Part three of Put a Collar on That Pup
Will frowned at the box while Hannibal was sleeping. He was an early riser since his teaching days thanks to his commute and old habits seemed to die hard, if at all. He felt fairly certain that Hannibal was deeply asleep still, on his side with his back to Will, that awful brand vivid on his skin. Will had traced it before he’d sat up this morning, as he always did, as if touching it with aching regret for the pain it must have caused would somehow make the thing disappear. It hadn’t so far but he would keep trying. If it worked, he had a lot of scars for Hannibal to pour over.
He thought of what Hannibal had said yesterday, of what he’d done in their bed last night. The bite of that chain had made him thrill with sudden danger, with sharp fear that faded as fast as it had come. But it had always been that way between them from the first, a chain response of fear followed immediately by acceptance and anticipation. Trust again, blind faith that it would never wind up fatal, even if only just barely.
It was a religion of two, complete with worship and smiting and sacrifices. It was a wonder anyone else had ever managed to survive their mutual infatuation.
“Damn it,” Will breathed, easing out of the bed with a wince. As good as things felt at the time, the aftermath still had its own solid realities and he moved carefully, taking tiny, cringing steps to the stupid box.
Stupid beautiful box just for him.
Casting a glance back over his shoulder to make sure Hannibal was still sleeping, he bent slightly to feed the key into the lock and turned it, the lid popping open on silent, well-oiled hinges.
The scent of leather carried up to him and he belatedly realized that Hannibal would know in an instant what he’d done. That man could smell anything, however faint. There was nothing to be done about it now, he knew, so he just looked at it.
It just lay there in its plush cradle like it wasn’t about the most demeaning and awful thing he could dream of. Like it wasn’t waiting to close around his throat and lock his freedom back inside its box in its place.
‘It’s not,’ he thought, frowning as he gazed at it through Hannibal’s eyes. He tentatively picked it up, caressing the leather buffed smooth and silken. The inside lacked a lining but was worked so smooth it didn’t need one. D-rings framed it at intervals and Will’s brows rose when he realized why there were so many, which made him immediately wonder if Hannibal had secreted matching cuffs somewhere in their house, too. He angled another glance over his shoulder, this time an accusing scowl that simply refused to last.
His fingers were petting it without him realizing, testing the warm little rings. His imagination, his burden and his delight all his life, had no trouble entertaining him with the possibilities, not the least attractive of which was finally having things out of his hands.
No decisions to make, no worries to bear, just offer up his throat and let Hannibal sort the rest for however long Will chose to indulge in it.
Will shivered, less aroused by the idea than relieved, and that calmed him somewhat. He understood that this wasn’t Hannibal attempting to fetishize him, demean him, gain some level of control over the killer he’d helped create. No, this was Hannibal, clever and too insightful, giving Will an option to help alleviate some of the frustration that had built in the time since their fall. Will had lost himself in the cold water of the Atlantic, left everything behind him without being freed of it and it gnawed at him relentlessly.
So Hannibal made a gift of potential locked in a box, waiting for Will to use the key to release some portion of himself that he needed to set free.
Will put the collar back into the box and closed it, carefully locked it back up and put it back onto Hannibal’s dresser where it had taken up a residence of its own.
He snuck back to bed, pressed to Hannibal’s back with the ridged flesh of that brand against his own slight belly. It reminded him of their time at Muskrat Farm. Hannibal had told him of how he’d been held there, branded, tied and collared in an attempt at degradation that had failed by pure virtue of Hannibal’s refusal to allow any circumstance to lessen him. It had been a ridiculous notion on Will’s part to even consider that Hannibal would dream of attempting the same with him. Hannibal did everything to excess, after all, including loving Will Graham to the point of blind folly where the idea of eating him to keep him close had seemed temptingly reasonable.
“Have you worked something out, Will?” Hannibal murmured, shifting at his touch, taking Will’s hand in his and drawing it over his side to rest on his belly.
Will nodded, still thoughtful, the tip of his nose and his lips brushing Hannibal’s nape.
“Can I offer my thoughts?” Hannibal asked, broaching the subject with care.
“Have I ever been able to stop you?” Will asked, but it was rhetorical. They both knew all he’d ever needed to do to stop Hannibal was simply ask. Just say so, even without a please to make it right.
Hannibal sighed, amused by him. He was always amused by the parts of Will that others had found abrasive and off-putting, cherishing those pieces of him and elevating them where others had only tried to escape.
“We are neither of us mediocre, Will,” Hannibal murmured, lifting Will’s hand to his mouth to kiss his knuckles. “Neither of us satisfied with the mundane, which is why we suit so well.”
He turned then, sliding onto his back. Will lifted his head out of habit, resting on Hannibal’s outstretched arm as he moved, his fingers still laced with Hannibal’s in the crisp hair over his heart.
