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All Those Dead People

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ALL THOSE DEAD PEOPLE
chapter two

What's truly amazing is how tired a person can feel and yet still can't fall asleep. Hannibal remained in the study, poring over the latest publications in his psychiatric journals, the only one of note coming from Dr. Frederick Chilton, of all people, whose study on excessive sleepiness in schizophrenics was more about his academic posturing than the actual science. All Hannibal had to do was point to a textbook to explain the oversimplification of Chilton's thesis. The schizophrenic mind was a constant whirlwind of pervasive, intrusive thoughts, impressions and hallucinations that never let up. A television of the mind that interacted and refused be silent, inner voices hammering into consciousness. Add to this the added stress of having to deal with an incompetent, pompous ass like Dr. Chilton. It was no wonder they were tired.

He tossed the offending journal onto the floor beside him and stretched out on the comfortable couch Will had insisted he purchase and put in the study. Though he'd originally found the collection of cushions and the bland grey colour of it rather drab, there was something to be said for an item taking function over form. The glass of wine perched on a couple of thick, antique Bibles placed on the floor near the tossed journal was taken up as he lay prone on the couch, his movements graceful and careful. He leaned forward to prevent it from spilling as he sipped it.

The pleasant Argentinean malbec worked some magic in alleviating his tense mood, and he licked his lips after tasting it, drawing more of its fruit upon his tongue. He cradled his arm behind his head as he relaxed back onto the cushion, thinking on how precious Will Graham must look right now, sleeping soundly in their bed, his mouth slightly open as he snored. He thought there could be nothing better at this hour than to join him, even if sleep was impossible. The draw of his skin, and its heady sweetness was a temptation his tired body longed to court. How pleasant it would be to slide into bed and taste the rounded shape of Will's shoulder as he lay on his side, and press his face into the softness of his dark curls, their texture not unlike angora. A latent arousal was stirring within him at this, and he wondered if Will would be receptive to some very late night stress relief.

"Dr. Lecter?"

Hannibal glanced up as he moved to a sitting position on the couch, mindful of the glass of wine near his foot and the journal with Chilton's boring analysis within it. He cleared the floor of his admittedly neat debris and placed it on the desk pressed against the back of the couch, and only then did he bid Abigail to come into the room and sit beside him.

"A restless night for more than one of us," he said, smiling at her reluctant, wisplike form at the entrance to his study, her thin arms crossed over her slight chest. Her long, dark hair had escaped the tie she had used to pull it back and it hung in a messy, slightly frizzy tangle around her head and down towards her slender waist. This somehow made her look younger, like a small child awoken from a bad dream.

She chewed her bottom lip with uncertainty and glanced over her shoulder back towards the kitchen. "Are there any more leftovers?"

Hannibal gave her a warm smile as he launched himself off of the couch and smoothly walked past her out of the study and into the kitchen, his long steps taking him to the refrigerator. "Of course, my dear girl, there are always ample provisions for you. I have a plate made up."

"I ate it already," Abigail said, slowly following him into the kitchen, where he looked at the empty plate in the sink with some consternation. It had been double the portion of both his own and Will's, and yet she was still hungry.

"I'll just make a sandwich, or something." she said.

He pulled out one of the breakfast stools and sat on it, his elbows propped on the island counter's marble surface as he balanced himself, clasped hands joined in a fist beneath his chin. Abigail was quick with the contents in the refrigerator, pulling out large clumps of sandwich meats, mostly Will's that he used for his lunches, and stacking them thick beneath two slices of rye bread, a generous helping of mayonnaise quickly spread across them first. She didn't bother getting a plate and instead opted for a paper towel to catch the crumbs. She stood across from Hannibal, her small mouth taking bites far larger than he'd thought her capable of.

She consumes everything she touches, Hannibal thought, and it was an unpleasant musing. He shuddered, pushing it away.

"Are you ready to talk about the argument you had with Will earlier?" he asked her, and she shrugged, the sandwich earning another, monstrous bite.

She chewed and swallowed and delicately wiped at the corners of her mouth with the paper towel. "I don't really want to go to college right now. I don't like any of the places you guys have suggested, there's nothing that interests me." She started working on the second half of her sandwich. Such a small girl and yet she could eat enough to make a wolf envious. Then again, she was the daughter of a cannibal. Hannibal distractedly wondered if the consuming of human flesh had some accelerating effect on her metabolism. The human body was a cesspit of disease and corruption, and the thought occurred to him that she was suffering from parasites.

"I mean, it's not like I'm going to be able to go anywhere for a while, not with everyone being able to recognize me. A couple of months might not be long enough for people to forget."

