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Baby, This Your Kingdom

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When they’ve been living in Florence for a year, Abigail applies to schools in the UK. It’s not that she doesn’t appreciate Italy, because she does. It’s not even that she wants to get away from Hannibal and Will. It’s just that wanting something and needing it are two very different things, and she right now she needs to get away from the both of them. She needs room to breathe.

So she applies to seven different schools with a forged transcript and a fake name (Her real grades, though. Will had insisted, and Abigail had rolled her eyes, but in the end, Hannibal had agreed, so.) Abigail gets into four of them. She chooses a school in London. She packs her favorite clothes and her laptop, arrives at the train station half an hour early, and she waits, tapping her toes against the ground.

Will and Hannibal had wanted to see her off, but she’d gently dissuaded them.

It’s not smart, all of us being out together in public, she’d said. In a major city and everything.

It’s true, but that’s not the reason she said it.

She said it because this isn’t for them. There’s before and after, for her. Before them and after them. Before they’d laid waste to her life.

This is a before and after too—another one, a smaller one—and she needs them to stay on the other side of it, firmly on the before side. She wouldn’t call it love, but they’re family all the same. The only one she’s got.

She’s yanked out of her thoughts by a woman’s hand on her shoulder. She startles, and the woman apologizes.

“I’m sorry. It’s just— you look familiar. Do I know you from somewhere?”

Abigail is struck by her American accent first, then by the fact that she’s honestly gorgeous. Maybe that’s why Abigail bothers to be friendly. Kind of friendly.

“I doubt it. Do you know any Abigails?”

The woman shakes her head. “Not that I know of. Do you know any Melanies?”

Abigail snorts. “I don’t know anybody.”

She winces. That was a weird thing to say, but Melanie is still smiling at her, so it’s probably fine.

The conversation peters to a close, and they both face forward on the train station platform, minding their own business. People bustle by around them. Abigail doesn’t usually like talking to strangers, but her own mouth quirks up in a smile when Melanie speaks again.

“So where are you headed?”

“School. In London.”

“Ah, cool. Good for you.”

“You?” Abigail asks.

“Home—to Paris. I was visiting family.”

“Cool,” Abigail echoes. Hannibal would be good at this. He’d probably know what to say.

“I know!” Melanie says, startling Abigail. “You were on the news? That thing in Minnesota a few years ago? I have family around there. I remember it was a big deal.”

Abigail tenses. She takes the woman in in parts: leather boots, long legs, red twist of a smile. Abigail wonders if anyone would miss her. The friends in Florence, they might.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she says slowly.

Melanie winces. “Sorry. Sorry, that was rude. I shouldn’t have—you’re not, but even if you were, that’s none of my business.”

They lapse into silence again, awkward and thick. Melanie’s train arrives before Abigail’s, a Paris-bound train already crowded with passengers. Melanie steps into the car and takes a seat by the window. She keeps looking at Abigail, and Abigail may not be good with faces, but that one—she knows that look.

She’s going to school—that’s the plan. The plan for a life that’s hers and only hers, one that gets her off the merry-go-round and carries her away from all the bullshit. The intercom pings and the train doors start to close, and Abigail slips in at the last second.

She slides into the conveniently vacant seat beside Melanie.

“Minnesota—that was me.” Abigail tugs down her scarf to show her.

* * *

Abigail disappears into the bright wilderness of Paris, trailing behind Melanie like a hungry dog. Melanie tells her she can crash on the couch and doesn’t ask any questions at all.

Abigail wonders what Melanie thinks of her—does she peg her as a runaway? Is that why she lets Abigail stay?

She makes a weird picture of a runaway, she knows, well-fed with glossy hair and tailored clothes. A bored rich girl, then. That’s probably what Melanie sees. The assumption only chafes a little, but it’s a little too much when it shouldn’t bother her at all. She’s never been the one who’s been obsessed with being seen. Being unnoticed by the herd is just as well—there’s no need for prey to see the killing knife until it slides into their neck, and yet—

Some small, quiet part of her cries out and wishes.

