The girl stood still. There was a gentle tap-tap echoing in the air as she observed the room. He fingers were wet, and her toes squished unconsciously into the puddle beneath her, an age-old habit from a childhood spent playing in the water. It was wildly inappropriate in the current situation, her mind helpfully pointed out.
Tap tap tap.
The noise mocked her. She inhaled a breath, disrupting the sound, and turned her eyes away from the tableau before her. Her fingers clenched into fists. Unhelpful, she couldn’t help but notice. The skinny little hands that sat at the end of her equally short arms were virtually useless. Tiny fingers unable to clench anything, palms to small to hold anything. Useless.
Tap tap tap.
The girl inhaled again, flexing bloody fingers into the cold air. She eyed the floor once more, or more accurately, the bloody mess that covered the floor. Her toes squished again. A small sound accompanied the action, bizarrely amusing. The girl's gaze slid over the floor. A mass of twisted and broken flesh spilled out of a large shipping crate onto the stones beneath. Most of it was unrecognizable, just bits of flesh and bones. Hidden amongst it, however, was a finger poking out here, the curve of a foot there, a single blue eye staring up at the girl. She wondered belatedly how long this would feature in her nightmares.
Tap tap tap.
The girl blinked, looking away from the single staring eye and the hints of people that peeked out at her from the mutilated pile of flesh that used to be her family. She turned, looking at the single human-looking body in the room. A bitter flash of amusements skittered through her brain as she realized the irony of the situation. Her family made into a horror inducing pile of flesh and bone while the monster that did it laid curled on the floor, looking almost angelic like in his peaceful state. If it weren’t for the torn-out throat it would almost appear he was sleeping.
The girl’s fingers flexed again at the memory. Perhaps her hands weren’t as useless as she had thought.
She surveyed that room around her. The lights shone brightly in the basement, unfairly bringing everything into bright clarity. Blood soaked pretty much every surface. The two weeks that her family had spent down here were painted from one end of the basement to the other. The rungs in the floor where her mother had spent the entirety of the time manacled to, spread eagle and open for the world to see. The rafters where her brother had hung from the nails in his hands, screaming with no tongue, either at the pain or being forced to watch their father being flayed beneath him she wasn’t sure. The stretch of floor beneath the bloody rafters was still covered in the strips of flesh that had been slowly peeled off of him throughout the fortnight. She eyed the pile of skin, pieces now dried out and curling in on themselves at the edges. She had never quite realized how much skin a person had until she had watched someone peel it all off. The lingering scent of cooking meat turned the girl’s attention to the metal container sitting in the burnt-out fireplace.
The girl's nose wrinkled. The slow starvation that she had been subjected to hadn’t been helped by the smell. Only a few years older than her current self, her youngest brother had been unable to quiet himself enough to the satisfaction of their captor. Like her he had been young enough to escape the tender care their parents and older brother had been forced to suffer initially. The cages had been cramped and painful, the hunger a gnawing aching pit, and the utter degradation of being forced to sit their filth for weeks an unhappy capper to it all, but it was admittedly preferable to the suffering that they had witnessed the rest of the family go through. A fact that her brother had not been able to realize. The warnings he had been given were surprising given the sadistic and unforgiving nature their captor displayed. Her brother had not heeded those warnings.
The girl walked carefully across the floor; legs not quite used to being used again. The slightly wet slaps of her feet on the floor followed her to the now cold fireplace. It had no reason to be lit now. She climbed up onto the hearth carefully, muscles cramping and aching. It took her an embarrassingly long time to pull the container out onto the floor. Staring at the lid she wondered to herself if she couldn’t ignore this one.
The smell of roasting meat was much stronger now. Another sound echoed in the room. The girl gave a small flush as her stomach growled. She stared down at the lid of the container, and her eyes flickered back to the pile of flesh that spilled out on the floor. A grudging sense of debt and guilt ate into her. If she was going to live with this, she was going to live with every horrifying piece of it. Her fingers found the latches, and a short battle to open them ensued. Eventually, the last one popped. She eased the lid off and took in the last sight of her brother. His body was curled in on itself, either attempting to get away from the heated sides or in an effort to comfort himself she wasn’t sure. Perhaps both. His clothes and hair had long been burned away, along with what looked like the first layer of his skin. He was a red, molted, mess of a thing, more akin to a roasted pig than a boy. His face was turned to the side, laying in his arms as his knees pressed them up again his chest, mouth agape in agony. The captor apparently didn’t like watching young children being tortured. Even as annoyed as he was at her brother for being unable to follow directions, he had been unable to kill the boy himself. He had put her brother in the container, claiming it as mercy so that their parents wouldn’t have to see him die in the flames.
But she knew it was no mercy at all. Locked inside the container and placed in the flames, he had not died quickly of smoke inhalation or shock like most everyone else did when set on fire directly, but instead, he had been slowly roasted to death, burning from the inside out for hours upon hours, screams muffled and audible days after he had been put in. Even their captor had looked faintly surprised, if interested. She had to wonder if he had thought about employing this new method of torture to his future victims. She was considerably glad that he couldn’t. The girl stared at the broiled corpse of her brother, the empty eye sockets staring back at her.
She really wished he had listened.
Tap tap tap.
The girl inhaled, bringing with it the taste of the air around her. She reflexively swallowed the saliva suddenly filling her mouth. BrotherMEATbrotherFOODbrotherFOODMEATFOODFOOD. She jerked herself away from the delicious scent of her brother, leaving the metal container and it’s horrifying temptations behind. She found herself at the feet of the monster. His face was slack and unworried, uncaring of the horrifying terror he had unleashed upon her. She stared at his face, at the bloody flesh that she had turned his throat into. Her tongue flicked out unintentionally, tasting the blood that still painted her face and mouth.
She cast a look around the room, searching for a sign, something that told her what she was supposed to do next. She had spent 3 days locked in a container filled with what remained of her family, surviving only with the thought of what she would do to this man. Her plans had kept her sane, her mind entirely focused on the details of her escape and not the soggy fleshy feel of her families rotting remains against her skin or the taste of their blood as she drank unconsciously of the liquid she had almost drowned in several times. She wasn’t sure who was more surprised at her survival when the monster had returned to move them, her or him. She really hadn’t thought she would get out. She certainly didn’t think she would have been able to take him as she had. A combination of luck and surprise, she figured. He certainly hadn’t expected her alive let alone that she would go for his throat so quickly. Her luck in biting through his carotid on the first attempt.
But now what?
Tap tap tap.
The girl blinked down at herself, covered in blood and viscera, the lingering scent of human excrement combined with the coppery scent of blood wafted about her. A new puddle was forming beneath her feet, fluids dripping solidly from her skin and clothes. She couldn’t help the curl of disgust forming.
She was free from the box. Her family was dead, but no longer suffering. The monster had been slain in the very same place he had slain her family. There was no greater plan to look to. She considered then, that she could now do whatever she wanted. A finger tapped at her side. She was tired, painfully sore, even more painfully hungry, and in desperate need of a shower.
A small war broke out between herself. She could put off a nap until she was clean and fed, but which did she do first? What remained of her sense of propriety insisted that she be clean first – the thought of eating with herself this disgusting was faintly nauseating. But then her stomach roared up at her angrily, the aching pit of need a yawning darkness that threatened to consume her. The girl's hand came out to rest on the wall closest to her, dizzy and breathless with hunger now. She shoved herself towards the stairs.
Food first then.
The girl was halfway through a loaf of bread and three cups of water down when the back door was smashed in. She blinked at the uniforms that poured into the kitchen but otherwise did move from where she was curled under the kitchen sink. There were several horrified curses directed at her as she stared back at them. Several moments passed in silence as the two stared at each other. The girl stuffed another bite of moldy bread into her mouth, ignoring to distressed sound someone made at the bloody residue that her hand had left on the bread. She had already consumed several belly’s worth of blood and other things; it didn’t really phase her so much anymore. At the sound of protest, however, the officers seemed to realize why they had come. Several lurched out of the room, guns drawn and shouting into the air around them. Two officers started towards her, nostrils flaring at the smell of her. She almost regretted calling 911 before she could shower and finish eating. Though she really hadn’t thought they would get here that fast.
One of the officers faltered, a hand coming up to her face as she gagged and turned around. The other, an older, military-looking man gave the woman a frown and dropped down in front of the girl. He was eyeing her, assessing for wounds no doubt, but made no outward reaction to the sight nor smell of her. He didn’t reach out to her immediately, squatting at eye level and just far enough away to no be crowding her. The skin of his face was rough, his eyes dark and sharp. His hair was cut into a vaguely military-style, and his broad shoulders gave him a bulk that made him look even more intimidating than his already serious face did. The woman was still gagging behind him.
The girl liked him.
As if sensing her thoughts, the man moved slowly, bringing his hands out in front of him in a placating gesture. His voice was low and deep, more suited to yelling then the calm measured tone he spoke to her in.
The girl blinked at him. She stuck another piece of bread in her mouth. He waited for a few seconds, giving her time to reply. She didn’t.
“My name is Adam. I’m with the police. We’re here to help.” He spoke lowly, gently, as if talking to a baby.
Which, to be fair, wasn’t all that off. Her left hand fumbled for her water cup even as her right shoved another piece of bread into her mouth. Officer Adam quirked his lips at her but didn’t seem too upset at her refusal to talk. Which was good because it wasn’t likely to be happening anytime soon. Another officer returned to the kitchen; his gun was still drawn but down at his side. He was frowning as spoke to Officer Adam.
“We searched the house. There isn’t anybody here. House is clean.”
Officer Adams's sharp eyes pinned him, frown turning his face harsh. He pointed a sharp hand at the bloody girl. “And I suppose that she is just covered in paint then?”
The other officer flushed but shook his head, insisting. “We looked in all the rooms, even the attic. It’s clean.”
Officer Adam’s eyebrows snapped down, his face curling into disapproval at the man. The other officer wilted under the stare. She was right, she did quite like Officer Adam. He turned back towards her, his expression gentling into something that she thought was supposed to be comforting.
“Can you tell me where they are?” His voice was softer than before. Quiet. He seemed to know what they were going to find. “Or show me; you don’t have to say anything if you don’t want.”
The girl looked at him. They would realize that the basement existed relatively soon. But even then it still might be a few hours until that happened – the door was fairly well ensconced inside the pantry. Her family had spent too much time down there already. She swallowed her mouthful of food but didn’t take another bite. She looked that the man in front of her, who had most likely already seen the depths of darkness that humanity had to offer if he was taking her current appearance that well. He stared at her, not looking away. She tilted her head, and let her eyes fall to the floor beside him. His eyes followed, and his face shifted as he alighted on the faint footprints left there. There were unnervingly small, much like her hands. She hadn’t liked looking at them that much. He stood, eyes following the faint bloody trail that she had painted. When he realized it led out of the kitchen he wavered and looked down.
“Will you be ok for a few minutes while I go look?” He asked gently.
The girl stared at him, slightly amused. She had been alone for a while now, did he think she would suddenly start screaming if he left? There would no doubt be other officers with her. The gagging woman was still there, mouthed clenched shut and still looking nauseous as she pressed her back into the wall at the opposite end of the room. Officer Adams's shoulders dropped slightly as he read her amusement, relief evident in his form. He nodded once to her before turning sharply towards the footprints. He barked a few orders towards the officers that crowded in the doorway, pulling the seemingly incompetent one with him.
In the ensuing silence in the kitchen, the girl stuffed her hand into the bag in her lap, bringing out another piece of bread. One of the remaining officers cringed and looked away. Not that many of them could look at her. Some stared in horrified awe, but most were unable to set their eyes on her form. She didn’t really mind. Just as she slid her hand back into the bag once more, several shouts erupted from the basement. Almost every officer in the kitchen started, alarmed and unnerved. Before they could do more than lurch towards the door several bodies came sprinting out of it. The girl was rather viciously amused to note that the incompetent officer was one of them. They barely made it out of the house before the sounds of retching reached her ears. Some of the officers loitering in the kitchen took to the basement, while others took to looking after the increasing number of retching officers. The girl ate another piece of bread.
It was almost half an hour later that officer Adam returned from the basement. A steady stream of officers and technicians and been going to and from the basement, accompanied by a steady stream of vomit. Now the officer returned to her, once again squatting at her eye level. He stared at her for a long minute. His face was troubled, his eyes unreadable. There was a thin film of sweat just below his hairline. Apparently, he hadn’t seen quite as far into the depths as she had thought. Well, she supposed, he had now
“It’s time to go, sweetie.” His voice was back to its calm quietness.
He held his hands up again and began slowly reaching for her. When she made no move or protest, he hesitated for only a fraction before reaching forwards and grabbing her. He pulled her to him, uncaring of the filth that covered her, and clutched her gently to his chest. The girl was disproportionally tiny in his arms, a single large palm curling around her torso. He held her close as he walked out of the house. The remaining officers parted before them, faces pale and eyes wide.
The girl was slightly upset at leaving the bread behind.
The girl stared up at the gray ceiling. The fluorescent lights buzzed ever so slightly, adding an annoying hum to the already annoying sounds of the social worker twittering at her. The woman’s voice was high and whiny, made worse by the babying tone she had adopted at the sight of her. The girl tuned the woman out the moment she noticed the disgust in the woman’s eyes and the slight curl of her lip. Whatever platitudes she gave were meaningless when the woman wouldn’t even look at her or come within a few feet of her. She had hoped that she would be able to get clean by now, but apparently no one else seemed to agree. It gave her time to think though.
As she lay curled into an uncomfortable plastic chair, a shock blanket wrapped around her and the annoying woman nattering at her, the girl turned her thoughts to the subject that had been plaguing her mind for the last two and a half weeks. She had died. She was fairly sure of that. She remembered the car, the crunch of shattering glass and metal, the screech of tires on asphalt. She had breathed through blood for a number of achingly long minutes before eventually, her lungs wouldn’t draw any more air in.
And then suddenly they had.
She drew in a breath. Breathed a single blissful breath. Breathed before she became aware of the sound of screaming. Her new view from the cage had not been a pleasant one. She didn’t remember this body, these hands. She didn’t remember that mother or those brothers. And yet apparently, they were hers. Her mother had screamed a name at her at times, whispered it desperately at others. Looked at her with a face full of love and had not realized that the daughter she had bore was no longer there. The girl figured that if she had not come to during that particular situation, then the realization of her death and the loss of her previous personhood would have been a much more painful one. As it was, the girl had no chance to mourn her old life, entirely too busy fighting for the new one. In the short time that she had spent with them, however, the family had become hers. If only in part because she didn’t think they would survive their ordeal and hadn’t wanted to die alone again. It turns out that she was only mostly right. And now she had lost not just one family but her second as well.
Life was not going well for the girl.
The girl’s eyes snapped to the door. There were sounds outside the room, scuffles, and slightly tense voices. The social worker finally stopped talking, turning towards the door with a scowl on her face. She shoved herself out the door, her voice rising to join in the noise. The girl sighed in the resulting silence of the room. What a terrible social worker.
The arguing on the other side of the door became progressively louder until finally, the social workers nasally voice screeched out something. There were a few quiet remarks after that but seemingly the woman had decided something. She came back into the room with a smile on her face. The girl held back a grimace.
“Well, sweety! It took us a while but we finally figured out that situation. Now you can go home.”
The girl stared at the woman, dumbfounded. She had said the words cheerily - as if the girl and her family hadn’t spent two and half weeks being slowly tortured to death in their own home. They were sending her back? The girls unnerving stare finally caught the woman, and a slight flush appeared on her face as she realized her words. She was entirely too prideful, however, to take them back. The woman gathered herself, pasting a sickeningly sweet smile on her face as she sat directly in front of the girl, leaning entirely too close to her. The woman had forgotten the smell with her apparent good news. She gagged slightly, unsuccessfully turning it into a cough as she leaned back further away.
“Well now. It was quite the confusion, all that mess. Took a while to sort through all that paperwork. We were finally able to find your daddy sweety, isn’t that great? He’s right outside, took some time to get here and all, not to mention all the custody papers, but here none the less!”
The woman was bright-eyed and beaming, looking down at her like she expected the girl to suddenly hand her a gold star. The girl just blinked at the woman, who’s smile faltered again.
“I’ll just go get him.” She continued on, blithely ignoring the girl. As the woman hurried out of the room, no longer cheerful, the girl turned her eyes to the table.
Was the family not this body’s after all? It had certainly seemed that way, the mother and father had frequently called for her, claimed her as their daughter in their pleas to the monster. The boys that she had watched die had called her sister. Was she missing something? More importantly, if the social worker was correct and they had located a father, would he be able to tell that the body no longer housed his actual daughter? Would she be able to blame it on the events? That seemed likely, at least. People changed after traumatic events, children especially. Besides, even if someone noticed something was off, no one would likely be able to make a leap to reincarnation. A little more relieved now, the girl allowed her fingers to unclench from the tight grip on the blanket.
This could actually be much better for her, she realized belatedly. She hadn’t been looking forward to the foster care system, or the team of psychiatrists that they would throw at her. She breathed a small sigh of relief. A father. A home to go to. Hopefully. The door opened slowly; the man clearly hesitant. Vibrantly blue eyes alighted on her and the girl felt all the breath in her lungs whoosh out of them so suddenly that for a minute there she thought that she was back under the car again. She stared, all thoughts flying out the window at the face of the man in front of her. He continued on as if he hadn’t shattered her already fragile world view completely. He sat down, pressing himself in a chair that was far enough out of her space and yet still close enough that in the back of her mind she was begrudgingly impressed that he was apparently unaffected by her smell. So far only Officer Adam had managed that feat.
The girl stared. And stared some more. She took in every detail she could, hoping that this was just a coincidence; chance and circumstance. But the man sat in front of her and did not change. His brown, curly hair was messy but still adorable. The stubble beard added to his face, giving him age that his pretty face would usually hide. He was thin, small-bodied but steady. His bag hung at his side. She could see dog hair sprinkled liberally to his pants. She knew this man. This character. This was not supposed to be real. She felt faintly nauseous as the reality of the situation unfolded before her. She had assumed that the world was the same she had left. Perhaps a different time maybe, but the same place none the less. Now evidence stared her in the face that she had left it altogether. She had left her home, she couldn’t help but realize, and landed into one far more dangerous.
Will Graham stared at her, and faintly behind him, an image of Hannibal Lector appeared grinning at her, teeth bared in mocking facsimile of a smile. Apparently she wasn’t going to be getting a second life after all, she thought faintly.
In which a Girl finally gets clean.
“My name is Will,” The living, breathing, fictional character told her. He awkwardly smiled at her but it came out more of a grimace than anything. His eyes darted around the room, landing on her often but briefly, unable to maintain eye contact. He shrugged his shoulders nervously and continued. “Will Graham. Though maybe you know that. We weren’t quite sure what your mother had told you, and there wasn’t any paperwork besides the birth certificate.”
He was rambling slightly, forcing the words out haltingly at times. Against her will, the girl found herself slightly amused. He was adorable. She found herself shaking her head slightly at him, the first sign of communication that she had given in the 11 hours she had been with the police. Will gave a small blink in surprise but only nodded at her in reply.
“She didn’t tell you then, about me.” Will didn’t seem upset about that. “I knew your mother a long time ago. We were friends. During that time, you were born. I didn’t know about it; your mother didn’t tell me either.” Here the man looked frustrated, mouth pulling slightly, and his eyes grew sharper. “When she married your dad, you were only a year old, so it’s not surprising that you don’t remember. Biologically speaking – that is by blood – I’m your father. But that doesn’t mean that your dad isn’t your dad either. He chose to raise you, and love you as his own. That means something.”
Here he paused, focusing on her, eyes pressing into her as he tried his very best to impart this knowledge to her. She nodded back at him once, breathless at the sudden burst of affection and gratefulness that rushed through her. The skinned man had only been her father for a few weeks, but the girl remembered his breathy whispers of her name, the halting stories he forced out through clenched teeth in the dark of the night when the hunger pains grew fierce enough that she could no longer sleep through them. He had loved her. Will Graham, unlike any other man who might resent their role being slipped out from beneath them, willingly gave the now-deceased man the title he had earned.
Will breathed through his nose, shoulders dropping slightly in relief as he read her reactions. He leaned forward, settling his elbows on his knees as he considered her. “The question now is to figure out what’s going to happen with you. Unfortunately, your mom and dad didn’t have any other relatives that you could stay with. Since I’m the dad on your birth certificate, I automatically have custody of you now. We don’t really know each other, and I live far away, but you could come to stay with me. I don’t really know how to be a dad, so I can’t promise I will be a great one or even a good one, but I can promise to try.” He appeared a little helpless now, unsure, and wavering. “If not, then there are people who will take care of you.”
The girl grimaced at that, nose wrinkling. She did not want to go into foster care. Her fingers gripped the blankets tightly for a second as a sudden thought made itself know. She didn’t want foster care, but it would be the way out of this wouldn’t it? Outside of the range of Hannibal Lecter, she would just be a hidden cliff note on the story. Besides, if Will behaved as the character she knew, then it would be considerably unlikely that he would even mention her to anyone if she so chose that route. She could grow and live in this character world, not have to face the cannibal and his knives. The man had killed two of Will’s children; what was she in this story but someone else to use against Will? She exhaled; eyes fixed on the tiny grainy window at the top of one wall. Was that the life she wanted? She wondered suddenly if she could live with herself if she chose to abandon him. Knowing what was in store for Will Graham and willingly leaving him alone wasn’t something that she could do. She had already lost two families, two fathers. She wasn’t sure if she could lose another. Even if that meant her second life would likely be brief.
The girl’s eyes fell shut slowly, her mind coming to terms with the new life laid about before her. She allowed her head to fall back against the chair as she mourned what would have hopefully been a normal life. When she opened her eyes again to stare at the man who would be her father, she wondered to herself if she would even be able to do anything for him. For all the horrible things that Hannibal had done – truly, honestly horrible betrayals – Will had been unable to stay away from him in the end. She knew that Will had a darkness in him, one that called out to Hannibal’s in a way that no one else had. She was hesitant on if that darkness was something that she could live with, encourage even. But she also wasn’t sure if she could just deny him his true self. Will was never more himself than he had been with Hannibal. For all of his manipulations, the doctor had been the only person that Will had ever been able to actually open up to, who didn’t believe his mind a terrible thing, who accepted his antisocial behaviors in spite of his own personal beliefs in mannerisms.
As the girl realized what direction she was already leaning to, she couldn’t help but wonder exactly how broken she was. She knew who she had been Before, and murder was never something she would have advocated for. The Before Girl was an entirely moralistic one, whose taste in entertainment might run a little gory, but whose morals were inflexible. The girl had known that something had broken during the past two weeks. It had been almost audible in the cage one night, a realization that her being had shattered into a dozen pieces, edges sharp and pointed. She had fit those pieces back together using the drained lifeblood of her family as glue, jamming all those pieces together to make something as sharp as she could, uncaring about the ugly shape she was creating.
Now as she considered how to help her father embrace his darkness, did she come to realize exactly how much she had changed. And also, how little she cared about it. Then again, she had been quite fine despite the knowledge that she had quite literally torn a man’s throat out with her teeth. The girl gave a small start as she looked at her recent behaviors and thoughts. This body was the daughter of Will Graham; what else could she have inherited? Had her trial by blood awakened the same darkness that had led Will to his watery death?
“You don’t have to.” Will’s voice jerked the girl out of her thoughts, head snapping around a little painfully to stare at the man. She had forgotten about him briefly. “You don’t have to stay with me.”
Will looked uncertain, mouth turned up in a self-deprecating grimace. It was fairly obvious that he didn’t believe that she could want him.
The girl's mouth moved without her consent. Her lips slammed shut as she realized, flustered. She had been hoping that her muteness would help cover her oddness. She didn’t know how to talk or behave like a four-year-old. At least if she was mute from apparent trauma then no one would notice. Apparently, that plan was out the window now.
“You do?” Will questioned, voice a little breathless.
She nodded. Will exhaled harshly, looking bewildered.
“Well then,” he muttered, visibly collecting himself. “Time to go.”
Will stood, his eyes bright. Unlike the fleeting glances he had been giving her when he first arrived, his vibrant eyes were now fixed on her. She stared back at him and was momentarily surprised at how intense his stare was. His gaze was almost a physical thing, heavy and grounding. She wondered if he made people uncomfortable, even as she realized that she herself only felt – calm.
Will’s hands extended before her, and she found herself sliding forward before she even realized her feet were on the ground. Uncaring of the mess and smell attached to her, Will swung her into his arms and tucked her carefully on one hip. He strode out the room briskly, uncaring of the crowd of onlookers pretending not to watch them. Everything had already apparently been settled because no one stopped them. The social worker sent one more fake smile at her from across the room, chest puffed up pride as if she had actually done something. They were almost at the exit when Officer Adam stopped them.
Will turned, his shoulders stiffening at the thought of socializing. At the sight of Officer Adam, however, they dropped a fraction. The girl smiled ever so slightly into Will’s shoulder; he liked the officer too. Officer Adam was rumpled, his dark eyes were tired and his face looked pinched. At the sight of the girl however, he forced a small smile onto his face as he greeted her.
“I wanted to say goodbye.” He offered her father, still unconcerned with her general smell. “We still have the investigation to go through, so pretty much everything in the house is off-limits, but I thought that you might want this.”
He held out something and Will took it in his other hand. It was a picture, one that looked to have been removed from its frame. Will hesitated only a second before pressing it gently into the girl's hands. She felt herself blink, and a sense of loss filled her as she gazed at it. Her family looked up at her, smiling as she had never seen. Happy little faces that she would now never see for herself. They were all sat together, sprawled across the floor, and buried in a sea of colorful wrapping paper. A beautiful Christmas tree twinkled in the background, a pile of unopened gifts still beneath it. Three children were smiling widely at the camera, her mother and her skinned father were curled up together just off to the side. Their faces were fixed on the children, bodies content and bleeding happiness. There was only a small moment of confusion when she caught sight of the young girl curled beneath the arms of the two boys she now called brothers. It took an embarrassingly long moment to realize that it was her. She was pretty; a head full of dark curls surrounded a pale face filled with delicate features. Large, vibrantly blue eyes shone brightly beneath dark, elegantly arched eyebrows. She took after her father greatly, apparently, even if her mother’s delicate features turned her face into something more commonly seen on porcelain dolls. The photo was faultless. It was a perfect family portrait. The girl’s fingers held onto the photo gently, slightly overwhelmed. She turned, burying her face into her new fathers’ chest even as she gently tucked the photo to her own.
“Thank you,” Will spoke gently, his freed hand curling around her head.
He nodded to the man before them, and Officer Adam nodded solemnly back before stepping away. No one else bothered them as they stepped into the open air.
The girl wasn’t sure which of them was more grateful.
It took four separate washes for the water to run clean. The girl stared at her hands as her father worked the last palm full of shampoo into her hair. Her fingers wiggled up at her, slightly pruned. Three bottles of hotel shampoo lay discarded at the floor where her father kneeled in his thorough attempts to clean her. Not that she was complaining. The itch in her skin from the drying blood and viscera had only grown worse each hour that the police had not let her wash. She had mistakenly assumed that once they had gathered enough evidence from her and took their pictures, they would allow her to wash. She hadn’t been happy when all they had done was hand her a hospital gown and a pack of baby wipes. Now her fingers winked at her, surprising her with their new paleness. She wondered if all of her was this pale beneath the blood.
Water sluiced down her back, taking the remaining soap from her hair. Will made a pleased sound, dipping the cup into the bathwater for another rinse. He hadn’t been happy either when he realized how dirty they had left her. The girl hummed quietly as he began massaging conditioner into her now dark hair. She still didn’t quite know how to handle her new appearance. It wasn’t something she had thought of before she had seen the picture. Her hair was no longer blond, her face no longer full, her body no longer stocky. She couldn’t really complain about the new face she sported – as it goes it was a considerably great one. The girl just wasn’t sure how to feel at the knowledge that she would never see her own face again. She wondered how long it would take before the face in the mirror stopped looking like a stranger. She looked down at her fingers again. The blood had been gently picked from beneath her nails, leaving her hands looking even more small and delicate than before. She pushed them beneath the surface of the water, stretching them as she eyed the places where a scar once marked the back of her fingers. She gave a small sigh and turned them over.
Above her, Will poured water down her head once more. He was quite pleased now. It had taken them almost two hours but she was once again clean. Her skin tingled pleasantly. Will pulled the plug from the tub, grabbing a towel. He wrapped her in it like a blanket, rubbing her dry. Another towel went towards her hair, patting it thoroughly before pulling her in front of the mirror where a hairdryer waited. She looked at it in surprise, she didn’t think Will the type to use one. Catching her look, the man smiled slightly.
“If you don’t dry it quickly the curls turn unmanageable.” He explained. “I can get away sometimes since mine is so short, but it would be a disaster with yours.”
The girl blinked at him in the mirror. She allowed a small smile of her own to appear, still amused at the idea of Will Graham actually caring about his hair. The image didn’t seem to align with what she knew of him.
“I know some.” The man protested gently, apparently reading her doubts quite clearly.
The girl smothered another smile.
Will grumbled, but his eyes were amused. As her hair began to dry and curl back up the girl couldn’t help but notice how similar she looked to her father. She was rather pleased that she had inherited his breathtaking eyes, quite honestly. Hers had been blue before, but they looked nowhere near as striking as they did now. The cobalt blue eyes seemed to shift and move, color shimmering. They were entirely singular, and she wondered absently if people would be as uncomfortable under her stare as they were with her fathers. A hand settled on her head, running through the curls lightly. Apparently satisfied with the drying, a plastic brush replaced the hairdryer. What followed was a slightly painful tug of war as Will attempted to figure out how to brush hair. After twenty minutes of struggle, he finally seemed to fall into a rhythm that worked for them both.
The girl was bundled up into his arms again as he pulled her into their room. A spare shirt of his lay on the bed already. As he fit the shirt over her head, the man observed her carefully. She wondered if he was waiting for her to finally break down and freak out about what had happened. Would he be grateful or worried that it likely wouldn’t happen? When nothing came up, he hesitated only a moment before sitting on the bed beside her.
“Are you alright?” He questioned softly.
Will tilted his head down at her as he considered her. “It’s ok if you aren’t. You’re allowed to be sad. Or angry.”
He seemed to be really trying. She felt faintly guilty at the fact that he would not get a normal daughter. It tugged on her, and she considered exactly how she wanted to start this relationship. She didn’t really want to pretend to be the four-year-old she wasn’t. The girl drew herself up, preparing.
“I’m sorry that they’re gone,” She began, voice faint. “But I’m not really all that upset otherwise.”
Will’s eyes sharpened. He stared at her, assessing. She wondered if he would be able to tell that she wasn’t normal anymore.
“You don’t feel much at all, do you?”
The girl’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. Apparently, he could tell after all. She guessed that his empathy worked well for her in this situation. She considered how to answer the question. She certainly did have feelings; she was just aware that they really weren’t normal. In intensity or in scope.
“Some.” She finally said. Will didn’t look concerned, merely contemplative. She was absurdly grateful.
“Were you like this before,” Will questioned, “or has it just been like this after you got out?”
The girl hesitated, unsure of how to reply. If he thought it was an effect from the trauma would he expect a recovery? Before she could answer, however, Will’s hand came to rest on the top of her head.
“It doesn’t matter.”
She breathed out slowly as she considered him. He would just accept her like this? The hand on her head moved down to cup her face, Will’s gaze still fixed on her. He pulled her gently into his arms. He enfolded her completely, arms winding around her as her face was gently pressed into the curve of his neck. She felt a faint pressure on the top of her head. Her own hands came up to grip his shirt, trembling slightly.
“You’re perfect as you are, Mischa.”
The girl slept.
She had spent nearly an hour pressed into her father’s arms, trembling, shivering, and overwhelmed with sheer relief and joy. Will hadn’t relaxed his grip an ounce, making small comforting sounds as he held her together as she seemingly came apart. A voice in the back of her head couldn’t help but wonder if this was how he comforted his dogs as well. She shoved the thought away.
She had apparently fallen asleep there in his arms because she woke an indeterminate amount of time later curled up in a bed. Sun shone through the cracks in the curtains, and Will’s voice was low as he spoke to someone quietly on the phone across the room. The girl now named Mischa shoved a hand into her eyes, rubbing grit from them even as she fought the heaviness in her limbs. As she sat up slowly, the girl recalled the events of earlier. Will Graham apparently would accept her for whoever – whatever – she was. Her breath caught a little at the memory, even as she felt a little apprehensive at the reminder of her new identity.
She hadn’t considered her new name much. It had been an unimportant thought during the time spent in the basement; she hadn’t really cared much about it. It was only now that the importance of that name became obvious. The girl pressed her face into her hands, unsure of how to handle this new dilemma. Morbidly, she wondered if this would make the good doctor more or less likely to kill her. She sighed.
“Mischa.” Will’s voice pulled her face up. He was smiling at her.
She gave a small smile in return, pulling herself out from beneath the bed covers. Will waited until her feet were free to grab her, carrying her over to a table already laid out with dishes. He moved the lid to the plate in front of her to reveal a variety of breakfast foods. Her mouth watered. A forkful of fruit was already aimed at her mouth before she realized. She ignored Will as her entire focus was turned on the food in front of her, all but inhaling the morsels. As it was, it only took ten minutes before her belly felt uncomfortably full. She frowned mournfully at the leftovers, mildly upset at not being able to finish everything, but put her fork down none the less.
Will was hyper-focused on her again. He had probably been told about her state from the paramedics. They had not looked happy with the state of her ribs or her dehydration. She had a feeling that she would be getting food shoved at her for a while. Though that wasn’t much of a negative right now. Will was seated across from her, a cup of coffee clutched in one hand. The shadows beneath his eyes gave evidence that he hadn’t slept nearly as well as she had. But that also wasn’t surprising.
“If you’re up for it, I thought you might like to get some things from the store. We can get the majority of it back in Virginia, but you need some clothes and some other things until we get there.”
Mischa perked up a little. She had spent an inordinate amount of time in the police station being bored. She was also looking forward to having clean clothes on again. She nodded at him firmly, already pushing herself out of the chair.
Will huffed a small laugh as he got to his feet as well. “Well at least one of us is looking forward to shopping.”
She grinned at him, unrepentant. Underwear, a voice in her mind hissed gleefully.
In her shoeless state, still only clad in the overly large t-shirt, she wasn’t in any state to be going out. There was no choice, however, and Will didn’t seem to notice the stares they received as he carried her through the lobby and down the street. Mischa’s head was snapping back and forth, taking in the sights of this new world. It didn’t look much different from what she once knew, but there was something to the air that seemed foreign. The sight of the Wal-Mart was entirely familiar, however. She heard Will inhale deeply before stepping through the automatic doors, and couldn’t help the small sound of amusement that escaped her at his obvious reluctance. Will glanced down at her at the sound and huffed out another breath.
The greeter stared at them as Will put her in a cart, unsure what to say at the state of her dress. Will ignored him and pushed the cart further into the store. It took only a few minutes for him to find the children's section, but he spent an equally long amount of time just staring at the clothes and looking utterly lost. Mischa held back a snicker. A plump, dark-skinned woman stared at them from not too far away, folding clothes on a little stand. Her blue vest marked her as an employee, but the critical maternal look in her eyes also marked her as a parent. Will stepped forwards once, wavered, then stepped back again. The woman looked unimpressed. Mischa pressed a hand to her mouth.
“You need some help, sir?” Despite it being a question, her tone implied it wasn’t.
Will, however, looked overwhelmingly relieved. He turned large, pleading eyes to the woman.
Mischa couldn’t hold back the snickers anymore.
In which shopping is done, underwear is hoarded, Dogs Are Here, and a Lady appears.
I won't be writing these notes often, don't worry. For those of you who read this, I just want to give a heartfelt thank you, especially to everyone who commented. This is my first fanfic, both in the fandom and on the site, and I didn't think that this story would go over very well. To get such positive feedback at all, let alone this early has been amazing for me and my confidence. Thank you.
Mischa was pleased. She hadn’t shopped for clothes at Wal-Mart since her first childhood. She wasn’t sure if the quality had improved or she was just too damn happy to be in normal clothes again. Andrea – the woman who was steadily becoming one of Mischa’s new favorite people – had made it her business to introduce Will to the wonderful world of children’s shopping. The first thing she had done was to drag them both over to the changing rooms, insisting on putting Mischa in actual clothes and shoes. Now, Mischa stood admiring herself in the mirror outside the changing room. A pale blue cotton sundress hung to her knees, accented in little white lace trim. A pair of white flats completed the look. Her most favorite piece of clothing, however, was undoubtedly her underwear. Andrea had tempted her with a number of different cartoon characters, from Disney princesses to Barbie to Hello Kitty. Mischa had barely been able to keep a grimace off her face with each passing suggestion. She was quite grateful that Will had been able to see her mounting horror and rescue her with a pack in basic colors.
She wiggled a little in delight.
She wasn’t sure if she would ever take for granted being able to wear clean, soft clothes again. Especially underwear. Mischa suppressed a shudder as the memory of her being stuck in the previous pair, soaked in urine and other unfavorable things, came to mind.
She wiggled again just to feel the fabric of the dress move around her.
When she decided she was satisfied with herself, she turned and walked over to where Will was being lectured at. Andrea was next to him, a pile of clothes in front of them as she explained several things. Currently, he held a pair of tiny jeans in his hands, Andrea demonstrating the tightening bands inside the waist. As Mischa watched the fully grown FBI Special Agent get lectured on the subject of correct fits, she couldn’t help the soft grin from forming. There were many a father who didn’t care what clothes their daughters got, let alone how to properly fit them. Even more would have resented Andrea for lecturing them. Will Graham wasn’t insulted at all. He was listening intently to the Wal-Mart employee, asking questions occasionally, and trying everything that she demonstrated. He appeared to be fully invested throughout their tour through the store. Shoes mandated a 20-minute discussion and ended up with them leaving with 4 different types of shoes, one of them a pair of adorable hiking boots that Will had made sure she had, citing his home in the middle of the woods. Will had seemingly also picked up on her obsession with underwear and bought 4 packs. Mischa just barely kept herself from clutching them to her chest.
Now able to walk on her own, Mischa was able to walk the aisles beside Will and Andrea. The woman looked a little charmed at the fact that Will would present every item to her for her approval before putting it in the cart. Mischa was a little charmed herself. Grateful, as well. There was a large amount of pink, purple, sparkle, and rainbows in the clothing section. She hadn’t been a fan when she had actually been four; she wasn’t one now either. As Mischa put a set of green shorts decorated with little white and blue llama heads into the basket, Will stared down at her for a moment. They had made their way through most of the girl's section, the cart now littered with jeans, shorts, t-shirts, and dresses, but still short of the amount that Andrea had recommended. He flicked a glance at the cart, back to her, then to the rest of the section that they hadn’t seen yet. It was mostly pink.
Will straightened. “Let’s go look over here.”
He grabbed her hand, pulling her across the aisle. Andrea was smiling as they stepped into the boy’s section. Mischa blinked, looking around. Will rested his gaze on hers but didn’t move otherwise. Mischa shrugged, then stepped towards a pair of dark blue overall shorts decorated with green dinosaurs – they were quite cute.
They spent almost three hours in the superstore. Andrea had followed them from clothes and shoes to toys, arts and crafts, books, and even the food section. They even got a new set of suitcases for her to put all her new things in. When Will had confessed at the front of the store as he and Andrea packed all the new purchases away that he had been planning to do the majority of this shopping when he had gotten home, Andrea had looked a little flustered. At the look, however, Will had assured her that this was much more preferable, as he likely wouldn’t have ever learned what he needed to. He confided that he didn’t socialize well, and was more than grateful for the woman’s help. She had smiled shyly then, pleased.
Pulling the bags behind them, Will held her hand tightly as they walked back to the hotel. They spent one more night there, in which time Mischa had managed to take two more baths. During the second one the morning of their departure, Will remarked that he was a little surprised how much she was okay with baths considering the amount of time she had spent almost drowning.
“I like being clean more,” she explained. “But I also think that the light helps. If I was in the dark and I couldn’t see that it was water I probably would get upset.”
“Is that why you look down at the water so much?”
Mischa shrugged; she hadn’t even realized that she had been doing it.
“I’ll make sure that the lights are always on then. We may have to get a night light for the bathroom at home.” He pressed a hand to the top of her hair, and Mischa ducked her head to hide the look on her face. “Come on then mermaid, our flight leaves soon and I don’t think you can swim to Virginia.”
Mischa made a face at the man as he pulled her from the tub.
“I thought you didn’t like touching people?”
Mischa asked the question abruptly, curled into a plastic chair not too far from their boarding gate. Her hands were curled into the sleeve of a soft green sweater that featured a velociraptor wearing a top hat. Mischa had been quite amused at the selection of children’s clothes she had found. A small part of her wondered at the faces Hannibal would make at the sight of them. It honestly made her like them even more. As she plucked at the grey tights she was wearing, Mischa heard Will shuffling beside her. From what she had seen of the man, he was much like the character she had known Before. He was an awkward little duck whenever faced with the prospect of socializing, but beneath his nervous ticks and anxieties, Will’s true nature peaked out ever so slightly. She had expected him to be quite distant and awkward with her; unsure and unconnected. While he had a few awkward moments, for the most part, he had appeared quite invested in her and her well-being. Every time they had been in public, he either had her in his arms or held her hand firmly in his, eyeing everything around them protectively. For a man that frequently forgot to feed himself, he was persistent about her own feedings. She had found out just recently that his bag was now half-filled with a number of snacks for her. He had pressed a pack of goldfish crackers into her hands when they had sat down, ignoring the exasperated look she gave him since they had eaten less than an hour ago. Will seemed to already be quite attached to her – something that made her insides fizz warmly even as a suspicious voice in her mind asked why?
“I don’t like people in general,” Will answered, turning to stare at her over a pile of what she assumed to be student papers on his lap. “Touching them is definitely worse.”
Mischa’s lips pursed as she looked at him. “You touch me. A lot.”
“You’re not people.” Came the blunt reply.
She stared at him, a little stunned and not too sure if that was an insult or not. To his credit, Will appeared to have realized the misleading nature of his comment. He flushed a little, then rushed to explain.
“I mean you’re not like them. You’re special. And mine. My daughter. What I mean is – you see it’s – I don’t –” Will’s flustered words ended abruptly. His hands gestured sharply as he attempted to find a way to finish his sentence.
Mischa took pity on him.
Will blinked, pulled out of his fumbling. “Ok?” He questioned unsurely.
She shrugged. “I get it. You’re mine too.”
Will’s eyes flickered, something dark peaking out of them. His mouth was curved at one end in a pleased smile. A hand passed through her hair, possessive. She didn’t mind. She really did get it. Her new nature surprised her every once in a while with its effects. In the place of any discomfort she would have felt before at the very obvious possessive nature that Will had developed with her, a dark part of her was pleased. She was his daughter. He was her father. They belonged to each other now, and the dark part of herself that was born from her trial by blood refused to allow herself to feel guilty about it. She had lost enough family already – she wouldn’t lose any more if she could help it.
