A.N This is at an unspecified point of the Hannibal timeline. It is before the arrest of Will and his fever, however.

Will closed his eyes and took a deep breath as his heart pounded in his chest.

He knew.

He knew.

Had known for a little while now.

Had suspected.

No, he had known.

And he knew that he had been manipulated, he knew that Hannibal had taken advantage of his empathy and the trust that he had placed in the Doctor to turn his mind to the same thinking as Hannibal's. Or perhaps opened up the potential in his brain that he and Hannibal both knew had always been there.

Honestly, he wasn't stupid, the amount of jokes and puns that Hannibal clearly could not resist making became more and more obvious as he allowed Will in, and as Will got closer to the Chesapeake Ripper. One and the same, it embarrassingly took him longer than it should have to put two and two together and stop coming up with eight. Though in his defence Hannibal's intelligence was frighteningly brilliant.

He had had them all dancing around themselves like idiots, until one day when he had been looking over the Chesapeake Ripper case yet again for Jack, something had just...clicked. Suddenly it was so obvious, so clear.

He had used the excuse of needing to get away for a little while from it all, going out on his boat fishing, to think it over and to make a decision. And really before he even made the phone call informing Jack that he needed a break, the decision had already been made.

If he was ever really going to turn Hannibal in, he would have done it there and then. He knew better than anyone except perhaps Jack himself what the Chesapeake Ripper had done, what Hannibal had done. And that was only the murders that they had been able to link together, it didn't include the crimes that had not been matched to his profile, like the copycat killings.

He knew how dangerous Hannibal was. He knew WHAT he was. He knew that Hannibal wouldn't stop, that he would carry on killing. And he didn't tell Jack. He didn't tell anyone. If he was going to, it would have been in that phone call. He would have called Jack, or maybe Alana, perhaps even Beverley, and he would have told them, he would have told them everything and helped them arrest Hannibal.

And that was the crux of the matter. He had had the image of Hannibal behind bars, behind the clinical walls of Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. In one of those awful jumpsuits. Locked away like an animal. Away from the world. Away from Will.

And in doing so, he would lose the only person who had ever really understood him, the only person who had looked at him and saw a man, saw a person, saw someone worth something more than his mind. He had chosen selfishness, he had chosen to keep Hannibal in his life.

And he had said nothing.

He let Hannibal carry on.

He let Jack keep chasing shadows.

And he said nothing.

To either Jack or Hannibal. And he and Hannibal continued the dance that they had started that morning in his hotel room when Hannibal had come to apologise for upsetting him and provided him with breakfast. He wasn't really sure where the dance was going, though he had a good idea, and though part of him - the part that still said he should pick up the phone and tell Jack everything - said that it was wrong, the larger part of him was eager to move the dance on to the next act. Curious to know where it would lead them.

What he had not anticipated was that Jack's suspicious mind would lead him to Hannibal anyway. Jack hadn't said it at the crime scene, but for Will, it had been written in front of his eyes like a film, as though he could see the dots adding up in Jack's head.

And he had panicked. That doubt that had lingered in the back of his head about whether or not he really wanted to keep Hannibal free was easily answered with the panic that swept through him as his brain scrambled to try and come up with some way to turn Jack off of the path that was leading towards Hannibal.

And of course, Hannibal being Hannibal had to make life more difficult for him. He had realised too late that Hannibal was going to kill again, he had to fulfil his pattern of three, couldn't disappoint after all. Finding the fancy invitation in amongst his post in Hannibal's distinctive cursive inviting him to a dinner party in a weeks time, with a letter inside especially for him assuring him that Hannibal would protect him from being overwhelmed if he would please just attend one of the parties.

And it was like a rock hitting him, realising what was going to happen. The train had left the station, Jack would no doubt be discovering the body any time now, and he knew Jack, he would be heading straight to Hannibal. And the infuriating man would either work his way out of it or kill Jack. More likely kill Jack. And that would rain a whole lot of hell down on Hannibal, and potentially risk ripping Hannibal out of his life. He had gotten away with everything so far because of keeping things anonymous, nothing traced back to him, nothing could be linked to him. Jack was too close.

