In the country of Italy the sun sets and the night centers on the city of Florence. Almost all the town is cloaked in darkness however it is anything but quiet. In a grand building there is a party being held. A masked soiree with a sea of individuals gathering to enjoy music, dancing, gourmet cooking, and above all the mysteries.
Faces, faces everywhere.
No mask alike, no names being exchanged out loud.
Among those strangers arriving, a couple enters who hold the same degree of elegance as those around them. A well-dressed man and beautiful woman at his side. The man wears a skull-shaped mask, the cover exposing only his visibly pink thin lips and broad chin. It’s sculpted perfectly on his face yet brings an uneasy feeling onto those who gaze at him. The skull mask and his black chic suit bring the illusion that death itself has arrived.
However only to those unlucky souls who get invited to his dinner table will truly know their doubts were true. If only to find out too late.
The blonde woman on his arm wears a stunning red dress that outlines her body nicely. The color brings out her fair, pale skin and sunshine hair. Although her mask was not as eerie as her partner’s it too was a peculiar choice. The disguise was half a white bird hiding only the left side of her face, the body split down the middle with a single wing outstretched.
The two were quite the pair, the gold rings on their fingers indicating they were most likely married. They carried a covered dish composed of vegetables and a selection of meat no one could quite place. Regardless it was devoured in minutes.
They mingled with other masked guests, many finding that they were friendly and intriguing. The man, who had a bit of an accent, seemed to be very fond of welcoming others over to cook for them. Nonetheless no one could find the words to turn his invitation down.
You could say he was as charming as the devil.
Hannibal and Bedelia were invited by one of Hannibal’s colleagues at the museum, to a nearby masquerade ball. It was one of the biggest events amid the citizens and Hannibal thought it rude to not attend.
They picked their own specific masks for the occasion and Hannibal even brought it upon himself to whip up an entrée for the refreshment table.
At the party many had approached them with all sorts of comments and questions. Some praised Hannibal for his delectable antipasto, which he was very pleased about, but the common questions they asked were concerning their mask choices.
Hannibal simply replied that he believed it appropriate. Bedelia answered that it signified her desire to be free, from what she was shackled to no one knew or asked. When they inquired why only half a mask she actually explained, “I left the side of my face towards my husband uncovered to show I do not have to hide from him. There are no secrets between us…” she spoke low, her voice almost whimsical. Needless to say her answers were so vague they confused everyone even more. Her husband merely added that it would’ve been a crime to cover all of her beautiful face.
When a song the couple enjoyed played they left the crowd to dance. Many watched in awe at their synchronized movements.
As they danced Bedelia took some glances around the hall then asked “So you were able to recognize some people?”
Hannibal kept his eyes on her, “I was able to pinpoint a few. Although it was rather difficult considering all the wretched excessive amounts of cologne and perfume they wore.”
Suddenly there was a massive shift in the man. No one but Bedelia could have noticed it. The man didn’t miss a step in his movements, nor did his pulse quicken or exposed facial features alter. Yet there was a definite change.
Bedelia took one glance across the room then turned her face back to him, she sighed “Speaking of atrocious cologne…I believe one you are very familiar with has just arrived.”
Hannibal smelled him before Bedelia did.
As they continued to spin to the melody they witnessed a man enter alone through the large doors. The slim man’s dark attire made him appear as if he had been born from the shadows. Despite him wearing an extravagant charcoal grey suit and black undershirt the man still evoked some ruggedness. His murky curls were slightly disheveled and his trimmed beard looked rushed. The man’s mask interestingly had the color and beak of a crow. Like Hannibal’s the mask concealed the upper half of his face.
The man took in the buildings splendor then proceeded to examining the crowd; he slowly started from one side. His silvery-blue eyes landed right on the dancing pair.
Bedelia concentrated back on her dancing; however Hannibal refused to break eye contact with the new guest. She couldn’t help being amused “You’re going to lose your footing if you continue to flirt with him like that.”
The masked skull-man smiled at her comment but also to the crow-man.
Seemed his past was also making an appearance tonight.
Will had planned to be on his way to his next destination, an old friend’s home in Lithuania, after his adventure in the labyrinth beneath the Norman chapel.
He was sure of Hannibal’s presence roaming somewhere in the shadows.
In spite of that unsuccessful encounter, Will decided to take a chance at an event he heard from some of the locals. Apparently it was going to be quite the elegant affair that many stores and offices, including traveling agencies, were going to shut their doors early to participate in.
Even if his means of leaving were disrupted, the empath wasn’t the type to appear at public parties. Especially one where he had to rent a suit for in order to get in. Instead he would have enjoyed relaxing at his hotel room while the rest of the world explored the night. However…after learning it was a masquerade party he had a feeling a certain someone might show up.
After all the good doctor was known to love parties, classical music, and unwary strangers.
