Content note: intentional vomiting, but no eating disorders
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Since my house burned down,
I now own a better view of the rising moon
Adam and Will are sitting on the beach. They do that, sometimes. Alone. After dinner when everyone drifts apart, turning aside to their own solitary pursuits. Nigel goes running, as if he could run far or fast enough to shake off the shackles this family has laid on him. Hannibal plays the harpsichord.
Adam and Will, they sit and they watch. Stationary objects in a world gone mad.
“Hannibal told me you dream about me,” Will says. “Does it happen often?”
Will nods. The sun turns the ocean murder gold, spreads light along its surface. “I have nightmares too.”
“What do you dream about?” Adam asks.
“You have nightmares about me,” Adam says, like he’s testing the idea, tasting the words in his mouth. “How could I possibly scare you?”
“You don’t. It’s not like that. The dreams are… nice. We’re happy.” He draws a nothing-shape in the sand with his foot. “We live together with dogs. Hannibal is in jail. I’m… well, I’m not normal, I guess, but I’m better than you’ve ever seen me. I don’t hurt you. It’s just nice.”
Adam wrinkles his nose. “I don’t like dogs.”
Will laughs. “Yeah, that’s what you say in the dreams, too. You like mine though—this dog I had back in Virginia, his name was Winston. Fluffy thing, brown with spots. The most loyal dog you could ever ask for, you like him.”
“He looked like Hurry?”
“Kind of, yeah. He was a little smaller, but Hurry reminds me of him.”
“I liked him?”
“You did. He loved you too, followed you everywhere—even into the bathroom, even though that drove you crazy. Most days I think he liked you better than me.”
The sun sinks lower in the sky. Far away, a dog barks.
“So if the dreams are so good, why do you call them nightmares?”
“Because of the way I feel when I wake up, I guess,” Will says. He feels the urge to hug his knees to his chest, and he ignores it. “Lonely. Heartbroken. Like there’s the shape of an absence where a limb used to be, and some essential part of me is missing.”
“They’re just dreams,” Adam says. “None of that is real. We never loved each other like that.”
“That’s what Hannibal says.” Will falls silent, looking out over the waves. The ocean is the color of blood. “How about you?”
“What about me?”
“When you dream of me, are the dreams terrible?”
“They used to be.” The waves clap like thunder. They crash against the shore in a fine spray of foam. “They used to be awful. You’d touch me. Hurt me. I screamed and cried, and it made you smile.”
Adam turns back to the ocean. The dying sun paints his cheeks in vivid orange light, gilds them and makes his lips and eyelashes shine. “They’re the same,” he says finally. “You still hurt me, but now I like it.”
“That’s the hardest part, isn’t it? Liking it.”
Adam bites his thumbnail. “Yeah. It is.”
* * *
Hannibal had spoken to him once about holes in the floors of the mind, danger that waits. It’s currently a metaphor that highlights their differences more than their similarities. A hole in the floor implies a certain structural integrity—that there is more floor than hole to be had.
That isn’t true in Will’s case. It hasn’t been true for a long time. Most days it feels like his mind is made entirely of holes, a vast limitless cavern waiting to swallow him whole. That isn’t frightening except in the most abstract of ways. He isn’t really sure who he is anymore—what self would be sacrificed to the god of madness when he’s one big vacancy after another—so it’s hardly a credulous threat.
He’s alone now. Alone entirely for the first time in his life, no other minds pressing in on his. It’s more terrible than he thought it would be. There are darker spots, spaces bleak and barren that smell of sulfur and gunshots. He wonders if it isn’t Adam creeping into his memory palace again, swapping black holes for stags. People used to live there, before they were cut away by the blunt razor of pharmaceuticals, scattered to the wind like paper dolls. One is shaped like Abigail, another like Molly. He can’t talk to them, not anymore, but he can put his hand in the space their absence made.
When he’s curled around Adam, arms full of bony limbs and knobby knees, face full of sweet-smelling curls, everything feels a little less like dying.
* * *
Will hates the pills that Hannibal gives him. They make him feel fuzzy and slow. They blunt all his sharp edges.
Of course he stops taking them, whenever and however he can.
Hannibal gives them to him at meal times, conspicuously seated beside Will, watching his mouth carefully. Hannibal has always taken a keen, voyeuristic interest in watching people enjoy his food, but this is something else. They both know that if Will were to stand up to go to the bathroom, he would spit the pill into the trash can, and they both know that Hannibal would stop him. The force and indignity of it would at least be honest, but of course Hannibal won’t give him that.
He does this instead. He refills Will’s glass whenever it gets low (water, not wine; it wouldn’t do to mix alcohol with Haldol). He leans in and touches the inside of Will’s wrist, every inch the devoted lover. He pretends not to watch what Will does with his napkin. He pretends not to check it when they’re done eating. This is all somehow worse.
