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Hannibal is cutting into him.

 

Blood sprays in a mist from his forehead, drops catching in the light and falling back down to land on his cheeks, his lips.

 

It feels like rain.

 

The hum of the saw vibrates through his temples and down his ribcage, like a tuning fork. The sound drowns everything else out. It is peaceful.

 

Jack's mouth is wide open. There are tears. Will thinks he might be screaming.

 

His eyes flutter, drift shut and pull open again.

 

He thinks of forgiveness.

 

He thinks of love.

 

He thinks of teacups.

 

He sees one suspended in space, neither falling nor righting itself. It is just there, poised in the velvet black, awaiting instruction.

 

More blood drips down his face, between his eyes. It doesn't hurt.

 

In the space behind his eyelids, the teacup shifts and shimmers. Something jolts within him and a hairline crack forms along the rim.

 

A voice says soon enough it will break.

 

Will replies it's not too late to fix it.

 

The buzzing in his head stops.

 

His whole face is wet, a mixture of tears and spit, of old and new blood. Jack's screaming is there, somewhere, hoarse in the distance.

 

Suddenly everything hurts.


His voice breaks in the middle of the pain, halfway through a guttural cry that lolls him forward. Hannibal catches him.

 

The fracture crawls backwards.

 

Hannibal's hand is beneath his chin, bringing their eyes together. Between their gaze is a long thread, knotted and tangled. Caught in the knots are slivers of sorrow, yearning, regret.

 

Neither of them can undo these knots, Will thinks, until one of them lets go.

 

Hannibal wipes the blood from his face, examines his pupils, mouth pursed and clinical.

 

"You will need a doctor," he says.

 

He lets go.

 

Will closes his eyes. The teacup starts to fall. It does not shatter.

 

Outside, he hears the first drops of rain.

 

-x-

 

He wakes in a hospital bed, head sewn shut. He touches a hand to the bandage, wonders if they've sewn Hannibal in there with him.

 

Jack is sleeping in a chair at his side, poorly sprawled and exhausted even in his slumber.

 

Will calls his name. He wakes.

 

He doesn't ask what happened. Jack doesn't tell him. He pats his leg, tells him he needs another week to recover, then they can leave Italy.

 

Will looks outside the shuttered window. The sun is shining. He asks when the rain had stopped.

 

Jack looks at him with a weary kindness.

 

"It never started."

 

Will turns his head, rubs at the stitches holding him together. He thinks of the other stitches that can’t be seen, broken threads that hang loose and fraying, waiting to be cut.

 

He sleeps for almost two days. Jack leaves and doesn't come back. Abigail visits him once, in the first hours of morning, touches his hand. He doesn't see her face.

 

When he dreams, he dreams of Hannibal's face, benevolent and flecked with blood. He dreams of his eyes, lost and searching for the handle of the teacup in the dark. He dreams of Hannibal’s mouth forming around his name. It sounds like a puzzle he can't solve.

 

When he wakes, seasick and shipwrecked all at once, Hannibal is watching over him.

 

"I will come for you," he says, "when the rain returns."

 

He kisses Will, once. It tastes like scorched earth.

 

His shadow is gone before Will can summon it back.

 

-x-

 

He heals, as he always has.

 

He gets on the plane for America because they tell him to.


Someone tells him they will send his boat back across the ocean. He thinks of her, an empty ghost traveling against her will, and aches.

 

When he arrives home, Alana collects him. She drives him home, refuses to look at him. He thinks it is anger, but when her eyes finally catch his in the rearview mirror, her guilt hits him hard like the drop from the edge of a cliff.

 

"You sent them after me," he tells her.

 

She shakes her head, spills a pretty crystal tear.

 

"After him," she says, "and he killed them all. After he tried to kill you."

 

"He saved me," Will says, and he means it every way he can. Alana looks like she might be sick.

 

She pulls the car into his driveway, the dogs skitter out in a frenzy. He smiles for the first time in weeks and it stings, like the fresh stretch of newly formed scar tissue.

