“Sorry,” Will whispers. “Even before the enc– even before you, I wasn’t much of a sleeper.”

He feels Hannibal roll over to face him. He knows Hannibal was awake, which is why he’d said it; Hannibal can probably smell the sticky animal smell of his sweat, feel every twitch and half-asleep little spasm.

“Did you sleep well with Molly?” Hannibal asks, and Will briefly considers stabbing him, then even more briefly considers kissing him. The fact that Hannibal can say her name, casually, like– it’s– well, it’s not surprising. Not at all. That’s just Hannibal. Kissing him sounds like a decent idea, actually, even though they’ve spent the day doing little else. They’re both still injured, spending more time sleeping than not. Or at least Hannibal spends his time sleeping; Will spends his time thrashing about in their shared bed, and sweating, and staring at Hannibal.

Finally, he just answers. “On the couch, most nights,” he admits.

Hannibal hums a little. “By choice?”

Will wonders if Hannibal would abide his habit of putting down a towel over the wet bedsheet, or if towels would be one step too far. “As much as anything I do is a choice,” he says. “It was better than waking her.”

Hannibal’s body is very warm, even across the half a foot of space in between them that feels like a mile. “Better than showing her,” he corrects, and he shuffles a little closer, and Will hates that he’s right. Then he remembers that he doesn’t have to hate Hannibal any more; that he’s made his decision, and thery’e here, together. So relief washes over him instead, and like dropping a rubber ball and watching it bounce along the pavement out of sight, he says, “Yes.”

Molly wouldn’t have wanted to see Will’s nightmares. Better for her to simply know they exist, and give him worried looks every time he bundled up with blankets and headed for the couch.

Hannibal wants to see them. Which is awful, but almost comforting enough to convince Will to close his eyes and give sleep another try.

“Roll over,” says Hannibal simply. “I want to do something that may help.”

Will does it, rolling over from his back onto his stomach and invading the comparatively cool patch of sheet on Hannibal’s side of the bed as he does so. “Is it going to hurt?” he mutters petulantly, because most things Hannibal wants to do to him hurt, in some way.

“Yes,” says Hannibal. “Probably not very much, comparatively, but the magnitude is irrelevant to the effect, at this juncture.”

Will wonders vaguely if Hannibal is going to try to have sex with him. Will’s gotten hard plenty of times, as they’ve explored each others’ bodies over the past few days, but Hannibal hasn’t managed it yet. Will understands intellectually that it’s the bullet wound in his stomach that’s to blame, but it still feels odd to rub your hard cock against the fleshy mound of someone else’s soft one. If he were a different kind of person, and not utterly exhausted, he would try to conjure some comforting words about how he’ll wait for whenever Hannibal is ready. He doesn’t bother.

“I’m going to give you a spanking,” announces Hannibal gravely, and suddenly any disappointment Will pre-emptively felt knowing that this probably isn’t going to end in him getting fucked disappears. It’s entirely swallowed by shock, by something close to awe for the way Hannibal can say and do absolutely anything he likes and then look you in the eye and dare you to tell him no. Will doesn’t even bother looking him in the eye. Hannibal has already told Will what he’s going to do.

“Erm,” he mumbles, trying to come up with something that might at least make Hannibal feel a little bit embarrassed about this. Making Hannibal Lecter cringe is probably a lost cause, but he tries anyway: “Have I been a bad boy?”

“No,” says Hannibal gently, and fuck it, he sounds entirely fucking serious, which means he’s turned Will’s attempt at teasing around and is aiming the barrel of the cringe gun right back at Will. Who cringes, right into the mattress, even as something hot and liquid pools in his belly at the memory of the way Hannibal had said shy boy, under the bright fluorescent lights of his luxury jail cell.

