Will likes the word "session."
He and Hannibal have sessions. At first, they're psychological in nature. Will sits in a chair in Hannibal's handsome office, and Hannibal asks him questions that are both invasive and perceptive. These questions ache. Will lines them up, one after the other, and tries to see the hidden agenda in them. Hannibal is doing this as a favor to Jack Crawford. Hannibal is keeping Jack's prized show dog functional.
They have sessions. Hannibal takes to offering Will wine, after the dinner party. "That wine was perfect," he says during their next one. It turns out he's saved some. "I think, though, that it would have been better had you stayed."
Will offers a vague smile, taking the glass from Hannibal and cupping both hands around it like it's a mug. "Like I said. I'm not great company for dinner parties."
Hannibal is silent a moment, and then he asks, "How is the case going, Will?"
He's referring to the latest: a Chesapeake Ripper slaying that has Will coiled up in his brain. "Fine," Will says.
"He's..." Will says. "He's terrifying. The glimpses I get inside his head..."
"You mean you're terrifying. Are you frightening yourself?"
Will comes close to meeting Hannibal's eyes. "He likes the power he has over them," he admits, and sips his wine. It's the same brand he used to buy his sister for her birthday every year; he knows the taste intimately, and yet somehow knowing that Hannibal was the one to pour this glass makes it taste impossibly sweeter. "It's addictive."
"Are you becoming addicted, Will?"
"I don't believe you," Hannibal murmurs. He sets his wine glass down on the side table and leans forward, folding his long fingers together. "Therapy only works if both parties are open with one another, Will." There is something in his voice that makes Will shudder. "You need to be open to me."
"I am," Will says.
I am becoming addicted.
Hannibal is intelligent enough to recognize the admission for what it is. "Very good," he says, sitting back again. He is so elegant in the physicality of his threatening that Will only notices now that he was, indeed, being threatened. "What is the solution to this problem, do you think?"
"I don't know. He's... he's special," Will says. "He's impossible for me to get ahold of, and at the same time, I..."
"You're too close to him," Hannibal fills in gently.
"I'm worried that I can't do my job anymore."
"Anything," Will says. "Jack's work. Teaching. I scare my students."
"Their opinions matter to you?"
"I scare everyone," Will mumbles. He finishes his wine to shut himself up.
Hannibal leans forward again. This time, his shoulders are loose and open, and his head is tilted. He isn't interrogating Will, or threatening him. His expression is uncharacteristically warm. "You don't scare me."
"You're special," Will says, without meaning to.
In the end, he will realize that this is the moment he knew. It will take several more months for him to admit it to himself, the fact that Hannibal is the Ripper, but this moment is the one where his whole mind refused to acknowledge reality and tucked the discovery into the back folds of his brain to ruminate in selfish denial.
Their session ends then. Will signs his name in Hannibal's appointment record book, nods his thanks, and leaves, his hands in his pockets.
Three days and two bodies later, he checks himself into a mental institution. The bodies weren't the Ripper's, but the MO was too similar for Will to get his head in the right place. Living puppets: women strung up and made to dance, still alive and crying for freedom while their torturer manipulated their bodies.
It was the closest Will has come to feeling the Ripper, and he is breaking in the wake.
Hannibal visits him three hours after his initial evaluation is complete. He has Will's file in his hand. It's thick.
"Did you tell them you're my psychiatrist?" Will asks.
"No," Hannibal says. "I told them you're my submissive."
Will looks him in the eyes. "E-excuse me?"
"I think," Hannibal says, "that this is an ideal solution." He sits on the edge of Will's bed. "You're afraid of power. I can take that power from you, Will. I can take all your power from you. Unless, of course, you'd like someone else to do that for you. I only thought that offering myself would be good for you."
It has been a long time since Will was in a sexual relationship. It isn't that he is not sexual; it's simply that others don't want to be sexual with him. His lack of eye contact bothers them. His occasional stammering makes them think of him as weak, and that ruins any dynamic that Will would enjoy having in bed. He is too smart for most people to be content with fucking, too weird for them to be involved with.
"You want to do that for me," Will says.
"No," Hannibal says. "I want to do that to you."
So he does.
Will stays for the mandatory one week, and at the end of it he checks himself out and goes straight to Hannibal's home. Hannibal meets him at the front door. "Give me your mobile," he commands. That done, he looks Will up and down.
Then he says, "Strip."
Will does, stitch by stitch. When he is done, his clothes folded and his shoes placed on top of them, Hannibal wrinkles his nose. "You smell like the hospital," he says. "Go upstairs. On the right, three doors down, you will find a bathroom. It's yours. Clean yourself and wear what's on the counter."
Will's expecting a leather thong, or a corset. Instead, what he finds is a simple leather collar: brown, about an inch wide, thin, and butter-soft, with a golden buckle and a tiny blue bell.
