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The Statues All Asleep

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»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.

»H-«

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?«

»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.

Chapter Text

The sun is slowly setting in the west. Orange light breaks through the clouds, too bright to look at it directly. The sea beneath them is illuminated with colors of red. It feels almost apocalyptic. Soon, all of this will lose its beauty and turn into a black maw, eager to engulf careless voyagers. Hannibal and Will are standing aboard the Nola and the city of Naples is already in sight. They have made good progress, had to, and they got as far away from Palermo as they possibly could.

»I'm not sad to skip our sojourn in Naples. I never took a liking to the city.« Hannibal looks feral next to Will. The setting sun makes his eyes seem blood-red instead of brown. It has been such a long time since Will has seen him in the daylight that it is hard to tear his gaze away. He looks different than he used to, a lot less attention attracting without the fancy suits.

»Where will we go?« Will asks. They have not talked much during their passage, Will being busy steering and Hannibal being busy cooking something out of Will's meager provisions.

»Where would you have searched for me next?«

Will thinks about Pazzi, about what he said about il mostro and la Primavera. »Florence.«

Hannibal smiles. »Clever boy.«

~ - ~

They have five hours of sleep ahead of them before they have to move trains. Then another hour until they reach Florence.

There is nothing to be seen from the windows in their cabin. Italy is clouded in darkness and only the rattling of the train indicates that they are moving at all. Will feels Hannibal's eyes on him and turns to meet his gaze head-on.

»I hope it doesn't bother you that we had to leave your ship behind.« Hannibal sounds polite and distant. Will realizes that this situation must be exactly as strange and new to him as it is to Will himself. Hannibal could have gone away. In fact, Will has expected him to. But now they are here, together, on the brink of a new life and neither of them knows how to act, exactly. It irritates Hannibal, he knows, to be unsure about anything.

»It's fine,« Will answers simply. »We should catch some sleep.«

There is nothing more to say.

Once Hannibal sheds his leather jacket in preparation for going to bed a modest black shirt is revealed. A small amount of graying chest hair is visible above the topmost button. It is hardly the first time Will has seen it, but this time he has to wonder how much of his chest it covers. How Hannibal looks naked. He tries to focus on other things but finds he cannot.

It is so easy to recall their proximity and the warmth of Hannibal's body, pressing tightly against him. The feeling of his lips on his neck and his stomach. Will puts a hand above his scar absentmindedly, as if to trace the line of Hannibal's kisses.

»Is there something you want, Will?« Hannibal asks, distracting Will from his thoughts. He is standing close to him – Will can feel his body heat radiating off of him.

Will thinks honesty might be the best approach. »I'm not sure.«

Hannibal distances himself again and Will lets out a breath he did not realize he was holding.

»I must admit that I have some difficulty adjusting to this situation,« Will says.

»There is no point in rushing into anything,« Hannibal answers as if he is not the one who has gone down on his knees in front of Will with clear intentions to do more than kissing his scar if Will had so allowed.

Will tries to swallow the lump forming in his throat. He undresses hastily and climbs to the top bunk, facing the wall and tucking himself in with the blanket to hide his growing erection. He is aware that Hannibal can smell it anyway.

»Good night, Hannibal,« he says.

»Good night, Will.« There is an unfamiliar strain in Hannibal's voice.

Will does not sleep at all that night and even though Hannibal breathes steadily and rhythmically underneath him, Will is sure he does not, either.

~ - ~

They reach Florence in the morning hours, wind still carrying traces of a cool, starless night. The sky looks murky above them, reflecting Will's current mood.

It is a short way from the train station to Hannibal's apartment. They walk over the Piazza del Duomo, past the main chapel of Florence, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, before they finally cross the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge arching over the Arno. Hannibal merrily talks about how butchers once inhabited most of the shops on both sides of the bridge, staining it red with blood. The shops are still here to this day, but nowadays they are occupied by jewelers and gift shops. To Will, it looks just like any other street in a big, crowded city, with the slight difference of water beneath their feet.

Hannibal talks about a lot of things. Talks about his cover identity, about his new job at the Palazzo Capponi, about the city itself. Talks as if to make up for lost time and does not stop. Will barely listens.

He cannot appreciate Florence. Not now, not when he is so tired and stressed out. Not with the prospect of seeing Dr. Du Maurier again in a few minutes.

Before he can really prepare for it they have entered a building, climbed a few stairs, and are standing in front of an intimidating black double door with a brown leaves-and-flowers pattern.

Hannibal opens the door to the apartment, steps through and invites Will in. He looks pleased to have him finally here. Will enters slowly and cautiously, like a lamb led to slaughter. He flinches when the door is being closed behind him.

They have entered a big and open room, which makes it easy to hear the approaching footsteps on the floorboards.

And there she is, Bedelia Du Maurier, dressed in a plain black dress, drinking wine in the morning hours, from a glass that looks extremely old and expensive. The ring on her finger seems to mock Will from afar, with its shiny gold and embedded gemstone. She looks like she belongs here – glued to the stone walls and antique decorations. She has adapted, Will notices. Her hair, her clothes, her jewelry - everything looks European now. She is the perfect Bride of Frankenstein.

