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The Devil’s Design

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Jack is in the pantry, Alana is outside in the rain, and Will is pointing a gun at his daughter.

 

“Abigail?”

 

She’s standing there, shaking from fear or excitement or anticipation, Will can’t quite tell. All he knows is that Abigail is there, quietly sobbing and shaking.

 

“Where is he?” Will demands. Where is the man who did this?

 

She shakes her head and quivers like a feather in the wind, her lips tugged into a warbling line. Her eyes flick to something behind Will, and his blood goes cold as he realizes who stands behind him. He turns around quickly, staring at Hannibal with wide eyes. He doesn’t know what fills him, fear or relief. Perhaps both. Relief at the sight of Hannibal in one piece, but fear, knowing that Hannibal is still here and not running away like he promised.

 

“You were supposed to leave,” Will whispers, his voice breaking and filled with urgency. You were supposed to leave and I was supposed to stay.

 

“We couldn’t leave without you,” Hannibal murmurs, his eyes glancing over at Abigail .

 

Will begins shaking as well, and he looks back at Abigail, wondering if she was just another hopeful hallucination. If this was all another fucked up dream his mind has woven for him. But the antlers and the wendigo creature doesn’t lurk in the shadows, and Hannibal is Hannibal before him, not a monster. Not a hallucinated one, at least.

 

“She’s real, Will,” Hannibal murmurs. “This is real.”

 

Will laughs bitterly, terrified and elated by Hannibal’s insight into his mind. This Hannibal is real. This Abigail is… alive. She’s alive and breathing and with Hannibal. Will didn’t kill Abigail. The relief that washes over him is intoxicating, and he laughs shakily. He didn’t kill Abigail . Abigail is alive. He watches his hands holding his gun shake. Abigail is alive. He looks back up at Hannibal and tries to smile as Hannibal nears him. Abigail is alive. Hannibal’s face is painted with blood, and his eyes are filled with this… sadness Will can’t quite place.

 

Why are you in pain? He silently asks. Why do you mourn? Abigail is alive, I didn’t kill her, you didn’t kill her, she’s safe. She’s safe, Hannibal.

 

Will shudders and thinks to Jack, who’s dying or dead in the pantry. Jack, who was supposed to come here with Will. They were supposed to come together and talk to Hannibal together. Will was supposed to… fight with Hannibal. Kill with him. Kill Jack and run away to God knows where. Anywhere.

 

And yet, as he stands there, shaking, he knows he wouldn’t have killed Jack. He… couldn’t kill Jack. His death is convenient but it isn’t… righteous. It isn't redeemed and with purpose. So Will knows that he would have sided with Jack and told Hannibal to run, run away to where no one could ever find him again. Run away to some place in Europe where the wine is sweet and the air is crisp, and people dress to Hannibal’s standards. Will would have stayed and lived out his normal life (normal as it gets for Will, anyways) with his dogs and Alana and Jack and the FBI. He would have tried to escape the marks Hannibal has left in his mind and soul.

 

He would have told Hannibal to leave him, and he would try not to cry as he stands beside Jack. Because this is the righteous thing to do. This was the righteous thing to do. Hannibal is dangerous and Will is not like him. Will isn’t a killer like Hannibal.

 

A glint of silver is in Hannibal’s hand and suddenly Hannibal’s pain all makes sense as Will watches himself through Hannibal’s eyes for just a brief moment.

 

You think I’ve betrayed you, because you know who I would have stood by.

 

It takes a moment for Will to react.

 

“No no no,” Will stammers, staggering back and away from Hannibal. I would have never hurt you. Not now. Not that I finally… see you. I wanted you to run. Run away for God’s sake why didn’t you run? I would never kill you because your death would give me nothing. No pleasure, no righteousness, nothing. I can’t kill you. Not anymore.

 

“Hannibal,” Will whispers as Hannibal nears him. Hannibal isn’t even stalking towards him, like Will imagines him doing so with all of his past victims. With the people he considered animals only fit for his dinner table.

 

Hannibal isn’t stalking Will like he would with his prey. Hannibal is nearing him the way a parent approaches their crying child, the way Will approaches stray dogs: with caution and love in their eyes.

 

“Hannibal,” Will gasps, trying to force the words out of his mouth, an explanation past his lips. “Why didn’t you run?”

 

He can clearly see the knife in Hannibal’s hand, a curved, beautiful thing.

 

“You were supposed to leave,” he whispers, unable to leave, himself, frozen in place. Fear has snatched him and chained his feet to the floor of Hannibal’s kitchen, and he can’t run. He wants to run, but he can’t decide to where. To Abigail? To Alana’s body in the rain? To Jack?

 

To Hannibal?

 

But the animal in Will understands the need to survive, so he racks his brain for something momentous, something brilliant to stop Hannibal from killing him. To convince Hannibal that he never wanted to see this beautiful monster burn to ashes. Will can’t kill Hannibal, and he can’t run away.

 

So Will throws his mind into overdrive and collides with the construction of Hannibal he has in his mind. Hannibal is nearing him with a knife in hand, because he thinks that Will has betrayed him. He is walking slowly, because he wants Will to do something about this. But what does he do? He can’t fathom the pain in Hannibal’s eyes and he can’t understand Abigail’s presence in the room and —

 

Oh. Stupid. He should have realized this sooner.

 

This is out of love. This is how his kind show their love.

 

Hobbs loved his daughter with a murderous passion, and Hannibal isn’t that different. Death encompasses his entire life, and judging by the way Hannibal reaches out to Will, this isn’t different from the way Garret Jacob Hobbs slit Abigail's throat.

 

This is out of love.

 

Will wants to laugh at the absurdity of it, of the way Hannibal portrays his love. Hannibal’s love is deadly, a madness that has driven Will into the deepest parts of his mind. But Will can’t laugh. He can’t laugh because he finally understands. He can see the possessiveness and adoration and love through Hannibal’s eyes, and he can remember the nightmares or dreams he’s had about Hannibal’s love. Will understands this love, and he knows that this is his ticket to survival. Love.

 

Please work, he whispers in his mind before betting his entire life and sanity on the steps he takes towards Hannibal.

 

Will collides with Hannibal and kisses him with a desperate shudder, dragging Hannibal’s body against his own. The knife in Hannibal’s hand scrapes against his side, striking fear into Will, but it doesn’t touch his flesh and it doesn’t draw blood. It instead clatters against the floor and suddenly Hannibal is pulling Will against him as well, and they’re grasping at each other with bloody hands and tears in their eyes. The kiss isn’t much to brag about, simply lips against lips, but it’s everything Will needs. Contact that explains everything that Will can’t say with this fear burning through his body.

 

I see you.

 

He’s tempted to laugh, but he’s also terrified as he kisses Hannibal, the monster of a man who kills to show his love.

 

Will is hyper aware of every part of Hannibal he is touching, and he memorises each touch that sends fire running through him. Their chests are pressed up against each other firmly, the buttons of their shirts poking each other. His hands are tangled into Hannibal’s hair, the fuzz of the shorter parts lightly scraping against his palms. Hannibal’s hands are pressed behind his head and between his shoulder blades, guiding him into Hannibal’s touch. Their legs are chaotically holding their bodies up, and Will is pretty sure that he’s stepping on a bit of Hannibal’s left shoe.

 

Hannibal’s lips are soft against his own chapped ones, and they remind Will of water as they slide over the sharp edges of dried dead skin on his lips. Will’s own lips quiver against Hannibal’s steady lips, as if he was whispering a frantic prayer to this man who represents every beautiful aspect of the devil Will dreams about. Blood stains his cheek and the smell invades Will’s senses, but it’s natural in this moment. It’s always natural. Blood is at every damn crime scene Jack throws him into, blood has been stolen from his body, and blood has bathed the man he’s currently kissing.

 

Blood bathes Hannibal, and Will can’t find the will to care, because this is almost dreamlike but it feels so real. It’s stabbing into Will’s soul and he cannot doubt the reality of this desperate bid he’s molded into a kiss. This is real.

 

They break apart moments later, and Hannibal’s eyes are filled with a joy that Will can’t help but smiling at. This is the real Hannibal Lecter. This is the devil he has sold himself to.

 

I can’t betray you.

 

I tried.

 

Trust me, I tried.

 

But as I stare into your damned eyes and damned soul, I can’t run away from the reflection I see, no matter how much I want to. I can’t run from this. I can’t run from the world you’ve molded for me.

 

“Time did reverse,” Hannibal murmurs, brushing the wet hair out of Will’s eyes. His eyes are fond and filled with this… emotion that Will can’t quite name or describe. It has the power of waves crashing against a cliff, or thunder slamming into the sky. “I wanted to surprise you. The teacup that I shattered did come together.”

 

Will shakes and turns in Hannibal’s arms to face Abigail.

 

“A place was made for Abigail in your world,” Hannibal murmurs. “For all of us. Together.”

 

Abigail has tears brimming her eyes, and Will’s vision is blurred by tears as well.

 

“Abagail,” Hannibal says in a steady voice. “Come to us.”

 

With little hesitation, Abigail breaks away from the place she was frozen at and she runs to Will and Hannibal. She throws herself into Will’s opening arms, and he holds her as if these were her last moments. He cries as if these were his last moments.

 

“Thank you,” Will chokes out, falling to the floor with Abigail in his arms. “Thank you.”

 

Thank you, I whisper to the Devil.

Chapter Text

The woman dressed in black rushes down the street and a red umbrella over her head stops the rain from cascading down onto her, instead channeling the water around her like a wall. She wears black boots that splash water from the puddles, but she doesn’t seem bothered by this at all. She has only one thing in her mind: her destination.

 

She arrives at the richly designed house and hesitates in order to stare at the faint lights from inside the house. The front rooms aren’t lit, but from what she can see, the kitchen and upstairs have their lights on. They should still be home, then. After a deep breath, she pushes open the gate to the front yard, marching towards the front door with full confidence, but she freezes once she sees the shards of glass reflecting moonlight and lying around the bleeding body. Black and white paint a morbid picture, and looking up, the woman sees the broken window from the second floor.

 

“Shit,” the woman murmurs, running forward and dropping to her knees next to the body. It’s a woman dressed in blue and black, and her breath comes in short pants. She numbly recognizes the dying woman as Alana Bloom, the doctor who worked with Will Graham.

 

“Dr Bloom?” She says, using her umbrella to cover Alana’s face. Gently, she brushes a strand of hair and some shards of glass out of Alana’s face. “Dr Bloom, can you hear me?”

 

Alana’s eyes peer at her with agony, and she nods ever so slightly before gasping out, “They’re gone.”

 

The woman freezes for a moment, a detail going unnoticed by Alana. “Who’s gone?”

 

Alana shakes her head slightly and moans in pain. “He’s gone,” she whispers before fluttering her eyes shut and breathing deeply.

 

The woman mutters a curse and pulls out her phone, dialing 911. She quickly informs the man on the phone her situation and location before shoving the phone back in her pocket. Carefully, she positions the umbrella over Alana so it protects her face from the rain, and then she stands and runs to the house. The door is unlocked, and she doesn’t hesitate to barge in.

 

“Hannibal!” She shouts, storming through the house and arriving at the brightly lit kitchen. “Hannibal!” Her voice sounds like an angry mother calling for her child, and she’s furious as she sees blood pooling out from under a door. Dammit.

 

She opens it to find a half dead black man slumped against the wall. Agent Crawford , her mind quietly reminds her. She makes no move to help him, knowing that the police are on their way anyways, and instead rushes off to search the rest of the house. Doors are thrown open and she shouts Hannibal’s name a few more times, storming through the house and pounding down the stairs, but she knows that he’s gone. He made his bloody exit and now he’s probably on his way to France or Italy or Germany or somewhere no one will know his name.

 

She makes her way back to the kitchen, and standing in the middle of it, she kicks the cabinet doors and laughs bitterly, hanging her head in defeat before craning her neck to look at the white ceiling. The light shines on her face and reveals what the rain has stained: a striking image of Hannibal.

 

“Of course you’d disappear now,” she murmurs. “Just as soon as I made up my mind.”

 

Sighing, she runs back out to Alana in the rain, crouching down and keeping the dying woman company. “You don’t happen to know where they ran off to, do you?” She asks Alana, but her question goes unheard.

 

The ambulances and police arrive within the next minute, apparently looking for a man who called for them. So someone else was here before her. Did Hannibal call the police, just for the fun of it? Or maybe Graham did?

 

She explains her situation to them and they are quick to tend to the bodies and interrogate her.

 

“Your name, ma’am?” One of them ask her.

 

She clears her throat “Annabelle DuBois. D-u-B-o-i-s,” she murmurs. “Do you need a middle name?”

 

The man shakes his head. “This should be enough for now, but we would like to ask some more questions later, especially when the FBI get here.”

 

DuBois nods. “Of course.”

 

She answers some more questions, answering all but a few with complete honesty. She tells them that she was walking to the bus station when she saw Alana on the ground, and she has no idea whose house this is. Yes, she saw Jack Crawford inside, but she didn’t want to touch him, since she was afraid of making any more damage. No, she does not know Hannibal Lecter and did not see anyone else besides Dr Bloom and Agent Crawford.

 

They let her go after a fair amount of questions, promising to call her later. She nods with a sad smile, and calls a taxi to take her home.

 

You just had to leave the night I made up my mind, didn’t you, Hannibal?

 

~O~

 

Jack Crawford is pissed as fuck, and a very specific cannibal is going to suffer the terrible wrath of one Agent Crawford.

 

Will Graham - the jewel of Crawford’s blood-tainted and madness molded crown - is missing. Has been kidnapped. Is being held hostage by none other than the great Chesapeake Ripper. And it’s all Jack’s fault. Jack shouldn’t have pushed Will to the edge like this. Jack should have seen Hannibal’s evil quicker. Jack should have believed Will when he saw what no one else could.

 

The monster in Hannibal Lecter.

 

So, Jack mourns, pacing the room and rubbing his forehead with a heavy hand that smells faintly of metal. Alana sits in the room with him, her eyes falsely cold and her mouth in a thin line. She’s recently been released from intensive care, and now she hobbles around with a cane and an intense atmosphere of anger following her. She sighs deeply and clasps her hands together in her lap, looking up at and preparing for her next words.

 

“We did everything we could,” she whispers.

