It was the company, more than anything else, that grated at Hannibal. Doctors Bloom and Chilton, mainly, with occasional breaks in the crushing monotony, but no one he actually cared to spend his now limitless free time with. Of course, there was only one person he truly wanted to see.
He'd been idling here in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, terribly bored but in no way rotting, for over a year now. The anniversary of his incarceration passed with little fanfare, aside from a lively retrospective courtesy of Miss Freddie Lounds. And in that time, which he made a commendable effort to fill with his drawings and books, his thoughts remained torturously singular.
Will hadn't seen it fit to visit Hannibal yet, though he felt confident that he would make an appearance any day now. He ignored, of course, the fact that he'd felt that same confidence mere days after his arrest. Will would come, soon. He would.
And until the blessed day that reprehensible aftershave floated through the holes of Hannibal's glass box, he was content to indulge in the memories of Will.
Those memories sustained him, much more than any meal. When the rigidity, the confinement, rubbed raw at Hannibal's pride, he reminded himself why he was there. Why he allowed himself to be captured. He surrendered so that Will, his poor conflicted Will, could find him at a moment's notice. Will was confused, but Hannibal could hardly fault him for that. He couldn't imagine how disorienting the process of Becoming must be, especially when Will had been nestled under the thick layers of his person suit for so many years. But soon, very soon, Will would come to his senses, finally understand what Hannibal knew he wanted, and seek him out. And Hannibal would be here, right where Will could find him.
Hannibal sighed, regarding the glass wall before him. Very soon, any day now.
Alana Bloom entered his room then, standing a fair distance from the glass. Hannibal didn't give her the kindness of acknowledgment and kept his attention on his desk.
Eventually, she spoke.
"You are, without contest, the most vile, disgusting monster I've ever laid eyes on, Hannibal Lecter."
"And you are not the same woman I taught to play the theremin," He said, finally looking up at her. She looked deeply distressed. "Tell me Alana, what have I done to incur your venom today?"
She paused before she answered, Hannibal could smell the apprehension clinging to her skin. It's unbecoming. "I'm reminding myself of what you are," She explained. "Of why I shouldn't- won't- hold any sympathy for you or your suffering." She swallowed. "I'm hoping it will make this conversation easier for me."
He regarded her, trying to solve her mysterious expression from across the room. He put down his charcoal. "I do not want your sympathy, Doctor Bloom, let alone expect it."
She took a step closer. "Still, I feel compelled today to give you my compassion."
"Your mercy?" He asked with a smirk.
"A measure of dignity," She clarified. Her anxiety gave way to pity and Hannibal bristled at it. What on Earth is she hiding? "I wanted you to hear this from me. Before Frederick or, God forbid, Freddie Lounds decides to rub your nose in it. The idea feels unnecessarily cruel to me. We were friends, once. I know you, and I know how you-" Her voice broke suddenly and she cleared her throat. Her eyes found the ground. She took a slow breath.
"Will Graham is dead, Hannibal."
Hannibal's first instinct was to laugh. It was a cold, bitter laugh that erupted before he could stop it. "I know that you hate me, but this is a particularly vicious slight even for you."
"He was reported missing about a week ago," She said through tight lips. "Left for the grocery store and never made it home. They found his car in the river, this morning."
Hannibal narrowed his eyes. The joke has stopped being funny. "Surely you don't expect me to believe-"
"It's him, Hannibal. It's his car, his DNA. By the look of it, there's no indication of foul play." Her tone was formal, forcing all emotion from it. "He was likely going too fast near a tight turn, lost control of the car. Just an unlucky accident."
Shock and anguish started to settle deep within his stomach. It couldn't be. The last week had been like any other for him. His mind rejected the idea on that basis alone- felt certain that if Will had truly died, he would've known instantly. A foreboding chill would've risen up his neck and his heart would have broken in two, he would've known without being told. Not only had he felt no such anguish, he could still feel Will's breath on the air, still drifting back to Hannibal all the way from where it left his lips. His Will was all around him, as always.
