Hannibal is staring at him. Will wants to apologize, feels almost compelled to, and shoves the urge down. He will not apologize.

The kitchen may be Hannibal’s natural environment, set up according to his specifications and primarily used for his purposes. But Will’s still allowed in here. It’s part of their house. They both have equal rights to it.

So he tells himself, studiously avoiding Hannibal’s eyes as he stirs the somewhat revolting-looking mixture of rice, leftover vegetables, and ground turkey. (Will is certain it’s turkey, as he’d purchased it himself.) Hannibal doesn’t seem to mind Will ignoring him: in fact, his smugness only grows the longer Will pretends he isn’t there, until finally Will can’t stand it any more, and lifts his gaze to find Hannibal looking archly curious. There’s something else, too, a small undercurrent of an emotion Will can’t place, which is always dangerous when it comes to Hannibal. Will plays it safe— as safe as possible, anyway— and just says, “yes?”

“I would have been happy to prepare meals for them as well, if you’d asked.”

Will rolls his eyes. “They’re dogs, Hannibal. They don’t need fancy meals, and they certainly don’t need to be gorging themselves on human flesh.”

“Hmm.” Hannibal takes a few steps into the kitchen, eyeing the slop in the pot warily. “And yet, the generic kibble that sustains the vast majority of domesticated animals is beneath your pack.”

Will just grimaces. Hannibal isn’t wrong. He’d used kibble for years, of course, and the dogs did just fine. But since his and Hannibal’s disappearance, since they’d settled in a cottage in the woods that reminds Will so much of his old home that he often suspects Hannibal chose it just to make Will’s heart ache, since a million tiny adjustments of themselves to fit into the spaces of each other— Will has found that his caretaking instinct, once only whetted by the dog pack and substantially eaten up by the daily demands of saving lives for the FBI, was increasing.

It’s not that he thinks the dogs particularly care what they eat. They’re dogs; they’ll eat putrefied roadkill if given half a chance. But the idea that Will does this for them, that what sustains them comes from his hand— well. Maybe he’s not so unlike Hannibal, after all. Eating Will’s food makes the dogs his, and Will finds that he enjoys it.

Hannibal isn’t a mind-reader, or even particularly empathetic, he just knows Will’s thoughts entirely too closely for comfort. “Lucky dogs,” he comments, “To be owned by you in such a fashion.”

Do you consider me lucky, to be owned by you? Will wants to say. Instead he takes the opposite tack, just jokes, “You should be so lucky,” and starts scooping the dog food into containers.

Hannibal doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t seem amused at all, in fact, and when Will snaps the final lid onto the finished dog food, he looks up at Hannibal and realizes what emotion he couldn’t place before.

Jealousy.

And that is very interesting indeed.

***

The adult thing to do, the normal thing— as much as anything they do can be normal— would be to talk to Hannibal about it. So of course, Will chooses the exact opposite, like he can bend the normal, adult world to his whims through sheer stubbornness. To be fair, when it comes to Hannibal, he usually can.

Will is standing in the corner of the yard. He’s throwing sticks for Jackie, Princess and Lizard— the first two are shelter dogs with names and vaccinations, and the latter a half-dead stray Will had found at the side of the road. Hannibal hadn’t meant to christen Lizard, he had meant to insult him, but Will had to admit that the patchy fur and beady eyes did make him look somewhat reptilian. The resemblance had faded as Lizard grew healthier in Will’s care, but the name stuck.

Now Hannibal comes to stand beside him, and watches as the three mutts crash happily into each other in pursuit of several large sticks.

“Want one?” Will asks.

“One what?”

And Hannibal genuinely doesn’t understand, has no idea what he’s suggesting, which makes Will feel nearly dizzy with power. “A stick, of course,” he replies calmly.

Hannibal frowns, and Will feels the knot of excitement in his stomach getting bigger the longer Hannibal draws this out. He still doesn’t get it, and he has no idea it was his own damn emotions that suggested it in the first place.