 

Jack shakes his head. “No. We didn’t.” He turns almost violently towards Alana and stalks towards her. “Will saw him. Will saw the damned Chesapeake Ripper, the Copycat Killer, Hannibal the damned Cannibal and none of us believed him. None of us! Will Graham has never been wrong about these things and yet I still didn’t believe him!” He sighs and plops down on the armrest of the couch Alana perches on. “And now Will is gone. Dead, for all I know.”

 

Alana shakes her head. “If Will were dead, Hannibal would make sure we knew.”

 

Jack laughs bitterly at that. “Would we? Or would some innocent guest at his dinner table be tasting him?”

 

“Hannibal wouldn’t,” Alana whispers.

 

“You sure?” Jack says, standing again and walking towards the window, glaring out. “Because none of know how Hannibal thinks. None of us. Only Will can grasp the mindset Hannibal lives in. Only Will.”

 

“And Hannibal knew that,” Alana says with gentle force. “He knew Will could see him for what he really is, and he would cherish that. He wouldn’t just throw him away.”

 

Jack nods. “I hope you’re right.”

 

Alana nods. “Me too,” she murmurs, her words lost to Jack’s ears.

 

A knock startles the both of them, and Alana clears her throat as Jack walks to the door and opens it. A bright-eyed woman stands there, a kind smile on her lips. She has pale gold hair pinned up into a low bun and a maroon coat on.

 

“Ms DuBois,” Jack says, stepping to the side and allowing the woman to enter. “Thank you for coming.”

 

Ms DuBois bows her head quickly and smiles. “Thank you for seeing me.” She turns her head to Alana and flashes her a small smile. This woman seems to kind and innocent, sending nostalgia through Alana. Was she once like this?

 

“Please, sit,” Jack says, gesturing to the seat across from Alana and Ms DuBois quickly sits down, crossing her ankles underneath her seat. Jack takes his seat next to Alana, and he laces his fingers and looks to DuBois.

 

Her eyes keep flicking everywhere, and Alana would almost peg her as nervous. But she isn’t, only taking in everything in the room. She doesn’t meet their eyes for long periods of time, only glancing at their eyes and then looking at other features of their faces. Alana notices that she focuses on both of their lips and eyebrows. Strange.

 

“Ms DuBois, I apologize about the… atmosphere and chaos at the FBI. I know it must have been hectic while you were trying to get in contact with us,” Jack says, leaning forward and staring firmly at DuBois, his gaze unrelenting and unforgiving.

 

DuBois shakes her head. “No no, it’s fine. Understandable. Hannibal the Cannibal was unleashed, I would be worried if you weren’t in chaos.”

 

Alana chuckles shortly, sighing lightly after. “Are people actually calling him that?”

 

DuBois shrugs. “Freddie Lounds has great power over the media of murder and crime.”

 

Jack sighs. “Too true.”

 

“Do you mind if we move to first name basis?” Alana asks, trying to gauge DuBois’ mindset in this situation. Jack subtly looks at her with eyes that scream, what the hell are you doing? But Alana ignores him.

 

DuBois shrugs slightly. “Annabelle Procel DuBois. I hate my first name, so if we attempt to create a more casual and personal atmosphere, call me Procel.”

 

Alana nods. “Procel, then?”

 

Procel smiles. “Sure, Alana.”

 

Jack gives Alana another not so subtle questioning look, but Alana doesn’t meet his eyes. She’s too caught up in Procel’s suddenly challenging gaze which bores into her skull, absolutely no fear or shame present in her eyes. Why the sudden drastic change?

 

Jack clears his throat and gets on with business. “So, Ms DuBois,” he says. Both Alana and Procel note Jack’s refusal to call her by her personal name. “We received your recommendation from Dr Hummel in Washington a few weeks ago.”

 

Procel nods.

 

“He seemed to have a lot of faith in your abilities of tracking down killers,” Jack says. “Strange for you to be the one to find the leftovers of one of our biggest killers here.”

 

Procel narrows her eyes playfully at Jack. “This sounds a lot like an accusation, Agent Crawford,” She drawls, suddenly seeming very cheeky.

 

Jack shrugs slowly. “We have to cover all of our bases.”

 

Procel nods. “Understandable. But I assure you, I’m not linked to Hannibal.”

 

Jack gives her a playful disbelieving look, and Alana is tempted to give him her best bitchface. She’ll settle for her third best.

 

“You show up to work in Will Graham’s area the moment Will Graham is taken out of the picture,” Jack says. “It’s one hell of a coincidence.”

 

“Jack,” Alana hisses lowly at him, but Jack merely waves her off.

 

“Like I said, we’re just covering all of our bases,” Jack says sweetly, but everyone in the room can smell the sour tinge to his words.

 

Procel smiles. “Of course. You wouldn’t want to let yet another monster into your inner circle.”

 

Alana’s eyes widen at Procel’s words, and Jack is doing his best to keep his rage inside. She’s right. He doesn’t want to let another monster into his inner circle. But he also doesn’t want to lose another friend. He lost Miriam. He lost Will. He doesn’t want this smiling, rebellious psychologist to be lost as well.

 

Jack manages a halfhearted chuckle. “You’ve got some spunk in you, DuBois,” he says, forcing his mind onto better things.

 

Procel ducks her head in sudden shame and her face is ablaze with a blush. Alana hears her mutter, “Oh my lord why did I say that,” and she has to smile at that. Procel seems like an interesting soul, and Alana could use some innocents in her life.

 

The rest of the conversation continues without many offensive comments, and afterwards, Procel apologizes profusely to Jack and he smiles at her and tells her it’s okay. She is right, after all.

 

Alana walks Procel out to the parking lot, and they make small talk as they walk.

 

“Why do you hate the name Annabelle?” Alana asks as they walk towards the elevator.

 

Procel smiles softly and presses the button for the ground floor. “That stupid horror movie with the doll. I hate horror films.”

 

Alana laughs gently. “And yet you want to work with the FBI.”

 

Procel shrugs, leaning against the mirror in the elevator. “I can do something about the cases I’m given. I can catch the killer. Doesn’t mean I enjoy it, though.”

 

Alana looks at her inquisitively. “Then why do it?”

 

“Because I need to,” Procel murmurs. “I’m good at it and I have a promise to keep. I’ve seen too much shit in the world to just ignore it.”

 

Alana nods and they don’t speak again until they exit the building.

 

“Jack will send you a call when we get another case,” Alana says. “And maybe even ask for your opinion on how to catch Hannibal.”

 

Procel nods, putting her hands in the pockets of her red coat. “As much as Agent Crawford distrusts me, I would like to help in the search for Hannibal.”

 

Alana laughs shortly. “Well, as much as Agent Crawford hates to admit it, we need all the help we can get.”

 

“Oh yes,” Procel murmurs as they near Alana’s car. “He won’t be an easy one to find.”

 

They exchange goodbyes and Alana climbs into her car and Procel walks over to her motorcycle, unlocking the seat to retrieve her helmet, and she waves to Alana as she drives away. Climbing on, she drives back home and contemplates her next move with the FBI.

 

~O~

 

A phone is buzzing terribly loudly at god knows when in the morning.

 

If it’s that jackass from the bar, I’m killing him, Procel mutters in her mind as she fumbles for her cell phone on the table next to her bed. She squints as the light from the phone stabs into her eyes, and she barely makes out the time (3:32 AM) and the caller ID (Crawford).

 

This better be interesting.

 

“‘Ello?” She grumbles into the phone, not even bothering to sound professional.

 

“Ms DuBois! Glad to see you’re awake,” Jack says from the other end.

 

“Is there a reason why you’ve called?” She mutters as she sits up on the bed.

 

“There is, actually,” Jack says, his tone dropping into something more serious. “There’s been a murder. I want your opinion on it.”

 

Procel laughs bitterly. “You want me to read the scene like Graham does?”

 

Jack is silent for a moment, and she hears him take in a sharp breath. “Yeah,” he finally says. “I want you to read the scene.”

 

“Text me the address and I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Procel says before hanging up and swinging her legs off the bed. She groans and hangs her head as she glares at the clock on her phone.

 

3:34 AM.

 

Grumbling, she drags herself off the bed and into the bathroom, quickly brushing her teeth and combing her hair and pulling it into something decent. She pulls out black and blue clothes, hoping that they won't create too much of a fashion disaster, and she’s out the door with her black boots tugged loosely onto her feet.

 

The air is refreshingly crisp in the mornings, but when it’s 3:40 AM, not so much. But, she ignores the cold as she pulls on her helmet because she needs to impress Crawford. He’s probably calling her just to make he prove her worth, anyways. She can’t just back down, she has to prove him wrong. She is worth everything in this shitty world.

 

The address is plugged into her phone (through Waze, a god-sent app) and she glances at the map before putting in her headphones and listening to a monotone Siri-like voice tell her where to go. Surprisingly, she doesn’t get lost, and she’s at the location in twelve minutes.

 

It’s an old house in the poorer parts of the area, and there is already a small fleet of police mulling about the property. Someone spots her once she removes her helmet and they wave her over as they half jog towards her.

 

“You’re DuBois, right?” The man says, a scruffy beard on his face along with shadows under his eyes. “The new - “ he clears his throat, preventing himself from saying the new Will Graham, “- the new criminal profiler?”

 

Procel smiles kindly and sticks out her hand with a small nod in greeting.

 

The man takes it and shakes her hand with a single, firm movement. “I’m Brian Zeller, I do all of the science-y details around here.”

 

“No he doesn’t,” another man grumbles as he shuffles into the scene, a box under his arm. “Jimmy Price,” he says, extending his hand to Procel. “The other half of the science-y team.”

 

Procel shakes his hand and smiles. “Pleasure to meet you.”

 

The man scoffs but smiles at her. “Come on, Jack is sulking inside. Don’t wanna keep him waiting.”

 

“Nope,” Zeller agrees, marching towards the eerie house.

 

Procel follows them in, a small smile on her face. She likes this team, they seem humorous and members of the better part of humanity. The house is filled with photographers and little numbered stands, marking the place with the sterile study of death. Zeller and Price seem to be at home in this environment, making small comments to each other about various things, including… bees? Procel isn’t sure.

 

Jack is in the kitchen - where the victim lies dead - and his hands are in pockets as he angrily glares at the body on the floor. He glances up when he hears Zeller and Price entering, and he meets Procel’s steady gaze.

 

“You know,” Jack says to Procel. “After nearly dying at Hannibal’s hand, I considered leaving the FBI. Resigning. Living a life away from all of this…” He gestures to the body and the blood. “Death.”

 

Procel stands beside him and looks down at the bloody heap of a body, and she hums quietly. “Believe it or not, Agent Crawford, I’m not surprised that you stayed.”

 

Jack laughs shortly. “And why is that?”

 

She shrugs. “Strength. Or rather, a demand for it. Hannibal nearly killed you, and I assume a part of you wants to keep living the way you always have as a way to… prove him wrong.”

 

Jack nods slowly, pursing his lips and not disagreeing. “Perhaps.” He sighs and looks down at the body. “Misha Williams. Thirty eight years old, lived alone, worked part time at John Hopkins, and murdered a few hours ago. Neighbors heard screaming, and soon enough, we found this.”

 

Procel nods. You were named Misha? Funny.

 

“Everyone clear!” Jack bellows, and the everyone in the room (minus Zeller and Price) scurry away like startled mice. He rubs his forehead before taking a deep breath before leaning closer to Procel and whispering in a slow and deliberate voice, “What do you see?”

 

Procel squats down to more closely inspect the body, and music begins filters into her mind. She closes her eyes, letting the appropriate music fill her mind, and she smirks when My Chemical Romance fills her mind. Of course it would be MCR. Oh well, she can work with this.


Well it rains and it pours when you're out on your own
If I crash on the couch, can I sleep in my clothes
'Cause I spent the night dancing, I'm drunk I suppose
If it looks like I'm laughing
I'm really just asking to leave this alone

A man stalks into the room, a sick delight ablaze in his face.

 

You're in time for the show
You're the one that I need
I'm the one that you loathe
You can watch me corrode
Like a beast in repose
'Cause I love all the poison away with the boys in the band

He shakes with anticipation, high on the thrill of the kill

 

I've really been on a bender and it shows
So why don't you blow me
A kiss before she goes

The music ringing in Procel’s mind means nothing to him, of course, but the music guides Procel through the scene, setting the tone of this murder.

 

Give me a shot to remember
And you can take all the pain away from me

He slams a blunt object against his victim’s head - that’s all she is, an unfortunate victim to his delights - and Procel pauses, wondering what it is he used. A frying pan? There is a bloody one a few feet away, so Procel assumes that must be the initial weapon he used.

 

Your kiss and I will surrender
The sharpest lives are the deadliest to lead
A light to burn all the empires

There is delight in this kill. But not a calculated delight, like the way Hannibal delighted in his kills, no, this is different. Very different.

 

So bright the sun is ashamed to rise and be
In love with all of these vampires
So you can leave like the sane, abandon me

This is a child playing with paint with his hands.

 

There's a place in the dark where the animals go
You can take off your skin in the cannibal glow

He has made this woman puddy in the most basic sense in his hands, and she can imagine some insane child laughing as they beat this poor woman to death.

 

Juliet loves the beat and the lust it commands
Drop the dagger and lather the blood on your hands, Romeo

And this death isn’t a reaction to something. This kill was planned, but the plan itself was lacking.

 

I've really been on a bender and it shows
So why don't you blow me
A kiss before she goes

Kill the lady and delight in it.

 

Give me a shot to remember
And you can take all the pain away from me
Your kiss and I will surrender
The sharpest lives are the deadliest to lead
A light to burn all the empires

Run away.

 

So bright the sun is ashamed to rise and be
In love with all of these vampires
So you can leave like the sane, abandon me

Giggle as he falls into his den of nightmares.

 

Give me a shot to remember
And you can take all the pain away from me
Your kiss and I will surrender
The sharpest lives are the deadliest to lead
A light to burn all the empires

Smile as he daydreams about his next kill.

 

So bright the sun is ashamed to rise and be
In love with all of these vampires
So you can leave like the sane, abandon me

 

“This is a child,” Procel murmurs as she stands, facing Jack. “This wasn’t anger, self defense, or a reaction to something. This was pure… delight.”

