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With a Crown of Stars

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Will wakes from a dream where he’s drowning in his bed to the sound of his dogs barking.

He scrubs at his eyes—the dawn light is filtering through the windows, and the dogs are all clustered around his front door, still barking away. Winston, in fact, comes to the bedside and barks at Will, and he sighs and levers himself out of bed. He feels shaky and he’s sweated through his shirt again. But if there’s an animal out front, the dogs aren’t going to quiet down until he deals with it.

He opens the door to see a baby in the proverbial basket on his porch, blinks, and shuts the door again.

But the dogs keep barking, so Will eases the door back open. The baby is still there. Its eyes are closed, and Will knows they won’t open until he touches it. He opens the screen door, and the dogs spill out onto the porch, surrounding the basket. Will hopes it hasn’t been too long since the basket floated down to the porch. He avoids touching the baby but moves the blankets aside to look at the parent nameplate. The baby could be meant for someone else. It has to be a mistake. Will is on suppressants—he shouldn’t be able to wish bird shit out of the sky, much less a baby.

But the nameplate says William Graham in clear script, and Will takes a deep breath before he scrambles into the house for his phone.

He dials Dr. Lecter’s number right away. When the call connects, Will says, “I know what kind of crazy I am, but I’m not this kind of crazy.”

“Will?” Dr. Lecter says.

“Yes, hi, sorry,” Will says. “It’s me. There’s a baby on my porch.”

“How did it come to be there?”

“The old-fashioned way,” Will says tightly. “I wished it out of the sky. Unless I’m having one incredibly vivid hallucination, but I really don’t think I am.”

“You’re certain you wished for it?” Dr. Lecter asks.

“I’m on the nameplate, so apparently my suppressants are for shit,” Will says, even though he’s had the same prescription for years with no problems.

“You’ve been unwell,” Dr. Lecter says, tone clinical. “Some illnesses can render suppressants less effective.”

“Fuck,” Will says, and rubs his forehead. “I don’t—what am I going to do. How did I wish a baby out of the sky by myself?”

“Did you?”

Will frowns, and kneels down next to the basket. He pushes the blanket further out of the way, and sure enough, there’s a second name.

“I think,” Will says, and then swallows. “I think you’d better come here. As fast as you can.”

“Will, whoever it is, we will handle this situation,” Dr. Lecter says. Will can hear the clink of keys being grabbed from the dish in Dr. Lecter’s front hallway.

“It’s you,” Will croaks out. “We—Dr. Lecter, we—”

The other end of the line is silent for a moment, and Will winces, because this really must be some kind of mistake, Dr. Lecter couldn’t have wished for this with Will, of all people. There’s an unsteady inhale, maybe the most vulnerable sound Will has ever heard from the implacable Dr. Lecter, and then he says, “I’ll be there as soon as I can. Don’t touch the baby until I get there.”

“Right,” Will says, and hangs up. The dogs snuffle around the basket, and Will sits down, leaning against his screen door, and waits.

***

Dr. Lecter pulls up much sooner than Will expected, which means traffic was good or he sped a lot or both. He strides quickly from the car and makes his way up to the porch.

“I’m really not hallucinating, am I?” Will asks.

Dr. Lecter nudges the dogs aside. He pushes the blankets out of the way with an efficient tug that speaks of long practice—and, right, Dr. Lecter had worked in a hospital, and has probably seen his share of babies arriving in their baskets.

“You are not,” Dr. Lecter says, taking in the nameplate. It’s there, clear as day: William Graham, Hannibal Lecter.

“Not to be rude, but how did this happen?” Will asks. “Like, okay, maybe my suppressants failed, but what about yours?”

“I’m not on any,” Dr. Lecter says, his expression strangely blank. “It’s never been an issue.”

Will wants to touch this baby and wake them up so badly, but he knows they need to settle this first. “What changed?” he asks, but his brain fits it together in an instant. “Abigail. You said—we’re her fathers now. And then we—”

“Evidently,” Dr. Lecter says. His expression melts into something that might be amazement. He reaches out and traces one fingertip down the baby’s cheek.

The baby’s eyes blink open, and that’s it—the baby is theirs, this is real, and Will has no idea what the fuck they’re going to do about it.

