Then love is sin, and let me sinful be.
-Sir Philip Sidney
A gentle nudge woke Will. He had dozed off to the soft rhythm of Hannibal running his fingers through his hair and the gentle popping of the dying fire.
“Best not to sleep on the couch again.” Hannibal said quietly. “Come, let’s put you to bed.”
Will sat up. The den was dark save for the smallest glow still coming from the fireplace and two oblique, pale corridors of moonlight filtering through the windows.
“Mmm. Sorry. I hope your legs didn’t fall asleep.”
Hannibal rousted Will off the couch and, still holding his hand, led him upstairs to the guest bedroom.
“Wake me if you need anything. I’m a light sleeper.”
Will started to lean forward and reach out, still half caught in a dream. He had met a ravenstag in a dark wood. He had dreamt that the magnificent creature had finally come close enough to let him touch it. Running his hand over its long arched neck and through the feathers of its flank had thrilled and enthralled him. The ravenstag had looked back at him and tossed his head in a low breathy whicker. An acknowledgement. In the dream.
Will caught himself, hand in midair, realizing he had no idea what he was about to do. “Yeah, um, goodnight.”
Hannibal squeezed his bicep and let the touch run down the length of his arm. “Goodnight, Will. Saldžių sapnų. Sleep well.”
Will sunk into the four poster bed and almost moaned it felt so good. The sateen sheets against the silk on his skin and the plushness of the mattress were sinful. He was nearly asleep when his mind started spinning.
What the fuck are you doing, Graham? You can’t trust this man. He murders for the sheer aesthetics of it. The second you lay eyes on him you get caught up in his beguiling ways. You’re a fool.
Will tossed onto his side to shake off his circling thoughts.
He is more than murder. You saw the raw need in those bottomless eyes. He was not lying. He wants you. You’re both alone.
Maybe. He’s still going to eat you though. He’s a spider and you’re sleeping one string away from him, stupidly reveling in these 1000 thread count sheets while he’s thinking up recipes.
Fuck. There is almost certainly a kill room somewhere in this place. Did you hear that? YOU ARE SLEEPING IN A HOUSE WITH A KILL ROOM!
You didn’t have time to find it. It’s probably near the kitchen, for obvious reasons.
Yes. Below. In the basement, stupid.
Ugh. Of course there’s a basement. It’s probably as big as the entire footprint of this house. Jesus Christ. It’s Dr. H. H. Holmes all over again. Whatever you do, don’t get yourself down there.
Stop this. Stop ruminating. You’ve killed too. You killed tonight. You’re probably going to kill again.
God dammit…You know you will.
Graaa-haaam, his inner voice taunted. Hannibal has always been right about you.
He sees through all your masks. You like it. You’ve always liked it. Torturing a squirrel behind the schoolhouse so your buddies could see its insides? Killing tonight reminded you of that first pleasure. Fucking sicko.
You’re not. You’re just…You were a stupid kid. It was a mistake.
Why did you have to think of that?!
No, Graham. You’re a killer and you know it. You deserve him. You deserve each other. You deserve to be finally free and cared for by someone who understands you.
Will flopped again and audibly groaned. Jesus his life was messed up. He got up and plodded into the en suite bathroom to take a leak. Thumbing down his waistband, the sight of his heavy dick reminded him of the low-key arousal he’d felt since he’d arrived. The moment Hannibal blushed at him when he walked in. How he touched him. How he looked at him as though there was no one else in the universe. His suggestive teasing. Everything Hannibal did possessed an innate sensuality. He was the consummate epicurean, after all.
His cock twitched and he decided, screw it. He was going to jack off and get rid of some of this tension, then he’d stop this manic thinking and fall sleep. Leaning against the toilet tank, he stroked himself and quickly worked his cock into a leaking mess, trying to conjure up something sexy to think about.
Hannibal, his mind supplied, unbidden.
His hand worked harder and his breath came in shaky rasps.
Hannibal across the hall. Doing the same thing. Thinking of him. Stroking himself just as frantically. Gasping harsh moans that he could hear.
Will accidentally let out a sound. He bit his lips to silence himself.
