Hannibal was drawing at his desk. Will recognized that scene, but he stood there silently as Hannibal explained it to him. He watched as Hannibal’s pencil traced the outlines of Patroclus’ unconscious face, almost loving in his attentions to the details.
“Whenever he’s mentioned in The Illiad, Patroclus seems to be defined by his empathy,” said Hannibal, eyes fixed to the page. Will found he also couldn’t look away.
“He became Achilles on the field of war.” He inhaled, the smells of firewood and graphite and Hannibal’s expensive aftershave flooding his senses. “He died for him there, wearing his armor.” But Hannibal didn’t want Will to die. He was sure of that, now. He just wanted Will to abandon himself.
“Hiding and revealing identity is a constant theme throughout the Greek epics.” No, of course Hannibal didn’t think of it in terms of abandonment. Of course he just wanted Will to reveal himself. He thought he knew who Will really was.
“As are battle-tested friendships.” Will wasn’t sure where he was going with this. What this was. He wasn’t sure Hannibal didn’t know who he was, after all.
Hannibal answered swiftly. “Achilles wished all Greeks would die, so that he and Patroclus could conquer Troy alone. Took divine intervention to bring them down.”
Will was struck by the romance of it. Hannibal truly believed that they could conquer everything, the two of them. Be with me. Together we will live forever. “This isn’t sustainable,” he argued, but his voice was already breaking down; he couldn’t convince himself. He turned his body away from Hannibal to face the fireplace, to gain some distance. “We’re going to get caught.” Not ‘you,’ but ‘we,’ because Will couldn’t deceive himself into thinking it wasn’t the two of them anymore.
He heard the soft thwack of Hannibal’s pencil hitting the table, and felt Hannibal rise, Hannibal’s presence radiating heat against his back. He closed his eyes, but the light of the fire still wavered orange and gold behind his eyelids.
“Jack already suspects you killed Freddie Lounds,” said Hannibal, warm breath fanning the back of Will’s neck, making his skin tingle alarmingly. Will swallowed as he felt Hannibal’s hands on his shoulders, turning him around to face him.
He looked up into Hannibal’s expectant face and felt something inside him untether from all those ideals he’d knotted himself to for so long. With no anchor weighing him down for the moment, he couldn’t stop himself from reaching out, fingers slipping underneath the silky knot of Hannibal’s tie to draw him closer.
Hannibal didn’t resist, just met Will halfway, hands leaving Will’s shoulders to grip the back of his head so that he could tilt Will’s face into the kiss. His other hand caressed Will’s cheek, his ear, his neck, long fingers pressing lightly into flesh as if Hannibal wanted to make his mark there. Will sighed into his mouth and met his searching eyes as they kissed and knew that he was utterly defeated, and didn’t even care because this felt better than anything ever had.
When they parted, it was only for lack of breath. Will hung onto Hannibal, fingers clutching his tie and his waist coat, and took in gulps upon gulps of air. Hannibal’s hands stroked up and down his back, steady and soothing.
Will lay his head against Hannibal’s chest. The scent of Hannibal’s aftershave was so strong he felt intoxicated, so drunk on it that he wouldn’t be surprised if his feet failed to keep him up.
“Freddie Lounds is alive.”
There. He’d said it. At the worst possible moment, but he’d said it. Hannibal froze for a second, his hands still warm on Will’s back.
“They know,” was all Hannibal said, in a voice that didn’t give away any of the emotions he might’ve been feeling.
“They know,” Will agreed. His chest ached. He should let go of Hannibal now, shouldn’t still be standing in Hannibal’s arms, smelling his aftershave and taking comfort in the warmth of his body. He didn’t move, and after a while, Hannibal’s hands trailed up to curl into his hair.
“You’ve been a very naughty boy, Will.”
It was so out of the realm of Will’s expectations that he couldn’t prevent the hysterical giggle that erupted from him. Hannibal just continued to hold him, hands stroking through his hair.
After a while, his laughter subsided. Will forced himself to step back. “So,” he said, smiling ruefully at Hannibal, attempting a brave front. “Going to punish me now?”
Hannibal blinked slowly, as if Will had asked him what wine he thought would go well with dinner. “No,” he said. Another surprise. “At least, not at the moment. I’m intrigued as to why you chose to divulge this to me now.” Still in that careful, measured tone.
Will rubbed his eyes. “I thought you said you wouldn’t punish me,” he mumbled tiredly. He blinked up at Hannibal. “Isn’t it obvious?”
Hannibal stared at him for a few silent seconds. Then a smile crept onto his face. He stepped forward and pulled Will, unresisting, back into his arms. “I forgive you, Will. Disappear with me. Before we get caught.”
Will released a shuddering breath. “When?” he asked, though that was irrelevant; he already knew what his answer would be.
“Tonight. Feed your dogs, leave a note for Alana and never see her or Jack again. Almost polite.”
Will angled his chin up to kiss Hannibal again, tongue stroking against Hannibal’s, tasting the sincerity of his words. He pressed his forehead to Hannibal’s when the kiss ended.
“Okay,” he said in a small voice. “I’ll disappear with you. Tonight.”