He wants to announce that Will won't be there in time for dinner, but he'll make nine o'clock, at least. Abigail likes to know if Will dines with them or not. If he doesn't tell her, she'll think he's keeping things from her, and he's doing anything but.
She's in her own room - the room she uses to put her things and take her private time. She bathes in the adjoining bathroom and the sheets smell like her; she even has her iPod set up to drown out the music he listens to as he prepares their food. It is her room, and that is her bed, but she's never slept there.
As each night falls, much like Will, she comes to him in shadows.
She rarely speaks, when she ventures from her burrow. Will either has too little energy to uphold the pretense of returning to his own home and outrightly passes out on one of the sofas; or he goes, feeds his dogs, and Hannibal will open the door for him when he returns, a spare shirt in hand.
Abigail is embarrassed, needing them the way she does. She starts off with her back turned to them both, her tiny body on the very edge of the bed, hands tucked under her ear, trying to be as inconsequential as possible.
Will has no choice but to have the middle, though he's now learned he won't stay there long. Abigail will fall asleep to the sounds of her surrogate fathers murmuring over murder, and she'll roll and cling to whoever doesn't get out of the way.
Hannibal doesn't mind - he'll shift his arm and hold the back of her head, gaze at Will in the dark, and continue to psychoanalyze away as though there weren't a fragile creature in his arms. He might take up a silken length of hair in his fingers and twirl it round and around, he may adore it when she's freshly washed her tresses and he doesn't have to sniff so hard to scent her.
If she sticks to Will however, he goes quiet, and stiff, and he holds onto her with both hands, both arms, and his face buried in her hair, or cheek to her head. He'll listen but won't offer anything else, scared to move his lips, too close to her face, or his jaw, rough with stubble. A few times she's woken up and complained about the itchiness of his beard, rolling over to where Hannibal scoops her up, which is when the good doctor reaches out and puts a hand on Will.
It's never anything too intense - a hand on his shoulder, a playful scruff of his hair. He'll wrinkle his nose but he'll tuck into the curve of the girl and he'll wake up with a fist in the doctor's shirt. They don't often share those particular moments outside of Abigail; she's the translator to their physical language barrier, and without her, they cease to have whatever it is they have in their secret trio.
Dinner is cooking, and it smells amazing, even down the hall and up the stairs. He's made raspberry tarts for desert because they are her favourite, and because they will soothe her temper, for missing Will. A particularly snappy sales assistant is otherwise on the menu, marinated in spices, meat falling from the bone.
"Abigail?" he knocks, and even if she knows he knows she's in there, she doesn't answer. He knocks again, thinking that perhaps, her music is on too loud and she hasn't heard him. When he leans forward to listen, the mellow music inside isn't hers, certainly not on too loud. He turns the handle; meaning only to peer inside and check on the adolescent, lest she's taken a razor to wrist or something equally dramatic.
She's on the floor in an uncomfortable looking ball.
"May I come in?"
She doesn't register he's there. Her eyes are shut tight, face pale, and she's holding onto herself on her side, all thin limbs are curled up like she's braced for pain.
She is very, very still.
He steps in and finds it necessary to shut the door behind him, as though someone might intrude. The snap of the lock doesn't alert her, and that concerns him slightly. He paces across the small space, sinks to a crouch and then his knees, and lowers his forearms to the ground, head cocked to be on her axis.
"Abigail." Her eyes shoot open, nostrils flare. There are tears dribbling over her nose but he doesn't think she knows it. "What has happened?"
"My iPod." she breathes, and then she starts to tremble. "I forgot it was on there. I forgot all about it. I can't believe it. I can't believe I forgot him."
His temple hits the floor, dislodging his fringe, which her little hand snatches out to tuck back into it's regular style. He catches her wrist, and holds on with a gentle hand.
"You forgot your father." he says softly, and she doesn't nod or agree but he recognises that it's her way of replying the affirmative. She doesn't want to outwardly acknowledge it any more than she has to, and he allows this, because he likes to indulge her.
"There was this video of us." she whispers. "Dancing at one of my cousin's weddings. We looked so happy. We looked close. But I don't remember…" her hand twists, and he's not so much holding onto her as she is to him.
"I don't remember him making me feel safe like you do." The gravity of that takes a full three seconds to sink into his brain. "I don't remember him making me feel strong like you do."
And then she goes and says it, and he can't help but smile on her, this little bird who's flown into his den and survived.
"I don't remember him making me feel adored like you do."
"I do adore you."
"I know." she swallows. While the tears have stopped falling, the trembling has not. "I… But I don't- I don't remember him… I don't remember…"
He hushes her gently and eases up onto his knees, coaxing her up by the hand he's holding her with. She goes, but somewhat loosely crashes into his sternum, which he accepts with little more than a low grunt. He arms wind over her shoulders, and fingers lace through her hair. He puts his nose down to her crown and inhales, sighing out whatever momentary panic he had felt before she had spoken.