Will tries to pocket the pills on the inside of his cheek, but Hannibal is never one to rush a meal. Dinner is achingly slow, and bitter poison seeps into his mouth all the while. Inevitably he ends up biting through the hard, chalky tablet, noxious and foul. Inevitably he buys himself another day of muzzy inertia.
He doesn’t gag on it. His face doesn’t so much as twitch. He doesn’t give Hannibal the satisfaction.
Later, he tries to bring it up in the bathroom, sticking his fingers down his throat while Abigail sits on the counter and kicks her legs against the cabinet door. She waits until he’s done puking, scoots to the side so he can grab the mouthwash and clear the taste of bile from his mouth. She wrinkles her nose when he spits in the sink right beside her pretty floral dress.
“You’re not good at this,” she says. She holds out her hand and sighs. “Here, let me show you.”
Will opens the medicine cabinet and takes down a bottle marked with a name no one in this house owns. He taps out a pill and hands it to Abigail, who sticks it on her tongue, candy-bright against the soft, pink muscle. She closes her lips, does something quick and complicated with her mouth, and when she opens it again, the pill is gone. It stays gone even when she lifts her tongue and sticks it out, making a sound that Hannibal would consider rude but that Will thinks is funny.
She spits the pill into her hand and gives it back, spit-wet and shiny, and Will flushes it down the toilet.
“Where’d you learn to do that?” he asks.
She shrugs. “They tried to give me meds at Port Haven. I never took them.”
Abigail grins wickedly, and Will smiles back. It feels like they’re sharing a secret.
* * *
He has the strangest sensation of waking up even though he’s already awake. He jerks upright in his chair and gasps in a heaving breath.
If this is what resurrection feels like, I wouldn ’t wish it on anyone.
“Are you all right?” Hannibal asks.
Will looks around the room and doesn’t answer. It probably doesn’t matter.
Hannibal’s voice fades so prettily into the background, like a wall of noise.
He looks around for Adam, but he can’t find him anywhere. Hannibal is the only one in the house. His footsteps echo on the tile, and Hannibal sighs like he’s tired.
He calls for Adam. He calls for Abigail.
No one answers, and it occurs to him that he doesn’t know when he is.
"Since my house burned down / I now own a better view / of the rising moon" is a haiku by Mizuta Masahide.
It's gonna be a weird ride, y'all.
P.S.- I'm horrifically behind on replying to comments again. I love you all. It's just been a really crazy month. I'll do that as soon as I get the chance <3
He’s before. He’s pretty sure this is before. Before casts strange echoes that now doesn’t, like shadows on the wall. The particular strangeness that comes from feeling the reverberations of yourself in a place. He doesn’t know if this is his before or someone else’s.
He doesn’t have time to dwell on it. Hannibal brings him tea and sits him down on the couch. The windows are open, and the walls are stuccoed. A warm breeze wafts in, and Will smells the ocean. He might murmur ‘thank you.’
The heat of the tea is cloying in the humid afternoon air, but he wraps his fingers around porcelain anyway, lets the bite of pain call his mind back down familiar roads. Back to here, where they are: Costa Rica, now. He hangs his awareness from it like an anchor. Time is less important than place.
The steam rises from the mug, wet and herbal, and Will sucks it into his lungs. He burns his tongue on the water.
“Do you remember Adam?” Will asks.
“Yes,” Hannibal says. “He and Nigel left on their trip last night. Do you remember?”
There’s only a point in lying if it’ll get you what you want. Will says, “No, I guess I forgot.”
He sips his tea. Hannibal isn’t having any, and an old fear makes him wonder if Hannibal’s poisoned it. The fear is easily extinguished, but not before it has the chance to take root, to sink its tendrils in his heart and mind. He looks to the door and wonders how fast he could run.
Not fast enough—he remembers that. Hannibal is inside him wherever he goes, his constant guard and companion. It rankles as much as it soothes.
“How long will they be gone?” he asks.
He hates asking. He hates being meted out bits of reality like sweets, hates when Hannibal knows things that he doesn’t.
“They didn’t say. I’m not terribly sure that they know themselves.”
“Adam does,” Will says without having to think it over. He knows Adam—has known him for a lifetime, this one and that. “He’s proving something.”
“To who?” Hannibal asks, cocking his head with that keen, bird-of-prey gaze that makes Will feel like carrion.
He shrugs. “Doesn’t matter. To himself, to me. To you or Nigel. He’ll come back when he’s done it.”
He is sure of it in a way he can’t explain. He wants Hannibal to demand an explanation. Wants him to point out that Will had no idea that Adam was gone fifteen minutes ago. It’s very nearly worse that he doesn’t acknowledge it. That he never acts like Will is as broken as he is.
Hannibal is unfailingly patient and kind, and Will hates that too.
