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Railway Children

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When Will wakes, the cabin is empty.

Everything is still and dark, the only noise to be heard is the syncopated clack-clack as the train rattles over the tracks.

He swings down from the top bunk, feet landing softly on the slats beneath. He crouches, squints against the shadows.

The bed is neatly made. Hannibal is not there.

For a second, Will wonders if he ever was. The second bleeds out and onward into a minute as Will retraces every moment since their fall and subsequent drag from the sea. Did Hannibal survive at all? Or has he been listening to a ghost as he’s flitted from safe house to safe house, boarding boats and trains with invisible ease until he came to this one, hurtling through the night towards Vienna.

A ghost couldn’t have sewn his wounds shut.

But Abigail couldn’t have brought him flowers.

And yet.

He slides open the cabin door with such force that it makes a loud crack and rebounds a little.

He sticks his head out, looking wildly from left to right down the empty corridor. He stops, closes his eyes, breathes, and with nothing to rely on save gut instinct he heads left.

He is not surprised that his gut leads him to Hannibal again.

Hannibal is at the far end of the train, scarved and bundled in greatcoat and gloves as the world falls away from them in reverse.

Will joins him, silent, watches the skeletal outlines of passing trees.

“Was the bottom bunk so bad?” he asks after a while.

Hannibal shakes his head.

“That was not the source of my discomfort.”

Will thinks back to their argument, strangely their first. Hannibal had certainly never raised his voice to him before, had certainly never forced up a wall of petulance when things hadn’t gone his way.

“We have been sharing a bed for months, Will, this is absurd!”

“A wide bed,” Will had corrected, “with space. And no touching.”

That had been untrue. Many an evening he had woken with Hannibal partially blanketing him, had never complained.

“This is all… childish,” Hannibal had sputtered, at a rare loss for eloquence.

“Maybe it is. But I still get top bunk.”

And then he had flung Hannibal’s suitcase on his (separate) bed and Hannibal had refused to say another word.

“So what was the problem,” Will asks gently, not touching, but close enough to do so, “if not the bunks?”

“I have grown used to protecting you,” Hannibal admits.

Will’s brow creases in gentle puzzlement. “You haven’t had to protect me once since we-” leapt to our deaths? committed erotic murder? became unconsummated murder husbands? Will still can’t quite find the words for what they are now.

“I haven’t been in any danger,” he finishes, and Hannibal quirks his mouth just a touch.

“No,” he says ruefully, “but that has not stopped me from worrying every moment that you might be.”

Worrying. Hannibal Lecter doesn’t… worry. Will says so himself and Hannibal just shakes his head.

“I do now. Every time I look at you I see something so remarkably precious that my heart seizes at the thought of its loss. It is… uncomfortable.”

Will just stares, desperately trying to force away the matching need that rips at his insides.

“It is irrational,” Hannibal continues, “to think that sleeping beside you will somehow allow me to better protect you.”

He tightens his coat around him, blinks around the cold whipping over his face.

“But that is love,” he says, “he paid me a visit and refuses to leave, despite staying long past his welcome.”

It’s the first time Hannibal has openly admitted anything close to love, and it pulls a sound from Will that is half shock and half relief. He wants to respond with something, almost anything so long as it’s not his violent reciprocation. Neither of them are ready for that.

Instead, he says nothing. The train rattles on. Hannibal exhales shakily.

“You cracked something open in me, Will. On the edge of the bluff.” He turns and looks at him, face soft and unguarded. “I don’t know how to close it up.”

His eyes are lined with tears and Will is swallowed up by an awful urge to embrace him. He remains frozen, hand twitching over the guard rail.

“I thought,” Will begins softly, but he lets the words trail away. Too crass and unfiltered a notion to match such a confession.

“You thought what?” Hannibal replies, plucking the thoughts from Will’s mind as easily as ripe berries, “you thought I wished to fuck you?”

The expletive is more surprising than the implication, and Will chokes a little on the crisp air, watches as the wisps of his exhalation disrupt into staccato peels of grey.

“No, that’s not,” he coughs again, more to cover the fact that he has no worldly idea how to finish that thought without lying.

“Of course it is,” Hannibal says calmly, “and of course I do.”

One warm hand, softened by leather, rests over Will’s bare one.

“I do, however, possess a modicum of self-control when it comes to you.”

Will laughs. Honest-to-goodness belly laughs, loud and raucous into the night.

“No you fucking don’t!” He grins madly, chest heaving. He doesn’t think he’s ever laughed this much in his life.

Hannibal smiles with his teeth, which is as good as a laugh in return. His hand does not move.

“You are perhaps unaware of what I have restrained myself from in the past.”

Will snorts.

“Was this before or after you tried to cut my head open?”

“If you recall I refrained from doing so.”

“Only because we were interrupted by Verger’s coterie of assclowns. That’s a get-out-of-jail-free card you won by chance. You didn’t earn it.”

He flips his hand underneath Hannibal’s so that their palms touch, laces their fingers together and rubs a thumb over his knuckles.

“Fucking me, you will earn.”

Hannibal’s eyes light with enough flame to warm them both. Will shivers.

The unasked question of how strings from Hannibal’s closed lips and Will tugs Hannibal closer, turning them so his back is pressed to Hannibal’s chest and he is fit snug between him and the rail. He pulls one of Hannibal’s arms over his shoulder, then the other, wrapping the man around him like a heavy scarf.

“By keeping me warm,” he answers, “you can start there.”

Hannibal’s mouth is pressed to his neck but he does not kiss. The warmth of his lips sears like a brand, but he stays still, does not ask.

“Yes,” Will replies again, “you can do that too.”

One soft and lingering kiss is stamped into his skin, threaded with passion but oddly chaste. When Will finishes sighing, Hannibal removes his mouth, tucks his chin over Will’s shoulder and breathes in the clean scent of his hair.

The train rattles on.