Will had just finished pulling the sweater over his still damp chest when he heard the noise. A quick tapping on wood, rhythmic and purposeful but also brief. He waited, listening, and then heard it again. It was then that it finally registered.
It was a knock.
In the nearly three years that he and Hannibal had lived in their isolated home they had never had a visitor, largely due to the nearest town being nearly a half hour away. His mind filled with visions of black sedans and men in tactical gear (but wouldn’t they just beat down the door?). Will moved quickly to the bedroom and pulled his gun from the side table, cocking it as he headed down the stairs and towards the front door.
Hannibal should be back soon. Jesus, if they don’t have him already. What if he saw them coming and fled? No, he wouldn’t do that. Did Hannibal take his burner phone with him?
As he made his way to the door, Will ran a quick hand through his water-slicked hair. Gun at his side, he peered through the peephole and felt a cool wave rush from his head to his feet. Taking a moment to collect himself, he turned the knob and pulled the door open.
He found his mind struggling to make sense of what was in front of him - of who was in front of him. He knew this woman, tall and blonde, high cheekbones and brown eyes. Her slender body fitted with bright, luxurious looking clothing.
Yes, he knew this woman. But how could she be here? Why was she here?
He blinked, his face lax.
She smiled and shrugged her shoulders up towards her ears.
In her hand was what appeared to be a small, black toiletries case. Looking behind her, Will saw no car, no tracks, no indication of how she’d gotten there. Then again, it wasn’t the first time she’d come to their home undetected.
“How are-” he began. “Are you okay?”
“Yes!” she said enthusiastically. “I am great! Is that for me?”
She motioned her head in the direction of the gun at his side. Will uncocked it and tucked it into the waistband of his pants at the small of his back.
“Sorry,” he said.
“It’s okay. I will try not to take it personally.”
Will looked back at her, his eyes moving across her body.
“Hannibal isn’t home.”
“Yes, I saw him down the road,” she admitted. “I hope you don’t mind. I decided I really wanted to see you guys and before I knew what was happening I was on my way here and then I was on your road and then I was at your door and, well, I never got the chance to ask ahead of time. And I know how Hannibal is about manners.”
“I - ,” he stammered. “I’m sure it will be fine. You sure you’re okay?”
She smiled again, wide and bright.
“You’re so sweet,” she said. “But yes, I’m fine. Just in the mood for some friends.”
Villanelle swung her little bag with a small movement of her wrist.
“I’m sorry,” Will apologized. “Would you like to come in?”
“Yes, thank you.”
Will stepped aside as she walked into the foyer, her eyes scanning the entire area from floor to ceiling.
“You have a beautiful home,” she said.
“Thank you,” Will said as he closed the door.
“Do you prefer shoes off?” she asked, casting a quick glance to the single pair of boots resting on the mat by the door.
“If you wouldn’t mind,” he said.
“Not at all.”
Dropping her small bag on the floor, she bent to unzip and remove her dark red healed boots leaving her in her slim fitting black slacks and floral print blouse. She placed her shoes on the other side of the mat, leaving space for another pair between them and straightened, turning back towards him.
“It is so nice to see you.”
Will opened his arms at the last possible second as she approached him with her palms up and out in front of her. She clutched at his shoulders firmly as he cautiously returned the embrace, his fingers pressing into the silk at her back. After a moment, Will gently lowered his arms and took a step away.
“Can I get you anything?” Will said. “I have some fresh fruit and orange juice left over from breakfast. Coffee?”
“Coffee would be lovely.”
Will nodded and headed into the kitchen, hearing her light footsteps behind him.
“Where did Hannibal go?” she asked as she came to rest her hands on the marble island in the center of the room. “He is still an early riser, I see.”
Taking two mugs down from the cabinet, Will poured them both a cup from the insulated French Press that was resting on the counter.
“He is,” Will answered. “There is a Farmer’s Market in town and a vendor that puts aside his best heirloom tomatoes for him on Fridays. Would you like cream or sugar?”
“Cream please,” she answered.
Will placed the mug and a small ceramic pitcher of cream on the island in front of her. She thanked him again and poured a small amount into her mug, humming as she took a sip.
