IX. Will V
Hannibal was working late one night. He so rarely did, always home by six to make dinner for Klara and Will, so Will found himself restless for the first time in months.
He played castle with Klara and made her grilled cheese for dinner, which he managed not to burn. She was—in every way—Hannibal’s child, and politely ate it. Will knew, though, that he hadn’t managed to do it properly. He’d have Hannibal show him next time. He knew it needed the freshly baked bread, the goat’s cheese, the slices of apples, but Will hadn’t quite learned the magic of childhood in the kitchen, even if he had picked it up in nearly every other aspect of acquired fatherhood.
Gabija, at least, liked her homemade dog food. The little ball of fur was completely spoilt on Will’s cooking and her white coat (if possible) seemed to have developed a new shine of healthiness. Sometimes she would get lost in the silvery snow, indistinguishable at first glance, until she bounded up and yapped happily or tumbled over herself in haste over a snow drift to get to Will or Klara. She really was adorable, half protector and half vanity pet.
“Sir William,” Klara asked as he put her to bed, careful to look under the bed for bad spirits, “may I call you ‘Father’ when you marry Pater?”
Will sighed in happiness at the question, looking up and carefully making eye contact with the girl who had become his daughter. Sometimes he imagined that he had given her the blue eyes shining out of her face, even though it was scientifically impossible and rather fanciful, but the idea nonetheless brought him a spark of joy.
He had also been expecting the question. “You know,” he told Klara carefully, “I’m from the Bayou—before I came here.” He smiled at her slightly as her nose scrunched up.
“Bye-oo?” she parroted.
This had him laughing softly and reaching out to run his fingers gently through her hair. “Nearly. It’s an area, down in Louisiana, full of swamps and magic.”
Her eyes widened then, wonderfully blue, and she clutched at the sheets as she leaned forward. “Magic?”
“Yes,” he promised, very solemn.
“Is that why you left? Was there an evil witch?” Her question was so earnest and it broke his heart a little, as he knew that ‘Queen Mischa’ – a wicked sorceress – was her childlike nightmare based on bad experience.
He had been leaning over the bed, but at the concern and fear that slivered out of her gaze, he smoothed his hand over her soft hair again and sat down carefully on the bed, side by side. “No,” he promised, leaning toward her and angling his face down and to the side so she could see the truth in his eyes. “No, Klara. No evil witches.”
“Then why did you leave?” she asked in confusion. They’d rather gotten off the point, but he’d circle around to it again.
“Well,” he told her, trying to come up with an answer she would understand. “A good witch told me if I left and came out here, I’d meet you and your father.” That was a fairytale he was willing to weave for a young child. She didn’t know he’d been shot when he was a cop. The knowledge would only frighten her. Also, it was well and in the past. Maybe if she developed a fascination with true crime as a teenager, he would sit her down and tell her the story. But that would be later. Fortunately, much later.
“A good witch?” Klara asked, confused.
“Yes,” He promised, swinging up a leg onto the bed to get more comfortable. “In the Bayou, we call people who practice good magic—good witches. She would be like—a fairy princess.” There, that sounded good.
“Oh,” Klara breathed in pure delight. “And so you left the Bye-oo?”
“Yes,” Will agreed, smiling slightly at the thought. “I had to wait to find you. It took ever so long and poor Gabija seems to have gone searching for me when I didn’t show up on time.”
Klara looked at him steadily and then turned to look at her little white dog, who had curled up at the end of the bed. She then blinked several times. “She’s a good dog.”
“Yes,” Will nodded. “A very good dog.” But he had to return to the original conversation, because he didn’t quite see himself answering to ‘father’ if he could help it. Hannibal was her father, although more often than not Gabija called him ‘Pater.’ Only Hannibal, Will thought fondly, would have his five-year-old daughter address him casually in Latin except for the occasional “Daddy” travel mug. Will had been surprised that the pink travel mug he often used had “Daddy” scrawled upon it—as he doubted Hannibal would willingly answer to the title as it would be beneath Klara to use it.
