Please,” says Will, as Hannibal’s other hand comes up to his stomach.

He means please, no, like he always does. His body feels languid, trapped; not by force of violence but by force of pleasure. He could make Hannibal stop, if he truly wanted to. He could say stop, and Hannibal would take the two fingers now brushing slickly over Will’s prostate out of him, and he would arrest his other hand’s inevitable path up to Will’s belly to stroke over the raised line of the smile underneath his navel. It would all stop; and right now, nearly crushed under the weight of his own wanting, Will cannot imagine surviving that.

It’s always like this: Hannibal gives him what he wants. Wanting is too big and multi-faced a thing for Will to see on his own; he can only understand his own desires reflected in Hannibal’s eyes, reflected in Hannibal’s cruelty and Hannibal’s love.

And Hannibal knows that Will wants this, always: a firm hand on the scar, stroking, nails biting occasionally. A reminder of the first time Hannibal had penetrated his body, an old ache that he can never get enough of.

So Hannibal knows that please is a hair’s-breadth away from no, and also that it will never cross over. Will will leave the ambiguity to be resolved in Hannibal’s domain of the connection that binds them, and Hannibal will always take Will’s ambiguity as permission, and permission as desire. On that count, he has always been absolutely trustworthy.

“Ohhh,” Will moans, as Hannibal’s fingers stroke him from the inside and out, nearly exerting pressure on top of each other but not quite. It sounds broken, nearly a sob. It feels excessive that he should be broken by something as simple as this, but he is, every time.

But Hannibal has never been content with silent acknowledgement; he wants to hear it from Will’s lips, too. Will knows that in the palace in Hannibal’s mind, the leather chairs of his Baltimore office are set up facing each other, one for each of them, eternally conversing. Feeling out the ways that they both complete each other, and can never fully know each other. So of course he has to talk.

“You love this,” Hannibal points out, unnecessarily but clearly a setup for some new trap. “It’s the closest that you’ve gotten to being in that moment again. How did it feel, Will, when my knife slipped into you?”

Will’s cock, hitherto untouched, strains against his belly and brushes just slightly against Hannibal’s hand. Hannibal ignores it, his broad callused thumb rubbing against the scar back and forth.

“Hurt,” Will grits out. It’s true, of course. Everything Hannibal does to him hurts, and he turns over the hurts in his mind until they are polished and shiny like rocks well-worn by the current of the stream.

“I could give you that again,” Hannibal murmurs, low enough that Will has to tamp down his own harsh breathing to hear him. “Cut you open. Touch you from the inside.”

No,” Will says, nearly a wail, and it is the wildness of his panic, the desperation in his voice, that gives him away. He might as well be begging for it.

His rational mind tries to assert itself. Hannibal is not the sort of crazy that he briefly pretended to be to skirt the death penalty; but it would be naive to believe that he is not, in some paradigm, at least some sort of crazy. He is exactly this sort: to believe in the poetry of a thing more than the reality of it, and expect the rest to work itself out. But you can’t just go cutting people open just because, on some level, they want you to.

“I’ll– Hannibal, no, I can’t–” the reality of it comes crashing down on him, the long weeks of recovery, how he’d almost died there on Hannibal’s kitchen floor. He can’t do that again. He can’t.

“Shh.” Hannibal runs a hand down his side, like he’s a horse who needs gentling, and follows it up with another firm stroke inside of him that has Will moaning and weak again. “I’ll be careful. I’ll take care of you.”

“No,” Will says again, and it’s another yes. It’s always a yes.

Hannibal pulls his fingers out, sits up to look at Will spread out and desperate on the sheets, and Will thrashes and nearly sobs at the loss of contact and fullness. There is no possible way that he can stop this, now; he is already on the path, and all he can do is follow it. Standing up and walking away, at this point, would be impossible.

Hannibal doesn’t put down anything to protect the sheets; they will be blood-stained forever, which is probably what he wants. He does briefly leave and comes back with antiseptic, a scalpel, and a syringe. Will stares at the syringe nervously as Hannibal draws something from a vial.

“A local anaesthetic,” Hannibal says. “I want you concentrated not on the feeling of skin being separated, but of me inside you.” It’s hardly reassuring. In fact, the prospect of not having the pain of the entry wound to distract him is abjectly terrifying. Despite the fact that he has been doing little else other than letting Hannibal inside him since the moment they met, he cannot imagine feeling only the sensation of Hannibal touching his insides, sorting through his viscera, the edible parts and the base human fetid parts alike.

