannibal does not yet realize Will was close to Alana, traded barbs with Bedelia and was thrown from the back of a train by Chiyoh. Hannibal does not know that Will has seen - set foot in, slept in - the rooms of the dark, dreary palace he grew up in.

All of the things Hannibal doesn’t know, Will muses, could fill every single silence that has ever fallen between them.

“Yeah, they aren’t fun,” Will finally sighs, quietly agreeing. The sound of gunfire ricochets around his head. He simultaneously feels the bullet sinking into his flesh in the same breath he recalls the memory of Garret Jacob Hobbs falling back against the kitchen counter, riddled with them. “Guns are… less than intimate.”

Something flickers across Hannibal’s face, then. A moment of understanding even though he can’t fully appreciate the weight behind Will’s words.

“Yes,” Hannibal nods, simply. And just like that, the shutters are closed again.

Will licks his lips, and looks back to the road. He should have been expecting that reaction.

Intimacy aside, whether between he and Hannibal or between them and their kill, a new life has unfurled. Somewhere in the middle of everything, while Will has been trying to navigate the new minefield of their relationship, he has also found himself become more and more familiar with this new life of crime.

Good old white collar crime, even. Breaking and entering, theft, forgery. Like a couple of kids on their honeymoon.

The further they recede into the midwest, the more Will begins to realize that Hannibal must have worked hard to be caught. It’s easy to slip away, but… the trail of Valentines. The cities and the romantic landmarks Hannibal knew they would remember him talking about at length over dinner years later. The things he was so careful to purchase and curate - a long, winding list of items that Will became familiar with only because of Hannibal’s insistence on collecting them.

He’d hidden in plain sight, and waited for Will to find him. Hannibal knew all along the FBI wouldn’t be able to, and, maybe more importantly, he knew Will wouldn’t lead the FBI to him before they’d had a chance to speak privately.

Hannibal played the FBI while simultaneously playing house with Bedelia. Will assumes he’d done it just to see what it felt like; he did love the finer things, after all.

And now, years later, here they are in a van together. Unshowered and free.

~

Will is dozing with his temple bouncing up against the window when Hannibal pulls off the main road, and cuts the engine.

“Hmm?” He asks, the majority of his synapses still asleep. Will’s mouth moves, and both eyebrows raise in curiosity, but his body stays still and his eyes stay closed.

He feels Hannibal shuffling around in the seat beside him.

Hannibal’s movements are familiar now, a comfort that Will has quickly become used to. Will is on his way back to falling into a light sleep when he feels Hannibal’s hand move between his legs. It sends all kinds of misfiring signals to Will’s brain - fuck, red alert, his dick thinks - and he startles himself awake by violently bumping one knee off of the dashboard.

He feels pretty fucking stupid when it’s immediately obvious that Hannibal was only trying to get some cash from the glove compartment. Way to play it cool, Graham.

“Sorry,” Will manages, wiping his eye with one hand. He tries to act like he’s still half asleep.

Hannibal seems largely unaffected. He shows Will that he’s taken sixty dollars from their fund, and then nods through the car window to the building in front of them.

“There is a bookstore I would like to visit,” Hannibal explains, tucking the money away. “I will keep it very brief.”

When Will follows Hannibal’s line of sight, he sees there’s a little brick and mortar book shop propped up between a restaurant that advertises an all you can eat seafood buffet, and a chiropractor. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Will muses to himself, looking back at Hannibal as Hannibal slides a pair of their drugstore sunglasses on. As an afterthought, he tugs a hat on as well.

The temporary hair color has mostly washed out of Hannibal’s hair already, leaving it a strange non-color in the interim. The color of many watercolors washed together, Hannibal mused a day ago, as he’d checked himself out in the rear view mirror.

“Better move quick,” Will yawns, burrowing himself a little further down into the seat. “Looks like the weather’s getting worse.”

Hannibal climbs out of the car, and promises, “I will be fast.”

For some reason, the further they’ve made their way west, the shittier the weather’s become. It started off as fog, which quickly turned into rain, and then wet rain, and sloppy snow. Now, five hours since the last time Will saw unhindered sun at the gas station, snowflakes have begun to fall in earnest.

The snow doesn’t bother Will, but the wind that has been steadily picking up speed does.

Will sits quietly, debating the weather and watching the minutes tick by on the little digital clock beneath the dashboard. A record eight minutes later Hannibal emerges from the store with a paper bag tucked carefully underneath one arm.

There it is again, right in the pit of Will’s stomach. It unfurls like a warm hand and grips at his insides until he can feel it everywhere.

It’s a feeling that he associates with Hannibal only, and it takes over his body piece by piece until he can feel it crawling up the column of his throat and tugging his mouth into a smile.

Halfway down the short set of stairs in front of the bookstore, Hannibal realizes that Will is watching him from the car. He returns the smile and turns the paper bag around, to show Will that he was able to find what he went in for. He bounces down the remaining steps with a certain ease, looking entirely too happy with himself.

Will laughs and groans as the warmth fills him from head to toe, and buries his face in his palms. He’s in love with an adorable man who is also a cannibal. Life did not pull the easy cards for Will.

Before Hannibal gets back into the car, Will manages to get himself back under control. He watches as Hannibal shakes the snow from his jacket and brushes it from the brim of his hat before tugging it off altogether. Will takes the hat from Hannibal and pulls it onto his own skull, brim forward, for lack of anything better to do with his hands.

“I am familiar with the author’s other works,” Hannibal explains briefly, as though he has to justify his purchases to Will.

Will raises an eyebrow and looks at the titles from beneath the brim of his stolen hat. An English dictionary, Textbook of Clinical Neurology, Abnormal Psychology, and - Will’s personal favorite - The Psychology of Retrograde Amnesia. He laughs without really meaning to, at that one.

It’s funny, in a salt in the wound kind of way. He’s sure the Hannibal he left behind on that cliff would have a great many things to say about the psychology behind retrograde amnesia.

The Hannibal in the van with him, however, only levels a curious expression in his direction.

“Sorry, it’s - ah, nothing,” Will manages, trying to sober up. He thinks about the hundreds and hundreds of books Hannibal left behind in Baltimore. He remembers what it felt like to have his back pressed up against their spines. He blinks, licks his lips, and apologizes, “Nevermind, just a stupid memory.”

Hannibal offers him a tight, humorless smile, and gently replies, “Now that is not a nice thing to say to the man with half a brain.”

Will feels his heart twist uncomfortably, and catches himself before he can reach out to touch Hannibal’s face.

“I didn’t mean that,” He says, closing his eyes. When that doesn’t suffice, Will pinches the bridge of his nose between two fingers, knocking his hat back, and adds, “I’m just tired.”

Hannibal settles the new books carefully between their seats, and then sets his sunglasses back into the console.

“I know,” Hannibal replies. His voice is just as soft, and somewhere, in the most dark, dangerous recesses of Will’s brain, he hears the word ‘darling’ echo back at him.

~

The weather goes from bad to worse over the next three hours.

By the time they pull into a gas station to fill up, they can barely see a foot in front of the car, and newly fallen branches have begun to appear in the middle of the roads.

“We better find a motel,” Will sighs, navigating them out of the gas station lot after they refill the tank.

Hannibal nods, and, fifteen minutes later, points out a motel by the side of the road. It’s set back from the sidewalk, a little bit run down, and advertises cash only rates on a neon colored sandwich board set out front.

The parking lot is almost completely full, but Will manages to find a vacant spot at an awkward angle in the far corner.

He leaves Hannibal to sort out the belongings they’ll need for the night, and jogs towards the front office.

“I just do not know what is going on with the weather this year!” The woman at the front desk drawls at her computer monitor, pausing only briefly to crack her bubblegum. Will tries to surreptitiously look around for a security camera as he nods along with the woman’s words. “It has just been aaaaallllll over the place. We filled up real quick, went from almost completely vacant to only having a few rooms left in under an hour. Lucky ya’ll came in when you did.”

Will nods and smiles. He changes the tone of his voice before replying, “We’re real lucky. Stumbled across you by accident.”

“You said ya’ll got a new daughter!?” The woman continues, steamrolling his quiet reply as she wrinkles her nose up and pecks at a few keys on the computer before reaching for a printed map of the grounds. Will nods briefly. “That is just too cute, my god. Well, you and your family lucked out - ya’ll got our second last room, real nice though!”

She uses a pencil to circle the room she’s rented to Will, and then taps her pencil against the locations of the vending and ice machines.

“Not that you’ll be needing ice!” She laughs, sliding the cheap xerox across the counter. She picks up the deposit and room fee Will set on the counter upon arriving, and quickly flicks through it using the pointed edge of her long pink nails. “We are all good here, sweetheart, enjoy the snow and stay safe, please!”

Will nods again, and manages one last smile in her direction before heading back towards the front door. As he pulls it open, another guy pushes the handle and awkwardly stumbles through. He looks travel weary, and ready to get out of the cold.

Outside in the snowy parking lot, Will’s hands shake as he looks down at the piece of paper he was handed. Right there, in clearly typed letters, there is a steady pencil mark around room 303 - STANDARD QUEEN WITH SHOWER. One bed, one singular queen sized bed, for both he and Hannibal to share.

Will looks up, across the packed parking lot, to where Hannibal is still waiting with the car.

Like the snow falling from the sky, Will already feels the last remains of his self restraint beginning to slip through his fingers.

Chapter Text

Will sits alone in the small kitchenette, watching the storm rage through the window.

It’s unexpectedly cozy. Even though the wallpaper is a strange flesh color and they can hear both sets of occupants on either side of their room - what’s up, 302 and 304 - inside their suite, it is warm and quiet. Will is working through the remnants of last night’s bourbon, which they ate with gas station pepperoni, a food Will had never really given previous thought to until placing it inside his mouth.

Post gas station pepperoni consumption, he can safely say he can no longer even refer to it as a last resort. Hannibal managed a few polite bites before he’d deferred to Will’s emergency Kit Kat stash, hidden beneath the passenger seat in the car.

Now, Hannibal is laying on the bed - their one, singular bed, Will’s brain helpfully reminds him - reading one of the psychology textbooks he bought earlier this afternoon. Last time Will passed by on his way to the bathroom, Hannibal was thumbing through a section titled Familial Impacts and Psychological Correlation, and cross-referencing something with his english dictionary.

It’s the same off-brand domesticity they shared together in Wolf Trap. Hannibal with his articles and scholarly texts, and Will with his booze and quiet brooding.

Thinking about this, Will sneakily glances back over his shoulder, to Hannibal on the bed. Hannibal is still wearing his black incognito jeans and nothing else. So it’s not exactly the same as their nights together in Wolf Trap, then, Will decides. Admittedly he can feel himself becoming a little salty beneath the sharp bite of the alcohol.

Hannibal, on the other hand, doesn’t really seem to care about the contents of Will’s glass or the storm. Which is fine, Will knows, he isn’t worried about the storm either, just a bit drunk and melancholy for his own reasons. Ultimately he’s grateful they were able to find a room at all, and that neither of them have been recognized so far.

He knows it isn’t fair to Hannibal, but the deeper parts of Will - the secret threads of his heart that hold the rest of him together in the quietest parts of the night - can’t help but long for something more.

If Hannibal hadn’t lost his memory slamming up against that rock, Will knows tonight would be different.

They would have showered together to stave off the cold. Hannibal loved to wash Will’s body, hair and skin both. Will lets himself slip into drunken fantasy a little bit, leaning his head back. The bones of the old wooden chair beneath him make loud warning noises as Will presses his weight back against the rickety frame, but ultimately relents beneath the stretch of his long body.

Will watches himself in the reflection of the window, and lets his mind wander.

He pretends he’s staring back at himself in the fogged up bathroom mirror instead; it’s easy enough to dream. Hannibal would stand behind him at the sink, both hands low on Will’s hips, his cock safe against the warm curve of Will’s back. He would press his open mouth to the nape of Will’s neck, and then he would follow the muscle of Will’s shoulder with his tongue.

He would worship Will in every way, despite the rundown motel castle walls around them.

Afterwards, Will would stand at the foot of their bed and kiss Hannibal relentlessly. He would bend between Hannibal’s naked, open knees, and curl his fingers through Hannibal’s wet hair. Hannibal’s hair would feel shorter than Will remembered, but only by an inch or two - prison regulation. It wouldn’t take very long to grow back at all.

But none of that matters now, Will tells himself, as he snaps out of it. It’s not like that tonight, when they are on opposite sides of the room with the television on mute between them. His thoughts have to end there, before they make them sick.

Will finishes off what’s left in the bottom of his glass, and then pours himself another.

He’d tuned the TV into the local weather channel earlier, as they’d settled in for the night. Hannibal preferred to read in the quiet, and Will knew he was itching to get into his textbooks, so he’d left the TV on mute before breaking into the booze.

Even though the discussion panel segments are pointless, Will’s been watching intermittently anyways, laughing a little whenever a field reporter gets violently blown out of frame.

The weather channel has also been issuing emergency advisories all night, which is hardly a surprise. The storm has snagged all of the biggest local headlines, which has knocked their story even further down the byline. Will has never been so happy to hear they’re about to get dumped with seven feet of snow in his life.

“I wonder if we will be able to safely check out in the morning,” Hannibal muses, interrupting Will’s thoughts and simultaneously reading his mind.

Will looks over at Hannibal openly, and shrugs.

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” He replies, because that’s really the only option they’ve been left with. As much as Hannibal may wish to, he cannot yet manipulate the weather. “We have enough cash for a few more nights.”

Satisfied, Hannibal nods and lets his attention return to his text.

Will watches him silently, bourbon buzzed and fully aware that Hannibal knows he’s drunkenly gawping. It’s hard to stop, especially after being without for so long. He remembers Hannibal’s words to him, once: if I could see you every day forever, Will, I would remember this time.

Funny how it all works out in the end.

Before Will can stop himself, the swell of emotion he feels curdling his stomach pops, and he blurts, “Aren’t you angry?”

Hannibal looks over at him curiously; takes in the sudden tense expression on Will’s face, and the tight grip he has around his glass.

Will is angry. Will was left behind in all of this.

“Sometimes, I am,” Hannibal nods. It hardly sounds like a confession when the words are coming from Hannibal’s mouth. He sets his palm flat against the page he’s reading, and asks, “Would you prefer that I lash out?”

No, Will thinks. Hannibal lashing out never did anyone any good. Will sighs and looks down into his drink.

The booze offers no further insight. When he glances back up to Hannibal, he can’t help but notice the way Hannibal’s gaze has also dropped down to where Will has been holding his bourbon loose between the meat of his thighs. Will tightens his fingers against the glass, and licks his lips impulsively.

“No,” Will finally murmurs. He presses his molars together, and admits, “I am, sometimes. I get mad. I try not to feel that way, but I know I do. It’s just hard to believe that after everything, a rock is what finally took you away from me.”

Hannibal frowns and closes the textbook completely, giving Will his full attention.

“I am right here, Will. We have both been careful to ensure that neither of us will be taken away from the other anytime soon,” Hannibal says, always the optimist. “We are both aware that anger is a strange beast. Unleashing it seldom works - I believe you know that by trial.”

Laughing, Will shakes his head and then replies, “Trust me, I don’t unleash my anger often. The consequences are hardly worth it.”

“The consequences of anger have built many things,” Hannibal counters, raising his eyebrows.

Will doesn’t bite. He frown-smiles, and then leans over just enough to slide his glass back onto the table top.

“You’ve taught me that. But, aside from anger, I don’t understand how you can trust me,” Will admits. It feels a lot like simply catching the ball instead of volleying back a rebuttal, though Will still can’t stop himself from looking over at Hannibal sadly.

Hannibal watches him curiously in return, and tries to understand how Will so easily aligns anger with trust. He opens his mouth to reply, but before he can, something strange happens. Hannibal cuts himself off, and closes his mouth again. It’s a rare misstep. Will has only ever seen it happen infrequently, because Hannibal’s words do not usually fail him.

Not unless he’s looking down at Will on his knees, with a mouth stuffed full of cock.

“I do not understand that part of it, either,” Hannibal admits, smiling just a little bit. It isn’t obvious, or toothy, but Will can see it as easily as anyone else would the megawatt million dollar smile of a celebrity. “This book has already taught me much that I did not know about amnesia. Unfortunately I did not often deviate into neurology in my studies.”

Interested, Will arches one eyebrow and asks, “What have you learned?”

“I found one passage of particular importance,” Hannibal replies easily, flipping back a few pages. Though he does not read directly from the page, he summarizes it by saying, “This text indicates that amnesic patients are often unable to remember a person’s identity. Although they may be unable to recall a person’s name, they can recall their feelings towards a particular individual. It has become apparent that I associate trust with your being.”

Will feels the balloon of melancholy tied to his wrist deflate a little bit, though Hannibal’s words puzzle him.

He hardly understands how Hannibal can afford him trust after everything. Maybe the amnesia has caused a few crossed wires, he muses, unable to otherwise rationalize how trust could still be on the table after all this time. Will can admit that when it comes to trust and Hannibal, his own feelings are just as complicated.

Despite all of this, the genuine expression on Hannibal’s face quickly crumbles the small reserve of resolve Will had left. He feels emotion swell deep in his chest, and finds himself laughing so he doesn’t do something more embarrassing, like cry.

“Well, Bedelia would love this,” Will finally manages to say, voice rough. He blinks up at the ceiling to clear the sudden tears from his eyes.

Hannibal is openly intrigued at the mention of a familiar name. He looks at Will and asks, “Ms. Du Maurier?”

“Ah, the one and only,” Will sighs, finally getting up to his feet for a refill.

After pouring his last drink, Will had purposely left the booze bottle on their bedside table. It had seemed like a better idea at the time, though slightly sinister: the perfect excuse to wander around Hannibal’s immediate area without question or need for further explanation.

Now, he finds himself walking close to the bed, the side of his leg brushing along the mattress cover as he comes to stand in front of his makeshift bar. Briefly, Will wonders if would be worth risking it to go out and find a real bar somewhere, where an actual bartender could serve them both a stiff drink.

All of the booze in the world wouldn’t be worth the chance of being caught, Will very quickly admits to himself, though one day he would like to see Hannibal against the backdrop of a dive bar.

“Very interesting,” Hannibal murmurs, yanking Will back down to reality.

Trading thoughts of booze for those of Bedelia, Will thinks, amused. What an appropriate exchange.

Hannibal watches Will pour his last drink. Hannibal’s gaze is careful; steady and warm and trained on Will’s hands.

Will finds himself wondering if Hannibal is capable of thinking about his body the same way that Will openly thinks about Hannibal’s. He wonders if Hannibal notices how large his hands are against the bottle of booze, how easily he holds it. Does he notice how Will’s fingers cradle his glass as he finishes the last of the bourbon off, and gently sets the bottle back down to the table top?

When he looks back at Hannibal, he is suddenly, explicitly aware of how openly Hannibal is watching him.

“Bedelia knew us both very, very well,” Will murmurs, continuing their conversation as he brings the glass back up to his lips. He takes a sip, just enough to taste the cheap burn, and clarifies, “Admittedly, you more than me. But she knew me… well enough.”

Hannibal considers Will’s cryptic explanation, and murmurs a, “Hmm.”

It’s pretty clear to Will that Hannibal is trying to decide if there’s a deeper meaning to explore.

What Will doesn’t know is: Hannibal is actually just looking at the way that Will’s throat tightens when he swallows. One time, Katz watched the strong, lean form of Hannibal’s retreating back before she’d turned to Will, laughed, and said, “He looks like he wants to eat you.”

All those things that Beverly never knew. All of the things that Bedelia very much did.

“She didn’t understand,” Will announces, feeling a little dramatic as he swings his glass around, “Why we are the way we are.”

Hannibal has now fully settled back against the pillows to watch: hands folded over his stomach, book disregarded by his hip.

“It doesn’t sound like many did,” Hannibal surmises, sounding amused.

He tracks Will across the small space, and watches as he finally gives in and sits down at the foot of the bed, back to Hannibal.

“Bedelia and I had a lot in common,” Will finally admits, lost in thought. He glances over his shoulder, just far back enough to look Hannibal in the eye, and adds, “She saw me, and I saw her.”

It doesn’t take a clever man to figure out what common thread permanently connects the two of them. Hannibal understands what Will is talking about the very moment the words are out of his mouth. He stays quiet despite the sudden realization, comfortable in watching Will as Will stares at something in the air that Hannibal cannot see. Something that does not yet exist.

“I intrigued her, and she intrigued me. We intrigued one another,” Will finishes, mouth curling up into a smile.

He’s still staring at the same spot, gaze unfocused; when Hannibal follows Will’s line of sight, all he sees is the chipped corner of their empty three drawer dresser.

Will is seeing a thousand other things. Like flecks of dust floating through a sunbeam, Will sees everything.

Sharp memories pour into his skull like water into a bucket, and he remembers sitting like this - just like this - in a hundred different rooms, in as many different buildings. He remembers affixing his gaze to the foot of Hannibal’s armchair so he wouldn’t have to admit his feelings about Abigail aloud. He remembers how hard he had to concentrate to stare over Hannibal’s shoulder, at the rungs of the ladder that lead up to the second floor library. He stared so he didn’t have to say that he was still losing time.

He remembers sitting at Hannibal’s desk, in Hannibal’s expensive leather chair, with his eyes unfocused but still trained on Hannibal’s appointment ledger. He stared so he didn’t have to admit that all he really wanted was for Hannibal to pour him over the desk like one of his fancy wines, and never see any of his other patients again.

Will licks his lips, and blinks. The unfocused memories are suddenly gone. Those things don’t matter anymore.

“Bedelia was the first person who saw the parts of you that I didn’t know how to reach,” Will finally concludes.

Hannibal, however, is not done with the conversation. He is unaware of the road that they’re about to walk down together.

For better or for worse, some stupid voice in the back of Will’s head says.

“And then?” Hannibal asks, leaning forward an inch.

Will takes it.

“And then I shattered the most fragile parts of you like a rock through a mirror,” Will replies, shifting his gaze to look directly at Hannibal. Eye contact. Nothing between them now. “I kept moving inside you until I reached shadows that nobody else even knew were there. I saw the parts of you that exist where your sister still lives, happily. You let me live there, too.”

Hannibal looks like he’s been slammed across concrete. Will has never successfully reduced the man to such a state using only his words. Hannibal is suddenly so still, so silent, that Will’s ears prick at the strange sensation.