***

Dr. Lecter brings the basket inside and puts it on Will’s kitchen table.

“Girl or boy?” Will asks, carefully stroking the baby’s head with his fingers.

Dr. Lecter unwraps the baby enough to say, “A girl.” He looks at her intently, and then picks her up and gently places her in Will’s arms.

Will’s mostly terrified of doing this wrong, or dropping her, or something else definitively not good, but instead their baby looks at him, and Will realizes how hard he must have been wishing for this, and knows in that moment that he’d do anything for her.

“You’re perfect,” Will murmurs, and he feels Dr. Lecter at his shoulder, his warm solid presence a reminder that he’d promised to be Will’s paddle.

“She is,” Dr. Lecter says, and when Will looks at him, his eyes are actually damp.

“Okay,” Will says. “Okay. Um—we need to go to the store, we need—well, everything.”

“She’ll be hungry any moment now,” Dr. Lecter agrees.

Will carefully puts her back in her basket, and the enormity of the situation starts to hit him. He tries to breathe through it, but his head is really hurting, and he feels like he’s sweating again and the room is starting to melt.

“Doctor—” he manages to say, and that’s the last thing he remembers.

***

He wakes to the sound of machines beeping, and a strange sucking noise.

He’s in a hospital bed, and in the chair next to the bed is Dr. Lecter. He has their daughter in his arms, and he’s feeding her a bottle with enviable ease.

“So I’m still not hallucinating, right?” Will asks, his voice rough.

Dr. Lecter looks up. “Will,” he says, and he sounds so relieved. It’s been a long time since Will let anyone give enough of a damn about him to do anything like sit by his sickbed.

At least, he assumes it’s his sickbed. “What happened?”

“You had a seizure,” Dr. Lecter says, and Will takes in how tired he looks. There are dark circles under his eyes that Will isn’t accustomed to seeing. “I called an ambulance, and you were taken to Reston. Once you were diagnosed, they transferred you here.”

Will tries to ask where here is, but his throat is so dry. Dr. Lecter puts the bottle down for a moment, and hands Will a cup of water from the overbed table. Will takes a few pulls of water through the straw, his eyes fixed on their baby, who takes the pause in feeding with less fuss than Will might have imagined. “Where are we? What—what do I—”

“You have encephalitis,” Dr. Lecter says. “An inflammation of the brain, and perfectly treatable, though your presentation was quite unusual. You were transferred to Johns Hopkins yesterday; it’s been three days since our daughter arrived.”

Will tries to digest that, but ultimately decides it’s a problem for later. “Can I hold her?” he asks.

Dr. Lecter raises the head of Will’s bed so that he’s mostly sitting up, then gently places her in Will’s arms. “Perhaps she will finish the bottle for you,” he says, and hands it to Will.

It takes Will a second to get everything situated, and he’s still a little afraid this is a dream after all, but the baby’s mouth closes around the rubber nipple and she drinks contentedly until the bottle is nearly empty. Dr. Lecter shows him how to hold her close and rub her back until she burps and also spits up a little formula onto his hospital gown.

She’s so tiny and warm and Will already loves her so much.

“Sorry,” Will says eventually. “It must have been really hard, taking care of her alone.”

“You worried me,” Dr. Lecter says simply, and reaches for Will’s free hand.

“Sorry,” Will says again helplessly, clutching at both their baby and his hand.

Dr. Lecter shakes his head. “There’s no need for apologies. All you need do now is get well and come home to us.”

The nurse comes in then, but Will wishes she hadn’t; he wants to stay, just like this, for a while longer yet.

***

They settle on naming the baby Madeleine—Will suggests the name, and Dr. Lecter agrees, with the stipulation of the French spelling.

“People are going to misspell it constantly,” Will warns him.

“Perhaps,” Dr. Lecter says, though he kind of makes it sound like anyone who does it will regret it.

“What are we doing about the last name?” Will asks. “I think it sounds good either way. Or—should we hyphenate?”

“We should get married,” Dr. Lecter says.

Will stares at him.

“I’m amenable to hyphenation,” he adds. “For our whole family.”

“I think I’m supposed to be the crazy one,” Will says faintly.

