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On Through the Shallows

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If he did want to talk about it, he wouldn't say.

So he doesn't.

It's gotten easier to stomach Hannibal's acts and easier to share uneasy space with him and nothing less than. Well. Comforting to look him in the eyes. Through sheer exposure, that's where Will has ended up with him.

Hannibal is a territory entirely separate from himself, but Will considers him comfortable. Considers his closeness a familiarity he is allowed to trust. (The steady shoulders and solid back and unshakable presence - not the man. It shouldn't even be possible, but here they are.)

Will doesn't want to talk about the Dragon, about not dying, about Hannibal gathering their pieces and calmly dragging them to shore, to safety, to this boat and away.

So he doesn't speak to him for weeks; they live their separate lives in their small space.
And then Will decides to insult him.

Meals are uncharacteristically modest on the boat. But Hannibal Lecter takes pride in his creations regardless.

Hannibal's smile persists. When Will works on the boat or fixes something or is more clever than Hannibal expects, out comes the subtle smile. The same self-congratulating one he used to make when serving meals in his dining room.

Here we go:

"I can almost visibly see you not making one of your awful dad jokes," Will finally bites out when Hannibal presents him with lunch.

The burn snaps out into the waves-and-silence that's been surrounding them on all sides. Almost flares red in the air between them. Hannibal shifts back slightly before he puts their plates down and sits opposite and hesitates to say, "Dad jokes," in a voice that's supposed to be mmhmm okay instead of lost and confused.

But make no mistake: He's lost.

"The little ha-ha moments you had with yourself making jokes about 'having friends for dinner' and whatever when you were..." he blows out a breath, shuffles his hair out of his eyes. "When you were serving people."

"Serving... people," Hannibal repeats, agonizingly milking the double-meaning out of it. And it only goes to prove Will's point when he... yep. Smirks just a little.

"That," Will picks up his fork and waves with it. "That, exactly."

Hannibal only frowns some and goes back to satisfied and quiet. Picks up his own fork and knife to begin savoring careful mouthfuls. No two loads piled onto his fork will be the same. More or less sauce, more or less side, a different morsel of vegetable or starch. A sip of wine between them or not. Infinite variety.

The repeated glances from him lend an unusual repetition to the meal.

Will tries to ignore it. Digs in. Not with the same subtlety or appreciation, maybe, but it's a good, heavy meal that speaks to him in ways he hasn't been conversing with the chef.

This meal is rich enough to mean, That's enough, now, Will. Enough to weigh him down with thick, savory sauce, heavy cuts of meat. The flavor of it is one Hannibal knows he likes - he will clean his plate. It will result in a heavy belly. It will make it uncomfortable for him to crouch in the engine room and keep his heels under him. It will make him sweat and shift more if he tries.

The chef is telling Will that he's done working for the day.

Will sighs and, yeah, keeps eating.

"How would you define a 'dad joke'?" Hannibal finally gives in and asks outright.

Will is so tired.
Will is almost too tired not to simply be with him.

His gut feels uncomfortable enough without finishing his plate. He's healed by now so that's just a result of.

Of Hannibal.

He only eats enough and puts his fork down. Decides not to finish. It makes Hannibal frown some but after another glance without Will looking away, he doesn't comment.

Will is in the middle of reaching to snag a string from the elbow of Hannibal's sweater before he knows what he's doing. He stops. But extends two fingers, anyway. And pulls the stray to fold it in his napkin. He decides, "A dad joke is a really lame pun that makes you stare off across the room and wish for death. Dads tell them because they're trying to be clever and ruin your sense of humor through overexposure at the same time."

"Humor so thick it's uncomfortable," he sinks his fork into the thickened jus as if illustrating his understanding. Good but also intolerable.

"Pretty much," he puts his napkin on the table and moves to take his plate to the sink.

Hannibal's disapproval rises in his eyes but he hesitates to really stop him. "Will," he simply says.

He didn't mean to start talking to him today. It was that thing his face does.

(It's the way his hands look on the door when he comes down to get Will for meals.)

"I still have three days of work before we can get going. We'll run out of supplies if it takes longer."

Hannibal doesn't repeat his name, only rises to take his plate and watch him leave the cabin.

«»

Will knows Hannibal endures the noise in the engine room for longer than he should simply because he's waiting Will out. He stands and stands and doesn't move. Hannibal doesn't mistake it for blindness. He knows that Will knows that he is there.

He's only been down here for another hour after lunch, but already he's made a lot of progress. And the medical professional inside Hannibal still wants him to stop for the day.

The generator makes a lot of noise, even with everything else shut off, but he can finally remove the protective headphones and wipe his brow. Stand up. Toss the tools aside. Hannibal offers him a towel and the open door.

He takes the towel. And thinks of turning away again.

But fine. Fine, alright.

He heads back up and Hannibal follows.

After a while of watching him towel off in the sun, he comments, "There is no set schedule. I have ample opportunity for supplying this vessel for at least three more weeks."

Will doesn't comment. And he doesn't know why.

(Does know why.)

He feels the truth tug in his chest and he doesn't want to say it but the weeks of silence are wearing on him in exactly the opposite way that Hannibal's presence is. One is unexpectedly exhausting. The other is growing on him.

Not growing on. No. It's not that.

Healing. Weirdly it feels like it's setting him to rights.

"How can you get these supplies?" he challenges. "I can't imagine you can afford to pay a contact more than the bounty on our heads."

Every movement silent, Hannibal comes to the rail at his side. Grips it first, then slots in next to him, careful not to touch.

Until he's there.
Until Will has looked over and then he presses his warm arm to Will's side. Leans into him.

"I have yet to express my condolences. You're quite dead," Hannibal smiles just so. "As am I. There's been too much collective federal pressure on the FBI to maintain us as an open file worthy of pursuit. And too little evidence that we may have survived. You'll be buried a hero for ridding the world of Dolarhyde and then myself. Lauded. A funeral has been planned by your wife, though unsanctioned by the authorities. In a show of finality, the division chief has expressed her intention to attend. You will be honored."

Will breathes and stares down into the water.

He doesn't feel himself.

Rather, he doesn't feel like whatever he would have felt before. So many of those things just don't fucking matter anymore that it's staggering to remember how much he thought they did.

Some things do still matter. But in a distant way that he has to track down and follow, huffing like the stag in his head used to.

Okay.

"We'd still be worth reporting."

"Not with hats on," Hannibal is still smiling.

Weeks without speaking. Weeks of healing and being repaired and being fed and not thanking him for it. And one casual conversation over a lunch intentionally cut short makes a damn smiler out of his vicious serial killer all over again. Returns all his former glee to him.

For the first time since the blood in the moonlight, Will smiles back. He genuinely doesn't know what to do here. But it isn't scaring him. He thinks for a moment. "What can you do with zucchini? Do we have zucchini?"

Will hasn't seen a perk that joyful since the last time one of his dogs welcomed him home.

"We have zucchini. Any specific requests?"

He frowns, shakes his head. "Go nuts." Will looks away and feels Hannibal considering him.

Hannibal does. At length. Moving would shake him off. Going inside for a shower and then wandering out back to fish. It would separate them again.

God. It's a line from a damn Cusack movie, he just realized that. I'm too tired not to be with you.

While that's hardly a good basis for a relationship, eating people is probably worse.

Instead of staring at the water more, he turns. And keeps talking. And watches Hannibal hang off every syllable.

"I like squashes. I don't know. And summer vegetables. I always have. I just never got them a lot. It was one of those things I rejected as a kid and then there was never opportunity to cook it for myself as an adult."

"You should have those things which you enjoy, Will. You deserve them."

That backhanded psychology stuff again. "I know. Alright?" he sighs. "I know you've been doing all the work." He uses one thumbnail to scratch grease out from under the other. "I know I don't deserve-"

"I meant it," Hannibal moves away to lean back against the rail. Turn his back on the sun and tries to speak directly to Will, who feels like avoiding him again. "You do deserve things. You've been working hard. You've been fixing the boat. Catching fish for meals. I may cook them, I may keep the clothes and sheets clean, I may retrieve supplies. But you aren't slacking, Will. Even if you were." He doesn't finish.

Even if he was, Hannibal wouldn't care.

Will sees now.

He sees. Sees what he is and sees what the world is in the shadow of Their Might.

In the shadow of Dragonslayers.

He understands and sees. He doesn't have to like it or enjoy it, but he does. He wants Hannibal alive in the world with him if that's just how things are going to be and he does see and he will endure it. His heart still skipping as he wakes, sweat still soaking his sheets--

And Hannibal changes them in the morning. Washes and dries the sheets and they do it all again the next day.

What it seems Hannibal sees.
Is that Will shares his species.

The only true cannibalism would be if he'd had the opportunity to partake.

Will's fingers are absent, skidding over the scar at the top of his head.

He's been leaving Hannibal alone and, if he's honest with himself, this is why weeks of silence have persisted:

There is no power dynamic anymore and there can't be. He was waiting to see if Hannibal would wait for him. Would meet him as an equal or push him as a lesser.

Hannibal considers their work as equal tasks. He says that Will has been putting in work. Just as much as he has.

Will lifts a hand and brings it up to Hannibal's arm. There's no loose string to pull this time. His sleeves are pushed up to his elbows. Will rests his hand there. Then squeezes. Feels the power in his arm. Just the forearm, even. Grown tense and powerful from kneading bread, choking out victims, et cetera.

It's beautiful. Horrific, the things he can do. Beautiful the power it's given him.

Power Hannibal has decided to share.

He lets his thumb drift over, over, over. "I want the engine and everything to work. I think we should go," he wavers. "Someplace away. It's a good ship. It'll get us pretty far. That's what I'm focusing on."

"I appreciate it. I'll focus on you," Hannibal says while focusing on Will. "You're a good man. You'll get us pretty far," his accent trips along Will's speech pattern oddly enough for them to both smile again.

"You'll have to teach me a different language, maybe."

"We speak the one that matters."

That they do.

«»

Hannibal dares to begin conversation this time. He's done letting Will direct things if they're talking again and that's just fine. He cuts directly through the bullshit. "You were silent in your resentment," he declares. "You were angry that we survived. In the face of the Red Dragon, I declared suicide my enemy and you threw us both up against it and did not expect us to live. But here we are. And you are done resenting me for it," he says with only an edge of a question.

"I don't know." He finds that he's a lot more comfortable not knowing, lately. It's okay to not know. Admitting it gives him time to work it out. Time without pressure. (Time in the absence of Jack Crawford, who is the embodiment of pressure.)

"You were silent," Hannibal helpfully repeats. "What did you think of in your silent time?" He's trying to help Will get to his answer.

Will shrugs. Sips his wine. "I thought about how I had a chance to go back once you'd healed me. I thought about all the ways it could go."

"What kinds of ways could it have gone?"

Another sip. "Cyclical," he admits. "Every way was the way it had gone before. With me running and you following. Me pretending I can't see and you making... paintings out of what you knew I could see. Because you're not a fan of my denial."

Hannibal's eyes narrow at the mandolin he's slicing on. "I am a fan of all your many aspects. I find some of them," he weighs his words. "Trying."

"Inconvenient," Will adds.

Hannibal does not deny this. "You were thinking on returning then."

"Not in any serious way. More as an exercise in optimism. I thought about how I could force it out of its cycle and I realized how it would be nearly impossible while adhering to the rules."

"Laws and social mandates. Don't you feel more free outside of them?"

"I don't know," he admits again. "I don't know that I feel free thinking I'm unable to show my face anywhere. But I know now that, if I'm supposedly dead and a little gray grows into me," he scratches at the hair on his chin, "I might just be free someplace else. But there are self-imposed restraints when living as you do, Hannibal."

"Not many. All games have rules. I tell dad jokes about them."

Will huffs a laugh. "You do. Yes, you do," he polishes off his glass. Between tasks, Hannibal wipes his hands and comes to refill it from the bottle.

He pauses and watches Will take the first sip and nod to him. "You are right in that I would follow."

Things Hannibal doesn't admit: That they need each other now. That they want each other now. That he is drawn to Will. He just says, you're right, I wouldn't leave you on your own.

Will looks within himself now. Asks why he would touch Hannibal to kill them both but not to heal them both.

Hannibal has been doing it since they dragged themselves on board. He sewed them both up, kept bandages clean, hauled Will to bed when he passed out. Even though Will has intended harm to him in the past, done harm to him in the past. Still, he actively cares.

Will would reach for Molly when he needed her. Outside of the life-and-death-stuff, he doesn't much need Hannibal. But finds balance with him. It feels good to reach for him; it doesn't just feel needy.

(He needed Molly so much. Leaned on her so much. Was so heavy on her and she didn't deserve that.)

He sits sideways at the table, leaning one elbow on it, twisting fingers over the stem of his glass. He offers his other hand up.

Hannibal smiles again. And takes it up to lean down over it. Brush a kiss over his knuckles. "Instead of scenarios of supposed optimism which end where they begin, consider, if you will, what it would be like if you simply chose to be happy here."

Will blinks a few times and Hannibal lets his hand go gently. Turns back to his work.

That would be asking a lot.

To be happy about Hannibal's needs and desires and impulses is to be happy about murder, bottom line.

He could see those dead who deserved it. After all, he is far beyond believing that courts mete out justice. He knows, now, that isn't the way the world works. But Hannibal won't be made into a vigilante for any other causes than those rules which he respects and imposes. They're not about to team up against the wrongdoers of the world. And Will's mind is still too opposed to bathing in blood and savoring it. He may be capable of saving himself in an attack, and he may have felt the rightness of things under the moon's glow. Neither of those, however, has filled him with an agenda. Some invisible list to cross off. He has no vendetta against the rude. No need to Become.

"I don't know who I would feel comfortable ending," he wonders aloud. "It doesn't draw me like it does some people. It doesn't make me feel any type of way that I need to feel on a consistent basis."

"Nor I," Hannibal says. "I take it as a challenge. I think you are grown enough in yourself and your needs that you feel the same."

Oh god. Will rolls his eyes at himself. "I know you don't watch tv, but-"

"I do. There are shows I enjoy on occasion."

"Chopped," he challenges.

Hannibal pauses his work for a moment. "Four contestants, a basket of three ingredients."

"Yeah. And inside? Mystery meat. You're playing Chopped," Will basically accuses him of it, dares him to deny it.

And he does. Another simple hesitation that Will catches.

"You are. You open a body, see what's inside, pick local and seasonal ingredients, and challenge yourself to put them together."

Again, he doesn't deny it. "In everyday life, who do you most find deserving of rebuke, but are too polite to deliver such a thing?"

"Wife beaters," he answers automatically. "Child abusers. People who kick dogs." It rolls right out of him. It's not as if he passes these people on the street everyday and he's too fucking classy to say anything. He's just seen too many of them slip back into the general population to continue on their merry way.

"What would you do to someone you saw kick an animal?"

"Tell them off."

"And what would you really want to do?"

Kick a hole on their chest.

When he doesn't say anything out loud, Hannibal finishes what he's doing and sets it aside. Turns and takes his own glass to nurse his wine and stare at Will. "When Molly recovers, finishes her mourning, and seeks a new companion for her life. And this stranger is bothered at his breakfast table for scraps and for play. And he shoves Winston with a knee? Kicks him when he won't away and leave him be?"

Will's gut churns over all of it. The repulsion is instant and vicious. Molly in her bed. Alone in her bed. Gray in her bed and in the arms of another man. Her son indifferent to a new man who gives him indifference back. Who might be cruel enough to bruise the dogs rather than tell her they have to go.

Molly isn't that careless or ignorant of what happens around her family. The fact that she still lives is a testament to that.

"It wouldn't happen."

"And if it did?"

Will finishes his wine. The silence may not have been entirely tolerable but at least I wasn't this. Hannibal's words, always delivered point-out. When Will wants the handle of a knife in Hannibal's presence, he needs to pull it out of his own soft belly, wound sucking around the blade.

«»

To end the night, Hannibal sketches, at least recently, for want of an instrument.

Will goes out to the deck with whiskey. He leaves it on a flat surface and looks out or wanders.

Tonight, he eventually wanders off the boat and onto the dock, feet silent.

There is a car that's been parked in the nearby lot for eight days. The boat's space has been rented out to a temporary resident. He doesn't know when the guy will be back, but it's the easiest car to hotwire. If there were cameras anywhere, Hannibal wouldn't be docked here, so those are no concern at all.

He still gets caught.

Feels him, first, to the southwest of the car, and so he isn't shocked when Hannibal slides next to the open door and looks in.

Will huffs and twists the wires and makes him wait. Makes him wait until he's turned the ignition with a screwdriver, then reaches to manually unlock the passenger door.

Hannibal seems to just materialize into the seat next to him.

"Are we visiting your wife?" he asks, when they make it onto 95.

"You can't call yourself a husband if you abandon your spouse."

"Widow."

Ex would be more accurate. "I honestly don't know if I was ever really married to her." It rings in the quiet of the interior and it feels truer than he wants it to. "I don't know if maybe you had me the whole time." He lets it go for another mile before he admits: "I didn't want you to. But sometimes it feels like you've been a more dedicated husband to me than I have been to Molly. She deserves more." He glances to Hannibal. "Murder husbands."

His head ticks to the side but Will can't see his expression between streetlamps and he needs to watch the road. Hannibal was never Freddie's biggest fan so the name probably makes him itch.

"The dogs should be staying with a vet we know while she's still out of town. Molly's in Louisiana. I looked up the article."

"Planning to bury you where she imagines you belong."

"Bury me with no body. A better spouse than me. A better mother than I was a father. I think she's trying to prove to Walter that I was the good guy. That I didn't allow what happened to her to keep happening." Will sighs. "So he doesn't have to live with hate eating him up from the inside for the rest of his life."

Hannibal doesn't make any more comment than that. From here, and for the next hour, he seems to observe. The drive is long, near enough to three hours from where they've got the boat parked on the coast. Into the middle of Maine. Hannibal does talk some, but he doesn't ask what Will intends to do when he gets to town.

They idle outside the parking lot of the animal hospital.

"There will be alarms," Hannibal says, squinting at the place.

"No, she lives about a quarter mile down the road, 'round the back," he points. "They'll be on the back porch, nice night like this."

Hannibal rolls down his window and puts his ear to the wind. "The car's exceptional volume will preclude us from taking it any nearer. How hard would it be to restart?"

Will cringes a little. "Hard."

Hannibal points. "Drive us into the clearing, idle without the lights."

"We'll have to take the running lights out."

"And we can drive back with the headlights," he unbuckles and turns in his seat to dig through the back. Comes up with a golf club.

Will parks as directed and kills all the lights he can. Hannibal gets out and bursts the running lights.

They head down the road on quiet feet.

"Can you not whistle for them?"

"If I whistle, they'll all come," he smiles. He knows Hannibal won't want that.

"I didn't know that wasn't the goal," Hannibal admits.

Well, no. Those dogs are-

He's really going to miss them. It chokes him, knowing how much he'll miss them.

But they deserve the good life Molly can give them.

So does Winston, but.

After today's conversation, he doesn't know if he can do this without Winston. And he doesn't need to make this harder on Hannibal. So the one dog will have to be all he insists on.