“Delicious,” she said
Will looked at the woman on the other side of the marble, trying to figure out what next to ask or offer her - what to talk about. He’d only met her that one time with Hannibal in Vienna and though they’d spoken fondly of her in the time since, Will found himself at an absolute loss for words.
Will could have cried at the sound of the sedan coming up the long driveway, but opted for a sigh instead.
“Should I wait here?” Villanelle asked coyly.
“Sure,” Will said. “Yes. I’ll be right back.”
Leaving his mug on the counter, Will quickly pulled his shoes on over his bare feet and opened the door. His soles crunched under the gravel as he walked towards the car just as Hannibal was closing the driver’s side door with two small baskets in his hand.
“Will,” he smiled as he saw him coming. “How was your run?”
“It was nice,” he said. “It was cool this morning.”
He peered inside the baskets in Hannibal’s hands, extending an arm to take one from him in assistance. The older man offered him the one with two orange lilies bound together.
“For you,” he said as he handed them over.
Will smiled and turned his head to meet Hannibal’s quick kiss. As they parted and headed towards the house, Will was stopped with a firm hand on his arm. Hannibal pulled him close again, his hand steadfast on his arm as he nuzzled against his cheek, inhaling deeply against his skin. When he pulled back, Will watched his expression transform from one of inquiry to concern.
“Is she all right?”
Will pulled his hand from his arm, keeping their fingers laced.
“She’s fine,” he assured him. “At least that’s what she says.”
Hannibal looked behind Will and towards the house.
“How long has she been here?”
“Not long,” he answered. “Maybe 10 minutes. She says she was ‘in the mood for some friends’.”
Nodding, Hannibal tightened his grip on Will’s fingers.
“Are you comfortable with her here? In our home?”
“Yeah,” Will said. “Yes, it’s fine. I mean, it was startling to see her standing there. And I really didn’t know what to say just now when we were alone. But you’re here now and I do like her. I do.”
Bringing his fingers up to his mouth, Hannibal kissed the back of his hand and released him as the two men walked into the house together. As they entered, they removed their shoes and walked into the kitchen where Villanelle was standing with her arms outstretched.
There was a small cloth bag clutched in one of her hands.
“Hannibal!” she beamed. “I got you something.”
Walking over to her, Hannibal took the bag from her hands and placed it on the counter next to them. As soon as he turned back towards her, Villanelle launched herself into his arms, nearly knocking him off balance.
“Villanelle,” he asked softly as he returned the embrace. “Are you all right?”
“Yes, I am wonderful!” she said. “Your husband has been taking very good care of me.”
Hannibal held her by her upper arms as she pulled back, his eyes moving over her.
“I’m fine!” she insisted. “Now, see what I’ve brought you!”
Hannibal looked at the small bag resting on the marble.
“Saffron?” he asked.
Villanelle rolled her eyes.
“Your stupid nose ruins everything,” she said. “Yes. From Kashmir. The best in the world.”
Hannibal smiled and reached for the cloth bag, undoing the ribbon that held it closed and pulling out the small glass jar.
“Of course,” he said, inspecting the fine, red threads. “Thank you.”
She nodded took a sip of her coffee.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were coming?” Hannibal asked. “We would have prepared things for you.”
She shook her head, her hand flying forward in a dismissive manner.
“I didn’t want to bother you,” she said. “I wasn’t even sure I was coming before I found myself at your front door.”
“Again,” Will said.
She grinned at him.
“Yes. Again. I almost turned back a few times but I had such fun when we were last together. I wanted to spend more time with you both.”
Hannibal cast Will a questioning glance, waiting for him to nod quickly before he turned back to the young woman in front of him.
“We would love for you to stay for a few days,” Hannibal said. “We had planned to go see Don Giovanni Sunday evening but as fortune would dictate our box accommodates three. Did you happen to bring formal attire with you?”
Villanelle picked up the small black bag she had brought.
“I have a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash.”
She paused while the two men stared at her.
“Oral hygiene is very important.”
Hannibal placed a hand on her shoulders, leading her towards the stairs.
“Let me show you the guest room.”
