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The House That Dripped Blood

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"This isn't going to help you catch Hannibal," Will said.

"It's not about catching Hannibal," Alana said. "We're just talking. It's been a long time."

Will gave a sharp bark of laughter. "Just conversations. Not therapy." At least she hadn't put him in the therapy cage. Actually, the therapy cages seemed to be gone altogether, not that Will had been on a tour of the facility. He was in a cell much like Hannibal had been: white, sterile, with a Plexiglas front. Maybe it was the very cell that Hannibal had been in. It was quiet. A landscape painting of a running river hung on the back wall.

Alana smiled at Will. It was a sad smile. "Why don't you start by telling me about the house?"

"You've seen the pictures," Will said.

"Yes, but I want to hear about it from you. What was it like? What was your favorite part?"

Will stared past Alana's left ear. The house rose up behind her: white walls, tile floors, gauzy curtains that fluttered in the breeze of the always-open windows. The opposite of Hannibal's dark, cavernous spaces in Baltimore. Even his apartment in Florence had managed to be Gothic. But in the house in Buenos Aires, sunlight spilled onto every floor.

"There was no basement," Will said at last.

Alana blinked. "Why was that important to you?"

"I didn't want Hannibal to be able to hide things from me," Will answered. "I wanted everything out in the open."

-----

"Are you going to spend all day there?"

Will opens his eyes. Hannibal stands by the side of the pool, his hands in his pockets. He doesn't seem concerned; just curious. Will closes his eyes again. "Why not? It's not like I have anything else to do."

"You could make a meal."

"You make a meal. That's your department."

"I wasn't aware we had departments." Hannibal sounds amused now. "Do you think of me as your kept woman? How does it go: barefoot in the kitchen? But how are you keeping me?"

Will opens his eyes again. He squints toward the sky. He'll burn if he stays out here much longer, even with sunscreen on. "You tell me."

"I have no objection to being kept," Hannibal says. "Certainly not if it means I see you every day."

-----

"So Hannibal didn't leave the house?" Alana asked.

"Not by himself," said Will. "Only if I was with him. I think that was his way of getting me to leave too. I didn't like to, not at first."

"Why not?"

"It was easier."

Will's intention to say no more about it must have shown on his face or in his tone, because Alana only nodded. She crossed her legs; she'd taken to bringing a chair for their conversations. "What did you do, when you went out?"

"The usual things," said Will. "Sometimes it was errands. Buying groceries, things like that. Hannibal made me do most of the talking. He wanted me to practice my Spanish."

A smile flickered briefly across Alana's face. "Say something in Spanish."

"Vendeme tu vino mas caro."

"'Sell me your most expensive wine?'" Alana sounded incredulous.

Will shrugged. "Wasn't my money."

-----

"What's mine is yours," Hannibal says. "All of it."

Will stares down at the documents spread across the table. Checking accounts in four different countries, each under a different identity; four passports to go with those, of four different nationalities; deeds for homes on three different continents; the keys to a safe deposit box in a bank in Switzerland and another one in Cyprus.

There is also a passport for Will. Hannibal must have had it made years ago. It shares a photo with Will's long-ago FBI special investigator badge.

"William Beaufort?" Will frowns down at the passport, then up at Hannibal. The dark boat sways around them. Chiyoh's footsteps can be heard up on the deck. "Are you making fun of me?"

"I wouldn't dream of it," says Hannibal. He looks smitten. Lovestruck. It makes something in Will's chest writhe like it's dying. "You are a beautiful fortress."

"I thought you said there were no forts in the bone arena of my skull," Will says.

"And yet you are frequently impenetrable to me," says Hannibal. "You always surprise me."

-----

"Who did the cooking?" Alana asked.

"We cooked together," Will said. "I can cook, you know," he added, a little defensively. Unnecessary; Alana hadn't so much as arched an eyebrow.

"What did you cook?" Alana asked.

Will tilted his head back and closed his eyes. The interior of his cell was always the same temperature. In Buenos Aires it would be warm in the kitchen, even with the air conditioning on. The walls had been yellow. The window behind the sink looked out over the city. "All kinds of things. Burgers. Tacos. Steak. Fried fish. Sausage. Pulled pork."

Alana had one hand over her mouth, perhaps to hide a smile. "That doesn't sound like Hannibal."

"He let me choose the menu," Will said. "He called it indulging me. He was very inclined to indulge."

-----

"What would you like for dinner?"

Will never knows what he wants for dinner. He has to think about it. "What was that, that we made together that one time?" he asks. "The stir-fry. The one with the French fries in it."'

Hannibal blinks at him twice. Comprehension dawns with lifted eyebrows. "Lomo saltado."

"Yeah. Let's have that again."

Hannibal wants to slice and fry the French fries from scratch, but Will convinces him to use purchased fries. "It's all the same after it's been covered in soy sauce and beef juices," Will argues. Hannibal subsides with a great deal of grumbling and sends Will out into the sticky afternoon heat to order papas fritas from the café. Will returns to find Hannibal not in the kitchen, where the peppers and onions have been abandoned on the counter, but in the central courtyard, staring up at the sky with a melancholy turn to his lips.

"What's wrong?" Will asks.

"I thought of that meal often," Hannibal murmurs. "The lomo saltado."

Will takes Hannibal's hand and squeezes it. "I didn't like to think about it at all."

Hannibal turns his head and meets Will's eyes. "And now?"

"It was good," Will confesses. "It was delicious."

