25 Overcoming

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25


The sun was already moving towards the horizon before Hannibal set out to return to Marsham Heath, plans settled behind him and the whole affair put to rest. By this time next week, Galley Field would be as empty and quiet as it had been when he had first arrived there over six years ago, fuming and hurt and plagued by nightmares, to take up residence in isolation.

His life couldn’t be more different now. That which he had sought to escape, he now rode towards, eager and anxious to be reunited. Will’s image blazed in his mind, in his heart, a brilliant light that he strained to reach.

He tried, and failed, to plan what he would say to Will. He never could predict his mate in anything, and did not trouble himself to do anything more than be prepared to tell him the truth, now that he had the details to supply in answer to the questions Will would most certainly ask him.

The little city of Moseley was lit by the time they passed through on their path to Marsham Heath, and the Capital was a haze on the horizon. The cloud of smog that had accumulated through the day reflected a yellow glow from the many street lamps, the light visible even from this distance.

The lamps at Marsham Heath were lit as well, a welcoming, beckoning path to guide him home, and Hannibal urged his horse faster, saying, “Quickly, now, Berger, and we might make dinner!”

“That’d be welcome, m’Lord!” Berger called, his sturdy little horse catching up quickly.

Mr. Thatcher had the door open right as he reached it, leaving Berger to hand the horses off.

“Have I missed dinner, Thatch?”

“No, my Lord; however, his Lordship has requested a tray in his suite,” Mr. Thatcher said, locking up the front door for the night. “Just as well. The dining room truly isn’t as we should prefer. Would you like me to send a tray to your suite as well?”

“Has it gone up yet?”

“No, my Lord, not quite as yet,” Mr. Thatcher said, shuffling to his side. He should have been retired ten years ago, Hannibal realized. It was certainly time for him to honor his duty to the people in the Lecter family’s care.

Hannibal debated a moment, long enough that Mr. Thatcher asked, “Should there be some change, my Lord?”

“No, Thatch, do as he’s said,” Hannibal told him. “But hold the tray for a moment. I’ll send Berger down with some instructions.”

“Yes, my Lord,” Thatcher said, and shuffled off as Hannibal moved rapidly upstairs. Continue reading

24 Overcoming

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24


Will woke in slow, comfortable degrees, blessedly free of his headache. The unfamiliar sounds of an unfamiliar household filtered into his awareness as surely as the strong mid-morning sunlight.

But not quite as quickly as the warmth of a large, decidedly male body curled protectively around him.

Will’s eyes widened to painful proportions and he wriggled with offended outrage, snared in layers of sheets and warm blankets, in the folds of his nightshirt and the tangle of limbs, somehow managing not to wake his sleeping husband.

“Hannibal!” he hissed, freeing one hand from the depths of the bed to shove at the heavy body half pinning him, the scent of Hannibal’s skin mingling with his own to create a perfume that made his body prickle with warmth. “Hannibal, wake up!”

Hannibal murmured something in his sleep and rolled just enough to ease the tension on the covers. Flushed and panting, Will wiggled to sit up and glower at his sleeping husband while he caught his breath. He pushed his hair out of his face and wiped at his sweat-glazed brow, amazed by the heat Hannibal was putting off.

“You really do sleep like the dead!” Will complained, giving him a sour shove.

A soft knock at the door sent Will diving back under the covers, cursing floridly under his breath when Hannibal’s arm snaked around him and he tucked Will close into the curve of his body.

“My Lords?”

“Come in, Mr. Berger!” Will called, his voice thin with embarrassment.

His embarrassment doubled when his imagination provided him with a detailed vision of what precisely was pressed to his round bottom, separated only by the layers of their nightclothes and underthings.

It was certainly enough to send him slithering from the side of the bed in a heap of outraged dignity to find his feet on the cold rug, hoping for the sake of his pride that Berger hadn’t seen him. Continue reading

23 Overcoming

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23


Jimmy and Berger were directly on top of things and immediate, controlled chaos ensued.

Will soaked in a hot bath drawn by his husband, doors shut against the noise, the requisite pot of tea on a little table next to him at Hannibal’s insistence, and after the emotional drain of the morning, he didn’t put up a fuss over it.

