the sleep of reason produces lovers

The first time Will asks him to kill in peacetime, it’s with a flick of his eyes that sets Hannibal’s heart racing as if he’d never contemplated the act before.

They’re at a secondhand sale, some near-orgy of used fishing gear that Will insisted upon despite their having no particular need for thrift. It seems to be as much a social occasion as a commercial one, though, and Hannibal finds that he enjoys trailing behind, being thoroughly ignored and thus with the rare opportunity to observe Will without Will observing him right back.

That is, until Hannibal is called back to the here and now by a particular prickle in his mind, Will’s eyes on him, alight with purpose and intent. They dart over to the man standing opposite Will in the small group gathered around a table, and Hannibal knows.

He nods, barely any movement at all but replete with meaning. He knows Will sees. Will goes back to his shopping and conversation, one of their number now a man condemned.

Hannibal makes fish, on the night he’s chosen; one of Will’s trout from the tail end of the season. Will drinks wine, and says nothing when Hannibal pours himself only water. When Hannibal leaves the house several hours later, supplies tucked into a plain black case, he leans down to where Will is sitting in front of the fireplace and kisses him. Will hums and kisses back, briefly, as if nothing out of the ordinary is happening.

In a sense, it isn’t. Hannibal has killed while living with Will, and Will probably knows. The keyword being probably. Hannibal doesn’t usually head off to a murder like a man leaving for a day at the office.

The condemned man lives alone, a jogger with no semblance of muscle tone and a neck that crackles like dried leaves when it snaps. He would probably have sunk easily with half the concrete that Hannibal had brought to weigh him down. Hannibal does it quickly: this isn’t theatre, or if it is, it’s a private performance. He gets rid of the thing after extracting his trophy. He doesn’t need to deliberate at all about what it will be. His first kill that Will chose; the answer is obvious.

Hannibal would have liked to present it whole, but the man was lean and gamey, salvageable only by prolonged heat. Even so, Will’s eyes seem to glow faintly when he sits down to a dinner of stewed heart the next night. He says nothing, just eats with relish, locking eyes with Hannibal as he chews. It’s not so unusual. Neither is it unusual when Will kisses him fiercely after the last bite, mouth still rich with the juice of the meat. It feels like thank-you, but then, it always does.

That night, Hannibal lies awake, listening to the even breathing of Will’s untroubled dreams.

As always, however, he wakes instantly at the sound of Hannibal’s voice. “Will.”

In the dark, Hannibal feels Will’s hands reach up to rub at his eyes. “Hmm?”

Hannibal doesn’t want to ask the question, because he doesn’t want to know. He isn’t a vigilante. Will had a reason— he must have— but Hannibal doesn’t want to know what it was.

But the question is building in his chest, as irrepressible as love itself. He has no choice. “What did he do?” Hannibal asks.

Will turns his head, the faint glow of a sliver of moonlight through the curtains reflecting in his eyes. Wide. Honest. “Nothing,” he says.

It’s a lie. They can both feel it hanging, obvious, deliberate. Will’s sleep-mussed hair shifts across the pillow as he rearranges himself to watch Hannibal’s face more closely. He is soft and sweet and dangerous, and for a split second, Hannibal’s faith wavers, and he wonders if perhaps Will had really directed him to kill an innocent man just because he could, just for the pleasure of seeing his will carried out unquestioningly, and it feels like lighting a fire in the very furthest reaches of him.

Then Will repeats “He didn’t do anything,” but he’s overextended himself, he’s said too much, and the illusion that Will is telling the truth flickers and dies, leaving only the imprint of the person Will might have been on Hannibal’s eyelids.

Hannibal lies back, staring at the ceiling. “Very well,” he says. Will knows he’ll kill for no reason other than his desire; he also knows Hannibal would be more likely to object if he felt he were being treated as a weapon. Gross, utilitarian.

That’s not why he’s lying, though, Hannibal realizes as the unkindness of it hits him like a punch to the gut. Outright lies are rare enough between them that this one is laden with more meaning than that.

Will will ask him to kill again, Hannibal is sure of it. And he will do it gladly; a seemingly innocent person, gone but for whatever trophy he chooses to bring back to their table. But they will not be innocent. Will will have a reason to rid the world of each one, a reason Hannibal wouldn’t wish to know about and won’t be privy to. So Will will claim they’re innocent, and Hannibal will choose to believe him. He’ll be allowed to revel in the illusion that Will is with him, that they are the same; not morality but aesthetics driving the life and death of those around them.

And it’ll be a lie, until the day that it isn’t.

Hannibal can be an objective enough psychiatrist to see where this road leads. One day, Will will have him kill a true innocent, and he will do it.

And on that day— when they are finally, finally together, body and mind and spirit, and there are no barriers left between what Hannibal would do and what Will would do— Hannibal won’t even know it. It will blend together with the others, so that he won’t be able to recognize the moment when he and Will truly unite into one.

“Cruel,” he murmurs helplessly.

He can feel Will’s answering smile against his skin as he turns to wrap his arms around his waist. Will is asleep again in a few moments, leaving Hannibal alone in the darkness.