A Bitter Taste (17)

A Bitter Taste

Will had just put the last piece of silverware on the table when a shadow passed by the doorway. For a disorienting moment he thought it was the Ravenstag again, but a glance showed him a rather burly dark man in a dark suit watching him with an unsettling amount of consideration.

“You’re Will Graham?” he asked, his intensity broken by his easy smile. He took a step in, offering his hand. It was his left hand, beringed, and his handshake was firm and assessing. “Jack Crawford. Very nice to meet you.”

“Ah, nice to meet you, too,” Will said, retrieving his hand as quickly as he could, a tight smile curving his lips. This man made him uneasy. He was far too watchful and alert, used to dissecting people’s intentions and worth with only his observations. Will didn’t trust himself enough recently to be subjected to that level of scrutiny. His smile turned wry when he figured Hannibal knew it and had invited Mr. Crawford over just to find out what would happen. “He’s just finishing up in the kitchen. Have a seat if you like.”

“Jack, I thought I heard your voice,” Hannibal said, damned-near jovial as he swept in, settling plates into place and going to his sideboard to fetch the wine. “You’re early. Has something happened?”

“No, the commute just wasn’t calling to me,” Jack said, sitting down with a chuckle, eagerly looking at the plate Hannibal had placed before him. “This is too beautiful to eat, Doctor Lecter.”

“No such thing, Jack,” Hannibal corrected him, pouring wine into their glasses with efficient grace. “The most delicious things I’ve ever tasted have also been the most beautiful.”

Will glowered at him and Hannibal winked, the corners of his mouth curling up in a smug smile.

“Hannibal tells me you’re an artist, Will,” Jack said, regarding him across the table as Hannibal took his seat. “A sculptor, I believe?”

“Yes,” Will said, taking a sip of his wine to buy time. He desperately hoped that he wouldn’t fall into a moment right now, because the last thing he needed was a suspicious FBI agent seeing him vulnerable. Hannibal was right—the world was getting smaller and that could rapidly become a problem for him in this case.

“Is your work showing anywhere local?” Jack inquired, taking his silverware in hand when Hannibal did.

“N…no, I…” Will’s thoughts clicked desperately, trying to come up with something to say.

“Will’s pieces are finite,” Hannibal said for him, smoothly taking control of the situation, a sparkle of amusement in his dark eyes. He indulged in a bite of his creation and took a sip of wine before going on, “He works in perishable items, mainly butchered meats. I find his work visceral and startling, even more powerful for its impermanence.”

“Sounds unusual and intriguing,” Jack said, opting for polite instead of truthful. “Is there a statement behind it, Will?”

“It’s an homage to mortality,” Will said, catching his thread of thought and smiling. “It succumbs to time and the elements like our bodies do, a reminder that we are all fleeting. There’s something very satisfying in knowing that it won’t survive long once it’s finished.”

“A work of love becomes a study in futility,” Jack mused, nodding. “I can see why Hannibal would like it. Are you planning to leave any pieces behind here, Will?”

“A few,” he said, meeting Jack’s brown eyes directly. He could see himself looking back from Jack’s dark eyes, a pale and fey young man with troubled blue eyes and unruly, curly hair, too slight to be truly threatening and too young to be so jaded. “I like to leave them to be discovered. It makes the experience more personal.”

Hannibal was beaming at him, thoroughly pleased, but turned the talk to safer shores. Jack seemed happy enough to let the subject lapse, no doubt finding Will incredibly odd and putting it down to an artistic bent.

They didn’t speak of the case, of course, not with Will there as an outsider. Jack didn’t even mention he worked for the FBI, which was just par for the course, Will knew. They chatted of people and places, dreams and wonderings, the wine flowing dry and replaced at Jack’s insistence with sparkling water.

“Bella would not find it amusing if I couldn’t drive home,” he said, his deep, rumbling chuckle pleasant and filled with honest mirth.

“Still, if you need it, my guest bedroom is always available,” Hannibal said.

Jack’s eyes flicked suddenly to Will, his quick mind seizing on that little tidbit of information.

“If you’d like to discuss business,” Hannibal offered. “I am sure Will wouldn’t mind if we retire to my study.”

