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He, Who Holds The Devil

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When life gets too lonely, when life gets too boring, too maddeningly polite, Hannibal thinks of Will.

"Back so soon?" Will asked, watching the fireplace in Hannibal's office, holding a notebook full of notes and observations of patients. He ripped the pages and threw them to the fire, the flames dancing in the reflection of his eyes.

Hannibal walked closer to him, finding in his hands more notes of his years as a psychiatrist. He stood next to Will, handing him another leather notebook. "Not soon enough."

Will's lips curled slightly, opening the book in his hands to find the clocks he had drawn for Dr. Lecter over and over again. He opens his mouth, and Hannibal already knows what he is going to say, because he has relived this conversation thousands of times. "These are your notes on me."

He watches as Will analyzes the pages, shuffling through the papers that held intimate knowledge of empathy, of a mind seized by horrors, of someone being manipulated and molded into this. His becoming. He watches as Will throws the encephalitis clock into the fire, both watching as a part of their past is consumed by the flames. Watching time burn.

Hannibal does not respond, and the memory continues to spin the tale of betrayal and forgiveness. But Will and Hannibal are, for a moment, in another plane of existence, where life kisses death for just a second, a singularity in the entropy of the universe.

The memory fades into white noise.

"Would you have gone with me," Hannibal spares a glance towards Will, "had I given you another chance?"

Will turns to Hannibal, bitterness tainting his smile, "what do you want me to say?"

"That you would have come with me," Hannibal responds, allowing himself a moment to be vulnerable, to shed the skin he wears as armor, "that you would have abandoned Jack and Alana, and would have come with me."

Turning back to the flames, Will takes no time to respond. His voice is dead. "I would have gone with you."

Hannibal sighs, leaning closer to Will to memorize the way he looked that night- the night Hannibal smelled the spared prey and the lies, the night he decided to hurt Will just as much as he had hurt him.

He pulls away, turns around, and opens his eyes to come back to Florence, before Hannibal has time to relieve Will's betrayal.

 

-

 

Sometimes, he would visit Will in his office in Baltimore, where they would talk about philosophy and metaphors, sitting close in the psychiatrist-patient chairs that witnessed the evolution of their relationship.

Other times, he would invite Will to whatever place he was currently on, whether that be the classical streets of Andalusia, or the crystal bays of Denmark. 

Today, he was standing just beyond the front doors of the Acropolis Museum, smiling at Will as they both took in the marble and bronze exhibitions around them.

Without speaking a word, they walked forward at the same time, gazing at the statues of the broken gods in the Archaic Gallery.

"Seems that not even the gods are immune to falling from glory." Will mutters, eyes never straying far from the relics before them. Hannibal smiles, and continues to walk.

As it began to near the sunset, the crowds began to increase, which made Will fumble with his glasses.

Hannibal took pity on him, and began to guide them to the less crowded area, where the statues of Hades and Persephone were proudly standing, the King and Queen of the Underworld.

"Do you know their true story?" Hannibal asks Will, who looks up at Hannibal, only to look back at the stone pieces. He shakes his head.

With a smile, Hannibal begins to narrate the tale of a god who ruled over the dead and the riches, who held power over any mortal, who was king of all that was dangerous.

And Will listened, ignoring the outside world to simply focus on Hannibal and his words, and the husband and wife before them.

And so Hannibal continues. He describes how one spring day, Hades saw her standing in a flower field, a true daughter of nature, and could not help but fall in love with the goddess of spring. "She made flowers bloom when Hades would make them wither," he explains, and is satisfied to see Will huffing out a laugh at his storytelling.

He ends the story with the union that turned the heavens upside down, the beginning of a new era, the crowning of a new Queen fit to rule beside the King.

As they leave the museum just a few minutes before closing time, Will turns around to look at the statues one last time.

"Love makes fools of us all, doesn't it?" He asks, and Hannibal does not need to say anything for them to know the answer.

