“Good afternoon, Will.”
He’d forgotten about Lecter’s voice, deep and accented. He’d grown so used to seeing that face everyday that, somehow, he’d disassociated it from the man that now stood before him. Will didn’t even try to respond, he wasn’t here to exchange pleasantries. He wouldn’t be Lecter’s plaything ever again.
“How are you?”
Will choked back the lump in his throat. A chair had been left out for him, in front of Lecter’s glass fronted cell. He sat down, more from an urge to try and control the situation, to aim for the correct protocol, than anything else.
“You seem upset.”
Will squeezed his hands together, pressing his thumb nails into the soft flesh of his palms. He’d thought he’d known Lecter so well, had lived in the man’s shadow for so long, but now he couldn’t even speak. Lecter’s voice was still infuriatingly calm. As if they were meeting like they had so many times in the past. As if Will had ever been anything more than a toy to him, a way to amuse himself between murders; something disposable that could be broken and thrown away.
If he closed his eyes he could almost imagine that this was just another session; like he was back in Lecter’s office, before their relationship had become anything more than professional; like he was just getting to know Lecter again. As much as he had ever really known him. He let his eyes fall shut. The chair was cheap and plastic and uncomfortable. He hunched in it, his muscles sore from so many sleepless nights.
“Tell me, which did you find was the greater betrayal; the killings, or the fact that I chose my own life over yours?”
Will lowered his head. He desperately wished he hated Hannibal for the deaths, for the mutilations and cannibalism, for the lives ripped apart. But how could he, when there was still so much of Hannibal still left inside his mind. Dark thoughts that haunted his nights, dreams of drinking the warm life blood that seeped out of his victims wounds. At night, Hannibal was always with him. By day, he had to put such thoughts away. His life was different now, he had other responsibilities.
Will blinked his eyes open; he thought he’d cried out the last of his tears but now his eyes were wet again. He hadn’t seen Lecter’s face in years. But seeing him now, like this, only made him think of his beautiful son. His little boy looked so much like his father.
He was so used to the childish version of that face and the miniature body that accompanied it. He’d forgotten what that glacial beauty looked like on an adult, how Hannibal wore his masculinity like a predator. How could he blame Hannibal for human crimes, when even now, he was so much more than that?
“I thought about coming before..After I..When I first found out, but then,” Will slid out of the chair, slumping on to the floor next to his pile of papers. “But then, I didn’t and… And then, later, everything seemed so different, like a different life, that I thought I could just start again.” His vision blurred through his teary eyes and his glasses fogged slightly.
“Found out about what, Will?” Hannibal’s voice was so calm, so rational. There was a time when he’d thought Hannibal was the voice of sanity and he’d clung to it. His mind had been darkened in a perpetual storm of confusion and Hannibal the reassuring lifeline that he had clung to without realising what that lifeline had been pulling him towards.
Hannibal stepped closer to the glass, so that Will could see his black shoes just behind the glass partition. They looked cheap and inelegant; his Hannibal would have despised wearing them.
“I was pregnant. I,” Will gulped, struggling to find the words, trying to find the best way to inspire some paternal feeling in Hannibal so that he would agree to help him. “I kept the child. Your son. He, he looks like you.”
Hannibal’s eyes burned as they took him in, consuming him, devouring him. He wanted to look away, but this was a test and he could not fail. Whatever Hannibal saw in his face seemed to satisfy him, but Will hated him more than ever. This was the only man he’d ever felt comfortable enough with to look into his eye. He’d been in the minds of so many murderers, had killed with them, trapped in their minds. He’d been so alone, so incapable of having any kind of relationship with those around him; even friendships had seemed beyond him, strained and fraught. Then he’d met Hannibal and he hadn’t been alone anymore.
“Show me,” Hannibal’s voice sounded lower, but Will didn’t want to look at him again. He already had too much of Hannibal inside him, he didn’t want to empathise with him any more. Didn’t want to become any more like him. Hannibal’s word were harsher, more brusque, compared to the unfailing politeness of the Hannibal that he had known. Perhaps it was a difference years spent in this dark cell had brought about. He told himself he didn’t want to know, he didn’t care how similar this caged man was to the man he had once imagined he was in love with. Will scrambled to get his wallet and pulled out a small photo; it was a close-up of him holding onto Alex, as the little boy smiled at the camera. The child was unmistakably Hannibal’s, even with a layer of baby fat; Hannibal’s well defined and heavy upper lip sat on chubby cheeks and Hannibal’s maroon eyes twinkled with childish glee.
