Noise of a few nurses and doctors hurrying to a person that’s just been brought fills the hospital’s hall. Will hears his own name called to another person who had a heart attack. On his way to his patient dr Graham’s eyes catch a woman carried to an operating room. She’s bleeding out. Will's lips part when he sees her face. Molly.
He was trained to be sceptical and cold-blooded. But he can’t help feeling his heart beating faster and louder in his ears.
He wants to go with the doctors, he wants to make sure she’s in good hands. He wants to operate on her but he’s aware that he shouldn’t. She’s his sister.
“Will, we need you here!” yells a nurse from another operating room and Will hurries to tend to the patient.
The operation lasts over two hours and dr Graham does everything to remain focused. He takes a deep breath and tries to steady his heart.
He saves the life of a sixty years old man and quickly leaves the operating room right after removing his bloody gloves. He runs to see how is Molly.
The room where she was taken is empty and there are two cleaning ladies already taking their stuff. So the operation is over. He goes to the reception and asks about the woman brought in about two hours ago.
“Blonde, she was bleeding out. Dr Harmer was operating on her. Molly Graham”
“She was a victim of a hit and run. They didn’t even get to open her”
Will’s eyes close. No.
He needs to sit down. He turns and goes to the waiting room. It’s filled with people. Some of them are crying, some of them are still waiting to hear good or bad news. Will can’t hear anything; his ears shut and declined to register any noise. He takes a seat in the corner and lowers his head. His eyes sting and his throat aches. He’s on the verge of tears.
He hears his name again. Another patient. He still has to work for a few hours. How?
He sniffles, rubs his hands against his eyes and goes to a room where all the staff sit during breaks.
“Can someone replace me?” Will asks with sorrow in his eyes “No, not you, Greg. I need to talk to you”
Dr Harmer remains in his seat and dr Bloom goes to tend to the patient.
“What’s going on?” dr Harmer asks.
“The woman you operated on, the blonde one, the one bleeding out… she was my sister”
Dr Harmer’s eyes widen in shock. He places a hand on Will’s shoulder in reassurance.
“I’m so sorry. I tried to do everything in my power to save her”
“I know you did. I know”
“Look, you should finish earlier today. I’ll talk to the head of the ward. You go and have some rest”
“I’ll talk to him myself. I need to take a leave. A week, preferably. My sister, she… she had a son. And now I’m his only family”
“Oh man. Is there anything we can do?”
“No. I have to take care of everything. I mean, the funeral and all”
“Go. We’ll manage without you”
Will receives a friendly hug and goes to talk to the head of the ward. He’s given a week off and he drives to his sister’s house. He opens the door with his keys and finds a young girl asleep on the sofa. She was probably meant to look after Walter when Molly was at work.
Will touches the girl’s shoulder and she wakes up. She screams.
“It’s okay. My name’s Will Graham. I’m Molly’s brother” Will explains.
“Oh. I’m sorry. I was afraid you were a burglar”
Will’s eyes are red and sad.
“Did Ms Graham call you? She was supposed to come a few hours ago. I stayed because I couldn’t leave Walter alone but I’d appreciate if she told me earlier I’d have to stay longer”
“She, um, she couldn’t have called you” Will sits on the couch “She was in a car accident”
“Oh my god, is she alright?”
“She lost a lot of blood and she- she didn’t make it”
Will takes his face in his own hands and he feels his cheeks are already wet. The girl gasps and covers her mouth with her hand.
“I’m so sorry”
“Thank you. You can go now. Thank you for staying with him longer, I appreciate that. How much do I owe you?”
“Oh. No, I… I can’t your money. Let’s say tonight I was doing a favour. But if you ever need me again, call me. Ms Graham surely has my number written somewhere”
“No, you stayed longer today, you have to get paid. Is fifty dollars okay?”
Will takes out his wallet and offers the money to the girl. She takes it hesitantly and goes to the door.
“Are you sure you’re going to be alright? I could stay a bit longer”
“No. I’ll be fine”
“He may be hungry soon”
“Alright. I’ll take care of him. Goodbye”
Will closes the door and goes to Walter’s room. The little boy is sleeping soundly, unaware of the tragedy of the day. Will has seven days to find a babysitter who will take care of Walter when Will’s at work. He’ll need someone reliable and mature, not some girl from the neighbourhood.
Graham goes to his sister’s bedroom. It’s so empty, so calm. There is still a dress hanging on the door of the wardrobe. Was she supposed to go on a date? That would’ve been good. She’d been alone since she carried Walter. His father simply abandoned her and never even met the child.
Will sees different earrings placed on a nightstand. She was never able to choose, could never make a decision.
It’s Wednesday. Will goes to the kitchen and takes out his phone. He looks online for companies organising funerals. It’s going to be a tough week. And a lifetime, probably.
He calls a few firms and finally puts the phone down. He’ll deal with that tomorrow. Right now he needs a babysitter so that he can deal with that tomorrow. He calls a care centre that appears as the first after googling.
“Hello? You reached ‘Unicorn’s Stable’. How can we be of service?” a warm voice speaks.
“My name is Will Graham. I’m looking for a permanent babysitter for a one-year-old”
“Will the service be required every day?”
“I’m a surgeon at the city hospital, I work different shifts. The babysitter will be required every day but somedays longer and sometimes the hours can change”
“Alright. I think we have a suitable candidate. He can come to your home tomorrow so you can talk to him and decide if he's the right person to take care of your precious child”
Him. A man. Will always imagines women working in this kind of places. Well if he’s qualified, then why not?
Will gives his address and the lady assures that Mr Hannibal Lecter can be expected to come at nine the next day.
Will hears the baby crying upstairs so he opens the fridge. He has not much experience with children but he sees a few bottles with milk, probably prepared earlier so he takes one and goes to feed Walter. He lifts the kid from the crib and shushes him. He puts the bottle into the child’s mouth and watches Walter suck. Will rocks him in his arms and starts crying himself. He lost his sister. And this innocent child lost his mother. And there is no one to blame for that.
At this moment Will hears a doorbell. He wipes away the tears and goes downstairs with Walter still in his arms, drinking the milk. Will opens the door and sees two police officers.
“Are you Mr Graham?” one asks.
“Yes. Is this about my sister’s accident?”
“Yes. May we come inside?”
“Sure” Will opens the door wider and lets the two men inside.
They go to the kitchen and Will sits by the table.
“Please, have a seat” he points at the other chairs.
The officers sit by him and watch the child in Will’s arms. Graham takes the bottle away and puts it on the table. Walter’s not hungry anymore.
“Your sister was walking down the Chandler’s Street and she was hit by a car. Unfortunately, the driver fled and there are no security cameras in the area. The ones we managed to get a footage from don’t register the spot where Ms Graham was hit. We have no way of catching the perpetrator”
“So you came here to tell me my sister is dead and I can’t even see the” Will lowers his voice “fucker who did it?”
“We’re very sorry, Mr Graham. We can’t do more without any evidence”
Will closes his eyes. He’s seen death many times but this one is different. Normally, when he can’t save someone, he’s aware that someone else will mourn the loss. But Will’s life moves on. This time it feels like nothing changed and the world decided to move on while he’s crushed under the heavy weight of a tragic loss.
“Thank you, officers” Will says and the policemen leave the house.
There is nothing the police can do and even less he can. He goes to place Walter back in the crib and returns to the kitchen to drink something. He finds a carton of orange juice in the fridge and a bottle of mineral water. He goes for the water; orange juice always leaves a bad taste in his mouth. He sits by the table and looks around.
He learned how to stay calm in different difficult situations. Now is the time to use this skill.
He decides he’s going to sell his apartment and move in here. He’ll take care of Walter. What else could he do? He’s going to be a lonely parent. Should he tell the child to call him ‘dad’ or ‘uncle’? Suddenly, lots of stupid thoughts and many possible visions of the future flood his mind.
He turns off all the lights and goes to sleep on the couch. Molly’s bed is still too warm for him, still occupied by her presence.
He wakes twice during the night. Once when Walter starts crying but not because he’s hungry. Will tries to feed him and he spills the milk. Graham suspects the child probably senses something is wrong. He must be missing his mom. He must be used to Molly’s touch and voice. Will didn’t visit too often; he was constantly busy at the hospital. Will he manage to bring up this boy?
The second time Will wakes when he dreams about Molly. He sees her on the street, bleeding out. People are calling for help and she’s trembling. The life escapes her slowly.
Will has always dealt with overactive imagination and too strong empathy. As a child he could almost feel what other kids around him felt. Then he practised to limit his emotions and took a deep breath every time he felt overwhelmed. His parents didn’t believe he’d become a surgeon exactly because of his empathy. How can a man operate on people when he’s busy feeling sorry for them?
He trained himself well and tried hard to stay away from any personal relationships. He prefers to stay away and push people away if necessary.
Then, when he was twenty-two, his parents died in a terrorist attack when they were on a trip for their anniversary. Will was left with Molly who had just became eighteen.
She wanted space and independence and then she found herself a boyfriend so Will moved out of their family house. He was trying very hard to make ends meet but he managed. Then, almost two years ago, Molly became pregnant, and as soon as the news reached Molly’s boyfriend, he left.
Will wanted to help, maybe move in again, but Molly found a decent job and seemed to deal with life almost as good as Will.
Poor Molly. Life was never easy on her. Nor was it easy on Will. And now he was left without parents and a sister. His nephew is his only remaining family. Will promises he’ll do anything to raise this child and protect him in every possible way.
He goes to sleep again and wakes a few minutes before nine, just enough to have a shower and dress up.
The doorbell rings exactly at nine. Will answers the door and a surprise waits for him as he expected maybe a twenty-something years old man or an elderly calm pensioner. Instead he sees a man probably in his thirties, in a plaid shirt tucked carefully into his jeans.
“Good morning. I’m Hannibal Lecter. I’m form the ‘Unicorn’s Stable’. Are you Mr Will Graham?”
“Yes. Please, come in”
The man offers a polite smile and looks around the house.
“Do you want something to drink? Orange juice? Water? Tea, maybe?” Will proposes.
“A glass of orange juice will be fine, thank you”
Will takes out the juice from the fridge and pours some into a glass. He hands it to the man and they sit down.
“I was told you have a beautiful one year old child” Hannibal starts.
“Yes. I mean, no. He’s not my child. He’s my nephew. My sister died and I have to take care of him. I’m the only person left in the family and… His name is Walter”
“May I see him?” Lecter asks, smiling at Will shyly.
“Yes. Um. Upstairs. Come”
Hannibal leaves the glass on the table and follows Will. They enter the small, well-lit room upstairs. It’s painted lilac and only a quiet sound of a child sleeping fills the space.
Hannibal steps closer to the crib and looks at the kid.
“Walter” Lecter whispers and then turns to Will “He’s beautiful”
Will returns the smile, more to the child than the man and then Lecter waves at him, suggesting to leave the room.
“When do you need me to start?” Hannibal asks.
“Well, preferably today. I need to organise the funeral and have some other stuff to do. I’m entering a tough period now”
“I’m really sorry”
“I have this week off but I really need some help. I can let you off when I deal with everything but then I’ll need you permanently, starting next Wednesday”
“I see. That’s alright”
“I work in the city hospital and I work different shifts. It can get messy sometimes and I may have to stay longer. I hope it’s not a problem?”
“Not at all. Once you hire me as your babysitter, I decline any other offers. Unless there is a day or a period when you don’t need me. Then I take small jobs”
“Tell me, will you be doing shopping or would you like me to do it?”
“Um. Well it’s not like you’re a house keeper”
“Oh, no, no. I won’t be doing the laundry or the dishes, nor will I clean the house. But I can take Walter for a walk and do the shopping while I’m out. Occasionally I can make you dinner. I understand you’re exhausted when you get home after work”
“It’s not necessary. But doing shopping would be nice. I often forget to do this”
They reach the kitchen and sit by the table again. Hannibal takes out a piece of paper and offers it to Will.
“This is my resume, a list of my other jobs and personal details if you are afraid to ask”
Will starts reading and Hannibal drinks the orange juice left in his glass.
“I don’t mean to be prejudiced or rude but what made you decide to become a babysitter?”
