VI. Will III
Will knew something was… different… even before he opened his eyes. He took stock of the world around him. He was lying on his right side, his face pressed against his pillow which had an exorbitantly high-thread count. The sun hadn’t risen, his eyes weren’t pressing against the filtered light of morning. Not even the natural shine of the night sky seemed to shiver through, so it was past moonset in his December dreamland. The lack of artificial light also meant that Hannibal hadn’t turned on a bedside lamp.
Taking a deep breath, Will felt his ribcage expand against his silk sleeping shirt that he wore in deference to Klara’s belief he looked “belle en bleu.” She had, naturally, chosen the exact blue out of a catalogue that Hannibal provided her with one evening when Will was working in his study, door closed to young, impressionable minds due to the gruesome nature of the photographs he had strewn over the floor.
He couldn’t quite believe that he had a small study to call his own, one Hannibal had picked out for him and surprised him with one month into their cohabitation, bookshelves emptied and walls cleared for whatever art he chose to steal from around the rest of the house or brought from his home in Virginia … not that Will owned anything that could remotely be termed as ‘art’ outside of the odd picture postcard.
But still … something in the night was … different to Will, but he couldn’t quite place it in his half-wakefulness.
Against his ribs an arm was draped heavily, clearly still sleep-laden. Hannibal was still in bed with him, then. He hadn’t awakened with the difference as Will had.
Another deep breath and then Will realized he was syncing to Hannibal’s natural rhythm of inhale and exhale. He couldn’t hear the small feet of Klara or the soft pad of Gabija’s accompanying paw-steps. He couldn’t hear his phone vibrating, so it must be something else, something outside their home.
Then Will heard it, the gentle slam of a car door, and he sat up abruptly as he felt a shiver of dread run through him for reasons he couldn’t quite fathom. He immediately reached for the lamp and, a split moment later, Hannibal’s hand gripped him tightly as he woke up as well.
The clock read that it was just after four in the morning.
There was no reason for anybody to be here in the neighborhood, close enough to their home to wake Will.
“Mylimasis?” Hannibal asked, his voice slightly rough with sleep.
Looking over his shoulder, Will took in the sight of his lover. His blond hair, tainted with grey, was tousled in sleep, his face soft, but his red eyes sharper than ever.
“Someone’s here,” he murmured, soft, quiet. “And my shotgun’s still in Virginia.”
A flicker breathed into Hannibal’s eyes that Will couldn’t quite identify. Now, however, was not the time. “Check on Klara, Will,” he requested, getting out of bed smoothly like some sort of jungle cat. Hannibal ignored his slippers and his robe, which showed exactly how serious he believed the situation.
It took Will less than a breath to follow him out of bed, climbing over to the other side and rushing quietly out of the room after Hannibal, turning down the hall instead of toward the stairs. Klara was just next door from them, and Will peaked in to immediately spot Gabija sleeping, curled up on the pillow beside the child.
Klara was clutching tightly to her favorite ragdoll, obviously handmade and done up like a Japanese geisha, if Will was any judge. Will looked at her for a moment, soothed by her gentle breaths, before cataloguing that the windows were locked and everything seemed to be in order. He eased the door partially closed before going back into the hall and down the stairs into the foyer.
He found Hannibal in the living room, lights off and close to the door, staring out the window at what appeared to be the sleeping neighborhood.
“I didn’t imagine it,” Will greeted, standing beside him with a preternatural stillness. He felt a bit warm from sleep, but he hadn’t had a night terror in several days.
Hannibal reached out and brushed his knuckles down Will’s lower arm. “I know, dear one. It seems to be Alana Bloom in her hybrid.” He turned slightly, his profile illuminated by the streetlamps through the window. “She seems to just be sitting in the driver’s seat and having some sort of internal debate with herself.”
Will looked out the window again. “You’re positive it’s her?”
“Directly in line to the house but across the street. Also, I remember how pleased she was when she purchased that particular vehicle in that particular shade of green.”
“Not a good car for stalking then,” Will teased, moving forward to sit on one of the chaises. “If you can recognize it.”
There was a moment of silence when Hannibal appeared to be considering his answer, “No, my darling. And you heard it despite the fact that it does not always rely on an engine.”
He had come up behind Will, placing one hand at the juncture between his shoulder and neck, fingers pressed lovingly to Will’s pulse point. Will found it terribly reassuring and grounding, as he always did. He hadn’t realized he was so touch-starved, not until he found himself constantly seeking out Hannibal’s touch, even before he had somehow managed to move into Hannibal’s Baltimore home.