“Actually, there are a few things I’d like your opinion on, Hannibal,” Jack admitted, coming to his feet when Hannibal did, both of them buttoning their suit jackets. Will tried not to feel underdressed in his long-sleeved, black thermal, jeans, and bare feet. He was certain such things hadn’t bothered him before he’d met Hannibal, but he couldn’t quite recall.

“Will, if you would be so kind as to clear this away?” Hannibal asked, giving him a charming smile that Will wasn’t buying for an instant. “And when you’ve finished, I think it would benefit you to look over that list you made for me. I’ve left it in my office for you.”

Will watched Hannibal escort Jack out, a warm smile on his face. He gave Will a lingering look and departed with a slight, delighted smirk.

“Two hundred something years old and he gives me chores,” Will growled, stacking the remnants of their meal to get everything to the kitchen. He could have left it. The thought entered his mind and would no doubt have some entertaining results. But he did it anyway. Not like he had anything better to do.

The list was on Hannibal’s desk in his office, precisely where Will had last worked on it. His awkward scrawl was interspersed with Hannibal’s elegant, studied script, small notations here and there, questions in the margin that were mostly benign. Where? What year? What season? The robber’s name? Other deaths?

Near the end of the page Will had written, ‘The doctor was the Ravenstag. He said he cherished that I’d kept my word to him. I said I wouldn’t tell...’

Underneath that, Hannibal had written, ‘What secret did you share?

The secret. That was right. They had a secret together, he and the Ravenstag.

‘You’re so beautiful…’ he’d said, and a man lay dying on the ground, his last moments of life eclipsed by the icon of power and beauty before him.

No, not quite his last. He saw Will, too, a means of escape, a savior half-dressed and providing distraction. A shield to be used in order to escape.

They were so distracted by the sight of one another, so immediately and deeply entranced that the man lunged up off of the ground and grappled for him, trying to wrestle Will into a shield, screaming, ‘I’ll kill him! Back off or I’ll kill him!’

And just like that Will reacted, impulse instead of design driving him to dig his fingers into the cut on his belly and pull, filling the night air with screams, blood and spilling viscera, like the Ravenstag had made the cut for just such a purpose.

Will watched him die, floundering in his own innards, the flame of his life wisping out in a gurgle of panic and sour stench. He trembled in shock and surprise at how quickly it happened, stared down at his own bloody, flesh-flecked hands in the moonlight and almost gagged.

‘What a feral little creature you are,’ the Ravenstag praised him, a looming and feathered shadow at his shoulder, gazing down at the dead man with amusement and detachment. ‘What will you do now, young man?’

‘I don’t know…’ Will stammered, shock giving way to dread and horror at what he’d done. ‘I…I didn’t mean to…’

The Ravenstag touched him, then, smoothing his hair with one long-fingered hand, a coal-black creature with stag horns crowning its bare pate.

I will help you,’ he said, and just the calm certainty in his voice was enough to take the edge off of Will’s sick panic. ‘I will take care of this unfortunate thing for your sake but you must promise me that you will never speak of it, nor of me; not to anyone, not ever. Do you understand?’

“Yes,” Will said, the word escaping him as a husky whisper.

He felt the Ravenstag there with him, a flourish of black wings sweeping back to reveal Hannibal standing over him, straightening his cuffs, a soft frown on his face.

“Did you?” Hannibal inquired, the thread of warning in his voice alerting Will to the fact that he’d answered again while he was somewhere else.

“What?” he asked, shaking his head. He had the list in his hand but he wasn’t in Hannibal’s office anymore. He was in the living room, sitting at Hannibal’s harpsichord, his left hand limply on the keys. Bewildered, he sild his hand into his lap and gave Hannibal a lopsided, uncertain smile. “I was someplace else.”

“I gathered,” Hannibal said, reaching out to touch Will’s hair, not bothering to hide the fact that he was peering into Will’s eyes for more than just eye contact. “I asked you if you meant to interrupt my meeting with Jack and you said yes. Very unlike you.”

“I’m sorry, I was…answering him,” Will breathed, soothed by the soft touch of Hannibal’s fingers in his hair.

“Your Ravenstag?” Hannibal asked, pausing briefly to process that, glittering curiosity filling his dark eyes. “What did he say to you, Will?”

“He told me not to tell anyone, not then and not ever,” Will answered, reaching for the details while they were still fresh. “He disposed of the body.”

