The light from the Hello Kitty night light left a pink hue onto the bed where Will lie. The age-regressed boy picked at the comforter’s hem as he could not sleep. His mind was still reeling from the day’s events. Today had not just been any day, but a special day, for it was Halloween. He had carved pumpkins and made spooky crafts with his daddy during the day before being served a special Halloween dinner. In the evening he had dressed up as a lamb, mano labai mažai avinėlis, his daddy had whispered affectionately into the shell of his ear.
Hannibal set strict rules when he cared for little Will, rules which he adhered to strictly. No sweets before bed was one such rule but tonight the little lamb had been permitted to indulge. Hannibal had allowed Will to have one Almond Joy, the boy’s favorite. Will was grateful for the small pleasure but it left him wanting more. After all, it was Halloween. Will knew his daddy would be in his study, doing boring adult things; such as reading medical journals or reviewing patient notes, as he always did after putting the boy down for bed. He also knew that being Halloween, there was sure to be candy or treats hidden somewhere in the house.
Pushing back the bedding, Will slowly rolled out of bed. His feet touched the cold wooden floor, sending a small shiver through his body. Gathering Mr. Bear, Will quickly made his bed, just as his daddy had taught him, before very quietly sneaking out his room. Hannibal never shut Will’s door as it allowed him to keep an ear out in case the boy became distressed during the night as he was prone to do. With a cautious effort, Will slowly opened the door a bit more in order to exit the room.
Luckily, Will’s room was closer to the stairs than Hannibal’s study, meaning he would not have to sneak past his daddy. With light footsteps the boy carefully padded down the stairs. His first stop was the kitchen, after all it was his daddy’s favorite place and it is where the food was kept; surely if Hannibal was hiding something, this is where it would be. Will checked all the drawers including those which housed the knives. Hannibal had made sure to instruct his dear little Will never to go into such drawers, for he could easily hurt himself. Will figured if his daddy were to hide something that would be the place. Next, he tried all the cabinets, starting with the lower ones under the sink which he could reach easier. Coming up short, he moved to the higher cabinets. Will, having a small stature, found it difficult to see all the way to the top; but surely his daddy would hide something here, knowing Will would have difficulty reaching it. So the boy went on his tippy toes and stretched as far as he could, his grey night shirt riding up causing goosebumps to form as the cool night breeze brushed past his skin. He briefly considered jumping to catch a glimpse, but quickly decided against it for fear of making too much noise and being found out.
Finding nothing Will moved onto the dining room, maybe daddy hid stuff in all the herbs which lined the walls. Will loved that wall, it was pretty and it smelled nice, so he had no problem searching through the planters. When he came up empty, the boy began to grow discouraged. Surely his daddy had to have more candy somewhere, it was Halloween after all! Disheartened at his lack of finds, the little one trudged despairingly into the living room, plopping down on the love seat in defeat.
The boy sunk back into the couch, letting it absorb him as he held Mr. Bear to his chest. Unwilling to give up, sapphire eyes darted desperately around the room, searching for potential hiding spots. Suddenly the boy crawled across the couch, to the side table adjacent to the couch and pulled open the small drawer. He was rewarded with a bag of gummies. They were unlike any other gummies he had seen before, they were in the shape of sea creatures! The brightly colored shark, octopus and starfish gummies reminded him of the time he had gone to the aquarium with his daddy and had seen actual sea creatures. The sharks were his favorite!
A wave of guilt suddenly washed over Will. He knew he had been naughty sneaking around the house after bedtime in search of sweets…but it was Halloween, the one day he should be allowed sweets. He also recalled his daddy telling him how fish was good for him when he had refused to eat Salmon last week. Will’s brows scrunched, a frown painted his face as he thought intently on the dilemma before him. Weighing both sides, the boy decided it could not be that bad to eat the gummies, after all they were fish which his daddy had told him was good for him.