“I like children. I don’t have one of my own, as you can see” he points at the resume “but I enjoy spending time with them and taking care of them. I babysat many kids in my neighbourhood when I was a teenager and many people were sceptical to let a boy take care of their precious ones. But I soon proved to be a reliable employer. And some people also asked me to do other things at home, since I was pretty strong. Single mothers love to have me around. I can always move a thing or fix the sink or nail a thing to a wall”
Will smiles. He won’t need Hannibal for other stuff. He just needs him to take care of Walter while he’s away. Will continues reading. He’s silently impressed. He lifts his gaze from the paper and looks at Hannibal, who has his eyebrows raised.
“Well? Am I to your liking?”
“Yes” Will returns the resume to Lecter “Are you ready to start? I need to leave for a few hours”
They shake hands and then Hannibal gives another piece of paper for Will to sign, a contract. Formalities out of the way, Graham takes a jacket and heads to the door.
“Oh, and…” he fiddles in his pocket “here’s the key to the house if you want to go out for a walk with Walt”
Will gives the key to Hannibal and finally leaves the house.
He drives to a funeral home and waits by the door for a few minutes. His breathing becomes faster and shallower. His eyes threaten to shed tears. He gets out and enters the building.
He didn’t think he’d have to do this again. Choose a coffin, organise a place for the burial. He doesn’t have any more family or many friends. He’ll just tell some of the doctors to come if they want, and a few nurses.
When everything is decided upon, he leaves the undertaker and drives to the hospital.
“Alana!” he yells when he sees one of the doctors.
“Will. I heard what happened”
Dr Bloom approaches Graham and hugs him. She’s always been his friend. She never asks questions and tolerates all his quirks. If they operate together, she is a perfect partner. They understand each other without words. Once he thought about changing the status of their relationship, but he quickly realised how big mistake it would be. He doesn’t want to be rejected and he doesn’t want to ruin their friendship.
“I just was at the funeral home. The burial will be on Saturday. I wanted to tell everyone if someone would like to come. Will you?”
“Of course, Will”
“I’m not organising any meeting afterwards. It’ll be only a funeral and then everyone goes home”
“I understand. How are you holding, Will?”
“I had a meeting with a babysitter this morning. Molly left Walter and I’m the only one left to take care of him. I still have to go to a real estate agency, to sell my apartment”
“So you’re going to move to Molly’s house”
“Well, it was also my house once”
“So I see you at the funeral? And remember, if you ever need me, just give me a call” Alana offers.
“Thank you. And yes, see you on Saturday. The burial will take place at five. I’ll text you more details later”
“Of course. Take care, Will”
Then Graham goes to inform the rest of the doctors about the funeral and drives to a real estate agency. He offers all the information about his apartment and then goes to show the flat to an agent. He’s assured it will sell in less than a month.
Will returns home after two and finds Hannibal on the couch, watching tv, with Walter in his arms. When Lecter hears Will's back home, he turns his head and places a finger on his lips, indicating to stay quiet.
“I fed him and he’s just fallen asleep” Lecter whispers.
“Put him in the crib and you can go. I won’t need you anymore today”
Hannibal nods and stands up gently, careful not to wake the child. He appears in the kitchen after a moment.
“Did you manage to do everything you needed to do?” Lecter asks.
“For now. Yes. Do you think I should take Walter to the funeral?” Will takes a glass of water and sits by the table.
“I believe he’s too small. If he starts crying, you’ll get upset and the ceremony may end in catastrophe. I’ll stay here with him”
“Alright. You’re probably right. Then I’ll need you on Saturday, around four?”
“Certainly. So I’ll see you in two days”
Lecter leaves and Will makes himself a sandwich. Hannibal was out, the fridge is full. Fuck, Will forgot to leave him some money for the shopping. He’ll have to talk to him about that next time.
Will goes to the living room and watches the news. Another victim of a serial killer, another earthquake on the other end of the planet, another robbery. Will sighs. He picks up his phone and calls a removal company. He’s informed that his stuff can be picked on Monday. He agrees; he’ll need some time to pack them anyway.
So that’s his life now.
On Friday Will takes care of Walter. He feeds him, bathes him (after checking with Google) and reads him a story. He takes him for a walk to the nearby park. Will sees a few women turn to look at him and Walter, and one woman even sits by him on a bench. She must have noticed his lack of a wedding ring and thought he’s a single parent. And she’s partially right.
Will makes a polite conversation but overall tries to get away from there. He doesn’t need people pity him or hit on him. He needs peace.
He makes himself dinner and then takes Walter out of the crib to teach him how to walk. Walter falls every time Will lets go of him but Graham doesn’t give up.
Then he puts the child back in the crib and starts packing Molly’s stuff. It’ll be his room now. He watches the photos he finds in one of the drawers. They’re of him, Molly and their parents.
Will packs his sister’s clothes. Then he puts all her jewellery into a small box. Some of these things he could sell or give to poor people. Why would he ever need woman’s dresses? Well…maybe, one day… But he’d never let his wife wear his deceased sister’s clothes. He will give them away.
Walter wakes once at night and Will reads him a story that makes them both fall asleep quickly.
Will wakes up on Saturday and is already exhausted. He feeds Walter and dresses him. He makes breakfast and then calls Alana with the details of the funeral. He calls Hannibal to check if he’s going to come. 'Certainly'.
Will plays with Walter. He helps him with blocks and they build a small bridge. Will pays attention so that Walter wouldn’t try to swallow a block. Then he tickles him and watch Walter laugh and smile. He’s such a cute baby. With wide eyes after his mother and thin pink lips similar to Will’s, actually.
At least Walter can laugh that day. Does he miss his mommy?
Before four Will hears the knocking. He answers the door to find Hannibal behind it.
“Good afternoon” Lecter says calmly and enters the house.
Will goes upstairs to take a shower and shave. He puts on a white shirt and black trousers and a dark blazer. He’s ready to go. He looks through the window and sees beautiful weather. How is it that in the movies it always rains during funerals? Or at least the sun is hidden behind thick layers of clouds.
Will smiles at the world’s whimsical approach to his personal tragedy and goes downstairs. Hannibal looks at him almost in awe. It would be inappropriate to say that he looks good when he’s about to go on a funeral but Lecter smiles.
Will takes his car keys, kisses Walter and leaves.
He sees Alana as soon as he parks his car by the graveyard. She’s wearing a simple black dress. Nothing more. No jewellery, no other decorations. Her shoes are elegant but also simple. And black.
Everything is black today.
But the weather is still nice. Wearing sunglasses would feel out of place, though.
There are a few other doctors from the hospital that Will knows and he’s grateful for the fact that they came. Otherwise it would just be him and Alana.
He greets his colleagues and gives his thanks for appearing at the funeral. They say they’re sorry and offer their condolences to Will.
The funeral is fairly short. The burial takes minutes.
The coffin is made from dark oak wood and it’s simple apart from the small carvings on both sides. There is a wreath made of lilacs. She loved them.
When the ceremony is over, Will thanks again for coming and he and Alana go to his house.
Graham opens the door and instantly smells something delicious. Alana frowns. They go to the kitchen where Hannibal is preparing dinner.
“Good afternoon” Lecter says to the woman.
“Good afternoon” Alana says with a smile.
“This is Alana. She works with me at the hospital. Alana, meet Hannibal Lecter. He takes care of Walter” Will says, deciding not to say ‘He’s a babysitter’.
“Nice to meet you” dr Bloom says.
“The pleasure is mine” Hannibal responds and keeps stirring the sauce in the pot “I thought you might be hungry” he says to Will.
Will and Alana sit by the table while Hannibal finishes preparing dinner.
“I’m going tomorrow to my apartment to pack my stuff and I’ll have it all delivered here on Monday” Will says.
“So you’re beginning a new life” Alana smiles.
“Yeah. I still can’t believe I lost my little sister”
“You have to accept it, Will. There’s only so long you can live in denial before it destroys your life”
Hannibal serves them pasta with sauce. Two plates.
“You’re not eating?” Will asks.
“No. I don’t want to invade your privacy. I’ll leave. Unless you still need me?”
“No. I’ll take care of Walter. Thank you. So could you come tomorrow again? Say, at noon?”
“Of course. See you tomorrow. Have a nice rest of the day”
Hannibal offers a charming smile and leaves the kitchen.
“Oh, wait! I forgot one thing” Will hurries after him “You bought some things to eat. Thank you. But I didn’t leave you any money. Do you have any receipt so I can pay you what I owe you?”
“Unfortunately, no. Treat it like a kind gesture on my side”
“I don’t feel very comfortable with owing people money or favours”
“I can see that”
“Look, I’ll be leaving you some money on the counter if you had any expenses. And you’ll be collecting receipts for everything you buy, is that okay?”
“Certainly. Goodbye, Will”
Graham returns to the kitchen and the first thing he notices is Alana’s smile.
“He’s nice” dr Bloom says.
“Yeah. Yes, he is”
“And you found him in a care centre?”
“Yes. I might have been an ass to him because you know, normally I associate women with babysitters and… I said that to him. But he showed me his resume and I understood my mistake. He’s qualified and he really seems like a nice guy”
“And you’ll be paying him a monthly salary?”
“Well, yes. I mean I hired him permanently. I still have to go to work”
“How does it feel, to move back to your old house?”
“Weird. I spent my childhood here and then I was here once a week to visit my sister and now I’m back”
“What are you going to do with Molly’s stuff?”
“I’ll give it away. I mean it’s not like I’ll be needing her dresses or blouses”
“But you’ll take her room?”
“Yes. Walter lives in my old room so I’ll take hers. I don’t believe in ghosts or things like that”
Alana laughs. They hear Walter upstairs.
“I’m going to bathe him. Do you want to help? It’s fun. Yesterday I almost flooded the house”
“Good god, Will. Now I think I need to help”
“No, I… I didn’t mean that. You’re wearing a nice dress, you don’t want to get involved in that mess”
“Come on, I have a day off. Let me have some fun”
Will smiles and they go upstairs. Graham lifts the child and carries him to the bathroom. He turns the tap and the water fills the bathtub. Will undresses Walter and puts him carefully in the tub.
He washes his head carefully and Alana helps him, by holding the boy. The picture is nice, like a family.
They dry Walter and Will frowns at the clean bathroom. No splashed water on the walls, no pool on the floor.
Will changes Walter into pyjamas and he walks Alana to the door.
“Thank you for your help. And for coming to the funeral”
“It’s no problem, Will. I’ll see you on Wednesday?”
“Yes. Good night, Alana”
Will closes the door and goes to the living room. He places Walter on the couch and smiles. This child is so lovely. Graham starts making weird faces and Walter laughs at him. He extends his small arms to touch the man. Will kisses Walter and lets himself be touched. Walter squeezes Graham’s cheeks and strokes his face. Will lifts Walter and throws him carefully up. He turns him around. Walter laughs and Will feels happy.
They stay up one more hour and then Will puts Walter into the crib and goes to sleep himself. He sleeps in Molly’s bed.
He wakes early when he hears Walter cry. He goes downstairs and feeds the child, then he goes back to bed. He’s used to getting up early or staying up late. If anything, the work in the hospital taught him how to deal with long hours.
He can’t sleep anymore so he turns on the tv and watches the news.
Hannibal comes before noon and Will drives to his apartment. He needs to pack his things up before the removal company takes care of them.
Graham takes a bag and fills it with his clothes. He packs his favourite mugs and some trinkets into boxes. There are also books he needs and his laptop and a printer. He takes some of the stuff to his car and leaves the rest in the boxes to be delivered on Monday.
When he comes back, he hears Hannibal and Walter laugh. Will goes to the living room and sees Hannibal lying on the floor while Walter keeps hitting him on with a building block. There are plenty of blocks around them.
Hannibal spots Will and smiles.
“Want to join us? We were just… building a road” Lecter explains.
“Oh. That’s what you were doing, huh?”
Will goes upstairs to put down his laptop and the most personal stuff he brought from his apartment and then he returns to the living room where Hannibal and Walter really took up on building something. When Will sits by them, Walter’s face changes. The child looks at his uncle and purses his lips.
“Mama!” Walter says in a demanding voice.
Will looks at him and closes his eyes. He sighs. Walter misses his mom.
“Mommy is away” is all Will can think of.
“I’ll take him up” Hannibal offers “It’s his nap time”
“I can take him. I’ll read something to him”
“How about we make him a theatre? We’ll read different parts in different voices”
They go up, Walter in Will’s arms and they put him in the crib. Hannibal takes a book and opens in the place he stopped reading last time. He and Will sit by the crib and start reading while Walter watches them with wide eyes. He’s so cute, so interested in the world.
