“Sorry about this...” Will murmured as the door opened and he stepped in, his backpack slung over one shoulder, the other strap hanging dejectedly behind him, his eyes glued to the floor.
Hannibal gave a slight nod, watching him. “It’s perfectly alright, Will. Let me lead you to the guest room.” he offered, motioning to the stairs with a gentle twist of his wrist.
The teen’s eyes followed his fingers, before trailing up the staircase and giving a short, stiff nod. He waited for Hannibal to lead the way, trudging after him, shoulders rounded and feet shuffling quietly over the runner in the hallway.
The boy was far more withdrawn than during their sessions, and if anything, he looked sick. His cheeks were gaunt and the circles under his eyes were dark enough to look like bruises, the downcast gaze only emphasizing them.
“Do you want to talk about what’s happening? Your father didn’t give me much information.”
Will glanced up to him, eyes dull with exhaustion, stopping at his cheekbones. “Family stuff.”
Hannibal’s lips twitched down slightly at the evasion, but he nodded. “Perhaps in the morning?”
A small smile graced Hannibal’s lips at the sarcastic tone of his response. That was the Will he knew. He normally hated rudeness, but the odd gruffness and blunt sarcasm was charming on the teen. He’d always enjoyed it from Will, and Will alone.
He moved forward, opening a small door to the right of the room, and motioning with his hand to catch Will’s attention. “Here is your bathroom. If you need anything, my room is down the hall, the last door on the left.”
The teen glanced up at him again, before nodding once more, shuffling forward to sit on the edge of the bed, elbows on his knees and hands twisting together anxiously. Hannibal watched him for a moment, before heading for the door.
“Doctor Lecter?” he called, making the man pause in the doorway. “How many sleeping pills does it take to kill someone?”
His brows knit together, and he tilted his head a bit, thinking his answer over. “Quite a few. It depends on the pill, the dosage, as well as the age and weight of the patient.” he said cautiously.
“So… if my mom took a full bottle?”
“If she was seen to quickly enough, she’ll be fine… physically.” he said, before turning back to him fully. “Will… were you the one that found her?”
Will’s curls bounced with his nod, and he swallowed hard, before dragging his hands down his face, keeping his eyes closed. “She wasn’t breathing. Dad tried to- I don’t know what’s… they’re at the hospital.”
Hannibal moved forward, sitting beside him on the edge of the bed, and cautiously putting a hand on Will’s shoulder, watching for his reaction to the touch. “Will, suicide- death can be hard to deal with. An attempt is just as difficult. What you’ve experienced tonight would be traumatizing to anyone. You are allowed to be upset.”
Will shook his head, taking a deep breath. “I’m okay- I’ll be okay…”
“Are you?” he asked, challenging him.
It threw Will off balance rather spectacularly, turning to stare at Hannibal, before giving a slight sob instead of answering. The first bubbled into a second, and quickly a third, and the next thing he knew, Will was openly crying.
Hannibal gently put his arm around his shoulders, pulling Will against his chest and tangling his fingers in his hair, holding him close as the teen clung to him. Blunt fingernails were digging into his back through his dress shirt, feeling Will’s shoulders shaking as his tears soaked the cotton against his chest.
“I have you, Will.” he said softly, and he felt the arms around him tighten. Another strangled gasp ripping from Will’s throat and he nodded against Hannibal’s chest. “I’ll stay as long as you need me.”
Will wept for a while, clinging to Hannibal like a lifeline, until he finally quieted down.
Hannibal stopped carding his fingers through his hair, shifting back ever so slightly to look down at the teen. His eyes were closed and breathing much more even, a soft shiver escaping him every now and then.
Asleep? Good. He needed his rest.
Hannibal frowned as he carefully detangled himself from Will’s grasp, leaning the boy back and covering him with a blanket.
Looking at Will sleeping, he frowned, and shifted, carefully searching Will’s pockets until he found his phone. He paused over the lock screen, taking in the picture of a dog, before smiling slightly and swiping his thumb up, bringing up the quick dash at the bottom of the screen.
Tapping into the clock app, he turned off Will’s morning alarms, before setting the phone down on the nightstand. He needed his rest tonight.
Will was groggy as he woke, turning to the side with a groan and rubbing at his eyes. Whining a bit as he reached for his phone, he blinked, staring at the time.
Why hadn’t his alarm gone off? Had he turned it off, and then just gone back to sleep?
Getting up, he didn’t bother changing his clothes or fighting with the mess of curls on top of his head, instead he shuffled his way to the kitchen. It wasn’t hard to find, the teen just following his nose and stopping in the brightly lit room to stare at his psychiatrist wearing the most casual outfit he’d ever seen on the man.
He was striking, ashy blonde hair falling into his face, flour coating his hands and dusting up to his elbows, where the sleeves of his red sweater were pushed up and out of the way. He didn’t look up, focusing on kneading some sort of yellow dough, his hands not stopping as they pressed and twisted.