It’s a few days before the phone calls start. Start and don’t stop. Will and Hannibal call her until she turns off her phone, then takes the battery out for good measure. Melanie watches with a raised eyebrow as Abigail sticks the phone back in her purse in pieces.

“Boyfriend looking for you or something?”

Battered woman, that’s what she sees.

Abigail makes a face. “It’s complicated. Don’t ask.”

Melanie shrugs. She takes two bottles of beer from the fridge and hands one over.

“It’s 10 in the morning,” Abigail says, even as her fingers close around the sweating bottle.

“It’s good for complicated.” She pops the top off Abigail’s beer and nods in its direction. “Drink that and tell me about it.”

Abigail looks around the kitchen where they’re standing, tucked away in the corner of a studio apartment. It’s small and messy, with clothes strewn haphazardly over furniture. Melanie leans against the counter and drinks her beer, and Abigail’s eyes are drawn to the movement of her throat as she swallows. She wants to wrap her hands around it. She takes a sip of her own drink instead, smacking her tongue against the roof of her mouth to chase the bitter bite of it.

“Do you always drink in the morning?”

“Only when I’m trying to convince strangers that I’m not trying to steal their wallet.”

“If I thought you were going to rob me, I wouldn’t have come home with you.”

One drink turns into two, turns into the both of them sitting on Melanie’s floor listening to music as the early afternoon sun streams through the windows. A bottle of tequila had materialized at some point, and they take turns asking each other questions while passing it around.

“Why did you take me home from the train station?” Abigail asks.

“Because you’re gorgeous,” Melanie says without hesitation. She turns the question back on Abigail. “Why’d you follow me home?”

“Because you reminded me of my dad.”

She throws it down between them like the challenge it is.

“Wow. That’s fucked up,” Melanie says, but she doesn’t get up or scoot away. She doesn’t move her hand from where it’s resting against Abigail’s bare ankle, her thumb rubbing absently against the bone.

“Yeah it is,” Abigail says. She’s leaning back on her arms, resting with her head tipped against her shoulder. She feels heavy-lidded and syrupy. The afternoon heat soaks through Melanie’s studio apartment and makes everything feel like swimming. “How old are you?”

“Rude. I’m twenty-seven.”

Abigail knows it’s rude. That’s why she’d asked.

There’s a pause where she thinks she might get up. That she should get up, go back to the train station and see if she can exchange her ticket. Go back home to Will and Hannibal and apologize, maybe. They’d understand. They’d be so disappointed though, and suddenly that feels blindingly unfair. Who are they to judge her?

“What are you running from?” Melanie asks.

The question hangs in the air between them before Abigail smiles and shakes her head. It’s a good day, and she doesn’t want to ruin it. “Nothing. Pass.”

Melanie gestures at the bottle—those are the rules. Abigail unscrews the top and raises it to her mouth, keeping eye contact the whole time.

“Wait,” Melanie says suddenly, and this is new.

She holds her hand out, and Abigail passes her the bottle, curious. She brings it the rest of the way to Abigail’s mouth, raises it to Abigail’s lips and tilts it up, flooding her mouth with sticky sweet liquor. Abigail manages to swallow most of it, but not all. A ticklish trickle escapes the side of her mouth. Melanie watches, rapt, as Abigail licks her lips. She brings her hand up to Abigail’s face and runs her thumb through the spilled liquor, catching it and bringing it to Abigail’s mouth.

Abigail licks that too, sucks Melanie’s finger into her mouth and bites, just a little.

Melanie’s other hand comes up to cradle the back of Abigail’s head, and she pulls her thumb out of Abigail’s mouth. Replaces it with her mouth.

Kissing her is different from kissing Hannibal, different from kissing any boy she’s ever kissed. She’s softer, plush lips and soft skin. She licks into Abigail’s mouth, and she tastes like liquor and smoke.