Will was absolutely certain Dr.Lecter would not miss out on an event where he could walk around freely. His attempt to find Hannibal before led only to empty pathways, but he knew this time would be different. Because he found him immediately upon walking onto the dance-floor.
Wearing a skull mask.
Dancing with a blonde woman.
And looking straight at him.
When the music ended, Hannibal and Bedelia went back to chatting with the other masqueraders. Bedelia was careful to keep her exposed face hidden while Hannibal still frequently stared over at Will who was equally compelled.
Through the twirling couples continuing to dance, the two men would keep their eyes locked together across the space.
Will didn’t bother to socialize with anyone else but did partake in some alcoholic beverages. Soon Bedelia vanished from sight however not before leading Hannibal over to the terrace and squeezing his arm as she whispered “The obsession continues…Be sure not to enjoy yourself too much.”
Hannibal smirked and watched from the corner of his eye as she left. Before he stepped through the tall glass doors, which led to a small balcony overlooking an impressive garden, he grabbed two glasses of wine.
Will received the message and quickly made his way over when another song began to play. He made sure some guests saw him go outside before he too stepped out into the night air.
He needed witnesses should anything happen. This was the same Hannibal who had left a smile on his stomach after all.
Tonight the sky was moonless.
The countless windows provided some illumination but not enough to engulf the balcony. The door gave a soft click when Will shut it behind him. He slowly approached the other man who didn’t do much but swirl his wine in his cup.
After holding the glass to his nose to take its scent he finally took a sip. It was a gesture very familiar to Will.
There on top of the stone rail awaited him the second glass of wine. Will did not look at the skull-man but was greeted with a “Hello.” from him.
“Hello…” Will answered back.
Hannibal took another drink, “This is an excellent wine. A rare treat to find even at a gathering of this sort, wouldn’t you agree?” he turned to Will.
Who in turn picked up his cup and drowned a big gulp; Hannibal watched as the liquid moved down his throat, he had to hold back a grimace since he disliked when people guzzled down wine as if it was beer. He let it slide nonetheless since it was Will.
The crow-man then mimicked slowly circling the red wine around in its glass, “I’ll admit it has been some time since I’ve…partaken in wine.”
Hannibal returned to gazing over the garden, “That is a shame. One should never deprive themselves of the pleasure of wine. When paired with a fine prepared meal…the combination is a dance on the tongue.”
Will sneered, “While I agree with you they are a…deadly combination, I unfortunately won’t be dining with anyone other than the one I came searching for. I’m sure he would grace me at his table.”
Lowering his glass, Hannibal inquired “May I ask who it is you are seeking? A family member? Or a loved friend?”
“A murderer. Who was also my psychiatrist.” Will bluntly said.
Hannibal was amused, “So many times we are deceived by someone close to us.” Will listened, “We give them the opportunity to see us as we really are…but also the ability to hurt us.”
A few seconds slipped by before Will said “You sound as if you know from experience…”
Hannibal licked his lips “I’ll merely say I have some memories I wish I could dismiss.”
After a longer pause Will tried to keep his voice even, “It’s hard to shake off someone that’s already under your skin.” He took a sip of wine this time.
“I agree.” The man lowered his glass down onto the rail, “Especially when they are so far inside your heart.”
Will scoffed “Somehow I doubt the man I’m looking for has such a thing anymore.”
“I must disagree.” Will looked at the skull-man, “I’ll ask you to excuse my assumptions but I believe everyone at one point has one in the beginning. True that man’s heart may have died with his sister…perhaps by some miracle it began to be rekindled. Lit by the possibility of a worthy friendship…and a new family.” Hannibal’s voice resonated in Will’s ears, “In the end only to be broken by that same miracle.”
Will grew quiet, at a loss for words. Then he found his voice again “Earlier today…I received a broken heart…in a chapel with a skull engraved in the floor. It was made out of a dead body.”
“That’s quite a gift.” Hannibal commented.
Continuing on, “It was.” Will began to tease the skull-man “It was beautiful in a way…but clearly displayed a declaration not many would see.”
Hannibal was genuinely interested “What proclamation would that be?”
Will turned to look into those eyes he knew all too well, “’Catch me if you can.’”
Taking in a full look at the man in front of him, Hannibal asked “Will you accept his invitation?” slowly he raised a hand to place it on Will’s shoulder. When the slender man didn’t recoil from his touch, Hannibal then let his hand travel up to Will’s neck then ear.
The warmth of Hannibal’s large hand was not lost on him, he answered as smugly as he could “Doesn’t my being here answer that question?”
Hannibal’s lips displayed a smile for a moment when he responded “Yes. It certainly does.” Then it vanished from Will’s sight when the older gentleman brought his other free hand to lift the crow mask up, Hannibal’s hand covered Will’s eyes so he didn’t have the chance to see his face.