His eyes shut, falling closed like velvet curtains at the end of a show, and Will feels himself reel back to life.

“Hannibal,” He says.

Hannibal doesn’t respond right away. He retreats into himself for a few long moments, before opening his eyes.

“I did not realize,” Hannibal says at first, his voice rough like it was before they jumped. He looks away from Will’s eyes before he admits, “Not many know of my sister. I keep her close. I keep her safe.”

Will finds himself nodding, though his head barely moves. It’s simply a slight tip of chin to chest, and then back again.

“Sorry,” He apologizes, rubbing a hand over his face. He sighs and tells Hannibal, “I carry her memory, too.”

And Abigail’s, is what Will doesn’t say.

His secret, more than any other that he would take to the grave, is that he hopes they’re together somewhere. He hopes they’re far away from all of the bloodshed and gore they experienced in their lifetimes, with Hannibal and without. Will hopes that they’ve shared stories of Hannibal, and that Mischa has helped Abigail forget the parts of him that were inhuman at worst and cruel at best.

Wherever they are, Will knows that he walks with them both everyday, and that one day, they will all meet again.

Hannibal is watching him carefully, waiting for something that Will can’t quite place. He realizes that they are stuck at an impasse.

Surprisingly, it is Hannibal that relents first.

“I will move over,” He says quietly, shifting against the pillows. “So that you may lay down.”

Will nods. As a child, he was afraid of quicksand. It was a fear that followed him through adolescence, until one day, the nightmares just stopped. As Will stands up and feels the sudden rush of alcohol to his head, he can’t quite shake the same feeling that those dreams gave him. He feels weighted down, shoes heavy. Should he struggle, Will knows he would simply sink faster.

He sets his glass atop the dresser, and moves around to his side of the bed. Hannibal has already gone back to his book.

It doesn’t take very long to get comfortable. Will lowers himself down onto his own pillow, letting his shoulder sink into the mattress, and his ear press against the recently starched pillowcase. He settles in with his gaze angled towards Hannibal’s textbook, and studies the pads of Hannibal’s fingers, the way they brush against the text and diagrams before he turns to the next page.

Will is too far away to read what is written without his glasses, but he studies the pictures carefully, diagrams of brains and memory centers and cognitive functions.

“Bedelia will never understand you like I do,” Will whispers, surprising himself.

He’s close enough to know that Hannibal can feel his hot, boozy breath on his bare forearm.

Hannibal doesn’t not immediately reply. At first, Will stupidly wonders if Hannibal even heard him. After the long pass of a few short moments, Hannibal begins to move incrementally. It’s just one inch at first, and then another, but Will has waited much longer for much less in return.

He moves the arm closest to Will, lifting it up to rest along the horizon of their pillows. His limb extends, unfurling, until he’s leaning back comfortably. Hannibal rests his palm against the curve of Will’s skull, fingers loose over Will’s forehead and temple. Hannibal doesn’t realize it, but one of his fingers rests over the faded, pink scar he left there years before.

Will feels his bones relax. They sigh, and sink into the mattress like an old dog after a long day’s work.

Hannibal’s touch moves something in his brain - he is the key that turns off the alarm bells Will never even realized were ringing.

When Hannibal touches him like this, Will feels himself relent.

He can’t help himself from curling up against Hannibal’s side quietly. He moves his body slowly, tucking his knees up, and then his ankles back. Will presses his forehead against the comforting rise of Hannibal’s bare rib cage, and lets out a long, shaky breath.

It is long overdue.

~

The sound of snow and wind violently banging against the front door distracts Will as he peels his clothes off in an attempt to get ready for bed.

“I believe we may be indebted to this motel for one night longer,” Hannibal muses, emerging from the bathroom with damp hair and brushed teeth. Will looks over his shoulder and nods, sighing.

It leaves him just a little antsy, knowing they’ll be here for at least another night, but he knows it’s safer this way.

“Just don’t forget we have a daughter,” Will jokes, untucking the top sheet and blanket from beneath the mattress.

~

Will wakes up in the early twilight, facing the wall instead of Hannibal.

It isn’t the sound of the storm raging outside their room that wakes Will, nor Hannibal sleeping behind him.

Through the gentle haze of lingering sleep, Will blinks, confused. He experiences a fleeting moment that can only be compared to waking up after a particularly hard bender. Will thinks of that first moment upon waking, where you open your eyes, and don’t quite realize the world of hurt you’ve signed yourself up for just yet.

It’s the only thing Will has to compare to this, as he lays still, confused to why his body has woken him at all.

His body, however, makes it very apparent, very quickly. Will feels his chest flush with heat when he realizes there’s come dripping down the insides of his thighs.

Well, he thinks to himself, suddenly feeling a little bit crazy, it’s either come or blood and he doesn’t remember being on the receiving end of any fresh flesh wounds lately.

Will slides one arm under the blanket, and presses his palm against the front of his underwear. He is unsurprised to find the thin fabric wet and sticky, dick notably still half hard. For fucks sake. He hasn’t had a wet dream since high school, and even then he woke himself up with enough time before detonation to masturbate.

Removing his hand from his underwear, Will can’t help but feel a little ashamed of himself. His body is so confused, being this close to Hannibal without being allowed to touch. It’s causing all kinds of misfiring to happen in Will’s brain, and this is the first physical evidence of that.

Hannibal is now completely out of the box, and no longer fits back inside in any capacity.

Grimacing, Will wipes his hand off as best he can against his bare stomach. He knows they’re going to have to stop at a laundromat to wash their clothes eventually, and Will does not want Hannibal to be on the receiving end of any crunchy undergarments.

Just thinking of Hannibal’s name is enough for Will’s dick to become interested again. He takes a few steadying breaths. Things are so much different than they ever have been before; killing Dolarhyde together had seen to that. Will never wanted it like he wanted it that night on the cliff, and now everything has been snatched away from him. Too bad his brain has been the only organ to get the memo so far.

Will looks over his shoulder, at Hannibal laying silently behind him, and then rolls out of bed. He hopes that Hannibal is actually as asleep as he looks, and closes himself in the bathroom.

Out of habit, or maybe just self preservation, Will falls into the same routine he used to follow after having a nightmare. He turns on the shower first, twisting the lime covered hot water tap as far as it will go, and then sits down on the edge of the tub until steam begins to fill the room.

With heat beginning to hang sticky in the air, Will stands again, and begins to methodically take his off clothes.

He throws his ruined underwear into the small garbage can jammed into the corner of the room, and places his faith in the fact that - as far as he knows - Hannibal has never gone through their garbage before.

On second thought: Will crunches up some toilet paper from the roll, and throws it on top.

There, he thinks to himself, a little hysterically. The perfect crime.

As the shower continues to run, Will closes the toilet seat lid and sits down on top of it, bare assed. He takes a minute to bow his head and run both hands through his hair wildly; he’s never felt this particular brand of bewilderment and arousal before. The closest comparison he has is finding one of his dad’s nudey magazines as a prepubescent teenager.

Although he knew the pictures were there, existing just outside of Will’s periphery - in his dad’s garage - they might as well have been a public art installation. Whenever Will tried to look through them, he couldn’t get past the lump of anxiety. He knew he was on borrowed time, and could be caught at any moment.

Events that went on to shape kinks in other people did nothing but further implement the threads of humiliation that already existed in Will.

That thought echoes around his brain, clattering from one side to another like loose change. For some reason, the worst part in all of this is that he still has to deal with a lingering boner; a dead dog that doesn’t know when to lay down. Will feels more frustrated with himself than anything else. He knows that this has happened only because of the conversation he and Hannibal shared before bed.

It had been a simple taste of the intimacy Will has longed for.

Will’s head still hangs loosely between his shoulders; and, now, he tightens the grip he has against his hair. It’s what Hannibal would do, Will reasons with himself, if he were here.

He shouldn’t think about Hannibal. Hannibal, on the other side of this door, laying there in the same brand of cheap department store underwear that Will came all over himself while wearing. White fabric so thin that Will could press his open mouth against it, and watch it go opaque for his efforts.

Desperately, Will grunts at the visceral reaction that visual sparks in his gut, and drops a hand to his dick. He squeezes his fingers around it automatically and then lets his other hand move to curl into a fist. He rests it against his open, suddenly panting mouth, and bites his knuckles.

Will would suck Hannibal through the fabric of his underwear, and Hannibal would feel it as though it were a second skin. He would run his long fingers through Will’s hair obsessively, over and over, unable to stop himself from pumping his hips towards Will’s face.

It wouldn’t do any good, anyway; the underwear would effectively block his skin from Will’s wet, waiting mouth.

In the bathroom, Will tightens his fingers around his cock, and begins to move his hand in the same rhythm that he knows Hannibal would use with his hips. Hannibal would let Will suck him - tease him - that way, until he was rock hard.

Hannibal would stretch the fabric relentlessly, cock curving up hot and hard and strong against the elastic waistband. The underwear would be sticky all the way through, too, Will imagines. He would pull it away from Hannibal’s skin just to see what would happen, and it would only cling to the length and curve of Hannibal’s cock in return.

He would also be able to see the tanned color of Hannibal’s skin through the fabric. It was always a few shades darker than Will could ever get his own. His hand would be comparatively pale against Hannibal’s pelvis, and he would watch that for a moment, appreciating the few differences between them, before peeling Hannibal’s underwear down inch by inch.

Will would finally give in and groan, pressing his face desperately against Hannibal’s bare cock.

He is fully hard now, sitting alone in the bathroom and past the point of simply entertaining an erotic idea. He continues to jerk off religiously, and whines quietly beneath the sound of the shower water still hitting the bottom of the otherwise empty tub. Will thinks about letting Hannibal smack his cock against his open mouth and his cheeks and his chin.

Will would let Hannibal do whatever he wanted to. He would suck kisses against any moment of flesh Hannibal allowed him to have, for however long. He breathes against his knuckles and bites the already roughened skin.

His tongue is trying to get out of his mouth, pushing through his teeth as though it will be able to taste the imagined version of Hannibal standing before him; Will gives in, and licks his own lips. He imagines Hannibal is there, and slides his palm down over the length of his own cock, rock hard and already dripping pre come. Will lets his fingers fall even further down between his legs.

Hannibal would press his strong fingers into the meat of Will’s flank, right above the curve of his ass. He would do it while Will still had Hannibal’s cock in his mouth; he would enjoy the way the pressure would make Will breath harder and then softer against his wet skin. Hannibal would simply trail his hands up and down Will’s sides at first, and do nothing else.

He would wait, and wait, and wait, and Will wouldn’t beg, but Hannibal would resist until Will’s hips were pumping up against nothing at all. He would enjoy watching Will’s hips roll sinuously in the air, desperate for Hannibal’s pressure or touch.

Without thinking, Will lifts one leg up and rests his foot against the slippery edge of the tub. Hannibal would spread him wide just like this, would watch and smell and consume. Hannibal would use one hand and finally, achingly, slide it down over the curve of Will’s ass. His fingers would crook over Will’s tailbone first, and then trail down, further down, and touch against his hole.

It would spasm in response to Hannibal’s first touch.

Will’s leg begins shake, foot squeaking against the porcelain of the tub as his body finally gets what it wants and he presses one finger deep inside of himself. He drools on his own hand by accident.

Hannibal would fingerfuck him until Will was panting deliriously, jaw working from side to side, cheeks flushed and eyes rolling around in the back of his head. Will would curl his fingers in Hannibal’s sweaty hair and roll his hips back against Hannibal’s hand, fucking himself on Hannibal’s curled fingers. Hannibal would die every moment that Will allowed himself to use him like that.

He works himself with two fingers, at what he knows is an unattractive position balanced over the toilet, until he comes without meaning to. The goal was obviously orgasm, but the amount of time it takes him to get there is a surprise. He hasn’t jerked off since the first motel and it shows as he spatters come all over his own stomach and chest. One particularly competitive pump ropes up past his nipple, and almost reaches the hollow of his throat.

Will gasps, breathing hard, suddenly unable to take a deep breath from the shower steam that consumes the room.

Now that he isn’t delirious and horny, he realizes how long he’s had the shower running for, and how foggy the bathroom has become in return. He wouldn’t be surprised if steam has begun to roll out from the crack between the door and floor, and into the adjoining room.

Still shaking from head to toe, knuckles bitten and chin covered with spit, Will crawls from his position on the toilet into the tub, and sits down beneath the shower stream.

Will tilts his head back against the tiled wall, and lets the water wash over his face and trembling body.

Chapter Text

It’s a spring morning in fall, and sharp light spills through the front window.

Somehow, just this is enough to wipe away all of the lingering dark thoughts that would have otherwise spent the day clattering around within the confines of Will’s head.

Hannibal is already awake and standing in front of the window, watching whatever is happening in the parking lot. It’s unsurprising, but it sparks an ember of concern deep in Will’s gut anyways.

“Are you okay?” Will asks, still half asleep. His voice sounds disjointed and rough, even to him.

He pushes himself up onto one elbow so he can squint in Hannibal’s direction, and for one, beautiful moment, is so concerned with what Hannibal is doing that he completely forgets his own brief foray into midnight amateur pornography.

“I am well, though our assumptions regarding the weather were correct,” Hannibal replies. It’s clear that he hasn’t been awake for very long, either. His voice has the same familiar rumble that Will used to associate with fancy morning coffee and free rides into the office in a luxury car. Sounding amused, Hannibal adds, “I believe we are now officially snowed in.”

Will frowns. Spending more than one night here wasn’t supposed to be part of the plan, but it is better than the alternative of stranding themselves somewhere in the car.

“Good thing we have enough money to stay for a few nights,” Will sighs, running a hand through his hair. He eyes the stack of cash haphazardly piled on top of the TV, and jokes, “We’ll have to get part time jobs after this, though.”

Yawning, Will looks over to Hannibal for a response. Although he can only see the sharp angles of Hannibal’s dark silhouette against the window, it’s obvious that Hannibal is shirtless and still wearing the pants he slept in the night before. The expensive trousers they stole from the boutique in Kentucky hang carefully over the back of the kitchen chair Will was sitting in last night.

“Perhaps I will take up a paper route,” Hannibal surmises, the corners of his mouth twitching up in amusement.

Will laughs and sits up, reaching for his pants. Cross-legged and tangled in the sheets, he jokes, “I think we’d have more luck setting me up on a street corner somewhere.”

“I do not believe I share,” Hannibal counters.

The words drop onto the floor between them like bricks sliding off of an unanchored shelf.

Will’s vitals flatline. His brain stops working entirely, and he swears he feels his heart stop. There is no way to control the thoughts suddenly fluttering around in his brain like loose paper, and Will thinks, He knows.

He heard me last night, and he knows.

“We can, uh, ask the front desk if there’s a supermarket around here. We can walk to it,” Will bumbles, wrinkled pants still in one hand as he knots his eyebrows and frowns blindly in Hannibal’s general direction. “We’ll need food for the night.”

There’s just a hint of amusement twitching at Hannibal’s lips, but he nods rather than tease Will any more, and replies, “I imagine that if this weather continues, we will need to seek refuge for more than just one night.”

“Let me put my pants on,” Will says, fumbling out of bed. He can’t even wrap his head around being stranded with Hannibal for an unquantifiable amount of time. “Then we can leave.”

Will risks one more look over his shoulder as he pulls the bathroom door open. He’s not sure if he’s relieved or disappointed to see that Hannibal’s attention is back on the parking lot once more, arms crossed at his wrists and rested against his lower back.

The spot that tastes so good, the unhelpful part of Will’s brain supplies.

He turns back to the bathroom doorway just in time to miss Hannibal’s turning gaze. It flickers away from the window just long enough to study the backside of Will’s body in those form fitting underwear.

~

Will stomps through the foot of freshly fallen snow in the parking lot, and pays for another night in cash.

While he’s counting out the room rate from their ever dwindling twenty dollar bills, the desk attendant provides directions to the closest grocery store. Will thinks he must just look like the kinda guy who drinks like a fish, because directions to the closest bar are given, as well.

He manages a smile and, eyes downcast, slides the cash for their room across the now familiar countertop.

As Will steps back outside into the blustery weather, he thinks about their plans for the night.

Even though they won’t be drinking in public, Will has great plans for the copious amounts of alcohol he wants to consume regardless. He knows it’s going to take something a lot stronger than Hannibal’s anti inflammatories to get through a round of stitch removal later tonight. Somewhere in this small town Will knows there’s a bottle of bourbon waiting for him with his name on it.

“All paid up,” Will announces, as he approaches Hannibal waiting for him at the edge of the parking lot. Hannibal nods and turns towards the sidewalk, so Will follows after him, unable to stop staring at the little snowflakes that are beginning to stick and melt in Hannibal’s hair and collar. “The desk attendant was different than the woman who was there last night.”

He doesn’t tell Hannibal this, but after his earlier remark concerning the property of Will’s ass and who it apparently belonged to, Will ended up a little flustered. And understandably so, he thinks. Because he was distracted, he completely forgot about the fake accent and make believe daughter he’d run with last night upon check-in. So even though it meant one more potential person identifying him if the FBI ever picked up on their trail, Will had secretly been relieved there had been a staff shift change.

And to be honest, at this point Will doesn’t know if the FBI could find their way out of a wet paper bag anyways.

They walk to the grocery store side by side, Hannibal’s shoulder a warm constant beside Will’s own. When the snow banks are too wide or they reach a strip of sidewalk that hasn’t yet been cleared, Will goes first, keeping his head down and his collar pulled up as high as it will go. He can practically feel Hannibal’s gaze on his back as they shuffle down the slippery concrete.

By the time they get to the grocery store, even Hannibal is noticeably cold. Will hadn’t really planned for snowy weather when he was speed shopping at the thrift store, and because of it they’re both stuck in very rudimentary layers.

The longer Will studies Hannibal in the cheap jeans and sweater from the thrift store, the more he misses Hannibal’s warm coats, expensive sweaters, and properly fitted pants.

“I believe I am better suited to this portion of today’s adventure,” Hannibal murmurs, stepping close as they stand together outside of the grocery store.

Will concentrates on the rhythmic sounds of the automatic sliding door opening and closing behind them as he nervously counts out grocery money for Hannibal. He blames the cold weather on the way his fingers tremble while he thumbs through their money, not the effect that Hannibal has on him when they’re standing so close.

As Hannibal disappears into the grocery store, Will hangs out in the parking lot trying not to look like a creep.

And, although Will instructed Hannibal to hurry up no less than three times in the short conversation they shared before he let him go, Hannibal still emerges a comfortable twenty minutes later with a paper bag of groceries held in the crook of each arm. For some reason, this alone makes Will’s stomach go all soggy; a golden thread so familiar that Will wants to tug at it just to see what the stitches hold together.

Rather than dwell on all of the ways he’d like to unravel Hannibal, Will accepts one of the two bags, and peers inside.

“No peeking,” Hannibal instructs, jostling Will’s elbow a little as they start down the sidewalk again. “I like to include an element of surprise in my meals.”

Will acquiesces to Hannibal’s request, but not before getting a glimpse of what he was looking for: alcohol.

Even though expensive alcohol is not exactly in their budget right now, Hannibal still picked the exact label Will offhandedly mentioned liking the other day. They’d been driving past a stretch of aged vineyard, and while Hannibal easily named off his favorite wines using the fingers on one hand, Will laughed before simply answering, “Kentucky Vintage; it’s just bourbon, though.”

Budget be damned, though, because if Will is going to spend the night getting dental floss snipped out of the fleshy part of his cheek, he doesn’t mind Hannibal splurging for the occasion.

“Let’s just get back to our room,” Will breathes, tilting his head in the general direction of the motel.

~

A family that has clearly never seen snow before are in the parking lot when Hannibal and Will arrive back to the motel.

They’re dressed in haphazard layers, and the mom and dad are laughing as they hold their phones up high to capture their two children playing in a particularly dirty looking snowbank. Will watches them quietly, standing close behind Hannibal with both grocery bags in his arms as Hannibal unlocks the door, and leads them back into the dim safety of the room.

Will closes the door, but even with it shut, can still hear the sound of children yelling and laughing. For some reason he connects the sound to Alana.

“I hope you do not mind me preparing dinner for the two of us,” Hannibal says, accepting both bags back from Will before he makes his way over to the small kitchenette.

It’s going to be pretty bare bones compared to Hannibal’s usual set-up. They have an oven, a small bar fridge, and the pan they got from the front office after leaving a twenty dollar cash deposit in return.

Frowning, Will shakes his head and comes to a stop. He trails one hand over the back of a chair at the kitchen table.

“No, not at all,” He replies to Hannibal’s back.

In return, Hannibal turns slightly to offer Will a loose smile as he sets both bags down on the countertop and says, “Wonderful. In that case, I will ask if I may borrow your pocket knife.”

“Sure,” Will answers automatically, patting his pant pockets. He must have left it back in the car; it’s just a cheap knife, something he found in the trunk of their first vehicle and decided to keep for himself. So far they’ve used it to break into a particularly difficult plastic cookie package over the Kentucky state line. “I’ll go get it from the car. Do you need anything else?”

Hannibal shakes his head and moves his attention to the oven. After turning on the heat, he begins to rummage in the grocery bags.

Will takes his leave, going the long way around the parking lot to get to their car. Mostly he chooses the roundabout way to avoid ending up in the background of one of the snow family’s vacation photos. Sure, capturing an out of focus man that suited his general “wanted” description wouldn’t be the end of the world for neither he nor Hannibal, but Will still didn’t want to chance it.

Especially because historically, Freddie Lounds has gotten her hands on weirder things.

In the car, Will retrieves the pocket knife from the glove compartment, and double checks the passenger side door is locked before leaving again. So far keeping only the driver’s side door unlocked has worked well enough to deter anyone from stealing their measly belongings. Even though Hannibal generally made sure they brought anything of value with them, sometimes they were tired enough to leave small things behind.

For example, this pocket knife.

By the time Will makes his way back into their room, Hannibal is fully engaged with his cooking. Without meaning to, or even realizing he would, Will stops short in the doorway. The pocket knife dangles uselessly from one hand.

Hannibal is standing at the oven, looking down into the shitty motel pan they’ve been provided as he tosses its contents, and then reaches forward to adjust the heat. On the counter beside him sits a small, already opened bottle of olive oil, some kind of green herb, and another seasoning packet that Will can’t identify by look alone.

There are also two tomatoes, a lemon, and a bundle of asparagus. Will can smell salmon already frying in the pan.