The drawer to Hannibal’s cell slammed opened, but Will didn’t want to give him the photo. Didn’t want that monster to touch even a photograph of his precious boy. Instead, he pressed the photo to the glass. Hannibal crouched down, his eyes fixed intently on Will’s. Even with the glass in place, Will was paralysed, torn between fear and hope. Male pregnancy was so very rare, and Will was almost as scared that Hannibal wouldn’t believe the child existed as he was scared that Hannibal wouldn’t care about helping his newfound son.
“I named him Alex, Alexander,” he glanced at Hannibal’s face. There was a stillness to that face as he stared at the picture. There was a time when Will would have thought that expression was blank, but now he knew the man too well. He could see the stirrings of emotion there.
“Your copycat took him, he’s been kidnapped. He left me a note saying he’ll give him back,” Will gulped back the lump in his throat, the despair he’d felt since he’d realised Alex was gone was leaching into his voice. “If I stop helping Jack try to find him. Please…”
Will cut himself off with a gasp. His pleading would only fall on deaf ears. Begging was not the way to receive Hannibal’s mercy.
Hannibal turned away, and, away from the heady beam of Hannibal’s attention, Will let himself slump further onto the floor. He rested his head on the chair behind him, taking care not to put any weight on it so that it didn’t slip backwards. Hannibal had to know something about this copycat killer, someone was meticulously recreating each of the Chesapeake Ripper’s kills and there wasn’t a doubt in Will’s mind that the killer was an ex-patient of Hannibal’s.
“Please,” Will whispered brokenly.
“Did you lactate, dear Will? Did you make milk for our child?” Hannibal called out, his back still to Will. He was so tall and his posture regal and incongruous in this grimy cell. Will felt a jolt of relief. Our child Hannibal had said, he had accepted that Alex was indeed his.
Will stayed on the floor, his arms reaching to cradle his chest. He had produced breast milk. It hadn’t been enough for his little baby and he’d had to buy formula. It was another thing he’d failed at, another way society could judge him and find him lacking. His chest had barely swollen at all, and, even though he knew it was common for men who had given birth to be unable to produce milk, he had wished so much that he could have produced more. Even if that had meant that he would have grown large feminine breasts, he wouldn’t have cared. It wouldn’t have been a loss of masculinity. It would have been a sign that the child was his, and that he would be a good parent; that his child would never need his other father.
Will nodded jerkily. Hannibal turned quickly, as if he’d only just remembered that Will tended to give nonverbal answers. Will knew it was contrived, Hannibal was always completely aware of his actions.
“What did it feel like to have my child suckling on you? All this time, you’ve thought of me every single day, haven’t you, Will?”
He looked up properly, finally able to look Lecter in the eye. It wasn’t something he was often able to do in real life, although for years he had dreamt of doing just this. A thousand times he’d relived that moment he realised who Hannibal was, what he was. In his dreams, he didn’t gasp out his realisation and Hannibal didn’t lash out at him, like a cornered animal, angry and wild as it desperately struggled to survive. In his dreams, he kept silent. He always woke up before he did anything else; he could never be sure that he would have told Jack the truth about Hannibal. Lying in bed, sticky with sweat, he always wanted to believe that he would have turned Hannibal in. But by the time he woke up, it was always morning and such thoughts must be put away in the day time. Will knew he was not meant to be a parent, but he refused to concede defeat as his own parents had. He might lack the temperament, perhaps even the mental capacity, to be a father but he would never stop trying. Not while his little Alex needed him. Right now, his little boy needed him more than ever.
“He’s your son too! He’s in danger because some lunatic…” Will’s voice had raised to a yell without him even noticing and he stopped himself again. He couldn’t antagonise Hannibal, he needed his help too much. He couldn’t be rude and yell, couldn’t blame him for this, even though this whole situation was Hannibal’s fault. Alex would be safely tucked up in bed if this maniac hadn’t decided to idolise Hannibal and lovingly recreate every kill that had been painstakingly detailed at his trial.
“Just look at the cases, just…” Will begged, still huddled on the floor. His child could be dead already and the only thing he could do was beseech his attempted murderer for help.
“Stand up, Will,” Hannibal said, his voice a mild mask of reason, the doctor calming his patient. Will got to his feet slowly and shivered; he was sweating despite the cold and his shirt was already sticking to his back. This wasn’t the time for his anger, he needed Hannibal’s help. He wasn’t sure if the man even cared that his son was in danger but Will wanted to believe that he would help him. Will wanted so desperately that even with his empathy, he couldn’t fathom Hannibal not helping him.
“Give me the case files. I will need an hour to look through them. Return then and we shall see if I can be of any assistance.” Hannibal sat at his desk and peered at the papers scattered there; it was an obvious dismissal.