They creep near the house and only see two of them on the back porch.

No blood or guts necessary.

"Winston," he calls. Comes a little closer. Calls again. And this time he perks. Lily wakes but doesn't move. Doesn't even raise her head until Winston rises and turns and bounds over.

Into his hands, into his arms. And Will can hold him close and breathe against him and hear his heart. His giant heart.

Something untenses in Will's chest, in his shoulders, in his neck. He gasps relief and smiles. Fusses with Winston's ears and grips him tight again. Sinks fingers into his hair.

Lily comes up, whining for him and Will can't help but put his hand out to her. "Hey, girl, hey. Hi. God I missed you," he whispers. And he's near tears and that-- they're so important. They're so alive and so good and pure and he loves them. "You have to-"

But Hannibal crouches at his side and offers his hand. Joins in petting Lily and picks her up. She squirms and whines and strains towards Will some more but doesn't bark. Winston almost does and so they have to duck out fast. He pats his knee and rises. Pats again and backs up. Urges Winston to follow. "C'mon."

Hannibal is already leading the way off the property.

He holds Lily and Winston trots up to jog between them, thrilled.

When they get far enough, he offers, "I can take her."

"Mind Winston, I can handle this one."

"Lily."

"Lily. She is a manageable size," he turns down to speak to her. "She and Winston are among your cleaner brood."

Yes, that much Hannibal can appreciate. But Will doesn't wanna get them all the way back just to find he's changed his mind. Winston is staying. Will needs him. He doesn't want Hannibal to know it but he'll give almost anything for him. Lily is wonderful, quiet and kind and sympathetic. He doesn't want to leave any of them behind. But. "We can let her fetch something. Throw it and send her back and drive," he forces himself to offer.

Hannibal walks quietly for a moment. "They will be clean. I might help you on occasion but they need be clean. Will?"

He meets Hannibal's eyes in the light of the parking lot.

"If they are who you need? Your happiness is worth this."

Will inhales big. Nods. They get back to the car and get the dogs into the back.

Another might have come to investigate out the doggy door of the vet's house. He sees a flash of color in the rear view as he turns back toward the coast. But he won't stop for them.

He's making compromises with Hannibal now.
It really looks like they're gonna do this thing.

So okay.

He won't allow them on the furniture. He'll keep them clean and play outside with them and attempt to stop their barking.

He won't let them on the bed.

«»

There's just the one.

Hannibal took him there when he was all but unconscious. And, in order to keep an eye on his patient, he slept in that bed with Will.

Space is limited on the boat.

Will moved to the couch at one point, but it put strain on his wounds and his shoulder reopened. Had to be stitched closed twice.

They don't wake up in one another's arms. And the only reason he ever did put his arms around Hannibal was to throw them both from the cliff.

Splat. It was supposed to be a clatter and a fine fucking splatter and the ocean water washing them off the rocks for a couple hours until the gulls found them bobbing out well into the Atlantic. Some creatures eating creatures who ate creatures. Life. Burial at sea.

The impact knocked him out, but Hannibal? Is made of tougher stuff.

Swam them half a mile down and found a boat. Took that boat to the boat they're living on. One Hannibal bought at auction, nearby. One he clearly had every intention of showing Will onto someday. It's a converted old 80s yacht. A hearty beast. And he loves her greasy old engine. It's a joy to focus on.

A joy to crawl into bed at night, knowing the worst that could happen is that the scariest thing out there turns over next to him and gets annoyed with his sweating and shaking and decides to anesthetize him and take scoops from his muscles with a melon baller.

Amazing how much his mind has been tamed by the image.

Yes, the nightmares are still hot and heavy.
But also yes, he can feel their hard edges crumbling.

(Like the sea cliffs.)

They share. They share tight spaces and they share the bed.

And since yesterday, Hannibal is sharing his own joys with Will. His smiles have come back. They assure him in that deep-rooted way Hannibal's smiles used to, when they were becoming friends and having discussions and it was almost them-against-the-world. They feel good.

He's rattled by the thought over breakfast. Because it really is them-against-the-world, now. In ways more unshakable than ever before.

Will is planning on staying. Hannibal is planning on letting him. Hannibal let him keep both damn dogs.

Hannibal made the dogs a damn breakfast.

Chicken hearts in rice and broth for now, but he's going on about tahini and oregano and salmon. Something like that. And Will waits for him to take a breath. "Am I on your team?"

Hannibal gives him a sympathetic look, like he's rather slow this morning, and pointedly folds his napkin and gets up to retrieve his cold-brew from the fridge.

It takes his breath a little, in all honesty. He's spent so long being Team Kill The Ripper that this whole business where Hannibal is counting him as his equal is... hard to deal with?

Something in him is smart in ways that Hannibal somehow didn't have time to become smart.

There are things Hannibal didn't learn, like fucking boat engines, and Will did, and he's catching Hannibal in the act of admiring him.

Hannibal is letting Will catch him admiring him.

He's making accommodations and adjustments for Will.

His chest goes warm and he plants his head in his hand and watches Hannibal flavor, mix, shake, and ice the coffee the way Will likes it.

The glass is tall and cold and planted directly in front of him. And Hannibal stands next to him until Will's used to his proximity and then he cards his fingers into the curls at the back of Will's neck.

He wants this. Wants Will to be used to this. Wants to be here and watch Will learn and grow and find out how to live on the other side of what he's Become.

"I don't actually share your hobbies, you know," he says, looking up, voice thin because he can't believe this and he's really goddamn baffled, okay?

"I know," Hannibal agrees. "But imagine a world where you gave contentedness to yourself. Imagine a world where you let me make you happy. Where we experience things together and learn from one another."

Maybe Will is only afraid of that world because he spent years trying not to see it. Trying not to be okay with what Hannibal is.

You look at him and think, this guy is okay, and where does that leave you?

Hannibal has killed people who didn't deserve to be dead. Good people, people he knew and innocents and evil men.

It isn't only the evil who die. Fucking look at the two of them. They're here, kicking around on a boat. Living quite well, day-to-day.

Children die. God drops church roofs on grandmothers and trees on houses in Kansas and puts cars through intersections and gives babies cancer and strikes people down at any given phase in life. The world brutalizes itself. Admitting that Hannibal is just another force of nature--

They are just another force of nature. Will in the FBI with his guns and Hannibal in the dark corners with his sauté pan.

Christ.

He lifts his hand again and Hannibal frowns because Will's been petting the dog. But he takes it up and presses it to his own face for a long moment and lets him have it back.

No horns. No inky black insides or outsides.

He is freshly shaven and still fucking smiling.

This is his team. His companion. Hannibal was waiting for him to lose his filter and live for his needs and stop following rules and laws that God felt at liberty to break any damn time.

Why not us? Why must we live under threat of Him and not break the spines that He claims to own?

There's no reason. And no matter how deeply Will knows it, his own self rebels against the flagrant foodfight Hannibal's started with the Almighty. He doesn't care much for this shitfit and Hannibal's fine with Will's objections.

So long as he Sees. So long as he stops trying to contain himself.

Okay. Fine. What the hell. Sure. Okay.

Hannibal lets his hand go and Will curves it around the thigh that Tobias Budge pretty brutally fucked up.

"Yellow squash tonight, I think. We can work our way through each of the colors," Hannibal smiles.

Keeps fucking smiling.

Will's thumb drifts on his thigh, over his slacks, and he nods.

"Drink your coffee."

Yeah. He needs it. "I think I'll have everything done by today. We'll need more fuel."

"Make a list. And one for back-up parts. We'll get as many supplies as we can before we leave."

"Where are we going?"

"Where would you like to go?"

"I don't know. Someplace warm."

"Drink your coffee," he pats Will's hand.

«»

Winston knows tools. Winston's good at fetching tools. Uncommonly smart and patient. Lily doesn't like the noise and escapes to the kitchen.

After their evening walk, he notices the rented dock is vacant.

If the car owner is heading home, he'll find his car broken into and banged up and vandalized. Hannibal enjoyed himself using the screwdriver to carve shaky slurs into the paint. It looks like the guy got caught cheating.

Will really needs Winston to stop running up to it and wagging, excited, thinking they're going on another drive.

Dinner is summery and bright. Yellow and orange and red. Fiery and spiced.

Will has been helping make desserts. This time he helps with all the dishes.

This time, he shuts the door and shucks his shirt and gets into (their) bed and curls on his side, facing Hannibal. Says his name, says, "Hannibal."

"Will," he turns slightly.

"There's no reason to tolerate these people, is there? To avoid their eyes and walk around them. There never was."

"You felt there was. You gave them every opportunity to accept you. You tried your best."

"I can let go of that."

Hannibal nods. "You can." He wavers. "It may not be as easy as all that but I am here to help you feel at home in your own world. This world was made for you and for me, as much as those who may try to tame you, suppress you, keep you in line."

"You're on my team," he says, because it's their team.

"Yes. I want you to feel your power. Even if the only power you feel is to not be crushed. The days of fitting yourself in around other people are over. I no longer allow it, Will," he says with a firm edge of disapproval.

"I might not have the backbone for it."

"It's not a matter of backbone. You are no coward. You have been tested and tempered. You have earned the right to sit high atop your own spine. No one is allowed to take that from you."

Will thinks about this. His hand catches Hannibal's wrist under the sheets and he thinks about himself as Jack found him in his classroom. Thinks about shivering in the skins of other killers.

Thinks about how they now qualify as other killers. Weak ones he has taken part in caging and ending.

He has reasons to kill. There's a post on the end of the dock, taller than the others, that he stared at while bringing Lily and Winston back home today. Strolled out to it and put his palm at the jagged top of it. He would display someone there if they hurt the dogs. That's what Hannibal wanted to know. He would let their rib bones be chewed clean by the dogs and drop them into the water, after, for the fish. Let the empty chest be hollow around the log. Let the toes dip into the water at high tide. As a warning? Or just to make it stop.

He would.

Will closes his eyes and watches glass burst, watches Hannibal get shot through the side again.

He feels himself open the Dragon's belly with the knife again.

It rocks through him, sour and red. His hand tightens on Hannibal's wrist.

He falls asleep before he comes to his conclusions. But he doesn't fly awake from a nightmare. He sleeps, exhausted, and when Hannibal pulls away in the morning, he presses Will's head back down to the pillow and urges him to sleep more.

«»

Hannibal checks the window one too many times at lunch.

The car owner has arrived. Docked his boat back in its space again and, upon discovering his car, he's started to make the rounds, asking questions to see if anyone noticed when it happened.

"Is everything in working order?" he asks, trying not to be distracted, because it's rude.

"Yeah. I've got a list."

"Come into town with me, then."

"Before um. Well. The sun is still out. Do you really think that's a good idea?"

"You will have to practice walking with confidence. With your head held high. The more you act as if nothing is amiss, the more everyone is apt to believe you. And if I should come back to find officers assisting with Mr. Drummond's questioning, it will leave me with limited choices to return to you."

And, presumably, limitless choices of new cuts in the freezer.

Hannibal hires a private car and an SUV shows up. It's like a limo, with a partition between them and the driver, who asks no questions, only requests the next destination with a, "Sir?" Very private.

They pay cash for everything. Or, rather, Hannibal does, donning work gloves to haul boxes of supplies around. Four stops are sufficient. One to a postage box, another to a public storage locker, another for boat hardware, and, finally, a specialty market, where Hannibal stocks up on more jars and cans than Will has flat-out e v e r seen in his possession before. He normally shuns them for fresher fare.

Upon their return, the driver simply waits for them to unload their purchases and then leaves, with a tip, in cash. They're left almost literally in the dust with a pile of boxes and bags to get back down the dock, and into the boat.

Precarious. Because Mr. Drummond seems to have made the rounds all over and twigs to their arrival with a definite twitch. Comes out to his deck and watches them make several trips down to the boat, until the pile dwindles. Drummond's beer does, too, and he clacks an empty into the trash before coming one row over to harass them as they take the last of their haul out.

They've kept their heads down and, likely in an effort not to be called upon for help at his interruption, Drummond waited for them to be nearly done before he waddled over.

Hannibal's load is light and Will's got some bags that he... had thought were lighter earlier.

"'Scuse me," Drummond calls to Will.

Will tries to ignore him but is forced to pause and try to grip his last bundle of bags again as something shifts within.

"Excuse me," Drummond repeats. "You. Hey. Can I ask you something?"

Will huffs and tries to ignore the painful fucking pull in his shoulder and stay turned away from the man all at once.

It's when Drummond comes close enough to extend a hand and Will flinches away that Hannibal appears again. The sudden movement makes Will gasp in pain, bolts through his right side and an internal cringing to boot.

Drummond calls for his attention again and Will swears he. can. hear. heat. If he weren't in so much pain, he'd drop one bag, haul the heavier one up, and swing it at the bastard.

Hannibal comes up murmuring in... fucking... it sounds like maybe Portuguese?

Takes the bags off Will's hands and puts himself between Will and Drummond. He says something very clearly.

Again, in Portuguese.

And Drummond seems to get the hint that there's a language barrier. Sighs and curses.

Hannibal turns back, gathers both bags in one hand, and extends the other to Will. Whatever, "come now, darling," is in Portuguese, Will is pretty sure he hears it and lets himself be toted back to the boat, hand clamped tight within Hannibal's.

Lily circles his ankles as they come in, panting and excited.

Will's panting, too. He staggers to the couch and dumps himself onto it.

Hannibal finishes handling the groceries and moves two packages into the bedroom before he returns to kneel on the couch and motion Will forward. "Up," he prompts for his arms, and takes his shirt off of him.

He plants his warm hand against the wound and Will kinda falls back and luxuriates in how good that feels. "Don't stop," he slurs a little, eyes drifting shut.

There's a smile in Hannibal's voice. "We may need to prepare to leave before we do the unpacking."

Yeah. After not getting answers out of the last, suspicious couple in the harbor, Drummond may give up and call the cops. Will nods.

Hannibal's hand moves to his forehead and pushes his hair to the side. "I will walk with you and the dogs before we leave."

"It feels like I need more stitches," Will swallows and winces at the pull, shifting. "Do I need more stitches?"

"You're quite well put together as is," Hannibal assures him and he blinks up to see him smirking down.

The moment is somehow... suspended.

It heats up and Will feels like the entire boat does-- like there's a fire in the engine room or the sun flaring into the windows as it sets.

Hannibal pushes his hair back again, curled around him like Will is swooning into him, some sort of god-seduces-nymph statue with the way they're posed. His own hand has somehow found its way up, fingers curled over Hannibal's other wrist, fist planted in the cushion on his other side.

He sways below Will's neck.
Opens his mouth.

And his jaw goes wide. A mouth of killing teeth spread out on Will's neck.

But he doesn't rip the flesh out and bleed him like he did the Dragon.

He plants his teeth into Will's neck and breathes. Drags his tongue, slow.
Sucks.

Until Will makes a truly pathetic noise under him, clamps his wrist, nails digging in.

A long moment, making his mark in Will's neck. And then Will can feel himself being tasted as Hannibal lets go.

Hannibal pulls back, eyes closed. Will can tell he's got his tongue pressed to the roof of his mouth and he's savoring.

Will lets go, leaving little half-moons across his wrist. And he is eager for Hannibal to open his eyes. So that he can be seen.

Hannibal pushes both hands into his hair, then finally needs oxygen. Finally breathes in and his eyes flutter open.

"Rest now," he eases Will back against the cushions. "Let me put a few things away. I'll come retrieve you when it's time."

He hangs over Will for another long moment before letting go. He scoops Lily up and presses her into Will's hands.

He wonders if they'll leave port before or after Hannibal kills Drummond for daring to speak to him.

«»

When they throw lines, Will stands at the back of the boat and watches the world go away. Winston guards him until they can't see anyone anymore. Then he wanders off.

So does Will.

"I could have made new stock," Hannibal says.

"Don't pout over not getting to murder the guy," he settles in next to him as he steers.

"I do not pout," Hannibal proclaims.

"You do not smile like a loon, either, but here we are. My dignified Doctor Lecter."

He watches Hannibal look down to his wrist, still spotted with nail marks. "Claiming me all of a sudden."

Will laughs. He's not the one who feels like he needs to leave marks all over to keep Hannibal as his own. The bastard put himself in a cell so he'd be right where Will needed him.

He touches up under his own jaw, down to the indents on his neck.

Moves around to wedge between Hannibal and the controls, Hannibal warm all against Will's back.

Will pulls his arm up and presses his thumbs into the nail marks. Opens Hannibal's hand and bites between his thumb and forefinger. Digs his teeth in until he'd be hissing, but Hannibal won't. He breathes against Will's neck and smiles into his shoulder. Big breath, like relief, at his back.

Hannibal tastes like skin and nothing more. A salt tang just like sucking blood from a papercut on your own thumb. He reclaims his hand and sweeps it wide down Will's center and to his belly. "How does your shoulder feel?" his voice rumbles through Will.

"Achy. I'll live. I mean, I guess since I tend to, anyway. We just gonna head down the coast some?"

"Down to warmer waters. I think we could do with a year of no winters. Though, admittedly, it may be wiser to bundle for the first 24 months or so."

"Wisdom," Will says, like it's a ridiculous concept. Sighs. He knows Hannibal is waiting for him to see reason and play it safe. He might be in for a longer wait than expected.

Will wouldn't have minded. If Drummond had died, what would it mean? He has a nice boat. Maybe he's got some estranged kids who would inherit. Maybe the police would have been called down to the docks on something more significant than a little vandalism. One dumpy little man and a stock pot full of bones and herbs, simmering for hours.

It's not that he's letting everything lose meaning. It's not that one life of one dumbass opens the door to a debate about whether or not lives are precious.

It's that, from here, up high on their spines, they look down on these people with their small concerns and their persistence in them and they can scoff lightly, walk away, and have better things to do.

There are better things to do. Places to go and things to learn. How many hours will Drummond spend stewing over a damaged paint job on an 8-year-old car? How many fewer hours would it have taken Hannibal to turn him into something worthwhile?

«»

He can't sleep well on either side with his shoulder hurting like it does that night. At some point, Hannibal draws him to lay on his back, his arm under Will's neck and supporting his hurt shoulder just so, and he drifts off until morning. Wakes with Hannibal's other hand wrapped around his left wrist this time.

He stares into the dull glow of growing daylight wondering, for a while, what it would have been like to leave with him that first time. Leave with him and discover their-- find Abigail alive and well and embrace her and take her to the house before making it safely, quietly down to a flashier ship with all working parts.

Hannibal pushing a hand over his face and gripping his neck, bloodied but ready to be home to him. Ready to give him the family he'd prepared.

Family can't be prepared like a fucking three-course meal. Hiding Abigail isn't the surprise of an unexpectedly rich main dish. It was shoving her ear down his throat and letting his fever brew and trapping them into this bizarre, twisted thing and, at the end, he was supposed to be fucking grateful? He was supposed to escape with him?

No matter how much his insides were clawing for it, he wasn't. Will wasn't.

Will wanted this choice. He wanted to be consulted.

Wanted to be on even footing, goddamnit.