“The robber’s body?” Hannibal clarified, reaching out to pluck the page from Will’s lax fingers. There were several more lines there than there had been before, smeared and sloppy but legible. Hannibal’s dark eyes scanned them, greedily absorbing the information.

“I killed him,” Will breathed, and laughed softly, wondering how he could feel so guilty for killing an awful man like that and feel so little while killing those who truly didn’t deserve death. “I…I tore him open with my bare hands…”

Hannibal’s mouth curved slightly, a smile this time instead of a frown. It was lost on Will, who stared blankly at the pattern on Hannibal’s waistcoat, his mind still back in that forest.

“I just…pushed my fingers into the cut the Ravenstag had made and…pulled…”

“Do you remember how you felt, Will?” Hannibal asked, his hand sliding from Will’s curls to close around his chin, tipping his head up to meet his gaze. “In that moment when you first took a life in such a desperate and frightened way, how did you feel?”

“Afraid,” he breathed, his blue eyes soft and distant, stuck somewhere between the past and the present. “Sickened by myself, horrified at what I’d done…”

“And what else?” Hannibal pressed, light filling his dark eyes with amber flecks, as if the fire inside of him was sparking behind his lids. “What else, Will?”

Will swallowed hard and wet his lips with the tip of his tongue. In a harsh whisper, he admitted, “Powerful.”

He took a breath, let it out on slowly, uneven and faltering.

“I felt powerful, Doctor Lecter.”

When he finally was able to meet Hannibal’s gaze, he found the man smiling down at him, saintly in his blissful approval.

Exactly,” he breathed, and pulled Will’s cheek to rest against his belly in silent benediction.

Mathilda’s death made the news as a tragic accident. A slip on wet tile followed by a fall that rendered her unconscious. Death by drowning in her own pool. The housekeeper had found her there when she hadn’t made dinner. Will had been tearing someone’s throat out with his bare hands at the time.

That murder got its own headline, the profile provided by Hannibal Lecter himself.

That was still something Will found hard to wrap his head around, laughable, in fact.

“So you even investigate your own murders?” Will asked, incredulous. They were dressed in flawless evening clothes and on their way to some event or other that Hannibal refused to miss. “I’m still pissed about my clothes, by the way.”

“That particular murder wasn’t mine,” Hannibal reminded him, giving him a repressive stare. “And those reprehensible rags certainly haven’t earned the right to cause you grief of any sort, Will. You should be thankful I took care of it.”

Will had returned to his room this morning after spending another night in Hannibal’s bed to find that every bit of what he’d bought had been cleared out and replaced with items of Hannibal’s choosing. Nothing nearly as fancy as Hannibal himself wore, but of quality and standard that Will reluctantly discovered suited him very well. He couldn’t even bring himself to leave his shirt untucked now. It just seemed rude to do that to the clothes.

“A beauty such as yours deserves a proper wrapping,” Hannibal said, pulling into the line for valet service.

“So speaks the one doing the unwrapping,” Will quipped, turning his head away before Hannibal could see his sly smile. He needn’t have bothered. They both knew it was there.

“Shall I invite Alana over, Will?” he inquired, turning the conversation again. There was a thread of…something there. He had more than enough exposure to Hannibal Lecter to know it was dangerous.

“Why, you bored already?” he asked, giving Hannibal a smoldering look from his veiled eyes, long lashes rising and lowering in slow invitation.

“Boredom is your cross to bear, Will,” Hannibal said, reaching out to adjust Will’s tie. It was frustrating the way he could control his attraction, dialing it up or down the same way he turned knobs on his stovetop to raise and lower the heat. It made Will curious to know his limit, to push him until he found that point where Hannibal Lecter threw caution to the wind and really let it all go.

“I hate socializing,” he said, figuring two could play at this game, letting Hannibal see his seduction as nothing more than a play made out of boredom.

“Would you prefer to go home?” Hannibal asked, threatening calm in his voice.

Will scoffed at that, tossing his head and disarranging his curls. “I want what you tell me to want,” he purred, tipping his head to bare the side of his throat where the faint marks of Hannibal’s teeth still showed. They weren’t as stark or as deep as the ones on his hip, but they were undeniably there. “When you tell me to want it.”

Hannibal’s fingertips touched what was little better than a fading bruise, but Will shivered all the same and resented him for it, pettishly annoyed that he didn’t seem to have the same effect on Hannibal. He turned with the intention to snap at him but drew up short when he saw the absorbed way those black hole eyes were looking at him.

