the living doll [boot tread]

Part of Unhitched’s prompt collection, Boot Tread

Prompt from AO3:

I can’t help but send you yet another prompt: Hannigram based on The Twilight Zone ep. The Living Doll


Now the prompt says Hannigram, but I can’t do that. The original airdate for this Twilight Zone episode was November 1, 1963. That was a very interesting year in Hopper’s life, so I couldn’t ignore it. Hop would’ve been about a year into his failed marriage, so I decided to challenge myself in a completely new way.

I could’ve done a “Twilight Zone” themed chapter with weird aliens or supernatural events, and called it a demonic dream or a hallucination, but I didn’t because that’s cheating. For my own edification and for the purpose of this exercise, I want to shy away from tropes and try something new. Plus, I’m taking prompts for Unhitched side-fics and super weird dolls that are alive wouldn’t really fit into normal physics.

If you want to, watch the thirty-minute Twilight Zone episode, The Living Doll, before reading.

7373 words

Rated: T

“If your life is so miserable, honey, why did you marry him?”

She paused as she conjured up an answer that wouldn’t disgrace herself or disappoint her mother. “I think I felt trapped. You and Dad were so proud when the Golden Child moved away … I didn’t want to be the biggest failure in our family.”

“Now that’s unfair, young lady; don’t compare yourself to your sister. And you know your brother will always be the biggest failure in our family. Let’s not forget that you were the one who wanted to get married so fast, not us.” Her mother paused. “He’s not actually slow is he?”

“No, Mom, Jesus! He’s not dumb, he’s just … different. He gets a little nervous around other people.”

“Honey, you’ve always been a social butterfly, what in God’s name did you even find attractive about him? All he does is mope around reading, and he ignores the whole family when we get together. There is something not right about him. He doesn’t talk about normal things.”

Her husband wasn’t a monster. He wasn’t crass or cruel. He was always respectful, even when she found herself behaving less than considerate towards him. He didn’t seem to care about her checkered past and when he did, it was to celebrate it. He overlooked her vulgar language and “progressive” thoughts when the world said no decent man would. And that’s exactly what she thought of him: he was decent. And that decency was good enough to marry.

She twisted the phone cord and plopped down on a kitchen chair, staring at the pile of breakfast dishes still teetering by the sink. “Mom, have you ever felt like if people knew who you really were, that they’d never want to have anything to do with you? Like one bad decision could follow you forever and there is no way to get past it … so you just … hide it.” She sighed, waiting for a response, but the phone had gone eerily silent.

“I’ve felt that, honey … Did you feel like you had to marry him? Because if that’s why you did it, you can say it, sweetheart. Lord knows I can’t judge you for a damn thing. We’ve all been a little reckless at times.”

She bit her lip and took a deep breath. “He’s a good guy, Mom. He’s a little weird and sometimes he gets upset for no reason, but he’s always been sweet to me. I mean, he’s a little strange, but just saying that makes me feel like a jerk. So what if he is a little odd?!”

“Strange can be fun, sweetheart, until you’re stuck with it forever. Then all those cute quirks make you want to scream. Your father goes to sleep with his socks on. I thought it was the cutest damn thing I ever saw, until I married him. Then I found eighteen pairs wadded up at the foot of the bed. We hadn’t even been married for eighteen days yet! Now, I just want to kill him for it.”

She snickered and leaned back, righting the upturned salt and pepper shakers and dusting the spilled grit to the floor. “For us it’s not something silly like socks. He’s weird in a different way. Sometimes he won’t even look at me, or when he does, it’s like he’s looking straight through me. And we never talk. I thought after we got married he’d want to share everything with me, but it’s like we said our vows and he just clammed up. He talks about being a freshman sometimes, but everything before and after that never happened. And Jesus, he bites my head off over the weirdest shit. I can’t bring newspapers home anymore; did Dad tell you that? And I told you what happened this morning … He just stormed out after making a mess of the kitchen because I set out his breakfast while he was still in the shower. I never know what’s going to set him off. He’s a damn powder keg that smokes two packs a day.” She stood and paced as she collected her thoughts and organized the stack of dirty plates from smallest to largest.

“He doesn’t talk about anything? Really? What about his students or other teachers?”

“I guess he complains about his job sometimes, but he never talks about his parents or his friends–”

“Does he have any friends?”

“Not that I know of. He only ever talks about the superintendent, and I’ve met the man; he’s an idiot.”

“You know, you never answered my question about why you actually married him.”

She set a skillet in the sink to soak and cleared her throat. A year ago, her reasons for getting married seemed to overflowed her heart. He was perfect and gentle and would do anything to make her happy. Her life had been split between “growing up” – a time for friends and frivolity – and “being an adult,” after he’d made his incredibly generous proposal. She was tired of being thought of as a careless child and was ready to raise her own foolish brood with the help of a man eager to share her life. Her expectations were that he’d share his as well, and when he didn’t, and their pre-made family fell through her fingers and from her body, she’d forgotten what it felt like to be so in love. It now took concentrated thought to remember those butterflies and coy smiles because those memories seemed to slowly trickle through the cracks that had formed around her broken heart.

“When I first talked to him, it was like I was looking in this beautiful mirror, but it wasn’t me looking back, or it wasn’t him … I don’t know. That sounds so stupid. He was charming and innocent. And God, he knew exactly what to say like he’d studied every inch of me, you know?”

“Hadn’t he?”


“I know you slept with him the first night you met him. Your sister told me everything.”

“Are you serious? I’m gonna kill her!”

Her mother’s chuckle echoed through the phone. “Don’t say that about your sister … and, honey, I don’t blame you. The boy’s easy on the eyes, I will give him that, but the first night? Couldn’t you have waited a little? Teased him a bit? Your father and I waited–” She suddenly paused. “That’s a bad example. Your Aunt Chloe – she waited until they were married two whole years! Of course, he was in the navy, so it wasn’t as hard …”

A laugh relaxed her and she leaned back on the table. Within the often coarse or God-flecked commentary of her mother’s daily phone calls, were shining nuggets of good, solid advice, and she appreciated finding a few to help her through the week. That day had been a particularly rough morning, and after sweeping up the broken plate and meticulously folding his shirts and underwear, she’d spent the last two hours on the phone, attempting to see the world through the eyes of a man she couldn’t understand.

