Wounds We Leave in the Sea


Chapter One:

The Antidote

Consciousness came unexpectedly, like the devastating leaps of a tornado. “Don’t talk,” a voice warned. Shadowy hands adjusted a vine of tubing and disappeared.

Hannibal knew intuitively that Will understood his confusion. How many times had Will awoken to the horror of his shattered body? Though he’d lived through plenty, this particular experience was new for Hannibal.

“Shhh. I’ve got you,” Will soothed. He spoke calmly and reassured him that he would be alright. The worst was over, or so he said.

Hannibal’s tongue clicked uselessly for sound.

“You’re thirsty. Here.” Will set an ice cube on his lips and let it melt. Hannibal struggled repeatedly against his helplessness in slow squirming movements. He felt kind hands petting his arm, brushing fingers through his salted hair.

Hours later, the sedative dulled and Hannibal opened his bleary, unfocused eyes. Will was shifting him, rolling his frame and moving his limbs to position him. “Almost done.” He bit off a strip of medical tape and pressed it against the wide gauze winding Hannibal’s torso.

“Where…” he managed.

Will paused and leaned over him so he could see his caretaker. “Appalachians. Just rest. We’re safe.”

<>

It was sometime in the middle of the night when he woke, rustling in his coarse sheets. “Will,” Hannibal called. Will had nodded off in an armchair in the corner, a book forgotten on his chest. He startled at the sound of Hannibal’s voice and was on his feet in an instant. The book clattered to the ground. A small lamp in the corner served as a night light, casting a low golden hue up the wood-paneled wall. Will automatically went for a glass of water and tipped it to his lips. He skimmed a thumb over his cheeks. Hannibal didn’t need to be told that his condition was serious. He could feel it bone-deep. His body must be patterned in purples and blues.

“More, please,” he croaked.

“Of course.” Will’s bare feet echoed on squeaky cabin floors as he made the short trip to the kitchen sink. He returned with a plastic pitcher clinking with ice water. It took glass after glass before Hannibal’s parched throat was somewhat sated.

“How did we get here?” he asked.

Will sat slowly on the edge of the mattress, careful not to shake the bed. “You think I engineered our deaths without a backup plan. You think I tossed us off a cliff on a whim.”

Hannibal closed his eyes, too weak to argue. Of course he assumed the impulsive man had tossed them off a cliff on a whim. He was all too happy to follow. “Is that not what happened?”

“Chiyoh was waiting for us with my boat. I called her while you were changing at the house.”

“Is she – ?”

“Already gone. About a day and a half ago.”

“How ever were you able to find her?”

“We keep in touch.”

“All this time?”

“Yeah.”

“Another stray in your pack.” A shadow of sickening pain lurched across his features as he tried to adjust his head on the pillow.

Will sucked at his teeth and shrugged. “Chiyoh owes me for her freedom. We came to an understanding while you were…away.” He pulled the sheet back to check Hannibal’s gut wound and the tape on his broken ribs.

“You make a fine nurse.”

“Let’s hope I make a better doctor. I need you to look at your gunshot and tell me how badly I’ve fucked it up.” Will found a hand mirror and began peeling back the tape. Before he took off the padding, he hit the overhead light. 

Hannibal winced in the sudden brightness. He strained to look down and angle the mirror with precision. “You used betadine and shaved the area. That’s a start.”

“The stitches are garbage. I know. I’m sorry.”

Hannibal traced the thin line of tidy, if slightly uneven knots and smiled. He had been sewn up industriously and would bear a striking resemblance to one of Will’s fishing flies. “Better than most medical students. An impressive first job given the circumstances. Walk me through what is underneath this and what you did.”

“It was a through and through. I debrided it with saline – we didn’t have much on hand, which is why you’re so dehydrated. Widened the exit wound there to get a better view of things with a sterile scalpel. I figured you wouldn’t mind, given how you opened me up. Then I manually felt for anything loose or gushing blood.”

“How far were you able to proceed with the visual inspection?”

“Your liver looked intact and I was able to get under it to check your kidney. I remembered what you showed me when we dismantled Randall Tier.”

“Tier was dead, Will. I – as grateful as I am for the fact – am not. There will be severe bruising,” he chided. If only his blood loss and shock hadn’t come on so quickly. He would have thoroughly enjoyed the look of concentration on Will’s face as he dug around amongst his viscera.

“Your intestines weren’t nicked as far as I could tell.”

“The smell would be unmistakable.”

