The door opens on their small conference room, letting in a welcome burst of fresh air. They've been waiting for nearly half an hour, but their wait is over as the lead agent on the case finally arrives. Tension fills Will's body as his eyes snap up and then instantly away. The movement grabs Hannibal's attention. He turns, noting out of the corner of his eye the way Will shrinks in on himself, so subtle a movement that an untrained eye would have missed it. Will shifts on his feet, bringing him closer to Jack, closer to relative safety.
The newcomer is a well-groomed man. Fit, in his late thirties but showing his age less than he should. This is a man who spends hours at the gym, who demands physical perfection from himself and those he chooses to work with. There is definite intelligence in the eyes that meet and hold Hannibal's gaze. It's a blatant challenge, two alphas sizing up the competition, but Hannibal has the advantage as far as Will is concerned, or so he thinks until the stranger opens his mouth.
"Been a long time, Willy." His eyes cut away from Hannibal to linger a second too long on Will. The possessiveness in his gaze is obvious to Hannibal, though the others see nothing. "Jack." The stranger nods his head deferentially towards their leader. He respects Jack, and that is something Hannibal files away, in case he needs the advantage.
Jack smiles and slides between Hannibal and Will to cross the room. He extends his hand. "Arthur. Thanks for calling. Hopefully we'll be able to help you catch this guy."
It's Hannibal's raised eyebrow that gets Jack talking, more than the curious glances from his team. Will does not look at anyone, barely looks at the board in front of them. His shoulders are stiff. If he winds himself any tighter, he might break. A delicious thought, but now is not the best time. He doesn't want to share Will's eventual undoing with anyone, let alone this new contender.
"This is Agent Arthur Mills, FBI. He's been running point on this mission. We're here to assist in any way we can."
There's bad blood between Will and Arthur. That much is obvious. The fact that Will is only showing this distress now means that Arthur's presence came as a surprise, and quite an unwelcome one.
"You've worked with Will before," Jack continues to list off the other members of their little group. There's a hard edge to the way Arthur smiles. His eyes track Will, hardly giving Hannibal a second thought until it's his turn for introductions. "And this is Doctor Hannibal Lector. He's been consulting with us on a few cases now."
Arthur steps forward to shake Hannibal's hand, like he did with all others save Will. Hannibal offers a polite smile back. He knows none of his thoughts have so much as ghosted across the genial mask he wears, leaving Arthur none the wiser as he takes Hannibal's hand. Yet, the grip Arthur offers is strong, challenging. Arthur knows a predator when he sees one.
They pull away, back to their respective corners. There is a safe distance between them, and inside the sphere of their influence stands Will. The conference table forms a border between them but that doesn't keep Will's shoulders from tensing. He is intensely aware of Arthur's position in the room. Bad blood, definitely. Hannibal wonders if it's enough to pull Will's mind off the case.
Which would Jack choose to send home first – Will or Arthur?
"How are you, Willy? It's been a long time. Still crazy?"
Will flinches, and the others give Arthur an array of stares. Jack frowns. Katz looks impressed. Prince is confused.
"Why don't you bring us up to speed," Jack says, before Will can answer. Arthur starts listing off their known victims, four so far – Amanda, Ellie, Rachel, May. All blonde. All young. They were found dressed in white, with pennies where their eyes had been. Hannibal has already gleaned as much from the board, as had Will, no doubt. Arthur's not the sharpest mind to contend with, but he still might pose a threat.
"Anything popping up in that twisted brain of yours, Willy?" Arthur draws out the name a second too long, savoring the feel of it on his tongue, no doubt. Jack's frown deepens, but he says nothing. This kind of interaction is the norm outside of their group. Will is a strange creature that few understand and even fewer respect.
Will doesn't look up. If he took a step forward and to the left, he'd be huddling in the corner. Hannibal can only see the side of Will's face where it's turned away from everyone else. His lips flutter, open then closed. He fights to keep them closed for a moment, before the admission spills from him. Will can't help himself at times like these. His insights need to be known, need to be released into the open air or they will fester inside of him, corrupting him from within.