“Pater,” in contrast, was classic and strange and dignified and it made Will love Hannibal even more.
“In the Bayou, we speak French—not quite like you and your father, a rough and earthy type of French.”
Klara was looking at him with her perfect blue eyes, pondering. “Then,” she tried out, clearly deciding between French titles for him.
“Papa,” Will told her quietly, softly, a yearning in his hear. “If you like.”
The small child thought again. “That’s not—disrespectful?” Klara lisped the large word slightly, carefully forming it with her lips so she would get it right. It was obviously a ‘Hannibal word.’ He probably had informed his daughter in an earlier conversation that calling Will something like ‘dad’ would be disrespectful. Although they had never overtly discussed it, Will knew that American familiarity and casualness often struck Hannibal as rude—and he would never abide Klara being rude when he might prevent it.
Thinking for a moment, Will weighed his options. This conversation could determine how Klara—and any future children Hannibal and Will might adopt—would address him. For whatever reason, he didn’t care for the French père. It seemed too impersonal. It seemed too short. “I don’t think it’s disrespectful,” he told her. “If you’d prefer to call me something else, then I understand.” This he added so that he could give her a choice. “But I would like to be your papa. If you like.”
She thought about it for a long moment and then nodded. A small smile played on her lips and she looked up at him, blue eyes shining. “Papa,” she agreed and then threw her arms around him. “I wish the wedding were tomorrow.”
At this, Will laughed, fully gathering Klara in his arms and breathing in her sweet child-scent. “It’s next week, Claribel,” Will promised. (Claribel her informal nickname that Will had stumbled across when he called her la belle Klara and then teased her by mixing up the words so she’d correct him, slurring his way into la Klara belle… it had, for whatever reason, stuck and now was her ‘princess name’). “Your father’s out late tonight so that he can take time off with us for the honeymoon.”
They had scheduled it so that they would be married quietly at City Hall half a week after Will posted his grades. Hannibal insisted on putting an announcement in the paper the following weekend, so that everyone could gossip and talk about them while they were away in the Berkshires in a luxury cabin far away from the rest of the world, as a family. Will knew that Hannibal had family back in France—his sister, for one, that he mentioned, and an aunt. Will fully expected him to write to his family, but they had decided not to invite anyone to the wedding. Although Hannibal enjoyed the opera, he knew that his family life was strictly private, and he never invited comment from colleagues, past students, or even the few friends Will knew had been invited for rare dinner parties.
Klara snuggled deeper into his hug. “Pater said there’s better ice, but no ice queens where we’re going.”
“No ice queens,” Will promised, slowly easing her away before settling her down on the pillow. “Your father and I wouldn’t allow anyone to harm you.”
“I remember once,” Klara stated carefully and bit her lip.
Will’s heart rate picked up, but he forced himself to remain calm. Klara would tell him when she was ready, and she usually couldn’t keep a secret to save her life. Will learnt that the hard way when he asked her what Hannibal would best like for Christmas. The memory of her telling Hannibal about their ‘secret conversation’ over ice cream two days later always made Will smile. Klara was blessed with childhood in a way Will never had been. It made his heart ache for every small happiness, bittersweet when he was afraid something would break her innocence. The killers that occasionally whispered in his mind from when he was a beat cop in New Orleans and from his academic studies still haunted him. He was terrified he’d open his mouth one day and speak their words and shatter the illusion of the world’s goodness in Klara’s mind.
“I remember once,” Klara repeated carefully, her eyes off to the side in worry and her fingers clutching her sheets, “that I lived with Queen Mischa.”
Klara, then, had spent time with her aunt, Will thought grimly, wondering at the horrors Hannibal kept hidden in his impenetrable memory. “But she’s gone,” Will promised. “You live here now, with your father and Gabija and—” (his breath hitched ever so slightly) “—me.”