He didn't get there, didn't see what Hannibal was trying to show him, because he was bowing to morality. Stubborn damn morality and what the fuck. Morality gets you thrown in a cell in the killer's place. Has you doing federal paperwork and undergoing internal investigations. Has you cowering, lakeside, in a cabin for three years, making not one damn difference to the bad guys or the good guys.

Morality, from here, he can recognize as a kind of stagnation. Things end at where right turns into wrong. Those things don't evolve. There's no new technology in morality. Nothing grows. There's nothing to learn except the bounds of where morality becomes law and law becomes loopholes and loopholes become smug politicians who break moral codes within the bounds of written laws. Smiling all the while.

You can smile and break them all. Break them down to their bones. Hannibal does.

He broke Will's understanding of it all and he smiles more than before.

Will rubs his head against Hannibal's arm and shifts.

"Restless or awake?" Hannibal asks, his voice soft, as if he can't tell by Will's pulse.

"Both I guess?" he turns back.

Hannibal lets his wrist go.

Will is too tired of everyone not to seek the life and the newness and the interest and the opportunity inherent in their relationship. He presses his face to Hannibal's shoulder and his hand over his side, where the gunshot wound is still bandaged. It was messier than even the jagged, open tissue of Will's cheek.

"Is your arm numb?"

"My thumb is, a bit. Good morning, Will," he turns to press his lips at Will's head, inhales his sweaty hair and doesn't seem to mind it.

Endless opportunity. It seems like the world doesn't end at its actual boundaries when he's with Hannibal. In polite society, there's nothing but boundaries. But here? This man would attack him, before. Today, Will's eyelids are fluttering shut while Hannibal gathers him close and breathes him in.

"Any more pain here?" Hannibal presses two fingers to the knife wound on his face.

"Not right now. Aches when I'm tired."

"I'm going to remove your shirt to see your shoulder again," he announces, and moves Will to do so. Lays him back and kneels above him and follows the lines of his stitching with his fingers.

"Good morning," Will remembers to say up to him. It makes him smile and Will realizes he's got kind of a goofy-little-boy smile when it's full-on and toothy like that.

Hannibal hasn't touched him in ways that aren't clinical because, yeah, maybe Will wasn't happy to just have it over with - just die. Maybe it seemed like a burden to have to keep going and to continue on in Hannibal the Cannibal's company. To keep him alive meant to either keep playing cat-and-mouse games with the authorities or just give himself up to it.

He doesn't have to just give up all that much, though, really?

Molly. Molly is what he's giving up. That quiet stability. That peace and understanding and sensibility. That small family that could fit exactly and make sense. The rest of the dogs, yes, he had to leave them behind.

And he has to abandon the moral code that tells him there are rights and wrongs and whether or not anyone pays to have them written into law, they must be enforced. He has to square with the fact that he won't be following those rules anymore. And he has to live with someone who doesn't understand why or care that they exist at all.

He is too tired not to fit into Hannibal's freedom.

He would have to look at Molly, for the rest of his life, knowing he wasn't giving her all of himself. Knowing how much stronger she is than him in a lot of ways and that she gave things up to be with him. He would have to look that in the face every morning, knowing she deserved better.

Best to let her bury him. Best to let Walter look forward and put Will behind himself and believe in heroes.

Will was a bastard, anyway. He slept with Molly, made a home with her, and let Hannibal own his heart and lungs and ears and mind.

Nice to breathe again, anyway, which he does now. Inhale, exhale. He touches Hannibal's side again. Skids fingers up under his shirt to the bandage. "Should I check on you?"

"If you feel it necessary. But I assure you, everything is well taken care of."

Will shrugs a little and does it anyway. Pushes up his shirt and makes Hannibal remove the bandage to reveal skin that's still very pink and very hurt, very messy, but, yes, healing. He presses his hand over it. Hannibal doesn't flinch. "It's warm. Are you too warm? How would I know if you had a fever?"

"I promise you, I took a course of antibiotics and I am mending."

"Okay."

"I thank you for your concern, Will."

"Okay," he shrugs.

Hannibal's eyebrows go up and he waits for Will to drop his hand. "Would you like to take the dogs out on the island? I can have breakfast ready by the time you get back."

He nods and finally lets his hand drift back to the bed.

"Do you feel alive, Will?"

He doesn't analyze it as, like, an existential question or anything. "Yes."

Hannibal waits, still kneeling above him.

"I feel." He breathes big again, inhale, exhale. "I feel kind of like when you're moving to a new place but also kind of like New Year's morning. Or like the first day of school of your last year. There are places to be and I don't know what they are yet but. I'm ready to be excited. I'm ready for it. I'm kinda. I donno. Throwing lines from the past."

Hannibal nods. Looks around them. A small satisfaction in his tastes and choices, a self-congratulation. "This is the right boat for throwing those lines, I think."

"Yeah. I guess you did good," his fingers drift to Hannibal's knee, planted in the sheets.

"You guess."

"I don't give you full credit. You get half-credit on everything now. The other half is mine," he decides with a confidence he didn't think he felt until now.

Hannibal admires him for it, though. Tips his head. Nods. Moves to climb over Will to get out of bed.

They haven't kissed, there's been no sex. This bed is like a set-up joke for "whoops, I tripped and landed on your cock" and that's not nearly tasteful enough for Hannibal, so it won't be happening any time soon, either.

Island hopping, they skip down the coast as supplies permit, taking their time in days and weeks, until they hit the Carolinas.

Will wakes near an island, as usual, and, this time, with Hannibal's hand spanning his jaw. One breath away from moving down his throat and... squeezing.

Hannibal's still sleeping, he can tell by the pace of his breath against his shoulder.

Will jolts with-
A laugh. He just.

He just laughs and laughs until it's practically a fit and Hannibal wakes up, moves to blink over him, not getting the joke.

"I just-" Will laughs some more but it tapers off for the most part. It's so wild. His hand sitting there all night - a real neat show of how easy it would be to simply fucking end him right in his arms, and, at the same time, it's held light and protective over the stab wound in his face. Comforting and threatening and pretty much Hannibal Lecter all over. "I just. I'm just some kind of teddy-bear-slash-comfort-object for you and it," he laughs. "It really thrills me. Sorry I woke you. Good morning."

Hannibal makes the closest thing he's got to a sappy face and paws at Will's neck.

"I know you're not about to make a Teddy Graham joke. I almost feel like all the jokes you don't make because you're too dignified, I have to make for you. Like. When are we gonna get too wine-drunk and accidentally make out before bed? Is that actually a thing you plan on happening? I know you've got it all planned out. Have I not swooned into your arms often enough for you yet?"

Hannibal looks exasperated and that makes Will laugh all over again. He only looks down. Watches over him while Will just loses his shit about it. Gets up to kneel over him again, seemingly torn between infectious laughter and disappointment that he's the subject of the joke.

"Aah," Will lets out the last few spasms of laughter. And sits up under him. "Come here," he requests.

Curious, Hannibal comes as Will motions to him.

Will just palms the back of his neck and closes his eyes. Plants a kiss on his mouth. And a smaller one. "Okay. I hear Winston's tail hitting the floor out there."

"He so rarely sees you joyful. Like me, he likely anticipates it."

Will squeezes the back of his neck. Opens his eyes.

Hannibal is smiling. A little lost again, but smiling.

"Can I request some damn fruit in my breakfast?"

"I don't know if I have any damn fruit but I will do my best."

"Dad jokes. I'm gonna walk the puppies."

Hannibal nods and Will goes.

«»

They need fuel and. Dammnit.

The guy they pay recognizes them. Or at least the light of recognition flares in his eyes upon seeing Hannibal. Maybe doesn't know exactly who he is, but he's seen his mug on the news and the tasteful hat Hannibal wears doesn't have a large enough brim to shade all his scars.

Will watches it with his jaw tensed shut, hanging back inside.

Hannibal hands over payment and the man says something about needing to make a record of it. Old codger who doesn't know, like the kids do, to keep his cell phone within reach at all times. Probably only has a pay-as-you-go for the grandbabies. And he turns his back to them and there's Hannibal, rising like a dancer, toeing his shoes to the deck and making the jump to the dock in near silence. The ambient birdsong and water lapping covering any noise that might be heard.

He has his arm around the man's neck before Will makes it to the edge. Makes a messy leap over and Hannibal's already bringing the man to the ground, unconscious.

Will heaves a breath and turns to look for witnesses. No one around in the high heat of the day.

It's just a shack at the water's edge, set back into the trees. Just barrels and cash and if the guy didn't let on in any way that he saw what he saw?

But now it's already almost over.

No challenge in it for Hannibal. He positions the man on the toilet, inside, tips a bottle of his heart medication nearby and then picks through his pantry for anything he'd like.

Will rolls his eyes and goes to fuel the boat.

«»

Will is on his third glass of wine and not saying anything. Watching an image in his head of the shack as they left it, fading into the horizon. Wondering if there'd be any use in scrolling contacts on the phone left on the old man's kitchen table, next to his cooling coffee.

"You handled that well," Hannibal finally says after a day of long silences.

"I don't need your praise for allowing you to off a witness," he shakes his head, tired, twisting the stem of his glass.

Hannibal taps his napkin against his mouth and finishes chewing. "It is not my intention to further traumatize you."

Will laughs since, "That's bullshit." Hannibal loves traumatizing him.

Impatient disapproval across the table. And it's not for the language, though Hannibal generally doesn't talk like that except for shock value. He tolerates it in Will.

Tolerates a lot in him.

Will sighs. Picks up his fork and continues eating. "I know," Will finally says, between bites.

"I don't know that you do."

"You're not traumatizing me, you're just doing what the situation calls for. You could more easily do it without me, in fact," Will smiles and it feels resigned because it is.

"I will not test you, Will. There are no tests left. No boundaries. You sighed and handled the fuel and we moved on. I do not intend to traumatize you, I intend to highlight this life with you. You have interest and joy in you. I already allow it to color my world. I have for quite some time. And you find it in yourself when I am near," he points out.

It sounds egotistical and it may be but that doesn't make it untrue.

Will can let go in his company. Will doesn't have to bend to rules and live on expectations. Doesn't have to say polite things. Doesn't have to worry about saying something that makes him look like a freak. If he wanted to walk into the middle of a grocery store on the mainland and announce himself, Hannibal would want to see how that panned out. He would take joy in following the news of their pursuit. Every additional challenge would seem a fine game to him.

So, "Why am I not feeling color and joy?" he wonders. "How is it that you're smiling now and I don't know how to get there?" Once upon a time that would have made him feel less crazy but now it just feels like some sort of unexpected road block. He doesn't even want to belong with Hannibal, but here he is belonging. Here he is staying. His brain isn't in sync with his body. His common sense isn't in sync with his judgment. His learned behaviors aren't in sync with his instincts. He feels more messed up than Hannibal was even trying to mold him to be. Basically, he'd like to be either running to escape or embracing this and loving it already. This limbo in between is confusing. Tiring. Frustrating. Almost enraging.

Hannibal only reaches across the small space and pulls his fingers from his wine glass to catch them up. "I am here to share in that burden with you. We will find your joy and paint it wide, for all the world to see. You are in the company of your equal. You must give voice to these concerns so that we may find the answers in them. You and I together, Will. You may mourn for the things you've left behind. I've no doubt they were good things. But they were not whole things. I want you to be your whole entire self with me. I want you to feel you are granted that freedom."

He thumbs at Will's fingers for a while before letting him go.

Throwing lines. Unraveling the tapestry of what his life had been made up of before.

There's no going back.

If he asked Hannibal to make him look like a victim and leave him where the cops could find him, he'd have to answer questions, go through interrogations, be under house arrest, answer to Molly and Walter. There might be a fucking Senate committee meeting with him subpoenaed or something after all the manpower spent looking for him and the police killed in the ambush.

He could ask. And he knows he would continue meeting Hannibal in the shadows for years, anyway, if he did so.

Lily sympathetically settles on his right foot, sensing him and wanting to make it better.

Hannibal isn't something that will go away. He has to admit how much of him is invested in what they are together. He wasn't trying to stop it, wasn't watching it happen. It's there now and he is living in it and it is comfortable.

God, it's comfortable. Good food in his belly, good wine warming his skin, waking up sometimes with a powerful arm around him that could choke him out and end him and preserve, for all time, their small peace together, or - as Hannibal has been doing - wake up and defend their partnership and discover new facets of it every day.

He likes this. Where they are.
Will enjoys this.

The more of it he has, the more he feels guilty.

Hannibal doesn't want that.

He wants it to be this, instead:
The more Will has of it, the more he wants it.

That sounds better to Hannibal.

He closes his eyes and feels the sway of tide under them. Sips his wine and sniffs it and sips again, finding the smoke in it. The apple in it.

He gave himself to strangers for years. Gave himself to the public, when he was a cop. Protected them. Protected people who wouldn't protect him.

Hannibal kills with him. Would kill for him.

Will gave his mind over to other killers for so long, all that's happening here is he's getting lost on his way to new things.

Maybe the boat needs to go faster.

He wants to just belong to them, together.

When done with his own plate, Hannibal watches Will eat until he's full. "More wine?"

Will tastes it on his lips and shakes his head. "Thank you, though."

"Of course," Hannibal rises to take the dishes, their napkins thrown over his wrist.

They don't do standing over the sink, washing and drying together. Will fills holes in service where Hannibal hasn't quite gotten to things yet. They tend to just do what they're good at.

He sits to the side and pulls Lily up into his lap and talks to her. Winston wanders between them, hoping for scraps from Hannibal and nosing into Will's knee.

The lights flicker. They keep doing that. "We should go look at the generator, guys," he drops a hand to Winston's head, pets him and pats him.

"Call for me if you need more light," Hannibal looks up as they flicker again.

"Yeah," he puts Lily down. "C'mon," gives 'em a whistle.

It's a really old generator. That's the only problem. Fuses burning out, looks like. He can shut it all down for the night before bed and handle it in the morning before it becomes a real issue.

He puts the puppies to bed and they stay when told to stay. Tonight, when he shuts the door, Hannibal brings him to wash up, then Hannibal brings him to bed.

Hannibal kisses him in the deepest, most indulgent fashion before scooping him close and settling behind him.

"Gonna sweat all over you."

He only digs his nose into Will's neck in response. His hand wanders up to touch the fading bruises there from his wide-mouthed biting.

"You wanna give me another one," Will doesn't quite question.

So he doesn't flinch when Hannibal pulls his shirt collar to the side and settles his mouth against flesh. That way he knows he can sink his teeth in, and does, until Will hisses. He grabs Hannibal's arm and lets him keep going until- "Okay. Alright."

Hannibal lathes it and breathes over it and settles his shirt back into place.

«»

Colors. He sees himself colored in the morning. Looks in the mirror and touches it. Reaches back to push the bathroom door open and call, "Hannibal?"

He wanders over before he says, "Yes?"

"It's really red," he points at himself with his shirt off. Shows him the bite mark.

"Mm," Hannibal agrees. Points to Will's neck in the mirror. "This has gone green. Shall we try for, say, purple? Blue?"

Will just shrugs at him.

So Hannibal stands behind him, looks over his shoulder in the mirror, and settles his hands on Will's hips. Noses at Will's neck, to the right, above his wound. Reaches the knobby ball of his shoulder and sucks hard when he bites down in what feels like a perfect circle.

Unbelievable.

"Look at this bastard," Will says into the mirror. "With his just-woke-up-but-my-hair-is perfect. Look at his perfectionist ass. What a tool."

Hannibal smiles and laughs and lets go. Reaches up to thumb his saliva around Will's shoulder.

"Purple?"

"Or perhaps blue. We shall see."

"You're giving my life color," Will observes. The bruising around the knife wound from how hard it was jammed in - that's faded to very light spots of gray. His cheek, his neck, there's still quite a lot of gray and angry-red healing skin. "How often do you think about ripping me apart? Looking at my insides?"

Hannibal presses his frowning mouth to Will's back before saying, "Not at all. Hardly ever. It's been a long time."

"So you did, but you don't now."

"I did. I still wonder. One wonders; a physician wonders. I might run full blood panels on you. I might need x-rays of your bones and scans of your insides. I might like to admire them someday."

"But you don't want me on your table?"

"Prepare yourself for the punchline you brought down on your own head, Will: I will have you on a table someday."

"Wow," Will nods. "Good one."

"Too inappropriate for a dad joke?"

Will shrugs his other shoulder. "I don't know. But it was very clever."

"I don't want to rip you apart. I could pose you. Silence you forever in the night, cut off your air and clean you, make you shine, and make art of you more gorgeous than the world has ever seen." He kisses the back of Will's neck, lush and wet, "I could. But the world is too interesting with you alive and helping to shape it. I have come to look forward to not knowing what my day will look like because I must accommodate another person in it. You destroyed something in me, too, Will - you took away my neat, steady structure."

"You would have bought a massive, three-floor yacht with tasteful gold trimmings."

"And no dogs, ever. But dogs are a part of your support system. Building things, fixing things. Those are a part of your structure. I quite like your structure," his hands skim to Will's front and Will watches himself in the mirror, getting enveloped. Consumed in an utterly unexpected way.

Hannibal has decided to want dog hair and mechanic's grease and damp sheets. Or, rather, he's decided he doesn't much mind cleaning those up. He needed someone to fuck him up. He fucked Will up and he wants to get fucked up right back.

Will leans their heads together. His stomach grinds, empty under Hannibal's hands.

"A breakfast with citrus, I think," he starts planning. "But I'll walk with you and the dogs first."

"Thank you," Will says to their reflected image, with all sincerity.

As Hannibal moves to let him go, though, Will steps sideways in his arms and pulls his head down for his mouth.

An understanding in Hannibal's movements as he lines Will up against the wall and lets him take until it's time to take back. He puts his hands in Hannibal's neat hair and grips. Opens his mouth to let Hannibal at his tongue.

It's a while later, when he's pulling Will's thigh up around his waist that Will realizes they're in this little, tiny bathroom and everything is cramped and uncomfortable and they're hard against each other and. Maybe they should just do this. Maybe they need to throw each other around the room and just fucking penetrate one another and get it the fuck out of their systems.

But it kinda tastes too good to give in right now.

He tries to calm down. Hannibal grips handfuls of his t-shirt and tries not to betray his frustration. Adds color to his neck, nips under his jaw and almost too close to the wound.

Will rides his hips against him a few times and drops back.

"I'm gonna head out."

Hannibal laughs into his neck. And lets him go, for the time being.

«»

They stop before they leave the Carolinas.

Hannibal reasons that they're running out of states in which to acquire supplies before a push to another continent. He doesn't specify where, but it makes sense to Will anyway.

He puts his hands on his hips and straightens up and breathes. Wipes his forehead with his arm. He can feel Hannibal behind him.

"I don't know," he finally answers the question from a couple hours ago. "It might not make it that far."

"Is this something you can have installed yourself? Or should we go about procuring another vessel?" Hannibal comes to join him, eyes narrowed at the mess of generator parts.

The thing is working for now. And he's got enough to keep it alive for a while longer. But a real long haul? He's got no idea. "Do we have the kind of money for another boat?" Even a small one. He could do a lot with two of them sailing.

