Will gets out of the taxi and slings his small carry all over his shoulder. Fare paid, Will turns to look at the huge building. It is seven stories high, with big glass walls in the middle inviting natural light to brighten the space while brick arms with small windows stretch to the side, white blinds drawn on almost all of them. There are a few people milling about, a group of four in uniform while two families, Will assumes they are families seeing how clustered they stand amidst the wide area before the door and one doctor who is talking to one of the families.
The doctor, Will can’t see what their name is from where he is standing and staring, has a face on that Will knows all too well. There is bad news, but some silver lining is to be offered to ease the mental pain the family is obviously going through at the loss or the possibility of it. It’s 10.30 in the morning, the sun out and about with a nifty little wind blowing that pushes Will to burrow into his jacket. He takes the step and passes by the family who is getting a bit verbal over the loss now, a woman clearly crying and hugging a man to her, maybe the husband, maybe even the son while the doctor moves on with admirable calm.
The door is open and Will walks right in onto the counter where a man is sitting and typing something into the computer before him. Will already knows where he is supposed to be going and had already been given very direct directions as to how reach his destination, but he still goes up to the man, leans over the counter in a bid to catch his attention and says, “Hello there, may I know which room is Hannibal Lecter admitted?”
The man, a nurse presumably from the uniform he also has on, checks the computer and says, “Are you family?”
Will gives the man a smile then, a smile that means even less to himself than what it means to this stranger and says, “Yes, he is my father.”
The man gives the same directions that are sitting in the text messages in his mobile and points to him which stairs or lift to take. Will thanks the man perfunctorily, not that the man seems to accept it as he is already engaged with what he was doing with the computer and Will walks up to the lift. There are hushed sounds coming from the rooms behind the orderly at the counter and Will cranes his head back to peer there while he waits for the lift to come. He can see nothing because there is a thick glass and wired door there and then the lift dings and opens. So he gets on and leans to the side while pressing the number 6.
The lift stops on level 4 to let a young girl in. Will sees that she has a scar around the side of her neck and she stands unnaturally still hunched into herself. He immediately distances himself from her mentally, taking his attention away from her although his eyes follow the dim shape of her body on the blurry surface of the lift. Will feels rather than sees the girl unclench from herself and take a peek at him while he leans nonchalantly on the side of the lift and watches the scuffed toes of his old shoes.
The girl gets out at level 6 with him and goes the same direction he is heading till she goes through a different corridor to another part of the building. Will’s step does not falter, but he watches her walk away with live interest in his eyes. Mulling on the girl with the scared throat, Will reaches room 679 and stops before it, watching the number screwed over the wooden door that is closed. Should he knock, Will wonders, or would it be better to just give the call to say that he had reached the room. Before he could decide on it, the door opened and Bedelia stepped out of the room, making Will take a step back to give Bedelia the space to walk.
“You came,” she says without any inflection in her voice, still the calm and steady voice of reason and quite authority, of the confidence that she will listen to you because you are important. Will, after, wondered that Bedelia, so perspective, so instinctive about anything to do with Hannibal, how did she miss him?
“I came,” Will says, “as promised. I always keep my promises Bedelia, if you remember.”
“Oh I still remember how well you keep promises Will, I do. I just did not think you would come,” Bedelia replied, a hint of a sharp smile somewhere there behind the mask of frozen inquiry.
Will looks at her, really looks at her and finds that he feels pity for her. He left, because he could, because he dared. She never did, never though her capable of taking that step. He saw the droop of her eyelids, the beautiful face that held more beauty and serenity before and an openness that Will has come to recognise as her indicators of love. She had loved him then, those years ago, the child that he was, small and innocent and ensnared by the serpent that was her husband and that was to be Will’s foster father.
How exactly do you feel about the woman who was once your mother and one another time your rival for the same man? Was this a war and if so, who could even hope for a win and what indeed was the prize? The right to mourn Hannibal more? As in an official place of sadness, or a throne reserved for the deserving, or rather the one who Hannibal touched and sullied more? How do you even get over the fact that you once fell in love with your father?
Will says, “You look nice Lia.”
And there shines that sharp toothed smirk Will had found so darling as a small child, whenever directed at him made him feel so grown up and on in the secret of whatever was happening. Of belonging in the moment as an individual and not just a child, both too stupid and too knowing for his own good. Bedelia’s full name used to be a too big for his small mouth and yet unlearned tongue, so when she bestowed the right to call her Lia to Will without any hesitation, he had been ecstatic.
When he went to live with them, there were days he would trail after her, calling her ‘Lia, Lia’, like a chant of love and how weak she had been then against that and him, with hugs and surprise cakes and milkshakes and warm kisses to noses and cheeks. This Bedelia looks very different now, feels very different now, but a slight umbra from those days still linger.
In answer to Will, Bedelia says, “And you look very youthful Will. Just like the young man you are.”
Will smiles at that, a small but perhaps the first genuine smile he had smiled in a few days now. Then he eyes goes to the door behind Bedelia and the mirth evaporates. He hitches one shoulder towards that door and asks, “Is he awake?”
Bedelia looks old again as she glances behind her to the door and says, “He blinks his eyes every now and then. He has not forgotten or anything, surprisingly they said that he has shown a remarkable lack of dementia given his age and condition, so he is well aware what goes on around him, but, he can’t breathe without help now and I have not heard him speak in… I don’t even remember Will. They keep saying, any day now, and he keeps proving them wrong each day as usual.”
Bedelia gives Will a turn of her lips, that is not quite a smile, and says, “I know you didn’t want to come, I know, so I am very grateful you did come. I wouldn’t have asked Will, but I just think, … I believe, that he wants to see you one more time and that is what he had been waiting for.”
Will assumed as much when he got the call from Bedelia. 16 years and she did not change her number. He didn’t erase hers. Talk about fate.
Will asks her, “Is he awake now? Does he know I was coming?”
Bedelia says, with the lightest of touch to Will’s arm that lay by his side as she stepped around him to go to the end of the corridors, “He is sleeping. And he doesn’t know.”
Will gave a slight nod even though Bedelia did not look back. Hannibal was asleep. Bedelia would not like about that, about their first meeting in almost two decades. So Will pushed the door open a bit and peered through the straight crack that appeared before him. The room was white, thoughtlessly impersonal, with the steady beeping of machines giving a hint of the life lying within. Will could see the bed, that was positioned a bit back from the door, and surrounded by hulking machines. He could discern no movement from the bed.
Steeling his resolve, Will opened the door wide and stepped in. The beeps continued, in unsteady rhythms, somehow managing to match the beat of his own heart as it beat a quick tattoo. Will walked up right to the bed till he could see Hannibal and then he stopped, a pain that was not physical lacing his heart suddenly as he set his eyes on Hannibal after such a huge expanse of time.
Hannibal lay on his back, tubes hanging off his frame, from the skin and veins that seemed to hang off his bones even in slumber. Will looked at Hannibal draw in rattling breath after rattling breath, the oxygen mask snug against his face and felt the pain sink deeper, expanding its roots again along familiar paths that had taken Will years to burn off. Will gasped. Will had though he was over this, this immediate reaction to Hannibal, this yearning of yore, that he would be the stronger one this time.
But no, tears were already falling from his face, wetting his lips in passing and cascading down the arches of his cheeks as he sought to stem his tears. Hannibal did not have the right anymore to affect him so, he did not, he did not Will railed at himself, at the world that had assured him he would be able to face this, at Bedelia who had called him in the dead of the night, death stirring her vocal cords, as she had asked in words and in silences that meant more that would he consider coming back to see him one last time? The last time Will?