 

Jack nods and contemplates her words for a moment. “Will he kill again?”

 

Procel nods. “And his next victim will suffer a lot more than this one did,” she murmurs, cringing at the way Zeller pokes at the wounds. “This was a trial run.”

 

Jack laughs bitterly. “Excellent. Z, what have we got?”

 

Zeller looks up quickly and explains the lack of fingerprints with a smile on his face. Strange person. Cute, but strange. As far as Zeller and Price can tell, there isn’t anything to identify the killer with. Everything was horribly chaotic, but there isn’t any blood, fingerprints, DNA, hair, or anything incriminating.

 

“The guy’s clean,” Zeller muses as he pokes and prods at the lump once known as Ms Williams’ face. “And this lady is a mess. Nothing classy about this kill.”

 

“You sound like you miss Hannibal’s kills,” Procel comments, quietly.

 

She’d held expected Zeller to laugh or at least crack a half hearted smile, but his expression droops and suddenly he’s solemn.

 

“Maybe,” he whispers, shifting in his crouch to poke at another part of the body. “But Hannibal is just as sick as this guy.”

 

Procel shrugs. “Just in a different manner. A much… neater manner.”

 

Price is the one who laughs now. “Sure. Neat! That’s a way to put it.”

 

Jack sighs and puts a heavy hand on Procel’s shoulder. “We lost people to Hannibal,” he murmurs to Procel as Prize and Zeller quietly bicker away about stitches. “Beverly Katz, the third member of the forensics team, found Hannibal’s identity and went to find evidence.”

 

Procel eyes Jack carefully, watching how his composure breaks and the darkness builds in his eyes.

 

“She found the evidence, that’s for sure,” he mutters, more to himself than to Procel. He clears his throat before continuing. “Hannibal killed her and displayed her. He split her body into six slits and put them in glass displays, for all the world to see.”

 

Procel vaguely remembers something about a death like this, involving the Ripper (aka Hannibal). She remembers being horrified.

 

~O~

 

Alana and Procel sit at a table at a fairly decent bar, drinking wine instead of beer and talking about murder. Alana asks about the case Jack has given her, and Procel explains the basic of the scenario. A man who has become addicted to the thrill of the kill and the power it gives someone. The freedom and insanity is gives people.

 

The standard killer, Procel thinks. But she can’t help thinking of that poor lady’s name, Misha. It probably means nothing, but it’s just one hell of a coincidence. Misha’s death as Hannibal runs away.

 

“So, Ms DuBois,” Alana drawls as she takes a sip of her wine. “Why the FBI? Why not some small police force or the academy?”

 

Procel scoffs as she drinks a sip of her own drink. “The usual things. Tragic backstory and the need for vengeance.”

 

“Is Hannibal a part of your vengeance?” Alana asks, watching Procel with scrutinizing eyes.

 

Procel smiles wryly. “I am not here on a mission to exact my revenge upon Hannibal, Alana. I have nothing personal against the man. I have never met him and I don’t plan to ever meet him. However, I have met his kind. Creatures that think they’re something equal to God, so they dangle their victims like puppets and display them to the world, showing off their beauty in death.”

 

Alana’s eyes narrow, contemplating her word choice. “Why use the word puppets? I mean, I agree with you completely about your point, but I feel like what Hannibal does isn’t… puppeteering. It’s manipulation, yes, but… he gives them free will and manipulates the choices they can make, rather than blinding them completely and using them to kill people.”

 

“Perhaps. I think Hannibal sees us less as puppets and more as… animals. Simple things that can be easily taught tricks.” Procel leans back and drinks another sip. “But concerning puppets, remember that killer in Washington? The Puppeteer?”

 

She nods. “He was caught eventually, right?”

 

Procel nods. “I caught him.”

 

Alana smiles and bows her head. “Good job.”

 

“Thank you. Like I’ve said, my job here does not concern revenge or tragedy. I am here because I want to do what others cannot. But I was chasing the Puppeteer for very personal reasons.”

 

Alana’s eyes soften in understanding. “You lost someone to him.”

 

Procel nods. “I did. A bit of backstory: I was married some years ago, and it was a good marriage, nothing tragic or dramatically beautiful. I was young, so was he, and we just kind of fell into place together. He died in a car crash, nothing special, so I was left alone with our little girl, Gail.”

 

Alana doesn’t look away from Procel.

 

“As a single mom, I was busy,” Procel says slowly, a small smile on her lips and sadness in her eyes. “I worked three jobs and was trying to get my psychology degree so I could finally begin practice. I was working at a museum at the time, I think, and a neighbor was watching Gail. Normal routine for our family. I came back home after… three or four hours? Something like that. The door was open when I got home, and at first, I thought nothing of it, assuming that the neighbor had opened it to let in some air or something.”

 

Alana watches her carefully, watching for a sign of madness or a need for revenge in Procel’s eyes, but she can’t find it. Not yet.

 

“So I walked in, calling out for Gail.” Procel touches her fingertips to her lips as she prepares for her next words. “But, in the living room, the neighbor was dead, beaten into a bloody pulp on the floor. I didn’t even bother to check if she was alive. She barely looked human anymore. So instead, I ran upstairs to my bedroom (where Gail usually hides when she’s scared) and there she was…”

 

Alana sees bitterness in Procel’s eyes for a short moment, and then pain. A soft, elegant, pain.

 

“Gail was strung up above my bed, her eyes replaced with glass and her wounds filled with plaster,” Procel whispers softly. “She was four. Only four. Shy child. Liked to draw all over the walls. And there she was, strung up like a puppet.” She takes in a deep breath before continuing. “A child will one day lose their parents to time, but a parent should never have to face their child’s death. Time doesn’t take children away from us. Nature doesn’t let us see our creations die. Cruelty does.”

 

Alana tries to understand the bitterness in Procel’s eyes. “I wish I could offer some form of comfort.”

 

Procel shrugs. “It was years ago, so I’ve learned to… live with her ghost in my shadow. But now, I’ve promised myself that I will never… never, let another mother suffer the same fate I did.”

 

Alana nods slowly. “But you have to realize that not all monsters will be caught,” she says carefully, hunting for the madness in Procel’s eyes.

 

Procel gives Alana a glimpse of the madness she seeks, and it sends tremors running down her spine. The look of insanity disappears as soon as it comes, but it sends Alana back into another room, the smell of wine filling her head and a firm touch on her waist.

 

“But Hannibal will be,” Procel murmurs. “The Puppeteer was caught. This… amateur will be caught. And so will Hannibal.”

 

“What makes you so sure?” Alana asks, leaning towards Procel, the glass of wine still in her hands and the smell still lurking in her mind. She sees Hannibal’s smile, his devilish smirk, in her mind and on Procel’s own lips.

 

Procel smiles gently, almost sweetly, her eyes dark like rich chocolate. “Because I am going to catch them.”

 

Alana nods and purses her lips. “You think you can catch Hannibal? He has been hiding from the law for… his entire life.”

 

Procel smirks. “Oh he’ll be caught. And you want to know why?” She takes the silence as a yes. “Because Hannibal has something to protect, now.” She sips at her wine and smiles widely at Alana. “He would do anything for Abigail and Will.”

 

Alana stiffens at the mention of Hannibal’s captives, the memory of Will’s kiss on her lips and her betrayal when she arguably went running to Hannibal. “Why do you think he took them?”

 

Procel scoffs. “He didn’t take them.”

 

“Sorry?”

 

“He didn’t take them,” Procel repeats. “He didn’t… kidnap Abigail and Will. That isn’t a victory to Hannibal. Abigail is his daughter , and he loves her the same way Hobbs loved his daughter: with blood and death. Will is the only one who understands Hannibal, and he wouldn’t just… kidnap him. He would persuade him. Beg him to run away with him.”

 

Alana bites at her cheek. “If that’s true, Will and Abigail are-”

 

“Guilty,” Procel mutters. “Murderers.”

 

Alana hangs her head. “Yes. As brutal as it is, they will be considered murderers in the eyes of the law.”

 

“And you don’t want that to happen,” Procel confirms.

 

“I can’t allow that to happen,” Alana mutters into her wine glass. “I won’t let Will and Abigail be blinded by Hannibal.”

 

“They aren’t blind, Alana,” Procel murmurs. “Will especially. He knows exactly what Hannibal is. He was the first one to realize it, after all.”

 

“And Abigail?”

 

“She knows that Hannibal is a killer,” Procel says. “She knows he’s a cannibal. But so was her father. Hannibal is the only person besides Will who knows her inside out and can give her the life she once had.”

 

“The life she had? That was the life of an innocent,” Alana says, echoing the thoughts of herself before Hannibal got inside her.

 

“You still believe she’s innocent?” Procel asks. “Even after she threw you out the window?”

 

Alana looks away. “I want to. I don’t want to taint the pure image I had of her.”

 

Procel nods. “Understandable.”

 

“But I know that… I know that she knew about the killings,” Alana admits. “I just didn’t want to believe it.”

 

“And now she knows about even more killings,” Procel points out. “She can’t pull the innocent card anymore.”

 

Alana scoffs. “She still can. Hannibal, according to the news, has kidnapped her. She’s being held hostage.”

 

“And yet no demands are being made,” Procel says. “Wait till Lounds gets her claws into that point.”

 

“Freddie Lounds is ours,” Alana says, almost proudly. “There will be no point to dig into.”

 

Procel gives her a congratulatory look. “Impressive. You chained the storm of a woman.”

 

Alana laughs shortly. “Not us. Will. He was the one who tied a leash around her neck and strapped her to the FBI.”

 

“This was during the courtship thing, correct?” Procel asks. “When her supposed body was displayed in three different ways?”

 

Alana raises a brow. “Courtship? What makes you say that?”

 

“Everything,” Procel says. “Two murderers showing their skills to each other in the gentlest ways. Love notes.”

 

Alana doesn’t say anything, remembering the horror of believing Will was the one being courted.

 

“And now they’re probably married somewhere in France,” Procel mutters.

 

“They?”

 

“Hannibal and Will.”

 

Alana has to fight back the rage in her eyes.

 

“Will’s plan succeeded,” Procel murmurs. “He has completely, utterly seduced Hannibal Lecter.”

 

“How do you know this?” Alana whispers.

 

Procel smiles. “I know people like Hannibal. I know how they work. And because Will knows Hannibal and knows that in order to survive, Hannibal has to be smitten with him and unable to harm him. And I also gossiped with Jack and Hannibal’s psychiatrist.”

 

“DuMaurier?” Alana asks.

 

Procel nods. “Lovely woman, she is. Very poetic as well. Reminds me of Athena, or Hera. Godlike and powerful in the quietest sense.”

 

Alana nods. “She is.”

 

Procel hums in agreement. “And she told me something that I think perfectly fits Will and Abigail’s scenario concerning their guilt. ‘What Hannibal does is not coercion.’”

 

“‘It is persuasion,’” Alana finishes.

 

Procel nods slowly, deeply. “They are guilty, Alana. But luckily for us, Hannibal loves them. He loves Will, he loves Abigail, so when the time comes - and it will - he will ensure that they are innocent.”

 

~O~

 

Alana wants Hannibal dead. She won’t lie about that. Hannibal made her a promise and he always keeps his promises.

 

“Walk away, I’ll make no plans to call on you. But if you stay, I will kill you. Be blind, Alana. Don’t be brave.”

 

So, if she wants to live a long, fulfilling life without becoming dinner, Hannibal has to be out of the picture.

 

Enter Mason Verger, this crazy, rich madman with the perfect plan to take Hannibal down and absolutely no mercy on his mind. A part of Alana is horrified and disgusted when she hears Mason’s plan, but another part - the more dominant part of her mind these days - is… delighted. The idea of making Hannibal suffer just as he has done to so many, it’s elating. He’ll be gone from her life, the sword hanging over her head will be gone, and he will suffer the death he deserves. He’ll probably even be proud of Mason for constructing such a horrible death, Alana tells herself. Who cares about morals, now, when Hannibal’s death is finally a tangible thing?

 

However, Hannibal isn’t the only one the picture Mason wants to paint.

 

Will is also on Mason’s menu - since he stood by and did nothing as Mason are his own face off - and by extension, so is Abigail. Mason doesn’t care who dies or who gets in the way of what he wants. And that means that if Mason finds Hannibal first, Will and Abigail will die right alongside him.

 

That doesn't sit right with Alana.

 

She tells herself that they knew the risks when they ran away with Hannibal. She tells herself that Will has killed people, just like Hannibal. She tells herself that Abigail chose to stay with killers, and that she could have left him a long time ago if she wanted to.

 

She tells herself that Hannibal hasn’t blinded them like he blinded her.

 

So she stays with Mason and his sister, searching for Hannibal and plotting his death. Mason takes great delight in poking fun at Alana’s previous relationship with Hannibal, and while Alana once would have been horrified and left the house instantly, she kept put. Yes, Hannibal got deeper into her than he did anyone else, literally speaking. Yes, she was in a sexual relationship with him. Yes, she knew Hannibal more intimately than most. Yes, yes, yes. She can deal these jokes, as frustrating and crass as they are. She can deal with Mason because Mason is her ticket to her safety and Hannibal’s death.

 

However, Mason also likes to take a poke at Will.

 

Will, the bride of Frankenstein. Will, the man who seduced Hannibal. Will, the goddamn martyr. Will, the true love of Hannibal. Will, the lonely monster’s companion. Will, the devil’s lover.

 

Alana can handle her own name being tarnished by this madman. She can handle the sex jokes about her and Hannibal. It’s all in the past. But Will… she can’t handle Will’s name being spat on, because a small part of her agrees with Mason. Will knew Hannibal, saw Hannibal, long before anyone believed him. Will seduced Hannibal in every sense of the word, and Alana was powerless as she watched the two stalk around each other like lions.

 

She’s seen the way Hannibal looks at Will, the way his gaze softens and his lips quirk up into a small smile, just for Will. The way his eyes lingered on Will’s features, committing them to memory. And she also saw the pain in Will’s eyes when she rejected him and the pain in his eyes when he realized she was sleeping with Hannibal. She saw how he left her behind in the dust, running after Hannibal instead.

 

It hurts, realizing that Will has willingly run to a monster.

 

~O~

 

The new killer is caught a week later, with Procel standing over him with a gun pushed against his temple and her phone against her ear.