“Thank you,” Will gasped out before catching his lower lip between his teeth and biting down. Hannibal hadn’t agreed to do anything more than read over a few cases. He put the pile of paperwork into the drawer that connected Hannibal’s cell to the corridor and pushed it closed. The sound of the metal tray rang out loudly, echoing in the confined space. “I’ll be back in an hour,” Will garbled. For the first time in days, he felt a sense of hope. Hannibal nodded without looking round at him and Will had the impression that he wouldn’t even look through the case files. That he had sent Will away only so that he could think about what Will had told him. If the man wasn’t such a monster, Will might have pitied him; to suddenly learn that he was a father, only to learn that that child’s life was threatened. Will hung his head as he made his way back to the guards station, walking past the other inmates; he did not want to empathise with Hannibal, no matter how easy it was to do.
The orderly gave him a sympathetic smile and, seeming to realise how distraught Will was, led him up the twisting stairs and corridors, until finally he was outside. The cold air hit his face and startled him from his daze just in time to murmur a subdued thanks to the man. It was raining gently; the soft drizzle hid the tears that were running down his cheek and he didn’t bother rushing to get into his car. By the time he got into the dry rental car, fifteen minutes had already passed since he’d left Lecter. Time seemed to be passing oddly, his whole existence revolving around Hannibal’s response to his plea for help. He only had to wait forty-five more minutes for the man’s answer.
He started the engine reflexively and clutched hold of the steering wheel. He had to believe that Hannibal would help him, would tell him who the Ripper Copycat was or, better yet, tell him where Alex was. Despite everything, he retained an unwavering faith in Hannibal’s puissance.
After all, it was the way that Hannibal seemed to control everything around him that had first attracted Will to the man. He’d never questioned his sexuality before he’d met Hannibal, but the man’s calm assurance had been the balm that he’d realised he had been craving all his life. Perhaps it hadn’t been real. Perhaps it had all been a trick, a manipulation as Hannibal had molded him like so much formless clay; but he’d never been as happy as he had been in that short time he had spent with Hannibal. He’d even made his way into Will’s dreams, into the heart of his fervid visions and left a piece of himself there. He hated Hannibal for abandoning him, but he knew he should hate him for being monster. The monster who was Will’s only hope of seeing his son alive again.
It had stopped drizzling when he got out of the car. It hadn’t been quite an hour since he’d left Hannibal, but it would take him a few minutes to walk there and to deal with all the orderlies again. He pushed open the heavy doors of Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. The receptionist recognised him and gave a curt nod before picking up a phone and telling someone that Will Graham had just come in. She set the telephone down with a heavy thunk and gave Will disdainful glance. He shuffled forward, stopping in front of her raised desk.
“I, uh, I’m here to see Dr Lecter again. I was just here,” Will explained, keeping his eyes on her disapproving chin. The woman sighed impatiently.
“Yes, well, Dr Chilton would like to see you first. If you’d just sit and wait, I’m sure he won’t be long,” she said in a supercilious tone and a jab of her chin in the direction of the uncomfortable looking chairs that lined the hallway. Will pursed his lips, but knew there was no point saying anything else. He’d have to play along with Chilton’s games for a little bit longer. He couldn’t afford to upset anyone, he needed Chilton to be on his side, to grant him access to Hannibal. He fidgeted as he sat and tried to calm the small voice in his head that said this women was unforgivably rude.
“Aah, there you are, Mr Graham,” Dr Chilton called out, his oily voice startled Will. He swallowed back a sarcastic retort at Chilton’s unsubtle dig at the fact that he was no longer a Special Agent. The man had always been repulsive, and, now that he needed to be nice to him, the man was practically making his skin crawl. “I’ll escort you down to the top security corridor.”
“Thank you, Dr Chilton. Actually, I was here earlier, I already know the way,” Will said; it was a half-truth, he could barely remember anything that had happened since Alex had been taken. It was one long, painful blur until he found himself in front if Hannibal’s cell, begging for his help.
‘Well, we wouldn’t want you getting lost, now would we?” Chilton smiled condescendingly and stood a little too close to him as they made their way down the stairs. “So the FBI has decided to ask Lecter for help with his copycat, hmm? The Ripper Copycat?” Chilton asked conceitedly, as if Hannibal was his pet rather than his patient. Will shrugged and made a noise that could be considered agreement; Chilton smirked.
Will stopped, mid-stride, and stumbled down a stair. Chilton grabbed on to him to stop him from slipping further and Will felt such a rage, that Chilton would dare touch him, curl through him. This man had listened in to his earlier conversation with Hannibal and now wanted to eavesdrop more, he was a pathetic little man desperate to cling to the coat tails of a much greater man to try and scrape a little fame and respect for himself.
“I’ve been putting together some material for my new book, detailing some of the techniques I’m using on Lecter and so forth,” Chilton waved his hand dismissively. Someone who didn’t know the man might think that he was actually making sense, but Will knew that Chilton was doing nothing but scrabbling to catch whatever crumbs Hannibal let fall to him. “Well, here we are. Now, if Hannibal is able to help you with your inquiries, I do hope you’ll remember how helpful we all were here, hmm?”
