»I forgive you.«
For a moment everything is possible.
Will can hear nothing over the sound of his own breathing, sped up by his race through the corridors of the crypt. He hears no answer, no footsteps, no breath from another human being. But he knows that Hannibal is here, knows it as much as he has ever known anything.
Will is ready to call for him again, not accepting silence for an answer, not after eight months of it. It's almost easy now to say his name, after avoiding it for so long. He wants to say it once more, feel it on his tongue. It feels liberating to use it again.
The word dies in Will's mouth once Hannibal emerges from the darkness, suddenly standing right in front of him. Alive. Real. In some way, Will is surprised, reluctant to believe that Hannibal would end the hunt so quickly. He wonders what kind of game Hannibal is playing, what trains of thought he is pursuing with accepting his offering.
It's overwhelming to see him again.
Everything could happen now. Fate has not decided yet.
Hannibal could still decide to turn around and go, now that he has taken a good look at Will, opened up the wound he left him with once more. He could also decide to finish the work he started and kill him once and for all. Or, Will muses, he could decide to take Will into his arms and kiss him like a long-lost lover.
Decisions of his own have to be made. Will feels the hidden knife through the fabric of his pocket. Hannibal is fast and strong. His chances of survival are slight, now that Pazzi is gone.
Hannibal takes another step forward. Dim candlelight illuminates his face just so, making it hard to get a good look at him, but what Will sees of him reminds him of what he encounters every time he looks into a mirror. Hannibal seems depressed and exhausted, with bags under his eyes that have not been there before. Will takes some comfort in noticing that he feels a pain akin to his own.
Neither of them says anything. Will's words of forgiveness, albeit not much more than a hushed whisper, still echo through the halls. Further words seem inappropriate. Pazzi has left, and only the dead bear witness to their reunion. Still it seems too much, as if giving birth to words would make all of this feel too real. The moment is so fragile, the illusion so easily breakable. The teacup has been shattered and neither of them knows if it will ever gather itself back together again or if this is bound to end like it ended that night in Hannibal's kitchen.
Still approaching. Will takes a step backwards. It is not fear that is guiding him. A dance, almost, but Will is not sure yet if it is a courtship or the preparation for a fight.
»If I saw you everyday forever, Will, I would remember this time.« Finally some words. Hannibal's voice is warm and familiar, the statement bringing a smile to Will's face. The spell is broken.
His back hits the cold wall and still Hannibal comes closer.
»Strange, seeing you here in front of me,« Will says. I saw you so often in my thoughts, he does not say. I talked to you there. »Did you light all the candles?«
»Most of them.«
Will cocks his head to the side. »You knew I would come to find you.«
»I hoped you would.«
Will thinks about the gift Hannibal had left him, the man-made heart which had been above them mere hours ago. No words needed to convey that message.
»Who was he?« he asks.
»Someone who wanted to share, but was unfitting,« Hannibal answers, standing even more in his personal space now than he used to.
»So you made him fit.« Will barely has to whisper. »Into... your feelings for me.«
Hannibal's eyes shine wetly in the dark. I missed you. I love you. Perhaps there are some things better left unsaid.
Will fears the moment Hannibal touches him as much as he craves it. Fears the pain that will surely come with it, for it has always come. But not this time. This time it is just Hannibal's warmth engulfing him, almost embracing him, but not quite.
It is so cold in the crypt, but Hannibal is hot and alive against him, even through the fabric of his leather jacket. So hot. So alive. So real. Will grabs his shoulder, afraid he will leave again, leave him in the cold, among the dead like he did before.
Hannibal presses his face into Will's neck. Will can hear him inhale.
»Hannibal,« he sighs, relief pouring out of his voice.
Hannibal shivers against him, touched deeply by Will using his first name.
»Have you traveled by sea?« Hannibal asks tenderly.
No need to wonder how he is able to smell the ocean on him. Will just nods. »I needed time to think.«
»About what I was going to do once I found you.«
»But you came to no conclusion. I heard your conversation with the Commendatore.«
»I wondered about it on my way here. I looked up at the night sky at sea. Orion above the horizon and, near it, Jupiter. I wondered if you could see it, too. I wondered if our stars were the same.«
»I believe some of our stars will always be the same.«
Will smiles. »What else do you smell?«
Hannibal scents him again, and Will can not help the shiver going through him, the way it makes his hair stand on end.
»I smell you,« Hannibal says. The 'm' in smell feels like a kiss against his skin.