She smiled up at him sweetly, though her fingers still worried the blanket.
“And,” he told her carefully, “I can storm Lecter Castle. That means I can protect Lecter House. I have the necessary skill set.” The words were perhaps too large for the average five-year-old, but Klara wasn’t average. She was too intelligent for all her sweetness. He added when she continued to look up at him, “and I know good witches. Their magic will protect us.”
“You sure?” she asked.
“Very sure,” he promised, leaning down and kissing her forehead lightly. “Now, are you ready to go to sleep, Claribel?”
Biting her lip, he could sense the question on her tongue.
“Right,” he agreed, sitting back against the headboard and pushing his glasses up his nose distractedly. “Elton.” He then cast his mind back for lyrics and began to softly sing “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road” in a rich baritone that had served him in church growing up, but wasn’t quite good enough not to embarrass him. Klara, though, turned on her pillow toward him, closing her eyes after a few measures, and drifted off to sleep with “Your Song.”
Two hours later when Hannibal finally came home, Will was still humming Elton John under his breath as he tied a fly off in his study.
“You’re home,” he murmured, carefully finishing the fly he was making especially for Klara come Spring, meant to be fashionable as well as functional.
“I am, my darling,” Hannibal agreed, walking into the room and kissing the top of Will’s curls lightly. “Klara managed to get you to sing, then.”
“Of course, she did,” Will answered wryly, pushing away the magnifying glass and standing. “She has me wrapped around her little finger.”
Hannibal smiled lightly. “You’ve only just noticed, then.”
“I can be fast on the uptake without saying anything,” Will smiled. “Such as, you somehow convinced her that calling me anything but ‘Father’ will be disrespectful.”
“It might easily be,” Hannibal argued good-naturedly. “Children should respect their parents.”
Will rolled his eyes. “Klara respects you and adores you. There’s no question.” It was a bit of a deflection, but Hannibal remained true to the conversation.
Taking Will’s hand and leading him out of the room and out into the hall, they walked toward the stairs together given the late hour. Will had already closed up the house and only a few lights were on, which they carefully shut off on their way to their bedroom.
“What shall she call you, my dearest?” Hannibal inquired once they were alone in their bedroom, Hannibal having looked in on Klara to be sure she was safely in bed and not in a fit of wakefulness.
“Hear me out,” Will begged as he watched Hannibal carefully take off his loud checkered suit jacket. “Papa, since I’m from Louisiana.”
Pausing, Hannibal clearly considered, before putting his jacket aside.
“I understand,” he acquiesced, making Will sigh in relief. “If it is what you prefer.”
“You are just glad,” Will teased as he eyed Hannibal as he systematically undressed, “that it’s not ‘dad’ or some undignified American variation.—despite that pink mug.”
There was a moment when Hannibal unbuttoned his shirt and then discarded it, however neatly. “Can you read me so well?” There was a spark of heat in his gaze.
Will caught it, carefully hidden as Hannibal turned to slide on his pajama bottoms. “Are you finished yet?” he teased, still uncertain of his reception.
“Oh, yes,” Hannibal answered casually before walking over to the bed and, without any preamble, climbing over Will who he pushed easily onto his back. They looked into each other’s eyes for a long moment before Will reached up and hooked his arm over Hannibal’s neck, drawing him into a careful kiss. “We haven’t discussed names,” Hannibal murmured gently when they finally pulled away.
A laugh escaped Will as he thought of the absurdity of it all. “Klara’s name shouldn’t be changed,” he argued, getting to the heart of the matter.
“Her name should reflect that you’re her papa,” Hannibal argued, leaning down slightly and running his nose along the side of Will’s face.
“Did you just—smell me?” Will laughed, not really expecting an answer.
“You smell sweet,” Hannibal murmured, slightly in distraction. “Curious.” He leaned in again and inhaled the smell of Will’s skin and slight sweat that seemed to come with the warm fires Hannibal lit most nights. He then kissed Will once more before carefully moving off of him.