When he falls asleep, Hannibal leaves and Will goes to his new room and turns on his laptop. The estate agency has found a person interested in his apartment. Already? He informs that his stuff is removed the next day and then the agency can present the flat to potential buyers.
The next day the rest of Will’s stuff is delivered. He unpacks the bags and boxes and tries to adjust to living in his family house again. He fills the cabinet in the kitchen with his own mugs and plates and then he changes the pillowcases in the bedroom. He makes this his home.
He feeds Walter and takes him to the park. He keeps talking to him, showing him the world. Will would really appreciate if Molly was there with him. Molly. Graham misses her as much as Walter do, apparently. His empathy starts peeking through in the least proper moment. His eyes sting and Will feels tears gathering in the corners.
He sits on the bench with Walter on his knees. Will watches the other children run on the playground, slide and swing, and thinks how Walter will join them soon. He hasn’t made his first independent step yet, but Will is aware that Walter will grow fast and in no time he’ll go to school.
It’s just now that time passes so slowly. Will is still adjusting to his new life.
Will hears a familiar voice call one of the children on the playground. He turns his head and sees Hannibal smiling and approaching one of the kids.
“Tommy, we need to go, pumpkin. Say goodbye to your friends and let’s go”
Will smiles. This man is so likeable and charming. He’d be an excellent father. So why isn’t he?
Lecter grabs the kid by the hand and heads to the exit of the park. He keeps smiling and talking to the child.
Will stays a bit longer and then goes home as well. On his way there he buys a box of chocolate ice cream.
Tuesday and Wednesday Will spends with Walter as well. They build different things using blocks and watch cartoons, Will reads stories and teaches Walter to walk.
Graham calls Lecter to make sure Hannibal will show up the next day and suddenly it’s Thursday.
Will has to return to work and focus on his patients again. At least he’s certain Walter is in good hands.
After work he comes home to find Hannibal with Walter on the floor playing, dinner ready to heat up. Will is grateful for the meal. Then he dismisses Hannibal and takes care of Walter himself. He showers and goes to sleep.
This arrangement goes on for a month, with occasional day off. Will tells Lecter then that he doesn’t need him and he goes with Walter for a walk to the park.
Once he sees Hannibal with another kid and Lecter waves at Will. Graham smiles.
One day after the first month Will returns home exhausted and goes straight to the kitchen. He takes out dinner and almost devours it. Hannibal puts Walter in the crib and goes downstairs to join Will. When he sees the man swallow the meat and rice and hum with delight, he smiles.
“I had a long day and didn’t even manage to grab a sandwich”
“But you did save the day?” Hannibal sits by the table and smirks.
“Yeah. I mean one guy still needs to wake up but I believe he’ll be fine”
“I’m sure he will” Hannibal says confidently.
“Have you eaten?” Will asks.
“No. And as I can see, you’ll do well with bigger portion today”
“No, I mean… you can stay a bit longer and eat. You cooked it so why not have a taste? And I’d really appreciate the company of someone not dying and not needing my immediate help”
Hannibal smiles and approaches the stove to help himself with the dinner. He sits next to Will who looks at the calendar.
“Oh shit! It’s already sixteenth. Christ! Tomorrow’s Walter’s birthday”
Hannibal’s eyes and smile widen.
“That’s fantastic! Don’t worry, I’ll take him somewhere nice. And I can even buy him a present from you if you don’t have time to do it yourself” Lecter offers.
“No, no… Uh… I’d rather have a day off but now it’s too late to ask for that. I completely lost track of time”
“Don’t worry. It’ll be fine”
“Maybe I could invite Alana… Would you be so kind as to buy a piece of cake or something?”
“I’ll try to buy him a new pair of pyjamas on my way home” Will thinks aloud.
“That’ll be nice”
They finish dinner and Hannibal leaves.
The next day Lecter appears a bit earlier and holds a big box.
“What’s that?” Will asks, mildly confused.
“My present for Walt” Hannibal grins.
“What is it?” Will questions further.
Hannibal goes upstairs while Will eats breakfast. Lecter descends the stairs with Walter in his arms and then sets him on the floor presenting the gift.
“Open it” he says quietly.
Walter claps his hands and opens the box. He unties the ribbon and a present is no longer a surprise. Will watches the child smile and start tearing the box further to get to the items inside.
“It’s a train?”
“Yes. I thought something new would be advisable”
“Well, now my present fades”
“Nonsense. Clothes are more intimate present, reserved for family and close friends. I wouldn’t dare to give him clothes just yet, though I hope you see me as a friend. Both of you”
Will smiles at that. Hannibal did become part of this family in a way.
Graham watches Walter laugh but he knows he needs to leave. When he closes the door he throws one last glance at Lecter who helps set the tracks and the train on the floor.
Will goes to the hospital and when he sees Alana, he approaches her instantly.
“Hey! Alana, do you have any plans for today?”
“No. Why?” she offers a charming smile.
“Look, I know it’s out of the blue and on a short notice but today’s Walter’s birthday. Would you like to visit us after work? There should be a piece of cake and a lot of child’s laughter”
“Sure. But I have to buy him something”
“Oh, don’t worry. I don’t have anything for him yet as well”
“Alright. We can go to a toy store after work and then to your place”
“Good plan” Will says and hears his name called out to an operating room.
They finish work almost punctually, which is surprising, and go to a store. Will looks through pyjamas and chooses the one with a dog pattern while Alana searches for a new book with fairy tales. They pay for the items and drive to Will’s house.
Hannibal greets them, offering Alana a friendly hug, and they all go to the living room where Walter is playing on the floor.
“Hello, little man” Alana say and hands him the book.
Walter flicks through the pages, nearly tearing one, and then puts the book away. He looks at Will, as if he was expecting another present and Will laughs.
“Happy birthday, little muffin” Will says; he adopted the endearment from Hannibal.
Will takes out the pair of pyjamas and shows it to the child who is not amused. He wants more toys.
Alana lifts Walter and they all go to the kitchen where Hannibal serves them a piece of cake.
“Should I take him upstairs and give you some privacy?” Hannibal asks.
“Is he tired?” Will asks.
“He didn’t have a nap today so I guess he can be rather sleepy. I’ll go”
Lecter takes Walter from Alana and leaves the kitchen. After a moment the couple in the kitchen hears the front door close.
“He could have stayed” Alana says.
“Well… he probably gets exhausted after spending whole days with Walt”
“But he seems to be rather enjoying it” Alana remarks.
“Yeah. He really is good with children. I saw him a few times in the park with other kids and he’s great: caring and understanding”
“I don’t get it. He’s handsome, good with kids. Why is he single, again?”
“I have no idea. But that gives him time to take care of other children, so I’m glad”
“Your little muffin is two now. Wait till he starts speaking and arguing and running around the house”
“Honestly, I can’t wait. He doesn’t speak much now; only syllables and occasionally I heard him say ‘mama’. I hope he won’t be damaged”
“You’ll raise him well, Will. And Hannibal seemes to be helpful, too. He won’t be damaged. But are you?”
“They say time is the best healer. I still sometimes think she left town and will come back soon. Then I look at Walt, hear how silent the house is when he sleeps, and I know she will never return. I’m alone”
“You have Walter. You have Hannibal. And I am always ready to help”
Alana places her hand on Will’s and smiles. He’s so happy to have her as a friend. Maybe he could somehow arrange for her and Hannibal to start dating?
She leaves after an hour of talking and playing with the train, even with Walter asleep upstairs. Will gives Walt one more kiss on the forehead and goes to sleep.
Next day he receives a call during breakfast. The estate agency has found a buyer for his apartment. He needs to come and sign a few documents and he’ll get the money on his bank account. He decides to do it after work so when Hannibal comes, Will informs him he’ll be even later home today.
Hannibal wishes him luck and goes to see Walter.
Will stays longer at work because there is an emergency and he has to operate on a person who got shot during a robbery. He knows he had promised to be at six at the agency but he’s already aware he won’t make it on time. He finishes the surgery before eight and sees seven missed calls. When he finally calls back, the agency tells him to come the next morning.
He returns home, exhausted and finds Hannibal with Walter watch the train covering the length of the track on the floor. He sits next to them and smiles at Walter.
“Long day?” Hannibal asks.
“As usual. I was supposed to sell the flat today but there was an emergency and I had to stay longer. I’ll go to the agency tomorrow”
They play on the floor and suddenly Lecter speaks.
“How was yesterday? Did you have a nice time with Alana?”
Will frowns at the question.
“What do you mean? Of course we had a nice time, we ate and talked. She’s my friend, I always enjoy her company”
“That’s good. I didn’t mean anything wrong by asking. I just… Well, you seem like a pair of very sweet people. Maybe I was asking if you were more than just friends”
Will’s eyes widen in shock. Is he that obvious? Does Alana know he had a crush on her? He thought he got rid of that.
“No. We’re friends and that’s all we are. I don’t get involved in relationships”
Will stands up, visibly uncomfortable about the conversation, and lies on the couch. He still watches Walter play but his eyes close involuntarily after a while. Hannibal notices it and takes Walter upstairs. He brings a blanket and covers Will with it, not wanting to wake the man. Then he leaves.
After another month Will comes home one day utterly tired. Hannibal says Walter is already asleep and serves Will dinner he was just heating up.
It becomes a routine. Will comes home and gets dinner. They talk about Will’s day and if Walter is still up, they play in the living room.
This day is no different but Will opens a cabinet after dinner and pours them a glass of wine. Hannibal is reluctant at first but then takes the glass after Will’s annoyed look. They go to the living room and relax on the couch.
“You know, Alana asked me why you’re single and I had no idea what to tell her. I mean, you’re great with children, you cook, you’re handsome, or so Alana said. So why is it you’ve not settled yet?”
Hannibal smiles at the description. Short and not even remotely as complex as he truly is but it’s enough to infer that he’s a good guy. A desirable guy.
“Well, if you want the truth-”
“I do” Will cuts in and pours them another glass.
“I’m gay. So having a child would require following different procedures than in most people’s cases. And I never met anyone who I’d be comfortable with enough to settle. Is my answer satisfactory?”
“Yeah” Will swallows and feels guilty “I didn’t mean to pry. I hope I didn’t offend you or invade your privacy”
“Not at all”
“Do all those woman who hire you know that you will never be interested in them?”
“Why spoil the fun? I get great tips”
Will laughs at that. He imagines Lecter shirtless, fixing the sink, like in a bad porno, and a woman looks at his muscular naked body and almost comes right there. The vision makes Will flush and lose focus.
“Everything alright?” Hannibal asks.
“Yes. Sorry, I tend to drift off”
“Understandable, since you work long hours and are required to save lives every day”
They have another drink and talk more. Will tells the story of his childhood and how he lost his parents and was left with only his sister. Then he explains how he always felt too much and was full of empathy but that didn’t stop him from becoming a surgeon. He tells that he avoids people and relationships and is afraid of commitment. He values his privacy and a prospect of sharing his daily routines with someone scares him.
Will realises when he says this that he sort of allowed Hannibal into his life and revealed himself to the man. Lecter knows by now when Will may come home and when he has to leave. He knows personal details about him.
They soon doze off on the couch.
Hannibal wakes around three still at night and feels a weight on his shoulder. Will’s head. Lecter smiles and wonders how to leave without waking Will. He snakes his arm around Will’s waist and gently manoeuvres the man to be able to stand up and lift him. Hannibal carries Graham to his bedroom and carefully lays him on the bed. He covers him with a blanket and leaves the house.
It’s Will’s day off so Lecter won’t come until Friday.
Will wakes up at eight with a slight headache. How did he get into bed? He doesn’t remember going upstairs last night. He remembers only sitting on the couch and talking.
Will takes a shower, feeds Walter and goes to the park with him. He sits on the bench near the playground and watches the kids. He doesn’t even realise he’s waiting. For Hannibal.
He sits there for an hour, then takes a walk around the park with Walter in the stroller, and when he returns to the playground, Lecter is still missing. Will gives up and goes back home. He makes dinner and plays with Walter.
Will grabs Walter’s hands and tries to force him to walk. But when he lets go of Walt’s hands, the child falls.
Walter changes his vocabulary and instead of repeating ‘mama’, he keeps saying ‘dada’ and ‘papa’. Will smiles at that but he knows he isn’t the kid’s father. Should he ever tell him that? And if so, when?