Mischa shifted, tucking herself into her father’s side. He hummed quietly as his arm settled around her. He went back reading papers as she pulled a book of crosswords out of the backpack at her side. They sat together until the announcement came for their boarding. Will jittered through the lines, frustrated with the people around them. Mischa’s looks combined with Will’s flustered state had attracted a lot of attention from other people. Most of them couldn’t help but comment - smiling and cooing at them both. The word adorable was passed around frequently much to Will’s embarrassment. He responded by curling himself around Mischa as much as possible. As much as he appeared to not like being touched, he apparently couldn’t stand anyone touching Mischa even more. Mischa hid a small smile and slipped a hand into his. He calmed down only slightly during the flight, pressing her into a window seat and feeding her snacks seemingly every 20 minutes. By the time they landed, Mischa was uncomfortably full and Will looked as if on the verge of murder.
Mischa paused at the thought, morbidly amused despite herself.
Will’s car had been waiting in long term parking, and even she was relieved not to have to deal with anyone else. The flight had taken more out of her then she realized since her body was still not recovered from her ordeal. She fell asleep in the back of the car where a brand-new booster seat had already been installed. Will hadn’t even known if she would come back with him when he had left but he had still bought one just in case. She wondered how she had ever doubted if Will would be a good father.
She didn’t wake up again until she felt the straps around her being removed. She went to walk on her own, but Will just pulled her into his arms, tucking her face into his shoulder and shushing her quietly. She found herself falling back into sleep without her consent. She had just enough mind to reassure herself that Wolf Trap would still be there in the morning. An arm curled around her and pulled her into a warm embrace, lulling her back into darkness.
“– and this one is Buster.” Will was saying, half spilled on the floor as he sat amongst his pack of dogs.
They wiggled around him in obvious delight, turning from licking his face in one moment to sniffing at her the other. Mischa was fairly certain she was in love. She had been allergic to pet dander in the Before and had mourned that fact for as long as she could remember. Now as she stared at the dogs piled on her father, the unholy glee she felt enveloped her completely. She fell down amongst the dogs. One hand found the back of an ear while the other managed to tuck itself under a furry chin. Within a moment the dogs threw away their caution. One of the larger ones bowled her over completely in his attempts to get her attention. Will laughed, loudly and freely.
Mischa sighed happily at her impending death by dog slobber.
They spent nearly an hour playing with the dogs on the floor. Eventually, however, Will had to pull her away so they could go grocery shopping.
“I’m not the best at feeding myself.” He confessed to her quietly as he pushed a cart through the produce section.
Mischa couldn’t help the dry look she sent him. She had seen the state of his refrigerator; a box of baking soda, a bag of shriveled carrots, and a Tupperware container of something that even Will couldn’t name.
He gave a sheepish shrug and continued. “I was thinking it might be easier if we made a schedule. There aren’t many things I can make, and I can learn something new if you need me too, but I know enough for a full week or so. If it’s set then it will be easier for me to remember and do. We’ll get some snacks and things for you to eat between meals when you want them. I’ll need to keep track of everything at first to make sure you’re eating enough of the things you’re supposed to.” He trailed off slightly, devolving into mutters about nutritional values and calories.
She looked at him in surprise. Had he researched her dietary needs? Is that what he had been doing at night while she slept? She had seen him on his computer almost every time she woke up but had assumed that he had been doing his own work. Mischa’s mouth quirked up at the end in a grin. She waited a moment, but when the mutterings didn’t appear to be slowing, she reached out a hand and tugged at Will’s shirt. His mouth shut instantly and his eyes jerked towards her. She pointed at a bag of oranges. He blinked, then grabbed a bag.
They continued on in that manner; Mischa pointing out the things that she wanted while Will muttered lowly, clearly checking things off on his mental nutrition checklist. They received a number of stares, but Mischa wasn’t sure if that was because of Will’s mutterings or because of Mischa. Wolf Trap was a small town, something that hadn’t entirely surprised her. In the Before all she had seen of the town was Will’s house so details of the town were new to her. Most everyone here appeared to know everyone, and Will was fairly well known as the lovable town oddball – not normal, but a good person with a good heart otherwise (“Who else would take such good care of all those dogs?”). Mischa’s appearance had been turning heads as soon as Will had pulled her out of the car.
“Jam or jelly? Does it matter? Why are there so many flavors? What are they all for? Who even needs this many flavors?” Will looked a little bewildered.
Mischa snickered a little and pointed to a jar of strawberry jam. Will sighed and grabbed it. He pushed the cart forward.
“Well now, if that ain’t Will Graham buying actual food this time? I didn’t think I’d ever see the day.”
An elderly woman was pushing her cart the other direction. Her white hair was pulled up elegantly and pinned with flowers. Her dress was staid, buttoned to her neck, and appeared to be personally embroidered. The wrinkles that lined her face moved with her smile and did nothing to distract from her obvious beauty. She was pushing the cart with thin hands clad in dainty lace gloves. Mischa wasn’t sure she had ever seen anyone who so perfectly embodied an elderly southern lady.
“Mrs. Hollingsworth.” Will greeted her quietly, but with obvious warmth.
Mischa felt her attention sharpen at the realization that Will actually liked this woman. Such people were few and far between.
“Hello, dear William. How are those dogs of yours?” The elderly lady had pulled to a stop beside them, allowing Will to take her hand and press a kiss into the air above it. Will smiled at her.
“They’re doing well, rather pleased to see me home.”
“Yes,” Mrs. Hollingsworth agreed. “I imagine they would be. Although you don’t seem to have come back alone this time.”
Mrs. Hollingsworth had taken the opening he had given her, allowing her gaze to rest on Mischa now. She observed the woman in turn from the seat of the cart. Will turned towards her as well, all three of them ignoring the gathering crowd of onlookers who apparently all seemed to be in desperate need of jelly.
“Yes. This is my daughter, Mischa. Her mother passed recently so she will be staying with me from now on.” Will explained, not bothering to beat around the bush.
“Oh dear,” Mrs. Hollingsworth murmured, her hazel eyes full of sadness. “While the circumstances are unfortunate, we’re quite pleased to have you here. I’ve always thought Will would make a wonderful parent; I’m glad to see that it’s true.”
“You don’t know that.” Will protested, flushed.
The elderly woman smiled at him gently and put a hand on their cart. “I’ve known you’re habits since you moved here when you were a teenager, dear. I can tell by the state of your cart how much thought and care you’ve put into this already.”
Will ducked his head, unsure what to say. She didn’t seem too concerned with that though, which was a point in her favor. Mischa’s thoughts paused as she realized that the woman had now turned her attention towards her.
“Well aren’t you the prettiest little thing I ever saw?” The woman hummed, smiling down at her. “How old are you sweetheart?”
Mischa ducked her own head, not answering. Thankfully, Will seemed to pull himself together. He cleared his throat quietly, pulling Mrs. Hollingsworth's attention back to him.
“Mischa is four. She doesn’t speak.”
Mrs. Hollingsworth gave a slow blink at that, but said nothing, turning her attention back to Mischa with a softer smile. “Is she like you, then, dear?”
The crowd around them seemed to hold their breaths collectively at the question. Will had been accepted by the town around them; largely in part because many of his social deviations had been excused by the Autistic label that had been painted on him. Will looked hesitant to answer. Mischa figured that he wasn’t sure how she would feel about being labeled, but she didn’t really mind. An autistic label was better than a psychopathic one. When his eyes flickered to hers, she let the acceptance show on her face. Will nodded at Mrs. Hollingsworth.
“Aren’t you two the cutest?” Cooed the elegant woman, not at all put out by the admission. Will’s lips twisted into a smile. “You’ll bring her by, won’t you? I won’t be having anyone else looking after her. I’ve already laid my claim years ago.”
At this, Will looked genuinely surprised. “I thought you were retired, Mrs. Hollingsworth?”
She laughed and replied. “For everyone but you, dear.”
Will looked both flattered and overwhelmed. Mischa looked at him, unsure of what was happening. She reached out a hand and tugged on his sleeve. He flinched in her direction, visibly gathering himself.
“Mrs. Hollingsworth looked after me when I was a teenager. Taught me. A lot. Things that no one else ever did. She’s rather famous all over for the kids she tutored. Politicians, classical musicians, published authors, architects, artists. Pretty much anyone who’s anyone around here can be traced to Mrs. Hollingsworth’s parlor. But she stopped taking on students a while ago.” He explained to her.
“I told you dear, I staked my claim years ago.” Mrs. Hollingsworth appeared amused at his flustered expression, but firm in her decision.
Mischa stared at the woman who apparently nurtured the great. She was quite flattered herself. She was even more intrigued that Mrs. Hollingsworth had taught Will. Had she been the one who had instilled the southern manners in him? Taught him to be the caring person he was underneath all that social anxiety? Was she the one who read Hemmingway to him so much that he had no problems reciting it to her while she was falling asleep? More than that, if Mrs. Hollingworth liked Will as much as she seemed, then there was a good chance that she would accept Mischa as she was as well.
The girl looked at her father. She knew that she would probably have a baby sitter or a nanny sooner or later given that Will would be returning to work soon, but she hadn’t been sure what Will was going to do. Now, tentatively in favor of Mrs. Hollingsworth, she looked at him for his acceptance. Will, for his part, seemed torn. He clearly liked the idea – another point in the elderly woman’s favor – but was visibly hesitant to ask her to give up her retirement. Mrs. Hollingsworth dismissed this hesitance, pulling herself up to her full height and leaning forward to plant a kiss on Will’s cheek.
“There now, we’ve got that all settled. I’ll expect you both for dinner next Friday and we’ll go over plans. You know what to bring. After that, you bring her over when you go to work and pick her up afterward.”
Will opened his mouth to protest, only to be silenced as she tapped his other cheek with a hand as she walked away. Will closed his mouth, slightly stunned. Mischa let out a small giggle.
Will glared at her.
The crowd around them was dispersing now into smaller groups, murmurs already rising in volume. The word would be all over town by the end of the night, Mischa figured. Will sighed, shoulders slumping. He knew it too. The cart pushed onwards, however, and Mischa yanked on his sleeve once more to point at a jar of peanut butter.
In which Mischa is afraid, Will is slightly creepy, and Winston is a Good Boy.
Mischa frowned at the wet spot on the bed.
She hadn’t realized that it would start this soon. When she had first arrived in Wolf Trap, she had been half-frightened about being thrown into the middle of Hannibal’s manipulations without a proper relationship with Will to maybe protect her. The first morning she had woken she was considerably relieved, if somewhat disappointed, that Winston was not amongst the pack yet. While she had been looking forward to meeting him the most, she appreciated the fact that she would have more time with Will before things started to descend in madness and murder.
Well, anymore more murder anyways.
She really should have been more prepared for this. She had known it would happen soon – Will was teaching at the FBI and a weekly google search had already revealed that several girls had gone missing in Minnesota. She was, none the less, a little spooked. It had been about a year and a half since Will had brought her home. Their relationship had grown exponentially. Will’s possessiveness and considerable obsession with her had become something she began to covet. A disastrous attempt at socialization that they had been guilted into by Mrs. Hollingsworth had proved that. A woman had set her sights on Will in what Mischa had figured was half an attempt at climbing the social ladder and half at the appeal of ‘fixing’ him. Will was surprisingly well-liked in Wolf Trap even if he didn’t socialize much – his history with Mrs. Hollingsworth, his well-known care of stray dogs, an unknown amount of wealth, and the steady stream of support and donations to every local cause had ensured it. Mischa had only been with Will for a half a year and been slowly coming into her own dark obsession. She had gone a little overboard at the sight of the stupid woman with her hands on a very uncomfortable looking Will. No one but her father had realized that the fire wasn’t entirely an accident, and really how fortunate was it that it had only got her hair? Perhaps she shouldn’t have been wearing so much hair spray? No, the good people of Wolf Trap had cast it as a freak accident, though she had caught Mrs. Hollingsworth giving her a look afterward. Will had only been darkly amused. Despite its nature, it was fairly obvious that the arson wasn’t intended to hurt anybody that badly. If the harpy had spent the next spent six months hiding in her house in embarrassment at having her hair burnt away then it was only her own vanity that kept her there. There were plenty of bald women, she argued to Will when the subject had been brought up later. Mischa could hardly be blamed.
Will was rather pleased himself that their relationship was equally covetous in nature. A small voice in her head commented that Hannibal wasn’t likely to take it very well that he wouldn’t be the center of Will’s world when they finally met. Which would be soon, she realized. Will had set up a room for her in the rarely used upstairs floor, but oftentimes she only ever went up for clothes. Mischa wasn’t very comfortable on the bed and Will had a habit of stealing her from it even when she did fall asleep in it. Most nights they slept together in his bed in the living room. This morning, however, Mischa had woken in a giant puddle of sweat. A towel was already soaked through on top of the covers.
Mischa had done thorough research into Will’s impending sickness. Her initial desires not to change too much to ensure her future knowledge would hold up had fallen by the wayside as she had grown increasingly attached to Will. When she had finally decided that she didn’t want him to suffer through the pain of encephalitis, she had been upset to realize that there wasn’t any reasonable way to help him. She was almost 6, and despite the ‘advanced’ and ‘genius’ label that they had slapped on her when she had been assessed by the school, he wasn’t likely to listen to her. In fact, if the concern was voiced by her at all she knew that he would be even more stubborn and set against the idea. He would do everything he could to ensure that nothing was wrong with his health in order to alleviate her fears, dismissing every other indication otherwise. Will could be stubborn as a brick wall, she had discovered. Which meant that she would have to figure out how to either make Will realize it or have an adult that he would actually listen to tell him. She had considered Mrs. Hollingsworth briefly, but Will had dismissed her concerns (after Mischa had carefully raised them) as an elderly woman’s maternal nature. There weren’t any other adults in Wolf Trap that Will would listen to.
Well, now at least she would have access to the others, she reasoned. Even if one of them was Hannibal Lector. He would be the first one to figure it out. It was still a while to go, though. Not until the Angel Maker. When Mischa had grown worried at possibly forgetting the plot from the Before as well as her life there, there had been a furious attempt to write it all down secretly. As she put it to paper though, she had discovered that she really had inherited a lot from Will. Her newly eidetic memory had proved to be one of her new favorite things – even if it made sure that she would never forget a single detail of her family’s gruesome torture. Now as she recalled the events that would be coming to pass in the next few months, she attempted to figure out what she wanted to do.
Ideally, she would prefer if Hannibal would actually tell him this time. Not just because he would catch the illness the soonest, but also because a small part of her hoped that Hannibal would care enough about Will to put his health over Hannibal’s curiosity. She knew in the end that Hannibal had come to be obsessed with Will as much as her father would be with him, but she wasn’t sure when he would realize that his obsession also included affection. Most of all, she wasn’t sure how her being in Will’s life would affect their relationship and the developing events.
Mischa inhaled deeply, and then let it out slowly.
The thought itched at her, rubbing at one of the few sore spots that had been festering since the first couple of weeks after their return home. Mischa hadn’t cared that Will hadn’t introduced her to anyone in Wolf Trap other than Mrs. Hollingsworth. The woman who would become her nanny/tutor had introduced her enough as is, always mindful of Mischa’s ‘condition’. When the second month had passed, however, and no further introductions had come from Will, she had grown slightly suspicious. It had blossomed into an ugly mess of feelings a couple of weeks later when the woman Mischa had recognized as Alana Bloom came by the house in a surprise visit. Will had quietly ordered her into her room upstairs, asking her not to come out. Unsure and hurt, she had complied without question. Instructions she had followed again and again all the other times the woman had come by. Will had never said anything afterward.
Fear had kept Mischa quiet.
Afraid that he was embarrassed by her. Afraid that he didn’t want her to meet anyone that could possibly realize that she wasn’t actually Autistic but something else entirely. Afraid that he didn’t actually care enough to introduce her to the people he cared about. Mrs. Hollingsworth had been an accident after all. Mischa wasn’t sure if she would ever set foot outside of Wolf Trap. It was a thought that burned and festered.
She had been forced into the local kindergarten last fall, spending half of her days with snot covered toddlers and the other half in the company of Mrs. Hollingsworth. The elderly woman was the one redeeming factor in this arrangement. Mischa did not get on with her year mates at all and found her teacher an annoying personality as well. The curriculum was nauseatingly boring, with only Mrs. Hollingsworth providing her with anything interesting to learn. The elderly lady had been delighted to find Mischa was quite smart, eyes gleaming as she considered Mischa's potential. She had constructed a curriculum that spanned years and included everything from penmanship, art, and poetry to hunting, sailing, and even home improvement. The last had surprised her, and seeing her look Mrs. Hollingsworth had stated that every person should know how to care for their own homes and animals. Mischa hadn't been surprised to end up on a farm not too long after that. Now in the first grade, Mischa didn’t really find public school any better. She was halfway through convincing Will to allow her to be homeschooled. His only objection was that it would force her into taking all of Mrs. Hollingsworth’s time, something that he wasn’t capable of asking the elderly matron. Mischa lived for her time with Will and the elderly lady but could do without the rest of the town to be completely honest. She was anxious about being left to the side and being unable to do anything as the plot of the Before unfolded around her.
Will was already displaying symptoms, and would probably be dragged into the Hobbes investigation within in a few days. Mischa pursed her lips in frustration, then began mechanically changing the sheets on the bed.
What would come would come.
“I should be back in a few days,” Will attempted to cajole her, packing a bag as he spoke.
Mischa said nothing.
“It’s going to be fine, Mischa, nothing will happen. They just need me to look at a few things. Mrs. Hollingsworth is quite pleased you’ll be staying with her again. I think she might like you more than me, to be honest.”
Mischa ignored his attempts at humor, face unreadable.
Will paused, turning to look at her. He grimaced at the look on her face - her unhappiness was fairly evident. He settled a hand on her head, but she ignored it. His frown deepened.
“Mischa.” He started, then stopped; unsure how to continue or what to say. Finally, he sighed and looked away. “I’m sorry.”
Mischa walked out of the room.
Will was leaving for Minnesota the second time. He would return a murderer; beginning his descent into his darkness. He had been home late almost every night this past week, pulled into the case by Jack, and Mischa had been unreasonably put out by this fact. This surprising display of childishness was difficult for her to curb. Especially when he had proved to be rather reluctant to talk to her. He spoke about the case, even his thoughts on the murderer, but rather conspicuously made no mention of the doctor. Even when she knew that he featured in the conversation. She had caught him in contemplative silences quite often, and an instinctive part of her realized that it was Hannibal that was causing it.
She clicked her tongue at the dog in the hallway and Winston trotted to her side, following her upstairs to her room. She wanted to be back at the front of her father’s life, but she wasn’t sure if that was ever going to happen again.
Will didn't say goodbye when he left.
Mischa angrily ignored her burning eyes.
Mischa woke up suddenly. The room was dark. Nothing appeared out of the ordinary. She ran her eyes around the room, not moving. She almost was about to dismiss her concerns when Winston shifted at the foot of the bed. He was alert, ears perked.
Mischa tensed slowly.
A shift in fabric brought her attention to the open doors of the balcony. Mrs. Hollingworth had been quite excited to offer her the room, explaining that it had been hers when she was a child. The second-floor room was exceedingly nice, and the small balcony had seemed safe enough for her to leave the doors open in the lingering September heat. Now, shadows revealed a figure that had destroyed that sense of safety. Fear rose in her, unsure if Hannibal had found out about her and was already here to remove her from Will’s life. As she clenched a hand around a kitchen knife that she had tucked beneath her pillow, Mischa considered her options. Winston moved, sliding along his belly until he came to rest over her, covering as much of her body as the dog could. His lips were pulled back in a soundless snarl as his ears lay close to his head. He was waiting, she realized. Winston had proved to be much smarter than the other dogs. He was also intensely protective of both her and Will, but neither of them had taken in exactly how prepared for violence he seemed to be. He looked absolutely terrifying above her, she realized with a little bit of pride.
Every Murder Family needed a Murder Dog, her mind supplied deliriously.
Winston shifted slightly above her, positioning himself and pulling her thoughts back to the situation at hand. Just as she moved the knife closer to her, Winston suddenly stood, tail beginning to wag and ears up. Mischa blinked and sat up slowly. The dog jumped down from the bed and trotted happily over to the figure still half-concealed in the darkness. As it knelt down, a beam of moonlight lit up the face to reveal Will. She exhaled sharply. Will stared at her, eyes dark and slightly wild even as his hands pet Winston. After Winston greeted Will he returned to her, curling up at the foot of the bed again. Will came forward as well, slowly coming to stand at her side.
She eyes him curiously. Was he sleepwalking already?
Will’s hand came up slowly to caress her face. She hesitated only slightly before turning into his palm, her free hand coming to curl in his shirttails. Her nose twitched. She smelled blood. Will made a small sound and breathed out her name in a whisper. His other hand joined the first, cupping her face entirely as he slid to his knees at her bedside. Will rested his forehead against hers, letting his eyes flutter shut and inhaling deeply. They rested like that for a few minutes. When he finally drew his face away, Will’s eyes had lost the wild look, even if the darkness was still there.
“Hey,” He whispered quietly.
“Hey.” She murmured back.
He seemed content with this. Mischa shifted, bringing the knife still clutched in one hand into view. Will's eyes found it, and she saw dark satisfaction paint his face. He looked on approvingly as she slipped it back under her pillow. Mischa eyed him, then shifted and slid over under the covers. Will was moving before she had even settled. They didn’t sleep though. There was too much to talk about. As she curled up on her side, she rested her head next to his on the pillow. His eyes drank her in greedily.
“Tell me.” She whispered to him.
“A father,” he murmured. “He couldn’t take his daughter going off to college. All those girls were just substituting for her. He ate them so that they wouldn’t ever be able to leave him; not completely. I found him. But it was too late. He killed them right there. I killed him.”
Mischa just barely stopped her self from gaping. Them?
“His wife and daughter; Abigail.”
Apparently, she had spoken the question aloud. She inhaled in shock. “He killed Abigail?”
“He had a knife to her throat. I shot him but he still managed to cut. She bled out. Dr. Lector and I tried to stop it, but it was too late.”
Mischa wasn’t sure, but he didn’t seem to bothered by this fact. She felt something flutter in her as she wondered why he hadn’t attached himself to the teen as he had before. Was it because he already had a daughter? Why had Abigail died now when she had lived Before? Mischa didn’t think that she had changed much of anything, let alone enough for something this big to have already been altered. How would things go now, a distressed part of her wailed? Will’s fingers, clutching hers, had begun to tighten the longer she had her silent freak out.
“Are you upset?’ Will was tense now, his face drawn and worried.
His eyebrows were drawn together and furrowed. She hadn’t seen him look this worried since their first day together in the police station. Abruptly she realized the conclusion he’d drawn.
“I don’t care that you killed him.” She told him bluntly.
Will breathed, his face contorting between happiness and worry. “You don’t have to lie; I know it can’t be easy after everything you went through.”
Now it was Mischa’s turn to frown at him. She drew her fingers from his, shifting until both of her tiny hands curled around his jaw. She pressed her face closer to his so their eyes were level.
“You know what I went through.” She agreed. “You also know what I did. You know what I am. What I feel. I’m not a hypocrite.”
Will stilled, eyes caught in hers as he read her truth. She let his face go, hands moving down to curl into his shirt collar as if to make sure that he couldn’t leave, but didn’t move her face from in front of his.
He tried to argue. “It’s not the same, you did that in self-defense. It may have been a hostage situation, but I…. enjoyed it. When he died. That I killed him.”
His face shifted, and she knew that he was attempting to feel guilty for something that he never would.
“You think I didn’t?” She confessed quietly.
Will’s entire body jerked slightly. He appeared a little breathless, but not upset. Mischa firmly pushed past the fear that had been plaguing her since she had pulled her teeth out of the monster’s neck, and continued on with her confession.
“I didn’t need to kill him. He was alive for a little while after. The bite took his flesh and opened the artery, but he had a hand around it quickly enough. He went down. And I watched him. He begged me to call the police. I sat next to him as the blood spilled from between his fingers. There was more than enough time to call. I didn’t want to though. I didn’t want him to live. To leave that basement when my family didn’t. When twenty minutes had passed and he was still alive, I shoved my hands between his and pulled as much of his throat open as I could. He was too weak to do anything but gurgle at me. I enjoyed it too. Sometimes I dream about it. The taste of his pulse in my mouth, his heart fluttering as I bit down. I don’t mind that you killed him.”
Mischa confession was a whispered thing, barely audible in the heated darkness. Strips of moonlight and Winston were the only witnesses to the weighty silence between them. The darkness in Will’s eyes was on full display. His lips were parted slightly, brows arched up. He seemed surprised, but in no way upset or disappointed. In fact, there was something behind his eyes that appeared immensely satisfied. Either Will’s monster was much closer than Mischa had assumed, or she just brought it out faster. She wasn’t sure which she preferred, but she was gratified to know that he wasn’t upset about her confession.
“Good.” Will breathed the word out, voice firm. “It's no less than he deserved.”
Mischa smiled at him, knowing that it was as dark as the one he was currently wearing. Will’s arms pulled her into his chest, pressing her as close as possible. She wound her arms around his neck, tucking her face into his shoulder. The smell of blood was stronger, and she realized belatedly that he hadn’t changed his clothes. He was still covered in blood. The dark thing in her purred.
“I let her die too,” Will confessed, voiced in the breathy whisper her own confession had been.
Mischa felt her thoughts stutter. “Abigail?”
“Yes.” He paused a moment, before continuing. “I had my hands around her throat, holding the wound closed. She was bleeding out so much. Dr. Lector was behind me. I could have called for him. I didn’t. I let my fingers relax. He called the ambulance, but it was too late. She had already bled out. I knew she had helped him lure the girls. If she had survived, she would never be able to escape it. The notoriety, the shame. They would blame her. I didn’t want that for her. It was why her father took a knife to her throat at the end. It’s better this way.”
Mischa considered. He wasn’t wrong. Abigail hadn’t been happy or had a very good life after waking up in the hospital in the Before. She had died by the hands of a man she had come to see as an adoptive father, while the other bled out beside her. There would be no more betrayals and heartache for Abigail. She shoved down the part of her that was viciously pleased. She had always felt a little jealous when she had thought about the older girl, not looking forward to sharing her father. Now, Will was entirely hers.
(Hannibal too, that same dark part of her whispered.)
“It is.” Mischa shifted, curling into Will to hold him tighter.
They were quiet for a while, Will running a hand through her hair. The air cooled as the night went on, the distant crackle of thunder a pleasing soundtrack. A late summer storm had broken, scenting the air with the smell of petrichor. Mischa inhaled, feeling lighter than ever before. She kept her eyes open, unwilling to forget any part of this night. It was possibly the happiest memory she had since arriving in this new world. Buoyed by the pleasant feelings, Mischa threw away the last of her reservations.
“Tell me about Dr. Lector?” She questioned.
Will’s hand stilled in her hair. He didn’t say anything for a moment. “He’s a psychologist. Jack asked him to help with the case.”
Will shifted, pulling back so they could see each other. “And what?” He was entirely hesitant now in a way that he hadn’t been when talking about murder.
She gave him an unimpressed look. “He’s the one that’s got you all pensive, isn’t he? You don’t get that way for cases. He’s the only new person in your life that you very obviously don’t talk about.”
Will appeared sheepish now, breaking eye contact to look through the still open balcony doors. She said nothing as he appeared to gather himself, searching for words. Finally, he breathed out a sigh, turning back to her.
“He’s…remarkable.” The confession was voiced in a breathy, yearning way.
Mischa looked on in wonder. Will’s face seemed to glow as he talked about the other man. Clearly Will had been as enamored with Hannibal as the doctor had been with him from the very beginning.
Mischa searched his face, as she reminded him, “You don’t like people.”
“I don’t.” He confessed. “Hannibal is…different. Not like others. He sees me. The way no one else but you do. He looks at my mind and doesn’t flinch. Calls it beautiful. He is interesting. He looks…” Here he paused, searching for a word to describe him. “Dazzling.” He finally decided. “Like every inch of him has been carved out and sculpted to be as bright as possible. For all his elegance and manners, though, he moves like a predator. Watching him do anything with his hands is like watching a dance. It’s even better when he cooks. His mind is the most incredible part of him. He talks with me one moment about art or food and has just as much passion for talking about murder in the next. He’s…”
Will’s voice faded away, finally out of words. Mischa considered him; the content and enthralled look on his face, the ease his body had fallen into. She found herself delighted, much to her surprise. She was still wary about the doctor and his attentions; both towards her and Will. The Will-Obsessed part of her was enraged at the idea that Hannibal would hurt Will; all too aware that he could and would betray him horrendously. But right now, all she felt was a contented warmth at the realization that Will had found someone to accept him. She was also surprised that her possessiveness hadn’t made her want to set Hannibal on fire.
Mischa pondered for a moment on how exactly she could pull that one off.
Shaking the murder thoughts from her mind, she allowed her hands to flex against the back of Will’s neck to get his attention again. He too had apparently wondered somewhere inside his head. When his eyes found hers again, she spoke.
“You like him a lot.”
It wasn’t a question.
“Yes.” He didn’t hesitate.
Mischa’s doubts reared their ugly heads. She stiffened but continued.
“Will I get to meet him?” Her voice quivered, sounding for the first time in her second life as an actual 5-year-old.
Will appeared so distinctly startled that for a moment she wondered if he had stabbed himself on the knife beneath the pillow. He twisted, sitting up and bringing Mischa with him despite her reluctance. His mouth was pursed, and for the first time since he had walked through the doors, he appeared upset and anxious.
“What’s wrong? You don’t want to?”
Mischa shrugged, turning her face away. “You won’t let me meet anyone outside of Wolf Trap. I don’t know if he is included.”
“What?” Will appeared confused. He looked off to the side, eyes dilating slightly as he seemingly searched his memories. “Oh.”
He looked a little punched out as the realization came. He was definitely upset now, guilt eating at his face.
“I didn’t mean it like that.” Will was quiet as he explained. “I didn’t want her to know, yes, but not because I was embarrassed.” He reached forwards to cradle her face. He leaned forward so that they were at eye level, noses almost touching. “You are the best thing I have ever done, or will do, in my life. I could never be embarrassed about you, no matter what you do. I don’t care what anyone says or thinks about you. Not even Hannibal could change my mind. You’re mine, Mischa. Every part of you. You’ll always be mine. I don’t plan to let you go ever, even if you wanted me to.”
Mischa's eyes burned; her throat was achy. Embarrassed at the impending tears she pushed her face into Will’s chest. He wrapped her in his arms tightly as she shook ever so slightly. He didn’t seem to mind. When she had calmed, he continued his explanation.
“I didn’t tell Alana – anyone – because I was scared.” She pulled back to look at him in surprise. He gave her a self-deprecating grin. “I know what they think of me. How unstable they see me. How unstable I am, really. Sometimes I think that if you weren’t half so independent something would have happened to you by now.” His voice fell ominously serious as he continued, “I worry that if they knew about you, they might try to take you away. Claim I’m unfit to be your dad. I could live with a lot of things, Mischa, but I can’t live if they take you away from me. I won’t ever let them. Not even if it means I have to kill a hundred people.”
“You promise?” The demand spilled from her lips before she even realized.
Her father’s gaze was a heavy, pervasive warmth. Lightning flashed in the background, the sound of rain echoing around them only interrupted by the distant boom of thunder. Will’s eyes didn’t leave hers.
In which a Wild Hannibal appears.
When Mischa woke in the morning she as alone. Winston, seeing that she was awake, wiggled up to her and began licking her face. Mischa huffed a laugh scratched his ears.
“Aren’t you the best? Yes, you are.” She cooed into his fur.
Winston’s tail beat against her legs, butt wiggling in delight. She grinned down at him, still relaxed and warm from last night’s encounter. She wasn’t worried that Will wasn’t here. She knew that he wouldn’t have been able to explain his presence to Mrs. Hollingsworth had she discovered him. Mischa wouldn’t be surprised if he turned up to get her earlier than usual. Will had been fairly clingy last night. She kissed Winston's head before ushering him from the bed. As she began the get ready for the day, her mind wandered to what Will and she would do today. Mrs. Hollingsworth noticed her apparent good mood, remarking on it at breakfast. Mischa smiled at the woman warmly, feeling unexpectedly generous.
“Oh my, and here I thought you wouldn’t ever let go of that black mood of yours.” The woman was delighted. Mischa just shrugged at her and took a bite of oatmeal.
Just as they were finishing breakfast the doorbell rang. She straightened, excited at the prospect of going home with her father. She started to gather the dishes, clearing the table as was her chore. Just as she put the last one on the sink counter, Will stepped into the room. In the light of the day, she could see that he had cleaned himself up, but even beyond that she couldn’t help but notice that he seemed to be standing different; taller, straighter. He was apparently taking to murder much better than he had in the Before. Mischa wondered absently how Hannibal would take this. He hadn’t attached himself to Abigail and wouldn’t obsess about killing Hobbes this time. Mischa almost missed the fact that she couldn’t be able to see into their sessions anymore as she could in the Before.
Will was smiling softly at her. She smiled back and he moved across the room to pick her up almost instantly. He didn’t bother to put her down as they made their goodbyes to Mrs. Hollingsworth. Because of the time that she spent there, Mischa’s room was already full of her things (not to mention the things that Mrs. Hollingsworth bought her and slipped into her closet) which meant there was nothing for her to take between the two houses. Winston was the only thing that followed them out, trotting behind them happily.
They spent the rest of the day fishing. It was one of Will’s favorite things to do together. He enjoyed teaching her all about fish, lures, and techniques. The dog pack ran around the small clearing near the stream that they regularly fished at. Sometimes they played fetch, but most of it was spent next to her father in the stream, one hand holding her shoulder protectively to make sure she didn’t fall. Will even left his cell phone in the house, unconcerned with anything else. Mischa reveled in the attention. They had fish for dinner that night and ate it on the porch in the dying sunlight. Eventually, Mischa fell asleep reading a book and was unsurprised to wake up in Will’s arms the next morning.
Their solitude lasted longer than Mischa would have guessed. It took her a moment before she realized that this was actual life now, not a TV show. She had thought that the Mushroom Man case would start immediately, only to realize that things weren’t going to move at the speed of television anymore – back to back action and plot points. She should have realized that there would be some downtime before murders, even if the Before hadn’t shown any. As it was, they got a week of being inseparable from each other before Will had been called back to work. The FBI had cleared him of the shooting, and his mandatory downtime was ending. Will hadn’t been pleased about it, but he wasn’t entirely upset about it either. He never did do well without something to do. Will soured entirely though when Jack called one night and began making noises about getting cleared psychologically.
“Why does it matter? You like Hannibal. I know you want to talk to him again.” Mischa asked, curious.
“Not like this. Not as a patient.” Will pulled at his hair, frustrated.
“So tell him.” She paused. “After you get your clearance. Otherwise, you’ll have to go talk to someone else.”
Will grimaced at the thought, then relented. “Fine.”
Mischa scowled at the wall. The teacher attempting to speak to her huffed, and called her name sharply. Mischa didn’t know why the teacher got so worked up when she knew that she was mute and wouldn’t even respond. The teacher finally turned around in frustration and began ranting at the overwhelmed principal.
“That’s it! I’ve had enough of her behavior! I don’t know why she is here if she isn’t actually going to learn anything! She never listens when I’m teaching, doesn’t interact or play with the other children, and now she’s violent! I won’t have her hurting the other children. Billy has a black eye and a broken wrist! What am I going to tell his parents!?”
The woman got progressively shrill as she continued, earning flinches from both her and the principals. When she had finished, the man turned to look at the girl briefly, his face unreadable.
“A broken wrist?” He asked her.
Mischa didn’t mind this man so much. He had proved to be not as stupid as most of the adults in the building and sometimes was amusing. Her teacher had a habit of sending her to him she was having “episodes” that were mostly the teacher getting frustrated at Mischa for not responding to her. It was hard to keep control of a classroom when a soon to be six-year-old blatantly ignored not only your instructions but your entire presence. Now, the principal looked at her tiredly, but fondly. The teacher at her side saw this as well and grew even more enraged. Just as she was keying up for another screaming rant, the door to the office opened violently.
Will stalked into the room angrily.
It was such a rare sight that it shut the woman up completely. Will glared at the room in general before his eyes found her. Immediately he was striding towards her. He ran his hands all over her, pulling at her hair and clothes to make sure she wasn’t hurt, and when he discovered the bruising on her knuckles, he made a small sound and began rubbing them.
“It’s about time you got here!” The woman had gotten over her shock. “We’ve been here for an hour already and I –”
“You are already aware of where I work.” His voice was cracked through the room. The teacher faltered. “You knew how long it takes me. Now tell me why my daughter is the only one sitting here and hasn’t received medical attention?”
The teacher glared, “Your daughter didn’t need it! It was the boy that she brutalized that needed it! And why would he be here? It’s her fault in the first place! Really, if you had known she was violent –”
“You should be quiet now.” Will’s voice had gone arctic.
Mischa knew that his eyes would be icy and cutting. The teacher had paled, and even the principal looked unsettled.
“Mischa isn’t violent, not emotional. If she got into a fight with someone then it’s because they would have started it. Mischa doesn’t like touching people, she wouldn’t willing to put her hands on someone else, even to hit them. Who witnessed it?”
There was an awkward silence for a seconds before the principal spoke. “Yes, actually, I was just about to ask. Mrs. Turner, who is your witness?”
Mrs. Turner twitched at the question, two high spots of color molting her cheeks. “Isn’t it obvious? Billy is a good boy, and the girl is obviously not normal.”
Several gasps echoed in the air. Through the now open door, Mischa could see that almost all of the other teachers in the school had gathered outside the office. A glance at the clock showed that it was lunch. Almost all of them looked stunned at the woman's statement. Will’s hand was clenched into fists as he stood slightly in front of her. She didn’t have to see his face to know that he was pissed. Mischa tucked her chin to her chest and bit her lip to keep from grinning. The woman had just signed her own resignation.
“Erin!” The principal choked out, shocked.
Mrs. Turned finally seemed to realize what she said, her face flushing horribly. She tried to backtrack, stammering in a high squeaky voice about misunderstandings, but the principal and a good number of the teachers watching were furious and not having it. Eventually, three kids from her class were brought into the office by another teacher. It was then revealed that Billy was in fact the class bully who had been targeting her from the beginning. He had started this fight purposefully, frustrated that she refused to respond to his taunts. Half the class had watched as he had pulled her to the ground by her hair and sat on her “until she talked like normal”.
The principal was equally furious now, glaring at her now trembling teacher. He instructed a secretary to contact a union representative as he gestured to Mischa and Will. He walked them out, attempting to reassure them both that the situation would be taken care of. Will’s anger didn’t lessen. He strapped her into the booster seat in silence and didn’t say anything until 20 minutes had passed.
“Are you ok?” He asked, his voice low.
“Fine. I never cared about the teacher. Or what she thinks. Plus, the stupid boy didn’t even know how to hit anyways.” She replied, honestly unconcerned.
This was, quite literally for her, child’s play.
Will inhaled once, then let his breath out slowly. He was calming down. Or perhaps merely allowing the feelings to simmer. Mischa mused that if this had happened when Will had fully embraced his darkness then Mrs. Turned would likely be going to the top of his list. She wasn’t entirely sure that she wasn’t going there anyway.
“You’ll come with me for the rest of the week,” Will stated abruptly, eyes not leaving the road.
Mischa looked at him, astonished. She had understood his reasons for keeping her a secret and didn’t mind anymore. She hadn’t expected anything to change. She didn’t respond for a while, unsure if this was a reaction triggered by her fight at school or it was something that he had already thought through previously. She attempted to parse it, but couldn’t.
“Because of the fight?” She finally asked.
He looked at her through the mirror. “No. I decided that night. I just hadn’t planned on when.”
Mischa exhaled a little, relieved. “Ok.”
Mischa relaxed into the little cocoon she had made beneath Will’s lectern. It was Thursday, and she had been following Will since Monday afternoon. No one had seemed to notice her, and if they had no one had asked. Will was quietly despairing at the state of them, utterly unimpressed with their observational skills. These adults were supposed to be future FBI agents, he had mourned to her Tuesday night, what did it say about them that they couldn’t even realize that a 6-year-old was in the room? His disdain had leaked over into his lectures, making his students jumpy. He was sharper in demeanor; demanding input and thought where he hadn’t before. Mischa mostly just enjoyed watching the lectures. She had never considered exactly what went into profiling before. Will was clearly a genius at it, and his lectures were some of the most interesting she had ever seen.
He was wrapping up the nights lecture, giving out assignments to students. Mischa continued to study the slide on the screen. Will had been talking about the Shrike tonight. Abigail and Garret Jacob Hobbes were displayed on the screen. The kitchen floor was a mess of blood, reminding her briefly of the basement. Hobbes was slumped against a cupboard, head turned to the side to stare his daughter. Curiously enough, there were only two bullet wounds. One had taken him in the shoulder, but only a single other shot marred him – one through the forehead. She would have to ponder the differences when she had more time. Beside him, Mischa could see the tracks in the blood where Will had sat next to Abigail, pressing hands to her bloody neck. The blood pooled around the spot, bright crimson.
“I heard the rumors you had changed your teaching style. I didn’t think it actually true. What happened to not being good at socializing?”
Mischa jerked a little, pulling the foot that had just about been ready to step out back inside the hidey-hole. Will made a sound, annoyed.
“What do you want, Jack?” His voice was angry.
“I want you, Will. I want you on my team. I want you working cases. I want to know that you are okay. But I can’t have the things I want until your evaluation.” Jack’s tone was entirely demanding, clearly more used to giving commands than anything else.
Will was shoving things into his bag now, feet stepping up to the lectern until he stood in front, blocking her from sight. “I told you that I don’t need to see a shrink. I’m fine. And even if I wasn’t, therapy doesn’t work on me. You know that.”
She heard Jack sigh at the irritation in Will’s tone. “I know that. But I can’t sleep until I know for sure that you’re ok. A man needs his beauty sleep, Will.”
Mischa saw the tension in Will’s frame. When she realized that he was going to do something he’d regret she clenched her hand around one of his ankles. Above her, Will jerked, then sighed slowly.
“Fine. But only the evaluation. Nothing else.”
“That’s all I’m asking for. Dr. Lector is expecting you at 7.”
Jack wasn’t one for pleasantries. Now that he had gotten his way, he didn’t even offer a goodbye as he left the lecture hall. Mischa felt herself grow a little irritated, then started at the realization. Apparently, Mrs. Hollingsworth’s lessons on manners had been more effective than she thought. Will huffed but didn’t say anything to the man’s retreating back. Only when he was sure that Jack was gone did Will step back, allowing her to crawl out. His irritation was already beginning to fade, a curious look coming upon his face.
“7 is only a couple of hours from now.” He observed to her.
She nodded in response.
“I could take you home, to Mrs. Hollingworth’s, and then come back for the appointment.”
He was clearly hesitant. Unsure and nervous. Mischa felt equal amounts of dread and affection. Dread at finally meeting the Hannibal Lector, serial killer and cannibal extraordinaire. Affection for Will who was clearly nervous about introducing her to the man he liked. Mischa pushed away her fears. Better to get this done on her terms, then his.