 

Alana helps him out, he shakes her arm away, thanks her tersely. She catches at his elbow.

 

"We won't stop," she promises, "we'll find him."

 

The ice-blue of his eyes melts to something unstable, a chemical compound on the verge of reaction.

 

"I hope I'm there when you do."

 

-x-

 

Summer burns calescent through Virginia. Will leaves out extra dishes of water for the dogs, opens all the doors and windows.

 

He opens them at night too, when the air starts to thicken with heat. After a week he stops closing the windows entirely, leaves everything open.

 

He thinks of himself, flung wide and waiting. He prays for rain.


The sun just smiles.

 

Cicadas weave their song into the night, the heavy drone circulating through the empty rooms. The buzz is comforting, until it isn't. It reminds him of blood and bone and things remade. He wonders what the point to being fixed is if there is no one there to try and break you again.

 

He drinks. He works. He misses.

 

It becomes the hottest summer on record, and Will Graham decides that if there is a God then he is clearly laughing at him. Decides as an afterthought that he probably deserves the mockery, having fallen in love with the devil.


He thinks of Hell as a rainforest, verdant and swallowed in green. He thinks of the creatures in its kingdom, beautiful poisonous things with skin that shines in the downfall. He thinks he would be at home there.

 

Brian visits, once, voice soft and eyes gentle. He brings whiskey, the good kind, and they sit on the porch and drink. For a while, they are silent. It's nice.

 

Then Brian reaches out with a wavering hand and touches at his fingers. Will doesn't look at him but he can feel the foreign desire spidering into his veins. He wonders when that started, or if he had always missed it.


He moves his hand away quietly, disconnects the tentative charge.

 

"Sorry," Brian mumbles, "I thought you were-"

 

Will laughs, but his well of mirth has run dry. "I don't know what I am."

 

He can feel Brian looking at him, feel himself transforms under his gaze into something a little less wanted.

 

"I just thought," Brian coughs, shifts in his chair, "with him, I mean -"

 

Will snorts, kicks back the rest of his glass, lets the words hang awkwardly in the air.

 

Brian's mouth hangs open a moment longer, then he nods. He drains the last of his whiskey as a balm, too much to take in one gulp, and he winces.

 

"I should go," he says feebly.

 

Will fixes his eyes on the porchlight, at the moths circling in helpless intrigue.

 

"Yeah," Will says, "you probably should."

 

-x-

 

Summer turns to fall and the heat remains, violently stubborn. Leaves turn shades of ochre and gold, dropping crisp and dry from the trees like so many dead things.

 

Will hopes foolishly for a sign, a postcard, a letter, something. He begins to believe that perhaps his last visitation had been a ghost, the dry kiss pressed to his mouth a missive from the underworld. He tries to remember the taste of Hannibal's lips, but when he presses his fingers to them all he can feel is flame.

 

His boat is returned to him, weathered from both journey and lack of care. In a fit of misguided hope, he checks her for stowaways, looks in every corner that shadows could lurk. When he finds himself opening cupboard doors, he starts to laugh, hysterical, until he cries. The wetness on his cheeks mocks him.

 

"It's raining now," he whispers, "where are you?"

 

The air around him is still and sterile and does not reply.

 

He drives home in his own silence, windows down. When he opens his front door, the phone rings.

 

He runs to it, heart pounding so hard and sudden he thinks he might fall to his knees before he can clasp the receiver. He answers on the third ring, voice wild with longing.

 

"Hannibal?" he says, before he can stop himself. He feels the coldness at the other end of the line instantly.

 

"Jesus Christ," Jack says. He sounds disgusted.

 

Will drops his head, rubs a hand at the back of his neck.

 

"Fuck." He starts to apologize, considers, decides not to bother.

 

Jack does an admirable job of shaking it off, tells him about a new case, asks if he can come in and take a look. Will tells him yes, says he'll be glad for the distraction.