And now look at him. Without a word, without a glance, Hannibal had consumed him again. His breath hitched as he wiped his face repeatedly, sobbing aloud at the man before him lying on his deathbed.
He pulled out his crumpled cotton hanky from his pocket, a habit that Will had been reluctant to let go, and blew his nose into it. It was definitely not very hygienic as he put his palmful of fabric encased snot back in his pocket, but he just didn’t care at the moment. Will came closer and peered at Hannibal’s face, his eyelids thin and quivering while the machines near him made sure to fill his lungs with oxygen systemically. There was a light blanket covering Hannibal from waist down and Will traced one of his fingers over Hannibal’s wrist.
The next moment, Will put his lips, still wet from the tears on Hannibal's forehead and called out in a tentative voice, “Hannibal?” somehow hoping that Hannibal will open his eyes just from the sound of his voice. Hannibal does not stir and a lone hiccough leaves Will's mouth as he stares like a child.
Will opened his eyes and looked out from the warm space he was occupying on the big bed. Hannibal and Lia told him that it was his own room now. Imagine, one big room for small little Will and he didn’t even have to share. There was a cupboard that now held all of his new clothes that Lia bought for him, bags and bags of them, now neatly folded and placed in the cupboard so that he could take any of them out on his own. There was also a table, beside a shelf which was filled with Will’s favourite books. The table held his bag and copies, stacked in preparation for school today.
Will got down from the bed, smiling widely and just being happy with life at the moment. When Will was placed in a foster home, he had despaired, his small stature and inability to keep his own conclusions to himself making him a good target from the bullies. He had tried so much to be optimistic, he really did, smiling at everyone and always friendly, but hardly anyone smiled back at him. He was still the strange new kid when they came, for they wanted to take in foster kids. Hannibal had looked very rich and reserved in his pristine suit and Bedelia had been both so warm and beautiful that Will could feel jealousy already growing over the kid they would end up taking with them.
There was a small interview like thing when the lady who looked after him and those like him in the building called him, and Will tried to be pleasant and not say anything that came to his mind when he saw the two. He didn’t think he had been successful for the beautiful women had looked almost shocked at him and the man had looked on with interest. Will squirmed in his spot, scuffing his toe in the ground, cheeks aflame with shame at having presumably failed to please the couple enough. But then wonders of wonders, they actually picked him. They came to his bed, watched while he packed his meager amount of stuff, which included the lone picture he had of his family, he cradled in his mother’s arms, she laughing at something off the camera while a man, quite looking even in the picture held onto the woman softly.
Will always thought it was a beautiful picture and had plans of framing it someday and place it by his bed when he is grown up.
Hannibal and Lia came in a nappy little blue car and Will got to sit alone in the back along with his small bag. Hannibal and Lia talked to each other over ordinary things and Will just let it soak in. It felt so much like a family moment. Both looked not really that kind or warm, but confidence wafted off them in sharp spikes of power. To Will, they had enough strength to not have to test and prove it by manhandling a small child like so many were wont to.
Of course there was the equal possibility that they could be cruel inspite of that. Power rarely gets to stay so concise and precise in its takeover. But. He was out of that cold and indifferent place and that has to considered to be a win at the very moment.
Reaching home, Bedelia was the one who showed him the house, with limited instruction of barred entrance anywhere, but clear orders on where not to go. It felt reassuring to Will that Bedelia, or Lia as he had already been permitted to say, had taken the pains to do that for him, to draw the boundaries in colours and lines he could comprehend and those that he did not have to intuit by sheer study. The house was big, with three bedrooms and bathrooms attached to all, the floors shiny and the walls adorned with minimal splashes of colour in framed covers.
Lia showed him to the room that was supposed to be his now and Will was immediately smitten. There was a big king in the room, the thick mattresses piled high so that he struggled a bit to get on it and places to keep his things nicely. After directing Will to put his bag by the bed, Lia took him to the kitchen, the only part that was yet to be showed. Will walked in meekly a few paces behind Lia and looked around surreptitiously. There was a wooden island over which Hannibal was toiling, still in his suit but with the coat off and his cuffs folded back over his forearms.
Hannibal was cooking something and it smelled absolutely divine to Will, who had only a simple breakfast in the morning at that house. Hannibal gave him a brief and warm smile when he saw Will come in, but then turned back to his preparation again. Lia poured a chocolate milkshake into a tall glass stuck a crazy straw in it and put it on the table. She pulled the chair before it and told Will to sit on it. Will complied immediately and sat down in the chair pointed and pulled the glass to him only after Lia had told him to.
That seemed to please Lia, who sat down at another chair, the small kitchen table having four seats. Will sipped at the straw and looked around, his awe at the place evident as he stared with his wide eyes, almost hidden behind his glasses and mop of curly hair that threatened to spill right onto his face. Hannibal came over with two plates in his hand and placed them before Will and Lia, over the placements mats that were already there. Then be brought his plate over and sat down so that Will was on his left and Lia was on his right.
Sausage, scrambled eggs, bacon and small hash browns sat on the plate, decorated in a visually captivating spiral and looked up at Hannibal, who had already cut off a portion of his cooked sausage and was biting into it. Lia was picking up a forkful of eggs that she put in her mouth with relish. Will stared a bit more, and only with an encouraging nod from Hannibal did he take up his own spoon and started eating. Eyes glued to food before him, Will missed the look that passed between the couple, pleased contentment, and the smile that followed.
The food was delicious and Will ate all of his portions. He could only half finish the milkshake, but no one reprimanded him for that. Eating done, this time Hannibal took him to his assigned bedroom, told him to brush his teeth and wash his face and by the time he was done, his bed was made and Hannibal was standing by its end. Will got in, with a bit of difficulty and then got under the blanket there. Hannibal pulled the blanket up till it reached his chin and then tucked the edges around him. Will blinked and stared when Hannibal leaned over, kissed his forehead lightly and said, “Goodnight Will.”
The “Goodnight Daddy,” hovered on the tip of Will’s tongue in turn but he did not say it.
Lia took him shopping, buying him clothes, belts, bags, books, shoes, shampoos and soaps, and even the odd snack. Will diligently stayed by her side and made sure to keep in her sight. Lia had Will change into the new clothes at the first store and so now Will did not feel very bad at walking around with Lia. She would ask him every now and then as to his choices, but he didn’t really have any, so Lia stopped asking. However, when he showed her a book that was on the shelf on a bookstore they were passing by, she immediately went in and bought it for him.
Will ended up with more books, some only picture books about dogs, but Lia did not tell him not to or to stop even once. When Will was satisfied with his selection, Lia added some of her own, perhaps books she thought Will should read or maybe will like and then ended up with a neat little heap of books. Will at first thought that maybe he was overstepping his bounds, but Lia just talked normally with him and the ease with which she accepted him to be at ease put him at ease. It was all going to be ok because Lia and Hannibal though so and they didn’t look like people who were that very much wrong.
Shopping done, Lia took all the bags, put them in the car, and then took Will to lunch. He had on a clean pink shirt and small boy short pants and they let him in, hardly looking at him when he trailed behind Lia. They had a nice pasta with lots of grated cheese over it and juice for Will with wine for Lia. Lia let him know that he would be going with Hannibal next day to his new school to get acquainted and learn where his new classrooms were going to be. Will tried to show a positive reaction to the news but he didn’t fool Lia.