Dr. Lecter sits back in his chair as though they’re having one of their conversations in his office. “You know as well as I the legal protections that marriage provides families in this country. You weren’t conscious for this, but I can assure you that I would prefer never to repeat the navigation of your transfer from one hospital to another while you are not legally my spouse.”

Will winces. “That bad, huh.”

“Atrocious,” Dr. Lecter says. “While I should like to hope the situation will never arise again, I think it exemplifies the difficulties we would face.”

“But—” Will begins, and then stops, and tries to marshal enough brain power to make some kind of argument. “We’re not—we’re not even a thing.” He waves vaguely between them.

“Are we not?” Dr. Lecter says, and tilts his head toward Madeleine, who is sleeping soundly in what Dr. Lecter assures him is an excellently-rated carrier.

“Well,” Will says, because that’s a good point.

“We’ve bound our lives together—perhaps not the traditional way, but we are bound, nonetheless,” Dr. Lecter says. “The proof of it is right here with us.”

Will looks at Madeleine again. She’s only a week old—he and Dr. Lecter are in this for another eighteen years, at least. And no one can wish a baby out of the sky by themselves, which means Dr. Lecter wanted this as much as Will did.

“You must know I hold you in the highest regard,” Dr. Lecter says, terribly sincere. “I enjoy your company very much and would count myself fortunate to be your husband.”

“I—” Will swallows. “Me too. If this is what you really want.”

“It’s what I want, for both of us.”

Will takes in a deep breath, and lets it out slowly. “Then I guess I could see my way toward calling you Dr. Graham-Lecter, except I should probably get used to calling you Hannibal.”

Dr. Lecter—Hannibal—smiles at him. “Indeed you should, dear Will.”

***

When Will is discharged at the end of the week, Hannibal takes him home to his house in Baltimore. They have a lot of decisions to make on how they’re going to fit their lives together, but for now, living at Hannibal’s house makes sense—Will needs outpatient therapy for another six weeks at least, and he can’t ask Hannibal to juggle that and Madeleine from Wolf Trap, not to mention his patients.

For now, he’s just happy to put Madeleine down in the crib in Hannibal’s bedroom. The crib is solid with clean lines, and looks like the kind of thing Will might have liked to try making himself, had he in any way prepared for this.

“We can convert the bedroom down the hall into a nursery,” Hannibal says in a low voice as Will eases the door shut. “I confess I haven’t had the time yet to get started.”

“Slacker,” Will accuses him, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. “How are you even on your feet? She eats every three hours, right?”

“More or less,” Hannibal says. “And I learned to sleep when I could during my residency; this degree of sleep deprivation isn’t altogether unfamiliar.”

“But it can’t be fun,” Will says. “Why don’t you take a nap? I’ll get her next bottle.”

“You’re still recovering,” Hannibal says, but he looks sorely tempted.

“Let me do what I can,” Will coaxes. “We’re going to be up a creek if you fall over on us.”

Hannibal hesitates, but when Will puts a hand on his shoulder and gently pushes him in the direction of the future nursery, Hannibal goes. He stops in the doorway and says, “You ought to sleep, too, while you can.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll snooze on your bed for a little bit, how’s that?” Will says.

“Sleep well,” Hannibal says, and disappears into the room.

Will lets himself back into Hannibal’s bedroom and creeps quietly to the bed. The crib is near what must be Hannibal’s side of the bed—there’s a book in what looks like Italian on the bedside table, and anyway, it only makes sense. If Hannibal was getting up every three hours, he’d logically want Madeleine as close as possible. Probably Will should sleep on the other side of the bed, except that it’s basically in another zip code.

He doesn’t entirely trust himself to wake up when Madeleine begins to fuss, so he sets an alarm on his phone and holds on to it, so that the vibration will wake him up in two and a half hours. The pillow smells of Hannibal’s aftershave—subtle, layered, safe. Will watches Madeleine sleep until his eyes slide shut.

***

Their wedding is delayed by a few days.

“You don’t have anything to wear,” Hannibal says, while poaching eggs with what Will assumes is some kind of dark magic.

“I have some suits back at my house,” Will says.

“As I said: you don’t have anything to wear,” Hannibal says primly, and Will rolls his eyes but lets Hannibal make an emergency appointment with his tailor.