"Abigail, you will be shocked at how easily your celebrity will slip from the collective consciousness and into boredom. The interest of the masses is fleeting at best, and you are nothing more right now than a footnote for conversation amongst those who have nothing to talk about. The infamy is your father's, not yours." She finished her sandwich and Hannibal watched as she wiped wayward crumbs from the table into her slight hand, and dropped them into the sink behind her, littering the dirty plate she'd left there. "Studying is a healthy activity and can be useful in healing oneself. It is important to understand that the workings of life continue on past our own sorrows."

"Is that what you're doing?" she asked, and he smarted at this for it was as if she was still hungry and was now taking a bite out of him.

"The loss of my sister has been exceptionally difficult, and yes, I am doing all I can to continue with my routine. I understand, Abigail, though I am sure you think you are unique in your feelings. You are mourning your father, who was both your monster and your protector." He watched her as she turned on the tap and quickly rinsed her hands, flicking them dry as she closed it off again. "Though he takes most of the focus, I'm sure your feelings about the loss of your mother are also complex..."

"I didn't really know my mom." She shrugged and turned to Hannibal, her mood more cheerful than morose. "She was a person on the periphery who made dinner. Nothing more."

Hannibal frowned at this. "But she surely she was a large part of your life when you were very young. She was always there, despite the influence of your father."

"She was like wallpaper to me. Nothing more."

Hannibal wasn't sure about this analysis, for Judith Hobbs had personality enough to seek help for her grieving, had expressed a love and interest in her daughter that was clearly one sided, if Abigail was to be believed. He pulled out the black card he had been given that morning and placed it on the marble surface. "This man is a grief counsellor, who I met yesterday morning. He says your mother was a client of his, that she went to him after your grandmother died to help cope with the loss."

She peered at the name on the card, her tiny elfin features never changing. "I don't know the name. If she went, she never told Dad, or me."

She reached into the refrigerator again, this time for the orange juice. They were going through it on a daily basis, he would have to buy crates of it if this kept up. She opened the cupboard and pulled out a large tumbler, filling it to the brim with the juice. She took large gulps as she turned towards Hannibal. "Why are you telling me about him?"

"I was thinking, as a grief counsellor and someone who can relate to your family due to his familiarity with your mother, that he could be of some use to you. It wouldn't hurt to talk to him."

"No, I suppose it wouldn't," she said, and placed curious, tiny, slender fingers on the edge of the card as she pulled it towards herself.

"So it is fine with you if I ask him to come here for a small session with you."

"Sure."

One small victory. Hannibal reached out and pinched her chin, Abigail's healthy skin chillier than his own usually cool touch. "I will contact him tomorrow morning. Good night, Abigail."

"Good night, Da--Dr. Lecter."

A small well of unexpected feeling rose up in him at this near mistake, and he was in far better spirits when he went up the stairs and into the room he shared with Will. Abigail remained up, but he didn't admonish her for children her age were often night owls, their interests cloaked in the same subconscious velvet as their environment. She was a girl embroiled in shadows, it was only right that she revel in them. Still, he hoped she would be wakeful enough for the meeting with Cole Sear, that is if the grief counsellor had time in the morning for such an emergency appointment.

He slid off his vestments, watching Will's sleeping form all the while, his bed duly warmed by his near nude body. He slid down to his boxers carefully putting away his suit on specialized hangers for the purpose, and locking them away neatly beneath protective plastic covers. He evened out the spacing between them and firmly closed the closet doors, going so far as to use the small hook on the outside of it, gently locking it shut.

With even steps he made his way to his side of the bed and slid unobtrusively beneath the covers, the white duvet warmed by Will, whose presence was similar to having a human hot water bottle in the bed with him. He didn't mind it on these cold winter nights, but Hannibal had to wonder what the arrangement was going to be like in summer, when Will's hot, lithe body would cease to be as comforting. Still, as he stole kisses from the shoulder he had been longing to taste all night, he could concede that the positives of having such pleasant company in one's bed far outweighed all problems of temperature. He would simply turn up the air conditioning when the season dictated it.

"It's about time you came to bed," Will mumbled into his pillow. "Did Abigail eat something?"

"She cleaned out the refrigerator. I'm a bit concerned about this voracious appetite of hers, it's like she can never get full. She may need some testing..."

"They would have found it at the hospital, she's fine." Will groaned and turned onto his side, facing Hannibal. His eyes remained closed as he reached out for him, inching him into a closer embrace. He pressed his forehead against Hannibal's, their noses touching. "Has she given any more thought to college?"

