"Are you sure about this?" Will said.
"I never offered you a way out. I don't intend to ask for one."
Will picked up his wine and crossed the room to stand at the window. A different ocean, a different cliff, but it felt the same when he looked out to the roiling waves. "You might before I'm done," he said.
"I hope I will," Hannibal said. His dark reflection in the glass was studded with stars. "That is the point of this exercise."
Will raised his glass to him. "I'll see what I can do."
Close to a month later, Will led Hannibal to the shed at the back of their property. Most of the supplies had been easy to find: straw, wood, rope. Only the collar had been an issue. Even online, he hadn't found the right weight of leather with the dual steel rings thick and heavy on either side. He'd had to make it in the end.
"A detailed recreation," Hannibal said. His footsteps didn't falter in the doorway. "I assume you want me to undress?"
Will shook his head. He walked into the stall and tapped his foot in the straw. "Kneel."
Hannibal knelt, hands resting on his thighs, back straight while Will strapped the collar around his neck and and attached the ropes. He was docile, moving as Will directed, taking the strain on his shoulders without complaint when Will pulled his arms back and up.
"Will you put your own brand on me to erase Mason's?" Hannibal asked.
"You're already wearing my brand or we wouldn't be here. Shut up, Hannibal."
A flicker of annoyance crossed Hannibal's face at that, but he did shut his mouth.
Will took out a knife and started cutting off his clothes. Laces on his shoes. His suit jacket. His new shirt. It was a delicate thing to slice along the back seam of his pants, through soft wool and cotton underneath but not through skin. Will liked the effect when it was done: bare back, belt still buckled, the gash opened in his pants to show his most vulnerable areas. The flexing muscles, the tight clench of his hole just visible as Will kicked his legs wider.
"I was going to strip you, but I think I might like this better, at least for now."
"Mason wanted me to have the pig's experience."
"And that was his mistake." Will circled him and crouched down so they were face to face. He took Hannibal's chin in his hand and supported its weight to ease the strain on his neck. "I'd never treat you like a pig, Hannibal. You can make pigs squeal, but they don't break. That takes humanity."
"The fear of loss," Hannibal said.
Will leaned closer. Their mouths met, and Hannibal's opened immediately under his. His lips were dry. He strained into the kiss. Will pulled back and looked at him. He could see himself reflected in the deep black of Hannibal's pupils. He stroked his cheek. "I told you to shut up," he said gently. "Don't make me gag you. It would be inconvenient later."
Hannibal took a breath to answer and let it out. He stayed quiet.
Will nodded. "Good. Mason wanted things from you that you don't have to give. He didn't understand you. And that's what this is about, right? You don't really understand something until you know how to take it apart."
Hannibal opened his mouth and caught himself again.
Will smiled at him. "And put it back together, yeah. Pretty sure I can manage both. You believe in me, right?"
Hannibal nodded once, eyes fixed on Will’s face in an expression someone else might have directed at a saint's statue. Will's cock started to harden. That would be easy enough to take care of. The ease of it gave him a low thrill and made him harder. Hannibal wasn't going to say no to him. He wasn't going to say anything at all.
Will stood. He unzipped his pants and got his cock out. "Open," he said. Hannibal obeyed instantly. Mouth open, eyes shut, waiting for whatever Will would give him. Will slid into his mouth and put both hands in his hair. Wet heat surrounded him. Hannibal tongued the head of his cock and looked up at him in question. "Go ahead," Will said. "I just want to take the edge off. Might as well use you for that, right?"
Hannibal didn't make a sound but he did start to suck, lashes fluttering, cheeks hollowed out. Will had hung lanterns from the beam overhead, and their light warmed Hannibal's back and hair. All his sharp angles glowed.
"You're beautiful," Will told him. "You look like art." He twisted his hand in Hannibal's hair and pushed in deep until he choked. The flutter of Hannibal's throat around the head of his dick, the sounds he made, the thin line of saliva leaking from the corner of his mouth: all of it made him want to do more. He gave into the temptation to pull at Hannibal's hair, to make it hurt.