“Is there anyone you wish to invite?” Hannibal asks later as they sit together on the sofa in the study.

Will finally succeeds in getting Maddie to burp, and then shrugs. “No family to invite,” he says. “What about you?”

Hannibal looks pensive. “None that could attend on such short notice.”

“We could wait,” Will offers. And then, even though it sounds like not his idea of a good time, he says, “We could wait, and—you know, do the whole nine yards. If you want.”

“You would not,” Hannibal says, and it hits Will all over again just how well Hannibal knows him. Hannibal leans over to press a kiss to Madeleine’s head. “For her sake, the sooner we are married, the better.”

Will nods, and they sit in companionable silence for a few minutes before he asks, “Do we have a cute dress she can wear?”

“We have several,” Hannibal says with satisfaction. “You may help us pick.”

***

They sleep together in Hannibal’s bed, because Hannibal wants Will close in case of any complications during his recovery, and because Will successfully argued for the two AM feeding—he doesn’t care what Hannibal says, the man needs more than three hours of sleep at a time. Also, Will’s current prednisone dosage means he isn’t sleeping easily or deeply, anyway.

If anyone had asked Will even two weeks ago if he expected to be brushing his teeth side by side with his psychiatrist before bed, Will would have laughed in their faces. But here he is, and Hannibal uses some kind of toothpaste that he orders online that isn’t a paste at all, but more of a gel. Will googled the name and the science seems sound, and that’s good enough for him.

“I’ll be honest, I pictured you as a full pajama set kind of guy,” Will says after Hannibal comes out of his closet with just pajama bottoms on.

It earns him a wry smile from Hannibal. “And two weeks ago, you would have been correct. But Madeleine’s propensity for spit up persuaded me otherwise.”

“Easier clean up, for sure,” Will agrees. He himself is wearing a white t-shirt that seems impossibly soft, and a pair of boxers. One good thing about treatment is that he hasn’t been sweating through his clothes every night, but he’s still wary of overheating. Both had come from a drawer in Hannibal’s massive closet that contained a small selection of clothes; Will thought initially they were culled from Hannibal’s wardrobe, but they were all Will’s size and some of them still had the tags on. It was thoughtful, in the way that Will is coming to expect from Hannibal, and also unnecessary, because Will could have happily made do with castoffs until they had a chance to run to Wolf Trap for some of his clothes.

Will changes Madeleine’s diaper while Hannibal goes downstairs to get a bottle ready, and settles into the chair next to her crib with her tucked against his chest. She has big blue eyes, and he wonders what she sees when she looks up at him. He wonders what other people see when they look at her—his eyes, and maybe Hannibal’s mouth? He’s not convinced, but it doesn’t really matter.

“We wished for you, and here you are,” he murmurs to her. It’s exactly the kind of miracle everyone said it was, but Will had no idea how it would feel. It’s something more than himself, a love that makes every other probably insane thing about this situation—i.e. marrying his psychiatrist—seem reasonable.

She smacks her lips, and Hannibal comes in with the bottle and hands it to Will. He settles into bed and opens his book, but when Will looks up, Hannibal isn’t reading. He’s watching them both, his gaze steady and focused entirely on them.

When she’s done eating, Will carefully eases her down to sleep, and she’s already mostly there. Will hopes that by the time he’s settled into his side of the bed, she’ll be down for the count, and he won’t be too long to follow. He sighs as he lay his head down on his pillow, and prays that his nightmare-free streak will continue, because he really doesn’t want to wake all of them up with his yelling.

Hannibal settles down as well, and turns his head to face Will. Will thinks he’ll say something, but instead, Hannibal just stares at his face, as though he’s memorizing it, before he says, “Good night, Will,” and turns off the bedside lamp.

***

In the morning, Hannibal takes Will for his outpatient plasmapheresis, which makes Will feel cold and and tired and generally not that happy, but if the alternative is brain fire, he’ll deal with it. He has a suit fitting afterward, which he is also not that happy about, but they’re getting married tomorrow and Hannibal’s tailor is definitely doing them a solid by getting this done so quick, so Will tries not to be actively an asshole during the fitting.

