Alana wasn't smiling when she pulled into Will's gravel driveway to meet him at the door. Jack must have called ahead in the early morning and briefed her on Will's nerves. Will should have known better than to talk to Jack.
"Are you ready?" she asked as Will stumbled into the passenger seat. She skimmed his dark suit and navy blue tie. "You look nice."
"You do too," Will offered, and they smiled at each other awkwardly.
Alana put the car into drive. "What about your dogs?" she prompted, and as if on cue, the front door banged with the sound of earnest paws against wood.
"I asked my neighbor to let them out. This will probably take all day. There are apparently reporters. They'll have questions."
"Of course they'll have questions," Alana said. "This is a historic—"
"If one more person tells me this is a historic day," Will threatened with no real malice and then relented. Alana didn't deserve it. "It's just…intimate. It's not their story to ask."
Alana didn't touch him, but the warmth in her voice was as good as if she'd taken his hand. "You don’t have to do anything you're uncomfortable with, Will."
"Freddie Lounds called to congratulate me."
"No." Alana goggled. "Why? Is she doing a story—"
"For once, it looks like we're on the same side," Will said. That had been an eye-opening conversation.
Alana wanted to ask more but refrained, and Will was grateful. He kept his eyes on the even line of horizon as Alana roared along the winding country roads and onto the highway. His stomach threatened to turn after a missed breakfast and a long sleepless night with only the dogs for company. Funny that after months and months of waiting, Will chose today to be afraid.
As if reading his mind, Alana said, "You'd better warn me if you feel like throwing up."
Will shook his head and swallowed convulsively. "Didn't have anything except a cup of coffee."
Alana nodded and drummed her manicured fingernails against the steering wheel. "You've worked hard for this. I'm proud of you." Will chafed under the praise, but she didn't notice. "Today is important to you, to all of us. I know Jack wasn't always…there for you."
"Jack was just thinking about the job, about our work. There wasn't time for anything else. He never saw us as colleagues, you know."
The name, once it was finally spoken, rang like a talisman inside the car, and suddenly Hannibal was there, occupying the entirety of Will's mind – had been occupying it, if Will let himself admit it, since that evening last year when Will had choked out, "Are you, I can't believe you-" and Hannibal had replied, "Yes."
"I wish Beverly were here," Alana broke the reverential silence.
Will bowed his head. "Me too. She was the first one that I told, back in the beginning, before all of this. Before there was even something to tell."
"You could have told me." Alana didn't sound hurt, just curious, still professionally intrigued by the gears that turned Will's mind.
Will forgave her and spread his hands. "You wouldn't have believed me if I did. No one did at first, if I remember."
Now Alana looked ashamed, and Will wanted to banish the expression from her face.
"Did I ever…" Will felt like he was betraying Hannibal, but that was impossible with Will travelling now to the courthouse to bare everything that had transpired between them to a judge and witnesses. "Did I ever tell you Hannibal asked me to run away with him to Italy?"
Alana's face went through a series of emotions before settling comfortably on general disapproval. "That doesn't sound like him."
"You meant to say, that sounds exactly like me."
"I almost agreed, you know."
"Will." Now Alana's voice was definitely disapproving. "Jack and the others would have stopped you before the two of you even made it to the airport."
Will dropped his shoulder in a half-shrug. "I wasn't thinking about Jack back then. It was a strange time."
"A lot has changed," Alana agreed. "I understand."
They rode the rest of the way in silence. It started raining as they crossed into Arlington, a cold halfhearted drizzle. The windshield wipers squeaked and smeared, partially obscuring the incoming city traffic.
Alana's phone pinged with a text as they were nearing the courthouse. She waited till a red light to read it. "Hannibal's there," she said. "They're waiting for us. Price says you're not allowed to see him."
"That’s ridiculous," Will protested. "I saw him two days ago."
Alana shrugged and rolled down the passenger window, looking for a good place to park. "Apparently that was different. Price has a protocol."
"Price needs to mind his own business." There was already a long line of people waiting to get into the courthouse, flanked by reporters on both sides. Jack was there with an umbrella, which deflected most of the rain and camera flashes as he escorted Will out of the car and into the building.
"Alana's finding parking," Will said. "She's the other witness. Where is everyone else?"
"Already inside," Jack said. He ushered Will into a dimly lit antechamber that was barely larger than the department storage closet at Quantico. "Ten minutes, Will. I'll come back when they're ready for you."
"Okay," Will said. "And Jack? Thanks. This means a lot."
Jack looked like he was about to speak—Jack could never resist getting the last word—but instead he clapped Will once on the shoulder, a heavy unwavering grip, before leaving and shutting the door behind him.