The needle stings the vulnerable softness of his lower belly, and Will thinks about the scar: the shape of it, the feeling. He’s gotten used to it, over the years. He’d told Chiyoh that Hannibal had left him with a smile. It would be different, unavoidably, after this; something new to understand as part of himself. And yet not new: just more of Hannibal. Always and only more of Hannibal.

As he waits for the injection to take effect, Hannibal languidly strokes Will’s cock. Will closes his eyes and lets himself fall into it, the rhythm that he knows will be interrupted. Hannibal won’t let him come until he’s done with him.

After a few minutes, Hannibal runs a finger over the scar again, and this time Will feels nothing. He strains his head up a little to see, trying to fit the reality of the touch in with his sensorial obliviousness to it. His breath is coming quite quickly.

Hannibal presses his hand down on Will’s chest instead, forcing him to lie back. “Relax,” he murmurs, and Will tries. He remembers Hannibal standing over him as he bled out, telling him to wade into the quiet of the stream. Not vindictive: truly wishing for Will to find peace.

He’s not at the stream now, and Hannibal clearly knows it: they are both right here. Will lets out a deep breath, and doesn’t follow the motion with his eyes as Hannibal picks up the scalpel.

He doesn’t feel the blade parting the skin overtop of the scar, but he feels it in a subtle but bizarre release of tension: the skin above and below where Hannibal cuts relaxes slightly, given room to shrink slightly as the wound grows.

It’s longer than the original; it must be. Will can see Hannibal tidying the edges of the incision, which reaches nearly from one hip to the other. He must be cutting vertically as well as horizontally, to create flaps of skin; he has no clamps, of course, so he will need to hold the layer of skin and fat back with just his fingers as he– well, does whatever he’s going to do in there.

The only pain is a slight pinch at the edges of numbed region, but Will feels light-headed anyway. He has no idea if it’s from horror the idea of what’s happening to him medically, or something adjacent to fascination at everything else about the situation.

He’ll be careful, Will thinks to himself, and it sounds slightly hysterical even inside his own mind. He said he would take care of me. And against all reason, he believes it. Hannibal is many things, but he is not a liar.

Hannibal looks up. Two of his fingers are holding Will open, but there is nothing inside of him– not his abdomen, or his ass– and Will’s arousal, briefly diminished by sheer terror, edges back in. “All right, Will?” he asks softly.

Will licks his lips. He is all right; dizzy, but he is no longer certain that it’s not with anticipation. As Hannibal waits for an answer, he reaches his other hand in through the incision, and strokes gently over the surface of Will’s intestines.

Will gapes. He can feel it, pressure on his insides in a way that is distantly related to the other sensations he has ever felt coming from his gut, but different from any of them. Hannibal does it again, Will thinks a little bit harder but he can’t be sure, and he keeps watching Will’s face, waiting for an answer.

“Can you see– the damage you did?” Will says, his voice sounding breathy to his own ears. “In there? Do I have scars on the inside, too?”

Hannibal looks down, but doesn’t answer. For once, he might actually be speechless. Will can just barely see his hand disappear, farther, and the pressure on nerves that have never sent signals from this angle before travels deeper. On its own, it would feel neutral or perhaps painful. With Hannibal’s gaze boring into him, with the knowledge that it is Hannibal’s hand touching him gently in places he was never meant to be touched, it feels exquisite. It feels like the sound of a wild animal’s breath in his ears, the click of hooves on tile, the stag that he watched die on the floor beside him standing up and tossing its head.

Hannibal is trying– again, maybe always– to put the teacup back together, Will realizes. From now on, every time Will runs his hand over the scar on his belly, he will have this moment to remember: Hannibal inside of him in the most grotesque was possible, being loving and gentle with him. Feeling warm and safe. Wanting more.

“Fuck me,” Will says. “I want you to feel the movement of your cock from the other side. Feel what the insides of me feel.”

Hannibal leans down to kiss him, with the beatific expression that seems to shine out of him only in moments where Will surprises him: the look of an emotion so strong that it temporarily overwhelms all of the filters that Hannibal has placed over the course of a lifetime between his mind and his face. His right hand stays inside of Will’s abdomen, pushing against the incision in a way that is beginning to ache as the pressure overwhelms the anaesthetic. No matter; he’ll have other sensations to focus on, soon. Hannibal’s left hand cups Will’s hip, first one side and then the other, and it takes him a moment to realize that he is collecting moisture; gathering up the blood dripping from the edges of the wound and spreading it over his cock, slippery and not quite viscous enough in a way that will tug at the sensitive interior walls of Will’s passage and make the movement of Hannibal’s cock inside of him all the more noticeable to Hannibal’s questing hand.