 

Jack is delighted when he sees her, covered in blood, and she merely shrugs it off.

 

“You caught the killer before Freddie Lounds could even name him,” Jack exclaims in disbelief, rubbing his forehead. “You caught him with your own bare hands.”

 

Procel shrugs again, wiping at the blood off her gloves and shaking the hair out of her eyes. “I know how to catch the monsters, but don’t… don’t let Lounds publish anything about me. Take all the credit. I don’t want any.”

 

Jack’s face says, why?, but he stays professional and pats her on the shoulder. “You’ve done well. Let the medics clean you up and then give Alana and I the breakdown of how you caught him. Lounds won’t know anything.”

 

Procel nods.

 

Procel is is very numb as she goes through the standard procedure of things. Dull and emotionless as a medic cleans her small wounds and bandages them. Alana watches her from across the crime scene, a bit numb herself as she glances at the murderer covered in his own blood and kneeling in the filth. Procel did that, and Alana is honestly a bit terrified of the woman whose blond hair is now tainted with a rusty color.

 

“Alana,” Jack whispers to her as they watch Procel. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

 

Alana looks at him incredulously. “We can’t. We don’t know her.”

 

“Neither does Hannibal,” Jack points out. “Now, obviously there will be further screening that needs to be done and some questions to be asked, but she is our best bet.”

 

“At finding Hannibal?” Alana asks. “It’s too risky.”

 

“Everything is risky,” Jack presses, stepping in front of her as she tries to walk away. “But she is the ticket to his capture.”

 

“She could die,” Alana points out. “Are you ready to lose another agent? Another pawn on your chessboard?”

 

Jack shakes his head and rubs his forehead. “Will is out there, alone with a monster.”

 

“He ran with Hannibal,” Alana points out. “He chose to run away with him.”

 

Jack shakes his head, biting at his lip and looking desperately to Alana. “Will isn’t a killer. He understands killers, yes, but he isn’t a killer. Hannibal would have killed him if he tried to leave him, so running away with him was his best option!”

 

“And if we chase after Hannibal, we might lose Procel, Will, and more,” Alana hisses. “This is too dangerous a bet.”

 

“Letting Hannibal go is too dangerous a bet,” Jack mutters. “DuBois is our best bet.”

 

Alana shakes her head and thinks about Mason Verger’s plan. She’s using Mason to kill Hannibal so why is she so… against using Procel to find him? Her thoughts recently have been purely selfish, card after card laid on the table in order to survive. Survival is the only thing on her mind. So maybe with Procel, she is against the idea because Procel isn’t going to find Hannibal in order to kill him. She isn’t fighting with everything she has, whereas Hannibal will be. Hannibal won’t hesitate to kill her and serve her to his new, innocent dinner guests.

 

“She could bring Will home,” Jack says gravely, a pained and almost guilty look in his eyes. “He could finally rest.”

 

Alana walks away, leaving the scene and slipping into her car. Once inside, she throws her head back against the seat and groans softly. Procel could do what Mason refuses to do: bring Will safely home.

 

How on earth could she say no to that?

 

~O~

 

Alana rushes out of the Verger mansion, trying to look like she isn’t rushing out of the Verger mansion.

 

Hannibal is in Florence. Mason knows Hannibal is in Florence. Dammit, why did she tell him? Why did she let him find him?

 

She pulls out her phone hastily and scrolls through quickly in an attempt to find Jack’s number.

 

“Dammit, where is it?” She hisses under her breath.

 

She has to tell Jack so they can get a head start. Mason is relying on bounty hunters and money, but Jack can send someone there right now. That’ll either scare Hannibal out of Florence so Will and Abigail will be safe or catch them before Mason kills them. Either way, Will will be safer than he will be with Mason Verger.

 

“Goin’ somewhere?” A voice drawls from behind Alana, and she spins around wildly to face then.

 

Margot Verger is standing there, sauntering down the stairs and looking at Alana with a perfect raised eyebrow. She has this perfect little smirk on her face and it freezes Alana on the spot.

 

“Margot,” Alana says, shoving her phone into her pocket. “Can I help you?”

 

Margot laughs haughtily and nears Alana with a disbelieving look. “Can I help you? You look like the kid who got caught with their hand in the cookie jar.”

 

Alana forces a laugh. “Maybe.”

 

Margot looks at her, expecting something more, and sighs when Alana remains silent. “You seem awfully conflicted about my brother’s plan, Dr Bloom,” Margot points out. “Wanna talk me through it? Share some sob stories?”

 

Alana scoffs. “Do you have any you’re willing to share?”

 

Margot shrugs and takes a step closer to Alana. “Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve already lost everything I wanted.”

 

Alana looks at Margot from head to toe and thinks, why not? “Sure.”

 

Margot smirks. “Excellent. You wanna talk over beer or wine?”

 

“Beer,” Alana says as they begin walking towards her car. “I can’t stomach beer after I found out what Hannibal was putting inside mine.”

 

Margot scoffs. “More like who he was putting in your beer.”

 

Alana nods. “You’re not wrong,” she mutters as she climbs into the car.

 

“I’m rarely ever wrong,” Margot says while buckling herself in. “Except when it comes to how far my brother will go to get what he wants. That… that, I’m usually wrong about.”

 

“He’s unpredictable enough. No one blames you for not knowing what his next move is,” Alana says kindly, automatically falling into psychiatrist mode.

 

Margot laughs loudly in one short burst. “I know. No one blames me and they have no right to blame me. But it still sucks, now knowing when he’s going to stab you in the back next.”

 

Alana glances over worriedly at Margot. “Why does that sound like a literal statement?”

 

Margot looks over at her with a mocking expression. “Because, sadly, it is a literal statement. I’ll show you the scars later, don’t worry. I’m an awfully open person about these things, especially when I’m this close to someone who can give me children.” She puts her forefinger and thumb close together and throws a sarcastic smirk at Alana.

 

Alana doesn’t understand the last statement, but she knows that she will in due time. Margot is a good person to stand by when faced with Mason’s fanatics. She’s also slightly insane, so Alana takes comfort in that. She doesn’t know if she can ever go back to spending time with normal, undamaged people. People who worry about bills and grades rather than murderers and insanity.

 

“So, I’m assuming we’re going to your place and not mine, since I kinda have a psychopathic brother in there,” Margot says as Alana begins driving through the long, winding paths from the mansion. “Or just a bar or something, if you wanna.”

 

Alana casts a glance at Margot. “Would you prefer coming over to my house?”

 

Margot shrugs. “Why not. I can comfortably strip there.”

 

Alana chuckles and a small smile stays on her lips for the remainder of the drive.

 

~O~

 

“Not gonna lie, Dr Bloom, that honestly sucks,” Margot murmurs as she downs another glass of whiskey.

 

Alana laughs bitterly. “Yeah. It is.”

 

Margot scoffs and leans towards Alana from her place on the couch. “Wanting to murder the killer, but also being in love with said killer’s husband.”

 

Alana rolls her eyes and sighs heavily. “I’m not in love with Will. I just don’t want to see him get hurt. I’ve grown attached.”

 

Margot nods heavily and shrugs her shoulders a bit. “Understandable. Will seems like an interesting guy. Great in bed, as well.”

 

Alana chokes on her own spit and she stares incredulously at Margot. “What?”

 

Margot eyes Alana. “What? You didn’t know?” When Alana shakes her head, Margot’s eyes widen and she puts down her glass and clasps her hands together. “Well, Dr Bloom, this seems like the perfect moment to transition into my sob story.”

 

Alana opens her mouth to speak, but Margot cuts her off.

 

“Sh, I’m not changing the subject. I’m leading into another one,” Margot says.

 

Alana gives her a slightly disapproving expression but remains silent.

 

“Okay, so, a while back I met Will while we were both under Dr Lecter’s care. Obviously, we discussed briefly our tragedies - nothing too deep and personal, don’t worry - and eventually, after showing each other our scars, things kinda led into other things. Half of our clothes were already gone, so it wasn’t much trouble removing the rest and climbing into bed and doing the deed.”

 

Alana is shocked by how easily Will slept with Margot, but she grudgingly accepts this information. It’s not like she can change it, anyways.

 

“How does this lead into your sob story?” Alana asks softly.

 

Margot smirks a bit when she sees Alana’s shocked and mildly hurt expression, so she scoots closer and presses her shoulder lightly against Alana’s. “Are you jealous?”

 

Alana once would have blushed and told Margot to leave, but she’s grown since then. She reveals only a small shade of rosy pink on her cheeks and instead smiles sadly. “I’m not. Will Graham was unstable - is unstable - and sleeping with him would have only given me more pain.”

 

Margot nods in understanding. “Alright. I can accept that answer. But, to answer your question, there was a very specific reason as to why I slept with Will. I wanted kids. I still do. A son, specifically, so I can kill Mason and still get the money.”

 

Alana merely stares at Margot as she bluntly admits the truth.

 

“Mason has complete power and control over me, and the only way I can fight back and live to tell the tale is if I get myself a son,” Margot states, pouring herself more whiskey. “And so, I slept with Will and got myself pregnant. I had a plan and Will was fine with the kid and even willing to help raise it. Things were going great.” She then laughs bitterly and throws her head back. Her expression suddenly dies out and she looks at Alana with a gut wrenching, pained expression. “But Mason, he took it all away. I don’t have eggs anymore. I can’t bear any children.” Her voice cracks and Alana has a hard time telling whether or not it’s real.

 

“That’s why you’re interested in me,” Alana murmurs. “I don’t stand beside your brother and I can bear children.”

 

Margot smiles grimly. “You wanna have kids with me, Dr Bloom?”

 

Alana laughs. “We barely know each other, perhaps we should slow down a bit.”

 

Margot shrugs. “Maybe. But, you know, if you’re ever willing to swing my way, I won’t turn you down.”

 

“All for my womb?” Alana asks.

 

“You’re pretty,” Margot says, sipping whiskey. “And badass. So no, not all for your womb.”

 

Alana smirks. “I feel honored.”

 

Margot laughs. “You should. I find most women ugly as hell, so you’re a diamond in the rough. Hot as hell, against my brother, and fertile. It’s a pot of gold.”

 

Alana can’t help but smile at that.

 

~O~

 

“Hello?”

 

“Procel, it’s me, Alana.”

 

A breathy chuckle. “Oh good morning, Dr Bloom. It’s three AM, how can I help you?” The sarcasm is almost tangible, and Alana is having a hard time figuring out Procel. Sarcastic, proper, or something else?

 

Alana laughs shortly. “I apologize, but it’s an emergency.”

 

A snort. “Apology accepted. I was up anyways, couldn’t sleep and then decided to go for a morning walk.”

 

“At three AM?”

 

“Tell me the emergency, Alana dear.”

 

Alana decides that Procel is much more sarcastic and lively in the mornings.

 

“I found out where Hannibal is.”

 

There is silence for a moment, and Alana can hear a sharp intake of breath. “Have you told Jack?” She asks slowly.

 

“Not yet. I will, after I tell you.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because once you know, Jack won’t say no to my idea.” His hands will be tied and Will will be safe. And it’s not even like Jack is against this plan, but she wants control for once. She wants to be the one calling the shots. Jack isn’t calling this, she is.

 

“Ever consider I might say no?” Procel mutters, and Alana isn’t sure whether or not it was meant for her.

 

“Please don’t,” she says anyways.

 

Procel laughs. “Only because you said please.”

 

Alana laughs as well. “Thanks.”

 

“So, where is our cannibal?” Procel says, the background sounds now including the beeping of what Alana assumes to be her heater or microwave.

 

“Florence.”

 

Procel hums. “That makes sense. Seems like the type of place for Hannibal to run to. How’d you figure it out?”

 

“I can’t say. But trust me, he’s there.”

 

Procel sighs but Alana can imagine her nodding. “What’s your plan?”

 

“Catch him,” Alana says. “Fly to Florence and take him down before he can react.”

 

“You’ll probably just spook him. He’ll run the moment he sees you,” Procel points out, her voice a quiet murmur, and Alana can picture her focusing on some other task like breakfast or clothes.

 

“He won’t see me. He won’t see any of us,” Alana says, clearing her throat.

 

There is silence on Procel’s end of the phone, and she can see Procel freezing and listening attentively to the phone.

 

“We’ll be sending you.”

 

Alana hears a sharp laugh followed by a breathy chuckle. “Me? You want to send in the fresh meat and use me to lure him out. Lay a trap for him. Since he’ll have no idea who I am and obviously fall for whatever trap I lay for him.”

 

She chooses to ignore the sarcasm dripping from Procel’s comments. Alana is serious about this. “Yes.” She won’t even try to sugarcoat it. “You’ll be bait.”

 

“Bait seems too cruel a word,” Procel says. “I think I’d like to be the lure. Much more romantic connotations with that word. The lure. It’s almost sexual. But I’m not seducing Hannibal, just to be clear. Will has already done that and I’m not getting in the way of that whole relationship.”

 

“Of course,” Alana murmurs. “We just need you to make Hannibal feel safe in Florence and help us take him down.”

 

“Easier said than done,” Procel reminds her. “Talk to Jack about it, and we’ll see if he’s willing to send me all the way to Florence for just one guy who may or may not actually be in Florence.”

 

“He’s in Florence, and it’s not just one guy,” Alana whispers. “There’s Will and Abigail, as well.”

 

“They’re not the issue, though, are they? They’re just the victims who have to stay out of the way.”

 

“I don’t think they’ll just stay out of the way,” Alana says, remembering how Abigail pushed her out of a window and how Will looked at Hannibal with this… desire when he continued to evade the FBI. It was pride, almost.

 

Procel hums. “Neither do I, but that’s the idea.”

 

Alana nods, even though Procel can’t see it. “When you go…” Alana whispers. “Make sure Will and Abigail stay safe.”

 

Procel stays silent, waiting for the next words on Alana’s tongue.

 

“Please.”

 

Alana can’t see it, but a thin smile stretches across Procel’s lips. “Of course. They will be blameless.”

Chapter Text

You could say they’re running, but they’re limping more than anything else. Steadily limping. Two of them aren’t even limping, and the one who is limping is seriously injured and bleeding everywhere. They barely got out of the house and down the street before DuBois found them, but they don’t know that. They just know that they’re together, and that they have to get somewhere safe.

