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Dread and Hunger

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Chapter 17: Sacramental

            Abigail visited him, and it was the only time in his entire hospital stay that he cried.

-

            Jack was released from the hospital, but he still visited Will. Will liked to imagine that it was because they’d both almost died in Tobias Budge’s shop, but he wasn’t stupid. Jack wanted as much information from Will as he could get, to better hunt down what the news had coined ‘Hannibal the Cannibal’.

            “Once you’re stable enough to be moved, we’re going to take you to a secure location until we can establish a safe house,” he’d told him, mulling over a few files. He wore high-necked undershirts that hid the worst of his wound.

            “Don’t you think he’s going to be angry about that?” Will asked, staring out of the window. It echoed previous conversations. “He will start a bloodbath because I’m not anywhere accessible.”

            “You’re accessible now, and he hasn’t come out,” Jack pointed out. He paused, looking up from his files. “…He hasn’t, has he, Will?” he clarified.

            “Not that I know of,” said Will, and he couldn’t tell if it was bitterness or hurt in the tone of his voice. Jack surveyed him skeptically before going back to his work.

            “Depending on how he acts after, we may have to look into witness protection for you.”

            “I’ve always wanted to be undercover.”

            “Your sarcasm is noted. Your safety is my priority, though.” He sighed, mulling over something on a report. “I should have pulled you sooner. You shouldn’t have been left like that.”

            “He was careful,” Will said, like that explained everything. “The things I saw were things I’d have seen in anyone else, and where I knew him, I dismissed it. Same for you, too.”

            “He’s helped on FBI cases before,” Jack groused.

            “That’s because he’s dramatic and enjoys being the center of attention,” Will said without thinking. When Jack met his gaze, he quickly amended, “What better way to keep you out of his business than to be completely invested in yours?”

            “That would explain why he engaged you as both Hannibal and the Chesapeake Ripper,” Jack said with a curt not. “One aspect of your attention wasn’t enough.”

            “Which is why I don’t think making me disappear is the best idea. You’ll get his attention, but you won’t like how he does it.” Among other things.

            There is no place you could go that I would not follow.

            “If we can use his anger, then we will. We’re going to get that bastard,” Jack said ardently. Will looked away from the window and to the FBI agent that shouldn’t truly be working after what he’d just gone through.

            “Obsession is a dangerous thing,” he said to Jack.

            “You think I’m obsessed?” he asked, dangerously quiet. “You’re damn right, Will. You’re hospitalized from almost dying at the hands of a psychopath, and the Chesapeake Ripper got away after getting so close you were inviting him over to dinner. I’m obsessed with justice. I’m obsessed with getting that bastard for everything he’s done. I’m not going to rest until he’s either dead or behind bars.”

            Will nodded and looked away from him. If Jack had lied, he’d have known it. He could taste it, something that radiated from Jack’s skin with a passion, with a frenzy.

            “You’re going to use me going to a safe house as bait to lure him out,” Will said. He thought of Doritos crunched in hand as he goaded Jack on campus. He thought of Jack’s wife, of his dying and her dying and how everything felt like the aged petals of a flower –limp, despondent and veined with brown and death.

            “Not until you’re well enough to be moved,” Jack promised.

            “How’s your wife’s cancer?”

            “Still cancerous.”

            He stared at the one, singular vase that’d stood out to him from all of the rest. Friends, co-workers past and present, and random well-wishers kept them in wild, loud supply, more coming every day from those who read the papers or watched the news. There was one, though, one that he stared at whenever he could bring himself to, and he sighed.

            Freesia, amaranth, roses, verbena, forget-me-not, iris, carnations, dianthus.

            “I’m sure you’ll get him in the end, Jack,” Will said dispassionately.

-

            The news said he’d killed Tobias Budge and almost died in the process. He’d been found slumped to the side of the Baltimore Symphony Killer’s still body, barely hanging onto life, the wires he’d used to strangle him cast aside. Will wasn’t going to refute that. Hannibal’s plastic suit would have ensured he left no trace, and it made things so much easier for people to think he was some sort of hero rather than the Chesapeake Ripper’s fuck buddy.

            Freddie Lounds said, much to the delight of her fans, that Will’s wounds looked like a Glasgow smile made by a lover. The photo of the colostomy bag had the top hits on the search engine for the first two weeks. It would have been removed from Facebook articles, but his junk had been covered with a large, black rectangle, so there was nothing truly grotesque to report on any social media sights. Alana promised him she’d tried her best.

            He lay on his bed, staring at the vase of flowers left for him. He wondered what the petals would taste like, now that his tongue knew the flavor of blood.

-

            The nurses liked to gossip just outside of his door when they thought he was asleep. Mostly it was about the other nurses not doing their jobs, or doctors that took all the credit. Janice that ran the desk in the ICU had a lot of struggles with her plantar fasciitis, and Derek never called Brandon back. Brandon figured that he was being stood up, and Yvonne offered to set him up with her cousin visiting from California. Dr. Stinton griped that the nurse running the front desk of the hospital wasn’t forwarding his wife’s calls to his office, and she was one step away from getting fired. Maurice told Hannah that Dr. Stinton wouldn’t fire her –he was fucking her, which is why she wasn’t forwarding his wife’s calls.

            They also liked to talk about Will, though. Whenever they thought the medicine held him deep in the clutches of drug-induced sleep, they loved to talk about his injuries, how he’d gotten them, the horrible things he’d endured. Unless he was being given codeine with his medicine, he didn’t sleep, instead lying in a lovely daze where everything was soft. Even their words, horrible as they sometimes were, were soft.

            “What a cute thing, just the most polite young man, and when he was thirsty he tried to get out of bed because he didn’t want to trouble me for water.”

