Summary: A sequel to Breaking the Waves (which can be read independently). Will takes charge and Hannibal has to deal with his newly realized murder husband’s determination to have his way in Spain.
Characters: Will Graham/Hannibal Lecter
Chapters: 1/1 [COMPLETE]
Hannibal haughtily pushed a stray bit of hair behind his ear. “I do understand, however, why you are so upset. Your youth was shadowed by grinding poverty, abandonment, and the rot of fetid bayous.”
“Takes one to know one,” Will said through clenched teeth. Lost starving orphan, he wanted to say. Will would have kicked him over in his chair if they weren’t in public and then he probably would have done something terribly regrettable with his blunt dinner knife.
Thank god they were in public.
The only sign of Hannibal’s displeasure was a slight tick in his left eye.
Will sat in the shop’s foyer in an overstuffed armchair. It was seating undoubtedly placed there for impatient, antsy husbands like him. Iberian sunlight filtered through the large boutique window and it made his curls shine.
“The credit card,” Hannibal repeated.
Will pressed his lips together. He made no move to reach for his wallet. “I said,” he lowered his voice “no.”
Hannibal plastered an affable half-smile on his face. “Forgive us, señor. Might we have just a moment to discuss the item?” The elderly shop owner nodded and disappeared into the store room, taking the tray displaying the vintage timepiece with him.
As soon as he was out of sight, Hannibal turned on his heel and his complacent mask evaporated. He wanted an explanation and he had no intention of waiting for it.
“I said we could look.” Will said. “You looked.”
“And now I wish to make a purchase. Give me the credit card. I won’t repeat myself again.”
“I should hope not,” Will shot back.
Hannibal searched his face, stunned to be defied. He quickly settled on a course of action. “Señor?” he called over his shoulder.
There was shuffling in the back and the man returned through a beaded partition. “Shall I fetch a box and bag?” he asked. He already had the sales book eagerly tucked under his arm.
“I believe we’ve decided to think on it. Such purchases should not be made in haste. I’m sure you will agree. Would you be so good as to hold the watch for us?”
The man obliged hesitantly, telling him he could only keep it off display for a week – and not a day more. Hannibal gave a curt bow and thanked him with flatteries that probably ensured he could get whatever he wanted in that store whenever he so chose, and probably at a slight discount. He then opened the shop door to usher Will out, his gentlemanly façade covering the seething rage roiling underneath.
Earlier that day, Hannibal had pointed out a café down a cobbled lane not far from the antique store. It had a view of the sea and was graced by a cool breeze that eased the summer heat. Had they not brought their quarrel along, it would have been a pleasant place to get a quick bite before the whole city shut down for the siesta hour.
Hannibal sipped his coffee in silence. Will perused the menu. The waitress returned and before he could say a word, Hannibal rattled off an order. Will set his menu card down slowly, realizing his input was neither wanted nor appreciated. He kept his mouth shut. The fact that his Spanish was far superior to Hannibal’s probably should not be flaunted at this stage in the argument. Hannibal botched several words and conjugations, yet again, and the waitress was slightly confused before she parsed his meaning and scratched the order down on her notepad. How someone whose Italian was immaculate could not quickly pick up Spanish was beyond him.
Of all the things that had come to pass since they had met five years ago, the least of their problems was Hannibal’s crap español. His mother tongue was Baltic, after all, unrelated to any of the Latin romance languages. Will hadn’t learned much Lithuanian yet (terms mostly confined to their bedroom) and it would be a cold day in Hell that he’d learn archaic Italian so he could read Dante to Hannibal after dinner. No, what fueled his anger was Hannibal’s unwavering pride and his imperious attitude.
The waitress looked expectantly at Will. Her eyes wandered over the tan skin of his chest peeking through the collar of his shirt. Will didn’t notice. He didn’t even know whose name was on the label when Hannibal had given it to him. He just wanted some god damned fried calamari and an ice cold beer, but apparently that wasn’t going to happen.
Will shook his head and declined to add anything. The waitress’ eyes drifted appreciatively over the obscene contours of his bare ankles, sockless in loafers. Hannibal cut her roving gaze short with a flick of the menu. “Gracias, señorita. That will be all.”