“And the rest of the house, please,” she added. “I always loved your taste. There are fewer pointy things in this house than I had expected.”
“This home is not entirely mine.”
Will watched them move through the rooms, listening to Villanelle’s excited tone, before they walked up the stairs together. He unpacked the groceries Hannibal had brought home and placed the two orange lilies in a thin, glass vase. By the time he had finished, Villanelle was skipping down the stairs.
“Will, we are going shopping.”
He looked up to find Hannibal standing behind her.
“Come with us.”
It was about an hour in the car before they arrived at the boutique. Villanelle was practically floating on air as she walked through the glass door Hannibal held open for her. As Will followed behind, Hannibal placed a hand on the small of his back and stepped inside with him.
They were greeted warmly by an employee who eagerly guided Villanelle to the women’s formal wear, complimenting her skin tone as she did. Villanelle’s eyes immediately fell to a long pink dress with thick straps which fell off the shoulder. She felt the fine fabric between her fingers and looked to Hannibal for approval.
Will watched as they fell into soft conversation about the cut of the dress, the color, potential accessories and shoes. He attempted to find interest in the clothing around him but ultimately failed, opting to continue watching the two of them instead.
As Villanelle took the dress and headed near the back of the shop, Hannibal approached him.
“Are you suffering?”
“Always,” Will smiled.
Hannibal’s eyes were scanning over the men’s accessories on the other end of the shop.
“You need a new tie.”
“I don’t,” Will countered. “The one I have is perfectly fine. And I hate wearing it anyway.”
“I know,” Hannibal said. “There are alternatives. Perhaps a cravat?”
“I just don’t like things bunched around my neck,” he said.
As Hannibal was about to counterpoint they both turned their heads at the sound of heels on the wood floor. Villanelle was standing behind them in the pink dress with black, strapless heels on her feet. She’d quickly tossed her hair up into a bun to show off the slope of her bare shoulders and neck, the thick straps of the dress resting against her toned triceps.
She waited, eyebrows arched.
“You look beautiful,” Hannibal said.
“Yes, I know,” she agreed. “Will, do you like it?”
Will watched her turn slowly, her hands up and out in self-presentation.
“I do,” he said. “You look wonderful.”
As Hannibal approached her to soothe a crease out of the back of the fabric, the same saleswoman who’d greeted them came to give her approval.
“I would ask if you and your father were finding everything okay but it seems that there is no need.”
Villanelle looked up at the man at her side, smiling and threading her arm through his.
“Yes, we are doing just fine, aren’t we, Pops?”
Hannibal smiled and patted her hand. Will wasn’t entirely sure why it took a stranger pointing it out to realize just how similar the two of them did in fact look: tall and well built, blonde hair, brown eyes and high cheekbones.
“Have you always used a Glock 22?” Villanelle asked as she gripped the handle of the gun.
“Basically,” Will answered. “It’s what I trained with and was issued when I was a cop. All special agents in the FBI use it too so I got really used to it. It’s comfortable, I suppose.”
She released the magazine of the gun and turned it around in her hand.
“Do you use guns now?” She asked. “In your adventures with Hannibal?”
“No,” he said. “Not usually. I keep one on me most of the time but haven’t actually used a gun in years.”
“I don’t know,” she said. “I never liked using it much - the Glock. I prefer the P30L above all others but I’ll work with whatever I can get.”
She slammed the magazine back into the grip of the handgun and placed it back on the table.
“Have you used a crossbow before?”
“When my dad taught me how to hunt that’s all we used for a long time,” he said. “Learned with a bow and arrow too, though I didn’t practice with it much.”
“I never really got into hunting,” Villanelle said. “Animals, that is. Or fishing. Or anything outdoors really. I feel as though I appreciate it all in theory but not in practice.”
Hannibal finished the last of his wine and stood from where he had been sitting next to Will on the couch.
“Are we boring you?” Villanelle asked with a pout.
“Not at all,” he said as he rinsed his glass and began to dry it.
“Hannibal doesn’t like guns,” Will said. “I’m not sure he’s ever fired one.”
“What?” Villanelle said, her eyes wide. “Hannibal! Have you never fired a gun?”
“I have indeed,” Hannibal said, coming back to sit. “Though not in some time.”