Will reads Walter a bedtime story and goes to his own bed. He checks his email and looks for news online. He falls asleep.
The next day Will smiles more. He greets Hannibal and offers him a cup of coffee he knows he won’t have time to drink, then he leaves.
Alana notices Will is happier and smiles more often. Maybe the period of mourning is over, after all.
“And how is Hannibal?” she asks finally, after hearing how Walter still can’t walk but he speaks more.
“He’s fine. Walter is happy so that’s all that matters”
“But has Hannibal found a girlfriend?” she asks with a smirk.
“No. No, that actually will probably never happen, He’s gay”
Alana’s face shows disappointment but quickly cheers up as she has another idea in mind.
“Well, then maybe he’ll be better for you than me”
Will frowns at her. Was this a joke? And did she not figure out that he once was about to ask her out?
Will offers a polite smile and goes to check on his patients.
After work, Graham returns home and hears happy laughter.
“Will?! Come to the living room, quickly!” Hannibal yells.
Will does as he’s told to find Hannibal crouching and watching Walter make a few independent steps. He falls after three or four but Will starts crying. He grabs Walter and lifts him to shower him in light kisses.
“You won’t be damaged, muffin” Graham whispers in his ear, but more to himself.
He turns and see Hannibal observe them.
“When did he do that?” Graham asks, still not comprehending.
“We were playing on the floor and my cell phone rang so I stood up and went to reach it. It was there, on the table. And the next thing I know, Walt walks closer to me and grabs my leg”
“You little shark, I love you so much” Will kisses the child’s nose and puts him back on the floor.
Graham approaches Hannibal and speaks to Walter.
“Come here. Come to me, baby”
Will crouches and extends his hands towards the kid, but Walter doesn’t make even one step and simply sits on the floor. Hannibal laughs and Will follows suit.
“He needs more time” Lecter explains.
They eat dinner and then Hannibal leaves.
It’s August, time of the leaves and Will gets a week off. On his last day before the leave he talks to Alana.
“I’ll have a week off after you so we can’t really schedule anything together. But you know what? I have a small house by the lake about fifty miles from here. It’s quiet and peaceful. I could give you the keys if you’d like to go with Walter. Or with Hannibal” Alana smirks.
Will rolls his eyes but thinks it’s actually a great idea. He could go swimming or fishing or anything really since he was working so hard lately and the life was not giving him a break.
“You know what? That’s a nice offer and I will take you up on it”
“Great. I’ll bring you the keys tomorrow before work. Is that alright? And then I’ll text you more details”
“That’s perfect” Will smiles.
“Just don’t fool around in the bed if you’d be so kind” Alana laughs and Will rolls his eyes again.
This evening Will comes home and Hannibal spots a difference in his behaviour. Is he nervous? They eat dinner and Will finally speaks what’s on his mind.
“So I’m having a week off as you know. And Alana suggested I could stay in her house by the lake”
“And you want to go alone and me to take care of Walter?” Hannibal prompts.
“What? No. No, I was actually wondering… Would you like to go with us? For a couple of days”
Hannibal seems surprised by the offer but starts seriously considering it.
“I’ll pay you as if you were normally working here” Will assures.
“I think it would be inappropriate. I’d be on a kind of leave as well”
“You’ll still have to take care of Walter”
“It’s always a pleasure” Hannibal says.
“I think we could go the day after tomorrow. I have to pack and figure out how to drive there”
“It’s a tempting offer”
“Well, let me know tomorrow what you decide”
The next morning Alana drops by to leave the keys to the house and the address. She also explains how to organise things there. Will packs some clothes for him and Walter. He takes a few towels and decides he can pack the rest even tomorrow. He’ll still need a toothbrush today.
Will takes Walter on his lap and turns on the laptop. He looks for a route to get to the house and then for the shops nearby and on the way there. He calls Hannibal and asks him what he decided. Lecter says he’ll gladly go with Will and Walter and they agree that he should show up tomorrow morning. They decide they’ll go by Graham’s car.
Will hangs up and looks at Walter. The child is so lovely. Will almost feels like it was his kid after such a long time he was taking care of him. He starts wondering what kind of man Walter will be in the future. Will he be like his mother?
Graham tries to force Walter to walk again but he fails. The second the child has no support, he falls every time Will helps him stand up.
The next day Will wakes up with the sunrise. He eats breakfast and packs the rest of the necessary things, like soap and the toothbrush. He takes his laptop just in case and then wonders if he will manage to fit the crib into the car or if he’ll have to cope with some less stable folding version of a baby bed he found the other day.
He feeds Walter and puts him in a baby seat in the backseat. He checks a few times if he fastened all the belts correctly and that Walter will be safe and comfortable. He then brings his bags and puts them in the car as well.
Hannibal shows up before eight and helps with the rest of the baggage. He brought one big bag with him. When everything is ready, he sits with Walter in the backseat to keep an eye on the child.
Will drives according to the GPS and previously checked route possibilities. He constantly looks in the rear view mirror to see Walter still in his seat and Lecter next to him. They are laughing and Hannibal keeps playing with the child. He tickles him or strokes his head. He’s so damn caring, Will thinks.
They get to the house in over an hour because Will missed a turn and they had to take the longer route. Will opens the door while Hannibal unfastens the seatbelt in Walter’s baby seat. They all enter the small house and look around.
There is a table with four chairs by it, a fridge, a place to cook. There is a bathroom with a shower.
And there is one thing Will forgot to ask about and only now notices his mistake. There is only one bed. And it’s not even double. They won’t fit even if they decided to share it.
Will sighs and is actually glad he took that one mattress just in case. Hannibal places Walter on the bed and helps Will with the bags. They unpack the most necessary things and leave the rest as it is.
“I took a mattress so don’t worry about sleeping conditions. You’ll take the bed” Graham explains.
“Or we can take shifts” Hannibal suggests with a smile.
Will looks through the window and grins. The weather is perfect. It’s sunny and hot. And he can see the lake from the window. There are no people around. Perfect.
“Shall we go swimming?” Graham asks.
“Uh, I’m not good with water. But you go and I’ll stay with Walter on the shore”
“What? Why would you go by the lake if you weren’t going to swim? Come on” Will encourages.
Graham goes to change into his swim shorts and then takes Walter from Hannibal’s arms.
“Now you. Go and change into something more comfortable” Will teases.
Lecter looks for his own shorts to wear on the beach and disappears in the bathroom. Will takes the keys, suntan oil, the towels and a bottle of water while Hannibal lifts Walter and they all go to the beach. It’s merely a fifty meters distance and they spread the towels on the sand. Will puts the bottle of water next to them and lies down, starts to spread the suntan oil on his arms and legs.
Hannibal sits on the towel besides Will with Walter in his lap. He watches Will apply the oil on his face and smiles. Walter extends his hands to touch Will.
“We’ll smear it over you, too, little muffin” Lecter says to the child.
“The water is most likely still not warm enough so we can stay here for a while longer” Will suggests “I brought cards. Do you know any games?”
“A few, yes”
Graham unwraps the box with the cards while Hannibal smears the oil on Walter, carefully avoiding eyes. Walter laughs and grimaces at the action but then relaxes under Lecter’s touch. Will watches the man and smiles.
They start picking cards and Walter watches them play with wide eyes, full of curiosity. After a while Will stands up and goes to check the temperature of the water in the lake again. Warm enough. He looks back at Hannibal and Walter and receives a smile and a nod, a permission to dive in.
The day is hot and is getting hotter still as it is almost noon, so the sun is at its highest point on the sky. The water in the lake is refreshing, offering sweet relief. Will swims forward and notices the lake isn’t too big. He could easily swim across it. There are a few other houses on the other side but he doesn’t go there.
Will gets out of the water after some time and approaches Hannibal and Walter, who started building a castle in the sand. Lecter squints his eyes and the view is magnificent. Graham’s whole body is dripping with water, it glistens in the sun. His hair is wet and sticky and his shorts cling to his thighs. Will takes one towel and rubs it against his face. Then, he sits by Walter and helps forming a tower from the sand.
He’s a surgeon, his hands are steady and precise. After a while Walter abandons the castle and starts covering Will’s legs with the sand. Hannibal laughs and grabs the kid’s hands but he receives a small handful of sand thrown at him.
“Let’s get him into the water” Will suggests.
Hannibal seems a bit unwilling but then lifts the child and they go near the water. Hannibal takes a few steps into the lake and feels it reach higher up his knees and thighs as he moves forward. They stop when the level of water reaches their waists. Will takes Walter from Hannibal and puts his feet into the water.
“Too cold?” Graham asks.
The child starts to swing his feet and it makes the water splash onto Hannibal. Walter grins and Will lowers the child more into the water.
“I forgot your hat!” Graham says suddenly, realising Walter shouldn’t spend so much time in the sun without protection for his head.
“Maybe we could go back to the cabin” Hannibal suggests.
“You really are uncomfortable in the water” Will says and Lecter smiles at him sheepishly “Okay, let’s go back. We’ll come here later in the afternoon”
Hannibal offers to make a salad, something light to eat, while Will plays with Walter.
“Maybe we could go for a walk after we eat. Breathe in the scent of the forest. I’m tired of sterile interiors” Will proposes.
They eat the light lunch and then Will takes Walter in his arms and they move deeper into the forest. Hannibal notices some bushes with berries and he steps closer it them. He picks up a berry and tastes it. Good.
“We could come here tomorrow with a basket and pick up some of these” Will suggests.
“Excellent idea. I could make milkshakes”
Walter stirs in Will’s arms, he wants a berry. He stretches his arms towards Hannibal but the man lowers his head and looks directly into the child’s eyes.
“You’ll get some tomorrow, muffin”
Walter purses his lips and nods, then he looks away. They breathe in the scent of the forest, sun reflecting in the surface of the leaves, hot air around them. Will rubs his wet forehead and looks at Hannibal. There is a single drop of sweat running down his neck and Will takes in its route.
Later that evening, Lecter lies on the bed while Will lies on the mattress placed on the floor.
“Be careful not to step on me if you want to go to the bathroom” Will says, smiling.
Graham lies there for another twenty minutes and he cannot fall asleep. He shifts on the mattress, he sighs and even tries to count sheep but his eyes open involuntarily. He focuses on his steady heartbeat.
In the darkness and silence of the room Will hears steady breathing. Will sighs again, annoyed with himself for not being able to sleep.
Graham hears his own name called out and he lifts himself.
“Find it difficult to fall asleep?”
Will lifts his head and turns it to look at Hannibal who has his own head supported on his elbow.
“It’s the heat”
“I believe so” Lecter agrees.
Suddenly, Will is struck with an idea and he shakes his head at the stupidity of it. He can't go swimming right now.
“Will?” Hannibal frowns.
“Walter seems to be soundly asleep”
“Could we…maybe…go outside?”
Lecter looks at Walter and smiles.
“I believe we could”
Will stands up first and takes out a bottle of whiskey. He pours them a glass and they steps outside of the cabin. Will hands Hannibal a glass and they take a sip. Graham looks at the lake in front of them.
“Are you like that with all the children you take care of?” Will asks.
“Almost like you’re their father? I mean, I’m grateful that you’re so good with Walter but I cannot imagine growing attached to someone and then having to let them go”
“Unfortunately, that’s the case with permanent care. But it’s a job like any other. And when it ends, you move on”
“You make it sound so easy”
“It’s not. But you have to learn to live with that”
Will thinks about Molly. It’s been quite some time and he adjusted to this life but he often misses her. Her death cracked the lid Will built around himself and now Hannibal’s reassuring and warm presence seems to be peeling it further.
“Have you ever lost anyone?” Will asks and immediately regrets it, it’s none of his business “Shit, sorry, I don’t mean to-”
“My parents and brother are well and I can’t imagine what you must have gone through after losing your sister”
“It wasn’t as bad as it could get” Will explains.
They look at the water in the lake and listen to the crickets. Will finishes the drink and yawns.
“So should we go to sleep now?” Hannibal asks.
“Yeah. Let’s do that”
The next day they go by the lake again and Will takes Walter into the water while Hannibal lies on the shore. Will plays with the child and looks at Lecter from time to time. He really is handsome.
“Hannibal! Come join us!” Will yells at the man.
“I just applied cream on my skin” Lecter explains.