-----

"What did you like?" Alana asked. "About being with Hannibal."

Will took a deep breath in through his nose and let it out again. He squinted up at the skylight above his cell. He'd found that he could tell what time of day it was, roughly, by the angle of the sunlight. But he couldn't be sure of the season. "Hannibal's always allowed me to be fully myself," he said at last. "There are rules to living in a society; things that make you normal or not normal. You grow up, you get a job, maybe you go to college or you don't. You find a nice partner. You settle down. You start a family. You don't--fantasize about killing people, or if you do, you acknowledge that that's wrong. Sick. You go to therapy so that you can stop that and be healthy. Same for if you don't like sex, or you want to have sex with little kids, or you want to run naked through the woods and eat raw meat."

"Hannibal never cared about any of those things," Alana supplied.

Will jerked out a nod, his chin sinking down against his chest. "He didn't care about...hurting people," Will said. "Which is not the same as not caring about anything at all. He cared about art. He cared about music. He cared about food. He just didn't care about the things that he knew he was supposed to care about. He chose the things he was going to care about. And that was...liberating."

"And he cared about you," said Alana.

"Yes," said Will. "He cared about me."

"Have you noticed you're talking about Hannibal in the past tense?" Alana asked.

Will grinned at Alana, showing all his teeth. "You've been talking about him in the past tense all this time, Dr. Bloom. Trying to tell me something I don't already know?"

-----

"What if I want dogs?" Will asks.

"Then we will have dogs," says Hannibal.

"What if I want to hurt you?" Will asks.

"Then you will hurt me," says Hannibal. "Certainly I've never stopped you before," he adds.

Will falls silent. There is some kind of flowering tree outside the kitchen window of their shared home. He doesn't know the name of it, but the blossoms are sweet and fragrant. He keeps the kitchen window open because of that, even though it's inefficient with the air conditioning on. Hannibal does not complain.

"What are we doing here?" Will asks.

"Whatever we want," says Hannibal. He leans against the kitchen island. "The possibilities are endless. We are bound only by our imaginations."

"That's not true," says Will. "We're bound by physical reality, too. It's not like we can fly, for example. At least, not without an airplane."

"Isn't it?" says Hannibal. "Didn't we fly, when you took us off that cliff? Didn't we fly, just for an instant?"

-----

"You said Hannibal never left the house unless you were with him," Alana said. "But you were alone, when they came to arrest you. So where was Hannibal?"

Will stretched his legs out in front of him. He crossed his arms.

"Do you really think he would've escaped without you?" Alana asked. "Didn't you ever make any plans?"

"Not really." Will looked off to the side, as if he could see through the walls and corridors that separated him and the outdoors. He'd been getting less sun, lately, through the skylight. Winter, then. Tree branches dusted with snow; the stream edged with ice in the places where the water didn't move, or didn't move as quickly. "It was borrowed time. After the cliff. I knew it; he knew it. So what was the point of planning? We weren't supposed to be alive. So we just enjoyed the time we had, as much as we could, before it came to an end."

"Would you have escaped without him?" Alana asked.

"No."

"You're not angry that he left, then?" Alana asked. "Without you."

"He didn't leave without me," said Will. "He's always with me."

-----

"Has your curiosity been satisfied?" Will asks. "About whether we would survive separation."

They are in bed. Hannibal enjoys touching Will, and Will enjoys being touched; he particularly likes being held. And Hannibal is good at it: he envelops Will with his entire body, and Will feels secure and protected, rather than caged. Or perhaps he's grown to like being caged.

"It appears that we didn't," says Hannibal.

Will looks in the direction of the window. The curtains are drawn. He can't see Hannibal's face; Hannibal is holding him from behind. "We did for a while."

"Temporary," Hannibal agrees. "But I knew that you would come back. Did you really not think of me at all?"

"No," Will says, and then, "I don't know. Not consciously. But you were always there, just below the surface. You were around every corner. It took a long time to hear my thoughts in my own voice again, but even when they were my own thoughts, in my own voice, they were different than they had been before. Changed."

"I changed you." Hannibal's voice is warm. Proud.

"And I changed you," Will says, gently. "I'm changing you still, probably. Do you regret that?"

Hannibal's arms tighten around Will. "No. I am forgiven."

-----

"I didn't change him the way the Red Dragon would have changed him," said Will. "If that's what you're wondering."

Alana's throat moved in a convulsive swallow. She looked away. She crossed her arms across her chest. Will waited. He watched her fingers twitch against the sleeve of her jacket.

"Did you kill him?" Alana asked. She wouldn't meet his eyes.

"In a manner of speaking," said Will. "I intended to kill both of us. But neither of us died, at least at first. Hannibal was unconscious. But all his documents were there, on the boat, including the deed to a house in Buenos Aires. So I sailed us there. He never woke up, and one day, he stopped breathing."

Alana's eyes closed. Her eyelashes drew dark shadows across her cheeks. "And then you--"

"Yes." Will said it very gently.

"Did you feel better?"

"No."

Alana opened her eyes. She looked at Will. "Why did you tell me all that? The stories, from before. They weren't real; they never happened. You knew; you weren't pretending."

"All sorrows can be borne if you put them in a story," Will said.

"And now?" said Alana. "What happens now?"

"Everything that can happen happens. Has to end well, and it has to end badly. Has to happen every way it can," Will said. "This is the way it ends for me. Hannibal always belonged in prison, and now here I am."

---end---