“I think we’re clear of sepsis. Your temperature has been slightly elevated but stable. It’s been three days. It feels like a year.”

Hannibal let the mirror slide to the mattress and his head lolled to the side, exhausted by the small effort. The occasional table that had doubled as his surgical tray was still set up against the wall. A piece of vinyl tubing stained brown with dried blood lay curled there. His brow furrowed. There was a catheter attached to one end and an arterial cannula on the other. A chill settled over him.

“Will, what is that?”

“Uh…that is something you may not entirely be thrilled about.”

Hannibal’s eyes flew to Will’s bandaged wrist and found a corresponding bruised mark on his right inner elbow.

“You were bleeding out. I thought we were going to lose you. We could barely find your pulse.”

“Tell me you didn’t try what I think you tried.” Direct transfusion hadn’t been used in field medicine since the American Civil War. Even with modern tools, cannulating a radial artery and performing an end-to-end anastomosis was an exceedingly skilled task.

“Yeah, well. It seemed like our only option. I’m O negative. Chiyoh was pretty ballsy. She kept stabbing until we got the artery tapped and we just let it run until I nearly passed out. I don’t know how much blood I had left to give, but I gave you whatever I had to spare.”

“You savage, remarkable boy.” He strained to touch the crook of his arm where Will’s blood had entered him, filled him. It was a miracle Will hadn’t killed himself trying to help him; more miraculous still that he’d not damaged the nerves in his wrist or bled to death in his attempts. He felt a near religious awe swell in his chest. “You’ve penetrated me wrist-deep and now your lifeblood runs through my veins.”

The praise elicited a shy smile. It tugged at the bandage on Will’s face and he touched it in pain. The gauze began to turn pink.

“You’ve pulled one of your stitches.”

“No stitches to pull. I was waiting for you to wake up.”

Hannibal couldn’t fathom why. Perhaps their supplies were too limited. “I assume we are out of Lidocaine?”

“No.”

“The scar will likely be worse now. I may have to reopen it if it has already begun to heal incorrectly.”

“I don’t care. Just so long as it is bound up by your hands. The dragon isn’t getting the last word in on my face.”

It was Hannibal’s turn to feel a flush of pleasure coloring his sharp cheeks. He spread his palms out to see whether he was stable enough to operate. He had a slight tremor, but nothing that wouldn’t clear with better hydration and more energy. Ever prescient, Will anticipated his train of thought.

“Think you could eat something? There are eggs in the fridge. No other protein, I’m afraid. I’ve got Sevilla oranges though.”

“Please.”

Hannibal drifted off to the sound of clinking pans and slapping cupboard doors. It seemed as though Will was gone for an eternity before he came in with a heaping pile of scrambled eggs and fresh squeezed orange juice. Will fed him small forkfuls, insisted on blowing on each. His lips wrapped around the tines each round, savoring the creamy flavor. They stared at each other in silence, each movement perfectly coordinated and in sync. This moment lodged itself in the halls of his memory palace. Protein scramble in Minnesota. Soup in the hospital. Hot steaming coffees on the road. Long pig on Chandler Square. A fragrant broth in Florence. Hannibal could taste each and every meal they had shared as though they were still fresh on his tongue.

“Your eggs are cooked to perfection. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Will said and scrubbed at his beard.

“And thank you for saving my life. You alone seem to exercise the power of God over me.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet.”

Hannibal relaxed back into his pillow and looked at the shimmying leaves outside. The curtains framing the window were hideous. “Not out of the woods yet. But we will be.”

<> 

 

Will was doing dishes when he heard the thump and cry of agony.

“Hannibal!” he yelled when he found him crumpled on the ground. Throwing the kitchen towel he had draped over a shoulder to the side, he wrestled to get him back into the bed. His stab wounds made hefting the large man’s weight nearly impossible.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”

“I had to urinate,” he said in a shallow breath.

Will rolled his eyes. “So help me god, I will chain you to this bed if you don’t stay put while you heal.”

In spite of his pain, a hint of amusement danced over Hannibal’s mouth. It didn’t escape Will’s notice.

“Behave yourself,” Will warned. He slipped out and returned with an old shallow pan. Reaching under the sheet, he nestled it between Hannibal’s legs.

“I realize this is an indignity, but I’m going to need you to pee for me.”

