by being moved I exert my empire,
making the dreams of night real:
into my body at the bottom of the water
I attract the beyonds of mirrors…
On the stoop of Hannibal’s grandiose home, Will rang the bell and waited. Hannibal’s Bentley wasn’t in the driveway, but it seemed like the appropriate gesture. He’d never seen maids or housekeepers here and he seriously doubted Hannibal would take the risk of that particular extravagance, given his proclivities. But better to be certain. No one came to answer and the foyer inside was dark.
Will knew there wasn’t an alarm system. He’d noticed the lack of a security panel and sensors the first time he had come over. The apex predator felt absolutely no need to secure his home in one of the most crime-riddled cities in the country. Will had already once used the spare key Hannibal had given him, ostensibly to kill the son of a bitch. Afterwards, Hannibal had not asked for it back, nor had Will demanded he return the key to his Wolf Trap home. This was part of their game. A dare. A line drawn in the sand, each player waiting to see who moved first and how.
Before he had been arrested, Bev and the boys in the lab used to tease him. “What is it with you and Hannibal, Will? It’s like you’re trying to figure out if he’s a ‘fuck, kill, or marry,’” she had said. It was a crude joke at his expense, but she was right about their mutual obsession. And then she got caught in the crosshairs of their game and she died for it. Anger flared in Will’s chest once more. He was going to catch this psychopath and put him away forever – not to save lives, not for the dead who were beyond saving, and not for Jack fucking Crawford. He was going to do it for himself.
The heavy mahogany door swung open. He strolled in with a sense of satisfaction. Violating Hannibal’s private space always felt right considering how often he had violated his own.
Inside Hannibal’s ridiculous theatre of a domicile, he allowed himself a bit of freedom. Will pinched a fat bunch of basil off the herb wall in the dining room and munched on it. He tipped a painting slightly askew as he wound his way to the back patio, simply because it would annoy the man and please him all at once. Will had parked in the alley. It was a better spot for this kind of delivery.
Randall Tier hit Hannibal’s tiger maple dining table with a dull thud. Displaying him with such vulgarity gave Will a rush of pleasure. There would be no flickering candlelight or peacock centerpieces or fussy plating. He wanted to show Hannibal that he understood what he truly was. The thought of his reaction sang through his bones. He waited, staring at the lifeless being.
It was only then that Will realized that the winter coat he had grabbed in haste was the designer overcoat Hannibal had given him last Christmas. It was an outrageously expensive gift, and the clever jerk popped the tags off the thing to prevent Will from trying to return it. Will’s gift was simple, but meaningful. He had given Hannibal a box of fishing ties and a card that read: “So you don’t have to break into my house the next time you frame me for murder. Petty larceny, Hannibal? Not your best work. Fondly, Will.” Hannibal laughed more that evening than Will had ever seen.
Hannibal’s response was genuine. “I will cherish having something so beautiful made by your hands, especially knowing all the ways you’d like to use them. Thank you.”
Will got a little sheepish. “They’re all mine except that green one. That one…that was my father’s.” Hannibal stared at Will for a long moment and simply nodded. Will thought he might have been a little misty eyed. The set was promptly mounted in a shadow box and displayed prominently on the fireplace mantle in Hannibal’s office.
Will heard the car pull up and the sudden halt of footsteps in the entryway. Hannibal probably already smelled his intruders, bloodhound that he was. Within seconds he peeled back the dining room pocket doors. He took in the scene calmly and turned to close them, as if he thought he could hide the rush of pleasure in his cheeks. Will’s quick mind spotted the tiny twitch of his lips and pink in his cheeks immediately.
“Did you kill him with your hands?”
“It was…intimate,” Will admitted.
“It deserves intimacy. You were Randall Tier’s final enemy.”
Hannibal cocked his head and inspected Will’s handiwork, prowling leisurely over to Will. He took up one of Will’s battered hands in his. Their eyes met and Hannibal’s meaning was patently clear. He wasn’t talking about Tier. This was to be a celebration between the two of them. Hannibal struck with deadly accuracy at the part of Will that wanted -craved -this profound understanding and mutual recognition. And Hannibal clearly intended to reciprocate. The warm feel of Hannibal’s smooth surgeon’s hands around his threw whatever unformed ideas he harbored about reckonings and righteous vengeance right out the window.
The doctor spent half an hour painstakingly soaking and disinfecting and daubing the blood off his knuckles. It was excessively attentive. He did it in one of his Le Creuset stoneware dishes. Will hoped that it was simply a convenient vessel. He knew it was not.
“Don’t go inside, Will. Stay with me.” The invitation rang in his ears.
“Where else would I go?”
Hannibal’s touch, as ever, was economical and gentle. But there was far more in it than a doctor’s clinical touch. It was admiration and affection. Caresses and praises and care. It was really fucking nice to be cared for, for once. All this passed in silent glances. Once Will’s hands had been bandaged, Hannibal noticed a few stray dots of crimson spray Will had foolishly missed when he’d showered. Rookie mistake. He carefully daubed his forehead and neck too with the same tender attention.
“Have you been grazing in the herb garden, Will? Dark opal basil, I believe?” Hannibal said, amused.
Will only response was a mischievous smirk.
Will had never been so close to the man’s face to take in all its details. Small scars, tiny pores, age lines – all of which somehow enhanced the absurdly perfect architecture of his European features. For some reason Will found himself smiling and Hannibal kept smiling back.
“Thank you,” Will whispered.
“What do I do with Tier? I figured this is more your area of expertise.” Will said.
“Put him back in your trunk. He’ll keep overnight in this weather. Think about how you would like to honor him.”