“I got the knife,” Will says, uselessly. When he finally lets go of the door, it swings closed behind him with a solid click.

Across the motel room, Hannibal looks up with a smile. When he sees the pale, open mouthed expression on Will’s face, he falters.

Will licks his lips. Because other than the cheap food, old appliances and well worn equipment, this is how it used to be.

This is how it used to be, Will’s entire body breathes. He suddenly vibrates with it.

“Is this okay?” Hannibal asks, looking concerned as Will begins to make his way over, still white knuckling the knife.

Will suddenly feels like he’s finally able to take a deep breath after years of being trapped beneath a heavy weight.

“Yeah,” He breathes, not knowing whether the sudden tears in his eyes are happy or sad. “Yeah, it’s good.”

Hannibal openly studies him for another long moment, clearly not knowing whether he should actually believe Will, before he accepts the knife and sets it down on the counter beside the vegetables he intends to cut up.

“The text indicates eating foods rich with proteins and omega-3 helps with memory recovery,” Hannibal explains, as though having further context on the meal will ease whatever thoughts are suddenly running through Will’s head.

A small, shaky laugh makes its way out before Will manages to stop it and nod again, furrowing his brows as he wipes at one eye clumsily. He gets it together long enough to reply, “Sorry, I don’t mean to - it’s good, Hannibal. It looks good.”

Without meaning or even wanting to, Will flashes back to Hannibal’s kitchen in Baltimore.

During the times that Hannibal cooked for him there, he never once asked for Will’s help. On the few occasions Will found himself offering, Hannibal would politely refuse, and instead steer Will towards the kitchen island with a firm hand on his shoulder and a glass of wine held out like an offering.

After they began what Will guesses could now be called a strange courtship, he quickly realized that Hannibal liked the performance of it all. He enjoyed letting Will stare, openly looking at the way Hannibal’s back muscles flexed beneath the light fabric of his collared shirts, how his hips would move forward just a bit when he tossed the contents of a sizzling pan.

By nature Hannibal was a performer, and he loved to perform for Will most of all.

“May I offer you a drink?” Hannibal asks now, unknowingly tugging Will out of his memory.

And of course, regardless of Will’s answer, Hannibal is already holding a cheap glass of expensive bourbon between them.

“Sure,” Will breathes, moving to accept Hannibal’s offering. When he lifts his hand for the glass, their fingers brush against one anothers. He finds himself staring into Hannibal’s face instead of the glass as he says, “Thank you. This is one of my favorites.”

Giving him an easy smile, Hannibal picks up the pocket knife, and heads towards the bathroom to use the sink. Over his shoulder he calls out, “That is your very favorite!”

“Yeah,” Will whispers to himself with a smirk, before tempering it into a frown. He half listens to Hannibal washing the pocket knife off in the other room, and with the remainder of his attention, listens to the salmon as it continues to sizzle away in the pan.

When Hannibal emerges from the bathroom, victorious, he’s drying the knife off on one of their hand towels.

What’s germs shared between them after all this, anyways?

“Thank you for doing all of this,” Will breathes, finally letting himself relax as he inches backwards to sit down at the foot of their bed. He spreads his knees and hunches a little bit to let his elbows rest on them. When Hannibal gives him a curious look, Will finds himself shrugging, “I haven’t had anything like this in a very long time.”

It’s true. Not since Hannibal.

There had only been Molly. And Molly, above else, was a caretaker.

She took care of her son, and she took care of her husband. Molly treated scraped knees and egos bruised at the playground, and she held Will through the nights he was unable to hide his demons. When Will was away she took care of the dogs, feeding them the same raw diet Will had painstakingly put together for lack of anything better to do.

But for all of the wonderful things Molly used to do, she never did this. She never spent the day cooking, or baking, or preparing food - her idea of a down home meal was instant potatoes and grilling something from the meat department at the grocery store. And there was nothing wrong with that. Will never expected nor wanted her to be barefoot in the kitchen.

That wasn’t what it was about.

Watching Hannibal like this simply fulfills a deep need in Will, and Molly had never successfully replaced those memories. Maybe if he and Hannibal ever had a therapy session that didn’t end in deep innuendo, or if he and Bedelia had ever stopped sniping at each other long enough to talk about his feelings, he would have figured out exactly what it was in him that this fulfilled.

But he hadn’t - and, now, he still has that gaping need, so he watches quietly. He enjoys.

“I hope you are not allergic to walnuts,” Hannibal says, back turned to Will as he brusquely chops the veggies.

Shaking his head, Will sips his bourbon and then says, “Nope, no allergies. Not to anything that goes in my mouth, anyways.”

“Ah - the sign of a healthy immune system,” Hannibal praises, glancing over his shoulder.

Will offers a closed mouth smile in return; it’s more of a knee-jerk reaction than anything. He likes it when Hannibal compliments him.

That might be a secret he takes to a grave, though. Will thinks, we’ll see.

~

Hannibal serves them in a less than theatrical manner, with paper plates he clearly stole from the grocery store deli, and plastic utensils.

The food, however, has not suffered.

“Walnut crusted salmon, grilled asparagus, and lemon zested tomato with tarragon,” Hannibal announces, setting Will’s meal down first. The paper plate buckles with the weight of the food atop it, despite Hannibal’s best efforts to maintain its integrity. Will finds himself smiling, loosened by alcohol.

It isn’t until he takes his first bite of salmon that he realizes how hungry he really is. Gas station to-go food and drive through meals don’t exactly make for a balanced diet, despite Will finding himself choosing items like hard cheese and apples at Hannibal’s request.

Will finds himself digging for another bite despite the fact he’s still working on chewing the food already in his mouth. This plastic cutlery isn’t the best, either - it bends easily, especially with the weight and fervor Will is putting behind it - but it works well enough for now, and he finds himself wolfing down the meal. He is unable to stop after his first taste.

When he finally looks over at Hannibal, he feels himself flush at the warm smile he finds on Hannibal’s face.

“Sorry - rude, I know,” Will says after swallowing. He reaches for his booze and adds, “It’s delicious, though. Thank you.”

Eyes wrinkling up at the edges, Hannibal cuts into a piece of his salmon squarely, and replies, “A warm meal can do wonders. I am happy to see you enjoy the food so much.”

“You cooked for me often, back in Baltimore,” Will starts, treading carefully. It’s probably just because he’s edging towards drunk, but part of him wants to let Hannibal in on why he reacted the way he did when he first walked back in from the car. He wants to tell Hannibal something that he doesn’t remember yet. Will wants to connect just one more piece. “You were regularly shocked that, up until you, I existed solely on coffee and peanut butter.”

Amused, Hannibal pauses with his fork halfway to his mouth, and asks, “And after me?”

“I have tried too many of your recipes to count,” Will smiles, setting his drink down. When the pleased curve of Hannibal’s mouth deepens, Will adds, “And I don’t think I could do half of them justice through description alone.”

Hannibal seems happy with the answer. They contentedly fall back into silence, and Will finds himself appreciating Hannibal’s cooking more than ever. Maybe it’s because this is the first fresh, warm food he’s had in a very long time, or maybe it’s just one more old habit clicking neatly back into place. Will can’t be sure quite yet.

“Will, tell me more about Bedelia Du Maurier,” Hannibal asks, as Will is scraping the last bits of salmon off of his soggy paper plate.

Curious at the request, Will sets his fork down and leans back.

As he debates his answer, he rests an appreciative palm over his own stomach, and catches Hannibal’s gaze as it flickers down to watch Will curl his fingers over the slight curve of his own tummy. Hannibal, more self aware than Will could ever dream of being, catches himself quickly and snaps his gaze back up to Will’s face once more.

“What did you want to know?” Will asks, still sprawled out in the chair. He eyes his drink, just out of reach.

He has a gut feeling they will polish off this entire bottle of bourbon tonight. Will hopes copious amounts of alcohol pair nicely with Hannibal’s anti inflammatory medication.

“Last night, you said she saw you,” Hannibal recalls, spearing the last of his asparagus. “How did she see you?”

Will smiles at the memory of Bedelia’s expression the last time he saw her, and replies, “Bedelia and I have a lot in common with one another, believe it or not. We traded barbs at one another’s expense regularly.”

“You fought,” Hannibal interprets, with a slight raise of one brow.

Shaking his head, Will swirls the booze around in the bottom of his cup, and considers his answer before replying, “Although she was your psychiatrist first, she was mine to the bitter end. You were never physically in the room during our sessions, but you might as well have been.”

“I was the subject of your therapy,” Hannibal amends.

Will shrugs but corrects, “There were many subjects to my therapy; you were what linked everything together. If you had attended in person, I’m sure Bedelia and I would have taken our turns rubbing up against you to mark our respective territories,” Will half jokes. In a moment of confidence, he also bites out, “Luckily I’m taller than she is.”

At that, Hannibal laughs. It’s a short, surprised huff that seems to make its way out of his mouth without his consent.

“That paints me quite the picture,” Hannibal breathes, looking down at the asparagus still perched on the end of his fork.

Almost as an afterthought, he sets the utensil back down against the plate, and rests his wrist against the edge of the table.

“I didn’t like Bedelia for a very long time,” Will continues, frowning. He goes quiet, accidentally solemn as he stares at the edge of Hannibal’s dinner plate. He suddenly feels awash in memories, as he continues, “A long time ago, in Baltimore, you told me that we would run away together. We planned for it - you and I. Mostly you. I didn’t know that the plan included someone who was like a family member to us both. You wanted to surprise me, but, well. I guess that part doesn’t matter now.”

Suddenly, Will feels exposed. He glances up at Hannibal, unable to stop himself from gauging Hannibal’s reaction.

Will isn’t surprised to see there isn’t one, outwardly at least. Hannibal is still, silent. He watches Will carefully in return, gaze flickering over the deep lines between Will’s eyebrows, and the frown at the corners of his lips.

“I said the wrong thing - I made you mad,” Will continues, still staring at Hannibal. His voice is starting to get a bit louder without his consent - he’s definitely edging closer to buzzed, he thinks, gripping the edge of the table. “You left. You took Bedelia instead of me, and a part of me never forgave her for that, even though I know - I knew - it wasn’t her fault.”

Will stops himself there. As woven into the belly of the beast Bedelia had become, she hadn’t exactly purchased a fake passport and plane ticket to jet off to Europe with Hannibal. She had been as much of a pawn in his game as anyone else, Will and Abigail included.

He wouldn’t hate Bedelia for that, even though he could hold her to a lot of other things.

Beneath the table, Will slides his hand over his stomach again. This time, his fingers search for the stretch of deeply scarred skin, the wound resembling the c-section cut of a child he never got to keep.

“That was not very nice of me,” Hannibal says, finally. His voice is soft. “Did I apologize to you?”

Will’s fingers flex once against his scar before he brings his hand back up to the table. Jerkily, he rubs at one eye. He remembers the way Hannibal’s hands felt on top of the cliff, flexing and curling against the fabric of Will’s shirt and the scar hidden beneath it.

“In your own way, you did,” Will replies eventually, just a whisper now. The next part is hard to admit out loud. “You didn’t need to say ‘I’m sorry’.”

Hannibal pauses, the ghost of a frown twitching across his face before he asks, “And did you ever forgive me?”

“Forgiveness is the final form of love,” Will says without thinking.

He throws the rest of his bourbon back to stop the feelings that roll up the moment the words leave his tongue.

Chapter Text

Will is drunk.

“Ow,” He breathes, even though Hannibal’s touch does not actually hurt much.

He’s had worse, he thinks, mildly. Hannibal pauses, and gives Will a long look before clipping the next stitch.

Their low rent production of an operating room is not exactly up to medical board standards. Hannibal is working with nothing more than a tiny pair of eyebrow tweezers, and its matching pair of nail clippers. He purchased both in a holiday gift set from the beauty counter at the grocery store.

After dinner, Will watched as Hannibal disinfected both tools with boiled water and bourbon.

The whole process seemed sufficient enough for Will, but Hannibal had maintained the same pained expression throughout each step, clearly less than satisfied.

“You will scar,” Hannibal murmurs, sitting far too close to Will’s face for Will to do anything other than stare back helplessly. Will lets his gaze wander over Hannibal’s face, from his unwavering line of sight to the slight crease between his eyebrows. Will licks his bottom lip, and concentrates on listening as Hannibal adds, “It should not be too bad. Vitamin C will help tremendously - we will buy some from the drug store tomorrow.”

Unable to trust himself in saying anything else, Will breathes a soft, “Okay,” and lowers his gaze back to study Hannibal’s chin.

Hannibal’s expression begins to tighten as he gets nearer the edge of Will’s scar. The bottom part is where Will recklessly pulled the knife out, and it’s more damaged than the clean slice nearer the top of his cheek. Sensing Hannibal’s concern, Will lets himself relax, leaning into the way Hannibal tightens his grip on Will’s jaw to adjust the angle of his face just slightly.

Will secretly revels in the feeling of having the length of Hannibal’s thumb laid out along the line of his jaw. His grip is just as Will remembers it being. He has held Will’s face like this many times; he tilts Will’s cheek up to the light easily, and leans a fraction closer.

It begins to feel as though Hannibal is digging around in the trenches of Will’s cheek. It becomes painfully obvious to Will that Hannibal is having to search for the next stitch, now buried beneath layers of dead skin. The sensation is ultimately a strange one: Will physically feels nothing, but can’t tell if it’s because of potential nerve damage, the booze, his general lack of feeling, or all three.

He is the proud owner of the home-run of all potential stab wounds. One for team Lecter-Graham.

Oh god, Will thinks, snapping his gaze back to Hannibal’s eyes. He doesn’t think that Hannibal can read minds yet, but he can’t be sure. Don’t hyphenate your last names.

“There will be a small amount of blood,” Hannibal continues explaining, as he reaches for a clean piece of gauze from the kitchen table to wipe Will’s face over. “It seems that a small amount of skin grew over the stitch that has now been removed. Once the scab heals, it should not impact the appearance of your scar. You had a very good doctor.”

Will, still caught up in moderating his own thoughts, lets out an awkward laugh.

“Well, you’re the only one who has to look at me,” He says without thinking.

Once the words are out of his mouth, he blinks, stupefied, and watches as Hannibal’s gaze flicks up to meet his own.

“Indeed, I do,” Hannibal replies easily. He moves his thumb to press fully into the fatty flesh of Will’s cheek. “What a miserable burden for one man to carry alone.”

Fuck, Will thinks - there’s that feeling again. His chest flushes with warmth.

“Shut up,” He whispers, the corners of his mouth beginning to curl up into a smile until Hannibal ‘tsks’ him. Without thinking, Will tries to hold his poker face, and murmurs a solemn, “Sorry.”

Hannibal finishes the last stitch. It’s another one that he has to dig and tug at, offering a steady pressure to ease any pain.

When the final stitch is removed, Will takes over holding the clean gauze to his wound, and manages an, “Ugh.”

He reaches for his drink with the hand not holding the gauze, and throws half of it back in three gulps. Hannibal gives him an amused look as he tugs Will’s arm down by the inside of the elbow, and then begins cleaning the wound. The slight burn of the drug store antiseptic makes Will cringe even more.

Usually he wouldn’t complain or whine so much, but when it comes to the way Hannibal treats him in return…

“The feeling may come back,” Hannibal surmises, looking a little apologetic as he trades out Will’s bloodied gauze for another fresh piece. He brushes his thumb over the curve of Will’s cheekbone and then stands up to clean the equipment as he adds, “But it also may not.”

Sighing, Will throws back the remainder of his bourbon, and grits, “Nerve damage lottery. That’s fine.”

“I will need your assistance in removing my stitches now,” Hannibal says, as he reaches the sink and begins to fill their pot with water to sterilize the ‘equipment.’ “You only need to clip the knot from each stitch. I will be able to do the rest.”

Will frowns, and immediately regrets drinking so much. Before he’s even had a chance to psych himself up, Hannibal is back at the table with the tweezers and clippers.

“You really trust me to do this?” Will asks, which is when he realizes he truly is on this side of drunk.

Hannibal sets everything down on a fresh towel beside Will’s empty glass, and takes a step towards the bed. His fingers move towards the bottom hem of his shirt.

“Yes,” He replies simply, and then his face is momentarily gone as he pulls the shirt up and over his head.

Alone at the island of their kitchen table, Will swallows compulsively and curls his fingers against the formica. He tries not to stare at Hannibal’s bare chest, but it’s a game he’s shockingly comfortable losing. Even though he’s seen Hannibal in various states of undress since the course of their strange cross country road trip began, there have been few moments as truly intimate as this.

Tending to wounds, hiding, nesting away from the snow. Will feels as though he reeks of intimate moments spent with Hannibal.

“I will lay on the bed. It should make things easier for you,” Hannibal estimates, looking down at the mattress. Will nods and stands up to wash his nervous hands with the antibacterial soap Hannibal bought. From behind him, Hannibal adds, “The only thing I ask is that you do not clip my skin.”

The stomach is a particularly sensitive place to injure, Hannibal says inside Will’s head. He hears it over the rush of tap water.

“Got it,” Will gulps, drying his hands off on a dish towel that likely isn’t clean but makes him feel better regardless. As he turns around, Hannibal is throwing back his own bourbon; it’s gone in two easy gulps. The back of Will’s tongue salivates as he thinks about the sharp taste, and watches the column of Hannibal’s throat as he swallows compulsively. Will looks away to pick up the tweezers, admitting, “I wish I had my glasses.”

Hannibal lets out a short huff of breath - almost a laugh - as Will comes to stand over him, laid out on the bed.

“Perhaps we could discuss your nearsightedness later,” He breathes, amused. “Preferably when you are not about to perform a minor medical procedure on my person.”

Laughing out of nervousness, Will nods once and then settles down at the edge of the mattress beside Hannibal’s hip.

“Right,” He breathes, and finds himself hesitating before he rests one palm flat against the slight curve of Hannibal’s stomach. The muscles contract beneath Will’s hand, and he gulps nervously, adding, “Sorry, my hands are cold.”

When he doesn’t receive an immediate response from Hannibal, Will looks up to see that his eyes are closed.

He has a soft expression on his face; relaxed, despite the less than ideal circumstances. Will looks him over carefully. It is obvious Hannibal has made a full retreat into the safety of his mind palace, a thing new but still familiar, full of rooms that this Hannibal does not know Will has already visited.

Will frowns to himself and drags his attention back to the healed wound on Hannibal’s stomach.

The stitches look good, healthy but not quite as healed over as Will’s had been. Will smoothes a hand over the plane of Hannibal’s stomach, until his thumb and pointer finger frame the now familiar bullet wound. For a fraction of a second, Will can’t help but flash back to when he first found Hannibal on the beach, soaked and cold and bleeding from all over.

He can still taste the uncertainty on the back of his tongue, even now. It’s as fresh as bile.

As Will dragged Hannibal’s body down the pitch black beach, he had been unable to think of anything other than the likelihood of Hannibal surviving at all. He feels fiercely protective of Hannibal for a moment, and wonders how childish the universe must have been to think they could be separated by death so easily.

The first clip of Hannibal’s stitches isn’t the steadiest move of Will’s career, but it suffices well enough.

He quickly sets up his own rhythm, using the tweezers to maneuver each stitch into position before removing the knot with the nail clippers. Each little knot of dental floss breaks away easily, and Will finds himself exhaling a quiet breath of relief before moving onto the next.

This isn’t so bad, he thinks. He hadn’t realized he was holding his breath, but with the first few out of the way, he relaxes.

He clips away steadily, moving from stitch to stitch and knot to knot, until he finishes the last one and sits back to survey his work. It looks good, as far as he can tell. There’s no bleeding, and nothing looks iminently wrong. Will leans forward one last time to brush the lingering little pieces of floss off of Hannibal’s stomach and onto the floor.

When he sits back and looks up at Hannibal’s face, he realizes for the first time that Hannibal is staring back at him.

“All done,” Will manages, unable to do anything else as Hannibal reaches for him in the same breath.

Will’s eyes drift closed. He is unable to look at Hannibal’s lingering gaze, entirely afraid he will crumble under the sudden weight of it. Instead, he is happy to feel Hannibal’s gentle touch as he rests his palm against the curve of Will’s face protectively. Hannibal brushes his thumb against the warm skin he finds there, until it comes to rest on and cover Will’s new scar.

“Very good,” Hannibal murmurs, tugging Will forward an inch before he lets go altogether.

Without meaning to, Will makes a little sound in the back of his throat as the touch suddenly disappears.

Hannibal thumbs Will’s handiwork next, fingers bumping over the freshly raised flesh before he begins to remove the last remains of the stitches. Now that Will has clipped out each tiny knot, it’s easy for Hannibal to tug each small remainder of floss from beneath his own skin.

“I’ll pour you another drink,” Will offers, instead of allowing himself the chance to think about Hannibal’s dexterous fingers. Without waiting for an answer, Will stands to collect their half empty bourbon bottle and Hannibal’s tumbler.

As Will is pouring their next round, Hannibal removes the very last stitch with a sharply exhaled breath.

“We should allow the wounds to breathe overnight,” Hannibal decides, as he eases himself up into a sitting position. He reaches for the betadine and gauze, and begins to clean the wound carefully. “Tomorrow we will treat them with ointment and a loose dressing, should we be able to leave.”

Will nods, and watches as Hannibal treats his own scar the same way he did Will’s: with a steady, firm hand, and careful pressure.

He sets Hannibal’s fresh drink down on the beside table, and settles back into what has become his chair at the kitchen table.

“If the snow clears,” Will agrees, sipping at his own drink. After a pause, he admits, “I feel like we’ve been here too long already.”

Sighing, Hannibal cleans up their makeshift operating tray as best he can, and then eases himself into the chair across from Will.

“As do I,” He agrees, unconcerned with Will hearing the worried roughness at the edge of his voice. Hannibal takes a sip of his drink, and then adds, “Unfortunately the storm seems to be getting worse, not better.”

To illustrate his point, Hannibal leans to the side just enough to reach over and tug the closed curtain away from their window.

Will follows Hannibal’s hand, and peers through the newly exposed glass. Outside the weather is dark, violent, and loud; Will watches quietly as another loose tendril of cool white snowflakes swirl through their air before disappearing into the velvety black sky.

From the sound that the wind is making as it batters the exterior of the motel, Will suddenly realizes that getting out of here first thing in the morning will be a shared pipe dream at the very best.