Some days Hannibal wants to sew Will's mouth shut to see how long it would take him to rot from within.
"They're his brides. Virgins, likely, until he has his way with them. They're all lacking... something. Something he's desperate to find." Will's eyes crawl slowly across the images before returning to stare at the floor. The others hardly notice the difference in Will's countenance. They likely think it his usual oddity but Hannibal has been studying Will for weeks. He knows better. Will's voice is soft when he speaks, and just a touch self-reflective. "They were unfit, so he discarded them."
Hannibal nearly raises his eyebrow. He can't imagine a world where Will would be willingly discarded by anyone, and yet he obviously was. Hannibal would never make that mistake. He knows a fine cut of meat when he sees one.
"And the pennies?" Jack asks.
"The price of admittance, and a sign of ownership." Will's tone is dark, likely a match for his thoughts. "Two copper pieces to get them into the underworld."
"Where they'll wait for him?" Arthur asks. "Like his property."
Will tenses, then nods. "That's what he believes."
If only Will were that easy to own.
Normally Hannibal would find this kind of case fascinating. There's a special kind of madness behind these killings, a belief in life eternal and also in possessing someone eternally. It appeals to him, but he finds the silent interplay between Will and Arthur much more fascinating.
He wants to pry Will open, to glean the dark depths he's hiding from them. What secret passed between Will and Arthur that Will finds the need to shy away? Were they a childhood friendship turned sour with age or perhaps an old workplace rivalry that went too far? Lovers, maybe, though Will has shown no sign of inclination towards either sex in the brief time Hannibal has known him. Inclination or no, Hannibal has designs on Will, designs that possibly go beyond curiosity at the taste of Will's tender flesh.
There is ample time to work at Will's cracks and pry the truth from him. They have a week at least before the murders are solved, baring Will's special genius. No, Will will not be a problem. Arthur, however, seems like he could present a threat and Hannibal will not tolerate threats to what is rightfully his.
The knocking on his door wakes Will from uneasy sleep. He stares at the thin strip of light that reaches out towards him from under the door. The light is blotched out in two spots. Feet. The person on the other end of the door tries the knob. It's locked. The door rattles as the person – Arthur, it has to be Arthur – tries to force it open but it stays firmly closed. The windows are locked as well. Even on the third floor, Will doesn't feel safe unless they're locked tight. The only door left unlocked is the door connecting Will's room to Hannibal's. He wants to question Jack's reasoning for giving them adjoining rooms, but right now he finds comfort in it.
Hannibal's door is dark around the edges. Will wishes it would open but he can't bring himself to move from the bed and open it himself.
"Willy, open the door." It's Arthur voice, pitched low so as not to disturb the others.
The light on the alarm clock casts the room in red. It's just past 1am. He doesn't move, save to curl against the headboard, his back pressed firmly to the wood, his pillow clutched in front of him like a shield.
"William." There's warning in Arthur's tone but Will can't move, even if he wanted to. He's too afraid. His eyes fix on Hannibal's door. It keeps him sane.
After a while the shadow drifts away, but Will doesn't move. He stays curled up, eyes fixed on the two doors to his room, waiting for one or the other to open. The light behind the curtains changes, shifting slowly into the soft caress of dawn. He thinks, strangely, of the stories his mother used to tell him, of morning light chasing away the monsters. But his monsters will still be there, in the light and in the dark.
There are sounds in the hall, quiet movement as his neighbors try not to wake the others. Doors open and close. Voices are low and soft spoken.
He jumps and nearly falls out of bed when someone raps at his door. For a second, his heart lodges in his throat, but it is not Arthur's demanding voice that reaches him through the wood.
"William? Are you awake?"
He forces himself to uncurl and walk stiffly to the door. His back aches from being held tense for so long and his head aches from lack of sleep. He blinks and stares through the peephole for several seconds before opening the door a crack.
Hannibal raises an eyebrow and glances pointedly at the chain still on the door. He does not comment on it. Will does not ask why Hannibal chose the front door instead of their adjoining door. It fits Hannibal's strange sense of propriety. "There's been another murder."