“What would you like me to do with a stick, Will?” The crease between his brows is both practically unprecedented, and absolutely adorable. Will wants to take a picture of it, but it will be gone too quickly for that.

Will shrugs. “Not really about what I want, is it? There isn’t much of a specific purpose to this game, at least on my end. You’d go get it. Bring it back to me. Then I’d throw it again.”

Hannibal freezes, that perfectly neutral expression that Will both loves (because it means he’s broken something in Hannibal, even something tiny and temporary) and hates (because it means Hannibal momentarily thinks he has to put on his person suit, in front of Will of all people) stuck on his face.

Hannibal doesn’t ask and why would I do that. Will didn’t expect him to: asking would be a tactical error, since he knows Wills answer could be devastating: because you want to. You as good as told me: you’re jealous of my pack.

Hannibal wouldn’t risk that. So instead he plays right into WIll’s hands: he simply shrugs and says, “Very well.”

Will can see through his indifference. Will can’t always see through him, but Hannibal is transparent as glass right now. He’s practically vibrating with emotion.

Will takes the stick that Lizard just returned, and bends down to pat firmly down Lizard’s flank, distracting him and keeping him in place. He throws the stick again, away from the other two dogs, and says, “Hannibal, fetch.”

Hannibal doesn’t run. He doesn’t even walk particularly quickly, for him, but his gait is tightly wound with excitement and uncertainty. When he reaches the patch of grass where the stick lies, he goes to reach down to pick it up, dignified.

“Hannibal, no, Will calls, slapping his knee. It happens practically without his conscious input, the way his tone is calibrated for calling to a dog, not a human, how his eyes go a little bit wide an earnest the way you can’t help but look at a dog when you’re trying to get it to follow instructions.

Hannibal’s head snaps around to look at him, his hand hovering just above the stick.

“With your mouth, boy,” Will calls, and finds that this is easy for him: the image before him blurs, and Hannibal’s human body is flickeringly replaced by a creature Will has never seen him as before: not the wendigo but also not entirely unlike him. He’s sleek black, something like a greyhound in shape but larger and very slightly shaggier. Imposing, but with that sweet eagerness of every dog just learning to follow orders for the first time.

The Hannibal-dog tilts his head, an ear flopping endearingly over to one side, uncertain. “Come on, boy,” Will encourages. “You can do it. Pick it up.”

And then the Hannibal-dog bends his head and grasps the stick carefully in his jaws, mashing at it a few times with his teeth and tossing his head to get it in the right positions to carry. He trots it over to Will and sits at his feet, paws working the ground nervously, as he tilts his head up to offer the stick to his master.

Will blinks, lets go of Lizard who bounds off into the grass, and it’s just Hannibal in front of him: kneeling, the dew already staining the knees of his grey pants. His hands are balled into loose fists with the knuckles pressed into the ground beside his knees, and he’s holding the stick in between his teeth lightly.

Will tugs at the stick, and Hannibal drops his jaw to let it go. “Good boy,” Will says softly, and without his conscious permission, his hand reaches up to ruffle Hannibal’s hair. He runs it down, drifting over his ears, entirely unsure of whether he’s feeling human flesh or warm fur beneath his fingers. “Next time don’t let me have it so easily,” he says, and throws the stick again.

This time, when the Hannibal-dog bounds away, it’s at full speed, and in some part of his mind Will knows that there will be bruises on Hannibal’s knees that evening, but most of him just sees a new member of his pack, one that he wants to play with and care for and feed. This time he picks it up in with his mouth with no hesitation, and when Will tries to tug it away from him, he resists, tossing his head back a little to jerk the stick out of Will’s hand.

Will tugs harder, expecting it to come loose, and ends up with a few shavings of bark on his hand, and the Hannibal-dog growls playfully as he yanks it away again.

“Jesus, your teeth are strong,” Will says, pulling again hard enough that he’s slightly worried about injuring Hannibal, who resists long enough to prove his point before finally, theatrically letting the stick go and saying, “I could have told you that.”