 

"Clearly," Jack replies, and cuts the line. He doesn't say goodbye.

 

-x-

 

Someone is removing the hearts of young girls and leaving them to be found between the stacks in the public library. They're laid out in open books, highlighting passages that speak of doomed love in a messy crimson. Two librarians quit. One threatens to sue the city.

 

It's boring. It's pedestrian.

 

Hannibal could have done so much better.


The pendulum swings. Will sees.

 

The first librarian, the one who hadn't threatened to sue, had fallen in love with one of the girls that came to read to children on Saturday mornings. They had bonded over their shared love of classical literature, gone on little coffee dates and walks about the city. The girl was young, fresh out of college and enamoured with the world. The librarian was a bit older, forty three and admittedly past her prime. She had resigned herself to a life alone, was comfortable in her tidy house with her first print editions. But this new flame of passion excited and frightened her, and she spent long evenings composing sonnets of a decidedly obsessive nature, all devoted to the woman she believed to be her soulmate. When the librarian had learned the girl was engaged to be married, she had descended into madness.

 

She murdered multiple clones, pert and vibrant blondes taken from bars and college campuses, never the same place twice. Each heart she took, she left in a book they had shared together, highlighting passages they could each quote from memory.

 

The girl has read the headlines, she knows who must be doing this, but she hasn’t said anything. Not yet. She’s scared. The librarian thinks it’s because she loves her, and so she hasn’t killed her yet

 

She’s saving her for last.

 

This is her design.

 

The pendulum swings back. Will opens his eyes.

 

"We're looking for a man," he says, "young, mid-20s. Jealous ex. This was the last one,” he points to the heart, “he got her. He’s not going to do it again.”

 

Jack squints. "That what you see?"

 

Will nods. "Yeah."

 

Three more women die before Jack drags him back by the collar to the library, tells Will to look again, goddamnit. He does, tells the truth this time. Jack is fuming.

 

"I was wrong," Will says, "I thought-"

 

"Save it," Jack barks, "save the girl instead."

 

Will gestures to the heart that sits lumpy and cold between the pages of Wuthering Heights.

 

"Can't."

 

Price looks at him like he's a monster. Zeller looks like he's going to cry.

 

Jack fires him on the spot.

 

Will leaves without a fight. He has things to do.

 

-x-

 

The librarian's name is Thomasina Stubbs and she has already started running. She is easy to find. Will traces the hotel she has boarded her cats in, from there he finds the nearest cheap motel in a five mile radius. She's not ready to be that far away from her babies just yet, isn't ready to say goodbye.


Her mistake.

 

He finds her room, ground floor and close to her car, jimmies the lock on the door. She is sleeping. Her face is grooved with dried tear tracks.

 

He smothers her with a pillow. She doesn't struggle.

 

Removing her heart is more difficult than he thought it would be. It's a mess. His hands are sticky-warm even through the latex gloves. He thinks of blood-stained hands that aren't his own, wonders if Hannibal would stand and admire or join in.

 

He leaves her heart by her bedside, between the pages of the book he brought with him. When Jack gets called to the scene, he will find it. He will know.

 

Will packs up the knife, wipes the blood from his face, walks out into the starless night.

 

He looks up at the sky. Clouds roll in heavy above him. Thunder rumbles in the distance.

 

The first drop of rain hits Will's face.

 

He gets into his car and heads home.

 

-x-

 

He pulls into his driveway, headlights off. Rain spatters against the windshield.

 

When he opens the car door, the scent hits him and almost knocks him sideways.

 

Earth, coming to life again.

 

It's beautiful.

 

He moans, doesn't care who hears, tilts his face towards the sky to let the water streak his cheeks.

 

"You'll catch a cold," says a voice from the porch.

 

Will looks down, shakes the drops from his eyes.

 

"I've been waiting for the cold," he replies.

 

“No.”

 

Hannibal steps into the light.

 

"You've been waiting for the rain."