“Or?” She prompted softly.
Will twitched and replied slowly. “Or you could come. I don’t think he’ll mind.”
His fingers were tapping patterns into the bag strap across his shoulder. She decided to put him out of his misery.
Her father's face lit up, even as he ducked his chin to his chest in an attempt to hide it. Mischa rolled her eyes and grabbed his hand. They walked out together. Once again no one noticed.
In the car, Will’s nerves seemed to return. He kept glancing at her in the rearview mirror as if reassuring himself that she was still there. He opened his mouth several times to say something, only to change his mind.
“I think you’ll like him.” Will blurted the words out suddenly. Mischa’s eyes jerked from the window back to him. “He isn’t like the others. He understands people with … different minds. He’ll see you too, I think. The way he sees me. He should like you too. And he definitely won’t treat you like an infant. I don’t see him treating an actual infant the most people try to with you.”
He seemed to realize her was blabbering, and cut himself off. He looked slightly flushed. Mischa wondered amusingly if it was another fever or if he was that embarrassed. He pulled the car over jerkily, hastily stepping out. It took him longer than usual to pull her out of the back seat, and she very magnanimously didn’t say anything about what just occurred. Will looked pleasantly relieved when he noticed. He tucked her hand in his as they walked across the street to Hannibal’s office. The building was an elegant, gothic, thing. It fit perfectly in a neighborhood full of centuries-old buildings. For all the greenery that was instilled in its front, however, the building had a somewhat ominous feel.
How fitting, Mischa mused.
The door was unlocked already, and Will moved purposefully into the little waiting room. Hannibal wouldn’t open the door until 7, she knew. Will glanced down at his watch. A few minutes early, then. He rolled his shoulders as he stood to wait, too nervous to sit down. As Mischa took a seat in one of the chairs, he glanced down at her.
“I think maybe I ought to talk about the clearance before we introduce you.” He offered to her.
Mischa’s head tilted, before agreeing. She knew Hannibal wouldn’t care about her being there for the evaluation, but it would afford her the chance to observe the interaction between the two. Hannibal wouldn’t know about her yet, wouldn’t change the way he interacted with Will. She needed to know where he was at in his interests. She moved across the little walkway, sliding down to sit at the wall behind the door. Hannibal wouldn’t see her when he opened it, only Will.
“Will you leave the door open?” She asked her father.
Will looked at her. Any other adult would have thought it was because she was afraid of being alone in a strange place. Will knew her, though. Knew that she was a manipulative thing, that sought information and knowledge with little regard for others. Knew that she was overly interested in anything to do with him. He nodded once, amusement plain on his face.
Before they could say anything else, the door clicked open. Mischa’s view was cut off abruptly as the door came to rest near her face.
Mischa held her breath. Hannibal’s cultured voice breathed out her father’s name, hungry and full of hidden things. They were speaking now, but Mischa found herself not paying passive attention to the words. Where her father's voice was the warmth of a late-night summer storm, pressing heat all around her and breathing air into her lungs, Hannibal’s was the cool breeze in a snowy field, consuming and omnipresent, pulling breath from her lungs without realizing. His words curled around the room almost like a physical thing. His accent only served to make everything he said seem that much more elegant.
No wonder he was so good at manipulating people.
“You're rubber-stamping me?” The incredulous question drew her from her thoughts.
“Yes. Do you have a problem with that?” Hannibal’s reply was pleasant, unconcerned with this unethical act.
Will took a minute to respond. “You know I won’t come back as your patient.”
“If I had wanted you as a patient, I wouldn’t have signed that paper.” Hannibal pointed out. “We can simply…have conversations.”
“Conversations?” Will asked dryly. “Conversations that would happen at the same time every week, in the office where you see patients?”
“They need not happen at this particular time or place.” Hannibal was quick to counter. “I would have figured that the structure of a schedule would work best for you. I will, of course, always be available should you wish to talk at any other time as well.”
Will was silent for a minute.
“What do you want from me?” He finally asked, his voice serious.
Mischa heard fabric shifting before Hannibal answered in a pleasantly fake tone of voice. “I want you to be who you are meant to be Will. You –”
“Stop lying.” Will’s sharp voice cracked through the doctors. “What do you want with me? Why do you want to have conversations with me? What do you get out of it?”
It was Hannibal’s turn to be silent now. There were no more sounds from the room beyond. Mischa held her breath, afraid to break the stillness. It felt like hours before she heard the sounds of what she assumed to be Hannibal shifting in his chair again.
“I find myself surprised. You must be much better at social niceties then more people realize. Can you always tell when people are lying to you? Or is it situational.” Hannibal’s voice had dropped the fake pleasantness and had been replaced by a dark interest.
“Mostly, yes,” Will replied.
“Fascinating.” He drawled the word out, clearly meaning it.
Now it was Will’s turn to shift on his feet, embarrassed. “You didn’t answer the question.”
“I would like to be your friend.” The doctor spoke abruptly and surely. “If I can use my skills to help you, then I would offer them freely. I said once that you needed someone to anchor you, hold you fast when your mind no longer can. I would be that if you would allow it. I could do it as your Doctor, but I would much rather do it as your friend.”
Will didn’t say anything for a long time. Mischa knew that he was processing it. No one had ever wanted to be Will’s friends. No one had ever wanted Will. He didn’t know how to accept the doctor’s sentiments. Hannibal, for his part, offered nothing else. Footsteps echoing in the room made her realize that Will had taken to pacing the office. Hannibal never shifted from his spot. Finally, Will’s steps stopped and she heard a muffled thump as he fell into a chair.
“I don’t have friends.” He confessed.
“Then I am honored to be the first,” Hannibal replied, voice honeyed with pleasure.
“Jack thinks I’m damaged from shooting Hobbes,” Will stated suddenly.
“And are you?” Hannibal made no mention of how quickly the subject changed.
“Then there is obviously no reason why I should not sign your form.” Hannibal was altogether too pleased.
“You don’t think I should be?”
“What you feel is what you feel, Will. There is no reason you need to question why. If it does not bother you then there is no reason to make it so it does.” Hannibal paused a moment, before continuing, curiosity licking at his tongue. “I will admit to being curious, however. You were very much enmeshed in Garret Jacob Hobbes at the time. You seemed quite concerned over his daughter Abigail. And yet, when she died there in your arms, you did not seem particularly upset.”
Mischa felt herself grin a little. She had known the Hannibal would question the Abigail thing. He had entirely expected Will to attach, much like he had in the Before. There was a possibility that he even realized that Will had let her die since he had been right there. He didn’t understand why Will hadn’t fallen into the conclusions the doctor had drawn.
“Abigail isn’t my daughter,” Will stated firmly.
“But she felt like it, didn’t she?” Hannibal pressed.
“No.” Her father’s voice was resolute.
Hannibal made a small humming noise but otherwise didn’t reply. He still didn’t understand, though he most likely would figure it out when they met.
“Every Thursday?” Will questioned, turning the conversation again.
Hannibal shifted, and Mischa was fairly certain that he wasn’t as happy changing the subject this time. It probably wasn’t often that the doctor didn’t get what he wanted. “Or any other if you so prefer. The thing about friends, Will, is that you may see them and talk to them whenever you want.”
Will made a sound. “I do, do better.” He confessed, reluctant. “With a schedule, I mean. I get…frazzled, sometimes. Forget things.”
“We can begin by setting up a specific time. The place, however, will be unsettled. You are right, I think, about the office. Let us keep our friendship out of business. If you have no objections, Thursdays at 7 pm work well for me.”
“Ah.” Will breathed.
“Does that not work? We can look for another time or day.” Hannibal was quick to offer.
“No, that’s not it. Well. Sort of.”
Mischa realized then that he was thinking of her. He was at home with her at night during the week and all through the weekend. If he made plans, he would have to set it up with Mrs. Hollingsworth.
“If you tell me, perhaps I can help.”
“I didn’t really want anyone to know.” He confessed quietly.
“That we are friends?” Hannibal’s voice was a touch surprised, and, Mischa thought, maybe a little hurt?
“No! Not that!” Will breathed out the words quickly. “Something else.”
“Ah.” Hannibal simply said.
Will was a little flustered now. “What I mean is, I’ve been keeping something from everyone here. At first, it was because I just didn’t want them to know. Then because I was afraid of what they might do. I’ve already decided to tell people, but it’s much harder than I realized…”
His voice trailed off, wavering towards the end.
“This secret is important to you?” Hannibal was fully interested now, and Mischa could imagine him leaning forward ever so slightly.
“The most important thing in my life,” Will confessed.
“If it is so important to you, then will your friends not realize this? Why do you believe that they might do something to jeopardize it?” Hannibal’s voice was rife with curiosity.
“It’s not that I think they’ll do it on purpose, I just –” Will cut off. “It doesn’t matter. What I meant to say is that before I told anyone else, I wanted you to know first.”
Hannibal gave a slight inhale in surprise. “I am greatly honored, Will.”
Will didn’t reply, and she heard him rise from a chair, echoed only moments later as Hannibal followed. Will was walking back towards the door, Hannibal either next to him or beside him. When he caught sight of the open door, she heard Hannibal stop abruptly.
“I thought I closed this. I am sorry, Will, that I did not pay attention to it earlier. There should be no one else waiting in the room, but I apologize none the less.” He was upset with himself. At the breach in etiquette, Mischa realized.
“It’s not your fault. I did it on purpose. There’s no reason for you to apologize.” Will was quick to reassure him.
“On purpose?” Hannibal demanded, then paused as the conclusion came to him. “Is there someone else here, Will?
Will either didn’t notice or care about the slightly ominous tone that the doctor had fallen into.
As he spoke the word, Will’s head peaked around the door. He smiled are her, one hand beckoning her. Mischa inhaled a shaky breath and stood. She held his hand tightly, unable to help the fear that ate at her. As she rounded the doorway, she found her eyes settling on the man that might one day murder her. He looked the same as in the Before mostly. His brown-blonde hair was coifed elegantly, his face a pointed thing of exotic beauty. He stood in an immaculate suit, elegantly poised in the middle of the room as if he had just walked out of a gala. His eyes were the most startling thing about him. They were a delicate shade of brown that seemed to flicker and bleed red at the edges. They were dark, fathomless things, that seemed not to so much as look at the world but consume it. His face had been a blank mask of a thing, not showing anything. As his eyes took her in though, it twitched into a number of different expressions. His mouth parted only slightly in surprise.
Mischa was suddenly aware of her wrinkled black tights and the dog hair that covered them. Her dress wasn’t in much better shape, creased from her sitting on the floor all day. Even her shoes were scuffed and dirty. She hadn’t brushed her hair since this morning. She wondered why, in all the plans she had made concerning their first meeting, that she hadn’t thought at all about what she would look like. She paused at the thought. She hadn’t even realized that she had wanted to impress him.
“You have a daughter.”
Hannibal breathed out the words slowly.
“Yes.” Will nodded, nervous.
Hannibal's eyes suddenly shifted from her to blink in Will’s direction. “That’s why you didn’t connect to Abigail. You were obsessed about her partly because she was Hobbes’ daughter, yes, but mostly because she was a daughter. You thought about her in Abigail’s place.” Hannibal was suddenly intent, his mind already figuring things out.
“Yes.” Will said again.
Hannibal’s all-seeing eyes landed back on her. He didn’t say anything for a long, long moment. “You return to her in the evenings. You can’t make plans with me until you make plans for her.”
Will nodded. “There’s someone who usually takes care of her while I’m working. I could ask her if I need to.”
Hannibal caught on quickly. “You don’t want to. You want to bring her with you.”
Will hesitated, but agreed. “She’s important to me.”
Hannibal shifted at that, considering. His eyes never left her face. “I understand your sentiment, but often our conversation turns to subjects not quite appropriate for children. I do not wish to force your silence.’
“Oh, no, you don’t have to worry about that.” Will twitched, hands coming to rest on her shoulders. “She's been sitting in on my lectures since Monday. I think she might have been the most interested person in the room. She's not like all the others.”
Something dark flared in Hannibal’s eyes. He straightened slightly, taking a single half step forward. “She is like you?” He voiced the question, half incredulous.
Will paused. “Not…quite. I don’t think. Maybe.”
Mischa was the one to be surprised now. She tilted her head back to look at her father. He smiled down at her gently, but a little sorrowful as well. “It’s too early for an official diagnosis regarding the mirror neurons. But she’s already been diagnosed autistic.”
Hannibal pressed forward, picking up on what Will did not say. “But you’ve noticed something else as well. You wouldn’t be conflicted if you hadn’t.”
Mischa started, not sure about his now. She hadn’t even been aware that Will was questioning her mental status. Was he noticing the effects of her reincarnation, or was he seeing something else in her? Something that had either been born in this body already or had been born from the bloody basement? Had she done something wrong?
“You didn’t. You aren’t.” Will’s voice was firm, and it took her a moment to realize that he had read the worry from her face. “I told you, you’re perfect as you are. I don’t care what names they slap on your file. You are you, and you are mine. There isn’t anything wrong with you; you didn’t do anything wrong.”
Mischa took the reassurance, suddenly unsteady in a way that she hadn’t realized she could be. She pressed back so that the line of her body fell into Will’s legs. He wrapped arms around her shoulders, holding her to him. Hannibal watched it all, eyes alight with something.
“Normality is often overrated. Your father has the greatest mind I have ever come across, and it isn’t normal in the slightest. It is part of what makes him so wonderful.” He was attempting to cajole her, she realized.
“She doesn’t speak,” Will interrupted, gently.
Hannibal’s head tilted ever so slightly. “And yet you communicate with no problems.”
Will blinked, then grinned. He was pleased that Hannibal had been able to pick up on it. “Part of it is my empathy. Another from the words she sometimes signs. She doesn’t use it often, but technically she is fluent in sign language. She just doesn’t like communicating with other people that much. Mostly, though, it's just how much we know each other.”
Hannibal nodded. He hadn’t taken his eyes off her for more than a moment since she had walked in. “If Will says that your mind is exceptional, I have no choice but to defer to his experience.”
He seemed to come to some sort of decision. His face had smoothed back into his usual mask and his body had lost its deadly stillness. His eyes still burned at her, but she wasn’t sure that would be going away any time soon. He walked forward to stop in front of her. Uncaring of his expensive, bespoke suit, he knelt down on the floor in front of her. He had been taller than Will and had frankly towered over her. Even on his knees, he was still taller than her. Their eyes were much closer together now, though. He didn’t reach out to try to touch her, didn’t move closer into her personal space. No. Instead, he settled himself as close to eye level as he could, making sure she wasn’t overwhelmed by his presence.
“Well then. Hello, little one. My name is Hannibal Lector. I am inordinately pleased to meet you.”
He nodded to her gravely, looking her in the eye as he introduced himself. Will breathed out above her. She stared at the man, and despite herself was impressed at the lengths he would go through just to make sure she was comfortable. Finally, she nodded to him, equally grave. Will took this hint.
“Her name is Mischa.”
The entirety of Hannibal’s body jerked.
In which Hannibal's face malfunctions and a Girl is terrified.
Just an FYI, I have family visiting until Saturday, 3 of them small children, so I won't be updating as much as I did before . So sorry!
Also, a big shout out and thanks to the lovely SilverGeisha who surprised me greatly and asked me to do a mood board/aesthetic for my fic! She's done an absolutely wonderful job on the first chapter already, which I've already gone back and posted. Let her know what you guys think!
(I'm so embarrassed and yet pleased) XD
Mischa would remember the person that killed her family as one of the ugliest monsters she had ever seen. She had felt more absolute terror and bone-deep horror in those two weeks than she ever had in either of her lives. Sometimes she wondered if it wasn’t pure fear that frightened her into remembering her past life and not some weird cosmic accident. One of the few comforting parts of the whole ordeal was the sardonic thought that at least she would never be that afraid of anyone or anything ever again.
Apparently, she had been wrong.
Mischa, at near to eye level, was at the perfect angle to see the doctor's face transform. The congenial human look had shattered, giving her a front-row view to the utterly terrifying monster emerging from it. His lip was curled, snarl slashing across his face. His eyes were the same brown-red abyss, but now there was a shiver-inducing feralness to his consuming darkness. His body was tensed, fingers clenched into what looked like claws. His gaze on the girl struck her like a furious winter storm, freezing her into place. For a wild moment, Mischa wasn’t sure that her heart hadn’t also stopped cold. Her lungs certainly weren’t breathing.
Mischa couldn’t move.
The moment lasted for a second, another, and then another. In the next, Hannibal’s human mask came slamming back down on his face. His body moved with it, curling itself back into something non-threatening. Above him, Will was only able to witness that tensing of her body. Mischa wished she had been so lucky. She knew that he would see it too, the utter terror written into her eyes. She had Seen him. He sent her a tight, stilted smile before climbing to his feet. He took a step back, allowing his attention to refocus on Will.
“Apologies. It’s been a long time since I heard that name. It is very surprising to find it in use here.” Hannibal's voice was controlled; smooth.
He straightened his tie. Will was looking at him oddly. He knew that it wasn’t the entire story. He, however, was not like Hannibal. Will would not force the information out of just so he could satisfy his curiosity. So, he said nothing. And not seeing Mischa’s reaction, he had no reason to question Hannibal’s behavior. Mischa still hadn’t moved.
“Her mother was Russian,” Will commented neutrally.
“Ah. Well. It certainly is nice to meet you, little one.” Hannibal had turned his eyes back to her; they were still a little feral.
Mischa stared mutely back. He smiled at her with his fake human face. He took a single step forward.
“Mischa?” Will questioned, concerned.
Mischa forced a small breath out wildly, and only belated realized that she had unconsciously stepped back into Will. He seemed to realize only now that something was off. He moved her, firmly pulling her behind him. He had straightened; relaxed stance now gone. He was frowning, brow furrowed in concern even as he seemed to be sending Hannibal an unreadable look. Hannibal’s face had shifted, eyes considerably calmer. He was staring at Will, his own unreadable expression peeking out from behind his mask. Mischa couldn’t tell for sure, but he looked half angry and half…charmed? Proud? He was eyeing the hand on her shoulder and the way Will’s body was angled entirely to protect her. He was angry that Will had chosen her over him? That he moved to protect her first. Then why did he look so…begrudgingly charmed? Mischa blinked as she considered. Will had stepped in to protect her, despite his feelings for Hannibal. Will had shown he would protect her above his own interests. Hannibal approved? Mischa eyed the doctor, amused despite herself. He was a complicated man.
The doctor hadn’t moved forward. Will was curled around her, eying her closely. Waiting. Mischa wasn’t sure what her face looked like. Mostly because it was largely still numb with terror. She needed to make a decision, she realized. If she didn’t do something, Will would never allow the relationship to go anywhere. Because Will had proven that he would put her first; he wouldn’t go near Hannibal again if Mischa wasn’t comfortable with it. There was a small part of her, the leftover piece of her old self, that said that it was a good thing. That she could take Will and protect him. Get him to move them somewhere where Will could never be hurt.
But that wasn’t what she wanted.
Mischa blinked heavy eyes. She only now realized that her gaze had never left Hannibal’s. Now, she forced them to her father’s face. Heat was spreading through her limbs slowly, bring life and feeling back into her. Her fingers twitched. She inhaled deeply, but couldn’t help the shakiness when she breathed back out again. She drew her hand up into her chest. She forced herself to move it.
OK. She signed.
Will’s eyes narrowed, assessing. But his sharp eyes picked up on her loosening posture, the relaxing muscles, her face shifting into something more familiar. He turned to her fully, dropping down to his knees in a parable of her previous position with Hannibal. He was at eye level with her completely and pressed close to her, one hand gripping the side of her face softly.
“Mischa.” Will stated, voice firm. He knew that something had happened.
She pursed her lips and repeated the sign sharply. His eyes locked onto her hands for a long moment. He clearly didn’t believe her. Mischa frowned at him, and then pressed closer to him, tucking her face into his shoulder, hands clenching into his collar. He exhaled around her, arms coming around her. She felt his shoulders relax under her. Will was entirely aware that she didn’t like anybody touching her – even Will – when she was truly upset. As Will swept her off her feet and into his arms, Mischa peered past his shoulder to look at Hannibal. His mouth was parted a touch, eyes ever so slightly widened. His lips were pulled up. He looked as if he had eaten something surprisingly pleasurable. His eyes moved to meet hers. The first true smile he had ever given her was a dark, hungry thing.
Will turned them around so he was facing Hannibal.
“Sorry.” Will didn’t bother explaining the apology.
“There is nothing for you to apologize for. If anything, it is I who owe your daughter one. I do apologize, little one, and ask that you excuse this lapse of mine. I am quite delighted to make your acquaintance.” He was speaking to her again, but he had apparently decided to drop the human mask.
As much as she appreciated this, she still said nothing to the man, situated as she was on Will’s hip now. Will read her face easily though.
“She said it’s fine.” Will said, voice tinged in relief.
Mischa wasn’t sure if it was because he was relieved she was fine, or because she was seemingly accepting of the man he was interested in. A mix of both? Hannibal hummed in reply, his face sharply intrigued at the interaction. He stepped back, gesturing to the chairs in the office. Will hesitated a moment, but when she made no noise against it, he walked forward cautiously. He settled them slowly into one chair, still curled protectively around her.
“I don’t think there will be any problems should she come to our discussions, Will. Considering your relationship, actually, it might be better. With her in hand, you are quite more relaxed then I have ever seen you. If she is half so lovely and interesting to have caught so much attention, I can’t imagine that we won’t get along. If I am to be your friend, I would like to know that real you. I don’t think that’s quite possible without knowing the little one as well.”
Hannibal’s voice was back to its liquid smoothness, eyes drinking in the image of her and Will curled into the same chair. He was pressed forward slightly, fingertip pressed together as he leaned over his crossed legs. She felt Will’s lips curl upwards as he pressed his face into the top of her head. He was pleased that Hannibal had realized Mischa’s importance to him, even if he still wasn’t sure about the relationship between her and Hannibal. Mischa was reluctantly pleased as well. More than that, she as rather grateful she would be able to accompany Will to his talks with Hannibal. It would be easier to keep an eye on him. She tilted head back, coming to rest fully against Will’s chest. His breath ruffled her curls.
“That’s fine,” Will murmured.
They sat in silence. Neither man seemed to feel any awkwardness about it. Hannibal’s eyes appeared to be attempting to consume them both entirely. His gaze would flicker at every single movement, seemingly utterly entranced at every tap of Will’s fingers on her leg, every twitch of her foot, every hair as it moved in the wind of Wills breaths. Will had gone somewhere inside, eyes fixed at a point behind the doctor. Mischa wondered if she would have felt uncomfortable if she had been normal. As it was, they sat in silence for almost an hour. Mischa took the time to observe Hannibal in turn, something that appeared to delight him. A chiming alert interrupted.
Will blinked, coming back to himself. He shook his body slightly, drawing her up as he stood. He pulled out his phone, silencing the alarm with a small frown. He appeared upset as he stared at the reminders.
“Will?” Hannibal asked, voice mild with concern.
“I forgot.” Will murmured, dismayed.
Hannibal was frowning now. Mischa felt her own face turning unreadable. She had found that no matter what she did, nothing she had ever been able to do could comfort Will when he forgot. She allowed a small sigh to slip out; a sad breath of air. The men’s eyes alighted on her for a moment. Hannibal’s frown deepened.
“Forgot what, Will?” Hannibal’s voice was firmer now, slightly insistent as he stepped closer to them.
Will made a small sound, voice growing visibly more distressed as he spoke. “I forgot to feed her. Lunch and now dinner. And now it’s bath time. But we’re too far away, we won’t get back for another hour. But by then it will be bedtime. And she still won’t have eaten. Then she won’t get as much sleep as the books say she needs, and then she’ll be tired in the morning, and she won’t grow, and – It’s all messed up. I forgot.”
Hannibal had stilled during the explanation, expression slipping into understanding. Will made the distressed noise again, holding her tighter to him. He was clutching her, as if afraid that someone was going to pop out of nowhere to take her from him. Hannibal was entirely too good at his job, Mischa realized, because he seemed to realize this almost instantly.
“No one will take her, Will.” Hannibal’s voice was dark as he uttered the promise.
Will’s entire body jerked slightly at the blunt statement, but his fear bled into his voice harshly. “You don’t know that! You know what they think of me, how they see me. Even if I could take care of her perfectly, they would still take her away. But the fact that I can’t take care of her means that they’ll take her that much sooner.”
“You have no diagnoses that they can use against you. You have no history that would hurt you. You are her father. That doesn’t mean nothing. She is thin, admittedly, but not dangerously or unhealthily. She certainly has expressed no objection to your care.”
Hannibal was doing a surprisingly good job at helping, giving Will reason after reason to believe that Mischa wouldn’t be taken from him. One hand was clenched around Will’s forearm, anchoring him. Comforting. His voice was even, and with every word, her father’s muscles were slowly unclenching. He shuddered a breath into her hair and loosened his hold on her. Another chime from the phone rang into the air. Will looked down at it, a little helpless.
“Perhaps, I may offer a solution?” Hannibal enquired; voice mild.
Will blinked, suspicious. Hannibal gave a small chuckle, amused despite himself.
“If we are to be friends, Will, you must stop being so suspicious of every offer. It is the nature of friends to do things for one another without consequence or reprisal. You are in need of help, which I can easily provide.” Hannibal was smiling ever so slightly, as he explained, eyes twinkling ever so slightly in amusement.
Will looked a little sheepish at that, but also a little overwhelmed. Without friends, Will had never had the experience of someone helping him entirely for nothing.
He hesitated, before asking, “How exactly can you help?”
“You have a schedule,” Hannibal explained, head tilted slightly. “We can do nothing about lunch. And you are correct, by the time you get back home, it will be quite late, throwing the schedule off even more. I, however, happen to live quite close to here. I also happen to have a spare bedroom, a bathroom with a bathtub attached, and a kitchen full of food. It will not be quite to the timing of the schedule, perhaps, but it will be done nonetheless. Which might be the more important part of the schedule.”
Will was staring at Hannibal, jaw slack in surprise. “You want us to stay the night?” His voice was incredulous.
“Yes, I do believe that is what I offered.” Hannibal’s voice was warmly pleased, clearly happy with unsettling Will.
Her father didn’t bother to reply, still shocked. Mischa’s eyes dipped as she thought about the offer. The adrenaline rush and sheer terror she had felt had taken more out of her than she realized. She was exhausted. She didn’t even care enough about her usual objections. She tugged lightly on one of Will’s curls. He turned to look at her, blinked, and then sighed.
“Ok. Thanks.” Will sounded exhausted as well.
Mischa contemplating drowning herself.
She pressed her face into the porcelain of Hannibal’s bathtub. Hot air steamed around her, spreading the scent of the bathwater. Because of course, he had added salts to a child’s bath. Mischa was somewhat resentful of the fact that it smelt wonderful and felt even better. The water felt silky and seemed to make her skin feel extremely soft. She resented that too. Will hummed above her, rubbing a ridiculously expensive dollop of shampoo into her hair. She wasn’t sure what to do with the fact that Will seemed entirely ok with Hannibal’s extravagance being heaped onto her when he protested mightily whenever it was aimed at him.
He was happy, at least.
Mischa tried to ignore the looming figure in the doorway. Apparently, Hannibal didn’t feel the need to give them any privacy. Then again, the tub was in his bathroom. Mischa had attempted to look not at all interested at the sight of Hannibal Lecter’s bedroom. It didn’t seem to matter though, because his apparent interest in them hadn’t let up. Mischa wasn’t entirely sure that it was actually her that he was interested in, or simply Will’s attachment and behavior with her that was interesting him so thoroughly. Either way, she wasn’t sure it looked good for her.
When Will had finished with her hair, Hannibal stepped forward, a large, soft, fluffy towel in one hand. A bottle of French lotion was in another. The girl was amused to see Will just blink at it, before ignoring it entirely and just grabbing the towel. The doctor looked amused. A spare shirt went over her head, the ends dropping to the floor easily. The collar gaped at her neck, falling off one shoulder. Her clothes were placed in an elegant looking basket off to the side.
“Hannibal says dinner will be ready soon,” Will said as he pressed a brush through her tangled curls.
Mischa’s lips pursed. It was one thing to be ok with murder, even committing it. It was entirely another to eat someone. She wasn’t sure that she would ever be ready to eat at Hannibal Lecter’s dinner table. Even if she stuck to the ‘vegetarian’ options, she was fairly certain that Hannibal would have slipped something in it. He had done it to the beer, after all. Yes, she wasn’t going to be eating at the doctor’s any time soon. Will had caught the expression, if not the thought behind it.
“You’re not hungry?” He was apprehensive, voice doubtful, and worried.
Mischa blinked at him through the mirror. She was, but she would rather go hungry in this instance. Will took her silence for agreement.
“Are you feeling ok? You haven’t eaten since breakfast; you might not realize you’re hungry until you’re eating again.” Will tempted, still worried.
Mischa said nothing, just stared at the man through the mirror’s reflection. Will sighed but nodded. He put the brush down on the counter, pulling her into his arms. Instead of the stairs, he led her into the room that Hannibal had shown them earlier. The bed was a soft, voluptuous thing. Mischa almost melted into the mattress when will placed her down on it. He dragged covers over her, tucking the shockingly soft blankets around her. He didn’t leave yet, but instead curled up on the bed beside her above the blankets. Will curled around her, encompassing her as much as possible. He would stay until she fell asleep, as he always did. Will was a man who knew exactly what nightmares did to someone and liked to do anything he could to ensure that she would get as few as possible.
In the corner of her eye, behind Will’s shoulder, stood Hannibal.
Mischa fell asleep under his hungry eyes.
In which Hannibal meets a girl, and plans Murder(s)
Hannibal considered the girl before him.
William Graham had been surprising him from the moment they had met. His interest in the other man had been a near-immediate thing, only sparked by Will’s outstanding gift. What had started as passing intrigue in the unique neural condition had quickly blossomed into something much more. Will’s darkness, so heady and tempting, lay just beneath the surface. Hannibal was fairly amused that a room full of supposedly the best behavioral specialists were unable to see it. Then again, there weren’t many that were as familiar with such darkness as he was.
Hannibal enjoyed their time together. Much more than he had initially anticipated. Will had proved to be so much more than Hannibal had ever thought he could be. He was constantly moving past every expectation that Hannibal had ever set, surprising him in the actions and directions he would take instead of the ones the Hannibal expected of him. Despite his generally ill-kept appearance, casual disregard for social niceties, and unrefined tastes, Will was proving to be someone Hannibal was becoming quite entranced with.
Which made this situation much more interesting.
Hannibal hadn’t thought the Will could surprise him to such a degree. He had researched the other man quite thoroughly and hadn’t found any mention whatsoever of a child. The part of him that wasn’t irritated about not finding the information was mildly impressed. Hannibal hadn’t thought Will capable of hiding such a large and important part of his life.
And it was obvious that the child was the point of gravitation for the man.
There had always been something about Will that Hannibal hadn’t been able to grasp. Some motivation that pushed him; pulled him away from the plans that Hannibal laid down for him. It had been quite frustrating to the doctor. Now, however, the reason was quite clear. The girl was everything. Hannibal could see it as soon as she had walked into the room. Their discussion that night before he had brought the girl into the room had been enlightening. Hannibal had been thrilled, finally breaking through the other man's exterior had been an exercise in patience. Will had finally managed to look at him, see him, as something more. Will and he would be friends. Hannibal felt something dark trill up his spine as the thought passed through his mind. He had been…elated. Then Will had revealed the girl.
Hannibal breathed through his nose, remembering the moment the small, dark-haired girl had walked into the room. Will had been entirely focused on her. His gaze was fixed upon her, flickering up to him only occasionally. Every twitch the girl made was cataloged by Will. Hannibal hadn’t been able to help the small curl of irritation that ran through him at the sight. Will was supposed to be looking at Hannibal that way. The doctor remembered the ugly surge of jealousy and felt his fingers twitch slightly. For a short amount of time, he had considered possibilities for the girl. It wouldn’t take much for the child to go away. It would be quite helpful to his plans actually. Considering Will’s attachment, the resulting loss of his daughter would devastate the man. It would further unhinge the man, push him into latching onto the closest thing he could. Which would be Hannibal, of course. Hannibal who would stand beside him, help him bury the girl, bring him food when he more than likely stopped caring for himself, stand as a shield to the rest of the world. Yes, there were quite a few ways for a child to have an accident.
He had gone through several ideas, even tentatively settling on one. Will’s house was surrounded by woods, alone in the seeming wilderness. There wasn’t anyone else around for a considerable distance. The girl was quite young, not to mention mute and autistic. With how often Will was away, Hannibal figured that she would be left home alone often. It wasn’t inconceivable that she might wander into the woods. Alone and unable to call for help, her survival would be unlikely. A body would need to be found, of course, or Will would never stop looking. It would even have the positive effect of getting Will out of Wolf Trap, possibly even getting him to settle in Baltimore. Will would likely not wish to live in the same place his beloved daughter would have died. Yes, it would work quite well. Hannibal’s quick mind had been working out details even as Will had talked.
He had given pause only once, at the thought of Will’s gift possibly being inherited. If Will had noticed something, then it was considerably likely. Her age made it unlikely to tell for sure. It was the first time that he had felt the flicker of curiosity for the girl. What would she become as she got older? Would her mind be as interesting as Will’s? Would she grow her own darkness? Who would she become, growing up in Will’s? But as much as the thoughts appealed to him, he couldn’t stand the thought of being second in Will’s life. The girl was interesting, no doubt, but she didn’t have nearly as much appeal as her father.
Hannibal had made his decision as he kneeled in front of the girl.
The girl was certainly beautiful. She favored her father, something which pleased the dark monster in Hannibal. Her long, elegant, dark curls framed her face. Her skin was pale – much paler than Will’s – but it wasn’t a detraction. The aesthetic in Hannibal observed the delicate porcelain skin, pleased even if it was obvious that it wasn’t inherited by Will. Her eyes were large, surrounded by thick, dark lashes, and set beneath delicate brows. Hannibal’s breath caught slightly as he realized that it was Will’s eyes set into her face. The vivid blue eyes were luminous, expressive even in the face of a child. Her face was a thing of delicate beauty. Her lips were dark and full, cheekbones and nose giving her an aristocratic bearing. Hannibal’s mind had flickered through a number of classical paintings. She would have fit into any of them.
The only thing that marred her doll-like appearance was her undersized body. She was a small thing, and Hannibal had detected her thinness with a slight moue of displeasure. She wasn’t eating enough. He had pushed the thought away. It wouldn’t have mattered much in the long run. He had smiled at her. He needed to put on the front long enough for Will to believe it. The girl had stared back at him, unmoved.
And then Will had spoken. Named her. Hannibal’s fingers trembled slightly at the memory. Her name had left his lips and Hannibal’s mind had shattered. Instantly, every plan had been thrown out the window. Memories had surged through his mind, and the dark-haired girl had been briefly overshadowed by a similarly small blonde-haired girl. Hannibal clenched his fingers together beneath his chin. He hadn’t been this shaken in years.
Now, he stared at the girl across from him. She sat in her father’s lap, a small slip of a thing. Will was in his head somewhere. Normally, Hannibal would draw him back to the real world, but now the chance afforded him the opportunity to observe the girl. Her face was too thin. The niggling feeling he had felt before at her thinness had now become an uncomfortable thing, gnawing at him and his memories. He shook the feeling away, focusing on the puzzle before him.
The girl stared back at him.
He found it slightly endearing. He had seen the frightened look on her face. The child had gotten a front-row look at his monster, and despite being completely terrified she had willingly walked into his office. She had reassured Will when he would have taken them both away from him. Hannibal knew very well that Will would have walked out of his life as completely as he could if the girl had asked. Whatever interest Will had in him wouldn’t be enough to trump his love of the child. And yet the girl hadn’t turned away.
She sat here, staring him in the eyes. If she had anything like Will, she would have to at least have some idea as to what he was. What he was capable of. What darkness lay inside of him. She wasn’t afraid of him now. A hungry thought bloomed in him. She had inherited something from Will after all.
What exactly, he was eager to find out.
His previous plans had gone out the window. The child had been interesting in the first place, merely on account of being Will’s daughter. The potential of her mind had added to it. If Will’s attention wasn’t so obviously fixated on her, he would have quite enjoyed her potential. He had dismissed her in the end based on his own need to have Will for himself. Now, however, he wasn’t sure that it was possible. Her naming had affected him more than he would have expected. But even as the unsettled feeling fled from him, new interest was sparking in him. Each moment he spent staring at this child was taking away any lingering desire. It was becoming quite obvious why Will was so enamored with her.
The child was clearly much more intelligent than most. Her eyes showed an excess of emotions and thoughts that Hannibal had only ever seen in Will’s. Hannibal had never known anyone to feel emotions the way that Will had. He was beginning to see what Will had noticed, glimpses and bits of brilliance that weren’t inherent in others. She was staring at him, fearless despite her previous terror. She wasn’t phased that he had focused his attention on her so thoroughly. She didn’t look away despite the fact that he hadn’t taken his eyes off of her since they sat down. He hadn’t bothered to disguise his interest.
His musings were disrupted by the ring of a cell phone. It shouldn’t have been so surprising, but Hannibal was still slightly startled to find out just how much Will was obsessed over the girl’s well-being. Hannibal couldn’t help but be charmed. For all that Will was socially inept, his love for his daughter was an all-consuming, focused thing. He was clearly doing his utmost best at taking care of her. He had researched what she needed, created a schedule to make sure she got it, and done his best to stick to it. Tonight’s events had thrown things into disarray, and Will’s panic was surprisingly endearing. Hannibal saw his chance and took it.
It took him very little to convince Will.
Hannibal was darkly pleased as he began preparing something for dinner. He could hear them upstairs, a pleasant background noise that he didn’t think he would ever welcome in his home. Will's voice was a low murmur as he spoke to his daughter, indistinct but pleasant and warm. Hannibal felt the insatiable need to see them. See them together; interacting. See Will as he never had before. See Will love so completely and totally. See the child that he was so carefully raising. Hannibal gave in. He left the pots on the stove, giving a careful look over to make sure nothing would be ruined with his absence. Dinner would not be what he preferred for their first meal together, but he had done his best with what was in his kitchen.
He found them in his bathroom, an odd feeling overcoming him. Will was speaking softly to the girl, his expression enthralled as he washed her with care. He was talking to her about Hannibal himself, he realized, telling the girl about their time together. Something in Hannibal was inordinately pleased. He leaned into the doorway, content to watch. Will glanced at him but didn’t seem to be bothered. In fact, Will appeared to relatively pleased, his shoulders relaxing ever so slightly. The girl glanced at him, but only appeared to be faintly exasperated, if mostly tired. She pressed her face into the side of the tub. Hannibal observed the arch of her spine and the clear outline of her ribs. He frowned.
She needed to eat.
But Hannibal wasn’t going to get his way tonight, he soon realized. The girl had refused dinner, and Will had given in despite his obvious concern. Hannibal frowned at that. Will’s own habits were likely influencing his decisions on the girls eating habits. It was something that would need to be corrected if the girl was ever going to gain proper weight. Will had a number of bad habits that would be detrimental to a child’s health and growth. Hannibal would need to look into it.
For now, however, he settled himself in to watch the two Grahams. He felt something…settle within him, as he stared at the two on the bed. There was something niggling inside him. It was the feeling from the bathroom again, only growing. A feeble little thing he hadn’t been sure he was even capable of feeling anymore. He stared hungrily at the figures on the bed.
He wasn’t sure what he wanted anymore.
“Considering you’re been putting up with my cooking for this long, I would have thought you’d be pleased to have something much better.” Will was displeased, concerned with the girl’s denial of breakfast.
She had been a rumpled thing coming down for breakfast, curls askew, and shirt wrinkled. Hannibal was slightly surprised to find that the sight of the girl in his shirt pleased him as much as seeing Will in one. That feeling had faded to frustration when the girl refused to touch anything other than the fruit and yogurt. It was a frustration that Will apparently was sharing. It wasn’t much of a big deal yesterday; the girl had obviously been tired. Hannibal had made breakfast with the girl in mind, careful not to make anything unrecognizable. He had taken special care to pack as many nutrients as possible into the meal. Both the girl and Will could use some fattening up. But she wouldn’t so much as touch any of it. Will had attempted to persuade the girl, but it wasn’t going well.
Her stubbornness was all Will. Her little face matched his perfectly, and a part of Hannibal wanted to smile at the sight of it. His lips twitched despite his irritation as the girl locked eyes with her father, angrily stabbed a piece of pineapple, and shoved it into her mouth. Will sighed. The girl sat back, pleased with her apparent win. She stabbed another piece of fruit. Hannibal suppressed his own sigh. His nutritional plans would need to be adjusted.
“Well then. May I ask what plans you have going on for today? I imagine that class will be starting soon. For both of you, actually.” Hannibal questioned, leaning back in his chair and sipping from his coffee.
Will shook his head, shoving a fork full of sausage in his mouth. He swallowed, then spoke. “Mischa isn’t going back to school this week. Maybe not for a while. My classes don’t start until 10.”
Hannibal frowned, catching the cold anger that simmered in Will’s voice. “Did something happen?”
Will scowled. He speared his own food angrily, a more threatening version of his daughter. “There was an incident on Monday. Though there has been a number of incidents since September. She’s never fit in, nor liked it. They aren’t capable of teaching her, to be honest. But it’s the only school in Wolf Trap. Most of her real education is handled by Mrs. Hollingsworth. She picks her up after school and looks after her while she teaches her.”
Hannibal considered the multiple things that had been dropped into that sentence. First and foremost, “Hollingsworth? I wasn’t aware that you were close to anyone in Wolf Trap.”
Will paused. “I’m not, really. Mrs. Hollingsworth is different. She…looked after me when I was a teenager. Taught me. She’s probably one of the smartest people I know and fully dedicated to teaching others. She’s one of the few to accept my mind the way it is. Mischa’s too. I never knew why she was interested in me, but I’m grateful that she’s interested in Mischa. She’s about the only other person Mischa will communicate with, and enjoys spending time with her.”
Hannibal considered this information; he would have to look more into the woman. Will’s approval, however, gave her a tentative pass. The fact that both the girl and her father liked her was promising at least. Still, he would have to make sure that the child got the education she needed. It was obvious that the school wouldn’t give it to her. Perhaps he could convince Will to put her into a private school?
“What happened at school, if you don’t mind me asking?” Hannibal questioned, putting the thought away for now.
“There was a fight. A boy.” Will’s voice was growing icy, his eyes flashing.
Hannibal drank in the sight, a little breathless. How beautiful it was. Then the words sunk in, and Hannibal felt his monster flare in anger.
“He hurt her?” There was a curl of something in his voice that he hadn’t consciously put there.
A small sound drew his attention briefly to the child. Her brow was furrowed, her lips slightly parted. The fork in her had hit her bowl harder than intended. She was staring at him, seemingly surprised. He didn’t know her well enough to tell about what.
Will shook his head, a small smile forcing itself on to his face. “No, she wasn’t hurt. Hurt him actually.”