"I saw no reason to acquire one though legal means," he almost scoffs. "Should we make port in the right place tonight, we can have a suitable ship in short order."

And blood all over the galley. Will scrubs at his head and Hannibal finally has to stop him, tugs his wrist down because his hands are filthy. "This boat is fine. This boat would be more fine. Um. If I had triplicate of every part and more fuses than I can carry?"

Hannibal makes no comment. He doesn't have to. Will can practically see him jumping off deck with the dogs already.

"Should I start packing?" he shrugs.

"We should go into town. I could use a new tablet computer. And we can look for parts. If supplies are insufficient to your tastes, we'll consider a different vessel over dinner." He takes Will's wrist again and Will presents his hand. Hannibal lays his own over Will's, spread wide. Will presses a Will-print to his palm and lets him turn his own hand over to inspect it. The blotchy black and rust orange that leaked on him from the messy boat parts.

He tries the look on and... doesn't seem to like it. Picks up one of Will's hand towels and scrubs it off.

"You don't like my colors?"

"These ones look better on you than me, I'm afraid."

Will wavers. "You can make a lot look good. Straightjackets even."

Hannibal makes a show of straightening the modest sweater he's wearing, smiling, head held high.

«»

Hannibal rejects the town they're nearest to as insufficient and chooses a larger one where they can walk to most the available shops. They park the boat somewhere technically illegal and leave the dogs there to run anyone off.

(Though, honestly, Winston and Lily are more likely to make new friends than run off intruders.)

The experience in the small electronics store, choosing a tablet, makes Will aware of Hannibal in a few strange ways.

The first strange thing is him.

The accent is barely an accent to Will anymore, he's so used to the sound, so attuned to the precise clarity. But everyone else twigs to it with interest.

Weird as it was to hear him again, after three years, the only thing that made Hannibal really odd when they met in Alana's facility was the look of him. No longer in his fine suits and under those strange lights, his colors had been fading.

He wasn't in bold patterns. His scars had faded into sallow skin. His hair looked washed out.

In freedom, he's grown some color back. Alana had cut off his fancier food and began providing him with the normal, bland cafeteria offerings. With good food in him, he's lean and powerful again, only a slight edge of softness remains and that may well be attributable to the boring sweaters and casual clothes he's been wearing on the boat.

He still looks mightier than everyone milling around him, though. He knows how to make it subtle, but if your attention is called to him, he's too still. Too poised. Too observant.

He likes how that bothers other people, but they're trying to keep a goddamn low profile here.

They pass an independent coffee shop with a bunch of people hidden behind their laptops. Will can't see much surveillance aside from what's aimed at the registers.

"I'm gonna buy you a coffee. You don't have to let it pass your lips, your highness," he takes the bag with the cash from Hannibal.

"Do I have a choice, special agent?" he snarks right back, still smiling slightly and accepting the box with the tablet in it.

"No. This town is more southern than I thought it would be and you're drawing too much notice. Sit here," he nods at a table on the patio, "keep your hat on. Set up your computer. I'll go buy what we need."

Hannibal puts the box on the table and stops him. Takes the strap of the bag back. Turns it and sets it across Will's front the other way, so that it doesn't fall across his injuries. "What shall I do if you don't return in good time?"

"I'm not running off," Will rolls his eyes when he knows Hannibal won't see it. "Take some cash. If I'm not back in three hours, sniff me out. I figure you can," he's only half-joking and they both know it.

"The dogs can if I cannot," he actually agrees. "I'll need some of the-" he points and Will lets him retrieve some of the cash to hold him while he waits. "Two hours."

He doesn't know what Hannibal means at first. "Um. Three."

"Two. This is non-negotiable if you intend to take my supply of cash and split away from me. I feel uncomfortable splitting up."

Will would scoff if he weren't genuinely taken aback. "I'm not leaving," he insists again, almost stuttering.

"I know that, Will. But what choice would I have should someone recognize you and attempt to bring you in? I'll need to be made aware of it before you're moved to a high-security facility. The FBI's private plane could easily make this run in three hours from Jack's current location. I won't have him boxing you up for his own exclusive access once more. Your mind will not survive further exposure to that particular gentleman's suggestions. I will never put you in his path again."

Will stares at him.

Hannibal flattens the strap across his front and presses a kiss to his mouth as if sending him off. "Two hours," he repeats. "One shudders to think what kind of trouble you could get into given even that small amount of time."

He's fucking still smiling.

Will just kinda shuffles. Turns to go. Remembers the coffee. Goes to buy it. Puts it down in front of Hannibal when he comes back out.

He's already running through the new computer's set-up and Will sort of... leans down a little to.

He doesn't even know.

Check on him?

And Hannibal barely acknowledges him. So he tugs the brim of his hat down over his sly eyes and walks away.

«»

At first the time away is good. He breathes and sends the subtle agitation skittering away. Shakes it off like it were a physical thing.

He's going to be sharing space with Hannibal for as long as they're both alive, it seems. There's nothing for it. No turning back.

And Will kind of needs the time to.

To be scared.
To be sad.
To be angry
To feel betrayed just one more time.
To be disgusted.
To be heartbroken.
To feel wrong and know -- know that he forfeited his right to complain when he didn't secure his slippery fingers around the knife and slash Hannibal's wrist as he helped him up.

He was too caught up in that moment. In the majesty and glory of it. Too caught up in them. They're so fucking entwined. And this is really the last of the rejection he can have the luxury of feeling towards Hannibal Lecter.

He'll never say he was wrong to reject Hannibal. He'll always know he was wrong for not telling Jack to get back in his car and leave Maine.

He tried to reject Hannibal while knowing how hard he was still drawn to him. He was succeeding until he had the slightest excuse to fail.

This is a product of Jack's manipulation, yes.

It's also a product of Will's own lack of self-control.

Will feels himself inside of Hannibal more than he ever did looking through the eyes of any other killer. He feels himself in Hannibal and knows that he is known.

He doesn't get to let it sicken him that he feels right and good and whole sleeping in Hannibal's grasp and waking up kissing him because he knows what he's doing.

He knows. And he knows who Hannibal is. Not just the bare bones of it - a serial killer and a cannibal.

Hannibal also killed Abigail. And he did it more to hurt Will than to kill her.

Abigail died because Hannibal couldn't stand that his equal felt wrong in him.

Will still feels wrong in him. Still feels like his limbs are the ones that performed Hannibal's crimes.

Will just isn't so clear on what a crime fucking even is anymore. Nor cannibalism, nor care, nor concern.

What Jack did to Will's mind wasn't a crime but it creamed his brain. Fucked him up proper.

What Hannibal did, by any definition except one, is cannibalism - and for that definition, in the case of himself and Will, he doesn't see their consumption of anyone else as cannibalism because he legitimately doesn't consider that they share a species with the people milling around them.

And when it comes to care and concern. To family. As wounding as it has been to be so close to Hannibal, in these ugly circumstances, despite the fact that Hannibal has taken him to the bottom-most of lows, physically and mentally, no one else has been as invested in Will thriving, top to bottom.

Hannibal put him through hell to get him here, on the other side of it. To stand shoulder-to-shoulder with him and look down on everyone else. He's so one-of-a-kind and his ego is so fucking big that he didn't want to share that space with anyone and, at first he fought it, but now he seems desperate to pull Will up onto the pedestal with him.

He wants this. Wants the company. The mutual investment.

Will knows what happens when he invests in Hannibal and twists it on him. He gets his belly ripped open. He watches their da--
He had to watch Abigail bleed out, gasping.

The temptation to find out what happens this time is too great. If he gives as much as he gets, lets himself be seen at the same time he's seeing Hannibal. If he lets Hannibal know him. If he twines them tighter.

It's like a force of nature, by now, the way he can't even--

He'd been lying. When he said he was thinking, all those silent weeks, of what it would be like to return to land and go back to his life and inform the authorities.

Yes, he had thought about it. Knew exactly the few ways it would go, if he did. And then he slept. Slept quiet and comfortable on a bed with him. Recovered with him. Was fed by him. Was touched and healed by him. Felt the surety of his hands and tried to remember when the way they moved was horrendous. Because, now, it's kind of a struggle to think of them as anything but beautiful, powerful. Even when coated black in the moonlight.

And he wants those hands for himself. That beauty, blood-soaked and all, he wants it in his life. Digging through his guts like he has nightmares about. Pressing him into the sheets. Fixing his morning coffee.

The bottom line is that he doesn't know how to appreciate the work of his own hands, any longer, without Hannibal's around to direct them. And he's pretty sure Hannibal doesn't know when to sink his teeth into somebody anymore without Will coaxing him into it.

He knows them so well.

Will does. And Hannibal does.

It still sets his teeth on edge and realizing that this trip out was a mistake does not help.

This was a mistake. Splitting up was a mistake.

He should have waited until they could search for the right store nearby. Will spends too much of his two hours trying to find an appropriate retailer and then.

Fuck.
And then.

It's a mom-and-pop shop. Which is good. They have everything he needs.

But there are only two staffers. And the guy at the counter, other than being utterly unhelpful, has made it his job to just harass his coworker.

He's dumpy and getting old. And she's young. Too fucking young. She's actually doing her job and all she gets for it is a leer and a slap on the ass as she proceeds to gather Will's things to bring them to the register.

He thinks about the post at the end of the dock. The jagged one. It flashes in his mind.

The idea of pinning this prick to it with his pants down and severing his genitals, throwing them out to sea, a morsel for the gulls. But a gun for this one, too. Snatch the concealed carry from his belt and blow his brains across the cash wrap first.

He breathes through it.
He really does.

It's jarring watching this happen to her and.

He doesn't feel compelled to act on it, no matter how vivid the image.

Images.

More of them slide through his consciousness. Some based on crime scenes. Some display his own disturbing creativity.

He shakes them out and smiles at her with as much reassurance as he can muster.

The leers continue as he remembers things, spots more he needs. He considers leaving without.

He can't.

And, finally, he can't stay here, either.

She goes into the back room to retrieve something and he slips out the front.

If he has some sort of social-reject breakdown in front of them, he knows the guy behind the counter will play tough and make a deal out of it. Nothing is worth that.

He also can't draw attention to them by being caught on camera throttling the guy when he loses his grip on how much he gives a fuck.

He didn't imagine it would be this hard.

Dolarhyde, that was a one-time thing. He doesn't lust after this kind of action.

He remembers the blood, the moonlight. He remembers his body flowing in concert with Hannibal's. Their actions complimenting each other.

He remembers wiping the Dragon from the earth.

Remembers him flowing out into the cracks in the stones and dissolving.

Will screwed that young woman out of a sale. He feels awful about it.

He doesn't have the guts to go back inside. He feels awful about it.

He just wants to go home and be done with social interaction. He feels awful about it.

He sees the back of the shop from here. He sees the harasser step out and light a cigarette.

He doesn't see cameras.

It's time to go. It's time to get back and tell Hannibal they didn't have everything necessary.

They might have. But he couldn't stand to stick around and find out.

Let Hannibal steal a boat. They won't be in the U.S. long enough to care about anyone finding them.

Won't be around for the pursuit.

They'll never see this place again.

Somewhere inside of himself, he finds a solid center.

No one will protect that woman. She'll have to endure it until she quits and finds another job.

On the one hand - fuck it. He's given of himself already. He doesn't need to sacrifice himself for anyone anymore. He's done with that. Whatever few days, weeks, or months he really has left before the world's bloodiest romance ends in him deep fried or oven roasted, that time belongs to him.

On the other hand.

He did get a taste of it. He unleashed himself and it was good.

God, it was good. He felt right. He felt powerful.

And he doesn't need to paint the walls with this little fucker.

He can scare the shit out of him.

Because, one way or another, Will won't be here, in this town, tomorrow.

And what could really stop him?

«»

Will has circled the building. He's made sure. There's a camera next door, monitoring another shop's parking lot.

And the way he comes up behind him, it's too easy to snag his gun from his waistband.

He pins the man against the side of the building and the cigarette smolders away, rolling between Will's shoes.

He hasn't let the man see his face yet.

And, yes, Will does know this isn't going to end like he's envisioning. Because he can't make that woman feel responsible for the death of her harasser.

But. Shit.

What the fuck is he doing?

That woman was hauling around boat parts. He's nobody's white knight. He couldn't even be there for Molly.

Molly was stronger than him. In the presence of a goddamn serial killer, she rescued her son, got shot, and drove to safety, anyway.

He may have taken part in slaying a dragon but she singlehandedly outsmarted it.

It's that hesitation. One moment too long. Too much consideration - too much of a pause. A delay in serving the punishment-- any punishment, and--

The man shoulders the gun away, knowing, by now, that Will won't fire. Swings his meaty arm up and decks him- lands a blow directly on the sore side of his face and the shock of the pain sends Will reeling.

And compels him to fight back, directly.

He hits the guy in the throat, slams his chest, pistol-whips him, and he doesn't go down. Pops back up, punching, grabbing. Will has to get behind him somehow- ducks a blow and gets an arm around his throat, manages to cut off most his air, direct his head down and forward and into the brick wall of the building, finally knocking him unconscious.

There's no one outside, but there's a dog barking behind a fence and Will's face is stinging like hell.

He just takes the gun, wrestles a fat wallet out of the guy's back pocket to make it look like a robbery, and books it.

Flies across the street and into a neighborhood, turns and strolls, trying to regulate his breathing. He fumbles his glasses from his pocket and shrugs out of his jacket, stuffs it in the bag, attempting to change his appearance some.

Breathes in and out. Pushes his hair back, and wanders north, back towards town.

He turns another corner and Winston is running towards him.

It takes Will's head a moment of blinking to catch up, but then Winston is trotting around his ankles and knocking into him. Excited about his hunt and looking for pets.

He searches for Hannibal. Sees him far off, preceded by Lily, who's bolting over to them now to join the fun, her tongue lolling, happy and barking about it.

Will drops to laugh and paw at them. Accepts the licking and tells them they did a good job finding him. Winston noses at his face and he jolts a bit at it so he grabs the dog and hugs him, instead.

Hannibal approaches at a casual stroll, waits for a car to pass and crosses to them. Will stands and Hannibal draws him in by the hand, loops an arm around him like meeting up with his lover.

"What happened?" he asks quietly.

Will clears his throat. "We're um. We're just gonna... need a different boat," he nods.

Hannibal pulls his hand up, kisses over his bruising knuckles and inhales. "You didn't fire."

The gun oil. He can smell it. Will shakes his head. "Can we go?"

"Of course," he takes Will's hand and they make their way back to the coast like a couple walking their dogs, Lily and Winston pleased and curious about their surroundings. "Your breathing is still labored," he says after a while. "Allow me to take the bag?"

It would be better not to be seen with it, anyway. Will lifts it, wincing, and Hannibal pauses them to help, carries it to his left, and they walk on.

Will keeps rubbing at his jaw.

"Nothing split open," Hannibal assures him. "I'll have a look at it when we're settled."

"Settled where, though?" he grabs a tennis ball out of a flower patch and a neighbor in her yard pays them no mind, so he throws it and Lily jets after, Winston still hanging close and adoring him.

The far-away wail of a siren, behind them.
They don't change their pace.

"Leave that to me. Tell me what happened. Were you recognized?"

A breath shudders through him. "No. I just. I kinda. Kinda lost- I-" he shakes his head and he doesn't know what the fuck he was doing. It was pitiful and useless whatever it was and he felt it flash through his veins, immediately tempered by sense.

And followed right after by his training. The cop instincts kicked in to defend himself and incapacitate the attacker and.

He just didn't follow through.

Which is good because he's still a little unclear on why he started?

It's all so weirdly confusing and he feels like a stupid, self-righteous prick. He shakes his head and admits that the man was being an idiot and it struck him that they won't be here tomorrow and so what? He assaulted an abusive man? But then.

"Then you froze," Hannibal fills in.

Will hesitates. Then nods. Takes his hand back from Hannibal's grip to push his fingers back through his own hair once again. His knuckles hurt more than he thought at first. The adrenaline is wearing off. He feels ridiculous. Like it wasn't just a crazy-person thing to do but also an embarrassing social misstep.

"We really must direct your rage toward more deserving candidates."

"He was being rude. He fits into your selection of candidates."

Hannibal laughs, loud and free. Breathes a great lungful of air and sighs it out. "I hardly need you having my fun for me. Least of all where I can't see it. I started up my new tablet and found an excellent grocer in town. Brought it all back to the ship. It pleased the dogs to follow me. Then I was concerned for you when you didn't meet us back at the cafe. We began walking. Unfortunately that means we will have much to move before we're able to switch vessels and leave. Perhaps we should select a boat further down the coast."

Will sighs. He could have done so much in there. "It's a good boat."

"I won't miss the smell. There's molding in some of the rooms that is simply impossible to bleach away. We should have a larger deck, for the dogs. If our journey is to be of any length we will want provisions and space enough." He looks up to follow the progress of a sea bird. "There is a port in Florida I have in mind."

"And probably a tailor," Will mutters.

"You don't find my casual seafarers' look amusing?"

He's joking but Will has been feeling off about it for weeks. "I prefer the suits. You look more like yourself," he has to admit. He doesn't look after he says it and Hannibal doesn't seem to have any comment to make on the matter. They approach the boat. They'll have to use the dinghy to row back.

"Would you like me to help, Will?"

"Help?" he can get on just fine. He's not limping or anything.

Hannibal stops him before he can board. Takes his hand again to help him on, regardless. And he asks from shore as Winston still wanders. "Would you like me to go back and kill him?"

Will throws his hands up. "Not everybody's gotta be murdered, Hannibal. Lots of people would find it hard enough just to live with taking a beating like that from... from. From a nerd like me." He indicates for Hannibal to pick up Lily and hand her over.

He does so, considering. "Never thought of you as a nerd," Hannibal pronounces carefully.

"A nerd is a scrawny, screwy nobody. That's what I am. Winston," he whistles, and urges Winston to jump aboard.

Hannibal makes no further comment. When back on board he urges Will into the kitchen to clean him up, check on his wounds, dab away any blood.

He's got Will cornered at the counter so there's enough light to see him by. He concludes his ministrations by holding Will's head and placing slow, drugging kisses against the side of his face, like he's trying to push the sting of the initial hit away with repeated application.

He pulls the glasses from Will's face, sets them aside. Wedges in around Will and inhales over his skin. Kisses his head. Moves him to get at his mouth. And Will is maybe gonna pull his hands down and away but just ends up hanging from Hannibal where he has hold of his neck, his head. And kisses him because it's comfortable.

He's very known. Hannibal knows him.

Maybe Hannibal can tell him what the fuck he was doing. Or maybe Hannibal can tell him how they back up and begin again.

How they can cross the sea and make a life, elsewhere. In the quiet. How they can direct Will's thoughts to places that don't rattle him and don't hurt.

Or maybe Hannibal just intends to make a killer out of him.

Hannibal palms his hips to turn him, press them together, warm and huge all along Will's front.

Kisses into his mouth like he's trying to pry a memory out with his tongue.