The food was predictably slow to arrive. Will avoided Hannibal’s stare and took a sudden interest in reading up on every football match reported in the daily newspaper “As”. He couldn’t give two flying fucks about how anyone was doing in La Liga, the latest rankings in the English Premiere League, or any other sport for that matter. The only accompaniment to their deadly silence was the rustle of Will’s paper and a tinny radio from a window across the narrow street.
The meal arrived in a train of small plates. Will started scooping things out before Hannibal could begin to describe each dish. As he tucked into food, Hannibal told him about the particularities of the barbequed sardines he was shoveling into his mouth. He droned on about the cold pippirana salad and the origins of the porra antequerana set before them.
Will’s temper ratcheted up a notch with every bite and flourish of Hannibal’s hand. As if he hadn’t heard perfectly what had been ordered. As if he couldn’t determine his own preferences. As if he needed a history lesson every time he just wanted to fucking eat.
The two men were in a very dangerous state and it wasn’t even noon.
“How’s the tomato soupy stuff here?” Will asked, letting a bit of the Louisiana drawl he hid so well slip out. “Looks good.” He was purposefully acting like the hick ignoramus Hannibal seemed to think he was. He pulled the bowl of porra across the table. The thick sauce was as red as blood. Hannibal narrowed his eyes at Will, but said nothing.
“Oh, so now it’s the silent treatment? Really? I would say I’m gutted to see you acting so childish, but in our case that metaphor strikes a little too close to home.” He chewed the dipped bread thoughtfully. “The porra antequerana is passable here,” he said in a perfect lilting accent, “but it needs more garlic, don’t you think?”
“You are an astonishing creature.”
Will sat back in his plastic wicker chair, gauging whether Hannibal might actually kill him for denying him something as stupid as a watch. He reached across the table and took his hand. “You need to exercise a little restraint. I don’t think that is too much to ask. You’ve ripped through nearly half a million dollars since we arrived in Europe.”
“Your point being?”
Will was speechless for a long moment. “I am trying to protect us,” he whispered. Even after surviving their injuries and escaping the country, he still felt like Jack Crawford or the whole of Interpol might pop out from around the corner. “Freddy Lounds made sure everyone found out that I filed divorce papers the same day I inherited your fortune. Murder Husbands indeed. If anybody at Quantico gets bored and decides to poke around in my bank records or if Freddy god damn Lounds somehow gets her sticky hands on them, they will immediately know something isn’t right. I have never spent money like this. I can’t even comprehend money like this!”
“We pay for almost everything in cash.”
“Yes! Massive sums of cash! Just like you did before. You think they’ll just shrug it off and say, ‘Welp, Graham sure is going wild in Europe!’ Your expensive tastes got you and me caught by Mason Verger. Your pattern was documented in your case files. Meditate on that for a minute.”
Will knew all this talk about finances infuriated Hannibal in part because it was simply not done among polite society. But that’s what married couples do and he was going to have to get used to it.
Hannibal touched the edges of his mouth with a cotton napkin. “There are hundreds of millions left and that is only the liquid assets. You haven’t even seen the jewelry collection Lady Murasaki’s bequeathed me. Her 19th century sets of Mikimoto pearls and any one of her Harry Winston rings alone would triple that amount overnight.” He haughtily pushed a stray bit of hair behind his ear. “I do understand, however, why you are so upset. Your youth was shadowed by grinding poverty, abandonment, and the rot of fetid bayous.”
“Takes one to know one,” he said through clenched teeth. Lost starving orphan, he wanted to say. Will would have kicked him over in his chair if they weren’t in public and then he probably would have done something terribly regrettable with his blunt dinner knife. Thank god they were in public.
This had gotten entirely out of hand. Why did everything have to elevate to crazed melodrama with Hannibal? They were both entirely cognizant that this was not a healthy or sane relationship, but they weren’t exactly great models for healthy practices and sanity themselves.
