Hannibal rarely made mistakes.
He reflected that it was his arrogance that could very well be his downfall one day. The rush of successful hunts would fall into an empty monotony and before long he would be so self-assured by them that he would misstep.
In this case, his mistake had led him to stalk through dense forest during a snowstorm. His prey of the evening was hurt, Hannibal had managed that much at least. Feeling a touch self-berating he checked the snow for any sign of tracks. The air was steadily growing colder as the sky dimmed, night was quickly coming and he would have to retreat.
It was unlikely that his prey would survive the night in the forest but leaving and hoping the element would take care of the man felt akin to being indolent. Hannibal had intended to drug the man and take him home in the trunk of his car. Hours before, he had precisely slashed the man’s tire just deep enough to ensure it would go flat on the long-isolated road. Shortly after he had pulled up and offered his assistance.
Yet at the last second when he moved to strike the man had seen the needle and fought. In the scuffle, Hannibal had snapped the man’s right arm and damaged his left leg. But in the fight a chance hit and slick road had ended with Hannibal striking his head on the side of the car. It had been enough to daze him and for the man to run, diving into the woods like a startled deer.
So now he hunted, attempting to find his prey among the snow.
But an animal in desperation could find new depths and the man had alluded him for two hours now. Hannibal’s had taken the time to lock both of their vehicles, making them seem abandoned for the night in case anyone passed. Both of the keys sat in his pocket, ensuring his prey hadn’t doubled back and fled. But he could flag down someone and escape that way. However, Hannibal had not found the road since leaving it. Despite confidence in keeping his bearing and education in tracking, he found himself unable to pinpoint where he was.
The stars were hidden in the heavy clouds of the snow and the forest was densely packed with too many similar landmarks to be certain. There was an eerie similarity to everything, each tree seeming like the other, nothing unique to mark the land.
Hannibal wondered how shamed he would be if he died there, freezing to death in a forest after years of successful hunting. Decades of dancing around authorities and leading them around in a merry game. Only to be destroyed by his own arrogance.
The bleak isolation of the storm and the deep snow reminded Hannibal of a time long ago. He had since then always managed to avoid harsh conditions unprepared. But in shoes and a coat better suited to the city than the forest where he was.
He thought briefly of Mischa, her little hand in his own as the walked through the forest as children, running from the war that was following them. But the starving soldiers arrived and tarnished the memory, their desperation and Mischa’s death by them abruptly ruining the moment.
He put the thoughts away and for the first time made note of faint light in the woods to the right of him. It was tinged yellow, a man-made light in the darkness of the storm. Everything was quickly turning black around him as the sunset and so Hannibal set off after the light.
He found a cabin, a small worn but cared for building tucked away. A lantern hung lit above the door and heat radiated off the wood. Until then he had not acknowledged how cold he was, but now the weak heat felt blazing against his hand as he rapped on the door.
With any luck, his target would have found the cabin and was tucked inside.
A man opened the door, eyes weary as he gazed at Hannibal. He fit in with the cabin, dark curly hair with a beard that spoke of slothfulness rather than fashion. A series of shirts layered over on another, thick jeans with heavy boots. A mountain man, if a slight one. He was a touch smaller than Hannibal himself. Something about him distinctly soft-looking despite his gruff appearance and cold eyes.
“Hello,” Hannibal inclined, trying to sound both grateful and a touch fearful. “My vehicle broke down and I’ve managed to become lost.”
It made him pause the way the man frowned as if he knew it was a lie.
Perhaps the prey was in the cabin after all.
Still, the stranger beckoned him in and once Hannibal was through the door the man closed it tightly, blocking out the storm.
A large fire pit sat against the far wall and it was roaring with a healthy fire, heating the entire space.
A hermit’s home. A small kitchen in one corner and a bed in the other, a table filled with lures and various tools to self-maintain a home. It was worn in and a collection of random furniture rather than anything matching. Scattered around was a pack of mismatched dogs, various sizes and colorations. A quick scan produced twelve beasts, all peering at him curiously.
