"(Anywhere I go you go, my dear;
and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling)"
-E.E. Cummings, I Carry Your Heart With Me
Midnight was too far gone when Hannibal stirred in his sleep, waking, feeling the tight heat of the room as a physical weight. Nighttime normally meant freezing temperatures, but the last few had been unforgiving from a ruthless heatwave that had swept the country. The cheap store-bought fan buzzed on the bedside table. The Peruvian dry season was at its peak, so the open windows allowed no ventilation and would welcome mosquitos if it weren't for the nets shielding them, air thick with insects, and desperately humid, but not yet unbearable. Will's thigh shifted from it's position on his, the skin-on-skin contact sticky, the rest of him sprawled diagonally on top of the sheets, stark naked and halfway to properly snoring. Listless and unashamed, now.
He almost always slept on his front to avoid sleep paralysis, making the curve of his back an arch of a harp or a wave. If Hannibal strained his eyes a little, he could see the notches of his spine. He wanted to run a hand down them.
Breathing laboured in the depths of slumber, Will's face was turned toward Hannibal but smushed into the pillow. In the semi-dark of the room, Hannibal settled to watch his face drenched in shadows, disappointed that he couldn't make out his features until his eyes had properly adjusted to the dark. Then, Will abruptly sniffed a laugh, his voice husky: "Creep."
"Forgive me." Hannibal smiled despite himself. Will's narrowed eyes fluttered closed again.
"Hmm." He offered, stretching himself, and pushing his arms further underneath his pillow. Hannibal accepted it as an invitation, and reached out to touch the back of his knuckles down the backs of Will's ribs, down to press his fingertips into the hollows of his spine. Will sighed.
They settled in Cusco, albeit during the rainy season, and had yet to become restless enough to relocate. Within a few months, Hannibal had opened a modest but eclectic restaurant on the outskirts of the city by San Blas, in a property that had previously been a deli café. It overlooked the vast fields of beige grassland and crumbling dirt warmed by the sun. Only, no one could see out of the windows.
In fact, no one could see at all.
The customers had to book reservations weeks in advance- interest was high, and the venue was intimate. On arrival, they're belongings would be taken, orders placed, and they'd be led into the pitch blackness of the dining room. They'd eat in the dark, waitered on by blind people, and dine on Hannibal's finest cooking of French dishes, or his innovative take on local cuisine. He was the only cook regardless of growing demand, but used to cooking for a large sum from his parties back in Baltimore. More than able to work under pressure, in fact, he thrived on it.
No one would know of his status as the chef, for he'd forbid their faces to be shown in publishings, and their identities threatening to be outed. Their staff only knew them by voice. Anyone who found out, would be served the next day.
As he cooked, smells teeming in the air, Will sat at the far end of the kitchen, away from the sweltering heat of the oven tops, and watched the infra-red monitors. Most of the time, Hannibal would make him one of his favourite dishes, or he'd steal handfuls of cherry-like camu camu fruits to eat and throw them up in the air to catch them in his mouth. Occasionally he'd try to throw them at Hannibal in a jovial bid for attention, but he'd always catch them midair and ruin the fun: "Rewarding bad behaviour with positive reinforcement only encourages it, Will. I'm not about to encourage you."
"Murder isn't bad behaviour?"
"You're certainly warranting the act."
"Eat me. Oh wait no, you actually might."
To both sate his boredom, and ameliorate Hannibal's irritation, Will had taken to doing foreign crossword puzzles, in the back of the same newspapers that announced more mysterious disappearances, and unusual deaths.
Will, predictably, was also the test subject for new meals Hannibal had in mind. They often ate Andean classics, refined and aggrandised to suit Hannibal's tastes. His recreation of Arroz con Pato was to die for. It was anything, from anticuchos, (Will never thought cow's heart could be so delicious) to bite-sized gnocchi and scallops, with a reduction made from a tropical fruit called lucuma. Suckling pig confit, in pibil and black bean sauces. Beautifully arranged plates of limpets, seaweed, and fresh ceviche made with sole, or striped bass. And, in spite of his reluctance- from briefly working at a pet store as a teenager- Will tried guinea pigs, wrapped in purple-corn crepes. He found the meat to be rich and exceedingly moreish.
