Oh my, what's this? A new chapter? I promised I hadn't abandoned this story, just put it on a back burner. So far all of my stories are going to be finished sometime in the future. I was hoping to get at least one done during Veteran's day, but it might be a week long process. Thank-you for the comments and favorites on this story, and thank-you for patiently waiting.
Days passed and Will and Hannibal's days fell into a pattern. Since Will didn't have to go into town for work he spent most of his time keeping Hannibal entertained. He thought perhaps the boy would just watch television like most children his age, but Hannibal would become bored with the shows and films Will offered. On occasion he would stop on a cooking channel, but he would flip change it after a few minutes, shaking his head in disgust. Will soon learned Hannibal was not like most children, summing it up to being European rather than American. Hannibal still didn't talk, but he would utter a few words here and there. They were mostly "thank-you" or "okay" or "Mr. Graham" if he was trying to get his attention. Otherwise, Hannibal was completely silent, following him around like one of his dogs, a little ghost child not wanting to be alone.
Will was quick to pick up on what the boy liked and didn't like. Hannibal didn't like to watch tv, but he liked cooking based on his lingering on cooking channels. After this connection Will would always ask the boy to help him cook meals. He would explain what he was doing and point out spices or food names, watching as Hannibal took in everything he said.
Hannibal also liked to watch Will care for the dogs. He would perch on a chair or the couch and watch as Will played with the dogs, brushed them, or gave them a bath. Will showed Hannibal what tricks they knew, and he offered the boy the treat bag so he could reward them himself.
This lead to another observation Will made: Hannibal liked animals, but he particularly liked birds. He caught Hannibal trying to feed some song birds with bread, but with the dogs running around the boy became frustrated.
"There's a small lake nearby where I do all my fishing," Will announced when he watched Hannibal scowl at Simon as the Goldie gobbled up pieces of bread. "The geese like to raise their young near there. The goslings are probably all grown now, but I can take you to the lake tomorrow if you'd like." Hannibal's face lit up, making Will smile in turn.
And the most important thing Will learned about Hannibal over the last few days was Hannibal liked to be challenged, and he fell into boredom quickly. Will spent an hour digging around his house before he was able to find an old chessboard.
"Do you play chess?" Will asked as he set the pieces. Hannibal nodded, picking up a piece and rolling it around in his hand. He made a small face before putting it back. Will laughed. "Don't like the plastic?" When Hannibal shook his head, Will continued to smile. "I suppose not, but this will do for now." Will finished setting the board on the living room table before sitting down. Hannibal mimicked him and sat on the opposite side.
They played three rounds. It had been a long time since Will last played and so he lost the first round almost immediately. The second round lasted longer, but Hannibal still picked off every one of his pieces before cornering Will's king. At the third loss, Will could see Hannibal had become bored once more.
"I'm not much of a challenge am I?" He laughed. He felt some embarrassment at being beat by a child three times in a row, but he didn't dwell on it for long. He stood from his chair and glanced out the window. The sky was clear and it didn't look like the wind had picked up from this morning. Nodding to himself, Will looked back to Hannibal, who was watching him curiously.
"How about we go down to the lake?" He suggested.
Hannibal simply smiled.
Even though it was still technically summer, the nights were beginning to cool down. The clothes Hannibal was borrowing from the hospital were too thin for the boy to continue to wear. Will could see he was cold as he bundled himself up with blankets, his nose wrinkling at the dog hair.
"I think I have some extra clothes from when I was a kid still hanging around." Will said as he lowered the ladder to the attic. Hannibal stood next him as he always did, peering up at the darkness. Will began to climb the steps, looking over his shoulder to the boy below.
"Do you want to come up with me?" When Hannibal nodded, Will climbed back down and picked him up before continuing up the steps. The attic was filled to the brim with boxes and trunks, the only light permitting in the room was from the light below before Will turned on the overhanging light. With the additional light, Hannibal could see there was also furniture residing up in the attic along with piles of boxes.
"Watch your step," he warned as he set the boy down. "It's crowded up here, and there's dust and spiders." Hannibal didn't seem to listen as he moved around the boxes, and Will sighed. He figured Hannibal couldn't get into too much trouble and started to look through some old boxes that contained memories of his younger years.
"I inherited all this stuff from my father," he filled the silence. "He kept all of this over the years, even after I left for college. When he died, I didn't have the heart to get rid of anything and just sort of kept it."