“What can she possibly want at this time in the morning?” Will murmured, slightly exasperated. “I mean—who is she here for?” It was certainly a valid point. Hannibal was her former mentor at Johns Hopkins. They had a professional if distantly friendly relationship, from what Will could tell. However, she and Will also consulted for the F.B.I. She always had an opinion on Will’s psychological health even if she professed she was only his friend—a friend, Will was almost certain, he never wanted despite his initial attraction to her.
“I’m afraid, my dear,” Hannibal answered, “she must be here for you. Alana knows that I never allow the intimacy of my home with students—even former ones.”
Will looked up in the semi-darkness. “How does she know I live here?”
“A little bird?” Hannibal jested, tone light and teasing.
Will laughed a little at the absurdity of Hannibal using the decidedly American expression.
“She is eventually going to come out of her car,” Hannibal noted. “I’ll start the coffee, turn on a few lights. If you would be so kind to fetch our slippers and dressing gowns?” Without waiting for an answer, he leaned down and kissed the top of Will’s head before leaving the room again.
A moment later, Will saw the light in the foyer flick on. Surely Alana would see it, too, especially when Hannibal turned on the kitchen lights.
He quickly went upstairs and put on his own slippers (the ones lined with rabbit fur) and his warm dressing gown, finding everything laid out in its usual orderly fashion. Before returning downstairs, he checked in on Klara, who was still sleeping soundly, though Gabija lifted her head and looked at Will for a moment when he first entered the room.
“Garde Klara,” he ordered the dog quietly but sternly in French, and Gabija immediately sat up in place but didn’t move when Will left a moment later.
Hannibal had started the French Press by the time he arrived back downstairs, and thanked Will with a small smile when he put on his own dressing robe, toes sliding into his oriental rug slippers. “I would prefer,” he murmured, setting out the mug Klara had presented Will with earlier that week, “to give you tea in case you get to take a nap before breakfast.”
“Do you think that’s likely?” Will asked, noting with glee that Hannibal had produced an elegant though impersonal mug clearly meant for Alana. “Napping?”
“No,” Hannibal agreed before turning on the electric kettle that was more for practicality than elegance. “But I might hope to steal beneath the covers with you and pretend sleep.”
Will smiled ruefully to himself when the doorbell chimed. “We’re not going to sleep together until our honeymoon, are we?” he teased.
Hannibal stilled and looked over at him. “If that is a proposal, then I accept, my darling.”
Stunned into silence, Will only gaped at him as Hannibal turned to leave the kitchen for the front door. He only half-listened as he heard the soft conversation and then smiled when he realized that Hannibal had set his usual tea out on the counter.
When Alana entered, it was to find Will leaning against the counter measuring his tea carefully despite being only partially awake. “You couldn’t have called?” Will asked as he turned around and saw her dressed impeccably, lips red and mascara applied to make her lashes seem longer. This wasn’t as impromptu as an early morning call should be.
Alana didn’t seem taken aback but came up to the other side of the kitchen island, resting her hands down on it. Her eyes only flicked around once to take in the domestic scene as Hannibal came over and took over the making of the tea. The French Press and impersonal mug were placed where Alana could reach them—the invitation implicit without the personal touch of either Hannibal or Will playing solicitous host.
“I didn’t want you to hear it over the phone. Jack will be talking to you this morning—”
“Another ambush?” Will asked darkly.
He accepted the tea from Hannibal, prepared as he liked it. The mug was bright yellow and read Sir William of Lecter House on it. There was a sketch of a castle on the other side. It was obviously a child’s choice of mug, as was Hannibal’s which sported butterflies and fairies.
“Hmm,” Alana agreed, eyes watching them carefully before she took the laid out coffee and poured herself a cup. She said nothing else, however.
After a moment, Will looked over at Hannibal, who was trying to look nonchalant in his own kitchen. “Maybe you should check on Klara?”
The mention of Klara’s name caused Alana’s face to pinch ever so slightly, showing her confusion and that she didn’t like not knowing all of the facts. She didn’t say anything as Hannibal looked at Will and smiled slightly. “Indeed. It wouldn’t do for her to find Alana here unannounced. She only just stopped having nightmares of Mischa last year and her unpredictable travel schedule.”
Will nodded and then realized—“Queen Mischa is a person?” His voice came out slightly higher than usual in his surprise. “She’s not just—an evil queen during playtime?”