“My thanks,” he told the man, turning to offer a thankful smile. Again the man frowned as if Hannibal was clearly lying to him. It was strange to think anyone could see beyond what Hannibal intended them too. But at the same time a new interest peeked, it was rare to be seen so plainly.
He watched the stranger cross the room, mindful of the dogs lying about. He opened a dresser pushed against the wall beside the bed and returned with a stack of dry clothing. Hannibal took them wordlessly.
The man proceeded to the kitchen then, beginning to heat water and gathering two cups.
Curiosity growing, Hannibal stripped from his cold wet clothing right there. Dropping each offending garment and feeling the heat of the fire on his bare skin. It was a careful move to see how the man reacted and he seemed indifferent, more focused on the drinks he was preparing. However, Hannibal made note that he looked in the reflection of the window over the sink, eyes taking in Hannibal’s nudity.
Redressing in ill-fitting clothing, Hannibal could appreciate them for their warmth. The man had turned to face him now, leaning against the counter. He motioned to the fire once and Hannibal took in the drying racks that sat aside the pit. He gathered his wet clothing and settled it on the metal rungs to dry out. This close the fire felt sweltering but Hannibal lingered near it, his feet still numb.
“I appreciate the assistance, I will be glad to repay it when I am able,” he assured the man but again, the stranger was unmoved. He was being rude and yet Hannibal could not find anger or repulsion in him for it. Something about this stranger was intensely fascinating.
“My name is Hannibal Lecter,” the announcement came with a nod and he waited to see if the isolated man would reply in kind. Was he social awkward because he was alone in the forest as he was, or perhaps he was simply that rude, and so, alone because of it.
“Will,” the short reply came from a low smooth voice as he reached and set a steaming cup towards Hannibal, taking the other up to sip at it. Hannibal crossed the room, drifting close to the stranger again as he took the drink, a tea, into his hands, warming them. Sugar and cream sat on the counter but he left them, settling to watch the man watch him.
Something about this Will was intent and sharply in focus. It felt as if Hannibal would not be able to create a falsehood to him, his true face felt on display. Part of him wanted to take up the nearest weapon and slaughter the other man and part of him wanted to revel in this peculiar exposure.
Hannibal knew himself enough to know he craved companionship. That he wanted to be seen beyond his masks and games. How bizarre that it was a hermit in the woods that seemed to be able to see him.
A dog barked outside and the others sprang up, not rushing the door nor barking but alert and ready. Well-trained animals.
Will took a long pull of his tea, his lip gleaming as he licked it and then set it down.
Hannibal was thrown off once more when he felt a strange pull inside him, a stirring of attraction. He had admired beauty before but this was different. This raw man before him had seemed like a slob at first but now that uncaring air was transforming into something more primal. How odd that Hannibal found himself drawn to it, watching the other man walk away without a word. He pulled on a heavy coat and gloves, yanking the door open and letting the dogs out before following them.
The door banged shut and Hannibal was abandoned without a word.
The discourtesy should have appalled him. Instead, he thought that this Will rarely bothered with anything unnecessary. The social expectations were likely uninteresting to him and thus not worth observing. Hannibal wanted to sit and think on why that appealed to him. Already he knew this meeting would linger, he would think on this night again many times over. Sipping the tea, a mix of loose plants at the bottom of the cup, bitter but laced with a sweetness, some part of a flower perhaps. Hannibal looked around the room, committing every inch to memory. Once he was done he turned to the kitchen, peering in cupboards and inspecting the knives.
The food was all handmade, local plants and meat dried. Worn Tupperware held flour and other ingredients, simple things. Unmarked bottles held dried herbs. A small fridge, barely to his waist held thick slabs of blood-dripping meat and milk in a jug. Hannibal wondered if there was a milk cow hidden somewhere around the house, a shed around back perhaps. There were two doors in either corner of the back wall. One led to a large bathroom, a heavy metal tub that looked surprisingly appealing to bathe in. The second room was a storage room, supplies piled up haphazardly on rows of shelves. Rifles and bullets in the corner, hunting knives with blood-stained sheaths, extra clothing and food, everything need to live out the winter.