“He was so cute, Mom, and nervous … He kept dropping stuff and forgetting what to say. Normally when a guy doesn’t stop calling me pretty, he’s a creep and I tell him to get lost. This was different. Every time he said it, he looked like his heart was breaking, like he couldn’t believe that I was even talking to him. And Mom, he asked if he could kiss me on the cheek! Not even the lips,” she chuckled, “And then–” She suddenly stopped, thinking better of her next comment, “Nevermind.”

“People used to ask for things like that, you know. We didn’t just wander around, sucking on whatever we wanted like catfish. What’s it say about your father and I that an honest-to-God gentleman is blowing my daughter’s mind?! Good lord … And what were you going to say? You know if you don’t tell me, I’ll just pester your sister for the rest.”

She scoffed and hummed, debating if she should continue when she glanced at the Lucky Strike Lanes calendar hanging over the key hooks. “It’s about S-E-X, Mom, you still want me to keep going?”

“You already married him, honey. It’s not news to me.”

“Well, first off, your other daughter is a liar. I didn’t sleep with him the day I met him – I just wanted to clear that up right now. Second thing: he likes going really slow in that department, and I thought that was weird. It kind of made me look at him differently.”

“What kind of fast-moving bastards have you been dating?!”

“What?” she laughed, “It’s not like I’ve never gone slow, but we were sort of …” She grumbled under her breath as she paced. “I don’t think you want to hear this.”

“Don’t make me call your sister. I really don’t want to talk about wallpaper for forty-five minutes just to find out what you and he were up to.”

“Okay, so the first time we were together was down at the bowling alley.”

“The first time you met him was down at that bowling alley.”

“Yeah, this was that day, but we didn’t have sex.”

“Lord. Go on … but don’t make me spend the rest of my weekend in church, trying to save your fiendish soul.”

“You told me to keep going, so I’m just going to tell you the honest-to-God truth.”

“Don’t bring God into this, you heathen,” her mother laughed. “Go on then. Give your poor old mother a heart attack.”

She smiled and brushed her hair behind her ear as she remembered. “He was being really cute, fidgeting with his glasses and biting his lip while he pretended to play pinball. I knew he was looking at me, but when I said hi, he wouldn’t even look me in the eye, he was so nervous. He kept checking the door like he was waiting for someone to tell him he wasn’t allowed to talk to me, and that just made everything so much funnier. He was skinny as a rail and clean-shaven then, you remember?”

“A real baby face, if I recall. Now he has that ugly push broom.”

“I like his mustache. Reminds me of Dad.”

“I’ll tell him you said that.”

She snickered and continued, “And you know how much I love blue eyes … Every time I looked into his eyes, his face got all red. It was the cutest damn thing. But his small talk was ridiculous. He just rattled on about the weather, and books, and different arcade games, just the biggest nerd.”

“Well, nerd or not, he charmed the pants off you.”

“Uh, no, actually …”

A soft chuckle filled her ear.

“So, he got us a couple Cokes and we were watching all my friends bowl, but he wasn’t playing for some reason. Actually, I have no idea what he was doing there. He didn’t even have bowling shoes …” She stopped and wrinkled her forehead. The details of a day nearly a year and a half ago should have been harder to recall. But the more she imagined the first time she saw her young soon-to-be husband watching her from the far end of the bowling alley, the clearer it all became. “Anyway, they were all hooting and hollering about some score, and I thought that he and I could, you know, make out a little.” The silence from the other end of the line, had her shaking her head. “Are you crossing yourself, Mom?”

“Nope. Go on.”

She suddenly blushed and blurted, “I took him to the ladies room–“

“… dear God Almighty…”

“I took him to the ladies room,” she repeated quickly, “And you should’ve seen his face. He was white like a ghost and sweating so bad his glasses kept slipping down his nose.”

“He probably thought you were going to rob him.”

“He did not!”

“I would have.”

“Robbed him?!”

“No! I’d have thought you were some pickpocketing harlot out to steal my wallet! He’s a poor southern boy who can’t hold a conversation to save his life, and you took advantage of him!”

“I did like hell!”

“So, you were making out with the boy in a toilet stall like the good girl I raised you to be … continue.”

“Well, I mean you know what happens after a while …”

“I can assure you, I do not know what you are referring to.”

“He got excited, Mom.”

“I’m zipping my lip.”

“No, you are not. And I’m not even going to be able to tell the next part because you’re going to call me a slut.”

“I wonder why I’d call you that?”

“I used my mouth on him.”

“Why, dear God, why?! That’s why he married you, isn’t it? You have no shame! And boys can smell a floozy. They love bagging themselves a whore, but jokes on them, they cheat!”

“Mom!” she laughed. “I know for a fact that whores are not the only people to use their mouths.”

“I certainly never did. The good Lord gave you a mouth for eating food and nothing else. He gave you other bits for that. Why use your mouth?! It’s filthy!”

“It is not filthy. That’s insane. I sort of feel bad for Dad now, though.”

“Oh hush, don’t feel bad for that bastard. I wait on him hand and foot and that’s as good a sex to him.”

She cringed and flopped back down at the kitchen table to continue, “I felt him through his pants and told him I could use my mouth … but, you know, I offered to do it. I didn’t just go at him like a piece of meat or something.”

“Good thinking. Don’t want to seem too eager.”

“I can hear your eyes rolling.”

“Your father bought a new telephone. Picks up every sound. You should get one.”

She ignored her mother and moved on. “So he agreed and I unzipped his pants. Now, I’m not gonna to be able to explain why this next part is weird because you have no idea what it’s like normally.”

“I’m imagining you not being able to breathe, and then him yelling a bunch of profanities.”

Her hand flew to her mouth, holding back her burst of laughter. “That’s not far off, but no,” she chuckled, “I got down on my knees and was, you know, sucking on him, and normally they just say stupid shit like ‘you like that’ or ‘ you’re really good at this.’”

“Well of course … and then you’d say, ‘you’re so big’ or ‘this is my first time’.”

