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Shelter Us, Harbor Me

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Hannibal sits between Will and Adam for the duration of their flight. Adam is given the window seat and isn’t completely oblivious to the reasoning behind it. It would be much harder for him to run, to signal anybody or to do anything seated like this, even if he wanted to. He mostly doesn’t want to.

Will had spoken to him in hushed tones before they got into the car.

“Look, I know you probably want to run or call for help, but your boyfriend is wanted in several European countries, and I’m sure the LAPD would be extremely interested in his current line of work. It’ll be better for everyone if you don’t try to get law enforcement involved. You won’t like what happens if they do.” He makes a face and turns to Hannibal. “I don’t like threatening him. It feels so… inelegant.”

“Peace, mylimasis. This was your design, remember?”

“Your design,” Will says.

“A necessary evil for your greater good. We’re almost done now, darling. We’re almost home.”

Adam catches most of the words Hannibal murmurs into Will’s ear, but not all of them. Will turns away, face shuttered, and Hannibal rubs slow circles into his back while Adam stands awkwardly beside the car. It all makes Adam very uncomfortable, like he’s witnessing something he isn’t supposed to see, but he takes their meaning and doesn’t try to call for help, not at the car rental place or the airport, not even on the plane.

So instead Adam fidgets in his seat and is rude to the flight attendants. He’s difficult when someone tries to hand him a little bag of pretzels. He’s tapping an anxious beat into the thigh of his jeans and jumps out of his skin when the speakers ping for the fasten seatbelt sign.

A flight attendant wearing too much sticky-sweet perfume appears at the end of the aisle. “Are you okay, sugar?” she asks in a Southern drawl.

“He’s fine,” Hannibal cuts in smoothly, and it’s honestly a relief not to have to speak for himself. “Our son is just a nervous flier. Could we trouble you for a ginger ale to settle his stomach?”

“Of course,” she coos. “Poor dear. My youngest gets airsick too. I’ll bring a straw. Sipping the bubbles slowly always helps.”

“Thank you.”

Hannibal rests a casual hand on his thigh, and Adam presses into it. He barely notices when a can of soda and a cup of ice materialize in front of him, too busy trying to untangle the complicated knot of our son.

* * *

He’s tired and cranky by the time their plane lands, emotionally wrung out and overstimulated. He’s bad-tempered and short with everyone and doesn’t actually notice the way Will positions himself between Adam and the worst of the crowd.

It’s all so loud. It’s all so noisy. The din of hundred voices digs at his skull like a vice. The pressure builds behind his eyes until he thinks he might actually lose his mind. The humid air feels entirely too thick, and he’s gasping for breath before he knows it.

There’s a voice in his ear, a firm grip on his arm. “Adam, come. Let’s go wait in the car.”

He nods, totally numb. It’s all evenly terrible. They can kill him here as easily as in the car. At least a car sounds quiet.

The walk to the parking lot is a blur. Adam can’t tell if it’s better or worse that most of the people around him are speaking a language he doesn’t understand. It removes some of the burden, at least. Removes some of the impulse to absorb, to understand. It also highlights how foreign this place is, how far removed from his life. He looks at the arcs of skylights overhead, now blackened by night, the cold industrial chrome and carousels of luggage.

It still feels like relief when the car door closes behind him. He sits in the backseat, and Hannibal gets behind the wheel. He starts the car, and the engine purrs to life. The new car smell intensifies as the cabin fills with blessedly cool air. It’s soothing against his fevered skin.

“I feel like I’m dreaming,” Adam says, pressing his forehead to the smooth glass of the window. He thinks of opening the door, thinks of running. Thinks of Nigel being arrested and doesn’t do either. “Like this is a nightmare, and I’m going to wake up.”

“Derealization isn’t an uncommon response when the mind is faced with upsetting events. There are swaths of my own childhood that seem strange to me. It will get easier, Adam.” Hannibal twists in his seat to speak to Adam face-to-face.

“What happens now?” he asks, baleful and bleary-eyed.

“Now we go home,” Hannibal says. “You take a bath to get the grit and grime of travel off you, and I’ll make us a light dinner. Then I imagine we’ll all want to rest. It’s been a long day for everyone.”

Adam hits his fists against the leather seats, and Hannibal’s face doesn’t change. It doesn’t so much as flicker.

“I don’t understand what you want from me. Is this about sex? Is he going to rape me again? Are you?” He tries to ignore the jolt in his gut, the sickness mixed with desire that rears its head when he speaks the word aloud. He tries to ignore the darkest, twisted part of him that wants exactly that.