Hannibal gave no sign, of course. He wouldn't. The pain was for Will, for the streak of sadism he had found running through himself, unnoticed until Hannibal. Until he had looked up at Hannibal from his kitchen floor and known that, however badly Hannibal had hurt him, he'd hurt Hannibal more.
He closed his eyes. Hannibal's mouth was so tight, so hot. He didn't struggle, though Will could hear him, feel him choking. His face was growing flushed as he strained for air. Will pulled back long enough to let him get a single breath and then thrust in again. Hannibal's bright eyes were fixed on him, pushing him over the edge. Will exhaled hard through his nose when he came.
The angle was bad for Hannibal. He couldn't swallow fast enough, and he lost a trickle out of each corner of his mouth, throat flexing hard as he fought against the collar. His breath was the loudest sound in the room.
"Thank you," Will said. He zipped up and then knelt down to wipe Hannibal's face. Not quite clean. He left a little saliva, a few spots of come. Half because he liked the look of it and half because he knew that a half done job would bother Hannibal more than any amount of bodily fluids drying on his skin.
Hannibal twisted his head when Will was done, opened his mouth to protest and then closed it again.
"You need to be careful," Will said. He touched the tender skin under Hannibal's jaw where the collar had dug in and scraped a thin red line already. "You keep moving around like that, you'll make yourself bleed."
Hannibal just looked at him. Will smiled and took the weight of his head against his hip and his hand. He pressed a soothing touch over the mark and felt Hannibal's sigh. Will held him for a minute, free hand moving through his hair. "Doing okay?" he said.
"Of course. You will have to—"
Will put a hand over his mouth. "That's a yes or no question, Hannibal. Got it?" Hannibal nodded. Will took his hand away.
"Yes," Hannibal said.
"Good." He stepped away and moved behind Hannibal. He'd set the bottle of lube out of sight, not wanting to give any hints, no matter how obvious. He took it out now and poured it into the slit he'd cut in Hannibal's pants. It spattered down on clothes and skin alike and leaked down between his cheeks.
Hannibal shifted at the feel of it. Breath expanded his sides and was released again.
"Problem?" Will asked.
Will squeezed out a little more and nudged his knees wider. Kicked gently at them until Hannibal got the idea. "Good. Do you know anything about the kind of prostate milking that doesn't involve a cattle prod? Or an orgasm?"
Hannibal's silence lasted a second or two. He clearly had more he wanted to say, but he confined himself. "Yes."
"Ever done it? Or had it done to you?"
"But you're aware of the procedure involved."
"Good. Then you can tell me if I'm doing it wrong. I've only read about it on the internet."
Will got a stool from the corner, a milking stool, and he knew that wouldn't escape Hannibal. He set it down and pushed a finger into him without stopping or waiting for the muscle to ease. He went a little slower with the second one and left them in there, stroking lightly from the inside.
"The concept seems pretty simple. Ejaculation without orgasm. Basically without the muscular contraction that leads to orgasm. They say it can take some practice."
Will found his prostate and rubbed slowly, lightly, until he saw Hannibal's head drop forward maybe half an inch. Maybe less. A certain tension in the skin of his back.
"Are you hard, Hannibal?"
"Yes." His voice was rougher now.
"Good. Time to take off the rest of your clothes, I think."
Hannibal made a noise, quickly stifled .
"Something you want to say? Go ahead."
"If you would leave the belt intact, I would appreciate it," Hannibal said. "I'm fond of it."
Will kissed the back of his neck and stood. "Sure. No problem."
He threaded the belt from its loops and set it aside. Cutting his pants off was tricky where the cloth tightened across his thighs, but Will was careful and methodical and Hannibal came out of it unscathed. He stood back and looked Hannibal over. Naked, bound, helpless. Or as helpless as Hannibal ever was.
Will didn't bother with the stool for now. He knelt between Hannibal's legs, pulled his cheeks apart, and licked him hard. The taste of the lube wasn't great, but it didn't last long. He set his hands along Hannibal's sides to feel his breathing. Hannibal could control that for now, but he couldn't control the twitch and spasm of his hole against Will's tongue.
