It starts with Hannibal looking up, Will’s cock bobbing in front of his face, slick and pink and still only half-hard.

Will squeezes his eyes shut. It feels nice. It does. He just can’t stop trying, like this is some sort of test he has to pass, and with Molly and the scant smattering of girls before her, passing the test had been fine. Expected. Get it hard, stick it in, ejaculate, don’t wonder why. Will has always been a good mimic when he wants to be. It’s not like inserting his dick into a warm body is too much of an imposition, compared to some of the things he’s been asked to do in his life.

He’d liked it with Molly, even, rewarded in a strange Pavlovian way by how she’d always rolled him over after sex and massaged his back. She hadn’t meant it as a reward, but it had felt that way, a little. He’d known he could have asked for that without the sex. He could have asked for more. He could have asked for any kind of touch that he wanted from Molly, but the truth is that Will has never quite known exactly what kind of touch he would want, independent of other peoples’ desires. A part of him didn’t want to know; after all, everything else he kept buried was buried for good reason. So it was easier to have sex with Molly, and then let her decide. Safer.

Will wonders if maybe, if he were the kind of person who wants sex like a piece of themselves is missing if they don’t get it, if he would have noticed while it was happening that Margot only wanted his sperm. If there’s supposed to be some sort of signal that someone doesn’t really want it all that much; that he can’t read for the same reason that he couldn’t smell the scent of dog hair any more, in Wolf Trap, after a while. It was all around him, inside him, a part of him.

He wishes he could do the same with Hannibal as he had with Molly. Give him what he wants. Hannibal wants to suck him off, clearly, which isn’t exactly surprising given his other proclivities, but that should make it easy. Will should be able to borrow Hannibal’s desire and bury it deep enough under his own skin that he doesn’t notice after a while that it isn’t his own.

But Hannibal notices. Of course. Will thinks he might hate Hannibal a little bit, right now, not for any of the usual reasons but for perceiving too clearly which parts of Will belong to him. And the desire is all Hannibal’s.

Hannibal hauls himself up, coming to sit next to Will at the head of the bed. Hannibal is naked, hard, cheeks flushed with the pleasure of putting his mouth on Will and the anticipation of putting his cock in him. Will doesn’t mind the penetration, actually, although he’d expected, the first time, that he wouldn’t like it. But being penetrated is easier, in many ways, than penetrating someone else. He can lie back against soft silk sheets and feel how much Hannibal enjoys him. It’s nice.

Nice is obviously not what Hannibal wants from him.

“Are you asexual, Will?” Hannibal asks.

It’s far too much. Will shakes his head; not so much a denial as an outright rejection of the question. It’s not fair for Hannibal to just see him like that, and not just see him but have a word ready, like Will was already part of Hannibal’s lexicon of human behaviour. Like every emotion, desire, or lack of desire that Will could possibly have, Hannibal will be able to greet with a calm face and a goddamn label.

“Would you just put your cock in me, already,” says Will, because the idea of having a cock in his ass is pleasant enough but the idea of being blindsided by this conversation, and have Hannibal staring down at him with that gentle, curious expression that announces a dissection, is absolutely intolerable.

So he breathes a sigh of relief when Hannibal is willing to put aside his cruelty for a moment, his love of stripping away Will’s defences one by one. Instead he just says, “of course,” and lubes himself up to press into Will’s body gently but firmly. And when Will is dripping with him, Hannibal’s come coating his insides and dribbling out uncomfortably, Hannibal asks “do you want to come?” and allows Will to shake his head and press his cheek into Hannibal’s chest instead, the pain of the healing scar grounding him and his softening erection relaxing against Hannibal’s thigh like a gentle exhalation of breath.

Hannibal can be kind, sometimes. He dissects Will and and uses the pieces of him that he’s dug up from the depths for cruelty and kindness in equal measure. Sometimes Will thinks that Hannibal himself might not have any idea which is which, before Will reacts to them to let him know.

It occurs to him, as he lies still and spreads his legs to allow Hannibal to clean him off with a damp cloth like he’s a prize possession, that if Hannibal genuinely cannot tell kindness from cruelty before enacting them, perhaps Will ought to give him some sort of direction before Hannibal attempts to act on him.

It’s a ludicrous idea, Will tries to convince himself as he drops off to sleep. One of those thoughts that only does make sense when you’re nearly asleep, dream logic infiltrating the waking world, and you’ll wake up in the morning with all your hazy memories of the previous night gauze-wrapped and indistinct.