She laughed and clapped her thigh. “Mom, you’d be a natural!” she chuckled, “But he didn’t say any of that. In fact, he was completely silent like he always is. But – and this is the weird part – he wanted to hold my hand while I did it.” She grimaced again and leaned on the table, waiting for her mother’s reply. “Did you hear me?”

“He wanted to hold your hand? What do they normally do, bend over and grope for your chest?”

She shook her head and snickered under her breath. “Sometimes they touch your hair or just stare at you like a dog. They don’t normally ask to hold hands.”

“What do you think he was trying to do? Check for a ring?”

“I don’t think so. It was weird because he pressed my hand against his mouth and closed his eyes.” Her lip curled as she thought about the awkward exchange. “I was on my knees in that white and green dress you got me for Christmas. But I was freaking out because he yanked up my arm so far that I was sure he was going to tear out the zipper. And I love that dress! I want another one for Christmas.”

Her mother hollered out a laugh. “Woolworth, honey, but would you rather have a calf-length to protect your knees next time? They have a blue one that would match his eyes!”

They both broke into a fit of hysterics until her mother finally caught her breath. “You have no idea how wonderful it is to hear you laughing again. I feel like it’s been months.”

She wiped tears from her eyes and calmed herself with a sigh. “We laugh, Mom. We really do. He can be fun sometimes.”

“You called me in quite a tizzy this morning though. Not laughing then.”

“He just scared me, Mom, it was nothing.”

“You were crying so much I didn’t recognize your voice, and when I figured it out, I damn near drove straight over and got you.”

“Don’t say that. I was being dramatic; that’s all. I just wish I knew what sets him off. He’s so serious about everything.”

“He’s always seemed a little ‘sensitive’ to me.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Honey, he spent your entire wedding day in tears. The only person that could calm him down was your Uncle Ronny, and we all know about Uncle Ronny.”

“What’s wrong with Uncle Ronny?!”

“When your father and I started dating, your Uncle Ronny was about twelve. I’d been invited over for your Grandmother’s birthday to meet the whole family. Ronny spent the entire time in the kitchen making this ugly three-tiered cake for his mother while all the other brothers were out in the yard, playing football. When the whole thing went tits up, he cried for hours over that cake. He and I sat in his room for the rest of the party until he stopped crying and then we spent an hour just pouring over his bottle cap collection. Any of that sound familiar? He was ‘sensitive’, too.”

“Hey, I don’t mind talking about shells, and Kev’s not sensitive, Mom!”

“You’re still calling him Kevin?! Lord have mercy. Doesn’t that piss him off?”

“I don’t think so. He always laughs … I mean, I called him Kevin for weeks, but that wasn’t my fault. He never corrected me. How was I supposed to know?!”

“You two are a match made in heaven, I swear to God. Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dumbass.”

She laughed and covered her face until her head snapped up when the front door rattled and pushed open. “Mom, I gotta go. I think he’s home. Love you.” She hung up and stood, fixing her blouse and hair and leaned out the kitchen doorway to find her husband pulling his satchel over his shoulder.

“Hello, hotshot,” he said, cocking a half-grin. He glanced around the messy house, dishes still sitting on the counter, and their bed unmade at the end of the long hall. “I’m sorry I’m home early.”

“Why are you sorry?”

He shrugged, hung his bag by the door, and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. “Did you make dinner?”

“I thought maybe we could go out tonight, just for fun. What do you think? Want to take your old ball-and-chain out dancing?” She smiled and spun on her heels.

He pushed past her on his way into the kitchen. “I’m hungry and you know I don’t dance.”

She rolled her eyes and turned to find him digging through a low cabinet. “Well, what are your plans this evening then?”

He stood and sighed, wrenching open the refrigerator door. “Well, right now, I have to cook us dinner because it’s not going to cook itself. Then, I’ll probably mow the lawn, unless you want to do either of those things yourself.” He grabbed a bag of bologna, closed the fridge door, and waited for her answer.

“The lawn looks fine to me, and I’d really like to go out.”

He ripped open a kitchen cupboard and pulled out a bag of bread and a can of tomato soup, pushing aside a stack of bowls to make room on the counter. “We’re at an impasse then, perfect. Go out. Have fun. In fact, have too much fun.” He scoffed as he turned away, pulling two slices of bread from the bag and dropping them onto the dirty counter. “I’ll be here, eating the food I already paid for and watching TV.”

She nodded and her shoulders fell. His reply was certainly not atypical. Her desires to get out of their suburban prison perpetually fell on deaf and disregarding ears. Unfortunately, a little burst of hope endured at the very edge of her heart. It remained there, blissfully imagining her husband grinning like a fool and brushing his hand across her face as they spoke. It would picture him playfully sneaking up behind her and kissing her neck. It would remain hopeful that he’d want to take her dancing or relive their first date at the bowling alley, but it was always crushed.

“Then can I join you for bologna and TV?” she asked, nodding to the bread in his hands.

He peered at her, and she was troubled by how he studied her as though her words were hiding a cryptic message that he was working furiously to decode. “I said go out and have fun,” he repeated. “Why would you want to stay in?”

“Because this is the longest conversation we’ve had in months and I thought maybe by the grace of God it could last another twenty minutes.”

He quickly glanced around the room, searching for an invisible someone or something in the empty kitchen. “Have you been talking to your mother,” he said, his eyes narrowing. He lowered his voice. “Dear God, is she in the house right now. Don’t say anything, just nod if she is.”

She smiled, suppressing her laughter which she had no intention of letting bubble out, but failed as always. “She’s not here, but I did talk to her.”

He scoffed and continued making his dinner, which now included two bologna sandwiches. “And what pearls of wisdom did she share this time? No, stop. Let me guess. You’re brother’s the stain on the family, your sister’s a stick-in-the-mud, she hates your father … and I’m a temperamental piece of shit who is slowly destroying your life and probably the world. Please, tell me I’m close; I’m just dying to know.”

“You’re not far off. But she also called you ‘sensitive’.”

He laughed, his forehead wrinkling. “What the hell does that mean?”

“Sensitive like my Uncle Ronny.”