In sync with one another in a way that had been well practiced over the past months, they got into their sides of the bed. It wasn’t uncomfortable to Will or even a disappointment. He knew that they were waiting, that Hannibal required marriage and a complete commitment on Will’s part before allowing himself the vulnerability. It was almost odd for a man who had honed in on Will almost immediately, but Will understood every time he looked in Hannibal’s eyes and saw the shadow of Klara’s mother and the trauma left behind.
See, his gaze seemed to ask while hoping he would look away.
It was for that reason that Will had come to the conclusion he had regarding names. “You’re established as Dr. Lecter,” he began casually. “Klara is a Lecter and should not be pulled and pushed around, even on paper.”
He knew Hannibal was coming to the incorrect conclusion that Will did not wish to be a part of the family, did not want to signal that he was Klara’s second father, did not want others to be able to learn that he belonged heart and soul to their small family.
“So,” he concluded, “since I’m just a professor and an oddity to the scientific community—”
“Mylimasis,” Hannibal chided.
“It would make sense for me to become Will Lecter-Graham. If people call me Prof. Graham then they won’t be completely wrong and I’ll still retain my reputation for that useless monograph I authored.”
When his small speech was met with silence, he looked over worryingly toward Hannibal, who was gazing back with tears of joy in his eyes.
“I’ll get the paperwork,” Hannibal promised.
“Already filled out,” Will promised. “I have an appointment with a judge to finalize in three days—” which was two days before their wedding.
Hannibal’s eyes shone red with longing. “I don’t deserve you.”
For the first time since Will realized he was home—that this was family—he couldn’t meet Hannibal’s gaze. Still, he fell asleep with a smile on his lips, wrapped up in Hannibal’s protective embrace.
The next morning, when Crawford called, Will was still in that bubble of happiness, and he cursed when he walked onto a crime scene and saw the murder of a perfect family around the dinner table.
It was far too easy to see in the bloody tableau the image of Hannibal, himself, and Klara around their own dinner table. He tried to blink away the image, but it kept superimposing over Mrs. Turner’s unseeing eyes. For the first time since he walked back into the field, he wondered if this was really good for him. He no longer dreamt he was sleeping beside the corpses of girls impaled on antlers, but the image of Garrett Jacob Hobbs sometimes wandered into his peripheral vision.
“What do you see?” Crawford asked, breaking the spell.
He almost answered: My family. Murdered. Gone. Taken.
Will shook himself from those thoughts and replied in an emotionless voice, “family values.” But these were American family values, not the ones that Hannibal carefully crafted for Klara based on etiquette and politeness and courtesy. It was strange to watch a child use her silverware perfectly at the family dining room table (complete with soup spoons and dessert forks) but Klara had long mastered such delicacy before Will ate with her nearly every night. Only the child of Hannibal Lecter could combine such childlike energy and perfect manners in an American home. It was a marvel. Sometimes Will forgot to eat as he would just watch Klara chattering about her day while never speaking with food in her mouth.
This family, though, only pretended to be happy. Their middle son was missing and yet there were no pictures of him on display. It was cold and horrifying. It was as if they erased him from their minds. They carried on in their false perfection, blood coating the veneer of their dysfunction.
There was so much blood.
Several weeks earlier, Will had found Hannibal in his study, looking at a fly. He had somehow pierced his finger on the hook and was just staring at the blood, indecision on his face as he watched the blood pool on his thumb.
He was almost fascinated by the sight of his own blood, as if he hadn’t spent years as an ER surgeon. Perhaps he had forgotten what it looked like. Perhaps, maybe. Will didn’t even hesitate before coming up to Hannibal and cradling the bleeding thumb in his hand. “Klara has Minnie Mouse Band-aids,” Will had said, apropos of nothing.