“We will never be what others might consider normal,” Hannibal said, idly running his thumb over Will’s fingers, a soothing ploy to keep him where he was. Will allowed it sporadically, sometimes responsive to the gestures, other times impatient depending on his mood. He’d been more receptive in the months after their fall, still shaken by nightmares and clinging to Hannibal. It had taken them both a long, long time to regain their footing; yet they never wound up on opposing ground in the same ways as they had before. For better or for worse, they were the sum of each other, now. It was a far more binding commitment than Will had ever dreamed he’d make.
“Whatever that beautiful and intriguing mind of yours has made of my gift, Will, I want you to know that I have never offered anything like it to anyone else before you.”
Will’s brows rose, a wry smile curving his lips as he nudged around to look at Hannibal’s face and read his expression. “Never?”
“Why on earth would I?” Hannibal asked, his small, slight smile eloquent of vast affection. “I had never met anyone like you, Will.”
Will twisted onto his belly, braced on one elbow, chewing his lower lip. “The Chesapeake Ripper was ripping a long time before I came along. Hm?”
“So, no one like me, exactly?” Will pressed, waiting his answer.
“You know too well that I have very specific and unusual ways of courting someone I’ve taken an interest in,” Hannibal carefully told him, giving away nothing more than Will already knew. “That does not mean that the one I was wooing reciprocated or even knew what was done for them. You certainly didn’t at first.”
Will snorted, flopping down against his side despite the growing heat. “It wasn’t a courtship at first, Hannibal.”
“Nonsense,” Hannibal told him, chuckling softly. “You scowled at me and slapped me with a metaphorical wall of crass behavior the moment we met. I was smitten.”
Will snickered, then laughed, the sound of their mingled amusement delighting the both of them.
“No, Will, there was never anyone before you who was you enough to tempt me,” Hannibal said, sighing softly as his laughter tapered off, threading his free fingers through Will’s tousled hair. “We have battled and flown white flags and surrendered to the inevitable and now here we lay.”
Will thought of the box, of the collar within it.
“What does it mean to you, Hannibal?” he asked, closing his eyes to shut the rest of the world out so he could focus on what Hannibal told him. “I have no point of reference. I can’t see it like you do, not exactly.”
“Shall I shape you, then, Will?” Hannibal purred, stroking his head in a way that made Will want to purr himself and fall asleep. “I would like you to draw your own conclusions regarding it, but I do wish you to know that it would never be given in jest and that I give it in the highest esteem for your person.”
“You weren’t esteeming my person last night,” Will murmured, wriggling closer.
“If I’ve failed you in any regard, I am more than happy to try again,” Hannibal said with a throaty chuckle. He took another deep breath, shifting on the bed to stretch a little, toes reaching for the foot of the bed in a long line of tension that suddenly gave, leaving him yielding and relaxed at Will’s side.
“I don’t think I can handle you trying again so soon,” Will told him, letting go of Hannibal’s hand with a raspy laugh to sit up and roll out of their bed, sitting there on the edge with his elbows braced on his knees and his blue eyes tracing the contours of that box. He touched the necklace, the heavy key dangling over his heart, thumping his breastbone in time with his pulse.
“Did I ever tell you, Will, the exquisite level of satisfaction I gained knowing that I had touched you in places no lover ever had?” Hannibal softly said, the bed shifting as he rolled over to brush his fingertips down Will’s lower back. “It was only surpassed by the envy I felt knowing they had touched you in places I never dreamed I would be allowed to.”
“It was just skin, Hannibal,” Will told him, capturing the key in his hand and smoothing it, a soft frown of consideration bowing his mouth. “Just…loneliness. They barely had to try and I was willing. It was nothing more than an illusion of company. They never got a sliver of what you’ve gotten out of me. Hell, most of them never even stayed the night.”
Hannibal said nothing for a long moment but his touch was soft, soothing. Very, very cautiously, he said, “They didn’t have the sense to ask for more.”
Will laughed. He couldn’t help it. He twisted slightly to look at Hannibal’s solemn, serious face, his laughter dying when Hannibal said with more insistence, “All of the beauty of you, the wildness of you, the quick and keen intellect and wry, dry humor—you gave them the gorgeous wrapping and they were content with it.”
“While you were content with nothing less than devouring me down to my bones?” Will asked.
“I would never cheat either of us by asking for anything less than the whole of you, Will,” Hannibal assured him, and tugged him closer so that he could touch the fingers Will had wrapped around his key. “I only ask that you consider allowing me to have what I ask for.”
Will nodded, thoughtful, and when Hannibal pulled him from the bed to start their day, he went along with his mind very happily absorbing everything that Hannibal had told him.