Interlude Beneath The Botticelli
“Every crime of yours feels like one I am guilty of. Not just Abigail's murder, but every murder stretching backward and forward in time,” I said softly.
“Then what's left to do? Freeing yourself from me and me freeing myself from you, they're the same,” replied Hannibal, shifting his body closer to bring his arm into contact with mine. I felt his gaze as it explored the lines of my face, as his hand followed their path to ghost his fingertips along my temple. I flinched under the unexpected contact.
“What are you doing, Hannibal?,” I asked, the confusion in my eyes barely concealed.
“I am introducing another dynamic to our renewed relationship. Do you approve?,” he whispered against his cheek.
“I— I’m not sure…,” I replied hesitantly not yet making any move to resist Hannibal’s attentions, my eyes slipping shut involuntarily under Hannibal’s assault of my jawline.
Hannibal ran his hand down my side and reached into his pocket to pull out the knife. I was unable to resist. He put it into his own pocket without pausing the feathersoft lingering brush of lips against my neck.
“And there I was thinking you were just happy to see me. How foolish of me,” he murmured. He drew back and followed the path of my eyes.
“Beautiful, is it not?,” he asked, as he watched me intent in my attempts to ground myself by focussing on La Primavera before us.
“Breathtaking,” I whispered. I shook my head and drew myself along the seat and out of Hannibal’s immediate space. “Somewhat overwhelming, I’d venture to say.”
Not to be deterred, Hannibal followed me, moving along the bench to wrap his aura around my own. My empathy felt both our curiosities piqued by this turn of events.
“Tell me, Will. When you gaze upon Botticelli’s arguably finest work, what do you see?”
“It’s more what— I feel…”
“Oh? And what do you feel?,” Hannibal enquired, as a confident hand came to rest on the small of my back.
“You, as the wind, surrounding me, touching me relentlessly, ignoring my denial, my resistance to your cold allure.”
“Then you see yourself as Chloris? As I swoop down to free you from your self-defined trappings to make you mine?,” Hannibal asked, continuing his gentle caress while evidently drinking in the effect his touch was eliciting on my body.
I stood and stepped closer to the painting, trying to clear my mind of the seductive sound of Hannibal’s voice.
“Chloris had no choice but to surrender to Zephyrus. Defined as she is by the season she represents.”
Hannibal stood and stepped up behind me. "And you think you have a choice, Will?,” he asked, warm breath imprinting the words on the nape of my neck.
“Where you and I are concerned? I would like to think so.”
“What we like to think and what is by design are up for debate,” he replied, placing warm, strong hands on my waist. I didn’t resist Hannibal’s move as he turned me so as to face each other.
I looked at Hannibal’s lips with an expression of curiosity, a curiosity I could sense Hannibal would be more than content to satisfy, though not before I asked, “And you, Hannibal. What do you see?”
He tilted his head and brought his attention back to the canvas. “I had thought I had discovered all La Primavera had to offer until this moment.” He kept his hands on my waist as he drew us both back to the bench and continued. “I do tend to think of you as my Chloris, the endless supply of burgeoning fertility you lavish on my mind.”
He sat down and guided me into the place beside him. “Now, I also consider the gaze of Love as she watches Mercury, the first blossoming of attraction, our roles interchangeable between the two. We are moving beyond our neoplatonic sensibilities, past the canvas of what is before our eyes.”
Hannibal leaned his body into mine, gently pushing me down to lay on the bench, hands resting either side of my reclining head on the flat surface beneath. “That said, I would still wish to be your Zephyrus, should you choose to allow it…”
The first kiss was unexpectedly soft and gentle, as I felt myself easing into the move with a familiarity that belied the time we had been apart. Much like falling in love with the female form captured in a work by Botticelli, the accompanying stab of emotion as the blade of passion pierces the gut was not dissimilar to the feeling of Hannibal’s lips on mine. I watched the scene from above, my civilised sensibilities screaming at the wrongness of yielding to the act, but devotion devoured and melted away the time during which we had been apart. Who was I to fight instinct? I had evolved new sensibilities. I had strived to know him better before laying eyes on him again. In doing so, I had achieved something else. The knowledge that in the gravitational presence of Hannibal Lecter, Will Graham is more than mere mortal. He shines. He emanates a wisdom that extends beyond the experiences that have bookmarked his existence pre-Hannibal Lecter.
With small reluctance, Hannibal drew back, even as I attempted to maintain the surprisingly enrapturing contact. He sat up, pulling me close, placing warm, kiss-swollen lips against my temple as he spoke.
“Now's the hardest test: not letting rage and frustration, nor forgiveness, keep you from wanting this. Allowing us. Can you do that, Will?”
Why strive and agonise over a world that blindly refuses to agonise over itself? Death is inevitable. And now, as I leave the Uffizi Gallery by Hannibal’s side, I know the true power of life over death. Walking beside Death himself - knowing where he is always - has its advantages.
He will not kill me. Unless of course I ask him to do so.
My shallow, husked breath supplied agreement enough. For now. “I can try, Hannibal.”
Hannibal rose slowly. “Then try we shall. After you, Will,” he said, raising an outstretched open palm towards the entrance. I do not know where he is taking me, but the singular expression he casts my way tells me that he is intent on finishing what he started beneath La Primavera. I was about to discover what it meant to be devoured by Hannibal Lecter. But unlike his countless prior main courses, while I may grace the centre of his dinner table, I will be Aperitivo, Digestivo and everything in between. I will leave the table sated, as will the Wendigo that haunts my nightmares and fantasies…