“How long?” She pressed. “When was the last time?”
Hannibal looked at Will with an expression of disbelief at his betrayal.
“Oh my god.”
“In a moment of desperation.”
“Oh my god,” she repeated. “We should teach you how to shoot.”
“I know how to shoot, sweetheart.”
“No you don’t! Not properly! There is no way!” she insisted. “Will, you agree, right? You must practice. It is not like riding a bicycle.”
“It’s not necessary.”
“Please,” she asked in a drawn out plea. “It will be fun!”
Hannibal looked at her, to Will who gazed back at him with a soft smile, and then back to Villanelle. There was no point in continuing to argue.
“Fine,” he relented. “Tomorrow.”
“Wonderful!” Villanelle exclaimed as she came to her feet. “And now, if you don’t mind, I need my beauty sleep.”
Both men stood as she did, Will reaching for her empty wine glass and taking it with his own into the kitchen.
“You have everything you need?”
“Mmm, yes,” she said. “Thank you for the clothes.”
He nodded and guided her towards the stairs with a gentle hand on her back.
“Sleep well,” he said. “We’ll see you in the morning.”
They kissed each other quickly on the cheek before the young woman headed up the stairs with a smile. As Will finished putting their glasses away, Hannibal shut off the lights and waited before they climbed the stairs together, catching small whiffs of perfume.
Closing the door to their room they dressed for bed. Will had just gotten under the covers before Hannibal was on him, pressing him down into the mattress with the weight of his body and the pressure of his mouth against his own. Will smiled into their kiss, reaching for Hannibal’s wrist when the older man’s hand slid under the soft cotton of his shirt.
“Excuse me,” he chided playfully. “I don’t think so.”
Hannibal’s teeth pinched his bottom lip, his fingers - held at bay by Will’s grip - straining forward to touch his bare skin.
“You’re so warm, Will.”
Will sighed and continued to kiss him back, muttering protests against his lips.
“Thank you,” he said, pausing for air. “But there is no way this is happening with your best friend across the hall.”
“My best friend is right here,” Hannibal grinned with a rock of his hips.
A small laugh broke their connection, Will’s eyes rolling dramatically.
“God,” he chuckled. “Get off me.”
In spite of his protests, Will kept returning his kisses, the grip he had on Hannibal’s wrist loosening but not fully relenting. The hand on his skin flattened and flexed, fingers tracing the pattern of the scar on his belly.
“Hannibal,” Will said against his lips. “I don’t want her to hear.”
Smiling, Hannibal pushed their mouths together, opening against him and then pulling back. His fingers continued to search.
“If that is your concern, that is rather beyond my control,” Hannibal said. “Your voice is the one which tends to fill this room.”
Will could feel the color rising in his cheeks.
“Though I do so love pulling those sounds from your body.”
His cock jumped at the words, his hips arching up against the weight on top of him, lips seeking to reconnect while his hands move to Hannibal’s chest to push him away. As Hannibal’s fingers moved down to slip under the band of his boxers, Will hummed and dug his blunt nails in.
“No,” he repeated, a laugh breaking through as he successfully pushed the other man off of him.
Smiling, Hannibal fell to his back and opened his arms, pushing his nose against the crown of Will’s head as the younger man came to settle against his chest. They lay there, Hannibal’s hand running up and down Will’s back, Will’s arm cocked at the elbow and resting against Hannibal’s skin.
“You love her.”
Not a question.
“I do,” Hannibal answered. “As though she were my daughter. Though, in many ways she reminds me so much of Mischa. Or, who Mischa could have become.”
Turning his head inwards, Will kissed the skin above his heart.
“We will first need to figure out which stance feels more natural for you.”
Villanelle circled Hannibal as she spoke, watching him shift the weight of the gun in his hand. Around them, a cool breeze blew, moving the limbs and leaves of the trees.
“Place your left foot in front, knees slightly bent, with the gun held primarily with your left hand and then supported by the right. Keep your left arm slightly cocked at the elbow.”
Will’s eyes moved over Hannibal’s body as he positioned himself as Villanelle instructed.