Hannibal straightened in interest. “She hurt him?”
Will’s smile widened, but he turned to try and hide his pleasure. “He’s been bothering her for a while, apparently. Teacher didn’t care because Mischa was autistic – thought she was defective.” The word curled unpleasantly in his mouth. “Monday, he stepped up the bullying, dragged her to the ground and got on top of her. She gave him a black-eye and broke his wrist.”
Will sounded proud. Hannibal certainly was. The girl didn’t like to be touched, something he had easily observed from both of them not too long after waking up. She didn’t mind Will’s touch clearly, just as Will had no issues in touching her. It was a privilege that neither Graham gave to anyone else. Hannibal knew that better than anyone else. That this boy had violated that privilege was…tasteless. Hannibal was pleased the girl had gotten her revenge, but there was still something unpleasant buzzing through him. The boy had touched her. Held her down. Hannibal’s lips curled slightly.
“It is good that she wasn’t hurt,” He said finally.
Will nodded. “She’s been coming to classes with me for this past week.”
Hannibal’s head tilted at that. “If Hollingsworth has been teaching her and is as good as you say, why not have her teach her full time? Would you both not be happier?”
Will frowned. “Mrs. Hollingsworth has been retired for a while, actually. She only took on Mischa as a special case. Her age is already up there. I don’t want to put more of a burden on her. It’s already difficult for her just to have Mischa for a few hours a day. I can’t ask her for more. Besides, I like having her with me.”
The last sentence was said self-consciously, but Hannibal saw the girls face twitch into a smile. It was a dark one, he noticed; possessive. Hannibal breathed in slightly. The girl had her own darkness after all. His monster swelled, almost bursting out of his human suit.
The child really was quite perfect, wasn’t she?
In which a wild Mushroom Garden appears, a Cannibal proves to be an excellent baby sitter, and conversations are had.
Mischa stared into the kitchen over Winston’s back. The dog was curled in front of her, a warm presence that helped to ground her. Hannibal Lector was in their kitchen. She wanted to say it was the first time, but it wasn’t. Since their initial meeting almost two weeks ago, Hannibal had made himself rather at home within their lives. Mischa wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. Will himself was rather enjoying it, even if he had picked up on her obvious reluctance. He had been wary at first, concerned that she was uncomfortable with the doctor. When she had told him nothing of the sort, he had allowed the wariness to fade slightly, even if he had taken to eying her closer every time the doctor appeared. Mischa had known she wouldn’t be able to keep all of her feelings quiet, but she was glad that he seemed to think her reluctance just a side effect at a new person in their lives. Which, being completely honest, was part of it. Mischa had grown used to being alone with Will. She was used to being Will’s. She wasn’t really sure how to take Hannibal’s sudden entrance.
Will’s laughter tumbled out of the kitchen, buffeted by the sound of Hannibal’s amused voice. Her father was grinning. Something inside Mischa was settling the longer Hannibal stayed in their lives. She knew that she shouldn’t get too comfortable, not until the encephalitis mishap had run its course and she figured out what type of person Hannibal would be to Will. But still. She pressed closer into Winston, causing the dog in question to lick the side of her face. Mischa allowed herself to enjoy this moment. Happy moments for Will were scarce in the first place. The encephalitis had begun to take some as well.
He appeared then at the doorway, still grinning a little. Something fluttered in her when it got wider at the sight of her. She allowed a smile to curl on her lips. Will swooped in, grabbing her from Winston’s hold and swinging her into his. Winston whined. He moved them into the kitchen, setting her into a booster seated chair. Hannibal had brought it over after his first visit, citing that she should be able to see over the table if she was going to eat at it. Will had looked surprised that they even existed. The doctor’s eyes alighted on her. She was seated between them, Hannibal and Will facing each other. She had to give it to the man, he was quite persistent. Every time that he came over, he seemed equally interested in her as much as he was Will. He spoke to her casually and with interest, asking questions but not caring that he never received an answer in return. He often looked at the books that she was reading, pictures that she drew, even the assignments that she occasionally was doing when he arrived. He seemed to want to know as much as he could about her and seemed to remember even the slightest details about her from his previous visits. It was clear that his interest was slightly possessive, though she was surprised that Will didn’t seem to have any problems with this.
“And how was the lovely Mrs. Hollingsworth today?” Hannibal asked her, serving the food before them.
She didn’t answer. She did, however, keep an extra eye on the food. It was habit now, whenever Hannibal was near anything edible. She didn’t eat much whenever they were with the man, and certainly never touched the food he left them. Neither man seemed to have caught on. She ate little while out. Virtually none at all in Hannibal’s house, unless fruit. Will’s cooking was the only thing she consumed regularly, though she had to start keeping watch when Hannibal came over. She knew she was being more than a little paranoid. Hannibal wouldn’t just have bits of people meat in his pockets, ready to throw into her mac and cheese while Will wasn’t looking. She knew that. And yet.
Her eyes skated along the table, making sure his hands didn’t linger too long on any dishes.
“Will tells me that you are starting to learn to fence. I imagine that you are having much fun with that.” Hannibal continued on, unfazed by her silence. She sometimes wished he was.
“She is. Mrs. Hollingsworth says she’s taken to it rather well, actually. She’s been moved up a class already.” Will stated proudly.
Hannibal looked rather pleased as well. “I shouldn’t be surprised, you are quite outstanding, aren’t you?”
Mischa very carefully hid the glee that her inner darkness was exuding. She liked that they were proud of her. She stabbed a green bean. The conversation continued on, Will and Hannibal updating each other on pieces of their lives – hers included. Mischa still wasn’t sure what to make of it all. For now, she was content to wait and watch. Hannibal seemed to be much more involved with Will than he was Before. She wondered if it was because of her encouragement of Will’s darkness or because Will had become more confident in himself. She wasn’t sure she would ever know. She wasn’t sure she wanted to.
Mischa preferred it this way.
She speared another green-bean. They were talking now, about her. She ate.
“And I told you that I'll be there as soon as I can!” Will’s voice was sharp and barking, anger painting his face.
Mischa's face jerked up from her book. The library that she had been working in was quiet and almost deserted. She had settled in the back, near the references and older books. She had been rather pleased by the libraries on the east coast. In the before, she had grown up on the west coast, and the libraries had been fairly modern, the books recent. In Virginia and Baltimore, the libraries had books so old they predated the country itself. Mischa had become rather fond of them. Will only looked amused whenever he caught her with a book that was almost bigger than her. Now, however, he looked angry and annoyed. She heard an angry voice from his phone, even pressed to his ear as it was.
Will snapped the phone closed mid-rant. He shoved it into his pocket and ignored it when it began ringing a second later. Mischa began packing up immediately, Will quietly helping her. Despite the seeming rush, he still pulled her over to the checkout kiosk, patiently scanning the books through for her. He didn’t say anything until he was strapping her into the car seat.
“There’s a case. I’m not sure how long I’ll be.” He was quieter now, his anger blanketed.
Mischa paused at pulling on the straps, wondering. “Mrs. Hollingsworth is in New York still. Where am I going?”
Will frowned, brow wrinkled in displeasure and worry. “I don’t know.”
Mischa blinked at the helplessness she heard undercutting his voice. She frowned, displeased by Will’s upset. The idea tickled in her, and any lingering reservations she had fled temporarily at the face Will pulled as he turned away from her. Her darkness flared in possessive anger.
“Hannibal is nearby.” She told him as he got into the front seat of the car.
She saw Will start slightly at the idea. He didn’t move for a second, considering. He turned to look back at her, brows drawn. His eyes were mercurial, something flaring in them. He put the keys in the car but didn’t start the ignition. His phone rang again. He didn’t answer. He focused in on her, eyes intent on her face.
“We haven’t talked about Hannibal yet. Not since before you met.”
Mischa stared back. “No.”
“You’ve been getting more comfortable with him.” He paused here, expression flickering. “You were…unsure, at first. But recently you’re been getting more comfortable.”
“Yes.” She conceded, not entirely unsurprised that he had clocked her unease.
“You signed to me the other day, with him in the kitchen. He didn’t see, but you’ve been doing it more often.”
Mischa blinked, entirely surprised now. She hadn’t realized that. She nodded hesitantly at Will.
Will’s eyes flickered over her face, before continuing. “He’s more interested in you as well.”
“Is he?” Mischa was darkly pleased, glad that he was validating her own thoughts on the matter.
Will picked up on it, and his lips curled slightly in reply. “In the beginning, he only asked about you in relation to me. How I felt with you. What you did with me. How I took care of you. Now he asks about what you’re learning, new books that you’re reading. He’s been more and more impressed with everything he hears. He’s been giving me lists and suggestions for you; even gave me those books I gave you last time. Even when you aren’t with us, he asks about you. He’s been researching recipes like crazy. Every time we meet for dinner, he interrogates me on what you like; what flavors and textures you prefer. I found a number of books around his office and house about children and children with autism. Alana mentioned that she found out he’s learning sign language. You’ve never been in his car, and yet he has a brand- new car seat in the back. You haven’t eaten at his house since that first morning and yet he has a booster seat in the closet near his kitchen even. There’s a box of your favorite juices in the fridge. Despite his distaste of them, a number of your snacks are in his pantry. There is a new chest in his office, in the corner where you like to sit. It’s full of things you like. Legos, color pencils, coloring and drawing books, soft blankets, puzzles, puzzle books. He adds and removes things periodically. He had dolls in it at first.”
Mischa's lips were parted in surprise, unsure how to process this new info. She had known that Hannibal was gaining interest in her, but hadn’t realized how quickly it had progressed. Then again, he had latched onto Will almost instantly. Perhaps it wasn’t as shocking as she realized. She was more surprised, however, to find out that Will had realized the focus of Hannibal’s interest in the beginning. She wasn’t sure that he had even been aware of Hannibal’s singular attention. Mischa breathed out slowly. Will read her surprise plainly but said nothing. She thought about Hannibal – the Before and now. She hadn’t thought that he would be capable of any interest in her barring her relationship with Will. At best, she figured he would have a cordial(if distant) relationship with her only in order to please Will. She figured that if not outright disposed of, she would be nothing more than a means of manipulating Will. But this was something else. He was doing things that were entirely unnecessary for that ruse. He had no need to do anything for her or her comfort- Will certainly wouldn’t expect it of him. Hannibal probably wasn’t even aware that Will had discovered half of those things. If he had been attempting to manipulate Will, he certainly wasn’t doing it actively. He didn’t need to know what books she read, or give her any just because she might find them interesting. The snacks she ate were all mass-produced things, ones he had expressed his distaste for often at their house. And yet he had bought them for her against his own tastes.
He had bought her toys.
Mischa’s hands trembled slightly.
He wasn’t the same. She inhaled deeply and clenched her shaking hands around the straps on her chest. It was overwhelming – the implications enormous. She wasn’t sure what that meant for the events to come. What that meant for the relationship between Will and Hannibal. She gathered herself at the thought. She shoved down her own feelings at Hannibal’s apparent attentions. She refused to get attached until his intentions towards Will were clear. Her father was the most important thing to her.
Until then, however, Hannibal would do.
“Then he is well prepared for me to come over.” Mischa’s voice was clear and steady.
Will’s darkness appeared to have overtaken him completely. His eyes were bright and intense on her face. His tongue flicked out and wet his lips as he observed her. He didn’t look angry and Hannibal’s attention toward her (which, admittedly, was slightly suspicious and inappropriate given the short period of time that they had known each other). In fact, he looked darkly pleased. Hungry. Mischa wondered if Will even realized that he was only pleased when another’s darkness took an interest in her. Even Mrs. Hollingsworth sometimes tickled his possessive anger over her. Her responding interest in Hannibal was pleasing to him.
She smiled at him, knowing some darkness curled at the edge of it. He didn’t say anything, just turned around in his seat and pulled out his phone.
“Hannibal.” There was a pause. “No, I’m fine. Jack called, there is a case.” Will pressed the phone to his ear with one shoulder as he pulled his seat belt on and started the car. Mischa relaxed back into her seat.
“He said just outside Baltimore. I’m in Quantico now.” Wills's voice was steady, though there was a hint of uncertainty threading through it. Hannibal’s interest was one thing, agreeing to babysit her, potentially for an overnight visit, was another.
“Yes, she’s with me now. No, she’s still on vacation. That’s why I’m calling actually.”
He paused, but after only a moment of what she assumed was Hannibal’s reply she saw Will’s shoulders drop in relief. His face eased greatly, and a small smile appeared.
“Thank you. We’ll be there soon. No, I don’t know anything yet. Yes, I’ll let you know. Goodbye.”
“I’ll be back soon. Hannibal will watch over you.” Will’s face was close to her, his arms curled around her.
Hannibal’s eyes were hooded as he overlooked their goodbye. They flared in pleasure at Will’s words. Mischa was feeling much more confident in Hannibal’s presence now. She pressed into Will’s chest, curling her hands around his neck. He gripped her tightly in return. After a moment she pulled away, stepping back purposefully into Hannibal’s legs. The man twitched slightly in surprise but wasn’t at all displeased. He stared down at her, face alight. It was the closest she had ever allowed him to get. She turned back to Will.
I’ll be fine, she signed.
She felt Hannibal stiffen against her back, even if he didn’t outwardly show it. It was the first time that he had seen her communicate since the first night. Will didn’t so much as twitch.
“Of course. I’ll call you if I’m going to be late.”
Love you. She told the man as he stood to leave.
Will’s entire demeanor shifted, and he loomed over her, uncaring about stepping into Hannibal’s space. His hands pressed into her hair, cupping her face. He leaned over and pressed his forehead to hers for a long moment. Will’s possessiveness painted his face darkly. He pulled back and pressed his lips to the top of her head.
“I love you too. Always.” He murmured lowly to her.
Mischa let her eyes follow him as he turned to leave, before flicking up to the doctor. Hannibal look so enraptured with Will at this moment that Mischa would have sworn that Will had just stripped naked. Hannibal pulled away after a moment, his face smoothing back into his normal expression as he started walking Will to the door.
“Don’t worry, I won’t let anything happen to her.” Hannibal’s hand came to rest on Will’s shoulder, clasping it tightly.
He was standing much closer than Will usually was comfortable with. But Will’s darkness still hadn’t quite retreated. It stared into Hannibal, taking his words as a promise. He nodded once to the man, then left. Hannibal lingered for a few moments at the door, watching the man walk away. It was still somewhat early in the afternoon and Hannibal still had patients, so they would be at the office for a few hours yet. Mischa took a moment to observe his office. Will had been right, she saw as she wondered over to her preferred spot. The back corner of the room, beneath the mezzanine and behind his desk had been altered. The few pieces of furniture that decorated the corner had been shifted, making a little hidden nook. A bookshelf and a small table kept it out of view from most of the room unless you knew it was there. It was clear only from behind the desk. A dark, luxurious looking rug lay in the corner. A few thick looking floor pillows were pressed up against the walls and furniture enclosing the space. Taking one half of the space was a dark wooden chest. A pair of soft blankets were folded on top, but they didn’t hide the beautiful carvings pressed into the wood. Vines, flowers, and other flora were intricately intertwined around each other, engraved all around the sides of the chest. Mischa was a little breathless at the realization of just how much effort and care that Hannibal had put into the spot for her. There wasn’t even a guarantee that she would have ever spent any significant time at his office.
Just as she stepped into the niche to explore it more, she felt Hannibal appear behind her. She ignored him for now. Her backpack got shoved in a corner, her shoes pushed off her feet. One blanket went around her shoulders like a cape, finger bunching in the unbelievably soft material. She wasn’t sure but she thought it might be cashmere. She gave the blue material one last stroke, before moving the other blanket on top of her backpack. The wood of the chest was soft as silk. She pressed both hands to it, fingers ghosting over what looked like an iris. She wasn’t sure how, or even if, the doctor had realized it was her favorite flower. She opened the lid and peered at the contents. Will had described some of them, but if he had known all of it then Hannibal had altered it since her father had last witnessed. A couple of her favorite books were there amongst the coloring, drawing, and puzzle books that Will had already told her about. A fairly large plastic container in the shape of a blue 2x2 Lego held a not-insignificant amount of the colorful building pieces. She put the box to the side and continued to shift through the chest. Several containers of Play-Doh were there, as well as a purse of tools and molds. A collection of wood and metal puzzle toys littered the box, piquing her interest already. A large box of crayons sat beneath expensive looking boxes of color and charcoal pencils. A number of actual puzzles were pressed in there too; none of them children's, she noticed approvingly. A rolled-up object caught her attention, and when she unrolled it partly, she recognized the piano mat for what it was. She held it as she observed the rest of the chest. A number of toys and objects that already ticked at her curiosity stared up at her.
He had put considerable thought into this. Even more than just the redecoration of his office corner. Each of these toys was something that would interest her, or that already held her attention. He could have filled it with any toys – dolls, blocks, and fake tea sets – and it still would have been an unbelievably moving act. And yet he had weighed every single object that he had put into the chest. She picked up and observed them all. Hannibal said nothing. Only after almost an hour had passed and she had thoroughly checked over everything did she begin to put it all back in neatly. The pack of charcoal pencils and an elegantly bound drawing book she put off to the side. A few minutes of rearranging, and her spot was ready. A pillow laid down on the carpet and pressed into the corner, two pillows on each side provided cushion from hard walls. She curled into the space; cape blanket still wrapped around her. The other went over her lap and she pulled both her backpack and the drawing supplies to her. Her knees drew up and she pulled the book on to them, fingers flicking open the case holding the pencils.
She was pleased.
“If you are cold, I can start the fire.” Hannibal’s voice drew her attention to him.
He seemed content with her exploration of his work. There was satisfaction clinging to him, but it was tempered by real joy at her own apparent pleasure. Mischa wasn’t sure what to make of this. It was becoming increasingly obvious that Hannibal had more than a passing interest in her. Her fingers twitched in her lap.
Not that cold, she signed. And it wasn’t. Fall had already begun, chilling the air but no more.
Hannibal blinked twice. It took him a moment, but then he breathed out suddenly, and his face shifted into something filled with wonder. He moved, pulling a convenient low chair that was stationed nearby to plant it in front of her, and eyed her hungrily.
“I can light it whenever that changes.” He breathed the words out quietly, clearly attempting to keep the conversation going.
Mischa didn’t mind so much at this moment. She let it show on her face, and when Hannibal caught it, his smile was almost breathtaking. It wasn’t a nice one, in the strictest sense. The polite facsimile of a smile that he usually wore was nothing like this one. This was the predator smile; dark and hungry. As close to real as she thought he would ever get. He leaned closer to her, settling his arms on his knees.
“I wasn’t sure how much you truly communicated, despite how intelligent you’ve proven to be. I’m quite surprised.” He murmured, surprising her.
Looking back, however, she supposed that she should have expected that. Her lack of communication of all types to anyone else, and only occasionally with Mrs. Hollingsworth, had probably had painted her as an uncommunicative autistic. Will wasn’t one to disabuse that notion to anyone. She wasn’t going to either.
I don’t like it, is all she replied.
Hannibal nodded and replied. “Understandable. I am pleased none the less, that you have chosen to do so with me.”
She blinked at him slowly, amused.
“You like all of the toys, then.” He questioned, gesturing with one had to the chest.
She nodded, signing. It is very nice.
“I was told you do not enjoy dolls, though I did have a few of them gathered.” He remarked, curious. It was a little odd that a young girl like her didn’t like them, truth be told.
Mischa made a face. I don’t like them. They are boring, honestly. A lot of people compare me to them, which makes me like them less.
Hannibal considered, and then nodded. “Yes, I can see that. I never saw the appeal of them myself, though I suppose that they were not marketed to boys.”
Mischa shrugged. I like everything else. They are interesting.
Hannibal grinned at her, the predator smile returning to his face. “You have no idea how pleased I am to hear that.”
Mischa allowed a small smile in response. Hannibal observed her silence for a while, just watching as she began drawing. Finally, he spoke to her quietly.
“Will wasn’t sure that you would ever be comfortable interacting with me. May I ask what changed?”
Mischa looked up, the surprise flickering across her face. It took her a moment before she realized that he may be referencing their first meeting. Even if Will had never realized that the hostile events happened, she had Hannibal certainly wouldn’t forget. She set the pencil in her hand down slowly.
I realized you liked me. Better to go with the truth – or at least part of it.
Hannibal blinked, taken aback. “You hadn’t realized that before?” He seemed both amused and incredulous.
Before she realized it, Mischa was giving the man a dark, flat look. As if he had forgotten his own nature. His eyes flattened slightly in reply as he read the look, observing her darkly. He seemed to be waiting for something, but when it didn’t come, he tilted his head in consideration.
“So you did see.” It was little more than a whisper. “You’ve inherited your father’s gifts.”
Mischa allowed herself to blink but didn’t feel threatened. She wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad thing. If she dropped her guard and he turned out to be not so attached to her after all, then it would be the end of her curious second life. Will’s words and Hannibal’s actions were smoothing away her suspicions though.
I don’t know about that, she signed in reply. Because it was true, she really didn’t.
“You think it something else?” There was something hungry behind the curiosity in his voice.
I don’t know if I’m anything at all, beyond odd. She told him, shrugging.
He paused at that, before replying. “You are as exquisite as your father, whatever you are. Though I believe you have certainly inherited something of him.”
Her head fell to the side, considering. Something, yes. His empathy I’m not too sure about.
“You seem sure about that.” He leaned down more, as close to her as he could without leaving his chair.
Mischa’s fingers twitched, unsure of what to tell the man about her suspected sociopathy. Or possible psychopathy, as she was beginning to suspect of both her and her father. She mused gently on the idea of a psychopath with an empathy disorder. A very dichotomic existence. Probably what was keeping him from realizing it in the first place. But not something she was willing to talk about with Hannibal.
She shrugged at him, signing nothing. He hummed in reply.
“What made you realize I had grown fond of you now when you had not realized it before?” He switched the subject without protest.
Dad was talking to me. Telling me about the chest. The juice. It settled more when I saw it myself.
“Ah.” He appeared slightly startled, “I had not realized Will knew about those.”
She gave him a slow blink. He sees more than most realize. Even the ones that know about his gift.
Hannibal’s expression twisted slightly at that, his eyebrows drawing together. “He has not seen me.” It was supposed to be a statement, but it came out more a question.
His eyes were dark, hungry holes. His mouth parted ever so slightly as he stared her. “You think he will then.”
She eyed him back, regarding this new turn of events. Mischa could use this. She had been looking for a way to get Will help earlier than he had Before. If she could tip Hannibal off early, would he find it earlier? More than that, if he found it earlier, she would finally have her answer as to Hannibal’s intentions. It cemented the idea.
He normally would have already realized by now. She allowed her fingers to sign it slowly, as if hesitant.
Hannibal jumped on it, eagerly. “Normally?”
His voice was sharp. Mischa pursed her lips together and turned her eyes to the floor.
He has been…She let her fingers trail off.
“You think something is wrong?” His voice was intense now, hands gripping his thighs tightly.
She let her eyes flick back over to him, and shrugged. There has been something going on with him lately. It’s made him… She paused, searching for the words. Foggier. Forgetful. Angrier.
“Do you know what is wrong?” He was frowning fiercely now, brows snapped down in anger. She shrugged. “How recent? From the Hobbes case?”
No. It’s been building since before then. But getting worse since Jack. She had to fingerspell the name.
Something in him settled slightly, but he was still frowning as he leaned back into his chair. He seemed to be going through his thoughts. “You haven’t told him?”
Mischa movements were sharper now, showing her own irritation. It would only make him more against the idea. He does not like to show me possible weaknesses.
Hannibal rubbed a hand over his lips, eyes flickering across the room. He finally settled them back on her, his face falling into something not quite readable.
“I will see what I notice. You will tell me if anything changes?”
She nodded sharply.
He did as well and then climbed to his feet. “As much as I would like to continue our talk, I am afraid that my patients will begin arriving soon. I have already informed them of your presence, but they know not to expect interactions. I hope you do not mind, but I informed them of your diagnosis and non-communicative status. They were more amiable to your presence that way.”
She twitched her fingers at him, uncaring. She picked up the charcoal pencil again as Hannibal shifted his chair back to its previous place. He hummed quietly to himself as he prepared his office, puttering around slightly and gathering things. Mischa ignored him, immersing herself into the drawing.
“I promise you, it’s perfectly fine. I quite enjoyed our time together, in fact.” Hannibal’s voice was mild, amusement undercoating it.
Mischa pressed her face into Will’s neck, half asleep. She had fallen asleep in Hannibal’s study, curled on the couch across from the fire. Will had arrived at the doctor’s house quite late. He had done his best to tempt Will to stay the night, but the dogs were calling. He had attempted to apologize to Hannibal, but cannibal wasn’t having any of it. He had gone through the evening overall pleased, still rather gratified at her communication.
“Still. Thank you.” Will’s voice was quiet but warm.
“You are quite welcome, Will.” Hannibal’s voice had slipped into its own warm, velvety tone.
He walked them out, pressed close enough that Mischa could feel his body heat. He didn’t wait at the front door either but pulled the car door open for them so Will could put her into her seat. She blinked her eyes open then, as she felt the straps snap together. Will got into his own seat, and Hannibal stepped back from the curb slightly. His eyes flickered between them. As Will smiled at the man, one hand raised in farewell, she allowed her own to raise slightly. Will’s eyebrows jumped in surprise, but he said nothing.
“Goodnight, Will. Little one.”
“Goodnight, Hannibal.” Will murmured back.
As they pulled out on to the street, Mischa allowed her head to fall back into the seat. She had almost let herself fall back asleep again when she felt it.
She jerked her head up, completely awake now. Her eyes took in as much as possible, attempting to find whatever it was that had caught her attention. Something flashed at the end of the street, and her eyes tried to follow it. They pulled away too soon though. It didn’t follow them, but Mischa felt the unease flutter in her stomach.
Somebody had been watching them.
In which a Mushroom Man is hunted, a Freddie appears, and an Angry Will makes an appearance
“Mushrooms?” Mischa’s voice was slightly incredulous, amusement tinting her tone.
“A whole garden of them, growing from people.” Will nodded, his own voice amused.
“Huh.” Mischa wondered.
Will grinned at her through the rearview mirror, before turning his attention back to the road. They were going back to Hannibal’s. Jack had called that morning and canceled Will’s classes again, commanding him to be at the BAU for the case. Will had been irritated with the man. His syllabus was a careful thing, one he had spent considerable time and effort on. He didn’t appreciate Jack’s lack of regard for it. It didn’t stop him from agreeing, however. So, another phone call to Hannibal and off they went. Mischa took the time in the car to observe Will. She had been expecting him to be more upset. In the Before, Will had begun seeing things around this time. Garret Jacob Hobbes had risen from the grave to haunt Will – almost quite literally if she remembered the episode correctly. Will had been quite upset to see him in the mushroom garden. He had talked to Hannibal about it, she remembered, but would that have been yesterday or today? The timing of the Before was a weird thing to match to her now real life.
But she wasn’t even sure that it would happen at all now.
Will appeared quite normal. Most of his irritation and frustration were Jack-related. And while his sleep wasn’t restful, it had never really been in the first place. Her own sleep had been nonexistent. Last night’s stalker had unnerved her enough that she had sat awake in bed, alert and ready. Waiting. Nothing had come, though, and she had spent the night worrying. Half of that was for Will’s wellbeing. She was unsure about what was going on with him. Apparently, he had already come to terms with his feelings for what happened to Hobbes. Mischa wondered if everything from the Before would be going out the window. It certainly felt like it.
She supposed that was the idea in the first place.
Mischa pushed the thought away and chose to be happy for Will’s apparent good health. When they pulled back up to Hannibal’s, the man was already waiting at the door. He was dressed as impeccably as always, a coat folded over one arm. He was smiling as he walked up to them. Will was out of the car quickly, moving to greet the man. As Will pulled her from the car, slinging her into his arms, Hannibal moved to take her backpack.
“I suppose we really should have stayed,” Will mused, “it might have been easier on you.”
Hannibal shook his head. “I told you last night Will, it is quite alright.”
Will was grinning though, apparently more at ease with asking then he had been the night before. “Thanks. I’m not sure when I’ll be back. She ate breakfast, and everything is all packed. Don’t be surprised if she skips lunch, though. She didn’t have the best night and sometimes she goes off food if she’s not feeling well. She might sleep today, so don’t worry if that happens.”
Mischa eyed him, a little put out.
Hannibal, however, made an odd sound as he stepped closer to them. “Is everything all right?”
She frowned at him, not wanting to get into it.
“She won’t tell. Mischa’s very…quiet about herself. Doesn’t like to say anything when she’s not feeling well or upset.” Will stated, plucking at her already frayed edges.
She was scowling now, fully irritated.
Hannibal hummed, “I’ll keep an eye out then.” He paused a second, eyes examining her closely. “I would invite you in for coffee, dear Will, but I am afraid that my next client will be arriving soon.”
Will nodded, shaking himself. Before she knew it, he was stepping not towards Hannibal’s beamer, but to the doctor himself. In a shock for both of them, he did something he had never done before.
He allowed someone else to hold her.
Her arms gripped the expensive material of Hannibal’s suit automatically, and his own arms rose to grab her before she fell. Her face met Hannibal’s similarly surprised one just inches from her own. His arms were still, but rock steady, holding her firmly to his torso. She didn’t even have time to question it before Will was back in her space, pulling her head to rest against his for a moment in what was his normal goodbye. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Hannibal inhale slightly, his own face was almost next to theirs, making it feel like he was part of their usual goodbye ritual. Before either one of them could do anything further, he was gone. He pulled away in his car an instant later, leaving the two of them blinking at his tail lights.
“Well then,” Hannibal breathed.
He shifted her slightly, settling her on one hip. She was seated on one of his arms, his folded jacket cushioning her butt as his other hand still held her backpack. He stared down at her, an odd look on his face. There were several emotions flickering there. Her fingers clenched around his collar, and she realized that her arms had encircled his neck unknowingly. Hannibal didn’t say anything, only began walking towards his car. There was a brand-new car-seat strapped in the back, as Will had told her. It was an expensive one too, much more than her other one. As she wiggled in it to test it, she wasn’t surprised to find out that it was much more comfortable too. Hannibal didn’t appear to be confused at all about the straps, doing them up as efficiently as Will did.
Mischa wasn’t sure what to make of this day so far.
When they stepped into Hannibal’s office, she was grumpier than she had felt in a long while. The itching feeling hadn’t gone away, and it had just made her twitchier as the morning went on. She wasn’t sure what Hannibal thought about it, or if he had attributed it to Will’s actions this morning. She almost ran into the room, eager to be out of sight. She could feel the eyes on them. She didn’t wait for Hannibal as she moved directly to her spot, yanking the blankets and pillows down roughly into a sort of nest. Hannibal watched her but said nothing. If there was one thing to be grateful for, she was glad to be with the doctor. There was very little that would ever get past him.
It was a little ironic that she felt safest with a cannibalistic serial killer.
She pressed her face into her blanket and slept.
Mischa woke to the sounds a sharp voice. Her muscles locked without moving. She lay perfectly still, clenched as she was in the ball that she usually slept in when she was alone. Her heart was beating steadily.
“How did you know Will Graham would be here, Ms. Lounds?” Hannibal’s voice was an ominous thing, much sharper and deadlier than she had remembered him being in this incident in the Before.
“I don’t know what you mean,” A woman’s voice breathed.
“You were very insistent that I see you now. It is not a coincidence. I won’t ask you again.”
His voice was cutting, and from beneath her lashes, Mischa could just see the back of him. He was standing in front of her. Making sure Freddie Lounds couldn’t see her hidden in the corner. She allowed her eyes to open fully.
“I can’t tell you,” Freddie replied, voice quivering.
“I see.” Gone was anything resembling civility from Hannibal’s tone, leaving only the frosty cold anger. “You’ve been quite rude, Ms. Lounds.”
“Ah. Well. Life of a journalist, I’m afraid. I think I’ll be going now.” Her voice was thin and high now; clearly she had sensed something dangerous from the man.
Hurried footsteps sounded, followed quickly by a slightly slammed door. Mischa drew herself up slowly. Hannibal turned to her, eyes still cold and dark. She took in the room, realizing it was early afternoon at least. Will had come by then. But what they had talked about she would probably never know. What had sent Will to the man in the Before didn’t seem to be bothering him this time, and she wondered if it had been a social visit instead. Freddie Lounds had come as well though. Mischa pursed her lips, realizing now who had been watching them.
Dad was here? She asked, unsure what Lounds would have heard.
“Yes. He wanted to check on you to make sure you were alright from this morning. I’m afraid you slept through the whole visit. He left about half an hour ago.” Hannibal was slowly thawing as strode over to her silently.
“Everything is fine. Will said that he will be returning later tonight.” He had caught her unease.
She shrugged at him, still uncertain. He loomed over her; protective. When she didn’t appear to relax any, he changed the subject.
“Since you are awake, how about some lunch? You slept through your usual lunchtime, but it is still far enough away that it won’t ruin dinner.”
She was shaking her head before he even finished the sentence. There would be no meals at Hannibal’s, no matter how safe she felt with the man. He was frowning at her now but only sighed in response. He nodded once to her, then turned and began preparing his office for the next patient. Mischa settled back into her nest, pulling a book from her bag.
She wouldn’t be going back to sleep for a while.
“Nice and easy, dear. Yes, just like that! No, straighten that leg! There! That’s it, dear.” Mrs. Hollinsworth’s voice was familiar and soothing.
Mischa straightened, twirling into the next movement. The dance coach made a pleased noise, clapping a rhythm for her. Mrs. Hollingsworth’s sat in an elegant armchair in front of the window, watching her and directing the smaller movements. She had ceased to be surprised at how willing the coaches Mrs. Hollingsworth brought in were in allowing the older woman to be in on the lessons. Then again, she would have personally taught most of them herself, so it wasn’t like she was teaching something wrong. The dance lessons had moved from ballroom style dances into ballet fairly quickly. Mischa was fairly surprised she enjoyed it as much as she did. It was nice being able to move her body as she liked. The beginning of her life here had been a violent one, and the events had overtaken any immediate thoughts and concerns she had relating to reincarnation. After the violent incident had faded some, a number of issues had sparked for her - most of them physical. It had been a hard and awkward thing, getting used to a body that wasn’t hers. It wasn’t just that it was smaller and slimmer; it was a completely different one than she had known for almost 30 years. Her muscles and joints hadn’t moved the same way, forcing her to relearn habits she hadn’t even known she had. Her walking had been an awkward, stilted thing. Her movements were jerky and wild. Her hands and fingers had been the worst; simultaneously too tight and too loose, unable to grip anything properly. It had certainly helped the Autism diagnosis. Mrs. Hollingsworth hadn’t cared though, just began dance lessons.
So she had danced. Been given gymnastic routines, walking lessons, riding lessons, swim lessons, and even self-defense lessons. She had settled into her skin under Mrs. Hollingsworth’s caring direction. Mischa had asked to continue ballet when her base lessons were up simply because the elegant movements helped soothe any lingering feelings of dysmorphia. Every time she slid into a move, the discomforting itch fell away, and she felt at home in her new skin. It was something that was soothing her now. The lingering stress of the last couple of days was fading with each step. She was glad Mrs. Hollingsworth had returned. Mischa had not returned to the school after the incident. The school had been rather willing to grant her homeschool status so long as she passed her yearly tests. Mrs. Hollingsworth had attempted to take her for the entire five days, but Will had refused. It had been one thing to take her a few hours after school but was an entirely different thing to take her every day of the week. They had argued extensively. Finally, it had been decided she would spend all day with the woman Tuesdays and Thursdays. The rest she would spend with Will. It was working out quite well. Despite it being Wednesday, Mrs. Hollingsworth had demanded her presence as a make-up for the missed time when she had been on vacation.
Mischa smiled warmly at the woman in question, happy.
Will frowned, lips pressed together. “No. I’m sorry. We had a break in the case, and I can’t leave. I’m not sure. I’m sorry. Thank you, you have no idea how much – Yes, I understand. Thank you, ma’am.”
He hung up the phone, shoving it into his pocket. He turned to stare out the darkened window, eyebrows drawing together. Beverly flicked her eyes between him and Jack.
“I would have thought you’d be pleased with getting a shot at this creep.” She asked him awkwardly, unsure about the tension between them.
Will huffed. “That’s not it. I’m not an agent. I don’t go out and arrest people. That’s not what I do; why I’m here.”
He couldn’t keep the tension from his voice, nor his irritation. He had made his position clear to Jack when they had started this again after what happened to Hobbes. He wasn’t supposed to be out chasing them. It was too much of a danger for Mischa. Will had responsibilities. The last two days he had not been able to keep his promise to her, leaving her for almost the entirety of them at Hannibal’s. While he had been pleased that Mischa had taken more to the curious doctor that he had become considerably fond of, he wasn’t happy that he hadn’t been able to be there for her. He was supposed to be at home with her; taking care of her. And now for the third night in a row, he wouldn’t be with her.
He didn’t remember the last time they had eaten together.
“What, you’re upset that you get to see the end of your investigation? Any other agent would kill for this, and you’re upset because why? You miss a date, Will? Is that more important than catching a killer?” Jack’s voice was loud and angry. Or at least, louder and angrier than usual.
Will inhaled, swallowing down his shout. “I have my own life, Jack! My own responsibilities! If you can’t understand, then this isn’t going to work. This is the third day in a row. Not only have you canceled all of my classes – disrupting my actual job, need I remind you – but you’ve kept me past 11pm every single night now! I’m not one of your agents!”
Despite his intentions, his voice had risen by the end of his statement. Jack drew himself up with every word, bristling and furious. Will knew him enough to realize that a large part of it was because Will was correct. He was treating Will as one of his agents, and yet it was clear he wasn’t. Jack slammed on the breaks, bringing the car to an abrupt stop. Beverly grunted and she braced herself in the back seat. Will had already braced himself on the dash.
“We’ll talk about this later. Right now, I have a killer to find.” Jack growled, throwing himself out of the car.
Will scowled and followed.
A half an hour later and Will was attempting to shrug off his ever-mounting anger. Stammets was gone. The woman in the back of the car was at least saved, but it seemed a pointless outing to Will. He would have rather been at home with Mischa. Now he would have to stay even longer as they processed the scene, and Jack certainly wouldn’t let him go with Stammets missing still. Jack would want to use Will like a magic eight ball, trying to get Will to point him to the right answer. Will was irritated enough that he knew right then and there that he wouldn’t be giving any tonight. Jack could wait.
The man in question turned to him, scowling fiercely. “Alright, we know his name, we have his address, we have his car –”
“Jack!” Price interrupted him, running up to them. “We just checked the browser history at Stammets work station.”
“Am I gonna wanna hear this?’ Jack asked sharply, hand on hip.
“No,” the nervous agent replied quickly. “And yes. But mostly no.”
Jack didn’t bother replying this time, just began stalking off back into the pharmacy. Will started to follow and caught the slight wide-eyed look the agent gave him as he passed. Will frowned at that. Price had never been hostile with him, not like Zeller was. He was generally polite with him, if a little puzzled about how he leaped to conclusions so quickly. The look he was getting now was…odd. When they caught up to Jack at the desk, the rest of the team was already gathered around a computer screen. Beverly shot him a look of distinct startlement as he arrived, but Zeller was eyeing him with the oddest look yet. Will’s irritation flared, and he ignored the man. Jack flicked a hand at the Zeller, prompting him to turn away.
“Freddie Lounds,” is all he said.
Jack peered at the screen, leaning next to Beverly as she read the computer. “Tattlecrime.com?”
Beverly began reading. “‘The FBI isn’t just hunting psychopaths, they’re head-hunting them too, offering competitive pay and benefits in the hopes of using one demented mind –’”
She cut off, and Will could see her anger. She flicked her gaze to him again, and he realized instantly what the article would be about.
“Keep going,” Jack demanded
“It’s about Will.” She replied, still upset.
“Go on.” Jack ordered, impatient.
“‘ – one demented mind to catch – ’. She goes into a lot of detail.” Beverly’s voice was quiet.
Will’s anger simmered, building to something he wasn’t sure he fully recognized yet. Jack cursed out loud, slamming his fists into the counter. Will wanted to leave even more now. Mischa would see this article, he realized. She would be furious. She was a possessive thing, as equally protective over him as he was over her. She had a habit of targeting anyone and every one that even came close to making him uncomfortable. Nancy Freeport still hadn’t regrown all of her hair. What she would do with this, he wasn’t entirely sure. It wouldn’t be pretty though.
He had just started to gather himself when Zeller spoke up, his gaze resting heavily on Will. “There’s more. It doesn’t just talk about Will. It talks about his kid.”
Will’s whole body jerked as if struck by lightning. He was suddenly white-hot with boiling rage. How dare she? How dare she?
“Will doesn’t have any kids.” Jack said sharply.
“There are pictures. And testimonies from her teacher. Apparently, the kid is an uncommunicative autistic. Doesn’t speak or recognize anybody. Lounds implied that the girl was like that because of Will. Inherited something.”
Will snarled, furious. “She knows nothing about Mischa!”
Jack and the rest of the team jerked in surprise, but it was Jack who found his voice first. “It’s true? You have a kid? Why the hell is this the first time I’m hearing about it?”
Jack was thundering now, but Will was in no mood to continue playing nice. “And why would I tell you? We aren’t friends, Jack! You know nothing about me, nor have you ever asked. I give you what you want, and then you go away until you need something else! It wasn’t important for you to know, and nothing to do with this job!”
Jack visibly recoiled; eyes wide. “You don’t think that you having a child is important to know? That I wouldn’t have asked for your time less? That I would have let you go sooner at night? You think me that selfish that I would discard your feelings, your daughter, just to get what I want?”
“You’ve never proven otherwise.” Will told the man coldly.
Jack flinched, looking stung. But it was the truth and everyone here knew it. Jack inhaled, probably to begin yelling again, but then he stopped. He let the air out, turned sharply, and walked a few steps away. They stayed like that for a few tense minutes. The rest of the team glanced between them awkwardly, but no one said anything. Eventually, the larger man turned back, his face determined.
“Fine. It’s obvious we’ve both missed some things. For now, however, we need to get on top of this.”
Will exhaled, forcefully shoving his anger down. It would do no good to throw it at Jack, not when he wasn’t the person he was angry with at this moment. He pushed himself to the computer screen, forcing himself to read the article. He needed to know what exactly Lounds had said about Mischa. It was largely about him at first, before speculation turned to Mischa towards the end. There was indeed a quote from a teacher, one he could identify easily by the words she had used. Mrs. Turner was apparently looking to lose a lot more than her job. She was the one that mentioned Mischa’s diagnosis, but it was unimportant as he knew that Mischa wouldn’t care if people knew or not. It did go on to question their relationship, however. There was a single picture of the two of them together. Mischa was in his arms, leaning back and scowling at him, looking not at all happy to be there. Will could spot the helpless look on his own face as he stared down at her. It would have been taken in front of Hannibal’s house yesterday morning, he realized with irritation. Lounds had used the picture to help imply that Will couldn't connect to Mischa because of her autism. Questioned if he was even capable of raising a child. The whole article was startling effective, even if it just skirted the lines of libel.