It’s different, but it’s not bad. Abigail winds her arms around Melanie’s neck and pulls her in. They land on the floor, and it knocks the wind from Abigail’s lungs. Melanie is predatory atop her, all teeth and dark dark eyes. She runs her nails down Abigail’s arms, ticklish down her sides before pressing her into the floor. She makes a sound when Abigail sucks on her bottom lip, low and throaty, and yes, that. Abigail wants to hear that sound again and again.

Somewhere in the shuffle, they knock the rest of the bottle over. It soaks into the rug, and nobody cares.

* * *

Eventually she does turn her phone back on, pops the battery back in wearing nothing but her underwear and a borrowed tank top in Melanie’s kitchen. Let them track her, if they want.

There are a lot of missed calls, more than she really wants to think about. Her hand hovers over the ‘call’ button for just a second. She should at least let them know she’s alive. It’s not fair, otherwise. The thought makes something dark rear its head, something inky swimming below the surface. Fair has nothing to do with it. Nothing they’ve done has ever been fair.

The phone rings while it’s still in her hand, as if they’re bound by some bullshit strain of telepathy. Dad, the caller ID reads. She turns the volume off and sticks it back in her purse. She goes back to bed and keeps ducking their calls.

* * *

Their days pass in a haze, cherry-tinted with pot smoke and booze. They spend most of it in bed. Abigail doesn’t think either of them have been fully dressed in a week. She’s sprawled out across the bed, still trying to catch her breath. She watches Melanie though heavy-lidded eyes, and her stomach grumbles. She’s thinking of suggesting they order takeout—they’re both unbearably American enough for that—thinking she should take a shower. That maybe she should call home.

“Don’t you have to go to work?” Abigail asks when the thought occurs to her.

Melanie sits up and pulls a robe around herself. She shakes her head. “Summer break. The kids won’t be back in school for another week.”

“Oh.” Abigail doesn’t quite manage to keep the note of disappointment out of her voice.

She tilts her head. “Not what you were expecting?”

“Not really.” It feels stupid saying it out loud, so she doesn’t. What’s she going to say, really? I thought you were maybe a drug dealer or something, maybe a murderer. Maybe like me. “You don’t seem like a teacher, that’s all.”

She shrugs. “I like to have fun when I can.”

Abigail bites her lip. “Is that what this is? Fun?”

“Sure.” Melanie reaches out and touches her face gently. “Isn’t it?”

Not as fun as the rush of blood between your fingers. Not as fun as the hunt. It’s a true thing she could say. She says the other true thing instead, says, “I don’t want fun anymore.”

“What do you want?” Melanie asks, open and curious. At ease in her skin in a way that Abigail wants. She wishes she could curl up and live there.

Melanie looks into her eyes, and Abigail looks back. There are freckles in Melanie’s eyes, dark against light, freckles speckled across her cheeks. She’s so beautiful it makes Abigail’s breath catch.

“To be wanted,” Abigail says. “To be seen.”

“Oh, baby girl.” Melanie presses a sweet kiss to the tip of her nose. “I see you.”

She doesn’t, not really. She can’t, but Abigail tips her face up for a kiss and lets herself drown. Laughing is better than crying, and fun is better than nothing at all.

* * *

Abigail knows when she’s outstayed her welcome. She knows the way small, toothy animals know to clear out of the underbrush when the hunter comes around. She knows with a keen sixth sense for decorum that she got from Hannibal.

All that to say that Abigail doesn’t wait to be kicked out. She does it herself.

“It’s fine,” she says when Melanie opens her mouth on the tenth day. “You have school tomorrow, right? You have work. I’ll go.”

Melanie bites her lip. “I don’t mean to kick you out—”

“It’s fine,” Abigail repeats. “This was weird anyway, right? Stranger shacking up in your house for like two weeks.”