Why is he so afraid of water? Will leaves Walter with Hannibal after a while and goes swimming. He lies on his back, feeling how the water pressure keeps him afloat. He looks at the sky and relaxes. He closes his eyes.
Suddenly, he feels the muscles in his right leg pull and he winces. He tries to swim back to the shore but he finds himself almost at the centre of the lake. His leg hurts and he yells.
“Hannibal! I pulled a muscle!”
Lecter looks at Will but cannot see his face from the distance. He looks at Walter, crouches and tells him to stay where he is. Hannibal goes into the water and swims closer to Graham. Now he can see pain and a bit of fear in his eyes. Hannibal places an arm around Will’s waist and they swim back to the shore.
“Which leg hurts?” Hannibal asks.
Will lies on the sand and Hannibal stretches his right leg, making it as straight as he can. Will winces and cringes in pain but he knows that’s the right thing to do. The pain fades and Hannibal lets go of Will’s leg. Graham lies still and Hannibal laughs. Walter just stares at the men.
“What’s so damn funny?” Will asks.
“You finally got me into the water” Lecter smiles at Will.
Will starts laughing, too. He covers his body with a cream protecting from sunburn and observes Hannibal with Walter while doing so. Lecter is wet. His chest and legs glisten. Will takes in every detail of his body and then lies down and relaxes.
After a while, a young couple goes by the lake. They approach Hannibal and Will.
“Hello. I’m Rose and this is my husband, Andy. Are you friends of Alana’s?” the woman speaks.
Will opens his eyes and extends his hand to shake.
“Yes, she let us stay here for a week. I’m Will”
“And this young man?” the woman asks, smiling at the child.
“Walter” Will explains.
“He’s so sweet” Rose strokes Walter’s hair.
“We went for a walk and thought we’d ask if that’s you who’s staying at Alana’s house. We saw light last night” Andy says.
“Yes. We’ll stay till Friday probably”
“That’s good. The weather is supposed to stay as it is today so you’ll have a wonderful week. Are you here on a leave or honeymoon or…?” Rose asks.
Will frowns and Hannibal smiles shyly.
“On a leave” Lecter says before Will can even think of a proper reply.
“If you want, you can come for a drink in the evening. We’re staying not far from here, do you see this cabin there?” Andy points at a small house about two hundred meters from where they are now.
“That’s very kind of you, thank you” Hannibal responds to the offer while Will is still recovering from a mild shock.
“Alright, we’ll leave you now. See you” Rose and Andy waves for goodbye and go away.
“I think we should return home, Will. Look at the clouds” Lecter says and Will just nods and lifts Walter.
The rain starts right after they close the door. Suddenly, the sky is grey and the air gets colder. Will puts a light sweater on Walter and on himself. Hannibal also finds something warmer to wear. There is the first lightning and Walter gasps. Will sits on the bed and takes him in his arms, holds him closely.
“It’s alright, muffin. It’s just a storm. It won’t hurt you. I’m here. Nothing bad will happen because I’m here”
Will looks at Hannibal who sits next to them. Lecter smiles reassuringly and strokes Walter’s hair.
They’re cosy. They get warmer just due to their proximity. Will feels Hannibal’s breath as the man leans closer to kiss Walter’s forehead.
“I hope it won’t be like that the whole night” Will says.
“How about a little truth or dare while we wait for the storm to be over?” Hannibal proposes.
“Ah! What the hell. You start”
“Truth” Hannibal says confidently.
There is a few questions Will isn’t sure he should ask but since he agreed to this little game, it’s his only chance.
“Have you ever got involved in an affair with an employer?”
“That’s what you want to know? Alright. No. I am a professional and I most often work for women so that eliminates the possibility of a romance. Now you”
“Dare, you say… Alright. Sing Walter a song”
Will frowns at that. He was expecting something… less humiliating?
Will sighs and grabs Walter’s big toe on his right foot.
“This little piggy went to market” he shakes the big toes and then moves on to grab the second toe “This little piggy stayed home” he shifts to the third toe “This little piggy had roast beef” the forth toe “This little piggy had none” Walter’s wide eyes keeps track of Will’s hand moving to the pinky toe “And this little piggy cried wee wee wee all the way home”
Will shakes the pinky toe and then leans closer as if to bite the toe off and Walter laughs. Hannibal joins the laughter but is silently impressed.
“Good enough?” Will asks and Hannibal responds with a wide smile and a nod “You again”
“You’re awful at this” Will says and looks for a question “Alright. When did you have your first boyfriend?”
“When I was sixteen. I had a girlfriend when I was thirteen but you know how that works. We were just children. Then I met a boy when I went to highschool and that’s probably when I found out I was gay. I mean, at that time most boys were going out with girls and I noticed I wasn’t into that. I met this boy, Randy, and I instantly fell for him. For the first time in my life I was attracted to someone. And we somehow started going out together, playing soccer or watching stupid movies. Then one time we kissed”
“That’s… sweet, actually” Will smiles at Hannibal.
“What about you?” Lecter asks.
“That’s not how the game works” Will sticks his tongue out at Lecter “And I say dare again”
“Well that’ll be no fun indeed, but alright. Dance for me and Walter”
Will closes his eyes in defeat.
“I changed my mind. I want truth”
“No, no, no. You said dare”
“You’re a sadist”
Will stands up from the bed and shakes his head. He pulls up his sweater to show his belly.
“That’s not the kind of dance I was expecting” Hannibal teases.
“Shut up. I took belly dancing classes, I know what I’m doing”
Will starts shaking his hips and Hannibal tries very hard not to laugh. His face remains calm to show respect but his eyes wander over Will’s body. Somehow it’s more sensual and sexy than when he saw Will semi naked after he emerged from the water, wet.
Graham turns around and concludes the performance. Hannibal grabs Walter’s small hands and they both applaud the man who bows and then sits back on the bed.
“Truth or dare?”
Will rolls his eyes.
“Why are you afraid of water?”
“Once, I nearly drowned. I was playing in a lake with my friends and I swam too far and there was a big wave and a splash and everything was happening so fast. I had my head under water for some time and I couldn’t get to the surface. Fortunately, a friend helped me. I was so terrified. I breathed heavily and then ran away from the lake”
Will puts his hand over Hannibal’s arm and strokes gently.
“I wouldn’t let you drown”
“I know” Hannibal smiles and then adds “Truth or dare?”
“Dare” he says confidently.
Before Hannibal challenges Will, the two men notice that Walter fell asleep.
“We’ll continue the game tomorrow” Will whispers.
Will wakes up to the smell of pancakes. He opens his eyes and sees Walter in his folding crib, grinning happily. Hannibal is standing by the counter.
Will stands up and approaches the other man. There are berries on the counter next to a few already ready pancakes.
“I thought you said we would go and pick some of those today” Will accuses.
“I know. And we will. But I couldn’t resist adding them to our breakfast. I woke up early and went to pick enough for the pancakes”
Will takes one berry and eats it. He grimaces.
“They’re sour” Will observes.
“With sweet pancakes they will be delicious. Please, take a seat”
They eat the pancakes and indeed the meal turns out to be amazing. Then they applies suntan oil on their skin, place a hat on Walter’s head and go by the lake.
Wally is busy building a castle and Will narrows his eyes.
“Why don’t we go swimming, Hannibal?”
The man shakes his head and smiles.
Will helps Walter with the castle and then speaks again.
“How about we go to Rose and Andy tonight?”
“They did invite us for a drink”
“We should probably bring something. Like a bottle of wine, maybe?” Will proposes.
“So are we driving to a store?” Hannibal asks.
“Later. Now we’re going to swim. Come”
Will stands up and extends his hand towards Hannibal. The man frowns and looks at the hand in front of him.
“Walter will sit here and finish building the castle. Will you, muffin?” Will turns to the child.
Walter looks up at Will and smiles.
“See? Come on!”
Hannibal takes Will’s hand and stands up. He glances at Walter and nods. He and Will step into the water. They don’t go too far, the water is on their waists level and Will smiles.
“I told you I wouldn’t let you drown” Will assures and dives into the water.
Hannibal sighs and swims right after Will. They keep an eye on Walter on the shore even though their distance from the child is not very big. Then they stop for a moment and float on the water. Will feels playful and splashes some water on Hannibal. The man replies with a smirk and also splashes water on Will. They’re both wet and smiling. Will feels young again. He hasn’t felt young for some time. Still busy, having plenty of responsibilities, parenting being one of the new ones.
Later they return to sit by Walter in order to dry so they can drive to the store. They buy some cookies and a bottle of white wine. In the evening they take Walter and go to the house the couple stays in.
“We’re so happy you decided to come” Rose says.
“You needn't have. We invited you for a drink and we have everything prepared” says Andy upon receiving the bottle of wine.
“Please, have a seat” Rose points at the couch.
“You have bigger house than Alana” Will comments.
“Well. We stay here a lot. Almost the whole summer. So it’s like our second house”
“And how is Alana?” Rose asks.
“Still working at the hospital. She’ll have a leave right after me so I guess she’ll come here”
“That’s great. I have some things I want to show her. You know, she’s a very sweet woman. Polite, friendly. And she never talks about a boyfriend or a girlfriend”
“She’s probably still waiting to settle down” Will says.
“Well, I met Andy at the dentist’s. Can you believe that? We were both stressed out, both afraid. I know it sounds childish but I just don’t like the sound all those tools make"
“Understandable” Hannibal cuts in.
“And what about you? How did you two meet?” Rose asks.
Will frowns and then smiles warmly.
“We’re not a couple” Hannibal explains.
“Oh. I’m sorry. You just look so good together and then there’s Wally…”
“It’s my child. I mean, it’s my sister’s child. I’m just taking care of him. And Hannibal helps me”
“Oh. So where is your sister?”
“She died” Will says calmly.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to… oh god. I’m really sorry” Rose starts apologising.
“It’s all right” Will assures.
“Is there no one else to take him?” Andy asks.
“No, I’m his only family. And he’s mine”
“I bet you’ll raise him well. You seem to be a responsible young man”
“So how do you know Alana?”
“We work together at the hospital”
Time passes and they all exchange stories about themselves, some funny, some touching. They have a few drinks but Will tries to stay sober for Walter’s sake. He doesn’t realize his tolerance is very low and he starts giggling and almost leaning against Hannibal. Andy and Rose are also not sober and they start making out.
Hannibal is the only one who remains composed. He takes Walter in his arms and then helps Will stand up.
"We'll leave you now"
“You can come again anytime” Rose assures before she resumes kissing Andy.
Hannibal smiles and they go back to their cabin. The man sets Walter in the crib and the child yawns; he’s tired. Wally collapses and falls asleep immediately.
Will sits on the bed with his back leaning against the wall and grins. Hannibal sits next to him and Will turns to face him. He giggles.
“Truth…or dare?” he asks, trying to stop the hiccup.
“Do you… Do you have any dark secret?” Will asks.
Hannibal’s face grows cold and distant.
“I don’t” Will comments with a grin.
“You’re an open book”
“Truth or dare, Will?”
“Dare” Will says confidently.
“Kiss me” Hannibal says without any hesitation.
“What?” Will giggles.
“Kiss me. Place your lips on one part of my body” Hannibal instructs.
“Whichever I want?” Will asks.
Hannibal looks into Will’s eyes but Will avoids the contact and looks at Hannibal’s forehead, then cheeks, lips and chin. Will licks his lips and leans closer. Hannibal stays in place and waits. Will gets closer and places his lips on the man’s right cheek.
“What did we do to deserve you?” Will whispers, still close to Hannibal, with his cheek against the man’s one.
“The salary is a good start”
“No, I mean-”
“Truth or dare?” Hannibal asks and Will frowns.
“It’s your turn now”
“No, it’s not. You said dare and I dared you to kiss me. Then you asked what you did to deserve me. So it’s your turn again”
“That wasn’t my question. And I didn’t even ask if you choose truth or dare” Will says, feigning being offended by crossing his arms on his chest.
“You know what I’d choose” Hannibal explains.
“You always choose truth” Will whispers “You’re not playing fair”
“Neither are you”
Will seems to be thinking very intensely about his answer until he finally grins.
Hannibal returns the smile.
“Anywhere I want?” he asks.
“Anywhere you want” Hannibal confirms.
Will smiles shyly and lifts his hand. He looks directly into Hannibal’s eyes and places his hand gently on the man’s left cheek. Hannibal’s eyelids fall shut and Will grins. His smile fades away and he leans closer. He presses his lips to Hannibal’s gently.