»Mrs. Fell, I presume?« he asks mockingly. It feels like the first thing he has said in hours.

If Bedelia is surprised, she hides it well. Her icy demeanor stays the same. She looks past him, at Hannibal, with a look on her face asking him what he has done. This is not the outcome she has anticipated.

»Hello, Will,« she says finally. It does not sound inviting.

Will steps past her and takes in his new surroundings, feels the weight of Hannibal's new home crush him with its age and might.

The fireplace, the open kitchen, the pictures on the walls... everything in here looks aged, valuable and irreplaceable. Will commits the blunder of looking up and seeing the mural above. He quickly averts his gaze, feeling more and more out of place here. He has stumbled down the rabbit hole and now he is in an Italian version of wonderland.

»I see you have made your decision.« Even spoken quietly, Bedelia's words echo through the apartment.

»Forgiveness is not a choice,« Hannibal answers.

Bedelia considers this for a moment. »Forgiveness is best seen as something akin to falling in love.«

She steps into the living room in which Will still remains. She looks at him curiously, as if he were an exhibit at the museum. It is a peculiar situation for all of them. Bedelia has met Will before and he is sure that Hannibal has talked about him, but she has never been in the same room with both of them at the same time. She cannot assess the dynamic between them all. Neither can Will. It is all shifting and turning: Hannibal's promises to him and the obvious closeness between him and Bedelia.

»You haven't learned your lesson, have you?« Bedelia asks, looking intently at Will. »Or have you just missed him that much?«

Will does not answer. She would not understand. It is easy for her to judge – she has not been the one getting left behind. She is not the one with the tear-proof connection to Hannibal.

»I wonder how you managed to stay alive for so long,« Will says.

They circle each other like two cats meeting for the first time. Hissing, yelping, searching for an opening. Competitors, hunting on the same grounds.

Hannibal leaves to unpack his luggage. A tiger, unfazed by the quarrels of the smaller cats.

»I'm not as compassionate as you,« Bedelia explains. »That will be the death of you, sooner or later.«

»You have so much confidence in your own abilities. You're confident that you will be able to wiggle yourself out of this without any trouble. Always a step ahead. Did you hope he would kill me? Or just that he'd come back to you without me?«

»I was aware that you two wouldn't be able to stay away from each other. You are both so eager to get hurt. You just can't resist the pain that only Hannibal can give you.« Bedelia steps over to the wine decanter and refills her glass. »Can't live with him, can't live without him,« she says while hoisting the glass up to her lips.

»And why have you decided to go with him?« Will asks. »Why would any sane person decide to go with him?«

»Because I was curious about him. And myself.«

»And now? Did you sate your curiosity?«

»I have seen enough of him, yes.«

Will examines her for a long moment. »Did you always have a tendency to lie, or is that a recent development?« He comes closer to her. She does not back off. »I don't believe you,« he whispers.

»Will?«

They both turn at the sound of Hannibal's voice. Dogs trained to obey the voice of their master.

»I'd like to show you your room,« Hannibal says.

»I'd start packing my bags, Bedelia,« Will says, sounding more confident than he actually feels, before he joins Hannibal. »The bloom is off the rose.«

~ - ~

»Poor Dr. Du Maurier,« Will says, the irony strong in his voice. »You hitched your star to a man commonly known as a monster. And he doesn't even do you the courtesy of returning your feelings.«

»I am well aware of my husband's feelings.«

They are sitting opposite each other at the table, dinner ready between them. Will has not been able to eat much of it yet– the constant repartee leaves him little time for anything else. Bedelia knows exactly what to say to infuriate him. She is feeding off his jealousy. He hates this reaction and hates how vulnerable it makes him.

»I was with him behind the veil. You were always on the other side.« She takes a sip of her wine.

Will snorts. »You just crawled so far up his ass you couldn't be bothered.«

»And now you are here to take my place,« Bedelia says with a cold smile.

Hannibal's amusement and delight is palpable, but it would be unwise to proceed their fencing over dinner, lest Hannibal deems their behavior rude. Bedelia seems to come to the same conclusion. She is smart. If she were not, Will assumes, she would not have survived this long. Bedelia is not the same as she was before and Will realizes that this is where the difference between them comes from. Bedelia has to pretend to be something she is not in order to survive Hannibal. Will has to be true to himself, which is equal in its difficulty.

The rest of the entree is composed of shallow small talk, lead by Hannibal. Neither Bedelia, nor Will are enthusiastic participants.

Dinner drags on until Hannibal serves dessert.

»Punch Romaine; a cocktail created by Escoffier. Served to first-class guests on the Titanic during their last dinner.« Hannibal emphasizes the last few words.

Will meets Bedelia's eyes on the other side of the table. She looks as shocked as he feels.

He will not make the mistake of underestimating Hannibal and his puns, not after he has found out what he really is. There is a very real possibility that he could be killed. Or Bedelia.