Her exit is graceless, ungainly. She feels hyperaware of all her limbs as she gathers her bag, stuffs her clothes back in her suitcase—she’d been a bad houseguest maybe, or else there hadn’t been much time to worry about where the clothes were landing when they were carelessly stripped off and tossed from the bed. She finds her bra stuffed under a dust ruffle and sticks it in her purse rather than strip off her shirt to put it back on.

“Wait.” Melanie grabs her wrist, and Abigail hates the way it makes her heart speed up.

Abigail looks up at her. “Yeah?”

“Have dinner with me.” She hesitates, long enough for Melanie to add, “Real quick. We’ll go to the cafe on the corner.”

No, Abigail means to say. “Okay,” she says instead.

They walk down the street holding hands. Abigail thinks people might look at them—she’s seen the looks they sometimes give Will and Hannibal—but she forgets to notice. The lights are beautiful and the cobblestone sidewalk is slicked with rain that reflects the light. It’s a warm night and warmer still in the cafe. They giggle and kiss and order too much food for the both of them, and end up picking food off one another’s plates. It’s indecent and impolite in a way that makes her feel warm all over.

They linger over a cup of coffee, and the rain starts up again outside. Abigail watches it drip from the awning in crying rivulets.

She’s brought back to herself—to the table and a friend that she’ll have to leave—by a foot nudging hers under the table.

“So why’d you run away?”

“I didn’t.”

Melanie levels a look at her. “Abigail. Honey, I met you at a train station with your bags packed. I know you didn’t pack ‘em just to come stay with me.”

I would have, Abigail thinks, but she keeps it behind her teeth. It would be unwelcome.

“College,” Abigail says. She quirks a wry smile at Melanie. “My dads.”

“Are they like, shitty or…?”

Abigail shakes her head. “No, they’re nice. They’re—” her brows furrow. “That’s the whole problem. They’re nice.”

“That… honestly doesn’t sound like much of a problem. You get that, right?”

Abigail growls. “Look, I know it sounds like a spoiled brat thing or whatever, but it’s just… they adopted me late in life because I was an orphan, and it’s not like they’re my actual dads. I don’t even need dads. I had a dad, and it’s just— it’s complicated.” She picks up the silver spoon resting on the plate beneath her coffee cup and sets it back down with a small clatter. “I’m jealous, okay?”

Melanie tilts her head. “Jealous, like… you wish they spent more time with you?”

Abigail should say yes. She should say yes and just let this be less weird, go back to Melanie’s house and grab her stuff, go to London and beg the dean of admissions to let her in after all, even though she’s already missed so many days of class.

But fuck it. It’s not like she’s ever going to see this person again anyway, this girl that smells like cigarettes and incense, with a black bob and a nose that turns up at the end, who looks at her like that.

She shakes her head slowly. She says something she’s never said out loud before.

“Jealous like I want what they have. Like I want them.”

Melanie blinks across from her, startled. “Abigail…”

“Don’t.”

Melanie reaches for her hand.

“Don’t.”

They finish up their coffee quickly, and Abigail picks up the tab. She figures it’s the least she can do. Melanie doesn’t argue. Doesn’t put up a fuss or try to touch Abigail again. She doesn’t bring up what Abigail’s just said. She just looks at her, pensive.

Abigail turns away and looks out the window.

* * *

It’s dark when they get back to the house—to Melanie’s house. Abigail checks her phone one last time, just to make sure she’s got a full charge before she gets to… wherever the fuck she’s going. She’s got no new missed calls. The phone calls stopped several days ago, and the thought hits her like a pang—the feeling it sparks up is childish and small and cheap. Unworthy. She digs her thumbnail into the side of the phone case, just to dent the plastic. Just to break something.

Melanie still hasn’t turned on the lights. It’s just the two of them in the dimly lit room, streetlights streaking white through the bare, open windows. A car hums by outside.

“I’m gonna go,” Abigail says. “Thanks, I guess. For, you know. Everything. For letting me stay.”