Will closes the door just enough to pull off the chain and then he lets Hannibal in. He can feel Hannibal's eyes taking in the rumpled state of his bed sheets and the thick drapes blocking the window. Again, Hannibal does not comment. It's a small kindness.
"I'll just be a moment." He glances at Hannibal, belatedly realizes he needs a shower. "You don't have to wait." He desperately wants Hannibal to stay, but he can't ask that. Not without opening himself up to the wrong kind of questions.
Hannibal pointedly takes a seat by the window and turns on the TV. "I don't mind waiting. You didn't pick up a car, correct?"
He shakes his head. Jack had driven him from the airport.
Hannibal smiles. "Then I'll drive."
He feels safer with Hannibal there so he doesn't argue. The hot water of the shower washes over him, loosening his tight muscles a fraction. Not enough, but it lets him breathe. He focuses on that, on the steam from the shower and the way the water vapor fills his lungs.
When he emerges from the shower, he almost feels like himself again.
Will does not like distractions, not while he's working. He particularly does not like distractions in the form of Arthur Mills, a man Will had hoped in vain would stay firmly buried in Will's past. The crime scene is quiet. It's early, too early for moms to be bringing their kids to the park and too cold for all but the most enthusiastic joggers. Will used to jog this early in the morning, when he couldn't sleep, but age has slowly taken its toll on his body, among other things, and the cold air makes his bones ache.
He should have brought a thicker jacket.
The girl in the bushes does not feel the cold, though her lips are blue with it. In truth, it was likely blood loss that caused that color, but their killer probably sees it as a romantic side effect. There is no blood on the surrounding leaves, nor any pooled on the ground beneath her. She had been artfully propped against the trunk of a tree, waiting for someone to find her, and yet the killer had placed her far enough back from the path to make finding her difficult.
She could have sat there for days, blood staining her cheeks like tears, waiting for someone to find her. She's lucky they found her, though luck had very little to do with how she came to be here.
Her nipples stand out against the thin fabric. Morning dew has pasted the dress to her skin, as if it were a layer of lacey cellophane over her skin. If he looked beneath her skirt, pressed a clinical hand to her sex, he would find trauma there, much like the others. Her killer was not a gentle lover, no matter how much care it seems he puts into her presentation afterwards.
Will crouches next to her. His gloved hands almost match her skin as he lifts her limp wrist – blue on blue. There are marks on her wrists, angry red marks. She'd fought back. She hadn't been as docile as the others and had to have been tied up. She was also older. The killer wasn't finding what he wanted in his target group, so he was branching wider. She might not have been a virgin. Beggars can't be choosers.
A twig cracks behind him and Will turns too fast. He has to put a hand to the tree to steady himself to keep from falling on the girl. She does not deserve that indignity. The others know not to disturb him. He almost expects to see the reporter with the flaming hair and finds himself disappointed that it's not her. She would have been a preferable distraction to the one he faces.
He hates the way Arthur says his name. It makes bile boil in his stomach and he almost gags. "Please don't call me that," he asks, knowing it's in vain. He looks away, not provoking, never provoking. He wants to scream at Arthur to leave him alone. "You shouldn't be here," he says instead, his voice falling into a meek, deferential tone automatically. He's glad the others aren't here to see him like this, but at the same time he wishes they were so they could be a shield between him and Arthur. "I need to work."
"You've worked with me plenty of times before." Will can hear the taunting smile in Arthur's voice. It brings back flashes of memory, none of them good. "Don't let me stop you. Go ahead. Work your psycho magic."
"Please." He's not above begging. It's one of the only effective strategies he can use against Arthur. This time, it works, but only because Arthur lets it.
There's a pause as Arthur weighs Will's plea. Will shivers. He hates the feelings that Arthur's mere presence dredges up in him. Their history is a sharp, jagged beast waiting to slay him. He wants to drop to his knees and beg forgiveness, because he knows his punishment is coming. With Arthur, there's always a punishment on its way. He fools himself in thinking that he doesn't belong to Arthur anymore, that he'd gotten away. Men like Arthur do not forgive and they do not forget.