Beverly’s voice rang through his mind, jerking his attention to her at the unexpected compliment. He blinked twice, then found his voice.
“Thanks. She gets it from her mother.”
Beverly grinned mischievously and replied. “Not from where I’m sitting, honey.”
He flushed against his will, silent.
“Is that who she’s with right now? Her mom?” Price asked, curiosity painting his face.
Something in Will relaxed at the questions and comments. Other than the initial surprise, no one seemed to be upset about Mischa. No one seemed to be giving Lounds’ questioning of his parenthood any credence. Several things inside of him unclenched at the realization.
“No,” He admitted to the agent. “Her mom died a couple of years ago now. I’ve had her since then.”
“Ah that sucks, being without a mom. Must have been tough.” Beverly hissed in sympathy.
Will smiled tightly at her, pleased at her concern. “It’s been a change that’s for certain. She’s the best thing to ever happen to me though, I promise you.”
Beverly made an aww-ing sound, making Will blush even more. He hadn't ever been sure what to do about praises or compliments. They were such awkward things. Luckily Jack saved him.
“You were talking to the babysitter earlier.” Jack deduced. Will nodded, twitching slightly. “That’s why you made those demands when I brought you in on the new case, and why you’ve been upset with me for keeping you.”
“I told you, I have responsibilities,” Will replied.
Jack was looking at him pensively. He nodded after a moment. “Then let’s get you back to them. We won’t do any good chasing after Stammets tonight. Let us handle the Lounds situation. Go back home. I won’t call unless I need you.”
Will’s head tilted to the side as he continued talking. Jack was being very nice about this, and he wasn’t sure if he was pleased about it or not. The angry, wrathful thing inside him that still demanded satisfaction was telling him to stay and go with them to see Lounds. But Will knew that what he wanted to do to Lounds was not something that he could do in front of a room full of FBI Agents. But his need to see Mischa trumped everything. Will nodded sharply to Jack, walking towards the door.
It took him about an hour to get back to Mrs. Hollingsworth’s. The house was still lit, he was relieved to see. It wasn’t as late as he realized. He knocked lightly on the door, shifting slightly and eager to see his daughter. It was only a moment before the door was opening, and Mischa’s irritated face greeted him. Before he could do anything, the small girl was flinging herself at him, arms clenched tightly around him. She was making small growling noises in his ear, and Will winced slightly as her fingers clawed into his neck.
She had seen it then.
A sound drew his gaze to the white-haired woman in the house. She gave him a gentle smile, and stepped forward. He nodded at her. Mrs. Hollingsworth drew the door closed as he stepped back. He walked down the steps of the old plantation house, Mischa still growling at him. He pressed his face into her curls, inhaling the scent of her. She was the greatest thing that Will had ever helped create. Every time he held her, all he could think about was how absolutely exquisite she was. One hand rose automatically and started petting the silky curls. His hand was almost big enough to cover her entire head, he noted in amazement. Mischa’s small stature was something he worried about constantly. She was supposed to be turning 6 in just a couple of months, and yet she seems to have hardly grown at all since he had met her when she was 4. It was a bittersweet thing. He enjoyed being able to hold and carry her, but she was just too small for her age.
He didn’t walk to the car, but let himself wander over to the decorative garden in the front of the house. He walked along the rose bushes as he drank in the warmth of his daughter. She was relaxing slowly, fingers unclenching one by one. He was almost certain that he would have marks later, though he didn’t mind. It would hardly be the first time either. Mischa was a vicious little thing, he thought pleasingly. Eventually, he settled himself on a small stone bench. She uncurled slightly on his lap, pulling back to stare at him with bright, bright eyes.
“It’s alright.” He told her, tone soothing.
She frowned, her voice hissing. “What she said about you…!”
“Means nothing to me.” He interrupted her. “I’m more concerned about what she wrote about you.”
Mischa blinked, appearing surprised. She always was whenever he made his concerns over her known. It was a little endearing, if mostly sad. Will wasn’t sure why the girl was so convinced that no one would worry about her.
“I don’t care either. We both know that she didn’t write anything truthful. And since you aren’t that upset then the team apparently took it well.” As always, the Mischa had picked up much more than anyone else did.
He grinned down at her, unable to stop his affections from showing through. “Jack was angry, as always, but settled soon enough. The others were surprised. Beverly thinks you’re adorable. They let me come home, but they went after Lounds.”
Mischa made a considering noise, but the heat had left her eyes. Will swept her up again, headed back to the car. It was almost time for her bath, he knew. He felt the itching feeling that had been growing for the past couple of days settle. He had missed her. The car ride was short, and when they arrived back home Mischa was smiling. He held her hand as they walked in. As soon as the door opened the dogs were mobbing them, and Will fell against the floor to greet them. Mischa was laughing, small arms attempting to fend off Winston’s tongue. He shoved them all away, heading upstairs to start the bath.
He was helping Mischa pull on a pale blue nightgown when the dogs suddenly alerted him to something outside. He listened for a moment, just catching the sound of tires on gravel. He frowned, moving to the window to check outside. He blinked, surprised to see Alana’s car parked in his driveway. Mischa pressed up in front of him, peeking out the window as well. As he watched the woman get out of the car, he took note of her uneasiness. Will wondered what she was doing here. Mischa tilted her head back to look at him, her face smoothing into something unreadable. He paused. It took him a second before he remembered the last time this situation presented itself. Something flared in him possessively. He scooped his daughter up, settling her on his hip as he wandered back downstairs. He was out the door before Alana could get to the porch.
Will mused that he had never seen Alana look more surprised and incredulous as she did right now. She was staring, her mouth open, at Mischa in his arms. Her eyes flicked between them as if she wasn’t sure she was seeing things or not.
“So it’s true.” She breathed out in a whisper.
“Why are you here, Alana?” He asked her, voice sharper than he intended.
Alana looked taken aback at his uncivil tone. Then she seemed to realize where she was. She looked slightly flustered now, fidgeting in her high heels and skirt.
“I didn’t mean – I just wanted to –” She paused, and drew herself up. “I saw the article, and wanted to make sure everything was alright with you.”
Will frowned at her. He wasn’t sure how he felt about this. Alana had been something like a friend for a while, but she had always been careful to keep him a certain distance away. He had responded in kind. She had obviously come here to see about Mischa, but he wasn’t sure that he wanted to go into that with her just yet.
“I’m fine. I don’t put any stock in Lounds.” He kept his voice neutral.
Mischa shifted against him, resting her head on his shoulder. Alana’s eyes followed the movements. When her eyes found him again, she grimaced in apology, realizing that her ruse was crumbling away. She shrugged her shoulders, and sighed.
“I’m sorry, I just didn’t expect…” She trailed off, unsure of how to finish the sentence.
“Expect me to be a parent?” He demanded of her, defensive.
She flinched, and he knew he had hit the nail on the head. Someone had taken Lounds insinuations to heart after all. He felt his anger beginning to climb again, and whatever affections he had for Alana were crumbling quickly. Mischa’s fingers were beginning to dig into him again. She was angry too.
“That not it!” She tried to deny, but it was said feebly.
“If you have something to say, Alana, say it.” He didn’t bother masking the hostility now.
She shifted, but her face was resolute. She gazed at Mischa for a long moment. “I’m just concerned, Will. Especially since you began helping Jack in the field again. I was worried in the first place, before a child factored into the equation. It changes things a lot, Will.”
“You don’t even know anything about the situation, and you’re already ready to take her away, aren’t you?” Will hissed the words venomously, his arms locking tighter around Mischa.
Alana looked alarmed now, stepping forwards and arms held out. “I didn’t say that! Will, I didn’t say that! I just think we need to talk –”
“I don’t need to do anything with you Alana! You’re not my doctor, and apparently not my friend either!” He was shouting now, and he could feel the dogs grouping around his feet, hackles raised. Mischa was back to growling in his ear.
“Will – !”
But whatever duplicitous words she was going to say were cut off by the flash of lights. Something in him clenched and released as he recognized Hannibal’s beamer. Alana faltered, drawing back. He saw her face flash something like relief, but it only made him want to smile smugly at her in return. If she was expecting support from Hannibal, she wouldn’t be getting it. The doctor had made his affections quite clear, and they didn’t lie with the other woman. The man in question was getting out of his car quickly, dressed down somewhat from his usual suits. He had been at home, then, when he had found the article. He strode up to them, eyes lingering slightly on Alana.
“Alana. What a surprise to see you here so late.” He was speaking in that polite façade he usually did.
“Hannibal, I’m so glad to see you. I was just checking on Will.” Her relief was palpable.
Hannibal paused, giving the woman a look. “Well, I supposed we are both here for the same reason then. Will.”
He turned to greet him, smile slipping into something more real. “Hannibal.”
Mischa made a small noise, drawing everyone’s attention to her.
“Hello to you as well, Little One.” Hannibal purred, turning his darkening smile towards her.
Mischa hummed, and Will realized that she had relaxed. He felt something dark curling in him, viscously pleased at the obvious signs that she found comfort in Hannibal’s presence. He was the only person other than Will himself that she had ever felt safe around. Will felt the last of his worry fading.
Hannibal would help protect her.
“I was just talking to Will about discussing her, actually. I’m wondering if the three of us can’t sit down.” Alana had regained her nerve and was trying to slide her way into things.
Hannibal, however, turned to frown at Alana. “And what is there to discuss?”
Alana blinked, beginning to took unsure. “Considering everything, I thought we might need to have a talk about her well-being.”
Hannibal’s eyebrows rose, and Will could see anger beginning to flicker in his eyes. “What is there to consider? He hasn’t changed since you last saw him. I don’t see how she factors into any of this.”
Alana frowned, glancing between them. “Hannibal surely you realize that the situation has changed. Caring for a child, especially a non-neurotypical child, is a big thing.”
“I don’t seem to remember you being Will’s doctor. Nor a social worker. I can’t seem to find any reason that you should be here questioning something you have, until mere hours ago, known nothing about.” Hannibal’s voice was cutting and ruthless as he spoke, his body moving to stand beside Will on the porch. It said something that the dogs did nothing, enfolding him into the protective barrier they had formed around him.
Alana was staring at him with wide, hurt eyes. “You don’t find anything worrying about this situation? You are his doctor; you should be with me on this.”
“I am not his doctor, actually. I am only his friend. I have found no issue with Will’s parenting skills.” Hannibal rebutted, face unreadable.
Alana started as she made the realization. “You knew?”
Hannibal nodded and jabbed at her sharply. “He is my friend. Why would I not know?”
Will suppressed his amusement at the comment; he had only technically known for about 3 weeks now. Alana was gaping at them, though, looking from one to the other. Mischa made a sound into his shoulder that he realized was a choked back giggle. Her shoulders shivered slightly as she suppressed her laughter. Hannibal took in the movement, and from the twitch of her lips knew that he had caught it as well.
“Ah, it appears that the cold is getting to her. I believe some hot chocolate is in order.” Hannibal lied.
Before Will realized it, Hannibal had plucked Mischa from his arms and was gripping her closely in his own. Hannibal walked into the house confidently, Mischa peeking over his shoulder. She was smiling. Will couldn’t help but grin back at her. As they disappeared around the corner, however, he let it fall as he turned back to Alana. He wasn’t sure her eyes would ever go back to their usual size. She inhaled sharply, bringing her arms up to wrap around herself. He could see that she was hurting now, and unsure about herself. He could also see some embarrassment there, as she realized why she had come out here and how inappropriate it was. He let her gather herself, unwilling to give her any comfort.
He wouldn’t ever forget her trying to take Mischa away.
“I’m sorry Will. I realize now that I shouldn’t have come here. I didn’t mean to imply anything. I was just worried about you both.”
Will said nothing, just stared at her. She nodded at him, then hurriedly backed her way to her car. Will watched her go in visceral satisfaction.
He turned and followed the sound of laughter back into his house.
Will dreamed of the Stag.
It paced around the front of the house, circling and circling. Its footsteps echoed in the quiet of the room. Mischa was in the bed with him, Hannibal on the couch just a few feet away. He had insisted on staying, citing it was too late to be going back to Baltimore on his own. Will had been embarrassed at the sleeping arrangements, but Hannibal wasn’t at all fazed. Now, he listened to the large beast as it roamed around outside. The large shadows it cast came in through the windows, but it wasn’t as threatening as perhaps it should have been. There was something...comforting, about the large creature’s presence now. He heard the snap of hooves on the porch and saw the flash of dark fur and feathers.
He leaned back into the headboard, eyes fluttering closed.
“Are you sure?” Hannibal was asking again for the 3rd time.
Will shook his head, looking faintly exasperated but amused. “Today is her day anyways; Thursdays she has classes. Mrs. Hollingsworth is expecting her. It will be better anyways, no one in Wolf Trap will take Lounds seriously.”
Mischa smiled herself, enjoying Hannibal’s worry over her. She agreed with Will, however, about going to Mrs. Hollingsworth. For all that she enjoyed her time with the cannibal, she also enjoyed being with the grandmotherly woman. Hannibal made a sound in his throat but continued to drive none the less. Will replied with an answering sound of amusement, pressing his hand to his lips. They pulled up to the sprawling beauty that was Mrs. Hollingsworth's manor house, and she saw Hannibal look at it approvingly. He hadn’t actually met the woman yet, but he seemed to like her methods and teachings whenever they were brought up. He stepped out as Will began unbuckling her. Her father couldn’t hide the pleased look when Hannibal began walking with them up the steps. They ended up staying for almost an hour, Mrs. Hollingsworth taking to the doctor almost instantly. Hannibal seemed similarly charmed with her old-world manners and elegant tastes, amusing Will and Mischa to no end.
When they had finally left, they were full of coffee and assorted breakfast foods and Mischa was changing into her ballet tights. Mrs. Hollingsworth chattered at her through her morning stretches, not so subtlety asking about Hannibal and Will's relationship. Mischa only grinned at the older woman. She danced through several movements, enjoying the cool breeze that swept through the open glass doors at the end of the room. Mrs. Hollingsworth hummed along to the music playing the background, watching her keenly for any missed steps. Mischa fluttered along, happiness bubbling in her. She had enjoyed having Hannibal over last night and waking with him there in the morning. She hadn’t expected him to come over last night, certainly not his firm support of Will against Alana.
She twirled to a stop in front of the open doors, still smiling. She looked back to Mrs. Hollingsworth, waiting for the instructions she knew would come. But Mrs. Hollingsworth was staring at something above her, her face etched in terror. Mischa’s entire body tensed, and her head whipped back so fast she felt something in her neck burn.
Eldon Stammets stared down at her.
In which things get Bloody.
There was a brief moment in which no one moved. Eldon Stammets pasty face and watery eyes stared down at her, sweat beading his brow. It was Mrs. Hollingsworth’s scream that disrupted the brief silence.
“John!! John help! Call 911!!!” She was screaming loudly, her voice thrumming and echoing through the large house, entirely unexpected from such a frail-looking woman.
Mischa heard the thundering footsteps from Mrs. Hollingsworth's live-in helper, a down and out veteran that she had picked off the streets when he had stopped another vagrant from robbing her. Mrs. Hollingsworth was screaming still but curses now. She was hurling furious insults and threats at the man in front of her between terrified shouts of Mischa’s name. Stammets looked startled, both at the reception he had received and the realization that they were not alone. Mischa's legs moved, attempting to turn and run away. But Stammets seemed to have gotten his bearings. A gun was swung up to point at the older woman as his other arm grabbed her about the waist.
Mischa’s darkness roared to life abruptly.
In what seemed like slow motion she saw Stammets’ finger start to squeeze the trigger. In the sudden silence of her head, empty and cold as the darkness swallowed her whole, Mischa felt everything condense into one clear thought.
He would not hurt her family.
Her hands reached out above her head and dragged themselves through sweaty skin, clenching wetly, and not letting go. The back of her heel found purchase in something soft. As the familiar smell of blood filled the air, Stammets pained screams briefly outpitched Mrs. Hollingsworth’s. The hand holding the gun veered off the side dramatically, and the sound of the shot briefly deafened Mischa. Stammets was shaking her wildly, attempting to dislodge her nails from his face. Mrs. Hollingsworth’s screams had choked off at the shot, but Mischa was wildly please to see the shot had gone wide and missed her entirely. Thankfully, John seemed to have finally arrived. He took one look at the situation, and lunged quickly to the older woman. Mischa smiled grimly. Mrs. Hollingsworth, however, took the chance to begin screaming again. Hurling her curses and threats at John this time, demanding he rescue Mischa. But the old soldier knew that Mischa was already taken – Mrs. Hollingsworth was the one who needed to be saved. He picked the woman up bodily, covering her entirely with his large frame. Stammets was already aiming at them, Mischa saw, and he managed to fire three shots at them as John dragged them both out of the room. Mischa could hear John grunt as one managed to land in his shoulder.
Mrs. Hollingsworth’s were getting increasingly graphic.
Stammets ignored her, seizing the moment. He jerked them back, his arm still holding her bruisingly tight. He stumbled out of the door, running down the porch and into the woods surrounding the property. She clenched her fingers tighter into the meat of his face, and began fighting back with everything she had. With Mrs. Hollingsworth out of the way, she no longer had to worry about stray bullets. Her elbows and knees struck as many spots as possible, her body wriggling as violently as she could within the arm banded across her torso. Stammets stumbled, screaming again.
“Let go! Let go! Let go!” He began screaming.
He brought the hand holding the gun up to his face, attempting to pry them out of his flesh. Holding a gun, however, he didn’t have the dexterity to manage it. When he realized that he couldn’t do it, he took to other means. The gun came down on her forehead. Mischa felt herself falter at the shock of it. But even as the pain began radiating through her skull, she heard herself snarl loudly and began pulling on the flesh harder. One hand broke free entirely, taking a chunk of something with it. Stammets stumbled, almost falling as the chunk of flesh fell to the ground. The gun came down again, striking her face this time.
Then again, and again, and again.
Mischa knew no more.
“She is quite the teacher, I must admit.” Hannibal mused.
While he had tentatively approved of the woman from what he had gathered about the child’s education, reservations had always remained. He had been looking into a number of private schools in Baltimore and Virginia, unbelieving that an elderly retired woman would be able to give the girl the education she so clearly deserved. He hadn’t expected the woman in question to be Rose Marie Hollingsworth. He breathed out, still a little stunned. How Will had come to be acquainted with such a renowned, elite institution such as Mrs. Hollingsworth was a mystery. If Will was truly one of hers, then there was a whole new side to Will that he hadn’t seen yet. The girl would have no better education. Something inside of him purred in possessive pride.
“She is.” Will agreed softly.
He was obviously just as proud. Hannibal took a moment to glance at the man, before turning back to the road in from of him. He looked content – happy even. It was somewhat unexpected after last night’s events.
“I would have thought you’d be more upset about the article. Or last night’s events with Alana.” He broached, testing the waters.
Will blinked, before smiling smally. “I am upset about Mischa being in the article. I’d be angrier if she was upset about it, but by and large she didn’t care. Overall, it’s annoying, but nothing to worry about so far. As for Alana,” He paused here, looking a little unsure.
His eyes flickered to Hannibal’s for a moment before darting away again. Will’s lips twisted, and Hannibal allowed the silence to extend. Will had the tendency to disappear into his head, usually bringing about silence that lasted far longer than was polite. Hannibal didn’t mind, however, as he found that Will had the tendency to be more verbose and surer of himself afterward.
Sure enough, when he spoke almost 20 minutes later there was more firmness in his voice than before. “I would probably be much more upset had you not arrived.”
Hannibal blinked, pleasantly surprised. “I am glad that I could be of some comfort.”
Will ducked his chin, shifting in his seat, but his voice was still strong as he spoke. “You know what I’m afraid of. I expected it from Jack. While I figure Alana would voice concerns, I didn’t expect her to show up like that already ready to take her. It shook me more than I liked. I didn’t think you’d show up, let alone defend me so readily.”
Hannibal inhaled slightly, flickers of anger eating at him. He shouldn’t have been so surprised, Will had stated outright that he had never had friends. But he hadn’t consciously realized that Will had probably had no one to defend him before. How…irritating. Will was so much more than all the rest of the stupid people of the world. He deserved more than what he had been given. Hannibal allowed his eyes to meet Will’s, making sure to be as sincere as possible. Bluntness was usually the best way with Will.
“I will always defend you, Will.”
They stared at each other, something simmering in the air between them. Will’s wonderfully beautiful eyes were shining brightly. But just when he thought that Will was going to say something, the moment was shattered by the shrill ring of a cell phone. He saw Will jerk slightly in surprise, and Hannibal himself turned back to road slightly unsettled.
“Jack? I’m on my way – what? No, I dropped her off. What’s –?” Will inhaled sharply, his body spasming so roughly that Hannibal eyes in him in alarm. He pulled the car over quickly. “What do you mean? Why would he -? I’m going back now. No, I won’t!”
Will slammed his phone closed abruptly.
“Will, what’s wrong?” Hannibal asked sharply.
“Turn around! Get back to Mrs. Hollingsworth’s, now!” Will demanded hurriedly, his body shaking and enraged.
Hannibal flipped the car around neatly, upping the speed. Something unpleasant was unfurling in his stomach, something he hadn’t felt in a long time. He glanced sharply at the man beside him, who was already on the phone again. He was repeatedly muttering “pick up pick up” in the receiver, but apparently there was no answer because he began cursing before redialing. He tried the number half a dozen times before he threw the phone angrily into the floor at his feet and buried his face in his hands.
“Will. Tell me.” Hannibal commanded.
Will groaned lowly. “Stammets attacked Lounds this morning. She gave him everything she had about Mischa. He’s after her.”
There was moment of tense silence.
Then Hannibal snarled; enraged and furious. His foot slammed down on the gas, and the car jerked forwards. That uneasy feeling inside of had exploded into something he recognized as fear. He hadn’t thought that anything would happen to the girl. It was a feeling he hadn’t felt in years – not since his sister had been ripped from his arms. Hannibal’s teeth bit down, gnashing. This girl would not be taken.
He would not allow it.
It took them 22 minutes to arrive back at the house they had left just a little over a half an hour earlier. There were police and an ambulance already parked outside, and Hannibal could see the black SUV’s that marked the FBI's presence. He swung into the drive, slamming on the brakes. Will was pushing out of the car before he had fully stopped. Hannibal followed quickly. Will was already snarling orders and questions at everyone, his face contorted in such rage that almost everyone was recoiling from him.
“Will!” Jack’s voice barked out, as he tried reaching for the man.
But Will was in no way ready to play social niceties. “Don’t touch me! Where is she!?”
Jack jerked back, and Hannibal appreciated the look on his face at Will’s rejection. “He took her about 15 minutes ago. The older woman was unharmed, but a man was shot in the shoulder. They’ve both been taken to the hospital. We have roadblocks up on every road, and both their pictures are circulating everywhere. We’ll find her Will.”
But all this seemed to do was enrage Will more. He snarled at the man, before turning to run into the house. Hannibal followed after, and couldn’t help the flare of panic he felt as his nose inhaled the scent of blood. Will was moving – stalking – through the scene, following the blood stains until they lead to what Hannibal realized was dance/exercise studio. Two French doors stood open to the back of the house, a couple of technicians dusting for fingerprints. Will stopped just before them, eyes alighting on something on the floor. The majority of all the blood that they had passed was obviously from the gunshot wound. This, however, was not. Hannibal’s lips pressed tightly together as he stared at the small pool of blood collected on the floor. A single unbelievably tiny footprint was painted next to it. Will kneeled next to it, a small broken sound escaping him. Hannibal clenched his fists.
Rage. Rage. Rage. Rage. Rageragerageragerage.
Hannibal couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t move. Couldn’t see. Couldn’t do anything but rage. The white-hot burning was rushing through him, tensing his entire body as tight as a drawstring. Will was suddenly standing in front of him, and as their eyes clashed Hannibal recognized a fire burning just as hotly in him. Will's fingers were suddenly clenched on his arm, and Hannibal should have cared more about the bruises that would no doubt be left there, but he could hardly say anything when his own fingers were encircling Will’s wrist like an iron band.
“We figure he walked back around the house to a car. We’re on the lookout for any car stolen recently.” Zeller spoke nervously, something else licking at the tone of his voice.
Will’s body jerked, and Hannibal felt his own startled surprise at the company. Jack and the team had followed them, apparently. Hannibal ignored them. They were prattling on uselessly, giving pointless platitudes and reassurances that they had no way of ensuring. He saw Will tune them out as well, staring out the doors. There were startled exclamations behind them as Hannibal and Will both walked outside, ignoring all of them. There was a path back to the front that was littered with cops and other crime scene techs. In unison, they both turned away. He saw Will twitch slightly, head tilted ominously as he observed the woods just beyond the property lines. A slight breeze swept through the area, and Hannibal’s nose flared in recognition. He stalked towards the woods. Will made an enquiring sound behind him, but followed. Hannibal’s eyes swept through the area, searching. Will joined him, not knowing what he was looking for exactly, but trusting enough in Hannibal to know that something was there. Jack was talking to them from the porch, but the words were inaudible to Hannibal.
Almost 15 minutes later and Hannibal found it half-hidden in the tall grass. He spoke Will’s name once, and almost before he had finished, Will was already beside him. From the silence behind them, Hannibal figured that Jack had finally realized that he wasn’t getting through to them and had left. Will crouched and pushed some of the grass aside. A bloody chunk of flesh lay there. Will breathed out, brushing over but not touching it. There was no knowing whose it was, Hannibal thought grimly. The other man straightened, coming to stand woodenly beside him. He was gazing darkly into the woods a few feet in front of them. The roadblocks would be useless.
“The search needs to be moved,” Hannibal spoke, irritated at the FBI's uselessness.
But Will was shaking his head. “They’ve already spread out and are too far away on the roads. It will take them another hour to even coordinate the search, let alone get them all back. These woods are too large. They won’t even know what direction to go in.”
Hannibal grimaced, but agreed and asked. “What do you want to do?”
Will’s eyes met his and for a moment Hannibal reveled in the darkness that bled out of them. “We find her.”
The doctor nodded once and took a step to the woods before Will stopped him. He glanced at him, curious. But Will was facing back towards the house now. He brought his fingers to his lips and whistled loudly. Hannibal smiled grimly in understanding as one of Will’s dogs came shooting around the corner trailing a leash. He had questioned the need for the dog to accompany Mischa this morning, and now he was abruptly grateful. Perhaps Will’s dogs were not as terrible as he had originally assumed.
“Winston,” Will spoke the dog's name in relief as he came to a stop in front of them.
Hannibal noticed that the dogs’ hackles were already raised, his lips curled up in a silent snarl. The dog was more than aware that something was wrong. Will knelt down, tugging the rope leash that someone had tied around his neck off. He rubbed the dog's ears, pressing his face into the dog's fur briefly. When Will drew back, it was set into something dark and fierce, and a small part of Hannibal pointed out that this was what he had wanted in the first place. He shoved that thought away; this was not how he wanted it.
“Winston. Find.” Will spoked to the dog, snapping his fingers and bringing the dog's nose to the chunk of flesh still on the ground.
The dog sniffed at it, inhaling the scent. His head lifted after a moment, and then like a shot he was gone.
Will and Hannibal were right behind him.
Mischa woke to throbbing in her skull and face.
The sound of grunting off to the side of her had her fighting to keep still. Her hands were bound in front of her with something, though it didn’t feel like a rope. Cut clothes, perhaps? There were similar bindings around her feet. Mischa twisted her hands and feet slowly, attempting to figure out an escape plan. Her head throbbed in time to her heartbeat, and she fought the nausea that clawed at her throat. She wasn’t sure but she felt like she had a concussion. She was grateful to keep her eyes closed, knowing the inevitable dizziness would just make it worse. Though, she realized, one of her eyes wouldn’t be opening even if she tried. She could feel the hot, swollen skin and tacky blood pasting the eyelids closed. Mischa felt irritation rising in her. She listened closely to the sounds her kidnapper was making. The grunting he was doing was accompanied by the sound of shifting dirt and a strike of something metal. He was digging. She would be the start of his new Mushroom Garden.
Mischa felt herself scoff internally.
If she had survived that terrifyingly sadistic monster when she had been 4, there wasn’t any way that his weak, watery version of a man would be the end of her. She refused on principle alone. Calmness filtered through her at the thought. She allowed her self a small peek out of her good eye. The Mushroom Man stood about ten feet away, a camping shovel in his hands as he dug the beginnings of her presumed grave. His face, she was viciously pleased to note, was a bloody mess. Her fingers had grabbed onto the bulk of both his cheeks and had left deep furrows running down them. One side was missing a good chunk of skin over his jawline. Mischa’s fingers twitched in memory. He would be forever marked by her, she knew. She fought the urge to grin.
He didn’t seem to notice her, focused as he was on the digging. She figured that he wasn’t used to his victims fighting back or even being awake. He would come to regret that. She wiggled her hands and feet a little more. They were indeed torn up pieces of clothing, she realized. Ones that he hadn’t tied very well either. She wondered if he thought she would be more docile because she was a child or autistic, or both. She felt the ties on her feet shifting more and more, before there was a sudden laxness that made her smile. She focused on her wrists. It was a time-consuming thing, and she figured that almost ten minutes had passed since she had come to. Just as she felt the looseness in the ties, she heard the sound of the digging stop.
Footsteps began walking towards her, and she made herself stay relaxed. He grabbed her around the waist, slinging her over his shoulder. She peeked behind her and realized that the grave was finished. She mentally cursed her small stature. Her eyes lit over the area, attempting to figure out an idea. There was a supply of materials off to the side of the small clearing they were in. Tubes and medical supplies, as well as a number of other things. Mischa breathed out silently. He had come prepared then. He had even found the perfect place, she realized. The clearing stood beneath a small cliff, a large rock overhanging the area. The trees around them curved outwards, making a natural clearing. He had dug the grave directly in the middle of it, and she could see no signs of civilization around her. Just as he turned them, her eyes found the small camp shovel imbedded in the dirt on the edge of the grave.
Mischa let herself be carried across the clearing. She was gently placed into the grave and felt anger ripple through her as the man crouched above her began to groom her. His clammy fingers slid through her knotted curls clumsily, attempting to put her appearance in order. She had to bite the inside of her lip to keep it from curling in disgust. When he finally pulled away, she watched him through squinted eyes as he turned to look towards his supplies. One hand jerked out, the bindings falling away. She didn’t wait for subtlety this time, just grabbed for the shovel as fast as she could. He turned back to her at the sound of the shovel shifting the dirt, and just had time to shout wordlessly before she swung the iron shovel into the side of his face. She scrambled up as he fell to the side, taking one more shot at his head before reaching down to her ankles to jerk the remainder of her bindings away.
The shovel was clenched in one hand, and she didn’t look back as she ran as fast as she could towards the edge of the clearing. The Mushroom Man was shouting at her now, calling her name as if he knew her. She could hear him coming after him. She zipped into the trees, zig-zagging around. Her head throbbed anew, clearly unhappily with this new activity. She felt herself stumble slightly as something hot and heavy grew from behind her eyes. She bit down on her tongue to pull herself out of it and kept running. She was in no condition to take on the fully grown man, shovel or no. The shouting behind her had just started to get a little bit of a distance away when the ballet flats she was wearing slipped from beneath her. She couldn’t help her small shout as she fell backward, nor the sharply pained cry as her aching head slammed against something hard.
Mischa blinked muzzily at the sky.
Her head was blaring at her, each new throb painting her vision in swirls of red and white. She tried to mover her feet, knowing she needed to move. But all she felt was her foot twitch. She wasn’t sure how long she laid there before the Mushroom Man appeared above her, panting. He grabbed her, yanking her up, and the movement sent her breakfast back up her throat and down the man’s shirt. He cried out, but she was already falling back into darkness.
When she awoke for the second time, she was pleased to note that only a few minutes seemed to have passed this time. She was slung over his shoulder again, and he was muttering low curses as he walked her back into the clearing. She let her fingers twitch as she tied to regain her senses. Everything was still very blurry and painful. She grunted as she was dumped back into the small grave. Stammets sat over her, leaving no room to escape. She blinked at him blearily, still fighting to stay conscious. He glared down at her and then quite suddenly she couldn’t breathe. She tried to inhale, body twitching, but nothing happened. It took her an embarrassingly long time to realize that his hands were clenched around her throat. She wheezed up at him, glaring. His hands spasmed around her throat in response, the bulk of his body having no problems keeping her from moving. Mischa felt her rage growing. She had come all this way just to die by the hands of the Mushroom Man? Just as the darkness was encroaching upon her once again, something large and brown came flying in from the side.
For a few long moments Mischa knew nothing; only breathed through her damaged and sore throat as much as she could. She didn’t know what was more painful, the lack of oxygen burning her lungs, or the painful cascade of feeling each breath she took sent through her aching head. Her hearing came in first, oddly enough. She could hear Stammets screaming, but it took her another moment before she recognized the loud snarled growls of a dog. A second later and the sky above her disappeared, and she looked on in relief as her father’s desperate face pressed close to hers.
His mouth was saying her name repetitively, hands moving above her frantically but carefully not touching her. A few seconds passed and then there was another body sliding into the dirt beside Will. She was alarmed for a second, worried that Stammets had come back, but it was Hannibal’s disheveled appearance that greeted her. His eyes were large and oh so dark. The red in them was much more prominent than she had ever seen them.
“Mischa! Mischa, look at me. No, look here darling, yes that’s right.” He was crooning at her, voice gentled into something she had never heard before.
Mischa blinked at him, overwhelmed.
It was the first time he had ever used her name.
His fingers slid along her head, feeling for injuries and fractures. Will still hadn’t stopped muttering her name. Hannibal’s sure hands checked her over, probing lightly at her neck and face. When he didn’t find anything too worrying, he allowed a relieved sigh out as his tense shoulders dropped slightly. Will made a small cry in response, finally allowing his hands to touch her. She couldn’t help her small sounds of pain as he pulled her into his arms as gently as he could. He was making small soothing noises, rocking her slowly as he tried to comfort her. Mischa trembled in relief, unable to help the tears of pain and joy from collecting in her eyes. She breathed harshly into her father’s chest, fingers clenching onto him as hard as she could. He curled himself around her, his own breath unsteady.
“Will!” Hannibal’s sharp voice drew them both from the moment.
Mischa turned her face to him and realized that he was staring past them. She followed his gaze to find Winston standing guard over a bloody Stammets. His mouth was dripping blood as he growled at the prone body beneath him, and she heard Stammets sobbing.
Good, she thought viscously, a smile tugging at her face painfully.
Will inhaled above her, and his face turned from relieved joy to enraged fury in a nanosecond. He snarled at the man but didn’t move for a second. He looked back down at her, and she realized that his darkness was finally fully unleashed. It stared out at her, hungry and furious. She looked back, unafraid. His eyes narrowed. He was searching her face for an answer of some sort. She tilted her head slightly but didn’t move her gaze away from his. He pulled back, looking pleased.
Will seemed to have found what he was looking for.
He shifted her, pushing her backward into Hannibal’s arms. The doctor’s arms curled around her torso, protective but gentle. She rested her head against his shoulder, still so tired and sore. Will was standing now, moving towards the dog and Mushroom Man.
“Will?” Hannibal questioned lowly.
But Will wasn’t answering. He whistled a command to Winston, and the dog moved instantly to her side to stand guard over her. The Mushroom Man was still whimpering, sobbing to himself as he clutched at his bloody arms. Mischa sat in Hannibal’s arms as Will bent, picking up the shovel. He came to stand above the man.
Stammets began babbling at the sight of him, “Please! Please! She said you understand me! I just wanted you to connect! She would have finally known you – !”
Will slammed the shovel into the man's face. Stammets screamed, trying to pull himself away. But Will wasn’t having any of it. She heard Hannibal’s breath hitch behind her, and his arms clenched around her as they both stared at the man they loved as he beat her attacker into the ground. He swung the shovel over and over, blood splattering across his face and body. He didn’t stop until long after Stammets had stopped twitching.
Will straightened, dropping the now dripping shovel. He stood over the bloody mess he had wrought for a long moment. Finally, he exhaled and turned back to them. His eyes were a light, frosty blue, an intense dark look painting his face. Mischa could see that he wasn’t at all regretful. He walked over to them with a new lightness in his step, his body moving like a predator. Hannibal was breathless behind her. Will fell to his knees in front of them. He ran a hand finely against an undamaged part of her cheek. She smiled up at him lovingly. The dark place inside of her was singing, celebrating fiercely inside of her. He smiled back down at her adoringly, his blood-covered face alight with wonder.
“Mischa.” He sighed out her name and leaned down to press his forehead against hers ever so gently.
“Daddy.” She breathed out, her voice little more than a raspy whisper.
Hannibal jerked in shock but didn’t otherwise have time to question them as Will slid closer. Instead of pulling Mischa into his arms, he slid into Hannibal’s space, tucking his face into the doctor’s shoulder as one arm curled around her and the other around Hannibal’s shoulder. Mischa sighed and gently tucker her own face into Will’s neck, moving one hand down to curl her fingers into the hand Hannibal was using to hold her as the other wrapped around the bloody collar of Will shirt.
Mischa breathed in the smell of blood and sighed in pleasure.
In which there is Aftermath
First of all, thanks to everyone who comments! I read them all, and if you ask me a question I will reply.
Second, I know a lot of you are kind of disappointed that Mischa wasn't the one to kill the Mushroom Man, but I had Reasons. It involves Plot. I needed Will to do. Don't worry though, Murder Baby will certainly appear. That I can assure you.
Third, this chapter is mostly aftermath and exposition. More Plot next chapter. Sorry, but I need to get it out of the way.
Hope you still enjoy :C
Mischa blinked into awareness at the sounds of shouts. Her head still throbbed and she had a new awareness of the fire burning down her throat. It hurt to breathe, she realized. She wanted nothing more than to be asleep. Something about the shouting was stopping her, however. It took her longer than she cared to admit to recognize the words and voices.
“ – over here! Jack!” Will was shouting, and distantly she could hear the howl of dogs and the loud chorus of agents swarming closer.
She had been wrapped in a jacket, and Hannibal was clutching her as Will stood on top of the large rock overlooking the clearing and waving at what she presumed was the search party. She curled closer into Hannibal’s shoulder, not appreciating the stabbing pain the sun was slamming through her eyes.
“Will!” Jack’s bellowing shout was the only warning they got before several teams of federal agents burst into the clearing.
“Thank god,” Will breathed before he began climbing back down to the ground.
Mischa saw that the agents pause, taking in the scene. Jack was poised, his intense sharp eyes taking in the sight of it all: Her and Hannibal curled next to an obvious open grave, the littering of medical/farm supplies not too far off, Winston standing at attention beside them with a bloody muzzle, the prone form of Stammets next to a blood-covered shovel a few feet away, Will coated in blood spatter. Jack inhaled, but she saw his shoulders relax and his eyebrows smooth out. He didn’t look upset at all, she realized. In fact, he was looking quite relieved and pleased. He gave the scene another glance over and then nodded to himself. When his eyes caught on the stalled agents around him, he frowned and began barking orders. Like a kicked bee nest, they scattered, scurrying to do their jobs. Jack and Will wandered over to them, Will frowning worriedly at her.
“Jack.” Will greeted, exhaustion coating his tone.
“Will. Is she okay?” Jack clamped a hand on Will’s shoulder, attempting to be comforting.
She saw Will give a feeble smile, and for all she didn’t like the man and how he treated Will, she would give him credit for asking about her first.
“She’s…” Will sighed, turning to glance at her unsurely. “She’s hurt.”
She felt Hannibal shifting her, and realized belatedly that Beverly Katz had come to squat beside them. She was beginning to examine her, processing her for evidence. She felt a gentle hand on one of her bare feet and heard a flash of a camera. Mischa allowed it.
“She needs medical attention.” Hannibal asserted firmly to Jack.
“We have paramedics coming in with the Rangers. Now that we have a precise location they should be here soon.” Jack told him, eyes resting on her still covered form in Hannibal’s arms.
Hannibal exhaled a small sigh but nodded at the agent. Before anyone could say anything else, one of the agents that had been inspecting Stammets began cursing.
“Zeller?” Jack turned, voice demanding.
“He’s definitely dead, sir. He was beaten to death, only apparently, he was half mauled by a dog and had a quarter of his face ripped off before then. Jesus Christ!” Zeller was sending Will wide-eyed looks.
Mischa felt irritation curling inside of her at the man, but apparently, she wasn’t the only one.
Jack was growling as he stomped over to loom above the man. “And what did you expect, Zeller? How exactly would you have defended yourself and your 5-old-daughter from a serial killer in the middle of the god damn woods? You think that he deserves any of your sympathy? He was burying that girl alive, Zeller! Quite frankly, I’m surprised that we found him in as good a condition as this!”
“I didn’t mean it like that!” The agent tried to protest, looking pale. The agent next to him that Mischa presumed to be Price was also looking concerned and reached a hand out to ground the man currently getting chewed out by Jack.
“Good,” Jack uttered, still looking the man down. He turned abruptly back to Will, and said, “What happened, Will? I know you aren’t one to do this unnecessarily; you hate violence too much.”
Mischa held in her snort at that. He didn’t know Will nearly as well as he thought he did. Will ducked his head, and she saw that he was hiding his own flicker of a smile. When he turned back to Jack his face was bathed in concern. Every agent in the clearing was not so subtly listening in, eager for the story.
“Winston is Mischa’s. The dog.” Will jerked a hand at the dog, now lolling in the grass. “He goes with her everywhere. He was locked upstairs when Stammets took her. When the police on the scene arrived, they brought him out, but he broke from his leash. Hannibal and I were in the back. Saw him come pelting around the corner of the house. He was chasing something, and I figured there was nothing to lose. We followed.”
Jack was nodding. “I remember. I was just getting in the car when he slipped from Johnson – tore the rope right out of his hands. When I went back there neither of you were to be found.”
“We were running through the forest. That’s when we got your call.” Jack nodded again. Clearly Will and Hannibal had ironed out the story before-hand. “We came to the clearing. He had her in the grave with his hands wrapped around her throat. Before we could do anything, Winston was tearing at him. Hannibal and I went to Mischa. She was in bad shape. Next thing I know, Winston is yelping. I look over and Stammets got him with a shovel in the ribs. He started to come for us. We wrestled for the shovel while Hannibal took Mischa. When I got it out of his hands Stammets started to go for Mischa again.”
There was silence in clearing for a few seconds. Beverly was still prodding at his gently, her fingers had already been photographed and scraped. She tugged at the coat around Mischa, but Hannibal kept it closed.
“And you had to beat the man to death?” The incredulous question came from Zeller again, but she could see some of the other agents frowning in agreement.
“I needed to make sure he wasn’t going to hurt her again,” Will replied sharply, eyes narrowed in anger. Jack was standing beside him, a furious scowl on his face.
Zeller stood, dusting his hands off and undeterred. “And what exactly was so terrifying about him that you had to bash his head in to achieve that? He’s not that big. You had the shovel, and he didn’t have his gun.”
Will's eyes flared, and his body jerked towards the agent. Just as he opened his mouth to reply, Beverly’s shout interrupted everything.
