Morning—sunlight through chiffon, scent of espresso, scent of skin, Puccini's Crisantemi from the radio. Will Graham buttoned his blue flannel shirt, and Hannibal chose cufflinks. For those—enameled gold, a circle of pearl, amethyst. He had bought the set at a shop in a secluded piazza, from which one could look over the rooftops and see the facade of the San Giovanni dei Fiorentini; the shop had smelled of beeswax, and the shop-owner of cheap, loose-leaf tobacco. Will, in the sunlit nearly-seven, smelled of man unwashed.
'I've got a class at ten,' Will said. He guided his belt through his belt-loops—leather belt, trousers corduroy. After fastening the buckle, he looked at his watch. 'I should go. Soon.'
Hannibal—dressed but for jacket and shoes—padded, in velvet slippers, into the hall. At the doorway, he raised his hand, curling his fingers in beckoning.
'You have time,' he told Will. Pausing, turning— 'While I'm cooking, why don't you take a bath?'
Breakfast was eggs poached in olive oil, scattered with shredded Manchego; at the side, arugula, chopped shallots, drizzle of sherry vinegar, relish of olives, oregano and pepper. Arranged in ripples against the eggs—thin slices of thigh, which had been bled, salted, soaked for eight days in a brine of brown sugar, bay leaves, juniper berries and thyme—hung from a rack and left to dry, then, for eighteen months. Hannibal did have patience; he did receive his reward.
Will ate with one hand at his fork and one hand holding The Baltimore Sun in front of him. He lifted egg-white and relish from plate to mouth; eyes flickered side-to-side, and lips parted as he chewed, showing slips of teeth. Wet hair dripped onto shoulders.
Hannibal, cutting decisively into his egg, said, 'How do you like the prosciutto?'
Yolk, vivid yellow, spilled from the egg and spread over the plate, edging against the meat, slicking over the arugula. Will answered with a 'hm', so Hannibal lifted the tines of his fork to the back of the newspaper held in Will's hands, and pressed forward until the paper curved down over Will's forearm.
'I've always thought that reading distracts from the taste,' Hannibal said. 'Conversation can better a meal—afterward, one remembers speech and flavor in equal measure. Less so with The Baltimore Sun. You read—you are brought away from the table. Perhaps you had initially made the habit as a method of coping.'
Will kept the paper in his hand; he fixed his gaze at Hannibal's collar, and did not waver.
'The prosciutto is good,' he said.
'Thank you.' Hannibal smiled. He lifted his napkin to mouth, patting linen to lips; when clean, he smoothed the napkin over his lap, and said, 'I cured it myself; the process took over a year.'
'You don't have a shower, either. Only a bath.' The newspaper took its place on the table. With free hand, Will took up his knife.
'Yes,' Hannibal said. 'I prefer pleasure over efficiency.'
Thigh, after all, could have been fried in a skillet, soaked in lemon and butter, garnished with parsley. Hannibal watched Will saw at the meat with his knife. Once a strip peeled away, Will punctured it with his fork, lifted it to his mouth; he drew the strip of red between his lips, between his teeth, moving its texture over his tongue. He chewed slowly, and Hannibal knew he savored.
Midday brought light to Hannibal's kitchen; from a skylight, sun beamed, glinted from marble and copper and steel. Schubert crackled from a record player. Will had said, once, 'Your dining room makes me feel like I should be wearing white tie'; so Hannibal, because he was generous, because he cared for Will, served lunch at the island in the kitchen. He had scheduled an appointment at two, anyway—no time for three or four courses. No time for washing dishes afterward.
'Anticuchos de corazón,' Hannibal said, resting two plates on the island, seating himself. 'Beef heart—marinated in aji panca, cumin, parsley, cilantro, red wine vinegar—seared over flaming coals.'
Will, at his first bite, moaned around the skewer. 'I don't get it,' he said—chewing. (Rude, Hannibal thought, to speak before swallowing.) 'Do you ever do anything imperfect?'
'Oh,' Hannibal sighed, 'what a question.' He tilted his head, hummed, looked towards the pattern of sunlight against the wall, feigned long thought. 'I have a bad habit of leaving my messes where others can see them.'