Hannibal searched his face, curious about the game they were playing. What wounds had they left behind in the sea? Something had fallen with them, fallen away. Perhaps it was dropped forgiveness and the bitter scorn of heartbreak, washed away in the sacrament of blood and baptismal rite. Will had freed him from incarceration, killed with him, killed for him. He had planned this escape with malice and forethought. He was confident and in control. In the full bloom of his transformation, his simple request for submission was too alluring. Like the leap on the cliff, he would succumb. He would follow where Will Graham lead. 

“Anything for you, dear Will.”

“Do you want me to help?”

Hannibal nodded. “Please.”

Will did not hesitate. He freed Hannibal’s soft length from the generic boxers he had been dressed in and gently pulled the foreskin back and aimed down. Hannibal let go and the urine made a metallic splash whose timbre changed as it flowed. He watched Will’s impassive face. If the intimacy of holding another man’s cock in his hand while he pissed affected him, he did not show it. Will gave him a little shake when he was finished and tucked him back away. He glanced into the dented, improvisatory chamber pot.

“You’re still dehydrated.”

“Perhaps more of that delicious orange juice of yours?”

“Coming right up.”

 

<> 

 

“A little to the left,” Hannibal suggested.

Will tipped the desk lamp to angle the light. Performing surgery from bed – even as something as basic as a set of stitches – was less than ideal. Their sparse three room cabin, which Will described but Hannibal could not explore, was deep in a forest where the light that filtered down was always dappled and fair. Will had chosen this location with care – remote and completely off grid. He assured Hannibal the nearest neighbors were miles up a dirt road. Not even the turnoff was easily found.

Once they had their makeshift theatre set up, Will positioned himself as close as possible, caging his arms around either side of Hannibal’s head. They had tried propping Hannibal upright with pillows, but the pressure on his organs turned him green and they swiftly abandoned that effort. He was prone now and Will leaned down into his breath, closing his eyes as the syringe pushed into his torn flesh.

Hannibal was glad the surgical gloves were a size too small. Better than too baggy, given how closely he wanted to lay each precise track of thread. He abhorred the obstruction of ill-fitting things. He intended to do his finest work yet, irrespective of the circumstances. Never as an ER surgeon did he hesitate, but then, trauma surgery had little time to be bothered with aesthetics. It was one of the principle reasons he left. Today, he felt a little like a conservationist before setting his cleaning brush on the oil. He was about to restore a Michelangelo and there was no room for error.

Will held perfectly still. Beads of sweat began to flower on his forehead and collect from the effort. Hannibal paused to have Will collect them with a square cotton pad, lest they contaminate his clean canvas. By the end of it, he was sweating from concentration too, moisture mottling his upper lip and pooling in the crinkled lines of eyes. His patient qua assisting nurse dabbed him off periodically when requested. Twice he stopped completely to reassess where he would settle his needle before forging ahead. Once he was dissatisfied with the tension on a knot and clipped the stitch and redid it entirely.

“Your perfectionism is really inconvenient for my arms,” Will complained. He was starting to shake.

“Nevertheless, your face will be grateful for it.”

“Will I be terribly ugly, Doctor?” He tried to sound playful, but there was real concern behind his words.

Hannibal long suspected that Will Graham knew precisely what a uniquely stunning creature he was. It was dealing with the emotional repercussions of how others saw him that was terrifying – the lust, the covetousness, the petty jealousy. Wading through a flood of desires for his body, never to be entirely certain of his own self perception. They hadn’t addressed that issue in therapy. They would, starting now. No time like the present.

Hannibal tied off the last stitch. He ventured a stroke on the numbed side of Will’s cheek and let his fingers wander over his jaw and neck. “If you are asking what I see when I look at you, then I must tell you that I will always see the wrathful lamb who slaughtered a dragon and went on to tackle the devil himself. But if I’ve done my job, there will hardly be a scar there to remind me of that. You will always be beautiful to me, in every regard.”

“Yours or mine?”

“Yes, is the answer to that, I think.”

” ‘If you saw me every day, forever?'” Will recalled.

“I will always remember this time.” 

Will bit his bottom lip and suppressed a smile. He closed the distance between them, lips ghosting just above Hannibal’s forehead in hesitation, before pressing a chaste kiss at his temple. “You still smell like blood and seawater,” Will whispered.