Walking back into the main room Hannibal noted another rifle by the door, leaning against the wall and a hunting knife on the small bedside table. On the kitchen table were pliers and wire cutters, utility knives laid out, small hand made lures that were in process.
The house was all that of a man used to his isolation, at ease with it even.
A crown of flowers stood out among the house filled with things that served a purpose, nothing for show or beauty save those flowers. It laid on the center of the hearth over the fire, placed carefully and reverently. Faded pink blooms that were full and weaved with care.
An important object.
The flowers were still fresh, they would have had to have been cut and woven today. Hannibal noted the elegance of the work and took a certain pleasure in touching the soft flowers, pinching a petal and pocketing it. Stealing from the most adored object in the cabin.
He headed back to the kitchen and the mug as the door banged open. Will let the dogs enter first, they panted as they flooded into the room, heading to the fire. Hannibal noted a smear of red on a muzzle, the tang of blood in the air.
He sipped his tea and glanced at Will, pausing when he saw the man glaring at him. Before Hannibal could react Will’s gaze stalked the cabin, his eyes retracing ever step Hannibal had taken, the bathroom, the storage room and finally the hearth.
Hannibal felt remarkably caught.
Will grimaced and stripped his coat off. His gloves were not present and Hannibal noted blood on his hands. He prepared to offer to look at them, to check for damage but then the man was stalking to the sink, washing the blood away.
Hannibal was close enough to catch the faint whiff of cologne that wasn’t there before. He closed his eyes and saw his prey, it was the man’s scent, not Will’s own. Slowly opening them he took in the dogs with their stained muzzles and Will cleaning the blood off his hands. Hannibal sipped his tea with a renewed interest, wanting to know this man inside and out, wanting to cut him from throat to pelvis and peer inside.
Hannibal felt exposed because he was.
Will had known his nature immediately because it was his own as well.
Hannibal looked around the room again, wondering if they would fight, if he had been granted entry simply to warm the meat. It felt exhilarating to think about.
As if Will was reading his mind he appeared at Hannibal’s side abruptly, moving with surprising grace as he stuck. A single blow to Hannibal’s neck staggered him but he twisted and caught the other man by his hair. He slammed Will's head into the nearby table, trying to crack his skull wide.
The dogs sat up alert but strangely didn’t interfere as Will rushed at him. He slammed into Hannibal's middle as he plowed into him, knocking him off his feet. The hard blow of the wood floor on his back winded him, but Hannibal moved through it. Twisting their bodies to put Will under him, he scrambled to get a hand on the man’s pale neck.
They rolled on the floor like animals, grunting and fighting viciously. Will clawed at Hannibal’s face, narrowly missing his left eye and gouging his cheek instead. In return, Hannibal snapped his teeth to bite, but Will turned his face in the last second. Hannibal settled for his neck, biting high and hard, tasting blood.
Will snarled, a hand clawing Hannibal’s hair, digging into his skull.
Hannibal bit harder and Will arched under him. Pinning him to the floor on his back as he used his weight to keep him down placed Hannibal in a position to feel when Will’s hips twisted against his thigh. He felt the man erection and felt himself throb in answer.
Trapping Will’s thigh between his own he shoved, rutting against the man as he swallowed hot blood. The heavy tang of it rushed along his tongue and if hit him with more weight than any fine wine had ever managed, he felt tipsy and delighted on it.
He breathed in the scent of the fresh blood and Will’s sweat, the wood burning in the pit and the stink of the dogs. It all twisted together into something base and unexpectedly appealing.
He pulled back, blood down his chin as Will hissed out. Panting heavily, they stared at one another. After a moment Hannibal’s hand came to life grabbing at Will’s shirt and tearing it open, scrambling to undress the man under him.
Nothing had ever felt like this before.
Will lay compliant under him, staring up as Hannibal shoved his shirt up and over his head.
Sex was beauty and passion, silk sheets and fine words, women smiling at him as he made their bodies sing. Nothing had ever been so brutal before, so base and primal. It should have been revolting, thinking of this sort of sex always had, but here in the moment, Hannibal was achingly hard.