He hadn't liked her being so still.
"I adore you, Hannibal." is the muffled confession. He presses his mouth to her head and closes his eyes, privately enjoying this moment. "I adore you more than anything in the world. You and Will are - everything."
"I know." It's in his design. "I know, dear girl." he presses a kiss to the top of her head and waits until she's mostly asleep before telling her Will is going to be late.
He opens the door with the regular shirt in hand. It's too big on Will's shoulders and hangs loose in the collar from where Abigail pulls on it in her sleep, but it's familiar and tradition and home.
He's clearly exhausted, and accepts it without comment, as per his norm.
"How is Abigail?"
"She is fine, now. She had… a moment, earlier."
Will instantly becomes more alert.
"What do you mean?"
"It's nothing I couldn't handle, Will. Have a shower and put your shirt on." Come to bed. "I will tell you more after you've done that."
"Please, Will." his eyes flick to the stair case, because he knows she's listening, and he has things he wants to say, perhaps a little more privately. If she asks him he will tell her, but he won't speak freely until he speaks to her face.
Will apparently is content with that, because he looks down at his spare shirt and sighs, doing as he is bid. Hannibal watches him trudge grumpily to the stairs and up them; he listens to Will's greeting and the polite one he receives in return. Then he follows, changing into his own cotton pajama bottoms and matching shirt.
He waits with a book in hand for only a half hour before Will knocks and pushes open the door. He peers at him over the novel and marks his page without looking, watching the mostly sheepish special agent skip across his floor and into the bed, hiding his boxers under the thousand count thread sheets.
Dr. Lecter sets the book down and removes his reading glasses, folding the arms and setting them on the huge tome. Most of what he's read has already slotted into neat files in his head, but the last page is a total blur. He'd been listening to the pipes shutting down and Will knocking about in the bathroom, awaiting him.
"There was an incident." he says calmly, and clicks off the light, shuffling down into the blankets. "This afternoon."
"Is she okay?"
"Perfectly." he takes a moment to consider his words. "A video of her and her other father stirred up particular emotions in her strong enough that she assumed the fetal position on the floor. When I approached she was so far gone into her own mind I could not reach her, at first."
"A dance, at a cousin's wedding."
Will's exhale was sucked up into Hannibal's nostrils.
"I was thinking worse."
"What could be worse, than to see yourself happy in the arms of a killer?"
"I'm a killer." was his instant reply.
"As am I." he bantered calmly. "But she knows that of us. I was not finished."
Will adjusted his pillow and sunk further into the mattress, rubbing his eyes.
"She said we were her everything." he waited a beat. "There were certain qualities she categorized for me, as I'm sure she would have done for you, had you been there."
"Are you— Chastising me?" the retort was hitched, rough, half through his teeth. "Because I was working?"
"I'm stating what I think to be truth. If I were to chastise you, you would be well aware in advance." it isn't exactly his most threatening tone, but it borders it in coldness. "Also, you'd be missing a finger, at the very least."
Will is mad, now, too tired and now upset by his absence. He rolls over, his shoulders tense around his ears, then flips back the blankets and puts his feet down hard on the ground, standing abruptly.
He doesn't walk, however, he just holds his head, and keeps his back to the doctor. The elder sits, arms propped on his knees. The light of his alarm clock sheds enough brightness that he can see Will is breathing hard, and trying to control himself.
"She said-" the empath turns with his eyes half lidded. "-we're… her everything?"
"She did." is the quiet reply. "I feel that we have become her father, as one. The both of us are hers; we are her parent. There are things I feel I cannot offer her, the way you can. Likewise, you cannot nurture certain aspects of her, like I can."
Will is still for a moment, then sits down on the bed.
"You made it sound like I stayed away on purpose." he mutters finally. "I wasn't."
"You don't like consuming my food."
"So why would I come here and try and force it down?" he snaps back, then takes a long breath. "I… like being around you. Both of you. I miss you when I'm not. I don't like eating people, Hannibal."
"To each his own." he replies with a one shouldered shrug. "Abigail doesn't mind."
"Of course she doesn't. It isn't murder when you utilize your kill. You take advantage of her."
"Hypocrite." is the simple rebuttal, and even in the dark, Hannibal knows Will is blushing, ashamed.
He is an empath - he can gauge her moods and know her inner workings like no one will ever know. He plays her like a fiddle to his own end; mostly to gain her physical affection. Hannibal has pulled him up on it twice already, but Will Graham is apparently greedy for human interaction under his own terms, because he has yet to curb his behaviour.
"I don't do it on purpose." he mutters. "I don't… kill people."
"Yes you do. Ask Abigail."
"I don't kill people for no reason!"