“Now stare down the sights and find your target,” she continued, gesturing to the tree they had marked. “And when you’re ready, squeeze the trigger gradually, don’t pull.”
They waited as Hannibal’s eyes fixed on the small white target carved into the tree. He fired, the resting birds above them fleeing their branches. The mark on the tree ahead remained undamaged.
“How did that feel?” Will asked.
Hannibal lowered the gun and turned towards him.
“Inaccurate,” he said. “As though I don’t have full control.”
“Try again,” he said, walking up behind him. “Square your feet this time, shoulder width apart.”
He placed a hand on Hannibal’s right hip, adjusting him slightly.
“Lean your torso forward towards the target, just slightly.”
Hannibal did as he was told, settling into the new position.
“Bring your arms straight up and out.”
Will’s hands moved down his biceps as Hannibal lifted his arms. He pressed against him for a lingering moment, and then moved away.
They waited, each on either side, as Hannibal lined up his shot, inhaled, and fired. Again he missed the mark.
“Don’t hold your breath,” Villanelle offered. “Or, hold it and release it as you fire.”
Will watched him adjust his shoulders, lifting his arms again and taking aim. This time, when he fired, the bullet hit just inside the small white circle, sending a small shower of bark flying.
“Ha!” Villanelle yelled. “Good! Do it again.”
Again he aimed and again he landed a shot within the confines of the target. Behind him, Villanelle and Will met each other eyes, pride radiating from both of them.
“You are a natural,” she exclaimed. “Though this is not a surprise. Have you ever failed at anything?”
“Rarely,” Hannibal said as he lowered the gun. “But yes, I am human.”
“Could have fooled me,” she grinned.
Stepping towards him, Will took the gun from his hands and clicked the safety into place. Leaning in, he kissed him quickly.
“Thank you both for this education,” Hannibal said. “Please allow me to properly show my gratitude with dinner.”
“You’re quite sure? We have some beautiful Wagyu ribeyes.”
Villanelle sat reclined in an arm chair in the living room, a glass of red wine in her hand.
“Yes, quite sure,” she affirmed imitating Hannibal’s accent.
Nodding, Hannibal returned to the kitchen and began to cut the meat into thin strips. Turning her attention to Will who sat opposite her.
“May I ask what his great crime was?”
Darting a quick look at Hannibal, Will sipped at his own glass of wine.
“He bumped into me at the market,” he said. “Knocked coffee down the front of my shirt.”
Villanelle gasped in exaggerated horror.
“If anything it was the lack of apology.”
Villanelle turned her head to see Hannibal adding a pinch more saffron to the butter sauce that was simmering on the stove top.
“How often do you do it?” She said, facing Will again. “Kill? Hunt?”
Will sighed contently.
“As frequently or as infrequently as it demands.”
“Do you like it?”
“A silly question,” she added. “Of course you do. I just - ”
“I care for him so much,” she continued. “I love him like a father. More than I ever loved my actual father, or mother. But he was always so lonely. He hid it well, but I could always tell he hated to be alone.”
Will smiled sadly, feeling Villanelle’s own sorrow through her words.
“I’m so happy that he has you. And that you have him. I hope you are together for the rest of your lives.”
Will huffed a small laugh and lifted his left hand, moving his ring finger.
“That’s the idea.”
They paused to drink.
“The last time we saw you, you mentioned someone. Someone who hurt you.”
Villanelle’s hand went to the lower left side of her body, fingers picking at the cloth of her blouse.
“Eve,” she said.
“Is she your girlfriend? Your partner?”
“Yes,” she said. “She is smart and surprising and beautiful. She is so beautiful, Will.”
The longing and admiration in her face reminded him so much of Hannibal.
“Where is she now?”
“Russia,” she answered. “But she will return home to London soon.”
“How long have you been together?”
“Not long,” she said. “But I love her. Like I have loved no other.”
“And she knows you?” Will asked. “Knows who you are?”
“But she works for British Intelligence?”
Will finished what was left of his wine.
“Jesus,” he said. “We sound so alike. You and Hannibal. Me and Eve.”
There were tears in her eyes as Villanelle also finished the last of her drink.
“I hope so.”