Will licked in, pressed hard, flicked the tip around the rim the way he did when they were in bed together and he wanted to pull a reaction from Hannibal. This always did it, and it worked now, though the reaction was subdued: a faint hitch in Hannibal's breath and his knees shuffling a half inch further apart.
Will slapped the back of his thigh. "Did I tell you to move?"
The answer was a second delayed and a little breathless. "No."
"Then why did you?"
Hannibal moved back into position.
"That's not an answer, Hannibal." Will slapped his thigh again, at the crease where it met his ass, on the tender skin inside, and two more on his ass. That wouldn't hurt as much, but Will's handprints showed up better there.
"What answer do you want?"
"A truthful one. Why did you move?"
Hannibal breathed out slowly through his nose. "Because it felt good. Because I wanted more."
"Did you think I'd give you more if you moved?" Will asked.
"Then what was the logic behind your decision, Hannibal?"
A longer pause this time. "There was no logic involved. I didn't think."
"A lapse in control," Will said.
"If this happens again, I'm going to ask you why. What are you going to tell me? Think about what I want to hear from you."
Hannibal lowered his head a fraction of an inch. "I could not control myself."
"Perfect," Will said. He wiped his hands clean on the pile of Hannibal's clothes and moved to kneel in front of him. He kissed him, pleased with how eagerly Hannibal leaned into it, nipped at Will's lower lip and sucked. Will let him do it. He got his fingers between the collar and Hannibal's skin to ease the pressure.
With the other hand, he reached down between Hannibal's legs and slapped his cock. It wasn't hard. It didn't have to be. Hannibal jerked and bit Will's lip sharply enough to draw blood. The wound stung. Will licked his lips and kissed Hannibal harder, letting him taste it.
"Bad?" he asked.
Hannibal shook his head.
"No. Not bad."
Will watched him for a few seconds: the sweat forming at his hairline, the red line at his throat, the blood on his mouth, the well of his eyes. Will leaned in to speak in his ear. "I really like hurting you."
He heard Hannibal's breath stutter. "You can."
"I wasn't asking your permission, Hannibal." Will kissed his cheek. "Sweet of you to offer though. Would you like me to hurt you?"
"Even though it doesn't do much for you?"
"I would like you to enjoy this," Hannibal said carefully.
It made Will smile. He kissed him once more and sat back on his heels. "I already am. You don't need to worry about that, okay? You don't need to worry about anything. Trust me?"
"Yes," Hannibal said without hesitation.
"Good. Then let's get started." Will moved back to his stool and added more lube, both to his fingers and poured down between Hannibal's cheeks in a dripping mess that ran over his balls and cock. He had gone soft from the slap, but he was hard again already. Will stroked him once or twice before he pressed in with his fingers and started to rub in tight slow circles.
The warm night had slipped into the shed with them and lay against their skin, carrying the scent of rain and salt from the ocean. Sweat formed along Hannibal's spine. Will liked the feel of it, the way it made his fingers slide more smoothly over the outlines of his vertebrae. He stroked up and down Hannibal's back and concentrated on the soft heat inside him.
At the first clench of interior muscles, he drew his fingers out gently and waited, giving him only soothing touches, tasting the salt on his skin. Hannibal's hips flexed back, and a hoarse, frustrated noise escaped him.
Will smiled and moved forward onto his knees to kiss him. "You're doing great."
Hannibal made a less content noise at that, something like denial and contempt, though whether for himself or for Will or the situation was impossible to say.
"You are. I know it's asking a lot of you to keep your mouth shut." The look Hannibal gave him for that made Will grin. He kissed him again, cupping his chin with one hand to support his head. When he pulled back, there was a question in Hannibal's eyes. "What?"
"Is there nothing else you want of me? This seems like very little to ask."
"We'll see. We're a long way from done yet."