“It is hardly worth—” But Hannibal hadn’t had a chance to finish the thought as Will had bent down and carefully sucked the thumb into his mouth.
He hadn’t expected Hannibal to moan in unexpected pleasure.
Needless to say, it was a good twenty minutes before they emerged from Will’s study, fly safely put down, each a little more ruffled than before, and a deep-welling satisfaction in Will’s gut.
There was no satisfaction in seeing the Turners’ blood spattered all over their spoiled dinner. The desperation in the scene nearly choked Will. When he looked at Mrs. Turner, at the acceptance and love in her dead eyes, he wondered if his mother would have looked at him like that if she had never left.
Will wondered briefly, as camera flashes erupted around him as the F.B.I. moved about the scene, if his mother was likely to read any of the many of announcements Hannibal would put in the paper in less than a week. Would she remember that she had named her son William? Would she be disgusted that he married a man? Or would she only see that Hannibal was a doctor and a Count, and think that William had taken after her, going after the man with the money and prestige without a care for anyone else’s happiness?
He returned from the crime scene alone, stopping in after looking in at his office and at the lab.
Everyone was discussing siblings and which progression they each were in age. Katz had a younger sister who got away with murder. The terminology was almost telling. Someone else was a middle sibling. Crawford came in on the discussion and at the topic, a wistfulness that did not require empathy could be read in his features. He and his wife—Phyllis, Will thought her name was—had never had children. He’d let the job become his parent, spouse, and child, and most of life had passed him by without him quite aware of it.
Will was not going to make that same mistake.
“I bet you’re an only child,” the snide voice of Price cut through his thoughts like a dulled knife in butter.
It took a quick second for Will to realize he was talking about him, more accusing than including him in the comradery. He attempted not to stiffen at the common bullying technique. He was used to it, after all. Bullies had been a facet of his life since he was a young boy moving from shipyard to shipyard as his dad tried to find work.
His mind returned to his mother once again, to learning she had a daughter not long after she had found her Prince Charming, and he casually admitted, “Younger sister.” He didn’t admit that she was a half-sister, that they had never met, that they never would meet.
“Is she attending the wedding?” Crawford asked, going over to the body and leaning down slightly to visually check a theory.
Will had briefly lost track of the thread of conversation, his eyes once again having returned to Mrs. Turner. “No,” he answered, trying not to fidget. “We decided on a private ceremony with just Klara. It seemed like too much hassle to invite family from Connecticut and Europe.” His mother had been in Hartford, last time he checked. Hadn’t she?
Price seemed affronted. “You’re getting married?” His follow up question was implicit although unspoken—Who would marry you?
Humming in answer, Will pushed himself off the wall. If he wanted to beat traffic and be on “Princess Duty,” he should probably get a move on, and Price’s eyes gleamed with acid. “I’m getting married—” He began to tell Crawford, just to remind him.
“I know the schedule,” Crawford agreed, tone gruff but not uncaring. “We’ll hopefully have you to wrap this up before you say your vows.”
“It won’t be after,” Will reminded. “Honeymoons are an actual thing, still, Jack.”
“Honeymoons?” Crawford teased, a little blustery. “Who has time to honeymoon?”
At this, Katz raised her eyebrows. “Professor Graham, clearly.”
“Changing the name,” Will tossed out over his shoulder as he left, hands firmly shoved in his pockets. There, now Crawford had prior warning. He wouldn’t be surprised if he picked up next semester’s syllabus and saw that he was listed as Will Lecter-Graham. No one needed to know he’d decided months ago, shortly after their impromptu engagement in the kitchen before sunrise, and that he had submitted a note to the registrar before he told anyone else—even Hannibal.
The ride home was uneventful, Alana fortunately not being around to stop him from driving off in his car. She had been surprisingly absent that day when he was at the Academy. He knew that she had an office—small, like his, but that she escaped to it during grading periods. Will assumed her office at Georgetown was much nicer, but (he supposed) everyone knew about that one. When she needed to escape, she had her broom cupboard of an office at Quantico where no one would think to look for her.