"For now," Arthur says finally, and turns.
Will stares at the gap in the bushes that Arthur disappears through for several minutes, the body at his feet forgotten. When he finally turns back, he stares down at his own corpse, bound and mangled, with pennies where his eyes should be. His stomach lurches and he has to stagger away from the scene before he contaminates it with his own bile.
Less than a day, Will thinks as his feet bounce off the tiled wall and kick ineffectually at open air. Less than a day before Arthur catches him in the bathroom, trapping Will against the wall with one large hand to his throat. He'd forgotten how strong Arthur was, and how careful. The fabric of Will's sweater dulls Arthur's grip but it does little to help him breathe through the fingers cutting off his air.
Arthur's face is too close. He's angry. Will had made the mistake of looking him in the eye and this was the result. He should have known better.
"Did you think I wouldn't find you?" Arthur hisses, his voice low and dangerous. He rattles off Will's exact address, down to the plus four zip code. "Did you honestly think you could run from me?"
He tries to shake his head but he can barely move. The action comes across as a furtive twitch from side to side. He wants to explain that it hadn't been his choice. He'd been reassigned, but he hadn't protested the reassignment either. He could have declined. He didn't.
Arthur's fingers dig into Will's sweater. His face is so close Will can smell his breath. "You're mine. Mine. Do you understand that?"
Arthur shakes him when he doesn't respond. He nods slowly.
"You can't run from me." There's murder in Arthur's eyes. It makes Will's body go cold. He'd forgotten how mad Arthur could get, how mad Will made him. It's his fault. It's always his fault, every time. He provokes Arthur without meaning to. "No matter where you go," Arthur hisses into Will's ear. "I will find you. And this time I'm going to teach you why you can't run away." Will's head feels like a balloon about to float off his shoulders. The bathroom lights dim. "You will regret running away from me." He hears the telltale jingle of Arthur undoing his belt. Fear lances through him, impaling him like no other emotion could.
The door opens and Arthur is suddenly across the room, washing his hands. Will stagers on his feet. His hand comes up to touch his throat. It hurts. He knows there won't be a bruise. Arthur knows how to not leave marks. An agent Will doesn't know walks in. Will uses the momentary interruption to escape. He feels like a coward as he slips through the door. Arthur's eyes follow him.
Their conversation isn't over. It's only just begun.
His eyes dart up to meet Jack's concerned look. He shakes himself to break out of his reverie, but it doesn't help. Nothing will.
"Something I should know about the coffee?"
Will shakes his head and pushes the Styrofoam cup aside. He'd been lost in thought, staring at the murky liquid so long that it'd gone cold and sludgy. Jack takes the seat opposite him. The cafeteria is noisy but in a pleasant way. Will usually hates crowds but for now they're a form of safety he can't avoid.
"You've been a bit out of it today."
It should be an accusation, but it isn't. Jack gives him leeway where others wouldn't. It's a kindness that Will will never take for granted.
"I'm fine," Will says, even though he isn't, but there's nothing else for him to say. "I didn't sleep well," he offers as an excuse. It's not much of one, but it's credible given his history.
Jack stares at him for one long minute and Will is terrified that he knows, about Arthur and Will and all the dirty secrets between them. Then Jack nods and raps his knuckles on the table, likely in lieu of patting Will's hand like he would a child. "Alright," Jack says as he stands. "Let me know if that changes."
Will nods but he knows he won't. He can't tell anyone, not if he wants the miniscule of respect they have for him to stay there.
His eyes fall back to the table, at the empty spot where his coffee had been. He needs to concentrate, hard as that is. Once they catch the killer they can leave. Then Will will move, find a way to hide his address so that Arthur can't find it again. He'll need a postal box, preferably one far away from where he actually lives.
Hannibal misses his kitchen. The food in the cafeteria is bland. It shows no skill in preparation, no care in its handling. He would have to make do. His eyes drift to Will, as they often do. Will's silent contemplation has been interrupted by Jack. It seems a pleasant enough diversion, though not enough to fully distract Will from whatever is bothering him.