She watched him grind his teeth as he wrenched the can opener around the edge of the soup can and then plop the content in a pot on the stove. “Which one’s he?”

“The guy you cried all over at the wedding.”

“Ah. I thought his name was Reginald.”

“It is.”

He huffed, and as he stirred the soup, she slowly approached and wrapped her arms around him, pressing her chest to his back. “Why did you cry so much at the wedding?”

“Seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Would you have married me if you’d known what was going to happen to the baby?”

“Nope,” he said, but suddenly hemmed and hawed at his callous answer. “I would have waited, probably. Gone back to school first.”

“You didn’t hurt my feelings,” she said. “I wouldn’t have married you either.”

“Well that’s a disappointing relief,” he said, “Dinner’s ready.”

She smiled and the pair plodded through the monotony of the evening, beginning with a hastily eaten dinner at the messy counter. He was still convinced that their half-inch tall lawn was in need of a trim, so while he spent an hour alone, meticulously mowing their small patch of crispy weeds, she cleaned the kitchen and then returned to the phone.

“Mom, he’s sort of making jokes; what do I do?!”

“Crack him on the head so you’ll always have these beautiful memories to cherish.”

She laughed and cradled her eyes. “No really. I’m supposed to watch TV with him tonight. I don’t know what to do with him.”

“I never watch TV with your father. He picks the worst programs and then laughs at every commercial like it’s part of the show. I hate it.”

“You’re not going to help me, are you?”

“I don’t know what you young girls do anymore. Just use your mouth on him; that’s how you won him, right?”

“Mom! Stop it you gross old woman!”

“You’re right, no mouth. Use your other bits – the God-given ones meant for this sort of situation. I want a granddaughter – I’m good with little girls. The boys … they’re harder to work with.”

“He’s not going to want to have sex, now, Mom; I just need some talking points.”

“Why would you want to talk to him? Just take off your shirt, shut him up, and then watch whatever you want to watch; it always works for me. Or just start randomly talking about sex. That freaks them out. And why wouldn’t your husband want to sleep with you? That’s probably both of your damn problems. You kids give it all away before marriage so you have nothing left to give each other after the wedding. Or wait … is it the slow thing? Is he too slow? I swear he looks like a minute-man, but maybe that’s just me.”

“He’s not … I mean, he is sometimes, I guess … I’m not discussing this either.”

“I’m calling your sister.”

“Go ahead, I haven’t told her anything.”

“Where is he now, and what made you call me back?”

She peeked out the open kitchen window to find him crouched by the mower, attempting to restart it. “He’s out mowing the lawn, and I don’t know why I called. I think I’m nervous. He doesn’t normally talk to me when he gets home … and he called me hotshot.”

“Okay. That is a weird pet name. Why, hotshot? Is he calling you spicy or is he just not right in the head?”

“He eats the candy a lot – he has a thing for cinnamon, but normally, he only calls me that when he’s, you know … ready for bed.”

“Oh, Lordy. See? He does want sex. And do you really need to consult me over every little bit of trouble? I already do this with your brother and sister. You know your brother’s new fling, The braless wonder? I told her not to let the door hit her in the hippie ass, and she’s still hanging around; can you believe that? If she didn’t keep pilfering his drugs right out from under his nose, I’d tell him to kick her to the curb, but at this point, I think it’s better that she hangs around.”

“Mom, I want your honest opinion. Did I make a huge mistake marrying him?”

The line grew quiet and contemplative. “Honey, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think there was a better man out there for you – one with a spark, who wants to take you out on the town and show you off. You found someone with a good job, a pretty face, and he’s polite, but, sweetheart – and I’m only saying this because you asked – he’s just … lifeless. Do you know what I mean?”

Her eyes drifted to the floor and she nodded to herself. “He’s really angry, Mom, but he hides it, and he won’t tell me why. Sometimes I piss him off on purpose because if he didn’t get angry about stuff, it would be like I was living with a dead man. And he really scared me this morning … ”

“Oh, honey.” Her mother sighed into the phone. “I’m so sorry. But be careful pulling stunts like that. Things are already sounding rocky, you don’t need to make it worse.”

“Is this just it, though? Is my life just going to be tiptoeing around him until he decides to talk to me? I don’t think I want to live like that, Mom. It feels wrong.”

“Give it another couple years. You two will warm up to each other and you might find that distance between you is sort of nice. It’ll give you something to re-explore together. A little concern, a little doubt, it just keeps everyone on their toes. Wouldn’t want to grow complacent, that’s how you lose the passion, and then you might start hating him. I’m sure everything will be fine, sweetheart. It’ll get better. Just stick it out …”

She nodded and quickly said her goodbyes before hanging up and rushing to the bathroom. She brushed her long blonde hair and by the time she returned to the kitchen, he was lining up his grass-stained shoes by the door. Without a word, he ducked around her to make his way to the bathroom to shower.

Twenty minutes turned to thirty, then sixty, and she sat on the couch, resting her eyes. She jolted awake when a hand tapped her shoulder.

“Why don’t you just go to bed?” he said, plopping beside her on the couch.

She sat up and watched the television flicker and glow as it warmed up. The sun had set, and the time read ten o’clock. On a weekday, he would be in bed by that hour, but it was Friday, and his favorite show was about to air – a show that gave her the creeps with its stories of sinister ghosts and unnatural phenomenon. She typically refused to watch it.

“Why do you love this show so much?” she asked.

“It delves into the deepest parts of the imagination,” he said, tapping his temple. “The scary parts no one likes to think about.”

“It’s just a bunch of crazy horror stories. Isn’t real life horrible enough?”

He snickered, and it sounded far too strained to make her comfortable. “You are quite a peach this evening,” he said.

“Why’d you call me hotshot?”

His face fell slack as he stared at her, and she stared back, unblinking.

“No reason,” he said, and the familiar twangy tune of the show’s introduction drew his attention back to the television set. “Do you want to watch something else? I know you hate this show.”

“This is fine, but you might have to explain it since I’ll probably cover my eyes for most of it.”

He nodded. “Does an active imagination scare you that badly?”

“Sometimes. I don’t like stories where people are killed or just disappear.”

“Okay, well, I’m here, and I can turn it off whenever you want.”