“We’ll be fine,” Will lies, as Hannibal’s removes his hand from the curtain. The shakiness in Will’s voice doesn’t exactly drive the point of what he’s saying home, and without meaning to, he finds himself fishing for more. He raises his eyebrows and asks, “Right, Hannibal?”

Hannibal seems to pick up on the uncertainty vibrating beneath Will’s skin immediately.

“We will be in Oregon by this time next week,” He promises, looking back at Will with a soft expression on his face.

It’s could very well be a lie, but it makes Will feel better regardless.

He’s never heard Hannibal seem unsure about anything, but if he had to guess what it sounded like, this would probably be it.

~

He can’t stop touching the scar.

Will knows he is now officially on this side of “too many drinks,” and his sudden tactility is evidence of that.

He’s always been a physical drunk, entirely happy to rub the soles of his bare feet against the carpet and endlessly touch the rough edges of a beer bottle label. The scar is something new to touch, and the very thought of it makes him feel intoxicated in a way that has nothing to do with the booze they’re drinking.

The newly foreign stretch of skin is somehow both softer and more rugged than the other parts of his face. It already feels like the scar stretched wide across his stomach; a twin signature that reminds him entirely, uncompromisingly, of Hannibal.

Will traces his fingers against the bumpy indents that mar the fresh skin, and pours out another round with his free hand.

Hannibal is sitting alone and shirtless at the kitchen table. They’ve been playing cards for going on two hours now, and they’re both plenty inebriated. So far Will has been taught a Lithuanian kid’s game that he can’t remember how to pronounce but translates roughly to ‘Donkey,’ and Will has in turn explained the finer points of playing Go Fish to Hannibal.

And, before they were this close to the bottom of the bottle, they’d played two rounds of a bastardized form of poker.

“We’re almost out,” Will says, as he brings their drinks back to the table.

This is the most inebriated Will has ever seen Hannibal get; it is positively charming.

His accent is out in full force as he shuffles the deck and smiles up at Will as Will sets the fresh bourbon down. As Will drops back into his seat, he imagines Hannibal with a lit cigarette hanging out of the corner of his mouth, sitting somewhere in a dark Lithuanian bar.

He can’t help but let himself wonder who they could have been, had they had different childhoods. Will tries to picture a life flush with the presence of his own mother, and Hannibal’s little sister, but comes up short. Would he have been a different man? Would he have been capable of loving Hannibal as much as he does in this life?

“I will teach you Ragana,” Hannibal announces, entire light years away from the thoughts stumbling through Will’s head.

Hannibal removes the Queen card from their deck, and then deals the remaining cards into two piles. He slides one pile across the table for Will carefully.

“What’s this one?” Will asks, accepting the hand as he purposely takes a step away from his own thoughts.

He could use the distance, tonight.

“You have likely played it before,” Hannibal says, as he pauses readying his own hand to take a fortifying sip of bourbon. His lips come away looking especially wet as he adds, “I believe the American equivalent is Old Maid. In Germany, it is known as Black Peter - or Schwarzer Peter.”

Mr. Encyclopedia over here, Will thinks, accidentally dropping a card. It lands face up on the table, and Will automatically slaps his hand down over it before Hannibal has a chance to see which suit it belongs to.

“Well, you might have won - what was it called?” Will asks, drunkenly shuffling the runaway card back into his hand.

Hannibal is openly amused as he sits back to watch Will. He supplies, “Burmistras.”

“Burmistras,” Will repeats, continuing to studiously organize his cards. He’s so absorbed by them, he completely misses the flash of heat that crosses Hannibal’s face as he takes in the Lithuanian word suddenly on Will’s lips. Oblivious, Will pauses tossing his pairs to the side to say, “But all Grahams are raised to play Old Maid from a very young age. Get ready to lose, Dr. Lecter.”

Chuckling, Hannibal arranges his own collection of matching pairs into a pile, and then turns to look at Will with a solemn expression.

“I believe I am prepared,” He murmurs, biting back the uneven smile that threatens to remove his stoic face.

Hannibal watches Will set two cards face down on the table. After a short moment of consideration, he slides his bare wrist along the tabletop, and stretches forward until he can tap at the left cards. Thunk, thunk. The sound his finger tip makes against the surface is solid and sure.

“Damnit!” Will blurts, laughing despite himself as Hannibal smiles and takes Will’s card to match with his own.

He sets the newly acquired cards on top of the small pile growing at his elbow, and offers Will a placating expression before he explains, “I often played this game with my sister. She was very good at stealing my cards. I believe you have now met your match.”

“Well I’m not giving up easily,” Will grins, sipping at his drink. He watches Hannibal offer up two cards by laying them face down on the table. Will narrows his eyes and concentrates on Hannibal’s blank expression, trying to psych him out even though Hannibal is literally the last person on earth that would fall for a sneaky eyebrow raise. Will finally blinks and says, “I want the right one.”

Hannibal slides the card across the table top face down, and watches delightedly as Will flips it over and immediately swears.

“It seems as though you have made the wrong decision,” Hannibal teases, watching sweetly as Will adds the card to his ever growing hand.

They make their way through the remainder of the deck quickly. Though the wind continues to howl outside, Hannibal finds himself directing the majority of his attention towards Will. He openly watches as Will reacts to each bad card he pulls, and Will enjoys putting on the show in return.

He acts petulant and sore as he continues his losing streak with each newly chosen card. For some reason the way that Hannibal babies him in return ignites a warm fire in the bourbon soaked ecosystem of Will’s stomach. Hannibal placates him by allowing an extra turn, and then sneaking one of his own pairs into Will’s pile when he doesn’t think Will is looking. Will knows.

Hannibal is truly not as sneaky as he thinks he is.

This is why Will suddenly knows he would choose Hannibal in every life, no matter the circumstance. It’s clear to him now that he wouldn’t have a choice. He would find Hannibal, and Hannibal he, every single time.

“I believe it is time for leftovers,” Hannibal concedes, pushing his chair away from the table once they’ve both drawn their last pair.

Will lost, of course, but it was by a very small margin.

And - secretly - he spent most of the game hiding his good cards beneath the table. By the second round, Will had figured it to be the most effective way to bask in the drunken enjoyment of letting Hannibal cater to him.

“Eat up,” Hannibal says, walking back to the table with their leftovers. Salmon and asparagus. “I would prefer we both avoid any potential hangover, come morning.”

Will knows what he means without asking. If there’s even a small chance they can safely leave in the morning light, they will.

He doesn’t know why - maybe it’s the booze - but he suddenly feels a little bittersweet about the idea. This is the longest he’s stayed in one place with Hannibal for years and years. For a few moments, however silly they were, it almost felt like they were beginning to put down roots again.

You will, something tells him, quietly soothing Will’s fears. Not long, now.

Hannibal settles back down in his spot at the table with a knife and a fork. He begins to cut his food into bite sized pieces.

“Can I ask you a question?” Will asks, as he begins to break his own fish apart with a fork. It’s so tender, Hannibal’s knife seems completely unnecessary.

With a curious look, Hannibal chews his mouthful of food, and nods. He drops his gaze as Will licks his lips nervously.

“What would you have done if you woke up on that beach alone?” Will finally manages.

The words immediately taste sour on his lips, and Will finds himself frowning at the implication. What would you have done if I didn’t survive is written heavily between the lines. Will knows that the question is deeply unfair to Hannibal under these circumstances, but he decides he doesn’t care.

Will wants to poke at this bruise a little bit more before it has a chance to heal.

“May I ask why?” Hannibal inquires, ever the diplomat, as he navigates another bite of food into his mouth. He pauses, lips opened around the food as he waits for Will to continue, but when it’s clear Will isn’t ready to, Hannibal closes his teeth and pulls the fish from the tines.

Ultimately, Will doesn’t know how to explain the way he’s feeling, and he’s aware of the shortcoming.

It feels like a mixture of fear, self loathing, and possessive love. Truthfully that should be a familiar recipe at this point in their relationship, but everything is different now. He thinks about the idea of Hannibal continuing his life without Will. He considers what might have happened had he simply sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor.

Hannibal wouldn’t have even known to retrieve his body.

“My feelings for you consume me - it isn’t sustainable to require one person in the way I do you,” Will begins, weighing each thought carefully as it parses through his brain. He moves his plate to the side, and reaches for his drink instead, adding, “It’s suicide, I think, and I can’t figure out if you made me this way or not. Maybe you just found me.”

Will doesn’t know what he expects Hannibal to say to that.

Even though he’s pretty sure any other person would be drafting up a restraining order at the admission, Hannibal looks thoughtful.

He watches Will steadily for a moment, chewing and waiting to see if Will wants to say anything else, before he replies, “And you found me, in return. You are wondering if I would have seen myself driven towards the ocean, despite my lack of understanding towards the situation.”

“I think I am,” Will frowns, sounding a little bewildered at himself as he finally leans forward to take a bite of the food. As he chews, he drops his gaze to his plate, and swallows before admitting, “I’m here because I understand you. I’ve always understood you, Hannibal. And even when you don’t, you continue to trust me anyways,”

Pausing, Hannibal regards Will as he sets his knife and fork back down.

“You understand me?” Hannibal asks, sounding curious despite himself.

Will nods, and the words tumble out of his mouth before he can arrange them any differently. He says, “I know who you are.”

“And who am I?” Hannibal replies, easily, as though they are playing a simple game of catch.

They are both suddenly aware nothing about this is simple. Even though his voice does not betray him, Will swears he sees Hannibal’s complexion turn to white. For one long, frozen moment, Hannibal is suspended, as his fingers hover over the table’s edge, and his face rests stoic and cold against his skull.

Drunk and stupid, Will looks into Hannibal’s eyes and breathes, “Hannibal, I know it all. I know who you used to be.”

Il Mostro is desperately hanging off of the tip of Will’s tongue, but he manages to bite it back as Hannibal begins to move.

For the first time in his life, Will feels small beneath Hannibal’s suddenly calculated gaze.

The man in front of him must be what everyone else sees when they look at Hannibal for the last time, Will thinks to himself. As Hannibal arranges himself in controlled increments, Will finds that he can do nothing more than stare. He feels completely bewildered as Hannibal gets to his feet - we’re leaving now? - and removes his jacket from the coat rack.

Hannibal does not look back at Will as he pulls the jacket on over his bare skin and stalks towards the door.

“Hannibal,” Will tries to shout, finally reeling back to life in the same moment that Hannibal slips through the door. Suddenly he is bumbling over himself, unable to get out of his chair in a way that does not cause the table to screech loudly against the floor. It’s only a moment before he gives up, falling back into his chair with his head in his hands. “Fuck.”

Out of everything, he hadn’t expected Hannibal to do that.

~

Will stays up for another hour and a half, drinking the remains of the booze and playing Memory by himself.

He spreads the cards out across the table top and sighs, letting his body hunch in on itself as he quickly finds a pair. It’s comforting, to let himself crumble in this way. He sets his first pair to the side. He thinks about the beginning of their night, and how easy it had been to sink into drinking and card games with Hannibal.

That makes him grimace. Frowning at the table, Will pulls one more pair, and then stands up to check the door again.

It’s still blizzard weather outside, and he has to fight against the way the wind wants to pull the door from his hands as he inches it open to peer through the crack. The parking lot is just a cold, dark abyss - he doubts he would be able to see Hannibal even if he were standing a foot in front of him.

Even so, it makes him feel better to look.

Will closes the door after a few more minutes and then leans back against it, letting out a heavy breath as he stares up at the ceiling. More than anything else, he doesn’t know why he’s disappointed with Hannibal’s reaction. He had expected many things, most of which began and ended with spilled blood, but simply leaving without further incident had not been one of them.

He stays up for as long as he can, until the digital alarm clock clicks over to 4:00, and then crawls into bed alone.

Chapter Text

Will doesn’t remember falling asleep, but when he wakes up, blue morning light is beginning to spill through the gauzy curtains.

It’s too early to be awake at all. He moves bitterly against the cold sheets, and thinks about how he hasn’t truly woken up alone in years. Some small part of him is deeply aware that the strange taste left behind by the empty bed is likely to linger all day. For some reason, Hannibal’s absence cuts deeper than the rest ever did.

When he half rolls over to glare at the alarm clock on Hannibal’s side of the bed, Will realizes with a lurching feeling in his gut that he only managed two hours of sleep. It’s barely past six thirty now, and the city has only just begun to wake on the other side of the motel room door.

The only thing he hears now is the faint sound of a baby crying from one side of the room, and the steady rhythm of a bed frame thumping against loose plaster on the other.

Ah, but what side to choose, Will thinks to himself, sour.

Sighing, Will kicks the blankets back, and then swings his legs off the side of the bed. He can already feel the drop in blood sugar taking place as the bourbon works its way out of his system, leaving him with tender eye sockets and a deliciously sore head.

After removing himself from the mattress, Will stumbles towards the kitchenette in search of tylenol and a drink. The first thing he sees are their leftover plates sitting, abandoned, at the kitchen table; their combined presence cuts like a knife. Will doesn’t mean to stop and study them, but finds himself doing so anyways.

Hannibal’s knife and fork are both still resting gently on either side of the plate, right where he left them before leaving Will. Will’s, on the other hand, are hastily thrown to the side, the knife blade slid perfectly between the tines of his fork.

Seeing the discarded table settings make the feeling of waking up alone worse even still.

He can’t shake off the sour expression he knows is on his face as he readies himself a glass of tap water and rummages around in their ever growing medical bag for the bottle of tylenol. With a nervous dip of his stomach, Will suddenly realizes that Hannibal has left his anti inflammatories behind, the prescription bottle still half full and very much in effect.

Grimacing, Will places the small bottle onto the counter reverently, and, with two tylenol pills resting dry on his tongue, turns to retrieve the carton of orange juice from the fridge. He drinks right from the container, standing in his underwear in front of the opened door, until he’s had his fill and his mouth is citrusy and sour.

The pills are all he has for breakfast. In fact, after setting the orange juice back into the fridge, cap only half screwed back on, Will shuffles his way back to bed with the glass of cloudy tap water in one hand.

With every small new sound he hears, Will looks towards the front door, hoping Hannibal will walk back through it.

~

But Hannibal doesn’t return to their room that morning.

Will is still watching the local news from his position in bed when late afternoon rolls around. So far, he’s only ventured outside to pay in cash for another night. He finds great comfort in lying in the same spot he last touched Hannibal; he lets his fingers crawl across the mattress slowly, searching for someone he knows isn’t there anymore.

He thinks about Hannibal, and swallows his heart every time the news comes back from commercial. Some sick part of him expects to see Hannibal, mouth covered in blood and bent over a police cruiser, every time the “Breaking News” graphic winds its way across the screen.

He’s still nursing his hangover at dinnertime, when blue and red lights begin to flash through the curtains.

“No, no, no,” He whispers, freezing where he sits against the headboard.

Without thinking, he reaches for the television remote, and mutes the news anchor. Whatever is happening out there, it’s quiet.

Will frowns and closes his eyes as he tries to hear anything at all - a cop, a suspect, even a victim would suffice - and crawls down off of the bed. He lowers himself to the floor, crouching between the mattress and the wall, and steadies himself with one hand against the bedframe. He has sudden visions of Hannibal coming back to an empty, police taped motel room.

They can’t take him into custody alone. Will won’t allow it.

Shaking with adrenaline, Will crawls along the narrow space between the bed and the wall, and tries to keep his head below the level of the mattress as best he can. He doesn’t think a local cop would try and take him down with a gunshot to the back of the head, but he’s made that gamble before and lost pretty thoroughly to Chiyoh.

He stays low until he gets back to the kitchenette, where he presses himself along the bottom cabinets and reaches up to feel around on the counter top with one hand. He knows the pocket knife Hannibal used to cut up their vegetables last night is still here; he saw it this morning.

His fingers bump up against the now familiar handle as he snags it from atop a pile of asparagus ends.

Hannibal will not be left out there alone, wherever he is, in some shitty podunk town with half a brain. Will refuses to let that happen. He’ll fight his way out of here if he has to, and if he dies trying, then that’s fine.

Will is completely aware that his breathing is off-rhythm and short as he leans forward to yank his pants from where they hang over the back of the kitchen chair. He begins tugging them on one handed, first one leg and then the other, still in his awkward half crouch against the wall.

Another set of red and blue lights join the first, and Will finds himself awash in a sea of primary colored lights that both petrify and excite him.

For a long moment, he dreams of filleting every police officer in the parking lot. He would tableau their bodies, beautiful in the fresh snow, as a coming home present for Hannibal. Look what I made for you, something whispers in his ear. Will shivers at the pleased throb that pulses through his body, and bites the knife blade between his front teeth as he zips his fly up. It will never be like it was the first time on the cliff, Will knows this; but it feels close. He misses Hannibal regardless.

He edges over towards the window sill, and, back against the wall, turns to peer out from the side of the curtain.

Outside, in the otherwise pitch black parking lot, two police cruisers are lit up and parked hood to hood. From what Will can see from his position on the wrong side of the glass pane the cars appear to be empty, both driver’s side doors opened and abandoned.

He pulls his t-shirt back on one-handed, holding the curtain back just enough to look through it with the other. By the time he finally sees a police officer making their way back towards one of the two cruisers, he’s almost fully dressed except for his shoes, which are still sitting where he left them this morning by the front door.

The police officer gets into the first cruiser and does a three point turn before pulling out of the parking lot. Shortly after, the second officer appears, pigeon walking a rough looking man from one of the suites further down.

Even though the police officer has the man’s arm twisted up behind his back, the guy is spitting viciously, twisting and trying to wiggle free from the officer’s grip.

Will closes his eyes and lets the curtain drop back into place. He understands what’s happened in less time than it would take for a camera to flash. A domestic dispute, called into the local cop shop due to an overbooked motel where every little noise could be heard from five rooms away. It’s nothing, just two stupid kids fighting with one another in the dead of the night.

The man is lowered into the back seat of the cruiser, and then the cop heads back in the same direction he came.

“Fuck,” Will grumbles, reeling back to life as he moves for his shoes. His heart feels like a hummingbird trapped in the cage of his chest as he thinks about the likelihood of the cop going door to door to collect statements.

It’s time to leave, he decides, as the cruiser lights continue to bounce off of the stucco walls. Fuck the hundred dollars he just paid to spend another night, fuck the snow continuing to fall outside, and fuck being caught by some junior police officer who only showed up after receiving a domestic noise complaint.

He begins to pack their things. There aren’t many, but what they do have is equally important to both of them.

The remainder of their food goes into the trash, along with their plates and cutlery. He’ll have to apologize to Hannibal for that, but their clothes and few necessities are much more important right now. He tucks Hannibal’s anti inflammatories into the breast pocket of his button down, and the knife into the back pocket of his slacks.

If he needs it, he’ll use it. Nothing will stop him tonight.

All of their clothing and meager belongings fit into two plastic grocery bags, which Will leaves beside the door. He’s wiping down the remainder of the room as best he can when the inevitable knock comes on the front door. He freezes, crouched where he’s cleaning the oven door handle, and feels his ears prick as he tracks the noise. There’s another knock, and then a pause, before the footsteps retreat.

By the time he’s done, the cop car is thankfully long gone, and the only thing left for him is the barren, snow burnt parking lot.

Will carries everything in one trip, hunched in on himself against the cold. He doesn’t think about the fact that Hannibal is somewhere dressed in only pants and a jacket. He’s wearing the navy colored sweater he bought for Hannibal to wear, and the heavy jacket he’s worn through the last five cities.

He doesn’t check out of the motel properly. He just leaves their room key on the bedside table, with the door unlocked, and hopes for the best. It’ll be better for everyone to think they’re here for another night, anyways, especially if someone does manage to pick up their trail.

Will throws everything into the back of the car, completely disrupting the semi-organized ecosystem they had going on, and climbs into the front seat.

He leaves the parking lot without hesitation, and then drives around the block a few times, not knowing what else to do. He can’t leave the city without Hannibal; he won’t. He can’t risk another night at the motel, either, but if he drives past the same housing complex one more time, he’s going to have the cops called on him for lurking in the dark.

In the end, he parks in a strip mall kitty-corner to the motel. The location affords him a good view of the comings and goings of both the motel parking lot, and the office door. If anyone else of note makes an appearance, he’ll be able to see it.

Will sinks down in the driver’s seat, tugs his jacket collar up around his jaw, and waits.

~

Will wakes up and startles against the steering wheel, breath huffing icy and cold into the air.

“Huhhgh,” He jerks, voice rough, gravelly after being out in the cold all night. Even though he let the engine run for a bit before shutting the car off, the dead of the night has successfully chilled the interior again, leaving Will feel like he’s camping or ice fishing.

It’s oddly comforting.

Bleary, he rubs his face and squints through the windshield. It’s begun to ice over, but only just.

Across the street, the motel still sits, looking the same as it ever has. Will rubs his face again and takes in the parking lot, still full to almost over capacity; the bright, neon ‘NO VACANCY’ sign lit up at the very edge of the paved concrete.

He eats some of the beef jerky he stashed in the glove compartment during their last gas station shopping excursion, and rubs his hands together, trying to get some of the feeling back into his fingertips. It’s still early morning. The winter sun is just beginning to break over the roof of the motel, and the quiet small city street is slowly coming alive.

Some motel rooms have their lights turned on already. Will watches as a maid makes her way from room to room, pushing her cart full of cleaning supplies along the wrought iron second floor exterior hallway.

Once he’s warmed up as best he can without actually turning the car back on, he gets out and stretches, peering from side to side and trying to surreptitiously account for any new visitors in the parking lot he chose last night. It’s mostly still full of empty cars, with no other overnight campers besides him. The only company he has is the odd discarded shopping cart.

Will begins walking along the line of parked cars. He needs a car that has a local license plate that isn’t too hard to remove.

It doesn’t take long to find one; a black compact at the very end of the lot. It’s missing both screws on its front plate, and the back is only loosely attached, affixed with good intentions but not much else. Will crouches down and unscrews the few remaining bolts methodically, and sets them on the ground as he tucks both plates into the side of his jacket.

He gets back into he and Hannibal’s car, and sticks the new plates underneath the passenger side seat. He’ll find another car to switch the stolen plates with, before replacing their own. The more chinks in the armour he can add, the better.

Now, Will’s priority is to find Hannibal.

~

He looks for hours.

They aren’t in a big city by any means - it’s population is no more than a few thousand - but when Hannibal truly doesn’t want to be found, he doesn’t exactly leave a trail of Valentines in his wake.

