She appears to him for the first time since he’d caught half-glimpses of her haunting the halls of his adolescent nightmares the day he meets Will Graham.
While flight arrangements are being made by a government clerk he will never meet, he is quietly rescheduling patients in preparation to play objective, third-party observer in Minnesota. A highly paid babysitter for Jack Crawford’s well-intentioned and likely futile search for the Shrike.
Would he be help or hindrance, Graham had asked him in Crawford’s office. Interested in catching a kidnapper and murderous cannibal, or more so in Graham himself?
Heels clicking, she steps into his office and his thoughts like she owns the right to both. Looking on her for the first time in decades, he supposes he owes these few concessions to the woman who gave him life.
“Finally, someone turns your head. But this one is perhaps more dangerous than the others,” she observes, with a judgmental purse of her mouth.
“No more than the others,” he challenges, for the danger lies in how Will Graham will respond to him when he first sees him for what he is, rather than the mere possibility of being discovered. With time, Hannibal can turn this danger into potential for understanding. “I can be careful with him. He may not even blame me in the aftermath of whatever I choose to do to him.”
“No,” she says, voice cutting. “You will blame yourself. It has been a long time since you have loved someone, and your skills of self-expression—unlike your talents for deception—have not improved.”
Absentmindedly fondling a pen on his otherwise impeccable desk, he allows himself a polite scoff.
“I am intrigued by him. That is all. I can hardly see myself developing any form of affection in the thirty seconds it took for him to berate his superior for agreeing to meet with me.”
Taking a seat on the sofa between the two ukiyo-e along the far wall, his mother completes quite a scene. Some painful amalgamation of the two most defining parts of his life, and he is momentarily struck speechless by the juxtaposition.
“Did it take more than a few instants—first, for you to envy that she replaced you at my breast, then not a few more to decide that you loved her anyway—to feel affection for your sister the moment I placed her in your arms?”
His mother wears Chanel today, in suit and scent, with towering Jimmy Choos on her feet. It is a fairly lethal combination, causing her to appear almost more paramour than parent, the horrible circumstances of life never having granted her the opportunity to age.
“No,” he says slowly, flattening his lips.
“Then you must be cautious, darling,” she entreats, suddenly perched atop his desk, her smooth thigh bumping his forearm as she shifts to grip his hand. “The gods love mortals because they are beautiful and innocent, but men made of clay will wither and shatter beneath the force of a god’s love.”
“Turned to dust like Semele before Zeus,” he sighs, turning to face her fully, feeling her sweet breath on his ear.
“Will you risk it nonetheless?”
“I am not a god,” he frowns, with more consternation than he would have permitted of himself in public. “And Will Graham is hardly innocent.”
“Oh, Hannibal,” she sighs, just short of chiding. “Why are you so sure I was afraid for him?”
Vanishing before he can blink, she leaves him with nothing more, and he inhales deeply, chasing the scent of her perfume.
Not twenty-four hours later, kneeling in a room full of chaos and gunpowder, gazing upon a blood-drenched Will Graham, Hannibal realizes he now knows exactly what she means.
He is sitting in an otherwise empty room at eight on a Tuesday night, the clock’s steady rapport and the fire’s irritatingly joyful crackling his only company.
She appears again in the chair opposite his—Will’s chair, as he does not see any other patient sitting in it within the confines of his mind—with two tumblers of scotch in her hands.
Her nail polish is white today, he notices, and she rises to hand him one of the glasses.
“Feeling alone, darling?” she simpers, an I told you so clear in her tone.
He raises an eyebrow, but his somberness softens at the recollection of her enveloping embrace, her skill at stitching his fingers whenever he had a mishap with a knife.
Will Graham has been confined to the halls of the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane for two weeks, and nothing save a lonely house awaits him, a single filet made from the thigh of a greedy investment banker a companion to last night’s strangely flavorless, single-serving dinner.
“I don’t recall asking your advice on the matter, mother,” he says, her answering smile sad rather than offended as she deposits her own glass on the table next to him, touching his cheek with the cold pads of her fingers.
“I’m sorry, love,” she says, “but I really only say what you tell me to.”
Reaching for her hand—too late, too late, his mind chants, incessantly building like a levee about to burst—he tries to convey a belated apology, but instead of meeting cool skin, his hand closes on open air.