He closed his eyes and saw blue- calculating, cunning blue. Eyes are distracting. I don't find you that interesting. Don't lie to me. I don't want to think about you anymore.
"I'll give you some space. I just thought you deserved to know," Alana said, already stepping further from the glass. "They're having a funeral service for him tomorrow afternoon, I won't be attending but I'm sending some forget-me-nots over."
At that Hannibal's eyes, which had been blindly staring at the drawing beneath him, darted up to meet Alana's. "Let me see him."
She shook her head. "No."
Hannibal stood, took a step closer to the glass. "I need to see him, Alana. Please."
"I'm not going to let you disrupt a funeral and put everyone on edge. His loved ones deserve to grieve in peace."
"They do," He said, and placed his hand on the glass. "And there is no one who loves him more than I."
Alana sighed, turned to leave him alone in his agony. She paused at the door but didn't turn. "Maybe someday. We'll see."
"Get up, Hannibal."
Her tone was harsh, but he ignored her.
"You're making my staff nervous, they're not used to seeing you like this."
Hannibal didn't even indicate that he was listening, simply lay there staring at the unforgiving ceiling of his cage.
"I'm not used to seeing you like this."
He shut his eyes.
She hit the glass firmly with her palm. "You have to eat something, Hannibal. You've barely left your bed in days."
He didn't have to do anything. It wasn't Alana's job to make sure he practiced self-care, only to make sure we was physically able to. So why did she care whether Hannibal left his bed?
He inhaled deeply, and the air smelled like blood and cedar and dog hair. His heart ached, as it did through every waking moment. He hoped that one day he would develop a tolerance for it.
"I thought of him every single day. I still do," He said, and it was the first time he'd spoken in quite a while. "I replayed our conversations to stave off boredom, tried to build new ones from fragments of the past. I tried to imagine what he'd say, if I told him certain things. Before long I realized that I would never be able to predict him, it was a fruitless exercise, but I still found comfort in the memories."
Alana didn't respond but he could feel her eyes on him. She was still close to the glass.
"I told myself that I would see him again," He confessed. "That he knew where I was and and that he would change his mind, take back what he said." He frowned. "He said terrible things to me, the night that I surrendered. Horrible. But I still hoped, every second, that he would return to me one day."
"You saw this imprisonment as your intermission," Alana said. "Just a dull moment to recompose before the show could begin again."
"And now it seems the show has been ended before its conclusion." He turned his head, met her gaze. More pity. "I have no interest in lurking through an empty theatre, Doctor Bloom."
"Does it comfort you to know that he thought of you often, as well?"
He was quiet, listening.
"I didn't speak to him much, after what happened the night you left," She said, and Hannibal could almost taste the spike of anger that flickered through her mind. "But you could see it in his eyes. It didn't matter what was in front of him, he was focused on something else. On you."
"Will is always thinking of something else," He dismissed, but his heart felt a fresh tear in it all the same.
"Yeah," She said, and a faint smile quirked at her lips. "I once saw him accidentally take a sip from Price's cup of noodles instead of his own coffee. Just grabbed the nearest cup and drank."
"I once tried to make tea at Will's house and found his milk in the cabinet," Hannibal said, the memory tugging at him with a bittersweet fondness.
"One time Will tried to convince Jack that a suspect was guilty because of the brand of ice cream in his freezer. Worst part is, he was right. It had absolutely nothing to do with the crime, I still have no idea what his thought process was."
"Will once told me that he didn't suspect me of my crimes in part because of my Lithuanian heritage. How that was a key factor, I'll never know."
Alana laughed, and to his surprise she took at seat on the floor near the glass. "One of Will's students left her number on one of their tests with a heart beside it, and Will showed up in my office on the verge of a panic attack. It took me all evening to explain the concept of letting someone down gently."
"He drove an hour in the middle of the night to my home when he kissed you a few years ago."
"Were you jealous?" She asked with a smirk.
Alana's smile faded, she looked solemnly at the glass. "I don't think I let myself grieve for Will."