* * *

Only it’s not indistinct, Will realizes the next morning. He’s standing in the lush patch of grass in between the back of the safe house and the woods beyond, doing the physical therapy exercises that allow him to maintain the more or less normal use of his arm.

He’d lapsed with the PT for a little while, with Molly. Somehow, the idea of having a physical disability to match the holes in the floor of his mind had been comforting for a while. He got used to asking her to reach for things on the top shelf that required two hands. It was a thing she could do for him that was real, and there weren’t all that many of those. It was a relief for both of them.

Now, both the old aches and the new weakness pulls at him as he gently reminds the joint of its true range of motion. The thought is simple and it tugs at him too: just tell Hannibal what you want from him and what you don’t. It shouldn’t even be worth considering, that the man who’d drugged him, violated his mind and his body, put him in jail, stabbed him, and tried to eat his brain could have his behaviour modified by simple requests. But then, Will had never actually tried it, not once. He had always simply taken what Hannibal had to give him.

And now Hannibal seems to actually be asking, in his own way. The word asexual buzzes around in Will’s head like a trapped insect. Hannibal is a psychiatrist, of course, and has a particular love of blunt speech as a way of gaining the upper hand. Perhaps Will should respond in kind.

He finds Hannibal in the kitchen, setting out breakfast. Will grabs a plate and fills it with eggs before Hannibal can plate it for him, which earns him an exasperated glance.

He plucks a fork form the drawer, digs in with casual ease that he knows is fake, but makes him feel better anyway. “Asexual is as good a word as any,” he says, as he sits down at the kitchen island opposite Hannibal to eat.

Hannibal doesn’t seem surprised at the sudden change in topic, or rather the sudden return to a previous topic. He never does; Will thinks maybe his sense of time just works like that. In Hannibal’s mind, time can twist in on itself, retread old territory, skip and jump wildly. Bringing up an old topic is like opening a wormhole. Seamless.

“It’s not the sex,” Will says. “It’s the– the expectation. I don’t know what I want. I’ve never really bothered to find out. Sex is what other people want, so it’s easy. They expect something from me, so I do it.” He swallows a mouthful of egg, and Hannibal leans forward to deposit a few slices of bacon on his plate. They’ve been eating more simply lately, high-calorie foods, comforting. Filling in holes in your body with entirely new tissue is, apparently, hungry work.

“That’s all I don’t want,” says Will. It feels heavy, like he’s placing something massive on the granite between them and sliding it across. “Expectation. You can– you can fuck me if you want. I don’t mind. You can do whatever you want to me, I want you to. But sex has always felt like like praying to a god who isn’t happy with you just getting down on your knees each night and pulling up the best words you can think of. He needs you to mean it, too. Needs you to believe even when the best you can do is just wanting to believe. And I’d enjoy the bruises on my knees and the feel of my hands clasped together if only I could think that God was happy just with that, too.”

Will returns his attention to his food. He doesn’t want to watch Hannibal, doesn’t want to know if he’s going through exactly the same horrified thought process that anyone else would; that Molly would have, if she’d known.

Will knows the goddamn rules. It’s why he’s never said this to anyone else before. You can make someone breakfast because you want to see them fed; you can bring home a dog because you want to see them smile. You can help kill a man and then pull the love of your life off a cliff because they’ve left you no choice but to leave your old self behind. But fucking, oh no, fucking is different. It’s sacred. Fucking for someone else’s sake is– for some reason, Will knows all too well– off-limits. Even if maybe that’s the point, Will doesn’t need it to be sacred. His throat clenches in anticipation of the rejection that he’s certain must be coming.

“You realize,” says Hannibal, “that sex is not necessary for our relationship. I would be with you, Will, in any way you wished. In any way you allowed me. I would be happy just to be in your company, for the rest of my life.”

That’s the first step of the rejection, then. Offence that Will would interpret a partner’s love as so base as to require sex. Never mind that he’d never said that. None of this is required. Everything about their relationship, their entire continued damn existence, is optional, hedonistic. Will doesn’t want to talk about necessary.

“Yes,” says Will. “I know.” His voice sounds tight to his own ears, but it’s the truth.

There’s a long pause, and finally Will glances up to see Hannibal serenely chewing on his bacon. Grease coats his fingertips, and Will feels a smile tugging at his lips despite himself.

“Would you stop me?” says Hannibal thoughtfully. “If you wished me to stop.”

Will blinks. It seems like such an obvious question, of course he would, but then–

“You have never stopped me doing anything to you before,” Hannibal points out reasonably, beating him to the punch.