God, had Will ever noticed how broad his shoulders were?
Swallowing his nerves down, he finally took another step forward, licking his lips before speaking. “No school?”
Hannibal looked up, hands continuing to work as he gave him a slight smile.
“I thought you could use a day off.”
“My school has an attendance policy.” Will said with a frown.
“I’ll write you a doctor’s note.”
“Is that ethical?”
Hannibal just smiled up at him, before going back to his work.
Will snorted, and shook his head some, entering the room fully, and settling onto a chair to watch him. “What are you making?” he asked after a moment of silence, pulling a knee up to his chest, and hugging it.
Hannibal glanced back up at him. “Pasta, for lunch.”
Will raised a brow, and stood up, moving closer to watch. “How?” he said finally. The man’s hands paused, and he set the ball of dough aside, covering the bowl with a layer of saran wrap.
“Would you like to learn, Will? It will give you something to do.”
Shifting, Will stared at him, before nodding, and going to the sink, quickly washing his hands, and taking off his plaid shirt. Tossing it over the chair, he came back to stand beside Hannibal, in just his white tee instead. “Alright. What’s first?”
Smiling slightly, Hannibal walked him through mixing salt into the flour, and beating the eggs just right. It didn’t take long at all before Will was clumsily kneading out his own ball of bright yellow dough, nose wrinkled as he tried to get his hands to copy Hannibal’s motions. It was harder than it looked, and his arms were starting to get sore.
“Do you want to use the pasta press, or a rolling pin?” Hannibal asked, slightly amused as he watched Will.
Will blinked, looking at the hand cranked monstrosity on the counter, then back to him. “Uh, rolling pin.” he said finally. “No offense, but that thing looks a bit...more trouble than it’s worth.” he said, managing a small smile.
Hannibal chuckled. “Alright- I concede the counter space to you.”
Will smiled a bit, still a touch tense as he dusted the counter with flour, tongue tapping against his bottom lip as he focused on his work.
Hannibal watched him for a brief moment, wondering if he realized he rocked onto his tip toes every time he pushed the pin forward, or if he was aware that his brow was furrowed in concentration. For someone so insightful, so talented, he was shockingly self-unaware.
“I have a history test this Friday.” Will announced after a moment, settling his weight back onto his heels and wiping his forearm across his face, streaking flour up into his hair. “Think you could write me a note to miss that?”
Hannibal chuckled. “If you have cause to stay home, perhaps I will.”
The smile he was flashed in return made his heart warm.
They worked in silence, until the pasta was rolled to the right thickness. Sheet thin, laying across the counter, like yellow parchment. Will blinked, stepping back, a fine layer of sweat across his forehead and neck. “What’s next?”
“I need to add the filling, and shape them.” Hannibal explained, going to the fridge where he had the cheese and herb filling chilling. “Do you plan to help with this as well?” he asked.
“If I’m allowed,” came the slightly nervous reply.
Looking up at him, catching those blue eyes on his, Hannibal gave him a soft smile. “You are never unwelcome in my kitchen, Will.”
Will swallowed, quickly looking away and nodding absently, fingers trailing through the loose flour on the counter.
“She’s in critical condition. I’d really appreciate if you could keep him a bit longer, Doctor Lecter-”
Hannibal frowned slightly, the phone trapped between his ear and shoulder as he worked on plating dinner. “Of course, Mr. Graham. Will is always welcome in my home.”
“Thank you so much. You have no idea how much of a blessing this is. Will trusts you.”
He paused, glancing up at the teen in the other room, playing with his glass and ignoring the world around him.
“I know,” he said finally. “You should get back to your wife, Mr. Graham. Will is in good hands.”
“Thank you.” The phone clicked, and Hannibal put it down on the counter, palming both plates and heading into the dining room.
Will looked up at him as soon as he entered, eyes half dazed behind his glasses.
“I heard, you don’t have to tell me.” He said simply.
Hannibal’s head tilted a bit in a small nod, setting his dinner in front of him and settling into the seat at the head of the table. Will took a moment to stare at his food, before looking back up at Hannibal with an arched brow.
“Arugula and goat cheese ravioli with lamb sausage, in a brown-butter pine nut sauce.” he explained, the corners of his lips twitching up into a slight smile.
Will blinked, looking back down at his plate.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had arugula.” he mused, poking a leaf experimentally with his fork, looking back up at Hannibal, as if waiting for something.
The man’s brow twitched, and Will shifted uncomfortably, before finally speaking up.
“Uh- do you… say grace or anything like that?”
He could feel his smile grow some, as he reached forward to cradle his wine glass.
“I find that I’m not a religious man.” he said simply. “The only worship that happens at my table, is that of the food we are enjoying, and occasionally, the man that prepared it.”