Hannibal pays for his food and offers a smile to the cashier. She's old and matronly. Too much fat, not enough meat. She smiles back, none the wiser. There's enough food on his plate for two, purposely. As he turns he sees Arthur Mills on the far side of the cafeteria. Arthur does not notice Hannibal. His eyes are on Will. Arthur's smile is unkind as Jack leaves Will alone at the table.
There's unpleasant history between the two of them. Whatever it was, it still haunts Will, driving him from sleep.
Hannibal gets to Will first, sliding into the space recently vacated by Jack. There's a flash of terror when Will looks up at him, but it fades quickly.
"You should eat." Hannibal places a turkey sandwich and an apple in front of Will. While Will stares down at the food, Hannibal cracks open the plastic container holding his salad and pours a small amount of dressing onto the lid. He's two bites into his salad before Will even starts to reach for the food. "Would you prefer something else?"
Will looks up at him, surprise chasing away the fear. He almost smiles, then shakes his head. "No. Thank you. You shouldn't have."
"Nonsense." Hannibal can feel Arthur's stare boring into his back. It makes him smile.
Will doesn't make it as far as sleep when the knocking starts. He considers asking Jack to switch rooms with him, but again that would lead to uncomfortable questions. How would Hannibal take it if Will asked to crawl in bed with him, like the child Will has regressed to? Arthur's shadow reaches under the door for him in a way that Arthur can't. Even after the knocking stops, the shadow stays, waiting.
Will doesn't sleep at all. He's not sure how long Arthur stays. All he knows is that Arthur is gone by the time the others wake.
Jack fetches Will from his room this time. Will wishes it was Hannibal.
There's another body waiting for them in the middle of a field. The crime scene is open this time, with police tape forming a wide border around the body. There's a small crowd forming at the tape, but none seem inclined to cross the line. Will can feel eyes on him as he walks through the field.
There is no dress this time, no pennies. There are cuts all over the woman's stomach and thighs, some so deep that Will can see white bone beneath the flesh. She's posed with her legs spread, arms out, staring up at the sky.
The killer knows he's being hunted now, has likely seen hints of their investigation on the news. He's become desperate to find perfection and the lack of it, whatever this woman – not a girl this time, but a young woman – was lacking angers him. He left her bared to the world. Will can read what the killer intended. The entire scene screams 'Nowhere to hide'. Will finds it aptly fitting as Arthur steps close to him. He flinches as Arthur places a possessive hand on the small of Will's back.
Once upon a time, that gesture would have been commonplace. In others it would have been comforting, but Will hadn't felt comfort in Arthur's presence in years. He feels dizzy from lack of sleep.
There's a scar on Will's inner thigh, a scar that Arthur gave him, and it throbs in pain now, as if Arthur's touch has ripped it open anew.
"Like what you see, Willy?"
He tenses. Arthur smiles. Will wants to turn away but that would only cause a scene. "No. Of course not." He knows better than to hope the others hadn't heard. Sound carries too well out in the open.
Hannibal steps up to Will's other side. His presence has a soothing effect. Will feels caught between the two of them, darkness on both sides but one is the pleasant darkness of a starry night and the other the pitch black of a bottomless chasm.
"What do you see?" Hannibal asks.
Will stares down at the corpse. "He's angry and desperate. He has no mercy left for imperfections. He's accelerating. We need to catch him soon, before he does something drastic."
"Desperation leads to mistakes," Hannibal says. There's an undercurrent to his words that makes Will think of more than just the case. It's a warning, not for him, and he wonders just how much Hannibal's keen mind has pieced together.
Will takes a step forward, pulling away from both men, and drops to his knees. It puts him face to face with the corpse, but at least down here he can breathe. His mind won't stop spinning and he feels like his sanity, his life, is a spinning plate held aloft by a thin rod. He is a parlor trick, playing out for the benefit of others. It won't be long before he falls and shatters.