He was laid bare, a monster for this other man to see and Will did see, there was no doubt of that. He saw Hannibal for what he was and he desired it.
Such a simple thing and yet Hannibal had not felt this undone since he was a young boy. This urge and need, overtaking his precise control. He would have this man, he would claim him and devour him. Hannibal would take him from his forest and trap him, keep him near and poke and prod as he pleased.
Will’s thigh twitched under him and Hannibal was thrown, shoved back and down until Will was on him. Before Hannibal could retaliate his shirt was shoved up and he scrambled to help. Yanking the material away as Will rocked on top of him, pressing the curve of his backside against Hannibal’s erection and then grinding down on him. The firelight cast him in heavy shadows a chiaroscuro playing across his skin.
Will smirked at him, eyes dark and teasing. Hannibal spun them, heaving Will to the floor again, a hand on his throat, gripping too tight. He loomed over him again with Will on his back looking up and with a free hand he yanked at Will’s jeans. Pushing them down, pushing all the cloth hiding him down and away. Will let him, even helped, kicking off his jeans so he was bare. He was gasping for each breath but he was assisting still.
He was glorious, marked with scars the spoke of battles won, a trail of dark hair on his stomach that leads to his erection. It sat ready and dripping, eager for this brutal union. Hannibal was struck by the dual desire to consume and to cut. He wanted to taste every inch and to slice Will open, to leave new scars on him, he wanted to brand this body.
He tightened his grip on Will’s neck as he struggled to undo his jeans and pushed them down with one hand. Calloused fingers touched the wrist he was using to restrain him, he expected Will to lash out but the fingers moved on, dripping and sliding through Will's own blood as it seeped from his neck. The sight was erotic and Hannibal was caught by it, watching Will's fingers dig into his own flesh, tearing skin and gathering blood.
It dripped down his chest, trailing after his hand. Hannibal was helpless to the beauty of it, watching transfixed as the hand grazed over Will’s cock and then slid below, fingers pressing.
A low noise escaped him then. Hannibal abandoned his jeans and used his free hand to follow Will’s fingers, feeling the slick blood opening the other man up. He pushed a finger alongside two if Will’s own. He growled in reply arching off the floor.
Will’s fingers retreated, leaving Hannibal to add two more of his own, feeling the tight heat and forcing it open. He moved a touch cruel and liked the grunt of pain he coaxed from Will. While Hannibal worked, Will’s hands freed him of his jeans properly. Bloodstained hands stroked along his heavy erection, slicking him red before pulling him closer. Will’s grip had a painful edge and Hannibal bared his teeth at the pleasurable ache. He had no choice but to follow, letting Will guide him down and in, his fingers pushed away as the head of his cock pressed a wet kiss to the other man’s body. Blood slicking the way for them as Hannibal shoved in.
Will jerked and arched off the floor with a howl, snarling ever as he legs spread in welcome. Hannibal rained wet kisses on his chest, licking at the blood there as he kept pushing deeper. His hand on Will’s thigh trapped him, pushed him down to meet Hannibal’s lunge.
It was a mating of animals. Snarls and grunts, hisses and growls in place of soft words and sweet moans. Hannibal wasted no time, thrusting hard and urgently. Trying to commit every second, every sensation to memory even as they all rose to consume him. In place of tender touches, blood was shed, Will’s nails ranking of Hannibal’s back, blood running over his skin in their wake. The scent of sex and blood mingling together, of sweat and fire branded his senses.
The hand that had gone slack on Will’s neck tightened again, stealing his very breath once more as Hannibal slammed into him over and over.
It was a terrible and twisted union.
It was magnificent.
Too soon Will was twisting under him, hips rolling erratically as he hissed and his semen splattered along his stomach, bleeding pink with the blood there. It was a beautiful sight and Hannibal wanted to paint it, to capture the colours merging so perfectly.