 

“Bedelia,” Hannibal murmurs, clutching to Will tightly. “Go to Bedelia’s house.”

 

Will opens his mouth to question why the fuck they would go to Bedelia DuMaurier's house, but Abigail has a look of complete trust on her face and Will remembers the first time he met the woman.

 

“I believe you.”

 

Will groans as he realizes that she probably knows the truth about Hannibal, or at least suspects it. No, he isn’t realizing this, he’s known this for a while, he’s just remembering at the moment. Dammit, everything has been so damn confusing. Abigail is alive, Jack and Alana are dying, he kissed Hannibal, and now he’s running away with Hannibal, just like they planned. Running away with Abigail.

 

As they limp along the streets and struggle to keep Hannibal conscious, Will keeps looking to Abigail in wonder. She’s alive, he keeps thinking. Abigail is alive. The teacup has come together and now she’s here, with him. With Hannibal. Alive.

 

Now, they just have to stay alive.

 

Somehow, they manage to steal a car and get it moving, and the heater is a blessing as it warms their soaked bodies. Will drives as Abigail tends to Hannibal in the back seat, but Hannibal will occasionally direct Will on which road to take. He knows where Beledia lives, but it’s a little hard to remember everything when you’ve just kissed a cannibal and realized your daughter is alive.

 

They arrive at her house soon enough, and Hannibal clambers out of the car - lacking his usual grace but not his aura of… power - and stalks towards the house. He keeps a firm hand on Abigail’s hand - a firm and reassuring hand, one that seems to comfort her rather than scare her - and the other on Will’s. His grip is unwavering and stark, but with his fingers threaded through Will’s, it feels gentle and nervous, conveying a thousand different emotions Will doesn’t have the energy to decipher. The main one, however, is easy enough to understand. Protection. Hannibal is reassuring Will and guiding him through his first steps in Hannibal’s world.

 

Hannibal knocks twice, loudly and almost rudely, but it’s understandable. Bedelia is probably sleeping at this time of night. She should be sleeping, unless she’s waiting for Hannibal so arrive.

 

A pale light flickers on deep inside the house and within a few moments, the door creaks open and a sliver of Bedelia’s face is revealed to them. Fear is etched everywhere Will can see.

 

“Hannibal,” she whispers, her voice a little unsteady, but otherwise calm, as if she was greeting an old friend. “How may I help you?”

 

Hannibal’s eyes bore into her and Will has the sudden urge to hold him back. Bedelia looks like cornered prey at the moment.

 

“We need a place to stay for the night,” Hannibal says, his voice only slightly raspy. “And then you’ll never see us again.”

 

Bedelia scoffs as she opens the door all the way, allowing the trio to enter. “Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Hannibal. I will be seeing you again, rather it be on the news or in the flesh.” Her voice is soft

 

Hannibal chuckles and lets go of Abigail’s hand, but still clutches tightly onto Will’s. “Do you have that file I gave you the other night?”

 

Bedelia nods and begins walking towards the living room. “I was under the impression that you would be collecting it during the day.”

 

“Change of plans,” Hannibal murmurs as he follows her into the living room, still holding onto Will.

 

Bedelia hums in disapproval. “How rude of you.”

 

“I never promised that I would collect them during the day,” Hannibal reminds her as she turns towards them with a black folder in hand.

 

Bedelia raises a brow at him but otherwise says nothing as she passes the folder to him. Hannibal takes it in a steady hand and keeps it at his side.

 

“May Abigail have her own room, for tonight? She’s someone who values privacy,” Hannibal asks, a smile on his lips. That smile holds so many lies, though, and both Will and Bedelia see them. It visibly scares Bedelia, but Will is unfazed by it. It’s natural at this point, and it’s not directed at him, this fake pleasantry. Hannibal isn’t lying to him.

 

Bedelia nods and looks shakily to Abigail. “This way,” she whispers as she starts walking away to another part of the house. “You know where to go, Hannibal.”

 

Hannibal bows slightly in thanks and shifts his gaze to Will. “Come on. Let’s get cleaned up.”

 

Will follows Hannibal wordlessly, his hand still linked tightly to Hannibal’s. He guides them to another part of the house upstairs, where the air is cooler and the smell of dust is slightly more prominent. They arrive at a grand but simple room with a single king sized bed and a bathroom suite.

 

“I hope you don’t mind sharing a bed for the night,” Hannibal murmurs to Will.

 

Will finds himself shaking his head.

 

Hannibal nods and smiles softly at Will. “Good.”

 

Hannibal releases Will’s hand and places the black folder on the bed before stumbling onto the chair next to the bathroom door. He shudders slightly and groans softly as he assesses the injuries he’s received, which honestly isn’t much, compared to what he can handle, but it’s still inconvenient. He slowly begins undoing the buttons of his shirt, and all too soon, it’s falling off his shoulders and being folded into a half-hearted bundle and placed at the foot of the door. The rest of his clothing is peeled off steadily, one piece at a time, and not once does he look to Will, who stands there in the middle of the room, dumbfounded.

 

What is he supposed to do in this situation?

 

Once Hannibal is in only his underwear, he moves into the bathroom and begins running the bath water, the sound soothing against Will’s ears. He fiddles with some things and some others, searching for soap and towels, and all the while he doesn’t look at Will. Why won’t he look at Will? Why won’t he say something, anything, to reassure Will that he made the right decision?

 

“Will?”

 

Finally.

 

Will looks up from the floor and meets Hannibal’s soft gaze, who now sits on the edge of the bathtub.

 

“Come here. You need to bathe.” Hannibal raises a hand and gestures for Will to come to him, and Will’s feet unthinkingly move towards him.

 

He stumbles into the bathroom in front of Hannibal, and that same desperateness he felt in the kitchen is suffocating him again. He feels almost trapped, cornered like an animal, but Hannibal’s kind and loving gaze is throwing everything off. The world is jilted, and panic slowly rises in Will.

 

What have I done? Saved myself? Saved Abigail?

 

“Will?” Hannibal asks, his hands ghosting over Will’s shaking ones. “Will, talk to me.”

 

Will forces himself to take deep breaths, and while doing so, his suddenly finds himself in Hannibal’s embrace as he kneels on the floor in front of him. Hannibal’s arms are heavily draped over his shoulders and pressing him firmly against Hannibal’s chest, and the touch is reassuring and so familiar. Murderer or not, Will has always found comfort in the presence of Hannibal. Maybe not in the presence of the concept of Hannibal, in the shadow of the stag, but next to Hannibal’s physical form, he’s always felt safe. He once trusted Hannibal, trusted him above all others, and that feeling of trust was hard to forget.

 

“Are we safe?” Will murmurs against Hannibal’s shoulder.

 

Hannibal presses his cheek against Will’s temple. “Yes.”

 

Will shakes his head and gently pushes himself away from Hannibal. “Don’t lie to me.” He looks Hannibal in the eye. “Don’t you ever lie to me.”

 

Hannibal presses a hand against the side of Will’s face, cradling it. “We are safe, Will. We’ve escaped, and Abigail is with us, alive.”

 

Will nods and shudders. “She’s alive.”

 

Hannibal nods with Will. “She is alive and safe, Will.” He brushes a strand of hair from Will’s eyes. “As are you.”

 

Will finds his eyes lingering on Hannibal’s lips for just too long, so he presses his head back against Hannibal’s shoulder and he breathes deeply. Hannibal will protect him and Abigail. Staying on Hannibal’s good side will keep him safe.

 

Hannibal begins undoing Will’s buttons, steady hands removing the evidence of murder and betrayal, and Will lets him.

 

I am the lure.

 

Hannibal’s hands undo the buckle of Will’s belt, and Will lets him.

 

I have seduced Hannibal Lecter.

 

Hannibal guides Will’s bare body into the warm bath water, his hands strong against Will’s sides, and Will lets him.

 

Now I am a part of his world, a world that is a bright, incredible playground. It’s a paper doll house, and Hannibal is playing dress up. He’s not some tiger prowling among the sheep. He’s the grown man version of Alice in Wonderland, back for round two down the rabbit hole, and this time he knows all the tricks, and he drinks, delighted, from one half of a shattered teacup. His childhood was a nightmare and he decided to embrace it and wear it as a Cheshire smile: a smile that remains the only shining thing in the darkness. Everything he touches turns technicolor. Flowers grow from human chests. Men dream of becoming dragons. Pigs lick their lips and ask him to dinner. Death is paid for in gold coins, love is an origami heart, and God is just playing with his toys.

 

And now I am his lover in the midst of all of it.

 

“I will protect you, Will,” Hannibal murmurs as he begins washing Will’s hair. “You and Abigail. You will be safe under my care and we can finally start building that world we dreamed of together.”

 

A world of mended teacups and morbid kisses.

 

Will looks up at the man who holds his life. “Together.”

 

Hannibal smiles and Will’s heart is warmed by it.

 

The bathtub is insanely large and deep, far more expensive than any tub Will’s ever had the honor of sitting in, and his feet can barely touch the other end of it. An idea pops into his head, and it surprisingly doesn’t scare him. “Are you going to join me?” He murmurs. I am the lure.

 

Hannibal’s hands still in Will’s hair and Will can imagine his pupils dilating ever so slightly. He begins moving his hands again after a moment, his touches tender and loving.

 

“Would you want me to?” Hannibal asks, his voice steady.

 

Will turns his head slightly to meet Hannibal’s eyes. “I think the bath is big enough for us both.”

 

The corner of Hannibal’s lips twitch upwards and he continues to massage Will’s head. “Let me finish washing your hair. Then I might join you.”

 

Will scoffs. “I wouldn’t drown you, even if the bathtub was big enough.”

 

“I know,” Hannibal says without a pause. “Not since you finally find me interesting.”

 

Will smiles wryly. “Not since then.”

 

Hannibal removes his hands from Will’s hair and rinses them quickly in the water. He moves away from the bath and towards the sink, and after he grabs something - a sponge that probably costs far too much - he removes his underwear and moves back to the bathtub. Will scoots to one end of the bathtub and Hannibal dips his bloodied foot into the water and slinks into the tub like a swan dipping it’s beak into the water. The water turns pink around Hannibal, and once he is fully seated in the water, he meets Will’s steady gaze and holds it.

 

“Come here,” Will murmurs, stretching his hand out to Hannibal.

 

Hannibal doesn’t move at first but then reaches out with his own hand to grasp Will’s. He holds Will’s gaze as he moves closer, until their knees touch and Will could kiss him. In fact, that’s exactly his plan.

 

He closes the gap between them and kisses Hannibal, his lips firm against Hannibal’s and offering no room to escape. His sudden movements splash water out of the tub and onto the tile floor, but neither of them can find the will to care. A soft gasp escapes Hannibal, and his movements stutter as he tries to close the distance between their bodies. It fills Will with victory, knowing he is the only person who can do this to Hannibal Lecter. Alana didn’t know the monster Hannibal is. She didn’t run to this monster. This monster doesn’t love her. It loves Will.

 

Hannibal’s right hand is planted firmly on the rim of the tub, supporting him as he explores Will, and Will’s own hands are planted firmly at the sides of Hannibal’s face. He tries to hold him steady and kiss Hannibal’s lips, but Hannibal’s lips seem to be everywhere but Will’s lips, instead kissing his chin, his nose, his cheeks, his jaw, and while it’s sweet, it’s frustrating. This is too controlled, and Hannibal still seems to have the upper hand. Is this how he kissed Alana? With the control of a devilish angel towering over her quivering body? Taking her the way Will imagined making love to her?

 

“Will,” Hannibal murmurs against Will’s lips, whispering his name just for the sake of it.

 

You are not making love to Alana, now, Dr Lecter. You are making love to me and only me.

 

Will kisses him harder and takes control of the kiss, slamming himself against Hannibal and demanding him to break under his hands. He wants to erase every memory of Alana’s lips from Hannibal’s mind, fill him only with thoughts of Will and his touches. Alana was a puppet and Will will not be that. He is the lure and he will make Hannibal bend over backwards for him, pledging his entire life to him. Let Hannibal forget Alana and his nights with her. Let her be safe from this monster and let Will embrace him, bearing the burden only he has the strength and insanity to bear. He represents to Hannibal every feverish dream that could come true. The dreams of love. The dreams of a family.

 

There is finally the beginning of a peace and quiet in their lives. A dream they can make real. Hands brand him with his nightmares and dreams, and he leans into every touch Hannibal offers him. This is his monster, his creature, his killer. His lover. No one else has the honor of seeing Hannibal laid bare before them, void of deceitful words and armor of a suit and tie.

 

Hannibal leans away just enough to meets Will’s unwavering eyes, and his eyes crinkle with a smile.

 

“Thank you,” Hannibal murmurs. Thank you for running away with me. Thank you for seeing me. Thank you for loving me.

 

Does Will love Hannibal? Is this what this has become? Love?

 

Will kisses him again, pulling Hannibal against him and dragging soft, delicate moans out of the man.

 

Love isn’t a choice, Will reminds himself as he presses up against Hannibal. Love isn’t some chemical that fires away in your mind. That’s lust, desire, want. He knows he desires Hannibal, the man who represents all of the sins Will never had the courage to commit, but love? Does he willingly commit himself to the man who could kill him without hesitation and leave his body bleeding out on the kitchen floor?

 

Yes.

 

If he wants to live, if he wants to protect Abigail, Alana, and Jack, he has to love Hannibal.

 

So love him he will.

 

~O~

 

After the three have bathed and tended to most of their wounds, the three meet in the living room and Hannibal sends Bedelia off to bed like a father sending his children to their rooms. The fireplace is lit and the crackling of wood and flames embraces the homey atmosphere that Will can’t help but chuckling quietly at. It makes everything seem so… normal. Just a family having a late evening meeting and cuddling by the fire.

 

Hannibal settles down towards the end of the longest couch in the room, and Abigail sits daintily on one side of him as Will flips down in the other side. Will’s thigh is pressing up against Hannibal’s and his eyes keep wandering to his lips. Those damn lips he has now tasted and touched and made gentle love to.

 

Abigail catches his look and smirks at him with a knowing smile and Will instantly is appalled by what he’s doing. He’s checking out Hannibal Lecter in front of his daughter, and for god’s sake he’s embarrassed. He tries to withhold the blush, but he’s sure some of it escapes.