Hannibal taking him like those pictures next to his bed. In a montsuki kimono. Pulling him down onto his lap. Pushing him down onto his…
“Oh, fuck,” he said through clenched teeth and came in powerful spurts that splashed into the bowl. He stood there panting, head hung, startled that he had orgasmed harder than he had in ages.
Washing his hands in the sink, he stared at himself in the mirror. His cheeks were flushed, still hot with erotic imagery that was all but entirely new to him. He had daydreamed about Hannibal, of course, imagined scenarios, usually involving his desk. Who hadn’t, probably? But those were just enticing thoughts. He hadn’t acted on them. He’d occasionally think of him while having a quick morning tug, but that was just a fleeting blank thought among random things like needing to file his time card and what was that actresses name with the great breasts. This was…different. Hannibal was down the hall. Will was in his house and had spent all evening with him. Half of that fantasy was informed by his present reality.
A cold realization set in. He wanted Hannibal more than he wanted to lose him. He wanted so much more time with him, to continue their conversations, to discover him. To be discovered by him. He would never have another chance in his lifetime to have whatever this was.
He was going to have to devise a way to deal with Jack. Mighty Jack Crawford was the god he would have to topple.
It was already past nine when Will tiptoed down the stairwell, bed-headed and crinkle-eyed. The smell from the kitchen was amazing and there were pots and prep bowls scattered everywhere. Peeking into dining room, he found Hannibal in a sweater and his pajama pants setting out the last of what was an enormous spread.
“Good morning, Will,” he said. “I hope you were able to sleep.”
For a dreadful moment Will thought he must have heard him– but no, Will was being paranoid and these were just pleasantries. “Morning. Wow. This is…Do you always eat like this?”
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Better to indulge now than find yourself ravenous by midday.”
Will took a seat and Hannibal poured him a cup of coffee from a carafe.
“Oh my god, is that…?”
“Chicory coffee for the Louisianan at the table.”
Will sighed gratefully. “Where did you even find this? It’s freshly ground!” The aroma and taste reminded him of humid bayou air and fishing for snook in hidden, meandering creeks.
Then there was the food. So much food. Piles of exotic fruits, at least a dozen mini egg soufflés of different varieties, a tray of dubious sausages that he had no intention of eating, and a covered dish. Hannibal took off the lid with an expectant smile.
“NO!” Will cried.
“Fresh beignets with brandy and powdered sugar.”
Will didn’t even bother setting one on his plate. It went straight into his mouth and melted into fried doughy goodness. He made an obscene sound that raised Hannibal’s eyebrows.
“Well if that’s the reaction I’ll have to make these more often.”
“Sorry. It’s just, I haven’t had these since I was a kid. They’re fantastic. You’d shut down Café du Monde if you ever wanted to start a business.”
“Enjoy, Will, before it gets cold,” he said, clearly preening at the compliments.
They dawdled, stretching out the breakfast well beyond what was reasonable. Neither wanted to face the inevitable fact that they would have to part and face the world at some point.
“Have you decided how you’ll honor your debt to Randall?”
“Yes,” Will said between bites. “I know it’s not exactly table discussion, but you don’t by any chance still have some of your old surgical tools. A bone saw, maybe?”
Hannibal’s mouth ticked up in a faint smile. “Let me look through my old medical bag and see if anything useful is still laying around.”
“Of course.” Old and laying around his ass. Hannibal probably wore bone saws out faster than the city morgue.
In the foyer, Hannibal gave him a small nondescript bag. It was heavy.
“They are entirely sanitized, but not sterile. Not that it matters to Randall now.”
“I’ll ensure they are returned to you as I got them – without any trace evidence.”
They smiled at the charade, still talking circles around what they both knew: Will Graham was borrowing the trade tools of the Chesapeake Ripper.
Will wasn’t sure how to say goodbye and the moment protracted. Hannibal suavely rescued it by drawing Will’s hand to his lips and pressing ever so slightly against his bandaged knuckles. It was a brush almost too light to be called a kiss. “Be careful,” he said.
Will touched his cheek, then dared to run a thumb over his sensuous lips. He’d wondered how they felt for quite a while now. “I’m sure we’ll see each other soon. Shall we carpool tomorrow morning? I have a sneaking suspicion we’ll both be called in for an investigation.”