'Your house is spotless. Your office is like—a museum.'
'I do my best to rectify my natural faults,' Hannibal told him. He lifted a skewer to his mouth, slid a cube of heart between his lips, pressed the flat of his tongue against the meat until the marinade seeped.
Before Will had finished his lunch, his mobile rang. Hannibal twitched.
'I had thought Jack Crawford had left you to your teaching,' Hannibal said. He curved the edge of his spoon into a scoop of raspberry-ginger sorbet; the silver tinkled against the glass. 'You hadn't been called away for two weeks.'
The dessert was impromptu. Hannibal had been settling into the sofa by the fire in his study, spreading open his folder of notes, when the telephone at his desk had rung. Will had said, 'I know it's late. I need to talk to you.' No time to prepare a proper meal—Will, at the time of the call, had been passing over the Key Bridge. Sorbet, then, served in a clear glass, dotted with seeds of fresh raspberries. The taste—fruit-sweetness, subtly honeyed, and tang of ginger.
Will was red-eyed and yawning; he sat on the sofa in Hannibal's study, took spoon to mouth and ate quickly, as if he was frightened his food would be stolen from him. That was the way dogs ate.
'Yeah,' he said—bitterly, bitterly; curling his lip. 'Well. I know him better than that. I know better than to think he'd leave it.'
'Leave you be, you mean.'
Will gave a shrug of one shoulder, and lifted the back of his hand to rub over his cheek, where two-day stubble had grown. Hannibal set his own glass and spoon on the side table; he leaned forward, and he took the curve of Will's jaw into his hand, stroking his thumb over skin.
'Don't do that,' Will said. 'I'm not in trouble.' He turned his cheek, and Hannibal's hand dropped away. Without touch—with half a foot of space between them, bodies parted by a stripe of the sofa's velvet—Will took up his spoon and finished the last of his sorbet. 'But thanks. For the food.'
Hannibal set Will's glass and spoon next to his own. When he turned to Will, again, he did not move closer; Will had raised his shoulders and hardened the set of his jaw.
'It might help you,' Hannibal told him—speaking softly, watching the flex of Will's hands in his lap, the fingertips worrying at the hem of his shirt. 'Telling me what you would otherwise keep to yourself. Your instinct is to shrivel away; to look at your lap, to keep your shoulders taut.'
Will's eyelashes flickered—blinking, shutting, widening. His fingers went still.
Hannibal went on. 'I wonder how you consider the problem of instinct. If it ought to be obeyed—if it ought to be restrained. Some think that we've no use for instinct, any longer—we civilized men. Others believe that the body knows better than the mind does.'
'Which do you believe?'
In the hearth, the wood shifted. Will turned his head towards Hannibal—motion minute, eyes fixed at his lap. When Hannibal placed his hand over Will's, Will did not recoil; so together they were still. Fire snapped, and Will's pulse seemed to beat beneath Hannibal's palm—pulse warm, rising, thumping, blood within skin. Perhaps Hannibal imagined it.
'I believe that a balance can be struck. One can't negate instinct entirely; one likes to eat, to drink, to make love. Still, we take our lovers to bed; we bottle our wine, and pour it into glasses. We eat with knife and fork.'
'So where does talking fall,' Will asked, 'on the spectrum. Where does telling you fall.'
'That would be dependent on the circumstance,' Hannibal said. 'In this circumstance? Civilized, I would say. You must learn to get the better of yourself.'
Will lifted his head, and he looked at Hannibal's mouth. Hannibal anticipated speech; he found instead that Will leaned forward, plunging into a kiss.
Will had never learned to kiss properly, Hannibal knew; he crushed his mouth against Hannibal's, licked his tongue over Hannibal's lips, widened his mouth as if devouring. He would have had lovers before—out of the body's want, out of desperation—bodies heaving against each other. No breakfast in the morning; no, Will would not have had a lover like that.