“Does it feel better to have your fears out in the open?” Hannibal asks.

“Not unless someone gives me an answer,” Adam says. “You just ask me more questions. You do it all the time. Talking about what I’m scared of just makes me feel more afraid.”

He looks out the window, watches a man and a woman get in a car across the parking structure. They look as tired as he feels. He wonders if they’re happy.

Hannibal tilts his head. “Is there an answer you would believe?”

“Probably not.”

“Then the outcome is the same, isn’t it? Whether I answer or not.”

“Those were both questions,” Adam says. He grits his teeth and very intentionally does not scream.

* * * 

They’re in the car for a long time. There are street lights and traffic signals close to the airport, but within a few miles, the terrain melts into narrow one-lane roads illuminated by nothing but headlights.

“The airport in San Jose is closer, but it’s more heavily monitored,” Hannibal explains, although Adam didn’t ask. “The drive is very beautiful during the day. It’s a shame it’s too dark to see anything outside.”

Adam doesn’t think he’d have enjoyed it either way. He’s having a hard time caring where they are or what happens to him now. He’s gathered that they’re in Costa Rica, but only because it was impossible to miss the signs at the airport. It isn’t up to him, so it doesn’t seem worth knowing.

He doesn’t remember falling asleep, but he jolts awake suddenly when the car stops. His heart’s pounding, and for a few blissful seconds he thinks he might have dreamed the whole thing. Awareness filters back to him in pieces. Hannibal and Will are sitting in the front seats, talking to each other in hushed tones as if they don’t want to wake him. The clock on the dashboard says it’s just after one in the morning.

They get out of the car, and Adam unfastens his seatbelt in a hurry, suddenly fearing getting left behind. There are no street lights here either, no neighboring houses or convenience stories. Nothing but pitch dark. Insects whistle from the bushes, and in the distance something howls.

“Watch your step,” Hannibal says as he hands Adam his suitcase. “Parts of the path are uneven.”

There’s a two-story house that stretches up against the sky. Hannibal and Will walk up to it together, not checking behind to make sure Adam is following. He figures there’s nowhere to run. He figures they could still turn Nigel in.

They’re walking close together, laughing and talking about something Adam can’t follow—continuing a conversation they had started while he was sleeping, probably. Will is still shaking his head and chuckling when he stops at the door, as Hannibal pulls keys from his pocket and sorts through them to find the right one. It’s so strangely normal, and Adam stands at a distance watching them. He feels strangely left out, on the outside looking in.

Hannibal stands aside to let Will in, and he smiles at him in a way that lights up his whole face. He turns to Adam before that brightness has the chance to fully fade.

“Coming in?” he asks.

Adam nods and hefts his suitcase over the step in the threshold.

Where else would I go?

* * * 

Nothing happens to Adam except exactly what Hannibal said.

Will disappears somewhere as soon as they get into the house, and Hannibal shows Adam to his room upstairs at the end of a hallway. There are large windows that let a cool breeze in, a bed, a bookshelf, a desk, and a chair. The air smells like the ocean here. The walls are cheery and white, and all the furniture is made from a beautiful, deep wood that matches the floor, all of it polished to a high shine. Midnight blue linens cover the bed, and there’s an enormous stack of fluffy white pillows at the head of it.

It’s lovely, and it makes him feel so lonely that it hurts like a physical pain.

Hannibal shows Adam to the bathroom across the hall from the bedroom. It’s stocked with every kind of toiletry he could conceivably need, and there are plush towels the exact same shade as his bedspread hung over towel racks.

Hannibal leaves him to it, promising to give him a tour of the house later. “Tomorrow,” he says. “I think we could all use a good night’s sleep first.”

“I don’t want a tour,” Adam says, but it doesn’t seem to actually matter.

He finds clothes in the dresser in his room, all of it his size, in the kinds of fabrics that don’t irritate his skin. He desperately wants a shower, but he doesn’t think he can bear it. He feels uncomfortable in his clothes, tired and sweaty, but they’re his clothes. They’re the last clothes Nigel saw him wearing.

He thinks of Nigel, who has certainly realized he’s missing by now, and he turns on the shower so no one can hear him cry.

He stays there until the room grows thick with steam, until he feels dizzy from the heat. He waits until he can breathe without sobbing. He’s damp by the time he emerges, with condensation clinging to his clothes and hair.

