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The Pines

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Will pushes up to lean against the headboard, encouraging Hannibal to scoot back as well. “I’ve noticed: Even when you’re gentle you aren’t gentle.”

“Are you referring to…” instead of finding crude words, he kisses Will’s shoulder, not breaking eye contact.

“No, no,” Will chuckles with a big smile that’s becoming more and more an identifying trait of his. “I guess I expected knowing you in the private world without some shared professional obsession with… each other… I thought you’d be less, I don’t know –”

“Cold? Distant?” Hannibal finishes. He’s been accused of such.

Intense.” He sees the other man’s face scrunch, trying to gather why that would be a bad thing. “It’s not destructive to me, just – disarming .” 

“And you feel the need to be armed around me.”

“Of course I do!” He laughs loudly, knowing Hannibal would find it amusing. “I just feel… you never put your strength down.”

“I think what you’re describing is our both being men,” Hannibal pokes at Will’s lack of coordination in relationships and sexuality.

“Oh, please, you know your severity isn’t from something so plain as gender. You have to know your charm has nothing to do with any feeling of familiarity you offer people.”

“I’m an attractive man. I know this. I’m seen as exotic almost everywhere I go. I know this,” Hannibal states this matter-of-factly, seeing no point in skirting around the classic ingredients for high society success.

“But you’re not exotic because of your nationality alone. I doubt many people have met someone so obviously hot-blooded below such a - a reptilian chill. Your ‘charm’, Hannibal, is because, y’know… you invite questions.” Will smiles again feeling actual joy from the opportunity for psychoanalysis again (without being the subject of it).

“Not many people have worked so hard to break through my alleged mysteries, Will. I’m afraid you may be projecting your initial impressions of me onto the world.”

“Maybe I was just the best at it. I knew how to meet you.” Looking at Hannibal’s less whimsical expression, he confirms, “you don’t like that you’re knowable.”

“For people like you and I – we will always be meeting each other. I may never stop meeting you.”

“That might be too esoteric for me.”

“No it isn’t.” Hannibal leans an elbow on his blanketed knee to turn to look directly at Will. “As long as we live, we will keep meeting new forms of ourselves. And of each other.”

Will leans in and hovers his lips in front of the older man’s. “You just don’t like that you’re knowable.” He kisses him with a small peck before shuffling to the kitchen to make breakfast.




 

“Will. I have to ask.” Hannibal waits for Will to look up from his oatmeal and to realize this was a put-your-spoon-down question. “You planned for us both to die. Did you have any imagination of what would happen if we both survived?”

It isn’t the first time they’ve discussed that night, but Will still feels sheepish. “I… didn’t think it was possible.”

“You began that evening together saying – in so many words – that you’d die if it meant I was dead.”

“I had to.” Will picks up his spoon again but just to hold it in his fist. “Die, I mean. I knew what I was becoming and I had to kill it.”

“And did you?”

“Did I die?”

“Did you kill the part of you that you couldn’t be – wouldn’t be – and surrender to the rest?” Hannibal doesn’t hide his awareness of what part actually died in the ocean.

“Nothing so poetic on purpose. I assumed you’d die, Hannibal. But if you lived , which you have a knack for, and it was me instead, I wouldn’t want to make you live without me.”

“Tabling your veiled narcissism for the moment,” Hannibal affectionately and gratefully smiles, “I want to know. Is it dead?”

“I did kill the small part of me that wasn’t convinced I wanted this – if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“No, that’s what you’re worried about,” Hannibal watches Will resume eating and continues, seeming to interrupt himself, ”I like to think neuroplasticity works for the soul as well. Like a lobotomy. You take the bit out that hurts you and then the lost parts’ necessary workings soon twitch alive again in the remaining. In this case, it’s not your motor function, but your peace. You feel you’ve extracted all your chances for peace in a compromise for your thrill. But the peace will fill in again. In the negative space.”

“I feel peace here.”

“You feel bored here.” Hannibal resumes breakfast, folding the oatmeal over to find the bites left warm. “Not the same thing.”

“You know, you prod so much at me, doctor, I think it’s you that’s unconvinced.”

“I just want you to be happy.” Hannibal says this openly, shedding any pretense of psychiatric interest. “With me.”

Will usually likes to see the other man succumb to mundane human life, when he shows an obvious psychology developed somewhere between his primal hunger and his intellectual musings. This insecurity, however, Will finds disturbing. Likely because it asks him to be just as vulnerable. He scoots his hand forward to reach out to Hannibal. “I am everything with you.”

Hannibal, feeling overwhelming relief, responds largely, “I am everything with you as well.”

 

*

 

As they clean their bowls in the two compartment kitchen sink, Hannibal kisses the back of Will’s bent neck and Will turns to face him. 

Hannibal bluntly pokes, “do you feel punished by the universe for loving me?”

“When did I say that I loved you?”

“Do you deny it?” Hannibal is not, in any way, unsure.

