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Familiarity

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I

 

He is the catalyst which leads to the disintegration of whatever simplicity she used to know.

He doesn't sympathize with Garrett Jacob Hobbs, but he understands him. It's enough to make him pick up the phone, and alert the killer. Hobbs is as smart as he can be, resourceful, and finds use for everything. He isn't wasteful, and that's a quality Hannibal can admire.

Of course he knows that the family man won't just go into hiding. This is my design. No Will, this time it's his.

They find his wife – unimportant thing – struggling to inhale on the front porch. He supposes he could save her; the wound is deep but clean, deep pressure applied directly to it would probably quell the flow until the paramedics' arrival. But he doesn't. He watches her clutch at Will's fingers and convulse on the ground.

Inside, there's a scream.

Hobbs had killed so he wouldn't have to gut his own daughter. Apparently, there's no escape route now. He holds a knife to her throat and slices the pale flesh with delight. They'll never know what the loving – yes, yes, despite everything – parent whispers into her ear. He can almost feel the waves of pleasure which assault Will's body as he shoots again and again and again and...

He's clumsy. Unable to get a good grip. Too panicked, too overwhelmed. Hannibal pushes his hands out of the way, and puts his own on the girl's throat. She inhales, gargles blood, shivers, but breathes. It's all that counts.

When the ambulance arrives, he's the first to climb in, fulfilling the now vacant role of companion. Naturally, Will follows.

 

II

 

“I can help. If you ask me.”

She has to ask.

Her father's daughter. Adept huntress. Curious girl. Abigail stares at Nicholas Boyle's body and he stares at her. Somewhere in the hallway Alana Bloom is unconscious after he banged her head against the wall. Anything and everything so she doesn't get discovered; but first there must be courtesies.

His mouth moves, but it's as wordless as before. Ask. Ask. The promise beckons her, he can tell.

He feeds her lies. That he would be putting his life and career in jeopardy only for her. That he's willing to do so. What a great sacrifice and abomination it would be.

Abigail's eyes widen as she listens to his confession. Gullible, no, impressed, he thinks.

And then the request.

“Help me.”

He offers her a small bow; gracious, ever composed, for one of them has to be. “Very well.”

Together, they drag the body away. Later on, he tells her to take a break as he digs one of the deepest holes in his personal history; it would be a pretty adornment to his curriculum, if only killers had one while free.

Abigail Hobbs is in shock, and will require months of additional therapy. Hannibal supposes he could be the one to drive her back to the hospital tonight. After they'd washed their hands, of course.

“Come,” he says and she does.

Her chilly palms meet his for the briefest of moments, and they swing Nicholas Boyle into his tasteless grave. He thinks he can see a little, white worm already hurrying towards the feebly leaking blood.

She is so much smaller than he is, and it awakes the necessity for him to bend down, rest his knees in the dry earth, to wipe the mud off her pants. Belly. How it got there is a mystery. She shows him her hands, stained, dirty, smelling of iron and salt, and he nods.

“That won't do,” Hannibal states.

“That won't do,” Abigail repeats.

Her scarf has fallen away, a colorful, forgotten thing. It threatens to escape once and for all, and he won't have it. Not after working so hard to ensure her innocence; he won't be betrayed by a piece of cloth. His fingers deftly tie it around her throat, and she only winces a little when they linger a moment too long on the scar.

When he hands her a rock, she discovers a new kind of perplexity.

“Hit me. Not very hard.” He's a medic after all, he knows how to identify a weapon's trajectory. Years as a psychiatrist, nibbling on the consciousnesses of queers and hysterics, didn't rob him of that. “If you would be so kind.”

She is kind. His kind Abigail who shatters the rock against his skull, subsequently letting it fall. For a moment, he sees red, and the world is a mad carousel, but then he's able to walk.

Politely, Hannibal Lecter offers Abigail Hobbs his arm, and the two murderers – actors - return to the scene of the crime.

 

III

 

(On some level she knows that he isn't benevolent.)

Climbing the facility's walls is easy. Lying to Jack Crawford is too; it hurts a little more, though. He's an intelligent man who has mastered the art of peeling away masks and false expressions. She wields neither.

Abigail really does go out into the city.

(With one destination in mind: his office. Or his other apartment if it's late.)

Thinking really is her goal.

(He's an enigma wrapped in a mystery. How can she not think in his presence ?)

It's not a lie, too, when she tells Dr. Lecter that nightmares are keeping her awake. Girls with muddy eyes, charcoal eyes, chestnut eyes, and gashing wounds form a jury of her peers. Abigail Hobbs, accused of being her father's daughter. How do you plead, they ask. Guilty, she always answers. But it's never enough and they shriek, they weep, they ask her to give them back their lives – and she never can.

Me or them. Me or them. Me or them. Her sole line of defense. In her dreams, her father strokes her hair and looks into the distance. Dark hair dances in the corner of her eye, and she knows she must go to her. Me or her.

“Abigail.”

He's past questioning her. She slips into his office; he moves aside to let her in, always gentlemanly. The door locks. The curtains have been drawn, the plants watered. There will be no more patients for tonight.

(Is she a patient ?)

“Am I a patient ?”

“Yes, but not mine. Never mine.”