Lia said, “I know Will that it will be hard on you, to meet new people so in the middle of the school year on top of adjusting to a new place and people at home too. But we cannot let your education slide and we, Hannibal and I believe that it will do you good to get into a natural and neutral schedule at school. If you face any problem Will, do not hesitate to come to us, we will always make sure that no one can hurt you.”
Will gulped his mouthful of pasta, stared at Lia who looked so beautiful and lovely and stowed the small but persistent voice at the back of his head that said that he did not deserve this and said, “I will Lia,” while at the same time realizing that he never actually would. They have already given him food and shelter that did not come as a compromise of will and needs so Will did not see any use to upsetting the system. He had enough understanding to realize that Hannibal and Lia won’t be able to do much about the kind of treatment he will be metted out by his peers, but why let them be aware.
Will ate his lunch, smiled at Lia and gave his thanks. That would have to suffice for now, this show of agreeableness that was almost a constant for adults. For now, that would do just fine.
Lunch done, they headed home. Hannibal and Lia both worked, but they had taken a few days off to assimilate Will into their lives. Both Lia and Hannibal were doctors, and worked grueling hours, or so he had been told. Will was yet to view that himself. Hannibal made dinner again, steaks with vegetables and gravy. It was as tasty as yesterday’s dinner of breakfast food and Will ate his plate clean. Hannibal gave him a pleased smile at that, and washed the dishes and this time Lia tucked him into bed. She didn’t give him a forehead kiss or say good night, she just ruffled his hair once and then stepped out of his room.
Will found that he liked Hannibal tucking him in better and should he be ever allowed, he would wish Hannibal back as well someday.
The next day, Hannibal took him to his new school, which was massive, and everyone wore uniform unlike his previous school. Everyone smelled nice too. Hannibal had a stack of paper that he showed the people from the school while Will sat by his side. The people looked impressed for some reason, although what exactly Will could not ascertain. All he knew for sure was that he would most probably have to take a few tests here. He was a little shocked when he was lead to another room and informed that his tests would begin. He had prepared nothing.
The tests were weird, questions odd, but he answered them as best as he could and by the time he came out, the two teachers who had tested him were smiling at him, and looked like they were pleased as well. Will just hoped that it meant that he was getting into the school so that he had not wasted Hannibal’s time and effort uselessly. By the time Hannibal and Will leave the premises of the school, Will had been admitted and the headmaster shakes Will’s hand with a greedy little look on his face and officially welcomes Will to their school.
Hannibal smiles at the man for Will at that, pulls Will to his side a bit and walks out. Will sags in relief. Hannibal looks over with a light frown between his eyes.
When they get to the car, Will climbs in the passenger seat in the front and only when Hannibal starts driving the car does he asks, “Did you like the school Will?”
“I did, yes Sir, Mr. Lecter,” Will answered seriously.
Hannibal frowned more at that and said, “I have already told you to call me Hannibal. We are family now. Hmm. I assume you found the headmaster at tad too eager perhaps. Will, I don’t know if anyone have told you or not but you register as a genius in the IQ test. You are specially smart and especially intuitive. That’s what the tests were for. They will be very glad and grateful to have you in their school, so you really need not worry much as they will look well after you. So will I and Bedelia.”
“I understand, M… Hannibal,” Will said, his cheeks blushing.
“Good boy,” Hannibal smiled at him and Will squirmed at that, happy and full of wonder at his life.
Bedelia came back with two coffees in cardboard cups, and some bagels. She remembered how Will liked bagels more than donuts. She handed him one coffee and Will took one good inhale of the perfect aroma of the coffee. It was from a small coffee shop that Hannibal had introduced Will to and that Will had come to love on his own. They knew how to make absolutely delicious coffee and Hannibal’s approval had been the thing to seal the deal. Now Lia had driven for more than an hour one way and back to get the coffee and bagels for Will and Will felt that old love for her shine for a brief moment.
Lia went and sat on the chair that was by the bed, so Will went to the big window over which the curtains had been pushed to the side to let some natural light into the room. Will stood by the window and looked down onto the courtyard slash garden below. He was on the second story and he could see people milling around there. One woman was pushing someone on a wheelchair while three couples walked by slowly, one holding onto the other in infirm grips. The grass looked rather patchy, just starting to come in. Small mounds dotted the winding pathways of stone slabs, large enough for a car to drive.
Lia cleared her throat so Will turned back, the sight of frail Hannibal a still a surprise.
She said, “He should wake in an hour or so. He sits very fitfully so they have started administrating drugs to make sure that he sleeps.”
She paused and then said, in a more hesitant tone, her eyes downcast, “He still talks about you, you know?”
“I suppose he does,” Will answers with a bite in his voice.
Bedelia goes a bit pale. There are many questions that Will can, has the right, to ask now, ‘Why didn’t you stop it?’, ‘Why didn’t you see?’ and most damning of all, ‘Why didn’t you save me?’ There are even more questions that Will can scream at the prone Hannibal, get answers that Hannibal would be unable to not tell, as he sways on the precipice of life and death. These litter the air like black dots of smoke, making it that harder to see Will as much as it is to look at him and Bedelia just bows her head lower.
Will hisses through his closed teeth and runs a hand through his curls. They are still as soft as Hannibal had preferred. He swallows whatever it is that he was going to say and asked instead, “When is the doctor coming to check on him again?”
Bedelia checks her watch and said, “In a few minutes now, actually. He has the best care this place can provide and this is the best place we can afford, so I don’t think Hannibal… I think you will get to talk him a bit as well.”
“Lucky me,” Will said, making Bedelia flinch and turn her face away, her lips pinch in regret. Will can see that regret now, how she hid it so well for all this time is applaudable, but he could still see it, in the low sweep of her downcast eyes, the way her teeth bit into her lips coloured in a sedate shade and expensive enough to not spread to her white teeth, the way her hands clutch at each other, her hair falls over the side of the face and she makes no attempt to move them out of the way. She is hiding from Will and his eyes and Will sees that.
Will pulled in another audible breath, pulled the bigger chair that was in the corner of the room and brought it to Hannibal’s other side before sitting on it. He put his elbows on his thighs, placed his face on his open palms and regarded over Hannibal’s frail and still body.
“I will never forgive you or him, Lia, do not expect me of that, no matter that he is dying and now matter you are begging. That is something that I will not give,” Will said in a too neutral tone that made Bedelia turn to look at him.
Another bite to her lips and then she said, “I understand.”
“But I still do carry the debt of the time you, you both had loved me and saved me, and gave me a future where I as me became possible. So, no, I will not forgive, but I can pretend to forget, if only for the sake of the best memories I hold of the both of you. When you pulled me out of that house and brought me to yours, you gave me the kind of life I didn’t think was possible for me anymore. I, I got the chance to a good education, I got a family that loved me when I needed it and I got a chance, and this is my repayment for all of that, for the people you were, for the parts of the promise you kept,” Will said with perfect clarity.
“Will, I, you don’t have to make tell me how much we, how much I failed you, I know, I am aware and I will not try to colour a favour you are doing as anything else. I am, I am very sorry that … I am sorry Will, and I don’t even expect you to forgive me, but I would also like to know that I am sorry, very much so and will never cease to be till my last breath,” Bedelia said in a low voice.
Will gave an empty smile at that and turned back to Hannibal. It looked like he would be waking up soon. His limbs were making minute twitches and his eyeballs under his eyelids were moving.
Someone suddenly knocked on the door and then it opened before Bedelia could open it. In walked the doctor Will had seen at the front steps when he came in, giving the bad news to that family. She had looked so genuine as if she could understand perfectly what they were feeling at the sudden loss. When she stepped closer, Will saw the same genuine look of empathy on the doctor’s face.