He gripped Will’s thigh harder, fingers digging until blood welled. Hammering viciously, Hannibal bared his teeth in a mockery of a smile as he reached out to release, to mark this glorious man.
Will bucked under him, fighting again, hands turning violent. It was as if he knew exactly what Hannibal needed. He pinned the man to the floor with his body as he pounded violently grunting once as he felt the euphoria of release overtake him.
It was folly not to resume the fight.
Hannibal should rise and kill the man now. If not that then at the very least restrain him.
But they laid there, stretched out on the floor with the fire blazing over them, pouring heat. They were both panting still, sweat gleaming off their skin.
Hannibal kicked off his pants and crawled over Will again. They stared each other down but neither moved to strike. An understanding seemed to pass. Two dangerous animals, used to isolation and hunting alone, both agreeing to put that aside for a mating, following the need.
Hannibal licked at Will’s torn neck, the blood now oozing sluggishly. He pressed tender kisses with no regret to them. Gently prodding until the blood came again, passing over his tongue sweetly. Will’s hands ghosted over his shoulders, idly tracing the claw marks he had left on Hannibal’s skin.
They managed two more rounds.
Once they pressed up against one another, stomach to stomach as seed and blood slicked the motions. Will clawed at Hannibal’s stomach, coaxing blood to drip down along their lengths as they moved together and painted Will’s body with their joined seed.
After that, Will rode Hannibal, sitting on him and rocking lazily. He reminded Hannibal of an old god, some taboo pagan deity that was worshiped with violence. Hannibal dearly wanted to do so, he wanted to present Will with his most creative kill, something that would suit this man and all he was. Antlers and flowers perhaps, skulls and blood pooling, a heart in the center of it all, offered out for him.
Hannibal mused that he now understood the idea of a whirlwind romance, being swept up so quickly and completely.
He wanted to decorate Will in gore and flowers, wanted to see him kill. Would he be vicious as he was in sex, teeth, and claws perhaps? Or was he a trained hunter, long used to it, killing a man detached the same calm as he would a deer.
Hannibal wanted to know everything, he wanted all there was of this man.
Will yawned as he laid sprawled over Hannibal after, not caring about their sullied state as he looked at the fire and let his eyes drift shut. He had long lashes, they seemed strangely gentle on his face, blood-smeared high on one cheek, hair sticking to his brow from the sweat. Hannibal planned to draw him later, to take each inch he was examining and record it.
It would be so easy to steal him away, to bundle this man up and snatch him away. To cage him carefully and keep him eternally.
And Hannibal would of course.
He trailed his fingers through the other man’s messy curls, watching the firelight play on them as he thought of various ways to entrap Will.
The forest was encased in the late autumn, yellow and red leaves painting the ground as faded trees reached to the sky with long bony fingers. It was near sunset, the sky bleeding pinks and blues as the stars began to arrive.
Will was sitting under a great old tree; it made him seem small in its grith. With tender care that made Hannibal ache, the man combed a little girl’s hair lovingly. He used such a soft touch, mindful of her decaying body. Her arm was gone, the bicep a stained black as it rotted away. Her legs were both missing and her every breath was laboured, her eyes fading.
Will tended to her worshipfully, placing the crown of flowers from the hearth on her dainty head. As Hannibal walked closer he noticed the great antlers set upon Will’s brow, they looked too heavy for him to hold up but he moved as if they weighed nothing.
His hands were black up to his forearms, a dull black like rot, his nails shaped like claws. He smiled sweetly and long canines gleamed. His eyes glowed red like a monster of some old legend. He looked vicious and splendid. Hannibal wanted to drop to his knees and bow to such a malicious exquisiteness.
“My sweet girl,” he told the child, smiling warmly even as she decayed, her skin withering and crumbling in on itself. Her eyes sank away as her body broke down, leaving bones that turned to ash in Will’s hands.
Only the flower crown remained.
Soft steps followed Hannibal, a tiny hand touched his own and he looked down to see Mischa, his sweet sister, at his side. She smiled like the sun, her body cut up but placed back together. Minor parts missing as she bled sluggishly from the severed parts of her skin. But her eyes were open and alive, filled with all the light he remembered. With a child’s innocence, she looked to Will curiously, pulling Hannibal’s hand as she wanted to go closer.