“You mean a tableau.”
“Let your ideas marinate over night. You’ve had a long day. I’d very much prefer that you stay here rather than make the hour drive again so late. In any event, you may wish to be closer to the city for your work tomorrow.”
Will had never intentionally stayed at Hannibal’s home. Once he’d gotten way too drunk at dinner and ended up asleep on the couch until 4am. This was different.
“Um. Yeah. If you think the car will be okay outside. No one will bother it?”
“It will be fine.”
Hannibal did not touch the corpse, nor did he offer to help get him outside. It was as if he viewed the kill as another predator’s territory. Will sort of got it and all, but Christ he actually needed a hand. Schlepping the damn kid all over the place promised to do a number on Will’s wrecked shoulder. It was already throbbing from the fight.
By the time he slammed the trunk gate down and came inside, Hannibal had sterilized his table. It looked impeccable.
“Do you want me to check it with Luminol and the light? The kit is in the car.”
“No need,” Hannibal replied and offered no further explanation. “Come this way, then.”
Hannibal beckoned Will to the stairway and he followed him up to the second floor. An impressive display of authentic samurai armor greeted him as they entered his most private space.
Will had never been upstairs. This was certainly the first time entering Hannibal’s bedroom.
“And here I thought you couldn’t possibly have more armor between yourself and the world,” Will quipped. He was nervous.
Hannibal glanced back and gave a tiny, knowing, half smile. “Give me just a moment to find something in here that will fit you tolerably well.” He disappeared into a massive walk-in closet. Will fidgeted just inside the door.
“Your help is greatly appreciated, Dr. Lecter, but I swear if your pajamas have windowpane plaid too, I’m going to organize an intervention.”
He heard a chuckle from deep inside the closet.
While Hannibal fussed through the vast collection of clothing he possessed, Will’s curiosity overtook him. He wandered across the room to take in this man’s lair – all rich fabrics in deep greys and blues, varying in texture. The desk bore carefully arranged books and intriguing artefacts. His fingers wandered over everything. It was a terrible habit, but the tactile both grounded him and enhanced his empathetic insight.
Will’s attention was quickly drawn to the paintings framing either side of the large bed.
“Ukiyo-e woodblock prints,” Hannibal supplied, re-emerging with several hangers draped over his arm. “From the Edo period.”
Will drew closer to inspect them. Hannibal’s taste in art never ceased to amaze him. Bold, confrontational, and if you understood who the beast beneath the Italian wool was, usually quite openly confessional.
“They are known as shunga,” Hannibal continued. “A rather entrancing tradition in Japan.”
These were no charming domestic scenes. No delicate arching cranes or heaving seas. Every panel depicted an explicit sexual act. Lovers of every type in various configurations. A man taking a geisha from behind. Two women with their skirts hiked, grinding in a bath house. Two young men making love on a mat.
“Most people keep their porn in a box under their bed, not hung openly on their bedroom and dining room walls.”
Hannibal materialized silently behind him, so close Will could smell his heady cologne.
“Does the eroticism of bodies in pleasure disturb you, Will?”
“No,” he said, a little too defensively.
“I should hope not, considering this evening’s experience.”
“That wasn’t…I didn’t find fighting Tier…arousing. Not like that.”
“You assume I was speaking of Tier.”
Will blushed outright.
Hannibal laid out several options on the bed. A few t-shirts and flannel pants and a silk pajama set in dark crimson. “These are unfortunately a bit dated, but I had a slimmer build when I was younger.”
Will couldn’t get the woodblock prints out of his mind. “Are the pictures for your amusement or for those you entertain in here?”
“They were a gift. Now they are just a memory.”
Will turned back to them to study their fine quality. “Which is your favorite?” he asked absenmindedly. Then without quite meaning to, he let the pendulum swing once, then twice, and his sight expanded. Hannibal watched Will slip into his extraordinary power. So rarely did he get to witness him perform this act.
“Oh, oh. I see. None of these things come from a gallery or a store. You have an unconventional connection to Japan. A highborn family who left their homeland. These are inheritances. You keep them the closest to you, framing your dreams at night. They are not for display. There’s no favorite. They are all favored. It’s all you have left. Beloved mementos.” Will shivered and shook himself out of his vision. He kept his back turned to Hannibal. It was too difficult to make eye contact and ask.
“Who was she?”
Hannibal put his hands on Will’s shoulders and gave a soft squeeze. Then he leaned in and breathed his confession into the shell of his ear. The deep lilt of his voice and the almost touch of his lips made him shiver. “My aunt – by marriage, obviously.”
“Your lover,” Will said in shock.
“Briefly. A confidante and the only protection a young man had from the world.”
“But…Do you still…”
“Careful. You’re starting to sound jealous, dear boy.”
Will spun around at the accusation. Hannibal looked far too pleased and took the flagrant liberty of tugging and bouncing one of his curls. Will failed to find words.
And just as breezily, as though Hannibal hadn’t just openly flirted with him, he carried on. “The guest suite is down the hall to the left. I’ll make a little midnight snack while you change. You must be famished.”
“Hannibal…” Will said in warning, drawling out each syllable. He had better not make use of that damn Le Creuset full of his blood on the counter, or some other god damn thing that shared the same number of chromosomes as him.
“Nothing complicated. We can discuss your plan for the wild game you brought home later.”
Will bit his lip and shook his head. “Fine. Behave yourself down in the kitchen.”
“I do actually understand the meaning of restraint, Agent Graham. I just often choose not to deploy it.” Hannibal winked and disappeared back into his closet.