 

Hannibal has the black folder in hand, and he looks through a few papers inside before giving them to Will and Abigail.

 

“Your new names,” Hannibal says as he hands Will and Abigail their papers. The papers are copies of passports, birth certificates, and other forms of identification. Hannibal then hands them each a small purse with passports and ID cards. “Elio and Mischa Gates.”

 

Will looks up and watches Hannibal closely. Mischa? His eyes ask.

 

Yes, Mischa, Hannibal’s gaze responds, and Will knows that he’ll have to interrogate Hannibal more about that later, even if he already knows the majority of it. Mischa was his charge, his responsibility, and now Abigail is that. Abigail is his daughter now.

 

“Abigail,” Hannibal says, turning to her ever so slightly. “You will be Will’s biological daughter, and your mother died in childbirth, so you never knew her beyond Will’s vague stories.”

 

Abigail nods obediently and looks to Hannibal with her wide blue eyes, focusing on his every word.

 

“Will,” Hannibal’s eyes bore into Will with a most delicate fondness. “As Abigail’s single father, you’ve managed fairly well in life, usually teaching psychology or biology at university. A few years ago, five to be exact, we met at an art museum, and we began seeing each other shortly afterward.”

 

Abigail’s eyes widen and a small smirk spreads on her lips as she looks at Will in victory.

 

Hannibal notices her reaction and smiles fondly at her. “You introduced me to Abigail and I soon became a close friend of the family. A year and a half later, I proposed and we got married in Virginia, Mischa’s birthplace.”

 

Abigail giggles and smiles widely at Will’s small blush. “You blushing?”

 

Will stares at her, mildly offended and shocked. “What? No.” He angrily rubs at his beard and Abigail’s smile only brightens.

 

Hannibal gives him another loving smile and while Will feels the blush retreating, something inside him warms even more. It’s all so domestic. In an attempt to change the subject, Will asks, “What’s your new name?”

 

“Rafael Angelo,” Hannibal answers. “I was an art professor in Paris, and I met you two when I took up a temporary job in Washington. Of course, I was smitten with Elio, so I had to peruse him.”

 

Will curses in his mind as the blush returns. They haven’t properly talked about… the kiss, but both of them know the shift in their relationship. For god’s sake, they made out in the bathtub. They’d be fools not to acknowledge the changes. There’s something more to it, now. Something deeper, more desperate. Something that sets Will aflame every time Hannibal touches him, but it’s all just gone unspoken, and now… Hannibal is married to him. Or, rather, Rafael is married to Elio.

 

“So, after a couple years in marriage, we decided to move to Italy to expand Mischa’s experience and to accept a job offer in Florence,” Hannibal says, smiling.

 

He really does have such a soft and beautiful smile, Will finds himself thinking. It won’t be hard, learning to love him. A part of me already does.

 

Hannibal explains some other details about their flight and travels to Florence, assuring that everything has been covered. “We’ll stay the night here, and then we leave first thing in the morning.”

 

“Shouldn’t we leave sooner?” Will asks. “Jack will know you’ll try to run away.”

 

Hannibal smirks. “He won't catch us.”

 

Will laughs bitterly, thinking back to the ever growing pool of blood. Will the ambulances have taken them to a hospital by now? Will the media be beginning to sniff out this tragedy and make their damn assumptions about the bodies Hannibal left behind? “And what if he does?” He asks anyways.

 

Hannibal sees the glimpse of fear and doubt in Abigail’s eyes as she watches Will, and he places a reassuring hand on Abigail’s shaking ones. “No one will catch us,” Hannibal whispers to them both, his eyes kind. “We’re safe.”

 

“But still,” Will whispers. “Do you have a plan if they do find us?”

 

How far will you go to protect us?

 

Hannibal’s smile falters and then slowly disappears altogether. “In the event we are discovered,” he begins slowly. “I will put all of the blame on myself and leave you two blameless.”

 

“How?” Will asks.

 

How far will you go to protect us?

 

Abigail’s hand tightens around Hannibal’s and she looks to him in sudden understanding.

 

“I will almost fatally injure you both, and then leave you to die,” he whispers, kissing the top of Abigail’s head. “And then you’ll never see me again.” The last words are a hushed whisper, barely reaching Will’s ears.

 

Abigail throws her arms around Hannibal and hugs him tightly, and Hannibal hugs her back, placing his cheek on the top of her head.

 

“You will be blameless,” Hannibal murmurs and catches Will’s gaze.

 

Blameless.

 

After a few moments, Abigail releases Hannibal and leans back, smiling sadly at him with her big blue eyes boring into Will.

 

“Thank you,” she whispers.

 

Hannibal nods and kisses her forehead. “I will do anything and everything for the two of you.”

 

Will wants do something, to embrace Hannibal or rest his head on his shoulder, but he can’t find the energy to. Hannibal is turned towards Abigail and he’s not just going to randomly press himself up against Hannibal. Hannibal knows the understanding Will has. There is an unspoken and quiet vow between them, finalized with Abigail’s life.

 

“Now,” Hannibal murmurs to Abigail. “I need to cut your hair. Nothing much, hopefully just to your chin, but it will reduce the chances of anyone recognizing you.”

 

Abigail leans back and nods.

 

“Follow me.” Hannibal stands and walks towards the kitchen, his socks padding quietly against the tile floor. Abigail follows obediently and sits on a stool as Hannibal ties a wrap around her and grabs the scissors. A horrible image of Hannibal suddenly stabbing into Abigail’s throat seizes Will, but he shoves the thought away and walks towards them. Hannibal won’t hurt Abigail. Not like this, not without reason.

 

But he could, if he wanted to, and one day he might. It could just be a matter of time before Hannibal reopens her throat and slams that curved blade into Will’s stomach.

 

He shudders and wraps his arms around himself. He doesn’t want to die. He doesn’t want to watch Abigail die. He will seduce Hannibal, no, he has seduced Hannibal, and as long as he stays on Hannibal’s good side, everything will be okay. Hannibal will protect them. They will be safe.

 

Please stay safe.

 

~O~

 

Abigail goes to sleep in her private suite, and Will and Hannibal prepare for sleep in their own bedroom. After bathing and finalizing the plan, exhaustion has finally settled into Will’s bones and the last drops of adrenaline leave him. He just wants to rest and prepare for the long journey ahead.

 

He wears only underwear and a t-shirt as he climbs into bed, and he half-heartedly scoffs at the full pajama set Hannibal dons.

 

“What?” Hannibal murmurs.

 

Will shakes his head. “I just realized that I’ve never seen you in your pajamas before. I have to say, I expected a robe along with those whole outfit.”

 

Hannibal smirks as he gets into bed besides Will, the mattress dipping under his weight. “I’m surprised that you still wear the exact same outfit as you did that morning I first brought you breakfast, but at the same time I’m not.”

 

Will laughs softly and settles into the bed, groaning as the pillows and mattress embrace his sore muscles. “You drove how many miles to bring me a protein scramble?”

 

“I’m not sure,” Hannibal murmurs, turning on his side to face Will. “I never bothered counting.”

 

Will rolls his eyes. “That sounds like the beginning of a pickup line. And I know you’re above those.”

 

Hannibal nods. “Of course. I would never lower myself to the levels of such… puns.”

 

Will raises a brow at him. “Like you don’t make puns.”

 

Hannibal looks to him blankly, but Will can see the truth in his eyes and in every damn dinner he’s ever had with Hannibal.

 

“You make puns all of the time and they’re not even funny,” Will says.

 

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Hannibal says calmly.

 

Will smirks. “Sure. Talkative lambs and ethical butchers. Not puns”

 

“Those are not puns,” Hannibal states as he shifts to lay flat on his stomach, draping an arm over his stomach. His position seems to say, “end of discussion.”

 

“Sure,” Will says, scooting closer to Hannibal. “I think Bedelia would call them ‘self congratulatory statements.’”

 

Hannibal turns his head to Will and sighs. He reaches an arm out to Will and grazes Will’s cheek with the back of his hand. His expression is gentle and Will smirks, knowing that Hannibal has surrendered. “We sound so domestic like this.”

 

Will coughs out a laugh. He just doesn’t want to talk about the puns, doesn't he? “Practically a married couple, are we?”

 

Hannibal’s gaze softens and his lips turn down into a little frown. “I should have asked if you were comfortable with the arrangements. I assumed-”

 

“It’s fine,” Will says too quickly. “You had every right to assume.” You planned out every little detail of this, including how my feelings towards you would change. Or at least, you hoped.

 

Hannibal scoots closer to Will and props himself up on one elbow so he leans slightly over Will. “I had every right to suspect , not assume.”

 

“Suspect what, Dr Lecter?” Will whispers, clicking his tongue on Hannibal’s name, tilting his chin up and keeping his eyes focused on Hannibal’s lips and eyes. The atmosphere quickly changes and Hannibal’s pupils dilate ever so slightly.

 

I am the lure.

 

Hannibal leans down and his breath washes over Will’s lips. “That what I felt for you was equally returned.”

 

How long has Hannibal desired Will like this? Surely not before Will was put into that damned mental institute, when the world was convinced that he was the Ripper. He was merely a puppet that Hannibal wound up and threw into the fire.

 

Maybe it started when Will finally saw Hannibal, saw him for the murderer and monster he is. When he stared into Hannibal’s eyes and took a bite of the meat on his plate, unflinching? When he ran back to Hannibal and demanded his full attention? When he became the lure?

 

Will holds his gaze and flicks his eyes down to Hannibal’s lips, remembering his own moments of desire for Hannibal. “And what do you feel for me?”

 

“Everything,” Hannibal murmurs, brushing his lips over Will’s. “I finally felt something other than contempt or boredom. It started with an unhealthy curiosity, and then morphed into something more profound and… almost acceptable.”

 

Will closes his eyes and presses his mouth softly against Hannibal’s lips before whispering, “Desire.”

 

“I saw myself in you. I saw everything I wanted in you.”

 

Will tilts his head to the side ever so slightly, and he watches Hannibal’s eyes closely. Eyes that hold his steady gaze, unflinching and kind.

 

He bends down and kisses Will softly, merely acquainting his lips with Will’s.

 

“Like Patroclus and Achilles,” Hannibal murmurs in between the kisses.

 

“Took divine intervention to bring them down,” Will echoes.

 

“Yes,” Hannibal murmurs before cradling Will’s face and kissing him deeply, dragging Will’s spine into a seductive curve and effectively leaving Will breathless. “And it will take more than heaven to take you away from me.”

 

Good. Will surges up and shoves Hannibal down onto the mattress, kissing him almost harshly, their teeth clashing and tongues invading. Make me yours. He kisses Hannibal with a realism that he has learnt to associate with Hannibal’s presence. Only I can know you like this.

 

Hannibal seems delighted by the fire Will kisses him with, and he responds equally, nipping curiously at Will’s bottom lip, extracting delicate and soft moans.

 

This used to be a friendship, Will thinks as Hannibal’s body shudders against his kisses. The first proper friendship I thought I had. Hannibal was someone I ran to when I was scared or lonely. Someone who could handle my almost insane empathy and general horribleness, or so I thought.

 

God, he loved Hannibal.

 

He loved the stupid little smile he had when people liked his cooking. He loved the obsessive need he had to be fashionable and polite. He loved the way Hannibal was always so prim and proper but always a bit like a shy puppy when he was in an area outside of his comfort zone. He loved the way Hannibal offered protection and companionship when he was breaking apart at the seams. He loved the way Hannibal would lean forward during their conversations, looking like he never wanted Will to stop talking. He loved Hannibal, in some philia manner.

 

But then Hannibal became the Ripper and suddenly everything came crashing down.

 

Everything was a lie. He felt betrayed beyond words because the one person he thought he could trust above all others, that one person threw him in prison and blamed it on curiosity. And the fucked up part? Will understood that curiosity. Will could see himself in Hannibal and he understood why he framed Will and fucked up his life. What would happen to the little empath when he went too far and was told he was the monster he was mimicking? Would he become himself or the monster?

 

Or would I become the monster that molded me into this?

 

When Will stood behind bars and looked into the eyes of Hannibal Lecter, there was an absolute clarity about what the other was. The truth finally laid bare between them, if not between them and the rest of the world. It didn’t matter how cruel and horrible that truth was, it was the truth nonetheless.

 

Hannibal Lecter was a monster and Will Graham understood him. The only little detail that Will refused to admit to was that he also loved him.

 

It was almost easy, seducing Hannibal. After he learned to forgive Hannibal, he could imagine himself standing beside Hannibal over the bodies, easily. He could imagine those lips whispering word of adoration in his ears as he carved his knife into a body. Those lips tainted with blood as he kissed them.

 

For how long has Will wanted to do this? Kiss Hannibal senseless and break the man apart under his hands? Once upon a time, this was a desire for murder, a seething hatred that drove Will. Now, that desire to slit Hannibal’s throat has become something sexual, romantic, even. He wants to watch Hannibal break apart at the seams with moans escaping his lips and lust pounding through his blood. He wants to stand above Hannibal and make him beg for release. He wants to kiss Hannibal softly in the morning, being the only witness to his bedhead and horrible morning breath. He wants to lean in whenever he wants and just kiss him, no questions asked.

 

It’s so easy, too easy, arching into Hannibal’s touch and kissing his soft, warm, gentle lips. He can feel Hannibal’s joy radiating off him when he kisses him harder and moans softly, almost silently, against his touches. He can feel that joy reflected in himself, and it’s damningly euphoric.

 

Hannibal tries to soften the kiss, to calm the rage boiling in Will’s kisses. But Will doesn’t let Hannibal soften anything, he needs this fire, this rage. He needs to brutally prove to himself that he made the right decision.

 

Hannibal lets him stay in control, baring his neck in submission, in such an animalistic way, and Will groans at the sight. Hannibal Lecter, pliable and submissive under his hands and lips.

 

“I can’t wait to show you Italy,” Hannibal whispers as Will kisses his jaw and down his throat. “The Norman Palace in Palermo. Florence. The Arno. Rome.”

 

Will pauses to kiss Hannibal’s lips again.

 

“I can’t wait to live in this world with you,” Hannibal murmurs lovingly. “The world I have prepared for us and have spent years dreaming off. We can have a family and live free of the FBI and of Freddie Lounds and Jack Crawford and Mason Verger and all of these horrible things.”