For all the danger this situation poses, he enjoys seeing Bedelia's confidence falter. She was so confident of her judgment. So confident that she could navigate her way out of this unharmed. But now that Will is here, Hannibal becomes unpredictable to her. Will is an uncontrolled variable and she knows, she knows that she could die here. That Hannibal wants to eat her and that Will would not mind if he did. Perhaps he would even join him at the table.

But Hannibal could kill him, too. Perhaps all of this was just a fraud, means to get him here where he could kill him quietly and store his organs without making that big of a mess. Bedelia could have manipulated him into thinking that this is what he wants, what he needs in order to forgive Will. If she tried, Will hopes she did not succeed.

Hannibal places the cocktail in front of Will, still a delighted glimmer in his eyes. He is toying with both of them, scaring and unsettling them, scrutinizing their reactions, amusing himself and satisfying his curiosity. He reads Bedelia's change of demeanor with the same enjoyment Will feels. It makes him sick to think about it.

And so dessert proceeds without any incidents. The citrusy taste of the Punch Romaine smarts in a small nick in his mouth Will had not realized was there.

~ - ~

Tiredness overwhelms Will shortly after dinner and he retires early, hiding in the guest room Hannibal has prepared for him. Will has not been able to take a lot of things with him – most of it remains on Nola – and so the room feels empty and impersonal, even more so than the boat itself. The sheets, though, smell fresh and feel soft under his weary body. Will wants nothing more than to simply fall asleep, but he can hear Hannibal and Bedelia talking, even through the wall, even over the sound of Hannibal playing the harpsichord. He tries not to listen, but it is impossible. He can hear only snatches of conversation, but it is enough.

»...going to get caught...«

»...none of your concern.«

»...wants to kill you...«

»...said he forgave me...«

»...one way you will forgive Will Graham...«

Will can not make out Hannibal's answer.

He hears Bedelia stand up, her heels clicking on the floor. She stands very close to his room when she says, »...maybe you do deserve each other.«

Will wonders if he is going to wake up the next morning. If Bedelia's attempts at manipulating Hannibal will work after all. Perhaps he will kill him quickly, hold him in his arms like he did with Pazzi. It would be a lot more merciful to not wake him up at all.

Will falls asleep to the soft noises coming from the harpsichord. A lullaby, composed just for him.

~ - ~

Will's dreams are straightforward and unpleasant. He dreams about the nature of Hannibal's and Bedelia's relationship. It is so much worse when he sees his own jealousy crystal clear before his eyes. He feels sad when he wakes up. Sad and alone and utterly lost. Small and insecure and in desperate need of affirmation.

The first thing he sees when he opens his eyes is Hannibal, sitting at the other side of the room, a pencil in his hand. The soft scratching of graphite against paper fills the room.

»What are you doing here?« Will's voice sounds raspy.

»It's pleasant to look at you asleep. You're quite beautiful, Will.«

It was an unnecessary question, Will thinks. He is not sure if he can deal with this the first thing in the morning and after what he has dreamed about. »Looks are an accident.«

»If comeliness were earned, you'd still be beautiful.«

Will says nothing. He has to smile a bit at that. It is only halfway because of embarrassment. His mood is improving slowly. Hannibal knows exactly what to say, and when.

They stay silent for a while, Hannibal drawing something unseen that Will is sure is himself. The panic from the dream subsides slowly, but he still feels in need of human contact in a way he normally does not. That is what Hannibal does to him, he thinks. He brings him into uncomfortable positions he would otherwise not have tumbled into. He was always self-sufficient. Now he feels the need of soothing and comforting human touch.

Will pats the empty side of the bed beside him like he would to draw one of his dogs. Then he turns around and faces the wall, listening to Hannibal's approaching footsteps. He cannot bear to look him in the eyes like this.

Hannibal feels almost cold against his sleep-heated body. Still, his breath is unbearably hot against Will's neck and sends a shiver down his spine.

»Did you sleep well?«

»No.«

»No. I didn't think so. You were mumbling in your sleep.«

»What did I say?«

»I couldn't make it out.«

»...How long have you been here?«

»Since Bedelia left, half an hour ago.«

Her name makes Will tense. Hannibal has embraced him from behind, but he needs something else right now.

»Touch me,« Will says very softly.

Hannibal exhales heavily and does as he is told. Circular movements on Will's stomach, a safe place for touch. Will relaxes and lets himself sink against him, lets himself be hold.

They do not talk until Hannibal's hand finds its way beneath Will's shirt. Dry skin against Will's slightly sweaty one. He sighs and leans back further, creates as many points of contact as possible. Hannibal kisses his neck. They are both painfully hard at this point.