            “He tried to get out of bed? With that injury?”

            “Oh, yes, I got to him before he ripped open his stitches. He just looked at me really confused and said he didn’t want to trouble me. Just a dove, soft-spoken and kind.”

            “I read about some of the things the Ripper sent him –just evil. Just evil, and those poor people. That Agent down the way was talking with some of his men coming to visit, talking about the letter about wanting to hear him screaming? I got shivers.”

            “He’s going to need therapy, I think.”

            “Hun, I’m the one taking care of him and I need therapy.” A pause as they mulled over things. “He woke up screaming the other night. Sounded like he was getting stabbed all over again.”

            “How much did it take to calm him?”

            “I came in and by then he’d stopped…had a fist in his mouth like he could just hold it all in. We changed the dosage of his medicine, and it helped.”

            Sometimes, they wondered at his friends that visited quite frequently. They gossiped about Margot and Alana kissing just outside of their car, hips pressed to hungry hips before they detached to go inside and see him. They thought Zeller was cute, in a scruffy, nerdy sort of way. They supposed Beverly and Will would date when the pain faded. Abigail was the sort of girl they wanted to go out shopping for, someone to get manis and pedis with. It seemed they knew her history as much as they knew Will’s. The Minnesota Shrike’s daughter, there to comfort the Chesapeake Ripper’s pet.

            “You know, I think Abigail and Will would date when he’s not scared anytime he closes his eyes he’s going to wake up with the Ripper over him,” Hannah said.

            “Oooh don’t say that, what if he shows up here? Is he going to eat us?”

            “Hannibal the Cannibal, indeed!”

            “I heard he’s a rich socialite in Baltimore –not socializing so much anymore, I’d say. My friend’s cousin’s schoolmate saw him for therapy, but I guess they need a new doctor, now.”

            “I’d want a new doctor after that.”

            “At least the poor dear didn’t get eaten.” They both laughed, short, nervous sounds. It was funny to them until it wasn’t, until they paused just long enough to really think about it.

            Sometimes they wondered at his family, how no one signing in to visit had his last name. When his doctor went over medical records, he informed him of not knowing too much, since they were all dead or gone. They thought long and hard about a mother that’d left and a father that’d passed from cancer, and they bemoaned children that grew up without siblings. Maurice had siblings, and she couldn’t imagine a life without four other kids in the house shouting all of the time.

            Sometimes they wondered if he was attracted to any of them. He tried his best not to listen to those conversations, but they were there all the same. Sometimes they wondered if Hannibal the Cannibal ever forced himself on Will, and it was at those times that he placed the pillow over his head or made a big show of turning on the TV and turning the volume up loudly. That always caused them to scatter in every which direction uneasily.

            Mostly, they wondered about how he was going to move on from all of this, when the FBI was gone, the ‘fame’ was gone, and the wound still remained. Those times, Will was left staring at the ceiling and wondering something very much the same.

-

            When he dreamt, he felt Hannibal’s hands in his, the taste of blood on his tongue as he traced over the ridges of his ribs, wanting to savor each inch of bare skin. It took several dreams before he realized the hazy memories of the night he’d given into the Chesapeake Ripper had blended into the memories when Hannibal had made him forget his troubles for a little while.

            He would wake and stare at the vase of flowers for a long time. Every time the old ones were thrown away, a new vase took its place within a day.

-

            When he could, he would shuffle about the hospital room, taking his time to catch his breath whenever it tried to leave him. It was one such time, while he leaned against the window, that something cream colored caught his eye, tucked behind the pillow on the couch. Not many people sat on the couch, preferring the chairs close to his bed. He glanced about, but no one else lurked in the room. He was completely and utterly alone.

When he felt up to a few more steps, he slumped onto the couch and fumbled behind the pillow, his breath catching as he felt a very familiar texture of paper. His thumb broke the seal of the wax, and he poured six seeds to his palm. With them, the long dead petals of violet hyacinth and white tulips fluttered out, browned at the edges. They’d been plucked some time ago –three weeks? Will crumbled the tulip petals in his hand as he unfolded the letter, gaze hungry.

Dearest Will,

I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weeds, I'll wrap me o'er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.

                                                                                                            Always yours,

                                                                                                            -Hannibal

            He pressed the paper to his lips, and it was only the sound of approaching footsteps much, much later that made him tuck the letter away, one of many secrets in the room filled with the flowers of the admiring.

-

            He dreamt of an ocean, the waves cresting over him but not dragging him under, warm hands at his hips, his skin welcoming the graze of gentle lips.

-

            He woke to someone in his hospital room.

            It was not a nurse because nurse’s shoes always made the same agonizing noise on the tile floor. It was not the doctors’ stability or motion control shoes, nor was it Beverly’s booted heels. The steps were silent, a mere whisper, and Will blinked up at the ceiling, waiting.

            All of the lights were off, from the overhead to the lamp to the small light by the sink. Even the small night light that they kept plugged into an outlet had been removed, rendering the room into a shapeless darkness. He thought to be afraid. His heartrate monitor didn’t change pace though, and it was somewhat satisfying to feel the thumping of his chest remain steady, sure. He knew what this was. There was only one person in the world that would ensure that his visual sense was of no use to him when they finally managed to show up.

            He thought of laughing, but at this point, even his hysteria has faded, long since removed and replaced with something a little more dismal. His stomach ached, and he wondered how close he was to getting his night time dosage of pain killers.

            The petal of a flower was placed onto his mouth. Will curled his bottom lip in and rolled it onto his tongue, savoring it.

            “Good evening, Will,” Hannibal said tenderly.

            Will smiled.