The chilling bite of mid November cloaked the afternoon in dreary graying white storm clouds that hung low and ominous in the sky above. It was the sort of weather that most people would have enjoyed better in front of a roaring fireplace while nursing a cup of hot cocoa or tea.
But He had never really been one for normalcy and that usually suited him just fine.
His back lined up straight but stiff against the polished wood of the bench he was seated on; a sketchbook rested against his knees as his leather bound gloved hand held a pencil which skillfully glided over the paper to etch the scenery around him.
The sound was so soft that he almost did not notice when someone limped up to the wooden bench and after a moment of great hesitancy sat down directly next to him.
Hannibal almost thought that he could ignore the lingering presence next to him at first.
“Damn, you’re really good at drawing huh?” A young soft voice sounds next to him. A young preteen boy with messy dark chestnut brown curls was suddenly sitting far too close for comfort. “Do you draw often?”
Hannibal’s shoulders stiffen as he feels the weight and warmth of the smaller boy who is now leaning against his shoulder to peer over it at his sketchbook. Pursing his lips slightly Hannibal takes note of the boy’s appearance.
From the swollen dark purple black bruising of the younger’s right eye to the dried blood of his split lip. Dark maroon eyes dip down critically cataloguing the pale arch of the boy’s neck where a necklace of old yellowing bruises lye for all to see.
Frowning deeply Hannibal also notes the lack of proper clothing on the younger boy; who couldn’t be more than eleven or twelve at most, but who also seemed smaller than what would be considered normal for his age group.
Hannibal’s eyes then look down to the bloodied cut up bare feet which hovered just above the cold ground from where they were perched on the bench. It was nearly December no one should be out bare foot in such weather, let alone a child.
The preteen lifts an eyebrow at Hannibal’s reaction before managing a weak but amused smile, “Oh geez sorry about that, I often forget that normal people don’t usually invade themselves into a stranger’s personal bubble.,.” The smaller boy rubs the back of his neck while smiling good naturedly at the older boy, “It’s a really awesome drawing though, I’m almost jealous, I can’t seem to draw for shit. The most I can do is draw a dog that would probably look more like a horse than anything else. Also you don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to; I’m pretty good at rambling enough for two people.” He says as he weakly smiles up at the older boy next to him.
“Oh, I’m Will by the way, do you come here often? I just recently found this place myself; it’s really nice, it’s quiet and peaceful here. Then again I haven’t been many places in France yet so I don’t quote me on this being the best park out there.” Will says softly as he turns his gaze to look at the lake before them.
Hannibal regards Will out of the corner of his eye, but then merely continues to sketch the lake again.
Will’s eyebrows fur together slightly when he gets no response. His shoulders tense up some at the continued silence, “Look I’m real sorry if I’m bothering you, I kinda fuck up everything everywhere I go…so If you’d prefer that I leave I’ll leave you be if you want.”
Hannibal’s pencil stops mid stroke against the sketch paper, “Hannibal.” He states after a long stretching moment, his voice comes out with the rasp of disuse in accented English. His dark maroon eyes lock steadily with wide stormy ocean blue.
Wills eyes widen slightly at the quiet admission from the older teen, he leans closer, “Hannibal, that’s your name? Weird, wasn’t he like a Roman general or something? I guess you were named after him, that’s pretty cool. My name seems kinda boring now compared to yours huh?”
“Crap you’re probably used to speaking in French more than English I take it?” Will looks down at his knees for a moment in frustration before looking back up to meet Hannibal’s eyes, “Sadly I only know a little French, but I’m seriously crap at speaking it so far. My old man harps on me daily because my lessons don’t seem to be panning out as well as he’d hoped they would. I mean I’m from Louisiana down in New Orleans so I know some broken Cajun French but that’s not really the same is it?”
Hannibal holds back a snort before making a soft hum of acknowledgement lifting one eyebrow in return as he closes his sketchbook. He then spares the young preteen a glance and frowns minutely as he watches a few shivers wrack through Will’s shoulders and down his back.
After a moment of quiet deliberation he slowly shrugs off his coat before he can bring himself to change his mind; he places the coat around younger boy’s shoulders.
He had worn a crimson turtle neck sweater underneath his coat so he wasn’t the least bit cold to be rid of it.
Will blinks up at him in an almost confused wonder. The gray coat seemingly dwarfs the preteen’s body making him look even tinier than he originally appeared to be, “Um...thank you Hannibal.” Wills pale cheeks darken to a soft rosy pink color, “I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but won’t you be cold now?”
"Will...” Hannibal murmurs out softly as if savoring his name like wine.
Looking to the older boy again after fingering the probably very expensive fabric of the coat around him he responds, “Yes, Hannibal?”
Hesitantly Hannibal reaches out his fingers to thumb the side of Will’s face where the majority of bruising is located. “Did your father do this to you?”
