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Hartford House was quiet as it settled down for the night, though staff still hurried about below stairs getting things set to rights after dinner. With their guests packed off back to Fernhill and Grandfather retiring to his suite, it seemed a pall had fallen over the evening. Their happy homecoming had been pressed with the potential for tragedy and Will found himself restless as he mounted the stairs, his thoughts returning time and again to Alana and how frightened she must surely feel.

Winston whined uneasily at his side, anxious. Peter had returned him to the house freshly brushed and smelling strongly of mint, and Will was grateful for his company as he let himself into his suite, his presence keeping Will’s dread somewhat at bay.

He undressed in silence in his massive dressing room, the echoes of his movements a hollow sound that brought his spirits low. He put his cufflinks and pocket watch away, smiling as he ran his fingers over the filigreed watch cover. Jimmy had procured a proper box for him and the sight of all those watches Hannibal had purchased lightened his heart somewhat. He would even now be on the train to the Capital, Will imagined. No doubt he had paced and frothed at the station, anxious to be on his way, exhausted to find himself returning so soon.

Will very deliberately did not touch the bond, though he was tempted. He couldn’t bring himself to, not yet and not now. The abrupt haste of their parting under such dismal circumstances had knocked him off balance, a light flick from Fate’s fingers reminding him of days past when he believed that his happiness would always be momentary, would always be punished.

“Not anymore,” he murmured, fighting the loneliness that threatened. He missed Hannibal. He missed him with a strength that frightened him. It was only a fraction of what he might feel had they bonded properly, he knew, but even that fraction was quite enough. Continue reading

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There were tears in Grandfather’s eyes as he reached for Will’s hand, extending his other to Hannibal. His long fingers shook, a tremor that had increased since they had last seen him and caused Hannibal to worriedly ask, “Have you been unwell, Grandfather?”

“No, no, no, it is only the excitement of seeing you both safe and sound,” he insisted, squeezing Hannibal’s hand and kissing Will’s while Mina looked on. “I am not as resilient as I once was.”

“Well, excitement or not, I’ll have a look at your medications,” Hannibal said, concerned to find his grandfather so drawn. He seemed to have aged years in their short absence, his grip weaker and his stamina lessened.

“That will be just fine, Hannibal,” Grandfather said, delighted with any suggestion they might make. “Ah! And this must be Winston! Hannibal has written to me about you. I hope we can always rely on him to keep you out of trouble, Will, hm?”

“Not my finest moment,” Will admitted, squeezing Grandfather’s hand and uttering an embarrassed laugh. “But he has made a wonderful addition to the family.”

“Well, not precisely the addition I had my heart set on,” Grandfather said, lifting Will’s hand to his lips again, this time with a surreptitious brush of his nose against Will’s wrist. The subtle change in Will’s scent brought a pleased grin to his lips and he added, “but soon, perhaps?” Continue reading

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The mood at Chelsea House was considerably lighter for Will’s return. Berger valiantly managed to collect the clothing from the library before the maids found it, though one stray button remained unaccounted for and later found its way back in the quiet, unobtrusive way of the Lecter family staff.

There was a tacit understanding between the Lords Clarges that Will would remain with Hannibal until they both could go back to Hartford House together. After everything that had happened, any talk of separation was anathema and avoided as such. They made their arrangements accordingly, finding time over breakfast to speak what had transpired in Will’s absence regarding Abigail.

“I do wish they would let us at least see her,” Will said, rapping his spoon with a fierce cock of his eyebrow when he caught Hannibal sneaking Winston another bite of smoked ham beneath the table. “Hannibal.”

“They fear our influence,” Hannibal said, grinning at the threat in his husband’s eyes. He generously added another slice of ham to Will’s plate, which won him a small smile. “But I, too, wish we could visit with her. She must be very nervous and unhappy in such a place, though the Cenobites are not unkind.”

“She is a young girl used to fresh air and freedom,” Will said, able to return to his breakfast now that Hannibal had both hands in view. “The city must seem stifling and everything so strange. A Cenobium is surely a very dismal place for a child.”

“I managed a very elegant suite for her there,” Hannibal said, sipping the coffee that Will preferred for breakfast over their usual tea. “It was used to house the Queen Mother after her arrest. It is peaceful, with a lovely view of the garden.”

“Nothing is lovely when viewed through bars,” Will remarked, patting his mouth with his napkin. “Can we at least see to her comfort?” Continue reading

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It was late when the coach turned onto the street towards Chelsea House with the Capital just waking up for the night all around them. The gas lamps cast their eerie, soft glow on the world, a misty haze sparkling with moisture and mystery, but Will had no eye for its beauty. He sat gazing out of the window with solemn intensity, as if the force of his stare would carry him to Hannibal’s side all the faster.

It was a long ride back, a long time to think, a long time to feel his bond to Hannibal dim from piercing horror to something much worse—the settled and inescapable certainty that there was nothing more he could do. It made Will even more anxious to reach him, cursing the fact that he had left with so much unresolved between them.

The coach pulled to a stop at last and the weary footman jumped down to open the door. Winston leapt out, hastily relieving himself before Will could even exit the coach.

“Try not to wake the staff if you can avoid it,” Will said, tugging his heavy coat around him as he emerged into the cold, damp air. “The night watchman will let you in around back.”

“Yes, m’Lord, we’ll manage,” Will was told.

“Do you and your men have boarding you can seek?” Will asked, turning to the Captain, and got a nod in return. “Have them charge the cost to Chelsea House and return once you’ve rested. My husband will expect I’ll not try to be rid of you. He is remarkably persistent at times.”