"Goddamn," Will says on a breath and moves to grip his shoulders.

It's really, really hard not to be turned on by the way Hannibal knows how to use his body. How to press against him. Shit. He knows how to use Will's body, too. Touches him like he's been studying.

And he never touches until Will's ready for it. He respects his space, waits to be allowed into it, which is almost always strange and then, immediately after, good.

Too much, suddenly, realizing that, and Will has to drop back, let go, breathe. Hannibal waits in front of him, hands-off. Until Will decides to skid his fingers up his arms, back up to his shoulders again. "I am... making this way too easy for you."

"Almost five years, Will," Hannibal touches his sides and tilts his head a little. "I wouldn't describe you as easy."

"I still wouldn't describe you as patient, regardless," Will fires back. "Pushy. Not patient."

"You were always receptive to me, physically. I would like for you to say when you're feeling so. It would make this easier. Your recent actions have been enlightening, and I understand that you feel more prepared for me than you do for what our future might be together. I understand, Will. I do," he pulls his hands down Will's sides, slow and sure. "I am willing to pause. You should know that. You are confused. You've left everything you've ever known behind in a violent and sudden maneuver. Now you need to recover. I need you at your full strength. You're no longer walking in others' paths for Jack. I don't want you to feel like anybody but yourself. I need you to feel wholly of yourself, in fact. So that I may communicate with the man who exists at the center of Will Graham. I fear I can no longer live a fulfilling life if I am alone in it. I lose my way. Put myself in danger. Am subject too much to my past. I wish for you to help direct my future. You are in it - I know that much. That you compliment me is certain. But I don't want outside parties dictating how anymore. Therefore," he turns Will and directs him to the table. Pulls out his chair and bids him sit. "We will find you. Then we will find a home. Then we may continue on, arise from our hibernation. First?"

"We eat," Will fills in.

"We do," he pushes Will's chair in and presses his nose to his hair. Breathes him in. Nips the back of his neck.

Hannibal mixes a coffee for him. When he accepts it, he blinks up and asks, "You think I'm still lost under everything else that I've seen?"

"You are not lost under it. Dormant, remember? You showed a glimpse of yourself to the Dragon. You are mighty when you let yourself be. Don't be the weak and drained Tooth Fairy, showing his pale, blood-soaked belly to the moonlight. Be his conqueror and show yourself to the sun. Let us see what you look like," he cups Will's face.

"Dramatic stuff, Dr. Lecter. Who have you been showing yourself to?"

"Oh, everyone," he shakes his head, a show of impatience with himself. "I have been showing off. I have been flaunting. Like you, I have been sharing too much of myself. I believe you know better than I do who belongs on our table. Our table, Will. If your mind will be mine to share, my hands will be yours to share. Let us only share with the deserving. Me with you and you with me, first. We may assess from there."

Will... isn't sure he really hears what he thinks he's hearing right now. He has to think it through and he's still had kind of an eventful afternoon.

He touches Hannibal's wrist. "Come down here," he decides.

When Hannibal obliges, Will kisses his mouth then bites at the corner of his lip, hard. "Some color for you."

Hannibal actually seems to give it serious consideration. Then says, "Thank you, Will," with visible sincerity.

They're both of them getting to be a mess of color.

«»

Hannibal urges him to sleep as he points the boat back south.

Will remembers waking to Hannibal as he eventually joined him in bed, but he dropped off again, right after, and then Hannibal's already awake in the morning, cooking.

Will sniffs and rubs his eyes and goes to take his place at the table.

Hannibal presents him with a beautiful plate, packed with breakfast food, and encourages him to dig in.

He even feeds the dogs some sort of elaborate mix of meat and egg before sitting down, himself.

"Who is Allen Robbins?" Hannibal asks conversationally.

"Um," Will frowns. "Donno."

Hannibal pours orange juice and slides a glass over. "You had his wallet."

Will clicks his fingers, swallows his food before he answers. "Right. Uh. That was his gun, too. Rude guy. Supply shop."

"Ah," Hannibal nods. "You didn't check the wallet? Simply stole it for show?"

"No. Why?"

"An actual, card-carrying member of the NRA. You were quite right - the south is more southern than I even imagined. I was able to use the VPN to utilize his credit cards several times last night before the accounts were deactivated. I took the liberty of purchasing a wardrobe for you. It should be waiting in one of my postboxes when we arrive in south Florida."

He... maybe should have expected that.

He's half-way through his plate when he's turning over a piece of steak and--

"You didn't-." He stops. Thinks a moment. Blinks out the window. "How much further did you get the boat last night?"

"About two hours," Hannibal takes up and savors another morsel of his breakfast.

Will blinks. "And that was, of course, after you hunted down NRA guy?"

"Of course. He added color to your cheek. It wasn't his place."

Will sniffs again and rubs the bridge of his nose and.

This is seriously gonna take some getting used to.

"Is it in the dogs' food, too?"

"In fact, Mr. Robbins is only in the dogs' food. I find no reason to lie to you about the contents of your meals anymore."

"But if I hadn't have asked, you wouldn't've mentioned," Will points out.

Hannibal shakes his head, looking.
Well. A little hurt. "I brought the topic up."

"Pretending you didn't know who he was!!"

"And what about your pretensions, Will? You did not seriously expect me to leave someone alive who had both seen and harmed my partner," he nearly tuts.

Will breathes for patience and continues eating.

He's like 90% sure there's still people in this food.

Damn if it isn't really fucking good.

(Damn if he doesn't pick the fork back up because Hannibal was 'protecting his partner.' He is so fucked.)

«»

Will actually hisses the words, "fuck me," under his breath, masturbating in the shower.

This shit is really getting to him.

Or maybe got to him years ago and it's creeping back.

He just keeps thinking about how Hannibal's legs line up behind his at night, powerful thighs behind his own. He doesn't always drag Will close when they sleep. In fact, it's only happened five times in all these weeks. But the bastard just finished his kill for him so he'd know Robbins wasn't alive in the world and harassing his coworker anymore. And, since so much time elapsed between Will's attack and Hannibal's, the woman from the shop is more likely to think the guy was run out of town, a coward, than that she was in any way connected with his death.

He isn't thinking about Allen Robbins in his food. He's thinking about Hannibal in his casual clothes, stalking the night, his powerful hands incapacitating the man, breaking his spine so he's still alive when he starts cutting. So Hannibal can tell him why he's hurting him like this.

Because he hurt Will.

When he walks out of the bathroom, damp but dressed, Hannibal raises an eyebrow.

Somehow, from the look or smell of him, he knows.

Will avoids him. Hannibal continues with the laundry.

Eventually, he catches Will around the waist and lines up behind him and Will has to stand there and point-blank decide if he wants to do this right now or if he wants to walk away.

"Don't we have a boat to steal?" his voice shakes too much.

"Not for a while yet," Hannibal lifts his shirt back off and looks down over his various colors. Touches them. He pulls Will's hands out. "Black, orange," he says, alluding to his work in the engine room. He touches Will's neck. "Yellow, green."

"Brown, red, purple," he winces touching his own jaw near the knife wound.

"Pink. Blue," Hannibal touches other bites across Will's shoulders. "I could paint with you."

"With my insides?"

Hannibal considers. "I would like to, some day. A few vials of blood in an ink pen would do." But that's not what he meant.

"Hannibal," he whispers, voice shaking again.

"I know you don't trust me. This is an important learned behavior on your part."

Yeah. He doesn't. He can't. There's been too much hurt. Too much intentional hurt. He may feel slightly worshipped by Hannibal in these moments but he couldn't take the leap required to call it love. Not really.

Hannibal needs him. Wants him. Maybe lusts for him. Definitely covets him. And Will is almost sure, now, that Hannibal requires him, simply to exist.

That's getting hard to ignore.

Hannibal can nourish his own body well enough but his spirit and his mind rely on interaction with Will. He looks at the tanned skin of the hands skidding over him, the ease and familiarity with which they move, and he knows Hannibal didn't feel like this in the years he was locked away without Will. He knows he was fading. And the possibility of entangling Will in the Red Dragon ordeal wasn't so much about his own popularity as it was about yanking Will back in.

Hannibal's hand slides down and he jolts because he thinks it's going to his waistband, but stops on the scar across his belly.

He won't ever apologize for that night. Not for Will's guts or for Abigail. And Will won't ever know what's in his own lunch unless he follows it, farm-to-table, as it were. And Hannibal will always be trying to unearth Will from the rubble he's been buried under.

Saving someone from a building collapse doesn't mean they're safe. Oftentimes they leave entire limbs behind.

He recognizes himself as brutalized. He knows there are bigger parts of his damage attributable to Jack's carelessness and climbing than to Hannibal's curiosity and tugging.

Jack is supposed to save lives. Jack was supposed to rescue him. You can't expect Hannibal to do something so wholly out of his nature.

"Touch me like this all the time," Will requests. It just tumbles out of his mouth and he doesn't stop it because he wonders if this is a suggestion Hannibal will actually take.

Will's own curiosity testing their boundaries.

He feels Hannibal hesitate. "Do you really want that?"

Will considers the question for a moment. Considers it seriously.

"Usually," he drifts one hand to Will's belly, up to his chest, "you require a warning. Broadcasted movements. You do not need to give me this, Will."

Give? He'd thought of it as something he was taking.

Will nods, maybe not even knowing what he means by it.

"I will touch you," Hannibal assures him. "When it's too much, you must speak up. I won't have you silently shunning me. Will? This requires your words. The closer we come again, the more you will need to share with me." He hooks his chin securely over Will's shoulder. "Share with me," he makes his own request. "You are my friend. My family. Give me my family back. Allow me in."

Christ.
He really just wants to do that.

"Okay," Will covers his hand. "Then," he breathes unsteady and licks his lips. "Then tell me what our future looks like."

"There will be dancing," Hannibal says in a voice that's half-warning. "Fine meals. Late evenings."

"You're telling me we'll need a dogsitter," Will whispers, smiling.

Hannibal touches him for a while, hands wide over his skin. "Sex is a healthy and invigorating physical connection I plan to repeat with you whenever you're open to it," he says into Will's ear. "But not before you are ready for it. There will be beds and wide fields in our future. Spaces where I can display you, grand and beautiful as you are."

Will shivers because he's seen Hannibal's displays. (Seen the poetry in them, even if he doesn't like to admit it.)

"And there will be fresh mornings, every morning. I will remove those who attempt to end your life because I need the newness you bring to me each day. You should not fear me any longer, Will. Not in that way. I will have you live. I will have you show me your insides at your own pace. No one is allowed to pollute you, influence you, drown you out. Not anymore."

Is he fucking hallucinating right now or has Hannibal actually found a reason to respect his autonomy? "It's that important to you? Seriously? Because I remember a time when you were going to fry my brain with actual butter."

In response, Hannibal opens his jaw and puts his teeth to Will's neck once more. Compresses. Indents. But his tongue is more present this time. And for as lately as he had his dick in his hand, Will's wondering if he might not get hard again, anyway.

He ends it, pulls away with a long, pressing kiss at Will's throat. "Raw. I find the best way to enhance your flavor is to steep you in new experiences. Raw is better with you."

Jesus. "Doesn't that just mean you're gonna eat me alive?"

"And you are the one who pressed the point about dad jokes," Will feels him smile against his neck.

"Well, if I am your partner, I'm supposed to save you from the indignity of your own sense of humor."

"Is that what you want?" he turns Will to see him. "To be my partner?"

"Well," Will laughs. "I mean if the other option is to be completely dominated by you??" he laughs again.

"You have that option," Hannibal offers, "it might make your life easier. I would care for you better than you do yourself, clearly," he traces some of Will's old scars, "given your track record."

Yeah, not a chance. "You know, Dr. Du Maurier pretty much said you're in love with me." He floats it just to see where Hannibal's tides will take it.

"That doesn't quite sound like her," he tucks his fingers into Will's hair and twists just a little.

"Will we visit her again someday?"

"Perhaps. I value my open-ended invitations into old acquaintances' lives." He cocks his head and Will feels like he's waiting to be invited.

"You don't have enough colors," he mentions instead.

"I would welcome more, as you see fit."

Will blinks at him. Realizes. "Thanks for not treating me as an open invitation. Come here."

Hannibal comes down to savor his mouth.

«»

He knew he would. And he does it anyway.

Will hesitates.

In Florida, Hannibal finds a boat he deems suitable. It isn't occupied.

It's massive. The kind of yacht that comes with an entire staff.

"Do you think it will push the limits of your ability to maintain it?"

Maybe. But that isn't the issue. "We're just gonna take it?"

Hannibal gives him a look.

Will sags.

He watches Hannibal move from the window to the dresser. He removes Allen Robbins' gun and hands it over. It's well taken care of. "How come I can't remember it being this clean to start with?" Will checks it. Checks the full clip. Taps and clacks it home. He's pretty sure Hannibal cleaned it.

"That should make it easier for you to sweep the boat if necessary. I don't believe it's occupied. I began watching as I made our lunch. No one has moved to or from it. There's good security here," he points to the post at the entrance, up by the parking lot. A golf cart whips past with two security people on it. "However, the sheer size of the marina should obscure what we intend to do. I have no way of taking out the cameras," he points to them, high up on light poles.

And the security shack is probably just one of many, Will can tell. "We'll have another problem once we're on board. Some of these boats have alarms. And it's rare to find one this expensive that can't be tracked."

"I attempted to research the tracking this morning," Hannibal moves to wake up his tablet but-

"I know. I mean. I'll be able to-." He doesn't finish.

Hannibal waits a moment. "So this won't be as difficult as you're dreading."

"The people will be a factor." He hesitates. "That just means we have to be nonchalant about it." They'll have to do it during the day to dive and inspect the hull... goddamnit. He has an idea. A really good idea.

After a while Hannibal prompts him, because he must be able to see the cogs turning but, yeah. He needs Will to use his words.

Will scrubs his face and takes a breath. "We drop anchor a ways out. Pack all our stuff up, set it aside. Take the dinghy back here. Come up to the end of the dock. Board, sweep, clear. I'll start it up, disconnect the tracking beacon. We'll drag the dinghy back behind us as we leave. Get back here, use the small boat to transport our stuff onto the yacht," he shrugs, frowns, "send the dinghy out to sea with the beacon on board."

"The current sweeps it away. By the time they see it's us on the surveillance, they attempt to follow the boat in the wrong direction."

"It looks more suspicious to cover up in Florida. If we go now, sunscreen and glasses. Maybe hats. No long-sleeves. No gloves until we're aboard."

"The boat will be ours," Hannibal shrugs.

"But if something goes south and we have to leave it at the dock, no prints. Gloves when we get on board. Until then, we look like tourists. We'll come up between two other boats. Find out who else isn't home."

Hannibal is already able to point out the boat on the left. "However. The one to the right of ours is occupied. Presents a challenge."

"And you love challenges," he grumbles.

"With a vessel that size, what type of security measures do you expect?"

Will blows out a breath. "Motion sensors. Keypad next to the door. CCTV. A lot of the good new ones send a snapshot of the interior to cloud storage every 10, 15 minutes. There might be a sensor or beacon on the hull. That's the real problem. Getting in the water and looking on the outside of the boat. With just two of us," he shrugs.

"Leave the exterior to me. Once we board, disable any security you find. Throw anything suspicious overboard. I will inspect the hull."

"You sure?" he tries not to glance at Hannibal's side.

He comes close and stays there for a moment before sweeping a hand down Will's back. Presses his mouth to the side of Will's head. "I am. I'm a strong swimmer, Will."

He nods.
Fuck it.
"Let's just do it. I'll start packing the few clothes we have, the few things we've picked up. You pack what you need from the kitchen. I saw a tarp I can use."

"I'll use the blankets to bundle the rest. Prepare the dinghy and let me know when you're ready."

If they didn't have to prep, he'd do it now. Just to get it over with. He takes a steadying breath and nods. Turns to begin working. "Point the boat out towards a swamp, someplace we can anchor for-" Hannibal turns him.

Pushes him. Pins him against the wall. And numbs him. Rocking his mouth with an overwhelming kiss. He can't breathe. Grabs Hannibal's neck so he can move and inhale through his nose. Rapidly.

Clings. Moans.

Somehow, Hannibal centers and settles him. He lets Will's mouth go and palms his neck. Will pulls his other hand up to take Hannibal's thumb in his mouth. Bites down, but not hard because they need his hands to work well.

"No color?" Hannibal frowns some. "I struggle to get them from you."

"I'll work on it later. I donno I just."

He wants this done. But, more than that, he just realized what's been happening. And it makes him need to get Hannibal off this boat.

He's caged again. This small vessel has served its purpose. They're recovered. Will has undertaken a project, Hannibal has gotten him used to his presence. Now Hannibal needs room. He needs his fine clothes. He needs a better kitchen.

He caged himself with Will. He wants to drift with him. Find a home with him. Travel with him.

It's time. Deep in him is the surety that it's just time to let go of the coast and move on. Time to enter the wide world, partner predators, and cut their lines. Sever them directly. No more possibilities for turning around and going back and getting caught and giving up.

Will is in this. Hannibal is already so sure of him.

It's time to go.
Let's see how swiftly they can do this.

Will is ready for a challenge, too.

"Go," Will kisses him once more. "Go pack."

He nods and goes.

«»

They leave the dogs behind. Throw a fishing rod in the small boat, try to look like they're out for leisure.

Will directs them where Hannibal indicates. There's no way to get up but by the dock. They just have to dodge the security team. Hannibal looks around the side of the yacht and waits until both of them have enough time to get onto the dock at once. They board together.

And immediately have to duck as the people in the next boat come out laughing. Will peeks, waits for two women to stroll down to the dock, slip on their heels and head to the parking lot, chatting.

Hannibal spends the time looking up through the window. Comes to speak in Will's ear. "Panel on the wall."

"Gloves," he requests. "Wait until I've disarmed it. If I can't, there's no reason to check the hull."

Hannibal unlocks the door, picks it clean. There's a sensor at the top. He seems well prepared for it.

You know. Like he's done some breaking and entering before.

So the alarm doesn't start a countdown when they get in but they've still gotta disarm it to be free to walk around, etc. The display reads A R M E D. There are three faded numbers on the pad. That helps.

He doesn't wanna look through the cabin too hard. There could still be other monitoring equipment. "The nine is more faded than the other numbers," Hannibal notes.

Based on the decor and the level of tech, the one visible picture of a fresh, young woman he spotted on the wall, Will's gonna go with 1996 for a graduation year or 1969 for a car. He's familiar with this system. You get three goofs before it calls the company whether or not you eventually get it right. Tack on 1 for "on," 2 for "off."

He goes with 1996-2 to turn it off. The alarm starts counting down.

"Shit." He presses 1969-2. No joy. "Fuck." He goes with E-911 a code often used for emergency responders. Presses 3911-2 and it beeps for one more moment before it chimes. Turns off.

He takes a relieved breath.

Hannibal sticks to his back, looking out. "Will. Are we clear?"

"Yeah. Um. Head out. Pound on the hull if you need a different size screwdriver. Or a crowbar or something."

"I will. Three times. Do similar on one of the windows if someone comes in."