Before he could think about what he was doing he was in his car and speeding towards Hannibal's home.

He silently thanks Alana for her advice in getting a hybrid car as he drove up to Hannibal's house silently with his headlights off and spotted Jack's car already there. Thinking quick he pulled his car around the side of the house and slipped out, hurrying to make his way around the back.

He let out a soft breath of relief upon finding the patio doors to the dining room unlocked, though he did silently judge himself for knowing that the patio doors were the last ones that Hanibal locked of an evening as he liked to take a breath and look at the dark night for a few moments before going to bed.

It served him well though, and he slipped inside the house, silently shutting the door behind himself. He could hear Jack's distinct deep, demanding voice and Hannibal's own cultured, accented exotic one, the voice that Will could honestly listen to for hour upon hour.

Once again he acted without thinking, moving through the house, listening intently to the exchange.

"...very interesting Dr Lector," Jack was saying.

"Indeed?" Hannibal drawled, and Will could hear the danger in his tone.

"Yes, more bodies for the Chesapeake Ripper,"

"He has struck again?" Hannibal managed to sound as though he were running a therapy session despite the whole tone and mood of the conversation.

"Yes, he has. It is the last body I am quite interested in," Jack was poking, Will had heard this tone so many times. He was drawing what he wanted out of Hannibal, poking and baiting, sure that he would get where he wanted. He had used that very tone on Will himself more than a few times. It was that tone that never quite allowed Will to trust Jack's promise that he would never leave him in a Mental institution...And probably the reason that Will had so clearly chosen the fork in the road that led to Hannibal rather than to Jack.

"You believe that you are close to the Ripper?" Hannibal could not bloody help himself, he had to be clever and drop in his puns.

"I believe I have him in my sites," Wonderful verbal sparring in the form of puns. Really Will had raced over here, risking life and limb, come up with what he thought was a fairly good plan considering the short amount of time that he had to come up with something, only to find the two of them doing the verbal version of whipping them out and measuring them.

"You must be very happy Jack, what has led you so close so suddenly?"

"Another body,"

"And yet you have not called out Will?" Hannibal drawled.

"I wanted to speak to you first," Jack said smoothly. They were circling each other and Will was stuck waiting for the right moment to enter the ring himself.

"A difference in events, but I admit to being intrigued. For what reason were you wanting to see me first Jack?" Hannibal's tone was dangerous. A predator crouching waiting for the gazel to move to the right position so he could pounce. Honestly, when this mess was tidied up Will was going to have a nice long talk with Hannibal about Jack and the team being off limits.

And really the fact that he himself was thinking in the terms of only certain people being off limits indicated how far into Hannibal's web he had allowed himself to become ensnared. Or wrapped himself in it.

"Where were you tonight Dr Lector, between 1900 and 2230?" Jack threw the dice out there, laying his cards on the table.

"I was..."

"With me, Jack, what is going on? Why are you asking Hannibal where he was?" Will didn't have any more time left, and it was as good a moment as any to step in. He made sure to keep his voice sleepy as though he had just woken up, his state of dress leaving no doubt of the picture he wanted to paint.

It was a good job that Jack was looking at him, actually blushing and looking completely side stepped for once, because Hannibal stared at him stunned for a moment, before a look that was pure and utter predator crossed his face.

"Will?" Jack asked incredulously.

"Yes?" Will yawned pointedly.

"Did you sleepwalk again?" Jack asked confused. Hannibal snorted behind him, and realisation crossed Jack's face completely as the shock faded.

"No, I had supper and... stayed over," Will thanked anyone that was listening that Hannibal was in his pyjamas, it helped him paint the picture he needed to paint to throw Jack off of the scent.