 

-

 

"Tell me, Dr. Lecter," Will began, sitting behind the desk at the psychiatrist's office back in Baltimore, "how do you see me?"

"I believe we have already had this conversation, dear Will." Hannibal said, walking closer to where Will sat.

"The mongoose under your house," an amused scoff filled the silence, "for when the snakes slither by."

Hannibal stared at Will, noticing the bitterness in the edge of his words, in the harsh grip of his hands against the wooden desk. "Perhaps I can amend my original statement."

"Oh?" Will turned his head to the side, blood beginning to trickle from his lips and into his throat. The sight made Hannibal lose his breath. "Do tell."

"The apples in the Garden of Eden." Hannibal decided, bringing his hand to cup the jaw of the man in front of him. For a moment, he believed he could actually feel the warmth from the face he held, from the blood that should have stained his fingers. Instead, he felt nothing, but did not want to break this moment. "So tempting."

Will leaned closer. "You are the one who persuaded others to take from me."

"And look where that got them."

 

-

 

In the silence of the Uffizi Galerie, Hannibal recreated La Primavera with a pencil in hand, a sketchbook in his lap.

As he neared the end of drawing the fallen angel above mankind, he saw Will in the corner of his eye.

He looked towards him, noticing his same scruffy beard, his bloody wounds, his bright eyes.

Will turned towards Hannibal after a moment of admiring Botticelli's art. When their eyes met, their lips pulled into a smile.

In that moment, Hannibal wished to flip to another blank page, and draw with perfect detail the art in front of him- a painting of an angel who defied heaven and seduced the devil.

"If I could remember any day, forever, Will," Hannibal muttered, never looking away from Will, "I will remember this time."

Will turned back to the painting, his lips curled into a smile that was sincere. He was beautiful.

"You and I have begun to blur," Will says, staring straight into painting in front of them. "We're conjoined."

His words were beautiful.

"I wonder if you can survive separation."

He closed his eyes.

Hannibal felt an ache inside him. Nothing he said or did could ever change the fact that he killed Will Graham, that he prevented every moment like this to ever occur, prevented them from even existing.

He opened his eyes, and he was back in Vienna, in his room with a sketchpad in his lap, a pencil in his hand. A quick glance around his room revealed the fact that he was alone.

He sighed, closed his eyes again, and went back to his mind palace where Will was waiting for him in Tuscany, right in front of La Primavera.

 

-

 

"Have you ever been a father?" Will asks, trying to sound nonchalant but the curiosity seeping through.

Hannibal considers his next words for a moment, "I was to my sister."

The truth is harder to say than he expected, and when he looks at Will, seeing the soft expression on his face, he ventures forward.

"She was not my child but she was my charge." He looks to the side, smiling slightly as he remembers a little blonde girl with ribbons in her hair, who always sung lullabies and took his hand and said let's go play! He closes his eyes for a moment, stuck in the memories. "She taught me so much about myself. Her name was Mischa."

"Was?"

"She's dead."

Will looks down for a moment, closing his eyes, and when he opens them again, he looks at Hannibal differently. His voice is short of a demand, "tell me more about her."

"She had bright hair, eyes like honey," Hannibal begins, standing up and walking to the desk in the back of his office, where all of his drawings laid. He shuffled through some papers, eventually finding the one he sought. Instead of the boy from Sistine Madonna, the serene Madonna is holding a young girl with pigtails, a soft smile decorating her face. This was Mischa Lecter. "She was never afraid to smile."

"She sounds beautiful." Will whispers, entranced in the drawing coming to life in front of his eyes. The pendulum swung, and he could see a younger boy holding a little girl's hand, both of them running across a snowy field in the garden of a manor, leaving footprints behind that showed a story of fun and life. He could see the youth in them, the innocence that was a flame dimming slightly every day. 

And suddenly, one day it must have been snuffed too early by someone. The pendulum stopped. "How did she die?"