Hannibal stood at last, sat beside Alana on the other side of the glass. He half-expected her to flinch, to run away. She didn't. "His passing was quite recent."
She shook her head. "No, not your Will. Mine. The one I trusted, the one he was before." Her eyes met his, the fire gone from them. "The one you took from me."
He didn't reply.
"If I think about letting you visit Will's grave, will you promise to actually eat something?"
"Why do you care so much for my well-being?"
She gave him a sad smile. "I might hate you, but I don't want to just sit here and watch you starve to death. Besides, you meant a lot to someone I cared for once. In your twisted, sadistic little way, I do believe you loved each other."
"Good morning, Hannibal."
"Is it?" He asked, eyes boring into the wall. He'd hardly slept a wink, dreams plagued with visions of Will drowning in his car. It never sat right with him, no matter how many times he imagined it. His Will was suited for a glorious death, something with blood and romance and darkness. Perhaps it would never seem true.
"It will be for you. Get up."
"And if I refuse?" He really was exhausted, tired to his bones, like nothing was worth waking for.
"Then I'll go to the cemetery without you."
At this, he rose. "You're letting me see him?"
"Just you, me, and a couple men from my security team. It's been over a week since the funeral, and it's early in the day. I don't think we'll be disturbing anyone."
Hannibal was cooperative, more so than usual, as the guards fitted him with a face mask and straight jacket. He understood what Alana was offering him, and had no interest in biting the hand that fed him. The ride to the cemetery was tense and quiet, he could smell the anxiety on a couple of the guards.
"Hello, Will," He said, regarding the headstone before him. The words came out with the same warm politeness he always used to greet him, as if this time were no different. As if this weren't the last time.
The cemetery was gloomy in the early morning fog, almost completely empty save for the six people crowding this particular plot. It was a lovely piece of post mortem real estate, surrounded on one side with a few large trees, just a short walk from the cemetery's entrance.
Hannibal took a step closer. Breathed in as deeply as he could through the holes in his mask. Blood, cedar, and dog hair. Something with a ship on the bottle. "How long will I have?"
"I cleared my morning," Alana said. "I won't be indulging you again, so I wanted you to have a solid amount of time. We can stay here until lunchtime if you want."
Hannibal heard a member of the security team huff out a sigh. Rude.
He swallowed around the lump in his throat, tried to repress the shudder that dared to rip through him. He hadn't wept for Will. Not yet. Not when he could still taste that warm breath on the air.
"I always adored your ability to surprise me, Will, but I must say this surprise is very unwelcome." He shut his eyes, not quickly enough to keep a hot tear at bay. "I don't suppose there's any chance I could have some privacy?"
Alana looked at Hannibal, then at the four guards around them. "Turn around, I won't let him get the jump on any of you."
"I have my eye on him. Just face away, please."
Hannibal fell to his knees before the headstone, thankful for the small mercy afforded to him. It was just himself and Alana now, the prying eyes of the guards focused on the trees. Just himself, Alana, and Will.
He sobbed, felt his heart crumble at the finality. He strained pointlessly against his restraints, longing to place a hand to the unforgiving stone. He leaned forward, let his forehead press against the surface. "This was never how the story was meant to end, my dear Will."
He took in another deep breath. Something with a ship on the bottle, black coffee, metal. Anticipation, regret, nervousness.
"Perhaps it's just sentimentality, but I can feel him in this place." Hannibal sighed, wished that he could rub his cheek against the stone. "I always feel his presence, but it's so much stronger, here."
"It's just sentimentality," Alana said softly. "The tombstone is just symbolic."
Hannibal let out a sobbing sigh. His darling Will, cremated. Perhaps he truly should have eaten him in Florence. "A shame, to have such a dazzling brain rended to ashes."
"...They haven't found his body, Hannibal."
His posture straightened at that. He felt that sense of anticipation, like blood hitting the air.
"They're still looking through the river, they'll bury it here when they find it, but based on the blood stains in the car-"
Alana's words were cut off by the distinctive sound of a bullet whizzing through the air. One of the security team fell to the ground, and then another, before anyone could fully react. The two remaining guards aimed their guns to the woods beyond the cemetery, searching for the assailant.