Will lets the stick drop, staring down at the very human man in front of him. He looks more dishevelled than Will has ever seen him before; Hannibal can somehow look elegant covered in blood, but this is nothing close to elegant. He has grass stains from his thighs to his ankles, plus an elbow where he’d leaned down to pick up the stick. His hair is sticking up crazily, and there are remnants of bark and leaves all over his face. His lips look slightly swollen, well-used from paying tug-o-war.

Will feels suddenly nervous, and suddenly like he can’t stand to not be kissing Hannibal, so he kneels down in the grass himself and leans in to claim his mouth.

Their mouths slide against each other, Hannibal letting Will take the lead, until Will gathers his courage again and whispers, “You did very well. Most are more skittish than that, on their first day in the pack.”

Hannibal shudders like Will has hurt him, and moans as he leans farther into the kiss, and Will almost laughs with how easy this is. There’s no reason to be nervous, no need to wonder if this is what Hannibal wants or if Will is doing it right. If there’s one thing Will knows how to do right, it’s take care of dogs. Though admittedly, Hannibal is the first dog he’s done this with.

He allows Hannibal’s shape to morph in his mind, the sleek black dog returning, and he digs his fingers into Hannibal’s fur even as he lets the kiss shift so that Hannibal is pressing down on Will, guiding him to lie down in the grass with the dog’s long, powerful frame on top. Kissing a dog should just feel like slobbering, of course, but Will can easily ignore the fact that it doesn’t, that the tongue probing into his mouth is thick and powerful instead of long and scratchy. Hannibal whines, and Will can feel the bulge of his cock pressing against his clothing. He can imagine it, swollen an angry, demanding red, as Hannibal pushes it into him unabashedly.

Will braces his hands on the back of Hannibal’s head, pulling him down and burying his face in the musky fur of the dog’s neck. Hannibal snaps his teeth, and Will trails a hand down to hold his mouth closed, just briefly, to indicate that Hannibal isn’t to bite. “I need to know you’re trained before I allow you that,” he murmurs.

Then, a white-hot flare of pain in Will’s shoulder as the dog bites him anyway, and he gasps. “Bad!” he gives an ineffectual slap to Hannibal’s haunches, but Hannibal barely slows down his desperate humping. In fact, he seems rather pleased with himself. Will can’t bring himself to stop their movement, so instead he just growls, “I see we’re going to need some further practice with that. Perhaps a muzzle. Do you need a muzzle, Hannibal? Perhaps if you can learn not to bite, I’ll even let you knot me.”

The dog lets out a whine that sounds almost pained, and Will feels him thrust home one final time before collapsing on top of Will, shivering as Will just strokes down his flanks, grinning at the sky.

When Hannibal pushes himself up on his elbows and starts reaching a hand down towards Will’s erection, his human features reassert themselves, and Will shakes his head and makes a shushing sound, forcing the vision of fur and sharp teeth back into place and pulling him back down. “Just enjoy it, sweet thing,” Will says, the words that would otherwise seem so foreign for him to say to Hannibal now rolling off his tongue. “Your master is perfectly capable of taking care of himself. You just be good, now.”

It’s only later, once Hannibal has prepared dinner and they’ve eaten in perfectly normal companionship, once the lights are off and they’re pressed up against each other in the dark with Will’s nose tucked neatly into Hannibal’s (smooth, human) neck, does Will say, “Do you want to do… more of that?”

Hannibal’s chest rises and falls calmly, and Will imagines it as a mass of fur, Hannibal’s soft belly exposed for him to rub and scratch at. He wants to reach out and place a hand on his stomach, but he’s still waiting on the answer.

“I believe there was some mention of a muzzle,” breathes Hannibal finally, and Will can’t stop himself from chuckling. “You never could get enough of that thing, could you?”

“At the very least it did not train me out of biting,” Hannibal answers back. “But it’s always worthwhile to try again.”