Hannibal sighed, leaning back, looking tired with everything around him, almost as if that single question had cost him all of his energy and life to even hear. He closed his eyes, and Will did the same. The pendulum swung, once, twice, thrice, and then there they were, back in Lithuania, in the middle of the night as the country fought a war.

He saw a dirtied, pale man knocking on their door and begging for shelter. Just one night, he pleaded.

And Mischa looked directly at the eyes of Hannibal, pulling at his shirt, telling him, he needs our help! We have to help him!

Hannibal, gone for his sister, allowed the man into their home, fed him, kept him warm. And that night, when he heard Mischa's screams, he captured the man, intent on making Dante's hell seem like heaven to him.

And Mischa, his dear Mischa, was dead in her room. And with pain in his heart and tears in his eyes, he tore into her, eating her flesh, consuming her so that she will forever be a part of him.

Hannibal opened his eyes to find Will looking at him. 

"I feel like I finally understand you," Will whispered, "I can see you now."

 

-

 

"You made men fall." Hannibal whispers in the dead of the night, the fireplace being the only light in the room.

Will sat next to him, nursing a tumbler of whiskey that never seemed to run out. He looked at the swirling alcohol, taking his time to respond.

"Did I make you fall?" Will asks him, raising an eyebrow in incredulity. 

Hannibal smiles bitterly. From glory, he wanted to say.

Instead, he poured more wine into his glass.

 

-

 

"There is one thing," Will began, looking to his side at where the river flowed serenely, his eyes reflecting the calm waters, "that I continue to wonder, after all this time."

"And what is that?" Hannibal asked, when it became clear that Will was waiting for Hannibal to take the bait.

Will did not say anything for a long time. An hour must have passed, and if it had been anyone else, Hannibal would have thought that maybe they forgot their train of thought. But no. This was Will. He took his time to make Hannibal ache with the intrigue of a new mystery.

The pair continued to walk along the bank of the river, their steps evenly matched, their hands swinging in harmony.

Hannibal became distracted with the sight Will made, as he gazed infinitely into the waters by their side, as if waiting for something or someone to take him away.

"Why did you kill Abigail?"

The question made Hannibal stop walking. He gazed at Will, noticing how the man still did not look at him, but continued to watch the fishes swimming in the river.

He thought to himself, why?

Why did he kill the girl he had come to see as a daughter? Why did he kill the chance at an opportunity of parenthood with Will?

Why did he kill Abigail Hobbs, when she had been their chance at family?

His voice was steady when he responded, "she was a survivor, Will. Not a hunter. You and I both know that."

Will finally looked at him, "what does that have to do with anything?"

"We would have caused her endless suffering," he tried to be gentle, but he would be lying if he said that he felt something when he killed Abigail. "If not that night, she would have died by our hand one day."

Will inhaled the crispy air, looking at the sky above. He shook his head.

When he looked back to Hannibal, his stomach was ripped opened, his hands covered in blood. His hair was matted to his forehead from the rain, his body shaking.

"None of that matters now," Will muttered, "we both died. You lived. Is that what you wanted?"

No, Hannibal wanted to say, none of this was supposed to happen.

Will Graham was supposed to live, and Abigail Hobbs was always supposed to die. The cut in his stomach was made with surgical precision. Will Graham was supposed to hunt Hannibal, to go find him in Florence. To know who he was, to discover il mostro and see La Primavera and accept his becoming.

None of this was supposed to happen.

Yet, he let none of this seep through his person suit.

Instead, Hannibal looked at Will, let his lips curl, and kept walking.

He suspected that Will knew the truth though, when the other man whispered, "I know who you are, Hannibal. You can't hide from me."

 

-

 

The first time someone mistook Bedelia for Hannibal's wife, she waited with a held breath to see how he would react.

Hannibal had smiled, "Not my wife, no. My cousin."

And with a careful hand in the crook of her elbow, took them to another side of the party.