“I’d be happy to drive.”
Will took another long look at Hannibal, then jogged down the front steps to his car, toolkit in hand.
On Thursday morning, the Baltimore Natural History Museum was shut to the public. Police milled around outside, cuddling cups of gas store coffee to keep warm. The officers were chortling and staring at the car that just pulled in. Will flashed his FBI badge and they let him and Hannibal through, too distracted by the Bentley to ask if Will’s partner had appropriate ID. These sorts of careless mistakes were exactly why the local PD were outside in 20 degree weather and the big kids at the Bureau were inside doing the actual crime work.
In the lobby, Will heard Hannibal’s breath hitch behind him as the horrific sight came into view. Will had built Tier a monument, at last making him into the thing he truly wanted to become. He was now an unthinking prehistoric beast, complete with eight inch saber-tooth canines.
“Where the hell have you two been? I called an hour ago!” Jack barked at them from afar.
“Morning to you too, Jack. What have we got?”
Jack paused, doing a double-take when the pair reached the crime scene tape line.
Ever mischievous, Hannibal had changed into a grey tweed coat and red scarf and tie after Will arrived at his house that morning. The ensemble mirrored Will’s coat of the same matching fabric and he wore his scarf in the same fashion. The reds around Hannibal’s neck highlighted the pop of red undershirt visible at Will’s color. They were identically different.
“Is this some kind of…You know what? I don’t give two shits and a rolling nickle. I don’t have time for your weird bullshit. I’ve got a backlog of cases and a sick wife to worry about. Get to work. Now!”
Will rolled his eyes and snapped on his gloves.
Hannibal made the first intervention, offering a patently wrong interpretation of the evidence. Will appreciated his willingness to help create a narrative, but he was going to go a different route. He proceeded to give the same half-truths that Hannibal had provided when looking at his own deeds. Hannibal circled around the articulated tiger, eyes fixed, memorizing the details of Will’s creation. Will was getting antsy to get his part over with. He let himself fall into his empathic vision in front of the whole crew, not requesting they leave. Then Hannibal couldn’t stop staring at him. Jack eventually noticed and gave Hannibal a funny look, to which Hannibal shook his head, as if they should not disturb Will’s reconstruction.
Afterwards, in the parking lot, Hannibal and Will puffed plumes of white breath into the air, standing a little too close for work partners. Will was shivering against the wind, coat and scarf still undone. Uncaring of the gawking BPD officers, Hannibal reached out and looped Will’s scarf, bringing the other end through the loop to form a cris-crossed four-in-hand knot. The trendy European style was positively dashing on him. Will looked down at it in surprise and tucked the end bits into his jacket and smiled sheepishly.
“I have an appointment with Freddy Lounds,” Will said. “If you can drop me off near her place, I can get a taxi back and get my car.”
“I have appointments today as well. And I need to talk with Alana tonight, as we discussed.”
Will swallowed and toed the gravelly pavement with his boot. “Will you…um, nevermind.” Of course he would. There was always breakup sex. That was the gentlemanly thing to do, and Hannibal was nothing if not unfailingly polite. Will had no right to be jealous. Not really. Not yet.
Hannibal gazed at him curiously. “Would you care to join me for dinner Friday evening?”
“Sure. I’d like that.”
The problem with an exceptional imagination is that it doesn’t turn off. Ever. Were Hannibal and Alana talking frankly at the dinner table, Alana with a tissue in hand? Were they on the same couch in the den, Hannibal biding his time with pleasantries before breaking the news?
No. Will knew they were twisting in grey sheets, sweating and coupling, sampling salty sweet skin for the final time. They were those kind of stoic, composed adults who did not give apologies or feel surprise at the end of an affair. Will didn’t understand that kind of attitude, but maybe that’s because he’d had so few.
He was well on his way to getting admirably drunk when he heard the screen door creak open. There stood Margot Verger, hair done to model perfection, jiggling a handle of bourbon. He had locked the dogs in the back room so they didn’t have to witness him getting shitfaced. It stressed them out. Now they were barking like madmen at the unseen intruder.