"Oh, right, isn't that a little unethical?" Jack blinked, watching Will tug self consciously on the bottom of Hannibal's shirt which he had stolen from the neat laundry in the utility room, the only thing that he was wearing. He made sure to act as though he was only really coming to and that he was coming to realise how he was standing in front of his boss.

"I have told you many times Jack, Will is not my patient," Hannibal said smoothly, shaking his head as he made his way across the room to Will, slipping his dressing gown from his shoulders and helped Will into it.

Had he not been giving Hannibal a false alibi to his boss, the gentlemanly action would have been very romantic, especially as he tenderly pulled the robe closed around Will's front and tied it for him.

Hell help him, it was still incredibly romantic.

He snuggled into the skin warmed silk that smelt deliciously of Hannibal, wriggling a little deeper into the expensive fabric as it brushed against his skin deliciously. It was a little chilly in the house and he had been standing mostly naked for long enough that a coolness had settled into his skin, the warm fabric was welcomed. As was the sight of Hannibal's muscled frame being a little more revealed to his hungry eyes now that he was just wearing fitted silk pyjamas.

When he lifted his eyes a blush spread across his own skin as he remembered that Jack was there, and realised that he had watched the exchange intently, although it did help sell the scene even more.

"You have been here?" Jack said slowly.

"I had...a bad day. I needed Hannibal. I came here at around 1645 and have been here since. Why are you asking this Jack?"

"I... I... god I am so sorry!" Jack scrubbed at his face.

"I believe you suspected me of murder Jack, may I ask what I have done to receive such suspicion?" Hannibal was back on the charm offensive, his intelligent mind realising quickly just how much he could turn this moment to his advantage. Well, their advantage now.

"I can't apologise enough Dr Lector, I really can not. This is...an unacceptable step on my part that I have no excuse for. And there are not enough apologies in the world for my clumsy accusations. I have my head so twisted around with the Chesapeake Ripper that I am seeing shadows in every corner," Jack shook his head.

"You have become too entrenched in this my friend, you are allowing it to colour all of your interactions. I can refer you to my psychiatrist. Our conversations are well and good, but the water is a little murky, especially now. She is very good, and perhaps talking to someone will help you," Hannibal ignored Will's slightly baleful glare at him twisting the knife a little too deep.

"Hannibal, I can not apologise enough, I can't believe I actually thought...even for a moment. You have been such a good friend to me, and this is how I repay you? Suspicion and accusations! I will take you up on that offer. I think perhaps with being on the Ripper case so long, and Hobbs, Bella and Mirium... perhaps talking will do me some good," Will felt quite guilty at how bad Jack felt, how torn up and disoriented he clearly was. But the alternative was unthinkable.

He had made his choice months ago.

"Here is her number. Call her around lunchtime tomorrow, I will call her and request she take you on. She is very trustworthy Jack, you can talk to her about everything you may need to," Hannibal wrote down the number neatly and passed it to Jack, patting him on the shoulder in a calm display of camaraderie.

"Thank you, Dr Lector, after everything..." Jack shook his head clutching the number as though it were a lifeline.

"It is forgotten, my friend. I understand how much stress this case has placed on you, on you all. A moment of confusion is something that I can understand. But please, if you need to talk, never think my door will be closed to you now," Hannibal smiled.

"You are a true friend and gentleman," Will resisted the urge to snort at Jack's words.

"Please Jack, just look after yourself. Will you be ok tonight?" Hannibal asked, his tone full of concern.

"Yes, yes quite fine,"

"Do you need me, Jack?" Will asked softly.

"No, the scene was trampled all over by police, taken apart before they realised what they were dealing with. Part of the reason I was so angry tonight. It is nothing that can't be done tomorrow now. I think...I need to go home and have a sleep in my own bed...It would perhaps do me good,"

Will could practically taste Hannibal's pleasure at twisting Jack's clever mind so completely, at the disorientation of the man hunting him. Especially when he had actually been so close to the truth.

"Ok, I will come straight to you, I will ask Alana to take my class in the morning. Will you be ok getting home Jack?" Will asked, honestly concerned.