Part of him wanted to. Part of him wanted to reject any comfort his husband offered, to drape himself in the cold steel of judgment that urged him to withhold his forgiveness, to rebuff Hannibal’s advances, to resist the temptation of acceptance because it would only lead him to future pain.

It was, he knew, his father’s instruction at play, that resentful kernel of mistrust and doubt.

The other part of him was still as deeply immersed in Hannibal’s words as his sore shoulders were in hot water.

I wish I could take it back…’

It pulled against his father’s teachings with relentless, shocking force, turning ‘what if‘ into potential rather than regret.

The future had always looked so bleak to Will, brief, unkind, and uncertain. He had lived for years on the cusp of leaving, never daring to put down roots in Hartford, never having more belongings than could be packed into his measly trunks and carted off for the inevitable day that Hannibal returned to oust him, no matter the ownership of Hartford House.

It didn’t seem so dismal a future to him now after the last few hours, not entirely. If Hannibal Lecter could admit to regret, could shed tears for Will’s sake, then perhaps even the dark clouds that hung overhead could be parted by a shaft of sunlight. It was enough to let Will draw a breath of hope untainted even by the threat of a would-be murderer still at large.

The future was still bleak and uncertain, but there was a possibility for something brighter, and that was more hope than he’d felt in a very long time. Continue reading

22 Overcoming

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Will thought for a moment that Hannibal would take him back to the ducal suite.

Please stay…’

It was a possibility that was as daunting as it was compelling, and the closer they got to the doors, the more pensive Will became.

Hannibal could feel the tension humming through Will’s slender body, even just through the light touch he kept at the base of Will’s spine. It wasn’t hard to guess the cause. As much as it disappointed him to do so, he escorted Will to the Duchess suite and unlocked his door, swinging it wide to admit him with a slight gesture.

Will exhaled softly, relieved and oddly disappointed, but knowing it was for the best. He was ill and tired and in no state to be tied into nerves over such trifling things when his defences were so badly unprepared.

Only an Omega would worry about being bedded at a time like this…’

The thought sounded far too much like his father’s words in his father’s voice for Will’s comfort, and he took a step away from Hannibal’s lingering touch to gather himself. The fact that he wanted to stay close to his husband was reason enough to call for distance; his illness was made him far too vulnerable to his own nature—he could not trust himself not to make more of Hannibal’s attentiveness than was actually there.

Hannibal watched him, feeling Will moving further and further from him in a way that had nothing to do with rooms or cities. The feeling of Will’s warm, bare skin tingled on his fingertips, branded there and seared into his memory, and he clenched his hands around it as if he might lose that, as well. Continue reading

21 Overcoming

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21


True to his word, Hannibal had one of the housemaids build up the fire, and when the porridge arrived, he had Berger set up a tray for Will where he sat curled up in Hannibal’s chair, snug beneath a lap blanket.

“Be sure you eat slowly,” Hannibal cautioned, shifting things around for him to easily reach. “And drink as much tea as you can hold, fluid will help with the ache. I’ll give you something stronger for the pain.”

“I can handle discomfort, Hannibal, in order to have my wits about me,” Will breathed.

“I insist on at least one dose for your head,” Hannibal said, busying himself preparing it, saying, “It will make you sleepy, but it will ease the pain and we will make sure you are well protected.”

He mixed the dose into a cup of tea and handed it to Will, watching him to ensure he drained the entire cup.

“Thank you,” Will said, feeling immediately better for it, well enough to become absurdly aware that he was in his husband’s suite wearing only Hannibal’s nightshirt, thick and bundled though it was. “You should have taken me to the Duchess suite.”

“I hadn’t realized,” Hannibal said, brows rising over his amber eyes. “I came here from habit. There is nothing improper in your being here, Will.”

He took the cup and poured another for Will and then some for himself. Berger bustled about unobtrusively, taking care of the damp sheet and going to tidy in the washroom. Hannibal could hear soft conversation as he spoke with Jimmy, both men exchanging information to make service run smoothly.

“Will, is there anything you can recall about your accidents that might help us discover who has done this?” Hannibal asked, sitting in the chair angled next to his, elbow on his knee and fervent eyes on his mate.

