The first time, Will stares at him absolutely gobsmacked.

Hannibal is sitting in a chair on the deck of the house. The buzz of the butchery feels like his veins are full of champagne instead of blood. There is a tiny speck of blood under his right thumbnail, he notes. He’s getting sloppy, out here in the country.

Hannibal thinks that he’s never seen Will so surprised in his life. He knows that Will’s discovery of him had been one of gradually pulling back a curtain. Or perhaps painting a portrait, gradually adding more and more detail until the image is clear. Nothing about Hannibal was precisely surprising to Will, by the time he knew it for sure.

Except, apparently, this.

“Disgusting,” says Will, coming to sit in the chair next to Hannibal’s. He’s staring at him with a kind of innocently perplexed expression that looks entirely new, like he must be trying it on for the first time. Hannibal loves it.

He smiles to himself. Will is right, of course. In general, the aesthetics of cigarette-smoking are atrocious. The smell, the cheap butts and gaudy cardboard cartons, the blackened teeth and eventual slow, unpleasant, prosaic death.

But there are exceptions to every rule. Hannibal remembers standing on a cobblestone street, watching a ways off from the other rubberneckers as the Italian police worked themselves into a tizzy over his gruesome art. He had wondered for so many years what it would feel like to have people see him, or at least see the important parts. When it finally happened for the first time, it was transcendent. An older man had pulled up on a motorcycle, and asked him what the police were investigating. Hannibal had simply said, “a murder,” and the man had pulled out a case of cigarettes and offered one to him. It had felt somehow perfect.

He doesn’t smoke after each kill, of course. That would be impractical, and Will would have noticed before now. And it’s not even necessarily related to killing; he has smoked at other times. He does it when it pleases him, is all. And now, sitting on the porch of their idyllic cottage, a stray splatter of blood painted just over the scar on Will’s cheek, it pleases him.

“I won’t make a habit of it,” he promises easily. Will can probably read the rest of the story rolling off of Hannibal: he can pick up this thread and follow it back in time like he followed all of the other threads. “I apologize for surprising you,” he adds, half-jokingly, since it would be perfectly logical for Will to be more disturbed at his own oversight than at the smoking itself.

Or perhaps not. “You certainly won’t,” says Will harshly, wrinkling his nose, and Hannibal realizes with a jolt of insane, excessive love that Will is angry at him for smoking for reasons that are entirely normal. “You must be insane if you think you’re allowed to die of fucking lung cancer,” he says. Well, thinks Hannibal. Perhaps adjacent to normal.

“Runaway cells will not deprive you of your due, Will,” he promises, and the implication— Hannibal’s life, Will’s for the taking whenever he wants it— makes Will blush and back down a little. “Just— not too many,” he mutters. Then, suddenly, he glances back up, thoughtful and mischievous.

Hannibal brings the cigarette back to his lips and sucks in another breath. If Will were someone else, more tolerant or more easily impressed, he would be tempted to blow smoke in his face like a silent film star, just to see his reaction. Instead, he tips his head back and releases the lungful towards the sky.

When he looks back down, Will is kneeling by his chir, arms outstretched, palms cupped in front of him just by Hannibal’s elbow.

Hannibal stills. The picture is quite clear, and when he tests it by reaching over to tap the ash off of the cigarette onto the deck, Will growls “don’t you dare.”

The air seems very still. Hannibal can feel his heart beating violently in his chest, though long experience has taught him that what he feels inside will not be visible on the outside unless he wants it to be— except to Will, of course.

Slowly, feeling like Will’s eyes are boring their way through his forehead, he moves the cigarette forward and ashes it into Will’s hands.

The hot ash floats downwards, and Will winces when it comes to rest on his skin. Will’s hands are not particularly well-callused, except in the specific patterns demanded by fishing and handling a gun. Now it is Hannibal’s turn to stare, because Will is absolutely gorgeous this way: facing pain, letting it wash over him. He doesn’t master his pain so much as become it, and Hannibal will never tire of watching as he does.

Hannibal takes another drag, and now Will is hanging on every movement of the cigarette, unable to prevent himself from extrapolating when Hannibal will knock the next wisps of ash from it.

By the time the cigarette is down to a butt, Will has a small pile of ash in his hands, and Hannibal wishes he could freeze time and live in this moment forever. Will’s knees must be in nearly as much pain as his hands by now, from kneeling on the wooden deck. His palms are red and inflamed, and he looks up with wide, trusting eyes that are drunk on pain and subjugation and the strange kind of power that Will seizes by finding new things to voluntarily give to Hannibal, things so strange and wondrous that it would never have occurred to Hannbal to take by force.