What little he knows of BDSM relationships has been influenced by pornography and street parades. He enjoys being bitten in bed. He enjoys bruises. But he has never had a dominant, and he is stranded, treading water, waiting for Hannibal to tell him how to swim for shore.
The smell of food assaults him the moment he leaves the bathroom, growing thicker as he makes his way downstairs. He briefly wonders if he was meant to use the razor he found in the bathroom for anything other than shaving off the stubble that grew while he was in the hospital -- for his pubic hair, or to shave his legs, or his chest. But Hannibal didn't tell him to do any of that, and that is the point, isn't it? To do what Hannibal tells him, and nothing else.
He pads into the kitchen wearing Hannibal's collar. Hannibal smiles at him. "Hungry?"
"You will be," Hannibal says with soft certainty. He gestures to the kitchen table.
Will makes the mistake of sitting in a chair.
"No," Hannibal says. His voice is sharp, and Will flinches, jolted. "On your knees, Will."
Will blinks in Hannibal's direction, then does as he's told, sliding down to kneel beside the chair placed at the head of the table. He puts his hands on his thighs. His cock is soft. Is he supposed to be aroused by this? "Sorry," he offers.
"Here are the rules," Hannibal replies. He turns back to the stove. With his back turned, Will is free to watch him. "We don't need to be concerned with eye contact. I want your head lowered deferentially when you are in my presence, whether we are alone or otherwise. Understood?"
"The correct response is, 'I understand, sir.'"
"I..." Will digs his fingernails into his thighs. He doesn't consider himself a prideful person, but it's a trial to push the words out of his mouth. "I understand, sir."
"Good, Will." Hannibal slides something onto a plate, his shoulders flexing gracefully under his soft grey sweater. "You are to ask me for permission each time you want to do something I haven't instructed you to do. This includes hygiene routines. Understood?"
"I understand, sir," Will forces out. This is cracking him. Maybe this isn't the solution they both thought it would be.
"If you need me to stop something, you will say your safeword. Which is...?"
Will shifts his weight to his left knee. "Anthropology."
"Say it again."
Hannibal turns with the plate in his hand and sets it on the floor in front of Will. Bacon, eggs, sliced strawberries. Simple foods, for Hannibal's fare -- but of course he is going to expect Will to eat it with his fingers. It needs to be simple. "You will greet me on your knees."
"I understand, sir." That one is easier, somehow. Will reaches for the food, then pauses. Puts his hand back on his thigh.
The smile Hannibal gives him makes him warm. "Good, Will. Ask permission."
"May I eat?"
"May I eat, sir?"
"You may. One thing at a time. Eggs first."
Will eats obediently, finding that he is hungry after all. The food is a symphony where the hospital's was a flat note. He savors it.
When the eggs are gone, he asks to continue. Hannibal lets him eat the bacon, then the strawberries, until everything is gone. The bell on Will's collar jingles each time he chews.
"Will," Hannibal says.
"Lick your plate clean."
The stubborn resistance from earlier returns, but Will lowers himself onto his palms and laps at the grease from the bacon, at the salty residue from the eggs. The red smears of strawberry. "Thank you, sir," he says, still licking.
"Tell me the rules again," Hannibal says. Will moves to sit back, and Hannibal says, a sting in his words, "I didn't say you were finished, Will."
"Yes, sir," Will says. He prostrates himself again, pressing his mouth to the china. "I... should keep my head lowered. I have a safeword. It's anthropology. I should use it when I want something to stop."
"And the other two?"
Will searches his memory frantically. He was too focused on the food to memorize what Hannibal told him -- a stupid mistake. He feels Hannibal go cold across the kitchen, and Will is afraid, suddenly. "Sir," he says, bowing lower, letting his back show, bowing to Hannibal. "I don't remember, sir, I'm sorry." Should he feel ashamed? Should he be afraid?
He feels hunted.
How can he know what everyone else feels when he can't sort out his own emotions? How can he teach himself when to feel what, when to twist into happiness or sadness or an in-between emotion with no cue whatsoever?
"Sir," he tries again. Hannibal cuts him off.
Will obeys instantly, pushing himself up with a hand on the table. "I'm sorry," he says. "Please..."
Hannibal comes closer, his footsteps silent, and touches under Will's chin with curled fingers. "You're afraid of me."
"Yes," Will says softly. He stares at the open slice of skin at Hannibal's collar.
"What do you think I'm going to do to you, for forgetting?"
Will shakes his head.
"I don't know."
"You do know. You aren't afraid of nothing."
"That was a double negative," Will murmurs. To his surprise, Hannibal laughs. He presses the pad of one thumb to Will's bottom lip.
"Quiet. My first language isn't English. Dear, tell me what you think," he says. His voice is warmer than Will would have thought him capable. "A relationship like this requires openness."