Will snorted, quickly looking down at his food and spearing a bite with his fork, nibbling on it. He blinked twice, before smiling, and taking a heartier bite.
Hannibal ate slower, savouring each bite, watching as Will all but devoured the plate along with his food, scraping up the sauce with his fork as he finished the serving he’d been given. He downed his juice quickly, reaching for the pitcher in the center of the table.
“So why are you a therapist instead of a chef, if you cook your normal meals like that?” He asked bluntly, watching him over the rim of his glass.
Hannibal hummed, considering how to explain the differences in the two professions, before stating simply. “I want to help those that I can.”
Will’s head cocked, rather like a puppy, watching him with those bright blue eyes of his. His request for a better explanation didn’t have to be spoken for Hannibal to understand it.
Hannibal took his time, letting Will wait as he chewed and swallowed another slow bite.
“I find that I take not only pride, but joy, in being able to improve the lives of those that need it.” he stated. “I am, unlike most, not in the profession for the money.”
Will shifted a touch, looking back down, his voice quiet.
“You like to take people apart, and put them back together.”
Hannibal’s smile only widened a touch, and he popped his last bite of sausage into his mouth, instead of responding.
Will groaned, his cheek pressed to the cold surface of the dining room table, closing his glazed over eyes and gripping the edge of the table firmly.
Hannibal tutted, his hand resting on the back of Will’s neck, a cool sensation that grounded the boy as he shifted to press into the touch, almost whining when it was taken away.
“You’re running a fever.” Hannibal’s voice was matter of fact, the only hint of his concern was the slight downturn at the corners of his lips, the way his brow furrowed.
His expressions were so closed off sometimes that Will was finding it hard to learn how to read him, how to get into his mind. Though, he wasn’t sure why he wanted to. Normally he avoided that sort of thing.
“I woke up with it. Doesn’t surprise me, I get fevers a lot.” Will admitted, wrinkling his nose a bit and shifting to press his forehead to the table next.
“I’ll call the school and excuse you.” Hannibal said after a moment, already moving toward the other room. Will snorted.
“Two days in a row? I’m starting to wonder if I’m ever going to head back to school.” he said.
“I’d prefer not to add additional stress to your situation, Will.”
“I thought doctors considered routine and normalcy to help most people cope.”
Hannibal raised a brow. “Are you most people, Will?”
That question was rattling around his mind all day as he wandered the house.
That lilting accent asking him, with that damn knowing smirk, if he was most people.
Will was pretty sure that carrying around a bottle of aspirin to cope with stress fevers landed him strictly outside the realm of most people.
That most people didn’t end up losing themselves in the other people they talked to. That they studied.
He was pretty sure that you weren’t supposed to make the weird leaps of logic he did. That they didn’t figure out people’s secrets just by looking at their actions, the paths they left behind.
Most people couldn’t stand in a room, close their eyes, and watch a pendulum rewind time like an old vhs.
He paused, finding that his feet had absently led him to Hannibal’s study, looking at the heavy door with a slight frown.
Hannibal was at the office, it’s not like he’d know if Will went in there.
It felt incredibly rude to him, poking around another person’s things, especially something as private as an office or a bedroom.
And if there was one thing Will knew for certain, it was that Hannibal despised rudeness. He had a hard time keeping it out of his eyes, the way they went dark whenever someone snubbed or insulted him.
He’d never forgive Will for invading his privacy.
He reached out, hand hesitating over the handle, before withdrawing it quickly. A sudden sense of danger made the hair on the back of his neck stand straight up.
Don’t leave your prints on the handle.
Will had no explanation to the thought, swallowing hard.
He clenched his jaw, swallowing to wet his dry mouth, before turning quickly, racing up the stairs. His footsteps thundered through the empty house, like a war drum.
It made his heart beat faster.
Slamming the door to his- no, the guest bedroom shut behind him, he leaned against it, breathing harder than he had expected, staring out the window across from him.
Frowning, Will gripped the hand behind him tightly, tumbling the thumb lock. He took a half step forward, eyes narrowing as he struggled to understand what he was seeing.
There was no way a black stag was on the far side of the street outside.
Especially not one with black feathers interspersed with its dark fur.
His fever was worse by the time Hannibal got home, having curled up on the couch in the entryway to wait for him. He was cold, even under a second quilt, scavenged from his bed, hair wet and matted against his forehead.
His eyes were closed when he heard the front door open, having been on the cusp of falling asleep again.
There was a beat of silence, and then the door closed, Hannibal moving to his side at that same controlled pace he always seemed to have, pulling leather gloves off to brush Will’s soaked hair from his face.
“Your fever is worse.”
“Glad you’re here, Doc. I never would have known.” Will said, but his voice was shaky and quiet.
He couldn’t even manage a squeak of surprise as Hannibal lifted him, blankets and all, bringing him upstairs.
The bed was bigger than the one Will had been sleeping in before, and he whined softly, smelling nothing but Hannibal surrounding him.