It’s true. Will had stood in Hannibal’s kitchen with a gun in his hand and allowed the knife to slip into his gut. He’d never even considered trying to stop him.

The idea of being able to stop Hannibal, of having an arena where he could do so with low stakes, is thrilling. It feels like an entirely new vista, a three-dimensional space of possibilities opening up from what had previously been a flat plane. No wonder Hannibal had to ask.

“I’d stop you,” promises Will, and if he inhabited the same kind of wormhole-dotted conception of time as Hannibal, he might interpret the look on his face as relief. Like this was all Hannibal wanted from him, all along: the promise that Will would stop him before he does anything truly irreparable.

“Then I accept your offer,” says Hannibal.

Will glances up with genuine surprise, and the word “Really?” escapes him before he can rein it back in.

Hannibal raises an eyebrow minutely. “Were you hoping I wouldn’t?”

“No, I… I was hoping you would. I think I just… well, other people wouldn’t. People who aren’t…”

You, would be the only way to end that sentence. Perhaps People who aren’t psychopaths. Hannibal isn’t defined by the label; nobody knows that better than Will. But perhaps that’s the only way to describe the particular lack of empathy that makes being with Hannibal calming the way pressing his face to a smooth sheet of glass is calming. That makes his love the only kind Will has found so far that doesn’t hurt like knives, even when it literally does.

Will finds himself grinning. It escapes his face despite his best intentions, and Hannibal returns it with a small soft smile. “Okay,” says Will. “Good.”

They eat in silence for a while, and then Hannibal puts the plates in the dishwasher and draws Will close to press his fingertips into Will’s cheek. He watches Will stretch his mouth wide to demonstrate that the scar tissue doesn’t impede the movement of his face, looking relieved just like every time that he demands this demonstration from Will.

“You said that you’ve never bothered to find out what you want,” says Hannibal, one hand in Will’s hair and one smoothing over his uneven, patchy cheek. “Can you tell me more about that?”

It’s a blatant psychiatrist question, and usually that makes Will roll his eyes and walk away, but instead he just leans in to get more. “Not really,” he mumbles. “I like when you touch me. I still– still think about you hurting me. I don’t want you to– not like– not like that, not really, I just… think about it. Is all.”

Hannibal’s hands tighten against his head, and Will can feel the tiny hitch in his breath, and then he remembers that the entire point of this was supposed to be telling Hannibal exactly what he wants and doesn’t want, and at least giving him the chance to comply.

“I don’t want you to hurt me in a way that seriously injures or endangers me,” Will clarifies, and part of him feels ridiculous because who on earth needs to tell someone that? But then the obvious answer is Will Graham, is who, and maybe his only mistake was leaving it unsaid for so long.

Hannibal doesn’t laugh, so maybe it’s a good thing that Will clarified. “Would you like me to hurt you in ways that neither seriously injure nor endanger you?” he asks, and Will is glad he has his face buried in Hannibal’s shirt already. “I don’t know,” he says.

Hannibal buries his face in Will’s hair and breathes him in; Will can feel the warm air of Hannibal’s breath against his scalp. “Very well,” Hannibal says. Not pushing. He has absorbed, at least, that Will considers it a kindness to accept uncertainty as a temporary end to a conversation. It feels to Will like Hannibal is handing him that kindness nervously, still unsure of how it might be received.

Will wraps his arms around him, accepting it. He can practically feel the parallel lines of thought in Hannibal’s mind, spinning out thousands of potential situations and Will’s expected reactions to them. Some of them he might decide to enact in reality, and for once Will feels merely pleasant curiosity to see which ones Hannibal chooses.

* * *

Sex is different, after that.

Will isn’t sure what he’d expected. He hadn’t had specific expectations, beyond that the best-case scenario involved Hannibal having sex with him without that mindful, probing edge of watchfulness that most people consider it a matter of basic courtesy to maintain; tracking their partner’s pleasure as they take their own. Will has no idea what being acted upon sexually without that edge of intrusion might feel like. He’s not even sure if a normal person could manage it; empathy is too ingrained in the human psyche. Certainly Will wouldn’t be able to.

Hannibal can. The first time that pulls Will’s naked body to him in the dark after their agreement, Will finds himself laid out on his back, the covers pulled all the way down to reveal him fully and the heat in the bedroom turned up to compensate. Hannibal lays him out, arranging Will’s limbs to match some picture in his own head, precise down to the way he smooths Will’s fingers out over the sheets and adjusts the degree of pronation in his ankles. He is careful and attentive and utterly alien. The phrase made to feel like a slab of meat comes briefly to mind, but no, this is certainly better than being one of Hannibal’s slabs of meat. He feels more like a pile of herbs in their kitchen, being washed, chopped, and assembled in their proper place. Loved and appreciated for what they are, but hardly likely to be asked for their opinion on the recipe.