 

Will takes a step towards him, then another, then another until he is tripping on his feet and Hannibal is forced to catch him.

 

He sees the clean thread reaching between them. Will digs in the needle and sews the first stitch.

 

"I've been waiting," Will's eyes are wet, "for you."

 

Hannibal kisses him. He tastes like rain.

 

Will drinks him, drowns in him, clutching and grabbing for purchase amidst the downfall. He can feel Hannibal crumbling beneath him, broken sounds spilling from his throat as his tongue slides into Will's mouth.

 

"You taste of blood," he purrs, pleased and wrecked at once.

 

Will runs water-slicked hands through his hair. "I just cut out a heart."

 

"Yes," Hannibal says, "you did."

 

From within Will's pocket, his phone starts to buzz. He knows who it is.

 

"We need to leave.”

 

Hannibal nods, nudges his nose at the side of Will's face. "Everything is ready."

 

The words are cool and wet in his ear and Will shivers.

 

"Fuck,” he kisses Hannibal’s cheek, “of course it is.”

 

He hops up the steps, swings open the door and grabs the duffle bag he left in the entryway.

 

"We're taking the dogs." His tone brooks no room for argument. Hannibal doesn't try.

 

"Of course," he replies, "there's room in the van."

 

Will laughs, pure and joyous, at the thought of Hannibal driving a minivan.

 

"Okay," he smiles wide, "let's go."

 

-x-

 

Hannibal takes him to a safe house overlooking the ocean. The rain pours into it. Will wonders if it will overflow and drown them.

 

He settles the dogs, drags in his bag, doesn’t unpack. They won’t be here for long.

 

They dry off and change into warmer, softer clothes. Hannibal shows Will the master bedroom, doesn’t bother with the guest rooms.

 

He opens a bottle of wine, pours them each a glass. They toast silently, watch the downpour through the windows.

 

“This is a beautiful house,” Will says.

 

Hannibal nods. “I took Abigail here, once.”

 

Will shrugs. “Big deal, I took her to Italy.”

 

He is silent a moment before his lips quirk and Hannibal actually laughs.

 

“I knew when I met you that there was a delicious sense of humour under all that gruffness.”

 

Will tips his glass in deference. “You had a hand in crafting it. You and your terrible fucking puns.”

 

Hannibal takes the glass from his hand, places it beside his on the dining table. He sets his hands at Will’s waist.

 

“That we can speak like this, and be free and laugh. Together, Will. It’s all I have ever wanted.”

 

Will raises one eyebrow, tilts his head.

 

“All?”

 

He leans into Hannibal’s touch, wraps one hand around the back of his neck.

 

Hannibal swallows thickly. His eyes flash.

 

“There are other things,” he admits.

 

Will pulls Hannibal’s mouth down to his, teases their lips together in a not-quite kiss.

 

“Tell me,” he murmurs.

 

Hannibal groans, a pleading thing.

 

“Will,” he begs, “you must allow me to make love to you.”

 

Will considers his request, thinks of all the literally blood-soaked 18th century literature he’s been steeped in of late. He decides there is no possible way it could have led to anything else except a known cannibal formally requesting to fuck him like this is a goddamn cotillion.

 

He reconsiders. Hannibal is not requesting to fuck him. There is no room for fucking in this space they have created for themselves.

 

“Will?” Hannibal’s voice is soft and hesitant. He is waiting.

 

Will kisses him hard enough to bruise. “Yes,” he says firmly, kissing him again. “Yes.”

 

Hannibal leads him to the bedroom by hand, glancing behind himself every few seconds as though Will is a wandering spirit that is wont to disappear.

 

When they cross the threshold, Hannibal stands him before the bed and undresses him silently. He makes no move to kiss or touch any exposed skin, just carefully disrobes him. When Will is naked, Hannibal kneels before him. He feels like a sacramental offering.

 

Perhaps Hannibal is, and Will is the vengeful God. Either way, he accepts.