It was unreasonably comforting.
He turned on his side, hugging a pillow to his chest, his breath a touch shallow.
There was a pinch on his arm and he hissed, cracking an eye to see Hannibal slipping a needle into his arm, watching him. “Just some fluids and a fever reducer. I need you to rest, Will.”
He nodded, reaching out and catching Hannibal’s arm when he started to pull away. “Stay-”
Hannibal blinked, before gently guiding his hand off his sleeve. “Let me finish this, and then I will.” he promised.
Vaguely, Will could hear him speaking, although his comprehension was lacking.
Instead of trying to understand, he focused on the promise that Hannibal wasn’t leaving. He would stay.
His arm was cold.
Will was half asleep again when he felt the bed dip beside him, and he shifted back until he felt the press of Hannibal’s side against his back, feeling the man stiffen at the touch. There was a moment of hesitation, he felt the tense of his muscles as he started and aborted several motions, before finally settling on twisting to him just a bit, a hand resting in Will’s hair, petting him softly.
Will dreamt of a stream that night, the Raven Stag standing on the opposite bank, watching him.
That was the first thing Will realized when he woke. That he was warm, and that there was a pleasant weight settled against and across him.
His eyes fluttered some, and he looked to the side, looking for the alarm clock beside the bed. It wasn’t there, so he turned to the other side, only to have something tighten around his waist, pulling him closer.
His breath hitched when his mind finally connected the pieces, eyes wide as he stared at Hannibal’s sleeping face before him. The man’s dusty blonde hair was in his face, lips parted slightly as he slumbered. His arm was around Will’s waist, hand loosely balled in the fabric of the teen’s shirt, fingertips just barely grazing the side of his hip.
He really should get out of the bed, return to his own-
Will didn’t really remember what had led to this, other than his elbow hurt a bit, and had a new small bandage taped to it.
But… Hannibal looked so perfect like this.
Felt so right next to him.
Will swallowed, and pressed tight against his chest, curling into the man’s hold. Hannibal shifted, his eyes not opening as his arms wrapped around him a touch tighter, and nose nestling into his curls gently.
He liked this, he thought, pretending he didn’t hear the pleased huff of a Stag just behind him.
“We need to find a suitable treatment for these fevers, Will.”
Those were not the words Will wanted to hear when he finished his oatmeal, looking up at the doctor sitting at the head of the table. “They’re not that bad.”
Hannibal’s thin brow rose, and he tilted his head slightly, looking down to the bandaid still over the needle mark on Will’s elbow.
The teen blushed, swallowing hard and looking back down at his food, pushing it around the plate with his fork.
“That was different, that wasn’t… stress.” he mumbled, before chewing at the inside of his lip.
Hannibal gave a soft nod. “What was it then?”
“I… saw something. A stag- only it wasn’t a stag-”
Will shook his head quickly. “No- I mean, I know it wasn’t real, it felt… more like dreaming? Maybe daydreaming would be more accurate-”
“The price of your empathy, perhaps?”
Will shrugged. “Maybe.”
Two more days, two more calls from his father, two more nights spent in a guest bed twice the size of the futon he slept on at home.
Will almost felt guilty for coming to enjoy his stay in Hannibal’s home.
Chewing his lip as he worked on his homework, he looked up at Hannibal often. The man was working at the counter, thinly slicing some sort of bacon, to the point that Will could see the knife passing between the layers.
It honestly wasn’t fair how attractive the man was.
Will had come to the realization that he was bisexual pretty early on. He had never been able to hide his attraction to men. They weren’t what he preferred, in all honesty, but the attraction was still there, still nagging at him whenever he told someone he was straight.
Being around Hannibal though-
It was enough to make him start to question if the 90-10 split he’s always prescribed to women might be more of a ”Doctor Lector 90 - Everyone else 10” score.
He shifted anxiously, forcing himself away from that train of thought and looking back down to his half finished math homework. The textbook was open in front of him, the page not having turned for what felt like ages.
He could feel the psychiatrist’s eyes on him, and he decidedly kept his eyes lowered, swallowing hard and letting his hair shield his eyes.
“Will do you need help wi-” The ringing of the phone cut him off, and both Hannibal and Will froze, the knife half through the bacon. “Can you get that please?” Hannibal asked after the second ring.
Will’s eyes didn’t leave the phone, each step falling on the floor like another nail in the coffin. His gut was clenched so hard that his breath was a shallow staccato.
His father’s voice cracked on his name, and Will felt the tears already gathering in his eyes.
“Will, she’s gone.”
The world pitched forward, and Will reached out, grabbing the edge of the accent table, his fingers white knuckled as he stumbled against it. It hit the wall with a bang as his hip found the corner, though he barely registered the pain that bloomed.