He slips back out, letting the door rattle closed.

The countdown on the alarm was loud enough. The ship is certainly clear. Someone would have come up to investigate -- or the alarm might not have been on at all. And Will doesn't feel anybody here.

They've come in at the stern. Will can already see a small globe attached to the ceiling in one corner, aimed away. He sticks to the wall, pulls out the permanent marker he brought, reaches up and scribbles all over it.

From the brand of the system, he knows what he's looking for. It's retail, basically, easy stuff you can get on the open-market. Not high-tech stuff. He won't take any chances, though.

The decor is modern, clean. There's one thing out of place and it almost makes him laugh. Another globe disguised as a golf ball. Nothing about this boat says it's owned by someone who golfs. This is a millenial with all three major gaming systems hooked up to a massive television.

He pulls the entire golf-ball display case off the wall and goes to a window. Looks over, doesn't see Hannibal. Chucks the thing in the water. He doesn't see any other readily apparent security measures. He heads to the controls. There's a monitoring system but it's closed. They cut corners. You can download the footage but it's not being transmitted anywhere. He opens some panels and he can easily see where the wiring all leads to. Both for the security system and the steering.

Down into the boat, then, and he pauses hearing a strange noise from outside, port.

He looks out the windows, all around, then sticks his head out the door and looks over the side. There's a definite commotion under the surface. Hannibal rises slowly to breathe again, takes in a lungful of air, goes back down. He must have found something.

Will ducks back inside and heads belowdeck.

There are some spacious rooms. A clean smell. Fresh sheets folded in a closet. No one's expected here for a while.

The engine room is quiet. There's a hum from the security system, autonomous power source. He can turn off some feeds but he doesn't want to pull the plug yet. There's a transmitter, probably for whatever Hannibal is prying off the hull.

Will gets to work on the wires. Cranking this beast to life is going to take some trickery but he's got a handle on that engine. It's beautiful, pristine. So he knows he can handle the rest of the boat.

He works as fast as he can. Gets some lights on so he can pocket his flashlight and work with both hands.

He hears the slide of furniture or something like it. Then a door.

He peeks out of the room just to make sure. Hannibal has found a towel to wrap himself in. He's holding a large, weathered box. His hair drips onto his shoulders.

"There's a light. It's still live."

Will stands and accepts it and turns it over. The label has faded too much to read. "Uh. Shit. We gotta go." He can't tell what it is but he's gotta assume it's for tracking.

"What can I do?" Hannibal offers.

"Get back up to the controls. I can get power on everywhere to use the speaker. You have to tell me when the coast is clear. Uh. Literally," he smiles.

Hannibal nods, pulls the towel to his shoulder and goes.

Will gets the generator cranking full and eventually there's static and a click.

He goes to press the button near the door. "That you?"

"There's someone on the ship across the way. Keep working."

He does. Reconnects everything so they can operate it without a key. Now all he needs to know is when they can start the boat up.

Hannibal is silent up there.

Will clicks the speaker. "Hey?"

"Our neighbors have set up chairs for some sunbathing," his voice is still completely calm.

Dammnit.

Will sets everything aside and goes up top. "You look at the galley yet?" he calls as he ascends.

"Yes. Charming. It has definite possibilities."

Will comes in to see Hannibal sitting on a low couch, drying his hair.

"So. I'm gonna throw some of this stuff over. I think I got the most obvious equipment. You can probably reach that easier than me?" he points to the half-globe on the ceiling and Hannibal nods.

Will finds some electronics he doesn't like the look of. And some tasteless books that Hannibal would be rather disgruntled to find. He goes to the back and tosses them in the water. He goes down, watches for any witnesses, then pulls the line on the small boat to hook it up to the back.

Hannibal is tall enough to disassemble the camera and drops the parts overboard. He goes to the front to check and the people on the other boat are still sunning themselves, one man, one woman. The woman has turned onto her front, though. Hopefully the guy will fall asleep or something. He's got a newspaper up in front of his face.

He goes to join Hannibal in the galley. The pans are a bit dusty, rarely used. With the power on, the fridge is starting to crank up. There are a fair few bottles of wine. Maybe more than a dozen secured to the wall. He pulls two glasses down and cleans them, wipes them, uncorks a red, curious.

When he sniffs the cork he makes an absolutely offended face. Will can't help but laugh. He pulls the ones of the same brand down and Hannibal grabs them. They go overboard.

Will pulls one of the whites and Hannibal obliges. Pulls the cork. Is much more satisfied. He pours some and sets the bottle aside. Chooses one to move to the fridge.

They begin cleaning. Will joins because he knows this is a priority. And he has a feeling that he needs to learn how to do it right to keep Hannibal's company.

They take sips and wash and dry pieces of cutlery, glasses, plates.

Anything chipped, anything with a stain Hannibal doesn't like? Goes overboard.

Will checks the neighbors again.

"I think we've gotta just gun it. That's about as clear as the coast is gonna get," he points. It appears the man has gone back inside for a moment.

Hannibal looks around, eyes narrowed, giving careful consideration to everything in view. "Tell me what to do," he says at last.

He shows Hannibal how to power up and steer. The controls are different on this boat, but he easily absorbs the information and nods. Will runs below.

Connects everything and brings the engine to life. He gives it a long moment before he goes to the speaker. "Try it."

Another moment before he senses real movement. He's guessing the sensor Hannibal pulled will go off if it sinks below a certain depth. He runs up with it to see that the depth monitor screen has clicked on and Hannibal is carefully maneuvering the boat out. Their neighbor still hasn't come back out and the woman is still sunning her back. A golf cart zips around on shore.

It doesn't matter. They're getting away with this.

When he sees a good shallow point coming up, he points to it. "Need you to throw this around there. It can't go down too far, got it?"

Hannibal takes the sensor and goes starboard to open a window and lob it out.

From there, as soon as the water opens up in front of him, Will guns it. It takes them a half hour to get back to the old boat and another twenty minutes to get their own stuff aboard. Will has to kind of toss Lily to Hannibal as gently as he can and she yips and he says, "Sorry sorry!" and Hannibal finally smiles at his goofball ass again. "You got everything?" he checks.

Hannibal nods, helps him get Winston and then himself aboard. "What about the security equipment?"

"Now, you just yank as much of that wiring as you can out of the wall," Will points to the keypad. "And I'll get the stuff in the engine room. Alarms are gonna start to go off as soon as I cut the power to the security. We dump it in the dinghy and send it out to sea. As soon as you've got it off the wall, get back to the controls."

Hannibal looks down to the dogs.

"They're fine. Count to sixty and start pulling."

He retrieves the screwdriver and waits there. Will runs below, counting. When he gets to 50 he starts pulling the power. At 60 alarms start going off and he pulls all the wires and boxes he's found. He's pushing the dinghy into the yacht's wake by the time he's finished, Hannibal already pushing them south. The dinghy judders in the waves behind them, clips the side of their old boat, and is pushed off into a wave. Catches another. Then another. And eventually fades on the horizon behind them.

Will wipes his hands on his jeans and heads back inside, finally closing the back door.

He goes to unpack the kitchen. Starts storing things in the cabinets, the pantry, the freezer. He leaves everything clean and neat. And joins Hannibal aft.

He crashes his head into Hannibal's back when he gets there, right between his shoulders. Solid muscle and warmth. It's not easy, but he picks a spot on Hannibal's left side and bites into soft tissue. Runs a hand up front, over his torso, and licks, bites hard some more. His eyes close and he tastes the salt on Hannibal's skin. Kisses the back of his arm. Returns to rest his head on his back.

It made him high. Stealing the boat, getting away with this, moving up and moving on. It's made him a little hard in his shorts and makes him wonder at the feel of the body against his. Reliable every step of the way, doing exactly as Will instructed.

Getting away. Getting away with this with him.

Will skids his hand up and feels the steady beat of Hannibal's heart at his breast. Breathes against his back and kisses it. "I can drive for a while."

"You can stay there," Hannibal says.

So Will just does, swaying with him as they push south.

«»

Will doesn't pay attention to the news, but Hannibal scours the internet for mentions of himself. When Will drives, he reads articles about them aloud to him.

"There is some speculation that Lecter and Graham have arrived in the UK. The security footage below was released by Interpol and shows two men of a similar height and look spotted by a fellow passenger disembarking at a train station in Edinburgh," he pauses. "Aside from this baseless speculation, one report on our recent theft in a local paper. No named suspects - two men, one blond, one dark-haired. The cameras were too high to catch details and the thieves handily disabled the security system. Two paragraphs with a phone number to a tip line. Elsewhere, Jack isn't quoted as admitting you are dead. He still refuses to say so, but he seems only to be available for contact through 'an FBI spokesperson,' otherwise. Your shoes have washed up on the beach, at last, prompting an official announcement of your death. Will they bury the shoes, I wonder?"

"So I'm guessing you're tempted to either call the tip line or contact the FBI spokesperson."

"Why not both?"

"Hannibal," Will sighs.

"Things are beginning to look familiar," he puts his tablet down to approach the window.

"Yeah. We'll hit Palm Beach in a few minutes."

"I'll take the controls from here, then. I've a space reserved."

"Won't you be-"

"Under an alias, of course."

Will nods and gets up from the chair to step aside. Hannibal doesn't let him go far. "Winston gave me an idea."

He laughs, "Yeah? What's that?"

"My ear. You should put one of your cuspids through the top of one of my ears."

Hannibal can't see him so he rolls his eyes wide, but lets himself be tugged in and kept close.

"Will you not?" he glances away from the window to Will.

"Will will not," he agrees.

Hannibal shakes his head. "Not yet, perhaps."

"You're not gonna piss me off just to make me want to."

"We need sheets for the bed. Our own, that don't smell of the previous owner's awful cologne. More fuel. More wine. I've made a list. Most I'll have delivered by courier. One evening in a hotel suite, I think, and then, when we've acquired all our other necessitates, we can choose a destination."

"Edinburgh's out," he leans against Hannibal. "You're taking a lot of risks, here. Hotels? Couriers? Deliveries and post office boxes?"

"They're necessary. And we shouldn't be in range of the long arm of United States law after another three days."

Will perks. "That soon?"

"If there are any home comforts you require before we enter international waters, find where we can order them on the tablet. Any final packages we can have overnighted to the last of my post office boxes in Key Largo."

Jesus. This is really it. This is the last time he'll be on American soil for who-knows-how-long. Possibly forever.

Hannibal has an arm looped around his waist. Will stays there, putting his own over Hannibal's shoulders. "Good. Had enough of this," he mutters.

"I thought you might have," Hannibal tugs at a belt loop and looks up to him. "My dear Will, I should rest you. Show you the life you deserve. Elevate you. Show you art. Help you learn. Expand your experience and your confidence in yourself."

"Damn a bunch of self-improvement, I'd just like a pleasant dinner," Will smiles down at him, feeling more fond than should even fucking make sense.

Hannibal grins, "That I can promise you."

«»

The next morning, in their wide hotel room, the light pours in and Will is alone. A phone sits charging on the nightstand.

A note held underneath it reads, Text only, if you please. H.

Will stretches. The bed is empty beside him.

He gets this day to himself.

Hannibal had explained it the same way he always did: here is your freedom, here is the leash.

Then he acted as if he'd handed Will the leash.

He had rolled his eyes in sight of him after that (been doing it quite a lot lately). And gone to bed. Turned his back to Hannibal in the night.

It's so unnecessary at this point. Whatever control Hannibal tries to play up as his own is just Will's caution and they both know it. There's no reason for him to act or speak this way.

He just thinks this is Will's last opportunity to panic, to go back, to walk downtown and turn himself in at the police station.

That's not gonna happen.

Will is actually just utterly done giving the time of day to thoughts like that. He knows where this is going. It's not that resistance is futile; it's that resistance is repetitive and he's tired. Hannibal was never what he was resisting anyway. It was the deeds and what they made him think of himself.

He knows who and what he is now. He's not a monster. There are no monsters.
He's not a victim. There are no victims.

You fight or you don't. That's all there is. You fight to stay alive or you don't. And there are forces that fight to kill you more than normal - forces like Hannibal.

The monster isn't sitting within Will, waiting to be unleashed. That's what Hannibal hoped for the whole time but that isn't what happened.

The strength to fight sits coiled within him and Will doesn't like to have to use it. That's all.

Hannibal just wants to tap that strength. Touch it and hold it and that's what he's attracted to in Will. What makes him hold and touch Will. What led him to try climbing into his mind.

Will had the strength to kill them both.
Hannibal had the strength to resist Will murdering them.

And he's addicted to the balance of it, now that he's found it. Imbalance, the strength of God to crush His creations - that fascinated Hannibal. It was something he aspired to.

Will doesn't know what he's aspiring to right now, but he's got a weird feeling that Hannibal is using him as a lens to bring that into focus.

Fine.

He's ready. He's tired of the boats, even. Tired of the port-hopping. Tired of picking up supplies and plotting. He wants Hannibal to tell him where he'd like to go. He'd like to goddamn get there already.

Admittedly, he's grumpy about it.

How will I eat if you're not here to feed me? he texts.

He's pretty fucking sure it will give Hannibal the closest thing to a heartflutter that he can actually feel.

I've been waiting for you to wake. Someone is on their way.
Packages will be left at the ship. More will arrive at the hotel. Please open the door for them. I will let you know who is to come. Ask them for identification upon arrival.

He rolls his head to crack his neck and thinks, with some seriousness, about what kind of sexting would fuck with Hannibal the most.

It's not going to be YOUR food tho.

It's a couple minutes before Hannibal texts back, I will make three courses once we set sail again.

Will laughs as he does this. He snickers as he hits send: Did you smell the courier? Is that what's for breakfast?

You're very funny.

A-ha. Okay. He takes it 180. I miss you.

I will return to you come evening, I swear it.

Oh, okay. Will you bring me new clothes? Had the same outfits for so long

Fresh and comfortable clothes, yes.

Hmm. You were right. I don't like splitting up.

We will be able to make better plans when we are settled.

Will is trying to think of something else, some other way to prod at him from a distance. But a picture message appears.

Lily and Winston, motion-blurred, in the back seat of a car.

He fires ??? back immediately, finally sitting up in bed.

They are to be groomed. They are quite happy. Promise. We needed supplies for them & this was the perfect opportunity. No need to make your way back to the ship early. They will be walked & brought back to us in the eve.

The fact that he says "brought back to us" does something completely weird to Will's heart.

It twists his guts and amazes him:
Hannibal is accepting them as a part of his life. Their life. Their shared life.

He's embracing it, even if his reluctance to enjoy and appreciate the dogs hasn't ebbed at all.

And this is-- okay. It's fucking wild. And not at all on the same level.

But it's kind of like how Will doesn't enjoy or appreciate Hannibal's hunting & harvesting.

He's going to deal with it to keep them in one place, together and alive.

"What the fuck," he says to himself, out loud in an empty room.

They're a couple. They're a couple toughing out the rough stuff.

How in the hell--

Will gets out of bed and paces some. Bites at the corner of a nail and pulls on some jeans.

He decides to send it. It's one degree to the left of the uncharacteristic sop Hannibal has been responding to.

Please be careful today.

He holds his thumb over the icon but.
Well.

He hits send.

Will sits on the corner of the bed for a moment, touching the screen to keep it illuminated.

The only colors that come to my skin will be those you choose for me. Tell me when your breakfast has arrived.

He does. And he pretends to complain about it. Pretends to complain about all the clothes Hannibal sends and the wine and the lunch and the coffee.

And Hannibal takes it all in stride. Not blows to his sensitive ego, but a willing partner in their never-ending game of whining about how they hurt each other and destroy one another's lives and are so bad together. Will hams up his gripes and Hannibal soothes them with all the courtesy and romance he dares.

Until it's getting late and another damn courier knocks and Will sighs. Texts, Don't send anymore. They're all boring.

And answers the door and Hannibal says, "Very well." And pockets his phone.

«»

This is one of their last nights in the country.

Hannibal has clearly been back to the boat since he left Will at the hotel, before dawn. It looks like he stopped work in the galley just a little while ago.

Perhaps he has grand plans.

He's back in a crisper outfit and it makes Will... kind of pleased to be standing next to him. He's not wearing a vest or tie right now, but those have been purchased. One of the spare rooms belowdeck is stocked with clothing. They bring the last of the stuff from the hotel inside and Hannibal indicates where Will's things will go. "The call numbers and name of the vessel have been changed," Hannibal takes everything out of Will's hands to set down. "And there are only a few preparations to be made before dinner is served. Will you join me?" he smiles and offers his hand.

Will shrugs and gives his own.

They shut the doors and leave only one window open. A breeze flutters the flame of a candle, set on the table, every so often. Will offers to help with dinner but Hannibal only smiles and sits him down with a cocktail. It's on the stronger side for what Hannibal normally serves. And dinner is light.

"I must confess that Winston and Lily will rejoin us in the morning... and that there are only two courses," Hannibal says as he presents the first plates and sets them down.

"No, that's alright," Will nods. "I was just kind of... bugging you on purpose. Nothing's um. Nothing's wrong with them, right?"

"Not at all. I enjoyed your 'bugging' and wished to have you to myself for all the time I missed today," Hannibal sits across from him.

"Oh," is all he says and, Will being who he is, he twigs to the man and his motives before he twigs to the environment and the set-up.

This is.
Kind of like a date.

Then he looks at the table and realizes it's, like,... more than a date.

Hannibal explains the histories and components of the dish but it really goes in one ear and out the other as Will starts wishing Florida weren't so muggy, even with a sea breeze, and he starts sweating, the itch of it beginning under his hair.

The rooms were all made up downstairs. The bed had the old sheets stripped and new ones laid down. A stack of fresh pillows.

Hannibal sent things to the hotel room just so they'd have stuff to bring downstairs before dinner. Just so he could parade Will past the room and just so Will would start considering it.

Because Hannibal has been waiting.

There was the old boat, its cramped spaces and the mold smell in certain corners and all the stuff that didn't belong to either of them, really, except whatever contingency supplies Hannibal had left in it years ago.

And now there's space. There are fresh sheets. There's clean air and a tomorrow full of possibilities.

Fuck.

"Will?" Hannibal calls for his attention, both utensils lowered.

"Sorry. It's um. A little hot in here," he chokes out, the collar of his new shirt suddenly scratchy, like the back of his damp neck.

Hannibal gives him a funny kind of pause. Pulls up his napkin to dab at his mouth, gets up and closes the window.

When he comes back, he comes to Will's side. Offers his hand again. "You're supposed to save me from having to make this joke, Will."

He clears his throat. "Um. What?"

"Is it hot in here or?"

Will looks him up and down, utterly obvious. "Is it just you?"

Hannibal gives his crinkly-eyed grin and pulls his chair back, offers his hand again, and leads Will downstairs.

"We haven't done this yet," Will suddenly rambles.

"This?"

He knows damn well 'this.' "Had sex."

"And will we?"

"Well, I mean. I thought we would. Like a few times but, uh," he shrugs.

"I have been waiting for you to use your words." He pulls Will into the-- their bedroom. Their bedroom. And backs him up against the door. "I've been waiting for you to need this."