Will keeps the car radio on for company, and listens to the local news as he drives down each side street and through every parking lot. The fact that they’re in such a small midwestern town works in Will’s favor, as there aren’t many places he can imagine Hannibal going.

It’s mid afternoon and still snowing when Will pulls up outside of a small botanical garden.

Frowning through the car window, Will kills the engine and then stares up at the looming entryway in front of him. The garden is actually part of the small community college, it’s architecture a cheap American knock off of the symmetry and proportion he remembers from Florence. It’s exactly the kind of place Hannibal would go on a rainy day while stuck in a small, unfamiliar town.

Will grabs his hoodie from the backseat, and leaves his jacket off in favor of disappearing into his now familiar disguise. He could be anyone, just a baked college student; a young man with nowhere else to go.

The weather has let up a little, though not by much. By the time Will gets through the entryway, the inside of his hood is wet with melted snowflakes, and there are still some stuck and melting in his hair. One lone security guard sits on a wooden bench pushed up against the far wall, knees relaxed, arms folded tightly across his chest as he snoozes.

It’s almost too easy.

Will makes his way through the covered lobby, and then finds himself back outside, into the interior of the amphitheatre style botanical garden. The grounds are lush despite the cold, and Will immediately feels as wrapped up as the woods in Wolf Trap used to make him feel. He starts down the first path he sees.

The gardens are truly beautiful, filled with more trees and plants than Will even knows how to name. As he walks below snow weighed bows and between long, intricate spider plants, he sees two finches. They sit delicate and light along the higher branches of an evergreen tree, and chirp to one another over Will’s head as he passes underneath.

He finds Hannibal in the very center of the gardens, in a small sitting area that has been built up with concrete benches and a red roofed gazebo. He sits alone, which is unsurprising, with one ankle crossed over the opposite knee. He has his eyes closed softly, and both hands are curled together in his lap.

Will feels like he’s had the wind knocked out of his body for a moment.

His gait falters, and he completely freezes for a few heart pounding seconds. He belatedly realizes that he’s forgotten how to walk, and finds himself stumbling towards a low hanging branch to obscure his sudden presence from Hannibal’s direct view. Hannibal is beautiful. Will can’t be sure what other people see when they look at Hannibal; if they even feel a small amount of the things Will does, but he doesn’t think he’d want them to, either.

He knows he feels possessive over Hannibal, which is truly stupid in every sense of the word.

Will is suddenly content to be the only man who will ever truly see the way Hannibal’s eyes crinkle up at the edges when he’s amused by something. He doesn’t know if he could ever share that knowledge with somebody else, especially the ones who only see Hannibal as some kind of godlike figure with a hobby in cannibalism. Will doesn’t want to stand beside Hannibal for all eternity; he wants to consume him completely, and be consumed in return.

For some reason, seeing Hannibal’s frame against the a wall of greenery makes everything as clear as glass.

Will stands quietly among the trees, and watches Hannibal until he’s had his fill. Hannibal doesn’t open his eyes. If he knows Will is within striking distance, he doesn’t let on. Nobody else stumbles along their path, either, like the universe has simply conspired to have them both end up here, alone and in one another’s orbit once more.

When Will’s posture begins to slump and he feels his skin grow damp with snow, he follows the same path he took on his way in, and walks back through the lobby, past the security guard, and onto the concrete slab steps outside.

If Hannibal wants to spend the afternoon with his sister, on the streets of Florence, or with someone that Will has never even met, he won’t be the one to stop him. Not after everything that’s happened.

Will settles back onto the cold steps, below an overhang that juts out from the roof above, and pulls his hands up into the sleeves of his hoodie. It’s cold, but it’s no worse than a stab wound or getting his face cut off, so he sits quietly and watches the street life move in front of him.

People come and go, and the weather gets a little bit worse before lightening up again. Will sits there, partially hidden from view, until the daytime security guard leaves and another one walks up the steps to take his place.

Soon after the streetlights begin to turn on, one and then another, until the entire street is lit up. It’s then and only then that Hannibal appears. He sees Will immediately, and stops as though he has hit a physical object.

Will sees each stage of realization flicker across Hannibal’s face like birds wings: surprise, confusion, disbelief, and then understanding. Hannibal relaxes his expression, and lets his gaze fall somewhere over Will’s wet shoulder. For the first time in his life, he doesn’t say anything as Will just stares, freezing and wrapped in on himself on the step below.

“Don’t you ever do that again,” Will breathes, shakily. He didn’t know what he was going to say until the words started coming out of his mouth. He’s kind of joking, but also kind of not.

Hannibal seems to understand the sentiment regardless, and nods once, expression schooled back into one of neutrality.

“I apologize,” Hannibal replies, quietly.

For once, Will actually believes it.

~

They switch the plates Will stole from the strip mall with another car parked in the botanical garden, and then use those plates on the van. Before leaving, they stand in the snow and Will watches Hannibal swallow two anti inflammatory pills dry.

Suddenly Kansas is so close that Will can taste it, and as he tells Hannibal about what happened at the motel, he navigates them back onto the highway despite the still less than perfect driving conditions. It isn’t as bad as that first night at the motel, but Will still has to drive against the wind that threatens to push the car off the road, and the snow falls faster than their windshield wipers can sufficiently clear it away.

Hannibal tells him he made the right choice by leaving, and that he’s glad Will knew to find him in the botanical garden - otherwise, he says he would have returned to the motel blindly.

It sparks a little bit of hope deep in Will’s gut, to know that Hannibal wouldn’t have just walked away from him like that, but the fear still lingers, running thick and sour throughout the remainder of his body. One time, years ago now, Will had a dream that Hannibal told him he would kill him if he tried to run away or leave. Now, Will understands that sentiment deeply.

Tonight the plan is to drive through the night to make it over the Kansas state line by morning. If this were summer they would likely arrive before the sun, but with less than ideal circumstances and poor driving conditions, they’ll be lucky to arrive by breakfast.

“Did I scare you?” Hannibal asks, after they’ve been in the car for an hour and Will is busy squinting through the windshield, trying to follow the semi they’ve been stuck behind for going on a half hour now. It’s like following a firefly in the dark.

Will frowns, grip tight, mind distracted, and replies, “When?”

“Will,” Hannibal intones immediately, voice soft and unyielding.

Glancing over at Hannibal, Will finds himself shrugging before he turns to look back through the windshield.

“You didn’t scare me,” He answers, thinking of the way Hannibal moved with such calculation after finding out, how he rose from the kitchen table without giving anything away. “I wasn’t scared until I woke up and you still hadn’t come back. That scared me.”

Hannibal accepts the answer with a soft, “I see. I was planning to return.”

“I didn’t know that,” Will frowns, before he knots his eyebrows and looks over at Hannibal again. Slightly irritated, he asks, “How could I know that?”

After a long pause, Hannibal admits, “You very much surprised me.”

“No shit,” Will replies without thinking, sighing as soon as the words come out of his mouth. “I can’t imagine what this must feel like for you. But you have to understand - really understand, Hannibal - that I mean it when I say there is nothing about you, or me, or us, that I would change.”

Hannibal’s voice turns soft as he murmurs, “I am beginning to grasp the depths of our understanding. Please be patient with me.”

“Hannibal,” Will murmurs, a knee jerk reaction as the words tug swiftly at his heart.

He glances over at Hannibal again, not wanting to take his eyes off the road but finding himself unable to stop, anyways. He feels his face flush when he realizes Hannibal is already looking back at him, his face calm. Thoughtful.

“What?” Will asks, trying to keep his attention on the road.

Hannibal makes a quiet noise in the back of his throat, but does not offer up any further explanation.

~

They manage to drive for four hours before they hit a particularly rough patch of backroad and have to stop.

There are already three other cars stuck in the snowbank as Will navigates them over a patch of ice and then down a short side road, dark in the middle of the overgrown woods. The other cars back on the main road have stopped at extreme angles, likely after hitting the same ice and skidding off the road earlier in the night.

It’s the last sign Will needs to decide they won’t be driving any further until morning.

With a nearly full tank of gas, they cover the windows as best they can, and let the interior heat run enough to get them through the next few hours. Will chose what seems like an unmarked logging road, and so as long as another car does not hit them in the dead of the night, they should be safe until sunrise.

Hannibal sets up a makeshift bed for the two of them to share in the back of the van. The passenger seats slide back until they’re flat on the ground, and then Hannibal uses their jackets and a blanket Will accidentally stole from the first motel to cushion the uneven interior floor.

Both still fully dressed, they lay down side by side, their feet crunched up against the inside of the hatchback trunk.

It isn’t better than the motel, but Hannibal is here with him, so Will doesn’t care.

They both shift around for a few moments, trying to get into more comfortable positions in spite of a less than perfect sleeping arrangement. Will thinks about picking up an air mattress, and dreams of the pillows they left behind in civilization. Hannibal ends up on his side facing towards Will, and Will ends up on his back with both knees bent up towards the roof.

Outside the safety of their makeshift bed, the wind continues to pick up and howl. The van shifts from side to side every time a particularly stormy gust blows though, only partially broken by the wooded area. It knocks snow onto the windshield and roof from the trees above, and chills the interior temperature by a few degrees.

Will comes to appreciate the gentle rocking the weather provides. He feels himself beginning to fade in and out of sleep, both hands relaxed on the curve of his stomach as he blinks slowly and gazes up at the felted roof.

It feels intimate. Purposeful and comforting, to have Hannibal so close after the events of last night. Will finds himself drifting into sleep for long, warm moments, only waking when the wind howls by outside.

He doesn’t know how long he’s been drifting when he decides to adjust his position. With a sigh Will pushes himself up and over onto one side, the majority of his weight balanced on one elbow as he goes, blanket twisting around his torso. With a few adjustments, including giving Hannibal back his portion of the blanket, Will quickly settles back into the makeshift pillow he made with a change of clothes.

It isn’t a shock to see Hannibal awake. Will’s stomach takes the brunt of the realization, and dips wolfishly once his brain realizes Hannibal is openly watching over him. In the darkness Hannibal is so close Will swears he can taste it.

He watches Hannibal’s face for a long moment, eyes tired and beginning to unfocus in the dim early morning light. Laying here like this reminds Will of camping, something he has always considered deeply intimate and personal. Will’s gaze drops to Hannibal’s mouth at the realization. He can almost feel Hannibal absorbing the way Will’s lashes fan out against his cheeks; in turn, Will takes in the swell of Hannibal’s bottom lip, and the way he lets his tongue rest softly against it.

Will loses himself in Hannibal’s mouth, breaking the surface only to to watch Hannibal’s throat instead, flesh and blood and bone right there in front of him. He swallows when Hannibal does, and watches Hannibal’s adam’s apple bob in the dead of the night.

He catches Hannibal looking at him, too, his gaze hot and unfocused as he watches Will’s eyes move over his throat.

Will doesn’t realize he’s breathing heavily until Hannibal inches forward, and makes a soft sound of surprise in the back of his throat the very moment his fingers brush over Will’s stomach beneath their blanket. Will makes a noise in return - he hears it, it’s quiet and surprised, a gasp that leaves him saying ‘ah’ into the suddenly charged air between them - and that’s all it takes for Hannibal to give up.

The blanket encases Will’s legs as Hannibal wraps his hands around Will’s waist, and pulls him on top of his body.

Gravity willing and ceiling forgiving Will goes, suddenly delirious and panting into the watery dark between them. As though he can no longer help himself, Hannibal grabs the back of Will’s head with one hand, and presses their mouths together.

Will groans immediately, the only response his body has ever had when Hannibal touches him like this, and presses one hand up against the ceiling for balance. He tries desperately to temper the shock and adoration circuiting around his body, but it feels impossible - he comes alive when Hannibal is so close and so easily consumed.

He pants openly against Hannibal’s mouth as they kiss deeply, Hannibal’s tongue rolling against the corner of Will’s mouth before he manages to slide it inside.

“Hannibal,” Will breathes, settling himself more fully over Hannibal’s body.

Hannibal groans softly in return, holding onto Will by the jaw as they continue to kiss. Will finds himself making noises again, unable to stop the soft sounds that break away from his mouth in short rhythms, built of nothing more than ‘ah, ah, ah’ and ‘Hanni-bal.’ He holds onto Hannibal by the back of the neck, unwilling to let go.

They are unable to stop for a very long time. Blue twilight is beginning to break over the trees above them when Will finally pulls away, the palms of his hands coasting down Hannibal’s still covered chest until they come to rest over his nipples, stiff even through the fabric. Will groans softly and shifts forward, the delicious frisson of his body finally getting what it wants.

Hannibal leans his head back against the ground, panting, and watches Will quietly. His hands stay anchored on Will’s hips.

“Will,” Hannibal murmurs, dazed. “My absence from you felt like a physical loss. In the garden I realized that I will have you in any way I may get you.”

Will frowns, mouth swollen, and strokes his thumb along the stubbled line of Hannibal’s jaw.

“Me too,” He whispers, pressing his thumb against Hannibal’s lower lip. The fleshy pad gives in, and Will finds himself dragging his thumb from side to side, moving Hannibal’s wet lip against his gum line. He promises, “You have me.”

Hannibal’s gaze ignites, a spark of fire in the dead, damp night, but he cannot do anything more before Will is bowing down to kiss him again. Will keeps one hand twisted into the fabric of Hannibal’s shirt, and the other splayed over the curve of Hannibal’s skull.

Safe.

Chapter Text

Will startles awake to the sound of someone knocking on the driver’s side window.

“Fuck,” He swears, disoriented at the sudden noise. Behind him, he feels Hannibal’s body stiffen. His arm tightens around Will’s waist.

In an attempt to conserve fuel, they left the engine off for the entirety of the night. Other than the initial blast of heat when they first pulled down this road, they relied only on insulation and one another to keep warm. The result this morning, of course, is damp, cold clothes, and little puffs of white air whenever either of them exhale or talk.

Will tugs himself out of Hannibal’s embrace, and crawls over the center console to get to the driver’s side door.

Not moving from his position on the floor, Hannibal quietly pushes himself up onto one elbow, and watches carefully.

It’s hard to stay calm as Will cracks the window open a few inches. If this is their new life - a surge of adrenaline and unmanaged fear hiding around every corner - Will honestly doesn’t know how long he’ll be able to cope. Forcing a pleasant expression to his face, he tries not to look too unhinged as he greets the man standing ankle deep in the snow outside their car.

“You all alright?” The sudden visitor asks. He looks equal parts concerned and cautious, standing far enough back that there’s a comfortable distance between them.

Licking his lips, Will manages a wide smile, and replies, “Just fine. Surprised by the rough weather last night, is all. Is this your driveway?”

“Not quite. My property comes right up to that tree there,” The man says, taking a step to the side, just enough to point in a direction Will can’t see from his position inside the car. “I was checkin’ out some of these logging roads. Not a lot of police come through these areas, and we had a couple accidents last night - freak blizzard, you know.”

Will nods, letting concern shroud over his face.

He watches carefully as the man takes a step forward, and tries to subtly peer around Will’s head, into the back of the van. He’s not that good at being inconspicuous, and Will tracks him without thinking. It’s pretty obvious that this is a man who is used to sticking his nose into places it doesn’t belong.

“Well, I appreciate you checking,” Will says steadily, dipping his head to maintain eye contact. “Now that the snow has cleared, I’ll be going on my way.”

The man studies Will’s face carefully - openly cataloguing - before he takes a step back. He asks, “You all from around here?”

“It’s just me,” Will lies, full knowing that Hannibal is an arm’s reach away. With the windows iced over from the outside, and covered with fabric from the inside, there’s no way this guy has seen Hannibal. He’s fishing. “Just passing through on family business.”

There’s something severe in this guy’s face that Will doesn’t like. He regards Will again, chewing the dry skin of his bottom lip as they stare one another down.

“Might be best to get a tow outta here, just to be safe,” The man says finally, eyes cutting to the side. Will stares at his face. “You ought to not get stuck in one of these snowbanks, they’ll make your drive back to the highway real hellish.”

Will feels his adrenaline spike again, at the suggestion of calling for help. It’s pretty clear that the man is trying to keep him hanging around for a reason.

“I appreciate the concern, but I’m fine on my own,” Will reiterates, trying to keep his shoulder steady as he quietly reaches for the door lock. He doesn’t want this guy to see the movement of his arm as he reaches for the hard plastic, and tugs at the lock quietly. The noise of it popping up is muffled into the flesh of his palm - small victories. “I’m going to leave now.”

It happens in a split second. The guy reaches for his pocket - likely for his phone to call the cops, but all Will thinks is gun - and in the same second, Will pops the door, putting his weight behind the frame as it swings open. There’s a sharp, sick crack as solid metal connects with the man’s nose and forehead, and then he drops to the ground in a crumpled heap beside the front wheel well.

“Will,” Hannibal says immediately, getting up off of the floor.

Will doesn’t realize how hard he’s breathing until he looks back, and sees Hannibal staring back at him. He looks at Will cautiously, but doesn’t say anything else.

“It’s fine,” He manages, swinging the door open all the way before he hops out. The snow crunches below his feet as his shoes sink into the ground beside the man’s unconscious form. The fingers of the man’s empty hand are curled up, towards the bright winter sky.

Before his mind can begin to wander over the intricacies of what he just did, Will slides his hand into the sleeve of his own jacket, and uses it as a makeshift glove to reach down and pick the man’s cellphone up out of the snow.

Sure enough, there on the screen are the numbers 9-1-1. He managed to do everything but connect the call.

“He was calling the cops,” Will says, looking over his shoulder as Hannibal climbs out of the van through the driver’s side door, too. “Guess we’re still on the news.”

Hannibal frowns.

“Let’s move his body to the side,” Will sighs, turning the phone off. He throws it a few feet away into an otherwise untouched snowbank. “Someone will come looking for him soon. I don’t think he’ll freeze. Maybe he will.”

It’s hardly a vote of confidence. If he doesn’t freeze, there’s a good chance Will has done irreparable damage to his head. There’s a sick, bright streak of red splattered across the otherwise crystal white snow.

Hannibal frowns again, but picks the man up below the armpits, and helps Will carry him to the side of the road.

“Is this something we do often?” Hannibal manages, stepping carefully as they move further into the forest underbrush.

Laughing, Will almost loses his grip on the man’s ankles.

“Not exactly this,” He promises. They drop the unconscious body a few feet away from where the van is parked. Will doesn’t want the guy to die, necessarily - it’s just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time - but he’d rather the man freeze to death out here in the snow than report them as fugitives. “Usually more blood is involved.”

Hannibal looks curious at the idea, and openly tempers his amusement as Will laughs in return.

They make their way back to the van steadily, taking care to cover their tracks as best they can.

~

With the exception of a few back roads, the majority of their return route is clear.

All of the cars that were on the side of the highway last night have since been moved. Will spots a lonely bumper hidden underneath a few inches of snow, but other than that, there’s no outward indication that there were a number of accidents at this particular location just a few hours ago. Will hopes that with most of the emergency vehicles freshly gone, there’s a chance their tire tracks will be covered with snow before any more cops come to investigate what will either be called in as an assault or murder.

“We should change our vehicle as soon as possible,” Hannibal murmurs, in the driver’s seat now, as they cross over Kansas state lines.

Will agrees without hesitation. If anyone saw them leave the logging road this morning, someone, somewhere, will have an ID on their car.

“Let’s keep an eye out for a busy parking lot, then,” Will agrees, as Kansas farmland stretches out openly on either side of them.

With a soft noise of agreement, Hannibal rests one hand on the gear shift, and adds, “It would be in our best interest to stay away from motels for the time being, as well.”

“You don’t remember having any secret hideouts in Kansas all of a sudden, do you?” Will asks, mostly joking.

It’s something that Will has thought about, at length: if Hannibal could just remember the location of one of his secret drop boxes, they’d have enough cash to survive for months. And who knows what else Hannibal has squirrelled away? Will finds himself fantasizing about forged passports and secret identities where they share the same last name

A boy can dream, can’t he?

“The only American accounts I can remember are, unfortunately, completely legal, and registered through the Bank of Baltimore,” Hannibal admits, glancing across the seat to take in Will’s reaction. “That is, if they are still open.”

Will frowns, and thinks about the islands of excess he so briefly encountered: meals more expensive than his mortgage payments, the feel of baroque fabric between his fingertips, and heavy furniture so cumbersome that no amount of fucking against it could make it walk across the floor.

Even though it wouldn’t benefit them in this particular situation, Will still finds himself asking curiously, “What about Lithuania?”

“That is my family’s estate,” Hannibal replies, automatically. “There are many strings that come along with such a fortune.”

Without thinking about it, Will reaches across the short space that separates them, and rubs the side of Hannibal’s shoulder with his thumb.

“We’ll figure it out,” He agrees, turning his attention back to the road in front of them. He leaves his hand behind.

A few miles later, Hannibal reaches up and covers Will’s hand with his own. His palm fits perfectly over the back of Will’s hand, something that sits low and right in the pit of Will’s stomach. Hannibal lets their joined hands relax, moving down his chest and along the line of his stomach, until they settle against the muscle of his thigh.

They stay that way for a very long time, until silence covers them both like a blanket and traffic begins to swell the closer they get to Topeka.

~

In Topeka they wipe the van down, say their goodbyes, and leave her parked in an unmarked spot at a local playground.

They use the public washroom to wash their faces and change clothes. Hannibal hates it, but Will is thankful for the opportunity to change his undershirt and put on a pair of clean socks. The washroom is otherwise deserted - not a lot of people pass through this park in the middle of winter, apparently - so they take their time, brushing their teeth in the murky, crooked mirrors hung over the line of sinks.

“We need to find a laundromat,” Will grimaces, balling his dirty clothes up as best he can.

The look he gets from Hannibal in return is unimpressed at best. Will thinks about kissing him again, but can’t quite work up the nerve.

By the time they leave, twilight has just begun to fall outside.

It takes another hour of walking around the neighborhood until they find a suitable replacement vehicle: an unmemorable black compact with no identifying features, other than its brand and model. The car is parked on a side street, and has a residential parking sticker in the front window that Hannibal promptly tucks into the glove compartment as they pull away from the curb.

“When we get to Oregon,” Will says, as they drive down the street in silence. The first ten minutes are always the most nerve-wracking; he always expects to see the flash of red and blue lights in his rear view mirror. “Promise me you’ll cook every night.”