Will stares at the inky darkness of Hannibal’s eyes. He is free to stare, because Hannibal is not paying the slightest bit of attention. Or rather, not to Will’s reaction; every fibre of Hannibal’s being is utterly focused on Will’s body. It’s nearly uncomfortable, but when Will allows himself to feel the discomfort, the feeling meets no response at all. Discomfort is like fire, it requires fuel and oxygen to grow; and when it finds none, it splutters out and float away out of Will’s mind like a puff of smoke.

Hannibal is inspecting all of the hidden parts of him, every inch that Will knows he probably tried to imagine to set down on paper in his jail cell. He strokes the spaces between Will’s toes, tugs lightly on the small hairs on his calves, pushes his kneecap minutely back and forth over the groove of the femur beneath. He cups Will’s soft cock gently when he gets to it, arranging it just so overtop of his thigh like Will is a living sculpture whose positions and proportions Hannibal must arrange perfectly.

Will has a moment of sheer, blinding terror when Hannibal reaches the scar on his belly and immediately lowers his mouth to it. He gasps, curling in on himself a tiny bit and then making a tiny sound of frustration in the moment that he is convinced that he’s ruined it, he’s broken the spell and now Hannibal is going to ask him if he’s all right, and how he feels, and try to understand what Will wants.

But Hannibal just calmly puts Will’s limbs back where he wants them, and he holds the still-too-sharp bones of Will’s hips to ensure his stillness as he tastes the scar. His tongue runs over it left-to right, and then he opens his mouth and for a single shining second Will thinks he’s going to bite him there, and only realizes after it turns out to be merely a gentle open-mouthed kiss that he is disappointed.

Will has no idea how long he stays like that, floating on the curious sensation of both not mattering at all, and being the complete centre of Hannibal’s personal universe. Hannibal inspects him toe to head and then back down again, and pauses with ever increasing frequency to either stroke himself, or rub his hard cock against whatever body part of Will’s is convenient. It’s completely bizarre, and it occurs to Will that perhaps sex was the very last arena of his life where Hannibal had previously been donning some small remnants of what he used to refer to as his person suit. And Will, in asking for exactly what he wanted and no more, had given Hannibal permission to take it off.

It makes the utterly unselfconscious strangeness of Hannibal’s exploration and use of Will’s body seem charming, and then something more than charming. Unbidden, tears prick at the corner of Will’s eyes at the idea that had Hannibal not raised the topic, and had Will not forced himself to follow up on, it, they both might have been stuck wearing person suits in bed for the rest of their lives.

Will is behind the veil now in a way he is certain nobody else has ever been, and he wants to stay here forever.

Eventually sheer desire wins out over whatever other curiosity was driving Hannibal, and he places one of Will’s calves on top of the other, pressing his ankles together to indicate that he wants Will to keep his feet hooked together under his own power. Hannibal coats his hand in lube and inserts it between the meat of Will’s thighs where they now press together just underneath is groin, getting him slick.

You know you could fuck me properly if you wanted, Will almost says, but he doesn’t, because he’s sure Hannibal does know that, and would do it with no hesitation if that were what he wanted. But apparently what Hannibal wants is to shove his cock in between Will’s thighs and rut back and forth inelegantly, his face an unguarded grimace of pleasure as he braces himself above Will’s body.

Hannibal grunts and spends between Will’s legs and a little bit trailing wetly over them, then collapses down on top of him with a force that nearly knocks the air out of Will. Will considers for a moment trying to push him off, but then the pressure on his body resolves into something pleasant. The necessity of working slightly harder than usual to draw air into his lungs grounds him, and Will hesitantly raises a hand to rest on Hannibal’s sweat-slick back and feels his laboured breathing in return.

He’s never been shy about pushing and prodding at Hannibal, in the past. After all, Hannibal does it to him, and after a while trying to catch each other off guard had become a game whose habit was hard to shake.

Hannibal is off guard now, and Will doesn’t push his advantage. He would rather marvel at how delicate Hannibal sometimes seems, the paper-thin barrier between the man and the predator underneath.