She feels small and hungry and forlorn. Wonders if Hannibal’s ever felt this way. Wonders if this is what propelled him to such lengths, dismantling and rebuilding his life—all their lives—in Will’s image.

Melanie crosses the room like a ghost.

“Don’t go,” she says, soft and warm and pressed right up against Abigail, so close that Abigail can smell the fading sweetness of her perfume. “Not just yet.”

Melanie crowds into Abigail until her back hits the wall with a gasp. She shifts a thigh between Abigail’s legs and presses up hard, a sudden pressure that makes Abigail gasp and grind against her.

“You’re not making this easier,” Abigail points out, but her lips have already found Melanie’s neck, and her hips are moving of their own accord.

Melanie tips her head back to give her room to work. “I don’t do easy,” she says. “But I can do fun.”

It’s not what Abigail wants—it’s not everything she wants, but she can make do.

“Bed,” she gasps. She pushes Melanie back then does it again, harder, when she sees the flash of her white teeth in the dark.

They make it to the bed in a sprawl of limbs, climbing atop each other and tossing clothes aside.

Melanie grabs her face and seals their mouths in a kiss as soon as Abigail’s worked herself free of her shirt.

“Hey,” she says, eyes gleaming wicked. “Do you wanna fuck how your dads fuck?”

Abigail’s stomach drops all the way to her toes.

“What? No. Why would you even say that—” but even as she protests, she can feel lust simmering in her belly, a coiled knot of raw wanting.

Melanie settles her weight over Abigail’s hips. She’s heavy and warm, and Abigail sighs as she runs hands down her neck, collarbone, her arms down to her fingertips. “Because you think it’s hot. Because you want it, and I want to see you happy before you walk out my door.”

Abigail raises an eyebrow at her. Tries to pull her hands free just to force Melanie to hold her down. “All altruism, huh?”

Melanie grins. “Okay, and because I think it’s hot.” She punctuates the words with a thrust of her hips. “You wanna?”

Abigail blows out a long breath. She flexes her fingers and strains a little, just to feel the strength in Melanie’s fingers again. So she can feel held and kept. She’s hesitating even though she already knows she’ll say yes. It’s dangling before her like a shiny bauble; how can she say anything but?

“Yeah.”

“Yeah, what?”

“Fuck me, daddy.”

Melanie groans. “Fuck yeah, baby. Anything you want.”

Now It’s Abigail’s turn to moan. She thinks of Hannibal, thinks of Will. Thinks of nothing but Melanie wet against her thigh, sliding down her body and off the bed, leaving her cold and blinking and wondering what just happened.

She starts to sit up. “Mel?”

“Just a sec, baby girl. Don’t you move a muscle.” She’s rooting through the bottom drawer of her nightstand, pale and nearly glowing in the moonlight.

“Kay,” Abigail says, settling back against the pillows, head propped up on her elbow, watching. The reassurance helps; it settles something in Abigail to know that she hasn’t chased this person off. That Melanie isn’t going to cut and run because of her weird bullshit and kinda-sorta Electra complex. That whatever this is doesn’t have to end—not just yet.

When Melanie comes back to bed, she’s dangling a harness from one finger and holding a purple dildo in the other hand.

“Yeah?” she asks.

They haven’t done this before—toys, any of it. Abigail’s never been fucked by a girl before—not like that. She whimpers and nods fervently.

Abigail watches with heavy-lidded eyes as Melanie steps into the harness and pulls it snug. She seats the toy against her mound, and it juts out from between her thin legs, thick and purple and obscene. Abigail slides off the bed and gets to her knees on impulse, opening her mouth to give the tip a wet kiss.

“Is that what you wanna do to your dad, sweetheart? You want to let him fuck your pretty mouth?”

Abigail nods fervently, moaning around the slick, artificial taste of silicone. Melanie takes the opportunity to push her hips forward, driving the dildo into Abigail’s mouth, back, back until it bumps the back of her throat and makes her gag. She pulls back, gasping.