He sat back on his stool and worked his fingers back in again. Even the lightest touches were making Hannibal's thighs tremble now. He had to stop again and again as Hannibal's body wound up toward orgasm, clenching hard around Will's fingers.
Will bent over him and rested his cheek on Hannibal's back. He listened to the wild pounding of his heart and the ocean rush of his breath.
"Okay. It's okay. How are your shoulders?"
"Fine," Hannibal said, voice strained. "Mason kept me like this for far longer."
Will moved forward again and brought their lips together. He let Hannibal control the kiss, let his tongue thrust powerfully into his mouth, let him use his teeth and pull so hard against his collar that he almost choked himself. Will eased back from it and sat on his heels, stroking Hannibal's face with his clean hand. Hannibal leaned into his hand, lips parted on a sigh.
"Mason did a lot of things to you that I wouldn't do," Will said.
"Would you not brand me?" Hannibal murmured. He had his eyes closed, and his words blurred into one another.
"You asked me that before. Is that something you want?"
Hannibal blinked slowly at him. His eyes were glazed and soft and full of shadows. "Yes."
Will kissed the corner of his mouth. "I'll think about it. But not tonight."
Hannibal dropped his gaze in submission, and that was almost enough to get Will hard again all by itself. He moved back into position and slicked up his fingers again. Hannibal's ass and thighs were a dripping mess of lube now. His cock was leaking onto the straw. He had to be getting close.
At the first touch to his prostate, Hannibal dipped his back and pushed himself onto Will's fingers with a shuddering sigh. Will smacked his ass and then gripped his hip. "No," he said.
The noise Hannibal made was close to a moan.
"I told you not to move, Hannibal. We went through this before. What did I say?"
"I'm sorry," Hannibal said. His voice was thick and rough with need. "I – I could not control myself." He sounded like he meant it.
Will closed his eyes for a second, hand pressed between his own legs. "Do you want to come?"
"Do you understand that I don't want you to?"
Hannibal took a couple of breaths before answering. "Yes."
"And you're going to try your best to give me what I want, aren't you?"
"Good." Will stroked his back and his side. He glanced up at the ropes cutting into his wrists. Hannibal's definition of 'fine' was not his definition of fine. There was a difference between causing him pain and causing him injury. He didn't want to draw this out much longer.
Will started touching him inside again, feather light brushes against his prostate while Hannibal shifted his weight and curled his toes. "Relax," Will told him. "Relax for me as much as you can. Don't try to push yourself over the edge. Let me do this for you."
Will couldn't help palming his own cock again as he watched Hannibal shake for him. He was fighting to relax, but every muscle in his arms and shoulders had clenched beyond his control. Will could see the tendons standing out in his neck and the jump of his pulse above the collar.
"It won't feel like much," Will said quietly. "Just a release of pressure."
"Shh. You're almost there, aren't you? Relax. Let it happen."
The next minute or two was nothing but Will's gentle touches, Hannibal's panting, and the twitch of muscles all down his back. He finally let out a harsh breath that wasn't quite Will's name, and Will looked between his legs to see come dribbling slowly from the head of his cock.
There was no jerk or muscular contraction to accompany it. Hannibal was still rock hard. Will stroked a finger along the shaft from root to tip, encouraging the slow expulsion of fluid. He worked his fingers just a little harder, and Hannibal let out a rough, inarticulate pleading sound.
Will took his fingers out, stopped touching him entirely, and watched him. He had his head turned sharply to the side, sweat shining on his neck, mouth open. Chest heaving. His hands were curled into fists. His feet were flexed back hard, toes scrunched up in a way that Will found painfully endearing. He ran one finger along the sole of his right foot, and Hannibal's entire body jerked. He did the same to his cock and expelled a few more drops of come.
"Will—" His voice held a note of desperation now.
"You can beg me to stop if you want to." He did it again, light and teasing and then firmer. He pressed his fingers back into Hannibal's body and rubbed.
Hannibal's breath was almost a whine. He moved his knees together, and his body clenched tight around Will's fingers to keep him out, not that it did him any good. His spine curved, and his cock pulsed, but he wasn't going to come from this, not now.