Yet neither could, or would, ever let go of the other. Never. Not during their worst days. Not when separated for years. Not even during a brutal eighty-nine foot drop into the Atlantic Ocean. Most thirsts rise and burn in demanding need, then fall away forgotten once sated. Between Hannibal and Will, that pressing desire and ever-rushing ache for more of each other could never be relieved. Obsession, addiction, passion, love…The words do not matter. They had merged into a single organism that simply happened to live in two bodies. It made for a volatile combination but certainly kept things interesting, as today proved.
Hannibal leaned toward Will with a stern look. “Those scraping, hungry days of your childhood are in the past, dear boy. Look to the future. You are the Lecter family’s sole heir.” He crooked his head and paused to let his point sink in. “Act accordingly.”
Eight months earlier…
After tirelessly searching the sea, the FBI and Coast Guard could not waste more resources to find a corpse. Jack Crawford, the longtime head of the Behavioral Science Unit, was forcibly retired for having set loose the most prolific serial killer of the modern age. Had Graham not pulled through, that would have been the third agent he lost to Hannibal Lecter. His closest colleagues in the forensics lab, Price and Zeller, canceled the arrangements they had secretly been planning to celebrate Jack’s retirement later in the summer. Instead of a party, he was sent back to an empty home on a Friday, with no wife there to greet him. He had served his country with duty and honor for three decades. A part-time janitor pulled down his photographs from the FBI’s halls and dumped them into a file box. The executives upstairs wanted to erase any memory of their errors and insufficiencies.
Jack hadn’t been out of the bureau but a month when Hannibal Lecter was officially declared dead by the U.S government. He kicked in the screen of his own television when the report aired at six o’clock.
Miles away, in downtown Baltimore, Will was recuperating at the best research hospital in the city. He had awoken on a sand bar to the glare of flashlights and the shouts of EMTs. All he could remember was the loving look Hannibal had given him before Will threw them to their deaths. But he didn’t die. He was severely injured and almost all of it was his fault.
No one would talk to him about Hannibal. Had he be found? How badly was he hurt? Was he being treated in this hospital too? Was he arrested and in custody? Whose custody?
“Could someone please turn on the news!” he shouted in frustration. From his bed, there was not much he could do. He was tethered down with vines of IVs, a vile catheter, and plastered with heart monitor electrodes.
His primary nurse cracked the door one day. “You okay for a few visitors?” Hope blossomed in his chest for the first time in a month. She let in a man and woman clad in expensive wool suits. Will had never seen them before in his life. They sat down at the tiny table in the room without his invitation. Without even greeting him. He pulled himself upright, as far as his broken ribs would allow. “Well hello. Make yourselves comfortable,” he said. “Who the hell are you, by the way?”
Nurse Lisa had been so loyal and protective, running off psychiatrists hungry for fame and tabloid hounds hoping for an exclusive interview with him. She had even socked a paparazzo in the eye when he tried to break into his room to get a shot of him in his hospital gown mottled in purple and black bruises. Will could not fathom why she had let these two stooges into his private space.
The two visitors gave their names as if he should already know who they were. They shuffled through their sleek leather briefcases and pulled out a pile of papers. It took a moment for the woman to find the correct page.
“We apologize for bothering you during your convalescence, however it took quite a bit of convincing to get the FBI to release the name of your hospital and locate you. We’ve tried numerous times to contact you by phone.”
Will clenched his eyes and hit the button for his pain medication. “My cell phone is at the bottom of the ocean after I was attacked by a serial killer and chucked off a cliff, in case you aren’t aware of why I am here.” The two looked each other. Clearly they weren’t familiar with Will’s particular brand of acerbic snappishness.
“Mr. Graham,” the man said. They both had overly sculpted helmets of hair that didn’t move. Will disliked them immediately. There was not a hint of sincerity radiating off of either of them. Lawyers, he realized. These were lawyers. “We have been apprised of the situation and everyone at the firm offers their deepest sympathies, truly.”
“My Dad died?” he cried.
“Ah, no, Mr. Graham. As far as we know he is fine.” Will flopped back in relief.
Nothing – absolutely nothing – could have prepared him for what she said next.
“We are here today because Count Hannibal Lecter made revisions to his will before his passing. We know you had a,” she paused searching for a diplomatic phrase “a close relationship. We are so sorry for your loss.”