From that day on, Bedelia du Murier became Marina Fell, the cousin of Roman Fell who came to stay with him for a sabbatical year.

Lydia Fell, unfortunately, passed away a few months prior from health complications.

She never mentioned anything about his marital status after, but it was clear- Frankestein's Bride, she was not.

 

-

 

Chiyoh contacted Hannibal when his letter arrived.

"What are you going to do, Hannibal?"

"Something I should have done a long time."

Her sigh could be heard even through the disposable phone. "Why-"

"Chiyoh," his voice was gentle, fond for his childhood companion, "your job is done. It is time to move forward."

"Hannibal-"

"Goodbye, Chiyoh."

 

-

 

When Hannibal was curating at the museum, he saw Will standing by his side, looking intently at some of the older pieces held in glass.

"Do you believe in dragons?" Will asked, looking at Kaulon's dragons.

Hannibal thought for a second, "I believe in men who believe they are dragons."

Will rolled his eyes, and while once Hannibal would have found it rude, now he was just fond of the small bits of personality that composed who Will was, "Once a psychiatrist, always a psychiatrist."

"One cannot fight what is in their nature," Hannibal reminded Will gently, "whether that be a psychiatrist, a lover, or a killer."

Will looked away.

 

-

 

Hannibal was walking down the streets of Paris, with Will by his side, matching each of his step, when Abigail appeared next to them.

She grinned, pointing straight ahead where the Eiffel Tower was glistening from the sun it reflected. "It's even more pretty than in the pictures."

Hannibal could only watch as she skipped along to a tune from a nearby man playing the guitar, twirling around in a summer dress and a hat that made her seem local, like she belonged here.

Will chuckled at her antics, urging Hannibal to walk faster so that they could catch up with her. Abigail was already a few ways ahead of them, and they hurried to match her pace. And as Hannibal looked at her shinning blue eyes that appeared to be the same shade as Will's, as he watched the two of them laughing as they pointed out things to each other, as they asked Hannibal to teach them enough French to order a couple of eclairs, he felt something deeper (sharper) than regret.

He could have had this.

They could have been a family.

They could have all been living in Paris, Hannibal becoming an antiques collector and Will working as a boat mechanic at the Seine River. Abigail could have attended the Sorbonne or the University of Paris, or perhaps have left home to go to the University of Manchester or the Humboldt.

It would not have mattered, he decided, because she would always come home, at the end of the day. And they would always visit her, if not every weekend then perhaps every two weeks. And they would call on the phone everyday, or at least Will would try to, and Abigail would laugh and say that she's fine and that everything is amazing, and Will would be reluctant but he will give her space. Because no matter how hard it becomes sometimes to distinguish the lines in his mind, Will is not Garret Jacob Hobbs, and though he loves Abigail just as much, he knows when to let go. So they would agree to visit every two weeks, call every Thursday, and give Abigail enough money to come home every month.

It would have been perfect. They would have been a family. They would have loved each other.

He watched as Will and Abigail ate with their backs to him, both of them watching in astonishment as the sun began to set behind the Eiffel Tower. He walked closer, just enough to be able to see them, but not touch them (though he knew he could not, no matter how much he desired to).

He closed his eyes, missing the sunset as he tried to understand what he was feeling.

Without looking at either of them, Hannibal began to walk away, turning his back on the Tower and on his (could-have-been) family, not turning around though he felt a heavy stare.

Once he got back to the house, he ignored Bedelia's presence in the living room, and went straight to his bedroom without a word.

It was only when he finished the graphite sketch of a father and daughter watching the sunset that he realized what this feeling inside him was.

Grief.

 

-

 

Hannibal and Will walked along the streets of Florence, gazing at the buildings all around them.

“We’ll never have Florence,” Will said, looking at everything but Hannibal.

And Hannibal closed his eyes, feeling regret coursing through his veins and sinking into his very bones.

Cruel, cruel boy.

”No,” Hannibal agreed, though he wished he was lying. “We will never have Florence.”