The rhythmic crunch of snow underfoot and the swaying movement that matched it gently lulled Will awake.
Awake was generous for a state of consciousness that had one foot in the blissful darkness of drug induced sleep and the other preoccupied with pain. Will hadn't been in a completely sober mind for days now. It was rapidly corroding the barrier between real and fake, burning large holes in what was already a thin sheet.
Through blurry, half-lidded eyes he saw a ghostly moon staring back at him. It wasn't the only one. Hannibal's inscrutable blank expression changed slightly on meeting Will's eyes, it didn't become relief or concern or any emotion considered predictable. It was more knowing and curious at the same time. The expression Hannibal favoured when staring at Will.
"You won't be able to move." The voice wrapped around vowels in the familiarly foreign way Will had so often hallucinated.
A flash of panic ran through him as he found Hannibal's words to be true. Not one of his limbs would respond, his fingertips refused to even twitch. He wondered if this was a nightmare, often his nightmares stole control of his body.
"I estimate it will last at least an hour or so."
The words had no impact. An hour to Will was not a constant.
The soft crunch of snow under Hannibal's limping gait remained the most constant sound in the night, Will tried to use it to anchor himself to consciousness.
The cold was so very still, caressing his face, hands and the gaps in between his clothing. Will could see Hannibal's breath creating whorls of frigid air. He was very aware of his own body being cradled by Hannibal's arms, the heat of Hannibal's forearms underneath his back and knees was perceptible even through his jacket and pants. He welcomed it as somewhat of a defence against the cold. His arm was completely extended in front of him, bouncing with every step Hannibal took.
"I'm sure you're aware of the Goddess Artemis, Will. " Hannibal's voice startled him and he realised he had been drifting away again.
"Goddess of the Moon, she is also famed for her prowess in hunting."
If Will could shiver he would've, he couldn't remember the last time he was warm.
"Painters, sculptures and artists alike try to capture her beauty but, she is as evasive as the moon itself. They often fail because of one core problem, to know the beauty of Artemis, one must understand and appreciate the beauty of the hunt."
If he could reply, Will would've asked if the beauty was in being the predator or the prey.
"Artemis is also sometimes quoted as Goddess of animals. She often favours dogs."
Will wanted to point out that Artemis was generally more associated with life than death when it came to humans.
"But more frequently than a dog, Artemis is depicted with another animal. I believe you already know what that is. "
His eyes closed of their own accord, betraying him like the rest of his body.
The same crunching sound roused him once more. He and Hannibal had been cast into purgatory, cursed into this endless trek through the snow. Him unable to move or speak and Hannibal trapped with only the burden of Will and the endless path. Perhaps it was less purgatory and more the ninth circle of hell, the frozen endless winter, and of course, hell's most famous inhabitant.
He was more lucid this time. Aware enough to more deeply feel the myriad of injuries on his body. The aching scar on his forehead a constant reminder of who it was that carried him.
All he could do still was open his eyes. This time he saw more familiar woods. Woods he had chased through in his dreams and reality, many, many times.
Hannibal had barely changed. Only showing the smallest signs of fatigue and pain. Questions flooded through his head as his weak mental facilities tried to put some sort of logic and sequence into the overwhelming memories and feelings that swamped him.
Was this a rescue or a kidnapping?
He supposed his confusion must have been evident in his eyes as Hannibal addressed his unspoken questions.
"We escaped Mason Verger and the Muskrat farm."
The sound of hundreds of pigs, the feeling of a scalpel along his jawline and the metallic tang of blood in his mouth all came rushing back as phantom impressions. Another, different, circle of hell.
He stared resolutely at the moon until he no longer felt like he was suffocating underwater.
"You were drugged during the procedure Mason intended. Hence your current immobility."
Will would've liked to highlight Hannibal's own role in drugging him before their arrival at Muskrat farm.
"I'm sure you have many things you wish to comment, and though I have better insight than most, I cannot guess what is in your mind at present."
Will saw that this particularly bothered Hannibal. It was not often that he was completely shut out of Will's mind and faced only with a brick wall. Will was usually much more prismatic, refracting his own logic, thoughts and feelings into carefully selected words.
Even now he instinctually yearned to talk to Hannibal. His brain piecing together phrases ready to roll off his tongue and be dissected under the keen knife of the psychiatrist.
It seemed frustration was mutual.
He wondered if Hannibal had talked to him while he was unconscious. If Hannibal had been periodically talking whether Will was really a listening audience or not.
He wanted to recapture whatever moments he missed. Bottle them and store them for future viewing.
Instead he stared at Hannibal, soaking in the silence.
Hannibal stumbled and Will was violently jolted. His whole body burned with white hot, excruciating pain and his eyes watered, but even then no noise of pain escaped his mouth. A traitorous tear leaked slowly along his cheek, leaving a cold wet trail all the way to his ear.
"My deepest apologies."
Will wasn't sure if Hannibal had seen the tear of was apologising regardless but either way, he could sense the authenticity.
He floated between the moon and darkness. Sometimes hearing, or imagining Hannibal's voice, softened to low hums by the snow beneath them.
At one point he had opened his eyes and desperately tried to throw himself out of the arms that carried him. Of course, he did not move an inch.
His panic had been sparked by the silhouette of a non-human face above him. Long antlers stretched above it's head where they then dipped into the moon. The stunning and terrifying outline transfixed Will for a precious few seconds before he began his pitiful attempt to flee.
Like in all his nightmare featuring antlers, he would fail to escape and would be punished for it. He felt his own pair painfully burst through his skull, ripping through flesh as they did so. He didn't need to see or feel them to know they were there.
He wondered if his subconscious felt the presence of his home because he could see it this time, there on the hill, within reach.
Hallucination? maybe, probably. Welcome nonetheless.
"We will have to say farewell to Artemis tonight, though glorious she has been."
He was slightly disappointed when Hannibal made no further comment, he silently urged him to continue. Then immediately berated himself for it.
He would not idolise Hannibal, would not bask in the glow of every word given to him. Idolisation was a gateway to dependency, infatuation, obsession. He was far too late really, idolisation had long come and gone.
Somehow he was being lowered onto something. A long from the snow now. The Hannibal of his subconscious was laughing, are you losing time Will?
Opening his eyes was a challenge but he needed to see. His room. No dogs of course, his heart had dropped slightly at the lack of Winston and the others, his bed was entirely too large without them.
The warmth from before was missing. Will saw Hannibal move silently into his field of vision.
"Forgiveness and regret is not in my nature, but, you tend to be an exception in almost all areas, including this one. One day I hope we might see Florence again with new eyes."
He was not sure which thoughts were his and which were Hannibal given his brains inability to properly tag each emotion as it ran through him. Gratitude, rage and yearning all fought for his attention.
Hannibal had somehow managed to find his old and worn blanket and felt it softly land on top of his shoulders, and feet. At what point his eyes had closed again he was unsure. Some modicum of stolen warmth was returned to him, even as he was keenly aware of aching cuts, abrasions and bruises. Something in him released with it.
The footsteps away from his bed left a hole.