Hannibal was there in a second, wiping his hands off on his apron, before reaching out, cupping his face with one hand, and slowly pulling the phone from his cold fingers.
“Will. Breathe for me.” he said, his voice even as he guided the phone to his ear. “Mr. Graham?”
“She’s dead. Ten minutes ago- can you… will you watch my boy?”
“Of course. There is always a place for Will here.” he said slowly.
“Good. Good. Thank you-”
The line went dead with a definitive click, and Hannibal looked back to Will, his other hand coming up to his cheek.
The teen was gasping for air, shaking and reaching up to cling to Hannibal’s wrists, pinning his hands against his face.
“Hannibal-” he choked out, tears overflowing from his eyes.
Hannibal didn’t hesitate, pulling him close against his chest, tangling his fingers in his hair and closing his eyes, resting his cheek against those soft curls.
“S-say it-” Will gasped against his chest. “Please… What you said the other night-”
Hannibal’s arms tightened around him, warm, solid, safe.
“I have you, Will.” he whispered, his breath ghosting over the side of his neck, feeling his lips tickling against his hair. “I have you. I’m not leaving you. I promise.”
The entire week passed like the sky should have been pouring rain, instead of the cheery blue that plagued Will.
Sitting at the window seat in his room, he kept his forehead against the cool glass, watching the wind bully dead leaves back and forth across the street, his eyes swollen from crying and burning. He was pretty sure he had no tears left.
His dad hadn’t called in a while.
The soft knock on the door made Will sigh and he got up, padding over to the heavy wood and cracking it open, not looking up at Hannibal as he waited for whatever the man had to say.
“Have you eaten yet? I brought you cream cheese and wild berry stuffed french toast.” Hannibal gentled, offering him the plate.
Will took it, only because he knew if he didn’t, that Hannibal would be back in half an hour with another dish, and then another, until he found something Will would eat. He couldn’t explain it, but he could barely eat anything, if only because the textures were all wrong.
Hannibal didn’t seem to mind.
He’d taken two weeks from his patients, from people who actually needed him. Like that Franklin guy that called twelve times to get reassurance that it was just two appointments being canceled, and not all of them.
Will wasn’t sure he deserved all this special attention from Hannibal.
He plopped down on the bed without shutting the door this time, and set the food on the nightstand, curling in on himself and staring at the floor.
Hannibal’s feet were in his view in a moment, the bed dipping under his weight some as those gorgeous hands came across his view and picked up the plate. “Stuffed french toast is best eaten warm, Will.”
Will made a noise of agreement, hugging his knees to his chest.
“Sit up, please.”
There was an odd sense of command in those words, and Will looked over at him with a pout, before doing as he was asked. He was hugging himself instead, not daring to make eye contact, to see the disappointment and annoyance he was sure would be there.
His mouth fell open nonetheless, and he was surprised when Hannibal presented him a forkful of the toast and cream cheese filling. It was delightful on his tongue, melting and giving him hints of citrus and blackberries as he chewed, looking up at the doctor with wide eyes.
There was no disappointment or annoyance.
His gaze was soft, caring, and most of all, worried.
Now he felt like an ass.
Hannibal gave him ample time to chew and swallow before offering him another bite, patience written clearly in every action.
After a few more bites, Will made a noise, reaching for the fork and plate.
They were relinquished easily, a hand finding and petting his hair instead as he ate. Once the food was gone, Hannibal smiled ever so slightly, setting the plate aside and murmuring two words that shot through Will in the most ridiculous way.
“When do you think they’ll find the body?”
Hannibal froze, eyes swinging up and staring at Will, throat tight. What? He’d been impeccable. Not a single hair out of place, never in the basement when Will was awake- had he been slipping out of bed while Hannibal was distracted?
It seemed so unlikely.
Flipping the pancake onto a plate, he contemplated his response. “I’m not sure what you mean, Will.”
Will shrugged some, pushing his blueberries around in his bowl of yogurt. “My dad. When do you think they’re going to find his body?”
Hannibal shifted some, watching as he carefully drizzled syrup over it. “What makes you think your father is dead?”
“I know he is. It’s not that hard to figure out.”
Setting the plate down in front of Will, Hannibal took the seat opposite him. “If you’re worried for your father’s health, we should call the police, and ask them to look for him.”
Will nodded. “Sure.”
Hannibal made the call while Will was in the living room, his voice hushed, but just loud enough that Will was able to hear the gist of his conversation, watching him over the arm of the couch he was curled up on.
Chewing on his lip as Hannibal hung up the phone, he pulled his knees up to his chest, making room for the man.
“What did they say?”
Hannibal looked to him, taking his time moving to the couch, sitting in the vacated space. “They are going to your home, to check on him.”
Will looked over at him, chewing at the inside of his lip anxiously. Hannibal felt far away. Physically and emotionally, the way he was so carefully closed off. Even his body language, legs crossed, arms carefully within his own space, no part of him spilling off the section of couch he had taken to himself.
