Rose was reading the papers when the City Guard came knocking on her door.
"You're wanted at the Cabildo," the officer said. Rose had a moment of wild, heart-gripping fear, before he added, "Seeing as how Lieutenant Shaw said you was lookin' for a Hannibal. We've got one, Mamzelle, but he's so drunk as don't speak English and punched a white man."
If Rose hadn't been so distressed at the thought of Hannibal being drunker than she'd ever known him to be, in the Cabildo and after weeks without news, she would have paid more attention to the rest of what the constable had been saying.
This would have led her to the conclusion that the Hannibal in the custody of the New Orleans City Guard was not her Hannibal well before she faced the man in question. Said man had skin a shade lighter than hers — which was to say, much darker than Hannibal's — and eyes grey-green instead of coffee dark.
"I'm sorry," she started, "this isn't —"
The man stepped forward, his sharp, investigative, one-eyed gaze seeming to make extensive notes on her person, and said, in Ancient Greek, "Help me." Then again, this time in Latin with strange vowels, "Help me."
As far as Rose was concerned, anyone who had to ask for help in Ancient Greek or Latin instead of English or French most likely did not know enough about New Orleans to even understand why they were in jail. She made up her mind.
"This man is not Hannibal Sefton. He is, however, my cousin. Thank you for finding him. He is confused," she said, trying to convey with the last word the impression that he was rarely, if ever, let out of his room, and never in mixed company. Their colouring was similar enough that she did not think the gaoler would cry foul at her assertion.
He did not and assured her that, should Hannibal Sefton be brought in, she would be among the first to know.
"Do not speak," she told the other Hannibal.
He nodded and did not say one word until they reached her house on Rue Esplanade. She saw his jaw tighten every time they passed someone dressed as a Roman. It was Carnival and Romans had always been a popular costume.
"Do come in," she said in Ancient Greek. If she was right, it was a better language to address him in than Latin, even if she was less proficient at it. One had to make sacrifices for one's guests, after all.
He stepped through the door with a frown on his face.
She kept the table between them and the knife drawer open and within reach as she made coffee. He picked up the cup like he was afraid he would break it. He made a quickly-suppressed face as he drank.
He set down the cup carefully, more than two-thirds full. "Sefton's whereabouts are unknown, I take it."
"You know Hannibal?" That was not a possibility that Rose had considered.
He raised an eyebrow at her — maybe two; she couldn't tell with the eye patch.
"My Hannibal," she amended. Saying those two words together, in that order, gave her a thrill that took her entirely by surprise. Her Hannibal, hers and Ben’s.
"Until recently, I considered him a friend," the other Hannibal said. He dragged his finger along the edge of the cup, once, twice.
"What changed?" Rose remained standing, leaning back against the kitchen counter. She drank her coffee in tiny sips. It was hotter than she usually took it, scalding her tongue so she couldn't taste it, hot enough to burn if thrown at a face.
"You are Rose Vitrac?" That was not an answer, but she still nodded. "Sefton has spoken of you," his eye softened, "often and fondly."
Rose's heart pressed against her ribs, almost painfully, for a moment. She said, "He has not spoken of you."
It was hardly surprising, she reflected. Had he spoken of his acquaintance with a man two thousand years dead, at best no one would have taken him seriously. She did not want to consider what the worst would have been but remembered the madhouse in Mexico still and how it had seemed to her that those who were not mad when they went in were mad when they came out, if they ever came out at all.
She should be more surprised about the identity of the man in her house, she knew, but whatever power made it so he could be there and had met her Hannibal made it altogether too easy for her to accept who he was.
"I did not think he would. I do not speak of him either." He sighed and propped his chin on his hand. "He has shown me the world you live in. He took me to the opera," he laid too much emphasis on the second syllable. "I told him it was very loud and he did not speak to me for weeks. Two months ago, he wrote me papers to prove that I am free." His mouth twisted in an ugly shape. "I did not like the idea that that was something that would ever need proving. I told him so and have not seen him since."
She could tell from the way he tipped his head that he was not telling her all of the facts.
"These papers," she asked, "do you have them with you?"
"I do not," he said and added, presumably in reaction to the expression of worry on her face, "I can get them easily enough, if that would be best."
"It would," Rose said. "We were lucky that they did not ask for them when I freed you from the Cabildo."
He stood and Rose forced herself not to tighten her grip on her cup. He was taller than Rose by a couple of inches. Objectively, she knew that also made him taller than her Hannibal, but with whipcord muscles replacing too-thin limbs, and without them side by side, it did not appear that way. He walked slowly to the door into the front room and closed it.