 

<> 

 

Sudsy liquid sluiced from the sponge down Will’s wrist. He patted Hannibal down in slow swipes, returning occasionally to the bowl of warm water in bed beside him on a towel. Hannibal watched in fascination as Will studied his body and discovered its mundane mysteries. He considered narrating the faded imperfections, the old scars, his private reserve of battle wounds. Instead he found he was content to silently participate in this intimate act. He was compliant as Will mapped out his constellations of freckles, the ropey veins that graced his leonine arms, his curves and valleys. Will lingered on his neck and chest before tracing the trail of soft hair that chased down his belly to his groin. He paused at his stomach, chewing at a thought for a long time before finding the right words. Concern skittered across his face. “Did they take care of you at the BSHCI?”

“I enjoyed certain privileges under Dr. Bloom’s supervision, you will recall.”

“No abusive nurses I need to go back and kill?”

Hannibal smirked. “Nurses? No.” Now was not the time to mention his promise to Alana. Not when Will was confessing the unspeakable worry he had borne alone for three excruciating years.

“You’ve lost muscle mass.”

“Yard privileges were not part of the agreement. Yoga was a suitable alternative in the absence of any equipment.”

“Did you get the same food as the inmates downstairs?”

“Calling it ‘food’ might be overly generous. The institution’s cook, I believe, tried what she could with the state’s limited funding. It was always too starchy and fatty, nevermind incomparably vile.”

“Not enough meat for your tastes. Not the right cuts, that’s for sure.” Will gave a crooked smile, avoiding pulling at his right cheek. “I was only there two months and I grew a tum too.” Hannibal frowned at the mention of this less pleasant change in his aging body and Will set his palm down on his belly and squeezed. “I like your tum,” he said conspiratorially. He dipped the sponge in the water and continued further south.

“What else do you like?” Hannibal asked, trying to maintain an even tone despite knowing the territory they were now headed. His body held no embarrassment for him, only a very probable indelicacy for Will. The warm hand suddenly cupping his testicles made him jump. The feel of heat and wet on the head of his penis, down his perineum, and between his cheeks was obscenely pleasant. Will’s touch was clinical, but it made no difference. He grew absurdly hard in his hand within seconds. Three years of celibacy and 24 hour video monitoring had not made for an active carnal life. It had, however, given him plenty of time to imagine a host of scenarios that would bring about circumstances similar to the present.

“I always figured you had a reason to be so confident. I guess it is true what they say.”

“What do they say, Will?” Defaulting to his psychiatrist’s stock questions sounded ridiculous and they both knew it. He was breathing in shallow pants while his member flexed and strained for contact and he stared out the window as though something outside were more interesting.

Will snorted. “Can’t just graciously take a compliment when one is given? So very rude, Hannibal. People might say you’re a giant dick.”

“Most people prefer to avoid backhanded compliments.”

“I’m not most people,” Will retorted.

“No. You most certainly are not.”

 

Will finished toweling him off. Hannibal was still rock hard. Even the sensation of the towel on his skin felt erotic now. “Should I take care of that for you?” Will asked. “You look like you need some relief.”

The small, pathetic creature of need he buried deep within him shrieked to be freed from its iron cage. Hannibal, meanwhile, was left uncharacteristically speechless while he grappled with the demon. It took him a moment to quiet his baser instinct and tidy himself with a veneer of civility. “I very much appreciate the offer and…the topic certainly deserves to be revisited…at length, I should imagine, given our new arrangement,” he said. “However, given the nature of the injuries in my abdominal wall, any agitation would be extraordinarily ill advised at present.”

Will quirked his eyebrows in suspicion, shrugged, and began re-bandaging and re-taping his injuries. As Hannibal waited for him to finish, his exposed skin grew cold in the open air and goosebumps chased across his arms and legs. Will pulled the blanket up high around his neck and, pausing, lifted it up and crawled under. He barely made contact with him except to press his nose and lips against his shoulder. Hannibal’s hand ventured up to tangle his fingers in Will’s hair.

“If you were well enough…” Will started. He couldn’t quite manage the rest. The question hung over them awkwardly.

“What’s on your mind?”

“I…missed you.”

Hannibal smiled slyly. “And I missed you.”

“You knew. You knew it would drive me crazy thinking of you locked up and waiting for me to react.”

“The proverbial ball was in your court. I had rather hoped you might react sooner than three years.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.”

Hannibal swallowed. A nervous tick. “Did it?”

Will slid an arm over his chest, a hand settling around Hannibal’s shoulder. “After everything we’ve been through together, are we still dancing around each other and sparring with metaphors and aphorisms?”

“It would seem so.”

“Bedelia told me in no uncertain terms that you were in love with me. I’ve never heard someone speak of love so hatefully.”