Will slipped a hand between his thighs and pushed gently until he spread his legs. His fingers nudged Hannibal's prostate. Hannibal's hands flexed and splayed wide and clenched into fists again.
"You must be so sensitive right now," Will said. "You can hardly keep still, and I'm barely touching you."
"You want me to beg," Hannibal said, a note of accusation behind the words.
"Yeah, it'd be nice. But I won't make you. You can just wait. I won't keep you tied up like this much longer."
"Again, wasn't asking your permission. I can do anything I want to you right now."
"Yes," Hannibal sighed.
"Do you like that idea?"
"Why?" Hannibal was quiet for long enough that Will moved until he could see his face. "Hannibal. Why do you like the idea that I can do anything to you?"
Hannibal watched him through half-closed eyes. "Because that has always been true," he said.
Will sat back on his heels, frowning. "Not always."
"For long enough, Will. I have loved you for long enough."
"You don't sound too happy about that."
"It is, as I said, an inconvenience," Hannibal murmured.
The air had gathered in close around them, hot and overflowing with the history of pain they'd caused each other. "One that goes both ways," Will said.
"Does it?" Hannibal's gaze flicked over Will's face and then dropped to the straw beneath him.
Will studied the achingly tense set of his shoulders and jaw. "Is that what you think?"
Hannibal shook his head a little. "Don't. I shouldn't have mentioned it."
"Don't ask if you know I love you? That seems like something we need to talk about."
Hannibal turned his head away. The collar dug so cruelly into his throat that it must have been affecting his breathing.
It called to the same part of Will that had loved watching Hannibal choke on his cock, but this was both better and worse. Worse because of Hannibal's obvious and genuine distress. Better for the same reason.
"I want an answer, Hannibal. Yes or no."
"You already know or you wouldn't hound me." He hesitated, eyes still averted. "Please, Will."
"No. You're the one who didn't want a safeword. We're not stopping now. I want to hear you say it." The words had more of an edge on them than he'd intended. He could feel the cold pain of Hannibal's knife in him, and he pressed a hand over his stomach.
Hannibal's eyes followed the gesture. He shifted in the straw, and it rustled under his weight in the dead, heavy silence between them. "I don't know, Will." He sounded tired. "In truth, I don't know what you feel for me."
Will pulled himself to his feet. He didn't trust himself to have this conversation with Hannibal still bound. He cut the ropes from Hannibal's wrists first and then unbuckled the collar, catching him when his arms trembled under his weight. He sat down in the straw, Hannibal limp against his chest and breathing in soft little puffs against his neck.
"Can you stand?" Will asked.
Of course. Will helped him up and extinguished the lanterns. They crossed the grass between the shed and the house, Hannibal barefoot and naked. He didn't even ask about his belt. They shivered when they hit the air conditioned interior. Will grabbed a blanket from the back of the couch and wrapped Hannibal up in it to guide him to the bedroom.
In their bathroom, he filled the tub while Hannibal watched.
"You're angry with me," Hannibal said. It wasn't the first time Will had heard that observation from him, but this time it held a note of resignation that made Will's chest ache. Hannibal sat on the closed lid of the toilet, shoulders drawn in and head bowed.
"I'm not angry."
"What do you expect?" Will snapped.
"This is what I expect. It's why I didn't want to answer. I don't—" Hannibal cut himself off and took a controlled breath. Even then, his voice was rough when he continued. "Do you know how many people have successfully deceived me for any length of time in my life?"
Will shook his head.
"You. Only you. Twice now. Can you be surprised that I doubt you?"
Will looked at the water gradually filling the tub, steaming faintly as it hit the cold porcelain. "I wasn't lying when we killed Dolarhyde together. I wasn't lying when I went over the cliff with you."
"You wanted to keep the world safe from me. And perhaps, to a lesser extent, me safe from the world. You have succeeded. Is there anything you would not have said or done to achieve that?"