"No, I will be fine. I am sorry for...disturbing you," Jack flushed a little again as he looked at Will.

"It is no problem," Will smiled uncomfortably.

"I will get out of your way," Jack started towards the door quickly, before pausing. "Congratulations, you are good for each other,"

Will wasn't too sure about that, he really didn't know where this pathway would lead him. But he was treading it now with no way of changing track. He had made his choice. He met Hannibal's eyes as the man went to leave the room with Jack, and he knew by the hunger on the Doctor's face that his thoughts were clearly written out for the other man to read.

While Hannibal walked Jack to the front door and saw him out, Will made his way to the fireplace he had spent so much time in front of. Allowing the heat from the fire to warm his legs he threw a few more logs onto the flames to stop the fire from dying. He and Hannibal would have a lot to talk about.

Honestly, this house was such a contrast, neat and perfect, tidy and controlled, when he had first come here to talk to Hannibal, not long after they started their chats, he had felt so completely out of place in amongst the finery and wealth, the chilled grandeur of art that Hannibal had created here for himself. But the longer he spent in the house the more he saw Hannibal in the decoration and space. And it became somewhere he associated with being safe. It was as though Hannibal's home was a fort where everything else was locked out, and he was safe here. Not even his own home afforded him that luxury anymore.

And it was strange how despite what he had thought, he seemed to fit here. He slid into the house and did not stick out like a chip on fine marble, and he tried not to see that as an allegory towards his relationship with Hannibal.

But it had been startling to him to realise what a safe haven this house had become to him, and the man whose presence could so clearly be felt here. Even after realising everything and putting the pieces together, he still felt safe here.

He curled up on his normal spot at one end of the ridiculously comfortable sofa, tucking his legs underneath himself, and under the warm fabric of the dressing gown. He took a breath and allowed his head to drop onto the back of the sofa as he closed his eyes and tried to calm down his heartbeat, which was finally, finally settling for the first time since seeing the invitation and realising what was about to happen.

"Be careful what you offer too quickly William," Hannibal's drawl startled him, and he realised he had settled into a kind of doze. Looking up he watched Hannibal placing a tray onto the coffee table, he did not need Hannibal's sense of smell to know that the mugs on the tray contained the homemade hot chocolate he loved. "Knowing what I am and relaxing so much in my home,"

"I have known for a while," Will said softly, watching as Hannibal paused in stirring one of the mugs.

"Indeed," He passed the mug to Will, and picked up his own, before looking at the empath intently. "And yet, I am still a free man,"

"Yes, you are," Will nodded. After tonight he was not going to make this easier for Hannibal. Honestly, what had the man been thinking!

"You surprise me, as ever Will," Hannibal's lips turned up.

"Do not!" Will pointed at the Doctor annoyed. "You were going to kill him!"

"I did not realise that you were so attached,"

"I am when it could mean you either getting killed yourself or having to go on the run. Jack, the team, even bloody Freddie Loundes, they are all too close, and so unless there is absolutely no other option, they are off limits! I mean it, Hannibal, that is my condition!" Will said firmly. And then gulped as he watched Hannibal's eyes flare.

"Condition of my freedom, or condition to something else, William?" And just like that, they were in the dance again.

"I think it is pretty clear that your freedom is not conditional," Will answered instead.

"Why? This is what you do, you have been hunting me for nearly a year now for Uncle Jack, you hunt monsters," Hannibal said dryly, his brown eyes as intent as ever upon him.

"I could give you the cowards answer and say that you have played with my head enough that I do not see the monster," Will sighed.

"But," Hannibal prompted, and the bastard was amused.

"But the fact that I am aware you have been manipulating me and playing with my head means that I can not use that as an excuse,"

"So what excuse will you give?" Hannibal asked.

"I won't. I don't have one, the only reason I can give is selfishness,"

"Selfish is a word that I would not ascribe to you Will," Hannibal shook his head.