Hannibal kneels back up to push the tip of his blood-covered cock against Will’s entrance, already somewhat slick and open from his earlier ministrations. It slips in easily and Will almost-but-not-quite resists the urge to surge forward to meet him, desperate to feel the well-known pressure of his cock against Will’s prostate to compliment the growing dull ache of the wound and the strange invasion of Hannibal’s hand rooting around between the folds of his intestines.

Hannibal holds him still, the blood-covered left hand that he had used to slick himself up with now holding Will’s thigh firmly. “Still,” he says, and Will recognizes the practicality of the advice; with a gaping wound in his belly and Hannibal’s fingers inside him, any sudden movements on Will’s part could easily lead to unintentional injury.

That doesn’t mean it’s any easier to resist, to just lie there still and quiet as Hannibal begins to move. Each thrust of his cock is questing, like some strange echolocation with one part of his body to locate himself with another. Will can feel it, or perhaps in the absence of sight he only imagines he can: the fingers following the turns of his guts like a labyrinth, delving deeper with infinite care.

He knows he’s not imagining it when Hannibal finds his mark: he can see Hannibal’s lips part slightly with awe, and on the next thrust there is a feeling of excruciatingly pleasurable pressure unlike any before as Hannibal wraps his fingers around his own cock, separated from his own flesh only by the thin barrier of Will’s passage.

“Oh fuck,” says Will. “Oh– fuck, do that again.”

Hannibal does, his thrusts careful but getting more forceful as Will just gasps and then moans and then wails, and at the very last moment Hannibal thinks to bring his bloodstained free hand up to Will’s cock as he comes. He cups and caresses the tip of it as Will spasms, both surrounding and surrounded by Hannibal.

Will realizes, as Hannibal pulls his cock out of Will’s ass and his hands out of the folds of his guts and covers his own cock with a mixture of blood and semen, that he’d only narrowly been prevented from ejaculating into his own abdominal cavity. The thought seems for a moment funny, in a shellshocked, exhausted way. He tries to laugh, but of course the muscles in his abdomen can’t do it; and at the exact moment that Hannibal comes with a desperate, choked-off noise, Will feels a surge of terrified vulnerability. He is open to Hannibal in every possible way, right now. Helpless. The last time he was like this, he had watched Hannibal’s retreating back as he walked out of the kitchen and into the pouring rain outside, leaving Will alone.

But now Hannibal turns to him, his chest still heaving with the exertion of his orgasm, a smear of blood on his face, and stays. There is a moment of silence, a strange peaceful stillness, as Hannibal settles beside him. The hand that had been inside of Will is coated in dark blood nearly up to the elbow, and the other one merely up to the wrist. Hannibal raises both palms to his mouth and licks off the gore, eyes closed in pleasure.

Will’s eyes drift closed. After so much contact, he suddenly feels small and lonely. “Hold me,” he requests, and Hannibal lies down carefully along his side. The wound in his stomach is still gaping, and he can see the shiny surface of his viscera peeking out over the edge. He turns his face to the side while keeping his torso supine, burying his face in Hannibal’s neck as best he can. Hannibal’s hands slide into his hair, adding in the remnants of spit and blood and semen to the sweat already matting his curls, and stroke his scalp softly.

A part of Will wishes they could just stay like that forever, covered in gore and breathing each others’ air. He had imagined it so many times, in the hospital. He’d never fantasized about Hannibal not gutting him. He’d only drifted in his mind imagining that he had stayed with him, kept touching him as he bled out. Perhaps Hannibal had known. Perhaps he’d fantasized of the exact same thing.

Eventually, however, the pain in his stomach grows from uncomfortable to nearly unbearable as the anaesthetic begins to wear off. Will groans, and Hannibal springs into action with a decisiveness that is almost unsettling; the sudden demeanour of a professional, springing forth from the languid satisfaction of a lover. He washes his hands and returns with warm saline, sutures, and another syringe. “Morphine,” he says, and gives Will a chance to object before injecting him. Will closes his eyes and drifts on the contentment of the drug and his own strange fucked-up happiness. Hannibal inspects the damage to his insides; “Some connective tissues severed,” he says, “but nothing that won’t heal on its own.” He rinses the saline over the area, where it sloshes around strangely inside the wound before being absorbed as well as running down his sides to wet the sheets even more than they are already soaked with blood. Then he sews Will up, his eyes never straying from the long cut that now extends the entire length of Will’s abdomen.

It will be days, Will suspects, before he feels strong enough to do much of anything. Hannibal will bring him meals to the bed, read to him, draw him, touch him gently. All of the things he didn’t do the first time. His own fault, of course; but at the moment, Will can’t bring himself to care.