She nodded slowly and for some reason his pale skin, sunken eyes, and white tee-shirt made him look like a ghost. She brushed her hand down the soft cotton of his shirt just to be sure he wasn’t.

He watched her fingers trail down his shoulder and nodded to the arm of the couch behind her. “Hand me the afghan and an ashtray.”

She did as requested, tossing the bright blue and green blanket over him and the glass ashtray in his lap. He lit a cigarette and held up his arm, motioned for her to come closer to him. She slid along the cushion until she was pressed snuggly under the crook of his arm and he draped the blanket over them both.

“Better?” he wondered. She nodded as the screen opened on a mother and daughter showing a brand new Talky Tina doll to a very disgruntled father.

“Why can’t the father just be happy that his little girl loves her new doll?” she wondered, nuzzling against her husband.

“Maybe because the wife just spent a ridiculous amount of money to buy a toy the little girl doesn’t need.”

“But his daughter’s happy. Doesn’t that count for anything?”

“He probably had to work sixteen hours to pay for it. Does that seem fair? That’s straight wages, not even taxed. And I’m not counting the cost to feed his whole family for those two days, or the mortgage on that huge damn house, or the maintenance and gasoline in that car they just parked out front. Does the Dad count at all, or are the wife and daughter the only …” He trailed off as he watched the father yell at the doll and throw it across the room. “Okay, he doesn’t need to break the damn doll … who throws shit when they’re angry? This guy needs to grow up.”

A loud unintentional scoff burst from her lungs though she tried to stifle it with the edge of the afghan.

“What?” he snapped. “You have something to say to me?” She shook her head so he cleared his throat and insisted, “I didn’t throw the plate this morning.”

“You must have a very active imagination if you think the plate smashed itself on the floor.”

He nodded and took a long drag. “I’m sorry I scared you. I’m not a violent person.”

“Except when you’re breakfast is cold, right?” She felt her lip quiver so she covered her mouth and buried her face in the blanket. If she knew what caused his eyes to glaze over or his teeth to grit and temper flare she could skirt around those issues, but it was a random occurrence that left her emotions reeling and her life far more stressful than she had envisioned.

His arm eventually wrapped around her as she composed herself and they both resumed their half-hearted viewing of whatever bizarre episode this would turn out to be.

The little girl’s dolly on the show was beginning to spout threats when she felt him leaned over and nuzzle her temple.

“I’m not violent,” he repeated. “I wouldn’t hurt a fly because that’s just not me. I don’t want you to worry about me like that.”

“Apparently a little concern is good for a relationship,” she scoffed, “Keeps the passion alive.”

“Are we thanking your mother for that fantasy? Talk about lying to yourself … the woman’s delusional.” He settled back into the couch, still puffing on his cigarette while she tried to relax and enjoy the show.

When the television father began receiving threatening phone calls from the doll, she let out a groan. “Is the doll going to kill him? I can’t watch this if the doll’s going kill him.”

“Talky Tina is definitely going to kill him, but the question is how?”

She looked up at him, curiously eyeing his gaze which was fixed on the television. “How? What’s it matter how?”

“Well, you have a doll up against a full-grown man. Tina has certain skills or tools at her disposal – a voice box to speak over the phone, she can move apparently and has the trust of the little girl and the mother. Now the father, he’s tried to destroy Tina, but he keeps failing, so the doll obviously has more up her sleeve than just a plastic arm. The trick is to figure out how Tina could kill him before it actually happens … What do you think she’s going to do?” He sat up and leaned away to better view her face.

“I … don’t think,” she said, wearily watching her husband’s peculiar excitement over such a silly show.

He nodded and cleared his throat. “Yeah, but … but think anyway. She could set the house on fire, but I don’t think her fingers move well enough to strike a match.”

“A knife, maybe? Or a gun?”

“Too conventional, and she’d need to be more dexterous than she is.”

“Poison?” she wondered.

“That’s good, but she could accidentally poison the girl, and I don’t see her wanting to do that. Tina’s protecting the girl. She’s designed a plan to take the asshole dad out of the picture and she’ll do it with only the skills she possesses and with minimal interference. She doesn’t care about being heard, but she cares about being seen. How would you murder someone if you were a doll?”

“You have a very criminal mind, you know that?” she snickered.

He visibly bristled and shoved his glasses up his nose. “Think of it like her game. How does she design it so that the asshole dad always loses?”

“Do you think she’s strong enough to suffocate him?”

“That’s a good point,” he said studying the television again. “Probably not with a pillow, though, and don’t forget that the wife’s in the same room. Tina would be more discreet. Separate the herd and pick them off when they’re at their weakest.”

“The dad’s leaving the bedroom!” she suddenly squeaked. “The doll’s going to kill him now!” She curled up under the blanket hiding her face against him.

“Think!” he chuckled, wrapping his arm around her. “You’re doing good! It’s almost over. What about a void or something; maybe she can conjure magic.”

“Magic?!” she laughed from under the blanket. “It’s a doll, not a witch. Oh! Oh!” She ripped the blanket off her face. “He’s at the top of the stairs! What if she tripped him?! Doesn’t someone die like that in Psycho?”

“When did you see Psycho?!” he scoffed. “And the guy in Psycho had already been stabbed in the face …” They both turned to the television, holding their breaths as the father’s foot landed on the doll and he slipped, plummeting down the stairs to his death. He landed hard at the bottom, the doll tumbling to a stop, directly across from his face.

“He tripped!” she hollered, throwing her hands into the air. “I was right!” He laughed against her neck as she wrapped her arms around him. “I did it! I beat that stupid doll!” They both laughed, embracing on the couch until she pulled back, grinning ear to ear to have a look at the man beaming in her arms.

His sunken eyes now looked exhausted and lost, but his ghostly appearance had faded to reveal his warm pinking cheeks. He resembled his old self for a moment, anxious but excited, young and hopelessly naive. His mouth grinned, but his eyes refused to join them in that fleeting moment of merriment, so he remained a sad picture of unrest. 

“What do you want to do now?” he asked, fidgeting with the strands of blonde hair clinging to her wet lips.

She casually shrugged and smiled. “We could talk.”