The desserts would be just as luxurious; manjar blanco with port wine meringue and cinnamon, and picarones, and crema volteada with fresh berries. Will felt practically worshipped, provided with banquets fit for royalty. In turn, he'd leave vases of flowers in the kitchen, or fix the car, or buy an antique Hannibal had his eye on. He'd roll over onto him in the mornings; make him pancakes and freshly squeezed orange juice.
Of course, because it was Hannibal, they ate organic or well-sourced food only, sold the same. He was adamant about picking his produce himself. Oftentimes Will accompanied him, if he could be bothered, but it meant many hours spent in the bustling markets.
Still, it was a gorgeous place. He'd buy fresh herbs, large black grouper fish, Venezuelan arepa flours, culie corn from Chahuay. Eat fruit under different names- noni, cocona, pitahaya- and befriend fishermen and farmers with the grace of a saint. The menagerie of wonderful ingredients was better than most countries they'd lived in; all supplied by Pachamama, Mother Earth. She provided the oceanic currents that stirred the beautiful array of seafood along the coastline, and allowed the harvests to be plentiful, the soil to be fertile, and the sustainment of the vegetables and grain of the lands.
They'd once been invited to the spiritualistic building of a huatia, evoking the beginning of the Pachacamac harvest. Praying with them, then enjoying the company of strangers, and the glorious greenery of the highlands. Will had thought it more connected than a church service, feeling the earth under him, how it breathed, seeing the grass and leaves move, aware and answering, like a deft hand had guided the wind.
They were fortunate enough to have the house only a short drive away, further into the Sacred Valley, distanced from the crowd of the city. It was a privately owned villa with a sublime garden, forested by two ceiba trees. The front wall was essentially just floor to ceiling windows. It wasn't long before Will took Hannibal up against the bedroom window in the middle of the day, the world stretched out before them like a painted canvas. Breath leaving condensation on the glass. Handprints smeared there.
When the dry season finally ended, escaping from the humidity bought by heatwave, the heavens opened to bring torrents of rain. They stayed inside most days, Hannibal composing melodies at the little piano in the lounge, or preparing cuts of meat; Will watching the droplets race each other down the panes, reading, fussing with the clocks or coffee machine. Keeping his mind occupied, but isolating himself more. Hannibal had learnt to allow him his space, showing him his open hands when he wanted comfort. He'd run him hot, scented baths and wash his hair for him- maybe join him in the tub if permitted. On quieter days, or if Will had a nightmare, they'd argue. Hannibal would have the same calming voice that he did when he tore open Will's bowels, and Will would open a box in his memories, full of mourning and resentment, and have to leave the house.
When he came back they'd hug as they did before they hit the waves.
The days following would be tense. Will would be expectantly short or snippy, working back through unresolved emotions. Hannibal would tell him he loved him, despite it.
Fearing a cold spell, Hannibal bought more food home than he normally would, and was packing the freezer when Will wandered in, dressed only in red silk robe, "You're leaving the house more often now."
"I have errands to run more often now. You don't have to be under my care anymore."
"I can't say I'd mind it." There was an edge to his voice. Like a pointed feather, or the line of a blade.
Hannibal looked up, tilting his head: "Why? What were you thinking?"
"Not what you're assuming." He turned back around, rearranging rump steaks and portions of leg, "Am I wrong?"
"You've come to enjoy violence, the kind we share. You hold rage with the same hands as you hold compassion. I wouldn't assume anything about you." Will stared flatly at the knife stand in Hannibal's reach, face unchanged. Hannibal turned properly to him, "I've always said I only want what's best for you."
"Killing is what's best for me?"
"It makes you radiant."
"Mm." Will stole a peach and rolled it from hand to hand. He remembered Hannibal grappling the knife from him, before he sunk to his knees and vomited liqueur and stomach acid. He huffed a sigh, "The key to feeling ugly isn't to make yourself uglier."
"Do you adhere to that?"
Will just scoffed, and left.