Coming to stand by Bedelia, she faced Will and said, “Hello, I am Doctor Bloom.”
This chapter is totally totally dedicated to SnM_Hannigram. I am so sorry I dont know how to link.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Bedelia stood up from her chair as well as Will and went towards the doctor.
Bedelia started, “Ms. Bloom…”
“I prefer Doctor Bloom actually,” she cut in with a charming smile and steel in her eyes. Will liked her immediately.
“Oh, of course, yes, my mistake. Dr. Bloom. How is my husband’s prognosis for today?” Bedelia asked.
Dr. Bloom turned her face towards Will, a definite stranger to her before saying anything.
Bedelia immediately hastened to introduce Will. “This is Will Graham, close family member.”
Will took immediate notice of the fact that Lia didn’t even try to pass him off as their son. A good decision, Will decided.
Will chimed in, “Yes, Hannibal and Bedelia are very close to me. I had the chance to live with them for sometime and I count them as close family,” both ascertaining and backing up Lia.
Dr. Bloom frowned at that, but her face smoothed out as she said, “Very well, if you do not have any objections. I just went through the results of the latest series of test and, well, while nothing has worsened, nothing else has improved either. The pain he is feeling seem to be manageable by the medication I have prescribed, but that could very well change. His insomnia is more important matter as he is having heart palpitation and high blood pressure possibility due to the anxiety he feels at the situation. Less sleep is not the answer and having him fall asleep each time only via use of medicine is not quite right either.”
“We will continue to monitor his physical and will try to keep him less medicated so long as he is not in pain. His memory issues should not surface this time either when he wakes up as we changed the dosage of his sleeping pills. For now, all we can do is wait and watch,” Dr. Bloom ended in a more sympathetic tone.
Bedelia pursed her lips and gave a tiny nod at the doctor. Bedelia was finding it difficult to handle, Will could see. Hannibal had always been so protective of her, doing everything for her as much as he could, that it must seem almost impossible to imagine a life where Bedelia lives on as before but without Hannibal to hold her.
Overcome by the frankly dejected look and a more hidden layer of fear on her face, Will put his arms around Lia and looked to the doctor, “If he is not improving here with the care provided is there even any need to keep him here? We have a somewhat similar setup at the house and can afford a caregiver for his needs. If there is no real change being here, wouldn’t it be better to just take him home?”
Bedelia shivered under his arm. Will wasn’t sure if it was because he had called the house home or that he remembered enough and understood enough to know that Bedelia would prefer that Hannibal die in his own bed under his own roof.
“While we do not have any objections whatsoever, even you must realize that having him here will provide him faster access to alternative medicines and treatment by a dozen more doctors. He does not need palliative care. He need to be cured enough to go back to his life. Quite a bit of his diagnosis is psychosomatic but the fact also remains that his body is really unwell at the same time. If he were in a better place physically and mentally, you could have taken him home days ago. However, as his doctor, I cannot recommend he give up professional care just to go and die painfully at home,” Dr. Bloom said.
“But he is not coming back from this. We know that. He may live on a bit longer, all the time in agony, but he cannot backtrack his steps. Psychosomatic or not, my fa… Hannibal is not going to survive this. You have him sedated here and under medication that is clearly affecting his cognitive abilities. Abilities that are already failing him due to his early onset of dementia. If he even actually knew about the state he is in right now, he would gladly go bite a bullet right now. I know him enough to know that,” Will rallied back, Bedelia pulled closer to him.
Dr. Bloom pursed her lips in displeasure. She said, “You are trying to make decisions for him that you have no idea how he may himself think about. You are not a mind reader, as helpful as that could have been. You are asserting that Mr. Hannibal will die within hours because there is no use doing something rather than because you will be holding back the care he need to survive more than those few hours you have decided are enough. We are not out of options yet. We have not exhausted our avenues and letting you do what you want without doing my very best is both morally and ethically wrong to me.”
Will opened his mouth to answer but then he felt Lia’s fingers wrap around the wrist that was moving before him as he talked and squeezed it. Will shut his mouth with a snap.
“Please forgive Will, he is very dedicated to Hannibal. But even I have to admit, it is very hard seeing him like this. The brilliant man that he is, was, is lying as a ghost of his former self and… It is just hard.”
Both Dr. Bloom and Will looked at Bedelia with sympathy in their eyes. Quite possibly Dr. Bloom knew that Bedelia and Hannibal had been married for almost three decades. That is a long time to get used to someone and unused to the memory of being ever alone before that.
“Please provide all the care you can, then. I trust your will to keep him alive,” Bedelia said in a lowered voice.
“I will,” Dr. Bloom immediately answered. “I will not give up till I have no choice but to.”
Then with a nod at the duo, she turned and walked out of the room.
In the silence of the room, broken only by the beeps and sounds from the machine, Will and Bedelia looked on after the fierce doctor had left.
In a whisper to Bedelia, as if the doctor might hear them otherwise, Will said, “I think Hannibal would have rather liked her."
Coming back to this after 2 years or so. How did i do?? inquiring minds wants to know :)
School turns out to be both hard and easy for Will. The lessons are quite easy and Will takes to learning like a duck to water. Except for some parts of his advanced maths class and the whole of PE. Will is terrible, absolutely terrible at it, and not in the way one would think.
“Will Graham, for the love of the lords! You are in a game. You have to tackle your opponents. I am not putting you in the field to keep zooming around it needlessly. I put you there so that YOU CAN FRICKING SCORE!” Coach Crawford screamed at the running boy.
Coach Crawford screamed a lot. Everyone agreed with that. He screamed when the school team won. He screamed when they lost. He screamed at the juniors and the seniors. Will could swear on his teddy bear that Bedelia got for him on his first day shopping and which still sleeps in his bed, that coach Crawford doesn’t scream only when he is talking to or about his wife Bella. Whose real name is Phyllis, but he calls her Bella. Will assumes that the gesture is romantic but doesn’t understands exactly what makes it romantic.
Coach Crawford is screaming at him now because Will loathes, absolutely loathes being tackled and the bigger boys seem to have a bet going on as to who can catch Will faster and throw him to the ground. Not that Will makes it easy. He is a a speedy runner. Always has been. Which means that every PE lesson, Will runs through every gap and crevice to escape the seniors and Coach Crawford screams at him to put that speed towards a touchdown instead.
Will also found that he could make friends easy, his simple demeanor making him a neutral enough person. What he found harder was keeping those friends. They seemed to exist in a plane that Will could not find the door to. They gave contradicting statements about things and humour was based on the weirdest of things. It did not take people long to realize that Will did not quite fit in with their definition of the norm. He was different.
The only people that seemed to like Will was Beverly Katz, a senior who was more chummy with the juniors. The other two being the twins without being twins science nerds Jimmy Price and Brian Zeller. Zeller was of the opinion that he was quite the ladies killer, an opinion that all the girls in his vicinity did not agree to. Price was a proper scientist, the pursuit of his knowledge more important than making social moves.
The trio would eat with Will each day, Beverly making astute statements about her cohorts. Will found everything she had to say very logical and smart. Will also found it strange that Beverly sat with the three as Beverly was definitely popular enough not to eat lunch with them. When Will asked about it, Beverly said, “This is the least stupid table at the cafeteria without being idiotic. I like the intelligence.”