 

He threads his fingers through his hair, pulls Hannibal towards him. Hannibal’s arms cling to his waist and squeeze tight. He buries his face in Will’s stomach, says his name over and over.


Will strokes his hair, murmurs formless words of assurance.

 

He understands. This new closeness is raw, takes a little adjusting. It’s like stepping into a too-hot bath, in time they will succumb to the warmth of it.

 

When Hannibal stands, Will reaches out with shaking fingers, presses a palm to Hannibal’s chest.

 

“May I?”

 

Hannibal twines Will’s hand in his, drags their joined fingers down to the hem of his shirt. They pull it off together.

 

Will makes quick work of the fastening of his trousers, kneels to strip him bare.

 

“Forgive me,” Hannibal says, “I was prepared but I was not prepared. I don’t have-”

 

Will nuzzles at his hipbone. “We have enough to learn,” he says, “and time to do it in.”

 

They lay on the bed, side by side. Each gentle touch is another stitch that draws their bodies closer and tighter together. They kiss with tenderness, hands pawing at faces and slowly, slowly seeking lower. Then lower still.

 

Hannibal is the first to touch, and when he takes Will in hand they both cry out. He licks his palm first to ease the friction, then rubs at the growing slickness, spreading it down.

 

Will’s neck is arched and Hannibal bites his chin, licks after to soothe.

 

He digs fingers into Hannibal’s shoulders, pries one hand free and presses it down, down with seeking fingers until the heel of his palm brushes over hot and sensitive skin. One thigh hooks around Hannibal’s hip and he pulls the man atop him, releasing him from his grip and letting them thrust against each other.

 

It is simple, and easy, and good.

 

It is home.


Will tugs Hannibal’s hand from him and brings it to his face. Hannibal’s thumb grazes over his cheek and he bends to kiss him, doesn’t stop.

 

They find a lazy rhythm, Will opens his thighs and lets Hannibal settle between. One of them moans, or perhaps the other, they swallow each other down, licking with hungry mouths. Will wraps his arms around Hannibal’s neck, revels in the slide of sweat-slickened skin.

 

Will thinks of making love, of the frayed threads that join and knit between them. He decides that whatever they are making, whether it is love or not, he will keep it.

 

When Hannibal comes, he weeps openly. Will holds his face between his hands, lets the tears wash him like a baptism.

 

“Will,I -” his voice cracks, and he can’t say any more, so he drops his head to Will’s neck and mouths the last two words over his pulse.

 

The needle pokes straight through his heart and tugs out again, taking Will’s whole body with it. He rises from the bed, crushes Hannibal’s mouth to his, every nerve ending between them fused together. He feels everything.

 

He comes with such force that is blinded by it, all that is left is the sound of Hannibal’s breath, the drops of his tears as they land on his cheeks.

 

It feels like rain.

 

They lay together, chest to chest, hands clutched between them. Hannibal’s nose brushes his. He can’t stop staring.

 

"What did you do with the heart?" he asks. His tone is almost innocent.

 

"I didn't keep it," Will arches an eyebrow, "so you can't eat it."

 

Hannibal has the grace not to pout.

 

"I left it in a book," he admits.

 

“Which one?”

 

Will colors a little and looks down, watches Hannibal stroke his knuckles. "The Iliad."

 

He looks back up at Hannibal's face, caught in a rare moment of surprise.

 

"I left it open to a very specific passage."

 

Hannibal brings Will’s hand to his mouth, held between both of his own. He kisses his fingertips.

 

"What a romantic you are," he murmurs, awed.

 

“Shut up,” Will says, and kisses him breathless, because he can. As many times as he likes. Hannibal drapes a leg over his, cards a hand through his hair.

 

Will tugs the last stitch tight between them, ties off the thread. He smiles. It doesn’t hurt.

 

"Do we conquer Troy now?"

 

Hannibal shakes his head, presses them together. Nose to nose, hip to hip.

 

"No, my darling." He kisses the rain from Will's eyes. It keeps falling.

 

“Now we conquer the world."