Paling he flinches some out of habit, he freezes up before grimacing slightly as he eyes Hannibal now cautiously wary, “What makes you think that? I mean don’t all parents yell or reprimand their kids is some way or another? Who’s to say my dad did this? I could have gotten into a bad fight or somethin’ too you know.”
Hannibal’s lips twitch into a small frown his maroon eyes darkening in anger but not at all directed at Will, “If you had gotten into an altercation with someone you perhaps wouldn’t be as defensive about it.”
Will swallows thickly his Adam’s apple bobbing in his throat as he speaks, “Yeah well, you got me there I guess. How did you know it was my dad who did it anyway?”
Eyeing Will for a moment Hannibal smirks softly down at him, “I did not know for certain mind you, but now you just confirmed my little theory all on your own.”
“You’re a manipulative kinda guy aren’t you? Are you used to getting what you want or somethin’?” Will blinks as his eyebrows knit themselves together.
“Quite the opposite really, but perhaps it’s time for a change of pace in that regard.” Standing Hannibal brushes off his black trousers and picks up his sketch book holding it under one arm.
Wills startles slightly like a deer caught in the head lights of a car as the older boy suddenly gets up. The preteen bites at his injured bottom lip some, “So are you leaving now then? Will you be back anytime soon? Not that I care mind you…it’s just maybe, we could meet up again if you don’t hate the idea of me babbling your ear off in a one sided conversation?”
“Get up.” Hannibal states calmly his voice soft but stern with the command.
Will blinks in confusion, “Huh?”
“Come Will, we are going now.” Hannibal repeats this time more clear in his request; he motions for Will to stand up with one of his black leather gloved clad hands.
The younger boy looks at him oddly his stormy ocean blue eyes untrusting and wild looking reminding Hannibal of a caged wild animal that had been abused for far too long by its captors.
Will stands on unsteadily his legs, looking as if they might soon buckle if he were to take a step forward, “Where are we going anyways?”
Hannibal looks down at Will briefly before lifting the younger boy into his arms with great ease. He makes a mental note to feed Will as soon as possible as his gloved hands ghost over the bones of an overly prominent spine and jutting rib bones. “Home.”
“Oi what the hell do you think you are doing? I can walk damn it, I’m not some little kid you can carry around like a porcelain doll. And home? I don’t have one of those; I don’t think I’ve really had one for a very long time in fact.” Will says softly as he squirms in Hannibal’s arms defiantly glaring at him.
“Perhaps we can make one together then.” Hannibal states simply before he starts walking toward the exit of the park, all the while tightening his grip around Will to keep him still.
Will frowns up at the older teen but eventually he quickly realizes that Hannibal isn’t going to be putting him down anytime soon.
He wraps his arms loosely around the back of Hannibal’s neck and then hooks his legs firmly around the older boy’s waist to secure himself properly, “I’m not sure my dad would like me running off like this. I kinda ran away from him earlier, he was drunk and angry as fuck mind you so he might not even be awake yet to miss me or realize I’m gone. But I should probably head back pretty soon.”
Hannibal stays silent for the next few minutes of their walk before speaking again, “You will not have to worry about him anymore Will, because you will not be going back to him again.”
Will’s eyebrows float up into his hairline in pure confusion at Hannibal’s statement, “Ehh are you legit kidnapping me right now? Do you often pick up impressionable wayward youths in parks or am I just special? And yeah I know he’s a pretty shitty dad and he damn well sure wouldn’t win an award for being parent of the year or anything, but he’s seriously all I have left to call as my family. Beggars can’t be choosers you know.”
Making sure to look Will in the eyes when he does so, Hannibal speaks softly again, “It is hardly a kidnapping if the second party comes willingly. I do not know your opinion on the matter but my definition of family does not harm one another. True family members do not make one another bleed or bruise in any way shape or form. Also you do not strike me as a beggar of any kind.”
Will sighs in a defeated way that is quite unsettling for someone his age to do, “Look my dad isn’t perfect, in fact he’s far from it. He’s a bit of a drunk most of the time if I’m gonna be honest; and yeah he tends to get a bit handsy when he’s drank three times his whole body weight in cheap booze. I guess I just piss him off in the best of ways; I’m by no means the world’s easiest kid to handle or raise. I’ve got plenty of lovely mental issues and problems that I’m betting not even the best of parents could even begin to tackle or fix. I guess you could say I’m a bit of a freak in many ways.”
Hannibal shifts Will’s weight to his right hip so he can take a better look at Will’s face, “Never make excuses for other people’s actions. Everyone has a choice, a conscious knowledge of right and wrong of what we do before we do it. He chose to harm you. He chose to make you bruise, to make you bleed, to bring you unjust amounts of pain; and for that I’m sure he will eventually ultimately lose something quite precious in the end.”