Time slowed to a creep. The title of nobility did not even register with him. All he heard was that Hannibal was dead and the syllables of his name lingered in the air like dust. A scream was caught in his throat. Will pitched over the side of the bed and vomited repeatedly.
“Oh dear. Are you-?” Will motioned for her to continue. He was in shock.
The rest of the meeting felt like a terrible nightmare, far worse than any of his blood-soaked fever dreams. Surely he would wake up. Surely.
The lawyers kept saying his beautiful name as they read through the legal documents. Will stretched and flailed to get his oxygen mask. He thought he was going to pass out.
“It’s quite simple,” the woman said. “Just sign here and we will take care of the rest – no fee, of course. We would recommend moving most of Count Lecter’s American holdings into the Cayman Island bank account he kept for tax purposes.” She held out a paper and Will shakily took the pen she offered.
He was desperate to get them to stop talking about Hannibal. He couldn’t abide the sound of those words coming out of these horrid people’s mouths. If they didn’t get out of his room immediately he was giving very serious thought to beating the hell out of them. When they finally took the hint Will smashed the call button for his nurse about twenty times too many.
She came in and saw the vomit and then saw how badly he as shaking. “Oh my! What happened?”
His teeth were chattering so hard he could barely get out the words. “Sedate me.”
“Sugar, I’ll go get a doctor.”
“Sedate me Lisa. Sedate me now.” She glanced up at his heart rate monitor and his numbers were dangerously high.
She came back with a syringe and injected it into his IV port. He was out like a light in 10 seconds. Fussing with his wires and taking his temperature, she tucked him in and turned out the light.
What transpired that day did not hit him until much, much later – and it would hit him hard.
Will had finally been released from the hospital and was searching online for an apartment that wasn’t completely shitty. The life he had tried to make with Molly in Maine was sadly done. Will buried the regret with bourbon. His Wolf Trap home had long been sold away and there was only so much he could take of his run-down motel room with paper-thin walls.
When the sedatives had worn off later on that ill-fated day, he called Molly immediately. “Hannibal died in the fall,” he choked out. “He left me his entire estate to me.” The line was silent on the other end. He softly asked if they should divorce. She quickly agreed, now knowing there was a lot more about Will’s association with Hannibal Lecter that he hadn’t told her.
“We used to work together,” he had said. “Then I realized he was a serial killer and after a lot of hassle trying to catch him, I finally got him locked up where he deserves to be.” He shrugged, as if there was no more to say.”
Something started to feel fishy when Hannibal sent a serial killer to take out Will’s new family – just her and her son. Then after Will’s accident, she got smart and started researching whatever she could find about the two online. There was a lot of trash to wade through, but a clearer picture started to form in her head. Will had remained friends with Hannibal long after he publically accused him of being a serial killer – and turned out to be absolutely right. They had been close. Very close. So close there was a lot of speculation that they had been lovers. In all the crime scene photos she found in old newspapers, they were always standing nearly shoulder to shoulder, while everyone else did their thing in the background.
Will vaguely mentioned going to Europe once in passing. He failed to mention it was to chase after Hannibal even though he had recently gutted him and killed a girl in a blowout fight where two other people were severely injured. Even more outrageous to learn was that they both had assumed custody rights over her. Like fathers. Who runs after a man who could did that to you? The fact that he never let her touch his scar in bed now seemed a lot less like not wanting her to focus on his body’s jagged imperfection and a whole more like he was protective of it. Like it wasn’t hers to touch.
Now hearing Will sob the news to her on the phone, she didn’t need to know any more. Nobody left their entire fortune to a man if he did not love him in some way or another.
After he hung up, Will asked Nurse Lisa if she could explain how to file the necessary paperwork to initiate divorce proceedings. She had been through it before and knew the drill.
“I’ll do you one better since you’ve been such a sweet patient. I’ll print the forms out, you can sign them, and we’ll fax them over to the court clerk right now.”
The court hearing had been blessedly quick and amicable. That a divorce should be easier than finding decent housing came as a surprise. But Will knew there was nothing surprising about how things had gone so horribly awry.