“Too much?” Melanie asks.

Abigail shakes her head. “No. No, it’s good. Keep going.”

Melanie gets her hands in Abigail’s hair and strokes through it. Light, gentle touches as she pulls Abigail’s head back down. Abigail opens her mouth and breathes through her nose, taking in as much as she can.

“Relax,” Melanie says as she chokes again. “Breathe.”

She thrusts in and out, dragging the smooth plastic over Abigail’s tongue. Abigail does her best to breathe, relaxing her throat and taking short, sharp breaths through her nose as Melanie uses her mouth.

“You’re so pretty,” she says, slipping a finger in alongside. She hooks her finger into Abigail’s cheek and spreads her mouth impossibly wide.

Abigail’s eyelids flutter shut. She hollows out her cheeks and sucks, gagging herself and feeling gratified by the little sounds she can pull out of Melanie when the base of the toy bumps back against her clit. Abigail slides one of her hands up to rub at the wetness gathering between Melanie’s legs, and she’s rewarded with a thrust that brings tears to her eyes.

By the time Melanie pulls her off, gasping and panting, she’s so turned on it hurts.

Melanie positions her on the bed, tugging her up onto her hands and knees, rubbing soothing hands over the curve of her spine, over her thighs and ass. She tilts her hips back, seeking friction. Melanie drags her fingers over Abigail’s slit, and Abigail bites back a moan that ends in frustration when the touch disappears again, as suddenly as it arrived.

“Come on,” she pants. “Come on, fuck me.”

Melanie laughs. She leans over Abigail to grab a bottle on the nightstand. “Hang on, baby. I’ve got you.”

There’s the sound of a cap being popped open, loud in the quiet room.

Abigail jolts forward at the unexpected sensation of cold, slick fingers trailing down her crack. “What’re you—”

“Shh,” Melanie soothes, petting her flank. “I’ve got you. Don’t worry.”

She rubs a slippery finger over Abigail’s asshole, and Abigail tenses.

“Relax,” Melanie says, bending over to press a kiss to her spine.

Abigail tries to relax, but she feels wound tight. This is weird. She suddenly knows it’s weird, and she’s never had anything in her ass before, and this is probably the worst time to start.

She expects Melanie to press right in, but she doesn’t. She circles Abigail’s entrance with featherlight strokes, tapping and teasing, and Abigail is waiting for it to hurt, but it doesn’t. It feels surprisingly good, and she finds herself melting into it, sighing as Melanie murmurs encouragement. It’s good but not enough, and Abigail pushes back against the finger playing over her rim, looking for more.

Melanie gives it to her. She slides her finger into Abigail in a long, smooth press that feels weirdly invasive. It’s a tight pressure that doesn’t hurt, exactly, but it doesn’t not hurt either. She leaves her finger there, letting Abigail adjust to the intrusion before pulling it out and sliding it back in.

Abigail grits her teeth and makes a noise that isn’t sure if it wants to be a moan. “Are you going to fuck me in the ass?”

“Yeah, baby girl. Do you want that?”

“I don’t know,” Abigail says.

It’s true. She didn’t know, but the words gets lost on a long groan as Melanie bends to lap at her dripping pussy. Melanie sucks her clit lightly as she starts to move her finger, fucking into Abigail with soft, slow strokes, and if it’s going to feel like that, Abigail’s pretty sure she’ll let Melanie do whatever the fuck she wants. She bucks against Melanie’s face as she works a second finger into her ass.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck.”

“Do you want to be good for daddy?” Melanie mouths against her skin. “Are you going to let me fuck you?”

“Yes,” Abigail hisses. She arches her back as Melanie drives her fingers into her. “Fuck yes. Put your cock in me, daddy.”