“Jack!” The woman’s voice was alarmed, but there was horror outlining her tone.
The entire clearing was abruptly centered on her. Mischa realized only belatedly that Hannibal was using her condition for dramatic timing as he finally untucked the coat from around her. She wasn’t entirely sure what she looked like, but she knew it wasn’t pretty. The left side of her face was still a mass of swollen and painful skin, and she imagined that it had molted and bruised rather spectacularly. She could feel blood tacking to her skin and hair thickly, and what felt like a gash across her forehead. Beverly pulled the coat away fully, and she heard several gasps and curses as her throat came into view. There was something to be said about having skin like porcelain. It made the bruising that much worse.
“Jesus Christ!” Jack cursed, looking unnerved.
Zeller looked frightened now, his eyes wide as he stared at the devastation that was her face. He made a small sound, and it drew Will’s irritated gaze back to him.
“I don’t know Zeller; how dangerous do you think he was?” Will’s voice dripped with hostility and anger.
Zeller jerked, eyes flicking to the man before coming back to stare at the handprints wrapped around her neck. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.” The man’s voice was small.
Will inhaled, his body still jittering in anger, but he seemed to think better of it. He stalked over to them, coming to settle as close to Hannibal as he could get. One hand found its way to touch one of the only undamaged parts of her face, and she couldn’t help the small pleased sound she made. There was no talking in the clearing for a while as the agents began processing and collecting. Their eyes would land on her every few minutes, however, and she knew by the looks on their faces that Will wouldn’t be getting into any trouble from this. She couldn’t help but commend Hannibal for his blatant use of her injuries to help protect Will from the ramifications this would have otherwise brought about. Almost ten minutes later, the Rangers arrived. There were shouts and answering shouts. Mischa saw the lead ranger jog up to Jack directly, looking around. Immediately the man turned back towards them and pointed finger at Mischa. She watched as all the newcomers turned to look at her, and felt a little smugly justified at the resulting looks on their faces.
Yes, Will would be just fine.
She was swarmed then. Hannibal was speaking medical terms above them, making the dark looks of the response team turn even darker. A collar was very carefully placed around her neck as a back brace slid behind her. A heart monitor was strapped to her, and an oxygen mask was being tucked beneath her nose. She blinked as she was quickly strapped down and wrapped up. Will refused to let go of her hand, and her own clenched down in response.
Mischa must have dozed off for a bit then because the next thing she knew the sounds of a helicopter were waking her up. She blinked up at the darkening sky, watching as the medical helicopter hovered in the air above them. She made a small irritated sound when Wills's hand was forced to leave hers, but there wasn’t anything to be done. She felt the carrier she was enclosed in beginning to lift in the air. Mischa let her eyes flutter shut, unable to keep conscious anymore.
Hannibal rested his chin in his palm as he contemplated this new turn of events. In front of him, Will was twitching and pacing restlessly. In any other situation, this would have irritated the doctor. But it was taking all of his patience not to join him. Hannibal breathed into the quiet of the hospital waiting room, the familiar smell of antiseptic, blood, and sickness not helping him. He had never minded the smell as a surgeon. Now, all he could think about was Mischa in this place. It wasn’t somewhere she belonged. He felt his fingers twitch as he recalled her face. Her bloated, bruised face.
He was somewhat disappointed that the man responsible had died so quickly. Not that he didn’t appreciate the show.
It had been a glorious thing.
Hannibal would forever remember that moment beneath the trees. Watching the blood splatter so beautifully over Will’s oh so handsomely enraged face. Hannibal hadn’t been able to breathe let alone look away. Mischa encircled in his arms, safe and protected. Will staring back at them, darkness fully consuming him. Hannibal couldn’t help a small shudder of pleasure as he recalled the moment. He straightened in the plastic chair. Will made a wounded, impatient noise and turned abruptly to begin pacing faster. Hannibal let him.
He was…unsure. His interest in the Grahams had been something he had accepted. There were just oh so many things that fascinated him. That continued to fascinate him. He could recall being vaguely surprised that he hadn’t grown bored of at least the girl, but she had been growing on him so much he was utterly surprised to realize that she was just as intriguing as her father. Something he hadn’t thought anyone else on this earth could claim. He had accepted his fascination with them.
What he had not expected was this attachment.
Hannibal frowned at the scuffed tile flooring. There was no mistaking it for anything else. Just remembering the fear and unease that had gripped him at the revelation of Mischa’s kidnapping was proof enough. He hadn’t felt that way since his sister had been yanked from his arms. It was obvious now that this wasn’t merely a curiosity anymore, and he felt all his plans crumbling around him. He eyed the man in front of him, breath unexpectedly catching as the fierce look on Will’s face gave him a small flashback to the forest clearing.
Yes. New plans would need to be made.
Hannibal twitched slightly in surprise, not having been paying attention to his surroundings. Jack and his team had arrived, apparently. Hannibal carefully hid his displeasure.
“Jack,” Will uttered back at the man, undeterred in his pacing.
“What’s going on? How is she?” Beverly Katz, at least, wasn’t so bad. Hannibal looked at her approvingly as she slid into a chair, not attempting to crowd Will.
Will was scowling, however. “She had a seizure in the helicopter. Apparently, she was hit multiple times in the head by something hard. They said she has skull fractures in the front and back. A grade 3 concussion. Her windpipe was virtually crushed and is so bruised that it swelled shut and they had to intubate her. Her left eye may be damaged, but they won’t be able to tell until the swelling goes down. Which won’t be for a while because her cheekbone is cracked. Her ankle is badly twisted, so she won’t be able to walk along with being half-blind. That’s on top of the massive bruising and tissue trauma all over the rest of her body.”
Hannibal inhaled at the reminder, rage flickering through him briefly. Yes, as much as he enjoyed Will’s performance, he was disappointed that the man had died so quickly. Hannibal had thought of a number of things that he could have done to the man while sitting in this hospital. He ignored the placating and sympathetic comments that the FBI agents were now throwing at Will.
“Where is she now?” Jack was questioning.
“MRI,” Will replied tersely.
Neither of the men were happy the girl had been taken from their sight so often. The doctors had stated the need repeated scans; worried about more seizures and bleeds. But they had been gone for a while now, and both of them were eager to see the girl again. It seemed to take longer each time they took her.
“I hate to ask Will, but her things?” Price enquired gently, attempting to do his job.
Will fluttered his hand irritably at the nurse’s station off to the side. Price went, and Zeller followed hesitantly, his expression guilty. Hannibal’s eyes narrowed at the agent in question. Hannibal hadn’t appreciated the accusations he had made at the scene. The agent was already in a spot with him based on his previous behaviors towards Will. Now as he stared at the man, Hannibal wondered what else the man had done to put that look in his eyes. It was obvious he was guilty of something, and if he had anything to do with this event…Hannibal stared at the agent.
He leaned back into his seat, smoothing his expression into something non-threatening. As the agents settled around them and Will continued his pacing, the doctor forced his irritation down.
Hannibal wanted Mischa.
Hannibal couldn’t keep the pleased smile off his face as Mischa’s eyes began fluttering open. The soft light of the setting sun lit up the private room she was in. He had pulled a number of strings in order to get her to the right hospital in the right room. Will hadn’t objected once to this, Hannibal had noted pleasingly. But then he never seemed to object when the force of Hannibal’s wealth was pointed at his daughter, only when it was pointed at him. It was a start, however.
Now, the girl stirred in the overly large hospital bed. Her face was even worse than it had been yesterday, he noted in displeasure. The large gash in her hairline had been carefully stitched closed, and from what he could tell the scaring would be minimal, if at all. Her whole face was swollen and molted with bruises; the majority of it on her left side. The swelling had only gone down slightly, but at the very least he could now see her eye. The entire side of her face a mass of purple and black skin. Her mouth was pulled to the side by a fat lip, currently wrapped around the intubation tube down her throat. His eyes slid down to the wealth of bruises that necklaced her, the shape of that man’s hands prominent and obvious.
Hannibal would have thought her dead if not for the steady beeping of the heart monitor.
He shifted forward, suddenly more eager to see her awaken then he was before. She was twitching now, her tiny fingers clenching and unclenching on themselves. Something in him breathed a sigh of relief when her radiantly blue eyes opened long enough to fix on him. She blinked at him, then let her gaze wander over the room. It took in everything for a few seconds before finally settling on Will’s sleeping form laid out on the couch. He couldn’t tell because of the damage and the tube, but he thought she looked relieved to see him. Her hands rose clumsily, and he stepped to her side automatically as her fingers explored the tube in her mouth.
“Your throat swelled too much and closed off your airway. They had to put it in so you could breathe. It should be coming out tonight if you are up for it.” He spoke lowly to her, one hand reaching up gently grasp her fingers and move them away from the tube.
It would do no good for her to pull at it. She blinked at him again but didn’t fight it when he gently tucked her hand into his. Her eyes were slightly dilated from the medications, but that didn’t stop her from meeting his gaze steadily. He said nothing. Just settled in the chair next to her bedside, hand still firmly gripping her tiny one. His eyes slid up to the bandages wrapped around her head and the machines that dwarfed her. A tug at his fingers drew his attention back to Mischa’s face.
Her free hand flicked at him as best as it could. How long?
“Almost two days, now. You had a seizure in the helicopter from your skull fractures. They thought it best to keep you unconscious for the worst of it given your condition. You’ll be here for a few more days until there sure your head and throat injuries are past the worst.” He informed her calmly.
He saw her brows pinch together slightly in displeasure and Hannibal couldn’t help but chuckle. “You are too much like your father sometimes. Unfortunately, he will be agreeing with us on this matter. Your injuries are very serious, and we need to make sure that you are okay before we can take you back home.”
The girl made another face at him through the tubes and bruises. He ignored it. She settled back into her pillow, eyes roaming around the room again in a closer inspection. She spent an inordinate amount of time observing Will; taking in the bags under his eyes, the greasy curls, the overgrown stubble, the still bloody clothes. When she finally appeared to have gotten her fill, Hannibal was somewhat surprised to find himself undergoing the same treatment. He wasn’t sure what she saw in his appearance, only that he himself was rather upset about it. He hadn’t been able to take himself out of the hospital to shower or even change while the girl had still been unconscious. His clothes held lingering traces of Mischa’s own blood and dirt, and while he was slightly more groomed then Will, his own stubble was becoming obvious. Now that the girl was awake, he should have no problems leaving her in Will’s care for an hour or two. It would be another matter to get the other man out of the room even with the girl awake, but for the sake of his nose, he would have to try. For now, however, he leaned back into the cushioned chair and observed the girl before him in return.
Neither of them removed their hands from where they still lay together.
Mischa breathed in the smell of dog and clenched her hands in brown fur. Winston hadn’t left her side the moment she had stepped into the house. She was grateful. She had ended up spending almost a week in the hospital, getting so many MRI’s she had lost count. Both Will and Hannibal had refused to leave her. Things had been a little hazy the first few days she had been awake, and it had taken her a few days to focus on anything. By the end of the week, however, she had been ready to claw her way out of the room. She didn’t like hospitals. In her own house once again, she let all the tension and unease bleed from her. She had done nothing but cuddle dogs since they had gotten home. Will and Hannibal both appeared regularly, checking on her and attempting to feed and hydrate her. It worked for Will, but not so much for Hannibal.
A hand came down and pressed itself very gently against the top of her head. She opened one eye to see Will settling beside her on the floor. Well dressed legs entered her vision, and she saw Hannibal settle himself upon the lone chair. The fireplace crackled and flickered, heat spreading through the room gently. Mischa buried her face into Winston’s fur, and let her eyes close.
She was home.
She was safe.
It took them almost 2 weeks to get back to normal. With each passing day, the bruises on her grew steadily paler. She went back to Mrs. Hollingsworth accompanied by a round of relieved tears from the older woman. John attempted to apologize to her and Will, but it was entirely unnecessary and made more pitiful by the fact that he was still in a cast and sling from the bullet wound in his shoulder. Will had been hesitant to leave her anywhere without him, and it had taken Mischa a considerable amount of time and effort to reassure him that she would be fine. Hannibal hadn’t been entirely helpful in the endeavor. She hadn’t been surprised when they had both came to pick her up that first day back almost 2 hours earlier than usual. Hannibal had become entirely more present in their lives as well. More nights than most now, had them either at his house or the doctor in theirs. Mischa was slightly irritated at this fact only because her food intake had started to drop. The girl wondered sometimes whether or not it was the instinctual human aversion to cannibalism or the visceral reaction to her brother cooking in front of her that put her so off of food whenever Hannibal was around. It said something that he was able to put her off food at all considering she had starved for almost three weeks. But she couldn’t help the curl in her stomach and the leaden feeling that entered it whenever the doctor was around.
There was something to be said about his presence though. Mischa couldn’t deny that she felt safer whenever the cannibal was around. She wondered if anyone would ever be stupid enough to go after her when he was present. The thought amused her. As much as she felt safe with Will, her confidence had begun to dwindle slightly as she noticed his encephalitis symptoms growing. He had begun to forget small things. The night sweets had begun to come almost every night now, forcing Mischa into her own bed. His temper had become touchier, becoming irritated at the smallest things. Mischa hadn’t been quite sure if she was just imagining things until Hannibal had pulled her aside one night and asked about things he had begun to notice. He had frowned in concern when he was met with her grim look. He hadn’t asked again, but she had noticed the hidden assessing looks he would level at Will whenever her father wasn’t looking.
Whenever he wasn’t leveling them at her, that is.
Mischa had been waiting for him to confront her about a number of things. Or Will, at least. So far, however, he had not come to either of them. But that might be changing tonight, she realized as she watched Hannibal’s gaze settle on them firmly. He was making his decision face. He shifted, bringing a mug of coffee to his lips. Beside her, she heard Will huff a small laugh as he realized Hannibal’s intentions as well. She pulled herself off of Winston, shifting instead to lean into her father’s side. He wrapped an arm around her automatically but didn’t take his eyes off Hannibal. The doctor shifted again, placing his cup on the floor beside his feet.
He looked at them both squarely. “I was under the impression that Mischa was mute.”
Will looked at him steadily. “I told you that she doesn’t like to communicate.”
“Yes, I have gathered that much.” Hannibal returned dryly. His face grew more serious suddenly, looking at them sharply. “Why?”
Will shrugged. “It’s easier.”
The doctor blinked, letting his intense eyes flicker between them. Her eyes caught Wills, and she shrugged as well. He sent her a soft smile, one hand coming up to stroke through her curls. Hannibal watched it all possessively. Will stared back at Hannibal heavily. His face was considering; questioning and defensive. Mischa felt a little surprised that he was still so protective of her given how trusting he had become of the doctor. The silence seemed to get tenser the longer it went on. Finally, Will’s face turned unreadable. He let his gaze turn to Mischa. She couldn’t help the pleased surprise that swept through her. He was letting her decide. She flicked a gaze over to Hannibal and caught the small frown that danced around his lips. He was displeased to realize that Will didn’t trust him as completely as he had thought.
Mischa contemplated the man. Her mind brought forth every terrible thing he had done in the Before. All the betrayals. Just as the unease was starting to take her over, the events of the Now suddenly overtook her thought. The toy chest, the blankets, the sign language, and the parenting books. The intense look of concern and relief when he had found her in that clearing. How he had clutched her as gently and as tightly as he could. The obsessive care he had taken at the hospital afterward. She peered at Hannibal through half-lidded eyes. She nodded into Will’s side.
“Mischa isn’t like other kids,” Will said into the expectant silence.
Hannibal tilted his head to the side. “I was more than aware of that as well.”
“No.” Will denied. “I mean Mischa isn’t like other people at all.”
Hannibal couldn’t keep the confusion from his face.
Will frowned, then looked off into the fire. “Something happened when Mischa was younger. Before she came to me. I’ve never been sure if she was like this before then, or if it was a result of what happened. With my genetics, it’s a little hard to tell, and she was so young it makes it harder to recognize. Maybe it’s a mix of both. We’ll probably never know.”
Hannibal had straightened abruptly. The firelight had caught his eyes, making the red in them much more prominent. He was staring at her now, focused and dark. Assessing.
“What happened?” He pressed when it was becoming more obvious that Will had been lost in his own recollections.
Will blinked, gave him a passing glance, and then turned back to the fire. Mischa was well aware that her body had stilled.
“Her family died,” Will said with grave finality.
They both saw Hannibal’s frown at the lack of information, but he seemed to realize that neither of them would be giving anything further. Mischa was at once very grateful that Will was able to read her so well. She wasn’t sure if she ever wanted Hannibal to know about what had happened to her; what she had done.
“I assume it was traumatic.” Hannibal eventually offered.
Mischa’s breath caught. She had never seen this look on her father’s face before. He had turned to let his eyes bore into Hannibal’s. His features had twisted into a simulacrum of an expression. There was something…foreboding about his gaze. Even Mischa was entirely unsure of what lay behind it. It had become quite clear, however, that Will apparently had just as many dark feelings about the basement as she had.
“That bad, then?” Hannibal asked quietly, his own voice holding a breathless quality.
Will took a moment, then nodded. He pulled his face back into something less volatile.
“Traumatic events can induce selective mutism. Especially in children.” Hannibal murmured.
“No.” Will interrupted. “I mean, yes it probably can, but that’s not why she’s like that. She can speak just fine whenever she wants. She just doesn’t like to.”
Hannibal blinked, confused. “If her mutism doesn’t have to do with her family’s deaths then why bring it up?”
Will rolled his shoulders, looking uneasy. “I didn’t want anyone to judge her. To look at her like they did me. Like there was something wrong with her. There isn’t anything wrong with her.”
Hannibal leaned forward, curiosity eating at his face. “Why would anyone think something is wrong with her?”
Will pressed Mischa closer to him, curling around her protectively like he hadn’t done in front of Hannibal since the first night. “She’s a sociopath. Or as close to one as she can get with a few psychopathic tendencies thrown in. High functioning, of course. Most of what she does feel is either about her or things that she thinks are hers. It’s why she’s so obsessed with me.”
Hannibal scrutinized her heavily, most likely going over all her behavior since they had met. There was a blanket of silence. The fire crackled and popped into the air. It was almost ten minutes later that Hannibal finally found his voice.
“She is not autistic.”
Will tilted his head to the side. “No. Some behaviors coincide, but it is largely by choice.”
Hannibal considered them both. “She doesn’t speak because she doesn’t want to.”
Will couldn’t help the small grin tugging at his mouth. “She thinks that most people are stupid. Refuses to encourage it, according to her.”
Hannibal raised a brow at her. She shrugged. It was true. The cannibal let out a reluctant huff of amusement.
“You’ve encouraged the autistic diagnosis.” He continued, rubbing a palm over his jaw.
“It’s easier. They don’t question her when she doesn’t do something she’s supposed to or does something she’s not. And to be fair, I wasn’t the one that gave it to her. She had an assessment done with a psychologist. And a doctor. They saw her social awkwardness, unwillingness to communicate, aversion to touch, and me. They saw what they wanted, both in her and in me.” Will replied, shrugging.
“Yes, they would certainly assume such.” He agreed, distractedly. Hannibal seemed to be mulling over a thought. “When we met you said she might have inherited your condition.”
Will drew a sip of whiskey from his tumbler, his face flickering into something worrying. “Yes, I wasn’t lying about that. It’s been concerning me, actually.”
Mischa blinked, and let her own brows rise in question. Why was he worried about her?
Will frowned at them both but directed the explanation at Hannibal. “She’s a sociopath, or at least severely limited in her emotions towards others. But she has a very deep understanding of emotion themselves and is inherently talented at identifying them. Even mine.”
“Yes, I have noticed as well. I attributed it to your condition, even if it doesn’t quite work like yours. I thought the autistic tendencies were at fault for that alteration.” Hannibal agreed, still puzzled.
“Exactly. I have an empathy disorder.” Will stated.
Something sparked in Hannibal, and he gave a small jerk of surprise. “Empathy.” He breathed. “Exactly what a sociopath doesn’t have.”
Mischa gaped slightly in astonishment. She had put that thought to Will himself but had never thought to assign it herself. She hadn’t even been sure that she was a sociopath. She knew she had emotions, but she was startled to realize that Will had indeed been right and that she only had them in relation to either herself or Will. It was also true that she had no problems recognizing emotions in people. She had just figured that it was because she had almost 30 years of living with them. If Will had noticed that she was particularly good at it though, there was reason to believe that she might have inherited something after all.
Even if she had, why did it matter? Was it so worrying? Mischa peered at her father and frowned.
“Does it matter?” She voiced the question.
Hannibal froze across from them. Will looked at her in contemplation. He opened his mouth to reply, but then closed it, looking thoughtful. He seemed to be searching for words. It was Hannibal, however, that found them first.
“It is not that it matters, per se, just that the duality of the situation might lead to some potentially problematic psychological situations for you.”
Mischa allowed herself a slow blink.
She supposed she was grateful that they were worried about her.
Mischa shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t really care.”
Will gave a small snort, and relaxed. “I figured you wouldn’t.”
Hannibal shifted in his seat. “I don’t suppose you mean to end the charade at any point?”
It took Mischa a moment to realize that he had directed the question at her. “Why would I?”
Hannibal allowed his eyebrow to rise. “You have no desire to interact with society? You would be considerably skilled at it.”
Mischa couldn’t keep the amusement off of her face or out of her tone. “Skill isn’t the issue. I could be whatever I wanted to be. I just don’t want to. People – society – is boring. And largely fictitious. I don’t want to have to pretend to other pretenders.”
Hannibal tilted his head in consideration. “I won’t deny you if that is what you wish. However, you will have to forgive me if I attempt to convince you otherwise. There are a number of positives that can come out of interfacing with society, even if it can be tedious.”
Mischa made a small sound of amusement, unoffended. She flicked a hand at him. He could do what he wished. He would probably do so anyway. It was unlikely he would convince her – she was well set in her opinion.
Will huffed out his own amusement. “Now that that is settled, there was something I’ve been meaning to ask. Mischa’s 6th birthday is in a couple of weeks – Thanksgiving just a few days after. Mrs. Hollingsworth is making a fuss about celebrating. If we’re not doing anything on our own then she’s insisting on the two of us going to her annual thanksgiving festival. I promise you, neither of us wants that.”
Hannibal chuckled, lips curling in amusement. “I suppose we can’t subject you that. Are you perhaps thinking of celebrating the holiday in tandem with the birthday celebrations?”
“It’s what we always do.” Will agreed.
The doctor was looking inordinately pleased. “If you wouldn’t mind then, perhaps a small dinner party at my house? Jack has been asking about you and Mischa both quite insistently. Even Beverly has made inquiries into her health and well-being. And I know that Alana has been bothering you as well. It would serve well to help on all fronts.”
Will was frowning, obviously displeased with the idea of socializing. Mischa understood that all too well. Unfortunately, she also knew the alternative. Even with the realization that she would likely not be eating on her birthday.
“Yes.” She told the doctor.
Will looked down at her, startled. “Really?’
She looked back at him evenly. “You would rather face Mrs. Hollingsworth’s festival? The whole town will be there.”
Will’s face spasmed in disgust and horror. Hannibal didn’t even try to hide his utter amusement as he observed them.
“Fine. Dinner at Hannibal’s.” Will insisted, still frowning.
“I am flattered,” Hannibal replied dryly.
Will made a face at the man. He was well aware that the doctor wasn’t offended.
“Do you know if they will even be able to come? Jack and them?” Will asked suddenly, turning to look at him curiously.
Hannibal lifted a brow in question.
“They said they wouldn’t be available until after the review board. Do you know when the hearing is?”
“Ah. Yes, the hearing is tomorrow actually.”
Will’s head tilted, catching the unsaid. “They’ve asked you to go?”
Hannibal nodded. “Lounds has been fairly active, and news about the kidnapping has been highlighting all the outlets for almost a week now. It’s why they’ve had to move it to a full hearing. As a prime witness, they’ve asked me to testify. Everything has been culminating to tomorrow.”
Will scowled reflexively at the mention of Lounds. Since her kidnapping, Lounds had become the subject of much anger and resentment in their house. Jack had revealed to Will and Hannibal Lounds’ exact role in Mischa’s kidnapping. Neither man had taken it especially well. In fact, Mischa was fairly certain that Lounds had managed to put herself on a certain cannibal's rude list. She was feeling fairly smug about it actually. She hadn’t liked the woman in the Before. She disliked her even more after realizing that the selfish woman had literally given a serial killer the exact location of a 5-year-old girl, knowing that the man was trying to kill her.
“I suppose you’ll probably be leaving soon then.” Will sighed a little, glancing at the clock.
Hannibal followed his gaze and gave his own sigh. “Unfortunately, I must.”
Both men levered themselves to their feet, beginning to clean up the living room. Mischa laid across Winston’s back, basking on the warmth of the fire on her back and the fur beneath her. Before she could potentially doze off, she was suddenly airborne. She couldn’t help the displeased noise that left her. The arms around her didn’t move, just gripped her tighter and began towing her up the stairs. She didn’t even realize that it wasn’t her father holding her until she passed the man in the kitchen watching them with soft eyes. Mischa stared in bemused curiosity as the serial killer tucked her into her bed. Winston clambered up the end of the bed, for once not earning a suffering glance from the doctor. He had taken to the dogs more since the kidnapping – Winston especially. Over Hannibal’s shoulder, Will leaned in the doorway, arms crossed as savored the sight of them. Hannibal stood beside her bed, staring down at her with glittering eyes.
She stared back up at him.
A single hand rose hesitantly, and she watched as a single long, elegant finger slid down her cheek.
“Good night, little one.” He murmured quietly to her.
Mischa leaned into his hand; eyes hooded. “Night.”
In which a Freddie is Fingered, and a Girl has a Birthday
Not a lot going on, admittedly, but still needed to progress the story. Hope you guys don't mind. Lost Boys are next!
Hannibal shrugged the coat on his shoulders, very carefully keeping his delight from showing. The review hearing had been held at the FBI headquarters. The room had been fairly filled with seemingly every high ranked person in the FBI, and Hannibal had been inordinately pleased as the mood had swung from faintly hostile against Will to intensely protective the minute the pictures of Mischa had appeared. Every agent they called for only seemed to reiterate the danger Mischa had been in. By the time that Hannibal had been called to speak, it almost seemed unnecessary. Still, he had quite enjoyed nailing that particular coffin shut. Will would face no backlash for this, he thought smugly. In fact, it was entirely possible that he would receive an accommodation.
Mischa would be pleased.
Hannibal pulled his gloves on as he observed the waiting mass at the doors outside. Freddie Lounds had taken the story of Mischa’s kidnapping and Stammets’ unfortunate death and had swept the rest of the media into a frenzy. For the last three weeks since the incident, there had been an inordinate number of stories and interest circling about the Graham’s. Hannibal had been carefully holding back his irritation in the rampant rumor-mongering. It seemed to culminate on this day. There was a veritable crowd outside the building, and he could see Kade Purnell speaking into a mass of microphones. He paused, eyeing the woman with dislike. The woman began walking away suddenly, a riot behind her. It didn’t take much to realize that she had obviously left things in question. The media was displeased. Freddie Lounds stood at the forefront; her face lit in glee.
Hannibal’s eyes narrowed abruptly in anger. He strode out the doors.
As soon as he emerged from the doors, a shout brought the pack of cameras and microphones into his space. There was a cacophony of shouting, questions being thrown at him so fast that they were near indistinguishable from one another. Hannibal suppressed his irritations at their rudeness. Really now. A few of the ruder questions caught his attention, and he carefully memorized their faces. His rolodex could always use a few more names. Before Hannibal could do anything, Freddie was suddenly in his face. He suppressed his innate desire to clench his fingers around the woman’s throat.
“Dr. Lector! How does it feel to know that one of your patients is a murderer? Now that the FBI has backed him, do you have any worries about his role? Have you expressed any concerns over Will Graham’s fitness as a father?”
Hannibal couldn’t keep the frown off his face as he stared down at the woman. She had surpassed her apparent usefulness. He raised his arm, and silence fell almost instantly. Lounds grinned triumphantly.
“I see that you have all followed Freddie Lounds’ words quite carefully. Unfortunately, Ms. Lounds has not done quite as much research as she should have.” He announced evenly.
Freddie’s smile became a little more plastic, and there was jostling as a number of reporters positioned microphones more closely. “I’m always looking to learn more. The public deserves to know.”
Hannibal smiled at the woman placidly. “Yes. They do deserve to know, don’t they?”
Lounds’ smile suddenly disappeared.
“In the first place, Will Graham is not, nor has he ever been, a patient of mine. As for his status as a murderer, I’m sure that all the law enforcement and armed forces personnel will be quite pleased to know the label you have rather ignorantly and unempathetically slapped onto all the unfortunate public servants that have been forced to take a life in the line of their work. That he was forced to take a life at all is an unfortunate thing, both for him and for the serial killer that brutally attacked a little girl. I have no doubts as to Will Graham’s work nor his character. That the FBI has cleared him, and fully supports him, should be quite obvious that the incident in question happened fairly and above board. Most importantly, I can tell you from both a personal and professional point of view that Will Graham is a perfectly capable father, and cares for his daughter more than most parents I’ve encountered. There are no questions from anyone involved as to his fitness as a parent –”
“Well isn’t that nice? So glad to be wrong! Now that we’ve answered that, why don’t we have a private discussion over here?” Lounds interrupted loudly, winding an arm into his and attempting to lead him away.
“I don’t think so, Ms. Lounds.” He pulled his arm clear a touch forcefully. Freddie looked at him, face paling rapidly. “I’m afraid that I have a personal bias against encouraging those who participate in the kidnapping and attempted murder of children.”
There was a small silence before the crowd around him roared in questions. Freddie Lounds was suddenly on the receiving end of her job, and she didn’t appear to enjoy it. Through the shouting crowd, he could see her attempting to soothe her fellow media sharks, trying to swing things her way as she smiled forcefully into the cameras suddenly pointed at her. Hannibal would see to it that it never did.
“Are you saying that Freddie Lounds was involved in Eldon Stammets crimes?” A make reported was suddenly shouting, his TV camera pressing up close.
Hannibal eyed the man and moved his face into something more appropriate for this new play. “I am.”
“That’s a lie! You know very well what happened! That wasn’t my fault!” Lounds was furious but still pale and anxious.
She obviously knew how her role in this would be taken. Hannibal couldn’t help the dark curl of pleasure that was rising.
“Oh?” He put a look of distaste on his face. “I fail to see how exactly it wasn’t your fault considering you gave Stammets exact directions to Mischa Graham. You even told him about the 74-year-old woman that was watching her.”
There was a sharp inhale around them, and many people were turning to stare at Lounds with suddenly hostile expressions. The woman in question was scowling, her panic still evident in her twitching fingers.
“He had a gun to my head! Right after shooting an officer in front of me! What was I supposed to do?” Louds was drawing herself up, citing the only defense she had.
Unfortunately, Hannibal would ensure that it wouldn’t help her.
“Yes. He had just killed an officer in front of you, and you knew exactly what he had done to all those other people he killed. And to save your own skin, you traded the lives of a 5-year-old autistic girl and an elderly woman. You know exactly what he would do; what he wanted with that little girl. You even called the FBI to warn them after he had left you. Because you gave him exact directions to them, a location that no one else knew about. You had a gun to your head and so you sacrificed a child to save yourself. And you don’t even have the decency to be ashamed about it. You’ve spent the last three weeks slandering her and her father for all the world to see, facts knowingly distorted to make things more interesting for your profit line. A truly upstanding individual you are, Ms. Lounds.”
Hannibal had watched darkly as each passing word seemed to make the woman flinch. The accusations were sharp and damning, and the crowd around them was eating it up hungrily. There was a furious outcry rising, the people around them morally outraged at Lounds’ actions. They were furious now, demanding answers from the woman that she was struggling to give. Hannibal clenched his teeth to keep from grinning ferally at the woman. The questions were being thrown at her with ever-increasing hostility, one after another. She was scowling, hands clenched into her arms. She jerked free from the crowd with difficulty and came back to stand in front of him.
“You can say whatever you want about me, but it doesn’t change the fact that Will Graham is a psychopath and a murderer! He beat that man to death! I’ve seen the pictures; you can’t deny that!” She was furiously spitting now, reaching for anything to grab onto as she tumbled from her pedestal.
“Considering I was there for the entire event, I can, in fact, deny it!” Hannibal countered sharply.
He felt vicious satisfaction as she abruptly lost her wind. “What?”
There was a great deal of shoving as the reporters converged onto him. It hadn’t been revealed that there had in fact, been a witness to the entire event.
“I was with Will the entire time. From the moment he first found out about Mischa’s kidnapping, to the moment we found her in that grave. Eldon Stammets kidnapped and brutally beat that little girl, before attempting to burying her alive. We found him with his hands wrapped around her throat as she lay in the ground. Will Graham acted in defense of both his daughter, as well as myself, and his own safety. Stammets attacked us. His death was an unfortunate accident, a conclusion which the FBI and the internal investigators have come to unanimously as well.” Hannibal fairly purred the words, keeping his expression steady as the woman in front of him lost what little composure she had.
The news of Lounds’ actions accompanied by her own vicious media attacks these past three weeks will cement the public opinion about her. Any attempt on her part to incite the public against Will would just turn against her. Every story condemning Will that had appeared these last three weeks would suddenly be doing the opposite. Hannibal had a number of plans for the rancid tongue in Lounds’ mouth, but he would enjoy destroying her life piece by piece until then. She would never again hold any public sway with her role in Mischa’s kidnapping now public.
Hannibal was going to make doubly sure of that.
He opened the bag at his side, drawing that tablet from it. It was a matter of seconds before he found the picture. Mischa’s badly beaten face greeted him, bloody and swollen. They had taken the photo just a moment after she had arrived in the hospital. As horrible as she looked, it was made all the more pitiful at the sight of her bloody, dirty, and torn ballerina outfit. She was the picture of ruined childhood innocence.
He turned back to harridan in front of him. “Will has freely and knowingly acknowledged his actions and the results that followed. Something that you have yet to do. If you are going to pretend to be innocent in this, I would have at least look at what you’ve caused.”
He turned the tablet to her – and the two-dozen cameras pointed at him.
“Oh god.” The comment was murmured from someone around them.
There was a tense, horrified silence as they all stared at the girl that they were so quick to gossip about. Hannibal was rather pleased to note that Freddie Lounds looked nauseous.
Mischa stared in amusement at the TV. Hannibal’s supposedly impromptu interview had been playing seemingly nonstop for the last few days. Will had looked rather embarrassingly pleased the first time he had seen the interview. The resulting media support for Will and his actions had completely overtaken all of the negative reports, not that Will had ever cared in the first place. Still, Mischa was rather pleased about it.
It had certainly made this coming evening more bearable.
The day had started out well. She had woken next to Will, for once not drowning in sweat. She had taken that it would be a good day. After he had made her favorite breakfast, Mrs. Hollingsworth had appeared with a backseat full of presents. Both she had Will protested, but much like last year, it didn’t seem to deter the elderly woman. The woman had made a number of pleased sounds as Mischa had opened them. She wasn’t surprised to find a number of new clothes, shoes, and books. She was slightly surprised to find the delicate set of jewelry at the end, however.
Mischa blinked down at the old wood and velvet jewelry box. It was old. Vintage. She brushed a finger lightly against the delicate gold. It was small; either child-sized or made deliberately for a small woman. Eyeing Mrs. Hollingsworth’s small frame and remembering tales of the elderly woman’s rather doting father, she knew either option was possible. The pieces were unmistakably beautiful. Delicate gold filigree curled in on its self, forming elegantly furled petals. The flower was an ornate beauty, hanging from an equally delicate gold chain. Matching earrings accompanied the necklace. Tiny, tiny flowers stood at the top where they would affix to the ear, dangling from them were matching filigree flowers that echoed the delicate necklace. Mischa couldn’t help but admire the beautiful pieces.
Will had expressed his admiration as well. It was very obviously a sentimental gift, and it was the reason that Will’s only protest had been a quiet murmur of her name. Mrs. Hollingsworth had only smile serenely, a hand coming up to stroke Mischa’s face. The woman had left not long after, leaving both of them fairly touched. Mischa had very carefully put away the new clothes, noting how nice they all were. After a walk with the dogs and fishing for a few hours, they had gathered their things and gone off to Hannibal’s for the night. The doctor had asked for them to stay the weekend with him in Baltimore, citing a new museum gallery showing that he wished them to accompany him to. Will had been rather abashedly pleased and had agreed despite his aversion to social settings. Mischa was surprised to find that she was looking forward to it. Her family in the Before was never one to appreciate art or museums, much to her sadness. Her interest had not been something that she had indulged in much Before, and she appreciated the interest she was able to express now. De Goya had always been one of her favorites.
While Mischa had packed the night before, Mrs. Hollingsworth’s gifts had made her repack. Hannibal would no doubt appreciate her new (more expensive and stylish) clothes than her old Wal-Mart ones. She found herself somewhat amused to realize that she had started care more about what Hannibal thought of her appearance. Mischa leaned back in her car seat and watched the world through her window. It had been a good birthday, so far, but she was still unsure about this evening’s dinner. In seemingly no time at all, they arrived at the brick manor that was Hannibal’s house. As she climbed up the steps, Mischa couldn’t help but ruefully notice the rather delicious smell that scented the air already. She had been sneaking food and snacks all morning in order to fill up and had used the last week to carefully gather as much non-perishable food as she could in preparation for the coming weekend. Half of her go-bag were food items.
She sighed soundlessly.
Her nose twitched again, and she ruthlessly ignored the saliva gathering in the back of her mouth. Will made his own appreciative noises as he pressed the doorbell. Hannibal answered the door with a warm smile. He was dressed down, his overcoat gone and his sleeves rolled to his elbows. A slightly stained apron was tied around him.
“Will. Mischa. It’s good to see you.” Hannibal greeted them, before crouching in front of her gently. “Happy birthday, little one.”
She nodded back at him solemnly, and the doctor just smiled down at her. He stroked a hand through her curls lightly, before rising to his feet again.
“Come, I’m just in the middle of preparing dinner.” He beckoned to them, an arm coming to hover just behind Will’s back as he escorted them into the house.
Mischa scurried into the house before them, ready to set down her things in their usual spot. Before she could run up the stairs, however, a hand caught her shoulder. Both she and Will stared at Hannibal in question. They had been over often enough that they had become more comfortable in the house, something which Hannibal had highly encouraged. They hadn’t been barred from virtually any part of the house, including Hannibal’s bedroom. In fact, they spent a large part of their time in his room if only for the bathtub attached to it. Mischa’s love of baths was something that Hannibal had come to indulge her in. Mischa had started to quite enjoy it as well. Hannibal’s old clawfoot tub was a thing of beauty, and much nicer than the leaky old square one at their house. The only time that they had been restricted in the house had been recent, in fact. For the last two and a half weeks, they had been temporarily banned from the upstairs, Hannibal citing repairs and redecorations. He had also spent the time sighing to Will about the workers traipsing dirt through his house. The doctor had been quite pleased with the results, however, and had spent an entire evening talking to an amused Will about crown moldings and paint swatches.
“I thought the workers were done?” Will questioned, brow furrowed.
Hannibal seemed to hesitate slightly but nodded. “They are. It’s all set up.”
Will blinked at him, even more confused. “Do you not want us up there?”
Hannibal jerked slightly, surprise flickering over his face before it settled into one of determination. “No. No, you and Mischa are and always will be welcome in every part of my home. I have something to show you, is all.”
Mischa stared up at the doctor in surprise, unsure what he could have possibly done for them. Hannibal didn’t seem to be willing to explain more, and Mischa made a small sound of surprise as he swept her into his arms without further comment. He carried her upstairs, Will following behind in bemused curiosity. They both observed the hallways around them, but nothing appeared to be different. She could feel her own curiosity growing the further they went. Had he remodeled his own room?
But he walked past it.
“Hannibal…?” Will questioned curiously.
“Here.” The doctor murmured in reply.
Mischa tilted her head curiously at the door. It was their room. It sat nestled at the end of the hallway, next to Hannibal’s. She and Will had been using the same room since that very first night. Mischa often found herself taking naps in it, while Will slept in the bed with her on the rare occasion Hannibal managed to convince him to stay the night. They had both adopted the room as theirs, and even Hannibal himself had referred to it as such. Now, he stopped before it and set her gently back on her feet. She looked at him curiously. The cannibal smiled down at her possessively, eyes glittering darkly. He pushed open the door calmly, one hand curled around the back of her neck.
Behind her, Will inhaled in surprise.
Mischa couldn’t catch her breath enough to do so.
In the back corner, a twin bed had replaced the usual queen. It was a plush thing, even from this distance. Sheer white lace hangings intertwined with strings of tiny, star-shaped lights hung from the ceiling, encompassing the bed entirely. It glowed softly in the darkening room. Just past the end of the bed, two large windows stood side by side, looking out into the back yard and lighting the room with rays of the setting sun. The delicate curtains matched the bed hangings, she noticed. They cast rather fetching shadows upon the floor. Upon which, a vibrant blue rug rested on. It covered most of the room, and her feet itched to step on it. She had no doubt it was as soft as it was plush. Beneath the windows, there was an antique-looking desk and matching chair. The surface of which was already sporting a collection of pencils, pens, and art supplied that she preferred. She knew that if she opened the drawers, she would find more of her preferred things.
A single bookshelf was nestled in the corner a few feet from the desk, only to meet the matching bookshelves that literally lined the wall facing her bed. They were already full. Most of them were books – her favorites – but a few of the bookshelves appeared to be dedicated to her other interests. One was entirely full of art supplies, while another held a number of containers and boxsets of Legos. Another appeared to be full a collection of various odds and ends, all very carefully organized. The last, settled into the corner to their right, was full of music paraphernalia. A collection of music sheet books took up the bottom and top two shelves, a series of records another. An actual record player lay in the middle shelf, bracketed by a couple of impressive-looking speakers. In the space before the shelf in question, a cello her size was sitting in a stand on the floor. On the wall between the door and the music bookshelf, a violin also in her size had been set. A single chair was set up, an elegant looking thing with no sides. Right beside it, a vintage-looking music stand stood next to it. A standing lamp loomed over it all, completing the little music corner.
To their left, a low dresser stretched across the wall, a large mirror resting on top of it. Just beyond it in the corner was the door to the bathroom, she remembered, and the door to the closet on the attached wall next to it. An actual toy-chest rested against the wall not too far from the closet, and she knew that it would be filled as well. Curiously enough, there was no bedside table next to the head of the bed. Instead, a rocking chair was sitting there, angled towards the bed, a few small pillows in the seat and a throw blanket folded over the back. The bed itself was covered in a thick-looking blue duvet bordered in dark golden filigree designs. Mischa wasn’t surprised to find that each and every piece of furniture matched. They were all made of the same dark wood, each piece decorated with inlays. It wasn’t until she noticed the dresser that she had realized that the chest in Hannibal’s office was clearly a part of the set. They were all elegant, beautiful things.