From the moment Hannibal had kneeled in surrender on Will’s driveway, snow glittering in his sleek hair, the two men already understood how they had just played their chess pieces. They were at a stalemate and the only one who could make the next move was Will. It was precisely why he refused to visit him during his incarceration. It was why Will hid Hannibal’s letters from his wife and cried in front of the hearth late at night and then burned them, never to send a reply. Will avoided the inevitable for three years, desperate to create a normalcy he could never achieve with so many monsters hidden within him. He truly didn’t know quite what would happen if he walked back into that Baltimore sanatorium. But Hannibal knew. He had bet everything on it.
When the guard pulled open the heavy door into Hannibal’s jail cell, Will’s throat went dry. Simply seeing him forced all that repressed murder inside him to the surface – the desire to look at death, to inhabit it through others’ eyes, to commit it inside his incredible imagination. Hannibal turned and looked through the glass partition and saw straight through every bit of Will’s farcical life. Within minutes he had complexly pulled him apart, dissecting the lies Will had been telling himself within minutes. Then, with the slightest ribbon of a smile, he silently reminded Will that he was the only one who could put him back together.
If Will had been undecided before about whose side he was on, that Devil’s smile settled the matter. He helped Hannibal escape. But disaster upon disaster followed subsequently. After their kill, their fall, losing Hannibal to the sea, his hospitalization, the divorce, after all of it, Will just wanted some peace and quiet. He composed an email inquiring about a studio apartment in a semi-dodgy part of town with tragic brown carpeting, but it was near a nice park. He stopped typing mid-sentence. A new email popped up in his inbox.
Dear Mr. Graham:
While the paperwork has all been filed on your behalf and all the titles and land grants have been changed into your name, there is still the matter of transferring the numerous keys and bank access codes to you. Please let us know when you could stop by the firm at your earliest convenience.
Sheridan and Cooper LLP
Will stumbled back from his computer and covered his mouth.
The sudden reminder was almost too much to bear. How he managed to lock this in the basement of his memory palace for so long was a stunning psychological feat.
Hannibal had changed his will and left absolutely everything – even his castle and ancestral lands in Lithuania – to him. Will didn’t need a crummy apartment in a rough neighborhood. He needed to come to terms with a reality that was surreal. He now owned extravagant properties in town and across the globe. The idea of moving into Hannibal’s Baltimore home was out of the question. But there were other secret safe houses hidden behind layers of shell corporations and offshore banks. There was a grand pied-a-terre apartment in Paris. A villa in Tuscany. A stunning Meiji era country home tucked in the Japanese mountains of Hokkaido.
Then there was the money. There was so, so much money. Will did not want to begin contemplating what absurd contents sat inside the many safety deposit boxes sprinkled at various banks. He had no idea what to do or where to go. He deleted the email for the apartment and paid another month for the motel, suspended in state of inertia. One might suppose the heavy medications he still needed for his injuries would dampen the heart-rending pain of this tragic gain from the loss of his greatest love and friend. They could not. Nothing could.
So, it was a hell of a surprise when Hannibal showed up one night, very much alive.
“You really should not mix those pills with alcohol, Will.”
Will’s eyes were wide as saucers and his tumbler of bourbon slipped from his hand and crashed on the floor.
In the café in Spain, Hannibal laid down his fork and knife, his appetite suddenly gone. His middle finger lingered over the tang of the knife blade, toggling it slowly on the placemat.
Though Will had just been mulling on a similar line of thought, he spoke up. “Please stop considering stabbing me with cheap cutlery and listen to what I am saying. Just wait until we get to Switzerland. I will route anything and everything you want to whatever account suits you and you can buy every Patek Phillipe watch ever made.”
“Tell me. How did it make you feel to deny me?”
Will ran a hand down his face. “I am only asking you for a little prudent patience.”
“Which thrilled you more? Wielding this middling power over me in front of that ancient clerk or knowing that, in refusing, you were withholding my own birthright?”
“Your birthright is not a €30,000 chronograph!” Will hissed and slammed a fist on the table. Other patrons began to cut their eyes and whisper. Will looked up at the fluttering café canopy and breathed deeply, praying for strength. “Nothing we own is more precious than our freedom. Nothing is more precious to me than us. You’d risk it all for a little bling?”