It's endearing, frightening, exciting. His emotions are the sort that bubble underneath the surface. She wishes social etiquette would allow her to lean near enough – too near – to watch them dance under his skin.

But it would be rude.

He abhors rudeness.

He knows she won't be leaving and prepares a late night dinner. She still can't stomach more than a few bites of meat, but Hannibal only rarely prepares anything without it. His butcher must be a talented man, Abigail thinks, to produce such sweet and tender morsels.

Like always, his arms are around her afterward as she trembles.

“You are tired,” he says into her hair. “You need to sleep.”

She mouths her reply into his waistcoat. “Let's go.”

His bed is large and warm. Abigail drowns in the silk sheets; his arms keep her afloat. He holds her from behind, his chin atop of her head, as she concedes to return to her less than wonderful wonderland. He's only taken off his jacket and shoes, and will leave the instant she's in Morpheus' grasp.

It's enough.

This isn't therapy. It's something nameless and wrong.

Will would disapprove. He's the voice of madness in their dysfunctional family, but in this case he would endorse sanity if he saw.

(Hannibal's not benevolent at all.)

 

IV

 

The journalist tells her that the lawsuits will leave her penniless.

“Let them have it all,” Abigail says dismissively.

In her mind, she counts and recounts the final sum. Thirty seven dollars and some cents. Not even enough to buy groceries. Certainly not enough to take out a student loan.

(He would tell her not to worry.)

“Write my story,” she tells the woman. “I'll tell you everything.”

She smiles and assures her that it's the right thing to do. That both sides of the coin deserve to be shown. She acts sisterly, kindly, but Abigail sees past the facade. Personal gain is written all over her features.

He and Will learn of it at the same time. They accost her at the institution. She stands behind a table, using it as a shield between them.

“You don't have to do this,” Will says in his fidgety way.

“It would involve us,” Dr. Lecter adds. His eyes devour her, see through her.

“I wouldn't mention you,” she argues.

“How can you not ?” he counters. Will understands one thing, Abigail understands another.

Hours later, they are alone. There are cameras in the hallway but not in her rooms. She's not crazy enough to benefit from such attention. The window is slightly open; it doesn't matter as his voice is softer than wind.

“I jeopardized my life and my career to help you,” he says. It should sound accusing, but his voice is always so mild. “I gave you my trust.”

“I don't have to live every day in fear of Nicholas Boyle's corpse anymore. Why ? Because he's been found. There's nothing left to be afraid of.”

(That isn't true. There's him.)

“You will have to gain it anew.”

His trust. She understands that he's still speaking of his trust. Abigail also realizes that she cherishes - and now covets - it religiously.

“Your secrets...” she whispers.

“You promised to keep them,” Lecter reminds in his accent that isn't an accent.

(How many are there ?)

 

V

 

He shows her how to cook. Alternative therapy, he calls it.

Abigail plays with the knife. It doesn't scare her as much as meat does. He tells her to cut up a tomato, but she ends up cutting herself. It's a tiny scratch which doesn't even hurt. A droplet of blood dribbles from her finger and lands into the awkward vegetable pile.

“We can still use them,” he assures her.

His hand finds hers and he kisses it. It's unexpected and so unlike him that she freezes.

(No, it's him. It's always been him.)

When he kisses her on the mouth, Abigail feels reality tingle in every cell of her body. His lips are a tad dry, delicate and forceful at the same time.

She slaps him across the face without knowing why. Her knuckles find his cheekbone and the flesh is torn open. Hannibal backs away, wiping the blood from his face.

He doesn't apologize.

She runs away, leaving the door to his apartment unlocked.

(There's nowhere for her to go.)

 

VI

 

There's nowhere for her to go.

He turns on the radio – classical station - and Schubert's bouncy Im Frühling floats around the place. It's not spring, it's very much autumn outside. He hums along with the melody, swaying gently while putting the food back into the refrigerator.

There's nowhere for her to go, and soon she's knocking on his door.

With her, there's no playing the psychiatrist; but his mannerisms remain the same no matter his persona.

“Hello Abigail. Please come in.”

Hannibal can still taste the wine of her breath. Abigail doesn't like wine, but whenever she visits he serves her a glass.

“Is the salad still out ?” she asks.

“Yes it is.”

This time, he shows her how to hold the knife properly. She's a huntress, she knows how to gut animals, and is quite unladylike in her movements. He sprawls his hand atop of hers and together they finish cutting the tomatoes properly.

 

VII

 

He's not a good person.

Abigail doesn't care.

He's an extension of her, and she rejoices in it. It's a perverse kind of satisfaction, yet another secret for them to hide from the world. Even from Will.

That evening he kicks the shoes aside, and unbuttons his waistcoat for the first time.

(Abigail never brings a set of pyjamas to his place. He doesn't seem to mind that she climbs in wearing her jeans.)

She takes off her jacket, simply sitting there, watching him. In the dimness, he's a shadowy and frightening outline. He could be anyone or anything. The notion should be petrifying, but it's not.

(Because, in fact, he is scarier than anyone or anything.)

Hannibal observes her. Then turns off the light, and she knows this to be the beginning of a new sort of familiarity.

(Will wouldn't approve.)

 

Fin