Will cannot say anything. Instead, he unzips his jacket and reaches for Hannibal's hand, taking it in his for a moment, before guiding it under his shirt and onto his newest scar, onto the place where Will feels it belongs. Hannibal parts his lips and exhales audibly and hotly against Will's neck, the last pieces of his self-control destroyed. Pretense is forgotten when Will feels Hannibal's cock twitch in interest against his own hip.
The scar itches, sometimes. A reminder that it is there, a reminder of who it was that left it there. Will does not want to forget. It itches now, too. Will feels the antlers trying to break through his skin, seeking contact with their kin, the monster.
Hannibal untangles himself from Will and suddenly he feels cold all over, falling back into an ocean of blood. He wants to reach out for him again, touch the warmth of the body in front of him, to be shielded from the iciness of this place. Wants to forget for a moment longer who they are and what they are supposed to be.
There is still a hand on his stomach, holding up his shirt and then Hannibal is going on his knees in front of him and kisses him there. Kisses the scar he has left on his body and the smaller one on the right, where the stoma has been. He nuzzles against his skin, licks at it and Will cannot help the small moan that escapes his throat. He cannot really feel a whole lot of it – the skin tissue has become insensitive to touches – but the way Hannibal looks up at him, hungry and aroused and starving for him is agony and beauty at the same time.
A hand reaches out for Hannibal involuntarily, finds its way into his soft hair that is longer now than it used to be, making him look younger and less stern. He presses him gently closer, encourages the way Hannibal devotes himself to Will. He feels himself getting hard and Hannibal notices it, too, inhaling the smell of his excitement.
Hannibal looks up at him, questioning, but Will is not ready to answer. His answer will mean much more than yes or no to a blow job from a cannibal in a crypt filled with mummified corpses. He cannot make this decision now, not with too many things left unsaid. Not yet, he wants to say, not here. He opens his mouth to answer Hannibal's silent question when he is interrupted by the sound of a gun being cocked.
Hannibal does not even flinch, does not look away, just continues to stare at Will from below. Will can see a spark of doubt in his eyes, can see him realizing that Will could have entrapped him once more, that this could be staged and everything that Will has said faked. Will wonders if that is what he has thought last time. If he is unaware that Will was only able to manipulate him because he was genuine.
He can also see Hannibal's wish to look at him until it is over. That he, his beloved, traitorous Will, is the last thing he wants to see before he dies.
The hand in Hannibal's hair clenches up, becomes a shield, protecting him from the very real possibility of a bullet in his head.
»I didn't think you'd come back,« Will says, still looking at Hannibal. Only then does he look up, fixing his eyes on Pazzi, who is slowly emerging from the darkness, just like Hannibal has done before him.
»Hands in the air, both of you,« Pazzi says in his heavily accented voice.
Hannibal still looks at him when he lifts his hands. The fabric of Will's shirt falls down again, hiding the scar.
»I must thank you, Commendatore,« Will says. »For sparing me a much more complicated way of catching Hannibal Lecter.«
»You want me to believe that your intention was to catch him, Signor Graham?«
»Can't you see? You said it yourself. He left me his heart. His love for me is so great that he doesn't see the line that catches him. It almost worked before. It would have worked now.«
Hannibal's poker face is almost perfect, but Will can see the cracks beneath his usual composure. It works, he thinks. If Hannibal believes it, only just a little bit, this might work.
Pazzi is usually cautious, but he is also greedy. He tried to capture il mostro for so many years that he is getting careless now that he can taste victory on his tongue. He orders Will to step aside, taking out his handcuffs to immobilize the man he perceives as the bigger threat.
He is wrong this time.
Will still has his knife. Pazzi is trained and big and has a gun. He can hear one handcuff clicking shut before he makes his decision.
Will lunges forward and pulls Pazzi back, forcing the knife into his back. They both stumble backwards, trip, fall and then they are wrestling on the stone floor. Pazzi still has the gun in one hand, trying to aim it at Will, while Will is pushing the gun away with both hands. The knife still sticks in Pazzi's back, unattainable at the moment. Will looks into his eyes and sees a surprise there that he imagines Jack's eyes would have shown as well.
Pazzi's other hand, balled into a fist, crashes into his face. Will groans, seeing only red for a second. Pazzi pulls back, gun pointed directly at Will now. He has no opportunity to shoot, though, because Hannibal is on him, pulling him into a deadly embrace, one hand still cuffed. Pazzi aims his gun backwards, but Hannibal is fast, pointing it into a different direction at the last second. The echo of the shot is very loud in the stone halls. There is only one shot before Hannibal has Pazzi disarmed, weapon sliding uselessly across the floor.