The only thing that kept Will from walking out was a sense of responsibility, to Hannibal's physical wellbeing if nothing else. He waited until he could make the words come out without an edge of anger. "Get in the tub, okay? Please."
Hannibal obeyed him still, dropping the blanket and settling himself in the water with a sigh. Will washed the remnants of lube from his hands at the sink before he reached for the shampoo. "Get your hair wet for me."
Hannibal slid down until he was covered entirely by the water except for his bent knees. He opened his eyes and looked up at Will as if from another world. Will waited until he broke the surface and then worked shampoo into his hair.
"I trust you. Even after everything you did to me," Will said.
"And I trust you."
"But you don't believe me."
"There is nothing to believe or disbelieve. You have made no declarations and no promises, and I have not asked."
"He attacked us. What else could you have done?" Hannibal sounded weary.
Will pulled his hands away from Hannibal's body and dug his nails into his palms. "I'm starting to think that night meant a lot less to you than it did to me."
"It meant everything to me, Will. At the time."
"Since then, I have had a great deal of time to think."
Will looked down at the suds on his hands. He cleaned them off in the water and guided Hannibal's head back gently to rinse his hair. He watched Hannibal take the soap and wash himself. His movements dragged.
Will took off his shoes and socks. He slid into the water behind Hannibal, still wearing the rest of his clothes, and laid himself against Hannibal's back. "You cut me open and left me."
"And you know why I did it. Love births monsters more regularly than any other emotion."
Will touched his warm skin under the water. "What do you want from me? Declarations? Someone's heart in a jeweled box?"
"You would not consider that a token of love. Even now, you would find it monstrous."
"It doesn't seem like much of a gift anyway. A stolen heart." Will pressed his forehead to Hannibal's back and watched water roll down his skin. "I'd give you mine. If you wanted it. I wouldn't fight."
"Yeah. You'd believe me then, wouldn't you?"
Hannibal laid his fingertips against Will's arm, barely touching. "Would you find the exchange worthwhile?"
"Do you want me to cut it out myself?"
Hannibal's fingers curled around his wrist. "I don't want to eat your heart, Will. Not until you have no further need of it, at least."
"So where does that leave us?"
"I don't know."
Will sighed. "Let's get out. The water's getting cold."
Hannibal acquiesced. A few minutes later, Will had them dry and warm in bed, with water for both of them and aspirin for Hannibal. Will sat behind him once against and rubbed oil into his shoulders. They felt knotted with tension, and Will didn't think it was only from the way he'd been bound.
"I've never been good at relationships," Will said.
"They require the granting of controlled access to our inner truths. Neither too much nor too little. A balance."
"I'm not much good at balance either. You never wanted controlled access. You wanted everything."
"I wanted everything from you, and you wanted nothing from me."
"Cut the drama, Hannibal. You know that's not true."
Hannibal laid a hand on his thigh. "No. Perhaps not. But it has felt that way at times."
Will dug his thumbs into the knots of Hannibal's muscles in silence.
"Leave it," Hannibal said. "I'm well enough."
"Physically. I promised to put you back together after tonight. I'm not sure I know how."
Hannibal lay down on his side, one hand under his pillow. His lips parted as if he might answer, but he only closed his eyes and shook his head.
Will lay down as well and watched the lines in his face deepen as it relaxed. He traced a finger down from the side of Hannibal’s nose to the corner of his mouth and the loose skin there. "I'd take your heart if you don't want mine," he said.
Hannibal's tongue passed briefly between his lips. "To eat?"
"If that's what you wanted. Yes."
"You would not find it monstrous?"
"Not as a gift."
"It's yours already. You can do what you like with it."
Will touched his hair and stroked over the thin lines of his eyebrows. "What do you want me to do with it?"
Hannibal was quiet for a long time. He swallowed twice before he spoke, and the words came out sounding as if he would rather keep them to himself. "I would like you to keep it safe for me. If you feel that is – something you can do."
"I will. I promise."
Hannibal's hand came up to grip his. Will kissed his knuckles. He eased closer until they were breathing each other's air and closed his eyes.