To be honest, he’s a little preoccupied by Hannibal’s staring. He understands Hannibal looking at Will while he’s holding their daughter, but she’s sleeping in the carrier at his side right now, and Will is standing on the raised platform in the room while the tailor does arcane things with the seat of Will’s trousers.

“It will be delivered this evening,” the tailor tells Hannibal, who thanks him politely. They go home for lunch, and Will thought his appetite was non-existent, but whatever Hannibal is cooking up starts changing his mind. Will feeds Maddie in the armchair in the kitchen and watches Hannibal in his element.

“Are you making two meals at once?” Will asks eventually, because he doesn’t want to backseat cook, but he has questions.

Hannibal’s mouth curves into a smile. “The bolognese is for dinner. It will continue to cook throughout the afternoon.”

“What’s the liver for?”

“It gives the bolognese greater depth of flavor,” Hannibal says, continuing to mince it very finely. “Typically, chicken livers are used, but I have beef liver on hand.”

“It smells really good,” Will says. His stomach is actually actively interested, which is a change since he was hospitalized.

“And I hope it will smell even better tonight, and perhaps tempt you into a second serving,” Hannibal says, giving Will a critical once over. “You’ve lost weight—I’ve no desire to see you lose any more.”

“Do your worst—or your best, I suppose,” Will says.

“So I shall. Would you like to set the table? Lunch is nearly ready.”

Will eases himself up and puts Madeleine in her little bouncer in the dining room, and finds cutlery and glasses and linen napkins. When Hannibal comes out with lunch—a salad with crispy duck and asparagus—Will thinks that maybe he could really get used to this.

***

The next morning, Will gets dressed in his new suit—which came with a tie, and socks, and dress shoes—and presents himself for Hannibal’s approval. “Well?” he asks. “Will I do?”

Hannibal take a quick circuit around him, then stops to fuss with his tie. “More than,” he says warmly, and when Will looks him in the eye, a little shiver runs down his spine.

Then he looks at his jacket sleeve against Hannibal’s, and says, “Did you aggressively pattern match our wedding suits?” Will’s navy pinstripe looks positively demure against Hannibal’s frankly insane windowpane. It all kind of works together, which is both astonishing and alarming.

“One must think of the wedding photos,” Hannibal says blandly.

There are three baby dresses on the bed. Will looks at them, looks at their suits, then looks at Hannibal. “You want the yellow one, don’t you,” he says.

“It will look very nice.”

“I can’t believe you’re using our baby to accessorize,” Will says, but he totally can. He does a quick diaper check on Maddie, before extracting her from her little sleeper. This one has little bear ears and Will has taken many terrible pictures of her in it already. He somehow gets her into the little tights, and then the dress. “All right, Maddie,” he says softly, and picks her up.

Hannibal emerges from his closet with something both lacy and plaid. Will has a moment of thinking it’s a garter, and then wondering which of them Hannibal intends to wear it. It turns out to be some kind of headband for Maddie, and Hannibal looks extremely serious as he gets it on her head.

“Are we good?” Will asks, thinking there can’t possibly be anything else. He’s wrong, of course—Hannibal retrieves white rose boutonnieres from the fridge in the kitchen, and then there’s mysteriously a new winter overcoat for Will in the front hall closet that Will didn’t see delivered the night before.

“Hannibal,” Will protests, as Hannibal does up the buttons of Will’s new coat.

“Now we’re ready,” Hannibal says with satisfaction.

They got their marriage license two days ago, and instructions for the day of their wedding. They’re not even late for their appointment, which probably speaks to Hannibal’s intense time management skills. They sit in the waiting room, which is empty except for them. Tuesday mornings aren’t in big demand for weddings, apparently. Something about sitting there together, Maddie in her carrier at their feet, makes Will suddenly a little nervous, a little shy.

Holy shit, he’s getting married.

He feels like he should probably make conversation, but he’s spared by the arrival of their witnesses.

“I really thought you were joking,” Beverly says, her eyes wide.

Beside her is a diminutive older woman, dark hair in a neat bob, and she looks both amused and slightly astonished. “Oh Hannibal, who would have believed it?” she says, and sweeps forward, Beverly following in her wake.

“Will, this is Mrs. Irene Komeda, an old friend. Irene, this is Will Graham, and our daughter, Madeleine.”