Will responds first with a large laugh, also not quite embarrassed. It would be a little late to play coy. “I don’t feel punished.”

“You’re excited by the fact that I still could hurt you.”

Intrigued might be a better word.”

“Well instead of promising you that I wouldn’t, that I feel no need to, I will leave it as another one of my mysteries. In an effort to keep you curious and waiting around.” He kisses him, gently but not gently.

Instead of asking Hannibal if he feels punished by his love for him, a love he’s already certain of, Will asks, “and are you still inconvenienced by loving me?”

Hannibal remains silent.

“Another mystery you’ll leave for me, I guess,” he smiles.

“Not inconvenienced.” He towels off the dripping water from the bowl and spoon, sets it on the rack, grabs his coat, and leaves wordlessly through the side door.

 

“But he is who he is.” Will mumbles, half annoyed, half affectionately, and sets his bowl beside the other.

He watches through the window. Hannibal only has the option of heading left into town or heading right toward the lake. He needs to walk to town pretty frequently for food and to meet with their utility providers. Despite feeling comfortable in their escape, it’s safer to stay without a phone or an IP address. He probably also feels an itch to charm people, Will thinks. Today, however, Hannibal strides down the hill toward the lake shore.





***

 

Within twenty minutes, Hannibal returns through the door with Oskar, both laughing about something.

“Hello, Sam!” Oskar is thrilled to be invited back so soon. “Tomas was explaining righteousness. All I did was ask him about his hunting.” He looks to Sam, who he expects is used to his housemate’s not always tone-appropriate philosophizing.

“It’s all very convenient in the aerial view of our small humanities. Whatever satisfies the soul is truth.

“Walt Whitman,” Oskar remarks proudly, not often getting a chance to show off his worldliness.

Hannibal closes the door behind them. “I find that if you dwell on finding a moral compass in an entirely relative, invented, tiny world, then you will waste yourself.” 

Will joins in the conversation now, pulling three beer bottles out of the fridge and setting them on the kitchen table. “Our existence, Tomas, depends entirely on tunnel vision to stay moving forward… it is hard to stay so blind to the bigger picture.”

Oskar sits first and the other two men join him on either side, careful to not make him a third wheel. If the Finns have a discomfort with the concept.

“Just as Emerson tells us. We cannot be too squeamish with our actions. Or we’d never get anything done,” Hannibal adds with a tight-lipped smile and slides a bottle to Oskar.

Oskar eagerly picks up the bottle opener that’s already on the table.

 

 

“Samuel and I were just saying that we’d love to have you some time soon for dinner.”

Will looks over at Hannibal with a warning gaze, but doesn’t miss a beat. “Tomas is a fantastic cook.”

“But we have been skewing pescatarian lately and I’ve yet to become accustomed to working around those flavors,” Hannibal sends back without looking at Will. “Later this week?”

“Well, what did you gentlemen eat before you embraced life by the water?” Oskar smiles flatly.

Will thinks that is an odd question; it’s not inappropriate or overly private, just too boring a conversational pivot, even for someone as ordinary as Oskar. “Tomas can prepare anything and make it elegant,” he responds. 

“And what is your most unconventional dish?”

Hannibal looks over to Will and looks back at their guest.  “Each one is a little different. It’s more that I enjoy the unordinary things the world has to offer.”

“Why come to Finland? We don’t really celebrate the unordinary.”

Will isn’t completely sure why his heart starts pounding.

Hannibal once again fields the question. “Just looking for a change, I suppose. Why did you move back here?”

Oskar clears his throat, shifting slightly in his chair. “What makes you think I’ve left and come back?”

“You have an interest in a lot of American culture.” Hannibal sets down his drink. “You’ve watched a lot of American news.”

Oskar rises to his feet. Will rushes to block the side door and Hannibal moves to get close to Oskar’s side, preparing for any sudden movements.

 

“Not much happens here. Of course we watch Western media. I recognized you immediately.” He pulls out a gun to point at Will. “Couldn’t recall your real names but this one’s face,” he points his gun at Hannibal like an accusing finger, “stays in the mind, wouldn’t you say?”

Hannibal directs a cartoonishly satisfied grin toward Will, nearly giggling while he raises his eyebrows in an I told you so.

Will rolls his eyes. “So what is your plan here, Oskar? To kill us and walk away?”

Oskar doesn’t hesitate. “Yes.” It wouldn’t be his first time.

 

When Oskar spins to look at Hannibal, looking amused and self-assured, Will walks behind him and snaps the neighbor’s neck.

The man crumples to the ground, eyes still open.

In a move of cop instinct, Will grabs the gun and places it on the kitchen counter as though there was any chance that Oskar would spring to life and shoot them both. He rejoins the other man, feeling silly now as he takes in just how utterly dead their guest is.

Hannibal claps his hands together and walks to a drawer beside the stove. He pulls out an oyster shucking blade and a hunting knife. He smiles, balancing calm and thrill. “I will show you how I always begin.”