Never make the mistake of assuming I’m not enraptured by you at all times, Will Graham, no matter how distracted I seem…’

“Would you prefer to go home?” he asked, leaning to let Hannibal’s fingertips slide inside of his shirt collar, warm and seeking.

“My preference is at odds with my obligations,” Hannibal murmured. “I’m afraid I’m committed this evening, Will. But I won’t deny myself the pleasure of your company.”

Will glowered when the valet rapped on the window before sweeping open the door. Irritated to be interrupted, he slid out of the car and shoved his hands in his pockets, waiting for Hannibal to join him.

“Hands out of your pockets, please, Will,” the man admonished him, tugging at his cuffs and settling his jacket until it was whatever degree of perfect he found acceptable. “As much as being surly highlights your good looks, please try to be pleasant.”

“Why are we here?” Will asked, people sweeping past him in various measures of pretentious dress, dolled up in their brands to impress one another. He found it trifling and common and couldn’t believe that Hannibal could stand it. Curious, he turned to ask him, closing his mouth abruptly when he saw the mocking, amused smile on Hannibal’s face.

“You enjoy this on a lot of different levels, don’t you?” Will asked instead, a mocking smile of his own curling his mouth. “Do they realize how little you like them?”

“Disdain merely makes them try harder,” Hannibal said, leading the way inside a building that Will thought had started life as a courthouse of some sort. He really should’ve paid attention on the ride over. He wasn’t even sure what state they were in.

People milled everywhere, laughing and talking, dropping names and exchanging witty anecdotes. Hannibal moved among them with the Devil’s own charm, a warm friend to some, a beguiling mystery to others. Will was content to stand back against the wall with a glass of champagne in his hand and watch him, amused to see them so thoroughly deceived.

It made him wonder if he was being deceived in some way, if Hannibal’s fascination with him was merely a ruse to disarm him. Time certainly had no impact on one’s ability to be fooled or foolish, Will knew, it just extended the allowance for it to happen and the thought made him uneasy. He never had stayed in the city of his rebirth for long in the past, only long enough to satisfy himself that whatever he was looking for simply wasn’t there.

Which begged the question, why did he keep returning? Was he looking for something, as he’d always thought? Was it home, as Hannibal had suggested? Or was he looking for some trace of the Ravenstag after all?

His eyes cut to Hannibal, his height and regal bearing marking him out as surely as his unusual but undeniably good looks. People vied for his attention, flirtatious advances were returned in kind as adeptly and effortlessly as candid discussion on all manner of subjects Will found boring himself. He had no doubt he could hold his own if he bothered, but it was the bothering part he couldn’t summon now that boredom had become apathy and rendered all else nonsense.

Hannibal’s eyes met his and he lifted his glass in a slight toast. Will dipped his head and returned it, smiling.

“Mountains and Muhammad,” he breathed to himself, remembering the phrase his mother used to use in regards to his father’s stubbornness. If anything, luring Hannibal to his side over the course of the evening was as entertaining a way to spend it as any, and he was curious to see if Hannibal would play such an obvious game.

With that in mind, he settled into his role of guileless, naive young man and moved through the huge space echoing with the sounds of humanity. It was easy to insert himself here and there, exclaiming over statements with wide-eyed astonishment, transforming the most mundane opinion into pure gold. It was all he could do not to laugh at how easy it was, how they puffed up with self-importance, preening beneath his unabashed admiration.

“Are you here all alone?” he was asked more than once, along with, “You’re very young to be here, aren’t you?”

Some of the questions came with kindness, genuine interest in the inquiry. Others had less selflessness at heart. In a gathering this size, Will was bound to find someone too captivated by him to consider the consequences. After all, he’d never failed to do so in the past.

“Does your family know you’re here?” a man asked him, interrupting the effusive chatter his date was directing at Will. “Or are you here with them?”

“I’m not as young as I look,” Will chided, unchallenged when he refreshed his glass from a passing server.

“Well obviously,” the man said, flushing like Will had scolded him. “Else you wouldn’t be here. I was merely—”

“Being rather rude?” Will inquired, brows rising under the cover of his curls.

The man cleared his throat and took his date’s hand, folding it carefully over his elbow. “They’ll be starting the bids soon. Let’s go in and see what we like, shall we?”