“Nice to meet you,” Will says, before Beverly takes him aside.

“I thought you were on medical leave,” Beverly hisses to Will.

“I am, we just also—you know,” Will says under his breath.

Beverly gives him one very skeptical look, but then she’s leaning down toward the carrier. “She’s so little—can I hold her?”

Will distantly remembers that she has a lot of nieces and nephews, so she’s probably better at this than he is. “Go for it,” he says, and then Beverly is picking Maddie up and cooing incomprehensible things to her.

“And here we thought you might well be the last of your line,” Mrs. Komeda says teasingly to Hannibal.

It prompts a snort from Beverly. “You make it sound like he’s royalty.”

“Only a Count, I’m afraid,” Hannibal says, and Will stares at him. Hannibal had somehow neglected to mention that during what must have been a very abbreviated discussion of finances.

Their names are called then, which prevents Will from asking any pointed follow up questions. Hannibal holds out his hand for Will.

Will swallows once, then takes it, and they’re in front of the judge. The ceremony flies by, short and sweet. The judge asks if they have rings, and Will looks at Hannibal in panic, but Hannibal reaches into his pocket and produces two gold bands. Hannibal slides one onto Will’s finger, and says, “With this ring, I thee wed.”

Will repeats the same a moment later, Hannibal’s hand warm in his, the ring sliding into place.

“By the power vested in me, I pronounce you married. You may kiss.”

Will looks at Hannibal to see what he’s thinking—they’re getting married because of Maddie, but Mrs. Komeda and Beverly don’t know that. Hannibal looks expectant, and Will figures a peck is in the spirit of the occasion. He leans forward and places a soft kiss on Hannibal’s lips; he means for it to be brief, but Hannibal’s arms are around him, and it feels so good to be close to someone that he lets his lips linger.

Mrs. Komeda holds Maddie while Beverly takes pictures—Will knows her mostly for her crime scene work, but she showed him some pictures she’d taken of a trip to Budapest, and that was enough to decide him.

“Congratulations,” Mrs. Komeda says, after handing Maddie to Hannibal for a few family pictures. Maddie starts to fuss a little, and Hannibal croons something to her in French, low and sweet, and Will’s heart stutters for a moment.

“Thanks for coming,” Will says to both women.

“It’s not every day your friend becomes a countess,” Beverly says, and the shiteating smile on her face promises that she is never, ever going to let this go.

“Shall we be off to lunch?” Hannibal asks after buckling Maddie back in her carrier. He takes Will’s hand in his, his finger rubbing Will’s wedding ring, and they make their way out of the courthouse.

***

Hannibal opens the door to the house, and then leans in and sets Maddie’s carrier just inside.

“What are you—” Will starts, confused.

Hannibal looks at him, then at the threshold, and holds out his arms. “I believe it’s traditional.”

“I believe you’re going to throw your back out.”

“I’m well-versed in lifting with my knees,” Hannibal assures him.

Will scowls at him. “Why don’t I carry you?”

Hannibal looks him up and down, and then coughs delicately. “Your form is aesthetically pleasing, but I fear not up to the task.”

“Did you just tell me I need to work out more?” Will asks incredulously.

“Will, darling,” Hannibal says. “As they say—while we’re young.”

Will gives him a dirty look, but puts his arms around Hannibal’s neck, and then Hannibal sweeps him up and carries him over the threshold with no apparent difficulty. He’s seen the muscle that Hannibal is hiding under those suits—it’s one thing to know that Hannibal is stronger than he appears, and apparently yet another thing to experience Hannibal using that strength so effortlessly.

Hannibal lets Will’s legs slide to the ground, arm still tight around Will’s back, and for one long moment, Will looks into Hannibal’s eyes.

There are no burst veins, only a kind of pleased satisfaction that startles Will. He’s not used to anyone looking at him like that, for any reason, but Hannibal married him today and he’s happy about it.

Hannibal presses a kiss to Will’s forehead, his lips warm and soft, and then he lets Will go so that he can unbuckle Maddie from her carrier, and ask her very seriously in French if she needs a diaper change.

Will watches Hannibal carry her up the stairs, and starts to wonder just what he’s gotten himself into.