He doesn’t want Hannibal to get off of him, even when he starts to feel short of breath and slightly light-headed from the entire weight of the heavier man’s body on his torso. Hannibal seems to come back slightly, though, and finally responds to the wheezing sounds beneath him by rolling off and settling on his side, staring at Will with what looks like amazement.

Will smiles back hesitantly. “That was… good,” he says, for lack of a better term.

“You enjoyed it?” Hannibal seems mildly surprised, which only makes Will smile wider.

“I like seeing… you,” says Will. Hannibal seems to be returning to himself, so this is as good a time as any to continue with Will’s little asking-for-what-you-want project. “I liked that you were just trying to please yourself. You’re good at it.”

Hannibal’s fingers twine with his. “Is there something you want, Will?” he asks. “In moments where I am in the mood to please someone besides myself?”

Will’s heart beats slightly faster at what he’s about to say. Some part of him is still screaming that it’s insane to ask Hannibal to trap him, to hurt him. But then, Will thinks resolutely, if Hannibal decided to hurt him without his permission… well, he wouldn’t wait for permission, is the whole point.

“I liked you controlling me,” he says. “I wanted more of that. A few times I thought you were going to bite me, and I wanted that too.”

Hannibal props himself up on an elbow, gazing down slightly at Will. His gaze trails from Will’s face down his neck and over his chest, where there are a few faint red marks from where he’d lightly dragged his nails earlier. “Were you afraid?” he asks. “When you thought I was going to hurt you.”

“Not exactly,” Will says. “Mostly what I’m afraid of is the way that fear… echoes. With most people. They’re afraid, so I’m afraid, so they’re afraid, and so on. I can’t get myself out of the loop, once it’s started. But you don’t feel things just because I do; I could be afraid and you could choose to just be interested. Or horny. So there’s nothing to be afraid of in the first place, if I know at least the fear will stop with me.”

Hannibal sits up. His eyes have gone very dark, and he’s looking at Will intently and oh, now maybe Will is beginning to feel like a slab of meat. Laid out for dissection, and he’s going to feel every moment of it. His breath quickens.

“Nothing to be afraid of,” Hannibal comments.

Will takes a shaky breath, and maybe it’s the echo of how alien and honest Hannibal had looked taking his pleasure from Will’s body that lets more of the truth than he had intended slip out of him. “I’m always a little bit afraid of you,” he says hoarsely. “Losing that would be like losing a piece of myself.”

And then Hannibal’s face goes soft and loving, and that’s a deliberate expression, he wants Will to see that one, but that doesn’t make it any less genuine. Hannibal reaches a hand out, and it seems to take a very long time from the time that the motion begins at his shoulder joint for his hand to come hover above Will’s chest.

Then it trails higher, and Hannibal places his thumb and middle finger overtop of Will’s eyelids, pushing them closed. Will closes his eyes as directed, feeling the odd pressure on his eyeballs through the thin skin.

“Will you keep them closed?” Hannibal asks. “Or do I need to blindfold you?”

Will doesn’t want Hannibal to leave the bed, not even to go as far as the closet. He bites his lip, conscious of how very vulnerable he looks, eyes closed and head tilted up. “Blindfold me next time,” he says. “I’ll keep them closed for now.”

“If you peek, I’ll make sure you regret it,” says Hannibal, and there’s so much teasing affection in his voice that Will cracks an eye open to see the face that accompanies it almost without thinking. Then he feels a sharp flare of pain as Hannibal slaps him, carefully but with force, across the face.

Will shuts his eye again immediately, and the surprise of the stinging slap causes a high, nervous laugh to escape from him. “Okay,” he says with something embarrassingly close to a giggle, “Okay, they’re closed. Promise.”

“Good.” Hannibal’s voice sounds like it is coming from farther away than Will expected, and he feels a soft brush of knuckles against the outside of his thigh. It tickles, raising goosbumps and making him wish for a firmer touch to press the sensation away, and in that moment Hannibal grabs a fold of Will’s flesh between his fingers and squeezes, quick and hard.

It’s over almost before Will has even realized what’s happened, but the pain takes a moment to present itself. In that moment the pain seems a physical thing, as real as any of the crime scenes he’s ever walked through in his imagination. It opens and expands in front of his eyes like a flower, blooming and then fading before he can fully see the shape of it.

He remembers this part. From being stabbed, the first time as a beat cop or the second time by Hannibal or the third time with Hannibal, and being shot by Jack and Chiyoh, and any number of other injuries. Pain has a shape to it, a physical reality, always slightly beyond his grasp. He remembers lying on Hannibal’s kitchen floor wondering if this time, if this was truly the end, he would be able to reach out and grasp it where it danced just out of his reach. If maybe seeing the entire shape of the pain was the definition of dying, so maybe he shouldn’t try so hard to reach for it, but he couldn’t help himself. He was so tired, and maybe dying wouldn’t be so bad if it at least meant one final moment of clarity.