"Yo-you've been waiting for. Clean sheets," Will laughs at him a little.

Hannibal wavers a bit. That's a 'yes.' "Will?"

"Okay, alright."

Hannibal kinda falls on him. Really weird feeling from it, too, because it seems like he was taking Will's kind of longing texts and really answering for his needs and--

So, okay, maybe Will didn't know he wasn't joking?

His eyes close and he takes Hannibal's face in his hands and just gets the hell kissed out of him. He lets Hannibal be bigger than him all over and envelop him, take him to bed, strip him, mouth at his body, toss him down, flip him over, prop him up.

"Jesus," Will shudders into the pillows, riding back on Hannibal's tongue at his ass.

He hasn't undressed yet but he's got Will naked and thrown down. The sleeve of his jacket feels foreign and strange over Will's bare back as Hannibal reaches up to follow his spine with an open hand.

Will frees up a hand, reaches between his own legs to stroke himself and doesn't get far.

Hannibal breathes heavy against his ass and he jolts. He takes Will's hand and pulls it back to his own hair.

Will is just kind of blaspheming up, down, and sideways. He hasn't had sex in months, now. He hasn't had 90-mile-an-hour sex in years. He's hasn't had Hannibal ever.

He clamps his eyes shut tight and rides back. Feels it. Grips Hannibal's hair and keeps him close and feels himself open, relaxes. Like, seriously relaxes because, yeah, he-

"I want this," he switches up his chanting. "I want this I want this I want this. Yes. I want this." He gasps a mouthful of pillowcase.

He grasps a handful of clean-cut hair.

"Fuck. Hannibal. Open me. Fuck."

Hannibal pulls away to shush him. Quiet him down and soothe the backs of his thighs.

Will drops the hand out of his hair and Hannibal moves to lay him on his side. Shucks his clothes like he means nothing less than business.

Shit.

When Will holds a hand out to him, he takes it, rejoins him on the bed. Digs a hand under the pillows.

"I should be appalled at the presumption, Doctor," Will pants when he pulls out the lube. And a condom even, like seriously, this is all planned out. He wouldn't have put it there if he didn't have a reason. Will couldn't give a fuck right now. Skin on skin or not, this is happening and he's stopped caring about hesitations, precautions, yesterday, last year, three years ago. Hannibal kneels over him, straddling his bent form exactly where he wants him. He moves Will where he needs to go and looks down to smile on his lips, kissing him. Will remembers how he looked in the museum in Florence and that same smile outshines almost everything going on, just like before.

He soothes three fingers into Will and pushes Will's thigh up to slide his cock up against it until he's got Will opened and ready. He kisses Will again.

Still fucking smiling.

"Listen, chuckles, just la-augh it up," Will hiccups, "until I've got you riding my cock at the fucking dinner table."

Hannibal laughs. Will gets a weird feeling it's because that's so out of the question that Hannibal genuinely thinks it funny.

He leans down, pushes and drives into Will, crouched above him. Assumes an impossibly athletic pose, arched above him like a landmark, and Will and his lungs are completely unprepared for when the uncomfortable push-fill of it turns into slide-fill, fill-good, good-goddamn, holy-shit--

He shouts and grips the sheets. Hannibal kisses into his neck until he practically gives a tearful confession that he's gonna come. Then the arch is broken, Hannibal sits back, holds his ass, rails into him, uses the other hand to stroke. Pounds home de.lib.er.ate.ly. each time.

And when Will comes, Hannibal mouths into his upstretched hand, teeth at his palm, open and biting the flesh under his thumb.

Comes in him some time later, pounding away, sweating and close-eyed, rocking Will on the sheets and-- his final thrusts are slow and long. Pulls out far and yanks Will back onto himself. Will is basically a ghost right now, a moaning, rattling mess clinging to sheets.

Hannibal finally stills and sits inside him. Will reaches up and grabs a handful of his hair again and pulls him down.

He obliges the unspoken request by leaning down and kissing him, even with his dry, panted-out mouth.

He gives a final shove, jolting Will, probably just for fun. Pulls out to get rid of the condom and spread Will out on his front. He nips down the back of his left arm. Then his right arm. He gets half-way down Will's back before Will can't contain a whine. He pauses. Continues when Will lay still.

Will shudders. And Hannibal soothes both hands up his back. Follows his motion and comes to lay beside him. "That's enough for now, I think."

"Thank you," he gasps into the pillowcase, feeling like the whole boat is rocking him to sleep on the echo of Hannibal's hips.

Hannibal inhales up the side of his arm, from the veins in his elbow, up to his shoulder. Curves in behind him and holds him close.

"Colors tomorrow," Will pleads, vague. Just not today. Not right now. This was. This was maybe too much for right now.

"I know," Hannibal hears without him saying it. Tucks them in and digs his nose into Will's hair again.

"Thank you," Will repeats.

«»

He sleeps like a teenager skipping class.

Like, honestly, he doesn't know which was better: the sex or the sleeping.

Will hasn't slept that well in yea--
Will hasn't slept that well in a decade.

His own, personalized serial killer is plastered against his back in the morning, pink-gray light coming through the small window. Hannibal has him matched, wrapped up nearly finger-to-finger. Like he wants to meld, sink directly into his skin. Powerful thighs behind Will's own. He's done pretending that doesn't turn him on. It does. It feels perfect.

Hannibal's head rests at the back of his neck. "Good morning, Will. I think I want you to punch me," he says to Will's spine.

"Good morning. And no."

"Why not? Where are my colors to come from?"

"I'm not punching you." Biting is fine, punching is a different story.

"Interesting line you've drawn. If I do it with my mouth, despite the fact that I've ended lives with my teeth, that's different to you than if I used my hands."

"Yeah. That's where the line sits. You can bite me because I know you won't be pulling my arteries out. But if you punch me, I'm fucking gone. You don't punch your partner."

"Arbitrary."

"Not arbitrary. I've bitten you, too. But I don't punch as hard as you. You have more mass to you. And I have a feeling you've killed more people with your hands than your teeth. So have I," he shrugs as much as Hannibal's grip allows. "So no punching. For the record, if you don't kiss me when you bite me- we're kissing now-" he stumbles over the words but, "those go together," he declares. "That is an arbitrary line. And you're gonna walk it."

"I can bite you only if I kiss you."

"Yes."

"And you don't punch as hard as I do. But you still won't punch me."

"Yes." He can feel Hannibal thinking about toeing the line. "No fingerprints, either. You don't get to toss me around or choke me out. We're done with that, you may have noticed." God, he could sleep for another six hours.

"We do have a rather abusive relationship."

"Captain. Fucking. Obvious."

"You want those aspects to end."

"You don't??" Will worms away from him and Hannibal grabs him back up, gathers him in again.

"They are ended," he agrees. "Don't leave quite yet."

Will grumbles without any real words.

"No punching. No choking. No throwing."

"Equals," Will reminds him.

"Equals," he agrees. "Though I could dominate you if you wished, Will," he says like a temptation.

"If you got some sort of kink signals from me in therapy, that I want that kinda thing? You're too late. I've tried it. I didn't like it. It was too intense. I was down for, just... weeks afterward. Weeks. It was awful."

Hannibal moves to hook his chin over Will's shoulder. "Who?"

"I'm not going to tell you that."

"Why not?"

"I don't owe you a name and you don't get to char them on the grill or anything. You and me? Too much rough stuff," he sinks back into the sheets. "No more rough stuff."

Hannibal kisses at his shoulder. "We will still exchange colors and you owe me several."

"Yeah, I know," he moves to turn over and Hannibal lets him. Kisses him when he gets there. "Gimme your ear," he moves Hannibal's head to get at the left.

"One puncture will-"

"I'm not puncturing. Stop me when you think I get to a color you'll like."

Hannibal doesn't stop him. Hannibal doesn't say anything and Will ends up with a bloody mouth.

Hannibal smiles and kisses it from his lips.

«»

They get going and Will drives the boat so Hannibal can cook.

It's nice and lazy. He holds Lily and lavishes attention on her and people on other boats wave and he raises a hand occasionally.

Hannibal makes pastries and brings them up to check on him. He makes a light lunch and stays busy planning out the three-course dinner he promised. Because he's taking those promises seriously. There will be one last, long stop for supplies in Key Largo before they head to South America. That's about as specific as they've decided on. Hannibal has said some convincing things about Buenos Aires. Will has no idea how he means for the travel to work out, but he knows he can get this boat pretty damn far with enough fuel.

He's going easy on the boat, today. Get them there around sunset. A beast this big doesn't go too fast and that's kind of okay. As long as he's got the dogs and the sun and Hannibal has peace in the kitchen for a while, it's the change they needed. He thinks he can feel himself healing faster. And he sits, quiet, sometimes, just trying to imagine the future Hannibal sees.

Will has already begun to credit his own tastes more. He doesn't have a problem with the clothes Hannibal got for him because he's familiar with the look by now. He looks and feels better in simple colors, better fits, fewer layers. It's getting to be familiar. He is learning and he is going to adapt to Hannibal just fine. If he were an abomination to Hannibal's dining room, he wouldn't have been invited back (he would have been at the table maybe one more time, seasoned well, and never heard from or seen again), so he knows he isn't a total embarrassment.

And he does feel like he'll learn things with Hannibal. He feels like his smarter, more perceptive self.

In part, he acknowledges that as the empathy. He feels more willing to credit himself, feels like he can stand back and breathe patience, feels kinda brilliant sometimes – all feelings he absorbs from Hannibal.

Though, most of the time, with the both of them as they are now, he likes to trample on what he's feeling to shake Hannibal at his roots. Bug him.

Turns out he likes being bugged.

Shit.

If this actually works out?

No. There's no fucking way this is gonna work out. This is gonna end as bloody as it ever was.

He puts his feet up and sits more comfortably.

Hannibal isn't the kind of person who will find him more tolerable if he gets ass at the end of the day. He isn't the kind of person who needs a supportive spouse to come home from work to.

Hannibal is. Strangely human.

He's a consumer. He processes things. Uses them up. Changes day-to-day. Drinks down knowledge and uses or discards it at will. There's always a basis for objection, for denying truths and bothering the shit out of people just to see what will happen.

He would be hell in an office environment. As a freelancer he's brilliant, priceless. Can't stand the drone of the everyday. Has to fuck something up at all times.

And there he is, waiting for Key Largo. Biding his time in the kitchen until they can go be their new selves.

Until he can go be his new self with Will by his side.

He feels really... he's loathe to use the word, but, it feels crazy when he starts lining things up and sees the sense in them.

When he starts believing this will all work out.

That gets worse after dinner.

Will finishes his wine and it makes him wonder aloud, "How the hell do you see this working out? Because, minute-to-minute, I oscillate between seeing you chum the water with the remainder of my parts and. And," he sighs. "I donno. Dinner and dancing in Paris. Nights at the opera. Trains to Istanbul. I donno," he repeats, putting the glass down to scrub at his face.

Hannibal swirls and inhales from his own glass. "This is your last night in the country you've lived your whole life in. It's simply difficult for you to envision a life on the run that isn't somewhere between hostile desperation and too-rich-to-touch. We are not, in fact, too rich to touch. But we will never be desperate. Moderation is a problem for both of us, I think," he admits. "We will work on it together."

Alright.

Will gets up and starts moving the plates back to the galley.

Hannibal follows a minute after, bringing their glasses and handing Will's over once he's empty-handed.

"I just don't." Will stops and tries to put this into words. "I just don't see how I'm gonna be able to know that you're out there, sometimes, chopping up the neighbors."

Finally, at long last, Hannibal betrays a bit of impatience. He stops before taking another sip from his glass. Swirls it again. Thinks better of the next sip and puts the glass on the counter. Begins unbuttoning his sleeves to wash up. "Oversimplification is unbecoming in you, Will. It's not befitting such a progressive and perceptive mind. You know and I know that I hardly make a nightly, or even weekly hobby of stalking and merrily brutalizing people at will."

He gives a final look before folding up his sleeves and starting in on the dishes.

Will goes to ferry the rest back over.

Yes, okay? He knows that isn't what Hannibal does. He killed every few years until he had attention and competition and a set of games to play. He even had a quiet, functional life in Italy before he started killing people just because he was bored and wanted a damn challenge.

But, still. He expects that it'll be any better for Will if he goes back to just dropping three bodies once every other year or something? Why is it necessary at all?

Mostly he's just wondering this: When will Hannibal get bored with me?

For all her poise, Bedelia was a husk after Hannibal got through with her. She's now basically just a bitter, angry, scared drunk with really excellent hair.

It just feels like he's already fertilizing some garden in Hannibal's future when the next oddball brain intrigues him.

Will helps clean but he keeps what's on the tip of his tongue firmly in his mouth.

Not much use in it, anyway. He knows he's beyond expiration and that he should expect to be dead any day, regardless.

If the FBI had a better hint that they were still alive, they'd be working frantically to get out of the country, right now, instead of stalling on the coast to make strategic moves.

Or.
Or Will would be in custody right now.

More loops. He can't stop considering this entire situation in a set of circles.

Loops like links in a chain, shackling him to some destiny he's got no say in.

They finish up. The dogs are allowed in now. Since they've got a nicer place, Hannibal objects to the dogs being present at lunch and dinner. It's not so unreasonable.

Will moves to go open the door. But Hannibal leans a hip against the counter and Will hesitates.

Hannibal's eyes actually skitter away for once. That's only something he's ever betrayed to Will. Will has never seen him let himself get caught as anything but the most dominate and unquestionable thing in any room. He is solid rock to everyone else.

He's still a slab of oak to Will.

"I understand that compromises must be made. I cannot refuse to be flexible if I intend to stand beside you. Therefore," Hannibal wipes off the counter one more time, folds the dishcloth, "I think it only right to allow you to direct my hands as you have allowed me to continue to direct your mind. You are quite awake to the-" he hesitates. Because he hates drawing parallels between himself and Dr. Chilton.

"Psychic driving," Will bites out each word. "I recognize when you're pushing my brain around, now," he fills in.

"And I am awake to the depths of betrayal you felt. My curiosity made a toy out of you. I treated you as something to be manipulated. But the toy bit back. I didn't respect the power I had in my hands. Now I think it appropriate that those hands should be yours."

Will doesn't buy this bullshit. He disabused himself of the slightest notion of it weeks back. "You're saying 'yes' to being a vigilante. You're trying to tell me you'd actually kill only who I say deserves it?" he is even a little dubious of his own interpretation as he says it out loud.

But Hannibal nods.
His tongue flicks across the small bruise still left at his lip. "If that is the price of your partnership."

That is.
An interesting compromise.

Will can keep a serial killer "off the streets," in effect, by allowing Hannibal this partnership. By giving in and being flexible like he is: Will is allowed to set limits on who he kills if Hannibal is allowed to camp out in his brain.

Yeah.
Still smells like bullshit.

"That's too easy. And I don't believe you," Will says every word clearly, pointedly. Goes to get the door. Whistles for the dogs to follow him aft.

«»

He stares at the dark night. Onto the beach and into the trees beyond.

His guts tell him that Hannibal is feeding him the exact line he wanted-- no. Never even could have dreamed he'd hear.

And he's doing it for the purpose of manipulation.

There's no way Hannibal would do anything law-abiding with respect to his meals or his hobbies or his habits or whatever you call his serial fucking murders.

He has no need. Especially not anymore. The world knows what he is.

Granted, they may not know, wherever it is that they end up.

And Hannibal did appear to be a law-abiding citizen for years until he played one too many games against Jack Crawford.

Like okay. Fuck. What does he even want to hear from him?

Hannibal is pretty clearly trying not to be a manipulative douchebag. For once in his life.

He even.

Christ.

He even seems to like just kissing without it going anywhere.

He's a violent fucking murderer. Something more vicious than anyone's ever written a fucking book about. And he bided his time for three years until he knew he had something good enough to reel Will in with.

Maybe he's a violent fucking murderer with actual feelings and then where the hell does that leave them? Because Will had absolutely been operating under the assumption that every move he made was self-serving, not just at the core but several levels up and once that "kind, mild-mannered psychiatrist" exterior was scratched away you could see-

He can feel Hannibal come up the stairs and look to him.

Can't hear him. Can easily feel him.

He remembers the museum again.

Remembers getting hit with a wave of it. Just a wave of sheer gladness. Bordering on joy, comfort.

The way Hannibal had felt looking at him writ plain on his face and the way Will felt being taken in by him had a rightness to it.

Sometimes he just curls up next to someone because they need him and he doesn't know why. Like Lily does.

Sometimes he forgets what he's feeling isn't just him. So when he's fighting himself over shit like this, it's not just his own indecision, it can be absorbed from others. Or it could be his own piled beneath a shared feeling.

Hannibal is... overwhelming. He lends the world a clarity. He makes Will's own self easier to figure out. Will is a lens for Hannibal and he forgets that Hannibal is a lens for himself because he always thinks he has no interest in seeing the world as Hannibal does. But Hannibal kisses him and thinks he's beautiful. It's wild.

He has to rub over the wounded side of his face and flex the muscles a few times. Moves his knuckles over the area, rough and awakening the ache.

He turns in the captain's chair and holds out his hand.

Hannibal comes up the stairwell and takes it. Comes to stand beside him.

"I can't believe you... because I know... that you know, that I can't believe you," he pieces together. "I want to believe you, though. Do you understand why?" he can't look up at him yet. Tugs on his hand. "My life is in your hands. And I guess it has been from day one but looking at it as equals-"

"I rely on you now. It is vastly different." He looks up to the stars. "Your life is in my hands and I see the value in it in a way that didn't make sense to me before. But I tied myself to you without knowing it. You go down? I go down. So it would appear."

"So it would appear," Will agrees. "If you weren't a bad guy, I'd say I'm sorry or something. I'd apologize," he admits into the quiet around them. "For dragging you into me."

"It is one of the greatest, most unexpected joys of my life. What you must come to terms with, Will, is that it would be a pleasure to have you be the one to destroy me. I will chase it as a child does a firefly. It is too close within reach."

Will sees the field of fireflies on the Lecter family land. He sees himself among them and is staggered at the image.

All the power in this hand he's holding? All the power within Hannibal's grasp and he's too curious what Will would do with it to follow his better instincts and destroy him; go his own way.

"God," Will shakes his head. "There's a joke in here somewhere about it being you who wanted to have the hell dommed out of you all along," he breathes a laugh and Hannibal does, too.

"We may never trust each other. That might just be a fixture in our landscape. Or, perhaps, in an unfamiliar city, settled in another land, we will be so alien to our surroundings as to have only one another to cling to. I cannot draw our future out for you, Will. But I would very much like to walk forward and meet it at your side. See it through your eyes and share my experience with you. Hold your doors open for you," he pulls Will's hand up to kiss over the fingers Will has gripped into his palm. "Ply you with fine meals. Play the part of your gentleman suitor."

"Ah," he nods, grins. "Only play the part?"

"Come to bed with me," he says into Will's hand.

The boat is all secured. It's illegal for them to be here, at the edge of the national park, but unlikely anyone will come by and find out.