Mischa walked to the center of the room, turning around slowly to take everything in again. It was obviously made for her. Pictures of her, Will, and the dogs were set in frames around the room. Her favorite flowers were in a vase on the dresser. The walls were painted a particular shade of blue that she favored, and a couple of her favorite paintings hung on them. Hannibal flicked on the light, and she only then noticed the honest to god chandelier that hung from the ceiling. She continued to spin around the room. Will was making sounds at Hannibal, stuck between protesting it was too much and pleased that he had done it for Mischa. Hannibal only chuckled at the man, knowing that he would cave. He always did when it came to Mischa.
Mischa herself was entirely overwhelmed.
He had made a room for her.
In his house.
“It took a while to find the correct pieces, but I must admit it turned out quite well,” Hannibal spoke, coming to rest beside her. She stared up at him. “Do you not like it?”
Mischa looked around the room again. “I do.”
It was amazing, undoubtedly. It looked like everything she had ever wanted in a room, in both the Before and Now. She gave in to the feeling, and wondered over to the bed – her bed – and ran a finger along the bedspread. Soft.
“I’m glad,” Hannibal told her quietly, arrogantly pleased. She rolled her eyes.
Thankfully, something from downstairs began ringing. Hannibal sighed, but hurried out of the room, calling out as he walked. “That will be dinner! I’m afraid I can’t stay. The next hour or so will be quite important for our meal. Explore if you like, it’s yours.”
Will sighed, looked around the room again, then followed the doctor downstairs after giving her an indulgent smile. Mischa gave her own sigh into the suddenly silent room. Well. It was hers now, apparently.
She went exploring.
Mischa smoothed down the fabric of her dress, staring at herself in the full-length mirror. Her closet had been full of clothes – unsurprisingly – but she had decided to wear one of Mrs. Hollingsworth’s gifts. The champaign colored dress wrapped around her and combined with the darkness of her curls, her skin fairly glowed in its paleness. The dress was a delicate lace thing. A silk underdress lay against her skin from just about her chest level to above her knees. The intricate lace lay over it, leaving the lace to rest against her porcelain skin as it came up to encircle her shoulders and neck, creating sleeves that came to end just below her elbows, and dipping down over the tops of her knees. The hem of the dress was riveted, tickling her gently as she walked. A plain, pale, creamed colored ribbon was banded over her waist, coming to meet in the back in a simple bow. There were matching flats on her feet.
She nodded to herself in the mirror, pleased.
Mischa stopped at the dresser briefly to affix her new filigree earrings. They matched. She grinned at herself and left her room. The guest had already arrived, she knew. She had spent more time in her new bath than she had expected, though if asked she was going to blame Hannibal for it entirely. She had her own tub now, she thought giddily. She didn’t care about being late. As she descended the stairs, she wondered belatedly if it was possible for the day to be ruined now, even with Jack and Alana.
Nothing beats her own bathtub.
“Mischa, there you are.” Will had spotted her first. He beamed down at her, clearly more at ease with the situation than either of them had expected.
She heard a muttered ‘Oh my god’, off to the side, followed by an ‘Absolutely adorable’ whispered loudly from somewhere else. Her dress was working out quite well. Will swung her up into his arms, and she curled her arms around him automatically. He brought her deeper into the room and began introducing her to the surprisingly small group. Jack and his wife, Bella, seemed charmed up with her appearance, cooing slightly at her. An enamored looking Beverly and a somewhat awkward-looking Alana were the only other ones there. Mischa couldn’t help the pleased curl of her smile. She hadn’t really wanted anyone else to come, anyways. Will settled her onto the couch, sitting beside her as the others settled around them. There were a series of congratulations and ‘Happy Birthday’s’ directed to her that she mostly ignored. Will smothered a grin and replied on her behalf. Just as the conversation was beginning to pick up, Hannibal swept into the room. He started to say something, only to stop at the sight of Mischa. He smiled at her in adoration and wasted no time in striding over and steeling her into his arms – much to the surprise of the adults around them.
“Well look at you.” He breathed to her in delighted wonder. “Is that one of the dresses from Mrs. Hollingsworth? It certainly is an exquisite thing. You will have let me take a picture, little one, I so very rarely see you so dressed up.”
Mischa let an amused noise slip from her, grin curling the side of her mouth. He could do what he liked.
“Well then,” Hannibal hummed, turning to the rest of the group. “Mischa aside, dinner is ready. Shall we?”
In which dinner is had, Presents are given, and A Talk is Had
So sorry for the late update, we just got the news that my grandfather is being moved to Hospice care. I forgot about the update in all the hubbub. Here we go.
Mischa pursed her lips together as she stabbed a fork into the meat on her plate. Almost 45 minutes of playing with her food had left her plate a disaster zone. Hannibal had started giving her Looks about ten minutes into dinner. She ignored him. Everyone else seemed to be enjoying dinner otherwise. The conversation – smoothed along by Hannibal’s social graces – had flowed steadily. Even her father appeared to be somewhat enjoying himself. The only one that seemed to be out of place, surprisingly, was Alana. The child psychologist had participated minimally in the conversation, instead, she focused on Mischa.
The girl in question did not appreciate it.
Still, she had been content to just sit there and ignore it for the sake of her father. Unfortunately, Alana seemed to gather her courage as the meal was winding down. She had started innocently enough, asking about Mischa in general, but the questions were becoming more pointed and accusing. Will and even Hannibal had started to get angry, and the other guests were looking uncomfortable. Interestingly enough, Beverly seemed to be getting annoyed on her behalf as well.
“- I’m just saying, Will, it’s important for children to have social relationships and be around other children their own ages. Pulling her out of school just for one incident is not a solution. Does this elderly nanny even have the credentials to teach Mischa?” Alana was insistent, gesturing broadly at her with one hand.
“I didn’t pull her out of school because of an incident, Alana!” Will spoke sharply, glaring at his plate. “I pulled her out of a school that admitted to being unable to ensure an unbiased staff, let alone the knowledge or training to work with an autistic child! It’s hardly my fault that it happens to be the only school in the town. She is doing much better with Mrs. Hollingsworth, and her education has expanded exponentially. That elderly woman is not only licensed but is renowned around the country for her skills as an educator.”
Alana blinked, looking briefly taken aback. She didn’t seem to expect Will to have put so much thought into his parenting. She tried to paste an understanding look on her face, but Mischa noted that it looked mostly condescending.
“I didn’t mean it that way, Will. I was just concerned. Children, most especially children with special needs, need a lot of support and resources.” She spoke placatingly.
“And you don’t think me capable of caring for her?” Will questioned hotly, staring at the woman directly.
Alana looked uncomfortable now, shifting her chair. It took her a few telling moments to reply. “I didn’t say that Will.”
All the adults were staring at the woman now. Jack was frowning, but Bella and Beverly were looking at the psychologist rather frigidly. Will’s face had gone still, and Mischa was unsure if he was hurt or still just angry. Judging from the grip on his knife, Mischa figured that Hannibal was just angry.
“But you’re implying it,” Hannibal spoke coldly, inserting himself into the conversation.
Alana couldn’t stop the surprised hurt flickering on her face as Hannibal stepped into to defend Will. It didn’t stop her from continuing, though. “I don’t mean to imply anything. I’m just a little concerned, is all.”
“And yet you have no reason nor are you in a position to do so.” Hannibal reprimanded coldly. “You are not Will’s doctor. You are not Mischa’s doctor. Mischa is in good health, is receiving an education better than most private school children, lives in a nice home, and has an attentive father more than aware of the demands of a non-neurotypical child. There is no reason to question her current placement. Considering you chose to bring this up now, I’m assuming that you’ve already attempted to have her removed and been told as much from child services.”
Alana looked alarmed now, gave flickering to Will. “I’ve only done what I’ve thought best for Mischa!”
Hannibal’s gaze slipped into a glare. “Concerns for a girl you have only ever seen once in passing, and never actually spoke to? You don’t know enough about either Mischa or her situation to have concerns about it.”
Alana flushed and began looking rather embarrassed. She looked around the table, attempting to find an ally. Her mouth opened slightly but then closed. Her eyes darted around the room, searching for anything to say.
“We invited you to Mischa’s birthday thinking that you would be able to see the situation for yourself and be more comfortable with it. But you’ve spent the entire night determined to convince Will of his incapability. That you would even bring up this in front of not only our friends but Mischa herself is entirely inappropriate. I am afraid I must ask you to leave, Ms. Bloom.” Hannibal's voice was resolute.
Alana was looking fairly ashamed now, face still flushed in embarrassment. She glanced around a little wildly but refused to meet anyone’s eyes. Her gaze landed on Mischa, and Mischa allowed her eyes to settle into something doe-like. Alan flinched before looking away. She didn’t say anything as she stood from her seat, hurrying out of the room. There was a lingering silence in the room as the echoes of the closing door faded. Will was still tense and stony-faced. Hannibal’s grip hadn’t relaxed on his knife.
“Well, that was awkward!” Beverly grinned at them all. “I always thought that she was nice, but wow she’s a little bit of a bitch, isn’t she?”
“Beverly, language!” Jack scolded.
There were several snickers of amusement that echoed around the table, and Beverly was staring at her boss in disbelief. “Really, Jack? I’m hearing that from you?”
“Hey, I have enough decency not to curse in front of young children!” Jack protested, amused despite himself.
“Barely,” Bella murmured quietly, lips twitching in amusement.
Jack reared back, looking faux offended. Several laughs echoed around the room, and the remaining tension bled from the room. Will’s shoulders dropped, his face loosening. They finished eating to the sounds of polite ribbing and laughter. Mischa added another checkmark to Beverly. She was really beginning to like that woman.
Dinner finally ended with a suggestion of presents. Mischa perked up despite herself. She put up with the holidays because of the great deal of stock that Will put in. He felt very strongly about her celebrating holidays properly and tended to put a great deal of effort and time into them. She hadn’t entirely been looking forward to this dinner, even if it was infinitely better than Mrs. Hollingsworth’s parties. Presents were the one bright spot in all of this.
There was a brief flurry of activity as the table was cleared. Hannibal made several protesting noises when anyone attempted to help clean up. Will was the only one that ignored him and just began trucking dishes into the kitchen. Hannibal only huffed in quiet amusement. After everything was put away, Mischa was toted into the living room and settled in front of a pile of presents. Despite the abundance of seats, Will settled onto the floor next to her. Hannibal sent them both looks of amused exasperation and sat on a chair stationed closest to them.
“Alright. We’ll do this like usual, then?” Will prompted her.
She blinked at him, head tilting slightly. Why would they do it any other way?
“Is there a set way of opening presents?” Jack interrupted, looking confused.
“We usually have a set way of doing everything. It works better with both of us. Easier.” He shrugged, looking a little embarrassed.
“What is the process here then?” Bella asked, giving them both soft maternal smiles.
Will ducked his head at the look but replied none the less. “She likes to look at them all. One by one. We don’t really have a lot of people that come to these, so it might take a little while. She’ll open them one at a time, exploring each one until she’s done. I usually talk to her about her presents, why I gave her it, or what it’s about. Mrs. Hollingsworth does it too. We’ve already gone through hers this morning, but you all don’t need to.”
“Sounds fun!” Beverly enthused, wriggling in her seat.
Mischa grinned, tugging at one of Will’s sleeves. He smiled down at her and handed her a present from the pile. It was fairly big, and the pale blue wrapping paper glittered up at her pleasingly. She rotated it in her arms, pressing her hands along the package. Mischa’s finger caught under a fold. She unwrapped it carefully, pulling the paper away from a plain white gift box. She slid the lid off, pushing away matching glittery tissue paper. The ballerina outfits were beautiful. She pulled them out one by one, inspecting them gently. The fabric slid easily between her fingers, and she realized that they were very obviously the expensive ones. Will had only bought her the general ones, and she could feel the difference immediately. There were even a pair of pointe shoes at the bottom.
“I hope you don’t mind.” Bella smiled at her gently, tone warm. “When Will asked us over, it was the first thing I thought of. I used to dance when I was younger. When I saw those pictures and Jack told me about how they found you…Well. Jack and I asked Will for your sizes and preferences. Perhaps one day we could see you dance? I hear you’re quite good at it.”
During her speech, Jack had reached over to hold her hand. He smiled down at Mischa gently, eyes soft and a little sad. He was seeing her as he had that day in the forest, she realized. Something soft and innocent that needed to be protected. He would never see her as anything other than that, she could see. A dark tickle in the back of her mind tittered at the idea, whispering ideas in the back of her mind on how she could use that. She wondered if he was seeing the children he could have had -especially since Bella appeared to be somewhat fond of her already. From what she remembered in the Before, the cancer was already present. She knew that both Jack and Bella had begun questioning things.
This would work out well for her.
She smiled up at the couple, making sure to put an adorably shy look on her face. Bella Crawford stared down at her with a slightly besotted look, and Jack glittered down at her even as he gripped his wife’s hand tighter. She made sure to put a pleased look on her face as she glanced down at the ballet materials.
“She likes them,” Will stated, also pleased. “Thank you, both.”
“It was our pleasure.” Jack murmured.
Hannibal reached out to gently put the box to the side as Will grabbed another present. It took almost an hour to get through the whole pile. Beverly had gotten her a rather interesting Butterfly habitat with a number of caterpillars all ready to go. Attached was a rather beautifully illustrated leather-bound book that had detailed pictures and information about seemingly all the types of butterflies. Mischa had spent 10 minutes alone thumbing through the pages, Hannibal peering over her shoulder in obvious interest. He expressed his appreciation to Beverly enthusiastically, and Mischa had smiled along with him. It really was exquisite. There had been a present from Alana as well, though no one had been impressed by the box of soft blocks that she had given her. Mischa didn’t bother to hide the distaste on her face. After that, there had been several presents from both her father and Hannibal.
Mischa would have expected Will to put up some sort of protest at the amount, especially given the room upstairs, but he only seemed increasingly pleased with each present she uncovered. Unsurprisingly every present was something she liked. She supposed that his need to spoil her outweighed his distaste for wealth. The rest of the evening went very well. She went through her presents liberally as the adults around her socialized. Will and Hannibal hovered over her throughout, keeping her looped in the group. She was also periodically offered bits of food and treats by Hannibal, much to her exasperation. The doctor didn’t seem overly phased by refusal, but he did seem to get more persistent as the night went on. She ended up curling up with the butterfly book in front of the fire, fingers running over the delicate images.
At some point, she had apparently fallen asleep because she woke up beneath delicately lit netting. She blinked at the dim lights above her, noting the silence throughout the house. She shifted, hands clenching in the unbelievably soft bedding. She sat up, rubbing sleep from her eyes. She had been changed into a soft silk nightgown; its laced hems brushed her shins as she slid down from the comfy bed. She wiggled her toes into the soft carpet beneath her before wandering out of the open door and into the hallway. From the dimness of the lights around them, it was quite late. The open door to Hannibal’s room revealed that it was empty, so she pointed herself towards the stairs. Before she could walk down them, however, Hannibal appeared suddenly. Mischa couldn’t help but stare as she realized that he was carrying Will in his arms.
The doctor didn’t see her, focused instead on the man in his arms. Mischa could see his unguarded expression. The hungry look in his eyes that was perpetually present had come to cover his entire face. There was darkness there that flavored his looks, but there was something soft and possessive as well. Something between smugness and fondness tugged the corner of his mouth into a small curl. Mischa pulled herself back into the shadows, content to observe the cannibal. He carried Will into the last bedroom easily, and Mischa watched him as he settled her father on the bed. Hannibal rearranged him gently, removing his shoes and tugging his jeans off before moving up to begin unbuttoning his dress shirt. He refolded the clothes carefully and pulled the blankets over Will. Her father shifted slightly, murmuring indistinctly as he turned to curl into himself. She frowned slightly when she noticed his face was flushed with fever.
Hannibal stood over Will for several long moments. He seemed content to just stare down at the man, unconcerned with how unsettling it looked. His eyes drank in Will’s form, his face possessive. After what seemed like an eternity, his hand rose to stroke Will’s cheek lightly. His fingers lingered against her father’s skin for a moment before he turned to leave the room. He didn’t catch sight of her until he was halfway out the door. The surprise stopped him short, and he stared at her wide eyes for a minute. He smiled at her gently before staking across the hall to pick her up. He walked her back to her room quietly, and she let herself be placed back into bed. She didn’t bother to lay down, turning to focus on Hannibal as he settled himself into the rocking chair next to her bed.
“Did you enjoy your birthday?” Hannibal asked quietly, eyes resting on her softly.
“I did,” she allowed.
“I’m glad. I do apologize for Alana’s remarks. I didn’t think she would ever bring up such a subject at dinner.”
Mischa gave him an amused look and bluntly replied. “I don’t care.”
Hannibal tilted his head at her curiously. “Given how protective you are, I figured you would be upset.”
“There’s no reason to be,” she told him honestly. “Will doesn’t care about her as much as you think he does. He isn’t upset by it, so I wasn’t either.”
Hannibal paused at that. “I was under the impression that Will rather liked Alana.”
Mischa’s brow rose. Was he jealous?
“In another situation, maybe. But he’s been rather focused on me for some time now. He won’t let himself attach to anyone that doesn’t like me. Or I don’t like. Alana belongs to both categories.”
“Is that so?” Hannibal murmured, leaning back in his seat with a small smile.
Mischa eyed him.
“When do you plan to tell him that you like him?” she demanded abruptly.
Hannibal twitched slightly, eyes flickering over her face. “Will is my friend, of course, he knows I like him.”
She gave him a flat look.
He didn’t reply for a small moment, before sighing. “Will is only just becoming comfortable with our friendship as is, especially with what’s happened to you recently. He is not yet in the frame of mind for me to do anything about my intentions, let alone to attempt to come to terms with what his own intentions may be. I will not be saying anything to him.”
Mischa tilted her head at the man. “But you plan to when those things change.”
Hannibal eyed her ponderingly, unable to read her neutral tone. He paused slightly before inclining his head at her. “Eventually, yes. I see no reason why I shouldn’t.”
Mischa’s lips pursed.
Hannibal blinked at her, looking faintly surprised. And a little hurt, she realized, reading the emotion on his face.
“You don’t approve.” He breathed out faintly.
Mischa considered the man before her, not replying.
There was a distinctly odd look on his face as he looked at her. He didn’t seem to know what to say. He shifted in the chair, bringing his elbows up to rest on his knees.
“I was under the impression that you liked me.” He finally said.
“I do.” She told him. “But that doesn’t have anything to do with this.”
Hannibal’s brows snapped up, “It doesn’t?”
“No.” She told him bluntly.
“I’m afraid that I do not understand.” He frowned,
She considered him, unsure how far she was willing to take this. There were still concerns she had about him, but then she wasn’t sure if she would ever not have concerns. He was one of the most terrifying cannibalistic serial killers to ever exist. Considering everything that happened today, though, she was willing to take a risk.
“Will is my everything.” She told him.
Hannibal eyed her. “I’m more than aware.”
“It means his well-being is the most important thing to me.”
"And you do not think that I am good for his well-being?” Hannibal questioned, looking slightly affronted.
“You’re a psychopath with sociopathic tendencies, whose interest in the both of us stems from our own similar non-neurotypical state. While it’s obvious you are deeply invested in us, you’ve yet to prove if we mean more or less to you then your own interests. I have no reason to believe that you would put his needs over yours. Given your own neurological state, it’s quite possible that you never would. He doesn’t need that. He is an all or nothing person. If he gives, it will be as all-consuming as he is with me. That won’t be a problem for you, certainly, but it is a problem if you can’t do the same. Anything less than everything is not good enough.”
Hannibal was staring at her intently, lips slightly parted. His eyes were dark and intense as he stared down at her. “No.” He breathed, “It certainly isn’t.”
There was a long silence. Mischa let herself settle back into the pillows, drawing the blankets around her. She laid on her side, turning to stare at the doctor from her pillow. The cannibal stared down at her, not as upset as he had been in the beginning. In fact, he was looking rather pleased and proud of her. For her defense of Will, possibly? She wasn’t sure, but it was somewhat pleasing to find that he wasn’t upset at the verbal attack.
“I see why you have doubts.” He finally murmured. “I don’t suppose that there is anything I could do to help convince you that I am all in as well?”
Mischa blinked at him, surprised. “At this point? Not likely.”
Hannibal pondered that for a second. “But it is possible further down the line?”
Mischa paused. “It’s possible.”
Hannibal hummed quietly in reply, turning to smile gently down at her. He began rocking the chair, continuing to hum out a rather soothing tune. It was fairly obvious that he wasn’t intending to leave. She drew the covers over her shoulder, allowing her eyes to flutter shut. He continued to hum quietly, and a large hand began stroking her hair.
“Happy Birthday, dearest Mischa,” Hannibal whispered quietly.
In which Mischa is Not Happy
“Well now! If it isn’t the elusive Hannibal! Have you finally come out of hiding?”
Mischa startled at the thin, high-pitched voice. She turned rather abruptly from the painting in front of her to see a delicate bird-like woman striding towards them. She was thin and willowy, dark black hair set in a bob. Her large brown eyes were outlined in kohl, and an expensive-looking dress hung from her shoulders. Hannibal shifted beside her, his face morphing into something polite and social. He strode forwards to meet the woman halfway, arms rising to greet her in a polite embrace.
“Mrs. Komeda.” He greeted her warmly as he mimed a kiss into the air above her cheek.
“Hannibal!” She smiled back at him brightly as she gripped his shoulders. “To think I would find you here, of all places. I had heard you had already been to the De Goya exhibit?”
“I did, but I found myself unable to stay away.” He replied.
“I can certainly understand that,” The woman murmured, looking at the works around them. It was then that her eyes seemed to alight on Mischa and her closeness to Hannibal.
“And who is this?” She breathed in delight, eyes flicking between them.
Hannibal didn’t bother suppressing his grin as he walked back to Mischa’s side. His arm encircled her shoulders, enfolding her in his warmth. He held her gently to his side as he presented her to the bony woman.
“This is the lovely Ms. Mischa Graham. She is in my charge for a few days as her father is out of town. While we saw the exhibit when it first opened, it was a little too crowded for us to fully enjoy. I thought we might take this opportunity to see our fill.” Hannibal introduced.
Mrs. Komeda cooed wordlessly before replying. “Well isn’t that adorable? And you know her father?”
Hannibal nodded, smile slipping into something that would, to anyone else, appear rather besotted. He really was a masterful actor, Mischa mused as she stared up at him. Apparently, he was laying the groundwork for his relationship with Will already. If he didn’t come out of this smelling like roses, then she would eat an entire day’s worth of meals at Hannibal’s.
“Will is a close…friend…of mine.” He spoke the words temptingly, placing just enough pause and emphasis that Mischa was could see Mrs. Komeda’s eyes veritably glowing at the implications. “Mischa and I have grown quite close as well. She is a considerable fan of De Goya’s works.”
“Well she certainly has good taste, doesn’t she?” Mrs. Komeda beamed at her. “Am I to expect this mysterious Will at any of our upcoming events?”
Hannibal’s face turned deliberately morose.
“Ah.” He breathed. “I’m afraid that it may be a while yet. Will is not quite the socialite, I’m afraid. Though I have tried my best, I have been unable to fully convince him to join me on an outing. In the meantime, however, I am quite content with the times spent with our little Mischa.”
“Well, why wouldn’t you be? In the company of such a beautiful girl; I’m quite jealous.” Mrs. Komeda complimented.
Mischa could not help the flash of admiration that fluttered through her: Hannibal was quite the social chameleon. Above her, Hannibal was smiling in smug delight. One of his hands ran lightly over her curls.
“There is normally no person who could ever compare to such delicate beauty as yours, Mrs. Komeda. My dear Mischa is the only one.” Hannibal’s spoke in honeyed words.
Mrs. Komeda flushed, giggling delightedly even as she waved at hand in Hannibal’s direction dismissively. “You certainly haven’t lost your tongue, have you? Does he compliment you so nicely every day?”
Mischa blinked up at the woman who had turned the focus on her. She may not use her voice, but Mischa had learned long ago how to use her expressions to get what she wanted. She settled for tilting her head just so, not uncoincidentally coming to rest against Hannibal’s hip. Her eyes widened ever so slightly, giving her face a more doll-like effect. Mrs. Komeda’s eyes softened, her smile gentling into something vaguely maternal.
“Ah. Mischa here doesn’t speak.” Hannibal murmured quietly, gently interrupting their gazes.
Mrs. Komeda blinked at him, but her smile didn’t falter. In fact, it appeared to be growing even more adoring.
“That’s no issue, dear.” She offered. “Will Ms. Mischa be joining you on all your social outings?”
She sounded hopeful, and Hannibal’s eyes gleamed in triumph. Mischa wondered how many people he would attempt to endear her to.
“Hopefully, I can convince her to join me. While the events are much more appealing to her than her father, she has proved just as stubborn as him. Not to mention that they quite enjoy spending their time with one another. It is why my social duties have, admittedly, been rather lax of late.” Hannibal confessed, looking deliberately fond.
“There really isn’t a better reason, is there?” There was a small pause before the woman’s face lit up in delight. “Ah! Since you’re here, you must show me around the gallery. Now that I’ve found you both, I have no intention of letting you go! Come, show me what you’ve seen so far. What works are Mischa’s favorites?”
Hannibal chuckled but obligingly tucked the woman’s hand into his free arm as they began walking towards several prints on display. Mischa’s eyes flashed in amusement as she allowed herself to be towed around the museum by the hand.
“Why do you smell like rotting meat?”
Mischa’s nose was wrinkled in distaste, her face scrunching automatically at the scent emanating from her father. The man in question faltered slightly, before suddenly releasing her from the tight hug he had gripped her in.
“I always forgot how sensitive you are to smells.” Will mused as he took several steps away from her. “The crime scene had a table full of rotting food. I didn’t realize that the smell would stick.”
“You are welcome to use my facilities. Dinner won’t be ready for an hour or so yet.” Hannibal offered the man.
Mischa noted that he wasn’t standing quite as close as to Will as he usually did, and she wondered if his sense of smell was making it worse for him. Will didn’t even bother arguing, just smiled at the man gratefully before jogging up the stairs. Mischa watched him go as she rubbed her nose, uselessly attempting to rub the smell of rot away. Hannibal appeared beside her, offering her a sprig of something green. She blinked at it for a second before she recognized the mint. She took it gratefully, crushing it in her fingers slightly before bringing it to her nose. She sighed in relief.
Hannibal patted her on the shoulder lightly before wandering back into the kitchen. Mischa let herself settle back into the nest of blankets on the floor, picking up her charcoal pencils again. She had rather enjoyed the last two days with Hannibal, aching stomach aside. The doctor hadn’t let her leave his sight, taking her with him everywhere he went. She had been more than a little interested to find out more about the man and his habits, and Hannibal seemed even more willing to include her in all his doings. From the farmer’s market to his bank, and even to his tailors, the man had walked her around proudly, as if settling her firmly into his patterns. The museum had been a surprise to her, though she had thoroughly enjoyed it. They had gone with Will the weekend after her birthday, but the newness of the exhibit had made meant it was crowded and overly busy – something neither she nor Will had appreciated. They had ended up leaving quickly, and Mischa had not hidden her disappointment as well as she had thought. Walking into the emptied exhibit this morning had made her smile.
Even Mrs. Komeda’s interruption wasn’t that bad. The woman was considerably educated on art and spent the morning conversing about it easily. She hadn’t even bothered to badger Hannibal for more information about either Will or Mischa and had instead focused fully on the art. Mischa appreciated that. She had brought up several interesting facts and stories relating to the artist or a particular piece, which kept Mischa interested throughout the day. By the end of their time together, Mischa had even signed a question to Hannibal for the woman, making her face veritably glow in pleasure.
When they had finally gotten back to Hannibal’s, Mischa had collected her sketchbook and charcoal pencils and settled in to draw. Hannibal had left her to it, choosing instead to begin preparations for Will’s return. Every so often he would appear with a snack or plate of treats, sighing lightly when she only ever took the prepackaged snacks that he rather reluctantly kept in stock for her. She knew that he was attempting to change her palate into something more refined, but it was largely pointless.
“Is that De Goya?” Mischa startled slightly at the voice interrupting her thoughts. “It’s amazing. You’re really good at art, aren’t you?”
Will was apparently done showering, as he had appeared rather silently beside her on the floor. He was dressed in pajamas, a rather strong indication that he intended to stay the night. On any other person, the presumption would be a little insulting. Mischa was amused to note that it would be rather endearing to the possessive cannibal. Will curled up next to her, uncaring of his dignity as he joined her in the mess of blankets. He smelled like the expensive soaps that Hannibal had chosen for him, something earthy and piney that reminded her of the woods. He was peering at her mostly completed work, admiring it openly.
Mischa couldn’t help preening just a little.
“We went back to the museum today.” She told him, pleasure audible. “I like De Goya.”
Will’s eyes lit up, his face warm and happy as tension bled from his shoulder. She wasn’t a very demonstrative person when it came to her pleasure. Whenever she did express her happiness at something, Will would light up like a Christmas tree. A reassurance that she was happy was always relieving to him.
“I’m glad.” He breathed out, before prompting. “Tell me about it?”
Mischa’s mouth curled in affection. She began recanting her time with Hannibal from the beginning. Will always seemed to want to know as much about her as he could, something she could hardly fault him for considering that she was the same. Will listened closely as she spoke, occasionally asking questions at something or another. Hannibal popped in regularly, looking predatorily pleased to have them both in his den. He seemed to be rather interested himself to be hearing her thoughts on their last couple of days. The pleasant atmosphere was only marred when Hannibal had announced that dinner was ready. Will had already been halfway to the dining room before either man had noticed that she hadn’t moved.
“Mischa?” Will blinked in confusion.
She gave him a brief glance, before purposely turning back to her sketch.
“Mischa, you really should eat something.” Hannibal was insistent, disapproval coating his tone.
Will heard it, and his head turned to glance between them. But Mischa wasn’t quite willing to be as subtle as she had been before. Mischa had not spent this long in Hannibal’s company before, and the lack of substantial food was getting to her more than she had ever thought it was. It wasn’t even the familiar ache of hunger that was really bothering her. She had spent a much longer time starving for just these two days of minimal eating to bother her. The periodic snacking had eased most of the bite, even if she was getting a little tired of goldfish crackers.
It was the psychological reminder that was getting to her. She was flashing back to the Basement. The feeling of even just being hungry was throwing her back into a bad headspace. It had been a rather discomforting thought when she had realized that she probably had some PTSD going on. She had recognized that she had a few issues with food, but she had never realized how bad it was. It didn’t help that Hannibal’s cooking smelled phenomenal.
And he cooked.
She was just a little bit irritated about that.
“No.” Mischa answered Hannibal bluntly.
There was something of a shocked pause that followed.
“What’s wrong?” Will asked sharply.
Hannibal was looking so put aback that the dark thing in Mischa frizzled in amusement. He didn’t seem to know what to do. Will had reacted much stronger then what seemed appropriate. But Hannibal wasn’t aware of her history with food.
“Nothing,” Mischa told Will, making sure to squash down as much irritation as possible.
As willing as she was to be blunt about it, she wasn’t ready for the inevitable fallout that would come if Will found out that she wasn’t eating. Will was almost as fanatical about her eating as she was. She may have been scarred by her time in the Basement, but Will had been scarred by the time after it. Will had been rather horrified when he had first taken her home. She had spent almost a full week throwing up anything she ate. He had been upset to find out that she had been throwing up in the hotel as well and hiding it. Even after she had started to keep things down, her diet had to be slowly built up over time. Will had become very focused on her food intake. Honestly speaking, if it wasn’t for the encephalitis he would have already caught on to her decreased food intake.
“Mischa…” Will drawled, concern coating his voice and face.
She turned to give him a firm but faintly exasperated look. “I’m fine.”
Will was frowning still, but he seemed to recognize the look on her face. She was rarely stubborn about things with Will, usually all the more willing to share everything with her father. Rarely, however, there were things that she did not want to talk about. It mostly involved the Basement.
“Are you not feeling well? I thought something might have been a little off earlier, though I contributed it to Will’s absence.” Hannibal suddenly interrupted.
Will turned at that, his shoulders easing ever so slightly as he latched on the idea that it was merely physical. “Mischa?”
She didn’t like to lie, so she let herself make an indistinguishable noise as she turned back to her drawing. There was a sigh, though she didn’t know who it had come from. A hand pressed against her cheek, and she looked up to Hannibal frowning down at her.
“You don’t seem to have a fever.” He murmured, eyes troubled.
Mischa sighed and rolled away from the man. Hannibal made a displeased sound but drew away from her none the less.
“We’ll keep an eye on her.” Will decided with a frown.
And they did. The left briefly to have dinner, but the rest of the night both men seemed to hover around her. There was a dramatic increase in food offers, and just appease them she did take a bowl of fresh fruit. She ended up retreating to her room at some point, unable to keep her irritation at bay. She spent a good hour taking a bath, easing what tensions she could. It calmed her down enough that when she settled herself into bed she wasn’t as upset that Will settled himself into the rocking chair next to her. She fell asleep with the knowledge that he would probably still be there in the morning.
Mischa jaw clenched.
She had never thought that she could ever feel as irritated with her father as much as she was now. The past two days had been slow going and unbearable. From the morning that she had woken up the day after Will's return, he and Hannibal hadn’t stopped hovering over her. They were there constantly and were entirely too focused on her being. Every little thing she was doing was being observed in minute detail – including her eating habits. Will seemed to have decided that the access to Hannibal’s medical skills was an apt enough reason to stay at his house, which certainly wasn’t helping Mischa’s diet.
She was hungry.
She wanted to go home. She wanted her dog. Her father's cooking.
They were both convinced that there was something wrong with her, despite her protests otherwise. Her irritability had only been rising, making her moody and slightly hostile. A further sign of her illness, according to the two men. Mischa wasn’t sure if she was grateful or not that they weren’t allowing her to go to Mrs. Hollingsworth’s. On one hand, she could at least eat and get away from the hovering duo. On the other, she wasn’t entirely sure she wouldn’t do something she would regret. She had never felt this…violent, before.
Will and Hannibal had behaved very similarly after her kidnapping, but she either hadn’t noticed or hadn’t cared then. Now, for some reason, it was grating on her. She was fairly sure she knew why, too, but it made her even more irritated to realize that food would have that much of an effect on her. She hadn’t been sleeping well either – her dreams dragging her back into the darkness of the Basement. She was tired, hungry, and hostilely irritated. Mischa twitched slightly as she felt the presence behind her. Hannibal loomed above her. She did not care enough to uncurl herself from the corner she was hiding in.
Will had been called away, reluctantly, earlier that afternoon. He had gone to his class this morning at Hannibal’s behest, convincing her father that a few hours would be fine. Unfortunately, Jack had other plans. He had interrupted the class about halfway through, demanding that Will join him on the Lost Boy's case. Will had apparently tried to argue but ultimately had relented. He had spoken to her anxiously over the phone, promising to be back as soon as he could. Mischa was a little relieved. He would only be gone a few hours, she knew, but it would at least reduce the hovering by one. She curled the blanket around her tighter and tucked herself closer to the wall. She was going to at least try to get some sleep before Will returned.
But she slept fitfully.
In and out. Waking intermittently from either her bloody dreams or Hannibal’s too close presence startling her awake. She ignored the doctor’s presence as much as she could. Eventually, she woke to the sound of familiar voices. Will had returned then, she assumed tiredly. Distantly, she heard Hannibal describing her day. Will made concerned noises, which she ignored. The voices began nearing her, but Mischa didn’t have enough energy to bother waking up fully.
“Mischa.” Hannibal was there first. “Will has returned.”
A hand pressed to her forehead, checking for fever before tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. She pushed her face back into her blanket groggily. She heard a small sigh from someone in response.
“To bed, then. It will at least be more comfortable than the floor.” Hannibal murmured.
He reached for her, pulling her into his arms securely as he rose. He had just turned to move her when Will spoke out.
“Wait. Let me?” His voice was quiet, a curled note of concern and sadness that twinged at Mischa despite her irritation.
It was enough that she forced her gritty eyes open, eyeing his tired face as reached for her. Her ire had settled enough that she could allow herself to accept this closeness. He would likely sit them both in the rocking chair, holding her as close as he could before her ire rose again and she pulled away again. Will made a small sound, obviously catching the softening emotions from her. Hannibal shifted her, and she let one of her own hands clench into the lapels of Will’s jackets as the began passing her between them.
She was almost settled when she caught the scent.
It drifted in the air above her father. Something acrid and full. It clung to him, thick and smokey. The full heady scent of cooking meat ever so slightly coated with a slightly sweet tint that tickled her throat. Abruptly, she choked. Her throat was spasming, both trying close as well as attempting to bring up what little she had in her stomach. She distantly heard Will and Hannibal above her, voices alarmed. She was gasping, but each inhale brought that smell closer. It was coating her mouth. Her tongue. Her nose.
She couldn’t breathe.
Something was holding her tightly, pressing her closer to that smell. She needed to get away. Her brother was burning. He was burning. Her stomach was a yawning pit; aching and reaching out for something. Why did he smell so good? It shouldn’t smell so good. HE WAS BURNING. She didn’t want to be here! She wanted to go away!
Large hands pressed against her. The Monster was here.
If there was one feeling in the world that he hated the most, it was helplessness. Hannibal pressed down with the knife a little harsher than was necessary. It wasn’t something that he took well too, he knew. The two days that he had had Mischa alone had gone well, initially. While he had noticed her lack appetite, he had simply contributed it to Will’s absence. He knew that it was rare and in between that the man parted from the girl. Jack had flown Will out for the ‘Lost Boys’ case, which had intrigued Hannibal slightly. But he had undeniable enjoyed having the girl to himself. He was able to see so much more of her – do so much more. He hadn’t expected that a child could fit so well into his life. Though, admittedly, that was likely more of a Mischa thing. He appreciated her considerable interest in the arts, as well. All in all, he had thoroughly enjoyed himself.
He had planned a rather extensive menu the night of Will’s return. He had figured that with Will’s return, so would Mischa’s appetite. It would do her well to put some meat on her bones. Will as well. But she hadn’t eaten. Not dinner.
Not breakfast or lunch the next day. Nor dinner. Nor breakfast the day after.
He had tried everything. Cooked simple things, recognizable even if made with ingredients that were vastly better than their usual fare. He had even made several of Will’s own dishes, hoping that the familiarity would tempt her. But nothing. His pride as a cook was only slightly stung. Her rapidly falling mood and increased irritability had pointed to a developing illness that he hadn’t been able to pinpoint, much to his own dismay. He had spent years as a doctor, and yet never had he ever felt this discontented feeling of helplessness. And Hannibal couldn’t even ease it with healthful food, because the girls refused those as well.
And now Will was gone once again.
Jack had pulled him from his lecture, and Hannibal couldn’t help the small snarl as he thought of the special agent. He knew that Will was rather unhappy with the man as well. He texted often throughout the day, always seeking updates on Mischa’s condition. Hannibal made sure not mention that the girl had gone fully non-verbal after his departure. The girl had barely moved from her nest of blankets, dozing of and on throughout the day. Hannibal frowned as he emptied the contents of the cutting board into a simmering pan. A possible stomach bug? She didn’t seem to have a fever, but it was possible. It would explain her lack of appetite. And the mood could be her response to pain and discomfort. A possibility, he decided.
He felt something in him release as the sounds of the door opening echoed lightly down the hall. Will had returned then. He turned towards the door, cleaning his hands on a kitchen towel, as Will strode into view. As Will’s eyes settled on him, the doctor noted with pleasure that some of the tension was easing from his shoulders.
“Will.” He greeted the other man, smiling smally.
Will attempted to give one in return, but it was a sad grimace of a thing. Hannibal didn’t take it personally. He knew very well how obsessed with Mischa the man was, how much his moods revolved around the girl.
“Hannibal,” Will breathed, stepping into the kitchen fully. “How is she?”
“The same. She’s been sleeping most of the day. Or attempting to. No food.” Will frowned at that, casting a glance through the archway at the girl in question. “I think perhaps it may be a stomach bug.”
Will blinked, “You think?”
The doctor hummed lightly, following the other man out of the kitchen. His nose wrinkled slightly as it picked up the scent coming from the man. Had the murder methods changed so drastically? He shook the thought from his mind quickly. There were more important things.
Will slowed to a stop, pausing to observe Mischa. A blanket was wrapped tightly around her small frame, rising and falling slowly with her breath. Her usually beautiful curls were a mess, half in her face and half spread out around her. Her usual sleeping face was one of calm serene, a sight he had come to enjoy more than he had realized. Now, however, Mischa’s face was wrinkled in displeasure; her brows drawn and tight, her mouth clenched and frowning.
When Will didn’t move further, Hannibal stepped forwards to kneel beside the girl.
“Mischa.” He murmured to her, knowing how light a sleep she was. “Will has returned.”
She didn’t move, but that wasn’t surprising. Mischa had done a good job of ignoring him all day. He pressed a hand to her forehead to check for a fever before tucking a few curls behind her ear. The girl’s face shifted restlessly before turning her face away from him and tucking it into the pillow beneath her. He sighed lightly.
“To bed, then. It will at least be more comfortable then the floor.” Hannibal told her.
He reached for her, pulling her into his arms securely as he rose. He had just turned to move her when Will spoke out.
“Wait. Let me?” Will was there, looking at Mischa with large, sad eyes.
Hannibal nodded to the man, turning to shift the young girl into her father’s arms.
He had just turned his thoughts back to dinner when a choking sound caught his attention. He looked sharply back at the duo. Mischa was awake. Her eyes were wide – so impossibly wide. Her mouth was open, wide and gaping as she choked on nothing. Her face was…afraid. So very, very afraid.
The monster in Hannibal was rather abruptly screaming to the surface.
He hurried over to her, calling out her name sharply even as Will cried out her name in terror. He was holding her loosely as she jerked in his arms. The choking sounds went on, disrupted every now and again by high pitched keening. Hannibal crowded her, hands rising to check her throat, pressing to feel for anything blocking her air way. The girl jerked between them and slammed back into the doctor’s chest. Just as he was about to give instructions to Will, the girl speaking.
“…he’s burning! He’s burning! Burningburningburningburning.” Her voice was croaky, rasping mutters into the suddenly quiet room.
Hannibal had no idea what was going on. Across from him, however, he saw Will stiffen in recognition. His face was full of horrified blankness. He suddenly shifted, clenching Mischa to his chest tightly. As the cannibal opened his mouth to enquire, the screams cut him.
Mischa was screaming.
Screaming as he had never heard from her before. High, screeching, shrill sounds. Her being had seemingly been turned into a livewire. Her body was so small, that it didn’t seem possible for such violence to come out of it. She had thrown herself at Will, hands reached out and extended into something claw like as she attacked him. Hannibal was a little impressed at how quickly she had drawn blood, even as he lunged forward to help Will. The girl’s fingers dragging through her father’s skin. His cheeks already bled steadily from the lines painting them. For the most part, however, almost all the marks seemed to be focused on the skin of his throat.
“Mischa! Mischa! You’re okay, I promise!” Will’s voice was pleading and panicked.