During the hot summery days, Will sat under the shade of one of the trees and reread Styron's Darkness Visible. Watching the sunlight dance through the shadows of leaves, a war raged in him about the ideas of death, and how he'd always thought how his would mimic his birth, an umbilical cord tied around his neck, something-- stronger.
But he didn't think that anymore.
He scratched an itch on his back and was reminded of his bones; imagined he and Hannibal buried together. Once flesh had decayed, their ribcages would slot into one another. They'd be one. Whole.
At midday, Hannibal bought out peach iced-tea, slices of buttered homemade bread, and some salty cured meats. They talked ostentatiously about grief and love and the waters of the heart.
The freezing nights and colder days entailed other pains. Lack of heat and lack of exercise made Will's newest scar tissue seize up, tying his shoulder into a hard knot, and adding a strain to his smile. At night, he'd curl up close to Hannibal in bed, often settling himself between his legs with his head on his chest, a heat pad pressed on his collarbone. Hannibal would kiss his forehead, and fiddle with his hair until he fell asleep. He'd wake up a little later than his cock, his arousal pungent, and lips would meet teeth and tongue, grabbing him by the throat and flipping them over. The excuse was flimsy of it being a way to stretch out his muscles.
Will would white knuckle the headboard, crying out and swearing at the tongue on him, agonising and driving him dizzy with lust. Hannibal would stay there, tasting him, for what seemed like hours until he shifted and sunk into him, clamping his teeth around the skin of his neck to steady himself there for a moment. He'd lick at his pulse point until Will circled his hips and begged. Their powerful thighs slapped together, sex and sweat heady on the air, and Will wished it endless. It was far too much: exactly right.
Hannibal's voice rushed through him like a tide, "What would you let me take from you?"
This bone-deep pleasure looping in a cycle between them, melding them together, symbiosis of give and take. Hearing Hannibal speak darkly in a growl was enough to send him reeling. The hair on the nape of his neck was soaked.
Before his orgasm hit him, building and building and building, Will arched up, keening, to meet Hannibal's mouth for a kiss that felt like a punch. Sparks burst behind his eyes as heat simultaneously ruptured from him, entered him, and sent shockwaves though him- hard and unrelenting until his vision fizzled out, brain shutting down. He'd be left bruised and wet and red, legs weak, throat hoarse. Hannibal would hold and feel him until he was oversensitive, or wanted more. Perhaps both.
Without Hannibal's knowledge, if his injuries were flaring up, he'd take more than the recommended dose of painkillers and did his learnt stretches. Sometimes Will just took to drinking too much to make the ghostly pain wash off his skin. He'd climb into Hannibal's lap too many times, reeking of whiskey, begging to be fucked. Reluctant but amused, Hannibal would put him to bed before he hurt himself, or began taking off his clothes.
One of the days after the rain died down, Will was out cleaning the windows when he saw a large bird swoop in the reflection. He went over to find it hunched down, a creature in its talons. Frightening it away, he found a baby thrush staring back up at him, it's downy feathers quivering when it breathed. He picked it up in one hand and bought it into the house. Uncurling his fist to have it lay flat on his palm, he found that it stayed completely still, blinking, looking up at him. He called for Hannibal and explained his desire to help it.
As he did, a drop of hot, dark blood ran down the length of his arm.
He turned it over to find its head oozing blood that looked like jam, a horse-fly already crawling on it. It flapped it's wing once, opened it's beak. Hannibal took it from him to put it out of it's misery.
Will washed the blood off his hand and asked himself why he tried to save it in the first place.
The wet weather settled in, storms frequent and loud. Will listened to the thunder shaking the earth, and told Hannibal how his dad used to say the sound was simply God moving His furniture around.
Between thunderstorms, they made a long trip to the Manú jungle- they took a private jet from lack of commercial flights available, and all-in-all the journey took eight hours, as Will had wanted to stay in the more remote areas of the park. Hannibal extended their trip by ten days when they arrived. The scenery was some of the best Will had ever witnessed; the sort of sights that humble, and contrive awe that wounds the soul.