He sighed, but to her, it wasn’t lonesome or bored or disappointed. It just felt tired and yet relieved. “Tell me about your day.”

“I talked to my Mom,” she said, and he hummed in response. “I told her about how much I love that white and green dress she bought me a couple years ago.”

He raised his eyebrow. “And what did she say?”

“She said she got it at Woolworth and that they have a pretty blue one that matches your eyes.”

He gasped. “But then what did you say?”

“I said that my husband is a jackass and that I should make him wear the damn dress.”

He snickered and chewed his lip, patting her knee under the blanket. “Good talk.”

To avoid the conversation being closed completely, she slid her hand over his. “Want to talk about fucking?”

“I’m not certain that’s a good idea.”

“Well, we don’t have to talk about it … hotshot.”

His gaze immediately fell to the floor, and he huffed an anxious snicker that reminded her of their first nervous conversation. “You’re on to me, I see.”

She softly kissed his neck and then stood, letting the blanket fall to the floor. When he remained motionless, she tugged his shirt until he finally rose and followed her back to the unmade bed in their pitch-black bedroom.

She undressed, dropping her clothes in the pile at the foot of the bed and crawled over the sheets, waiting for him. Six weeks – perhaps seven – had elapsed since they had last been intimate, although their new definition of intimate left something to be desired.

The bed dipped when he joined her. He crawled between her legs until their faces were inches apart, yet still hidden from one another in the darkness. It had become a ritual – a solemn series of actions performed in the very specific order he’d laid out mouths before. It never changed, and she wasn’t fully convinced that she wanted it to.

He made love to her in the same way she imagined other husbands attempting to please their wives – panting through clenched teeth, eyes closed and lost in thought. Her world and bed rocked with the sway of his hips and she found herself at peace, knowing at that moment, there was nothing more she could do for him. Her hands only rested on his back, never his naked shoulders, and the lights would remain darkened to hide sullen faces, full breasts, and the healing scars that gashed under navels and over hearts.

When his duty had been completed to the best of his ability, she rolled onto her stomach and waited to be taken from behind. He never kissed her, nor did she attempt to kiss him. She knew the very real physical limits a body might impose upon itself and she respected them. It might reject the confining squeeze of a hug or an invasive and unwarranted tongue. It might jerk if an old injury is exposed or probed. He had given her body space when she needed it most, so she wholeheartedly returned the favor when he so easily became overwhelmed by his own skin.

He always finished at her back. He always breathed against her ear. And when either of them felt the crest and fall of physical relief, it was without spoken warning or any other sweet nothings.

Out shopping or with friends, she was still treated as a newlywed. She was still fawned over and there were family and neighbors who had yet to congratulate her. Whenever stopped on the street to be embraced and have her ring inspected, she smiled through the pain as was expected of such a young beautiful bride. She had a home, a garden to tend, an educated and handsome husband, and a youthful figure, and each was more barren than the last.

When his whimpers turned breathy, fading into her hair and his body finally slowed to a stop, he rolled them both to their sides to fall asleep. Though his heart beat against her back, his hands remained motionless, refusing to explore her soft skin, so she laid with her companion in solitude.

“What would you have done if I’d left you alone this evening?” she asked.

He brushed her hair from his face and sighed. “Exactly what I just did.”

“How would we have made love if I wasn’t here?”

“I would have masturbated in the shower.”

“Why didn’t you tonight?”

“I heard what you said … about not knowing what to do with me … like I’m a bad dog you aren’t allowed to put down.”

She clenched her eyes, a burning heat spreading over her cheeks. “I’m sorry you heard that,” she whispered. The warmth of his body receded and she groped for the cold sheets to cover herself.

His voice, now bitter, hissed from behind her. “How could you say that I’m dead inside?”

She gasped and covered her mouth to hold back the inadequate apology threatening to gush from her lips. There was no response capable of soothing a wound that cruelly or casually inflicted. If she knew of only one facet of her husband, it was that he became heavily perturbed when referred to as cowardly, crazy, or devoid of life. She quickly felt behind her until she found his hand and pulled it to her face, kissing his palm.

He withdrew his hand as rapidly as she had taken it, his chest stuttering with each choking breath. “I’m not dead inside,” he hissed.

She cradled her eyes as she felt him weep only inches from her bare skin. They were not the long bellowing tremors of a man hurt or heartbroken. These sobs were short and quick, and full of new forms of frustration and agony. He claimed to not be dead inside, but they both would remain staunchly unconvinced.

i’m sorry, caller, what? [fic]

A Hannibal/Frasier vingette

Sometimes your most popular fic is a piece of wet garbage that you wish you’d never written. In about forty-eight hours, this less than 500-word trash heap where Will calls Dr. Crane’s radio show, garnered more views, comments, and kudos than any of my other fics at the time.

I wanted to shoot myself.

After about a year of randomly receiving comment and kudo notifications, I removed it from AO3. Yes, I get it; I shouldn’t be so ungrateful. After all, praise in all forms is nice to receive, but watching the fics you pour your soul into getting crickets while ten-minute cracky vignettes get all the glory is a painful reality no writers want to deal with.

For posterity’s sake, here it is in all of its unedited, former glory.

Rated: G

“Hello caller, welcome to the show.”

“Uh, hello. I’ve listened to your show for a while, Dr. Crane – trying to get a bead on one of my issues.”

“Please, caller, share with us your woes.”

“Well, uh … I’m having inappropriate feelings for a new person in my life.”

“That’s not uncommon, caller. Familiarity can sometimes gray the areas between friendship and love. What’s your relationship to this person?”

“He’s my psychiatrist.”

“Ah, well, I can see your problem. Does he seem to reciprocate your feelings?”

“Well, no … or maybe, yes. I don’t know.”

“Is he concerned with crossing a line with a patient? Because a good psychiatrist would be.”

“Ah, well that even greater complicates matters. Are you sure your feelings for your doctor aren’t simply a long-held desire to feel heard? Many people develop somewhat personal feelings for their psychiatrist because he or she knows such intimate details about their lives. Psychiatry is a very intimate field. It can get confusing.”