"She doesn't want to go. She thinks everyone will recognize her as the daughter of a serial killer."

"That's not what that is, it's an excuse she's using." Will yawned, and Hannibal fleetingly touched his bottom lip with his fingertips, forcing a small kiss from Will. His limpid eyes opened slightly, and he stole Hannibal's mouth with far more amorous intent. He sank into its pleasing warmth, his body responding to the affection in a natural rhythm that instinctively sparked between them. Chest to chest, Hannibal's arm draped across Will's back, his hand moving lower to tease the band of his boxer briefs, fingers moving back and forth across it in teasing exploration.

"I don't think she's entirely wrong. It's a valid fear, and certainly one that is set to haunt her for the rest of her life. Interacting with others and letting them know the secret of her past is a burden that will be difficult. She will forever be in hiding." He slid his hand past the elastic waistband and palmed the rounded mount of Will's ass. Will sighed, his own touch busy as he impatiently began tugging at the silk of Hannibal's shorts, exposing the bounce of his erection beneath the soft fabric.

"Let's not talk about this right now," Will said, nipping at Hannibal's lower lip, Hannibal's tongue teasing as it darted out to greet him. He kissed his neck, and then his throat, sliding over Hannibal as he pressed his body against him, grinding his hips against him in tortuous circles. Kisses moved gently down the centre of Hannibal's chest as Will dove beneath the covers, disappearing into a being comprised of sensations. Hannibal closed his eyes as he felt Will devouring him, his breath catching as Will's expert tongue slid like moist velvet along his length, only to dive deep into his mouth, soft lips suckling and teasing the tip as he released him. Hannibal felt himself tensing into Will's powerful jaw, his hand tight on the back of his head, wanting to push him down and take his mouth with rough abandon. But Will was stubborn, languid. He pulled Hannibal's hands to one side, gripping his wrists and trapping them against his hips as he slowly moved his hot mouth over his cock.

For all his preening, Hannibal hadn't had many lovers. His sister had been the very model of promiscuity, going through love affairs like a lit fire, burning bright with them for a few weeks only to douse them in apathy as she openly searched for a new one. She was careless with hearts, and Hannibal had turned away more than one of her castoffs who he'd find weeping on their front step, offerings of jewellery and promises bringing no forgiveness from her disinterest.

For himself, lovers were few. In his youth his studies took precedence and when he wasn't studying he was babysitting Mischa's outbursts, an exhausting responsibility and one that often got in the way of potential partners. She did have a habit of theft. Her constant emotional intrusions into his life had left him guarded, his cold persona cloak a barrier that few were able to get through. He'd managed to have one fairly disastrous affair during his time at John Hopkins, with a married man no less, the memory of his touch cringeworthy to him now. Desperation does strange things to people.

Oh yes, Will's mouth was definitely finding all of those little places that made Hannibal's body sing in pleasure, and he couldn't stop the groan that left him, his pinned arms ending in hands that clutched at the folds in the sheet, his tendons tensed in hot searing want that pierced through them, ending in a rush of blood through his groin. His body bucked beneath Will's skillful mouth, and he wanted to ravage it, pummel himself in deep, heedless of how far he'd ram himself down Will's eager, swallowing throat. Instead he cursed as Will brought him over the edge and into release, spilling hard against his hot tongue. Will's released his wrists, his arms wrapping around Hannibal's tensed, quaking thighs as he finished him. Sheens of sweat dotted Will's chest as he slid back upwards, Hannibal's grip seeking his cock to bring him into his own release. Will kissed him, spilling his own salty seed into his mouth, the decadence of that flavour too much to bear as Will came hard against Hannibal's hand.

"Fuck...Baby..." Will collapsed against him, panting hard, his muscular body sliding to one side and his arm pulling Hannibal close. He buried his face in his neck. "Mm...love you..."

Hannibal kissed the centre of Will's forehead in tired bliss. "I'm admittedly partial to how you show it."

Will chuckled at this, his eyes remaining closed. Hannibal felt himself grow wistful as he brushed at Will's hair with his fingertips, not wanting this moment to end. These were his favourite, these late night, unexpected dalliances, where sex was easy and spontaneous, cementing Will's place in his life. It gave him a sense of pride, having him here, in his bed, his place within his soul natural and right. There was plenty of room for Will within his vast mind palace, and he placed him in prominence on every floor, a constant reminder of who he was and how much his influence continued to change him.

Thought forms and dreams were beginning to clutch at him and Hannibal drowsily allowed them in, his lips still pursed on Will's forehead. "What do you think of rabbit?" he asked. "I was thinking of it paired with a mustard sauce."