Will is wearing a grey t-shirt, now slightly damp with the sweat of his pain. Hannibal leans over, and when he pushes the sleeve up to expose Will’s right arm fully, Will allows him to do it, depositing all of the ash into his left hand.

Will’s arms are deeply tanned on the outside but the insides are pale and delicate-looking, like the skin could tear with the wrong touch. Will hadn’t offered this, which is perhaps why his expression shifts from trusting to positively worshipful when he realizes what Hannibal is about to do.

Hannibal presses the cigarette butt into his upper arm, just below the armpit, and Will lets out a gasp; a tiny, forlorn noise that is somehow all the more fascinating for how muted it is. Hannibal can nearly feel the skin sizzling through the paper and ash: he presses just hard and long enough to put it out, neither going easy on Will nor trying to prolong his suffering more than necessary. When he finally pulls it away Will’s eyelashes flutter as his eyes close, and he’s breathing hard.

Hannibal presses his fingers into Will’s sweat-damp hair, pulling him forward. Will allows his head to be laid down on Hannibal’s lap, even as he gingerly holds his right arm out, away from his body, the ugly, dirty blister standing out starkly on his skin.

“I’ll clean it myself,” Hannibal warns. Will likely wouldn’t have done it himself anyway, but a part of Hannibal feels compelled to stake his claim.

“Mmm.” Will nuzzles into his lap, seeming entirely relaxed save for the odd contortion of his arm that prevents the wound from touching anything. He doesn’t look up when he says, “Don’t smoke without me. Not ever again.”

Hannibal pats over his hair for a while. After some thought he reaches down and taps Will’s fisted left hand, taking the cooled pile of ash from him and depositing it carefully on the wooden arm of the chair beside the cigarette butt.

“You realize,” Hannibal says, “The requirement that I cause you physical pain each time I smoke a cigarette is highly unlikely to serve as a deterrent.”

He can feel Will’s smile against his thigh. “When I try to deter you from something, Hannibal, you’ll know.”

Hannibal represses the shiver that wants to rise up in him at that promise. It’s true: Will never has tried to deter him from anything. This is how Will operates. He sees what Hannibal wants— Will’s madness, his bloodlust, his pain— and gives him more of it than Hannibal would ever have expected. He has to be careful what he asks for, with Will; chances are, he will get more of it than he bargained for. And as much as it pains him to admit it, it works. Hannibal is more careful, these days.

Will flinches and whimpers through the cleaning of the would, and Hannibal can’t tell to what extent he is exaggerating his pain. Even if it’s a performance, the performance fascinates him, and makes him want to reward it; he tucks a soft, pliant Will Graham into bed with gentle words and soothing touches.

“I never could figure you out,” he whispers into the darkness, and it feels like a prayer of thanks.

***

Hannibal doesn’t start smoking more. His habits remain the same: Will does only have so much skin available to burn before the marks would have to start making their way into less aesthetically appropriate locations.

But it certainly is different. The entire tone of the ritual changes: now, when Will sees him pulling a cigarette from the case, he comes to kneel beside him with his head bowed. It makes Hannibal’s blood run cold and hot at the same time, makes him want to breathe deep and press the butt sharply into his skin and also makes him want to fuck Will the moment he’s bandaged the wound, which Will allows. It makes the moments that previously belonged to Hannibal alone, belong to Will. Just one more piece of him that Will has taken over.

They’re in a bar with an arms dealer, now. Marie-Sonia Piché is powerful enough to be a useful friend to cultivate, but not so powerful that she’s too busy or paranoid to meet in person. Hannibal has no particular agenda; they could use some firearms, but they don’t need them, at least not urgently.

She probably knows who they are, but she has the decency (and the good sense) to call them by the names they introduce themselves by. Will always chooses their cover names, and he seems to take pleasure in coming up with more and more ludicrous (to Will’s ear, anyway) names for Hannibal, while his own remain resolutely middle-class American. Hannibal has considered informing him that, compared to the indignity of a rhyming epithet, there is nothing Will could call him that would faze Hannibal; but that might have the effect of causing Will to give up and stop trying, so he doesn’t.