He could do little else but obey her, following as they approached Will and his crown, settled under the tree with unseeing eyes now. He wore no expression but Hannibal sensed he was in agony, aching with a loss that he could understand so well. Mischa’s soft light giggle both lovely and haunting.
Will seemed to come awake when she leaned in to look at him, an arm's length away from the man now.
He offered an indulgent smile, nothing about it remotely threatening, he looked adoring already and he offered the crown to her. Mischa looked to Hannibal and he smiled down at her. Nodding his head and letting her hand go as she bowed so Will could settle the crown on her blond hair.
It suited her, the flowers turning crimson on her head, the soft pink fading into something far brighter and stronger than before.
“Mischa,” Hannibal breathed and his sister smiled up at him happily.
Hannibal woke slowly, the cold chasing the dream away as his consciousness pulled him from the forest and Mischa’s smile.
It was disorienting to wake in his car, strapped in the driver’s seat. Hannibal tried to analyze which drugs would leave him sluggish but the cold was more pressing. He tried to keys in the ignition and the car came to life.
The clock proclaimed it eight hours since he had first stopped, the sky was calm now but the snow still fell steadily. The sun rising along the forest line.
The car of Mathew Dasan, the man he had come to take and kill, sat in front of him empty. There were signs of a flat tire and an attempt to change it. The fresh snow hid everything else, there were no tracks.
Hannibal backed the car and pulled out, driving at a crawl and searching for any roads or signs of the cabin.
He found nothing but was not discouraged. The road was only twenty miles and he would return with the proper equipment to go search the forest. For now, he drove home, intending on a long shower to wash away the blood and semen he could feel clinging to his skin. His back burned with the ache of Will’s claw marks. It would need to be cleaned and disinfected. Hannibal felt a strange certainty that it would scar him.
The thought of Will’s neck, the raw bite that would certainly remain, made Hannibal smile. He turned on his music, a hopeful song that accompanied him on his way home.
Mathew Dasan had disappeared. The forest was combed over again and again but nothing was ever found. The land was vast enough that larger predator animals could have taken the man.
When the search first began Hannibal wondered if Will would be caught. But through the months of searching the cabin was never once mentioned. Dasan’s family were frantic and wealthy, they spent months after the search was called off looking, sending people to find anything.
Hannibal noted that again, the cabin was not found.
Will was never discovered.
Spring came abruptly and Hannibal was increasingly restless to begin his own hunt. He could not go into the forest while they searched for Dasan though. Being seen could implicate him and Hannibal had waited years at a time during his hunts, he could be patient.
Will, however, had conquered him and refused to leave. He burrowed into Hannibal’s heart and hollowed it out, making himself a space and settling in. At night he thought of the other man, closing his eyes and relieving the night over and over. Recalling each detail, every scent, and texture, every little thing he had carefully committed.
He thought of the dream, of Will with his crimson eyes and black hands, antlers upon his head like a crown.
Hannibal found himself using them more in his decorations, admiring the sharp tips and intricate lines along them.
He contemplated the decaying girl and Mischa taking her crown. It had suited her.
Hannibal’s sketchbook was filled with Will and his cabin, all the details Hannibal could recall he drew out. He recreated Will’s face over and over, each dip and curve, every smudge of dirt and splatter of blood.
For the first time in over twenty years, he drew his sister.
Her bright smile and crown, Will’s arms around her, holding her safe.
Spring came and with it, hikers began using the area once more. The forest was not an overly commonplace for them but it did have a few trails. Ten miles from where he had been there was a nature reserve park. Hannibal set out on day trips, walking along the paths and learning the area, pouring over maps and memorizing the land. Eventually, he left the man-made routes and wandered further into the woods.
If he was found he could claim being lost, still new to hiking, carrying his sketchbook as a reason for his newfound interest. He brought Alana on a few trips, mentioned it casually to those in his life so it fit, so it seemed perfectly normal.