"You're doing it again." Will's voice was muffled between Hannibal's pillow and neck.

"Doing what?"

"Striking up a conversation after late night sex. The concept of rolling over and going to sleep is lost on you." Will groaned and buried his face further into the cave between Hannibal's shoulder and his pillow. His voice was barely audible. "You need to cancel that stupid dinner party."

"I can't do that, it was planned for months ago. There are friends of Mischa's coming, they would be very put out if I abruptly cancelled it, they would think I was being selfish with her memory."

"They should think you are in mourning and not in the mood to party."

"Mischa's crowd is not so perceptive." Hannibal sighed and rolled onto his back, Will's arm draped across his chest. He stroked it, liking the weight.

The truth was, he didn't want to have the dinner party either, the plans were made well before the entire incident with Garrett Jacob Hobbs and before Abigail had shown up on their doorstep, little suitcase and pocket full of problems in hand. But Mischa's friends and his own associates had latched onto the idea, considering it a wise, civilized way to celebrate her, a kind of culinary memorial that only Hannibal, of course, could pull off with the proper measure of respectful restraint.

"Many of these people have been links to obtaining clients, and it would be unwise of me to abruptly cancel, especially in view of my recent patient exodus thanks to Freddie Lounds. The dinner party will serve a dual purpose, first to assure the elite guests that I am not an emotional wreck who has descended into incompetence via my grief, and secondly to cow my current clients into returning to my practice, with full apologies over abandoning their therapies. I think this will be achieved. So what is your opinion? A mustard sauce? Or perhaps rabbit is a far too timid selection of meat, conjuring images of innocent, fluffy bunnies on a plate. Venison causes similar imagery. The poor cow, if it was prettier to look at we would all be vegetarians. I suppose pork is still an option."

Will's snoring was his answer and Hannibal lay on his back, contemplating colourful plates and arrangements of sliced, cured meats upon long platters, tasteful yet just slightly overdone presentation, the kind that made this sort of crowd salivate in wonder. The vegetable platter could always do with a few exotic insertions, some pickled lotus root to add texture and fried sheets of salted seaweed for dark contrast. As he thought on it, it became clear that neither beef, pork or chicken would do at all, this was definitely a seafood menu creeping to the fore, with fresh lobsters and butterflied shrimp on ice placed within the vast deep ocean colours of the platters. He could see himself there now, at the head of the table, his collection of carefully selected plates--black to complement a cream sauce--and platters piled high with alien Asian delights, the lotus roots, the marinated shiitake mushrooms, wakame, soy bean pods all alongside octopus and boiled baby squid, and black olives rolling up between them like slick, ocean washed pebbles. The silver gleamed in the crystal light that poured down from the ornate chandelier above the table, glittering jewels dotting the darkness of the depths upon his table. He could see shadows of the ocean's waves upon the settings and over the food. He clasped his hands in hopeful expectation.

She staggered into the main dining room on heels that were impossible for a runway model, her beige, sequined dress stained with spilled red wine down the front of it, pooling in a large splash between her breasts, which were dangerously close to falling out of the flimsy prison. The left strap holding the mess up had snapped, leaving torn threads behind. Her thick, bleached blonde hair hung to her shoulders in unwashed clumps, her black make up smudged almost as much as her ruby red lipstick that was smeared across her left cheek. She collapsed noisily in the chair closest to Hannibal, the stench of booze and expensive perfume a sickening mixture that made him retch. Mischa tossed her beaded purse onto the black plate in front of her, hard enough to set the cutlery clanging.

"Big brother, having a damned dinner party." She sneered as she unclasped her purse, drawing out a long cigarette that was mostly weed and lit it up. Her smeared lips puckered around it unevenly, she was too drunk to even smoke. "All because you can't tell them to go to Hell. You're such a fucking pussy."

"It's not something you need to worry about, Mischa," Hannibal curtly replied. "It's not like you're going to be there."

"Oh, I'm going to be there, don't you worry. I'm not letting those bastards who pretended to be my 'close friends' get away with crying over me and acting like I was their soul mate. Bunch of poseurs. Did any of them show up at my funeral? Or call me before I went into that fucking closet to ask if I was okay? Oh, they were too distraught, oh, they had too many of their own problems going on to notice...Whatever. They are losers, and you're catering to them. What does that make you?"

She blew smoke over his careful arrangements, the food withering beneath it. The edges of the pickled lotus root turned a sickly orange and then black. "It's not fair for you to judge me, Mischa, when you have plenty to be guilty of. Instead of talking to me, or anyone else for that matter, you made a rash decision based on your selfish rage. I am not responsible for your actions."