Hannibal and Marie-Sonia talk of gardening and the tourist season and local politics, gradually working their way around to the level of trust required to do business in her true trade. Will, being capable of only a few rudimentary phrases in French, is slipping into one of the roles that Hannibal particularly loves on him: the one where he is docile and and younger-seeming, a harmless sweet thing trailing in the wake of Hannibal’s brilliance. Hannibal particularly loves watching Will in this role because it seems so very obvious, to Hannibal, how much power is bubbling away under the surface of his naive exterior. It enthralls him, the extent to which other people don’t notice: how Marie-Sonia merely accepts him as yet another dangerous rich man’s fucktoy, and barely spares a glance for him; how the waiter doesn’t bat an eye when Hannibal orders for the both of them without consulting Will. It seems absolutely ludicrous, but Will has the world fooled, and it lights a small, bright fire in the pit of Hannibal’s stomach. They think he is mine, a voice in his mind hisses, and have no idea that I am his, too.

He and Marie-Sonia talk and smoke and circle ever closer to their true purpose, while Will simply watches, meek and fragile and practically irresistible.

Hannibal notices Marie-Sonia’s arm twitching, as if she wants to check the time— time to get down to business, then. He glances up at her, appraising, and her more open expression confirms his instinct. He clears his throat, and shifts to butt out his cigarette in the ashtray in the middle of the table.

Will’s hand shoots out and grips Hannibal’s wrist, painfully tight. Hannibal does not startle, but it’s a near thing. He barely has time to notice Marie-Sonia’s raised eyebrows, her expression more amused than shocked: even now she’s taken in by Will’s act. Then Hannibal raises his eyes to his furious face, and the sight blocks out any thoughts that aren’t about Will Graham.

Mais— sois raisonnable, chéri”, Hannibal stutters, failing even to switch into the correct language, let alone come up with something intelligent to say. The sleeve of Will’s shirt is rolled up past the elbow on his right arm, he realizes, and has been ever since Hannibal accepted the cigarette.

Will’s eyes just bore into him. He doesn’t need to open his mouth to communicate I don’t recall mentioning any exceptions to my rule, though Hannibal gets the distinct impression that he will if he thinks it will help, company be damned.

Hannibal glances down. It’s too late: the cigarette is already out.

Marie-Sonia is looking between them, visibly withdrawing. She is here for business purposes only, and wants no part in anything else. She seems almost relieved when Will pushes his chair back and stands up. “I’ll be in the washroom,” he says curtly, and sweeps away towards the back of the restaurant.

“My apologies,” says Hannibal. “My partner requires attention, Perhaps another time.”

“Yes, another time,” she says, and they both know that Hannibal has thrown away his chance of doing any business with her, and— if they’re both lucky— they will never see each other again.

The restaurant is new, upscale, and the washroom matches; low lighting and stall doors that reach floor-to-ceiling. Hannibal wouldn’t have cared if they didn’t. By the time he catches up to Will, who has pressed himself to the wall inside of one, he has another cigarette lit in his hand. He slams the stall door closed behind him with both hands, holding it in his lips.

“Greedy little shit,” he says around it. Will just smirks, still a tiny bit of residual shyness left in him as the role sloughs off of him gradually. It makes Hannibal want to touch every part of him, and in his haste to do so he ends up slamming Will bodily back into the wall: hands on his shoulders, hips pressing together. Will is fully hard already, and Hannibal grinds their cocks together. “You were gagging for it that entire time, weren’t you,” he growls, because fuck, it suddenly occurs to him that it must be true. “You know what it does to me, you playing at being a… pet like that. And you knew what would happen with the cigarette.” He holds Will in place with his thighs, leaving a hand free to take a drag of the second cigarette.

“You owe me.” Will’s eyes follow the action of his hand, rapt, so Hannibal just leans back and now he does blow smoke in Will’s face, not that there’s really anywhere else to direct it. Will blinks and forces down a cough, and Hannibal says, “get your cock out for me.”

Will immediately undoes his fly and pulls down his pants and underwear, just enough for his cock to spring free. It has the effect of trapping his legs together, so he’s slightly off-balance and Hannibal has to steady him with hands on Will’s hips as he sinks to his knees.

Will’s lips are pressed tightly together, his eyes wide, his hand reaching up as if to cover his own mouth in a way that seems subconscious. The half-smoked cigarette hanging from Hannibal’s lips is dangling carelessly only an inch from Will’s erection, and Hannibal leans forward, threatening, bringing the heat closer and closer to the vulnerable flesh.

Will doesn’t move, he only lets out a strangled noise into his fist that is halfway a moan and halfway a terrified sob. I could do it, Hannibal realizes. He would let me.