Sessions. Will relaxes into Hannibal's hand, his eyes closing. This is a session. He wants wine on the back of his tongue. He wants Hannibal's come on the back of his tongue, too. "I think you'll want to stop."
Hannibal clucks his tongue against the backs of his teeth. "When I commit to something," he murmurs, stroking over Will's lip, "I am utterly devoted. Understood?"
Will exhales. "I understand, sir."
Hannibal releases him. "Clean your plate up," he says. When it's in the sink, Hannibal leads Will back to the foyer and upstairs, turning left rather than right. "When you fail to do as I say, you will be punished, Will. You will not be abandoned."
"I understand, sir."
"You don't," Hannibal says, correctly. "But you will."
The room he brings Will to is his bedroom. Unlike the rest of the house, which smells of an unobtrusive incense, this place smells entirely of Hannibal, though it is as neat as any other room. Will stops at the doorway, uncertain; he can't help examining the room for its personal effects, categorizing the items on the dresser, the volumes in the bookcase. Hannibal's class extends here: there are thick original copies, some classics editions bound in leather.
"You may come in," Hannibal says. "That was good of you, waiting for permission to enter. Kneel for me."
Will slips to his knees on the plush carpet. When he looks up to see Hannibal walking away from him, Hannibal's shadow blurs into the stag, bred of grace and power. Will bows without thinking, putting his forehead to the floor. He hears Hannibal's footsteps pause, but no comment is made.
A cabinet opens, then a drawer. Rustling of fabric. The soft sound of a zipper. Will inhales, savoring the supplication in his body.
Session. This is another session, except this time, it will work. He has to do nothing here but wait -- be still, and appreciate Hannibal's commands.
"Come here," Hannibal says. Will stands, takes a step. "No," Hannibal murmurs. He isn't looking at Will. Will folds down onto his hands and knees, and he crawls. Hannibal makes a soft, praising noise. "Now stand. Put your palms on the end of the bed and spread your legs."
Will's heartbeat quickens. "Yes, sir." He takes the instructed stance and lets his head drop, tightening the line of his spine.
Hannibal runs his hand along it. Traces each vertebrae. "Why do you think I am doing this to you?"
"You told me it's," Will mumbles, and has to swallow when Hannibal's fingertips linger at the end of his spine, above the swell of his ass. "You told me it's so I don't have power."
"So you don't have to be afraid, or burdened by others' fear of what you can do."
Hannibal hooks his fingers in the back of Will's collar and pulls. His other hand stays pressed at Will's back, so he is bowing Will's body between the polar zones of his hands, manipulating him. "I am going to exhaust you, Will, because you forgot your rules, and because you need to be used."
Will swallows against the choking collar, rasping, "Yes, sir."
"Tell me your safeword."
"Anthropology," Will says. Hannibal lets his collar go. It jingles and settles, warmed by his body. Will drops his head back to its former position. He doesn't know what Hannibal is going to do to him. Again, his scant knowledge of BDSM is failing him. All he can imagine are bullwhips and dog muzzle masks. Leashes. Chains.
A needle digs into his back.
Will jolts forward, gasping, thinking, God, please, no, because he doesn't want to have to give this up. His faulty, brilliant mind is immediately convinced that Hannibal has just injected him with a cocktail of drugs that will, that will immobilize him, paralyze him -- is this how Hannibal wants to control him?
"Will," Hannibal says, calming Will's flight by replacing the prick with his hand. He comes close behind Will and sets his chin on Will's shoulder, drawing Will back into the curve of his strong body. Will would be the last person to think psychologists are soft, but he would never have guessed how much power Hannibal contains in his every motion. "Will," Hannibal says again. He shows Will his hand, and the tool in it. It's a... garden spade? "A Wartenberg wheel," Hannibal corrects. "Touch it."
Will puts his fingers on the spikes. Sleeping Beauty on the spindle. The pain the wheel causes him makes him go limp in Hannibal's grasp. Is he a masochist? His job makes him masochistic. His slow collapse is not something he enjoys, but there are different breeds of enjoying pain. "Hannibal," he says quietly.
"I'm going to do this to you, Will."
"Thank you, sir," Will says, and means it.
This time, the prick of the pinwheel is expected. Hannibal draws lines up Will's spine. One side, up, the other, down. Slow and purposeful. Pressure. Light, deeper, harder, a lingering touch. He does not touch Will with his skin, nor does he speak.
Will can't stop thinking.
Is he supposed to be aroused from this? Is he supposed to...? To...?
After fifteen lines, Hannibal breathes out close to the back of Will's neck.
And then he bites down.
Will gasps, his back arching. "Hann-- Sir," he says, his hands closing in his comforter.
Hannibal's jaw flexes. He waits until Will is settled before drawing away. "Is the pinwheel too impersonal for you?"
"It doesn't distract me enough," Will says. "Sir," he adds.