The girl didn’t hear, of course. Hannibal curled his arms around Mischa, gripping the girls bloody hands tightly in his own. He pulled her back bodily, attempting to separate them, and ignoring the very panicked feelings he was having as well. As soon as he exerted force, however, the girl reacted. She lunged forward face first, and Hannibal moved before he had even realized. Sharp and searing pain greeted him as he stared down at his arm in shock.
Mischa’s teeth were locked into the meat of his forearm.
She growled up at them. Her face was feral and wild as she bit down harder and harder. Will was almost yelling now, repeating reassurance over and over again. Hannibal wasn’t sure whether to be grateful or not that his sleeves had been rolled up. On one hand, the material could have probably helped protect his skin. On the other, at least it wouldn’t get stained by the blood. He would need stitches, a distant part of his mind noted.
She had quite the bite.
I'm sorry for everyone out there that was waiting. My grandfather was put into hospice and then died. We were pretty close, and it's been very hard. I really appreciated all the comments and inquiries, they made me smile when I didn't think I could.
So here's the next update, and I will try to get back on a regular schedule again. Sorry for the wait. :(
Hannibal frowned at the bandage wrapped around his arm. The skin beneath it throbbed faintly, and he knew that it would scar. Will had hovered around him as he had treated it, eyes darting frenetically between his daughter and the doctor, ignoring the bloody streaks on his own face and neck. Hannibal didn’t blame the man. He was a little unsettled as well at the girl’s outburst. His own eyes darted to her form, curled up carefully in her bed. At her bedside, Will slept fitfully in the rocking chair. Hannibal himself hadn’t been able to settle himself enough to even try to sleep. He leaned against the doorway, still uneasy.
Will had thrown himself into a shower the moment Mischa had fallen asleep, dousing himself with enough soap that Hannibal had smelled the man from down the hall. Will had then spent the next hour thoroughly washing and wiping down the girl herself. He had done a considerably good job in getting rid of the smell as much as possible, Hannibal admitted, and it made him wonder if smells were easy triggers for the girl and if something similar had happened before.
Hannibal sighed noiselessly.
He would get no answers tonight.
He pulled himself together. Will had done a good job of cleaning considering, but he did not have the keen sense of smell that his daughter or Hannibal possessed. It would be the least he could do since there was no sleep to be had for the doctor anyway. He sent one last glance back at the two people that had somehow wormed their way into what remained of his shriveled heart before turning to leave the room. Hannibal spent the next few hours stripping his house of any lingering hint of the offending smell. By the time that the sun had risen on a new day, two carpets had been removed, virtually every piece of fabric from downstairs had been washed, and a new set of towels had been set up in the bathroom. He was just folding up the last of the nest of blankets that Mischa preferred when the noise above him alerted him to the waking Grahams. He paused a minute, waiting. When no one appeared, he allowed himself to finish his self-appointed task. Hannibal wasn’t surprised to hear the water running not long after. Mischa had an indulgent love of baths that amused both Will and him, and if there was a time for relaxation and indulgence, it was now. It was well into the morning when the two eventually emerged, looking apprehensive and stiff. Breakfast preparations had just finished, and he allowed himself to smile at the two as he finished setting the table.
“Good morning, Will, Mischa. You are just in time for breakfast.”
Will was blinking at him, faintly incredulous. The doctor knew that Will was expecting an interrogation or at least a shift in attitude. Even Mischa was staring up at him questioningly. Whatever the expectations they had; he had no intentions of fulfilling. For all the incident had been unexpected and fairly unnerving, Hannibal had become far too entrenched in the little family to be going anywhere.
They were his now.
Hannibal took the time to observe the girl, noting that the tenseness of her shoulders, the tightened facial expression, and the frown on her brow that she had been sporting for the last few days had all but disappeared. Her beautiful curls had been drawn away from her face into a loose braid, and Hannibal felt a small curl of possessive pleasure as he noted the clothes she was wearing were the ones that he had bought for her.
“Ah. Thanks.” Will spoke hesitantly, but there was a relieved air about him.
Hannibal pulled out Mischa’s chair, smiling down at the young girl almost reflexively. A small ghost of a smile flickered back at him, and as he settled back in his own seat, he was surprised to find something tense inside of him relaxing as well. Breakfast began slowly, but smoothly. He and Will talked lightly, unconcerned with Mischa’s non-participation. He didn’t bother to hide his approving pleasure when the girl began eating. Only toast, fruit, yogurt, and granola, but food none the less. It was certainly more than she had consumed in the last few days. He would still need to work on the rest of her diet, but he would take it for now. They moved into their regular rhythms afterward as well. He and Will began cleaning up as Mischa relocated to her usual spot in the living room, a fire already burning lowly in the grate. She settled down with a book, face relaxed and calm. Will had clearly expected some sort of confrontation or interrogation, but as curious as Hannibal was, he was more than willing to wait until things were calmed down. He left for his office somewhat reluctantly around 9:30 am, but he was content with the relaxed mood that they had settled in to.
The day passed by slowly, Hannibal forcing himself to pretend interest in the whiney complaints of his clients. He spent most of the day reflecting on Mischa and the incident, attempting to sus out some sort of explanation or diagnosis. He had known beforehand that there had been trauma in the girl’s past, but he had not known that it was so significant or intense. Mischa was hardly a normal child; her non-neurotypical state meant that most trauma-inducing events would hardly mean anything to her. He had seen it first-hand, in the wake of her kidnapping. The girl had been largely unaffected by her experiences and was mostly just amused at the sheer overprotective nature that had consumed both the doctor and Will. Hannibal was of two minds about it all. For all that he was intensely curious about the event – professionally and personally – he was surprised to find himself apprehensive about knowing exactly what the girl had experienced.
He wasn’t entirely sure how he would handle toe information. The kidnapping alone had inspired a particular bloodthirsty nature in him that he had not felt for some time. Usually, his kills were methodical, organized things. A point and a message, with a side helping of adding to his larder. Seeing the girl battered and beaten had inspired nothing but savagery, and it was only his sheer force of will that kept him from going out and doing something potentially stupid. Whatever had happened to the girl was already over, he knew, but he was unsure of how comforting that would be to the monster in him. It couldn’t be that bad, could it? Hannibal shook the thought from his head, tucking a small frown away.
He had come to care for the girl a lot – there was no denying that anymore. In the beginning, part of it was misplaced affection from his own sister, he acknowledged. But his affections had grown so far past that. Every moment he had spent with her was memorable. The small curl of her mouth as she read a favored book, the delighted sounds she made when eating something she particularly enjoyed, the intense concentration she held when focused on her work, the deliciously dark looks she sent anyone who so much as looked at her father wrong and then the way she melted into something soft and adorable in his presence. She was an exceedingly smart child, not at all annoying or disrespectful despite the fact that all the adults in her life spoiled her. She honestly enjoyed art, music, literature, and various other intellectual pursuits. Conversations with the girl, when had, were actually quite enjoyable. A true rarity even among adults these days. Mischa was important to him. He wasn’t sure he wanted to know what could hurt her so much.
Not without killing someone anyway.
He had come so close that day in the forest. The only thing that had truly stopped him was the fact that Will had entranced the doctor so firmly he had wrenched away the awful rage that had been consuming him. The doctor had been content to watch Will, to hold Mischa safe in his arms. But in the hospital afterward, he had realized that the rage had just been banked, not snuffed out. There was no relief to be found in those tense moments. He had been so unsure of himself, not used to having such burning and intense feelings of protective rage. He had wanted to throw himself at his rolodex – to truly burn through this rage. But he hadn’t been able to bring himself to leave Mischa. Even after she had been released, he had found himself more and more reluctant to leave her and Will.
Hannibal rolled the thoughts over in his head throughout the day. When he had finally ushered a weeping Franklin from his office, Hannibal was more than ready to be back at home with his Grahams. He hurried home in the dark and cold, but paused outside his house, taking in the sight of the lights and the shadows moving behind the curtains. How long had it been since there had been anyone waiting for him at home? He tucked the thought away and pushed into the warmth of the house. The stereo was playing softly, and he recognized the piece as one of Mischa’s favorites. There was a warmth permeating the air, and somewhat surprisingly, the scent of cooking food. He followed the noise and smell into the kitchen. Hannibal divested himself of his outer layers as he watched Will. The other man was wearing his apron, stirring something on the stove as he hummed quietly along with the melody. Mischa was sat at the counter, some of her schoolwork around her, but her eyes followed Will adoringly.
As he stepped further into the room, Mischa’s eyes found him. She grinned at him, easy and familiar, and he couldn’t keep the answering smile from his own face. Whatever apprehensiveness she had this morning seemed to have disappeared. Will’s too, he realized, as he watched the man hum softly. The doctor was so pleased that he wasn’t even angry that Will was using his kitchen. If anything, there was something viscously pleasing about the fact that Will was so comfortable he had made himself at home in Hannibal’s space.
And it had only taken the better part of the last 5 months.
Will remained one of the very few people to last so long against Hannibal’s charms. Even more surprisingly, he had had to abandon all the fake emotions that felled most people. Will, for some unfathomable reason, seemed to prefer the monster to the man. The mere thought made him shiver. He pressed forward in the room. Mischa blinked up at him as he passed a hand through her curls. He smiled down at her for a moment before turning to the still distracted Will. He slid up to the man, coming to lean over his shoulder as he peered at the content of the stove.
“Well now,” He breathed slowly and deliberately into the other man's ear, “Doesn’t that look delicious?”
Will swore colorfully, jumping and inadvertently attempting to swing a spatula at Hannibal’s face. The doctor didn’t bother to suppress his amusement even as he stepped back to avoid the cooking utensil.
“Hannibal!” Will scolded, alarmed and surprised.
“Will.” The doctor replied in amusement.
“Don’t play with me, you did that on purpose!” Will scolded lightly, the red scratches on his cheeks highlighting his frown.
But there was no real heat behind his tone, and there was a relaxed air about the man that hadn’t been there for the last few days.
Hannibal grinned down at the smaller man mischievously. “Why Will, do you really think that I would do such a thing? I had assumed you would have heard me coming through the door.”
Will was attempting to scowl at him, but the lips twitching at the corners of his mouth belayed his amusement.
“Of course. How could I ever think you would do such a thing?” Came the sarcastic reply as Will turned his attentions back to the stove.
“Of course,” Hannibal replied, a laugh tickling his tone as he settled back to lean against the counter behind him that Mischa sat at.
Will attempted to frown at him over his shoulder but was unable to stop his own grin from forming.
“You’re home,” Will stated redundantly, smile softening into something pleasant. “How was your day?”
Hannibal hummed in reply, basking in the moment for a second.
“I’m home,” He spoke quietly. “Work was as it ever is. I am glad to see you both doing better.”
Will’s face settled into something fond as he murmured in reply, “Yeah, we’re doing okay. We figured after everything, the least we could do was have dinner ready when you got back. I hope you don’t mind?”
Will was looking slightly hesitant now, unsure about Hannibal would take the invasion of his kitchen. It was well recognized that the space was sacred to the doctor, and both Will and Mischa were considerably respectful of that fact.
“Why would I mind?” Hannibal questioned in a honeyed voice, ignoring the obvious. “I am honored, in fact, that you would be willing to do such for me. I am in fact quite glad that my kitchen was able to be of some use to you. You may use it whenever you wish.”
Will flushed, giving Hannibal a glimpse of his rather adorable red cheeks before Will turned his face away back to the stove. Ah, the doctor sighed internally, what a shame to hide such a lovely sight.
“Dinner will be ready in a few minutes,” Will mumbled awkwardly, hands twitching ever so slightly as he tried to fight his embarrassment.
“Perfect.” Hannibal purred, stepping closer to the man to enjoy Will’s frazzled state.
A noise of amusement brought his attention to the girl still sitting behind the counter. She was staring at them both in tolerant amusement, but her eyes seemed to settle a little heavily on the taller man. Hannibal had a momentary flashback to the night of the girl’s birthday and the poignant conversation they had had in her room. He smiled at her slightly but stepped back all the same.
He would prove himself to her eventually, he knew.
Dinner passed in a similar fashion. Both Hannibal and Will were enormously pleased with the sight of Mischa eating. Hannibal had to squash his stung chef’s pride at the small slight but would suffer it gladly if it meant the girl would eat. It did make him wonder at exactly why the girl seemed so fixated on Will’s cooking. While not unskilled, Will’s cooking was very much ‘home-style’. Much to his consternation, he noticed that had even cooked one of the dishes on the table tonight. Mischa hadn’t touched it then, but now she was halfway through a plate of it. He very carefully did not eye her as she took seconds. Instead, he and Will held a lighthearted, teasing conversation. If it wasn’t for the red streaks over Will’s cheeks of the slight bulk of the bandage on his own arm, Hannibal would have thought the last few days had never happened. It seemed the two Grahams had similar thoughts, as they fell into the familiar rhythm after dinner. Hannibal was just beginning to come to terms with the thought that the previous night’s incident would remain unaddressed when he found himself confronted with it by Mischa herself.
Hannibal and Will had found themselves in their usual positions in Mischa’s room. Hannibal settled himself into the rocking chair at the side of the bed while Will lay with the girl. He was curled around her, clutching her to his chest tightly in what was the only sign of anything out of the ordinary. Hannibal had just settled himself down with their most recent book when he caught the unexpectedly serious look on Mischa’s face.
“My brother was burned.” She started abruptly.
The girl shifted, turning to face him completely even as Will stroked a hand through her hair. Hannibal kept himself still, turning the information over in his mind. He had never given thought to the possibility that Mischa might have siblings. He darted a quick look at Will, but the other man caught it.
“Not mine.” Will denied, reading the question easily. “Mischa’s mother was an old friend of mine. We fell out of touch. Not long after Mischa was born, she ended up marrying. Her husband brought his own two kids into the family. He was a good man – a good father. Raised Mischa like she was his own.”
Will cut himself off abruptly, face turning drawn, pensive, and surprisingly regretful. Hannibal found himself a little fascinated. The shorter man tended to get guarded and territorial with his daughter around strangers, let alone men who claimed to be her father. He would have figured that Will would be rather intensely against the man in question, but Hannibal could see the naked approval on his face. Will respected this man, regretted his – what Hannibal was assuming – death. The doctor didn’t think Will would have allowed anyone the title of father other than himself.
“He was a good father.” Mischa agreed quietly, making Hannibal blink down at her a little blankly. “He tried to protect us all.”
The doctor hadn’t moved. Hadn’t shifted. He sat tensely, waiting for a further explanation and half worried that none was going to come. The duo just stared up at him. It was becoming obvious that Will wouldn’t be offering up this little tidbit, and that Mischa would be leading this conversation. He let himself eye the girl with his sister's name; the girl that had come envelope a large portion of his life. She stared back at him. There was something in her face that he couldn’t read. Something dark and full of questions that he couldn’t read. Her face had fallen into what Will had rather humorously once described as her ‘serious adult’ face. It was an adorable sight on her tiny little face, he acknowledged. But there also seemed to be something expectant there too. He hesitated, unsure, but then went on.
“He protected you from what?” He finally asked.
Mischa stared at him for a long moment.
“A monster.” She murmured.
Something dark in Hannibal shifted.
Monsters were very territorial.
He breathed for a long moment, unsure how he was going to process this, then prompted. “A monster?”
Mischa’s small solemn face stared up at him, uneasy and hesitant.
“That’s what Mischa calls him. They never did find out his name.” Will interjected.
“He hasn’t been caught?” Hannibal asked sharply, body filled with sudden tenseness and irrational anger.
“Ah,” The other man blinked slightly, and Hannibal caught the most interesting expression on his face before Will turned away from him. “No, he was. Sort of. He died. We just never got an ID.”
Before the doctor could ponder exactly what he saw, Mischa spoke up again.
“He killed us all.”
The air seemed to have been sucked out of the room. Whatever good mood that had been fostered earlier in the day seemed to have evaporated. The warmth also seemed to be slipping away, leaving Hannibal blindingly, achingly, cold. He knew that she wasn’t dead; she was sitting in front of him. But the words still echoed cuttingly in the room, resonating with something inside of him that made him absolutely breathless. His lungs seemed to have forgotten how to breathe; his chest throbbing hollowly.
He was distantly aware that Will seemed similarly affected. His eyes were burning darkly in the furious, sharp, feral thing his face had become. He was clenching Mischa almost bruisingly tight, glaring out at the room.
“He came one night.” Mischa breathed out into the still quiet of the room. “He didn’t leave for a long time.”
Mischa sighed sorrowfully, turning away from Hannibal to curl into her father’s chest. For the first time since their auspicious introduction, Hannibal caught the sight of fear in her eyes. Mischa was never scared. She hadn't even blinked when the girl had been almost buried alive. Now, however, at the mere memory of the events, Mischa was afraid.
“Mischa? Do you want me…?” Will trailed off, concerned.
The girl nodded just once. The curly-haired man turned his focus on Hannibal, seemingly not aware that he was using as much as his body as possible to cover the girl.
“We talked earlier.” He started, eyes sharp as flint. “She said she would explain, but I don’t think she realized how hard it would be.”
“There isn’t anything wrong with that,” Hannibal murmured, his inner therapist throwing the words out.
“No,” Will agreed, before appearing to gather himself. He was silent for a few tense minutes, eyes roving around the room restlessly.
He began speaking slowly, almost too quiet to be heard. Every word that dripped from his mouth seemed to settle like a stone in Hannibal’s gut. His fingers dug into the wood of the rocking chair as he struggled to keep the barest mask of civility. The quiet, cold, dark thing in him was raging. Roaring inside of him like it hadn’t done since his sister's death. It railed at him, offering images and offers.
But there was no justice to be found.
No meat to put on the table.
Instead, he found himself listening to the string of events that had birthed the small dark creature that lived in Mischa. For all that he adored the girl for it, he found himself regretful of its existence for the first time ever. Will’s quiet voice echoed around the room, giving voice to the nightmare that his daughter had emerged from.
Chapter 16: A/N - QnA Update
Don't worry, I'm not abandoning anything. Got pretty much the whole story plotted out so no worries on that front.
Unfortunately, 2020 is the year that keeps on shitting. The night before Christmas my computer crashed. I had hoped that it would be a simple fix and I'd be up and running again for class, but the gods are unforgiving. As of today I've had to send it back to Microsoft to either get it fixed or a replacement. For those of you wondering why I haven't simply gotten another, I just bought it in October and am not willing or able to drop another thousand on a new one just a few months after the first time.
Unfortunately that means no updates for a bit.
Literally right as I was getting back into the swing of the story. Here's to hoping that my cloud picked up my latest edits on the document and I can continue where I left off when I get back on.
I'm sorry to everyone who waited so long. 😞
In an offer of appeasement, I am willing to do a bit of Q and A if anyone of you have questions? Leave a comment and next Sunday I will edit this chapter with all the answers.
Assuming anyone has any questions. Or is still interested. Ughhhh. 😖
[Posted rather painstakingly on my phone]
Hello all! Thank you all for the support and love, you have no idea how much I appreciate it all. I felt so bad about not being able to update. I have compiled all the questions I’ve gotten and grouped them accordingly. If you do not want to read it, don’t feel you have to though I’ve done my best to not spoil anything. If I missed anything, please let me know. There may be some questions repeated, but I wanted to make sure that everyone’s questions were answered so I’ve literally copied and pasted.
- “I really want to know how Misha’s eating Hannibal’s food problem is gonna be handled?”
- This is still ongoing, and currently progressing in the story. A big breakthrough has happened, and brought parts of it to light, but quite frankly it is still in the fallout faze (kinda). There is still a lot of things going on with that. It is a major plot issue that has been being developed from the very beginning. I was very specific about certain things because of it. So no spoilers, sorry.
- “And lastly, will Mischa ever eat what Hannibal cooks? Does Hannibal have a clue now about why she doesn’t eat (knowing that the smell of burnt human flesh causes flashbacks after seeing it for himself)?”
- See above for the first question. No spoilers. As for the second, this is will actually be coming up in the next chapter or two. So. If you have any further questions just message me.
- “will Hannibal understand that Mischa's aversion to his food arises cos of her past? If so will he like do something about it? Like you know using fish and white meat instead but ig Mischa still won’t trust that. are they gonna have a conversation about it?”
- See #1 and #2. As I said, this food issue will be going on for quite some time. (plus I have specific plot points). I will let you know though, that Hannibal will certainly attempt a conversation, but whether Mischa goes for it is another question.
- “Will Hannibal Lecter ever find out why she doesn't eat his food?”
- Uhm, this may be sorta spoily? Look away if you want. Yes and no (for now). He’s going to assume that it is because of her issues with the basement, and not attribute it to her knowing about his Cannibalistic tendency. He has no reason to believe she would even know about it, and therefore doesn’t suspect anything. The assumption will be that she is that with all food not prepared by Will (or Mrs. Hollingsworth). This will be explored further and in more detail in the later chapters. The truth may be eventually found out. Who knows?....(lol, I do, I guess XD )
- “I was wondering if Micha refuses to eat any food that isn't cooked by Will (that doesn't come from a package), or is it just Hannibal's? I mean there's a very obvious reason why she avoids Hannibal's food, but we have not exactly seen anyone else cook for her, either.”
- This will be partially answered and explored in the next chapter, but I feel comfortable answering it now. She doesn’t (or hasn’t, I suppose) eat any homecooked food other than Will’s and Mrs. Hollingsworth’s. This isn’t quite by choice, as if you had noticed she doesn’t actually have anyone else to make food for her. This was probably not noted, but there is a subtle drop of Mischa eating at Mrs. Hollingsworth way back before she even met Hannibal, and even once after. She does packaged things all the time, and fast food. Her reason for Hannibal is quite obvious. If the situation ever arose that someone else cooked for her? Well, you’d have to see about it.
- “Will Hannibal ever truly find out what happened to Mischa?”
- Its probably not quite clear (partially because there’s no follow up for you guys to get the clarification), but he literally just found about it in that last chapter. Will told him. He was not happy.
- “Will she ever tell anyone that she is a reincarnater? Or will that stay a secret?”
- This is something I’ve decided on from the very beginning. No one will ever find out about it. Apart from her knowledge, her reincarnation has no relevance to the story. Rather, it will never play a part directly. Sorry if anyone is disappointed, but that wasn’t the point of the story that I was going for.
- “How old do you intend for her to get in your Fanfiction? Will she stay young or will she become an adult at some point in your story?”
- I have no current plans for Adult Mischa, though that could change eventually. She is aging, just aging according to the timeline I have via the TV show. I have an overall story planned, with a specific plot. It follows the rough outline of the show. So, we will be exploring the world slowed down from the episodes. It will differ sharply at certain points, before eventually diverging completely. Is that a spoiler? Spoiler.
- “Will Mischa ever tell her dad’s about transmigrating?”
- See above.
- “Does Mischa have a Contingency plan or plans hidden? No need to spoil. Just checking cuz it seems like she's just waiting for things to happen and/or reacting to events then manipulating it to be advantageous to her and hers.”
- Always. From the very moment she chose to go with Will at the police station. She is in fact waiting, plotting, and planning. And always turning things towards her advantage (you can see a little bit of it in the whole fallout of the Mushroom Man). It is part of why she keeps watching Hannibal.
- “will Mischa speak to other people besides Will and Hannibal in the future?”
- I don’t know, actually. Her speaking is not really a part of her trauma as much as I think people may believe so. Will stated it in the beginning, Mischa just doesn’t like people. This is true. In the beginning, her reluctance to speak was a combination of not knowing how to react to her whole family being murdered (plus the reincarnation) and not knowing how to speak like a normal 4-year-old. It sorta grew from there, and now she’s grown more comfortable with her personality. So she doesn’t care that she doesn’t like people, and really doesn’t like talking to them. Because people are stupid. If a good reason ever shows itself, she might. I’ve no definite plans, so far, though.
- “Will you be avidly sticking to the show's plot or will it steer onto its own course from here on out?”
- It is a mix. For now, we’re pretty on track with the plot, and I will be following cases as a sort of timeline. Eventually, however, it will diverge completely into the plot I’m driving it to. It should be a pretty long story (hopefully).
- “Will something ever come out of the small things like Abigail's death or the way Zeller was acting?”
- Some small things, yes. These ones, no, not probably. Zeller’s issues maybe, but I haven’t got anything definite. I felt that most of his issues were about the Mushroom Man case and his little history with Freddie. When it ended, he saw the light, but I did sorta drop the ball on him. I forget sometimes that I edit certain things out. I actually had a follow up with him not long after, but ended up not liking it and dropped it. Sort of forgot it was just left hanging. Abigail has no effect, because she wasn’t alive long enough. Will has a daughter already.
- “How do you kinda plan this story and make the chapters the length they are?”
- I have a written outline of major plot points, events, and ideas. I then order them into a timeline and attach them accordingly to episodes/cases. I know what I want to write, and the rough flow of events and conversations I want to happen. Pacing can get away from me sometimes, as I get into the details of certain things, but otherwise I generally know where I’m going. The length is always at least 8 pages. That’s my minimum limit, though I go over if I need to end a scene correctly. I like ending on interesting points, as you may have noticed. (I dislike short chapter updates as a reader, and thought mine would too, so I try and make them as long as possible while maintaining pacing).
- “Also, out of curiosity, do you write an outline for the long-term and fill it in with the actual story as you go or are you more geared for “I’ve got a vague idea for it’s direction I’ll take it one chapter at a time” approach”
- See above. I do have an outline, especially for long term. I fill in the details and minor info. Each chapter gets its own minor outline though, where I organize the smaller details. Usually, the first one I do tends to expand to three chapters though. Which sorta helps, actually, because I generally always know what I’m doing in the next couple of chapters in more detail.
- “What inspired you to write this fic?”
- This may be long, I apologize. It starts out with the fact that I love to read. Fanfic, books, manga, whatever. It meant that ever since I was young, I had the habit of making up my own stories, or fanfics of what I was reading. I would write them out in my head and plot out events and stories to entire books. It actually creeped my family out sometimes, because they occasionally find me staring at a wall for four hours smiling at nothing because I’ve made myself laugh with my own story (Oh my god, how lame/crazy am I?). Usually, they stay in my head. I don’t type fast enough to be satisfied with writing them out, so I usually just play them out in my head until I’m satisfied (about a couple of days, maybe a week if I’m really into something).When I got into the Hannibal TV show, I naturally went into the fanfics. I read a lot. Like. A lot. One of the big appeals of fanfic in general is that it gives you the power to change the plot of the story. I like the TV show, but I was disappointed in certain aspects. I really liked the relationship between Will and Hannibal and how dark and murdery it was, but I was fairly upset that Hannibal never realized how important Will was to him until it was (kinda) too late. They never got the relationship or ending that I would have wanted for them. I explored a good many ideas of what other people thought, but I never found the one I wanted. I began thinking about things that I would want to change and realized that it would only be possible if someone had known about the show or events beforehand, which meant time travel or insert fic. I began writing in my head. I went for self-insert in the idea that a fan (me) wound up in the Hannibal universe and felt the same way about the show. It shifted to Mischa-as-a-character fairly quickly. I realized that me-as-a-character would not do well, and didn’t want to mary-sue it (I hope I haven’t, please tell me if I ever go that way). I wanted a character that fit into the story. Fit with Hannibal and Will. Who was as real as possible, who grappled with not only her reincarnation, but with the world around her, and her attachments to the people in her life. She struggles with her own issues. Mischa got her name from the realization that it would take a lot for Hannibal to get attached to someone not Will. They needed to be like Will for Hannibal to get interested, in my opinion, which meant she was going to be non-neurotypical. The name was a catch point, but her behaviors, history, and personality locked him in. I tried to make it believable. The overall plot came after (not telling, no spoilers). So I kept writing in my head. After about 3 weeks of doing nothing but playing this story in my head, and even going back and altering events, I realized that maybe I should write this one down. I actually only posted it because of a whim. I’ve been a lurker for so long. I used to post fanfic a long time ago (do not ask for it, it was not here. It is terrible and nothing like what I write now). I wasn’t feeling well that day and wondered if I was a terrible writer. I told myself that if I got no positive reviews or kudos I would delete in a day. It took like an hour, and I got something positive. It surprised the s*it out me, tbh.
- “ I do wonder: what is your go to writing music? Lately, I find myself using Toss A Coin To Your Witcher the epic orchestra version.”
- I listen to a variety of music, I’m afraid. I sometimes am watching a show as I write. About half the time, I end up watching the same Hannibal episode to make sure the details are correct. I’ve watched the first 4 episodes so many times, you have no idea. Usually, I go forward and back on certain parts like 9 times in order to get what I want. I have a Pandora account that I listen to, so there isn’t really any particular song/artist/genre I go to, just whatever I feel like in that moment. I have everything from 80’s rock to alt rock to 2000’s pop to Irish Traditional to Classical/Opera to current hits. I do like the song that you mentioned, though. You should check out ‘Poor Wayfaring Stranger’ by Jos Slovick. It’s amazing; great sad music.
- “Who or what did you get the inspiration from to decide to create a Fanfiction in the Hannibal universe?”
- Se 16.
- “What was your reason for creating a female character and did her personality come from an inspiration by someone/something or complete imagination?”
- This is partially answered in 16. I chose female largely because I am, and I knew that at the very least I could write accurately from a female perspective. I also thought that Hannibal would find a female more appealing than a male as an attachment point. Also, she was named very purposefully, which meant she needed to be female for that point too. As for her personality, it was shaped very purposefully for reasons mentioned in #16 and partly after Will himself (since he was her father). Generally, however, her likes and dislikes and little things are based off of my own. (Not as an attempt at self-insert, just really because it’s easier to remember the details).
- “what gave you the idea for the story. What was your inspiration and thought process?”
- See 16. Also, considerably flattered that you are all so interested in my writing process.
- “For writing your fic, do you solely work from your laptop or do you use other mediums as well?”
- Unsure why you wanted to know, but yes, I work from my laptop only. I have a phone, but I don’t use it like that. I don’t have a desktop and I live alone so laptop is my only option.
Hannibal and Will:
- “Hi!! I was wondering how Will would feel about the talk Mischa and Hannibal had?”
- Hi!! I assume you are referring to the shovel talk that they had on her birthday/Thanksgiving? If so, then he would be considerably appalled and reluctantly flattered if he ever found out. Neither Mischa nor Hannibal really want that, so he’s probably never going to find out. There will probably be a few of these convo’s, if everything goes accordingly. Will would be rather irritated but find Mischa’s over protectiveness inherently adorable. It would also give him a body full of pleasant feelings when he gets proof that people care about him – feelings that would no doubt confuse our poor unsocialized Will. Overall, a pleasant and amusing situation lined with a little anger and embarrassment.
- “What will Hannibal’s reaction be when he finds out about the other cannibal?”
- Uhm, what other cannibal? Are you referring to The Monster from the basement? If so, he isn’t a cannibal, just a normal serial torturer/killer. He didn’t actually mean to cook her brother if you read it through; it was an unfortunate accident. If that is not who you are referring to, then please let me know and I will answer again. But at this point the only other cannibal I know of is the Shrike, and he is dead. If you asking about Hannibal’s reaction towards finding out about the Monster, then please wait a chapter or two, because the fallout is happening now. I can tell you this though. He’s certainly not happy about it.
- “Will the relationship between Will and Hannibal progress further (They already hang out a lot but will they go on dates and stuff)? Also, will there potentially be a third party (like a person interested in Will which makes Hannibal jealous)?”
- It definitely will. I’ve already dropped that Hannibal is aware of his own feelings. Mischa has her own conditions and plans for this if it happens. There will be more interactions, hanging out, and eventually dates but there are several things that need to happen first. I want this to seem natural and normal, and not rushed or enforced. Will is very anti-social and unsure of himself; he’s hardly going to throw himself into a relationship when he doesn’t even know what it means to be friends let alone love someone. That’s not even taking into account Mischa and her feelings, and how he would react to them. Its complicated. Purposefully. Relationships are hard, even when you aren’t sociopaths and serial killers.
- “Oh oh why did you kill of Abigail Hobbs? If she'd had lived what would our protagonist's reaction be towards her?”
- The simple reason is because I didn’t like her. Her character always grated on me. At best she was way for Hannibal to manipulate Will, and I had that in Mischa already. More complicatedly, I saw no point to her, and she never stood out to be as anyone that stood on her own two feet. I always kind of thought that she might have been happier if she had died with her family, as everything she experienced after their deaths was just more and more damaging to her. I could not find a place for her in the story as anything other than a hanger on, and knew if I tried she would end up as a really flat character. I also knew my main character at that point. I knew Mischa would never stand sharing her father’s attentions. I actually debated and ran down a few story lines in which she did live, and in all but one of them Mischa ended up killing her. Will actually did it once (in that story line, Abigail was resentful of Mischa and couldn’t take it and tried to kill her in a fit of jealousy – Will did not approve). Thus, you have Mischa’s response if she had lived.
- “What’s wrong with the laptop that you have to send it to Microsoft?”
- Uh, not sure why you’re interested, but sure I’ll share. It was a software issue, they said. I was in a boot up loop, which meant that whenever I tried to turn on my laptop all I got was the logo, then it would turn off again (Yes, it was charged). No number of resets or trying to pull up the master screen worked. They couldn’t fix it, it turns out. I actually just found out yesterday that they are going to be sending me a new one, so yay for that. Going to be annoying to have to set everything up again. All my files and pics are saved on my cloud, but I lost game progress and all of my bookmarks, which is fairly annoying because I followed a bunch of stories and manga’s and now I have to track them all down from memory.
(Re-posted 1/25. I originally went back and edited the chapter on 1/23, but then I realized that you all wouldn't get an alert so I deleted and then re-posted.)
I'm digital once more! Yay!
On the other hand...2 months! 2 Months for those b*st*rds to send me a new computer. I just got it about a week and a half ago, so forgive me for the delay. It took me a bit to set up and get everything off the cloud again. I lost some of my progress, so I had to rewrite this chapter.
Hopefully, you guys like it. It is slightly filler, as I am going into the Angel Maker and more Encephalitis, so bear with me. I need to ramp up believably.
As always, let me know if you have any questions!
Mischa hummed as she pressed her face into warm fur.
It felt like it had been a long time since she had been home – Will had reluctantly pulled them from Hannibal’s clutches when he could no longer delay on taking care of the dogs.
Hannibal had not been pleased about it.
The cannibal had been behaving rather oddly since finding out about her traumatic background. He had asked no questions (at least none to Mischa), which had surprised her to no end. She would have figured that the cannibal would have been all over the incident. Then again, it was entirely probable that he had done his own research and was getting his answers elsewhere.
Mischa was a little relieved about that.
She hadn’t realized that she would struggle so much in relating the story. It seemed easy enough when talking about the incident to Will. She had assumed it would be the same with Hannibal. If there was anyone in the world who would understand, it would certainly be him.
Her tongue had glued itself to the top of her mouth that night in bed. She hadn’t been able to push the words from her throat, though perhaps that was because she hadn’t known what words would have come out. They had all jumbled together in her head, rushing and stumbling over each other as if racing to get out of her mouth. But her lips had clenched shut.
Neither man seemed to mind, though it still bothered Mischa. Will seemed relieved to have finally told Hannibal, and Mischa only belatedly realized that he might have been struggling with the knowledge and how to care for her in the traumatic aftermath. Having Hannibal, a renowned psychologist, know was likely a great weight off his shoulder. There was finally someone who might help Will care for Mischa and her needs – one who had already proved to be attached to her almost as much as Will was.
And the doctor was certainly attempting to make headway.
The morning after the revelation, Hannibal had taken to confronting her issues with food head-on. Where she had expected questions about her family and the Basement, Hannibal had only asked Will about her food preferences and history. A rather long discussion was had on what exactly Will had done to help her after he had brought her home. Hannibal was so keenly interested that he had taken to keeping a notebook on hand to write down details. Every food she ate and how much was logged into the book. The biggest intervention, however, was his attempts to teach her how to cook.
In his efforts to help with her issues, he had begun involving her in food preparation. He had explained to Will that she would be more comfortable with eating if she knew exactly what went into a meal. Every time the Doctor made food now, he would settle her in the kitchen with him and go through the different ingredients and cooking instructions one by one. Hannibal had already been growing increasingly aware of her food issues around him. Now that he seemingly had discovered the reason for it, he was attempting to help the issues. But as touched as Mischa was at this effort he was going through; she was still doubtful she could stomach the food. Quite unfortunately, he had the habit of bringing his own ingredients, which really didn’t help the underlying issue. Hannibal had attached her food issues to the starvation and torture received in the Basement. It was even partially correct. Mischa could understand where his thought process was going with this latest move, but she knew that the issue was with his meat source and not her Basement trauma.
Mischa did not mind these interventions so much, mostly because her past issues with eating at Hannibal’s had somehow not been brought up to Will. As far as Will was aware, the previous weeks' aversions were a one-time deal. Mischa was as relieved about this as she was worried. For her to have kept it this hidden, especially in the aftermath of the incident, was very worrying. More often than not, Mischa noted a flush to Will’s cheeks that wasn’t normally there and a general fogginess that seemed to be clouding his sharp mind. The Encephalitis seemed to be progressing, and she was unsure of how soon Hannibal would pick up on it. As observant as he usually was, he had never actually met her father before the symptoms started. He didn’t know enough about the man to be able to pick up on the subtler signs. And now, she realized with dread, it would probably be even longer before the doctor picked up on it. Hannibal seemed to be focusing all his very pointed attentions on her, and it did not seem like he would be shifting it soon. At least not until she had regular eating habits again.
Something twinged in her chest.
She started slightly as she registered the feeling. Unconsciously, she found herself looking down at her chest in wonder. She recognized this feeling, but only dimly. It only occurred to her now that she hadn’t felt it since the Before. Her hand pressed itself to her chest involuntarily.
She felt guilty.
She pondered this new revelation. Hannibal was trying to help her. Honestly and truly. She could see it in the set of his shoulders, the glint in his eyes, the furtive glances he would send her. He had become fond of her, she had known before. It was obvious in the efforts he had gone through for her comfort and well-being. But this was different. In the aftermath of the revelation, she had expected morbid curiosity. Probing questions hidden in casual conversation, testing behaviors and reactions, finding his own satisfaction despite her feelings.
But there was nothing.
Nothing but the very obvious concern that he was displaying. She knew that Will could see it too from the way his eyes followed the other man softly, face very carefully hiding his wonder. Hannibal was attempting to help her. A thought niggled at the back of her mind, making her a little breathless at the thought. Had he seen himself in her? Their histories were only slightly different. Had he recognized his own beginnings in her experiences in the Basement? Is that why he was trying to help her now?
The feeling in her chest twinged again.
She pressed her hand to it harder, pondering this situation. Since when had she cared about Hannibal enough to feel guilty about possibly hurting him? A somewhat incredulous thought came to mind – Could she even hurt him?
She started, one hand yanking slightly on Winston’s soft fur. The dog’s ears lifted, but the rest of him didn’t bother to move from beneath her. The man in question stared down at her, one brow arched in question.
“Dinner is ready. Are you alight?” He asked, eyeing the hand curled over her heart.
Mischa jerked it away, flushing a little. “I’m fine.”
The doctor hummed noncommittally, his eyes narrowing ever so slightly. Mischa rolled her own in response, climbing to her feet. She didn’t manage to get all the way there before she was ensconced in the cannibal's arms. This was not surprising. His physical affections had increased dramatically, and now Mischa could say with certainty that there was someone as obsessed as her father with holding her. She didn’t entirely mind so much, but she vaguely wondered if she would ever be allowed to walk on her own again.
By the time that Hannibal had settled her in the booster chair, Will had finished setting the table. Both men got themselves settled, and as had become the new norm, waited for her first bite before allowing themselves to eat. It was a pleasant affair, as were most of their meals. They had almost finished when it took a downward note.
“Why would we need a tree?” Will asked, thoroughly confused as he stared at the doctor across from him.
Hannibal blinked at the question, seemingly surprised himself. “I do apologize if I’ve offended you, but I assumed you would be celebrating. Mischa’s told before how important holidays are to you.”
Will’s face only seemed to grow more confused. “Yes, they are important, but why do I need a tree?”
Hannibal eyed Will but continued nonetheless. “Usually, Christmas is celebrated with a Christmas tree. I was waiting until you decided to get your own, but since you hadn’t mentioned anything…”
Will blinked, looking slightly amused. “Of course we’re going to get a tree. We usually don’t put it up until December though.”
Hannibal stilled at the remark, fork paused in mid-air as he peered sharply at her father. Mischa’s own heart had skipped a beat at the comment, unable to keep the frown from flickering on her face. It was there just long enough for Hannibal’s dark eyes to catch it, making his own frown appear.
“Will,” Hannibal started gravely. “It is December.”
Will stared at Hannibal, non-pulsed. “What? No it's not. We just had Mischa’s Birthday. It’s November.”
For all that his words were sure, his tone was hesitant. Will looked from Hannibal to Mischa for several long moments. Hannibal’s expression was unreadable as he stared at her father. He paused only long enough to send her a somewhat searching look, and Mischa realized that her earlier worries may be unfounded after all.
“Will, Mischa’s birthday was almost three weeks ago. Christmas is in 9 days.”
“What?” Will breathed out, flummoxed. “No. No that’s…”
He trailed off, looking lost and more than a little worried. He cast his eyes around the room as if looking for something to give him an answer or reason for this unexpected revelation. Mischa watched as his eyes grew even more cloudy.
Hannibal’s frown had grown. “Are you feeling alright Will?”
There were notes of dark concern echoing in his tone, enough that Will caught them. It seemed to be enough to snap him out of his foggy state. He shook himself slightly before visibly gathering himself. He smiled at Hannibal thinly, but honestly.
“I’m ok. Just a lot going on. With everything that happened, I think I just forgot.”
Hannibal seemed to mull over the response, before hesitantly nodding along. “It is not entirely surprising. I suppose I should have mentioned something before, but admittedly I was reluctant to say anything while everything was happening. I take it this means that you would indeed like to get a tree?”
Mischa forced herself not to frown as the doctor seemed to accept the excuse. It was reasonable, she knew, but she wanted the doctor to realize Will’s illness already. Not only to get him treated and back to normal, but also because she needed to see exactly how important they were to the doctor. She needed to know what his priorities would be before she allowed herself or Will to become anymore attached to the cannibal than they already were.
“Yes, we really need to get one,” Will muttered, looking slightly frantic now as his thoughts raced visibly on his face. “9 days. There’s so much to do.”
He breathed the words just a little helplessly, and Hannibal tilted his head slightly at the sound.
One hand reached out across the table, curling around Wills as he spoke reassuringly. “It will be okay; we will get it all done. I have got some things prepared already. There is no need to worry.”
The words were spoken softly, utterly filled with honeyed warmth. All of Hannibal’s considerable focus had come to rest upon Will at that moment. The tone and gaze sucked in the smaller man. Will’s frantic energy seemed to slide off his shoulders at the words. He stared up at the taller man in obvious relief and gratitude. But Will’s gaze seemed to catch on the hungry dark orbs that were Hannibal’s eyes. They gazed at each other, something warm, dark, and unspoken between them.
Neither man seemed to notice that their hands were still connected.
From between them, Mischa stared at the intimate scene with a frown curled upon her lips.