 

Hannibal kisses him again. “We can be free.”

 

Their hands are not idle as they kiss, gently exploring each other’s bodies. Hannibal’s right hand is caressing Will’s jaw, his beard scratching his fingers. His left hand is pressed against Will’s collarbone, slowly tracing the bones there and outlining a path down his sternum and seemingly memorizing every bump and curve of Will’s ribs and chest. Will’s own hands are clutching Hannibal’s head, tilting it so Will can properly kiss him, and he moves to straddle Hannibal so he can more easily access Hannibal’s lips. Everywhere they seem to touch each other is on fire, and the adrenaline that supposedly left Will’s body has now returned, singing loudly in his blood as he kisses Hannibal.

 

Hannibal is so warm, both mentally and physically at the moment. Will used to have such a cold concept of Hannibal’s mind, but the man laying underneath him seems to be everything but that. His movements are sweet and gentle, and so damn loving. His body is a furnace, burning Will with every touch.

 

Is this the real Hannibal? Or at least a real facet of him?

 

“Are you lying to me?” Will whispers against Hannibal’s lips. “You usually aren’t this passive.” You’re never this passive. What are you plotting?

 

Will’s blood suddenly runs cold, realizing that this could all be a trick, a clever plan to draw Will in. This… submission could all be a lie, and Will was falling for it again. God, he could be playing right into Hannibal’s hands, willingly.

 

Hannibal’s expression speaks confusion, but his eyes speak fear. Why fear?

 

“I will never lie to you, Will,” Hannibal murmurs. “Not again.”

 

“Is this the usual facade you put on for your lovers?” Will demands softly, his gut twisting at the thought of being just another in a string of lovers. “Is this the face you wore for Alana?” His last words are quieter than the rest, but he practically spits them in Hannibal’s face. To think that he was special, that this was different, so much deeper than what Hannibal did to Alana, god he’s a fool. This could be a lie, a lie he so desperately wants to believe.

 

Hannibal’s eyes turn cold.

 

Don’t you dare lie to me.

 

“This is real, Will,” Hannibal says, cradling the side of Will’s face. “And I never cared for Alana. Physically, she was very attractive, but it was a tactic to survive.” He thumbs at the corner of Will’s eye. “Like I said, my compassion for you is inconvenient. I wouldn’t do all of this if I didn’t care for you.”

 

Will scoffs. “You threw me in jail out of boredom .”

 

“This isn’t a prison,” Hannibal whispers. “This is my life. I let you know me. See me. I gave you a rare gift.” He leans up and brushes his lips against Will’s lips, holding eye contact with Will. “Don’t throw it away.” There’s pain in his eyes as he murmurs the last words, as if he’s silently begging Will, “don’t leave me.”

 

“I just need to know this is real,” Will whispers, suddenly realizing that he’s shaking against Hannibal. “I can’t… I can’t survive if this was all another game. I can’t handle any more betrayal.”

 

Hannibal surges up and holds Will in a bruising embrace. “I will never lie to you, Will,” he whispers harshly against Will’s ear. “This is real. What I feel for you is real. Abigail is real. This world is real.”

 

Why are there tears in Will’s eyes?

 

Will shudders against Hannibal and holds him tightly. I am the lure. I have seduced Hannibal Lecter.

 

I have to love Hannibal Lecter. And it’s too damn easy to do so.

 

Hannibal leans back enough to kiss Will again, his kisses harder this time, slamming reality into Will’s mind.

 

Don’t be scared of me, Hannibal seems to whisper in between the kisses. I will protect you.

 

Will kisses him back, letting everything go and giving it all ot Hannibal. I’m not scared of you. I’m scared of falling in love with a version of you that isn’t real, or, falling in love with the dark side of you.

 

The wrong thing being the right thing to do was too ugly a thought, but now his morals have changed, and he has to live by Hannibal’s rules. Now he can embrace the darkness, and Hannibal will guide him through it.

 

The kisses die down after a few more minutes, and Will settles into Hannibal’s arms, quickly dozing off in the warmth. He falls asleep with Hannibal’s kiss on his head and Hannibal’s arms around him.

 

I have seduced Hannibal Lecter.

 

~O~

 

Florence, a month later.

 

The sun is streaming into the apartment, turning the furniture a bright gold. Abigail is running about the place, trying to find something, and Will and Hannibal stand in their bedroom, fixing Will’s disastrous tie. Will thumbs at a program for the Italian opera / concert they’re about to attend at the Santa Monaca Church, and he smirks a bit at the list of music being performed.

 

“Clair de Lune?” Will asks. “Isn’t that something everyone listens to?”

 

Hannibal hums in agreement as he straightens Will’s tie. “But there is a reason why everyone listens to it, my dear. It has a certain gentleness and quiet power that few pianists can properly portray.”

 

“I’m sure,” Will murmurs. “Do you know the performer? Annabelle… DuBois?”

 

“I have heard of her, in France,” Hannibal says. “But I’ve never listened to her perform. And I refuse to listen to anything online, it’s not the same.”

 

Will smiles. “Of course. The atmosphere is different.”

 

Hannibal raises a brow. “The atmosphere is nonexistent when you listen to the horrible cameras attempting to capture a performer's music. The depth of their emotion is lost.”

 

“And do you think that this DuBois will capture the emotion of Clair de Lune?” Will asks.

 

“I certainly hope so, she shouldn’t be performing if she can’t,” Hannibal mutters, releasing Will’s tie with a sigh.

 

Will narrows his eyes at Hannibal. “Whose sin would it be, though, if she performs poorly? DuBois or the guy who’s organizing all of this?”

 

Hannibal opens his mouth to respond, but Abigail effectively interrupts.

 

“Dad?” Abigail calls from the living room, panic lacing her voice.

 

“Yeah?” Will replies loudly.

 

Abigail bursts into the room with a small look of panic on her face. “I can’t find my purse,” she gasps.

 

“Have you checked the closet next to the entrance?” Will asks.

 

Abigail nods. “I’ve looked everywhere but I can’t find it! I had it ten minutes ago!”

 

Hannibal gives Will’s tie one last unforgiving glance and turns to Abigail. “Did you leave it in the bathroom?”

 

Abigail opens her mouth to say no, but then her eyes widen and she mutters a curse as she runs out of the room. A few moments later she yells, “Thank you, Rafi!”

 

Hannibal smiles and Will rolls his eyes.

 

“It’s still so strange to call you that,” Will murmurs. “That’s not your name.”

 

Hannibal shrugs and kisses Will lightly on the lips. “It’s who I am, here.”

 

Will shakes your head. “You’re Hannibal, here. The real Hannibal.”

 

Hannibal smiles and Will kisses him again, always finding himself giving excuses to kiss Hannibal.

 

“The rest of the world can’t know that, Will dear,” Hannibal whispers. “Only you and Abigail can.”

 

Will nods. “I know.”

 

As they enter the living room, looking almost perfectly dressed, Abigail yells out a victorious ‘ha!’ from where Will assumes to be the bathroom, and she runs back into the living room with a smirk on her face and her purse in hand. “Found it!”

 

Will smiles at her.

 

“Excellent,” Hannibal says, clapping his hands together. “Shall we, then?”

 

Will nods, grabbing his coat off of the back of the couch and shrugging it on. “Ready.”

 

Hannibal smiles widely and offers Abigail his arm, which she happily takes, a proud smirk on her face. Will rolls his eyes at the pair and follows them out, locking the door quietly behind them. They exit the building quietly talking about the differences between a harpsichord and a piano, and they smile in greeting at their neighbors and the tourists strolling about the street. The sunlight nearly blinds Will as he steps out, and he has to stop for a moment and cover his eyes.

 

Hannibal, as perfect as he is, doesn’t stop moving, and he starts walking down the street towards the theatre, Abigail happily chatting at his side. Will pauses, when he regains his sight, to look at them walking down the street, smiling and happy as they go to an Italian opera. The sunlight makes Abigail’s eyes almost glow green, and Will feels something twist in chest.

 

This is beautiful.

 

“Elio!” Hannibal calls, realizing that Will has frozen, staring at their figures.

 

“Sorry,” Will mutters, rushing forward to catch to them. “Got lost in thought.”

 

Abigail raises a brow at him. “Thought? Or were you admiring Rafi’s hair in the sunlight?”

 

It was your eyes in the sunlight, Will thinks, almost bitterly. “Not everything in my mind is about Rafi, Mischa.”

 

She smirks and starts walking again. “Whatever you say, Dad.”

 

Will is never going to get tired of her calling him Dad.

 

Originally, they planned to take a taxi to the Santa Monaca, but after realizing how close it is, Hannibal insisted on the scenic stroll to the church. They have to cross the Arno to get there, and Hannibal always loves doing that. When they’re halfway across the bridge, Abigail releases Hannibal’s hand to grab something from her purse - her phone to take pictures with Hannibal and Will - and Hannibal’s hand easily slips into Will’s. He smiles softly at Will, his smile more of a smirk than anything else, and they continue their walk in comfortable silence, occasionally responding to one of Abigail’s remarks about opera or the piano or Italian.

 

They arrive at the cozy little church five minutes before the start of the performance - Hannibal is clearly satisfied with their timing - and they greet the other members of the audience with kind smiles as they walk in. They haven’t been in Florence long enough to know any of the other people in the church - most of them are tourists, anyways - and they each grab a program before taking their seats. Will seats between Hannibal and Abigail, and he momentarily wonders if he should switch with one of them, because Abigail will appreciate Hannibal’s small comments much more than he will.

 

Abigail opens the program and reads it attentively, quietly murmuring the Italian words, and Will leans over her shoulder to read it as well. She gives him a little glare, knowing that he has his own program, but she allows him to read it with her.

 

 

  • Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus

 

Arias and Duets, from 'The Mariage of Figaro', K. 492

 

  • Puccini, Giacomo

 

Tosca > Arias from "Tosca"

 

  • Puccini, Giacomo

 

La Bohème > Arias from: "La Bohème"

 

  • Rossini, Gioachino

 

The Barber of Seville (Rossini) > Arias from 'Il barbiere di Siviglia'

 

  • Puccini, Giacomo

 

Madame Butterfly > Arias from Madame Butterfly

 

  • Verdi, Giuseppe

 

La Traviata > Arias from La Traviata

 

  • Debussy, Claude

 

Clair de Lune

 

“Looks like Ms DuBois is last,” Hannibal murmurs to Will.

 

Will hums. “Let’s hope she satisfies your musical tastes.”

 

Hannibal smirks, his eyes lingering on Will’s lips.

 

“Don’t be gross in public, Dad,” Abigail mutters, poking at Will’s side.

 

He scoffs at her and she rolls her eyes. “I’m not being gross.”

 

“You’re giving Rafi bedroom eyes and I’m about to vomit,” she mutters lowly, and Hannibal doesn’t hear her. Will is eternally grateful Hannibal doesn’t hear, and Abigail should be as well, because he’ll only ramp up the pubic affection in response. The man is hopeless, at times.

 

“Don’t talk about my bedroom life,” Will shoots back. “And he’s the one giving me looks, not the other way around.”

 

She shrugs. “You’re returning them, though.”

 

Will has to fight the urge to roll his eyes like a teenager. He settles for a sigh. “Don’t talk about my bedroom life.”

 

“Or lack thereof,” Abigail mutters mostly to herself.

 

“Mischa!” Will hisses. “You know what, end of discussion.”

 

She giggles and doesn’t even try to hide her wide grin. “You’re blushing.”

 

Will gives her a clear ‘I’m ignoring you’ look and turns towards Hannibal. “So, anything interesting to say?”

 

Hannibal gives Will and inquisitive look. “Why? Is Mischa bullying you again?”

 

Will huffs out a disbelieving sigh. “Both of you are awful.”

 

“What have I done?” Hannibal asks, mildly offended. “I merely asked if she’s bullying you.”

 

“You made me sound pathetic,” Will mutters, crossing his arms and pouting like a child.

 

Hannibal does his equivalent of an eyeroll, a sigh and a single eyebrow raised. “You are not a child.”

 

Will gives him a burning gaze - burning with playful and thinly covered sexual hints - and shrugs. “I know.”

 

Hannibal is about to say something in response, something that would probably make Abigail laugh and tease Will some more, but a man is stepping forward and introducing the music, the Italian booming clearly across the room.

 

Hannibal instantly sits up straight and gives the ‘stage’ his full attention, and Will chuckles at the way he looks like an excited child on Christmas. Abigail smiles excitedly at Will, and she grins widely at Hannibal who turns to meet her gaze for a moment.

 

The music flows from the voices of the singers and the piano, and Will finds himself honestly enjoying it. The music seems to flow into his bones, and he feels relaxed and content. The singers are impressive , and Will finds himself mouthing ‘wow’ every once in a while when they hit a particularly high note, their voices clearly ringing through the small church, proudly displaying their skills. Hannibal looks like he’s about to cry - in his own subtle way - and Will gives his hand a squeeze, and Hannibal gives him a small smile.

 

The last song comes round all too soon, and soon enough a golden haired women steps forward. She had performed in a duet, previously, but Will finally has a name to her face. Annabelle DuBois. She’s got pale golden hair and thin lips, and her eyes are slightly sunken into her skull, giving her a strange look. She doesn’t look deathly, though, quite the opposite, she looks full of life and her smile is kind.

 

“She’s so pretty,” Abigail murmurs besides Will.

 

Will finds himself nodding in agreement, and he casts a glance over to Hannibal to see his reaction. Hannibal’s eyes are glued to her, his eyes unblinking and his lips parted ever so slightly. Will narrows his eyes in concern and gives Hannibal’s hand another squeeze.

 

“Rafi?” Will murmurs, leaning towards Hannibal. “You okay?”

 

Hannibal seems to snap out of a trance, and he turns to Will with a small smile. “Of course. She just reminded me of someone, that’s all.”

 

Will nods but gives Hannibal the look, demanding that Hannibal explain later. Hannibal’s eyes surrender and he nods gently. Good.

 

DuBois takes her seat at the piano and positions her hands over the piano, and she closes her eyes and breathes deeply. The breath is released and her hands seem to sink into the piano, along with the rest of her body, and she begins playing.