When he goes back downstairs to find everyone else, he’s wearing the same clothes, and he probably smells like an airplane. His face is blotchy and red, and his eyes are swollen, but no one says a word about it. Hannibal and Will eat some kind of cheese and bread with wine. There’s Amy’s mac and cheese for Adam, which he doesn’t touch.

Will keeps looking at him like he’s concerned, and Adam pretends not to notice.

* * *

If there’s a silver lining in any of this, it’s that Adam is dead on his feet by the time he climbs the stairs to his room. Although he hadn’t done much more than sit all day, he’s more tired than he’s ever been in his life, and that means he’ll be able to sleep. He’s looking forward to being unconscious and unaware for a few blessed hours. Maybe if he’s lucky, he’ll go to bed and sleep forever and wake up when all of this is over.

He’s horrified when he can’t sleep at all.

As soon as his head hits the pillow, he’s wide awake. The pillows are too soft; the mattress is too firm. The clean linens drag across his body in a way that makes his skin crawl. Everything smells wrong—it’s the wrong kind of laundry detergent, and everything’s absolutely covered in it. He thinks of Nigel’s shirts tucked into his suitcase with a pang of longing and refuses to touch them. If he brings them into bed with him, they’ll smell like the awful laundry detergent too.

It’s too quiet and too dark. He’s never realized before now that cities never really get dark, not like this. Insects chirp outside his window, but he’s missing the dull roar of midnight traffic.

Worst of all, his bed is too empty. He hasn’t slept alone in months, and it feels wrong to be able to sprawl his limbs out without hitting solid flesh, to turn without Nigel grumbling at him to settle down—without Nigel there to call him kid and pin him beneath a heavy arm.

So he tosses and turns, and there’s no one there to tell him to stop. He gets more frustrated by the minute, tangling himself up in the awful sheets, fighting with them until he finally kicks them to the ground. He’s crying again before he knows it.

He’s tired and lonely and scared, and none of it is fair.

It’s okay, he reasons. It’s okay to cry just this once because everyone is asleep. He’ll be brave tomorrow. In the morning. He can be scared until then.

Of course that’s the moment his bedroom door swings open, when Will is standing at the threshold looking bleary and half-asleep, curls sticking up every which way. He’s silhouetted by a light that hurts Adam’s eyes and makes him squint.

Adam sits up in bed and thinks finally. If he’s doomed, he’d rather be doomed all at once. He never had to know it before, but waiting is worse. Not knowing is worse.

“Can’t sleep?” Will asks, voice sleep-roughened and kind.

It takes Adam a few seconds to parse the words. To make sense of the fact that Will isn’t attacking him. To grapple with the reality that he still might.

“No,” Adam says at last because he’s tired. He’s tired, and he’s stuck here so he might as well complain about it. “Everything is wrong here. It smells wrong. It feels wrong. I can’t sleep without Nigel.”

Will sighs. He scratches at the back of his head.

“Do you want to come sleep with us? Just to sleep,” he adds, when he catches sight of the look on Adam’s face, illuminated by the sliver of light. “You can sleep next to Hannibal, and I’ll stay on the other side. You won’t even know I’m there, I promise.”

Adam nods mutely.

Will blows out a breath. “Come on,” he says.

Adam gets out of the bed he’s decided he hates and follows Will down the unfamiliar hallway, feeling entirely disoriented by the shadows in the dark. He doesn’t think about what he’s doing—that can wait until the morning too.

Their bedroom is warm, filled with the same ocean air as Adam’s. Hannibal is sleeping, but he murmurs something at Will’s touch.

“Move over,” Will says, and Hannibal grumbles but rolls over.

Adam can’t tell if he even wakes up, which is suddenly strange. Someone like Hannibal should sleep with one eye open, but he just seems sleepy and normal. Quiet and harmless, like Nigel when he sleeps.

Adam hesitates at the edge of the bed, fidgeting with the hem of his shirt.

“It’s alright,” Will says as he gets in the far side of the bed. He curls himself around Hannibal, who leans into his touch. “Don’t think about it. Just go to sleep.”

Adam glances back at the door, at the long, dark hallway that leads to an empty bed filled with slippery, cold sheets. The air here is filled with the sound of deep, even breathing, comforting and familiar.

He pulls back the covers and slides into bed. He doesn’t think he’ll sleep at all, but the radiant warmth beside him is soothing, and he falls asleep like that, a lamb bedding down with wolves.