This of course led to Zeller try again and again to ask Beverly out for a date, which Beverly refused with a laugh each time. Jimmy, gay and not interested in anyone, found in Beverly a companion to commiserate about the deplorable state of their laboratories. All the four made up a weird group. They were not quite friends, never interacting out of school or keep communication beyond what was needed. But they were good colleagues, better than acquaintances, but aloof enough that life unchanged due to their interactions. Just like in an office.
Will couldn’t help but regret this fact when on the night before his 12th birthday, Bedelia asked if he wanted to invite anyone to his birthday. Will had stilled instantly, the sudden realization rising in his head that he did not, in fact, have any friends. Not anyone he could call that and no one in turn who would consider him that. Will paled and Bedelia had immediately rushed into another topic. Will had been both glad for the distraction and sad that he had not noticed his friendless existence till that moment.
Will took after Hannibal in that. At ease with the silence and never learned to be lonely when alone. So long as he could hear the whispers of Bedelia’s and Hannibal’s steps, Will didn’t feel the need to actively seek them out. The gentle reminder of a hand on his head ruffling his hair and a squeeze to his shoulder was enough to last the day. This of course did not mean that he did not crave attention – it was just that he had been so starved for affection for so long, that his gratitude for even a small amount was proportionally much grater than needed.
Bedelia and Hannibal intuited this about Will early and made sure that Will be always aware that they love him and want him. They did not hover over him as he seemed to get overwhelmed too easy with too much attention, but keeping him near periphery, making his presence so much part of the norm that no one seemed to remember that there was a time he was not.
“I could try asking?” Will had dubiously answered late at night after dinner when Bedelia came to tuck him in. He was 12 and yet they did this, Hannibal and Bedelia taking turns to tuck him and and Will unwilling to ever ask them to ask.
Bedelia had smiled at that and said, “You do that. If they are busy or don’t get permissions, we three will have fun together. I may even make Hannibal wear a tracksuit.”
Will had giggled at that and went off to sleep with a smile on his face, but not before realizing that Bedelia took Will’s hesitancy to mean that his friends would have no problem coming over other than work or permits. That Will was close enough with his friends that no other reason could ever arise.
A warmth spreading in his heart, Will turned over and fell asleep.
“Do you guys maybe want to come to my house today after class?” Will asked lightly to the group, refusing to quite meet anyone’s eye, but hands clenched tight around his spoon as he tried his best to appear nonchalant.
Zeller pushed his specs back from the tip of his nose and asked seriously, “Are you having a keg party at your house Graham? Older girls really like keg parties.”
Before Will could even respond to that or point out the fact that three of them were 12 and one 14, Beverly neatly leaned over and hit Zeller over the head like a bad puppy.
“Hey! That hurt!” Brian shouted out, offended at being hit.
“Well, that is what you deserve for being so stupid,” Beverly replied.
“I am not being stupid. I was asking a completely legitimate question,” Brian said still rubbing his.
“You so obviously were. No one in their right mind is going to give alcohol to 12 years old,” Beverly said unbothered.
“I have tasted wine. I have drunk beer. And I am 12. I don’t see how that made my question stupid.” Brian huffed at Beverly.
Before Zeller could go on, Price interjected, “If I remember correctly, you had exactly one sip of watered down wine at some dinner from your mom and you actually licked the cap of a beer bottle. Neither, I believe, makes you what can be termed as someone who drinks.”
Beverly let out a big snort at that that made water come out of her nose as she had been taking a drink while Zeller furiously whispered to Price that he had told him all of that in severe confidence. Traitor, Zeller thrust out even sullenly with a scowling face.
Will looked at one to another, wondering if he should ask again, or if this was a conversation that had died already. Will did not exactly tell Bedelia that he will be bringing friends over definitely. Will turned back to his food, convinced that would be the end of it.
Beverly instead turned to him an said, “This one’s question was idiotic, but a question is required. Is it some special occasion or do you want to hang around after class?”
“Um. Just hang. I guess?” Will answered in a doubtful tone.
Beverly lowered her eyebrows at Will and asked, “It’s not your birthday, right?”
“Oh. Yes. It actually is, but I was just inviting you guys to hang, not to celebrate my birthday,” Will insisted.
Beverly rolled her eyes at Will and with a chuffing laugh said, “Sorry Graham, I can’t make it today, but it would have been equally ok for you to say it is for your birthday. I am sure the twins will go and eat you out of your house.”
“A growing body does need sustenance repeatedly,” Price said serenely.
“Ugh. Total ugh. We should be hitting hotties and not hoagies right now,” Zeller declared.
“We will go,” Price chimed in, earning an ‘attaboy’ from Beverly and a eye roll from Zeller, but accompanied by a nod as well.
“Ok. Ok, thanks you guys,” Will said suddenly beaming.
“I just hope the food is worth it,” Zeller mutters.
“Hannibal cooks only delicious food. I am sure you will love it,” Will assured them.
Later, after class, Will took the tube and brought Price and Zeller to his home. They made impressed sounds and looked appropriately pleased. The house was a big one, with classical lined following modern planning. Will stepped inside and called out, “Lia, I am home.”
Bedelia had taken the day off for the occasion as had Hannibal and now the couple stepped out of the kitchen from which really good smells were coming out, with a massive cake held aloft in Hannibal’s hand and singing the Happy Birthday song in tandem. Will blushed furiously as Price and Zeller added in their voice as well and everyone gathered around table, clapping happily as a red Will cut his birthday cake.
It was an excellent feast. There was three types of home made mocktails with ice cubes floating about, 10 different food dishes and each of them tasted beyond good. Zeller ate till he actually had to pop his jeans’ top button, much to Hannibal’s amusement.
After that there was more cake and ice cream and parlor games that did not required the stuffed boys to move much. When Zeller and Price finally left later, Hannibal driving both to their homes as it was not deemed safe for two young child to ride the tube so late, Will lay on the big living room sofa as Bedelia kept smiling at him with indulgence and sipping at a glass of wine.
It was Hannibal’s turn to tuck Will in. He came to Will’s room a few minutes after he returned home, his coat still on and smelling like the interior of the car and a hind of wind. Will wiggled into the bed till he got his position right and smiled brightly at Hannibal.
Something in Hannibal’s face faltered and shuttered but then his face was back again, slight smile at the corner of his lips and eyes soft as he looked at Will. It was too short a glance for Will to make any meaning out of it. He was also very full and tired and happy and ready to fall asleep.
“Goodnight Hannibal,” Will whispered on a happy sigh and got a soft kiss to his forehead for that.
“Goodnight Will,” Hannibal said and wrapped the blanket around him and kissed his forehead like always.
Will heard Hannibal step to his door, but not beyond and that is all he remembered of the night.
Will returns to his chair while Bedelia remains standing, her back turned to the pair. Will watches Hannibal’s peaceful face. An hour later when Hannibal is yet to make any movement, Bedelia pipes up, “You should go and take some rest Will, freshen up a bit. You came here directly from the airport. You must be exhausted. Go take a bath, a breather, some hard whiskey, a call back to your home. We will be here.”
“You said that Hannibal will wake up in an hour or two. I want this to be over with. I want Hannibal to see me and me to say my goodbyes. Up to you what you two do after that,” Will says.
Bedelia can surely hear the lies for what they are as they fall out of Will’s mouth. She knows him, or knew him once well enough to understand.
Bedelia doesn’t say anything to that. Instead she says, “Just another cup of coffee then. The cafeteria here is not so bad so you can go and have a simple meal there. Hannibal and I are won’t abscond while you go for a break.”
