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Snowbound

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Hannibal's house in Newfoundland reminded Will painfully of Molly's. It had the same rough hewn frame, the same big stone fireplaces, aged wood floors, and sense of comfortable enclosure.

"Doesn't seem like you," he'd said to Hannibal when they'd pulled up the drive for the first time.

"No," Hannibal had said.

That was all he'd said. He'd slept for most of the drive, allowed Will to help him into bed, and was still there now after two days. Will brought him water and checked for fever, but whatever home surgery he'd done on himself while Will was unconscious, he did seem to be getting better rather than worse. He slept for eight, ten, twelve hours at a time. Will wished he could manage that much himself.

The nearest town was an hour's drive away, a clutch of buildings that huddled together on the empty road: bar, general store, a few houses, a real estate office. For church or school, you had to go to the next town over. Will bought canned food, staples, and what few fresh fruits and vegetables were available: apples, carrots, cabbage, an incongruous pineapple.

"Someone special ordered it. Never came in for it," the store owner said. The weathered wrinkles on his face put him somewhere between fifty and eighty. Will would've bet on the younger side with a harder life. "We get canned in regular anyway. Some people aren't ever satisfied. Might be a little past its prime."

"Smells all right," Will said.

The man nodded and rung him up. "You heard about the storm?"

Will shook his head.

The man tapped a barometer on the wall behind the register. "It's been falling all day. Better get yourself home."

"Thanks."

By the time he made it back to the house, every hint of blue was gone from the sky. Thick clouds rolled across one another, some darker gray and some near white. Snow had begun to spit down in stinging icy flakes.

Will made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and coffee and stared at the pineapple. His shoulder ached, and his face hurt. Dolarhyde's knife had gone through his cheek and cut into his gums. It was starting to heal, but every breath stung. He cut up the pineapple, put it all on a tray, and carried it through to the bedroom. He hadn't bought it for himself anyway.

Hannibal was sitting up in bed, hands folded over the sheets. "You were gone for some time."

"Next time pick someplace closer to civilization." He set the tray down, pried off his boots, and sat on the bed next to Hannibal, who was having a staring contest with the pineapple. "It's fresh," Will said. "I thought -- you probably didn't get a lot of that. While you were--" He waved away three years in prison.

"Alana was more generous with me than Frederick was with you." Hannibal raised his eyes to Will's face. "But the thought is appreciated."

"Just eat," Will said. Of course Hannibal hadn't been eating the same slop Will had gotten. Of course.

Hannibal ate his sandwich and drank his coffee without complaint and then started on the pineapple, picking it up delicately with his fingers since Will had forgotten a fork. Will watched him with relief. Hannibal had spent more time asleep than awake since the night they'd killed Dolarhyde, and Will had been sure he was losing weight. Short of trying to force feed him fries while they drove, he hadn't known what to do about it.

"Feeling better?" Will asked.

"Well enough, thank you. And you?"

"Everything hurts."

Hannibal nodded. "Pain is transient. You've been cleaning your wounds? I'm afraid I haven't been much good to you."

Will laughed at that, a sort of bark that he couldn't have kept back if he'd tried. "You think?"

Hannibal watched him solemnly. He licked pineapple juice off one finger. Will looked away.

"I've been cleaning them, yeah," Will said. "What about yours?"

"It's healing well."

"There's a storm coming," Will said.

Hannibal looked out the window where the icy specks had grown wider and softer. They hit the glass with barely a sound, but the wind shrieked around the corners of the house. "There usually is."

*

Will carried the last load of wood back from the shed just before dark. The wind was already piling up drifts against the side of the house, and a nice doorstopper had built up in the five or ten minutes he'd been out. He tried to juggle the wood and use both hands to pull at the door, but his bad shoulder wouldn't take the weight. He used that arm to yank at the door instead and instantly regretted it.

He stumbled through the door, got it closed behind him, and crouched down in the entryway. The logs fell to the floor, and he clutched his knees and gritted his teeth while the supposedly transient pain passed through him.

Hannibal appeared like a shade to gather up the wood.