 

The music is soft, a whisper to the audience, but every note is clear. It reminds Will of bells, crystal notes floating through the air. The music builds as she plays, builds and builds and builds until it reaches some glorious climax, and then it falls. But it falls slowly, softly, as if time was momentarily frozen and someone was carefully observing every frame. The music falls deeper and then Will can hear her soul in the music, a sorrowful song to some lost soul.

 

He turns his head to Hannibal, and he’s a bit shocked by what he sees.

 

Hannibal is crying, stoically so, but crying nonetheless. A single tear falls down his cheek and he makes no move to wipe it away.

 

Will wants to whisper a comforting phrase, but he can’t bear to tear Hannibal away from the music. He just silently prays that Hannibal is crying because of the music’s beauty rather than because it has failed his expectations. He would rather keep DuBois off his dinner table.

 

She finishes the song with a clear denouement, and rises from the piano as the crowds rises with her, their hands coming together in glorious applause.

 

Hopefully she has met Hannibal’s expectations.

 

There are some drinks being served after the performances, but everyone runs to the front of the church to congratulate the performers, ignoring the wine. A few linger back, picking from the small selection of wine, and the Angelos are included in that group.

 

“Shouldn’t we go congratulate them?” Abigail asks Hannibal, watching DuBois shake hands with an elderly Italian couple.

 

Hannibal takes a sip of his wine. “Let them receive their praises from the masses, and then we can congratulate them once things have settled down. I want to have a properly conversation with them, not just run there and gush quickly about their music.”

 

Abigail sighs but nods. “I really want to talk to the last lady.”

 

“Annabelle DuBois,” Will murmurs. “Her music was lovely.”

 

Hannibal chuckles. “It was far more than lovely, Elio dear. I could hear her soul in the music, and I felt a bit of my soul sing with her.”

 

Will smiles. “I’m glad she has met your expectations.”

 

“She has surpassed them, beautifully so,” Hannibal says. “This has finalized my decision, however.”

 

“Oh?” Will asks, turning to Abigail who has a fearful look on her face.

 

“We’re purchasing a piano, not a harpsichord,” Hannibal declares, and Abigail grins widely and hugs Hannibal quickly, careful not to spill his wine.

 

“Thank you thank you!” She whispers happily, and Hannibal kisses the top of her head.

 

“Of course,” he says. “I would one day love to hear your soul in your music.”

 

Abigail smiles. “One day. Probably a day quite far off from now.”

 

Hannibal scoffs. “Nonsense. You’ll learn quickly, and you’ll have an excellent teacher to guide you.”

 

“Narcissist,” Will mutters.

 

Hannibal can only smile playfully.

 

~O~

 

Annabelle wanders through the crowd, a glass of red wine in her hand. Her head pivots about, looking for a head of gold, but her eyes find nothing. Dammit, where did he go?

 

She here’s a clear voice call, “Signora DuBois!” so she quickly turns, but while doing so, she slams into someone and she can feel a bit of wine slosh out of her cup.

 

Fuck.

 

“Oh!” A woman exclaims, and Annabelle instantly panics.

 

“I am so sorry!” She says urgently, frantically searching for the stain of wine she is sure is on the woman.

 

Bright blue eyes meet hers, and they are kind and forgiving. “No no, it’s okay!” The woman, the girl, says, and she dabs gently at a dark stain on her shoulder. “I should be more careful about where I’m going.”

 

She speaks English, Annabelle notes. “Nonsense. I was the one who ran into you. I apologize profusely.”

 

The girl laughs shortly. “It’s okay. Really. You can barely see the stain, and it’s not big.”

 

Annabelle cringes at the stain her careful eyes can easily pick out. “I still stained your lovely dress with red wine,” she says, dabbing the stain with her handkerchief in hand.

 

The girl smiles. “Accidents happen.” Her smile pulls at a memory in Annabelle’s mind, and she suddenly recognizes the girl.

 

“Usually they aren’t this expensive,” Annabelle murmurs. Abigail Hobbs.

 

Abigail shrugs. “Nothing we can do about it now. I’m Mischa,” she says, sticking her hand out. So American.

 

“Annabelle,” she says, shaking Mischa’s hand. “Annabelle DuBois.”

 

“Your music was lovely,” Mischa says, smiling brightly, her eyes crinkling in an endearing manner and framing her blue eyes lovingly. “I think my stepdad was crying during your song.”

 

Annabelle flushes pink. “I hope they were tears of joy and not disappointment.”

 

Mischa laughs. “Don’t worry. I think he’s imprinted on your music, he’ll be gushing about it for weeks.

 

Annabelle smiles. “While I feel sorry for you, I cannot lie about the immense pride I feel.”

 

Mischa sighs. “That’s good. Take pride in your work, you deserve it.”

 

“Thank you, you’re too kind,” Annabelle murmurs. “I assume your father has not abandoned you here alone? Is he congratulating another performer?”

 

Mischa nods. “Yeah. He and Dad are talking to the big shot opera singer right now, but I’m sure my dad will come breathing down my neck soon enough, asking if any creepy guys have tried to get my number.”

 

Annabelle laughs. “So he’s the protective type?” He and Dad?

 

Abigail nods. “Very much so. But I’m kinda used to it, since both of my dads are like that twenty four seven.”

 

So Hannibal and Graham are faking a relationship? “Well, there is nothing wrong with wanting to protect your family.”

 

Mischa nods. “Family is all you have, in the end, and I know I’d do anything for my dads.”

 

Annabelle smiles. I’m sure you would. “They sound lovely.”

 

Abigail smiles proudly. “They are.”

 

“Mischa!” Another voice says, and soon Hannibal Lecter is placing his hand on Mischa’s shoulder and smiling brightly at Annabelle.

 

Dear God, he’s here.

 

“Looks like you beat us to the lovely Signora DuBois!” Hannibal says, extending his hand to Annabelle. “I’m Mischa’s stepfather, Rafael Angelo.”

 

Annabelle shakes his hand, noting how warm his hands are and how firm his grip is. She utters a silent fuck in her mind, cursing her shaking hand.

 

“Annabelle DuBois, but you already knew that,” she says, smiling at him.

 

“Your music was lovely, Signora DuBois,” Hannibal says, bowing his head slightly. “It gripped my soul and demanded to be carved into my heart.”

 

Annabelle chuckles at his dramatics. “Are you a poet, Signor Angelo?”

 

Hannibal smirks proudly. “Not by profession, but I am an art professor, so I dabble here and there in poetry.”

 

“Fancy,” Annabelle murmurs. “You sound so professional compared to my street music.”

 

“Street music?” Hannibal exclaims. “That was hardly street music, Signora.”

 

Annabelle smirks. “Thank you, but I am a simple pianist trying to make my way through the world, with a small psychology degree tucked under my belt. My music, while it may have the power to touch hearts and souls, is street music. I am merely a street… magician ,” Annabelle whispers. “A common but magical creature dedicated to the simpler aspects of illusion.”

 

Hannibal smiles at her words, and he makes no move to argue against them.

 

“Mischa,” yet another voice says, and a dark haired man steps next to Mischa, his eyes worrisome.

 

“Hello,” Annabelle says, smiling playfully at Will Graham.

 

Will’s eyes widen and he smiles a small, shy smile at her as he extends his hand. “Ms DuBois.”

 

“I assume you are Mischa’s other father?” Annabelle says.

 

Will chuckles and nods. “Elio. Mischa’s biological father.”

 

“Lovely to meet you, Elio, ” Annabelle says.

 

Hannibal smiles at Elio fondly, while Elio seems blissfully unaware of the loving gaze. “You’re music was breathtaking, Ms DuBois. I am not one for concerts and operas, but after this performance, I am most certainly rethinking that position.”

 

Annabelle grins. “I’ll glad to hear it.”

 

“So, Mischa,” Hannibal asks. “How did you stumble across la Signora?”

 

Annabelle ducks her head. “I am afraid that was my fault, I wasn’t watching where I was going and I ran into your daughter, effectively spilling my wine on her dress.”

 

“It’s fine,” Mischa quickly says.

 

Hannibal raises a brow. “Where is the stain?”

 

Mischa tries to hide it but Annabelle points it out quickly with two fingers. “There.”

 

Hannibal inspects the stain closely and hums. “There could have been a significantly greater amount of damage done, however the stain is barely noticeable. I’m glad your will to wear dark clothes overcame my pleads for a lighter colored dress, Mischa.”

 

Mischa giggles. “See? Black is excellent.”

 

“All is forgiven, Signora,” Hannibal murmurs, bowing his head.

 

Annabelle shakes her head. “I still owe you, or at least, Mischa something.”

 

Hannibal pouts his lips ever so slightly, thinking, and then a bright grin slides onto his face. “Join us for dinner, one evening. I assume you’re staying in Florence for a little while longer.”

 

Annabelle puts a hand to her chest. “Dinner already? I barely know you, you and your family could be a family of psychopathic murderers.”

 

Annabelle can feel Graham stare into the side of her head, aimed for her temple.

 

“Please, I insist,” Hannibal says. “Mischa was quite taken by your music, and like you said, you owe us. I will not pass up the opportunity to dine with such a skilled pianist such as yourself.”

 

Annabelle blushes. “Well, I certainly hope you can cook well.”

 

“The kitchen owns half his soul,” Graham mutters. “You’ll be in for a treat, trust me.”

 

Well don’t you just sound like the grumpy husband?

 

Mischa nods enthusiastically. “It’d be really really nice.”

 

Annabelle smiles. “Well, here’s my phone number,” she says as she pulls out a small notebook out of her purse, scribbling some numbers down before neatly ripping the page out. “And text me the time and date. I’m in Florence until further notice.”

 

Hannibal smiles widely. “I look forward to having you for dinner.”

 

Again, Annabelle softly adds.

 

The four stand around and chat a little more about wine and music, and Annabelle begins realizing the true nature behind Graham and her brother. They aren’t faking a relationship, they’re genuinely in one, and Graham seems… happy and willing to stand beside Hannibal. This wasn’t a kidnapping done on Hannibal’s part, this was… persuasion. They eloped together, bringing their surrogate daughter with them to Florence.

 

And Hannibal seems too happy every time he looks at Graham. His eyes crinkle and his little crooked teeth are revealed behind his lips, and Graham is so often unaware of the way Hannibal dotes on him.

 

Annabelle smiles to herself as she watches the family leave the church, Graham and Mischa bickering quietly about god knows what.

 

You learned how to love again, Hannibal. I’m happy for you.

 

~O~

 

They arrive back at home after ice cream - Abigail insisted and no way in hell was Will saying no to Italian ice cream - and Abigail flops down onto the couch, groaning softly.

 

“Why did I wear high heels,” she moans. “My feet are killing me.”

 

“Fashion has a price,” Hannibal murmurs, and Will scoffs.

 

“You sold your soul for fashion,” Will says, and Abigail laughs loudly.

 

“He probably did,” she says, taking off her shoes and sliding them neatly into the shoe rack.

 

“Bold of you to assume that it was fashion I sold my soul for,” Hannibal says, taking off his jacket and shoes, putting them away neatly. “I would argue I sold it for my cooking.”

 

Will hums in agreement. “And your soul is kicked away in the kitchen, which is why you’re so damn possessive of it.”

 

“I have every right to possessive of my kitchen,” Hannibal says plainly.

 

Abigail shrugs. “He does.”

 

Will raises a brow at her. “Don’t side with him again. I’m the one who is actually your father.”

 

“Which is why I rebel,” she says happy, leaning back against the couch. She groans loudly before Will can say anything, and then suddenly stands up. “I’m gonna go shower and then sleep, I’m exhausted.”

 

Hannibal nods, stepping forward and kissing the top of her head. “Goodnight, Mischa.”

 

“Goodnight, Rafi,” she murmurs, giving him a quick hug. She moves towards Will and embraces him tightly, burying her face in his shoulder. “Goodnight, Dad.”

 

“Goodnight, sweetheart,” Will murmurs against her hair, which now barely reaches her shoulders. “Sweet dreams.”

 

Abigail smiles gently and pads off to her room, humming Clair de Lune under her breath.

 

“I’m never going to get tired of hearing her call me Dad,” Will says. “It feels so natural and… satisfying. I feel proud, as if I’ve done a good job raising her.”

 

Hannibal hums in agreement and kisses Will’s left temple. “You should be proud, she is an amazing girl.”

 

Will nods and tilts his head back to he can chastely kiss Hannibal on the lips. “I’m going to take a bath. Join me?”

 

Will smirks at the way Hannibal’s eyes dilate.

 

“Of course.”

 

-

 

The water is soothing against their bodies, and Will closes his eyes and leans his head back, letting it fall against Hannibal’s collarbone. He’s sitting in their fancy ass tub in between Hannibal’s legs, his back pressed up against Hannibal’s chest. Hannibal’s hands are pressed up against Will’s chest, and they’re not even washing themselves, they’re just sitting there, relaxing and delighting in each other’s presence.

 

“DuBois was beautiful tonight,” Will murmurs, turning his head so his lips near Hannibal’s collarbone.

 

“She was,” Hannibal replies, his lips moving against Will’s forehead.

 

“You said she reminded you of someone,” Will says. “Who did she remind you of?”

 

Hannibal seems to grow stiff under Will, and Will shifts in Hannibal’s embrace so he can properly look at the man. “Hannibal?”

 

Hannibal shakes his head gently and presses his forehead to Will’s. “No one of importance.”

 

Will scoffs. “I don’t believe you.”

 

“It doesn’t matter anymore,” Hannibal whispers. “She’s long dead.”

 

“The dead can haunt us,” Will reminds him. “And I want to know.”

 

Hannibal sighs and kisses him chastely. “If you must know, she reminded me of my sister.”

 

“Mischa?” Will asks. “Because of how she moved or looked?”

 

“Looked,” Hannibal whispers. “Annabelle has a limp, and my sister was full of life.”

 

“Movement is more than just walking,” Will says.

 

“Yes, but everything I remember about her is how she ran through the fields and corridors. And her smile,” Hannibal whispers, smiling at some memory playing in his head. “But Annabelle was nothing more than a hopeful reflection of what I lost.”

 

Will relaxes under Hannibal’s embrace again, settling against his chest. “Thank you,” Will says. “For telling me.”

 

“Of course,” Hannibal whispers. “You deserve to know.”

 

Never lie to me, Hannibal. I have learnt to love you and I cannot survive being heartbroken a second time.