He hunted the woods, systematically combing through them and leaving markers, gouges on trees so he would keep his way.
He carried a compass and checked it often.
So he noticed when stopped working.
The needle swung around wildly, never coming to a stop.
Hannibal backtracked and the needle pointed true again. When he walked forward he watched it lose its way and spin. It could be the stone in the ground, metals that were known to do such things to compasses.
But it felt like more.
Hannibal still dreamed of his sister with her crown and Will with his. It stood out now, seeming more important than it ever had. He felt like some momentous discovery was on the horizon, Hannibal only had to keep pressing forward. It had been ages since he felt this alive, since the dullness of the every day seemed left behind. It was as consuming as the thought of Will, a growing obsession he simply had to uncover.
He had never noticed that Mischa’s hands were black in the dream, that his own were as well. But it stood out in his mind’s eye now.
Hannibal could recall his parents, he remembers his father, a precise and powerful man. For no reason that he has been able to interpret correctly, he thinks his father had those same black hands. Claws on the ends, long bony digits meant for ripping, a monster’s hands.
Hannibal closes the compass and heads forward blindly.
His cell phone loses service but he walks on, feeling something building, something important. An epiphany almost in his grip.
Thunder rumbles overhead but he keeps going, feeling his heart swelling oddly. He wonders idly if Will had drugged him, if he had whispered things into Hannibal’s ear, taught his unconscious mind to react like this.
He finds her in a clearing, a meadow of flowers with the sun shining through the clouds.
Mischa hums softly, picking flowers happily as Hannibal gazes unmoving. He tried to focus his mind, to cast the illusion away but she remained.
He watches her silently, rooted in place until he hears a dog bark. Four of Will’s dogs are there, pacing through the field, guarding the little girl as she laughs. A sound like chimes, soft and harmonious.
Hannibal struggles to understand what is happening. His mind lists various drugs and types of mental illness, trying to place what is making him see this vision.
He edges around the field, watching and committing it all to memory.
A dog sees him and a warning bark rings out, the others take note of him.
The tiny girl looks up, her face is curious and innocent. An angel peering at him without fear even as the dogs swarm her protectively.
“Hello,” he greets her and she blinks at him, a slow smile blooming on her face.
Hannibal edges closer to her and the dog's pace but does not stop him. He manages to get a mere foot away from her. She’s settled in the long grass now, idly playing with her flowers and watching him.
Crouching down slowly, painfully careful not to startle his dead sister, Hannibal simply observed her for a time. When he does nothing interesting, Mischa returns to her flowers, absentmindedly sorting them. She picks a purple flower with a long stem and after consideration; she offers it out to him.
Hannibal accepts it and tries to decide if this girl looks close enough that his mind has decided it is his sister. Perhaps Will did not exist at all. The cabin was never found under months of hunting through the forest.
He could very well be working his way through a mental psychosis. His back is scarred from Will’s hands but perhaps Hannibal did it to himself.
Mischa offers him another flower and he takes it, sitting with her and receiving her gifts. With nimble fingers he weaves the stems, creating a tiny crown.
His sister is delighted and when Hannibal lifts it she bows so he can place it on her head. The dream is recreated then, Hannibal in Will’s place as he gently sets the flowers on his dead sister’s hair.
“Mischa!” Will’s voice calls and the little girl looks up, turning toward the sound. The dog's yelp and Mischa rises. She looks at Hannibal curiously and so he stands as well, trailing after the little girl who is in no hurry. She stops to examine moss and trace the bark of trees idly. She knows the forest, she never stumbles or missteps, moving with a fae grace.
Hannibal looks around but he still cannot place the forest, it all looks different, nothing is familiar. But she seems to know exactly where she is going and the dog's trail after her, following her obediently.
The cabin comes into view and Hannibal can see Will standing in the door. His other dogs meet them, sniffing and circling. They eye Hannibal wearily but do not bark.
Mischa skips as she walks, giggling as she makes her way to Will. The little girl hugs him happily.
Will is watching her with a fond smile, his eyes adoring.