"Oh but you are, big brother." She spewed more poison over the food, turning it blue and black with mould and rot. "You can sit in your little cold shark cage all you want, but I'm under your skin, now. This stupid dinner party stunt won't get rid of me so easily. You're keeping it all together just fine, aren't you, bringing in the lover, playing a little game of house in my old bedroom." She grinned, showing off large, lipstick stained teeth, her accent drawling through her drunkenness. "Poor big brother, wanting to be normal so, so badly. Yeah, but you're slipping big brother. There's holes in your suits, the size of bullets. That's where all the crazy is starting to leak out. What are you going to do now, without me around, being the crazy one, being the unhinged artistic bitch? Look at you, all fancy and put together, you're Mr. Perfect. He's Doing Just Fine, Thanks."

Hannibal's cold person suit was fitting ill, and he shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Mischa, please stop ruining the platters. They took me hours to create."

"What do I care of your hours, your days, your minutes when I have forever now and you can't stop me?" She leapt from her chair and stood on the table, her heels kicking off the carefully made platters and food, stomping all of his efforts into nothing. Blood dripped from her, the stain between her breast spreading in a wide butterfly, the hem of her slight dress dripping with blood as she fell to her knees and crawled towards her brother. Her face was twisted now, grey hued. Eyes that threatened to pop right out of their sockets, her tongue a choked blue knob of flesh stuck in her teeth. Her blood soaked hand reached for him and he leaned back, his chair falling hard onto the softness of his bed's mattress and she was hovering now, her grey face mocking his life, her blue tongue working but it was blocking her words, preventing her from spitting out more of her vicious poison...

Hannibal awoke with a shocked cry on his lips, and bolted upright in bed. He shakily brought his palms against his cheeks, testing their reality. Beside him, Will was happily snoring, deep in sleep. He tried to catch his breath in the darkness and found he couldn't.

The closet was open. His clothes were pushed to either side and the bare, empty space between them terrified him more than his nightmare. He leapt from the bed and slammed the doors shut, locking it secure. He crept back into bed and nestled close against Will's back, hoping some of his easy, sleepy bliss would dare to rub off on him and give him some peace.

~*~

Cole Sear was cheerful when Hannibal called him and as the sudden invitation to Hannibal's home didn't conflict with his morning schedule he was able to arrive for an early morning meeting with Abigail. Will had already left for Quantico and Hannibal had a morning cancellation, though at least his new afternoon client was still set to arrive. He promised Abigail he would remain with her for the initial first session.

"He's not going to be all head shrinky like you are, is he?" She made a face.

"If he does I'll be sure to tell him." Hannibal busied himself in his kitchen, the constant movement keeping him awake. They had finished a pot of coffee and he was ready to make a new one, and against his better judgement he made it as strong as Abigail usually did. She had been the one to make the first batch and its paint thinner aftertaste was a bitter reminder of why he didn't like it this dark, but the caffeine jolt was sorely needed. An espresso or three would not be out of the question.

"Two eggs or three for your omelette?" he asked her as she slid onto the stool, her long black hair cascading down the length of her back. She was bubbly this morning. Cheery.

"Four. And three slices of toast. And are you making bacon?"

"Your appetite certainly has no limits." He got to work getting it ready for her, whipping the eggs until the whites were fully absorbed, the list of inner ingredients growing with every pull of the refrigerator door. He kept busy so she couldn't see how tired he was. He smiled and half listened to her idle chatter about a group of friends she had made, ones who knew the city well and were eager to show her all the sights. He wasn't sure they were optimal, they seemed oddly free with their time, but Hannibal couldn't quite get what she was telling him about them, her words garbling into his exhaustion as he rolled the omelette out of the pan and onto a plate, buttered her toast and finished crisping her bacon.

"Elise wants me to go into town with her later, but Anna thinks we should just hang at the bookstore down the street. She's always such a killjoy, Lori even says so..."

The front doorbell rang and Hannibal quickly turned off the stove and tossed all of his dishes into the soapy water in his sink, to wash later. His movements felt outside of himself as he made his way past Abigail, who was already nearly finished, her bites large and eager, as though she was starving. There was a latent nagging in his consciousness about Abigail's new friends, but he ignored it, chalking it up to lack of sleep. He opened the front door with what felt like a monumental effort, and plastered on a smile that he hoped wasn't too false.

He may have failed in that regard, for the casual young man on his doorstep gave Hannibal a very pointed once over and said, "Wow, I can see someone had a late night." Cole Sear grimaced and held out his hand. "Sorry. I should probably say hello before shooting out observations like that."

