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Written on Your Skin

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Will slowly wakes to find the room still shrouded in darkness, only illuminated by the cool white light of the full moon. He shifts slightly and sighs happily at the warm weight draped over his back, covering him and pinning him to the bed. He huffs with amusement, Hannibal always finds a way to entangle them in sleep - moving in the night so he can possessively cover him and keep Will in his arms. 

Will swallows thickly and it becomes clear why he's awake, his mouth is dry and he is uncomfortably thirsty. With a quiet sigh he carefully slips out of Hannibal’s arms and off the bed. He watches fondly as Hannibal frowns in his sleep, then burrows forward into the warm sheets and pulls Will's pillow into his arms, snuffling into the cotton, soothed by Will's scent. Will smiles as Hannibal settles into sleep once more and he can't resist brushing a few strands of ashen hair off Hannibal’s forehead and grins when it immediately falls back into disarray. 

When he returns to their bedroom he places his glass of water on the nightstand and gazes down at Hannibal’s sleeping form, lying almost entirely on his front with his face buried in Will's pillow. The sight is so endearing it makes his heart ache. 

He gingerly slides into bed behind Hannibal, careful not to jostle or wake him. He leans on one arm as he lies beside the other man, his fingers ghosting over, but not yet touching, the scarred skin of Hannibal’s back. 

Will knows the brand on Hannibal's back as intimately as he knows his own scars, he can trace each line from memory alone. In the many months since their recovery from the fall Will has seen and touched it countless times. 

He remembers the first time he saw it as clearly as if it were yesterday. His horror at seeing the scarred skin as he tends to Hannibal's wounds - he doesn't allow himself to react at the time, too worried whether Hannibal will survive to question him about the marking on his back. When he learns the truth of it he disappears for three days. He's angry at Mason for permanently marking Hannibal, angry at Hannibal for not telling him when it happened but most of all he is angry at himself, that he didn't notice Hannibal's pain and that he was the cause of it, albeit indirectly. When he returns Hannibal is a mess, though he vehemently denies it - but it is evident in his tightly wound posture, the dirty wine glasses in the sink and the fact he is wearing one of Will's oversized sweaters. That is the first time he touches Hannibal with affection, gently embracing him and apologising for leaving, for making Hannibal doubt he would return - he never leaves unannounced again.

After that day he insists on applying moisturiser to the scarring daily, Hannibal tries to deny him at first, insisting it wasn't necessary because the wound has healed. But Will can see his discomfort sometimes, the way he rolls his shoulders as the skin pulls too tightly. So he insists, explaining that it is the same cream that he uses on his own scars to keep the skin soft and supple - Hannibal eventually relents, mostly, Will knows, because it means Will touches him every day. Will doesn't mind Hannibal's obvious delight and satisfaction at the touch because the skin of the brand is softer now, more relaxed and comfortable, no longer harsh pink and irritated. And if he enjoys the way Hannibal leans into his touch like a cat, well, that's between himself and God.

Will carefully traces his fingers around the circular edge of the scar, pausing momentarily as his skin passes over the 'V'. Part of him curls and snarls with possessive anger, endlessly furious that Hannibal has been scarred with the mark of another - it demands retribution and reclamation. It is partially soothed by the knowledge Mason got the gruesome death he deserved, painful and humiliating. Reclaiming the scar also helps. Covering the pink skin in his own mark - kisses and suck bruises, biting down so hard it leaves impressions of his teeth for hours or days, burning it with wax in the pattern of his own name and staining it with his come. 

Each act is immensely enjoyable for them both, but it's never permanent. Hannibal has offered, many times, to let him deface, alter or remove it completely. Honestly, he considers it sometimes, usually on the nights when his imagination and memories won't let him rest, when the darkest shadows of his mind prowl forward. But no matter how often he may think of it, he never does. He can't. 

While it may flare his possessiveness, it is an important reminder. 

The scar is a physical reminder of everything Hannibal has suffered and sacrificed for him, for them. 

It's a reminder of his capture and subsequent torture at the hands of Mason Verger, which Will partially blames himself for. If he hadn't lashed out at Hannibal at the Uffizi, if he had been able to accept his feelings, maybe they would have fled and evaded Mason's long reaching grasp. Will sighs deeply, in some other world, perhaps. 

It reminds him that Hannibal came back for him, saved him, despite Will's betrayal - Hannibal came for him and carried him home. Where, once again, Will rejected him, a painful memory even now all these years later - the words lacerated his throat as he said them, professed his goodbye, and now the memory of them makes his throat ache. Despite Will's awful callous words, Hannibal didn't give up on him. He couldn't let go of Will or his love for him, so instead he gave up his freedom. In a move that still stuns Will, Hannibal surrendered to imprisonment rather than live without him. 

Will feels his eyes heat with tears, remembering everything Hannibal sacrificed, the pain he endured - much of it at Will's hand, whether directly or not. 

For him the brand is a reminder of everything Hannibal sacrificed so they could have a future together - it's a reminder of how deep and all consuming Hannibal’s love for him is. It reminds Will to be grateful for Hannibal, to cherish his devotion and to never doubt it, or him, again. 

He presses his forehead to Hannibal's back, overwhelmed with guilt, pain, love and utter devotion to this man. Will has never felt so entirely loved than he does when he's with Hannibal, and as painful looking at the scar is, it is a bittersweet pain. A bittersweet reminder of how completely Hannibal loves him. 

"Will?" 

Warmth fills him at the sound of Hannibal's voice, hushed and rough from sleep. He whispers to him gently, "I'm here, cher, go back to sleep." 

Will softly kisses Hannibal's back, just above the scarring. He presses close, his chest snug against Hannibal's back, every inch of their bodies touching. He loves the sound of contentment Hannibal makes, a low growl in his chest - the soft rumbling sounds almost like purring. Will smiles as Hannibal falls back into sleep, so easily he trusts Will at his back, when he is most vulnerable, a show of trust Will cherishes. The quiet sounds of Hannibal breathing deeply, peacefully, slowly lull Will into calm - he presses a light kiss to the pink skin of the brand.

One day he may find the courage to tell Hannibal all of this, to pour out his insecurities and apologies, to shower him with words of praise and awe, to profess his love and utter devotion, but not yet. They are still navigating the waters of honesty and open communication, it is difficult to break their cycle of cryptic words and metaphors but they are making progress, slowly. For now, he is content to look upon the scarring and allow it to serve as a reminder to never take Hannibal, or his love, for granted ever again.