At the sudden loss of sight, Will’s instinct was to shrink away but he thought against it and stayed still. Curiosity winning against his reasoning.
Hannibal could feel Will’s soft eyelashes twitching against the crevasses of his fingers. As much as Hannibal imagined this moment happening differently he thought it appropriate now that their eyes couldn’t meet. It could’ve caused Hannibal to falter…and this was not the time to hesitate. The man cleared his mind and gave into his human instinct. The need to touch another being, especially this one, was unbearable.
Time ceased to run and seemed to slow down during the seconds Will felt Hannibal’s hot breath inch closer to his face. The smell of expensive cologne filled his nostrils and caused his heart to change pace.
So carefully and lightly, Hannibal pressed his lips to Will’s.
The party dissolved behind them, the music tuned out, their bodies growing warmer.
Will took in a sharp breath, his breathing becoming irregular at their close proximity. Their lips were connected temporarily then Hannibal went to just hovering his mouth over Will. The pause made Will wonder if he was supposed to do something, if the skull-man was waiting to see his reaction. Classic Hannibal, always winding up his gears to see how he would go.
Their mouths stayed close together, breaths of air hitting the other’s face. Hannibal’s resolve to restrain himself was wavering the more time elapsed. He wanted so much to remove his hand that was restricting Will’s vision so he could read them more clearly, yet he knew he shouldn’t.
Will was still struggling inside his mind as to what he should do. The choices as to what he must do opposed what he wanted to do. His gun had been left back at the hotel but his knife was still placed carefully at his hip. Unbelievably though his hand wasn’t moving to retrieve it. His body was aching to do something else.
So he forced everything away and gave into the dark urge he had been withholding in the deepest depths of himself.
Will suddenly reached out and wrapped his hands around Hannibal’s neck as he pressed his lips firmly to his former psychiatrist’s.
Hannibal welcomed Will’s assertive mouth; their hot interchange of breath deepened. Leaving his occupied hand in place, Hannibal shifted his other hand into Will’s dark curls. Their bodies pulled closer together and although he couldn’t see, Will could tell Hannibal had removed his mask. He knew though that confirming the man’s face wouldn’t change what was happening right then.
Their mouths were passionate, teeth colliding every so often because of the aggression they couldn’t detain any further. Will’s hands ravished Hannibal’s smooth hair while the other single hand tangled his own soft locks.
The exchange allowed them to finally taste each other.
Will’s head was beginning to get dizzy with the overwhelming heat their mouths created. Hannibal’s refined palette could detect the wine still lingering on Will’s tongue yet also a natural sweetness he always predicted Will would possess. He questioned if that was how the rest of Will tasted.
The two men seemed to consume one another, both fought for dominance, and neither would ever admit it aloud but they craved to explore the other’s body more.
Another song concluded behind them although Will couldn’t hear anything other than his thrumming heartbeat ringing in his ears. Hannibal reluctantly separated the lip lock, severely wanting to keep kissing this man he loved so deeply. Nevertheless he knew he couldn’t now that his mind returned to working order. Closing his eyes one final time to savor the last bit of Will’s taste residing in him.
It was better than any wine he had ever appreciated before.
Will was trying to regulate his airflow, confused as to why their lips parted but overall shocked how intimate he had allowed himself to be. He tried to concentrate when Hannibal spoke, his voice raspy “I’d recommend that you don’t drink any more tonight…” their mouths hovered extremely close again, “You might do or should I say not do…something you regret.”
Not knowing exactly what he was referring to, Will regrettably didn’t have the chance to ask when Hannibal swiftly dropped his hand and lastly said nonchalantly “Goodnight, Will.” As he headed towards the doors.
Will’s eyes snapped open and he flung his mask off as he chased after him, he called his name “Hannibal!”
The fleeing man didn’t react and successfully re-entered the masque party scene.
“Hannibal!” Will shouted again to no avail.
The guests danced now to a fast paced song and the noise drowned out all other sounds. Will frantically searched in all directions for Hannibal and the blonde female companion. He walked onto the middle of the dance-floor, some couples colliding with him but refusing to slow down. Will’s eyes darted to the entrance and he caught sight of the duo escaping.
“HANNIBAL!” Will screamed.
Neither of the two acknowledged having heard the empath, they disappeared into the night, Will’s final scream lost in the melody.
Once again Will had encountered Il Mostro, the monster of Florence, the Chesapeake Ripper, Hannibal the Cannibal…but failed to capture him.
While he had been fortunate to not have been left with another scar, Hannibal still bestowed him something he couldn’t forget. His mind continued to be enraptured by the good doctor.
Will Graham had danced with the monster, kissed him, and ended up doing exactly what the beast had wanted him to do, which was chase after him.
And Will would pursue him until one of them was caught. Or killed.
Whichever came first.
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