Hannibal shook his hand, drawing him inside the house. "Is it really so obvious?"

"If your eyes were any blacker you'd have to be a boxer."

Hannibal found his frankness amusing. "Please, come into my study. I have coffee if you would like one. How do you take it?"

"Black, two sugars."

He left Cole Sear wandering in his study, the man's hands casual in the pockets of his dress pants, his gaze cheerfully taking in the various tomes Hannibal had lined his small home library with. He was surprised to see him take up a large art book that housed the dark visions of Goya within it, and he was still turning the pages in deep concentration as Hannibal arrived in the study, coffee mugs in hand. Sear left the book open, the selection he'd been studying a gruesome one. Saturn, devouring a soul.

Sear took the coffee with a grateful nod. "Thanks. This is a beautiful house, have you lived here long?"

"For the past fifteen years," Hannibal said, and couldn't keep the note of pride from his voice. He could feel Mischa's words slipping inside of his skull, little rotting barbs over how the house was too big, the rooms too cold, what family was he going to bring into something as gothic and horrible as this? And yet, she'd been happily creative here, had entertained guests and had brought her artistic efforts into maturity. She had that habit. She was often unfair. "It is admittedly an old house with the usual structural problems. There was quite an issue with the wiring as of late, one that I've been having with my office as well. As you know it's also in an older building." Hannibal smiled and sat in the comfortable oak chair behind his desk, the light from the wide windows streaming in behind him. "I guess one could say I prefer certain classical styles."

"You have an interesting accent," Sear said, nodding over his coffee. "Is it Lithuanian?"

"I'm shocked you would recognize it. Most people misinterpret it as Russian."

"I meet a lot of people. I make it my job to know everything about them." Sear closed the book on Goya and turned towards Hannibal. "I know you lost your sister recently. From what I could gather from the article, you were fairly close, though it's clear living with her must have been quite the challenge."

"I have always been her charge," Hannibal said, surprised he'd committed that usual sin of those who had recently suffered loss and placed her in present tense. "Mischa was a person of many talents but she was temperamental. Prone to severe mood swings. There are any number of mental disorders she could have had, bipolar being one of them. When she was happy, she was very, very happy and when she was sad..." Hannibal trailed off, not comfortable with where the conversation was going. "I'll get Abigail."

"I'll get myself."

Abigail stood in the doorway of the study, her head cocked to one side as she took in Cole Sear. He remained in a good mood, smiling warmly at her, though the feeling was clearly not returned. Abigail stepped around him as though she was aiming to strike him, a fiercely defensive position Hannibal found strange. "So, you knew my mom."

"Judith Hobbs, yes. She came to me after her mother died." They remained standing, seeming to assess one another, though of the two Cole was the one most at ease. His hands were loose in his pockets, his shoulders pushed back. "She talked about you quite a bit."

"My mother's first name is Louise," Abigail said, and Hannibal went on alert at this, eyeing Cole Sear and wondering if he had seriously misjudged the man and he was one of Freddie Lounds' spies after all.

"She preferred her second name, Judith," Cole said.

Abigail gave him a tense smile. "I know. But my dad always called her Louise. I think that tells you a lot about my family right there." She cast a long glance over her shoulder at Hannibal seated at this desk, her blue eyes shining with more ice than mirth. "You don't have to stay."

"I would prefer if you did, Dr Lecter," Cole Sear quickly said.

"I suppose you think I'm upset about the death of my father, and of my mother," Abigail continued, her voice clipped. "I am. He was a monster and my mom, she didn't even hardly exist. None of that is normal. So how am I supposed to grieve them? Do you have a pamphlet that helps with that? People like you always do."

Hannibal was shocked by her sudden aggression. "Abigail, Mr. Sear is here to help you. There is no reason to be rude."

"I was just asking," she said, unapologetic. She turned on Sear once again. "I get that you think you can help, but I know you can't. You don't know about monsters. If I grieve him, I grieve a monster. Grieving a monster means I understand part of that, there's some of that monster inside of me, too. If I grieve my mother, I'm putting myself in her place and becoming nothing. I might become a monster, it's true. I don't want to be nothing."

"Abigail," Hannibal patiently interjected, "you are not your father."

She gave Hannibal a warm smile and bounded over to him, giving him a sweet hug before kissing him lightly and playfully on the temple and near bouncing out of the study. "I'm busy today. Nice meeting you Mr. Sear. I don't think I'll be needing your help. Sorry."

Sear narrowed his eyes at her departure. "You're going out with friends?"