Hannibal looks incredibly pleased at the idea, and can’t help but sound it, too, as he replies, “Will, I would wish for nothing more.”

~

Four states left, including Kansas. That’s all that separates them now.

Will sits in the grocery store parking lot, engine idling and mind wandering as he watches a mom load her kids back into their car. She’s what Will pictures when he thinks of a middle aged woman from the midwest. Her clothes are a season out of date, and she’s trying to do about four different things at once as she fights with her toddler and says something into her iPhone in the same breath.

Sometimes he wonders if he could have been like that. Not a mom with four kids, necessarily; but somewhere closer to normal than he is now.

Could he have lived in some podunk little city and been happy? Would he have known the difference if he hadn’t met Hannibal?

Smiling a little bit, Will leans against the steering wheel, and lets his gaze wander back to the front of the grocery store. He doesn’t want to be anywhere if Hannibal isn’t there with him; this he now knows for certain. Whether they end up behind bars or living on a secret tropical island, Will suddenly realizes he doesn’t care. As long as he’s got Hannibal to talk to, he’d never leave again.

Hannibal walks out of the grocery store a few minutes later, sunglasses on, wearing nothing except an undershirt and a pair of pants.

If Jack ever reviews this grocery store’s security footage, Will hopes he disregards it potentially being Hannibal based on the sartorial choice alone.

“I did not mean to take that long,” Hannibal apologizes, setting the groceries in the footwell before he settles into the passenger seat. “The self checkout you recommended was temperamental at best.”

Frowning, Will lets Hannibal get the door closed before he begins to pull out of the spot. He asks, “Did anyone see you?”

“Many people saw me. I was in a chain grocery store,” Hannibal answers, reaching back to retrieve his seatbelt. Will doesn’t realize he’s joking until he looks over with a sour expression on his own face, and sees Hannibal looking amused in return. Hannibal clarifies, “Nobody of interest. I did not see anybody looking back at me with a similar interest, either.”

Will navigates them out of the parking lot, and back out onto the road.

“That’s good,” He sighs, attention split between the road and Hannibal as he begins to rummage around in one of the paper bags. “What are you doing?”

Sitting back, Hannibal settles a few containers against the dashboard, and replies, “Making dinner. Unfortunately I cannot offer you wine just yet.”

“You got wine?” Will asks, totally missing the point as he tries to get a better look at the things Hannibal has picked up for the night. There are a few packages wrapped with brown paper, and two containers that are obviously deli wares.

Hannibal cracks open one of the containers carefully; Will, of course, disregards the food and notices only how large Hannibal’s hand looks in comparison to the see through plastic lid.

“I have things for both now and later,” Hannibal finally replies, sounding cryptic. He does his best to balance out their makeshift buffet as Will navigates them back to the highway. It’s pitch black outside, now, just a blanket of stars above them and a never-ending highway in front.

One hand on the wheel and his eyes on the road, Will holds his free hand out when Hannibal requests it.

“Dill cream cheese and smoked salmon,” Hannibal annotates, balancing the cracker loaded with toppings between Will’s fingers before going back to the makeshift kitchen assembly set up in his lap.

Will levers the entire cracker into his mouth in one bite, and crunches loudly.

“That’s good,” He manages, mouth stuffed full of salmon and cream cheese. Making a noise of approval, he chews quietly and concentrates on the road. Once he swallows, he wipes his mouth and adds, “Thank you.”

There’s another cracker with new toppings held out in front of him patiently, and Will finds himself laughing suddenly, full to the brim with what must be love.

~

For some reason the man from this morning is on Will’s mind as they find a secluded piece of property and park the car for the night.

Is this who he is now? At the smallest provocation, he lashes out with absolutely no control?

He leaves the engine running as Hannibal throws away their dinner garbage. Will watches his form through the passenger side window as Hannibal walks the short return distance from the nearby public garbage can.

The man who stumbled across them this morning was going to call the cops; Will knows this now, but he didn’t know it before slamming the car door into his head.

What would Will have done if it had been a cop approaching the car? It isn’t outside of the realm of possibility, especially when they’re parking overnight and sleeping in the car. If a random cop runs their plates, they’re screwed. If they get pulled over by highway patrol, they’re screwed. What would Will do if that happened, and - maybe even more importantly - what would Hannibal do?

The Hannibal that Will went over the cliff with would stop at nothing to ensure their safety; Will is confident in knowing this. He can picture it in his mind’s eye: body parts and blood spatter all over the road, a police officer torn apart at the limbs for daring to come between them at all. But what about the Hannibal in the car with him tonight? Will could bet on him, but is it a bet that he would lose without realizing it?

“If we’re caught,” Will begins, shutting off the engine as Hannibal closes the passenger side door again. “I wouldn’t be able to stop.”

Hannibal looks curious, his expression an open book as he weighs the absolute certainty in Will’s voice.

“You would continue without me?” He clarifies after a moment, not understanding.

Without meaning to, Will laughs. It’s involuntary, a leftover of the cynicism he could never quite leave behind.

“No,” Will says, shaking his head. “I mean the complete opposite. Hannibal, if it had been a cop this morning, I would have done the same thing. I need to be sure that you understand what I’m saying, here. There is no point where I would stop. Not now.”

Hannibal curls his tongue against his bottom lip, and seems unable to look away from Will as he processes the words.

“I have no doubt of that,” He replies, finally. Will feels his guts tighten and release. “Please have faith in me, too.”

Smiling, Will lets out a deep breath, and then sighs, leaning sideways against the back of the seat. He murmurs, “I believe in you, Hannibal.”

“Who else would accept the man with only half a brain,” Hannibal teases, looking even more amused when he receives a sharp frown in return.

Will accepts the hand that Hannibal presses to the side of his face, but mumbles, “That’s not funny,” too.

“I find it quite humorous,” Hannibal murmurs, stroking his thumb over Will’s cheekbone gently. He sighs, and admits, “I do wish we had different accommodations for the night.”

Nodding, Will lets his eyes drift closed, sinking into the feeling of Hannibal’s palm as he tilts his head towards it, and rests against the back of the seat.

“Like I said,” He replies, voice soft in the space between them. “Now’s the time to remember that secret midwest hideout.”

Hannibal makes a noise in return, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, and settles back against the seat as best he can.

Sleep will not come easy tonight, but it’s a small price to pay for what waits on the other side.

Chapter Text

Will is seriously considering investing in a tent and subzero sleeping bags the next morning.

They’re filling up at the gas station, and Will is in the middle of his usual routine that includes topping up the tank and buying himself a shitty cup of coffee.

This particular morning, however, he’s dealing with a hard-on that will not relent. He woke up with it, body propped upright where he slept in the front seat of the car, and has been unable to shake it off in the half an hour since. He’s gone through all of his usual tricks, from flexing his thigh muscles to thinking unattractive thoughts, and has finally settled for giving up and tucking his half hard dick up into the waistband of his pants.

Some of the things you learn as a kid really do stick with you.

“Do you want anything?” Will asks, bending awkwardly to accept a few twenties from Hannibal, still inside the car.

At perfect cock height, his brain helpfully supplies.

Hannibal asks for a fresh bottle of water, so Will heads towards the convenience mart attached to the pumps. The plan is to pay for the gas and Hannibal’s water, and then take advantage of the bathroom stall. By the time they get to Oregon, Will is worried cracked tile and drippy water fixtures are going to kick start some kind of pavlovian response.

“It’s out of order,” The cashier tells him, upon his request for the door key. He hands back Will’s change, and adds. “There’s a Supermart a block down the road.”

Fuck, Will thinks, heading towards the sliding doors that lead back out to the gas pumps.

He’s pretty sure Hannibal can already smell it on him, but has been too polite to say anything. If Hannibal’s sense of smell works anything like Will remembers, he’s probably been picking up on Will’s inability to contain himself for a while now. Halfway across the concrete, Will has a sudden flashback to one of the first motels they stayed at. Most notably, the one where he finger fucked himself until he came all over his own body like some kind of animal.

Will feels his throat flush at the memory. Red begins to creep up his cheekbones as he makes his way back to the car. Not the best thing to think about at the moment, he decides, fighting against the urge to touch himself through his pants anyways.

That’d be a great way to get arrested, after everything they’ve done. Two known cannibals arrested in Kansas because one of them couldn’t stop masturbating.

If there’s one headline Will knows Freddie would love to publish...

“Are you ill?” Hannibal asks, as Will drops back into the passenger seat. It’s Hannibal’s turn to drive. Frowning, Will shakes his head and wedges the water bottle into the cup holder in the center console. “You look flushed.”

With a grimace, Will adjusts himself against the seat, and grits, “I am flushed.”

“Will,” Hannibal says. The tone he uses goes straight to Will’s dick. Will finds himself frowning even more, as he tries to fight against the way his body automatically responds to Hannibal’s voice. Up until now Will has been able to semi-successfully hide the way he feels, but the dynamic of their relationship has changed since jerking off on the other side of the wall became Will’s go-to plan.

He doesn’t have a good reason to keep this secret from Hannibal anymore.

“I am indisposed,” Will mutters, after a few long moments of trying to work up the nerve.

Slightly bent over the steering wheel, Hannibal starts the engine via their hotwire setup, and looks over at Will carefully.

“You are not well,” He reiterates, reaching across the front seat before Will can stop him. Hannibal rests his palm against Will’s forehead, pinky finger sliding beneath the few curls that hang over Will’s hairline, and frowns. “Your forehead is not hot.”

Will is officially blushing. This is every one of his worst nightmares come true. It sends him right back to the time his dad walked in on him jerking off before bed, and stood in the doorway long enough to fumble through a short, wildly uncomfortable conversation. Sexuality isn’t something that comes easy to Will in a conversational sense. In bed he can’t stop the dirty shit that tumbles from his mouth - give him two sticks to rub together and he’d figure out a way to fuck it - but this, the sober flush of adult conversation simply feels light years away from his skill set.

“I’m overstimulated,” Will manages, trying not to grip the meat of his own thigh too tightly. Hannibal continues to frown at nothing in particular as he navigates them out of the parking lot. After a moment of studying Hannibal’s profile against the early morning sky, Will asks, “Are you tormenting me, or do you really not know what’s happening here?”

Two weeks after Will murdered Randall Tier, Hannibal invited he and Jack to the first of what would be their final run of dinner parties together.

While Jack sat alone at the dining room table, absorbed in Hannibal’s newest dish, Will found himself pinned to the cellar door, unable to move.

He still remembers the way Hannibal hoisted him against the wooden door by his armpits, fingers digging into soft flesh as he kissed Will deeply. Between each press of the tongue, Hannibal spoke quietly, detailing all of the small moments he experienced over the course of their meal that lead them to that moment together. Namely, the smell of Will, the entertained curve of his eyebrow, and the soft glimpse of tongue set between white teeth.

Jack could have caught them that night. It would have been easy with Hannibal so consumed. That was the moment Will realized how much he truly enjoyed playing the game; he assumes Hannibal feels the same way now.

“I am teasing you,” Hannibal finally admits, glancing over to see Will’s reaction. “Forgive me.”

Will isn’t sure if his blush gets better or worse at Hannibal’s admission. He wants to frown, but ends up groaning a little instead.

That noise, at least, seems to sober Hannibal up.

“We need to find a better place to stay tonight,” Will grumbles, giving in and surreptitiously pressing a hand against his crotch. He isn’t sure if the resulting pressure offers him relief, or makes it worse. He does know he likes the sudden change of expression on Hannibal’s face. “If we make it to Denver, we can find a cash motel.”

Hannibal looks distracted as he considers Will’s motel proposal.

“For one night only,” He agrees, heading towards the highway ramp.

Licking his lips, Will tips his head back against the seat head rest, and nods.

“Just one night.”

~

Will finds a weathered copy of The Bell Jar wedged underneath his seat a few counties over, which distracts him for the better part of two hours.

“We should find a laundromat once we’re in Denver,” He says out of nowhere, in the middle of a paragraph detailing the protagonist's relationship with her father.

They’re going to be out of clean clothes in a few days, and Will has no interest in robbing another high-end fashion boutique anytime soon.

“Yes,” Hannibal agrees with a gentle nod. “We will also need to find enough cash to get us through this last leg of travel.”

Find. Like up until now they’ve been getting by on pocket change and money dropped on the side of the road. Will smirks a little, amused, and glances over at Hannibal, enjoying the way he looks against the rich Kansas horizon. The winter sun is already beginning to set, leaving streaks of pink and yellow across the sky. Will finds himself dissolving into a smile, sharp and surprising.

If only his younger self could see the person he’s become. Police academy trainee to ex-FBI agent, now on the run and happily harboring a fugitive. Sometimes he eats people, too. It’s patently ridiculous to think about, and Will finds himself laughing, awash in a sudden sea of joy.

“Your book is amusing?” Hannibal asks, hazarding a guess. As the highway curves, the setting sun moves in front of them again, and they both reach forward to flip their sun visors down.

Still smiling, Will settles back into his seat more comfortably, book in his lap, pages held open with one finger slid against the spine.

“Not quite,” He replies, looking over at Hannibal again. Hannibal meets his gaze for a moment before returning to the road. “Sometimes things just have a funny way of working out. When I was younger, I wanted to be a cop, so I joined the police academy.”

This seems to surprise Hannibal, despite the fact he knows Will was part of the FBI for a time.

“The police academy,” Hannibal repeats. His gaze slides to the rear view mirror, as though saying the words out loud will produce a highway patrolman. “In Baltimore? We may have crossed paths during my time as a surgeon.”

Will shakes his head and clarifies, “New Orleans. I was also a homicide detective for a very short amount of time.”

He doesn't add the fact Hannibal’s got about ten years on him, career or otherwise. Will's done the math before: when Hannibal was a resident at Johns Hopkins, he was still asking for toys at Christmas.

“I see.” Hannibal weighs this new piece of information carefully; it reminds Will of sitting in Hannibal’s office, leather chairs pulled so close they were practically toe to toe. “Why not pursue homicide?”

Frowning, Will replies, “It was no longer on the table. I lost my job.”

“Is that why you joined the FBI?” Hannibal continues, curious.

Now that his book has been forgotten, Will sets it on the dashboard, cover up, and answers, “Joining the FBI was a byproduct of being unable to pursue what I wanted. I graduated with a degree in forensic science, but I couldn’t pass my psych eval. I interviewed with the BSU anyways, and ended up becoming a lecturer. It was fine.”

There's a slight pause, before Hannibal asks, “Did I perform your psych eval?”

Hannibal truly has no idea about the box he's about to open.

Will laughs again, and looks over at Hannibal as he replies, “Not the first one. We met through the BSU. We investigated a case together. You became my psychiatrist shortly after.”

“What do you remember about the day we met?”

Falling silent, Will looks out at the color saturated horizon, and thinks back to the first time he met Hannibal. He doesn’t remember everything about it. He knows it took place in Jack’s office, and he remembers being less than happy with Hannibal’s sudden presence in his life.

“Jack, my boss at BSU, introduced us,” Will starts, looking away from the sky, and back to Hannibal. Hannibal glances over automatically, as though he can feel the moment Will’s gaze settles over him. “You were brought into the unit to profile me. I wasn’t very happy about that.”

Hannibal mulls Will’s words over for a few moments, before asking, “Did I visit you sometime after? We were alone. You preferred to keep the room dark.”

“At my motel?” Will blurts, heart jumping up into his throat. He remembers the first breakfast Hannibal cooked for him like it happened yesterday. He’ll never forget the way he felt when Hannibal told him he wanted him safe. It was the first time someone offered him security. “You remember that?”

With the sun now setting, Hannibal reaches to flip his sun visor back up.

“I believe I remember parts,” Hannibal admits, glancing over to gauge Will’s reaction. Will stares back at him, stunned. “It is hard to tell the difference between a dream and a memory. You answered the door in your under shorts.”

Laughing, Will rubs a hand over his face, and agrees, “Yeah, I did.”

“I remember the shorts,” Hannibal smiles crookedly.

Will leans back into the seat, relief still written all over his face, and grins, “Of course you do.”

~

They cross the Denver border shortly after midnight, and head straight for the small town of Limon.

It’s getting easier to familiarize themselves with each city soon after arriving. As they drive down the main strip, what starts off as department and grocery stores quickly thin out into pre-pay gas stations, convenience marts, and fast food joints. After driving past a neon-lit dispensary, Hannibal takes two quick turns to worm deeper into the small city center, and they soon find themselves on a dimly lit street.

Will has never picked up a hooker before, but Hannibal seems to know what he’s looking for. Within a few moments he’s pulling up beside a middle aged woman dressed in black and hot pink. As he rolls down the window, Will catches him judging the woman’s cheap gold costume jewelry through the glass.

“Hello,” Hannibal says easily, idling at the curb. “How are you?”

The woman eyes them wearily, face drawn and worn. She bends down and gives Will the once over, before looking back at Hannibal.

“I don’t do couples,” She states, breath heavy with cigarette smoke. “Fifty bucks will get you whatever else you want.”

Sinking into his seat, Will frowns, and tries to shut off the ticker tape of shame that rolls through his body. He was wrong this morning: getting caught soliciting a sex worker would be worse than being charged with public masturbation. He can only imagine the look on Molly’s face if that newspaper headline ever rolled out.

“We need you to rent a motel room for us,” He interrupts, leaning over the center console. “We’ll pay you a hundred bucks.”

Hannibal nods, and Will raises his eyebrows at her, trying to push his innocent, imploring expression as hard as he can.

“That’s it?” She asks, not looking convinced. Her eyes snap between Hannibal’s face, and Will, still leaning over Hannibal’s lap.

Gentling his voice, Hannibal nods once, and reiterates, “It shouldn’t take longer than ten minutes. You will get the money in return for the room key.”

“Alright,” She manages, even though she doesn’t sound convinced. Clearly she’s heard weirder requests. “There’s a Budget Host ‘bout five minutes away.”

Will breathes a sigh of relief and undoes his seatbelt before awkwardly climbing into the back seat.

The woman walks around the front of the car, still eyeing them through the windows, and cautiously opens the passenger door.

“Take a left on 8th,” She instructs, not bothering with her seatbelt.

Hannibal follows her instructions without any further comment, and a few blocks later, the long, two-storey motel building looms in front of them.

It almost feels too easy.

~

After the room is secured, Hannibal hands over two of their last fifty dollar bills, and they both watch as she toddles off back into the night.

“We shouldn’t park here,” Will sighs, even as he looks at the complimentary guest spots longingly. “Let’s find a lot instead.”

It takes them another half an hour to find a public parking lot, pack the things they’ll need for the night, and walk back to the motel. Will feels like he might be stooping to tinhat levels of paranoia, but any extra protection they can offer themselves works to ease his anxiety. If their plates get out and the car is found, at least they’ll have an hour or two to run on foot. It wouldn’t be Will’s favored outcome, but they’d make it work.

By the time they unlock the motel door and set their things down on the lopsided table, it’s past two in the morning. They’ll get about eight hours of downtime before checkout; it isn’t much, but it’s better than spending another cold night hunched over in the front seat of the car.

“I am beginning to enjoy these small town motels,” Hannibal comments, fingering the ashtray set on one of the bedside tables. “They are all the same.”

Smiling, Will looks over from where he’s digging around in a plastic bag for a bottle of water.

“They breed a certain sense of familiarity,” Will agrees, cracking their second to last bottle open. He watches as Hannibal sits at the edge of the bed.

He ends up drinking half the water bottle without stopping. The bottle cracks and twists together as he swallows rhythmically, his eyes closing at the sudden satisfaction of having his thirst quenched.

When he finally comes up for air, Hannibal is sitting with both hands hanging between his open knees, staring. He looks content.

This water is Will’s second favorite thing to have touched his tongue in the last twenty four hours.

“Here,” Will murmurs, a little out of breath. He holds the water bottle out, and closes the small amount of space that separates them.

Hannibal’s gaze does not waver, he simply moves as Will comes closer; chin tipped up, head back, eyes bright and shining. The expression is familiar to Will, it reminds him of Florence most of all, that short window of time they had in one another’s orbit that was rich with longing and being put back together one more time.

“Have some,” Will adds unnecessarily, as Hannibal silently accepts the water bottle.

Without meaning to, Will watches Hannibal finish off the water. He meant to finish unpacking their things for the night, and he’s sure he looks patently crazy, standing there staring at Hannibal’s mouth, but Hannibal doesn’t seem to mind. Will licks his lips and holds onto Hannibal’s shoulder, very comfortable in his position standing between Hannibal’s open knees.

As Hannibal swallows, Will bends down and kisses him.

His lips are wet with water; Will finds himself moaning softly in the back of his throat. Distantly, Will hears the sound of the empty plastic bottle bouncing against the floor, but it barely registers beyond that. He obsesses over the feeling of Hannibal’s hands as they come to settle on either side of his waist. They are big hands, hands that Will has jerked off thinking about; long fingers that sink into him, palms that have held Will close through guts and glory.

“You finally have me where you want me,” Hannibal murmurs, teasing. He pulls back as Will bites at the corner of his mouth, and then his chin.

Feeling stubble there is something new. Will likes it.

“Not exactly where I want you,” Will replies, moving with Hannibal as his body is pulled closer. He holds onto Hannibal’s shoulders in return, and moves with him as he leans back against the mattress. Soon enough Hannibal is laying down, feet still flat on the floor, and Will on top of him. Grinning, Will looks down at Hannibal’s face, and amends, “That’s better.”

When Hannibal presses his lips together in response, Will can’t help but lean in to mouth at them. He bites gently, with his top lip pressed above Hannibal’s cupids bow, and his bottom teeth rested against Hannibal’s chin. An animal playing with its meal.

“Is this what you have been thinking about?” Hannibal asks, speaking into Will’s mouth. He tugs at the back waistband of Will’s jeans, thumb dipping into the gap between ill-fitting denim and skin.

Will pulls away from Hannibal’s mouth, and grinds down against Hannibal’s pelvis without meaning to.

“Yeah,” He answers simply, gaze dropping to follow his hands. Hannibal’s chest is firm, strong underneath the press of his palms. He loves that Hannibal is built like a brick wall. It turns him inside out, and makes him want to test exactly how hard he has to push before Hannibal crumbles. “Just you. That’s it.”

Hannibal stares up at him, openly caught off guard, as his fingers continue to trace the waistband of Will’s jeans. After a long moment of looking at one another, his thumbs move beneath the hem of Will’s shirt, and he tugs it up over his head. Will sits back, weight dropping back against Hannibal’s dick, and watches as Hannibal openly looks at his body for the first time.