"I have my reasons. This argument is moot. I want only to discuss our teenager."
Will can't help but feel an elation at that.
"She needs us both, Will."
"I'm not eating people. I draw the line at eating human. I love her and want to protect her, I want to be there, but I won't chew and swallow Fred What's-his-name because he looked at you funny."
"Maybe you wouldn't mind so much if you knew I had not killed anyone recently for being rude to me." his eyebrows are raised, not that Will can see.
"You're… killing for her?"
"Keep that to yourself." he advises dryly. "I didn't realize I had done it until today."
"But-…Jesus Christ, Hannibal."
"I will not apologise."
"Could you not - tell them off, or something?"
"No. The rude are set in stone."
"They aren't a breed. They're people."
"I'm well aware of that." he lowers his tone, a glitter in his eyes. "I am a doctor."
"You're not funny." Will rubs his head. "How many?"
"You don't really want the answer to that."
"No, I don't." there's a pause. "How many?"
"I won't tell you. You'll throw a tantrum and we'll get no where. Besides preserving our working theatrics…" he cocks his head, settling back into the bed, considering. They'd briefly set down the rules of their working lives; if Will could honestly pin a murder to Hannibal with evidence enough to back it up, Hannibal would accept that. But until he could, the discussion of why he killed whom he killed was not available.
Will knew the man, but he didn't know how many processed bodies were his to name. He had an idea, though.
"Abigail is coming."
"Do you…?" Will pauses. "Do you kill with her?"
"I wouldn't do it without mentioning it to you." he promises.
"I hate the sound of that."
They recline and wait for the small knock on the door. Hannibal gives her permission to enter, and she does, quietly closing the door behind her and crossing over to Will's side of the bed. He unfolds the blankets for her and she wriggles in, forcing Will and Hannibal closer together.
She begins to turn her back and then she stops, sits, shoulders on the bed head.
"I deleted that video." she says evenly. "I don't need him."
I need you, go the unspoken words.
"How do you feel?" Hannibal asks her softly, and Will can't help but roll his eyes, because he already knows.
"Better." she says, but doesn't mean it. "Good night." she rolls over, though she has no intentions of sleeping.
Will doesn't like knowing that. He puts a hand up on Hannibal's shoulder and pauses, listening to her breathing, how it's far too contained. She's inches away from falling apart, and it breaks his heart to know it. He pats the doctor's arm and rolls, leaving his back open to the cannibal, and tucks himself behind Abigail, winding an arm around her waist. He can feel her shock resonate in his own bones.
Will doesn't make first moves like this. She doesn't know what to do.
"Good night." he says, and lifts only to kiss her temple. She wipes impatiently at her tears and her hand finds his in the dark, squeezing his fingers. He returns the favour and sighs. Hannibal smiles, and turns his back to them both.
He knows that all three of them can't get out of this hole they've fallen into. He could say that it's wildly inappropriate and unprofessional but he's never been content like this, and they stop having nightmares.
It's a win/win.
"Good night." Hannibal offers, and closes his eyes.
When they wake in the morning, Abigail has migrated to the middle.
She has Dr. Lecter spooning her at one side, his arm loosely at her stomach, face at her throat, while Will has his arm under hers and fisting the front of Hannibal's shirt. His forehead is pressed to hers and she has both legs wound around just one of his thighs, one hand on his chest, the other on Hannibal's hand at her waist.
Hannibal is the first to wake - Will is roused by the smell of coffee, and Abigail is woken by the awkwardly shifting empath. He pulls on his clothes, leaving his t-shirt folded neatly on the end of the bed that Abigail makes.
He has no intention of staying for coffee. Food in the Lecter house is questionable at best, and Will refuses to partake in anything that Hannibal makes for him, which is a sore point for all parties concerned. Abigail says something too quietly about him staying but he won't do it.
He's almost ready, almost out the door, but he can't find his shoes.
"Hannibal, have you taken my-?"
His shoes are beside the stool which has perfectly symmetrical eggs and buttery toast and a steaming coffee mug set up in front of it. Hannibal is nursing a white bowl of cereal to his chest, a neat spoonful halfway to his mouth. Abigail sees her own breakfast - actual bacon from a pig, because she can tell the difference now - and goes over to give him a kiss on the cheekbone, commenting on how lovely it is.
There's a moment where will hesitates, then sighs and removes his jacket.
"Tell me about this serial killer I keep hearing about." Hannibal suggests, wincing at the too-sweet too-crunchy mouthful of Corn Flakes.
Abigail giggles, nods at the box in front of him.
"You're a cereal killer…"
"My god." Will hides the smile behind his hand. "You're making bad puns. It starting. You two can't be left alone any more."
"I'm glad you see it my way." Hannibal says casually, crunching on his breakfast.
"Did I have a choice?" Will takes his seat, beginning to tear the toast into strips.