Will sucked in a breath and then let it out in a long release. He had the urge to pop an aspirin, a calming ritual for a headache he could feel gathering like oncoming clouds in the distance. The news said the day would be overcast and rainy for most of the afternoon. It was far from ideal weather, but bright sunny skies would have ached in Will's molars like a cavity all the same.
He knew someday he would remember this moment as history, page through the autopsy of the hours and prize the minutiae of each sound and action. And Will felt the crush of time pressing him forward now, dreading the fumbling of each passing second as one he would reflect upon later with regret.
The door opened and then shut again.
"Hello, Will," Hannibal spoke from over his shoulder, his calm sure-footed voice leading Will away from the precipice like it always did.
Will closed his eyes. His hands clenched at his sides. "I'm not supposed to see you. Price said."
Hannibal sounded amused. "Then we won't tell Jimmy Price. I confess, I didn't know he was such a traditionalist. Nor you, Will."
"I'm not." Will turned around, his eyes still closed, and anticipated the kiss even as it descended warmly against his closed lips. He felt Hannibal clip a spray of something fragrant and delicate to his lapel. When Will brought up his hand to inspect it, his fingers fell soft on a tiny profusion of flowers and rosebuds.
"Your boutonniere," Hannibal said. "I told Mr. Zeller I would take the liberty of delivering it to you."
"I'll bet you did." When Will opened his eyes, he saw a matching boutonniere at Hannibal's lapel.
Hannibal's suit was immaculate, blue grey overlaid with tan checks. He must have driven over from his office after his morning appointments. It was a workday after all, and Will himself had afternoon classes to teach, but maybe they could take time in between to have lunch together at that absurdly pretentious bistro where Hannibal had taken him on their first date.
A surge of affection evaporated the last of Will's headache. Hannibal's hand was cool and dry. Will's thumb spanned over the knuckles, tracing the rise and fall of each one. In turn, Hannibal's fingertips crept underneath the sleeve of Will's shirt cuff.
He paused over the rapid beat of Will's pulse. "Are you alright, Will?"
"I just…I really really need to kiss you," Will confessed.
Hannibal stared at him, perplexed. And then before Will could backpeddle, Hannibal's hands were cradling his face, and he was kissing Will to within an inch of his life. Will gasped into Hannibal's mouth and pulled him in by the waist, crushing Hannibal's bright delicate boutonniere between their bodies.
He loved this man, Will thought fervently. He was in love with this man.
Hannibal stroked along Will's neck and into his hair. His touch was a fraction too uncontrolled, his kisses unfocused, and Will wondered if he was panicking too on the inside. It was finally Will who pulled back and slowed the kiss down, warm now where it had been scorching, intimate from familiarity instead of desperation.
"Okay?" Will asked finally. He touched foreheads and felt Hannibal press back. "Okay?"
"Yes, Will." Hannibal's hand was steady as he smoothed the front of Will's suit jacket, but his lips as he spoke were flushed and shiny from kissing. "Agent Katz sends her regards. She can't fly out of Minnesota until the end of the week."
"I told her I couldn't wait that long," Will admitted. "Zeller is taping the ceremony on his phone and streaming it to her."
"Tasteless," Hannibal scoffed, and then reluctantly, "But clever."
Will bracketed an arm around the small of Hannibal's back to sway them nearer. "It still doesn't feel real," he confided. "I always thought marriage was something that happened to other people."
Up close, Hannibal's cologne was subtly different – richer, deeper, indescribable. Likely expensive and rare, used only for special occasions. If Will ever smelled it again, it would remind him of Hannibal like this. The two of them standing together in a dim anteroom while the world whirled around them outside.
Hannibal touched Will's bottom lip with his thumb. "I knew ten minutes after meeting you in Jack Crawford's office that I wanted to marry you," he mused.
Hannibal was the only one that could get away with saying something so sentimental, so heart-stoppingly horribly romantic that it made Will ache, made him burn to consume Hannibal and be consumed by him, to become something together that was greater than the sum of them both.
Will cleared his throat once, twice. "Lucky for you, the state decided to agree."
"Luckier still that you did the same," Hannibal replied, but he was teasing now, and Will tweaked his earlobe before kissing him again, careful and soft, more honest than the quick perfunctory peck they would share outside with the judge, Jack, and Alana as witnesses.
There was a knock on the door, and Hannibal retreated to a polite distance, but he was smirking, and he didn't let go of Will's hand.
Will tightened his grip and imagined he could feel the smooth cool space on Hannibal's finger where a ring might sit past his second knuckle. "Come on," Will said. "Let's get married."