»Do you want me to kill her, Will?«

»Don't put that on me. You planned to eat her from the beginning.«

»And still you react so... charmingly to her presence.«

»You chose to leave with her.«

»She is my psychiatrist.«

»And your play-pretend wife.«

»I have discarded my wedding band if you recall.«

»That doesn't change the past.« Will sighs again, but this time it has nothing to do with relaxation. »At some point, maybe. If we do end up eating her, she had it coming. But not today.«

Hannibal can feel his distress and it excites him. Will can feel the line of his erection clearly against his back. It would be easy, letting this happen. Letting Hannibal's hand move lower to stroke Will to completion, while he would rut against him in fevered impatience. Perhaps Will would even turn around and help him, at some point. But this is not how this will work, not with Bedelia still in their orbit.

»I want to understand you... before we do this. I need it to be clear what I am seeing. I am confused. We have begun... to blur.«

»Isn't that how you found me?«

»You decided to let me see you again. I feel like... we are doomed to be together.«

»I let you see me again because I forgave you. Because separation turned out to be survivable, but undesirable.«

»I haven't seen all of you yet,« Will remarks. »There is a place I must go to first.«

»Home.« It sounds strangely toneless.

»Will you come with me?«

»I can't.«

A handful of seconds pass.

»What will I find there, Hannibal?«

»You will find what you are searching for. And I will wait for you. Here.«

»Will she still be here, too?«

»She is currently out, planning her departure. She will be gone when you come back. I promise.«

The mood has shifted to something akin to depressive. Hannibal's weight against him is no longer comforting but confining. Will did not plan to start the day like this, not after he had started it in a similar fashion for the last eight months. More than eight months. He wonders if there is any chance for him to be happy, or, if everything that can happen happens, the universe just hates him that much.

»I don't even know your favorite color,« Will says, a desperate attempt to lighten the mood.

Hannibal smiles and kisses his neck again, nose buried in Will's hair to smell him for a moment longer before he untangles himself from Will, feeling his sudden unease with being held.

»Murasaki,« he answers while standing up.

»Hmm?«

»Murasaki. It's Japanese for purple.«

Chapter Text

Will is standing at the window, framed within the proscenium arch of the balcony, white curtains blowing in the soft night breeze. The lights are dimmed and the shadows of the room are playing games in the dark of the moon. The cold air feels nice on Will's skin, but it carries the stench of the city with it. He misses his dogs, the rustling of the wind in the grass and the forest behind his house, the otherworldly silence that he will never find here. The city is loud even at this time of day. It fills his head with the thoughts of its citizens. He would prefer to be back among the dead in the Capella Palatina, among the statues, all asleep.

Hannibal is sitting at his harpsichord, playing 'If Love Now Reigned.' Will thinks he is probably doing that on purpose.

Will came back to Florence mere hours ago. His stay in Lithuania was short, but enlightening. He has been drinking, since returning. A mixture of wine and whiskey – the remains of Bedelia's stash, he assumes. She was already gone when he arrived. The rooms feel larger without her in it. It is easier to breathe.

»I imagined you here, like this,« Hannibal suddenly confesses. »Often.«

»Did you imagine me when you fucked her, too?« Will asks before he can help himself.

The music continues to flow smoothly, filling the room with a melody over half a millennium old. Will cannot detect a single wrong note being played. He does not receive an answer.

»I... I'm sorry,« Will says after a while. »This is...« New? Strange? He sighs. The long journey has left him restless, strained and tired. »I'll go take a bath, if I may.«

»You may,« Hannibal says flatly. He is looking down on the keys again, concentrating.

Of course Hannibal's apartment has more than one bathroom. One with an actual toilet and shower, and one with a single, freestanding, ancient-looking bathtub. The second one also has no door.

The fish-shaped tap creaks when Will fills the tub with water that borders on too hot. Through the door frame he can see the shifting of muscles in Hannibal's back while he plays. It is as much privacy as he will get. He takes his clothes off and piles them on a nearby chair before he takes his first bath in a long time.

Will is used to the efficiency of showers. A lot of showers, given his tendency toward nervous sweating. Floating like this, with all the time in the world and nowhere to be, feels self-indulgent. It is one of the few things here that he could grow accustomed to. He closes his eyes and lets the strain fade away.

Will immerses himself under the water, half-expecting it to become blood in the process. He is greeted by nothing but comfortable warmth. It feels amazing. For a moment he considers staying here under the surface for as long as he can, to try and shut out everything else. Letting the water embrace him until the urge to breathe becomes too strong.

He emerges just a bit, just enough to breathe, eyes closed, ears still filled with water. Hannibal's music is inaudible. Slow breaths, in and out. Finally, a moment of catharsis.

And then he feels Hannibal's presence.

He could not say how exactly. He can just feel it, like he felt it in the Capella Palatina. As if they are two things that are meant to be together, with a connection so strong that it defies earthly rules. And after months upon months of being asunder, that link has become even more sensitive. Surely, it will destroy them both with time.

When he opens his eyes, he can see Hannibal. Will almost feels like reaching out to him with his hand to see if he can touch him, to see if he is real. His mouth moves, but it takes Will a few seconds to understand that he cannot hear him.

»What did you say?« he asks once his head has fully surfaced.

