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Past the Cordon of Night

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Instinct awakened him some hours later. The scent of the air was different, and faintly, as if carried by the breeze, there was music… Hannibal remained still for long moments, listening. Eventually he swung his legs over the side of the bed and padded into the next room, barefoot, not bothering to dress.

Will was perched on the back of the loveseat, one knee propped up and at ease, as if it were a makeshift windowsill. His gaze was directed away and outward, across the moonlit sea of rooftops, and though he hadn't moved Hannibal knew they were aware of each other. The lights were still off, the sloped windows cantilevered open. The room smelt like night rain, cool and wet, though there was no telltale patter against the glass.

The music rose, questing, and fell again, like the plume of a fountain.

"The church across the street is filled," Will said. "Every pew."

He still hadn't turned. Hannibal made himself look away, and went to the counter to pour himself a glass of water. His hand was steady, and the muscle of his heart – he knew it was, but felt its stutter like a phantom.

"It is the Paschal vigil tonight," he said. "The congregation will remain in prayer until Easter Mass is celebrated, tomorrow morning."

"God's barns crammed full of the adorant flock, awaiting a miracle." Will huffed out a breath, amused. "Should we pray for an earthquake to shake the rafters, Doctor Lecter?"

Hannibal didn't answer. He found he did not want to meet Will's eyes. As if the apparition's face were more unearthly than its mere presence – its physical influence on the room. He could hear the soft shift of fabric against leather, against skin. Will was dressed as he had been only weeks ago, when they had sat by Hannibal's fireplace, late into the night, and made plans to go away together. Dark slacks and shirt, cuffs casually rolled. Hair brushed neat. Clean, unruffled, awake. But his scent wasn't right.

(The singsong echo of a girl-voice, long ago:

Watery is the mignonette—
And apples – the scent of Love—
But we have found once and forever—
Blood smells only of blood...)

"You left a broad enough trail," Will said. "I think you mean to… up to this point. Doctor Du Maurier has her own safety net, but Jack was able to bring her back. It'll be some time before anyone thinks to check on her, but it's also inevitable. With time, I'll stand in this room, and it will tell me what it can. I'll look back with my mind and find you, here, in this moment."

 Hannibal stared into his glass. He couldn't see his own reflection in the water.

"Are you to chase me, then? To what purpose, Will? Revenge?"

A short laugh. "That presupposes I'll be given the choice."

Something about the thought stung, sharply. Hannibal turned. Will had risen from his seat and approached him; he was close, well within arm's reach. His eyes were steady and unscrutable.

If Hannibal were to lift his hand to touch he would find warm skin. Or the burn of fever; or cold, rain-clammy flesh. There were vast spaces in his mind given over to sense memories of Will, libraries and display halls crumbling under their own weight, stone overgrown by ivy, dissolving at their edges into unaccustomed forest shadow, into swift-running darkness…

He had wanted to follow the water upstream, once. It had seemed to him the source would be pure. But the current was too strong now, enough to drown the untethered, and it was cold and dark.

"You should close those doors," Will said, "if you don't know where they lead."

He knew Hannibal's mind; he was a part of it. "No doubt," Hannibal said, looking away from him. "Who knows what'll get through."

"Your secrets have borne fruit," said Will. "They've ripened in hiding, to the point of rot… I'm not the one you should be afraid of, Doctor Lecter."

"They won't find me again."

He could hear Will's rare smile in his voice. "Is that meant to be reassuring?"

Hannibal thought of Will, deep in the catacombs weeks or months later, examining the setting of Hannibal's handiwork. Will would ask for photographs of the flower in full decay: he would reconstruct Hannibal's thoughts, see what he saw for fleeting seconds, and feel what he most intimately felt.

He closed his eyes. "Yes," he said.

"I'll have to be satisfied with that," Will said. "Safe and hidden, Doctor Lecter. At least… until the next time we meet."

Hannibal felt his touch, then, light and warm as it had never been in reality: a steadying brush of fingers against his bare arm, as one might give when taking leave of a good friend. The scent, still, was that of night rain and blood. He kept his eyes stubbornly closed.

When he opened them again the sky had lightened, and Easter bells were ringing.