Will leads the dogs to their beds and they know to stay when told goodnight. Hannibal gets the lights and brings a bottle of water for Will to chug should he wake up having sweat himself out into the sheets.

It hasn't been so bad lately.

Like. Like last night. Which was incredible.

Not every night will be like that. It's gonna take a while for the ever-present waves to wash more of the images out of him. He'll continue to wake up with them in his throat.

Hannibal will pass him a towel. Feel his forehead. Check on his injuries. Sleep next to him.

When he lays down, he waits with his eyes closed for Hannibal to get changed. He wanders to the church. Waits on the left-hand side, the middle row of pews.

Hannibal curves into his side when he settles down.

Will feels him settle on the wood next to him.

"Where are you?"

"Where you left your heart."

"Come away. To a more pleasant room."

"Where?"

"Back to the museum with me."

He sighs, keeps his eyes closed. Tops Hannibal's hand with his own when he settles and his palm rests on Will's chest. "I keep thinking about that."

"I know. I find you there every day."

Hannibal loves that bullshit. Time reversing. Reality bending. Gods. Monsters. Men becoming Dragons. Impossible psychic connections hooked up between them just because he wants it, so he imagines it, and it's suddenly real. He thinks he finds Will in his mind palace when Will visits rooms they're both familiar with. "I don't know the painting that well," Will confesses. And it feels like a true confession. An admission that he doesn't know their places as well as he should. It shortens his breath for a moment. Hannibal's office? Will's old front porch? Hannibal's old dining room? He has a pretty good grip on those, but-

"Practice. Visit it when you can. Visit me."

As useful as the palace can be, and as good as he knows it is for him (he's maintained it to his benefit over the past three years) there are elements he doesn't have to settle for a facsimile of.

He opens his eyes and turns his head. Hannibal is staring.

"I could do that, yeah. Kinda just realized you're within groping range and you live to be told what to do."

"Live for it?" he laughs. Which is kind of all Will wanted.

Will laughs, too. Thinks about it a moment. Thinks back to his home in Wolf Trap, when he wanted to say goodbye to Hannibal forever. "When you thought of me as a conqueror - how did I overtake you, exactly?"

He blinks. Will can almost see him side-stepping. A painful memory. One he's learned from, it would seem. And painful enough that he doesn't want to talk about it. "There are no victors between us. As you pointed out."

"Yeah." Yeah well. Except. "You meant that I took you over," he whispers. "You flat-out wanted me to claim my prize."

Hannibal is too polite to roll his eyes. He looks to the ceiling.

But Will knows he isn't wrong.

He takes Hannibal's hand up and looks at his wrist. Scarred up from Matthew Brown and years of handcuffs, shackles, restraints. Will plants his mouth there and sucks, bites. Bites harder. Sucks and kisses.

Hannibal appreciates his new colors-to-be in the low light. Turns to move over him, take his head in hand, and kiss him. Reaches for the lamp and rests close.

It's okay if he doesn't say it.
It's okay if he doesn't say anything.

Will would never expect it of him.
But there's always a chance that, one day, he'll be surprised.

It's more likely than a teacup gathering itself together again.

More likely than where they are right now.

«»

Will wakes up to the twisted, horrifying monster in his bed being sweet. Looking down on him, hooking his hair behind his ear. He really has to stop laughing at him every time he pulls this shit.

Thankfully Hannibal only grins back. Reaches down to skid his shirt up his front and leans in to kiss him.

Will's about ask how he tastes with his morning breath but the dogs start losing their shit upstairs.

They both simply bolt up.

Will stops to grab Robbins' gun and stash it in his waistband, so Hannibal makes it up top first and tries to signal for him not to follow but-

Will practically crashes into his back.

Winston is barking his head off at the three men who are wandering the deck. Lily is on the other side and if she weren't so small, the dogs would have them cornered nicely.

Two of the men are in suits and one is in street clothes.

One of the suits pulls out a gun and casually points it to Winston.

Will ducks Hannibal's arm and whistles, draws, aims at the man.

It gets everyone's attention.

Winston and Lily back up to him and Lily doesn't like this shit at all. She growls like she knows.

Hannibal comes to Will's side. Keeps just a breath of distance, but stands directly beside him. The three men come in the glass door at the back. The one with the gun is aiming at Hannibal, now. The other suit produces a gun to point at Will.

"Good morning," Hannibal greets them, all characteristic poise. The man in the street clothes exchanges words with one of the suits in Spanish.

Hannibal doesn't let on that he knows what they just said. Will only picked out a few words. 'The men from' and 'FBI' and he's got the gist.

They know who they're facing down. The man in street clothes backs up, scared. The other two don't.

Will keeps his sight steady down the barrel. Lily's still close enough she might get kicked so he's tempted to point at the other guy to warn him off but Will doesn't move because Hannibal doesn't move.

"You know whose boat this is?" the first guy asks. "We came to get Mr. Perez's property back. And we find you two." He looks between himself and his partner's gun. "Two on one. Danny," he says over his shoulder, not taking his eyes off them. "Look up the bounty on these jokers."

"There is none," Hannibal says, smiling and helpful. "We're not alive. You have that in common with us this morning."

The two suits laugh.

They glance at one another to say something, joke about it, and Will knows the dogs will bolt and hide at a gunshot. He only needs Hannibal to tell him he's ready.

A touch of three fingers to his back, so he fires twice, positive he puts two in the first man, and Hannibal is already spinning away, towards the galley, dodging the other man's bullets.

The dogs fly out of the room and Will aims for the other man, but misses both shots, and has to duck back to follow Hannibal.

He doesn't have anything to reload with. That's four bullets down.

Hannibal pulls him into a crouch by the cabinets. He's got two huge knives gathered in one hand.

Pins him in place with the other hand. Comes to kneel in front of him. And looks to catch Will's eyes.

Allow me, his look says.

He is calm, well-rested. Ready. Hungry. Damn-near preemptively pleased with himself.

This is Will's first opportunity to let him off the leash.

There's probably no cell signal out here or they'd hear the guy on the phone by now. He's berating the man in street-clothes who is freaking out over their dead associate.

Will doesn't want Hannibal to do this alone. But Hannibal wants to do this alone. Like Will has already had his fun and he's seriously waiting for the nod.

Goddamnit. That's not how they're gonna do things. He isn't gonna sit behind and wait for him to come back alive.

He pulls Hannibal in to kiss him. Bites his lip again.
He flinches as two shots are fired in their direction and the man starts shouting at them in Spanish.

Will nods left. Then right.

Hannibal holds his eyes until he nods back, agreeing to this.

He can almost see the way these men are gonna die before they even do.

What really sits before his eyes is Hannibal. Color at his wrist, at his mouth because of Will. He feels the bruises on his shoulders. The colors Hannibal keeps on him.

He's actually eager to see how this works out.

Here we go -- Will moves left as Hannibal moves right.

Will comes around the far way and they're both quiet enough that the guy with the gun was expecting Hannibal to come from the galley entrance, but not prepared for Will on the other side.

He turns to aim for Will and before he can fire, Hannibal lunges at him.

Will fires at street-clothes as he tries to run for it and just fucking nails him in the head, sends him back over the rail and into the water, a stunned look on his face.

Five bullets down. He turns and Hannibal has sliced the man's arm open. He dropped the gun but if he falls and crawls he can get to it. Hannibal gets sick of their wrestling, head-butts him, and skewers him through both sides, a knife through his chest, another through his lower back. He's meaty, though, so he gasps and screams and Hannibal yanks both the knives out. Kicks him to the floor.

Will lowers his gun to come grab the other gun off the carpet. Empties and clears it. Tosses it at the couch and keeps the clip in his waistband.

Hannibal grabs the guy, bleeding and wailing. Takes a fistful of the back of his shirt and drags him out to the deck to draw his knife over his neck and bleed him into the Atlantic.

Will goes to the man he first double-tapped and kicks his gun across the floor. Pushes him over, takes his pulse.

Hannibal comes to him.

Thready. But still alive.

He looks up and Hannibal reads it on him. Reaches down to smack the man's face.

He gasps and coughs blood. His eyes bolt open and clench closed again.

"He'll come for you," the man warns between hacks.

"So what else is new," Will gripes.

"How did you know where to find us? What did you follow?" Hannibal demands.

The guy doesn't answer. Will kneels and watches. Hannibal cracks him across the face again.

"Ff-followed you down the coast," he lies. But his eyes flicker to where the other man flew over the rail with a bullet in his head.

There's some kind of tracking device still left on the boat. Something they followed in.

Hannibal sees it, too and that's all he cares to know.

He pulls aside the man's shirt to see where the bullets hit. "They could feed us for quite some time."

Will kinda snorts. "We already filled up the freezer, dear," he reminds him, blinking up.

Hannibal smiles. "I purchased a cooler while we were in town. It was intended for excursions, but I think it will do nicely for a few days." He picks the guy up by the shirt, as he did with his companion. "And there's always the drying and curing process to consider."

The man starts to struggle in Hannibal's grip, grabs for his arm but his own hand is too bloody-slick to get a grip on him. Will gets up to follow and smacks his hand down, anyway.

He looks down into the water as Hannibal bleeds this one. Looks to the body of the younger man, bobbing around. He follows the rails to a ladder hooked over the side, leading to a boat.

If they take the boat to shore, they might be able to follow tracks to where the men came from.

But better to try this, first. There's still a chance.

He gets their own ladder for a better grip, lowers it to the boat and climbs down. Unhooks it and uses the paddle to push off toward the body. Pokes it, slaps it with the paddle until it bobs close. Then he can dig through the man's pockets.

There's a soggy wallet. Car keys. A cell phone.

It's still reasonably dry. He shakes it off. The screen lights up when he presses a button on the side.

When he climbs back aboard, Hannibal is there to help him.

"Passcode protected," he hands the wallet over with the phone.

Hannibal pulls out his driver's license and tells him to try 1992. It doesn't work.

They think about it for a while as they go in to wash up. Hannibal keeps the phone to work on while Will goes in search of Winston and Lily. He calls for them, whistles. Winston eventually comes, "Where's your sister, huh?" he soothes the dog and they go looking for her.

After a while, Will's pretty sure she's behind some piece of furniture or other. He'll walk around with the dog treats, later, try to tempt her out again. She probably just needs some time to calm down.

He's right. Winston whines in the hall because he knows he's not supposed to go down there, but Lily is probably under one of the tables or beds.

"It's okay," he sits to pet and rock Winston for a while until he's nuzzled and licked back.

After some time Hannibal comes to sit on the steps with them and shows Will the phone screen, unlocked. There's a texting thread in Spanish, presumably with one of the other dead guys, as Hannibal translates it. They think they're gonna have to trek back to shore to find a tablet or laptop or something with tracking equipment, but Hannibal scrolls through his photos and finds screenshots. First of a map, tracking their movement down the coast. Then an image of where the device is in a boat schematic.

Well, who would move the fridge, right?

They check the rest of the screenshots just to make sure there aren't any other indicators of where more devices may be. This Perez guy sent some thugs and what looks like a techie with a meth problem to retrieve his personal belongings, instead of the police. Drugs, gambling. Must be some sort of kingpin's son or something, considering the decor when they arrived and the infrequency with which the vessel appears to have been used. A flighty son of a rich man who wanted his toy back. So he sent some of his lackeys to pick it up.

Hannibal moves the fridge and there's no wiring attached to the device when they pull it out. Just one box, transmitting. He decides to weigh the third body down into the water with it strapped to him. Makes a stack with it on top of some books and goes down into the rowboat to pile them under the baggy t-shirt and watch him sink.

Then Hannibal paddles over to the back and hooks up behind the yacht. They've got a new dinghy, now.

And enough fresh meat to last the first leg of the trip.

They clean up the floors and roll up the rug that the first guy bled into. Hannibal has a barrel burn on the side of his arm and Will sits to watch him tend to it, since he won't let Will help.

Then he beckons to him. Will scoots down the couch and takes some deep breaths, settles in his arms. Tries to match their breathing.

"Excellent aim," Hannibal commends, pushing his hair back. "Go shower. Dress and find Lily and return to bed. I'll bring you all your breakfast there."

"I was trying to keep the dogs out of bed."

Hannibal considers this. "I can wash and change the sheets. I've work to do up here, first, so go settle yourselves."

"We should get to the next port, first."

"The blood needs to be washed from the deck before we encounter anyone else. I will tend to things. My priority, however, is knowing that you can breathe through what just happened."

It didn't rattle him. Not like the first time they were together and he put bullets into Hobbs and panicked over Abigail, trying to stop the bleeding.

And, admittedly, this isn't gonna be as easy to live with as taking down Dolarhyde, who killed so many. But Will sincerely doubts these were good guys. The kid, maybe, was just mixed in with a bad crowd. Putting a bullet between his eyes should maybe be bothering him more than it is. And it might, in the middle of the night. But they couldn't have picked up from this and left with him alive.

No witnesses.
No one left in the U.S. to pin anything to them.

If this Perez guy was bad enough he withheld information from the police, he's not likely to report what happened to his guys and who he maybe suspects did it. Not unless he wants some popularity.

"I'm breathing. Do you need help with any of this?"

"No. Breakfast first. Go rest. You can drive us to town when things are clean and Lily feels safe."

"You love Lily, just admit it."

"She is not quite the best friend I require. I much prefer Will Graham. See to yourself first," he kisses Will's head. When Will doesn't get up to follow his directions, he stands and pulls Will off the couch and Will shivers and maybe doesn't know why.

Hannibal holds him a while longer, there. Sweeps wide hands down his back and leads him downstairs. Pulls Lily out from a low shelf, yipping and straining away, and sits them both on the bed. Nods at Winston on his way out. Winston just guards the door while Will and Lily keep each other calm.

«»

They aren't in Key Largo very long.

Will insists that Hannibal take an evening walk with him and the dogs and hangs on Hannibal's hand as they stroll.

The last of their supplies are loaded. Once every hour, Hannibal sits down and writes out bits of what's to come. As they come closer to leaving the states, things seem to be getting clearer for him.

South America first. Then to Buenos Aires. At the first opportunity he needs a better, more secure computer to start moving funds around.

He's already looking at rental properties.

Real properties. Estates. Land.

Will needs to see him roaming before they're stuck on the boat again, island-hopping down, at sea for weeks.

It will suit Will just fine. But he'll be happier when Hannibal isn't caged anymore.

The look they shared just before they left the galley to attack the man with the gun. The look they shared before gutting and bleeding the Dragon. They share this look often, he's noticed. It comes in different flavors. It means subtly different things. But, for the most part it's, "here we go."

Will says that aloud as they watch the sun set on the other side of the island. "Here we go."

"You've been ready for quite some time," Hannibal comments.

"Longer than I even thought," he admits. Maybe years. Maybe he sometimes heavily regrets all the times he could have packed up and just gone with Hannibal. Other times he doesn't regret that at all and doesn't know what the hell he's doing right now.

He has to live with that. Has to make up his mind and decide that it's his mind that's made up. Not Hannibal's influence; it can't even be a product of all the hollow things he was taught. All the laws he helped Jack uphold just so they could be subtly navigated around. All the realities that people fool themselves into every day, where Dragons don't exist simply because they don't see them - because other monsters kill them.

Will wants to leave with Hannibal. He will go anywhere so long as they're together. And that's like the most hopeless-romantic bullshit he's ever heard but.

You know, Jack Crawford lives for justice but gives no weight to truth.

Alana lived for kindness and as soon as Will told her she might have to get her hands dirty to come out of this alive, she bloodied them.

Chilton lived for fame and the real fame he gained as a victim of Dolarhyde is what killed him - it was his last taste of what he most desired.

Claw for things and don't get them.
Or bend them to your will and stop waiting.

Will closes his eyes to the light of the sunset. Turns his back on it entirely and steps in front of Hannibal to crash his head at his neck.

"This is boring. This happens every day. Will you still be able to make me a flouncy breakfast at sea? Or did you need to pick up anything else in town?"

Hannibal breathes and Will moves up and down with it. "We should walk back by the shops and make sure."

They do. They go into every shop that's still open. Chat with ladies at the counter, buy things with the cash this morning's victims had in their wallets. Will hangs on to him when Hannibal has to let go. He doesn't look up at any of the shops' cameras until the final one. He knows that, as the FBI goes through the footage, putting pieces together months from now, his whole body says the same thing his eyes do on that last shot. Here I am. Here we go.

«»

In Brazil, they stay at a villa for a while, just so Hannibal can breathe. He cooks with local ingredients and with the kitchen windows wide open.

When breakfast is ready, Will knows because there's a jingling and a scratch at the door. Hannibal normally sends Lily because Winston has his damn priorities straight, licking his chops, watching the food get made.

Will rubs his eyes and gets up to let her in. "Good morning, babygirl." He says good morning to fucking everyone these days. "He ready for us?"

She watches him climb into a pair of jeans and better shirt. Her paws tap-tap following him to the kitchen.

He is greeted and kissed and sent to the table with warm plates.

The villa isn't theirs. It isn't even rented.

The neighbors, who they used to see from the windows, have moved out of the place next door. They went to visit relatives in the south. It wasn't immediate. It was a few days after the homeowner went missing.

People mind their business here. The asshole neighbor goes missing? No reason for you to go missing as well. His loss.

They would turn their eyes away when Will smiled. Because he smiles here we go at everybody, regardless of what Hannibal says to them. He's got passable Portuguese that translates just fine here. He's still not teaching Will any other languages. It's only theirs that matters.

Here we go, Hannibal smiles, delivering breakfast, spouting off what it is before sitting down and really teaching Will about it. Here we go, he smiles when they go shopping in the afternoon. Here we go, when the wrong person pins them for tourists them in an alley near the capital and they're both so quick there isn't even time for pity.

Here we go, he nods at Will before cornering him, in the evening, and sucking the taste of wine from his lips.

He brings the bottle to bed. Pours wine in the dip of the scar at Will's shoulder and drinks from it. Tongues every drop from him. Pulls the red color from his skin, applies blue, a hard, sucking bite and kiss to Will's hip.

He looks devastating in the low light. Eyes full of here we go and worship. Will doesn't let him go further. Pushes him back to move down between his legs, hold them in place, and mouth at him.

Will leaves a succession of colors down the inside of Hannibal's thigh, after. Red-brown, purple, pink, red.

He tends to leave them uneven like that. So Hannibal is clawing for him the next day. Demanding colors on his other thigh.

Sure. And Will leaves one more on the back of his neck, off-center.

Which bothers him until Will evens it out the next afternoon. Leaves a bite on his wrist. And so on. Spinning it out like Scheherazade with a taste for flesh.

Until Hannibal sees what he's about. And decides to be uneven. Appears smiling, in company at the opera, with one bruise on the left side of his neck, ushering Will alongside him.

One night, before they sit down for a performance, their acquaintances introduce them to a friend visiting from the U.S.

His eyes light up, instantly, with recognition.

Hannibal nods here we go at him and introduces his husband first. Then shakes the man's hand, as well. Everyone separates for their seats and Will notes, in a whisper to him, that the poor fellow appears to have left the event early.

"Quite rude of him," Hannibal says under the sound of applause.

Here we go.