“Well this should be interesting,” he muttered under his breath and let her in.
He appreciated Margot’s approach in life. She was frank and got straight to the point. She had come to get Will drunk and have sex. He had a head start on the former, but he couldn’t fathom why she was after the latter. He wasn’t a lesbian. But there was real need and desire in her eyes. He stopped her from undoing his shirt and focused on the wall clock to be certain he wasn’t misreading her. Nope. He was feeling hesitant and thinking about someone else and she had him nearly pushed up against a dresser with heat in her eyes. The richest lesbian in the land had driven all the way down to his crappy house in the woods for his cock. Somebody might as well be getting it. Hannibal was certainly having his fun. Fuck it. He decided to give her what she wanted, devil may care.
He let Margot have free reign, guiding him how she wanted him and exploring him in turn, not without several funny inexperienced mishaps. He was happy enough to give her more than a few toe-curling, sheet-grabbing orgasms on his creaky box spring in the living room, but not for one second was he truly present. His mind was with Hannibal and Alana, and Alana having Hannibal. He could nearly feel the rolling and gasping, so much so that he and Margot’s own entangled bodies were theirs and he was lost in that other bedroom, far away.
When he thought of the darkness in Hannibal, the way his searing other-worldliness filled him so deeply and completely, Will’s orgasm came hard and sudden. He didn’t have time to pull out. Collapsing in a sweaty pile, he kissed Margot’s neck in apology. “I’m so sorry about that. I got lost in the moment. Do I…should we…”
Margot was perfectly calm. “Don’t worry. It was fun. Fascinating to experience your…parts. You’d make a great lesbian – at least from the neck up. Thank you.”
Will laughed. “You’re welcome. I guess. That’s one of the more memorable comments I’ve received in bed.”
Dawn had not yet broken when Margot got dressed. She left without saying goodbye, before Will could even make her coffee.
Will had never bothered to consult with a sommelier about wine before, but this was not an everyday purchase. Inside what an online search promised to be the best wine seller in Baltimore, the man helping him pulled out what he believed would appease even the most discerning of palates. Will turned the bottle in his hands, inspecting it warily. “You don’t by any chance ever get a buyer in here named Dr. Hannibal Lecter, do you? This is for him.” The sommelier blanched in horror and snatched the bottle right out of Will’s hands. “This is swill. Total garbage. No, no, no, Monsieur, this will not do. We’ll go to the back. We don’t put the real stuff on the floor room shelves. Come. Je vous en prie, please, this way.”
In the store room the man fussed and contemplated and fussed some more, examining the rows of little handwritten labels on the wooden racks of merchandise. “Um, I don’t have Dr. Lecter’s budget. Just something excellent but still economical will do,” Will said, dizzied by the sheer volume of options – and the number of zeros after some of the vintages’ price tags.
“Certainly, Monsieur. Yes, yes. I have just the thing. I believe he was considering this a few weeks ago, but decided he needed a Côte d’Or instead. Ah, yes. Here we are.”
The price tag was hefty, but what did Will ever spend his money on? He shrugged and shelled out nearly $200 for the bottle. The sommelier wrapped it in a simple jute bag with the store’s label in black and tied a tidy black satin ribbon around the neck.
Will arrived early and found a parking spot a half block away from Chandler Square. He fidgeted in the car, trying to give some order to his hair in the rear view mirror. And damn. The newer tie he’d put on looked stupid with his faded shirt. He tugged it off and undid two buttons of his collar. “Oh for god’s sake. Don’t be ridiculous,” he muttered to himself and re-buttoned one of them. He had never bothered so much with his appearance as he had in the past few months. What had started in earnest to entrap Hannibal had become a different kind of attempt to capture him. At some point he should really do something about his half-dead wardrobe. Will was about to get out of the car and head down the block when his phone buzzed with a text. It was from Hannibal.
Apologies for the last minute notice, but it appears Alana would like to join us and I could find no gracious way to tell her no. She seems quite agitated and I’m certain it has nothing to do with yesterday, which was an amicable parting. Perhaps you’ll be able to parse the situation for me when you arrive? I’m rather at a loss to explain her sudden rudeness. -H
Will groaned and stuffed the phone back into his pocket.