Hannibal was already home, his Bentley in the driveway, and Will let himself in with his key, firmly locking up behind him (though the home alarm system wouldn’t be turned on until he and Hannibal shut up the house for the night). Klara managed to run into his arms before he’d fully taken off his coat, and he pulled her up into a gentle hug, breathing in her childlike scent.
“Long day?” Hannibal asked when Will wandered into the kitchen sometime after. He had found one of Hannibal’s gift-sweaters and pulled it absently over his head, wanting the comfort and the added layer of warmth. He didn’t think about the cost of Hannibal’s silent gifts anymore or about how long they had been waiting in drawers or in his study for him to find.
Hannibal’s question, Will could tell, was both solicitous and rather telling with Hannibal’s inflection and slightly tired look about the eyes.
“Another case, of course,” Will griped, coming over and greeting his fiancé with a soft kiss. They were both at the kitchen island, where Hannibal was clearly preparing some sort of meat for dinner, Klara sitting on the other side of the island with a book of numbers, purple pencil in hand. “Yours?”
“Dr. Bloom stopped by.” The emotionless tone of voice told Will exactly what Hannibal thought of the visit.
“How rude,” Will commiserated.
Klara looked up, her eyes scrunched up in thought. “Did she not ring the doorbell, Pater?”
Hannibal’s lips curled into a genuine smile. “She did not call ahead, dearest. But, no, she also failed to ring the doorbell.”
Nodding her head as if a pronouncement had just been made, Klara went back to her numbers.
When Will looked over toward the armchair that was placed in the corner, he saw that Gabija was curled up in her dog bed. The entire family was present, just as they should be.
He was quiet at dinner, taking in Klara as she talked excitedly about her blue dress for the wedding and the purple bows she was planning to put in her hair, and Will felt a peacefulness he never thought he would ever grasp.
After he searched tirelessly for the monsters under Klara’s bed, kissed her on the head, and ran his fingers through Gabija’s soft fur, Will joined Hannibal down in the living room for a late night glass of wine.
“Did Alana want an invitation?” Will joked after it was clear Hannibal wouldn’t bring up the subject.
“No,” he answered carefully as if he wasn’t entirely certain. “She accused me of not being forthcoming in my personal life. It seemed she believed that my attention to her as my student was an invitation for overt familiarity.”
Will paused and pondered his glass, the wine a dark color strangely similar to a plum jam. “Alana has difficulty maintaining boundaries.” He took a deep sip.
Hannibal blinked—not once but twice. Clearly Will had surprised him. “It’s not just me, then?”
“No,” Will agreed. “I think—” he puzzled over the question for a moment “—she loses objectivity when she feels attraction. She has always attempted to be my friend, and never my psychiatrist, and yet she blurs the lines constantly.” He smiled bitterly to himself. “Maybe in another life I would have fancied myself in love with her because of her physical beauty and her affected kindness.” The last words were pressed against his teeth, hard, wrangled from his deeper thoughts, entirely visceral.
“In another lifetime,” Hannibal admitted, “I would not.”
“Tell me,” Will whispered quietly, afraid his request would be denied if the walls overheard him, “of your actual life.” His gaze, on the fire for several long minutes, dragged toward Hannibal.
His fiancé was sitting still—too still—almost as if he had been turned to stone. “There is nothing of my life which is worth telling.” A lie, clearly, dressed in a painful truth.
“When you were a child, perhaps,” Will prodded, carefully, as if he were the former surgeon. “I know there’s a Lecter Castle.” When silence once again dragged between them, he admitted. “We were talking of family today—in the lab—we think a lost boy shot his mother.”
Taking another sip of wine, Hannibal considered. “An interesting pathology, and not one I’d like to ponder.” Still, he seemed to think. “I know nothing of your mother, my darling, except that you are not in contact.”