Will’s head peeked over the couch, checking that the coast was clear. Certain the coast was clear, the boy sunk back into the couch and quickly tore the package apart. The aroma of sweetly sour candy danced into his nose along with a strange undertone he could not place. Knowing he didn’t have much time, Will quickly shoved a handful of the sour gummies into his mouth. A rush of euphoria coursed through his body. It wasn’t until after he swallowed the sweets that he noticed the odd taste in his mouth. It was unlike anything he had ever tasted before, and Hannibal fed him some weird stuff. The closest way he could describe it would be as earthy? Pushing the thought out of his mind he quickly shoved the remaining candies into his mouth, chewing quickly as to lower his chances of being caught.
Shoving the package into his pocket to get rid of the evidence, Will suddenly realized his hands felt like he had been sifting through sand at the beach. ‘Uh oh!’ thought Will as he brought his hands to his mouth, his tongue lapping off the criminalizing sugar. Afterwards he rubbed his hands on his pajama pants trying to cleanse himself of the remaining stickiness. Once satisfied he lied on the couch, clutching Mr. Bear to his chest.
Forgetting he was supposed to be in bed, the naughty boy’s mind began to wander as he surveyed the room. Noticing the basket full of his playthings he was struck with the wonderful idea to read a story to Mr. Bear. Choosing Where the Wild Things Are, Will settled back onto the couch, his back against the arm rest so that he could face Mr. Bear and show him the beautiful pictures.
“What did you think Mr. Bear? Max’s parents sent him to bed without food, Daddy would never do that to me!”
The boy’s face lit up into a smile as he reflected on what a good daddy he had. He was vaguely aware as his body relaxed and he melted into the couch. The smile still painted across his face as he lie there feeling content. His eyes drooped as they grew heavy though they never completely shut.
Suddenly Will was at the park! He was soaring through the air getting closer and closer to the clouds as he pumped himself on the swings.
He was surprised to see the stuffy had grown life-sized and was also propelling himself on the swing to left of the boy.
The stuffy replied! How amazing!
Will basked in setting. It was a beautiful day. He could hear the birds singing their beautiful melodies and the sun’s warm rays washed over him, something quite rare for October in Baltimore.
“Let’s see who can go highest.”
Will accepted the challenge, pumping his legs faster and faster, suddenly jumping off the swing and taking flight. He was weightless as he flew through the air climbing closer to the sun. The warm air passed him, providing a cool breeze. This was the best thing ever!
The next thing he knew, Will was back on the couch. It took a few minutes for him to completely orient himself. It was a little scary, but he realized he was safe on his daddy’s couch. His mind drifted back to the events that had led him to his current spot, he remembered what a naughty boy he had been. At once he noticed that the book he had read to Mr. Bear was splayed open on the floor.
‘That’s odd, I don’ remember it falling.’
Will suddenly felt very heavy. His body weighted against couch, but he knew he should get up to pick up his book or his daddy would become upset. Making to get off the couch, it was as if he was glued to the piece of furniture. He clumsily struggled until he ended up sliding his bottom off the sofa, bringing Mr. Bear and the couch’s throw with him. The boy had become uncoordinated, noticing how difficult it was for him to get up he began to panic. A tingling sensation bloomed in the pit of his stomach and worked its way out until his whole body was overcome by the unnerving sensation. Bracing himself with one arm, he threw his weight to the side in an attempt to roll over. Once he was facing the couch he used it to pull himself up. Standing was no easy task. Momentarily forgetting the task at hand, Will stood there stunned. He gathered up the blanket and his stuffy before seeing the book again. Somehow he managed to pick up the book but found it extremely difficult to juggle carrying the three items in his arms.
Will’s mind was clouded, it took him much longer to form coherent thoughts and his mind seemed to wander exponentially more than usual. He did however remember that he needed to put the book back, so he started across the room. He was treading through molasses with lead legs. He couldn’t even seem to stand up straight, his whole body wracked with shivers. Sinking to his knees he leaned over, bracing himself on the coffee table as he tried to pull himself across the room. Time slowed, inching along just slightly faster than an eon. His thoughts were jumbled, he couldn’t seem to gather them. His mind both raced and stalled. Suddenly he had a horrible thought.
‘Am I nakkie?’ He gasped in abject horror at the troubling thought.