Pausing Hannibal frowns again, “And you are by no means freakish in any way that I can perceive. Perhaps you are a bit rude in the ways of vulgarity in your speech patterns but nothing so detrimental or too unseemly odd.”
Will sighs softly looking away from Hannibal’s eyes, “If I was a good son, maybe he wouldn’t hate my guts so much. If I was normal like most people, maybe he wouldn’t find himself at the bottom of a bottle so often. I’m just screwed up on so many levels; even I can see it for what it is. I may not like being his personal punching bag but, I really don’t care so much anymore you know? It’s better than what most people have, and I guess I shouldn’t be so ungrateful about it. I mean I have a place to stay, a roof over my head. I eat crappy food yeah but I still get to eat most of the time.”
A burning all consuming sort of hatred and anger coils deep within Hannibal’s stomach at the thought of Will’s father; who even when not currently present is still causing the younger boy unnecessary hurts and bouts of self loathing.
Tightening his hold ever so slightly around Will, Hannibal breaths in through his nose sharply to calm himself, “Nothing your father has ever done to you is your fault Will, nor do you deserve any of it; never think such things. I cannot say for certain for I do not know your father at all, but I can say this; Anyone who dares to harm their own child willingly, their own flesh and blood, is truly despicable and clearly in need of some sort of punishment.”
“You’re pretty opinionated for a stranger who just met me and heard my whole sad sob story. For all you know I could be some crazed kid broken out of juvey after murdering someone.” Will muses softly his hands twitching where they are curled at the back of Hannibal’s neck.
Chuckling softly Hannibal smirks before lifting an elegant ash blonde brow, “And are you a murderer Will? Are you going to do me harm in any way whilst my back is turned? Perhaps you have a concealed weapon in your pants pocket?”
Will let out a choked bout of genuine laughter his pale cheeks darkening slightly with a flush of color, “Hmm, not today at least. Maybe tomorrow if the mood strikes me; as for a weapon? Nah I think if I were to kill someone I’d use my hands.”
“Ah an unusually intimate choice of means of murder, it suits you.” Hannibal hums out softly.
Snorting the younger boy rolls his eyes, “You’re seriously really weird, I hope you know that.”
“Where would the fun be in being normal?” Hannibal quips back at him.
Snorting Will looks to the older boy again “So where are we going again? You said home, so I’m guessing your house? Won’t your parents be alarmed by you bringing a strange bruised and bleeding boy into their home? I mean I don’t wanna bleed onto the carpet or anything, I do like making good first impressions you know. I have to have some standards in my life.”
“We are indeed going to my home. I do not have parents, I have an estranged uncle. One who does not ask many questions about the oddity of my choices in companions or guests.” Hannibal replies as he makes his way up to the large gated fence of a large town house on the verge of what one would call being a mansion.
“Should I be worried about you killing me or something? It’s not every day I get taken home by a foreign handsome teenage boy.” Will grins slightly.
“You are far too interesting to kill, Will.” The older boy muses aloud.
“Oh so you’ve had practice with killing before have you? I guess I should be glad I’m so entertaining then.” Will murmurs back taking in the looming building before them.
Unlocking the gate one handedly Hannibal opens it and walks down the small cobble stoned pathway toward the front door of the house, but not before closing the gate behind him, “One could say I am quite skilled in many areas of expertise, I like to know the inner workings of many things and people. To dissect what makes them tick so to speak.”
“And is that what you are doing with me, Hannibal? Are you looking for what makes me “tick”? Are you looking for what makes me so interesting to you?” Will questions softly in a curious tone.
“Only time will tell.” Hannibal replies as he sets Will down on the steps next to him, he digs into his trouser pocket to pull out a key. Quickly opening the front door he nods for Will to follow him as he enters.
“Well, fuck you’re sorta rich aren’t you?” Whispers Will out in awe as they enter the front parlor of the huge and beautifully decorated house, “I’m definitely gonna stain and ruin this floor with smears of blood…”
“Well that should prove to be entertaining to watch the maids try and clean I suppose. “ Chortles Hannibal softly as he hovers to the left of Will just in case the younger boy stumbles, “As for being “rich” as you so bluntly put it, my parents were quite well off, as are my uncle and his wife.”
“You are such a sadist.” Will snorts out suddenly his ocean blue eyes shining with pure amusement.
Smirking some Hannibal merely shrugs his shoulders, “Perhaps to most I would seem to be so, but it would seem that now with you my compassion is most surprisingly inconvenient.”
“Must be strange to suddenly care for something after not caring about anything for so very long huh?” Will murmurs out as he lets his empathy reign control of the moment before he blinks breaking the connection to Hannibal, “Crap, I’m sorry! Sometimes I lose myself in other people’s heads, and sometimes I forget to be me.”