He feels hot beneath the skin as Hannibal’s eyes trace over him: nipples, collarbone, down to his belly - lower, to his scar - and then back up again. Hannibal pushes himself up onto one elbow with a growl, and reaches up with his free hand to grab the nape of Will’s neck and drag him in for a kiss. Halfway there, Will’s mouth already hung open in anticipation, Hannibal dips lower, and bites into the muscle beneath Will’s pec instead.

“Ah,” Will breathes, body coiling towards the heat of Hannibal’s mouth despite the sharp pinch. He settles his weight on his knees, and bites his own lip as he looks down at Hannibal’s tongue rolling against his skin.

When Hannibal looks up at him, eyes bright and searching, Will almost bites through his bottom lip.

He’s gotta get his dick out. That’s all he can think about as he slides a hand between their torsos and tries to unbutton his jeans one-handed. He’s gotta get his dick out, he’s gotta touch himself, and he’s gotta sink into the feeling of Hannibal’s control. Like a rock to the bottom of the ocean, Will finds relief in letting himself give in.

“Will,” Hannibal rumbles, breaking away to rest his forehead against Will’s clavicle. He looks down as Will gets his pants undone, and pushed down to his thighs.

Will’s hips roll up in response to Hannibal’s voice, and he groans again, one hand moving to tangle in Hannibal’s hair. The other wraps around the base of his cock.

For the first time, it suddenly occurs to Will that for Hannibal, this scar is just a scar.

“I’m not going to last,” He says honestly, a little drunk on endorphins as he slides his hand up to hold his dick against his stomach, and shuffles back on his knees to let Hannibal take his pants off.

Just the sight of Hannibal again, hard and trapped behind the zipper of his pants, makes Will’s mouth water.

He finds himself moaning again and then squeezes his dick tightly, trying to stave off the impending orgasm already nipping at his ankles. He is suddenly flooded with all of the things he wants to do to Hannibal again; sense memories of getting Hannibal’s dick in his mouth, letting Hannibal rub the head of his cock over Will’s lips, teasing his mouth until he’s salivating for it.

Like he said in the car this afternoon: if only his police academy self could see the shit he’s getting up to now.

Hannibal starts to jerk them off, one hand wrapped around them both as Will gasps and grabs at his shoulder like it will somehow offer relief.

“Ah, fuck,” Will whispers, eyes rolling back in his head as Hannibal lengthens his strokes, and slides his palm up and over the heads of their cocks. It’s a little dry, but Will kind of likes it that way. It takes the edge off: he doesn’t know what he would do if he had a tight, wet heat to fuck into right now.

The feel of Hannibal’s cock pressed flush with his is intoxicating. He finds himself reaching down and touching Hannibal’s foreskin as Hannibal’s grip slips down and tightens. Will rests his face in the crook of Hannibal’s neck as he starts to pant, unable to cope with the overwhelming feeling beginning to coarse throughout his body. He feels like he is about to be exorcised.

“Will,” Hannibal says again, tone warning, breath hot against the shell of Will’s ear.

Unable to reply, Will makes a noise and then tenses, orgasm rolling through his body so hard that for a moment, his brain completely short-circuits.

“Oh, fuck,” He gasps, panting harshly. His eyes are only halfway opened as he grabs at Hannibal’s head, and then the nape of his neck.

Will moans a little in the back of his throat and leans in, pressing his mouth to Hannibal’s in a lazy kiss. They’re both still short of breath, and Will can feel the flush in his cheeks as Hannibal looks at him deliriously, his eyes giving everything away.

Chapter Text

They’re in the shower together the next morning, forty minutes before check-out time.

“I read in one of your textbooks that a blow to the head can increase arousal levels,” Will grins, half bent over as he lathers up his calves. “Is that true?”

Hannibal manages to look unimpressed for about a half a second, before the expression is gone and he’s pulling Will underneath the water instead.

“I believe I have very little to compare myself to,” Hannibal murmurs, as Will wraps one arm around his neck. “You will have to educate me.”

Rather than saying something like, I’m afraid my case studies are wildly out of date or we haven’t fucked in years, Will smiles, the corner of his eyes crinkling in an attempt to keep some of the shower water out of them.

“It’ll be nice to get to Oregon,” He says instead, reaching up to touch Hannibal’s cheek. His thumb strokes over the stubbled skin at the corner of Hannibal’s mouth, and Will finds himself smiling again, sharp and genuine as he studies the familiar face in front of him. “For a little while, anyway.”

Hannibal hums and reaches past Will to shut the tap off, then says, “You are hoping I regain more of my memories before we move further.”

“We can’t move further until you do,” Will replies simply, pushing the shower curtain back. “Not without cash. A lot of it, at that.”

They dry off quietly, the mirror over the sink so fogged up that Will runs his hand over it out of habit if nothing else. The man he sees staring back at him is different than the one he remembers seeing in the Kentucky motel at the very beginning of their trip. He’s begun to fill out again, road food not exactly lacking in calories, and his wounds have truly begun to heal.

There are also the differences that are obviously deeper than just fat and flesh. The skin beneath his eyes matches the rest of the flesh on his face for the first time since they crawled out of the ocean, and there’s a certain flush to his cheeks that he hasn’t seen on himself in years. In a strange turn of events, he looks happy.

What would Jack think about that?

“It seems I was well-established in Baltimore,” Hannibal surmises, knotting a threadbare towel around his waist.

Will could practically fall to his knees at the sight of Hannibal, wet and half naked in a towel. He frowns, and parses Hannibal’s question again.

“Very,” He answers after a few moments of consideration. “You adored the very best in all things.”

For some reason, Will finds himself stumbling over how much detail he should provide. He wraps his own towel around his waist, and holds the spot where the knot should be. Hannibal regards him fondly, tugging him closer by the towel, until he can open it himself, shake the damp fabric out, and tie it properly around Will’s narrow hips. His thumb brushes against Will’s lower abdomen, and Will feels his muscles automatically tighten in response.

“Tell me who I was,” Hannibal murmurs, tugging Will even closer. He presses a kiss to the bridge of Will’s nose, and then drops closer to kiss his mouth.

Will licks his lips and clears his throat quietly, one hand coming to rest on Hannibal’s side.

“You had the most expensive taste of anyone I’d ever met,” He begins, lips brushing against the pad of Hannibal’s thumb as Hannibal runs it along the curve of Will’s bottom lip. “You served the best food. You entertained Baltimore’s finest regularly. You threw extravagant dinner parties for your colleagues, and your friends. You had a lot of friends.”

Focused on Will’s face, Hannibal asks, “And this is how you saw me?”

“It’s how everyone saw you,” Will murmurs, reflexively licking at his bottom lip as Hannibal drags it away from his gum. “You were desired by everyone, but I saw you the same way I saw myself.”

Will maintains eye contact, trying not to crumble beneath the weight of Hannibal’s gaze. He saw Hannibal more than anyone else ever had. It was like looking in a broken mirror.

“How did you see me?” Hannibal asks, thumb finally coming to rest along the scar on Will’s cheek.

Frowning, Will creases his brow and replies, “I saw every part of you, including the broken pieces that didn’t fit together right. The money and the extravagance didn’t matter to me. They still wouldn’t, if we weren’t federally wanted. I can’t exactly get a job to cover our expenses, Hannibal.”

Hannibal is quiet for a moment, gaze flickering over Will’s face, from his eyes down to his mouth and back again. Without meaning to Will has recoiled, wound tight into himself where only the fear and anxiety live.

“Memories are coming back every day,” Hannibal says, brushing his fingers through Will’s wet hair. “We have time.”

Frowning again, Will pushes down the uncertainty bubbling up from his gut, and pulses a quick, close mouthed smile.

“We’ll always have time,” He manages, as he thinks about teacups shattering and coming back together.

~

Before leaving Limon, they find a coin operated laundromat a few blocks west of their motel.

Ultimately, Hannibal is right: his memories and unique intricacies are coming back to him every day. Will notices it in the way he reaches up to silence the bell over the door as they walk into the laundromat, plastic bags of dirty clothes in hand.

It’s clear that Hannibal does it without thinking, simply a response embedded deep into the recesses of his mind.

Inside the laundromat, they choose the furthest bank of machines from the door, and pile all of their clothes into one washer. As Hannibal procures a small box of detergent from a nearby vending machine, Will stands quietly, trying to case the area without being too obvious about it.

This laundromat has pretty clearly been here for decades; an ancient looking Asian woman sits behind the front desk, pencil scratching against the page of her Sudoku book. It’s all cash only, from the WiFi access to the machines and on-site laundry services. There are also no visible security cameras.

In the ten minutes they’ve been here, the only time Will has heard the woman say a word was when she yelled at the subtitled show playing on the TV mounted over a sign that says NO PHOTOS.

Why someone would want to take a picture of this place, Will isn’t exactly sure.

Satisfied, Will strips out of everything except for his underwear. They probably won’t stop to do laundry again until they’re in Oregon, and Will doesn’t want to start his new life smelling like the old one. He pulls on the old utility style jacket he got from the second hand store in West Virginia as an afterthought. If they have to run while their clothes are on the last spin cycle, he doesn’t want to do it naked.

As Will settles down onto the wobbly wooden bench across from their machine with his book, Hannibal peels off his t-shirt and throws it into the soapy water.

“We will be back in transit by noon,” Hannibal estimates, sitting beside WIll on the bench.

Making a noise of agreement, Will rests the almost finished paperback against his bare thigh, and watches as Hannibal rummages through one of their bags. The amount of bare flesh laid out in front of Will for consumption is distracting at best, and he finds himself staring at how low Hannibal’s jeans sit at the hip. Even his ankles are bare, tanned and peeking out over the edge of his shoes.

It is strange, to think this is the same creature he once knew who had closets full of bespoke suits and exquisite fabric.

This Hannibal is feral; Will can’t decide if it’s from living on the run, or if this is what Hannibal would have been without his fortune. It’s funny to think how truly effective a disguise an expensive wardrobe and taste for red wine could be.

“It’s about six hours to Grand Junction,” Will belatedly answers, watching as Hannibal pulls out an apple and the pocket knife. “An hour after that, we’ll be in Utah.”

Hannibal considers this, staring at something Will can’t quite see as he begins to cut slices from the apple without touching its core. Surgeon’s hands.

“Two or three more days of travel, and we will be at our destination,” Hannibal concludes, dropping his gaze to the apple. He offers the first slice to Will, which Will accepts directly off of the blade, and then sets the second to his own mouth.

Chewing, Will tries to tamp down the anxiety he feels when he thinks about reaching their destination. Up until now they’ve had one goal: get to Oregon without getting caught in the process. Once they get to Oregon, a new box of problems will be dropped in their laps. Where will they live? How will they make money? A social security number - or, at the very least, some form of government identification - stands between them and survival.

They could get fake IDs, but Will doesn’t exactly have a contact in Oregon. He’s sure Hannibal knows someone who could FedEx them what they need, but that would require money, time and a PO box, none of which they have.

He watches as Hannibal sets the apple aside to swallow two of his anti-inflammatory pills dry. If Hannibal remembers, they’ll be fine.

If Hannibal doesn’t, they’ll be homeless and living in the rainiest climate in the states.

“Thanks,” He murmurs, quietly, as Hannibal gives him another slice of apple.

~

It’s hard to live without internet access, especially when you’ve got a new life to plan.

Hannibal promises to get them to Utah safely, so Will sits in the passenger seat with a piece of paper and a pen.

“Do you know anyone in Oregon?” He asks, jokingly, as Hannibal navigates them back onto the highway.

Unsurprisingly, Hannibal shakes his head. It doesn’t matter anyway. Even if either of them had a contact in Oregon, Will wouldn’t trust anyone enough to divulge their location or upcoming plans. He doesn’t bother mentioning Molly’s parents to Hannibal, either; not only would he have no reference to their identities, Will doesn’t want them to end up dead in the event Hannibal’s memory does come back.

“What about Chiyoh?” Will asks, frowning into his reflection in the window.

As much as he hates the suggestion, it’s the only feasible one he’s thought of so far.

“Chiyoh,” Hannibal echoes, looking surprised - and not for the first time - at the depth of Will’s knowledge. “You have met Chiyoh?”

Will laughs without meaning to. That was a very strange chapter in his life.

“At length,” He nods, glancing over to catch Hannibal’s reaction. “I spent time with her at your family estate. She pushed me off a train outside Florence.”

That makes Hannibal crack in the same way it did the first time Will mentioned it, in the art gallery about a thousand years ago.

“That does sound like Chiyoh,” Hannibal murmurs, glancing over quickly to look at Will before his eyes settle back on the road. “I’m afraid I wouldn’t know how to contact her. She has always found me.”

That sounds about right, Will muses, going back to his list.

“I can start filling out fake credit card applications, but we don’t have an address to receive any responses,” Will frowns. So far, it’s the closest thing to a real plan he’s been able to put together - and honestly, what’s a little credit fraud after everything else? “We could get a PO box, but we need government ID. And I’m not exactly comfortable with strolling into a federal post office just yet.”

Hannibal makes a soft noise of agreement, then asks, “And you are certain I have the things we need stored somewhere?”

“Yes,” Will agrees simply, with a single nod of the head. “False identities, lump sums of cash, plane tickets, properties… There’s probably some other stuff in there, too. But I know that for sure.”

Frowning, Hannibal processes this information, and then replies, “I am sure it is in here somewhere. We will be fine, mon bibou.”

“What?” Will blurts, a kneejerk reaction to hearing such a familiar nickname on Hannibal’s lips after so many years.

The first time Hannibal ever called him ‘mon bibou’ he was joking. Will still remembers how bright and shiny his eyes looked beneath the overhead kitchen lights as he stood at the counter, making them two mugs of coffee. It was dark outside, deep winter. Will still remembers that morning like it happened yesterday.

“I apologize,” Hannibal says, honestly looking surprised at himself.

Before he can get any further, Will shakes his head and replies, “No, no - it’s, it’s fine. You just. You surprised me.”

“The term is familiar?” Hannibal asks, eyebrows knotting. He slows the car down a bit as a semi passes on their left.

For a split second, Will is back in Hannibal’s bed in Baltimore, head against the pillows, and Hannibal above him. That was the feeling he was chasing, when he followed Hannibal across the world. That split second where he looked up at Hannibal’s face and, despite everything that had transpired between them up until that point, saw the man who was just like him.

Loved, and loved in return.

“Yeah,” He nods, licking his lips. He glances over at Hannibal. “You used to call me that.”

In Will’s memory, Hannibal traces the side of one thumb over Will’s face, from the bridge of his nose, to the arch of his eyebrows. Later, while going through boxes and boxes of evidence stored on the same floor as Jack’s office, Will would stumble across a sketch with the same bone structure.

And now, in their car, Hannibal frowns as he tries to place the memory, and admits, “I do not remember the context.”

“That’s okay,” Will sighs, going back to his list. It’s harder now, with such a fresh memory on the forefront of his mind. He glances over at Hannibal, and, as an afterthought, reaches out to touch his leg. “Everything will work itself out, Hannibal. Let’s just get to Utah.”

With a nod, Hannibal returns his concentration to the road, but Will can still see the tension in his face.

Chapter Text

By the time Will sees the first set of snow capped mountains set against a deep purple Utah sky, he feels decidedly lighter.

It’s already past seven o’clock in the evening, and they’ve just arrived in Green River. Will, dressed in the same clothes he’s now been wearing for almost 48 hours, stands in a small corner coffee shop waiting on he and Hannibal’s order. As he waits, he stares at the sun setting through the coffee shop’s massive glass pane window, and thinks about the handful of definitive moments in his life that have lead him here.

“Thanks,” Will smiles, pitching his voice higher than normal as he accepts their drinks from the barista.

He’s purposely leaving a trail of different personalities from coast to coast, mostly because he doesn’t think Jack will entertain the idea of Will Graham smiling at a barista and saying ‘thank you.’ All the things Jack refuses to see will come back to haunt him years from now.

Will finds himself practically salivating at the idea.

With a coffee in each hand, Will makes his way out of the coffee shop by pushing the door open with his elbow.

Hannibal is idling at the curb two blocks down, just like he said he would be.

“After tonight, I’m afraid our bank account is in the single digits,” Hannibal greets, as Will drops back into the passenger seat and hands one of the two paper cups over. “A few crumpled dollar bills is all we will have to our name.”

Frowning for the first time since reaching Utah, Will levers his leg into the car and closes the door.

“We’ll have to figure something out,” He finally replies, as Hannibal situates his drink in the cup holder, and then reaches for Will’s in return. The moment Will’s hand is empty, he reaches backwards to tug his seatbelt back over his chest. “We don’t have much further to go.”

Hannibal waits until Will is situated before flipping his turn signal on and pulling back out into traffic.

“We are very close to the finish line,” Hannibal agrees, as they make their way down the lit city strip. Bows of twinkly white lights hang from one side of the street to the other, practically illuminating their conversation. “Our actions are now more important than ever.”

Reaching for his coffee, Will pries it out of the slightly too small cup holder, and replies, “You’re right. Whatever we do, it has to be small. We can’t run the risk of a break and entry being filed with the police.”

“Nor can we risk a report of physical violence,” Hannibal adds, amused.

Will sighs, and agrees, “Or that.”

He hasn’t been able to get online to check the Kansas obits yet. Part of him wants to know if the man he brained in the snowy countryside is still alive. Yet, other parts of him know it’s probably better off this way.

Falling quiet, Will nurses his coffee, and watches the remainder of the small mountain town roll by outside the car window.

They need a quick racket to make a couple hundred bucks before they move onto the next city. Anything that could end up in the local papers is out. If they can cover their living expenses until they get to Oregon, they should be able to live out of a motel for their first few nights there. In fact, if they can put aside $500 between now and then, they’ll be able to concentrate on finding full-time accomodation from the moment they arrive.

Will has no idea what will happen after that, but it’s as good of a place as any to start.

While they’re in Utah, they need to do something simple, subtle, and - most importantly - discreet.

“We should find a bar,” Will finds himself suggesting suddenly. He raises his eyebrows and leans forward a bit, enough to be able to gauge Hannibal’s initial interest.

Skeptical, Hannibal glances in Will’s direction and replies, “I doubt this problem can be solved with alcohol.”

“You’re right,” Will grins, laughing as he adds, “But I know for a fact drunk people don’t notice when their wallets go missing.”

Understanding immediately skewers Hannibal’s facial expression into something entirely different. He murmurs, “Clever boy.”

“Forget the motel tonight,” Will says, reaching for the map. This overly curated town is too ritzy for their intended purpose, but the next sixty miles of highway promises a belt of small mountain towns, one right after the other. “We’ll visit a few bars and be gone by morning. It’s easy money, Hannibal.”

It isn’t a long term plan by any means, but for right now, long term isn’t on the menu.

~

It takes forty minutes to get a few miles further west and find their first target bar.

They park the car on one side of town, switch the plates, and catch a cab to their first stop about twenty minutes away. As Will hands over their last 25 bucks as fare, he feels a pit of anxiety blossom deep in his stomach. They are now officially out of financial resources, should something unaccounted for happen.

Hannibal enters the bar first, as Will loiters outside. They constructed a plan while still on the road: Hannibal will stay in the shadows while Will performs. From Hannibal’s vantage point he will be able to keep Will safe, should it come to that.

Alone now, Will allows himself a moment to consider what would happen if someone put them in the line of fire, be it an undercover cop or a beligerent bar patron.

“Blood bath” is the only term he can come up with that seems fitting enough.

Will bums a cigarette from two drunk girls who are already halfway through a pack, and cases the outside of the bar. He hasn’t smoked in years but the taste of tar and nicotine is a welcome distraction regardless. There are three exits: the front door, what Will is assuming is a back door, and a ramshackle patio that sits off to the side. The bar itself isn’t nasty enough to attract frequent police attention, but it ranks no higher than “dive” proper.

After the cigarette and ten extra minutes on top of that, Will heads into the bar. He changed into Hannibal’s black jeans and a t-shirt in the middle of the parking lot they left the car in; tonight, he’s going for rugged, yet boyish. He’s fishing for men, mid thirties, but no later than late fifties. Hannibal was offended when Will originally drew the line at forty.

Will smiles when he thinks about Hannibal, and fights against the urge to look for him in the crowd.

After crossing the sticky floor, Will sits down at the wooden bar, and orders a whisky sour on tab.

“You here alone?” The bartender asks, sliding the damp glass across the scratched up bartop a few minutes later.

Fingers curling around the drink, Will nods, and tops it off with a crooked smile.

“I am tonight,” He answers, pitching his voice a little higher than its natural timbre. It’s easy to wear this person suit; it’s like eating junk food compared to a strict diet. When the bartender pointedly waits for more, Will grins and leans in conspiratorially to murmur over the music, “My boyfriend just broke up with me.”

Laughing, the bartender nods and looks up as someone else walks up to the bar.

“You’re in the right place then,” He grins, giving Will a wink before he nods to the next guy and asks, “What can I get ya?”

Will smiles back and then spins around on the stool, leaning back against the bar and sipping at his drink.

The lure is in the water; now all he has to do is wait.

~

It takes four hours and five guys to make about six hundred dollars.

The later in the night it gets, the easier it is. With the bartender officially Will’s friend, it’s easy to hide in plain sight, jostling up against every guy that looks his way. This bar seems to cater to college kids and old men who have likely been coming here for years; Will takes advantage of the latter more than the former.

As they buy him drinks, Will employs old bartender’s tricks he learned while moonlighting in college to get rid of the booze. Because getting drunk is not part of the plan, Will throws shots over his shoulder, and spits mixed drinks back into the glass.

In turn, every guy that engages him ends up completely shitfaced by the end of their time together - mostly because Will goads them into buying more rounds with a hand on their upper thigh and a smile pointed in the right direction.

It’s easy. He asks for money to get more drinks, and they give him handfuls of cash. When they’re red cheeked and drooling, he teases them and calls a cab, then pickpockets them as they wait on the curb outside. Will touches them so much during their conversations inside that it isn’t strange for them to feel his hand on their backside or front pocket while they wait for a cab to arrive.

By the time the music changes from classic rock to 90s throwbacks for the college kids still playing pool, Will is settling up his $6 tab at the bar, and tipping the bartender an extra $20.