Melanie groans. She pulls her fingers out of Abigail, who turns to watch as Melanie squeezes more lube out of the bottle. Melanie smirks as she rubs it over the toy, slicking her hands up and down the shaft a few times for show. She lines it up, brow furrowed in concentration as she pushes her hips forward until the tip of the plastic cock is nudging against Abigail’s ass, blunt and thick and that’s-not-gonna-fit.

“Touch yourself for me, sweetheart,” Melanie says, and Abigail doesn’t need to be told twice.

She rubs her clit in quick, tight circles, tensing in anticipation. There’s a heavy, slow press in, and she gasps.

“Holy shit, that thing is huge.”

It is. It feels like it’s splitting her open, and she whines, feeling spitted and pinned in place. It hurts. It’s desperately hot, especially when Melanie pulls out and slowly pushes back in.

“You’re doing so well, baby.”

Abigail doesn’t answer, just squeezes her eyes shut tight and rides it out.

It hurts until it doesn’t, until the what the fuck of the situation trips some crossed wires in her brain and lights up every last one of her nerves. Until she’s shoving herself back on Melanie’s cock whining, “Fuck me, daddy, make me come.”

Melanie growls and fucks her harder. She’s gripping Abigail’s hips hard enough to leave bruises, yanking her back while Abigail rides her. The headboard knocks against the wall, and Abigail has no idea if Melanie has neighbors. She groans, low and guttural, working her own fingers faster, rubbing herself until right—

There.

When she comes, she might whimper daddy, or it might have been Melanie, or maybe even Hannibal.

Melanie laughs, after. “Holy shit.”

“Holy shit,” Abigail agrees.

“That was so hot.”

“Mm.” Abigail settles into the crook of Melanie’s arm, allowing herself to be wrapped up and pulled close.

“Did you like it?” Melanie asks, all serious eyes and sensitive mouth.

I’ll miss this, Abigail thinks suddenly.

She takes stock of her body. There’s a soreness in her ass and hips that she’ll feel for days. She feels… sad but clean. Washed out, like a bombed out city after the rain.

“Yeah,” she says finally, pressing a kiss to Melanie’s mouth. “It was fun.”

She doesn’t want to talk anymore, so she slides down the bed and crawls between Melanie’s legs to return the favor. Abigail digs her fingernails into the irritated lines the harness scored into Melanie’s thighs and licks her to one shuddering orgasm after another.

* * *

She doesn’t bother to shower before leaving Melanie’s house. She smells like sex and sweat, like another woman’s perfume—and when it starts to rain, she smells like that too. Walking to the train station, she feels surprisingly light.

She uses the credit card Hannibal had given her and buys a train ticket back to Florence. She considered buying a ticket to London after all—school is waiting; she might still be able to talk herself back in—but thinks better of it. She’d only be running.

She’s done with that now, she decides. There’s only a reason to run if someone’s trying to catch you, and they’re not. She’s learned that now. She can stay or she can go, and all she has to blame for either one is herself. It’s time to go home.

The train is empty. She gets a row all to herself and sits by the window. Heaviness settles over her like a mantle, thicker and thicker the closer they get to where she started. She pulls out a phone when they’re passing Milan.

There’s a text from Melanie: Did you catch your train ok?

It makes Abigail smile.

Yeah, she types back.

The answer comes a few minutes later. Good.

She looks at the text exchange for a moment longer, then deletes it. She opens her contact list and flicks through them until she gets to the letter M, to the number Melanie had programmed into her phone. (“In case you’re ever back in Paris,” she’d said, pulling Abigail in for one last kiss by the door.)

Abigail deletes that too. Her last memory of Melanie is her leaning in her open doorway, hip cocked, wearing a crooked smile as she’d waved Abigail off. It’s a good memory. She wouldn’t want to spoil it.

Abigail takes a deep breath. She scrolls up the list until she gets to D and hits the call button. She holds the phone to her ear and watches the city roll by outside her window. It’s raining again.

The line picks up on the third ring.

“Hi, dad. It’s me.”