Hannibal taught—he took his hand to Will's jaw, again, and Will allowed it; he pulled back until their lips grazed, until their breath fanned out over their upper lips, until they fell into a back-and-forth of snatching kisses, graceful, orchestrated. He took Will's bottom lip between his teeth and let it loose slowly, catching at the plush of the widest part of his lip, reddened, tasting of raspberry and ginger.
Past three in the morning, Hannibal stepped softly through the hall, draping his dampened towel at his shoulders, tightening the tie of his bathrobe. At the doorway of his bedroom, he paused; Will, in the darkness, rose from Hannibal's bed. Will had dressed in his boxer-briefs and undershirt, and leaned down to pat his hands at the carpet by the bed, searching out his trousers.
'You might turn on the lamps,' Hannibal said. As he passed through the doorway, he reached out to the light-switch on the wall. The overhead lamp flickered on. After a flash of brightness—fingers at the dial of the dimmer, lowering the light to a soft ochre.
Even in the dimness, Will shielded his eyes. 'I've got a flight out of BWI at six-fifteen. Crawford's business. I should get going.'
'Shall I make coffee, then?'
'It's fine. I'll get some at the airport.'
'I insist. You tend towards running, don't you? But you'll be far from me soon enough. The least I can do is save you from weak coffee.'
Will's shirt lay crumpled at Hannibal's feet; Hannibal leaned down to pluck it from the carpet, and crossed the room to deposit it at the edge of the bed, where Will took it up and pulled it over his head.
'Coffee. Fine.' He gave a half-effort at tucking his shirttails into his trousers, which sagged around his hips. 'But don't cook. I don't have time for Sunday brunch. Also, it's three in the morning, and eating in the middle of the night gives me indigestion.'
'Only coffee—I understand.'
The two stood facing each other—Hannibal quiet, still, and Will fidgeting, fixing the set of his glasses. Will toed the carpet, and Hannibal knew that he wanted to kiss. Better to make him wait.
'There's no reason to leave,' Hannibal said, 'before you would like. Where is Crawford sending you, so early in the morning?'
'Chicago. There's, um. There's this—' He looked beyond Hannibal, towards the window, towards the light of the street-lamp that shined through the drapes.
Of course—the sanctity of the room. Bed for bodies, for closeness; if a case were to come to the bedroom, its safety would be breached. Silly logic, Hannibal thought. The cases followed Will to bedroom, to kitchen, to study, to garden—to Baltimore, to Quantico, to Wolf Trap, to the tangles of freeways and highways between.
'Why don't I start on your coffee?' Hannibal asked.
At the kitchen island, Will sat hunched atop a bar-stool, hands wrapped around his mug. 'I'm sick of it,' he said. 'Crawford, and being the damn—teacup. I'm sick of canceling classes to go fly to wherever at God knows what hour of the morning. Sick of leaving the dogs to chew up the furniture while I'm gone.'
'The work must be of some worth to you.'
Hannibal stood before the counter; in apron, he cleaved his knife through liver mousse, cutting slices to layer over pâté maison, pickled carrots, cucumber and cilantro—all to be pressed between two halves of a fresh Vietnamese baguette. With his back to Will, he heard the scuffing of shoes against the wood of the bar-stool, and the clink of porcelain against marble.
'I don't know,' Will said. 'I don't know what I think. I know what other people think. Who's to say my wanting to work isn't someone else's wanting me to work.'
'You don't think that seems too much like reassigning the blame?' To himself, Hannibal smiled. He wrapped Will's sandwiches in wax paper and placed the bundles into a brown bag. 'It must be a burden—wanting badly to save them, knowing that no one else in the BAU has the capacity. The others don't know, do they, Will? A piece here and there. Never enough.'
'This one,' Will said. A pause; inside his silence, the sound of slurping at coffee. 'He punctures—holes into their skin, small holes, everywhere—eyelids, behind the ears, between the toes. He puts the stems of fresh flowers in. Like a bouquet.' He laughed at himself; the laughter was tinged with the wildness of exhaustion. 'Katz says they're kept alive for four to five days, like that. They're all men—boys, maybe. Sixteen to twenty-one, white, all blonde, except for one redhead. From private schools, or home on break from Ivy Leagues. He cuts out their tongues, takes out their teeth, takes out their eyes. Punctures their eardrums. Feeds them through an NG tube.'