He watched as Hannibal picked up the tablet from the end table, elbow on the arm of the couch as he scrolled casually through various online articles.
Hannibal had treated spooning the other day like it was nothing. Had gone about his day, hadn’t even mentioned it.
Moving forward before he could chicken out, he pushing Hannibal’s arm out of the way, leaning against his side and curling up.
Hannibal’s brow raised, and he adjusted some, looping his arm around his waist instead, lifting one leg to brace the device on instead. “You make it very hard to read the news.” he said, but his tone was light.
Will huffed some. “That’s not news.” he said. “It’s Freddie Lounds. It’s clickbait.”
“She has her moments.” he said. He received and exaggerated eye roll in response, making him chuckle.
“I thought you said you’d write me a note.” Will huffed out, yanking his sneakers up, the sole of his shoe flapped against his toes.
Hannibal looked over at him, adjusting his scarf. “I believe I said if I felt it necessary, Will.” he said with an amused look. “And I will be picking you up from school. We’ll be going shopping before coming home.”
Will pulled a face, his nose wrinkling at the thought of going out into public. “What for.”
“New shoes, for one.” Hannibal replied easily, offering him his school bag, opening the door with his other hand.
Will snagged the bag, sighing and heading to the car, all but dragging his feet in a literal sense. He wasn’t sure he wanted to go back to school. When Hannibal had brought it up last night, he was excited to see his friends again, to get out of the house, but now that he was actually on the way there…
He could already imagine the comments, the prying questions, and god he was not looking forward to finding out if Brayden had heard about his parents.
If Hannibal noticed the way he was hugging his backpack to his chest, or how quiet he was during the ride, he said nothing. The only sound through the car was the radio, the news murmuring quietly, interspersed with random songs.
Pulling into the parent’s drop off, Hannibal handed him his lunch box, watching him. “Will-” he said as the car door opened. “If you need anything, you have my number.” he said firmly.
Will swallowed, before nodding, shutting the door behind him, staring up at the brick building with dread. Hannibal’s car didn’t move until Will did, pulling away from the curb only when he was halfway to the door, his head ducked, clinging to the straps of his bag like they were a lifeline and he was drowning in the ocean.
God. This was going to suck.
Heard ur mom kicked it- do us a favr and die too.
Will stared at the text for a long moment before sighing and deleting it, putting his chin in his hand and staring down at his desk blankly.
When had Jess turned on him?
That was a wasted fourth of a minute on his card. Opening up his contacts, he added her to the growing list of blocked number.
Was there a limit on blocked numbers?
Slumping forward, his head thumped onto the fake wood, the cool surface making him shiver, his fever having returned with a nasty, dizzying vengance.
He hadn’t been able to concentrate on anything all day. It was like fog. Thick, all consuming, dark fog. Reaching out with it’s ghastly fingers and twisting into his mind, clouding his thoughts and dampening his cognition.
And somewhere in the thick of it were dark, sharp antlers.
Everyone had something to say about what had happened to Will.
He just wanted to be left the fuck alone.
Instead he kept being stopped by random people- most of them said a quick, insincere apology- (”I’m *so* sorry for your loss-”) and then instantly started trying to dig details out of him. (”Were you really the one that found her?”)
And then there was Diana.
He’d been dodging his long term bully all day.
That familiar mop of black hair was the bane of his existence, shrinking down into his seat the second he heard her voice. In his dazed state, he’d forgotten she had math with him, or he would have already been in the nurse’s.
Swallowing hard, he was suddenly very interested in what was in his bag, feeling sick to his stomach and she hadn’t even noticed him yet.
And it begun.
“Missed you!” Diana said, grinning as she perched on his desk. “So, tell me the truth- did your mom really off herself? Everyone in school is saying she slit her throat in front of you. Really dramatic like.” She drew her thumb across her throat, tongue poking out the corner of her mouth.
Will felt his throat go tight, wincing at her words and shaking his head feverently.
“No? So what happened?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Will managed to choke out, breathless and weak. His face went red when she leaned forward, pushing his protective curtain of curled bangs out of his face. Jerking back from her touch, he earned a laugh that made the hair on his arms stand on end.
Picking up his notebook instead, she started to flip through it without looking at anything on it. “People were taking bets on how she did it- but my money's on cause of death- you.”
One beat of silence.
Wil wasl frozen, his breath catching in his throat and he looked up to her sharply, feeling his gut twisting like he was going to puke. “What?” he asked. It was almost a whine, pitching and cracking in a single syllable.
That made her happy, that sick smirk spreading across her face. “I said, when I bet, I bet that you killed her. You seem like the type to do it. You’re always reading those crime books, reading that articles on it, researching the FBI. I bet you’re one of those mommy killers.”
Will couldn’t handle it anymore, grabbing his bag and abandoning his notebook, bolting out of the room, hearing his teacher screaming for him to come back, and Diana’s laughter following him.