‘I know daddy changed me into my pj’s before he put me to bed,’ reasoned the boy, though he knew it was an illusion. Keeping one hand braced against the table he used the other to check that he was wearing clothes. Feeling the soft flannel bottoms and cotton shirt he was still not satisfied.
He just knew his mind was playing tricks on him. Another thought suddenly occurred to him, ‘What if I just think I wear clothes, but I’m always nakkie?....Oh no, what if Alana and Uncle Frederick are here and they see me?’ Little Will’s thoughts suddenly spiraled out of control. Dwelling on his thoughts he was suddenly brought back to the present when he heard it the sound of voices. They were faint and he could not understand what they were saying but he knew there were people in his house and they were talking and laughing at him!
‘Nobody but me, daddy and Winston are here,’ he tried to reason, but struggled to accept that. It was only when his thoughts drifted to his dog that he was able to shift his focus. ‘I think I stabbed Winston,’ the horrid thought just popped into his mind. He had seen Winston earlier, petting the dog before he had gone to bed. ‘My mind is playing tricks on me again’ he assured himself, but it felt so real. He saw himself above the poor dog, dead at his hand, his small hand holding a bloody knife. Although logically he knew it never happened, the horrible thought just felt too real.
It was too much, suddenly Will just dropped to the floor. He rolled over and curled into a ball, shielding himself completely with the throw, only leaving a small space to peek out of. Scrunching his eyes shut, he tried to make it all go away, but his mind kept cycling through negative catastrophic thoughts and imagery. Peeking his eyes open Will glanced around the room.
Catching a glimpse of Winnie the Pooh stuffy, he drew in a deep breath, calming himself. All too soon his mind began thinking of the scary shape-shifting Heffalumps he had seen the last time he had watched Winnie the Pooh. His mind drifted back to the scene of color changing the color changing Heffalumps and Woozles which had haunted Pooh and had scared Will. Hannibal had reassured him they were just a part of the movie and not at all real, unable to hurt Will in anyway, but now he saw them so vividly along with the Hunny pots that taunted Pooh. In his mind’s eye, they danced before him, taunting and chasing after him. Will’s face scrunched up as he screwed his eyes shut as tightly as they would go. ‘Beware, beware, beware…’ his mind had once again begun playing tricks on him, this time he heard the Heffalump and Woozles song all too clearly. Bringing his arms to his ears in a rather uncoordinated manner, he attempted to muffle his mind’s cacophony.
“ ’s n-not real, it’s not r-r-real, ’s n-not r-real,” chanted Will shaking his head back and forth rapidly as he repeated the mantra Hannibal had taught him for when he became frightened while in little space. It worked…for a minute at least. Next, Will’s mind brought to life the Wild Things from the book he had read earlier. While not particularly nefarious in the book, the Wild Things of Will’s mind were. They were warped and horribly ugly, Will knew they wanted to eat him!
Will recalled his daddy telling him to think happy thoughts when he was scared. He began to think of his cousin Matty, and all the fun they had together. His daddy’s trick was working! Will began to calm down, his mind replaying all the fun times he had shared with his cousin. Suddenly, he remembered the time Matty explained that the ghost of Hannibal’s samurai suit was looking to get him. Hannibal had gotten mad at Matty. The both of them had explained there was no ghost, going as far to spritz the entire house with an anti-ghost agent, but that was of no use at the moment. Little Will was absolutely sure the ghost out to get him. His daddy, being upstairs and unaware of Will’s whereabouts would be unable to come to his aid. Trying once again to think of happy thoughts, blue eyes scanned the room, searching for pleasant things. Only scary things appeared, the house was not decorated in a fashion appealing to a young mind. Antlers and horns served as the focal point for many of the rooms, not to mention a plethora of knives on display in the kitchen and Aunt Murasaki’s sword, a family heirloom displayed proudly. Not only that, but Hannibal had a fondness for taxidermy, which only seemed to jump out at the scared boy.