"It seems when I am with you I am a different person," The statement was loaded with meaning, and he knew Hannibal got it. He had the ability to be different with Hannibal, and that had been what had ultimately drawn him into Hannibal's web, it had been why he went to the Doctor for their 'talks' when he had rejected, refused and scorned all other therapists before.

With Hannibal, he could be selfish.

With Hannibal, he could be just a man.

With Hannibal, he could have love.

With Hannibal, he would look into the darkness, and into the abyss, and he would embrace it.

With Hannibal, he could be stronger. He could be weaker. He could let the darkness over run him. He could embrace it. He could let Hannibal protect his mind, or let him destroy it.

"Aren't all relationships a risk Will, don't they all demand that you have faith and jump if they are to truly work?" Hannibal asked softly.

The fire was dancing in the fireplace now and casting shadows around Hannibal's handsome face. He didn't need visions or flashes to see the predator lurking there now, Hannibal was allowing him to see it. And as ever it was like he was reading Will's mind.

"Most relationships require jumping a few feet," Will shook his head.

"Whereas we require jumping a canyon?" Hannibal said amused.


"I am jumping with you Will. I have not anyone in, never. It is a vulnerability that I have never been able to allow myself, no matter how much I may have longed for understanding to companionship. And yet with you, I can not seem to help myself. I find myself allowing you to see me more and more without conscious decision," Hannibal smiled a little. "My therapist once said that I present myself from behind a human veil,"

"That would sum you up well," Will snorted.

"And yet, you see behind the veil, and chose me?"

Will's eyes snapped up to Hannibal at those words, and he realised that Hannibal had taken the leap so to speak. He had jumped.

He wanted to be chosen despite everything else about him, just as Will did.

"Can you truly live knowing what I am, what I have done. What I will do?" Hannibal asked.

"Would you stop, if I asked you to?" Will asked.

"I would try, to be with you, if that was your condition," Hannibal answered honestly.

Will sat back a little and looked at Hannibal, reading the truth in the other man's eyes. "Ok," He nodded.

"I will try my best to curb my..."

"You misunderstand me," Will interrupted with a smile, reaching out to brush his warm fingers over Hannibal's face.

"Will?" Hannibal asked, wrong-footed in a way that only Will had been able to achieve.

"I don't want you as anything but what you are. I developed feelings for you knowing who you are, knowing what you are. Yes, you manipulated me into seeing things more from your point of view, however, you never manipulated my feelings for you, you never tried to make more fall in love with you. I fell in love with you, just as you are," Will uttered the word and jumped himself.

"You... can live with it? Will if you change your mind..."

"I won't. I had doubts about whether or not I would be able to live with it, I had doubts that I would not say anything when you killed again," Will said.

"And when I did, you came here to protect me, to help me," Hannibal gazed at Will.

"It was not even a second thought," Will admitted.

"Thre is something there still though," Hannibal frowned slightly as he looked at Will.

"I need to know..." Will started to say and then paused unsurely.

"Anything Will, tell me what you need to know," Hannibal pushed.

"Budge, why did you send me after him?" Will blurted out the question, lowering his eyes as everything in him said that he was not sure that he really wanted to know the answer.

"He was here, the night you showed up, he was the one I had been having supper with. He was here to start a relationship with me, and he was like me, he could fully understand me. And then you showed up, and I was standing there, watching you, listening to you. And I realised, I didn't want someone just like me. I sent you after him because I was choosing you. I didn't imagine that what happened would happen. When I thought that he had hurt you. He walked in and said he had killed two people, and I was...furious. It is why I killed him because I thought he had taken you from me,"

Will was not in control of himself and his movements again as he moved across the sofa and straddled Hannibal's lap, sliding his fingers through ash blonde hair the way he had fantasised about doing so many times before now. He should not find it romantic, he should not feel excited by it.

But he did.

"I feel very possessive of you Will," Hannibal slipped his hands under the dressing gown and shirt, cupping Will's thighs and stroking gently. His fingers sliding underneath the leg line of his boxers.