He misses the parts of Hannibal he no longer gets to see—the parts that gutted him in a beautiful kitchen, that tried to crack his head open like a walnut to see what was inside. He wonders if Hannibal still wants to see at all. What he’s left with feels like a paltry piece of the whole.
Will sets the empty teacup aside. He does say thank you this time—he definitely does; he makes sure he remembers it, marks it like dogearing a page in his mind.
He reaches for Hannibal with hands still warm from the cup, pulling them together and closing the distance.
“Did you get lost again?” Hannibal asks. No reproach, never that.
Judge me, Will thinks.
“Distract me,” he says.
Hannibal tips Will’s head back with deliciously rough fingers in his hair. He kisses along Will’s jaw and makes him forget.
* * *
This isn’t happening now. It echoes like a memory, and he isn’t sure it’s his. He doesn’t remember it like this, not with this veneer of disbelief and confusion.
They’re having sex, and that feels like it matters. Will twists in Hannibal’s grip, quicksilver and lithe. He touches Hannibal’s face. He stares.
“Monster, you look so human. What happened to your claws?” He meets Hannibal’s eyes and touches his fingers to them, pressing into the hollows of their sockets in a way that feels vaguely threatening. “Your fire burned out.”
His voice takes on a breathy, high quality Hannibal has never heard. He sounds wondering. Young. Hannibal suddenly has the strange impression of being in the room with someone entirely different. It’s gripping and repellent all at once.
He holds Will close and kisses him all over, and Will is confused but allows it.
“I became human for you,” he says.
It’s true in any universe. The colors blend, darken and blur. Sorrow is poured over everything like resin. It smells like snowmelt and antler velvet. It doesn’t belong to him.
Will doesn’t remember being sad. Not now, not yet. That came later. After. Oceans of sorrow, just for him. But first, this:
“I want children,” he says.
Hannibal’s hand stills where he’s been cutting leeks to saute for their supper. He rocks the blade through the fragrant allium again, lets the steady rhythm of steel on wood soothe him.
“Would you like to adopt?”
It’s something Hannibal could manage, certainly. He has the funds to make such a thing a possibility. There are channels he could investigate. Such a thing wouldn’t be advisable given Will’s mental state, but there’s never harm in asking. He’d like to know what Will wants.
He’s taken aback by the dark look Will gives him, one entirely too venomous for their current conversation.
“You know that’s not what I mean,” Will says.
Hannibal knows no such thing. Lately his conversations with Will make him feel as though he’s reading a book with every third word missing. Like he’s losing a game whose rules only Will knows.
He doesn’t enjoy the feeling.
He sets the knife down perfectly parallel to the cutting board. “What do you mean, Will?”
Will takes the lack of a blade in his hand as an invitation, perhaps, or he’s simply grown tired of waiting. He’s on Hannibal in an instant, crowding him against the kitchen sink. (The kitchen here is so lamentably small. Hannibal preferred the one they had back in Pittsburgh.) He nips along the side of Hannibal’s neck, worrying the tendon there with his teeth.
“Get me pregnant,” Will says into his skin. “Give me a baby.”
Most of Hannibal is engaged in the present moment, thrilling in the feeling of Will’s hands on him again. Part of him thinks about dinner, and another part is concerned about the state of Will’s mind. He folds those parts neatly and tucks them away. They’ll keep in drawers in his memory palace.
He’s here now instead. Fully, madly, completely. He unbuttons Will’s shirt with steady, sure fingers and pushes it off his shoulders and to the floor. He licks his way into Will’s mouth and tastes stale coffee, tastes Will.
“You owe me this,” Will pants when he breaks away. “After everything you’ve taken away, you do.”
Hannibal doesn’t disagree. It just so happens they mean that in different ways. He owes Will this and more.
“Anything you want, mylimasis,” he says. He brushes the back of his hand over Will’s bare stomach, fascinated by the way Will shivers at his touch. “I’d be honored if you carried my child.”
Will shivers again, and Hannibal covers Will’s body with his own. Will steers them to the bedroom, takes Hannibal’s clothes off with hands that aren’t gentle nor polite. But then Hannibal wouldn’t want them to be.
They fall onto the bed. They fuck face to face. Will stutters and groans and grinds himself onto Hannibal.
It’s not a hardship. There are worse things in life. He rubs his hands over the smooth skin of Will’s flank, the delicate pulse at his throat. He clamps his teeth around Will’s neck and exults in the ragged groan it drags from him. He bites down harder, holding him in place.
Will is quiet, after. He’s gone pliant and soft, and he doesn’t turn away when Hannibal gathers him in his arms. He allows himself to be held. He cups a hand protectively over his belly and keeps smiling at Hannibal. Will kisses him over and over, feather-light kisses across his face. Hannibal basks in the warmth of such easy affection and allows himself to imagine that Will means it.
This was such a nice moment, Will thinks. It’s a shame it ended so spectacularly badly.