»I asked if you'd like something to eat before going to bed.«

It is strangely domestic. This is something he could grow accustomed to, as well, Will thinks, a warm feeling spreading in his upper belly. Being cared for. Being looked after.

»No. I'm fine. Thank you.«

Hannibal nods and turns to leave.

»Could you-« Will says quickly before he is out of the room, turning his head awkwardly to look at him, »Could you fetch me my shampoo? It's still in my bag.«

»Use mine, instead,« Hannibal answers and grabs a nearby bottle.

He hesitates before handing it over.

»What is it?« Will asks.

There is a slight shift in Hannibal's jaw. Another moment of indecision passes before he speaks. »Would you allow me to wash your hair, Will?«

A part of Will wants to refuse instantly, deeming it too dangerous. Another, stronger part, just wants to give in, wants something nice for a change.

»Sure,« he says softly.

Hannibal places one of the chairs behind the tub and sits down. Another moment passes before he opens the bottle and dispenses some of the shampoo onto his hand. Will can smell it, though he cannot place the scent. It is pleasant, subtle and slightly masculine.

And then Hannibal starts to massage it into his hair. And it is just that, a massage. Will instantly closes his eyes and succumbs to the sensation of Hannibal's skilled fingers on his head. Come to think of it, no one has ever washed his hair for him before. Perhaps his Dad, when he was very young. But this is different, this is... sensual.

The way Hannibal's hands glide through his wet curls; the way his fingertips put pressure onto his skull. The way his fingers trail off to touch the soft, sensitive skin behind his ears – It feels so good. It is now that Will realizes just how touch-deprived he has been. There had been his dogs to cuddle with, there had been that kiss with Alana, and there had been that one night with Margot – But it has been years since he has been touched so tenderly. Maybe he never has been.

Will is glad that the room is dimly lit and the water in the tub quite dark. He would not want Hannibal to see what his ministrations do to him.

»You are lovely like this,« Hannibal claims. His voice is thick with... something. »Almost like you are when you are sleeping. Relaxed and free of worries.«

Will snorts, rebutting the compliment. He never knew how to take one.

Hannibal pinches his earlobe, not happy with his reaction. »Have you studied your reflection lately? I think not. I doubt you ever do.«

Before Will can answer, Hannibal stands up and starts shifting something heavy. He relocates the head-high mirror in the room to stand in front of the tub, so that Will can see himself. Then he takes place behind him once more, and his fingers find their way back to his skull where they belong.

Will regards himself, the way he looks under Hannibal's touch. He has witnessed Hannibal breaking Mason Verger's neck with ease, and still he looks utterly careless and relaxed. He wonders why it is so easy.

Hannibal gives him a moment. »What do you see?«

The answer is simple. »Us.«

Hannibal meets his eyes through the mirror. For a moment they both see the same thing, the glory that is them, together.

»What else?«

»I look... less haunted than I used to.«

»Because there is nothing left for you to be afraid of.«

»Perhaps I just lost the rest of my common sense.«

Hannibal smiles and drops the topic. Will continues to stare at his reflection. It feels natural to talk to Hannibal again, like this. Over the past eight months Will has had the feeling that his voice had become softer and softer, until there was barely anything left of it, until it was hard to recognize it as his own anymore. Speaking to almost no one except for images of Abigail and Hannibal, and even then in hushed voices. It had felt pointless to speak, because the only one who could have understood him had not been there anymore.

They are silent for a while. The only audible sounds are those of his hair getting washed – the swishing noises from Will's head and the little splash Hannibal's hand makes when it occasionally dips into the water.

Finally, Hannibal asks the inevitable question. »Did you find what you were looking for, back home?«

Will could talk about Mischa, could poke in his wounds, ask questions that he wants answers to. But they have all the time in the world.

»Murasaki,« Will says instead and he sees Hannibal smile again. It looks almost sad this time. »Your favorite color. And the name of your aunt.«

»So you met Chiyoh.«

Will tilts his head back to look at Hannibal directly. »I would like to show you something, too.« He points to his discarded pants. »Would you fetch me my phone? Front pocket.«

There is perhaps the smallest of frowns on Hannibal's face before he stands up once more and comes back with the requested item. He waits by his side while Will scrolls through his recently taken photographs. He hands the phone back to Hannibal once he finds what he is searching for.

»There,« he says.

Will watches Hannibal's face intently. His face is made out of stone.

»Did Chiyoh kill him? Or did you?« he asks finally. There is just a slight crack in his voice that betrays him.

Will smiles. »She did.«

Their eyes meet again and Hannibal's look changes to delight, unable to hide it anymore.

»Excellent.«

Will rinses his hair in the water, but they are not done yet. Hannibal fetches his conditioner. Will is not sure if he is trying to stall for time or if his fussiness is showing. Both, perhaps.

»She left, too. We rode on the same train, but she got off sooner.«

Hannibal's hand pauses for a second. »Did you tell her where I am?«

»I didn't have to. She knew. I don't think she'll come here.«

Hannibal considers this. »I haven't seen her in a very long time. I'm not sure about her intentions.«

»You imprisoned her. Maybe she wants to do the same to you.«

»I imprisoned you. Do you still want to take my freedom in return?«

Will tilts his head back again, looking up at Hannibal. His jaw is set – he remembers their short conversation with Pazzi, the way Will pretended that it had all been part of his plan to catch Hannibal.