Hannibal regarded him carefully. “Our most feared nightmares have a basis in reality, especially for children, I often find.” He leaned in and, after they made eye contact, kissed him lightly. Stunned but happy, Will watched Hannibal leave the room to go check on their daughter—for she had somehow become well and truly his, hadn’t she?
Alana remained silent until they heard Hannibal recede upstairs. Her eyes flicked out toward the hall and then she put down her coffee, deliberating.
Will decided to make it easy for her: “Why are you here at four in the morning?”
“I knew you had trouble sleeping,” she prevaricated. “What I didn’t expect was for you to be in Baltimore when I checked with the field office for your home address. Weren’t you living in a farmhouse out in Virginia?”
Not looking at her, Will admitted, “Neither here nor there, Alana,” borrowing one of her turns of phrases. “Why are you seeking me out in person? Why does Jack Crawford want to see me if he isn’t calling me in to a crime scene?”
She nodded once, hopefully accepting that her questions should wait. Not mincing words, now that she got to the point, she declared: “Abigail Hobbs woke up.”
Pure dread and a light-headed sort of madness coursed through Will at her pronouncement and he was glad he was leaning against the kitchen counter. It wouldn’t do to topple over from shock or lose grip of the mug Klara had given him. He took a deep breath, centering himself, then asked, “When?”
He decidedly did not look anywhere near to where Alana was standing, knowing she was assessing him as if he were a new vaccine in a petri dish.
“Couple of hours ago.” She took a sip of her coffee, still regarding Will.
“I won’t go and see her,” he hedged, guessing at what she wanted from him at this hour.
“Good,” Alana stated, before amending: “I don’t want you to, not yet, anyway.”
“I’m not seeing her at all,” Will told her point-blank, “even if you—or Crawford—want me to.”
Her silence was damning as it became weighted down in her disapproval.
“That all?” His voice came out harshly as he breathed in her disapproval and her judgment. He was suddenly grateful that he was wrapped up in a warm dressing gown, certainly godawful expensive but the perfect shield against her probing gaze.
“We should talk—” she tried carefully, but he shut her down, his eyes skating to the wall clock.
“Do you have any idea what time it is, Alana? You told me what you came to say, though I would have preferred a phone call,” he admitted wryly. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to go check on my daughter.”
The possessiveness in his tone clearly shocked Alana but she put down her mug, half empty from what Will could tell, and let him walk her out of the kitchen. She hesitated in the doorway, looking up toward the staircase where Hannibal had disappeared not ten minutes before, her eyebrows scrunched together in thought.
“It’s not just Hannibal’s child,” she stated the words carefully, testing them, “that might be a daughter to you.”
A rustle upstairs showed Hannibal coming down from the landing, wrapped elegantly in his deep green dressing gown and slippers, hand on the rail as he came down purposefully.
Will’s eyes glanced up before he turned back toward Alana, vision skating to the wall where an original Edward Gorey was hanging demurely. For a moment he wondered if Hannibal would let him have it for his study, before coming back to the matter at hand. “If you are referring,” he argued with clipped tones, “to Abigail Hobbs who very well might have been a rapist” (this whispered softly so the sound would not carry) “I have nothing else to say. I shot her father dead. I’m not going to go pay penance to a monster who should be in prison for the next twenty years.”
“Innocent until proven guilty,” Alana shot back, her eyes flickering up to Hannibal.
Will attempted to not seem defensive when he stated: “I’ve made my decision. I’m a consultant and do not have the mandate to interview suspects” (Alana’s eyebrow arched in disapproval) “or witnesses, especially when I don’t want to.”
Hannibal came to the foot of the stairs. “Klara sleeps,” he stated simply to Will. Then, to Alana, “I bid you good day and a safe journey. It’s not yet light out.”
She clearly hesitated but she had been dismissed. Twice. Without another word (but with a significant look toward Will, which he pointedly ignored) she went to the door and saw herself out, Hannibal close behind to lock up.
When she was gone a watchful silence fell over the home. Then, Hannibal looked at him and asked, “Did she suggest that Klara was not your daughter when she knows nothing of us or of our family?”
Running a hand over his face, “So she doesn’t actually know about Klara, then. I thought not given—everything.”
“She had no need to know, nor did any of my students. Our daughter is precious and not meant for the wagging tongues of uninformed minds.” He walked up to Will carefully and then embraced him fully. As Will tucked his head beneath Hannibal’s chin, bending slightly down and to the right to full fit into the other man’s embrace, Hannibal’s hand tangled in Will’s sleep-addled curls. “Klara asked weeks ago if we could keep you.”