Will can tell that it is almost over, no matter how much fight Pazzi puts into it. He listens to his choking sounds and meets Hannibal's eyes past the struggling body. He looks savage and gruesome and entirely beautiful.
»I told you it would be better to go back to the chapel,« Will says to Pazzi over the buzzing sound in his ears. »I told you he would kill you. With all the imagination we share you still didn't see this outcome.«
Pazzi makes a last attempt at breaking free, but fails. His movements become slower, his breaths more labored. Hannibal holds him almost gently in his arms while his life leaves his body.
Hannibal lets him go, unceremoniously, once his body completely stops fighting. He bends down and checks his pulse, seemingly satisfied with the result, before searching him for the keys to the handcuffs. And as predicted, here Pazzi lies. Counting himself among the dead. Hannibal has killed him, in the end, but like all of his murders, Will feels like he has done it himself. It is truer now than ever. They have killed him together.
It is not the murder itself he finds satisfying. Pazzi should not have had to die. There was nothing righteous in his death. But it is the act of killing, the grace and beauty of Hannibal's performance, that enraptures Will now.
»You could have run away while we were fighting,« he states. »But you stayed. To protect me.«
»So I did.«
Hannibal holds out a hand for him to help him up. Only then does Will notice the wedding band on Hannibal's finger. Doubt rises like a kite picked up by a sudden squall. He has forgotten that Hannibal has not left the states alone. That he has not pined away in solitude like Will did. That he has taken a substitute.
»How's Dr. Du Maurier?«
Hannibal follows Will's gaze to his hand. He takes the ring off without hesitation and tosses it onto Pazzi's dead body, leaving his mark, confirming that it's him that has killed the Chief Investigator and not Will. Confirming that it is Will that he loves, for the second time in this building, once in the chapel and once beneath it.
»Alive,« he says.
Will remembers what Pazzi has said to him, mere moments before this. It feels like a year ago.
»He called you... my il mostro,« he says softly.
Hannibal looks like he wants to scold him for using a possessive pronoun in front of an article. He also looks like he wants to kiss him very badly.
»And I am. Yours.«
Hannibal finally helps him up, quickly checking his face for wounds with his fingers. Will swats them away and embraces Hannibal instead, impatient for contact. He smells like leather and blood and Hannibal. He smells like home, like belonging, like love.
Will buries his head in his chest, inhaling and exhaling slowly. He can hear Hannibal's heart beating rapidly in his chest. Not because of the kill, Will thinks. But because of me. It's a dangerous and desirable thought, being able to entice such a reaction out of Hannibal.
Will is not suppressing anymore, just doing what he is supposed to do, what he should have done sooner, because it would have saved Abigail's life. He suddenly remembers Abigail's hand on his own, pressing against her cut neck in vain, Hannibal not being there to help her this time. He remembers the single tear that ran down Hannibal's nose when he bent over him before leaving. He remembers, but he cannot loathe Hannibal for it, even if it would be easier.
»I understand now why you did it,« Will whispers.
»And you hate yourself for that wisdom.«
»It wasn't necessary. I wanted...« It takes Will a while to say it out loud. »I wanted to go with you.«
»Will you come with me now, Will?«
Will frowns. »People will say we're in love.«
»Oh, but they already do. Haven't you read Ms. Lounds' latest article?«
Will grumbles against Hannibal's jacket. »I won't give her ad revenue by clicking on her bait.«
»She suspected that you went to Europe to join me, to run away with me, together,« Hannibal explains. »She's calling us 'Murder Husbands'. She even designed some dreadful T-shirts.«
Will has to laugh at that. It feels painful in his throat, but it usually does.
Hannibal smiles at him, before becoming serious once more. »Freeing yourself from me and me freeing myself from you, they are the same.«
»We're conjoined,« Will agrees. »I'm curious whether either of us can survive separation.« It is as much of a confirmation as he can manage. »What will Dr. Du Maurier say?«
Hannibal looks like he has more important things on mind. »I assume she will go back to her old life. I suppose she has seen enough of me.«
»I haven't.« Honesty is strangely easy in this moment.
Hannibal presses a kiss to his forehead. They both know that this will take a while.
»Shall we?« Hannibal asks. The words are full of hidden promises.
They leave the catacombs together, side by side.