His fingers run through the woman's hair. He means it as a comforting gesture but his fingers come away gritty. Kindness reveals unexpected clues. He brings his fingers to his nose and sniffs lightly. The smell reminds him of the woodshed behind his house growing up. "Sawdust." He turns, looking past the Will-shaped gap between Arthur and Hannibal towards Jack. "Are there any abandoned mills nearby?"
The mills are a bust. Will paces. The conference room is too small with all of them packed together but he dares not leave, knowing that Arthur will follow. They allow him a small corner to fidget in. Arthur lounges on the other side of the table, his feet up, his eyes fixed on Will. It only makes Will's thoughts scatter. He wants to claw at his skin and tear the thoughts out. There's a pattern here, a pattern he can't see because he's too afraid, too distracted, too weak.
He can see the way the killer tied the girls up. It's familiar, but not. He can put himself in their place too easily. He knows how it feels to be tied up, to not want the pain even as it's forced upon you. He can hear Arthur's voice in his head, screaming at him, while the real Arthur sits still and quiet. Will flinches at memories only he can hear.
He knows what it's like to be found wanting.
"No brilliant insight for us, Willy?" Arthur says what the others won't. They're counting on him and he's failing them. "I guess the crazy finally rotted all the good parts away."
The words cut right through Will's doubt. He turns with the others to stare at Katz. Arthur glares daggers at her. She glares right back, her hands on her hips. She takes a step forward, looming over Arthur from the other side of the table. Will isn't quite sure what's happening.
"Leave him alone." It's Katz's voice speaking, but it's not the Katz he's used to. If anyone from their group was going to question his diminishing sanity, it would be her and yet here she is defending him. She makes the most unlikely of allies. "We're not going to get anywhere with you distracting him, so just shut it."
Arthur stands. Will flinches automatically. At least this time that wrath won't be waiting for him at home, but that doesn't make him feel any safer, not with the way Arthur's been stalking his hotel room. "I don't take orders from you," Arthur snaps.
"And we don't take them from you." Katz leans across the table, getting up in Arthur's face. Arthur hates that, especially from a woman. His face goes nearly red with rage.
"You little..." His words cut off as the door opens. Jack walks in with a tray of Styrofoam cups in hand. Hannibal walks right past Arthur to hand one of the two cups he carries to Will.
Jack's eyes widen as he takes in the standoff. "Am I interrupting something?"
Arthur swallows his anger with visible effort. "No." He chokes out the word on his way out the door. It slams shut behind him. Will nearly slumps against the wall in relief. Katz winks at him and grins.
It seems Jack and Hannibal aren't his only allies.
Will stumbles into the hotel late. One of the agents had given him a ride. The rest of the team had left at saner hours, but Will couldn't pull himself away. He's close, so close he can taste the sawdust on his lips. He almost asks the agent to walk him to his door but he doesn't want to appear weak. The hall is empty as he approaches his door. He didn't need to worry. The green light on the lock flashes as he inserts his keycard.
He's turning to shut the door when he sees movement. Something slams against the door. It hits him in the face and he falls. Blood starts to trickle from his nose. It's all he can smell when the door shuts, cutting off all light in the room. Hands grab at his ankles. He opens his mouth to scream, but it only gives his attacker room to shove something in his mouth. It tastes like a sock, hopefully not a dirty one. He thinks it says something about his life that he can identify gags by taste.
A heavy weight pins him to the floor and he doesn't need light to tell who his attacker is. He knows that weight. He's all too used to the way Arthur can trap him in seconds. He tries to shake the sock loose but Arthur holds him tight. Fabric runs across his cheek, tightening behind his head as Arthur knots it in place.
He screams anyways and kicks at the floor. He doesn't have enough leverage to kick Arthur. It's not enough noise to wake anyone, not when they've had hours ahead of him to fall into a deep sleep.
Strong hands flip him. He feels leather wrap around his wrists, winding between them hard enough to cut off circulation. Tears of fear and frustration well up. He's helpless to do anything. He closes his eyes and the dead body of Garrett Hobbs stares at him. He wished he could reach his gun.
Arthur lifts him up by his belt. Will tries to shake free of his hold but that only brings Arthur's hand up to twist tight in Will's hair. He isn't going anywhere.