Will wants to deny it. Wants to say he doesn’t need a break. Except for the fact that he actually does. The flight was long and he had been tense and nervous throughout, last night sleepless and peace disjointed. So while he dos want to say fuck off to Bedelia, Will just gives a terse nod, picks up his backpack and heads out to the cafeteria to unwind a bit.
As Will goes through a corridor, he smells a whiff from beyond one of the doors. Will peers at it and decides that it is the hospital’s smoking corner. The sudden desire for a smoke hits Will so he heads towards the door. He opens it up and is greeted with a cramped balcony that sprouts a few potted plants, the dirt of which has been turned completely into ashtrays, as the sick plants moves listlessly in the slight breeze. There is also a girl faced away from him, her shoulders drooping over the railing while one hand holds out a lit cigarette.
Will steps closer and the girl looks over her shoulder. Will sees that it is the girl he saw before, the one with the scar on her neck. She cocks an eyebrow at Will and gets a there and gone grimace of a smile in return.
“Do you need a cigarette?” the girl asks.
“If you have any to spare then yes,” Will says.
The girl turns to Will, rummages her huge pocket of her hospital gown and pulls out a slightly battered box of cigarettes. She offers the box to Will and Will gingerly pulls one out. She puts the box back in her pocket and this time takes out a lighter. Will lets her light up his cigarette and pulls in a deep breath.
His eyes immediately water and he hacks out a cough. Its been years since his last cigarette and it shows.
“Need practice?” the girl smirks.
“Old habit I had forgotten. Very easy to pick back up or so I have heard,” Will answers amicably.
The girl snorts and pulls at her own cigarette as she watches Will pull at his. She finishes first, so she presses the butt into a potted plant near her and watch Will as he pulls at the last dregs of the cigarette. When he too puts it out, the girl brings back her cigarette box and inclines her head to him in permission and question. With a contemplative looks and a shrug, Will takes another one and is puffing at it soon.
The girl turns sideways to the sight, keeping Will in her periphery and looking out at the area visible from the balcony. Will watches in interest this girl who smokes in hospital and offers others without being asked.
“Abigail,” she provides.
“Will,” returns Will.
“Visiting family? I know that they let in only family here,” Abigail asks.
Abigail looks interested a mite at the answer for a second but then turns to look back at the scene. As she turns her head, her scar pulls taunt on her skin, the edges puckered enough and red that Will knows that it is a very recent injury. It must hurt her to turn her head like that, but she doesn’t seem to care.
“Yours come to visit you?” Will asks, making conversation.
Will stills at the dark smile the girl gives him then, full of broken teeth and blazing eyes. His cigarette is done but he holds onto the stub as he watches the young girl.
With a voice that is verging on a laugh, Abigail sys, “There is no one to come visit me. Rather my family is waiting for me to go visit them in the morgue.”
Ah, Will thinks and feels bad immediately. A devastating accident with possibly a lone survivor.
As if reading Will’s mind, Abigail says, “The police thinks it is an accident. The evidence supports it.”
Will turns his head to the side and says, “But it was not.”
The stark smile is back on Abigail’s face. She turns to look at the bridge far away hidden in for or smog or whatever, the tips jutting up into clearer air like through clouds and says, “Parents do always manage to give the best gifts, don’t they.”
I may have killed tense outright with this chapter because i am no longer keeping track, but, eh, i am on a roll. hope you guys enjoy.
Will tilts his head, pulls one more drag at the cigarette and then shoves the but into the pot nearest to him. He tilts his head back and lets out a sigh. His neck hurts, and his back is aching from sitting for so long in the plane and then the car. Will wants another cigarette but decides not o ask Abigail for anymore. He doesn’t want to go through the withdrawal jitters and irritability again.
“It must be ingrown in some I suppose, although not all from what I have seen,” Will responded.
“Seen a lots of parents then? What are you, a teacher?” Abigail teased.
Will smiled and said, “I actually am. A school teacher. Teach geography and biology to the high schoolers. I take the ones who do best in my test for fishing and burgers on the way back.”
“Fishing?” Abigail snorts loudly. “What an odd choice of reward!”
“I live in the city as do my students, so fishing is a novelty enough that they get happy at the experience. Just, the sounds itself changes so much and fishing is peaceful. Far away from homes that they do not want to be, not all of them. So yeah, I know parents. Have two different sets of my own too,” Will supplies.
“Two sets? What, a tale of despair and divorce and evil stepmom and stepdad?” Abigail laughed.
“Hmmm. More like the set that abandoned me when I was a toddler in front of an orphanage and the set that took me in as a foster child but never actually officially adopted me,” Will replied amicably.
Abigail’s smile vanished, but she didn’t hasten to apologize or anything. She just started at him and then with a slight shrug of ‘what can you ever do’ from one shoulder, she just intoned, “Parents, huh?”
“Parents,” Will agreed, remembering that he was getting coffee rather then a lungful of smoke. He tapped the top of the railing with his first knuckle, making it ring a bit, nodded at Abigail, muttered, ‘See you around,’ and walked back in.
The cafeteria was crowded, so Will asked for a cup of coffee and a sandwich that he could eat in Hannibal’s room itself. Holding the paperbag in one hand, which contained two sandwiches, one for Bedelia and one for himself, the other clutching a big drink of black coffee, no sugar, he returned to the room.
Hannibal was in the same position he was before, while Bedelia sat with her head hanging forward while she balanced her elbows on her thighs, hands clasped together. A sheath of her golden hair hid her face as she sat there, but Will could feel her desperate sadness from the door itself.
“Lia,” he called out.
Bedelia jerked her head up, eyes wet and shocked as if she had forgotten Will was still there.
“I brought a sandwich for you. Egg salad. I remember it used to be your favourite.”
Bedelia gave a tremulous smile and tried discreetly t wipe her eyes as she stood up and came to Will.
Will handed her the bag and took a sip of his coffee.
Bedelia took the packet marked egg salad and offered the plain cheese sandwich to Will, crumbling the empty paper bag in her hands and throwing it in the dusbin.
“Dr. bloom came by again. There is a chance Hannibal may wake up in the next hour, or maybe not. She was optimistic, but I thing that is just the kind of person she is rather a reflection of his current condition,” Bedelia said.
“It OK Lia, I will stay till he wakes up. Why don’t you take a breather now? Go have a coffee too. Maybe go home and take a nap. Sleep in the guest room. I know you don’t like to sleep in your bedroom if Hannibal is not there. I will wait for him and inform you if he does wake up,” Will sough to reassure her.
Bedelia looked up at him, looking shocked for some reason. She then pulled a long inhale, tugged her hair to the side and said, “Will, I don’t live there anymore. I have not for years. We are separated. The only reason we are not officially divorced is because we found the whole thing rather tedious.”
“And because you are still in love with him,” Will replied before he could stop himself. “That is why you are here, even though it hurts, even though you are sad, you are still here, just because it’s him.”
Bedelia pursed her lips, too aware of Will and his empathetic power to deny what was the obvious truth. Bedelia had loved no one her whole life as she had loved Hannibal. Will she had loved too, but Will came far far below Hannibal in her scale of priority and both knew that.
“I just can’t let him die alone. He didn’t even ask for me the last time he was cognizant, no, even then it was where is my Will, where is Will. I was still listed as his emergency contact. That is how I even knew that he was admitted. The nurses were worried, thinking he was hallucinating as well, but no, he was just calling you. He loves you so so much,” Bedelia almost wailed at Will.