He has to do something to resist the temptation of burning a mark straight onto Will’s cock (Hannibal would enjoy it now, but he’s aware the novelty would wear off for both of them in a hurry) so he reaches two fingers up to remove the cigarette from his mouth, and replaces it with Will’s desperate erection. Will— who had averted his eyes in anticipation of truly cruel pain— half-screams as he feels the contact, before the sensation resolves itself in his mind into pleasure, not pain. He sags against the wall and makes a sound that would pass for a laugh of relief if it weren’t so desperate.

Hannibal runs his lips and tongue up and down the sides of Will’s cock, reaching his free hand up to stroke over his perineum. “That’s it,” he hums into the velvety flesh. “This is what you were thinking about the entire time, weren’t you? It got you hard, that everyone in this place knew just looking at you that I can bring you to pieces and put you back together again. That you let me. You want me to. You’d let me do anything.”

Will’s knees are trembling, and they go even softer when Hannibal slaps his thigh lightly and says, “Would you let me do anything to you, Will?”

For a moment he thinks Will can’t answer, or won’t, until finally he forces out, “I would make you do anything to me.”

Hannibal has to close his eyes and take a deep breath at that, and takes the opportunity to take another drag from the cigarette: intoxicating, calming. There is nothing whatsoever I can say to that, he realizes, so instead he just shifts the cigarette to his left hand and wraps that arm roughly around Will’s leg, hastily licks over the fingers of his right hand, and leans back in to taste Will’s arousal with his fingers trailing slowly back, over his balls and towards his hole.

The weight on the arm supporting Will’s thigh increases as Will sags down even more. The tip of the cigarette might be grazing his thigh, now, but Hannibal can’t be sure. “God, yes,” Will moans, “yes, that,, and Hannibal pushes a finger inside him at the same time that he swallows down on his cock.

He can’t, of course, smoke at the same time as he sucks Will’s cock and fingers his ass, but of the three activities, it’s definitely the smoking that holds the least immediate appeal. Will is thrusting alternately forward into Hannibal’s mouth and down onto his fingers, and making noises that are indistinguishable from the ones he makes when he’s in terrible pain. Hannibal is hard and aching and entirely unconcerned about it. Not with so much of Will waiting to be claimed. Not when all he has to do is glance up at Will’s exposed arms to see the neat line of burns down them, and see the blissful expression on Will’s face that seems to disregard the fact that he’s about to get another one. Or perhaps not disregard it: Will’s bliss is in anticipation of the pain.

Hannibal doesn’t plan it; he doesn’t think about it at all, really, until he tastes Will’s warm release on his tongue, and feels the muscles of his abdomen flex, and has to resist the urge to nuzzle into the scar on Will’s stomach as he coaxes him through the aftershocks. The knife scar: it’s the one mark on him that’s an enigma, even now. Did Hannibal take without permission, on that occasion? Or did he only seize what was offered?

He rucks up Will’s shirt, and before Will has time to react, presses the cigarette butt just underneath the long, thin line where he had once cut him open.

Will doubles over in pain, unprepared for the burn in a different location and following so closely on his orgasm. He braces his hands on Hannibal’s shoulders and squeezes until it hurts, his forehead coming to rest on the top of Hannibal’s head so that he can hear Will’s laboured, gasping breaths of pain. He presses until the cigarette is out, then drops it to the floor and starts stroking his hands down Will’s thighs. “That’s it,” he murmurs. “That’s all. You did it, you did so well.”

Finally, Will’s breathing slows, and the pained gasps that at one point threatened to turn into sobs fade away. He starts sliding down the wall to sit opposite Hannibal’s kneeling form, wincing then the fabric of his shirt brushes the burn.

“Gorgeous,” Hannibal approves, watching the inflamed spot of skin disappear beneath the fabric. “I’ll take care of it when we get home— will you make it that long?”

Hannibal knows that Will knows he doesn’t have any choice but to make it that long. This is merely one more opportunity for Will to give himself over to Hannibal; admit that he hurts.

And as usual, he gives more than was asked of him; throws himself into Hannibal’s complete lack of mercy like an icy sea. He lets Hannibal help him up, pulls up his pants and underwear, then nearly tips over, leaning sideways to encourage Hannibal to wrap and arm around him. From the angle Will is tilted forward at, it’s the easiest thing in the world for the hand around Will’s waist to come to rest on top of the burn, and Will nearly doubles over again as they slowly make their way out of the bathroom, Hannibal’s hand playing over the spot with a combination of malice and wonder. “It hurts so much,” Will admits plaintively, both manipulative and utterly laid low. Just the way Hannibal likes him. “I won’t make it by myself. Will you help me?”