This time, Rose's knuckles did go bone-white.
He counted under his breath, eye closed and hand on the handle. On the count of fifteen — on Rose's count of fifteen, at least —, he opened the door again.
Beyond the door was not Rose's front room, but The Library, definite article and capital letters dropping themselves fully-fledged into her brain.
He stepped through the door. It looked briefly like he was struggling against an invisible barrier to get in.
The door closed and Rose was left with the feeling of something momentous having happened, but she knew not what. Her head was reeling and she decided to sit down in the front room and read for a while. She picked up the newspaper again and had a good laugh at the letter calling Rillieux a scammer and a thief, because, really, one would have to be a great fool to believe that an original Silenus manuscript had resurfaced in New Orleans after centuries of nonexistence.
The door to the kitchen opened.
Rose looked up from her book to see Hannibal Barca of Carthage. He held out his freedom papers to her.
"Keep them on your person at all times," Rose told him.
He did not like it, but he did as she said, folding the paper and tucking them inside his shirt, against his skin. "You are reading." She couldn't tell the tone of his voice. "This is a book, yes?"
"Yes." She realised the underlying question, the question of book-lovers everywhere. "Carl Friedrich Gauss' Disquisitiones Arithmeticae." She held it out to him. She hoped he would not hold the fact that it was written in Latin against it.
"I have never asked before," he said, taking the book from her hand, careful not to touch her — which she was grateful for —, "but how are they made?" He flipped through the book, turning the pages like he feared they would turn to dust between his fingers. "This is not vellum."
"No, it is paper. I can show you how it's made if you would like me to." She stood up.
His eye lit up. "I would like that very much."
Rose was currently using the study for her experiments since she needed the ceiling space for the alembic. She was attempting to improve upon the standard recipe for gunpowder, more as a thought experiment than anything else, but she was sure that if she succeeded, Shaw would appreciate it. Hannibal reached out a hand to touch her newest mix.
"Do not do that," she told him.
He snatched his hand back, fingers tipped grey. "Is this poison?"
"Not as such, but I still would not eat it. Its true danger lies elsewhere." Rose showed him the paper paste.
"Where does its danger lie?" He leaned over the basin. "This is wood?"
"It is wood, chipped and left to soak. The powder's danger is..." Rose stopped herself, before she told him what it did and how. She did not think such knowledge should be brought back in time. "It is unknown to Carthage, unknown to Rome and time seems a fragile thing when you are here."
He took one look at her face and said, "Ah. It is a weapon of war, then. If you fear that I will use it to march on Rome, you needn't." His voice grew sad and he tipped his head so that he was no longer looking at her. "Zama has come and gone and while my city was once great and I am Suffete, I do not think we will rise again to threaten Rome."
She touched his bare forearm lightly with her hand. "If it is any reassurance, you will forever be Rome's worst nightmare."
He had looked up sharply when she had touched him, muscles tensing under her fingers and now he relaxed, but she could tell he was holding back a sigh.
"Rome wins and Carthage burns. I do not know if it is as reassuring a truth as I would like it to be, but I thank you nonetheless," he said. He took his arm away from her. "I have not been entirely honest with you. Sefton is my friend and I have not seen him for far too long, but that is not solely why I am here." He paused, searching for words. "It is better if I show you."
He went through the same motions he had earlier, this time on the study door, and it opened into The Library. He held out his hand to her. She took it, getting gunpowder on the sleeve of her dress where it brushed against his fingers.
They stepped through the Threshold together, pressure popping in Rose's ears and the air pressing against her face as if trying to keep her out.
"It has been doing that, recently," he told her, "and I think I know why. I do not know how it works, but inside this Library is every book ever written, perhaps even ever dreamt of." He let go of her hand to touch the spines of the nearby books, trailing grey stains on worn leather, until he reached an empty slot. "As you can see, one of them is missing."
The label under his hand flashed a complicated colour code and Rose suddenly knew, as surely as if she had read it in a book, that the last person to have held this book in The Library had been Hannibal Sefton, currently of New Orleans. Of course she did. She knew how to read the colours, didn't she? If she didn't, she wouldn't be here. So what if she didn't know what the colours meant back in her home of New Orleans; she wasn't in New Orleans right now, was she?
She staggered and he caught her arm, stopping her fall. "This too shall pass."
There were fauteuils around a low table three rows of bookshelves down and when she sat down into one of them they were the most comfortable things she'd ever sat in. She wanted nothing more than to never get up again and just read for the rest of eternity.