"I distract you?"
Hannibal hums. "Spread your legs more," he says, moving away. "Close your eyes."
Will is expecting to get fucked. He's expecting something in him -- Hannibal's cock or fingers or a vibrator or a plug. Maybe something less couth than any of those, though he doubts it. He waits, notices he's sweating. He can feel it slipping down his thighs.
"Say please, Will," Hannibal breathes. He sets his chin on Will's shoulder again.
Hannibal swats him hard, bringing his hand down on one side of Will's ass.
Will can't think. His mind goes blissfully, wonderfully blank, and he shakes so hard he moves the mattress. "Sir," he says.
"Say thank you."
"Thank you, sir," Will murmurs. Hannibal hits him again, then a third time. A fourth. He alternates sides, bringing stinging smacks down one after another, never giving Will enough time to recover from one before he's whimpering through another. Hannibal pauses after Will has thanked him thirty times, and Will turns his head, seeking Hannibal's. He finds the corner of Hannibal's mouth with his.
The response is swift and immediate. Hannibal straightens away and grips Will's jaw with his hand, turning him to face forward. "No."
Will flinches, shying from the force in Hannibal's voice. "I'm sorry," he says.
"This is about what I'll do to you," Hannibal says, "not about what you want to do to me." His voice is... ragged. Maybe Hannibal forgot what they're doing here. Maybe he's losing himself in it, too. "Tell me your rules."
"I don't remember them, sir," Will whispers. He is proud of that, takes it between his teeth. If Hannibal wants to take all his control away, then being imperfect is one thing Will can still have. Hannibal can't take his disobedience from him.
Then Hannibal gets the flogger out, and Will forgets why he ever wanted to disobey this man.
He takes thirty hits from that, lashes across and over and down his back -- carefully placed strikes that won't injure any of his internal organs or permanently damage him. Will can't consider Hannibal's design when he's shaking and sweating on hit twenty-seven. This has a design: this whole scene. This session. Hannibal has a design and a motive and means. He has an end product and a plan, and Will could, if he could concentrate, know how Hannibal feels right now, wielding utter control over Will's sobbing body.
This is my design.
Will can't think.
He says, "Please," when Hannibal stops at thirty.
"Tell me your rules."
"My head lowered," Will pants. "My safeword is anthropology. I'll greet you on my knees. I ask your permission to do everything."
"One last rule," Hannibal says. He touches the hot, swollen line of Will's back, the crisscross of marks that make Will's mouth water to imagine. Is he bleeding?
Hannibal licks him. From the base of his spine to the nape of his neck. Then he bites Will in the same place, finding the imprints of his teeth from before.
"I control you," Hannibal murmurs into his skin.
"You control me," Will echoes, obedient.
"You have no power here, Will. I'll act for you, think for you, and instruct you. We will discuss routines outside my home later. For now, you have nothing."
Will nods. His knees are weak and his body is one long ache of quivering muscle. He has no more energy left to give, no more thoughts to think. He is floating. He is helpless. Hannibal could do anything to him right now: fuck him, beat him, flog him until his back splits. Hannibal could do anything and Will would crawl to his feet and lick his shoes afterward to thank him for deigning to give Will the pleasure and privilege of his attention.
Hannibal steps away from him. "Enough of that," he says. Will nearly falls to the floor in disappointment; his cock throbs between his legs, begging for touch. Hannibal is relentless. "Come, follow me. Hands and knees."
Hannibal puts him in a bath and cleans Will himself, running a soft washcloth over all his stinging places. He ignores Will's cock and leaves his collar on through the process, which is as thorough as Will would expect from the man Hannibal Lecter is. Will's racing heart slows as Hannibal touches him; he's dozing by the end, his head resting on the back of the tub. He can't remember the last time he felt this relaxed.
"Jack isn't going to call you for three weeks," Hannibal says. His keen eyes find Will's and hold them, making Will squirm. Will doesn't need Hannibal to clarify his point: that Will is going to exist within Hannibal's sphere of control for those three weeks, and then he'll have to face the real world again. Maybe Hannibal will keep him then, too. This could be their secret.
Will imagines being on Hannibal's leash at a crime scene. Standing at his side, content to remain in stasis until Hannibal's command brings him to life to serve his purpose. Then he imagines Hannibal taking him home afterward and whipping him until he is too softened and submissive to do anything but be molded by Hannibal's perfect artistry, and to be the finely tuned instrument of Hannibal's will, slavishly sucking Hannibal's fingers after Hannibal gags him on them.
"Will," Hannibal says. He strokes the curve of Will's jaw, rousing him from his light daze. Will turns his face sleepily into Hannibal's hand. The bell on his collar jingles. Hannibal's voice is gentle when he asks, "Are you becoming addicted, Will?"
"I am, sir," Will mumbles.