“I wonder whether you experienced thoughts of doubt and hesitation when you bought your custom sailboat? It was quite the extravagance for a man who wore threadbare t-shirts.”
“Do you hear yourself?” Will huffed an incredulous laugh. “I suppose not. What ocean was I crossing? Where was I headed? Who was I trying to find?”
Hannibal looked past him to the waitress bending over, her skirt slightly too short. She was serving a table with a pitcher of the abominable cocktail called calimocho. Cheap wine and cola. Mixed. He shivered and had to look away.
“For your information,” Will spat, “I rigged and outfitted the Nola myself. I scraped and sanded and painted it every day for more than six months after you ran off to Italy to play curator and…whatever you were doing with Bedelia. If your refined senses approve of the Nola’s aesthetics, it isn’t because I bought it with my spotty consulting checks and measly teaching salary. It is beautiful because I crafted it with sweat and tools and time and skill.”
People were watching them now. This was exactly the sort of thing that would get Hannibal identified and caught.
Hannibal narrowed his incarnadine eyes and set his napkin on the tabletop. “I believe I shall head back to the hotel. The heat seems to be getting to me.” He rose and pulled out his money clip and considered the thick bundle of cash for a moment. Then he tossed it on the table at Will. Will’s jaw fell wide that he would do something so astonishingly rude. “I’d be obliged if you would settle the bill when you are done.” He ducked under the scalloped lip of the restaurant’s awning and sauntered off down the street.
Will swore and hung his head in his hands.
Behind closed eyes, his imagination took over. He couldn’t stop it. He envisioned the nightmare that might await him at the hotel. The pale crème walls would be blood splattered, and not by the fine mist of cast-off which comes from a knife. No. These would be thick, gushing, arterial sprays erupting from his body. His bowels would be hanging from the ceiling fan, twisting like gory party streamers. There would be a hole where his heart was once seated and something greasy and gauche would be replaced inside to insure the insult was complete. He knew too well what a betrayal to Hannibal cost. Yet even thinking on this scene, he was fairly sure that Hannibal knew now to expect the exact same sort of reckoning from him.
The sound of water refilling his glass drew him out of his morbid thoughts.
“Honey?” said the waitress. “I don’t know what the problem is, but there’s not much a nice, heavy dinner and a good blowjob can’t fix.” She winked at him.
“My husband’s idea of a big dinner is more complicated than most.”
“He’s a fussy eater?”
Will grasped the arms of his chair and laughed ironically. “You have no idea.” He paid his bill and headed back up the hill to the antique shop, praying the man hadn’t closed it yet.
Will unlocked the door to find their rented flat plunged in darkness. The heavy gold damask curtains had been drawn shut, blotting out the living room’s spectacular harbor view. Will slipped his shoes off and set the keys in the dish by the door. He put Hannibal’s money clip there as well.
From the bathroom he heard a slosh followed by the slow gurgling hiccups of the tub draining. Will took a seat in a chair with a direct line of sight to the bathroom door. Minutes dragged by as he waited. Hannibal emerged in a robe and glanced at the large bouquet of flowers laying across Will’s lap. He turned haughtily and dawdled, fussing with his clothes in the armoire and disappearing again to the far side of the bedroom. He must have been satisfied with the time he kept Will waiting, because he finally came into the parlor.
“I am sorry I upset you,” Will said. He held out the bouquet and Hannibal took it.
A small frown tugged at one corner of his mouth. “These are not from Astrid’s flower cart.”
Again Will needed to close his eyes and breathe deeply. “No. She was sold out and had already gone home. We’ll buy twice from her next time.” If his words placated Hannibal, he did not show it. He abandoned the bouquet on a walnut side table, still in its wrappings.
“Would you mind arranging them for us?”
Hannibal didn’t respond. He searched through the papers and notebooks on his desk, as if looking for something. As if Hannibal ever misplaced anything. The charade was ridiculous.
Apparently not locating whatever he was trying to ‘find’, Hannibal took the flowers to the sink in the kitchen. He slipped off the packaging and paused momentarily. Shaking his head, he set the small wrapped box tucked inside the bouquet on the counter and kept working, trimming the stems of the star lilies and violets at perfect angles.