“I never asked him to. Never like that. Never. I didn’t trick him. I didn’t lie to him. I was looking for a father, but I got him, whatever he was, is, what he became to me, and you never intervened, you ever called his bluff, you never looked, Lia, so shouting at me isn’t going to bring him back. Cursing at me isn’t going to make him love you all over again,” Will replied.
Bedelia was full out sobbing now, big fat drops of tears falling from her eyes unbidden. Will did not like that. Even now, after the whole of everything, he still did not like seeing Lia cry.
Before he could offer a word of comfort however, a timid and tired sounding voice behind them croaked out, “Will?” and Will was back in his childhood, his name a refrain on Hannibal’s lips just like now and he felt like weeping, crying louder than Bedelia was, and be done with this whole charade of a family, cry and climb Hannibal’s lap to be soothed to sleep, like when e used to get nightmares.
But he was not a child anymore. He was Will, not Hannibal’s, never Bedelia’s, not his birth parents. Now, he was just Will, come to see his…Hannibal onto the afterlife. Squaring his shoulders, Will turned slowly and ground out, “Hannibal.”
Summer vacation was a look into Hannibal’s an Bedelia’s social life for a wide eyed Will. They left him alone when school was going on, reluctant to distract him, but once school closed, Will made good use of the suits Hannibal has made for him according to his exactions. His hair was ruffled a lot as people peered down at him and smiled at him lazily, not really a part of the conversation as they talked about grown up things or whatever, but not excluded too, a comfortable showpiece by the side, neither intruding nor overpowering.
Lia made attempts to introduce Will to children his age, but they were of an entirely different world. Will wore his past in his eyes and understanding of the people these humans considered too small for their interest. He wore his intelligence on his lips and ears and he wore the unmistakable aura of someone who would refuse to fit in just to fit in to say so. The other children called him an orphan to his face and sneered at him and all Will saw was the fear and desperation that laced their faces. The social visits lessened again, but the orchestra and the theater remained. As did the visits to museums and the odd tour of the aquarium and zoo.
Will was far more delighted by these experienced than he had been by being pinched by the cheeks and cooed over like a baby. He especially liked watching the penguins and the mongooses and was enthralled by the koi fishes that swam in the winding drain that intertwined the zoo. He loved it so much so that Hannibal bought two beta fishes just for him to enjoy in a round globe of water that Will promised to keep clean on his own soul. Lia had laughed at that, at the stoic words of the small boy making a solemn vow over a few fishes, but Hannibal had sagely nodded and shook his hand with a gentlemanly overture.
There were one or two picnics, books to read, toffee apples to eat and fishes to look after. Will was a busy boy inspite of not having school. But he felt a bit alone and one day requested Hannibal that he read Will a book. Hannibal acquiesced. He pulled Will onto his lap, pulled out one of his favourite book and this became a joyous part of his daily routine, much to Will’s happiness. Hannibal used to make all the noises and say the different voices and Will would be rapt as he listened to Hannibal, seeing the scenes before his eyes and guided by Hannibal’s voice, always coming back into himself safe and warm
It took some time for Will to realize that he was too big a boy to be sitting in laps for stories meant for smaller children. He tried to refrain from doing so, but Hannibal on finding out, merely pulled him back into his lap and commenced to tell his story. Bedelia used to smile when she caught sight of the pair, Hannibal talking loudly and modulating his voice very well, but Will soon noticed that she was not doing it so much anymore. She would walk in the open door, the door always open and look at the pair, see something that partly shamed her and saddened her and would walk away. Will could not phantom what he saw so one day he tried to look at what Lia saw and he was suddenly aware of Hannibal’s hands on him.
While one hand held the book, the other held onto Will across his chest, holding him closely to Hannibal and Hannibal kept talking into his ears, his voice almost hypnotizing him as he spoke near his ears, his breadth actually clouding his ear and the air Hannibal exhaling disturbing the fine curls at the side of his face. They sat too close and too intimately for a boy his age and a man his father’s age. Will squirmed, but Hannibal just held on tighter. Will began to blush and tried to squirm some more. Hannibal let the book fall from his hand and wrapped the other hand around Will as well. Will was now actively trying to get off Hannibal’s lap.
“What is the matter Will? What are you so agitated?” Hannibal asked into his ear, his nose moving across his scalp.
“I want to get down Hannibal,” Will implored.
“But the story is not finished. You like me to finish the story, don’t you Will? Like Mischa?” Hannibal asked.
Will stilled and after a minute asked, “Who is Mischa?”
“She was not my child but she was my ward. She was my younger sister Will. She died young, but you feel so much like her when I hold you. It feels like I am holding her. Does it feel like that to you too?” Hannibal asked a confused Will.
“No,” Will answered shortly.
“Very well. Let me just hold you for some moments for now. You remind me of my lovely Mischa so much. You wouldn’t mind, would you Will?” Hannibal asked.
“No.” Will was resigned in his voice. He could not rob Hannibal of a happy memory after all. He might not like it, but his father, his Hannibal was sad and wanting and Will would like to help anyway he could.
“Good Boy,” Hannibal said. Saying so, he continued to hold onto Will and smell delicately at his scalp and the behind of his ears. Will was growing uncomfortable again, and for some reason, he was getting hard even though there was nothing sexual going on. Will knew all about sex an masturbation. Had heard enough of Price and Zeller and even Beverly to know what was happening but he was feeling desperate all of a sudden for no reason. Suddenly, Hannibal’s hand descended on his groin, cupping his small hard on and Will gave a gasp. Hannibal didn’t do anything, he just cupped him and Will squirmed in his lap.
Will was properly riled up soon enough and after some time, he actually cam in his pants, just from squirming under Hannibal’s cupped palm. Hannibal made no move to remove his hand, but gave a slight squeeze before resting it as before. Will was panting and he felt tired and was feeling sleepy. He wasn’t aware when Hannibal stood up with Will in his arms, took him to bed, cleaned him and left him under the blankets and Will stirred when there were loud voices behind closed walls, but the sounds quieted down too soon and Will slept away the rest of the night.
That night he dreamt of the stag for the first time in his life, just roaming as Will walked beside it, his belly open and his guts spilling out. But he felt no pain and he stared at the red blood on the stag’s antlers, but felt no fear from it. He walked with it in the shadows and the light and it never disappeared.
It started to continue everyday. Will would go to school, do his homework after coming back, there will be lunches and snacks, but Lia no longer lingered near him. Hannibal took to reading him a book every night, Will pulled taunt in his lap and his hands cupping Will over his clothes. Hannibal never made any attempt of pushing it further or taking off Wills clothes. All he seemed to want to do was let Will come to completion every night and then clean him with a doctor’s clinical hand and let him sleep and dream uninterrupted of the black stag with the bloody antlers.
There was a sense of shame and unease growing in the pit of Will’s stomach, but he was not sure where it exactly came from. From Hannibal manhandling him or him coming to such little attention at that. Who was at fault here for the pleasure that Will felt, a pleasure that felt wrong with each new day. There was nothing threatening in Hannibal’s touch, but he wanted ore, what he wanted was more, but he wasn’t sure what this more was. Will was confused and his empathy was failing him in such close contact with Hannibal and. His clever hands and cleverer tongue that made any questions arising on Wills tongue mere distractions.
Will couldn’t tell anyone, feeling there was nothing to tell precisely, more ashamed of the fact that he still liked to be read to be than the fact that Hannibal might be using him against his wishes. There was a growing dichotomy in himself as he sought to reconcile his own arising needs and what Hannibal was willing to provide. He had taken to masturbating after Hannibal leaves, his scent still strong in his nose and the phantom touch of him still cupping him over his plaid pyjamas. But nothing comes near to the thing that he wants so dearly from Hannibal.