"I do not know that I can be what it is you want me to be," Will said softly, his blue eyes scanning over Hannibal's face.

"You misunderstand Will, I want you to be happy, I believe that you would be happier, and more stable, if you let go of what holds you back, what twists your mind around into knots. If you are never like me I will be happy as long as you are with me,"

Pressing their lips together was the only answer that Will could give to that. It was like finally getting a drink after being in the desert for days, it felt like coming home. Hannibal quickly took over this kiss, drawing Will even closer as his hands stroked his thighs. His touch felt as though it were setting his skin on fire, and he could do nothing but press even closer to the Doctor.

He was not sure how long they sat there, exchanging kisses and touching each other, they had been leading towards this moment for so long, they could not get enough. Eventually, though Will pulled back and rested his head on Hannibal's shoulder, pressing his nose to the silk fabric separating him from Hannibal and breathing in his scent.

"Will you stay the night?" Hannibal asked softly.

"Jack may not have been wholly convinced, I should probably stay, just in case," Will said shyly.

"Just in case," The older man sounded so pleased with himself that Will rolled his eyes.

He had also imagined this moment more than a few hundred times, different scenarios on how it would happen, and how it would feel, and in all of them he had felt a little uncomfortable and unsure. Being led into Hannibal's bedroom, the man's larger and warm hand holding his securely as though scared Will would run, it was the last and only place that he had not been allowed into, he had been welcomed into the rest of the house. But stopping by the side of the bed that would clearly be his, and looking at the man he loved, he felt nothing but safety and contentment.

And really Hannibal was a web of contradictions for Will. The hands that reached out and with ultimate tenderness, and reverence, undid the tie of his own dressing gown and helped Will out of it, those hands had done horrific things, they had killed and harmed, they had destroyed. And yet as they brushed his cheek, and ran over his throat, pushing the fabric of Hannibal's shirt from his shoulder so that he could lean down to press his lips to the skin there, Will could only feel safe and wanted.

"Will?" Hannibal asked concerned against the skin of Will's shoulder. When the younger man didn't respond he pulled back to look at him worried, his grip tightening on Will's hips.

"I love you," Will wanted to say it, he wanted to tell Hannibal, and he wanted to be looking into the man's eyes when he said it.

What he had not been expecting was for those brown eyes to widen and for him to be looked at with wonder. His quick mind went at 1000 miles a minute and he sucked in a breath as he wondered when the last time was that someone had told Hannibal that they loved him, when the last time he had been loved was. And when he had been loved for who he was.

The kiss was expected, the force behind it was not. Hannibal yanked him against his body hard, his mouth devouring Will's. He could feel every emotion raging inside of Hannibal, his normal iron control released as he let Will in.

When they parted Will's lips felt bruised and swollen, and they were both panting harshly. Hannibal brushed a stray curl from Will's eyes with a tender look before leaning in to press one last gentle kiss to Will's lips. "I love you too," he sighed contently at the words breathed against his lips, relaxing even more into Hannibal's hold.

They slipped into bed together, and Will laughed lightly as Hannibal rearranged them to his liking, moving Will so that he was lying on his side, shuffling closer to Will and spooning him. His larger, warmer body surrounded Will as he wrapped his arm around his waist, and blue eyes fluttered shut once more contently.

He did not worry about bad dreams tonight or sleepwalking, visions or bad memories. He knew here with Hannibal in his safe haven, with the whispers of Hannibal's love confessions echoing in his ears.

"Hannibal, I have another condition," Will murmured softly with sleep.

"Mm?" Hannibal hummed sleepily into the back of Will's neck. "Only the bad people?" he guessed.

"No, you get to keep killing, and I get to keep my dogs," Will grinned when he felt Hannibal tensing behind him.

"All of them?" He could hear the grimace in Hannibal's voice.

"All of them," He nodded.

"You are lucky that I love you," Hannibal grumbled, squeezing Will gently and nipping playfully at the skin under his mouth when the empath started laughing.