God, it’s been forever since he kissed anyone. Since he wanted to kiss anyone.
Hannibal moves his lips gently, not wanting to startle Will. He keeps his hands down for now, waits for Will to make another move, if any.
Will pulls away slightly, enough to feel the other man’s breath on his lips. He seems to have sobered up.
“I had a girlfriend once, already at the university. She was very nice, caring and had a great sense of humor. Just like you. She broke up with me for some other guy. I mean I can’t blame her. I know it can be difficult to bear with me at times. But she hurt me. It was then when I learnt to push people away”
“Is it really easier that way?”
“I haven’t got hurt since then. Not since I built those walls around me”
“But aren’t those walls also separating you from good things?”
Will thinks about the answer. He turns to look at Walter soundly asleep.
“There is only one good thing in my life”
Hannibal smiles and starts moving away but Will keeps his hand on Hannibal’s cheek and he places the other on the man’s neck in order to keep him close.
“Maybe two things”
Hannibal takes Will’s hand resting on his cheek and kisses the palm.
“I don’t want to hurt you. I’m not going to”
“I’m just afraid. Of getting involved. I’m afraid of commitment. I got used to the way I live. I’m comfortable like this”
“And I don’t want to deprive you of your comfort”
Will withdraws his hands and stands up. He lies on the mattress. Suddenly, everything is gone, everything is dark.
i just love when things complicate between these two ^^ i love when they break up ^^
~~Some people just want to watch the world burn~~
The next day Will wakes up exhausted. He opens his eyes and sees the empty crib. He lifts his head and notices that Hannibal isn’t there as well. Will slowly stands up and approaches the window. He doesn’t see anyone by the lake. Where the hell are they?
Will looks at the counter and only now does he spot a piece of paper with a note written on it.
I fed Wally and then took him for a walk. We’ll be back soon.
Will sighs. Why didn’t Hannibal wait for him to wake up? Did he screw things up last night?
Will opens the fridge and takes out some cheese. He doesn’t even make a sandwich. He puts on his shorts and a white tshirt and leaves the house. He sits on the porch.
Finally. A moment of peace. He didn’t realise he craved it. A minute without Wally. A moment for himself.
The moment is short as he hears the child’s laughter and Will smiles. He wouldn’t give it up for the whole world.
Hearing Wally laugh is soothing and Will turns to see Hannibal with Walter sitting on the man’s shoulders. Will smiles shyly and Hannibal grins.
“Did you find the note?”
“Yes. I was starting to fear something happened but then I found the note”
“Have you eaten?”
“Yeah” Will says rubbing his neck.
“You’re a terrible liar, Will”
Will frowns and Hannibal lifts Walter to give the child to Will.
“Take him by the water and I’ll make you something. I’ll join you in a moment”
Will rolls his eyes but does as he’s told. He takes Walter by the lake and sits on the sand. He looks at Wally and smiles. He pinches the child’s nose.
“You’re quite tanned, muffin”
Wally smiles at him and rises. He stands up, on his own legs and approaches Will until he’s in the man’s arms, hugging Will. Will’s eyes are wide and then they close. Will feels he’s about to cry. He kisses Wally’s head and then his cheeks.
“I love you so much, muffin”
Will hugs tightly the child and then hears Wally yell happily.
Will turns to see the man standing right behind him. He’s holding a sandwich.
“Here” Hannibal hands the sandwich to Will.
Hannibal sits next to Walter and helps the child bury Will’s feet in sand. Will grins and pretends not to take pleasure in Hannibal’s hands caressing his toes right before covering them in gold sand.
Walter didn’t bury Will’s feet completely but he starts to go up and throwing sand at the man’s knees and thighs.
Will rolls his eyes and finishes his sandwich while Hannibal meticulously covers all the spots Walter has missed with sand. Will throws Hannibal a look but the man pretends not to notice and continues the task.
Finally, Will’s whole legs are under a thick layer of sand. Will lies down, tries to ignore the child.
But Hannibal helps Walter sit on Will’s belly and they start covering the man’s chest. Hannibal brushes a fingertip over Will’s nipple but then simply turns to look away as if it didn’t happen or that he didn’t do this on purpose.
Will closes his eyes and surrenders to the treatment. That makes Walter stop. There’s no fun in such a game.
Wally turns to Hannibal and the man lifts him. He takes him to the water. Will raises his head and watches the man play with Walter. He’ll join them later.
The rest of their stay in the cabin is similarly peaceful. They visit Rose and Andy one more time, mainly to say goodbye. They pack their things and drive back to Will’s house. So the week off has passed and it left Will with a lingering feeling deep in his stomach.
On Monday Hannibal arrives in the morning, resuming their routine. Will goes to work and it is Alana’s week off. Great. So he’s left alone with this heaviness on his chest. He calls Alana and she informs him that she already left to the cabin and she has another set of keys so he’ll return his when they meet. She asks how was his week with Wally and Hannibal but he says it was fine and that he’ll tell more when they meet.
Will comes home the evening and finds Hannibal sitting on the couch.
“Wally already asleep?”
“Yes. I put him in the crib and read him a story”
Hannibal stands up and heads to the door. Will hesitates. He’s about to do something, say something but he’s exhausted after the day at work. And he’s not sure what he wants to say. He lets Hannibal leave.
Will lies down on the couch and takes out his phone. He looks for Alana’s number but then he thinks better of his former decision and puts the phone down. He goes upstairs and kisses Walter gently, not to wake the child. He takes a shower and changes into a pair of pyjamas. He lies down on his bed.
Will looks through the window but actually is somewhere else completely. He lifts his hand to his lips and swipes a fingertip over his lower lip. He falls asleep.
The next day is exactly the same. Hannibal comes in the morning, right after Will has his coffee and right before the man leaves to work.
Will operates on a woman this day and when he leaves the operating room, he sees a man, all in tears. A husband, most probably. Will feels sorry for him. He approaches the man, places a hand on his shoulder.
“Everything will be alright” Will assures.
It’s the most common sentence people use in such situations but Will genuinely hopes it will be okay. The man looks at him and smiles faintly.
So, Will thinks, his empathy is back. He let himself feel. He let himself open at the emotions of other people. And open to his own emotions. And so it’s easy to hurt him again.
Will comes home and greets Wally with a kiss on the cheek. He eats dinner while Hannibal and Walter play with the train. Will observes the man and suddenly the pasta in his mouth tastes like Hannibal’s lips. Will chews gently and then sees Hannibal turn to look at him and smile. Will swallows quickly the mouthful and looks away. He changes the channel in tv.
Later he thanks Hannibal for the dinner and the man leaves.
Will plays with Walter for a moment longer and then settles him in the crib.
Will goes to the shower and rubs soap all over his body. He likes the feeling of the warm water on his skin. He uses the sponge to wash himself and he closes his eyes so that the shampoo doesn’t irritate his eyes. Then, he dries himself with a towel and puts on his boxers. He goes to bed.
The night is warm and quiet. He lies in the bed, listening carefully for crickets outside but all he hears is a car alarm going off. He sighs, shifts on the bed and falls asleep.
On Wednesday evening Will decides he has had enough. He lets Hannibal go and shuts the door behind him. Walter is already asleep in his room and Will takes this chance to make a phone call. He takes out a bottle of whiskey and pours himself a drink while waiting for Alana to answer the phone. The third beep and Will starts losing hope. Nothing.
He tries calling his friend again after half an hour but she still doesn’t pick up. Should he make up his mind all by himself?
After the third failed attempt, he resigns and puts down the phone. He goes to sleep.
The next morning he wakes early because Walter demands to be fed. Will takes him to the kitchen and makes his own breakfast additionally. He plays with Wally for some time and then Hannibal arrives.
The day at the hospital is unusually boring. There is only one person needing immediate help, no serious cases and Will returns home rather relaxed.
He sees two missed calls from Alana but decides to call her later in the evening.
He dismisses Hannibal and takes Walter to the crib. When the child is peacefully settled, Will reads him a story and even sings him the song he sang in the cabin.
Will smiles at the memory and then goes to his bedroom. He lies on the bed and calls Alana.
Will sighs. Alana’s voice is always soothing and bringing him focus and reason.
“Yes, hi. I’m sorry I’m interrupting your peace but I lack one of my own”
“What’s going on, Will?”
“I’d rather tell you in person but I need your advice and I need it now”
“I think I… I’m starting to lose my mind. You know how I tend to push people away and how once you called me heartless because I wasn’t concerned about the kid’s mother I operated on?”
“Yes” Alana confirms.
“Well… I believe I started to feel again”
“And you’re afraid it will make you vulnerable”
Will shifts on his bed and rubs his neck. It’s not the whole story.
“Will, I know what you’re thinking. You think it’s bad to feel sympathy or like someone but it’s not. I believe it’s Walter who made you realise you’re not a machine. Am I right?”
“Yeah” Will rubs his neck again “I love him. I’m treating him like he’s my own child and I’m afraid one day I’ll have to tell him the truth and we’ll both have our hearts broken”
“There’s still time for that. Focus on the present”
“So, where were you last night? I called you three times” Will changes the topic.
“I was at Rose’s. She told me she met you. You, Wally and Hannibal. And she said you looked good together”
Will can’t see but can swear Alana is smirking.
“Yeah. We met her and her husband by the lake, they invited us over so we went and had a drink with them”
“More than just one drink, I heard” Alana laughs openly.
“Maybe even one too many” Will says quietly.
Will sighs. That’s why he called her. He can’t withdraw now.
“I kissed him” Will says, still in a low tone.
“You kissed Hannibal?”
“Yes. I tried not to drink too much and everything was fine until I started giggling and realized it didn’t go as planned. We went to the cabin and I… made a fool of myself”
“We played truth or dare the day before and I kind of… wanted to continue. And it got hot, he dared me to kiss him and I did. On the cheek. But we didn’t stop and somehow I ended up kissing him on the lips and then I pushed him away”
“What did he say?”
“That he didn’t want to hurt me. And we never spoke of it again”
“Well, it sounds like he wanted this, too. I mean, you can treat it as only a game, and that would indicate the kiss meant nothing. Or maybe he used the game to, in a way, express his feelings?”
“Do you think he… likes me?”
“Of course he likes you. I don’t know if he does more than like you but I think you should just talk to him, instead of me”
There is a moment of silence and Alana sighs.
“That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? You’re afraid of being hurt by Hannibal”
“I’m afraid of making a fool of myself again. And I’m afraid of having something more with him. I mean, let’s say he feels the same and we, let’s say, move in together, and then I do something stupid or he gets to know me better and realises he doesn’t like me anymore. What then?”
“Will you please talk to him? And then let me know what he said?”
“You know I have only you to talk to. Ever since Molly…died”
“And I’m always here for you, Will. Believe me, tell him what you just told me and everything will be fine”
“I’ll call you tomorrow, then”
Will puts down the phone and covers himself with the duvet. He closes his eyes and feels his heart beat faster at the sole thought of confessing to Hannibal.
“Where is Wally?” Will asks.
Hannibal turns and Will sees sorrow and regret on the man’s face.
“I put him in the crib. He’s not asleep but I needed a moment for myself. I hope you don’t mind”
“No, not at all” Will sets the bottle of wine on the table and sits by Hannibal “Has something happened?”
“Yes” the man says simply, calm but terrified.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The morning goes as usual. Will drinks a coffee and feeds Walter. He looks at the child and smiles. Wally is so peaceful, not matching the features other people tell about their kids. For a second Will wonders how his life would look like with Hannibal permanently living with them. How it would be to wake up next to the man.
Then, Will hears the doorbell and it helps him snap out of his daydreaming. Hannibal greets him with a smile. How does he do this? He always seems so happy and innocent.
Will returns the smile and is about to leave but there is something on his mind.
“Um, do you have any plans for tonight?”
“Other than playing with Walter, no”
“So it wouldn’t be a problem if I asked you to stay a bit longer?”
“Do you have any plans for tonight?”
“No. I mean… Well, would it be a problem?”
“Of course not”
Will wishes he had handled the conversation better. Maybe he’s really not cut out to it, maybe he’s not made for relationships.
The day at the hospital is long. Will has to perform two complicated operations and a few minor surgeries. During the lunch break Will looks at his phone and suddenly wishes he had someone to call him and tell him they miss him. Will groans. Since when is he so hopeless and desperate?