'You mentioned that he uses fresh flowers.' Hannibal reached behind his back, muscles straining at the angle, to untie his apron. Once untied, he hung the apron on a hook at the wall. 'And that he keeps the victims alive for four to five days. Then the flowers wilt?'
'No,' Will said. 'He replaces them, probably daily. They've looked through the records of every florist in the Chicago area—no dice. There are no orders that big that can't be traced to weddings or funerals. I would say he keeps his own garden, but it's hardly past winter.'
'He keeps a greenhouse, I suppose?' With brown bag in hand, Hannibal crossed to the island; as he lifted himself onto a bar-stool, he set the bag before Will. 'Bánh mì with chicken liver mousse and pork pâté maison. Now, I think, you have an obligation to take half an hour for lunch.'
Will stared down—stared, eyes vacant, as though he believed that if he opened the bag, a thousand flowers would spill over the island's marble.
'Yes,' he said. 'He has a greenhouse.'
At six-fifteen, Hannibal watched the ceiling above his bed. Will, then, must have been shifting in an aisle seat, holding the brown bag in his lap, crumpling the paper in clasped fingers. The plane would have begun its ascent; Hannibal could feel, beneath him, the lift—hear the whine of air passing over and under the metal. He turned onto his side, and he rested his cheek in his palm, child-like.
On the third day of Will's absence, the sky greyed; no spring-like sun, but raindrops, inconstant, and the lingering threat of a flood. Hannibal used his lunch hour to pick up dry-cleaning—three striped shirts, one solid shirt, five collars, two jackets, two waistcoats, four trousers. He asked the woman at the register about her infant daughter. On the drive back to his office, raindrops spattered his windshield, and his mobile rang; the caller ID read 'Jack Crawford.'
'Jack,' he said. 'Would you like to reschedule our appointment?'
'I'm calling about Will Graham.' A silence—the line cracked, whistled. 'He's in the hospital.'
'He's been injured?' No, not a scratch on him—no wound, no blood; but Hannibal played the fool. In the parking lot behind his office, his Bentley slowed to a stop. Keys out of the ignition, and the car quieted.
'In a sense,' Jack said. 'Graham found who we were looking for. The trouble is he found the sixth victim, too. Alive.' A space, then, that Jack left open for Hannibal; he would have expected questions. Hannibal was silent. '—Listen, how soon can you come up to Chicago? I'll meet you at O'Hare.'
If the sun had shone, light would have fallen through the window, whole, enveloping—giving reflection to Will's glasses, to the curls of his hair, to the bridge of his nose, to the plush of his lips. Rain fell, and Will sat beneath the window at the end of the hall; he had drawn his legs up to his chest, curling into the seat of the chair. Shadows hung about the drape of his shirt, over-large; rain-light darkened his skin to a grey, made deeper the hollows of his eyes. He did not watch Hannibal approach.
'The food here is shit,' Will said, when Hannibal took a seat in the chair opposite. Will stretched out his legs, laced his fingers in his lap, and watched the rain at the window. Hannibal thought it better that he watched the window; the light of a hospital was unflattering.
'You must feel that they've taken liberties,' Hannibal said. 'Crawford. The Bureau.' He crossed his legs, and rested his hands atop his knee.
Will scratched at his arm; he said nothing.
'—That you had no choice but to follow Jack where he led you; that you had no choice but to fly to Chicago at six-fifteen on Monday morning. That you have no choice, now, but to stay where they tell you to stay.' Stay, he thought—sit, beg, look, watch, think, show, tell. He had been wrong—not the teacup, no; the show-dog.
'I had thought—' A quicker scratching at the arm, then stillness. 'I'd thought they'd be less human. You see a body, and it's not the same as a person; it's like the person's gotten up and walked out of the room. Like they left the party before you ever got there. But the boy sounded like a boy, still. By the time we got there, he'd stopped screaming. It doesn't take that long. People always think, If that was me, I'd scream till my lungs gave out—but after a while, they get tired, you know.'
