Hannibal took a plum carefully between three fingers, and he squeezed it a little to check its firmness. As he had expected from the fruit’s appearance, it was perfectly ripe. He looked up to call the vendor, but in that moment a vicious grip on his jacket made him turn around, and a shaken Will appeared before him.
“Will?” he asked,
“They’re following us,” Will said in a faltering whisper, gazing at their side with wide eyes.
The hand that had grabbed the hem of his jacket fell to Will’s side clenched in a fist, and Hannibal followed Will’s gaze. There was a man strolling around the stands, both hands pocketed in his slacks, sunglasses covering his eyes. For a fraction of a second, Hannibal’s stomach tightened with displeasure, wondering whether Will was actually right, if the man was there observing them, ready to call the authorities or follow them to the hotel in which they were staying. But in that moment a woman approached him, touching his arm lightly. The man smiled at her and snared her waist with an arm before they moved to the next stand side by side.
Hannibal let out a sighed relief as he turned to Will again, and saw how he was slowly recognizing his own mistake, realizing he hadn’t been right in his assumption.
“I thought-” Will started saying.
“I know. It’s all right. But Will, relax… Nobody is going to recognize us here.”
He nodded, and despite his shoulders deflating a bit, Hannibal could see how tense he still was. He raised his free hand for a couple of inches with the intention of placing it on Will’s shoulder before stopping himself, and he let it fall on his side again, his fingers prickling with the ghost of the contact. Because once again, Hannibal stopped himself as he had been doing the past months.
Hannibal longed to touch Will, to comfort him as he had always done since the early stages of their relationship. Will had never flinched from his touch, not when they were merely friends, not when Will had been fully aware of who and what Hannibal was, and not even when they had been inflicting pain to each other. He had never denied him the contact… And still, ever since the fall from the cliff, Hannibal had been so careful not to touch him beyond the necessary tending to each other’s wounds. He was giving Will all the time he needed, waiting until maybe one day he would be the one to initiate the touch, as he had done in the cliff after killing the dragon together.
Hannibal sighed and left the fruit in the basket again, hoping the vendor hadn’t noticed him touching it and not buying anything, and then he tipped his head a little, searching for Will’s eyes, who were still fixed in some undetermined part of the market.
“Do you want to go back to the hotel?” he offered.
“I thought you wanted to buy some fresh food, for a change.”
Will’s eyes finally met his own, and Hannibal’s lips curved in an easy smile before shrugging slightly.
“We can always come back another day. And I’m starting to appreciate the room service food.”
They both knew he was lying, of course. But Will smiled too, the gesture tugging at the thin scar covered by the beard that would be hard to spot for anyone who didn’t know it was there.
“Sure. Let’s go…”
They stepped away from the stand at the same time and then they started walking down the main street. Despite the failure of his initial plan, Hannibal didn’t lose his smile as they walked through the stands. He felt content, the fleeting tension giving way to the easiness that usually settled between them, Hannibal sensing Will relaxing more and more with each step they took. And suddenly, he felt something else.
His heart skipped a beat, all the air sucked out of his lungs as he looked down. Because there, loosely grabbing his hand, was Will’s own. Hannibal observed the curve of Will’s fingers against his skin, and how they twitched ever so slightly when his eyes met them. And then they gripped tighter, his thumb pressing against the shape of his knuckles.
Will’s voice was the only thing that pulled Hannibal back into reality, the sounds and scents of the market returning but not quite paying attention to them. Hannibal realized then that he had stopped in the middle of the street, people walking by them as if they were a rock in a river, the rest of the world being the water passing through them but not affecting them at all.
“Yes?” he finally said, blinking a couple of times to focus on Will’s face.
“I thought we were going.”
Will’s voice was calm and his features collected when Hannibal’s own must be reflecting a thousand things at once. He finally swallowed and tried to pull himself together, even if he felt a tempest inside. Because those were Will’s fingers around the back of his hand, that was Will’s palm against his own… Hannibal had waited months for something like that to happen, and yet, he had never expected that. He would’ve never imagined that Will would choose taking his hand for their first contact, and much less in public.
Hannibal’s heart was fluttering inside his chest, his pulse spiked, as it never did with anything… Anything, with the exception of the man that was waiting for his response in front of him.
“Oh. Yes, we are.”
Hannibal forced himself to start walking again, trying not to squeeze Will’s hand in his, but not leaving his fingers lax, which Will could interpret as lack of interest. So he tightened his hand a little, just enough so Will would feel the pressure, indulging himself in drawing a small circle in the back of his hand with his thumb before stilling it.
He tried, too, not to look at Will while they walked and their joined hands swung easily between them, as if they had done that a hundred times before. He fixed his gaze before them instead, and only dared to look at him out of the corner of his eye. He wondered how Will could be so composed, but in that moment, the other betrayed himself.
“I’m thinking…” Will said, and Hannibal sensed the nervousness he had hidden well until that moment staining his voice. “It’s not fresh food from a market, of course, but we could go eat at a restaurant. A small place near the hotel, maybe. The less people, the better.”
Hannibal’s smile returned to his lips as he allowed himself to bow his head and shoot a quick glance at Will.
“Yes. I would like that very much.”
Will was the one who stopped that time, making Hannibal turn with a questioning look. Will tightened even more their linked hands, and then he touched Hannibal’s shoulder with the other before moving much closer. Will pressed his lips into Hannibal’s cheek in a chaste kiss, and when he pulled back slowly just enough to meet his gaze, their eyes only found the other’s.
“Thank you,” Will whispered.
And Hannibal knew he wasn’t speaking only about the market incident. Two simple words, and yet they felt like a new life had sprung inside Hannibal at hearing them, the tension he hadn’t truly realized he had felt for months, dissipating at last.