Hannibal watches Will with such keen interest that it’s almost palpable, “That must be very disconcerting, to lose touch with one’s sense of true self, to be overtaken by someone else entirely. One could even wonder if it should be called a gift or a curse; a bit of both perhaps?”
He took a step forward toward the smaller boy looking to almost encroach upon Will’s personal space for a moment only to walk past him to stop in front of the gray white marble spiral staircase against the wall, “If you are amenable to the idea, I should think the best course of action first would be to have you bathe so I can properly catalogue and tend to your injuries.”
“I didn’t exactly have time to grab any clothes before I left home…” Will trails off lamely.
Smiling slightly at his statement Hannibal merely gestures for Will to follow him up the stairs as he turns to lead the way, “I’m sure we will find something of mine you can use in the mean time that will be suitable if not only a little big on you given your size. We can discuss a trip into the city to purchase a proper sized wardrobe for you at a later time.”
Will reluctantly limps after him all the while leaning heavily against the elegant ramp of the railing of the stairs as he goes, “So, why me?” His voice comes out so uncharacteristically small sounding that it causes Hannibal to pause a few steps ahead of him to look back at Will.
After a moment of awkward silence Hannibal turns away and continues his steady rise ahead of him, “Would you rather I had left you on the park bench alone? Shoeless, and bleeding with no coat to keep you warm?”
Will worries his injured lip with his teeth before responding, “No...but that still doesn’t mean I understand why you did it? I mean logically speaking I’m a stranger to you right? Why should you even care?”
“Why indeed.” Hannibal responds softly his accented English seemingly thick in his throat, lodged uncomfortably like a stuck stone, “I suppose it would seem that we will both have to journey to the reason “why” together if we wish to find the true meaning and answer to that question.”
“You are overly complicated and mysterious.” Will muses out distractedly lost in his thoughts.
“Would you prefer me to be boring?” The Hannibal replies back.
Will ignores the question and is silent until they reach a large bathroom adjourning what Will can only assume is Hannibal’s own personal bedroom, “I think your bathroom is probably bigger than my whole apartment.” Wide eyed the preteen looks around the room briefly eyeing the enormous bathtub that looks more like a Jacuzzi in his opinion.
Hannibal shakes his head at him before walking to the large bathtub, he begins filling it with mint and clove scented bath salts and warm water, “Undress.”
Will’s face contorts some before a soft pink blush coats his cheeks he stares at Hannibal as if he’d sprouted a second head from his shoulders, “With you in here watching me?! What are you gonna help me bathe myself? And…why can’t I take a shower, that’d be way quicker. I don’t need company, I’m not a little kid, I’m twelve not five.”
Lifting an eyebrow at him Hannibal’s lips twitch upward in a sort of half smile half smirk, “You are wounded Will, you are more than welcome to shower instead; but I would highly recommend a calming hot bath. The combination of the bath salts I have chosen and the warmth of the water should help ease away the tension and pain that you are undoubtedly still feeling. As for my presence here, It would be mutually beneficiation to the both of us if I were to assist you or at least be nearby in case you were to fall unconscious.”
Blinking some Will then scoffs snorting in a mocking manner, “Are you planning on knocking me out while I’m in the bath naked to have your wicked way with me then?”
Hannibal makes a soft humming noise in the back of his throat as if in deep mental deliberation which makes Will smack the older teen in the shoulder, “Dear Will, I may be many things but a rapist is not one of them. Besides, you are a bit too young for my liking. Now please undress, and do not feel too shyly about it. We are after all both male it’s nothing I have not already seen before on myself.”
Sputtering a bit Will looks about to protest but slowly closes his mouth and grumbles some to himself before pulling off the remaining rags of his clothing leaving him bare to Hannibal’s eyes.
Several clusters of bruises litter the preteen’s body in both yellow and dark purplish black blotches that seemed in some places to eclipse the alabaster pale skin beneath them.
Ignoring Hannibal completely Will inches toward the bathtub and then lowers himself into the warm water. He flinches slightly as the heat seeps into his every pore, the soreness of his skin now keenly aware to his senses.
Sighing softly Will closes his eyes half way, not even startling when he feels one of Hannibal’s hands card into the top of his curls.
“That’s it Will, just ease back and let me take care of you.” Hannibal murmurs calmly his lips inches from Will’s ear as he leans closer to the smaller.
“This is so strange and wrong…” Will whispers back dazedly.
“Heaven forbid we were ever to become friendly.” Hannibal chuckles some as he works the shampoo into a soapy lather in Will’s hair.
And in the span of a few hours, the numbness that had nearly engulfed Hannibal’s heart as a whole since Mischa’s passing suddenly abated and thawed replacing it with a curious panicked wonder. His chest thrumming with the unidentifiable rush of emotion that made him feel simultaneously both alive and trapped all at the same time.
It was curious sort of entrapment that he was not sure he ever wished to be free of.