"Don't. I can do it," Will said.

"I will take care not to injure myself."

Will got to his feet anyway and started picking up logs. Hannibal delivered the two he had to the stack near the wood stove. Will piled his next to them.

"You must rest as well," Hannibal said.

"What for?" Will used the poker to open the metal door on the front of the stove. He pushed another log in and watched until it caught. "What are we doing here? What are we doing?"

Hannibal took a few stiff steps forward and lowered himself onto the couch. "We are waiting."

"For what?"

"For you to make up your mind. You chose to die with me, gladly I think. Will you also choose to live with me?"

Will pushed the stove door closed and dumped himself on the rug in front of the couch. He could see Hannibal's feet out of the corner of his eye, cozy in blue wool socks that Will had bought after they crossed the border. He had been glad to die with Hannibal. He'd smiled all the way down. It had felt like flying. He wished he were back there now, that he could live in that moment of lightness and triumph and the taste of release.

"What would that look like? A life with you?" he asked.

Hannibal didn't answer for so long that Will thought he'd drifted off again. He turned his head and found Hannibal looking at him. His hand lay on the couch near Will's shoulder. He moved it slightly but didn't touch.

"it would be a joint effort," Hannibal said at last.

"Like Randall Tier?"

"Randall Tier was entirely yours."

"You cooked him. You made me lomo saltado."

"I wasn't cooking what I thought I was cooking," Hannibal said.

"You don't think that's fitting after all the people you fed your mystery meat to?"

Hannibal folded his hands in his lap. "I have thought often about that night, Will."

Nothing in his tone gave him away, but Will could feel the weight behind those words: that night, the first night they'd cooked together, the first time Hannibal had allowed himself to believe that Will was his.

"That's not the night I think of," Will said. "I think about you asking me to leave with you. Pack our bags, leave a note. Never see any of them again. I wanted to do it."

"You didn't even consider it."

"Not consciously. I was … I wasn't there." Those dinners with Hannibal had been out of body experiences. Will could remember watching himself from across the table, noting his own smiles and the ease with which he ate.

He looked up and, for a moment, saw Hannibal's sorrow like a gaping wound. He turned away, toward the glow of the fire around the stove's door. He hunched forward. He couldn't apologize. He wasn't sorry for anything he'd done. Neither was Hannibal, and so they were left with these unfillable silences surrounding the wounds they'd given each other.

Hannibal's fingers brushed his neck. When Will didn't pull away, Hannibal stroked there with the backs of his knuckles. Will bent his head. Maybe they'd do better with touch than they had with words. He and Molly had, a lot of the time.

They'd gone for walks at night. She'd held his hand, and they hadn't said a word. Will had thought of walking alone in Wolf Trap or of the wilderness of the Lecter estate. He'd never known what Molly thought of unless she spoke. She'd ask out of the blue if he wanted anything from the store, or how he'd found Buster, or whether he thought penguins knew they were supposed to be able to fly. It only occurred to him now that he could've asked. That maybe she'd wanted him to ask. That maybe he was the only one who'd enjoyed the silence.

Hannibal dug his thumb into the muscle of Will's bad shoulder, and Will bared his teeth and clenched his fist. He couldn't help favoring it, and that had only added knotted muscles to the bite of the wound.

"Come and sit here," Hannibal said. He hooked a finger into Will's collar and tugged.

Will shifted over to sit between his legs. He bent forward at the feel of Hannibal's hands on him, strong and warm. Hannibal was gentle, careful not to jar his shoulder, one hand cupped over the joint while the other soothed clenched muscle. He slipped his fingers over Will's vertebrae, down between his shoulder blades and then up into his hair.

"A joint effort," Will said, not quite a question.

"How can it be otherwise? We have tried everything else."

Something in Will's chest cracked open, a newly hatched desire, wet and raw and uncertain. He wanted more nights like this. He wanted Hannibal's touch, this entirely new touch that didn't seek to hurt or possess or manipulate. He let out a slow breath as both of Hannibal's hands slid through his hair. Fingertips pressed into his scalp, rubbing lightly.