Will dwelled on the chilling thoughts before the most haunting thought of all popped into his head. ‘Daddy doesn’t love you.’ He tried to shake the thought from his head, reasoning daddy did indeed love him but his mind would not have it. ‘He only pretends to love you…He laughs at you behind your back…He makes fun of you to everyone else…He tells Alana and Matty and Uncle Frederick what a baby you are…He hates that you like Hello-Kitty and dollies…’ The more he tried to rid his mind of the horrible thoughts the faster they seemed to come. Overwhelmed he began to hyperventilate. Tears clouded his already hazy vision, messy brown curls bounced from both violent sobs and the motion of him vehemently shaking his head back and forth in an effort to rid the horrid thoughts from is mind. “No. No. No. No. No”
That was how Hannibal had found him. The loud thud had piqued his curiosity but it wasn’t until he had heard Will’s distressed voice and the unmistakable sound of his boy crying that he decided to investigate. Failing to find Will in his room the doctor found him tangled under a throw violently shaking on the living room floor. Words were coming out of Will’s mouth but they were jumbled and Hannibal could not make sense of them. Looking around the room for clues about the scene before him, Hannibal found one of Will’s books strewn haphazardly across the floor, the boy’s beloved Mr. Bear plush discarded carelessly.
Curious to the events that had caused this, though mostly concerned with Will’s wellbeing, Hannibal approached cautiously. He had never seen Will act like this in all their time acquainted, whether in little space or not.
Hannibal crouched next to Will. He reached out to pull the thrown off Will, growing surprised when he was met with resistance. Puzzled, he tried a different approach.
“Hey buddy, what’s the matter?”
It took Will a moment to realize Hannibal was there talking to him. He was torn. He craved comfort from his daddy but he had grown untrusting considering his new revelation. Hannibal waited patiently. He stroked the boy’s back lovingly through the security blanket, still unsure what was going on. Will loosened his grip on the blanket, peeking out a bit further, his glossed eyes looked through Hannibal.
“Y-y-you don’ l-l-love me.”
The words fell out of Will’s mouth, biting acridly into Hannibal. Of course they untrue. Will was Hannibal’s world, little or not. Hannibal would not put up with a fraction of the things Will put him through if it was anyone else.
Realizing Will was under some type of duress, Hannibal plopped onto the floor and crossed his legs. Reaching out, he grabbed Will, who struggled against him, eventually manhandling the boy into his lap.
“Shhhh….There, there my dear boy. Where did you come up with such an idea?”
Keeping one arm secured tightly around Will, Hannibal used the other to rub soothing circles on Will’s back as he carded his hand through the boy’s unruly curls. Silence ensconced the room. The ticking of the ancient grandfather clock could be heard punctuated with an occasional hiccup and sniffle from Will. Hannibal felt the boy’s body relax slightly, easing into Hannibal’s firm grip. Eventually Will’s gaze met Hannibal’s. The psychiatrist made note of the glazed look of Will’s eyes. His little one never really focusing on Hannibal. Will’s eyes had a noticeably droopy appearance as they struggled to stay open.
Threading his arms under Will’s armpits, Hannibal shifted the boy in his lap. The crinkling of the wrapper caught Hannibal’s attention. In that moment cold fear broke through Will’s haze as Hannibal’s hand reached into his pocket. Hannibal could sense the fear he had elicited in Will, though at the moment he was more concerned with the wrapper in his hand. Giant letters jumped out at Hannibal, suddenly it all made sense.
Will must have gotten into the medicated gummies Frederick had insisted he try. Of course Hannibal had no intention of using them himself, though he was not abject to testing them out with his adult lover. Little Will had a sweet tooth, seeing the brightly colored sea-shaped gummies the little one couldn’t resist. Hannibal could not help but feel sorry for Will. It appeared he had eaten all 10 laced gummies at once. At 25 mg each, they were potent even for a regular user. Will must be experiencing auditory hallucinations and paranoia which had been known side effects of THC consumption. Such effects would be frightening enough for anyone, but for Will in little space it must be mortifying.
Will’s breathing seemed to regulate though there were still sparse irregularities. Gently grabbing Will’s jaw, Hannibal guided his little one to meet his eyes.
“I know you got into the gummies but I’m not mad, sweetie.”
Hannibal swept an unruly curl out of Will’s eye before leaning down and placing a soft kiss on his nose.