Once Will tried to push his his hands inside his pants and try to do more, but Hannibal had calmly pulled his hands away and continued reading from the book holding him still a Will has started whimpering from the frustration. Hannibal let him rub himself against Hannibals’ hand till he came with a groan, but any thing more than that he wouldn’t do. Or let Will do in his presence. Lia has stopped altogether coming to his room when Hannibal was there and Hannibal started closing the door when he came in, rising the anticipation of Will’s for the thing that is going to happen.
Once, Will turned his head and gave a a panting kiss to Hannibal. Hannibal did not react but did not stop Will from licking at his lips either. That day he pinched Will around his groin so that it was painful to come, but come he still did. Shouting as he did so, Hannibals’ name a litany on his lips. That day Will was really tired and Hannibal let him sleep in his soiled clothes for some reason. The next day, Will whimpered as he cleaned himself and pulled out a few hairs and feeling all confused and aroused and angry at something. He had stopped talking to Price and Zeller and even Beverly, who was the most elder and mature of them all. He felt unsure as to how to behave around them now.
Will wasn’t sure what had changed but something had. Hannibal was possessive in his touch repeatedly. He would let Will kiss him but would not kiss him back. He would let Will come but make no attempts to take it any more further. Lia was no longer talking to him really, just stilted questions about his school and his homework. Hannibal was nowhere to be found in the house otherwise unless he came on his own will to Will’s room. There was something vastly wrong going on, but Will was utterly confused and felt like both crying and laughing. He didn’t know what he did wrong, where he went wrong, but he had done something wrong, made a mistake and now he was paying.
Hannibal went somewhere for a week and Will was desperate by the time Hannibal was back. But this time, something else was wrong. Hannibal would not touch him. He no longer read to him, no longer wrestled him onto his lap and made Will come just from the warmth of his touch. Will was aghast. What did he do now? Did Hannibal hated him now? Just like Lia? Were they going to put him back into the orphanage now? Should Will do something? Should he get down on his knees and ask for Hannibal’s forgiveness and ask what he had done wrong, where he had gone wrong. Should he just leave Hannibal and LI if they do not want him anymore?
So many questions for such a little boy, Will was exhausted each night but yet he couldn’t sleep, not really. He had dark circles under his eyes and a woeful look on his face. There was nothing to do it seems, as Will even tried to talk with Hannibal.
“Hannibal,” Will called after dinner. Lia was in the kitchen, but all sounds ceased at his voice calling out Hannibal.
“Did I… um, is there something the matter?” Will asked timidly.
“Matter? No nothing at all. Why do you ask?” Hannibal asked.
Will squeezed his thumb and fist and didn’t know what to say next. The sounds had resumed in the kitchen again as Lia washed the dishes. Will looked here and there and suddenly found his voice, causing Lia to startle so badly that she dropped a glass dish, the tinkling sounds of the glass breaking still reverberating in the silence that followed Will’s question.
Will, an earnest and desperate look on his face, asked, “Why don’t you touch me anymore Hannibal?”
Hannibal looked groggily around, his senses not back to what it was yet. He looked frail and old as Will turned to him and he remembered how Hannibal had loomed throughout his childhood and young adulthood. Now, Hannibal looked around him, how he had gotten here no concern of the moment, as his eyes fix on Will and a tremulous smile spreads on his face.
“Will,” Hannibal says again, this time with even more feeling and tries to get up from the bed only to fall back down with a grunt and a wince. Hannibal is too weak to even sit up on his own. Bedelia goes staggering towards him, wonder on her face that he actually woke up as per Dr. Bloom’s prediction, but he callously just waves her away. The hurt that flashes across her face is not lost on Will who sees that Hannibal’s eyes are fixated on Will’s face. Fixated. That’s the word for it isn’t it. Obsession would be another good one to use when it cam to him and Hannibal.
“Will!” Hannibal cries out this time, the happiness evident in his tone and the bright flashing smile on his face. He looks as if he would jump for joy if he could. He pulls out his hand from under the comforter completely and waves it at Will to come closer to him. Will, unable to resist, goes nearer, but not near enough so that Hannibal could touch him. He had enough of a lifetime of that to last five lifetimes. Will’s reluctance to step closer seems to sap at Hannibal’s happiness as he lets his hand thunk down and look at Will in half bewilderment and half hurt. Bedelia still has tears in her eyes so Will does not feel particularly generous towards Hannibal.
“You came,” Hannibal says and this time his voice is of the old times, giving away nothing and taking everything.
“Lia called so I came.”
Hannibal actually flinches at that. Will could not be more explicit in his disdain. He is here only at Bedelia’s behest. There is nothing that Hannibal could have offered that would have placed Will at the same spot, but Bedelia called and here he was, breaking a thousand oaths to self and others and it was not even for the small sake of Hannibal. No, it was for Bedelia. Hannibal cant help but throw a glare at Bedelia at that. She was the one who poisoned him. She was the one who had Will sent away. She was the one. She was the one Will was no longer his alone, but belonged to people other than Hannibal, a thought that burned brighter than a fire in his stomach.
Bedelia had seen the glare, so she had turned, tears flowing freely and had almost run out of the room and Will was suddenly furious, kill someone by gripping their breathe out furious and he turned squarely to say some of what he was feeling to Hannibal.
“Not done enough of making Lia regret having the misfortune of falling in love with your irrevocably, huh? Not done enough damaging people for life? Still not done being a monster Hannibal? Hannibal the Carnival madman. You are still not a human, no more than you were than then you are now. You deserve to die in a pauper’s grave surrounded by the rain and stale soil and no one else. You do not deserve a loving person to cry over you because you have never been worth tears. Not the real ones, anyway. You are a mask of a person, a degenerate inspite of your many medals and degrees and you will never inspire another person to love you again Hannibal, never again in this life.”
“Had enough of your tantrum yet?” Hannibal scoffed at Will.
“I am not a child anymore. And I didn’t throw tantrums even as a child,” Will retorted.
“That may be so but you sure do sound like a child now,” Hannibal returned.
“And what, that got you hard, Hannibal?”
“It was never like that. You know it. It was never like that between us,” Hannibal immediately said.
“Yeah, sure, keep telling yourself that. I am sure you have yourself convinced of it by now. Whatever it was, it was just like that. Just because you never fucked me physically does not mean you never fucked me. You took my trust and turned it into crumbling rocks, took my confidence and shattered it into pieces. I say again and I mean it again, you are a monster Hannibal and that simple thing is never going to change,” Will said.
“I love you. I loved you then. I love you now. I have nothing better to offer to you because everything I own is yours already. I am sorry if I took some liberties I should not have taken as your caretaker, but I do not regret anything,” Hannibal said.
Will sneered at that. “Of course you don’t regret anything. Regret is a human emotion and you do not exhibit anything human, do you Hannibal. Even now, at the edge of death, your ride and your self reliance is far more greater than anything else because you have regretted nothing you have ever done. You do not regret because you do not see. And you do not see for you are not human.”
“Love is never a crime.”
“It is when the other one is a minor.”
“You were old for your age.”
“I was a child!”
“And you were mine and I loved you like I have not loved another since Mischa!” Hannibal returned.
“I was neither Mischa not a replacement for her, no matter how you tried, and don’t tell me that you would have done the same to her as what you did to me?” Will asked this time.
“I loved you Will. More than I could explain more than I could fathom, and I love you still. If I could only had been able to make you understand!”