"Can it be like this?" Will asked.

Hannibal's hands stilled, but only for a moment. "Yes. I'd like that."

They didn't move until the fire in the stove started to die down. Will banked it with ash. The night outside howled, and the windows rattled. "You should get in bed," he said.

"As should you."

There was only one bed. Will hesitated as Hannibal stood and made his stiff, slow way into the bedroom. After a minute or two, Will grabbed an extra quilt from the linen closet and followed him. Hannibal hadn't turned on the light. He stood by the window, looking out at the storm.

Will changed into T-shirt and sweatpants and waited for him in bed. Like Molly had waited for him. Almost never the other way around. "Do you want me to take the ring off?"

"Yes," Hannibal said.

Will put his wedding ring in the drawer of the bedside table. Hannibal took off his sweater, his shirt, and finally his pants. The blizzard washed him in a blue-white glow. Will turned on his side to watch Hannibal's careful stretching. He could see the flex of muscle and the rise of hair on his arms in the chill.

"Come to bed," Will said.

Hannibal slid between the sheets and laid himself out on his uninjured side, facing Will. "I bought this house the day after you brought me Randall Tier. I thought you would like it."

"If I'd said yes, this is where we would've gone?"

"Yes."

"It looks like Molly's place." Will could just see Hannibal's eyes in the dim light, the twitch of his expression between a flinch and a snarl. "I keep thinking about her. And you."

"And what do you think of us?" Hannibal said.

"I think I wouldn't have believed she wanted me if you hadn't wanted me first." It hurt to say, but the sting passed quickly, soothed by the way Hannibal's eyes widened and his mouth went soft. Light from the hall slipped over his face in tiger stripes. Will touched his cheek and stopped his movement so that it caught his eyes.

Will looked into them as he had on the edge of the cliff. Now, as then, the thin ring of iris around a wide pupil looked almost gold instead of brown. "Tell me what you see," Will said.

"I see you standing in the water. The landscape is fluid around you. Events flow past until you reach the place you want and step out of the stream."

"I don't think it works that way," Will said.

"And yet here we are."

Here they were, staring into each other's eyes, sharing a bed, a foot apart, isolated from the rest of the world by weather and distance.

"In what other respect would you compare me to your wife?" Hannibal said softly.

Will pulled his hand back and dropped his eyes. He held onto the edge of the quilt. "I remember how you touched me. After you put the tube down my throat. After you took it out."

A long pause followed, filled by the hiss of snow against glass.

"Do you want me to touch you like that now?" Hannibal asked.

Will nodded, still looking down. Hannibal eased closer. He brushed Will's hair back from his face and stroked his cheek. The touch became firmer as Will let his head loll into his hand. Hannibal pressed a kiss to his forehead, and Will closed his eyes. His throat ached all the way down to his stomach.

Will wet his dry lips and swallowed. "If I took my shirt off, would you--?"

"Yes."

Will took off his T-shirt and balled it up to toss it away. He ended up clinging onto it as Hannibal stroked down over his shoulders, down the hard line of bone at the center of his chest, down to his stomach and the scar that cut across it.

"I told Chiyoh you'd left me with a smile," he said. His voice wavered. He bit the inside of his cheek. "Dr. Du Maurier said it excited you to know that you'd marked me."

Hannibal spread one hand over it. The other cupped Will's cheek. "Excited is not the word I would choose."

"No?"

"Comforted, perhaps. I knew you would not forget me."

Will touched the back of his wrist and felt blindly along the length of his arm. He laid a hand at the center of Hannibal's chest and felt the thrum of his heart as he'd felt it after the fight with Dolarhyde. It was nearly as fast now as it had been then. "You won't forget me either."

"No. To be fair, I haven't tried very hard."

Will smiled at that. "Didn't you? You ran off to Europe. You left without me."

"I won't do it again." He tipped Will's face up and barely touched their lips together. "Sleep," Hannibal said.

Maybe it was exhaustion, or the lessening of tension, or just the knowledge of being safe inside while the storm continued without them, but Will found it curiously easy to obey.