'So he was muttering. That was it. But it was human.'
As Will went quiet, the sounds of the ward rose up around them; footsteps on tiled floor, clattering of dishes from the dining room, telephones ringing at the nurses station, click of the keys of the payphone in the hall. The woman who used the payphone began to cry, gently; no sobbing, but a clutching of the telephone, a grimace of mouth, silent shaking.
Hannibal turned his gaze to Will, who looked back. Eyes bright—wide, perceptive—what a mind behind them. What a lot of tears had caught in their lashes.
'I've done this before,' Will said. 'They'll let me go in a week. You can go back home.'
Hannibal shook his head, clicked his tongue. 'No,' he said, 'I prefer to stay.'
Beyond the Chicago skyline, dark clouds gathered low. A snap of lighting, Hannibal thought he saw—a speckle of light—showing, then hiding itself. He counted to six before thunder.
There was only so much Hannibal could do without his kitchen. He had always disliked short-term traveling—half-weeks of motels, crime scenes in Oregon or Tennessee or Maine, the Bureau footing the bill, red-eye flights in such quick succession that he could hardly remember the time zone, the date. For some, it was a way of life; for Hannibal, who liked to settle, it was a nuisance. Still, in the kitchenette of his hotel room, he prepared smoked salmon smørrebrød, crab and mango on toast, Serrano and fig tartines, croque-monsieurs, turkey with tamarind.
For six days, he arrived at the ward at six o'clock; he signed himself in at the desk, and he met Will at the set of chairs beneath the window, where he wielded a brown bag as an offering. 'I did what I could,' Hannibal would say, and Will, slow with sedatives, would take the bag and hold it in his lap as they talked. He might not have eaten the sandwiches at all; but bag and sandwich would vanish, and Hannibal, each day, would arrive to see him empty-handed.
On the third day, Hannibal considered introducing himself to Will's doctor as his psychiatrist. Crawford and Bloom, though, could fill in the details after Will had returned to Virginia, Hannibal to Maryland—and there was little, really, that Hannibal couldn't extrapolate for himself—so he introduced himself as Will's partner, instead.
He told the doctor, 'I hope you don't mind that I've been feeding him. It's better for him, that way—to have a taste of home.'
'Not at all,' the doctor said, shaking his head, smiling. 'It is better for him.'
Hannibal, on the day of their return, drove Will from Dulles to Shenandoah, where thin roads looped round to the heights of mountains—where spring had begun its blooming, and spatters of green sprouted from bare branches—where mist spread over valleys, between trunks of trees, through the new leaves. The sounds of the city were absent; they heard no rush of cars down I-95, no wailing of ambulances, no clatter of trains down the track. Rather, woodpeckers tapped at bark—song-birds whistled and chittered—stream fell over rock, and a waterfall's white noise drifted through the distance, hushed.
From the car, Will led Hannibal down a short, wide trail, mossy, cluttered with undergrowth—towards a vista that overlooked the steep curve of a valley. Will kept his hands in his pockets, but he looked ahead of him, outwards, eyes to the world. Mist dampened their hair, dampened their clothes; Hannibal shed his jacket and folded it over his arm.
'I want to live in a place like this,' Will said.
'No,' he said. He squinted at the valley below; somewhere above them, out of sight, a bird sang. 'I wouldn't want to be alone, not in the long run. With one or two people, maybe. … Sometimes I wonder what it'd be like to have kids. I won't; but I think about it, every once in a while.'
A curling, or a quivering, wound through Hannibal's stomach; he pursed his lips and walked onward. In a different age, he might have been a different man—he thought of hands through hair, of tall grasses, flatland, houses at swamp-side. Ahead of him, Will kicked a small rock down the trail, stood still as it skittered over the moss.
'You're frightened that they would grow to be too much like you,' Hannibal said, smoothing down the jacket over his arm, striding long to reach Will's side. 'It's a common fear; I hear it from my patients.'
'I'm not the same as your patients.'