She breathed in deep.
She breathed again.
She breathed a third time and her thoughts settled inside her brain.
"This place is amazing." Every book ever written, oh, the things she could learn!
"Yes." The wonder in his voice matched the one in her heart.
She got up and marched to the nearest bookshelf. The book was in Sanskrit and she could read it. The one after that was in Demotic and she could read that, too. She did not question this, although she knew she should have. She put it back on the shelf. She went back to the missing book. She felt as if she already knew what it was and her suspicions were confirmed when she touched the label.
It was indeed Silenus' biography of the man who now stood in front of her.
"I know who owns the book now," she said, "but I do not know how it came to be in their possession." It did not take much power of deduction to infer it, but she did not want to be right, not about this.
"We should go, then, and find it," he said. His tone told her everything she needed to know. He was not a man who would show kindness to one who had knowingly wronged him, even if that someone had once been a friend. It was a harsh life, but he was a harsh man. His life, perhaps, would have been harsh anyway. For all the talk of the might of Rome, no one ever talked of its kindness.
She nodded and regretfully set down the book of Demotic on the fauteuil. It had been fascinating, from what little of it she'd read while turning pages and marvelling at her new-found mastery of the language. He offered her his arm, as though they were going to the opera, and she took it before stepping through the Threshold.
The door all but slammed behind her and she knew without anyone telling her that they would not be able to return without the missing book.
She held in her hands the fate of the world. If she did not find the book, she would be unable to return him to his proper time and the consequences would be unimaginable. Or perhaps not. It was not as though she was helping him march on Rome. Even if there were no consequences for History — a fact she very much doubted — she was still condemning him to a life in a world where he did not speak the language, knew no one and people thought him lesser based on the colour of his skin. A world where he would not know which door to enter a house by, a world that grated at her, even if she'd been born to it.
"Stay here," she told him. She went and fetched Baby John from his crib. Gabriel was away at the hotel and Zizi-Marie was in her father's upholstering shop, learning his trade. Olympe would take care of Baby John until Rose came back and if Rose did not come back, she would take care of him until Ben did. Rose hoped it would not come to that.
She handed Hannibal her son as she locked the door. He held the infant carefully, hands sure and something like sadness in the bend of his neck.
"I had a son once," he told her, handing her own son back, voice small and low enough that she was not entirely sure she had heard him right or at all.
"What happened?" They walked down the street, towards the wharf and Olympe's house.
He stepped in front of her, so she could not see his face. She did not need to. In that moment, he was no longer a general, or a Suffete, or the man who had almost brought Rome to its knees. He was a father without a child and her heart broke for him. She could not — would not — imagine losing Baby John.
They left baby John with Paul Corbier and his daughter, Olympe being out on her job as a voodooienne. She did not have to tell Hannibal to stay silent for him to not say anything, and look instead at the vévés on the walls. He paid special attention to Maman Brigitte's, but Rose did not think it was because he was wondering why anyone would call on Maman Brigitte inside their own home. She trusted Olympe to know what she was doing.
They left the house behind them to move into the French town. Once again, Rose was grateful for Mardi Gras, that his clothing didn't contrast much with others'.
Arriving at the house they needed to go to, she opened her mouth and he rolled his eye at her. "I must not speak, for fear I will give away the situation."
He did not speak as they were ushered into the drawing room — they were coloured, after all, even if libres, and they were calling on a white man — nor as they were served tea while Rose explained the situation to their host. He did not even start drinking until she had.
Before anything else, Rose wanted to make sure Rillieux had the book she was looking for.
Then Hannibal did speak, but did not get very far before they were both claimed by sleep. She should have known better than to trust a white man.
Rose woke up sprawled on a stone-cold floor. Both Hannibals were with her. Her Hannibal was unconscious. The other was the only one of them who was restrained. Granted, there was only one pair of shackles in the room and he was most likely the most dangerous of the three of them, but that did not stop Rose from being at least somewhat offended. She was dangerous too and more fool anyone who thought that she was not.
She rose and tried to shake her Hannibal awake, to no avail. She did not think that he had been dosed with laudanum as he had none of the symptoms, and if he had been he would surely be dead by now.
"Have you tried kissing him? This is how it works in your stories, yes?" He rattled his chains.
She shook her head at him. "That is not how it works. The prince kisses the damsel, not the princess the damseau." The word was old-fashioned, strange and out-of-place, made more so by being dropped into Ancient Greek.