A small, tired laugh escaped Will’s lips. “It’s because I storm ‘Lecter Castle’ so well.”
“I should like to show you Lecter Castle,” Hannibal admitted, much to Will’s surprise as he hadn’t realized there was an actual place with that name. “I haven’t been there for years, however. There are difficult memories.”
Will swallowed and chose not to bite down what he really wanted to know—“Klara’s,” (he cleared his throat uncomfortably) “mother?”
Hannibal’s fingers ran lovingly through Will’s curls though he pulled him closer at the question. “She doesn’t deserve the name ‘mother’ when all is said and done.”
“But she’s gone,” Will checked. When Hannibal immediately didn’t answer, Will sighed and buried his face in Hannibal’s shoulder before trying to tease—“I wouldn’t want her to officially object at the wedding without forewarning.”
If it were possible, Hannibal pulled him even further into his embrace. “She wouldn’t dare, Mylimasis,” he promised, burying his nose against Will’s ear and breathing deeply. “You’re feverish again.”
Shrugging in the embrace, Will reluctantly pulled away. “You better put me to bed then. I think we get over an hour for you to worry about me before officially waking up for the day.” His eyes sought out Hannibal’s boldly and he was immediately suffused with his fiancé’s love and devotion that he still didn’t quite understand. Still, it warmed him in ways that this persistent fever never could. Without another word, Will allowed himself to be led back up the stairs and into the master bedroom.
As he let Hannibal kiss him in the darkness of their stolen morning, sun not yet risen, Will wondered at the vagaries of his life. He never got the nap he hoped for, but he was pulled into the strong embrace of a man he hadn’t known four months earlier and barely knew any better now.
Still, Will breathed in the strength and the depth and the complexities of this man with every shared look and whispered dream.
He had found a home for himself—without even looking for one.
As he helped Klara get together her backpack and lunch later that morning (dressed in a pink shirt and pressed trousers that had wandered into his closet and, strangely, looked halfway decent on him) Will thought that this was a life worth fighting for. They would be telling Klara over the weekend about their engagement and then go for one final picnic of the season. If Will somehow found an engagement band on his pillow two days later to match the one that appeared on Hannibal’s finger, he would only smile to himself and not mention it at all. When Crawford blustered and blew hot and then cold, he wouldn’t care—he just slipped into Hannibal’s mindset and reminded Crawford that he wasn’t a full agent and couldn’t be expected to perform as one.
In Texas the roof fell in on thirty souls worshipping God on a Sunday morning.
Will wondered if there even was a god.
Hannibal only remarked that he imagined God felt powerful in that moment before kissing Will and admitting that perhaps they shouldn’t have a church ceremony as neither of them was religious. “And,” Hannibal added as he made scrambled eggs for Klara’s breakfast with bits of protein thrown in, “I don’t want to tempt God into dropping a church ceiling on us just when we’ve found our happiness.”
“Is it something you think God is likely to do?” Will asked, stealing a bite of seasoned meat that he couldn’t quite identify by taste.
“No,” Hannibal admitted, “unless my sister comes to the wedding. I think she tempts fate whenever she walks out of doors.”
Will’s eyes shot up. “I didn’t know you had a sister.”
Hannibal was silent for a moment, sprinkling some herbs into the frying pan. “Klara calls her ‘Queen Mischa.’”
A horrible realization came over Will as he looked over at their daughter who was finishing up her mathematical sums for school that morning. “That explains so much.”
“Her husband,” Hannibal mock-whispered, “I’m told, is even worse.”
Somehow, Will had difficulty imagining that. He stole another piece of meat. Thank God Hannibal always made more than enough for all three of them. He might have to start running one of the obstacle courses for trainees if Hannibal kept spoiling him like this. Will, though, couldn’t seem to mind.
He held Klara’s hand as they walked down the walkway to the road, where Hannibal had parked the Bentley. It was practice to help her get used to walking over the cracks, so that she knew she wouldn’t fall in. “There,” he told her after stepping on one decidedly. “I’m still here.”
She looked up at him, surprised. “But what if Gabija disappeared.”
He kneeled down in front of her and hugged her tightly. “I won’t let that happen,” he promised, his voice thick from emotion—and he wouldn’t.
Fortunately, Gabija was still waiting for them when they arrived home later that day.
One thought on “(ManEater06)”