“I wanr to help you relax,” Hannibal continues, and hooks a warm finger underneath Will’s loose-fitting pants to indicate he wants them off. Will reaches down and pulls of his underwear, too. Either Hannibal wanted him to, and would ask if he didn’t, or he didn’t want him to, in which case it can be one more desperate throw of Will’s bruised body against the stone wall of trying to make Hannibal uncomfortable about this.

Will feels Hannibal’s hands before they actually make contact with the skin of his ass; impossibly warm (is Hannibal running a fever again? Or is Will? He pushes the thought from his mind) and brushing lightly, lovingly, over his cheeks from his lower back down to his thighs.

“Pain releases endorphins,” says Hannibal, “as you know.” Will can practically hear the smirk in his voice. As you know. Fucking seriously. Will thinks for a moment that he can feel the calluses of Hannibal’s palms with the plush skin of his own ass. “With the right stimulus, carefully timed, these endorphins can be drawn out with a minimum of physical damage. The goal is for you to experience a pleasant sensation of floating outside of your body and unencumbered by your own mind, from which you can then return to yourself relaxed and ready for sleep.”

Will’s head is pillowed on top of his arms, and he can frown and rub his eyes without Hannibal seeing. “That sounds… suspiciously altruistic,” he mutters, more to himself than to Hannibal.

Of course Hannibal hears him anyway, and Will can feel him shift over and brace himself against the mattress. “I said a minimum of physical damage,” says Hannibal. “I did not say it wouldn’t hurt.”

Then Hannibal hits him. It barely hurts, practically a tap instead of a smack, and Will is more distracted by the fact that Hannibal’s hand is on his ass than by what he’s doing to it. He repeats the motion on the other side, as perfectly even as he can make it– which is quite impressively even, unsurprising for a surgeon-psychiatrist with a bent for order and precision.

It feels warm, and stings slightly as Hannibal lifts his hands. Will reaches over and grabs Hannibal’s (refreshingly dry) pillow, holding it with both arms and resting his head such that his face is mostly buried, and looking away from Hannibal. He expects to feel strong fingers grasping his chin and turning his face around; he would want to see Hannibal’s reaction, after all, if their positions were reversed. Instead he just feels two more teasingly light slaps, a little lower, the tips of Hannibal’s fingers just brushing against the crease where Will’s ass meets his thigh.

So Hannibal is going to let him hide, Will realizes. Not fond of eye contact. He likes making eye contact with Hannibal, is drawn to the way they see each other; but Will realizes as Hannibal starts delivering slightly harder hits, a little faster, that Hannibal is being altruistic, after his own fashion. He’s enjoying this– of that Will has no doubt at all– but he’ll enjoy it from the confines of his own mind, not forcing his reactions on Will, and not forcing Will to share his mind with Hannibal. Floating outside your body and unencumbered by your own mind, he’d said. Will is choosing to set aside his skepticism that being hit, of all things, will finally be able to draw him out of the confines of a skull that he sometimes finds claustrophobic in its lack of boundaries; so Hannibal is giving him space to experience it on his own, make a judgment for himself.

Will wonders, if he tells Hannibal that it didn’t work, if Hannibal will still want to do it again. He might. Will thinks he would probably let him.

It’s starting to hurt now. Hannibal is still keeping up the same pattern– travelling up and down the length of Will’s ass, alternating one side and then the other, hand always pointed in the same direction on both equivalent strikes. The regularity of it is both reassuring and maddening; to know exactly when and where his hand is going to go next, and do nothing to stop it.

Will tests the waters: “Fuck,” he says softly, “Ow.” He feels more than hears Hannibal’s low chuckle, and he pauses briefly, his hand running up and down the area he’s working on. Will wriggles with surprise as he realizes that the gentle touch feels almost as intense as the blows.

He remembers driving with his dad through a town, once, which had had to be abandoned when a coal mine ignited a fire underneath the streets and homes of the town. The melted snow and occasional plumes of smoke rising from fissures in the ground were the only indications of the heat underneath. Will imagines his own skin with a fire smouldering underneath it, and shivers.