“You aren’t going to open it?” Will asked.
“I have an idea of what is inside.”
“Oh for fuck’s sake. Drop the act and talk to me.”
Hannibal gritted his teeth. “I abhor it when you swear at me.”
“I know. But it does tend to get your attention. Do I have it now?”
“When do I get my apology? You’ve shut me out over something trivial and it is intolerable.”
“If the point of your display earlier was to avoid an expense that might alert the authorities as you so claimed, your actions now would suggest otherwise.”
Will got up and wended his arms around Hannibal’s torso and pressed his face between his sculpted shoulder blades and sighed. Hannibal continued snipping at the flowers in the sink. “My signatures on your accounts are simply a formality that you yourself created as a contingency plan.”
“A plan in the event that you uneventfully killed me in my prime, say, by tossing us off a ledge and drowning me in the ocean. I’d hoped at least the guilt of receiving my wealth would haunt you long after I was gone.”
Will rolled his eyes. “You thought no such thing. You did it because you’ve loved me since the day you met me. Once we are able to shift the funds around under your aliases, this is not going to be an issue. I’m only trying to keep the FBI, Interpol, and every bounty hunter watching the Most Wanted list off your trail and not get myself incarcerated as well for aiding and abetting the most stubborn husband that ever lived. Please, Hannibal. I would never deny you anything just to be petty.”
Hannibal remained stiff, but he set the scissors down, which boded well for how this tiff would play out. Will would be seriously pissed if he got stabbed in a kitchen again.
Hannibal was not so easily mollified. “You didn’t answer my question earlier. How did it make you feel when you rejected my request to purchase something?”
“How did it make you feel?” Will retorted, hating when he resorted to cheap psychology tricks.
He did not hesitate. “It was disorienting. Unfamiliar. I am rarely told ‘no’. You may have denied me yourself in the past, but you have been nothing but an indulgent partner since overcoming that particular hurdle. It helps that we are perhaps the wealthiest renegades in the world, so let us not squabble over vulgar financial matters. It is simply a strange and unexpected turn of events to now rely so greatly upon you.” Hannibal gave a ghost of a smile.
Will tried to decipher the human hieroglyph standing before him. “How would you prefer I handle this kind of thing in the future? he asked. “Assuming, of course, that you’re not going to paint this place red with my guts tonight.” Will left the counter for the large living room window and pushed the thick curtains aside.
“You were correct to intervene as you did.”
“Yes, but as usual, you still got exactly what you wanted.”
Hannibal placed the flowers in a vase and redid most of the greenery that came with it. He had chucked the baby’s breath into the trashcan the instant he saw it. “I hope you will continue to serve our best interests so diligently, Will.” He paused, thinking. “Most casual observers would assume that I was the ‘sugar daddy’ in this relationship.”
Will balked at his words. “Why…would…oh…”
“I take it you had not considered how our age difference might be perceived.”
Will laughed in embarrassment. “No, I hadn’t. I never think about it. And Hannibal?” He turned from the window and was wreathed in the violet, oranges, and pinks of the setting sun. “I never will.”
The radiant man had fully come into his own. The sight of his dear Will framed more beautifully than a Botticelli painting left him breathless. Will’s words left him stunned. He still could not predict him. “I am sorry for my behavior,” he said at last. Apologies were not common or easy for Hannibal.
Will nodded. “Now open your gift.” Hannibal went to the counter and pulled the black ribbon off the white box. He smiled when he saw what lay inside.
“There’s an inscription.”
He flipped the watch over.
For the man I will love until the end of time.
Hannibal’s eyes misted up. “I will cherish it always.” He hugged Will and kissed him hotly, tears now streaming down his face. “I love you, my darling.”
Will ran a hand over his cheek. “But if you don’t like it I can always get it changed to read “For my Sugar Daddy, forever.”
Hannibal burst out laughing and hid his face behind his hands, shaking his head. “My astonishing, rude boy. I think I’ll keep it as it is. Thank you.”
Finally they were smiling in their knowing, secretive way. They turned to watch the sun sink slowly into the sea, hand in hand. Only now, one of those wrists bore a very, very nice chronograph.