»I called you, eight months ago, so you would run,« Will explains. »And now that I have found you again, you have stopped running. I helped you kill a police officer, so that he couldn't arrest you. I do not intend for you to get caught, Hannibal.«

His words have an effect on Hannibal, but there is still doubt in his eyes. »Ah yes, the knife you carried,« he says. »You weren't certain what to do. But it was a possibility, wasn't it? To tear into me instead? Did you want me to suffer the way I made you suffer? As part of your forgiveness? Would you have done it quickly or would you have stopped to gloat?«

You are afraid to become him, Chiyoh had said.

For a moment, perhaps, Will had considered.

There are means of influence other than violence, Chiyoh had said.

And then that moment had passed.

»I wasn't sure what I'd do when I came to Palermo. I wasn't sure what I'd do when I came back today. Your presence... it changes the way I think, the way I feel.«

Hannibal stops his work on Will's head and stands up. »You can rinse it out now,« he says while grabbing a fresh towel for Will. He stands close to the bathtub and watches Will's head emerge from the water once more.

»How do you feel now?« he asks then, effortlessly picking up the thread of their conversation.

Will is aware that there is only one way to make Hannibal lose his doubts. He has enough of his own. It will take time, surely, but even more if they keep on dancing around each other. Bedelia has left – Hannibal has kept his side of the bargain. Now it is time for Will to make a move.

He stands up with as much grace as he can muster, water sloshing over the edge of the tub, and steps out of it. He ignores the towel Hannibal holds out to him and embraces him instead, soaking his shirt and trousers. So far he has acted on instinct. Now there is perhaps a millisecond of consideration before he takes the next step forward.

»I feel defenseless,« Will says slowly. »I feel naked.«

Hannibal does not move, does not say anything, even when Will leans in to kiss him for the first time, pressing his wet mouth on Hannibal's dry lips. It is like Hannibal ceases to exist for a moment, only beginning to breathe again when their lips part after their first, chaste kiss. His inhale is shaky. He looks completely overwhelmed.

»Will you lay down your armor for me, too, Hannibal? Will you let me see you?«

Will touches his hair, his face, his neck until he reaches the hem of his shirt. With a sudden jerk he rips the ugly thing in half, enjoys the sound of buttons clashing on the floor. Hannibal lets him. His only reaction is indifference.

»You entered the foyer of my mind and stumbled down the the hall of my beginnings. You have seen more than anyone else. What more do you wish to see?«

»I want to see the depths of you,« Will says. »I want to see everything.«

Will skims over his body with his hands. Hard muscles, sharp bones and yet so soft in the middle. He rakes his hand through the hair on his chest and thumbs over one of Hannibal's small nipples, which prompts another shaky breathing sound. Will looks up and meets his eyes, pupils dilated from arousal. He rests his arms on Hannibal's shoulders and their lips meet anew, now with Hannibal as an active participant. Their crotches bump against each other, making Hannibal's interest apparent.

»Take me to bed, Hannibal,« Will commands.

And finally, Hannibal touches him in return, sliding his hands down his spine, over the curve of his ass and lets them rest on the back of his thighs. Will gets the message, raises his leg and then Hannibal lifts him with almost inhuman strength. Lust coils low in Will's belly and he kisses Hannibal again, heatedly, while he is getting carried through the apartment.

He is surprised and happy when Hannibal drops him not on the bed he shared with Bedelia, but the bed Will had occupied only a day ago.

Hannibal is quite out of breath. Will has to grin at that. »I'm bigger than I look.«

Hannibal looks down his body. »Yes, you are.«

»Or maybe you're just getting ol-« Will starts to say, but is cut off by another kiss – all tongue and teeth now. It seems he has whetted Hannibal's appetite.

They touch and explore, but there are still Hannibal's pants in the way of things. Will fumbles with them for a while, but Hannibal is not so patient, swatting Will's hands away to finish undressing himself. And then there is naked skin on naked skin, from head to toe. They both relish it for a moment, shifting slightly to align their bodies until they fit perfectly. Their kisses turn lazy while they both search for friction in their shared heat.

»You taste like whiskey,« Hannibal mutters. It is probably the most obvious thing he has ever said.

Will grins against him. He has not succeeded in getting himself drunk on Bedelia's stash, but it is a hard task these days. The last eight months really did improve his tolerance.

»You taste like...« Will begins before he licks into Hannibal's mouth again to get another sample. »I don't know. Saliva, I guess.«

Hannibal ruts against him in answer, a comfortable weight on top of him. »We have to work on your palate, Will.«

Another spark of fresh arousal vibrates through Will's body. He hums low and approvingly, before he makes a sudden movement.