He’s almost relieved when Hannibal hits him again, and this time it’s for real; a hard smack that makes his flesh bounce and ricochets through his body like a rock dropping into water. He’s glad he has the pillow, now; Will grips it tightly and waits for the next one, fingers tangling in the smooth silk.

It hurts, the sensation expanding to fill his mental field of vision like a camera zooming in. He doesn’t like it, wants it to stop, but he needs to feel another one; just needs to catalogue exactly what it is that he wants to stop, before it does. It’s nearly unconscious as he arches up, presenting the underside of his ass more fully, and is shocked by the sudden intense sting when Hannibal hits his hitherto-untouched thighs, instead of his burning ass.

“Shit!” Will gasps. And that is new, the way he feels the urge to wiggle up the mattress to ask Hannibal for more, beg for him to find more untouched skin, wants to feel that and nothing else, and Hannibal obliges with a pair of resounding smacks with a rounded hand to the place where Will’s hamstring bulges up slightly just above his knee.

Perhaps it should strike him as odd that he wants it. Perhaps if he were anyone else the shift would be more jarring; but as Will squeezes his eyes shut into the darkness of the pillow and prays for it to stop and prays for more all at once, the only self-reflection he can muster is that it’s only logical, for him to want Hannibal to hurt him. He wouldn’t have pulled him off a cliff (and then into a boat, and a car, and a cabin) if he hadn’t intended to hurt.

And all of the ways Hannibal ever hurt him felt like being loved, but somehow it’s this, it’s lying on his belly with his red ass in the air and Hannibal’s hand now raining down on him hard enough that surely his hand must be getting sore too– this is the hurt that makes tears leak from Will’s eyes from the force of how much, how desperately, Hannibal cares for him.

He’s back to hitting the coal-seam heated skin of Will’s cheeks, now, and it’s not enough. “Harder,” Will demands, in a voice that feels like it’s coming directly from his chest instead of from his mouth.

Hannibal hits him harder, and it’s awful and brilliant and barely even happening to him. He can hear the sound of his breathing and the beating of his heart– his heart? Hannibal’s heart? Does it matter?– and the sound of skin on skin is like a strange music, just one more rhythmical sound to add in to the mix.

It lasts forever. It feels oddly akin to being stabbed– suspended in time, the sudden rush of feeling that perhaps everything is okay, maybe it doesn’t matter that it hurts– but without the pitch-black, terrifying void of blood loss creeping over his mind. He wonders if he’s said that out loud– Hannibal would probably enjoy hearing it, but then, there are a great many sounds going on in the room, sounds made by bodies that seep into Will’s mind, so perhaps Hannibal wouldn’t ear him anyway and in any case Will can’t be bothered to say anything, from all the way out here. He feels too good.

He feels everything and nothing until there is a thumb brushing at the inner corner of his eye. Collecting tears.

Will hadn’t realized he’d been crying. He isn’t sure if he’s still being hit, but he reasons that Hannibal was never much of a multitasker, and if he’s wiping the moisture on Will’s cheeks away (is he licking the salt fro his own skin afterwards? Will doesn’t open his eyes to find out) then he probably isn’t still hitting him.

And god, Will loves him.

He tries to roll over, wanting nothing more than to feel Hannibal’s broad solid chest pressing against his own. Instead, he feels an arm slip down over his belly, and Hannibal slides in behind him. He presses his front to Will’s back, and Will feels the ache of his backside against Hannibal’s thighs with a kind of fuzzy delight.

He wants to say something; perhaps something like “fuck you,” or “thank you.” He doesn’t say either, and Hannibal’s hand slips soothingly down the side of his body to rub over his ass.

“Don’t,” mutters Will. “Sore. I want to sleep.”

And Hannibal stops.

When they press closer, Hannibal is the one to gasp in pain; his belly wound aching at the contact. Will closes his eyes, and pulls Hannibal in tighter.