The fresh, vibrant scent of dampened tropical forest soil the morning after rainfall. Seeing the canopy of trees shake with light, or glistening wet, shrouded by the murky winds left by the drifting storms. At night, and late mornings, they'd have slow, passionate sex on the creaking wicker bed, spread out across the silken sheets. Will would mumble love words against Hannibal's neck, or inside of his thigh. Hannibal would press him to the mattress and kiss him until he could form the words to say it back.
They took the nocturnal river tours to see black caiman and giant otters, faces not recognised by man nor beast. In truth, Will had considered shoving Hannibal into the river to see what he'd do amongst other unmasked predators.
He preceded to have a dream one night of watching him get torn apart by crocodiles, and found him in the kitchen making breakfast. Wordlessly, he wrapped his hands around his waist, plastering himself to his back, listening to his heart: "You're upset."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Do you ache?"
Will sniffed a laugh, placing his lips over the nape of Hannibal's neck, breathing in his musk, "Only for you."
Hannibal turned around and touched Will's cheek, wiped a thumb across his scar there. He pushed his hair off his forehead for him, touch lingering. Will knew what he was doing. Checking his temperature, thinking he was subtle. He kissed him anyway, then moved back to get a glass of water.
They went to city centre for the day to see the art, visit the churches too. Driving past the corn fields in their dusty Chevy pickup, thin clouds flurrying past the sun, Will turned the radio on. Jazz buzzed through the static. After stealing glances at Hannibal's unmistakeable profile, he carefully undid his seatbelt, and slid over to sit thigh-to-thigh. Sighing, he rested his head on his shoulder.
The home studios and galleries were stuffed full of oil paintings and the smell of turpentine, intriguing and quaint. Will turned his back and wandered around the place when Hannibal began talking to the artists. They visited the cathedral when Hannibal had finished his hushed conversation, it's walls decorated with the most incredible biblical artwork, illuminated solely by candlelight. Hannibal told Will about each and every one of them, whispering in his ear about allegory and imaginings. Will leant into his side, and was glad when he pushed back. Only a few people sat alone in the pews, their heads bowed, hands in contrition.
Not saying a word, Will took Hannibal by his hand, and dragged him over to the rows of candles, away from the art. They lit one each, and Will stared at the flame, the light burning onto his retinas, watching the wax melt.
He didn't know who it should be for.
A replication of Bouguereau's Dante and Virgil in Hell seemed alive when seen in the firelight. The hearth crackled, and the muscles flexed. The wild eyes jumped out from the darkness. Will straddled Hannibal's lap, and held his jaw in his palm. They spoke with a gaze, and moved against one another until they couldn't feel their mouths, and had to wash their clothes.
When the sun had risen, the blackout blinds shushed their way up, letting the spindly light spill into the room like an overflowed sink, tripping over itself. Will had shuffled over in his sleep until his arm hung off the side of the bed. It was numbed when he woke up, alone, no noises from the kitchen. Rolling over, staring at his pins-and-needles ridden arm, he figured Hannibal would come back soon enough, or he'd make do and starve all by himself. He could manage that.
Eventually, deciding his life was still kind of worth living, he dragged his dead weight off the mattress to investigate. He found that Hannibal was having an ice-cold shower, and shook his head when their eyes met through the screen door, the water sticking to Hannibal's lashes and chest hair. Will rubbed sleep from his eye and padded over to the toilet to take a piss, "This is a testament to Chilton's view on your insanity plea."
"I believe he'd say the same about you, Will. They all would." His deep voice echoed off the tiles, water splashing. Will washed his hands and watched him scrub shampoo into his hair. He remembered how he'd resented that shower screen instead of a curtain, how it had reminded him of the other time they were separated by glass.
"No, I wouldn't. But I'm not the best person to ask." Asking why would've only led to a sappy declaration of love. It was too early in the morning for it. His mind hadn't even begun to fully function, let alone his dick. No time for waxing poetry. When Will put a testing hand underneath the spray, he flinched back. It was freezing.
He tensed up only a little when he stepped in behind Hannibal, and was rewarded with a warmer kiss.