Hannibal is taken by surprise, but Will knows that his reflexes are good enough that he could put up resistance if he wanted to. He does not want to. He lets Will turn their bodies, lets Will straddle him, lets himself get pinned down by his wrists and pressed into the mattress. An act of submission, a sudden change in the balance of power. It is a high-wire act and neither of them is sure who will eventually have the upper hand. Will shifts his hips tentatively. He likes to believe that Hannibal is even harder now than he was before.

Will looks down at him. His eyes are a deep, fathomless black; his lips are parted and red from kisses. His hair is mussed. He is beautiful like this - so different from his usual composed self.

Will licks his lips. »Would you let me fuck you, Hannibal?«

»Yes,« Hannibal says without a hint of shame in his voice, not missing a beat.

Will swallows thickly. One day, perhaps, but not tonight. He hardly has the patience, nor the confidence. But the knowledge that Hannibal would let him do it is more poignant than he wants to admit.

He lets go of Hannibal's wrists, lets himself get touched by his curious hands again. He does nothing to prevent Hannibal from sitting up, from embracing Will tightly, from kissing his neck and his shoulder and everywhere he can reach.

Instead, Will clutches onto him as if in search of balance. He adjusts his position to sit more comfortably on top of Hannibal and then he lets himself be held, head on Hannibal's shoulder, but no knife in his stomach this time.

He can feel Hannibal's heartbeat against his own chest. It is faster than he anticipated.

This is the moment to say something important, Will assumes. They let the moment pass.

Will leans back, watches Hannibal watching him. It felt quite natural, until now. But now that he takes in the sight of Hannibal's body, he becomes very aware that he is indeed quite different from his former sexual partners.

He hesitates for a second too long.

Hannibal looks fascinated, gauging his every reaction. »You don't have to-«

»It's fine,« Will interrupts. »I want to.«

Will's hands move down slowly, scouting unknown areas. He skims over Hannibal's cock experimentally. It feels very much like his own – warm and heavy and hard and soft at the tip. But it is a different experience altogether, touching Hannibal this way. It feels very private. He feels like he is being trusted, trusted to touch such a sensitive part of his body, easily hurt by too much pressure. Hannibal is making himself vulnerable. It feels like a privilege.

He looks up to meet Hannibal's gaze, but his eyes are closed in pleasure. His mouth is slightly ajar, exposing the tips of his sharp, crooked teeth. Will leans in to kiss him - a soft, lingering press of lips on lips, until he opens his unfocused, liquid eyes.

They are communicating silently - no more words needed - with the press of their lips alone. Gentle kisses that speak of their crippled versions of trust and love, which turn into passionate ones, filled with frantic, urgent lust. Hannibal grips Will's waist and pulls him closer onto his lap, until most of their torsos and their dicks are touching. Will crosses his legs behind Hannibal and rocks his hips, eliciting a moan from both of them. Hannibal is loud in bed, it seems – or perhaps he just sounds loud to Will, with his lips so close to Will's ear. He is groaning and panting and growling and Will can hardly get enough of his sounds, so foreign and new. Hannibal sneaks a hand between them and strokes them both slowly from root to tip. Will presses even closer, connecting as much of their bodies as he can.

He thought it would be different. Thought it would be the forceful clash of their bodies and minds, raw and needy and not in tune, because this has taken them so long. Instead it is a mingling, a perfect bond. They are one creature now instead of two, both knowing exactly what the other feels and wants.

They are sweating by now, and Will pushes Hannibal's hair back to touch his lips to his temple, to lick a stripe on his forehead, tasting the salt, while Hannibal does the same to his throat, ragged breath hitting his damp skin in puffs. Will feels cold everywhere they do not touch, wishing Hannibal could envelop him whole, like the water did only a few minutes ago. He shivers and grinds against Hannibal, thrusts into his fist. The glide is easy now, with both of them wet from sweat and precum.

»I'm close,« Will announces, even though he does not have to.

Hannibal's answering moan sounds almost helpless. He is still unable to cope with the reality of the situation. Will feels much the same. But the build-up is real and Will feels himself getting closer with every passing second. Then Hannibal moves, laying Will gently back onto the bed and letting go of him.

Will wants to complain because the loss of their shared body heat feels almost unbearable, but he knows what Hannibal wants to do. He had not realized how much he was trembling until now. And it is getting worse - the cold hitting his body just as much as the anticipation.

Will clenches his hands into Hannibal's hair while he works his way down Will's body. Hannibal kisses his scar again, reverently, and murmurs something against his skin that Will does not quite catch. He has no opportunity to ask him to repeat himself, though, because a moment later Hannibal takes him into his mouth.

A »Fuck« leaves his lips and then a slow, dragged-out moan, while Hannibal takes him eagerly to the root, pressing the tip of his tongue against his shaft. Will feels his eyes roll backwards, overcome by the silky heat of Hannibal's mouth and the cleverness of his large hands, still roaming his body. He arches his hips in search of more, grinds his teeth together to suppress a keening sound – and then he comes.