Hannibal chuckles, thinking of her sustained state of self-imposed horror in Italy. “Dr. Du Maurier lives in the eclipse of denial. She fixes blame on others for the unrequited desires she is incapable of realizing herself. She was greatly disappointed with the husband she hoped to have.”

“Neither one of us have been very good husbands.”

“Perhaps that has been for the best, in the end.”

“Yes. Perhaps.”

They laid there quietly then, each pondering the other, neither quite able to find the right words. It was Will, surprisingly, who broke through the last wall they had yet to breach. It was the final fort, torn asunder with the simplest of sentiments. 

“I’ve loved you since the day you called me a mongoose and insisted I’d find you interesting.”

The memory hit Hannibal with the same force as their fall. Ruffle haired Will Graham in his grey nightshirt and underwear. The smell of Will and fennel and musty motel carpet. The two of them incapable of not smiling at the discovery of each other. True smiles. Smiles they carried with them as they walked through the carnage of their lives.

Emotion welled up so strongly in Hannibal’s throat it was if he was drowning again in the sea. He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t breathe. He was dying from the love sickness which had poisoned him for so long. His fist tightened in Will’s curls, pulling him closer. The emotion refused to stop and it swelled and crested and poured out from his eyes. From somewhere beyond himself, he heard a choked cry.

“Hannibal…Hannibal…” Will crawled over him and, holding his face, shushed him. The sound of his name in Will’s mouth only made the tears flow harder. Will wiped at them with his thumbs and continued to comfort him.

“Shhh. It’s okay. I’m here. Hannibal. I’m here. I love you and it’s okay.”

“The painkillers…are affecting me,” Hannibal tried pathetically.

“It’s not the painkillers. It’s not the painkillers and you know it. It’s the pain and it’s the cure – the antidote to all the madness we’ve visited on each other. There’s no more waiting. No more suspense. We’ve had our red wedding. We have each other. No more being alone together. We’re just together. Finally.”

Hannibal was sobbing unrestrained now into the back of his hand.

“Say it. I need to hear you say it.” 

Three easy words.

“Tell me. Please,” he urged. “Please, Hannibal. So I know.”

Succumb. Will wanted him to succumb.

Hannibal growled a cry of frustration and sucked in a breath. He gathered the air and the courage and the syllables came from somewhere near his bursting heart. It was a terrible feeling, to make such sounds. They were but simple, stupid sounds, freed from the dungeon of his memory palace where he thought he had buried them with the dead. “Aš tave myliu,” he mouthed. “Aš tave myliu.”

“Yeah?” Will asked. “Do you?”

Hannibal nodded. “Aš tave myliu, Will. Always. Always.”

“Ahsh…Ahsh ta veh meeloo?” he tried experimentally, sounding more French than Lithuanian. It was so ridiculous Hannibal started laughing while still crying. Will was pressing down too hard on his chest and it hurt and all he wanted was for the pain to never end. He was alive with his love and his happiness was the realest thing he had ever known. “Yes, Will. Aš tave myliu.”

“I love you too.”

Hannibal didn’t wait. He stole the words from Will’s mouth. He captured his lips and sucked and licked those beautiful, banal, impossible words from his tongue. Will moaned into him and the sound nearly destroyed him. Their kiss was frantic, hungry, full of teeth and pulled hair and scratching stubble. They were gasping and panting, clawing at one another to devour the other.

“Fuck,” Will panted and pulled back. They had lost time and grown desperate for more than just the kissing. “I’m going to fucking eat you alive. You’d better heal up soon.” Will collapsed next to him, clasping his hand, forcing a brief detente. They were both breathless and red-lipped, broken and healed.

“Tell me. Tell me what you will do.”

“I don’t even know where to begin. Anything. Everything you want.”

“‘If I were well enough’ you said,” he prompted.  

“I’d ride you,” he replied immediately. “I’d take you raw to the hilt and spray my cum on your face and chest. I don’t even know how to do that but I’d do it for you.”

“I’ll show you.”

“I know. I know you will. I’ve thought of you every day and night since I sent you away.”

“Did you try – ?”

“No,” Will said sharply. “No I waited. I was waiting too, you know. Hiding from it and waiting too.”

Hannibal closed his eyes and slipped inside the halls of his mind. An empty room, without form or substance, sat prepared to be filled with images from that day. It was a room he had not dared conjure until now. “Two weeks, Will. Two weeks and I’ll be ready.”

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