Will hid his smirk behind his glass, barely tasting the champagne. He hadn’t seen Hannibal for some time but he hadn’t been looking for him, either. An idle scan of the place left him no wiser than before; perhaps he’d gone in to look at the items available for bidding.

“You’re here stag, too?”

Will turned with a smile at the ready, confronted by a slender, rather tall young man with an easy smile and eyes filled with sly wit. His smile was lopsided and honest when he added, “I couldn’t convince my sister to come, so I came alone. Who turned you down, may I ask?”

“No one,” Will said, a coy glance following the answer. “No one to date, anyway.”

He laughed, delighted at that, and stuck out his hand, saying, “Anthony.”

“Will,” he responded, shaking the offered hand. His grip was firm and brief, businesslike. “Sister, huh?”

Anthony laughed, abashed, and took a sip from his glass, admitting, “I’m in a rather sticky situation, date-wise. If I take one, the other’s mamma gets all out of sorts. If I take the other, the first one throws a fit and raises hell.”

“I’d go for a third and drop them both,” Will mused, grinning when Anthony laughed, altering his guise just a little. It wasn’t a seduction this one wanted, just company and conversation.

“I would,” he said, walking slowly alongside Will into the next cavernous room where people were moving in clumps and singles past the items on offer. “But I’m expected to propose to one of them rather soon if I intend to be my father’s heir, so…it’s a sorry state of affairs.”

“Could be worse,” Will said. “You could have been stuck with just the one.”

He was willing to laugh at that, too. He seemed desperate for amusement; it was a sentiment Will shared.

“I’m sorry, but do you know that gentleman over there?” Anthony asked, nodding slightly to Will’s right. “Because he seems to know you.”

Will glanced over and saw Hannibal in a bantering conversation with a small group of people, his dark eyes alight with enjoyment when they cut to look Will’s way.

“Yeah, we’re acquainted,” Will said, fingering the bruise on his throat with a smirk. “Is your sister older than you or younger?”

“Younger,” Anthony answered, not pressing the issue past what Will was inclined to provide. “Yours?”

“Mine? What makes you think I have a sister?” Will asked, hiding his discomfit in his glass, draining it dry.

“Because you asked about mine?” Anthony offered, shrugging. “I don’t know…You seem like someone who would have a sister.”

Will accepted that, idly looking at the items in passing. Most of them were antiques of one ilk or another, some understated and others absurd.

“Mary was younger than me,” he finally said, thinking of her. She’d been pale to his dark, like his father. She’d been envious of his curly hair and had often played with it, coiling Will’s deep brown curls over her fingers to make it even curlier. He’d fallen asleep countless times to that, lulled by her quick little hands playing with his hair, tying bows in it that he would complain over when he finally woke…

“How did she pass?” Anthony asked, picking up on the tense he’d used. He was genuine in his curiosity, not morbid about it. “I lost my little brother when he was six. Cancer.”

“I’m sorry,” Will said, automatic manners. “Mary died…afraid, I think. Just…afraid.”

Anthony frowned, snatched another glass from a passing tray and exchanged it for the empty one in Will’s hand, telling him, “Here’s to our dearly departed, then, Will. We never could love them enough while we had them.”

Will smiled a little, tapped his glass to Anthony’s, and drank to that.

“Your gentleman acquaintance is coming this way,” Anthony said, turning away slightly to hide that he was speaking. “In case you’d like to duck out or something.”

“I appreciate the offer,” Will said, genuinely amused. “But I doubt it would do me much good.”

“There you are, Will,” Hannibal said, arriving with a devilish smile on his handsome face.

“Doctor Lecter,” Will said, his voice silky. “This is Anthony…”

“Dimmond,” he supplied, offering his firm handshake with a smile. “Doctor Lecter the psychiatrist?”

“Ah, I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” Hannibal purred, rescuing his hand. “Have we met?”

“No, I mean, not in the flesh,” Anthony said, blushing a little and uttering a soft laugh. “I am familiar with your work. You last article was quite thought-provoking.”

“Thank you very much,” Hannibal said, preening with the praise. “I didn’t mean to interrupt, I only need to borrow Will a moment.”

“Oh, yes, of course! By all means,” Anthony said, stepping away. “Excuse me.”

When Anthony got out of earshot, Hannibal closed the distance between them and murmured, “Are you socializing at long last, Will, or are you hunting?”