"Yes. A group of us girls, all going out for ice cream, maybe heading to the bookstore afterwards, which is lame. Anna...Such a killjoy." She closed the door to the study behind her, leaving Hannibal and Sear alone in the room. There was a pointed silence at her absence, with Hannibal left unsure of how to best deal with it.

"I've read up on the case," Cole Sear quietly said to him. He turned back to the book on Goya, thumbing through it as he spoke, his back to Hannibal. "There's speculation she may have helped her father choose victims. That she may have been bait."

"Unsubstantiated rumours."

"But she is afraid of becoming a monster." Cole Sear sighed and turned towards Hannibal, a sadness in his bright, small eyes that wasn't supposed to be there. "I don't want to have to tell you this, but after meeting her like this, I have no choice. Judith was worried about Abigail. She felt she was apathetic at times, too compliant with her father and too much in sync with what he did, all the hunting and the butchery. They were a team that she wasn't a part of."

Hannibal bristled at this, and though a part of him wanted throw Cole Sear over his front steps and out on his ass, Hannibal also had to concede that the information the man was giving him was invaluable. Still, his stance had to be expressed. "Abigail is not a monster."

Cole Sear ran his fingers over Goya's Saturn, the black rendition taking on a renewed significance. "I wouldn't be so sure, Dr. Lecter." Then, noting the stark silence of the man behind the desk, the barely contained calm rage emanating from him, Cole gave Hannibal a polite nod. "Don't get up. I'll see myself out."

~*~

Will Graham's head is in a vice and no amount of aspirin is going to cure the pain shooting through it in drilling fury. He'd tried Tylenol to no avail, Advil, Motrin, every other possible over the counter painkiller known to man and nothing alleviated the ache that sometimes made his eyes water and his mouth clench in agony. The only cure was an inexplicable one, for the second he walked in the door of Hannibal's stately home, the headaches and fevers miraculously disappeared.

He hadn't mentioned the phenomenon to Hannibal because he was sure, now, that his headaches were psychological and the last thing he wanted was for Hannibal to start picking apart his brain in expert analysis. He'd had enough of that in his life, and the latent terror of ending up on the wrong side of crazy was too much of a threat to not protect himself from it. Besides, Hannibal himself was suffering enough, his tired face becoming more haggard as the days wore on, his own grief plastered in the obvious hollow crevices beneath his eyes, turning him into a skull's shadow.

He popped another dry aspirin and swallowed it down with difficulty as he pulled into the long driveway leading back into Wolf Trap, his home in Virginia. He'd had to check on his dogs. They bounded out the back flap and came running towards the car and he had to slow down his speed. Buster, his jack russel, was terrible for nipping at the tires. He pulled up close to the front porch, the car sliding slightly on the layer of ice and snow that had accumulated overnight.

The cold air felt good as it circulated around his head and he turned off the engine and slid out of his car. The crispness of the air was a welcome balm to his lungs, a large measure of stress leaving him as he slowly made his way up the snow strewn porch and through the front door. The fireplace was cold, but the furnace was pumping full blast, a stale heat permeating the small house that smelled like pine and wet dog. Hannibal wasn't exactly a fan of the place, but he enjoyed coming here on weekends with Will, his own home doing little to give him a sense of peace. Pieces of him were in evidence throughout the house, their union officially past the three week mark. An expensive scarf carelessly forgotten on the hook near the front door. Metal Tupperware containers cleaned and lining the counter in the kitchen. Dress shirts hanging in Will's closet in his bedroom upstairs. Toothbrush, shaver, his own brand of shampoo in the bathroom across from it. Small items meticulously put in place to put his own stamp of himself upon Will's life, a shy, endearing intrusion.

In a way it was a symptom of how they had come together, and Will cast a glance outside of his front window to his car and the dogs sniffing around its tires. It was the first night after their visit with Abigail in the hospital, her body freshly shattered and clinging to life. Hannibal had driven Will home in his roomy Bentley, the trip spent in a tense silence that spoke of all the tragedy they had witnessed together for the past forty-eight hours. Will's hands were still shaking, a murderer's hands. He had shot a man in cold blood five times. He had spread his fingers wide across Abigail's neck, trying to stem the flow of her lifeblood. Hannibal had joined him, baptized in that same gory river.

He'd parked the Bentley and turned off the engine. The night crisp like this afternoon was, sheathed in the promise of snow. The dogs hadn't barked, they hadn't bounded out of the house to inspect this new car. Black noses pressed lazily against the front window and when they saw it was just Will his pack tucked down into pillows to go back to sleep.

Hannibal had turned to him, eyes shining black in the moonlight that streamed into the wide windshield. "Are you sure you will be all right, Will?"