She brushed a tear aside with her knuckle as Hannibal stepped back into the room.
“Dinner is ready,” he said. “Please.”
They sat across from each other at the table he had decorated with his characteristic eloquence. Hannibal refilled both of their glasses and then placed a plate of sliced meat, grilled tomatoes, and asparagus in front of them. They both waited for him to take a seat at the head of the table before they picked up their utensils, cutting the meat into smaller pieces. Both men watched as Villanelle pierced a small piece with her fork, collecting a bit of the sauce that was drizzled over the steak, and the placing it in her mouth.
She chewed slowly, thoughtfully before swallowing.
“Tastes like pork,” she said. “Sweetened with fresh butter and the finest saffron in the world.”
As they pulled back up to the house, Will fully removed the cloth of the bowtie Hannibal had managed to convince him to wear, stuffing the fine cloth into the pocket of his pants. Hannibal withheld the irritated sigh threatening to surface and instead turned his attention back to Villanelle.
“I am so pleased that you enjoyed it.”
“Of course I did!” She said as she opened the rear door of the car. “It was dramatic and flamboyant and ended with demons dragging that awful man straight into hell. If all opera is like this perhaps I should listen more.”
Hannibal smiled as they all walked back into the house.
“There are several recommendations I can send home with you, if you’d like.”
“I would,” she answered.
Once inside, Villanelle removed her heels but made no other move to change as Hannibal brewed coffee. They idled around the kitchen before Hannibal excuse himself to shower. With a hand on his jacket, Villanelle coaxed Will towards the front door. He followed her outside, both of them barefoot, as they sat on the steps of the house.
Above them was a thick blanket of stars.
“Did you like it too?” She asked.
“I did,” Will answered. “I can’t say that I cared too much about opera before him. But I’m acquiring a taste.”
“Do you like to read?”
“What is your favorite book?”
He paused, considering.
“As I Lay Dying,” he answered.
“I know the name but not much else. What’s it about?”
“A family in the 30s traveling with their dead mother in a coffin - taking her to the place she wished to be buried.”
“Does anyone get pulled down into hell by demons at the end?”
“No. But demons do play a role, metaphorically speaking.”
They continued on about books, film, and hunting until the moon was directly over their heads. Casting a look over his shoulder, Will found that Hannibal had been watching them from the window.
“It’s been wonderful having you here, Villanelle” Will said as he turned back.
She pushed her bare shoulder against his.
“I’m glad. I like being here,” she said. “And you can call me Oksana.”
Will looked at her with a question in his eyes.
“Oksana,” she repeated gently. “It’s my name.”
Coming to her feet, she extended a hand down to Will who grasped it firmly and pulled himself up. As they walked back inside, Hannibal stepped into view.
“You could have joined us,” Will said.
“I did,” he responded. “In a way.”
“I am going to bed,” Villanelle said as she passed them, stopping to kiss Hannibal on the cheek. “You do not mind taking me to the train station in the morning?”
“Not in the slightest,” he said. “Sleep well.”
They watched her ascend the stairs before they followed, Hannibal turning the lights off as they did.
It was about a half an hour into her journey that she reached for the small brightly decorated bag Hannibal had given her as he’d kissed her goodbye on the platform. Untying the ribbon she opened it and pulled out a thin hardcover book. Flipping it around she read it’s title:
As I Lay Dying
Smiling, Villanelle placed it on the window sill of her small, private compartment, pausing briefly to watch the scenery rush by, before she reached back into the bag and retrieved a small digital music player and earbuds. There was a card stuck to it which read “I hope you’ll find this to your taste” written in Hannibal’s unmistakable script.
Placing the buds in her ears, she turned the device on and scrolled to the first selection: La Bohème.
Villanelle reclined in her seat and hit play, reaching for the book on the sill and opening it to the first page. As she did, a piece of paper the exact width and length of the book fell out. Villanelle reached to pick it up from where it had fallen in her lap and found it to be a sketch of her and Will. They were sitting on the porch, the artist’s view capturing them from behind and to the side, their shoulders were touching and their faces frozen in quiet contentment. Feeling her eyes well, she turned the sketch over to again find Hannibal’s elegant hand:
Come back soon.