Arthur shoves Will down on the bed. The smell of detergent fills Will's lungs as his face is pressed into the freshly laundered bedspread. It only takes one hand for Arthur to hold Will down. He screams his frustration into the bedspread. The fabric is wet beneath his cheeks. Arthur fumbles with Will's belt before working it open. Will's pants pool around his feet, effectively trapping his legs.
A sharp slap on Will's ass silences his screams. There is no escape from this. It's what he deserves for running away. He should have known there was no hiding, not from Arthur. His tears are the only protest left in him.
Will screams again as Arthur shoves inside of him without a hint of kindness. It hurts in a way he'd almost forgotten. Arthur had never been one for gentleness. He reveled in causing Will pain and this instance is no different. Arthur's breath sends warm puffs of air over Will's ear as Arthur leans over him. The bed squeaks with the force of Arthur's thrusts, hard enough to rattle the headboard. Will prays that whoever is on the other side of the wall is a sound sleeper.
Light flashes at the corner of Will's eye. He assumes it's a hallucination from the pain of Arthur inside of him. He almost misses the sound of the adjoining door clicking shut.
Arthur's fingers twist in Will's hair, pulling his head back so that Arthur's lips brush against his ear. "Have you been whoring yourself out while you were away? I bet it's that doctor, isn't it? Did you spread your slutty legs for the good doctor?"
"No, he didn't."
Arthur freezes. His hands yank at Will's hair as he pulls out, turns. There's a smack. Something hits the floor. Will's lungs don't seem to work right. He can't move, can't breath. He slides to the floor, knees pressing into the rough carpet.
He's pretty sure he blacks out.
When he wakes up the lights are on next to the bed. He's naked but untied. Someone had bandaged his wrists. A muffled sound makes him turn his head and he stares into Arthur's angry eyes. Arthur says nothing. It's obvious that he wants to but the gag in his mouth prevents him. He's tied to a chair next to the bed, the same chair that Hannibal had occupied a few days earlier.
As if Will's thoughts had summoned him, Hannibal steps out of the bathroom. He wipes his hands with a washcloth as he approaches. Will is suddenly overly aware of his naked state. He pushes himself backwards on the bed, knees shut as he cowers against the headboard.
"Doctor..." His voice comes out rough and shaking.
Hannibal sits at the edge of the bed. His hand reaches out and Will surprises himself by not flinching away. Hannibal's fingers are gentle on his cheek, turning his head side to side. Checking for bruising, Will realizes.
"How do you feel?"
"I... I'm alright."
It's a lie, and they both know it. Hannibal give him a soft look. His thumb trails over Will's cheek and it's all Will can do not to lean into the touch. A thump beside the bed draws Will's attention back to Arthur and he shivers, suddenly cold.
"Ah, yes. Mr. Mills." Hannibal's hand falls away as he too regards the agent tied to the chair. "Would you care to press charges, William?"
He hesitates. He knows he should but he's afraid. There's a whole dark history between them that would come to light. He's not sure he could survive all of that being examined by strangers. It would tear him apart and he wouldn't be able to look at Jack or his team without wondering if they knew. He can barely look at Hannibal.
He stares at the sheets as he shakes his head, not wanting to see the disappointment in Hannibal's eyes.
"Well, then." Hannibal pauses. "What shall we do with you, Mr. Mills?"
Will's eyes snap up to Hannibal. It sounded like... But surely Hannibal doesn't mean... He wouldn't...
Hannibal turns and his gaze softens as he looks at Will. The hand Hannibal places on Will's knee is surprisingly welcome. "Do you think we should show Mr. Mills what true ownership means?"
Will frowns. He doesn't quite follow. Then Hannibal shifts, looming closer. Will's mouth opens automatically as Hannibal descends on him. He's being kissed. Hannibal is kissing him. His eyes close and he forgets about Arthur and how much his body aches and the scratchy feel of the bedspread underneath his bare skin.