He didn't hear a response, but then again he wasn't expecting one. However, after a few moments Will became aware of the overbearing silence and turned to see what Hannibal was doing.
The boy was sitting on a dusty armchair, staring intently at something in his hands. Will stopped in his search for clothes and moved over to where he sat.
"Hannibal, are you okay?"
The boy was silent, but he offered the object in his hands for Will to see.
It was a doll, an old doll that dated well beyond Will's childhood. She had dark eyes and rosy cheeks that were littered with freckles. Her hair was in surprisingly good condition, but Will could tell the blond locks were once curly. Now they were just frizzy and poofy, but if he tried Will bet he could tame the hair to look a little nicer. The doll's clothes were also in nice condition, the dress undamaged from moths or water. Will was a little surprised to see the doll, let alone the condition it was in, but at Hannibal's inquiring look he shrugged his shoulders.
"Probably used to belong to my mother when she was a little girl. I didn't have any siblings, and I wasn't close to any girls. I'm a little surprised my father kept the doll after all this time..." He trailed off, his mind wandering away to his childhood. It was split into two sections: one with his mother, and one without. When his mother was around, everything was okay, and it was a much happier place. However, the other part...
Hannibal grabbed Will's hand and pulled him back into the present. He held the doll up before pulling the doll closer to himself. Will thought nothing of the action before realization dawned on him.
"Do you want to keep it?" When Hannibal nodded, Will warned him, "Make sure the dogs don't get it. They're good dogs, but if they catch wind of anything resembling a stuffed animal they will destroy it."
Hannibal nodded again, holding the doll closer. Will knew he shouldn't be giving or allowing Hannibal to play with a girl's toy, but he knew it would be a losing battle. Besides, he held no attachment to the doll. Might as well let someone who wants to play with it have it. Will returned to rummaging through boxes while Hannibal stroked the dolls face, a smile on his face as he silently mouth a name over and over.
No matter how hard Will tried, he could not get Hannibal to talk about the night of his family's death. He knew the subject would be hard and traumatizing to talk about for Hannibal, but no matter what approach he made Hannibal would clam up more than he usually did and stop responding to anything Will asked. He remained in this despondent state long after Will gave up, and Will worried for his state of mind. He wished Alana was back from her meetings, but until then he would have to do his best. He once asked Hannibal to try and draw what the killer looked like, draw anything at all about that night. Will had soon discovered Hannibal had amazing artistic abilities for someone for his age. If Hannibal had seen the killer, then he might be able to draw him to near perfect likeness, but Hannibal refused to draw anything dealing with the killer.
Jack had already been calling for any news or updates, but since Will had nothing new to aid in their search in the killer their calls ended in shouting matches before one of them hung up on the other. The killer was still at large, but he was now laying low. There were no new bodies or leads, and the trail had gone cold. The only one who could help was a traumatized eight-year-old boy. Will didn't want to rush him; didn't want him to withdraw and have all his hard work ruined. Will tried to answer the calls whenever Hannibal was busy drawing or looking at some bird books he had found in his bookshelf, but Will had the suspicion the boy was aware of what was going on.
Whenever Will entered the room after talking to Jack, Hannibal would look upset. Will tried hard not to use his empathy on Hannibal, but whenever the child looked so sad he almost couldn't help himself. Hannibal was upset for many reasons. He was unable to save his family, unable to save Mischa, and now he couldn't even help the man who was trying to catch the killer. Will did his best to try and cheer him up, smiling at him and distracting him with something new. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, but Hannibal would be tuned into what Will had to say.
"What's Lithuania like?" Will asked one morning while he fed the dogs. He saw Hannibal lift a shoulder in the corner of his eye, and knew the boy was lying. "Come on, there must have been something you liked about it."
Hannibal remained silent, looking disinterestedly at the dogs while they ate. The doll from the attic was curled in his arms. Will tried something different. "Do you know where your aunt and uncle are? The ones from France? They still haven't responded back to our calls."
Again, Hannibal shrugged his shoulder, but now he looked a little concerned.
"Have you met your relatives from France?"
Hannibal nodded, a small smile forming.
"I take it you like them?"
Again, Hannibal nodded.
"Yeah? Do you speak French, or do they speak Lithuanian?"
Hannibal gave a cryptic smile, which didn't answer anything.
Will chuckled and shook his head. He finished feeding the dogs and put their food away. "You're a strange child." He murmured, a smile still etched on his face.
Hannibal just continued to smile.