“She walked out,” Will admitted, running a hand over his heating face. His fingers came away with the slightest scent of sweat on them. “I—I looked her up, years ago. Never called, never really—” he glanced away, these thoughts having plagued him all morning. He didn’t want to talk of his mother—if Hannibal had been his psychiatrist he would have accused him of going for “low hanging fruit”—but this was his future husband. If he did not trust Hannibal with his secrets, small and little and mean as they were, how could he expect Hannibal to trust him with the horrors of his past years? “I have a sister,” the word spilled out and Hannibal instantly set down his glass and leaned forward slightly. “Half-sister. We’ve never met. I don’t think she knows about me.” He shrugged, trying to pretend it was unimportant.
“I found having a sister to be a great burden,” Hannibal admitted. “Mischa was much younger than I was. Before our parents died, I was more of a father to her.” This was said in almost a whisper, as if Hannibal were half lost in the memory.
“And after?” Will inquired, carefully.
The words, spoken in the half-light, seemed to jolt Hannibal back to the present. His red eyes, now almost a brown in the firelight, glanced up and held Will’s gaze for a long moment. “We both witnessed our parents’ murders. Mischa became,” he turned the words in his mind, “selfish, charming, pathological.”
For several long minutes, their eyes held and Will, sensing Hannibal was afraid to say too much, Will admitted, “My mother—or her second husband—named her daughter ‘Paris.’ I assume after the city.”
“A beautiful place,” Hannibal admitted, “but I did all in my power to escape it. I escaped here, to America—to you,” he whispered.
“They say,” Will teased, “that Paris is for lovers.”
“Paris,” Hannibal argued, “is for misery.” His gaze had darkened, almost unreadable as it was clear that he had locked all emotion connected to the time in his mind so that even Will, with all of his perfect empathy, could not read it.
“I thought,” Will noted carefully, now looking into his half-empty wine glass, “that we were supposed to avoid London.” They’d had the conversation, briefly, when discussing future travel, when they would be free to take a month to properly see parts of Europe when Klara was slightly older.
“My uncle and aunt live in Paris,” Hannibal agreed. “I spent many years after my parents’ murder in an orphanage, and Uncle Robert did not find me until I was sixteen.” It was as if he were reciting the dictionary, his voice so devoid of anything but facts and history, but Will chose not to comment on it. There was also a dissonance. Where was Mischa between the murders when Hannibal was still a boy and his adoption in Paris? Something didn’t quite match up, but that was a question for another time and another glass of wine.
“And your sister is in London—now,” Will checked.
“So I am informed by our aunt,” Hannibal agreed, now uncomfortable.
“Paris was at Yale,” Will added in, to move the conversation forward. Then he admitted, “And runs a reproductive and fertility clinic in New York City, if you believe the internet.”
“Your sister is a doctor,” Hannibal teased, smiling slightly. Then he turned thoughtful, as if an idea hit him. “We could have a child.” He breathed it out, light, hesitant, as if he didn’t dare hope.
Will was confused and looked up. “We have Klara.”
“Yes,” Hannibal agreed, nodding. “But I meant a child of you and me. We could give Klara a younger sibling—if your half-sister donated an egg. We can afford a surrogate.” The idea was clearly already half-planned out.
“You want—to have a child with me?” Will asked carefully and then swallowed, uncomfortably. “With all my—wouldn’t it be irresponsible?” The idea didn’t quite sit well with him.
“But she’s your half-sister,” Hannibal prodded, holding in his enthusiasm, albeit by the thinnest of pretense. “Her gene-set only overlaps approximately with twenty-five percent of yours—” He bit his lip, forcing himself to say nothing else.
After a long moment of regarding Hannibal, Will drained his wine glass and set it aside. “How long have you been thinking about having a child together?” He suddenly felt tired and a little overwhelmed.