He examines Hannibal with a curious look, reading his face, seeking something in his gaze. Hannibal can see his neck is scarred, a jagged crescent that fills him with pride.
“I had wondered if you’d be back,” he notes easily, pushing off the doorframe and going into the cabin, Mischa following with the dogs.
Hannibal does not know what is happening. He is not sure if his mind has broken. Perhaps he is in jail and so far into his mind palace that this strange world had come into being, a perfect mate and his sister reborn.
He is aware that he should turn back. Retrace his steps to the park and get into his car. He should drive to a hospital and explain his hallucinations. Tests would be run and his illness would be discovered.
Whatever this is, he is utterly certain that it is not real.
Will returns to the door, a brow raised in question. “Coming?”
Hannibal steps into the cabin.
Will watches the other Wendigo curiously. Mischa had pulled him into helping set the table for dinner. Hannibal follows her obedient, gazing at her as of she was a dream.
It’s painfully obvious that Hannibal does not understand what he is. But that is what makes him so striking to Will. Because despite not knowing, Hannibal has grown into a man, he has blended perfectly with the prey.
Their kind needed to eat human flesh to thrive and Hannibal has found a way to do that. A Wendigo has many tricks at their disposal, various ways to lure and captivate humans. Hannibal has used none of them.
And yet he flourishes.
When their kind met they either fought until one was dead or they fought and mated. It had always been so. The older a Wendigo grew the stronger the pull to find a mate was.
Will felt the ache sharply and knew he could no longer deny it.
But then he realized it, slowly he comprehended that Hannibal did not know and it had staggered him.
Will couldn’t help but take him then. A wiser Wendigo would have seen Will’s manipulation but Hannibal fell into the trap eagerly.
There was so much power to him, such raw hunger and longing. Hannibal had never mated and he carried his sister in him, immortalizing her in his mind without knowing what that meant.
Will had tasted amazing to him and drank so desperately, sucking Will’s blood, binding himself to him without knowing it.
They were mates now. They would hurt one another yet, it was their nature to be vicious and cruel. But they were also bound in a way that would prevent them from going too far, from killing each other. As long as they hunted and bled their vicious natures that way, they would be able to exist together.
Mischa was the embodiment of that careful bond, made from their shared blood and semen. Will crafted her carefully; taking all of Hannibal’s want for more, to be seen, to have another, a companion. He gently tied it with his own. After being on his own for so long Will himself had grown to feel the same longing. He wanted a family.
He had tried on his own, weaving all his power to create Abigail. But without another to help, she had eventually faded and turned to ash. But with Hannibal, they could keep Mischa alive. Will made her exactly like Hannibal recalled her but she would grow to be her own person eventually. Already he fed her a heart and lungs, a healthy brain and tongue, bright eyes and cute toes. He hunted down humans in the forest, a plentiful harvest searching for a dead man. Will gutted them carefully, feeding his daughter the parts she lacked while he devoured the rest. As she consumed them they became her, another step to becoming real. Once she had eaten every part there was of a human, she would be real, a true Wendigo. Will had not had the power to keep Abigail alive long enough to make her real. But Hannibal did not even understand what he was; he fed Mischa his strength through thinking of her without ever knowing it. Even if he had not returned, she was strong enough to live long enough for Will to make her real.
But Hannibal had returned, coaxed by the call of his new family.
Will had a mate and a daughter now.
He would guide Hannibal and teach him what he was, help shape him into something that could help Will raise and protect their child. He had given Hannibal his greatest dream, his sister remade. Will knew it would bind him to them tightly.
By the time Hannibal came into his own, truly understood himself, Will and Mischa would be so deeply buried in his heart he would not be able to let them go. He would think himself greedy and delight in it.
Will would smile softly and let Hannibal think he had caught them, had found Will and claimed him.
It did not matter the Will had lured him in. That he had found Hannibal in his own home when the need to mate overtook him. He had spun a careful game to entice Hannibal from his city and into Will’s forest.
Nothing had been by chance.
A Wendigo did not chase their prey, they brought the prey to them.