He drives back home and on his way there, he buys a bottle of red wine. He waits in his car for a moment and wonders. He considers whether to go through with his plan or maybe withdraw when he still has a chance.
He closes his eyes, listens to his heartbeat. Like the drums, the beating is fast and rhythmical. The memory of the kiss flashes through Will’s mind and he’s lost. He gets out of the car and steps into the house.
He walks into the living room and finds Hannibal sitting on the couch.
“Where is Wally?” Will asks.
Hannibal turns and Will sees sorrow and regret on the man’s face.
“I put him in the crib. He’s not asleep but I needed a moment for myself. I hope you don’t mind”
“No, not at all” Will sets the bottle of wine on the table and sits by Hannibal “Has something happened?”
“Yes” the man says simply, calm but terrified.
Will feels the fear engulfing Hannibal and he’s tempted to grab Hannibal’s hand to reassure him. He doesn’t. He waits.
"You asked me in the cabin if I had a dark secret"
Will nods. It's the night he wants to talk about too so maybe it's a good sign.
"And I said yes" Hannibal adds.
"And I said I didn't"
"There is one thing that I've done, and it's so bad I would never dare to expect anyone to forgive me. Honestly, I've been having difficulties looking in the mirror since then"
Will's heart skips a beat and the man holds his breath.
"Some time ago, the day before I started working for you, I was driving my car on the street. It was a sunny day and it was difficult to drive, the sun was reflecting in every possible surface. I looked at a window display and the light made me squint and I couldn't see anything on the road for a moment. Then I heard a woman scream and then more voices. I stopped the car and looked back on the road. There was a woman lying on the pavement, bleeding out. People started to gather and I froze. I have no excuse for what I did next"
Will's eyes threaten to shed tears as the horrifying realisation sinks in. Will shakes his head.
"I ran. I didn't report this nor did I help the woman in any way. I was terrified"
Will turns his head not to look at Hannibal. He knows he'll feel sorry for the man any minute now. He'll hate him but he'll still empathise with him.
"I'll never forget her face"
"I never asked you what happened to your sister. And today curiosity took over me"
"No" Will whispers.
"It was her I ran into that day. It was your sister, Will"
Will's muscles hurt, his hands want to clench into fists but they can't. Will's head hurts. Will looks at Hannibal whose eyes are wet.
"I know I should have helped her. I know I should have told the police what happened. I'm in no position to ask for your forgiveness"
"No, you're not"
"And I know it'll be the most rational and reasonable of you to call the police now"
Will nods but stays where he's sitting.
“I’m sorry, Will. I have no way of making it up to you, I know. If I could turn back time, I’d rather die myself than let that happen again. But it’s too late now”
Will feels rage grow inside him. He sits next to the man that killed his sister. He can have justice.
Will wants to beat the man. He wants to shove him on the floor and beat the hell out of him. He wants to make him bleed. But what would he even gain from that? Other than releasing his tension and his rage. If Hannibal accused him of assault, Will could even lose Walter.
Will is glad he still has the ability to think rationally.
Calling the police seems reasonable but Will has no proof of what Hannibal just told him. Only Hannibal’s own admission to the crime would make him guilty.
Will looks at the bottle of wine on the table. He snorts. Why today? Why did he have to tell him that today? Well, it’s probably for the best. Otherwise who knows how the night would have gone.
Will covers his mouth with his hand. What should he do? What would be the best solution to this situation?
“I want you to leave now” Will whispers “I’m not going to need you anymore. Not today and not ever”
Hannibal frowns but nods. Will wonders what the man was expecting he would do.
“Leave your keys on the table and leave”
Hannibal takes out the keys and places them on the table in front of Will. Lecter stands up and leaves.
Will can’t imagine going to work the next day. Thankfully, the day after the next is his day off. But he needs to find a babysitter for tomorrow. He needs to figure out what he wants to do.
Will goes upstairs, the bottle of wine completely forgotten now. He enters Walter’s room and sees the child soundly asleep. Will is already aware that everytime he’ll see the child’s smile, he’ll see Hannibal. Everytime they’ll play with the train, he’ll think of Hannibal. There is no resolution to this.
Will goes to his own bed and dials Alana’s number. He was supposed to call her after all.
“Hello, Will” the woman’s voice is cheerful.
“Everything all right?”
“No. I’d hop into the car and drive to you but I still have to go to work tomorrow”
“What happened, Will?”
“Actually, would you mind driving here?” Will asks.
“Are you sure you’re going to be okay until I arrive?”
“Yeah. Yes. Please, come. Please, I don’t know what to do”
“I’m on my way, Will”
Will hangs up and goes to the living room. He lies down on the couch and looks at the bottle of red wine, waiting on the table. The damn symbol of this failure of an evening.
Will goes to the kitchen to bring two glasses and pours himself some wine. He turns on the tv and proceeds to watching a movie that has been already on for thirty minutes.
When Will finishes the second glass, the hears knocking at the front door. He answers the door. He’s not crying, but his eyes are wet. Alana sees him but decides to enter the house before she hugs him.
It is then, when Will finally starts crying. He cannot control his rage and sadness anymore. It all explodes when he’s in her arms. It’s funny, he thinks, since she’s smaller than him and it must look hilarious. Her embracing him like an old baby.
Alana strokes his hair. It’s the first time she sees the man like that. Vulnerable and confused.
He finally pulls back and goes to the kitchen to look for tissues.
She goes to the living room and sits on the couch. Will appears by her side and lifts the bottle of wine.
“Do you want some?” he asks.
“How much did you drink, Will?”
“Two glasses. I bought it to… I wanted to drink it with him, but…”
Alana takes the bottle from his hands and puts it back on the table. Then she takes his hands in her own and looks at him.
“Tell me what happened, Will”
“He confessed that it was him who hit Molly with his car and then he ran. He killed her, Alana”
Alana’s eyes widen.
“And he kept this information from you the whole time?” she asks.
“No. I mean, I don’t know. He said he found it out just today. I never told him how she died”
“Well, he was aware that he ran over a person, right? So it doesn’t matter who this person was, honestly”
“But it was Molly. Hell, I don’t know. I’d probably not forgive him anyway but knowing it was my sister? And it’s because he killed her that I even met him”
“Life is tricky”
“I don’t believe in fate or anything like that”
“So what are you going to do now?” Alana asks, stroking Will’s arms.
“I don’t know. I need to find a new babysitter, that’s for sure”
“I can stay with Wally tomorrow”
Will turns to her and embraces her again. She smells so lovely. She smells of pines and sun and freedom.
“I’m so sorry, Will. You just learnt to open up again and you got hurt. I guess you were right to stay within your walls”
“I still have you and Wally and I know you will never hurt me”
Alana pulls away slightly and hesitates before she speaks again.
“Are you going to report him? Will you tell the police he’s responsible?”
“I’m not sure if it’s a good idea. I mean, I’d love for him to pay for what he did but… The police didn’t find any evidence. They don’t have him on cameras. And I’m not an eye witness”
“So you’re going to just give it up?”
“What else is there for me to do, Alana? Please, tell me and I’ll do it”
Alana nods. Will is right.
“It was an accident. I know he wouldn’t harm anyone on purpose” Will adds.
Alana sees the tiredness in Will’s eyes and she grabs his hand.
“Go to sleep, Will. You need rest. I’ll take care of Wally tomorrow and then you’ll find a new babysitter. Everything will be fine”
He snorts but nods.
“Do you want to stay here? I can sleep on the couch” Will offers.
“No. I’ll take the couch. You’re going to work tomorrow”
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Will wakes up in the middle of the night. His throat is dry and his cheeks sticky from dried tears. He goes to Wally’s room to check on the baby and then descends the stairs. He sees Alana soundly asleep on the couch and smiles.
Some time ago, before Hannibal, he’d have loved to have her in his house, particularly in his bed. Now he looks at her and sees only a friend. A good friend, of course, probably his only friend, but only a friend nevertheless.
He drinks some water and splashes some on his face to clean the sticky mess. He sits by the table and looks through the window. The sky is full of stars but it’s lacking the moon. Will takes another sip of water and then returns to his bed.
He wakes with his alarm clock and quickly showers and dresses up. He takes Walter downstairs to the kitchen to feed him while Alana is still sleeping on the couch.
Will makes weird faces and pushes another spoon into Wally’s mouth. The child laughs.
“Good morning, sweet men”
Will turns and sees Alana stretch by the door to the kitchen. Will smiles at her.
“Good morning. I’d ask how was your night but I believe I can see”
“And how was your night?”
“It was okay” he says while rubbing his neck.
“Do you know what you’re going to do?”
“Well I need to find a new babysitter but I can’t really contact the same care centre. What would I tell them?”
“That Hannibal wasn’t suitable anymore. That you were no longer satisfied with his services”
“No, I… won’t ruin his career” and it would be a lie, Will thinks.
Will looks at Wally, who is smiling happily.
“I’ll take him to the cabin because I left without a word and without my baggage. And you need to figure out what to do next”
“Thank you. Are you sure you’re okay with taking care of him today? I could arrange for someone else”
“No, there’s no need. I’ll be glad to spend a day with the little prince”
Alana pinches Walter’s nose and the child grins.
“It’s all right, Will. He misses him. And it’s understandable. You both fell for him”
“A little too much” Will observes with a grimace.
“He is a sweet and gentle man”
Will rolls his eyes and looks at the clock.
“I need to go. I should be back around six”
“We’ll be fine. Go”
On his way to the hospital Will catches a glimpse of the playground but doesn’t spot Hannibal. He shakes his head. He’s hopeless.
He returns home a few minutes after six and finds the place empty. He collapses on the couch and closes his eyes.
He wakes when Alana covers him with a blanket.
“What time is it?” he asks confused.
“Half past seven. Wally is sleeping upstairs. It was a long day for him”
Will nods and rises to sit on the couch.
Alana sits next to him.
“I called the care centre Hannibal worked for” she says.
“They said they had a free babysitter, a woman, aged thirty two, and she can visit you if you like, even tomorrow”
“I’ll call them later”
“They said Hannibal didn’t work for them anymore”
Will feigns indifference.
“Talk to him. Yell at him, hell, slap him. But, please, talk to him”
“There’s nothing to talk about, Alana”
“Clearly there is. You’re hurt. You’re heartbroken. And so is Wally. He cried today”
The last sentence makes Will close his eyes in sorrow.
“I don’t have anything to say to him”
“You know it’s not true. You have feelings for him”
“How can I have feelings for the man that killed my sister?!”
Alana sighs in resignation.
“You said yourself he’d never hurt anyone on purpose. You’ll do what you think is best but I believe you should confront him” she stands up “I bought you a piece of cake, it’s in the fridge. If you need anything, call me”
She turns and heads to the front door. Will stands up and grabs her arm.
“I’m sorry, Alana. I know you wish me well”
She smiles at him and then leaves. Will goes to check on Walter and then calls the care centre. The woman will appear the next morning. Will goes to take a shower and then falls asleep in his bed.
At three in the morning Will wakes dues to the child’s crying. Will tends to Walter, tries to feed him, but huger is not the problem here. Will reads Walter a story and the child calms but before he falls asleep, he whispers “Hannibal”.
Will sighs and goes back to sleep.
Will wakes up later in the morning and makes himself breakfast. He laughs at himself and looks through his documents to find the contract he signed with Hannibal. Just as he thought. There’s an address. Hannibal’s address.
Will hasn’t been to Lecter’s flat even once during the time Hannibal was working for him. Will writes down the address on a separate piece of paper and puts it in the pocket of his jeans.
He hears knocking at the door. He answers it and sees a tall slim woman wearing glasses.
“Hello. My name is Amanda. I believe I’m your babysitter” she laughs “Of course I meant a babysitter for your child”
“Please, come in”
Twenty minutes later, after introducing Amanda to Wally and agreeing on the most crucial aspects of the woman’s job, the contract is signed.
There is a feeling in his stomach worrying him. He wonders if Walter will like the new babysitter, and if Amanda will take such good care of him as Hannibal did.
The contract states Amanda starts working on Monday, meaning the next day, so Will is left alone with the child for one more day.
After the woman leaves, Will feeds Walter and takes him to the park. Wally seems tired and sad. They don’t stay long in the park and Will decides to go through with his initial plan for the day.