“I knew,” Hannibal whispered, his eyes never leaving Will’s face, “that you would never consent to be a sperm donor. And I do not possess a relative I would desire to donate an egg.” Mischa, then, was clearly hated and despised that much, Will thought briefly, adding it to the growing list of reasons to despise Hannibal’s younger sister. “So I forced the possibility out of my mind, Mylimasis, unless you expressed an interest. But now—” He left the possibility hanging in the air.
Will let it waft through his mind—thoughts of his mother—curiosity and resentment of his half-sister—the idea of holding a newborn child that truly belonged to him, and could not be taken from him as Klara might be in a nightmare-reality—he remembered his father, hunched over, with motor oil under his fingernails—a lullaby half remembered—
A hand pressed against his face, cool and familiar, and Will blinked to see Hannibal kneeling in front of him. “There you are, my darling. You were quite lost in thought.” His eyes were full of hope and wonder and love and Will leaned forward until he was half-falling into Hannibal’s arms. He buried his nose into the crook of Hannibal’s neck, breathing in deeply. “You got lost somewhere in your mental turnings.”
“Never lost,” Will promised, clutching Hannibal closer. “Never lost when I’m with you.” He pulled away and looked into Hannibal’s eyes. “It’s too soon,” he whispered, his answer to a question not quite asked.
“Too soon,” Hannibal agreed, caressing his brow with his fingertips. “You’re warm from fever, my dear Will. We have sat by the fire too long.”
Will grinned a little, leaning into the touch. “Perhaps you can take me to bed, Dr. Lecter.”
“Perhaps I might, Professor Graham.”
And Will didn’t think of orphanages, or sisters, or infants who might have his curling brown hair and Hannibal’s strange, red eyes. But that night when he dreamt, days out from his wedding, he imagined that there was a great ravenstag in the woods behind the house in Wolf Trap. He followed it, trudging through the snow, catching sight of its black fathers in the moonlight. Abigail Hobbs lay dead in the snow, throat cut full across, blood pooling in her hair. Then she flickered and she was no longer Abigail Hobbs but a beautiful woman, a stranger. Her hair was a deep auburn, her eyes a similar blue, her skin wind chafed. She was beautiful, with an angular jaw, and a slim frame. Her nails were painted a demure coral, a glittering rose-gold wedding band on her right hand. In the dream, she lifted her finger to her lips, urging Will to be silent before beckoning him forward.
Will—in his dream—looked between the woman, beautiful and mysterious, and the ravenstag. He closed his eyes in thought, but the decision had already been made. Opening them again, he followed the ravenstag further into the forest, away from the beautiful woman (who was so like Abigail Hobbs and yet not), and he woke with a smile on his face.
The room was dark and he felt Hannibal curled up against his side. It took him a moment to realize that Klara was standing a little way at the bed, looking between them.
“Did you have a nightmare?” Will whispered carefully, beckoning her closer in the darkness and sitting up a little. He reached over and turned on the bedside lamp and felt Hannibal shift beside him before sighing in his slumber.
Klara tiptoed forward and then clutched at Will. “The monsters whispered horrible things.”
Will took a deep breath and considered. Klara looked so small and lost and he could see that she would never ask—“Just tonight,” Will told her, raising up the warm blankets on the bed so Klara could snuggle in beside him. Will was now seeing a positive side to the fact that Hannibal had a king size bed.
Klara didn’t need any urging and within moments she was settled, and the light was turned out again.
“Let’s not wake Pater,” Will whispered as he hugged Klara too him, breathing in her childlike scent.
“Okay,” Klara whispered loudly.
It wasn’t long before both of them were completely asleep. If Gabija also found herself on the bed in the night, no one commented on it the next morning.
When Will fell back into his dreams, he followed the ravenstag to a cradle in the woods. It wasn’t a nightmare. If not for the conversation the night before, Will might have thought it a fairytale. Now, perhaps, it might come true—
And he smiled in his dreams.