"I always thought of it as the rescuer kissing the rescued." He braced himself against the wall, pulling on the chains. "Certainly, if someone had rescued me at Zama, I would have gladly let them kiss me."
Rose moved closer and removed the lock picks she kept in her hair, hidden under her tignon. She started working on the shackles' cuff. "There was no one who could have rescued you at Zama, except perhaps Scipio himself."
He angled himself to give her better access. She could tell he was trying not to touch her, but she was still closer to him than she had been to any man that wasn't her husband or her Hannibal in a very long time. His voice was soft and he was smiling when he said, "I do not see how that disproves my point."
Rose almost laughed to see how serious he looked, but one of her picks broke inside the lock.
"Stop. Save yourself," he said.
"And if tomorrow the world ends because you did not meet Scipio in Ephesus? What then?" She did not want to think about it, but he needed to.
His smile shone like the sun after a too-long rainy season and there was joy in the curl of his voice. "I meet Scipio again?"
"Is that all you can think of? She sat back on her heels. She used a hairpin to jiggle loose the broken pick. If only her Hannibal was awake – he was a better lock-picker than she.
"I cannot feel my hands, I cannot prove that I am free and I do not speak the language of this place, where such a thing is necessary, so yes, it is the only thing I can think of. Forgive me if I would like to entertain the notion that I will leave this place alive and free." His voice was strained as he let back in all the pain he'd held back for what she could only assume was her sake. "Save yourself and come back to save us. I shall endeavour not to die until you return and I can meet Scipio in Ephesus."
She did not like to leave both of them here, one of them unconscious and the other with hands turning grey, but she did not have much of a choice. She could not open the shackles and she could not carry her Hannibal and run at the same time.
She made short work of the lock on the soupirail and pushed herself off Barca to reach the street through it. She tried not to think of the strain her weight put on his shoulders and wrists.
Once on the street, she rearranged her dress and tignon, strange though it felt without her picks, but she had hope that her Hannibal would wake up while she was gone and use them to free the other. She headed for the Cabildo.
Thankfully, Lieutenant Shaw was in. She had rarely been so glad to see the harsh planes of his face. Ben had once told her Abishag Shaw reminded him of the gargoyles on Notre-Dame and, while Rose could see the resemblance, she did not think they smelled half as bad. She explained the situation to him — omitting, of course, the presence of a man two thousand years dead.
Shaw raised an eyebrow at her. Had she been Ben, he might have spat. He probably did not believe her to be telling him the whole truth, but he did believe her enough to shoulder his rifle and follow her out into the street.
"This friend of yers," with the way he pronounced 'friend', there was no way he believed her, "that wouldn't be yore pal Sefton, would it? 'Cause I can't think of any slave stealer blind enough to think they could turn a profit on him."
"My friend had his freedom papers taken," she repeated. "My pal Sefton does not need freedom papers."
He tipped his head at her and they spent the rest of the way in silence.
Rose led Shaw towards the back of the house, showing him the soupirail she'd escaped out of. Shaw took one look in and said, "That is yore pal Sefton. There ain't anybody else down there."
Hannibal's face appeared in the opening. "They took him. Athene, I think they know."
"Ye're bleeding," Shaw said. "Seems to me as there being a white man held against his will in this here house, somethin' ought to be done. An' I s'pose if there be gens de couleur libres," his pronunciation of the French was perfect and utterly at odds with his appearance and demeanour, "without them papers held also that ought to be expected from these kind of folks, but there'd be no way to prove they ain't runaways."
"We don't have time," Hannibal hissed as Shaw walked very deliberately towards the front of the house, turning his back on Rose. She knew what Shaw was doing and she thanked him for it. She did not like to make him chose between justice and the law. "I think they're going to try to —" Hannibal stopped and blinked at her, pupils too wide. "How much do you know?"
"Enough," she told him. She crouched next to the soupirail. She would not normally have said this, but she did not think him in his right mind. "Catch me."
She jumped and he caught her. Then they crumpled to the ground, as his shaking limbs could not support her weight. She did not weigh that much more than him and sometimes less, but his limbs did not look strong enough to support him, right now. She took a brief moment to appreciate the feel of his body against hers, then got up and pulled him to his feet. His wrists were smooth. He had not been shackled. Someone else had been then, before the other Hannibal. The lock was too well-worn for it to be otherwise. She wished it were a surprise, but the Rillieux were slave-owners, and it was not.
"They went this way," he said and she followed him. The basement was bigger than she had thought it would be. It contained, among other things, a library. That was not as unexpected as Rose would have liked it to be. Here too Silenus' biography was missing.