'No,' Hannibal said, 'You aren't the same, entirely; but you aren't inhuman, either. … You would refuse to tell them stories, at night; you would feed them enough, but you would feed them poorly. Rice, beans, spaghetti. Spoil them with cheap candy bars. You would forget meetings—you would telephone half an hour before the school play, telling them, "There's something I have to do." And when you felt guilty enough, you would take them out of school for a day—take them fishing. You wouldn't apologize; you would assume that they could understand why you did it all. They would grow to resent you. That is the course of things, I gather.'
'Professional wisdom, huh,' Will said. 'Not personal.'
Mist had grown to rain—slowly, so that the awareness crept towards Hannibal. Drops fell against his shoulders, fell against his shoes, as small beads of rainwater gathered at the leather. Fog had clouded Will's glasses, and put a barrier before his eyes.
'You're frightened of too many things, Will.' Turning—with his back to the vista, his back to Will—Hannibal said, 'The rain is thickening. We should walk back. —We can stay the night here, if you would like; I can drive you to Quantico on Monday.'
Before they reached the bend of the trail that opened out to the parking lot, Will stopped; with dots of damp at his shoulders, hair limp and wet against his forehead, he stepped towards Hannibal, ambling, as if unsteady on his feet. Birds had gone quiet under the rain—all sound was pattering of raindrops, wash of breeze through the mist, leaves rustling, Will's shoes against dirt—and Will, in that quiet, mumbled 'Let me just—' He took Hannibal's face in his hands, kissed the side of his mouth, pressed rain-taste into Hannibal's lips. They walked, then, in silence, until the woodpecker—somewhere distant—began its work again.
At midnight, Hannibal woke—in darkness, first, until his eyes grew used to the black—turning, sheets shifting, to see that he was alone in his bed. Outside, rainwater sluiced through the gutters, dripped from the awnings, and wet leaves brushed against the window, leaving streaks at the glass. An indentation had been pressed into the left side of the bed; Will's glasses sat folded at the bedside table.
Hannibal found Will in the study, shirt dampened with sweat, hair ruffled. He had helped himself to Hannibal's scotch, and stood wavering by the window, scrubbing his hands over his face. At the creak of the opening door, he turned—blinked at Hannibal, squinted, sighed, ran his fingers through his hair. He had expected to be found. Hannibal knew this, so crossed the room to take his place at Will's side; and together, they looked through the window, where they saw the glint of rain on asphalt, orange beneath the street-lamps.
'The doctor in Chicago had recommended medication, hadn't he?' Hannibal asked. 'Olanzapine, fluoxetine, I presume.'
Will breathed through his nose—weak inhale, deep exhale. 'I don't want it,' he said, facing Hannibal. 'It wouldn't make a difference.'
'I know that,' Hannibal said—soothingly, as if to a child. He lifted his hand to Will's hair, slid his fingers through curls, rested his palm against Will's skull. Warm skin, hair sleep-soft; bone beneath. 'I know what you can't be rid of.'
'No—' Breaking from Hannibal, raising his shoulders, tensing— 'Stop—Stop, Hannibal—telling me what you know— You know.' With his breath, his chest rose, fell; new sweat beaded at his forehead. His pulse beat in his neck. 'You know—I know you know—what I do. How people think when they kill; how they need—to take an eighteen-year-old boy from his home and blind him, take out his tongue—'
'—Take his vision, his hearing—' Quietly, then: 'His tongue, his teeth. Shut his mind up in his body—how you must feel, isn't it, when asleep, when still, when dozing at your desk, twenty-eight hours awake. Beating proverbial fist against proverbial wall. Man in coffin, tearing his fingernails in clawing.'
From within Will, a fury burst outwards—heat roiled, twitching his brow, drawing his lips back from his teeth; he took his hands to the lapels of Hannibal's dressing gown, and he shook—his muscles flexed in his forearms, and blood rose to his cheeks. He spat— 'You—don't— You don't— You don't—'
Hannibal stood still, as if powerless—swayed with Will's tugging, his shaking. He could have snapped Will's wrists; he could have wrapped his hands at Will's throat, could have crushed; he could have wrestled Will to the floor, knocking lamps from tables, scuffing the hardwood. He could have sat on top of Will, kissed his mouth and pressed his thumbs into his eyes. If that, then blood over Will's cheeks, blood across the hardwood floor, and Will gasping, writhing beneath him—body lithe—kicking his feet, batting his fists at Hannibal's chest—sightless and convulsing.