There is no point in uttering a warning, because this is what Hannibal wants. Will feels Hannibal's throat constrict around him, feels him swallow greedily and it spurs him on even further.

It is almost painful in its intensity, like everything that has to do with Hannibal. His brain seems to shut off - and then a few seconds of pure, blessed silence arrive, a moment of absolute lucidity in which everything makes sense.

When he comes to, Hannibal is back up again, sucking softly on his jaw, almost shy now, and Will reaches out to him with shaky hands to give him a proper kiss. He can taste his own bitterness on Hannibal's tongue.

Even though tiredness hits him instantly, he knows that they are not done yet. He can feel Hannibal's hardness pressing against his own softening cock and he lets go of his face to turn his attention elsewhere. Hannibal closes his eyes as soon as Will touches him, breath intensifying again. Did he think Will would not reciprocate?

Will feels powerful. It is a nice feeling, to be so obviously wanted. To Margot, Will was a means to an end. Before that, there had been nothing. Nothing for a long, long time.

»You want to come on me. You want to be able to smell yourself on my skin, mark me as yours,« Will says. »Would you be able to smell it on me, even after I clean up?«

A broken sound leaves Hannibal, his warm breath stirring the curls by Will's ear. »Yes.«

Will doubles his efforts, aware of his clumsiness. This, too, will take time and practice.

But it is enough for now. Hannibal opens his eyes when he comes, lips drawn into a silent snarl, looking down at the way he paints Will with his release.

Will strokes him through it, marveling at his own feeling of accomplishment. It is so different from a woman's orgasm – so open and unconcealable. He lets go of Hannibal once he has nothing more to give, moves his hands to rest on his biceps, as if to support him.

Hannibal drags his softening erection against Will's scar, absolutely shameless in the aftermath. He murmurs something – words of praise and affection, but most of them too faint to hear.

He lays down half next to and half on top of Will, kissing his shoulder and dragging his fingers through the sticky mess on Will's stomach and chest, spreading it, rubbing it in. Will allows him to do this for a while, enjoying the warm heaviness of Hannibal's body. At some point he catches Hannibal's wrist and takes one of his fingers into his mouth, looking into Hannibal's surprised eyes.

It is not that different from his own. An acquired taste, perhaps.

Hannibal stares at his mouth and Will teases him with just the tip of his tongue. He cocks an eyebrow at him. »Lick it up.«

Hannibal obliges, moving between his legs again and covering Will's chest and stomach with delicate licks. He takes Will's soft, over-sensitive dick into his mouth once more, sucking it for a minute or two, before going even further down to lick at his testicles.

»You didn't shoot so low,« Will says. It sounds rather breathless.

»I wish I had.«

Ten, fifteen years ago, it would have been enough to get Will hard again. As it is now, he is happy to let Hannibal embrace him, once he is finished plastering even his thighs with kisses, replacing the unpleasantness of cooling saliva with warm skin.

He should get up and clean up properly, but he cannot find the motivation to do so. Hannibal prefers him this way, he knows. Maybe he will indulge him, just today.

»Where do you want to go?« Will asks, unable to keep his brain from thinking any longer.

»I would like to show you Florence, Will.«

Hannibal's eyes are bright - grossly incandescent, even. Will can hardly look at him, at his horrible happiness. It looks out of place on his face and yet...

»We can't stay here. Not after what we did to Pazzi,« Will says.

»Did you tell anyone about your departure?«

Will ponders for a moment just how much he wants to tell him. »Only Alana.«

»How is Alana?«

»Alive.« Deadpan.

Hannibal smiles but surely realizes the unspoken threat in Will's voice. She'd better stay that way.

»Jack must know by now,« Hannibal speculates. »Surely he'll be here shortly, hoping to find you before you find me.«

»Hoping to bring me back and hoping to get rid of you.«

»I'll never pause again, never stand still, till either death hath closed these eyes of mine, or fortune given me measure of revenge,« Hannibal quotes. »Did you consult for the FBI while I was gone?«

»I barely even talked to Jack.«

»And how did that feel?«

Will evaluates his feelings for a second. »Good. A relief. Only two monsters left in my head.«

»You and me.« Hannibal smiles, before becoming serious again. »Will you do what needs to be done this time, Will?«

Will does not answer.

»Where will we go... afterwards?«

There is a new spark of doubt in Hannibal's eyes and it tears at Will. »Venice, Paris... Wherever you like.«

»Very romantic suggestions.«

The smile on Hannibal's face is sad this time, as if he is thinking about something that can never be. »We could settle down in the countryside somewhere, if you would prefer that. You could adopt some strays.«

Will kisses him. He cannot help it. He cannot bear to see his expression any longer. »You... you made a place somewhere. For you and me... and Abigail. Right?«

Hannibal's face is buried in the juncture of Will's shoulder and his neck. He inhales deeply before answering. »...Yes.«

»I want to see it.«

Perhaps they will talk about her there. About her and Mischa. Will is not ready for it, yet. Or maybe there is just not much to talk about. His forgiveness stems from his understanding, after all.

»Whatever you want, Will.«