"I must tell you again that I do not understand you," said someone in Ancient Greek.
Another voice, this time in French. "You're making a mess of it. Let me do it. He'll tell us about the book."
There was the crack of a whip as Rose entered the room, her Hannibal at her back. The other Hannibal looked up from where he was hanging on the wall, hastily shackled, then quickly bent his head again. The other two men in the room had not seen them and he did not want to alert them.
He need not have bothered.
Her Hannibal tackled the brother on the left while she herself hit the one on the right with Balzac’s Les Chouans, which was the only thing Les Chouans was good for, anyway. Then she turned around and hit the other man over the head as her Hannibal looked to be passed out. She checked his pulse. The exertion had tired him, but he still reacted to her touch. Whatever it was that they had given him, it was quite powerful.
She left him where he was, pushing one of the Rillieux brothers off him, before going to free the other Hannibal. He fell off the wall and she caught him, taking a step back under the weight. His blood stuck to her dress.
"Are you harmed?" As soon as the words left her mouth, she knew it was not a very smart question, for all that it was polite.
"I can feel my hands," he said, and that was not an answer. He stepped away from her. "I have had worse." Here, his hand went to his hip, almost unconsciously, covering the patchwork of scars there. Even so, he had scars enough that Rose believed him and he had lost his eyepatch. He staggered and clung to the wall for support.
"If you have had worse," she told him, "you really should know better than to go walking around with blood loss. It is bad enough that I have to rescue you from a dungeon, I should not also have to rescue you from yourself."
"You should be careful when rescuing people," he said. "One day one of them might insist that as their rescuer you ought to kiss them."
Rose's blood froze in her veins. His face darkened in response and she knew he had meant nothing by it except distracting himself from the pain. If he said anything, she did not know what she would do and was grateful not to have to find out. He stayed silent and still, leaving her the option of running if she wanted to. She took a deep breath and said, "I am not Scipio." She took another breath and reached out to him. "And this is not Ephesus."
He let go of the wall and she let him lean on her. She raised an eyebrow at him and he blinked. Once, it might have been hard to tell if he was perhaps winking instead, but with his eye uncovered, the distinction was easy to make.
She kissed him.
He broke the kiss. "I think I'll pass out now."
Her Hannibal caught his other side when he did. In his hand, he held the missing book, grabbed off a table nearby. She nodded at him.
That was how Shaw found them. He took one look at the man bleeding in her arms, the shackles on the wall and the two white men unconscious on the floor and said, "Seems to me you'll be a valuable witness with what happened here, Maestro. Iffn you'll be kind enough to follow me to the Cabildo?"
Hannibal and Shaw went, leaving Rose to make her way alone to Olympe's house.
"Aunt Rose!" That was Gabriel. His face brightened when he saw her, but he soon dropped the smile. "Who's this? Is he okay?"
"He is a friend," Rose said, taking care to put in her words the inflection that would convey that he was a runaway. Without his papers — forgeries though they may have been —, he might as well have been. The man who almost marched on Rome was in New Orleans no more than an unclaimed piece of property.
Gabriel jumped down onto the street to help her carry him inside. They laid him on a bed and Gabriel went to fetch Olympe. Hannibal was feverish and Rose suddenly remembered how smallpox had killed more in the New World than guns. There were sure to be diseases in New Orleans that had been unknown, even unborn, two thousand years ago.
Olympe touched Rose's shoulder lightly. Rose turned to her and Olympe said, "He'll live." There was sweat clinging to Olympe's skin and the flicker of the voodoo dance was still in her eyes. "Baron Samedi says it is nowhere near his time."
Rose chose to forgo asking how Baron Samedi knew. He was Baron Samedi and that was enough for Olympe, so it would have to be enough for Rose.
"Here," Olympe said and handed Rose a plate of gumbo. "You should eat." She looked at Rose again. "Have you eaten at all since this morning?"
Rose had not had time.
"What 'bout yesterday?"
Rose didn't think she had, but it was so difficult to tell, between all the experiments and the books. She took the plate from Olympe. "Thank you."
"Just make sure you eat all of it," Olympe said. "Let me know when he wakes up and I'll send Gabriel with more food, alright?"
Rose nodded. She ate part of the gumbo, but there was too much for her. She set the rest of the plate aside and waited.
She then must have fallen asleep, because she woke up when someone was trying to take the gumbo from the bedside table. "It is better hot," she told him.