He only hoped Hannibal’s persistence would not keep him from seeing reason, and silently girded himself with his Gift for what was to come. He drew a deep breath, mindful of Winston tugging on his lead, and quietly focused on the bond. Continue reading

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Hannibal imposed on Berger after ringing for Jimmy and took a bath downstairs in the washroom reserved for the servants.

“You’ve had some correspondence while you were indisposed,” Berger informed him.

“Leave it in the library for me, please. And have breakfast laid out there, something light but tempting,” Hannibal said, distracted. The hot water on the chafed, bruised skin of his groin was painful but he couldn’t regret the cause, nor the bruises, nor the scores Will’s fingernails had left on his back and flanks. The last few days he’d spent with Will were the most beautiful and cherished of his life; the small pain was a pleasure all its own in that regard.

He only hoped that Will, given time and distance to sort his emotions, would come to feel the same way.

“Consider it done, my Lord. I’ll bring your clothes down and help you dress after,” Berger offered.

“Just leave my things for me and get my suite set to rights, please, Berger. I think Will would be more settled if things return to normal as quickly as possible,” Hannibal said, scrubbing up with unusual intensity. He paused and pinned his valet with a look, asking, “Is Will’s suite in order?”

Berger nodded. “Yes, m’Lord, Price has kept it ready this whole time.”

“And Abigail?”

“Awake, my Lord, but not asking questions,” Berger said, frowning. “She ain’t said a word, not even to Emily; she just stands at the window hugging herself, staring out at the woods. Magistrate’s been here every day. He wants to take her—”

“He isn’t taking her anywhere,” Hannibal announced, splashing water up over his shoulders to rinse the soap away. “Make sure she knows that, if that’s what has her mute. And tell Price to start packing.”

“M’Lord?” Berger asked, at a loss.

Pack, Berger,” Hannibal said. “I want us prepared to leave on a moment’s notice. Will is quite recovered and we are not safe here. The moment the Magistrate consents, we are leaving Marsham Heath.” Continue reading

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The storm lessened in intensity, the rain becoming a gentle drone of sound on the roof that merged with Will’s even breathing. It was a symphony that Hannibal relished, half-asleep and curled around Will, whose feverish heat ebbed as he slept. He took every advantage of such a rare treat, spending this quiet moment enjoying, cherishing, and soothing his mate.

Loving him, always and forever, just as he’d said.

He drifted in the surety of it, surprised that the words hadn’t escaped him already. They seemed perched on the tip of his tongue, a bird of prey reading to burst from his lips with his heart grasped in its talons. It was not soft, nor gentle, but a force of nature that awed him and he hoped, prayed, silently begged every listening ear of capricious Fate that his wondrous mate would return his confession to him when he was finally able to speak it.

A gentle rap on the door, furtive as if someone feared to disturb them, roused Hannibal from his half-asleep musings. Hoping it was their dinner tray, Hannibal eased out of the bed, smiling when Will’s fingers tightened on his wrist, a soft chirp trilling out of him.

“I’m not going far,” he murmured, kissing Will’s temple and the firm muscle of his arm as he slipped from his warm embrace. He kissed Will’s hand and tucked it beneath the blanket before he drew the curtains, shielding his mate from outside eyes. Continue reading

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The click of the latch was loud in the silence that followed, a slight screech of oiled metal on metal and a solid snap as it was drawn into its catch. The door swung inwards a crack and Hannibal swallowed reflexively as Will’s scent strengthened, swirling around him in a blanket of warm air.

Will was a black silhouette framed by the window beyond, his curls a halo of firelight-tinged softness. He didn’t stir or even breathe, as if bracing for something awful to come as it had so often in the past.

“May I come in?” Hannibal asked, his words a low, throaty throb of sound.

Will considered, then nodded, a slow gesture that became decisive as he stepped back, offering entrance to his husband and his distracting Alpha scent.

Hannibal closed the door behind him and leaned on it, taking a moment to gaze at Will in all of his diffident glory.

No knight in full armor or King in royal vestments could match the effortless dignity and grace of Will Lecter-Graham barefoot in his dressing gown. From the unruly mop of his curls to the swan-like length of his neck all the way down to the tips of his toes, he was every inch a marvel in his husband’s eyes.

The smell of Will’s heat lay thick on Hannibal’s tongue, pouring in through his mouth and nose to fill him up with longing. He swallowed reflexively, testing and tasting it, every breath notching his pulse up. The Alpha in him swelled in response, a weighty drag in his groin as his whole being responded. His skin was hot, overly sensitive, attuned to every small movement of Will’s body. He felt an overwhelming urge to go to him, to run his hands over the scent glands beneath his jaw, to stroke and soothe the heated nape of his neck, to sink his teeth into fevered flesh and lay a mark for all to see.

He shifted, weak with just the thought of it, a rough, coaxing chuff escaping him.

Will closed his eyes, the low sound purring through him with delighted approval, the resonance of Hannibal’s Alpha voice tingling down his spine. His skin tightened, the fine hairs on his arms and nape lifting on a flush, another pulse of wet want pooling between his thighs. His bond to Hannibal clamoured loudly enough to drown out the desperate voices of the past which sought to intrude, leaving him with too few restraints on his hunger to be safe. He looked to one side, uncertain now what to do, but secure in the knowledge he could send him away if he wanted to and Hannibal would dutifully go.

But he didn’t want to send him away. He didn’t want him to go.

He would give Hannibal this chance and if he walked away, if he hurt him again, then it would be the last time in their lives he would ever do so. He would make his decision and never look back, however much it hurt him. Continue reading