Will takes out the piece of paper from his pocket and in fifteen minutes he arrives with Wally at the given address. Will hesitates. He looks at Wally and kisses the child’s forehead. He’s about to knock at the door when the it opens and reveals Hannibal, all dressed up in a plaid shirt and worn out jeans. Lecter’s eyes widen and he immediately smiles to Walter.
“Hello, little man” Hannibal says but makes no move towards Will “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted to talk to you. Do you have a second?”
“Actually, I was just going on a job”
Weird, Will thinks, Alana said Hannibal wasn’t working at the centre anymore.
“I should be back in an hour”
“Yeah, it’s just a small job. I’m not working as a babysitter anymore. I’m going to fix a sink for an old lady”
Hannibal winks at Walter and Will frowns.
“You could wait in my flat if you want to…” Hannibal proposes.
“No, no. There’s no need. I’ll come in an hour”
Will goes home and settles Wally on the carpet in the living room. They set up the tracks and the train and Will looks for Molly’s calendar. There he finds the phone number to the girl that was taking care of Walter when Will’s sister was at work. He dials the number and asks if she’s available. It’s Sunday so there’s no school.
She picks up the phone and after a moment of Will explaining it will be only for an hour or two, she agrees to come.
“He shouldn’t be hungry but if he is, you’ll find everything you need in the kitchen. The toys are set up in the living room. If he wants to sleep, just take him to the crib and-”
“Mr Graham. I’ve done it before. I know what to do” the girl smiles.
Will looks at Walter one more time. The image of him smiling at Hannibal will be forever imprinted on Will’s brain. He sighs.
i fucked up xD
Will appears at Hannibal’s doorstep over an hour later. The man opens the door wearing only his trousers and drying his hair with a towel.
“Please, come in”
Will steps inside the flat and looks around. There’s a living room with a tv and a couch, a coffee table, a wardrobe. Hannibal points at the couch for Will to take a seat and so Will does.
“Where’s Wally?” Lecter asks.
“I left him at home. I don’t believe I could think rationally with him here”
Hannibal nods. He knows what Will means. The child adores him and Will would fall for that.
“Found a new babysitter already?”
Hannibal nods again.
“Do you want tea or coffee?”
Will shakes his head.
“Why did you quit your job?”
Hannibal is tempted to say ‘You know why’ but he sits next to Will, not too close, and sighs.
“I couldn’t do this anymore”
Will rubs his eyes. This is difficult.
“Alana told me to come and talk to you”
“Do you want me to go and turn myself in to the police?”
“What? No, um… that’s not exactly the reason why I’m here”
Will frowns. He really is hopeless.
“You’re the reason why my sister is dead. The reason why I even met you. You made Wally fall for you, you made me fall for you. And I guess I’m mad at myself because I let myself be fooled. I let myself open up. And the second I lower my walls you hurt me”
Hannibal looks intensively at Will and Will can’t stand this anymore. He lifts his hand quickly and slaps Lecter. Hannibal rubs his cheek and turns to look away. He remains silent.
“I’d love nothing more than to see you pay for everything you did to my family”
Will feels his eyes getting wet. The dam threatens to break and he knows he’ll start crying any second now.
“I hate you. I hate myself for ever liking you. I hate myself for ever hoping for you to like me back”
Will stands up and hurries to the door. Hannibal stands up, too, but doesn’t pursue Will. He just yells after the man.
“I love you, Will!”
Graham freezes right before he turns the knob on the door.
“I know I wronged you and I know you may never forgive me. I know I hurt you. If there’s anything I can do for you to hate me even a little bit less, I’ll do it. Do you want me to go to the police? I’ll do it. Do you want to beat me? Do it”
Will doesn’t respond to that. He doesn’t turn to look at Hannibal. He just leaves.
He comes back home, all in tears and angry. He dismisses Katie, the girl taking care of Walter, and he sits by the kid on the carpet. Will doesn’t play with Wally, he just observes him. He tries to calm down, tries to leave everything behind him.
God, he wishes he hadn’t gone to see Hannibal.
It was difficult before but now it’s unbearable. Hannibal loves him? No, that can’t be true.
Will feels his phone buzz in his pocket and he sees Alana’s name on the screen.
“Hi. How is you day?”
“Worse with every minute. Although your call might just changed the pattern”
“Why? What is happening?”
“I talked to him, Alana”
“Do you want to meet? This is my last day off and I’d love to spend it with you and Wally”
“You sure? I already ruined your leave”
“Nonsense. I’m polishing my nails right now but how about we meet in half an hour in the park?”
“We’ll be waiting by the playground”
“All right. See you soon”
Will takes Wally and goes to the park. He sits with the child on his lap on the bench near the playground. They watch the other kids slide and swing. Will tickles Wally and they both laugh.
Will looks around and when he turns his head he sees Hannibal going somewhere. Probably another small job. Why did he quit being a babysitter? Will doesn’t want to be the cause of that. He doesn’t want for Hannibal to be unemployed and lacking money or anything.
“Hello, two handsome men”
Will hears Alana’s voice and turns to face her. Maybe this was his best option all along. Maybe he should have pursued romantic relationship with her and be done with it. She’s the only one who truly seemed to understand him. But now it feels too late. It would seem like a rebound relationship.
“Hi” Will forces a smile.
She sits next to Will and takes Walter in her arms.
“So… you talked to Hannibal?”
“Hannibal!” Walter yells happily.
“Yeah. It was stupid. I don’t know what I was expecting”
“What did you tell him?”
“Exactly what I told you. That I opened up to him and he hurt me”
“And? What did he say?”
“He asked me if I wanted him to go to the police”
“No. No, it wouldn’t undo the harm. It wouldn’t bring Molly back”
Alana puts her hand on one of Will’s.
“He said he loved me” Will whispers.
Alana’s eyes widen and she smiles.
“What? How do you know?”
“He cannot love me, Alana. He just said it to make me feel bad for him or whatever”
“You don’t know that. Did you ask him why he quit his job?”
“Yeah. He wouldn’t say”
“I am aware this is a terrible situation but give this some more time, Will. I believe he was honest”
He always chooses truth, Will remembers and smiles. Time. Alana is probably right, as always. Time will heal his wounds and let him think clearly.
“Let’s go for some ice cream. I’m buying” Will offers.
The next day Will leaves Wally with Amanda and goes to work. He operates on a woman with faulty heart and leaves the operating room exhausted. He takes off his gloves covered in blood and washes his hands.
He goes to the staff room to get some coffee when one of the nurses calls out his name. She approaches him in a hurry and grabs his arm.
“Quickly, they’re talking about your sister”
Graham goes with the woman and they stand by the reception desk where a radio is broadcasting the local news.
“…the manslaughter from a few months ago. The man is still being interrogated and we’ll relay the statement of the police department as soon as they give one. Eye witnesses will be brought in again to confirm the man’s version of events. We’d like to remind that no camera footage from the accident was found and the confession is the only evidence now…”
“Hannibal” Will whispers.
Graham takes out his phone and dials Alana.
“I know you start your shift after me but I need you to switch with me today. Please, Alana, come to the hospital as soon as you can”
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes”
Will goes to the staff room and abandons his gown. He waits for Alana to show up and when she finally does, he gives her a note and quickly leaves the hospital. He drives to the precinct.
“Excuse me, my name is Will Graham. I’m looking for the man that-”
“Graham? Are you the brother of Molly Graham?”
“Yes! Yes. Can I talk to the man that confessed?”
“We were just going to call you. The man is still being interrogated but I believe he will be released in a few minutes”
“Well, we have no other proof than his own confession and we have no grounds to keep him in the custody. He’ll be called in tomorrow so that any eye witnesses can recognise him”
“What if they don’t?”
“It depends on the prosecutor. But it doesn’t look like a big case. Without any evidence he won’t be convicted”
Will swallows. He takes a seat and waits for Hannibal to be released.
After a quarter of Will biting his nails, Lecter appears in the hall. Will stands up and freezes. He just looks at Hannibal. The man takes a step towards Will, slowly, but Will rushes towards him. When he’s within hand reach, Will slaps Hannibal with all his force.
“You bastard! Are you out of your mind?!”
“That was all I could do” Hannibal says while rubbing his jaw, scarlet after the punch.
“What if you go to jail? What then?”
“Maybe I’d have some peace”
Will feels all his rage gather in his fist and he punches Hannibal again.
“What about me? Have you thought about me?”
A police officer approaches Will.
“What is happening here?”
“Nothing” Hannibal assures with a smile “We were just leaving”
Lecter grabs Will’s arm and they exit the precinct. The man looks into Will’s eyes.
“I thought that… it would be an instalment of all my pay off to your family”
“You can’t go to jail. It won’t change anything. It won’t make me feel any better”
“Maybe I need this. It’s been bothering me for some time”
“You’ll have difficulties finding a job after this. You’ll… People will hate you. It’s not a big city. Even if you’re not found guilty and charged, they’ll look at you like at a criminal”
“I don’t care”
“Well, I do and I hate it”
“If there is a case and there is a trial, I’ll come. I’ll say I forgive you and I’ll do anything to let you go free”
Hannibal feels bold and lifts his hand to stroke Will’s cheek. Will hates himself for leaning into the touch.
“Wally needs you. He’s not the same since that evening”
“I need you” Will whispers.
Hannibal embraces the man and smells his hair.
“God, I really hate myself. I keep falling for your clever tricks again and again”
“Truth or dare?” Will asks after pulling away from the hug.
Hannibal tilts his head and his face expression seems to be screaming ‘You know the answer’.
“Did you mean it? When you said you loved me?”
Hannibal smiles faintly at Will.
“Truth or dare, Will?”
Will isn’t eager to reveal any truth.
“Forgive me” Hannibal says quietly.
Will closes his eyes.
“You’re not playing fair. You can’t ask this of me”
“I know. But I’m desperate”
“I’ll keep thinking about it. I need to go now”
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also - sorry this chapter is so short and i hope it's a satisfying conclusion ^^
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"What are you reading?" Hannibal asks upon entering the living room.
"This stupid newspaper. They're writing about you. Again. Or more accurately, they're writing about us"
Hannibal sets two glasses of wine on the coffee table and sits next to Will on the couch.
"I told you-"
"I know, I know. It only makes me angry. I know I should stop"
Wally, who was sitting on the floor and playing with his blocks, stands up, approaches the couch and climbs it. Will doesn't help, he just watches and grins. When the child is finally up, Will moves him to sit on his lap. Hannibal ruffles Wally's hair and looks at Will, full of affection.
Will feels the man's eyes on him and turns his head to face Hannibal.
"Today is my birthday" Will whispers.
Hannibal frowns, surprised and a bit angry.
"Why didn't you tell me that earlier? I didn't know-"
"I hate birthdays. And I had a really nice day" Will says and places his hand on Hannibal's thigh.
Lecter's pupils dilate and he strokes Will's arm. He looks at Wally on Will's lap. The child yawns and leans his head against Will's chest. Will smiles and looks into Hannibal's eyes. He raises his eyebrows in a silent question.
Hannibal stands up and Will follows. They go to settle Walter in the crib upstairs and then they return to the couch. They drink the wine Hannibal brought earlier.
"You have to go to bed soon" Hannibal says while stroking Will's hair softly.
"I know" Will says lazily.
They sit in complete silence for a few more minutes and savour the moment of bliss. It's like that almost every evening now. Will comes from work, they have dinner together, they play with Walter, talk a bit and then Hannibal leaves.
Will got used to that but if there's anything Lecter taught him is never to get used to things. And so Will takes risks. He does so now.
Hannibal smiles at Will and considers the offer. Will takes both of their glasses and sets them on the coffee table. He looks into Hannibal's eyes and takes the man's hands in his own. Lecter grins and leans closer but he doesn't make the connection; he waits for Will to make the move. And he doesn't have to wait long.
Will presses his lips to Hannibal's, causing the tension to break. He feels the man's hand on his cheek. Will moves his own hand along Hannibal's thigh, gently massages the man's leg. They deepen the kiss but Will pulls back abruptly. Hannibal tenses, afraid he did something wrong but Will smiles warmly at him and cradles the man's face with his hands.
"Stay forever" Will whispers.
Hannibal narrows his eyes, not sure if he heard and understood correctly.
"Move in with me. Sell your flat and settle here, with me and Wally"
Hannibal's mind starts to process what is happening and he smiles. He nods gently and Will kisses him again. They fall into a warm embrace.
thank You for reading :***
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