“You’re really enjoying the single life, huh?” The bartender asks, as Will, purposely flushed and smiling, accepts a glass of water.

Pretending to steady himself against the bartop with one hand, Will grins widely, and nods before chugging back half of the glass in one go. It’s refreshing, even more so knowing how much money he has stuffed into Hannibal’s jean pockets over the last few hours.

“Is it obvious?” Will laughs, pushing the empty glass back gratefully. “Thanks for that.”

The bartender smirks, and studies Will for a minute before saying, “I’m off in three hours.”

“Maybe I’ll be still around,” Will teases, pressing his tongue between his teeth. The bartender’s eyes flush with heat as Will grins again and then pushes away from the counter by his elbows. It’s a blatant lie; as soon as he can disengage from this conversation, he’s going to leave and meet Hannibal at a pre-planned location.

But this guy doesn’t have to know that.

Will waits until he’s distracted by another customer, and disappears back into the crowd.

~

The 7-11 is a ten minute walk away from the bar.

It’s hard not to look like he’s in a hurry when all he wants to do is get Hannibal and hustle back to their car, but Will manages to contain himself. The short walk calms him down; his mind is no longer a firestorm of empathic emotion by the time he sees the familiar green and orange sign bright and looming in the distance.

Will can see into the convenience store from the street, and it’s immediately apparent Hannibal hasn’t arrived yet. He briefly ducks inside to buy a slice of greasy heat lamp pizza, and then sits on a bench outside, right underneath a three panel ad for a new flavor of Slurpee.

The pizza is gone in about four bites, and Will briefly debates going back inside for more, but Hannibal appears in the distance before Will can make up his mind.

Hannibal is walking with his hands in his pockets and his head held high; as long as the local cops aren’t looking for Hannibal Lecter, they’d have no reason to stop him and ask questions. Will feels the corners of his mouth twitching up into a smile at the sight of him; after the last few weeks, he knows he never wants to be outside of Hannibal’s orbit again.

As Hannibal begins to cross the parking lot, Will sobers up and gives their surrounding area a cursory glance for cops.

They’ve been strangely lucky thus far, and tonight seems to be no different. Somehow they’ve managed to pull lucky cards from Baltimore all the way to the very parking lot they’re standing in tonight. Will doesn’t want to think about what the chances are of their luck running out soon.

“I have a confession,” Hannibal admits, as he eases himself down onto the bench beside Will.

Will instantly feels his blood run cold. This is it. This is the moment where everything changes. Hannibal is going to admit to him that he killed someone in the fifteen minutes they were out of one another’s peripheral vision, and the game they’ve been playing so carefully is now over. Signed, sealed, and delivered.

I’m yours.

“You have lived with me in my memory palace for many years,” Hannibal admits, talking mostly to the oil patterned parking lot that stretches long beyond their shoes. Will is struck with the distinct memory of standing side by side with Hannibal in the Cornaro Chapel and wonders if he will be alone with that memory forever. “Even knowing this, it was a surprise to see you there for the first time.”

On the bench beside him, Will turns his head so fast he’s pretty sure he gives himself whiplash.

“You saw me?” His heart is suddenly beating so fast he thinks he might pass out. He has purposely stayed away from the halls of his own memory palace since the jump, knowing it would sting to stand alone in all the places he used to stand with Hannibal.

In his stomach, the greasy pizza begins to turn on him.

“I saw you there,” Hannibal confirms, undeterred by the growl that jolts from Will’s suddenly nervous gut. He admits, “While I sat alone in the botanical garden. You were more beautiful than I ever remembered.”

Will can still feel that afternoon crawling beneath his skin like it was yesterday. Following Hannibal’s abrupt disappearance, he sat outside the botanical garden for hours, eyes closed, forehead pressed to his knees. He’d allowed himself a moment to sink into the hallway of Hannibal’s home in Baltimore; it had only been for a second, nothing more.

The familiar dark walls were a comfort despite the fact he could no longer touch them by hand.

“My second confession is, tonight, in the absence of your direct attention, I believe I experienced true jealousy for the first time,” Hannibal admits.

Will closes his eyes, but the sudden admission hits him like a punch anyways. Even more so when he remembers what it felt like to see Bedelia at Hannibal’s side. Never in person, of course - somehow even Hannibal knew that was a bad idea - but the airport security footage Jack used to dangle like a carrot in front of him had been enough.

He knew jealousy, and it didn’t taste good.

“Hannibal,” He finds himself bumbling, not for the first time in their relationship. “There are few rooms in my own memory palace that don’t already include you in every concieveable way.”

With a soft sound of acceptance, Hannibal considers this, but ultimately falls quiet for a moment.

“It was strange to see you there, roaming the halls with my sister and mother,” He admits, either unwanting or altogether unable to look at Will in the dim buzzing light of the 7-11. “And, stranger still, to feel that hot bloom in my chest at the sight of someone else’s hand on your skin. I knew why you allowed it, but that part did not matter to me.”

Half of Will’s mouth lifts up into an unsteady smile.

“That’s love, Hannibal,” He murmurs.

Hannibal glances over at him, lip curled in amusement, and counters, “That’s possession.”

“You can call it whatever you want to,” Will grins, leaning close enough for their shoulders to touch. He pitches his voice a little lower as he moves his mouth closer to Hannibal’s ear and asks, “Did you see the guy who was trying to get my shirt off? Half of me expected to see you vault over the table.”

Laughing despite himself, Hannibal asks, “Is that what you think of me?”

“Yes,” Will cackles, easing back against the bench. He sighs, then, shoulders relaxed, and contentedly tilts his head back to look up at the twinkling sky above them. “We should keep going. We don’t have to stop anywhere else tonight.”

Hannibal begins to get up off the bench, extending one hand to Will when he stands.

“You are just that efficient,” He murmurs.

As they begin the long walk back to their car, Will can’t help but feel the outside world begin lap at their ankles.

~

They decide to drive through the remainder of the night in shifts.

Will takes the wheel from 4AM to 6, and then Hannibal from 6 to 8. It’s difficult to sleep with the sun already streaming through the picturesque mountainsides, but Will finds himself dozing regardless. At 9 they stop for gas, and Will indulges in his usual hot coffee and breakfast pastry.

“We will find ourselves in Nevada soon,” Hannibal murmurs, accent thick with sleep. “Then we will stop for the night.”

Nodding, Will juggles his coffee and the steering wheel, and navigates their car back out onto the highway.

Chapter Text

Surprisingly, Will has visited Nevada once before.

During the short phase in his life where Molly’s friends tried to reach out to him in an attempt to form some kind of a connection, he’d been invited to a weekend bachelor party. From the day they met, Molly made it very clear to Will that she considered her close friends as family. Being that Will had retained neither friend nor family up until that point in his life, he’d found it hard to relate.

Regardless, Molly’s best guy friend took Will under his wing and invited him along to a weekend in Vegas. Will spent the next two days drunker than he’d ever been in his life. Somewhere on Facebook there are still untagged photos of him, red faced and miserable.

Needless to say Will was not invited to the wedding.

Driving through Nevada with Hannibal is a different beast entirely. It’s like seeing the state again for the very first time, in the way that it was always meant to be seen. Will falls in love with the barren desert countryside because the landscape is the color of gold and rust and Hannibal’s eyes.

In a small town just over the Utah/Nevada border, Hannibal counts out enough cash from their reserve to get them one last night in a dumpy motel.

“We check out at 10 tomorrow,” Will announces, closing the passenger side car door behind himself with their new room key in one hand. Hannibal has been circling the block a ten minute drive away from the motel to ensure their license plates aren’t caught on camera; they can’t afford to be reckless now. “I’ve never heard better news in my whole life.”

As much as he’s come to find comfort on the road, it will be nice to stay in one spot for more than a few hours.

“I believe this calls for a celebration,” Hannibal agrees. “We will have to stop for food and drink.”

At the mere suggestion of Hannibal’s cooking, Will feels himself practically begin to salivate.

“What’s on the menu for tonight, Dr. Lecter?” He finds himself asking, the question a habitual response.

Of course, broaching the subject of who will be on the menu once they’re settled in Oregon is sure to be a different conversation entirely.

“As much as I find myself craving foie gras, I believe we will have to keep it simple,” Hannibal replies easily, in that tone of voice where Will can’t quite decide whether he’s joking or not. “I am planning seared steak and friseé.”

Smiling, Will looks at the warm expression on Hannibal’s face, and replies, “Sounds delicious.”

~

Hannibal does the grocery shopping.

Before leaving the car, Will makes him promise that he’ll use the self checkout. Once they’re settled in Oregon, Will finds himself fantasizing about home delivery and online ordering.

It takes Hannibal twenty three minutes, from the moment he leaves Will’s eyesight, to the second he walks back through the automatic sliding doors. Will knows this, because he uses the clock in the car dashboard to time Hannibal’s trip.

Had Hannibal reached thirty minutes, Will would have gone in after him.

“Everything go okay?” Will asks, as Hannibal gets back into the car with seven minutes to spare, and two bottles of wine alongside his bag of groceries.

Hannibal tugs his seatbelt on, and then leans forward to steady the bags between his feet.

“My trip was uneventful,” He promises, retrieving a fresh bottle of water. “You need to relax with yourself, Will.”

For a split second Will swears he feels his heart stop.

The memory is so crystal clear that Will is surprised he doesn’t hear it shatter over his head like a pane of broken glass. In the forefront of his mind he sees Hannibal perfectly, standing roadside in his pale jumpsuit from the BSHCI, face lit up from the sun like even the universe was in on their escape.

“Hannibal,” Will manages to say, still drowning in the memory. “Do you remember saying that?”

Mildly amused, Hannibal twists the plastic cap back onto his bottle of water, and replies, “I may not remember everything, Will, but please give me the benefit of knowing at least the last few minutes of our lives.”

“No, I don’t mean that, I - fuck,” Will swears, cutting himself off as he drives right past the overnight parking lot they shortlisted earlier. “Sorry, I’m distracted. I’ll circle the block. You just - you said the same thing to me a few weeks ago. I just thought. I, nevermind. It doesn’t matter.”

Shaking his head, Will takes a right and tries to pull himself out from beneath the wave.

He can’t yet quantify why such an unimportant fragment of their history manages to reduce him so thoroughly. Hannibal will just always cut him down at the knees, it seems.

“Perhaps the same memory is buried in my subconscious,” Hannibal offers. He adds, softly, “Perhaps it is simply a coincidence.”

Will frowns as their target parking lot comes back around. This time, he manages to pull the car into it.

“I’m sure it’s nothing,” He sighs. It has to be nothing. Anything more than that would be getting his hopes up. They’re both quiet as Will pulls into a parking spot near the exit. He turns the engine off, presses his face into his hands, and manages to say, “Tell me it’s nothing, Hannibal.”

From his spot in the passenger seat, Hannibal watches silently.

When Will tips his head back to blink up at the felt covered ceiling, Hannibal says, “Will.”

“What?” Will replies automatically, sounding miserable. His eyebrows raise up into his hairline before he can even manage to get his eyes back open.

Sighing softly, Hannibal reaches across the short distance that separates them from one another, and holds onto one of Will’s hands. Will automatically tightens his grip around Hannibal’s fingers, trapping Hannibal’s thumb against the curve of his palm.

“We are very close to the end,” Hannibal murmurs. “Please do not leave me now.”

Will opens his eyes with a frown, and looks over at Hannibal sadly. He knows he’s been a little wound up lately, but he hadn’t realized he’s been so transparent.

“I know we’re close,” Will whispers back. He finds himself crumbling beneath Hannibal’s close attention as he sighs and unbuckles the seatbelt with his free hand. “Now there’s more to lose than ever, Hannibal. And if your memories don’t come back…”

With a quiet sound scraped from the back of his throat, Hannibal replies easily, “Do not be scared, mon bibou. I am always beside you in the dark.”

“Ah,” Will laughs, gripping Hannibal’s hand tighter. Suddenly his teeth feel much too sharp for his mouth, and his heart begins to beat recklessly inside the cage of his chest. “That’s reassuring.”

He meant for it to be a joke, but when the words are out, there is no ignoring the desperation beneath them.

“Yes,” Hannibal murmurs, lifting Will’s hand to his mouth. There is no hesitation in his voice as he adds, “It is.”

~

It takes forty minutes to pack up the car and walk back to the motel.

Inside, Will has a shower to clear his head.

Afterwards he finds Hannibal in the main area, sitting at the kitchen table and studying his textbooks. Without saying anything, Will walks up behind Hannibal and wraps his arms around Hannibal’s shoulders.

He’s still damp from his shower, wrapped in nothing but a threadbare towel. Hannibal doesn’t seem to mind; he makes a soft noise in the back of his throat when Will crosses his hands against Hannibal’s collarbones, and rests his mouth against Hannibal’s shoulder.

They lean against one another in silence as Will reads the page over Hannibal’s shoulder for a few quiet moments.

“This text compares recovering from amnesia to waking from a dream,” Hannibal murmurs, breaking the silence. At the interruption, Will finds himself pressing his nose into the warm juncture of Hannibal’s neck as Hannibal adds, “It indicates that a patient who recovers most of their memories may not remember what happened when they were amnestic.”

Exhaling sharply, Will opens his eyes and comments, “That’s strange.”

“Indeed,” Hannibal agrees. He moves his hand away from the page, and raises it to begin tracing his fingers up and down the muscles of Will’s forearm crossed over his chest. “The brain is a very complicated organ.”

Will makes a small noise of agreement in the back of his throat, and bites back the urge to say something like, I have an uncomplicated organ for you here to study.

After a few moments of quiet, companionable reading, Hannibal leans back and tilts his head to rest directly beneath Will’s jaw.

“I am assuming you have not wrapped yourself around me simply to study the brain,” Hannibal guesses, amused as Will automatically moves to rest his cheek against Hannibal’s chin. Will makes a soft growling sound of discontent, and palms at Hannibal’s shoulder. “I believe I have assumed correctly.”

Laughing quietly, and without saying anything else, Will begins tugging Hannibal’s shirt up by the bottom hem.

Neither of them say a word as Will pulls Hannibal’s shirt off with a wide, sharp, grin. When it’s off, Hannibal’s short hair standing fluffy in the aftermath, Will balls the shirt up in one hand, and drops it on top of Hannibal’s open textbook. He steps close, and leans in to bite at the side of Hannibal’s face.

Amused, Will feels Hannibal’s fingers curl against either side of his hips in response. Hannibal tugs Will’s bare body between his open knees, and arches up, trying to get to Will’s mouth with his own. Will grins and dips away from Hannibal’s lips. His hands trail down his own body until he knots them with Hannibal’s, still resting against his bare torso.

When Will leans down to brush their lips together, he finds himself content to simply breathe against Hannibal’s open mouth, moving incrementally until he finally gives into himself and presses his bottom lip between Hannibal’s own.

They both groan at the kiss, an automatic reaction to the sudden spike in sexual tension between them.

It’s easy to stay just like that, with Will between Hannibal’s open thighs, until Will begins to dip away again, unable to stop himself from grinning. He teases Hannibal by easing backwards after every kiss.

Hannibal gives up on kissing Will on the mouth, and goes for his chest instead.

As Will leans backwards, smirking, Hannibal sinks his teeth into the fatty flesh around Will’s nipple. Tongue sliding against the soap damp skin, Hannibal also trails one hand down the flat plane of Will’s stomach until he can tug the towel away from Will’s waist.

“Ah,” Will inhales sharply, gaze narrowing. He rests one palm on the crown of Hannibal’s head to steady himself, and tugs his bottom lip into his mouth as he watches Hannibal bite at his skin.

Dropping the towel to the ground at their feet, Hannibal brings his hands back up to rest at Will’s sides.

“Have you always undone me so completely?” He murmurs, looking up at Will’s face. He palms at Will’s flanks and then slides his hands down and around, until his fingers dig into the muscles at the tops of Will’s bare thighs. Will presses back against Hannibal’s grip, which is close to his rear but not close enough.

Grimacing, Will presses his thumb into Hannibal’s mouth, and breathes, “Yes.”

“Yet it seems that I would have it no other way,” Hannibal replies, before dragging his mouth away from Will’s fingers. He stoops down, hair brushing Will’s belly button, and presses his lips against Will’s lower stomach instead.

Will inches forward to rest more of his weight against Hannibal. He can’t stop himself from touching Hannibal’s body; just the feeling of his palm coasting back and forth between Hannibal’s shoulders is enough to keep him on edge as Hannibal begins to kiss and lick down his stomach. Will’s breath starts to come so fast, he’s sure he’s hyperventilating for a second.

Suddenly his body remembers what it means when Hannibal is bent before him like this.

He finds himself unable to hold back the soft noises that unendingly spill from his mouth. With his animal brain drunk on the feeling of having Hannibal so close, Will finds himself rhythmically curling his fingers against the marred skin of Hannibal’s back.

Will hasn’t had his cock in Hannibal’s mouth for years; his body has begun to vibrate at the promise of it so close again.

“Tell me what I would do,” Hannibal murmurs, glancing up at Will before pressing a kiss below his stomach.

Without meaning to, Will reaches down to give his dick a squeeze. The resounding pleasure that rolls up his body makes him swear and jerk.

“You,” Is all that Will manages to say, as a whirlwind of images parse through his brain. Hannibal deepthroating him, Will’s fingers twisted into the dark silk bed sheets; Hannibal sucking a deep bruise into the skin at the base of his cock; Hannibal with him bent over the dining room table, eating out Will’s ass until he was overstimulated and desperate. “Suck it, put me in your mouth. Please, Hannibal.”

Hannibal presses the tip of his tongue between his lips, and holds it there for a minute as their gazes lock.

After a long moment where all Will can hear is the rapidly increasing rhythm of his breathing, Hannibal leans down and sucks a wet kiss into the base of his cock.

“Fuck,” Will breathes, high pitched and desperate, as he braces himself against Hannibal’s shoulder. The click of his throat is audible as he swallows and breathes, “Hannibal.”

Hannibal begins to touch him relentlessly.

He wraps a hand around the shaft of Will’s cock as he sucks at the base, laving his wet tongue over the soft, sensitive skin there. Will’s short fingernails dig into Hannibal’s bare shoulder as he stares down at what Hannibal is doing to him, hips jerking and breath short. He lets out a surprised groan when Hannibal begins to jerk him off and suck at the head of his cock.

Will is driven crazy by the lingering sensation of Hannibal’s spit dripping down over his balls.

All of a sudden, Will can’t remember a single one of their problems. Hannibal’s incarceration, the jump, and resulting memory loss are all a thousand miles away when he’s on his knees in front of Will like this.

This is the only position that Hannibal has ever worshipped in.

“Ah, ah, ah,” Will begs, panting, as Hannibal swallows him down. He tries to take a step back, but is immediately stopped by the solid rein Hannibal has on his hips.

He stares down at Hannibal, panting, and watches the way the front column of Hannibal’s throat fills out when he deepthroats Will’s cock. Will makes a quiet noise of relent against the heat creeping up his thighs and then laughs a little, desperate with the way Hannibal is making him feel.

Without thinking, he reaches down and holds onto the base of his dick as Hannibal begins to set up a harsh rhythm, gaze coasting up to look at Will’s reaction.

Will licks his lips and then bites his tongue as he stares back into the baseless pool of Hannibal’s eyes.

He’s looked into those eyes a thousand times, but even his intimate familiarity with the heat he encounters there can’t stop the way his guts twist. Will groans, endorphins flooding through his body at the way Hannibal looks, and props himself up with one shaky hand against Hannibal’s shoulder.

When Hannibal pulls back to catch his breath, his throat and chest are flushed pink, lips swollen.

He wraps his hand around Will’s own, still rested on his shoulder, and tugs their joined hands down to wrap around Will’s cock instead. With Hannibal’s palm rested against Will’s knuckles, Hannibal squeezes, tightening their joined grip until Will is holding himself in the way Hannibal wants.

Will lets out a little noise at the suddenly tight sensation, and bends down to suck a misplaced kiss against the corner of Hannibal’s mouth.

“What comes next?” Hannibal murmurs, voice rough, fucked raw. He automatically closes his lips into a kiss when Will’s hips thrust forward, rubbing his dick against Hannibal’s mouth. Fucked up on oxytocin, Will misaims, and smears precum across the stubbled skin below Hannibal’s bottom lip.

Panting, Will uses his thumb to rub the precum off, and then dips it into Hannibal’s mouth, resting there until Hannibal presses his lips together and sucks.

“There’s nothing you haven’t done to me already,” Will manages, as he pumps his hips against the tight circle of his own fist. Hannibal stares up at Will’s face, raptured. “You’ve been inside me in every way that counts.”

Their gazes both flicker down to the scar marring Will’s lower stomach.

Will hasn’t said it out loud yet, but somehow the cells that make up Hannibal’s body alone seem to know that this strip of skin belongs to him.

“Is there anything I would not do for you?” Hannibal asks, moving his hand to resume jerking Will off slowly. He is unable to look away from Will’s face.

Breathing heavily, Will pulses a sharp, short grin, and thrusts against Hannibal’s palm.

“No,” He says simply, short of breath.

Hannibal’s expression twitches, muscles pulsing, and for the first time, Will realizes that Hannibal is jerking himself off inside of his pants with his free hand.

Groaning, Will grabs Hannibal by the back of the neck and tugs him down, until he can press his cock back inside Hannibal’s mouth. He begins to thrust recklessly, hips stuttering and shaking off rhythm.

“Hannibal,” He pants, stuck between Hannibal’s name and gritting his teeth together tightly.

The overwhelming urge to simply fuck and come begins to creep over Will. When Hannibal moves one hand back to slide down beneath Will’s balls, that’s it - it’s game over. Will feels his stomach muscles contract and then he’s coming, gripping onto Hannibal with one hand as the other clutches at nothing.

Knees trembling, Will pushes Hannibal back by the throat and then leans down to kiss him sloppily, tasting himself on the skin at the edges of Hannibal’s mouth.

Hannibal holds onto the back of Will’s head, fingers buried in his curls, and inhales sharply when Will pulls away to wrap his hand around Hannibal’s cock. Will sucks a bruise into Hannibal’s collarbone and jerks him off relentlessly, until Hannibal’s hips fuck back and he comes.

“Weird,” Will pants, breathing heavily against Hannibal’s chest. “Studying with you ends the same way my psychiatry appointments used to.”

Laughing despite himself, Hannibal pulls Will closer by the back of the head, and kisses him one last time.