Hannibal knocked on the doorway of the nurse’s office gently to get her attention, nodding to her when she greeted him.
Will was laying in the fetal position on the small cot in the far back, a blanket dragged up over his head, just a few stray curls to mark him. He shifted when he heard the footsteps, blue eyes peeking over the fabric, red from crying.
The second he saw the therapist, he threw the blanket off, grabbing his blanket. “Take me home.” he demanded, his voice raw.
Hannibal nodded, and held out his hand to him. “I had every plan to, Will. Did something happen?”
“I’m just overwhelmed.” Will lied quickly, his voice cracking, lunging for Hannibal’s hand and tangling their fingers together desperately, squeezing hard in the hopes it would make his shaking less obvious.
Hannibal reached forward, cupping his cheek gently. “You’re burning up.” he said with a soft sigh, before looking to the nurse with a short nod, signing the release forms and leading Will outside.
He waited until the car door was closed, alone with the teenager, NPR whispering softly as he turned the knob down. “Will-” he started softly. “Are you sure nothing happened?”
Will looked at him, before looking down quickly, guilt twisting through him for lying to the man. “I want to sleep.” he murmured, barely a whisper.
There was something wrong with Will.
There had to be.
It was the only explanation for the dark thoughts he'd been having the past few nights. Since Diana's comments.
What if he was the reason his mother had died? He hadn't killed her, but she was the same as him. She could see people like he did. She had always said it was a curse, that it had gotten worse when she had Will.
What if his birth was the stressor his mother's mental illness had needed?
"Will." Hannibal's voice made his gaze snap up, swallowing hard as he risked a rare moment of eye contact. "You haven't touched your breakfast."
Looking back down at the plate before him, Will shook his head some, swallowing hard. "I'm... not that hungry, right now." he said. "I think I should just go back to bed." See if maybe, now that it was day, he could sleep without having the same dreams over and over. Without seeing the Stag.
Hannibal's gaze stayed on Will a moment, before standing, moving around the table and reaching out. He tutted at the fever he felt on Will's forehead, before drawing away once more. "You're experiencing a severe depressive episode, Will. And understandably so. Are you sure that sleep is what you need?"
Will shook his head a bit, before sighing some. "I- I just want to sleep."
"Your friend Beverly called. She wants you to go to the football game with her tomorrow night." Hannibal said after a moment. "Do you want me to tell her no?"
Swallowing hard, Will finally managed to look up at him fully, keeping his gaze up as he shook his head. "I'll go." he said softly, feeling more than a bit guilted into it. Beverly was always into that sort of thing, and if she was inviting him, she was worried about him. She knew he didn't like crowds, she never invited him to that sort of thing.
"Can I stay home again today?"
Hannibal frowned, before giving a slight nod. "Yes Will, you may." he said. "But promise me you'll do something other than sleep all day? Perhaps even a short walk around the neighborhood? The exercise will help, even if it sounds like a chore."
Hannibal stared down at the creature as he moved into the house, folding his coat over his arm as he shut the door.
It stared back at him, dark eyes piercing and intelligent, tracking every movement as Hannibal cautiously toed his shoes off. It was panting, hot and heavy breaths with its mouth open, affording the man a view of its canines and long tongue.
And then it barked, the noise curling Hannibal’s lip some.
He kept an even tone, his voice not showing any hint of anger or annoyance as he sat his briefcase down. “There happens to be a dog in our foyer.”
Will was curled up in the living room, covered in a blanket, laying across the couch. “His name is Winston.” He called out.
Hannibal raised a brow.
“And how did Winston get into our foyer?”
“I found him. When I took that walk you told me to take.”
Hannibal looked back down to the dog. He’d been freshly bathed, but he had no collar on, nothing that would give rise to being owned by someone else. Sighing heavily, he started to tug his coat back on.
“I said you could stay home from school, not that you could adopt a dog.” he said, only half scolding the boy. “Get your coat.”
Will sat up, looking over at him, frowning some. “Why?”
Hannibal gave him a look, his brow raising, keeping his stare even as he buttoned his coat. “We can’t keep a dog without a collar, leash, the proper bowls-” he started.
Will’s face lit up, and he all but leapt off the couch, grabbing his coat and toeing into his sneakers quickly.
Winston had taken to following Will around the house, trailing him like a shadow no matter what he was doing. In a matter of days it became common to see the dog wherever Will was, and honestly, Will was loving it. It comforted him like no tomorrow.
Hannibal found Will in the living room on the floor Friday afternoon. His face was buried in Winston's mottled fur, hands clutching the dog close, the pup's head on his shoulder. "Are you alright, Will?" he asked gently, and Will took a deep breath, the sound muffled by Winston's fur.
Hannibal sat on the couch beside him, folding his scarf over his hand and setting it on the arm. "Do you want to talk about it?"