He wasn't 'all right'. He definitely wasn't. But he smiled and shakily nodded and tried not to let Hannibal's eyes connect too much with his own because the hurt and pain lurking within them was still so fresh it smarted the back of Will's head as though he'd been struck. "Yeah, I'm...I'll be okay."

"I will be here first thing tomorrow morning," Hannibal told him. "I will bring breakfast. I make a very good protein scramble."

Hannibal was full of these odd little kindnesses, even early on. He wasn't sure when the attraction had started, they were both so distracted by the case, by its bloody conclusion and Will's killing trigger finger that they hadn't paid attention to the signs. So when Hannibal placed his warm hand on Will's shoulder and bid him an equally comfortable "Good night, Will", it had been the most natural thing in the world to lean forward and kiss him on the lips.

He smiled even now at how that had left Hannibal speechless. So he'd created his own conversation, placing another kiss on those half parted, expectant lips, and then another. He liked the way Hannibal's eyes closed as he kept it up, sinking into the sensation as though Will were the finest morsel he'd ever put into his mouth.

He'd kissed him as he got out of the car. Kissed him on the way through the living room. Kissed him up the stairs, unbuttoning his shirt and sliding it off of his arms. Kissed him as he led him towards the small, unmade bed, where so many more flavours of flesh awaited.

Will pressed his fingers hard against his forehead, the pressure severe enough to make him nauseous. The dogs had the right idea, he needed more fresh air. He opened the front door to his home wide, allowing the cold in, his head aching to be frozen. He closed his eyes, grateful for the strong breeze.

"You need to see."

Will's eyes shot open, and there, sitting in a ratty chair he'd been meaning to throw out, was the pale grey form of Garrett Jacob Hobbs. He grinned at Will, his lips spilling blood that blackly hit the thin layer of snow at his feet. "She's *my* daughter, not yours. Neither of you know anything, not yet. But you will. You'll see."

Will was frozen to the spot, his body shaking in terror as Garrett Jacob Hobbs stood up and, with a clenched fist, punched it through the front window, shattering it with the force of heavy dead flesh and cracking bones. Will's terror was broken by the sudden yelp of Buster, and he forced his feet to move, to step away from the grinning horror of Garrett Jacob Hobbs' pale white face and the bullet holes leaking his guts and shards of exploded bone onto his front porch. He backed slowly into his house and saw Buster, limping, a piece of glass stuck in his front paw.

"Hey...Buster...Hey, buddy...Let me see that..." Shivering, Will glanced up, wary of another blow, but Hobbs was gone, only wind and snow remaining. Buster's bleeding paw was in Will's lap and he whelped when Will picked the piece of glass out. Will couldn't stop his heart from hammering hard enough to crack ribs.

Garrett Jacob Hobbs was dead and he had just threatened Will Graham, his murderer. He'd even injured Will's dog, just in case he needed a clearer message.

He pressed his face into Buster's flank, tears spilling. He was going crazy. He was losing his mind, just as he always feared he was going to, and Hannibal was right now too far away to put his pieces back together.

"Hannibal..." Will whispered to the cold air curling tight around him. He managed to dig out his cell phone and press his number, his hands shaking so badly he nearly dropped it twice. It rang once. Twice. Three times...

"Will."

"I'm at Wolf Trap. Come and get me. Right now." Just the sound of his name from the man was enough. Will closed his eyes and forced his breath into a calm he couldn't feel. He wasn't able to stop the choked sob that escaped him next, and though it wasn't the real source of his panic, the poor dog made a good excuse. "Buster is hurt."

"I will be there right away," Hannibal assured him. Will could hear him already at the cloak closet, hangers banging against each other as he slid his arms through his fashionable coat, the front door slammed behind him. "Is there anything I need to pick up on the way? I have a first aid kit ready, which should suffice. How badly is he hurt?"

"It's his paw. There was glass.."

"Keep him calm, and try not to be too upset, dogs are very perceptive creatures and he could injure himself further. I am on my way." He was hesitant to leave it at this, and Hannibal made a small clucking noise at the back of his throat, one Will had learned was a sound he made when hearing a perceived half truth. "Is there anything else, dear Will? Did something happen?"

I lost my mind and a dead man just threatened me.

"It was..." Will closed his eyes and tried to bring himself in a false sense of calm, the truth too strange for Hannibal to hear. "The front window was smashed in. Nothing is stolen."

"Should we inform the police?"

"No. There's no point giving Freddie Lounds more to write about. Just get here, okay?"

Hannibal paused a long moment, reluctant to leave the conversation.

"I will be there as soon as I can."