Hannibal was still having nightmares. Will didn't expect the dreams to stop as the days passed, his own nightmare having plagued him continually over the years. He could see it was putting a toll on the small boy. The dark bags under his eyes lingered in the mornings, revealing Hannibal's restless sleep. He would sit next to Will as he watched the news on the tv, and it would only take minutes before the boy was curled against his side with the doll wrapped in his arms. Will would let him sleep for hours, remaining still as long as he was able to before the dogs demanded attention. Hannibal either didn't have any nightmares, or he didn't remember them when he napped during the day, for his slumber was undisturbed.
When bedtime came around, Hannibal would become anxious and try and stay up as long as possible before Will forced him to go to bed. Will sat by his side, combing fingers through his hair and coaxing him to sleep. Once he was certain the boy was asleep, he would sneak out of the room, but no matter what he did the boy would either wake up screaming or wake at some point in the night and remain awake if the darkness under his eyes said anything. Will tried to get Hannibal to play with the dogs, thinking if the child wore himself out he would be too tired to dream. But Hannibal didn't like to be around the dogs for too long, seeking shelter on the couch. Will then gave him tea which was supposed to make him sleepy, but it seemed to do the opposite and wind him up.
Will sighed and flopped down on his bed, his dogs curling up around the bedroom and settling in for the night. It had taken longer for Hannibal to fall asleep than usual, but he eventually succumbed to sleep. Will knew it wouldn't last for long, maybe two or three hours before he woke from nightmares. It was just a question if he would wake screaming or remain silent. Will sighed again, running a hand over his face before turning off the light. He hoped it was a quiet night.
The jingling of dog collars and a creak of the door are what wake Will, startling him from a dreamless sleep. He sat up quickly and turned on the bedside lamp. A small distressed noise was heard as the blinding light filled the room, and Will calmed when he saw it was Hannibal who had sneaked into his room.
"Hannibal," he asked. "What's wrong?"
The boy remained quiet, stubbornly looking at the ground. Will saw that the doll was once again in his arms. The dogs looked at the boy from their beds, their tails thumping against the hardwood floor as he walked past them, but they didn't get up. Will watched as the boy neared the bed and paused a few steps.
"Did you have a bad dream, Hannibal?" he asked and he started to get out of bed.
Will paused, startled to hear the small voice. Hannibal continued to look at the ground before he took a deep breath and walked up to the bed. Will lost his voice as Hannibal crawled up onto the bed, over his legs, and curled up against the wall.
Will gaped, trying to process what just happened. He knew he should send Hannibal back to his own bed and sit up next to him throughout the night. He didn't want the boy to become dependent on him, but he knew Hannibal would resist and make everything difficult for both of them. Sighing, Will admitted defeat and turned off the light. He scooted as close to the edge of the bed as possible, giving Hannibal as much room as he wanted. He started to drop off when he felt Hannibal move closer, and closer until he was curled against his back. Will sighed.
"Don't blame me if I roll on top of you in my sleep."
Hannibal made no response.
"This is also just a one time thing. You are sleeping in your own bed tomorrow."
Again, Hannibal didn't respond, but Will could tell he was smiling.
It was not a one time thing. The same thing happened the next night, and the next, and the next. Will tried to put Hannibal back to his own bed, sitting next to him and waiting for him to fall asleep before going to his own bed. It turned to be futile for he would wake moments later to find Hannibal curled next to him once more.
"You can't keep sneaking in here," Will gently scolded as Hannibal pulled the covers over the doll before tucking them under his chin. "Tonight is the last night, okay?"
But Hannibal just smiled as he settled on his side of the bed, his eyes having just a tiny bit of spark to them. The darkness under his eyes had lost their intensity as the days passed, and he stopped falling asleep in the mornings after he would eat breakfast. He stayed awake all day and went to bed when Will told him to, but now he was getting better at pretending to fall asleep and waiting until he could sneak into Will's room.
After a few nights Will stopped trying and just accepted the fact Hannibal slept better in his bed than the one in the guest room. He knew it was because he was next to another living person; that someone was there when he woke up in the middle of the night. He still woke from nightmares, but none of them resulted in him screaming in terror. Will was even less willing to admit that since Hannibal started crawling into bed with him his own dreams were kept at bay. He knew there was some psychological reason behind it, but he wasn't complaining.
Hannibal sighed from his side of the bed, one arm curled around the doll with the other clutching at Will's sleeve. Will watched the boy as he slept before closing his eyes, trying to enjoy this small pocket of peacefulness while it lasted.