He raised a brow, but didn't press, waiting silently.
"The football game is tonight, and Bev wants me to go with her. I hate crowds. I hate football. I don't want to go." Will turned his face from Winston, still leaning into him heavily, watching Hannibal. "Do I have to go?"
Hannibal tilted his head just a touch, studying Will's face. "No- if it is causing you distress, you're more than welcome to stay home, Will. I can call and cancel for you."
Will groaned. "That just made it worse," he complained, shaking his head a bit. "Now I have to go."
"Well, if you think I don't need to go, that means people will think I'm even more of a weirdo or a nerd for not showing up." Will reasoned, and Hannibal couldn't help but feel he'd just been insulted somehow.
Will wallowed for a moment longer, before groaning and dragging himself to his feet, Winston rising and trotting up the stairs just behind him as he headed off to get ready. Shaking his head fondly, Hannibal stood as well, starting to clean the living room, gathering the various things Will had left scattered about during the day. An empty bag of chips, a half-empty glass of juice, Winston's rawhide on his antique carpet.
By the time Will was changed and ready to go, the leash on Winston's collar and looped around his wrist, Bev was in the driveway, beeping the horn on her truck. "Come on, Will!" she called, and he groaned, hanging out his window for a moment to call back down.
"Give me a minute!"
He grabbed his wallet, double checking that the spending money Hannibal had given him was in there, not wanting to go hungry during the game. How long did these things even go on for?
Hannibal was in the entryway when Will got down there, offering him his coat and scarf. "Do you have your cell phone?" he asked, and Will nodded, holding it up. "Call or text if you need me to get your early. For any reason."
Will nodded. "I know," he said, before quickly heading out the door, Winston on his heels, Will barely needing the leash.
Will was panting, the branches on the forest floor cracking underneath him as he ran. He couldn't even remember what had started this, or how it had escalated this badly.
Diana had cornered him while he was at the concession stand, started taunting him about his parents, and her stupid boyfriend had joined in. Will couldn't even remember his name. Maybe it was Joel? But he remembered when the guy had grinned, and asked Diana if Will was bothering her, and she'd put on her best puppy eyes and told him 'yes'.
The first punch had hit Will like a bag of quarters, sending him stumbling back.
Winston had growled and leaped, biting onto the teen's arm and hung on until Joel had punched Winston as well, making the dog drop with a sharp whimper.
Will had seen red at that, lunged at Joel's waist and knocked him to the ground, punching him hard enough that the skin on his knuckles had ripped. He'd gotten maybe two punches in before Diana had started screeching for help. And now here he was, racing through the woods behind the school, Winston tight on his heels, and the sound of Joel charging after him into the brush.
The one advantage Will had was that he was used to the woods at night, the inky shadows disorienting for someone like Joel, who'd probably never had to walk off night terrors in his life.
Jumping over a log, Will hit a hill, skidded down through the mast and brush, crying out in pain as he came to a stop against a tree trunk, panting in pain. It didn't take long until Joel was on him, not giving Will a change to get up before he had him pinned against the thick trunk.
"You little piece of shit-" Joel growled out, gripping Will's hair in one hand, Will scrambling to get him to let go, scratching at his arm. He caught skin, making Joel grunt in pain, and he dug in his pocket for something. Flicking a cheap knife open, Joel held the point to Will's throat, and he went completely still, staring at him in terror, his heart pounding in this throat. "You ever come near me, or my girl again, and I'll slit your wrists like you did your mom's."
Winston slammed into Joel hard, knocking him to the side, and Will cried out when the tip of the knife cut his neck, the wound shallow, but it burned. Moving forward before Joel could stab his dog, he wrestled for the knife, kicking him hard in the stomach a few times.
He'd planned just to threaten Joel with it, scare him off, but Joel grabbed his ankle as he scrambled to get away, yanking Will forward, and Will hadn't thought, fear and adrenaline in his veins as he slammed the blade down into Joel's back.
The older teen grunted, his eyes going wide, and Will stared in his face, yanking the blade out, making him grunt and gurgle, blood welling up on Joel's lips. Will drove the knife home again, and as he did, there was a sick pleasure there, a warmth that urged him to do it again, and again, each stab getting easier.
By the time Will finally stopped, the knife was completely covered in blood, and so was Joel. So was Will.
It shone black in the moonlight, covering his hands, his arms, his clothes. He was sure there was blood on his face as well.
He let out a scared noise, dropping the blade and crawling backward, staring at Joel on the ground, panting and trying to breathe. When he could think, even if only in panicked, fractured thoughts, he dug through his pockets, finding his phone, hissing at the new crack in the screen.
Will dialed, his fingers slipping over the glass, leaving smears of blood that the phone back lit a bright red, not having to wait even two rings before a rich voice picked up and Will rushed to cut him off.
"Hannibal. I need help."