“That’s a concern, but probably not his biggest. I think I’m struggling because I know I feel something for him, but I don’t want to destroy our professional relationship if I’m wrong. We also work together, or worked together.”

“Maybe. I’ve only recently allowed myself to be … psychoanalysed. And it’s been a bumpy ride.”

“Examining oneself always is. Tell me, caller, has your doctor said or done anything to make you believe that he has more romantic feelings for you?”

“Well, he shoved an ear down my throat and framed me for murder, but that’s not really romantic.”

“He, um … I’m sorry caller, what?”

“I think he fed me a human heart once. That’s probably considered more romantic than the ear thing.”

“Excuse me, caller, I’m confused. He–he did what again?”

“It’s a long story. But recently he moved away while I was in the hospital. I woke up and he was just gone. That was hard for me to handle.”

“That sounds tragic. Did he say goodbye?”

“Well, yeah. That’s why I was in the hospital.”


“But I really feel this burning need to find him. What we have isn’t over yet.”

“I can understand your need for closure, caller, but if he left after a … painful goodbye, perhaps he’s telling you that he needs time apart.”

“But we parted on very bad terms … and I still have a lot I need to say to him.”

“I understand, but as unfortunate as that is, we cannot force others to listen nor should rely on someone else to give us closure – we need to find that ourselves. Tell me, caller, do you have any hobbies you could immerse yourself in for the time being?”

“I fly fish, but all my equipment was seized when the police raided my house.”

“Uh … right. Anything else?”

“Not really.”

“What about a pet? Perhaps a dog? Dogs are very therapeutic.”

“You think I should get a dog?”

“Dogs offer us a multitude–”

“I agree. I’m thinking an Aussie mix? I live in a farmhouse; lots of land around me … What about two dogs? Three? Do they become exponentially more therapeutic the more dogs you own?”

“Well, I don’t know, caller. After awhile they might stress your–”

“No. They wouldn’t be a problem. No stress. Just dogs … I think you might be on to something, doc.”

“Uh … I’m glad you think so, caller. While you are recovering from your former relationship, try to surround yourself with the things that bring you joy. It will aid in your recovery.”

“So, do you think I should take the dog with me when I go looking for him? Because I’ve taken dogs on planes and it’s not fun for me or the dog.”

“Well, no, the dog was to replace your trip, not to add to it. I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to chase after someone who doesn’t seem as invested in the relationship as you.”

“Well, no that’s not really the case though. He’s invested in what we have, he’s just wanted by the police.”

“So he’s running from the police?”

“Yeah, hence the quick and painful goodbye.”

“… Dare I ask what he’s being charged with?”

“Well, I told you, he forced me to eat a human ear and framed me for murder. But also, a few other things … Do you really think I shouldn’t go after him? It seems like he really wants me to chase him. And after everything we’ve gone through, he feels like my partner now. I mean, we had a surrogate daughter together.”

“Ah, a family problem! I know who you need to call, Dr. Niles Crane – also in Seattle, he’ll fix you right up. Good luck, caller, and thanks for listening – Roz, next caller please!”

down the garden path [fic & concept]

A Hannibal/Rosemary & Thyme crossover concept with a vignette…

I plotted this crossover. No joke. I plotted it all out, start to finish. It was supposed to be twelve chapters.

Botanist, Rosemary Boxer, and gardener (and former police officer) Laura Thyme, are in the states to fix up an old friend’s delightful little terrace. Bella Crawford had nothing but wonderful things to say about her English gardeners so Hannibal takes her recommendation and hires the pair of ladies to refurbish part of his yard and look into a few issues with his container garden.

Rated: G

“Ladies, this is the garden you’ll be redesigning,” said Hannibal, gesturing over the small yard off his kitchen. “The greenhouse will be erected here and the multi-leveled garden around it. You saw the initial plans?” 

“We did! And they look charming. Not many people want Victorian greenhouses anymore – sort of an odd request.” Laura scanned the sod to be removed. “Is it for your wife?”

“I’m not married. I have an affinity for classic design and I’m in need of a experimental area for my botanical observations. It just seemed appropriate.”

“Observations? Like a laboratory? How interesting,” said Rosemary, “What sort of experiments?”

“Cross-breeding and some speculative sixteenth-century medical trials.”

Rosemary cocked an intrigued smile. “Searching for the elixir vitae are you?”

“Not exactly,” he chuckled. “Are you a history buff, Ms. Boxer?”

“A bit; but only when it comes to botany.”

“I may have to pick your brain, then … if you’re familiar with Victorian medicine.”

She waved her hand dismissively through the air. “Oh, just what I’ve learned from my ethnobotanist friends.” She brushed along a bush covered in a light, powdery dust. “You said you have a fungal problem too; is this it?” 

“Yes; it’s in my herb garden inside and out here. And I fear I spread it to the garden at my office as well. I should have left botanical matters to the professionals,” he said with a smile.

“Oh no! Well, that’s why we’re here,” she replied. “I’m so glad we were able to stay on a little longer. Have you seen Phyllis and Jack’s new terrace yet?”

“I have not had the pleasure, but Bella had nothing but wonderful things to say about you and Mrs. Thyme.”

“Ms,” corrected Laura, her lip curling into a disgusted grimace. “He got the house and I got my life back.” Her attention immedetly returned to the yard. “A fair trade as far as I’m concerned.”

“Well, if you don’t mind, I’m expecting someone.” He hesitated, then turned toward the patio door off his dining room. “I assume you two will be fine out here?”

Rosemary beamed. “Oh, heavens yes! We’ll be fine! And you won’t even know we’re here, Mr. Lecter.”

“Doctor,” he corrected.

“It’s pronounced doctor?” scoffed Laura, “Mr. Doctor?”

Dr. Lecter,” he snapped with a sneer.

“Oh, right! Yes!” Laura nervously glanced at Rosemary, an embarrassed grin across her face as Hannibal scowled and slipped back into his home, leaving the pair to mull around his yard. 

Rosemary peeked behind her at the strange grimace creeping across her good friend’s face. “What’s wrong, Laura?”

“He’s a bit of an odd duck, isn’t he?” she said, curiously peering into the dark kitchen window.

“You think?”