Will almost shook his head but caught himself, saying in a quiet murmur over the lip of his teacup, “Everything happened so quickly, I don’t have anything clear to grasp hold of. It was all… it was motion and light, more feeling than memory.”

Hannibal thought of Will sprawled at the foot of the stairs in his nightclothes, wounded and dazed. “A frightening experience,” he said, his voice a low purr of displeasure.

“I was too surprised to be frightened at first,” Will admitted.

“I would say you needn’t be frightened now,” Hannibal said, tucking the blanket up over Will’s hip just a little higher. “But I can tell you aren’t. Not anymore.”

“No, I’m not,” Will said, and huffed a soft laugh. “I am, however, incredibly annoyed.”

“Gods help us,” Hannibal murmured, and grinned when Will did. Continue reading

20 Overcoming

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Will’s form was a small smudge in the distance by the time Hannibal collected himself enough to head home, terrified he would find his spouse lifeless in the lane along the way, sick and frightened as he was.

The staff assured him that Will had, indeed, made it home in one piece, though he was so ill that Mr. Price and Francis had taken him upstairs at once, according to Mr. Hawkes’ agitated recounting of the moment. It left Hannibal vastly relieved on that count, at least, knowing Will had made it home and was in good hands.

Grandfather caught sight of him as he came in and wheeled towards him from the east wing, shouting, “What on earth have you done to him now?! You should be horsewhipped!”

“Will saw to that already,” Hannibal wearily said, concerned by the state Will was in.

“Ha! Serves you right, you ingrate!” Grandfather scolded, angry. “Someone needs to take that arrogance down a few pegs!”

Hannibal scowled at him and took the stairs two at a time, Grandfather calling admonishments up after him. He could smell the faint, foul stink of Francis Dolarhyde on the landing and it ratcheted his agitation up higher, the presence of the other Alpha a threat that Hannibal could barely stomach. It was all he could do not to barge his way into Will’s suite and get some answers, but that would do more harm than good, he knew. Will was in Jimmy’s faithful hands and that was, perhaps, the best thing for both of them right now.

He slammed into his room instead and started stripping his jacket and waistcoat off, still feeling shocked at how Will had flogged him away as if he’d been in mortal danger.

You could have been killed!’

Isn’t that what you’re after?!’

Terror. The scent-memory of it prickled Hannibal’s sinuses, his heart rate picking up and his stomach tightening. Will’s violence had always intrigued Hannibal, but even he knew that Will striking someone with a riding crop was the last resort of a very desperate kind of fear. He’d stank of blind fright and that sweet, elusive something that had acted like icy water on Hannibal’s own reactions.

Something about him made his mate fear for his life and the fault, he knew, lay in himself. He had never taken the time to know Will, had never attempted to befriend an Omega or understand one—he was essentially as unschooled in Omegas as a toddling babe, his father’s concubine and Bedelia’s instruction notwithstanding. All he really knew was that he had somehow goaded his mate into lashing out on the lane.

And he needed to know why. Continue reading

I Want To See You

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“What do you really look like behind your… person suit?”

Will smiled slightly as he said it, brows rising over his eyes when Hannibal paused in the process of pouring him a glass of wine.

“Different,” Hannibal said, his own small smile echoing Will’s. “May I ask, why now?”

“Why now,” Will sighed, taking the glass and swirling the contents, less interested in their session than he was in his court-assigned therapist. “I’m indulging my curiosity.”

“You’ve been curious for months,” Hannibal remarked, settling in the chair opposite him and smoothing the crease of his pants, as if even the idea of it being less than knife-edge sharp was abhorrent to him. “Yet tonight you feel brave enough to ask.”

“I’m tired of talking about me, about… it,” Will said, frowning and taking a sip to distract himself. “I’ve never seen one of your people outside of your disguise, not really. Just pictures…”

“Images in textbooks can inform you, but are hardly educational,” Hannibal said, picking up his hesitance. “Is it important for you to see me as I am?”

“Yes,” Will said, placing the wineglass down with care and settling forward, elbows on knees and hands clasped. “As important as it is for you to see me as I am.”

Hannibal smiled. It curved his lips on his sculpted face, but only truly showed in his sparkling amber eyes. Continue reading