He opens up. Hannibal is on top of him, and there're too many clothes between them. Lust is a foreign ecstasy to him, but it boils over in him now, too much for his frail form to contain. His hands shake as he unbuttons Hannibal's shirt. Then Hannibal turns them, shifts Will onto all fours, his legs spread. He is pliant in Hannibal's hands. He trusts Hannibal in a way he shouldn't. It leaves him feeling fragile, but the way Hannibal's hands glide over his skin, soft and gentling, shores his courage.
"Look," Hannibal orders, and he does. Will looks up, right into Arthur's furious eyes. Hannibal chooses that exact moment to slide slick fingers inside of him. He gasps, unable to help the sound – and the many that follow – from escaping his lips. He can't look away from Arthur's face. Hannibal's fingers are gentle in a way he's never felt before. It isn't a challenge for him to open up to Hannibal, like it always is with other men. He wants Hannibal inside of him, wants to feel that kind of gentleness rocking him to the core.
Hannibal pulls Will back to him and then he's sitting on Hannibal's cock, his back against Hannibal's chest. Wet fingers turn Will's cheek and he welcomes the kiss. It's possessive, and he knows there's no turning back from this, not now. Hannibal shifts his hips, pushing Will up onto his knees then pulling him down onto Hannibal's engorged cock. He feels owned in a way Arthur had never made him feel.
"Look at him," Hannibal commands again, his voice rough. Will's mouth falls open with a gasp as Hannibal moves inside of him. He looks at Arthur and for the first time he's not afraid. He sees an angry, bitter man, helplessly tied to a chair. He sees loss in Arthur's eyes and Will knows then that Arthur has no more hold over him.
Hannibal's hand closes over Will's cock and he comes, just from that touch. Release burns straight through him like lightning, illuminating all the dark corners of his soul and filling them with something still dark but no longer frightening.
Hannibal releases him and he falls forward onto his hands and knees once more. Then the real fun begins. Hannibal's fingers dig into Will's hips as he fucks Will, hard and fast and possessive, marking him down to the core. Will screws his eyes tight and bites his arm to keep from screaming, not from pain but from pleasure, so warm and hot that he feels like he's going to melt. The marks will be hard to explain tomorrow but he doesn't care because Hannibal is inside of him and it feels incredible.
It's over both too soon and not soon enough. He feels lightheaded from release, and he's almost afraid that the pleasure spiking through him at each one of Hannibal's sharp thrusts will knock him loose, send him out of his brain to float free in madness. It doesn't. Hannibal comes quietly. His hips slowly still and then he runs a gentle hand down Will's spine before pulling out.
Will has no idea how Hannibal can still move, and yet he does, stepping away from the bed to wash himself off before returning with a wet washcloth. It feels wonderfully cool against Will's sweaty skin. As Hannibal cleans him, Will stares at Arthur. There is no fury left, only resignation.
Will is finally free.
Arthur does not struggle as Hannibal unties him. He takes his belt and tie and sock meekly in hand, not saying a word as Hannibal leads him to the door with a firm hand on his shoulder. Hannibal pauses there, in the open doorway, with Arthur on the outside and Hannibal inside. There is no question who has won. His fingers tighten and he leans in. Arthur flinches but does not pull away.
"If you ever touch my William again," Hannibal whispers, just for the two of them to hear, "I will skin you alive and roast you over a pit of coals before slicing away at your still living body, carving you up inch by inch. They will never find your body. No one will miss you. Is that understood?"
True fear fills Arthur's eyes, and for the first time that week, Arthur understands exactly what kind of predator he has unleashed. Arthur nods meekly and Hannibal lets him go. He steps back and closes the door firmly in Arthur's face. As he turns, he puts Arthur out of his mind. There are more pleasant matters to attend to, such as the naked man waiting for him in bed.
"I think we need to look for a paper factory," Will says from the bed, his magnificent mind finally finding the last piece of the puzzle.
Hannibal thinks, not for the first time, that William would be wasted as a meal. He has too much potential to waste on one exquisite banquet. Instead, Hannibal sees himself savoring young Will, over and over again. Will is not a meal, not like all the others, but rather a fitting desert to cap off each and every feast.