“Describe the room you store our first kiss in,” Will asked as his fingers were tracing a path over Hannibal’s chest.
The sky was an annoying shade of orange and it was the only thing Hannibal could see out the window. The clock on the wall read just after two in the morning. Exactly how long had they been engaging in lovemaking that night? Hannibal remembered the dinner at seven, then the drinks at eight and some reading at nine. He remembered the howling of the wolves mere minutes before eleven and that was already after Will had managed to undress them both.
“Hannibal?” Will moved his hand to cup Hannibal’s face. It was easy to detect that the man was not asleep – the beating of his heart and the way he breathed indicated as much.
Describe the room you store our first kiss in. Well…
“Would you be offended if I said it’s not bright?” Hannibal asked and, without waiting for the answer, continued, “It’s on the first floor of the palace, but very little sun gets there because the window is veiled by high trees outside.”
Will smiled at the image Hannibal produced. “Who are you hiding it from?”
“No one in particular. There is no key to the door. I can walk in anytime I want.”
“You share some rooms with mine.”
“Can’t tell I share I this one, though.”
Will turned in the bed, disentangling his body from Hannibal’s. He was facing the ceiling when he felt a hand sneak under the covers and move over his stomach.
“Describe your room for me, then,” Hannibal asked. His head was supported on his arm and he was staring at Will intensively. There was the profile of the man Hannibal wanted to gaze at forever. There was the smooth clean-shaven face with the sharp jawline and the scar on the right cheek. There were the strawberry lips, swollen from all the kissing and biting. There was the crooked slope of Will’s nose and the dense eyebrows. Finally, there were the sea green eyes which seemed to reflect Hannibal’s own post-coital bliss.
“It’s actually not a room,” Will whispered, hoping to sustain the intimate atmosphere by trying not to disturb the silence.
Hannibal’s fingers brushed the sparse hair on Will’s abdomen. “Tell me.”
Will closed his eyes and spoke, “You have to go out; have to put your head and feet out the front door.”
“And then? Once I cross the threshold?” Hannibal inquired as his hand wandered over Will’s right hip.
“You have to descend the few steps down from the porch. Until your feet touch the ground.”
“I’m touching.” Hannibal remarked without as much as blinking, which made Will chuckle very quietly and open his eyes. He simply had to look at the man whose nails were now grazing over the soft skin right under Will’s navel.
“Touch me where it matters.”
As expected, it wasn’t so easy. Evan after Will’s command, Hannibal’s hand made a show of teasing the belly and driving over the inches of smooth tanned skin until, at last, it found its way to the scar running across Will’s stomach. Will, then, covered the hand with his own palm and met Hannibal’s eyes. Wordlessly, the men agreed that, while all was forgiven, nothing was forgotten.
“Go on,” Hannibal said and pressed the hand on Will’s stomach. That time, there was no blade, there was no blood, there was little pain. That time, Will gasped in anticipation, and continued his description.
“As you’re standing, with the porch and the house left behind you, you can see the yard and the field that spreads as far as your eyes go. In the yard, just in front of you, mere meters away, there is a tree. It’s weird; it’s trunk is divided in two, with one branch being visibly inferior to the other. My dogs… The dogs loved it; would dig holes or run around it. It was their favourite spot.”
Hannibal looked out the window. He wondered if Will could find a favourite spot anywhere he went. Could he?
“It’s right there,” Will concluded, “Right by the tree. That’s where I keep the memory of our first kiss.”
Hannibal smiled. In a second, he transported himself to Wolf Trap, to the tree in the yard, to the dogs running around it and trying to dig out the intimate moment from their owner’s life. So did he. But as he was standing right there, he realised it was something not to be blemished or disturbed. That place was not to be perturbed by Hannibal’s presence. So he returned to their bedroom in the middle of the orange night when the clock struck half past two.
There, he saw Will look out the window, too. It seemed they were both trying to find something somewhere far away, when, in fact, that something had been right under their noses all along.
“Do you believe there is still something left in me to love?” Hannibal asked to Will’s and his own surprise. He hadn’t meant to put his doubts into words, let alone utter them, but there he was – in bed with the object of his greatest love, admiration and desire. And somehow, the words had just spilt.
Will rose slightly and ended up mirroring the way Hannibal lay – with an arm supporting the head and the eyes staring at the other man in bed. “I suppose I could ask you the same thing.”
“We’re conjoined…” Hannibal sighed and let his hand wander up Will’s arm. He looked away; he’d rather delight in the sight of Will’s body, despite it being obscured by the nightly orange light.
“Whatever is left in me to love… It lives within you, too.” With those words, Will moved his palm to rest upon Hannibal’s chest over the heart. Neither of them would have ever claimed that love comes from the heart nor that their hearts belonged to each other. But since Hannibal had dared asking a most unexpected question, his bodily reaction might have surprised even him. At first, the muscles of his heart twitched. As a former surgeon, Hannibal recognised the signs of fibrillation - very rapid irregular contractions, the lack of synchronism between heartbeat and pulse. Then, he felt his heart race under Will’s palm.
It was not love suddenly forming in his internal organ. It was not desire and anticipation of the shared pleasure. Nor was it fear, for Hannibal barely ever feared anything. He embraced whatever came his way and manipulated the reality to fit his own narrative. So what was his body telling him all of a sudden?
“I believed I loved someone, once,” Hannibal admitted. His voice was not tender, as one would have expected of a person revealing a most intimate detail from his life. It sounded more like confession of a crime, as if he regretted it.
“I suppose I didn’t have the right. Or rather, I lost it.”
Will’s two fingers tapped against Hannibal’s chest in tune with the man’s heartbeat. “You have every right to love me. In your- in our odd, convoluted way.”
“And so I believe I do.”
Hannibal reached for the hand resting on his heart. He laced his fingers through Will’s, then kissed every knuckle.
“So do I,” Will croaked.