Chilton gave him a tight smile and Will shuffled awkwardly; his child was danger and yet he had to play nice with Chilton. A stray thought floated across his mind; why had Hannibal left so very many rude people still alive and undigested?
“Of course, Dr Chilton.” Will murmured, struggling to remain polite. The orderly who had escorted him outside earlier was standing behind Chilton, ready to open the locked door for Will. Chilton gave him one last, insincere, smile and then stood aside. Will passed through the doorway and entered Hannibal’s corridor. Earlier, he had been too pre-occupied to notice the lunatics encased in the cells. He kept his eyes on the floor and tried to not hear the mutterings as he passed by each prisoner.
The chair that Will had sat on earlier was still out, but it had been moved, as if someone else had been down here, talking to Lecter. The idea angered him. Why was someone else allowed to interrupt Hannibal’s hour, when he had been sent away? It must have been Chilton, so jealous of any interaction with Hannibal that might lead him to academic glory.
“Hello, again. I see it’s raining outside. Please, do have a towel,” Hannibal said politely as he took a towel that was hanging from his little wash basin and put it into the tray. He pushed the tray through gently, and this time the metal clicked smoothly into position. Will’s wet hair dripped onto his collar, droplets of water ran down his neck; a minor irritation he would have ignored if Hannibal hadn’t called attention to it.
Will took the towel gingerly. It was thin and raggedy and so different from Hannibal’s previous life. This wasn’t the first time he’d been wrapped in Hannibal’s towels. The two of them had shared a shower once. Hannibal had slowly washed away the dried sweat from his naked body and then wrapped him in his thick luxuriant towels. He’d even warmed them, just for Will. Hannibal had always been the most thoughtful of hosts. How Will had longed for him then. He’d known that there was something between them, that this was not how psychiatrists usually dealt with their patients, but he’d been too awkward to do anything more than lightly peck at Hannibal’s lips with a chaste kiss. Hannibal had smiled at him; it hadn’t been quite a rejection, not even a rebuff. Looking back, Will knew it had been a lure. Baiting him and stoking his desire, until Will thought he would go mad with it. All of it had been Hannibal’s manipulations, the twisted game of a madman.
Will pulled the towel from his shoulders and angrily threw it back into Hannibal’s tray. Hannibal watched him serenely, like he was still Hannibal’s patient.
“Have you looked through the files? Do you...Do you think he’s alive?”
Hannibal tilted his head consideringly.
“I don’t think there’s anything I can do to help you.”
The air rushed from Will’s lungs and he threw his arms around himself, hugging himself tightly. It felt like Hannibal was trying to kill him all over again. His stomach ached with a pain more real than when his lover had tried to gut him.
“He’s your son!”
“If you had hoped for that argument to persuade me, you should have told me of his existence long before now. It might have allowed some paternal feelings to develop.”
“So, so you know who it is? Don’t you? You know who has Alex?”
Hannibal pulled the metal tray back to his side and took the now slightly damp towel out. His nostrils flared, as if he were smelling the thing, but he did not raise it to his nose.
“Time, I think, for you to leave, good Will.”
“Hannibal! Please!” Will screamed, his disbelief somehow greater even than his pain. It was impossible that Hannibal wouldn’t help him. This must be some sort of waking nightmare, a hallucination, because he couldn’t conceive of a reality where Hannibal wouldn’t help Alex.
“Alana said I shouldn’t come, that you wouldn’t help, that…” that he was too vulnerable to Hannibal’s manipulations. Jack had sat behind his desk, facing them both and staying silent. After Lecter’s incarceration there had been too many inquires into how the FBI hadn’t spotted the killer in their midst. Jack was no longer so willing to push Will as much, he was under too much scrutiny from his own superiors. When Will had said he would go to Hannibal for help, Jack hadn’t objected.
Hannibal had taken up residence in the empty corners of his mind. He was still a useful tool for Jack, but somehow just a little duller than before. His empathy blunted by Hannibal’s shadow. He had thought he’d known, been so very sure, even when everyone around him had doubted it, that Hannibal would help.
“Please!” he yelled again. There had to be some way to convince him, something he could say. The orderly must have heard his screams; the man was rushing down the corridor towards him.
“Please, help me find my son, Hannibal!” Will’s voice broke and he gulped back air to try and beg some more.
But the orderly put a large arm around his shoulders and was dragging him away. His vision was going blurry, but he saw Hannibal one last time before the orderly shuffled him further back and away from his last hope. Hannibal, the man he had once imagined himself in love with, was standing preternaturally still and watching him with an air of detached interest. Will screamed inarticulately and let himself be led away.