When Hannibal ushered Will through the door, Will slipped the bottle of wine into Hannibal’s hand, keeping it close between them. “Don’t open that tonight. I didn’t intend to share it with anyone else.” Hannibal glanced at the bag and the foil on the cork and bit his bottom lip. “How thoughtful, Will. I’ll put it aside discretely.”
“Thanks. Where’s the party?”
“Great. This won’t be awkward at all.”
“We’ll enjoy ourselves regardless, I’m sure.”
Of course it was brutally awkward – for he and Alana, at least.
Alana stared daggers at Will through the entire apératif and entrée courses. By the time Hannibal rolled out the main dish, she began making flagrant accusations. Apparently, Freddy god damn Lounds had gone to her and stirred things up, spouting the same theories that she’d needled him with the day before. Hannibal watched the disaster unfold with thinly veiled amusement and ate without interrupting much. Will nudged his leg under the table and gave him a look.
“Freddy isn’t the only one without boundaries. Your relationship doesn’t seem to know many,” said Alana. “It’s just hard to know where you are with each other.”
And that was the point at which Will was done with this nonsense. Who was she to talk about boundaries, she who loved to determine them for everyone else? To judge everyone else for what she didn’t understand? His slight annoyance with Hannibal evaporated and he focused his growing fury at Alana. It was one thing to be concerned about her friends and invite herself over with well-meaning intentions. But openly questioning her host and his guest – and their relationship? At this table. This table of all tables? He was half-tempted to tell her what he’d served up on it the other night and why this evening he was avoiding the boudin blanc sausages included with the roasted suckling pig.
It was a positively bitchy comment to make and unluckily for Alana, Will could do a high caliber bitchy right back. He smiled sweetly. “We know where we are with each other. Shouldn’t that be enough?” Alana’s face fell. Hannibal looked between them now, beyond entertained by Will’s defiance and Alana’s chagrin. Will gave him another kick, this time harder. Hannibal merely sipped his wine and offered to pass around the cheese course.
When the entire nightmare was through and Hannibal finally moved to escort Alana out, Will lingered in the foyer and made an excuse about helping with the dishes.
“Goodnight, Alana. Drive safe,” Will said and shut the door behind her just a little too hard.
At the sink, Hannibal washed the china while Will dried. His aggressive toweling of the plates was childish, but perhaps that was the point. “Do you want to tell me why you’re polishing the platinum off those or shall I venture a guess?”
“Hannibal,” he turned and set the dish down. “Please don’t ever put me in that kind of situation again. I can’t even believe I’m only saying that now – after every other fucked up situation you’ve put me in. But there’s the insanity between us and there is inflicting it on others. It would have been kinder to Alana and better for me if you had told me not to come and made my excuses.”
“Alana wanted to put you in this situation, not me. She insisted. I told her I was having you for dinner.”
“Let’s stick with ‘having me over for dinner’ okay?” Will ran a hand through his hair, making it stand on end. “Social pressures like that…that wasn’t playing fair.”
“You wanted me to protect you.”
Will slumped against the counter.
Hannibal wiped his hands on a dishtowel. “Come here.” Will took a tentative step forward. “What?” he asked again, this time laughing.
In a movement nearly too fast to see, Hannibal popped him on the hip with the wet towel. “Get over here!” He grabbed Will’s damp wrist and pulled him into his arms. Will was suddenly enveloped in Hannibal’s warmth and scent and chest. He was tense for a moment, then relaxed, settling his head against Hannibal’s tie.
Hannibal cradled his head and rested his cheek against it. “Better now?”
Will’s arms curled around Hannibal’s back. He pulled back to look at him. His life had done another 180 within days. At least this time it was exhilarating.
Will leaned up to meet his lips and Hannibal pulled back. “You don’t have to do that.”
“Are you going to try to stop me?”
Hannibal couldn’t quite master the quiver of a smile on his face. “Maybe.”
“Liar.” Will tried to kiss him again and again Hannibal dodged him.
“Very,” Hannibal replied, his accent noticeably thicker.
Will slid a hand up to Hannibal’s neck and simultaneously reached down and squeezed his bum. It induced the desired reflex: Hannibal lurched forward in surprise.