“Socializing, I think,” he said, polishing off his drink, enjoying the faint touch of Hannibal’s lips against his ear when he spoke.

“Have you seen anything here that you like?” Hannibal asked, head tilted down just slightly to speak into the shell of Will’s ear.

Will chuckled and turned his head to catch Hannibal’s gaze, his nearness playing along Will’s nerves like sparks of electricity. “To buy or to eat?”

The smile he got in return spoke volumes. “I am interested in the answer either way, Will.”

“I’ve met more than the usual amount of rude people,” Will said, teasing.

“Do you see that man there?” Hannibal asked, moving almost behind Will, ducking slightly so that they gazed the same direction. Will followed his movements, eyes coming to rest on a rather short and rotund elderly fellow whose florid flush betrayed his love of alcohol. “He interrupted a lady friend of mine no less than six times in the course of our conversation. He then proceeded to spill his drink down her cleavage—a very interesting event considering she is much taller than he. Had I no manners to speak of, I would say he is no better than a pig. It is, however, a grave disservice to pigs.”

Will snorted softly, laughing.

“The rude are all around us; we are saints not to eat them all,” Hannibal said, chuckling, possibly in the best mood Will had yet to see him in. It was the setting, he realized, the society. Hannibal enjoyed fine things, fine company, fine wines and fine conversation, especially with the occasional peppering of rudeness to pique his appetite. Like Will, he earmarked the people around him—the pigs from the rabbits from the sheep, and the larger the crowd the better.

“What about you, Doctor Lecter?” Will asked, dropping his empty glass off on a passing tray, his eyes sparkling with mischief and alcohol. “See anything you want?”

“So long as you are in my line of vision, Will, yes I do,” he said, baring his sharp, dangerous teeth in a grin. “As far as the items go, there are a few things.”

“Show them to me,” Will said, suddenly curious, as if Hannibal’s appetite for information was a disease that could catch.

Hannibal cocked his head, watching Will with those dark, empty brown eyes, a slight smile curving his mouth. Almost too softly to hear, he said, “Very well.”

They walked along together, alone in the crowd, viewing the pieces of art and weaponry that Hannibal had bid on. All of it was his usual baroque style, weighty and—to Will’s estimation—unnecessarily self-important.

Then they came to the last item Hannibal had his sights on, and Will just stared at it, eyes wide.

It was an antique military pistol, an old American single-shot pistol carefully preserved and tended.

“Will?” Hannibal asked, seeing his immediate reaction to the old weapon.

The gun rose to the level of his heart. His father was screaming, shouting, furious. ‘Get out! Get out of my house before your mother sees what’s become of you!’

Monster, demon, other.

You must stay with me, Will,’ the Ravenstag reminded him, holding his head in both warm, strong hands. ‘You will be frightened and you will want to flee, but if you do, if you return home, your hunger will overcome you. Do you understand?’

“…quite alright, he is merely a very deep thinker,” Hannibal said, his voice drawing Will’s attention from that gun. He felt the man’s warm hand at the small of his back, possessive and protective, and forced himself to look away from the pistol. “Aren’t you, Will?”

“Yes,” he agreed, taking the cue and smiling. It was Anthony there next to Hannibal, concerned and earnest. “I get lost in my own head sometimes.”

The answer seemed to satisfy him because he gave Will another easy, crooked smile and said, “Well, I didn’t mean to bother you, I only wanted to ask if you both would like to have dinner sometime next week? It isn’t often I meet interesting people out at events like this; I’m loathe to waste the opportunity.”

“We would be glad to join you,” Hannibal answered for them both, amused and intrigued by the young man handing him a business card. He offered one of his own in return, which Anthony carefully tucked away in his pocket.

He looked at Will expectantly and asked, “And how do I get hold of you, Will?”

“Call my office,” Hannibal said, redefining the boundaries of the box Anthony was to put them in. “Will is staying in my home for the time being.”

“Ah, alright,” Anthony said, nodding and stepping away. “I’ll call sometime next week! It was very good to meet you both!”

Hannibal watched him go, a bemused smile on his face.

“I like him,” Will said.

Hannibal cocked his head.

“Don’t eat him,” Will growled, nudging Hannibal to break that cat-rapt stare.

“I would never dream of doing so,” Hannibal purred, chuckling, and drew Will away from that strangely familiar weapon.

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