Alana looked down at Hannibal, confused and afraid. He imagined his expression matched hers.
Blood hitting the air, righteous fury, metal. Something with a ship on the bottle.
Hannibal lept to his feet, headbutting Alana in a way that he knew would rend her unconscious without harming her too badly. She fell, he would've tried to catch her were it not for his straight jacket.
The seconds seemed to be ticking by so slowly, Hannibal had hardly been grabbed by a guard before a violent slash tore along his throat. Hannibal's eyes watched the knife, bloody and shining as it moved through the air.
"I got him, get the car!"
The words seemed to float past his mind as Hannibal followed the knife back to its owner. Will trained his eyes on the final guard, ignoring his gun entirely.
"The fucking car, Chiyoh!" He shouted without looking away.
The guards eyes darted to the side for just a moment at the sound of rustling in the woods, and Hannibal turned in time to see Chiyoh, rifle at her side, sprinting toward the gate.
Will took advantage of the distraction, snapping the guards arm before slashing him open along his stomach.
The whole affair had happened in seconds, and Hannibal was still reeling when Will grabbed him by the arm. "Come on, run!"
He ran alongside Will, sent of blood clinging to his skin, until they reached the entrance. Chiyoh pulled around in an unmarked black van. Will ripped the back door open, shoved Hannibal in and followed behind him.
"That was gorgeous, Chiyoh, beautiful stuff," Will said.
"I could say the same for you, Will," She replied, eyes glued to the road.
Hannibal's gaze was trained on Will. He looked different. Sharper, somehow. Darker. He looked back at Hannibal, staring at him with those incredible blue eyes that he'd thought he would never see again.
"Will," He said, reverent.
Will gave him a lopsided smile. There was a little blood on his cheek. "Miss me, Doctor Lecter?"
Hannibal feared he might start weeping again. "More than words can say."
Will gently pushed Hannibal forward, his fingers brushing the back of his head. It was the first contact from Will he'd felt since his surrender. The tears did fall, but they were not acknowledged. "Come on, lets get this mask off, yeah? Unless you're planning on biting me."
He forced himself to speak around the earth-splitting relief he felt. "I won't make any promises."
Will laughed, Lords above, that laugh sings through the air. "Guess I'll take my chances."
The mask fell from his face and Will started on his straight jacket.
"I...I thought I might never see you again, Will," He confessed.
"Pretty good plan, right? Very theatrical. I thought you'd appreciate it."
Hannibal felt a weak rush of betrayal at that, wanted to lash out at him even through the haze of joy. "I would've liked it more had I known it was a plan."
Will was quiet for a moment, freeing Hannibal at last from his restraints. He realized that, for the first time in over a year, he was a free man.
"I'm sorry. It was too risky to send you a warning."
"You shattered me, Will. Completely, utterly shattered me."
"In our defense," Chiyoh cut in, "It wasn't supposed to take this long."
Will nodded. "I was sort of expecting Alana to let you come the same day as the funeral. We were ready to go that night."
Hannibal froze as Will caught his cheek, brought his face closer. "I'm sorry, Hannibal. Sorry it took so long. Sorry I let you think I wasn't coming back." Hannibal wasn't sure if Will was apologizing for the past week or the past year, but it hardly seemed to matter now. Will had freed him from prison, expertly so. There was no greater proclamation of devotion than that.
Will brought his face closer, pressed his lips to Hannibal's. Hannibal sighed into the feeling, brought a hand up to caress Will's curls.
Will pulled away to speak, and Hannibal had to fight the need to kiss him again, to relish in the fact that Will, his Will, was here beside him.
"I wasn't really expecting to fool you," He confessed. "A part of me felt that you would just...know."
Hannibal brought another kiss to his lips before resting his head in the crook of Will's neck. He inhaled deeply. Blood, and cedar, and dog hair.
"I knew. In my heart, I knew."