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Vide Cor Meum (See My Heart)

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In the cool shadows of the opera box, Hannibal leans in close to Will, whispering a whimsical translation of Vide Cor Meum as the opera unfolds on the stage below them.

“‘Joy is converted to bitterest tears,’” Hannibal recites, and Will feels the tickle of hot breath against the shell of his ear.

Despite Hannibal’s assistance, Will is not entire sure that he understands what is happening on the stage below, or even what the opera is fundamentally about. The face of the woman singing has been painted a bright white, and she is dressed all in brilliant whites, save for a red slash around her waist and a crimson bouquet that she holds near her face.

Will supposes that she is meant to be dead, but no corpse - not even in Hannibal’s finest tableaus - has ever looked so fresh and clean.

A horned demon, perhaps the Devil himself, crouches among the other singers. He is painted, too, his skin the dull white of maggots, and now he straightens and closes upon the dead woman, and sings.    

“‘And thinking of him, sweet sleep overcame me,’” the Devil says, and Will watches more closely now.

“You’re changing the pronouns,” he accuses, but Hannibal does not respond.

“‘I am your master,’” he translates, and Will snorts at the absurdity of hearing Hannibal speak such words to him, even if he is only repeating the lyrics.

He moves his head slightly and looks in Hannibal’s direction, seeing from the corner of his eye the slant of Hannibal’s teeth and the movement of his lips. There is a hint of a smile there, not so much in the curve of the lips as in the shape of the lines around them, so Will knows that Hannibal thinks it is funny, too.

“‘See your heart. And eat of this burning heart. Your heart.’”

 

Will feels his own heart begin to beat more quickly, inspired by the performance of the Devil and the dead woman below, and of the sound of Hannibal’s voice, soft and low, so very close.

The chorus sings, and Hannibal says, “‘He is trembling,” and it’s true; Will feels himself begin to shake.

“‘Obediently, he eats,’” Hannibal breathes, and Will’s hand finds his wrist and grips it, hard. “‘Weeping, I saw him then depart from me.’

“The man in the box to our left is an agent of the police,” Hannibal tells him, in the same low voice, but absent now of any passion. “I believe that he’s recognized us.”

Will does not look in the direction of the man. “We need to run,” Will says.

“No.”

And then, his words coming a beat behind those of the singers, “I am in peace.

“My heart.

“I am in peace.

“See my heart.”

Hannibal shifts his body away from Will, who turns his own head to meet his eyes. Hannibal says, “He will leave his box just before the intermission starts, and will attempt to corner us here before we can join the crowd. As soon as the lights come up you close our curtains. I’ll take him at the door; we can be rid of the problem before the second act begins.”

Will looks towards the officer now, directly, though he feels Hannibal’s outraged agitation that he should do something so foolish. The man meets his eyes easily, without any pretext.

“You’re wrong,” he says to Hannibal. “This one has some common fucking sense. He’s not going to come near us by himself, and he’s already called in reinforcements.  

“He’ll be too smart to try to tail us alone, but we need to go now.”

Hannibal is reluctant, still - resistant of the idea of leaving before the opera has finished and reluctant to leave alive a man who can obviously describe them to others, despite all the efforts that they have made to alter their appearances - but when Will takes him by the hand he becomes more accommodating; Will has found, to his great wonderment, that at his touch Hannibal is as though putty in his hands. It is a knowledge that brings with it a quiet sense of power.

Now, he allows Will to lead him down the stairs and away from the opera house.

When they make it back to their apartment, Will begins to pack at once, and Hannibal joins him, apparently having conceded to himself that Will is right and that every cop in the city will be on the lookout for them within the hour, if they are not already. It does not take very long; most of their important documents and the possessions that they do not care to lose are in a bag in the hall closet already, waiting just in case.

Will has no intention of letting Hannibal leave his sight; the fear that he might be taken - that Will might not be able to prevent his being taken - is huge in him, and growing by the moment. They walk down to the car together.

The limp that Hannibal acquired after the fall, the effect of a broken ankle that did not heal exactly right, is more noticeable under weight of his garment bag and suitcase.

They pass, unmolested, through the walls of the ancient city and into the surrounding, more contemporary, urban sprawl, but Will can sense that those who would pursue them are only a step or two aside.

He has come to trust his instincts in such things, in much the same way as he has come to trust Hannibal.

This is not the first time that they have fled in this manner, nor will it be the last. Looking out the window as the city gives way to farmland and vineyards, Will wonders how long this can really last - if they will be free a year from now or a month or even a day.

It might all come crashing down within the next hour, Will knows perfectly well.

His nerves, which had been so steady as they made their escape, fail him now; he begins to tremble again.

Hannibal’s hand is on his knee.

Will takes it in his own hand and squeezes it fiercely, and knows, with a sudden reassuring certainty, that nothing short of death will separate them.