“Y-y-you don’t hate me?”
The words came out as a soft whisper, but they broke Hannibal’s heart. Logically he knew it the drugs talking, but they still sting.
“Of course not my dear boy.”
Hannibal drew the boy closer, tears and snot dripping down the crook of his neck, though he didn’t care. Considering it too cruel to let Will ride out his high, Hannibal pondered how to explain to the boy what was happening.
“Sweetie, those gummies you ate weren’t normal….They’re causing you to feel different…”
Hannibal couldn’t help but wince when as the tears started up again. He was at a loss for words of appeasement for the boy, a truly rare occurrence. Always quite confident, Hannibal felt oddly ashamed. He should have known Will could not ignore his sweet tooth while in his little space and he should have done a better hiding them. Pushing the thought to the back of his mind he moved to get up. Delicate fingers closed tighter around Hannibal’s maroon sweater, Will had always been clingy when he was upset.
“I have to get up. “
Soft brown curls tickled Hannibal’s cheek as Will trembled. He buried his face deeper into the crook of Hannibal’s neck, anchoring himself in the safety of Hannibal’s arms.
“I know you are upset but you need to let me up. I promise I won’t go anywhere.”
Hannibal seized the opportunity when he felt Will’s grip ease up. He was careful—knowing the boy was likely suffering from loss of coordination, as he guided Will up. After standing himself, he picked up his scared little one. Though he was a full grown adult, Will had always been quite small and fit surprisingly well in the arms of his lover. Legs snaked around Hannibal’s waist, arms enclosed around his shoulders as Will clung onto his daddy for dear life. A small sigh escaped Hannibal’s lips, his own arms pulling Will tightly against him.
“What do you say make a quick stop in the kitchen? I’ll get you a snack and prepare a warm bottle. You can sleep in daddy’s bed tonight, would you like that?”
Hannibal watched as Will gnawed on slices of Apples. He had already finished his portion of Gold Fish. Any other time Hannibal would throw a fit if Will were to eat in bed, though tonight he could care less. A deep concern dwelled within Hannibal about the little one’s fragile state of mind after consuming so many laced gummies.
Hannibal knew Will would have started experiencing intense cravings, so he had provided him with a snack, also realizing the food would also help sober him up. He had been concerned about Will’s lack of verbalization, knowing it only happened when Will regressed far or grew deeply upset. Luckily, it seemed the boy was slowly beginning to come out of his drug induced state, though he would have to sleep it off for the effects to fully let up.
“Was that good?”
Will nodded as he chewed on the last bit of the apple, which in turn earned a smile from the older man. Hannibal grabbed the bottle off the night stand. He tested a small amount of the heated milk on his wrist. Satisfied with the temperature, he helped Will settle into his lap before bringing the nipple to his lips. Will sucked eagerly which elicited a small chuckle from Hannibal.
“Hey, hey…slow down.”
The older man gazed down at Will, stroking his forehead lovingly as his little one worked into a calming and steady rhythm. Hannibal drank in the sight. Will’s fears melted away as he focused on the pleasure that he received from the bottle and his daddy’s presence.
Eventually Will’s eye’s weighted down and his sucking grew slower until it ceased all together. Hannibal removed the nearly empty bottle from Will’s mouth. Using a spare burp rag, he wiped up the excess milk and drool from around Will’s lips which had leaked out when he removed the bottle. Placing the bottle on his bed side table, he reached into the drawer and pulled out a spare pacifier and leash which he kept for occasions such as this. Carefully, Hannibal clipped it onto the Will’s t-shirt before slipping the nipple into his mouth. Though sleeping, Will gladly accepted it. Hannibal watched the pacifier bob in Will’s mouth. He could tell it relaxed the boy as he watched Will’s body visibly ease on the bed.
In this moment, Hannibal was content. Although the night had taken a rather peculiar and difficult turn, he wouldn’t trade it. He settled into the bed, balancing himself on his elbow, he watched adoringly as his lover slept. Will finally seemed to be at peace.
Hannibal would need to remember to have a stern talk with Frederick about bringing drugs into their home, no matter how “harmless” they were.