He froze, like a child caught with his hand in the bag. He tried a smile. "I wanted to make sure the plate wouldn't fall. Alright," he added soon after, "I was hungry and it smelled good. What is it?"
"Gumbo," Rose's Hannibal said from the doorway. "Olympe said I'd find you here."
"Are you alright?" It was an incongruous question for the other Hannibal to ask. "I did not know you were sick enough to warrant taking opium. You should have said something."
"I did not want to bother you. You had other things to think about, such as Rome." Hannibal's smile was kind and amused, like two old friends sharing a joke known only to themselves.
The other Hannibal's hand tightened on his plate, to the point of white knuckles. "Why does everything always come back to Rome? I had hoped that here at least I would be free of it, the way I am free of Carthage."
Rose hugged him. She was the closest and it made more sense for her to do it. He needed it badly enough that he was doing it to himself. He stiffened in her arms and his hand moved for a knife that wasn't there. Eventually, he relaxed.
That was when Rose's Hannibal laid a hand on his exposed shoulder. "I am sorry. I did not think you would care."
"Then you are a fool, and I am hungry." Hannibal left to fetch Olympe and the man in Rose's arms sighed. "I have been dead two thousand years and they tell me Carthage burned and I do not care." His laugh was short, bitter and harsh. She thought he might have been crying.
"They tell you you meet Scipio again, too," Rose said.
"Ha," he said and spoke no more.
Rose let go. He caught her arm. "Thank you."
He was asleep again soon after. It was odd to see his face so relaxed. She hadn't thought of him as tense, but now that the tension had gone, she realised that of course he must have been. He did not speak the language and could not prove that he was free, had had no idea such a thing would be necessary and who knew what other dangers he did not know about prowled the shady side of the street?
He looked younger, like this, and she wondered if perhaps he had been lying when he had told her Zama had come and gone. But it had to have. How else would he know the name? Had Hannibal told him? If so, she didn't think he would have lost. He was too proud and hated Rome too much not to change History.
Rose's head started to ache. She thought she understood now why the Library was so reticent to let books out of its grasp.
He was sombre again when he woke up.
"I suppose I really must be going back to Carthage. We are expecting word from Rome." His words had enough of an edge for Rose to know he expected no more kindness from Rome then than he had ever been shown before.
Rose knew what word was coming from Rome. The word was death, but Hannibal would turn it to exile.
"Stay. The Library returns you when you left," she said, the knowledge inside her mind since that first visit. " It would not do to return to Carthage bleeding and hurt." She did not say anything about how much more difficult it would make his flight if he did not stay. That was not a burden she would willingly lay on him.
He shook his head. "The Library returns you as you left. I will be as hale and healthy as I was when I left Carthage. Much good," his mouth twisted, "it will do me." She did not think anything showed on her face, but he still added, "I know what Rome wants. It is what Rome always wants. They would have me dead so they no longer have to fear me." His smile grew predatory as he got to his feet. "I will not give them the satisfaction. Besides, I have a date in Ephesus." Here, his smile was soft.
He staggered and she caught him. She did not say anything. There was nothing she could say that he did not already know. Instead, she picked up the book and put her hand on the door handle. His hand covered hers and the door opened into the Library. Once inside, his shirt was still bloody but the flesh beneath it was whole.
Rose touched the unmarred flesh. "What would happen if you died outside of your own time?"
"I do not know," he said, testing his shoulder, "nor do I wish to find out."
That was, Rose supposed, more than fair enough. "Nor I."
He smiled and she knew he could tell she was lying. She did want to know, but not if it would cost him his life and her the world she lived in, this world with Ben and Hannibal — her Hannibal — in it.
"Farewell," he said and walked out the door into the midday sun over a city by the sea, long ago and half a world away. The light was bright, Carthage was beautiful and Rose did not have a chance to say goodbye.
Rose walked back into Olympe's house to find her Hannibal sitting on the bed and coughing.
"Come," she said to him, "there is a perfectly serviceable bedroom at the house."
They walked in silence until they reached the end of the Rue Esplanade.
"Why did you kiss him, Athene?"
"For science," she told him. It was at least partly true.
"And what is the conclusion of your experiment?"
Rose sniffed. "That the fall of Carthage is a greater tragedy than I ever gave it credit for." When they reached the door, she added, "And that I do not think Ben will mind if I tell him 'I kissed Hannibal'."
"He will think you are talking about me." Hannibal's face was covered in dappled shadows from the nearby oak tree and his expression was unreadable.
"Yes. That is why I think he will not mind."
Rose opened the door and Hannibal followed her in.