Hannibal wouldn't; that sort of thing was for the man who coughed during Titus Andronicus, for the woman who stepped on his toes on the train—for the first chair flautist of the Baltimore Philharmonic, who ruined the work of his colleagues. Will Graham deserved a more beautiful sort of pain.
Soft as a lamb, Hannibal asked, 'What don't I?'
'—You don't feel it,' Will hissed; and all the burning, the spitting, the shaking, seemed to drain out of him—rain at the window soothed—Hannibal's hand through his hair soothed—he breathed through his teeth, and his breath slowed, and his fingers loosened at Hannibal's lapels—grasping, but with waning vigor. 'You know what I know; you don't feel it.'
'No,' Hannibal said; he spoke a touch above a whisper. Hand through Will's hair, stroking; hand at Will's cheek, lending warmth. 'I don't feel what you feel. It's selfish, perhaps. I feel on behalf of myself—myself only. … I do feel something.'
'I hate you,' Will told him; he tightened his grasp at Hannibal's lapels, but did not shake.
Yes, he meant it—meant it as much as he would if he said a different sort of phrase. His lips, red in the dim light, quivered; his hands shook. Hannibal grazed his fingers across Will's cheek, across the scrape of his stubble—smoothed his palm across the curls of Will's hair, and drew Will close. From its source, all touch unwound: Will lifted his hand to Hannibal's jaw, and Hannibal tilted Will's chin, and their mouths met—
What had gone dormant in Will broke outward, spilling—teeth, a possessive snatching at Hannibal's mouth, gasps of breath between kisses that seemed to heave, to tear at lips, at tongue—'God,' Will said, 'I meant it'—and he bit at Hannibal's bottom lip, drew blood; pain arced through Hannibal, through his heart and stomach and cock. Again: 'I meant it—' Then a kiss with tongue lapping over blood, laving at stinging lip.
Hannibal took Will to the bedroom, and he fucked him. First with Will's legs drawn up against his chest—heart near to heart, mouths grasping at kisses, blood from lip smearing across Hannibal's chin, across Will's cheeks—quick, steady thrusts, and Will arching up to meet him, to rock himself down onto Hannibal's cock—'Oh,' Will breathed, 'I want—this—I want this,' as if he had stumbled over his wanting, found it bright and blinding inside of him. Beneath Hannibal, Will shook; desperate, aching motion, eyes shut, lip curled in a snarl.
And in a snap of sudden motion, Will shifted; put his hands to Hannibal's chest and forced him backwards, falling onto the mattress, so that Will could climb onto Hannibal's lap and take Hannibal's cock in his hand and guide it into him—he sunk; he fell forwards, rolling, chest rising with shallow gasps. He pressed one hand into Hannibal's shoulder, and he took one hand to Hannibal's face—tugging at hair, yanking his head back, leaning forward to latch his teeth to Hannibal's neck. He bit—merciless; Hannibal felt it in his throat, in lungs and gut and in the knot of heat at his cock—and Hannibal jerked his hips upwards, filled Will entirely, so that Will let break a dry sob.
How Will suffered—oh, the needy clutches at his cock, the grunting, groaning; the grind of his hips against Hannibal's, the deliberate curve of his back, forcing Hannibal deeper—much more, Hannibal knew, than a bodily wanting, than a naïve submission to instinct.
Hannibal lifted himself up, took his hands to Will's sides and eased him back—splayed Will's thighs, rested him in his lap and fucked him until he shuddered, urging, helpless. Will tugged at his own cock, and he pressed his forehead against Hannibal's shoulder and cried into it, begging—and Hannibal wondered if he would kill for him, then; if Will didn't think of fingers through eyes and knives through thighs, through forearms and ribs and feet and skull.