Hannibal closed his eyes and inhaled the face pressed against his. Will nuzzled his nose and cheek and heard Hannibal’s breathing pick up. “Still going to tell me to stop?”
Eyes half-lidded, lips slightly apart, Hannibal could only give a slight shake of the hand and grab a fistful of Will’s hair.
“Tell me to kiss you.”
Hannibal bit his lip.
“Tell me, Hannibal.”
It was almost inaudible. It may not have even been English. “Kiss me, Will.”
Will brushed his lips against Hannibal’s, teasing a little by pulling back, then starting to move in closer. Feather light touches at the precipice of a true kiss. He could sense Hannibal’s composure slipping. Will took a light lick, just to test, and felt him make strained breath that would otherwise have been growl. He licked and bit his upper lip and Hannibal snapped. He crushed his mouth against Will’s, devouring the depths of him. The first pass of tongues, Will’s knees went weak. The second had them moaning and clasping each other. The hunger for this sparking pleasure, for more of it, for it to never stop, was immediate. Hannibal spun Will around and pressed him back against the stove. They were desperate for this. My god, how long had they let this simmer into something dangerously close to boiling over? There was little restraint and no control over the sharp keening sounds they were making. It grew more frantic and Will’s ass must have pressed against a stove knob because one of the gas burner’s starters began to click. Blindly Hannibal grabbed it off and sent Will crashing against the fridge. He caught him by the wrists and locked them over his head, pressing his body against Will’s, dominating him completely. Will’s head fell back and he cried out as Hannibal bit and sucked his way down his neck. Hannibal was far too clothed. He was practically covered head to toe in his suit of modern armor. Will needed to feel more skin, somewhere, anywhere. He scrambled at Hannibal’s waistline but the damned waistcoat kept him from gaining purchase on anything resembling a shirt.
Hannibal pulled away, still caging him with his arms. He was panting raggedly with a completely wild look in his eyes, the amber flashing pinpoints of crimson. “What on earth are you doing to me?”
Will wrapped his fingers around Hannibal’s tie and pulled him within an inch of his mouth. “Unleashing you,” he whispered.
Hannibal swallowed hard, trying to find some ounce of composure. “Upstairs. Now.”
Dirty dishes were still in the sink. Not a pan had been set to soak.
Hannibal practically dragged Will up the stairs, still kissing him and peeling off Will’s coat, flinging it down the stairwell. He flicked open Will’s shirt buttons, one for every rung of steps. For a man who might literally eat him alive, he sure seemed to be fast on his way to being completely unhinged.
“Hannibal.” Will stopped him on the landing. “Hann,” he had to repeat again to get his full attention. “I want to savor this. Let’s slow down. Not too fast. Not too far.”
Hannibal gave him a wolfish grin. “Of course, širdelė.” For a moment Will thought he was going to give in that easily. Then Hannibal swooped him off his feet and carried him into the master bedroom, his legs kicking uselessly in the air. He went to toss him onto the bed but Will’s tenacious arms locked onto him and he ended crashing them both down with a bounce.
“Now, before you get anything else from me, I want to know why my mongoose smells vaguely like Margot Verger’s perfume.”
Will quirked an eyebrow. “I’ll tell you if you tell me two things.”
“Not a fair trade, but I’m willing to play, within reason.”
“Did you change the sheets this morning?”
“Yes, of course.”
Will snuck his hand down between them and grabbed the hard length in Hannibal’s trousers. “And did she make you this hard?”
“Don’t be crude.”
Will waited for an answer. He relented with a huff. “Not even close. Never.”
“Very well. I was plastered, moping about exactly what was happening in this bed last night, when Margot Verger came and attacked me with a second handle of bourbon and demanded sex.”
“A fascinating request, given her preferences. Did you get your revenge on me?”
Will grinned. “Not even close.”
Hannibal closed in and gave him the slowest, most intoxicating kiss Will had ever experienced.
“Can you keep doing that until it’s so late we can’t keep our eyes open?”
“Happily,” Hannibal said and moved in for another.
Saldžių sapnų = sweet dreams
širdelė = darling, sweetheart