There’s no clarity here, as the flower of pain that bloomed from Hannibal’s first sharp pinch fades. The petals peel off and fall into the void, and Will is left panting behind his closed eyes. Anticipating. Waiting eagerly for the next one to bloom so that he can watch its fade into entropy.

Hannibal pinches a smaller fold of skin, farther up on Will’s hip and nearly far back enough to qualify as his ass. It’s a slightly different flavour, brighter and more brilliant, but it fades away more quickly, and Will shifts restlessly with the effort of trying to catalogue it before it fades away.

“Hold it for longer,” he requests breathlessly, and Hannibal does, reaching all the way underneath him to pinch the bottom of Will’s thigh. He holds it for a few seconds, probably; there’s no variation in the intensity except for the minute trembling of his fingers that Hannibal probably isn’t even aware of. It feels like an eternity to Will; the feeling grows and spreads and tingles at the nerves in his face and the bottoms of his feet. The shape of the sensation grows and twists behind his eyelids, drawing all of his attention to its contours.

Will remembers a college roommate once, a mathematician with whom he’d mostly gotten along purely because he, like Will, had an aptitude for sticking to himself. He’d tried to explain once, when Will had asked, that the bizarre colourful shapes on his computer models were only three-dimensional representations of what it might look like to represent four data points at each point in 3D space. Will had lain awake half the night, trying to picture unfolding a 3D shape into its true form in higher dimensions, parts of the surface that appeared to be touching really not touching at all. Perhaps Will’s pain was only ever representable like that.

(If there were anyone in the universe who might try to map pain using Riemann surfaces, Will thinks in a quiet moment between pinches, it would be the same man who thinks the most efficient method of repairing china is reversing the flow of time.)

Hannibal works over his thighs and hips until Will feels the bruising pinches more in aggregate than individually. They grow and flower and fade like fireworks, leaving sparks and ashes in their wake. Sensations run together; the light brush of the sheets against his back becomes a part of the enveloping fold of pain, and he drinks in each new torment from Hannibal’s fingers like it’s something sweet and liquid. When Hannibal brushes a palm over his belly, trailing a finger over his scar again, it takes Will a moment to realize that he hasn’t hurt him there. Will adds the feeling to the changeable topology taking place in his mind anyway.

The next sensation is of Hannibal cradling his head, and Will realizes that his entire upper body has been more or less lifted onto Hannibal’s lap. He turns his head and nuzzles into Hannibal’s thigh with his nose, smelling soap and sweat and remnants of lube and semen.

The pain fades away, and Will lets it go. He no longer needs to chase after it and attempt to understand it; he knows where it lives now, behind his eyelids with Hannibal’s clever, cruel hands on him. And as it fades it leaves silence in its wake; the fleeting, precious silence that Will has only ever known in the moments where he was certain he was going to die.

He comes back to himself slowly, and Hannibal allows him that; after all, Will had allowed him the same, only a little earlier. Eventually Will takes a deep, sighing breath and says, “Can I open my eyes?”

“You may,” says Hannibal gently, and when Will does, he realizes that his lower lashes are damp with unshed tears.

He stares up at Hannibal, dazed, and Hannibal swipes a thumb under his eyes to catch the moisture. He licks it off his thumb, because of course he does, and Will fails to contain a giggle for the second time that evening.

“Thank you,” says Will. It doesn’t feel adequate, somehow. Not enough to explain how all of Will’s memories of Hannibal hurting him feel sharper and brighter and better, now. After he’s asked Hannibal for what he wants, and received it, and no more. It’s not safety– he’ll never feel quite safe with Hannibal, and he wouldn’t want to. It’s more beautiful than that.

Hannibal licks his lips, and smooths a hand over Will’s damp forehead and into his hair. He looks just as undone as Will feels.

“So this is going to… work, then?” says Will, thinking back to his terror when Hannibal had first used the word asexual in bed. It seems almost too simple, for it to be like this. That Hannibal can take what he wants from Will, and Will can take what he wants from Hannibal.

Hannibal sweeps his eyes down Will’s body, and Will notices that there are mottled bruises beginning to form all over his legs. He looks predatory. Hungry.

“I think, Will,” he says, “This is going to work quite nicely.”