When Will lifted his head from Hannibal's shoulder, Hannibal took Will's face in his hands—stroked his thumbs across his eyelids, around the hollows of his eyes, soothing over dark circles—a slight pressure, then, where the hardness of cheekbone gave way to soft skin—Will would have seen bright spots beneath his eyelids.
Will opened his eyes, and Hannibal looked into them, unflinching. All over from there, of course—so Will's unraveling, fast, in a final rocking downwards onto Hannibal's cock, in a shout from deep in the chest; then a spattering of come against their stomachs, and Will slumped forward, and Hannibal fucked him until he finished, too—until Will was whimpering from it, limp, fingernails cutting into Hannibal's shoulders.
'We civilized men,' Will said.
After the bedroom, the bath. Will rested in the clawfoot, hot water to his shoulders, and he rubbed a washcloth over his bruises. Hannibal stood at the vanity; he washed his lip with soap and water, dabbed on an antiseptic, placed a small bandage at the cut.
The next day, Hannibal met Jack Crawford at his office. Crawford watched his mouth as he spoke, and in a lull in conversation, he said, 'You've got a cut on your lip.'
'A little accident,' Hannibal said. Bruises, too, on his neck, above his collar; those, he had spotted with concealer.
Spring came at last to the Chesapeake—blossoms reddened, drifted from trees; sun shone, sun warmed, and birds plucked grass from the ground, curved dry stalks into nests. Hannibal invited the first flautist of the Baltimore Philharmonic to dinner—lashed him to a chair, skinned his fingers—beginning with the little fingers, ending with the thumbs. He ate his fingertips raw, chewing slowly, humming in contentedness. After the fingertips, the lips—carved from the gums with a scalpel, fried in lemon juice and eaten with basil. Hannibal saved the thymus and pancreas for the Symphony Board of Directors.
Will knew Hannibal's happiness—knew not the source, but the effects of it—the smiling, the forehead kisses, the gentle hair-stroking as Will drifted to sleep. Together, they ate what was left of the thymus and pancreas, sitting together at the kitchen island; Will said, 'You must have been buttering them up for something. The board of directors. This is amazing.'
Hannibal asked, 'How would you like to see a symphony performed?'
Beethoven's third—Eroica. Will and Hannibal sat in the dress circle, center, front, so that the sound soaked them, curled into their ears and held their bodies in thrall. There was little more beautiful than music seen living, Hannibal thought: the swell, the chestnut ripple of the violins—the shifting of shoulders beneath black jackets—the trembling hands of the conductor—Hannibal closed his eyes and felt that he was lifted, taken bodily. At the fourth movement, the new first flautist's solo—oh, Hannibal thought, sublime; for thirty seconds, the sliver of space between earth and heaven—when he opened his eyes, he felt that his lashes moistened with tears.
After the symphony—with the thrumming still in his ears, in the base of his skull, in the warmth of his stomach—Hannibal closed his front door behind them, and he dropped to his knees in the foyer, unbuttoned Will's trousers and took the head of his cock between his lips. Gently, gently—and Will quivered; Hannibal licked his tongue along the crown of his cock, laboring, lapping. What beautiful things he'd put into his mouth.
The two, sated and softened, sat on Hannibal's porch and watched the sun set, watched the horizon redden. Through the quiet, Will's mobile chimed—he looked at the screen, said, 'It's Crawford,' and answered.
When he ended the call, he turned to Hannibal, and he said, 'The Chesapeake Ripper. Again.' He rose—knelt down, again, in impulse, and touched his lips to Hannibal's lips. The sun fell past the skyline; their faces darkened in shadow. For the second time, rising— 'I need to go.'
'I understand,' Hannibal said.
From the porch, he watched Will descend the steps—watched the fall of fabric over his back, the easy motion of his hips—the last lines of red light at the curls of his hair, at the curve of his neck. Hannibal thought of the way Will's body felt beneath him, bare, sweat-slicked and writhing—the wretchedness of Will's voice; he touched his fingertips to his lip, where the wound had healed.