“His home looks like the trophy room of an African poacher. And that suit! Paisley, houndstooth, and were those buttons made of bone?” Her nose wrinked as she shuddered. “Where does he think he is? A Paris catwalk?!”

Rosemary tightened her lips, stifling a laugh. ”He’s a bit strange maybe, a little … intense … but at least he was polite.”

“Polite?!” she scoffed. “Would you call a snake polite?”


“That man gives me the heebie-jeebies, Rosemary. Let’s hurry up with the garden. I don’t want to stick around here any longer than we have to.”

“Oh, Laura, you’re overreacting.” Rosemary brushed off her friends concerns as she carefully inspected more powder-covered leaves.

“I won’t be overreacting when we end up bound and gagged in that man’s cellar, will I? And did you see his kitchen? It looks like an operating theater.”

Rosemary chuckled as she ran her hands over a bush of peppermint. “Well if we end up in his cellar, Laura, you have my total and complete permission to overreact as much as you see fit.”

In this fic, the ladies find start construction on the greenhouse and as they move and re-pot, they find a bunch of very disconcerting plants. Then overhear an intense argument between Hannibal and a patient that may or may not end in hard objects being used to bludgeon someone.

They stumble upon a late session with a shaggy, unkempt FBI agent, and draw some very shocking conclusions about Hannibal’s intentions with the scruffy young man.

They join Hannibal for dinner.

They make some rather poignant, though rude commentary about the food.

Then they find out just what’s in that cellar of his.

a fish out of water [fic]

An incomplete “accidental sex” prompt-fill ficlet…

Last year there was an accidental sex prompt challenge making its rounds on Tumblr. I silently picked a prompt unbeknownst to my friends and got to work. The problem was that I also made it a fix-it for Fromage, the scene where Will rushes to Hannibal’s office to see him all dewy-eyed and concerned. It was supposed to fix the scene so Will actually dabbed Hannibal’s bloody face with the gauze sitting on the desk like it said in the script.

I failed.

No matter.

Try as I might, I couldn’t get our canon, season-one boys to get down and dirty. I just couldn’t. It’s not in their personalities yet. They hadn’t betrayed each other. Will hadn’t been assaulted by Hannibal yet. Hannibal hadn’t come to terms with his emotions yet. There was no sailing to Italy. No heart on swords. No tragic “It’s beautiful” or the fall.

So I didn’t share on Tumblr because there was no accidental sex. I didn’t share on AO3 because it’s a pointless scene that I never finished. But here on my personal blog, I don’t mind sharing since I am all alone over here.

So here’s what I did for prompt #22:

I showed you insert sexual thing here as a joke but you’re actually turned on sex

Rated: T
Leda and the Swan is totally inconsequential, but it’s pretty 
and has far more to do with sex than this failed fic.

“You are – and I mean this quite literally – the only person who doesn’t think I’m a laughing stock.” Will gave up on his forkful of salmon, lowering his hands to the table as the day’s embarrassing festivities replayed in his mind like an unforgivable set piece.

He’d been called to work – nothing exciting. The world goes on after traumatic events despite our fatigue, worry, or willingness to acknowledge the passing of time.

When he’d arrived at the morgue that morning, he found it decked with brightly colored rubber gloves and congratulatory banners hastily printed on the office laser. Before the door had latched behind him, a neon orange party hat had been snapped around his head.

“I heard,” said Hannibal, a smug grin refusing to leave his face. He took a bite of a scallop. “You’re free to blame me; it was partially my idea.”

“I intended to blame you, and they told me,” he replied, now rubbing his aching temples.

“You have to understand, Will, they want to be your friends. Friends celebrate important events together. No one was singling you out. To think that might be considered narcissistic.”

Narcissistic? No. Narcissistic would have been him handing out pre-approved gift lists to everyone he knew because no one could possibly know him like he does. Narcissistic would be reminding everyone for months, weeks, days before the blessed event, who was about to be celebrated and why.

Will had been singled out because of his distaste for social events. He’d been made a fool for the fun of others; he knew it. If coming to that conclusion was considered narcissistic, then Hannibal was free to call him the conceited son of Cephissus.

“It was an anti-birthday, Hannibal. They called it my You’re Still Kickin’ party and held it in the morgue. The morbidity of that aside, I didn’t go to Alana’s birthday bash, or that fifteen-year thing for Jack. Why would I assume anyone would throw me a party? If any of them were actually friendly with me, they’d know parties and I don’t mix.”

“Your friends wanted to celebrate your life. I, personally, don’t think enough people do that.”

“What exactly did you say to egg them on?”

“My exact words were: Would you all show a little appreciation for the man. He survived something traumatic.”

Will’s shoulders slumped. “You should have said nothing because I don’t need to be coddled by these people. And the last thing you should be doing is planning parties. You’re recovering from an attack and just witnessed two men die less than a week ago. You should be resting, reflecting–”

“Were you not attacked, as well? Did you not witness two men’s death? Somehow you’ve managed to be back in the field.”

“My wounds are superficial and those two officers died in the line of duty. A murderer violated your office. He violated a safe space for you. He killed one of your patients in front of you – a man you were trying to help. He attacked you. He stabbed you. He shattered your sense of security. Your wounds have to go far deeper than mine.”

Hannibal filled their wine glasses, appearing to consider Will’s comments. “I wouldn’t say my security was shattered.”

“Cracked then.”

He agreed with a nod. “Did you at least enjoy your cake?”

Will took a sip of wine. “The cake was the only part I appreciated. Thank you. German chocolate’s my favorite.”

“It was made with only the finest, hand-selected Germans, Will – just for you.” His grin was damn near assaulting. “I’m sorry I had to miss the festivities, though. A nice meal with friends is the best remedy after something as exciting as a psysical assault.”

“You didn’t miss much.” Will was all too aware of the unpredictable nature of duty calling. “How did it turn out? Was he alright? Everything under control?”

Hannibal had been detained that morning when an off-duty police officer snapped inside an Unpainted Huffhines furniture outlet in downtown Baltimore. The officer had been the first on the scene to Will’s grisly attack at Chordophone – a man who had been traumatized by finding his dead colleagues littering the music shop. Hannibal had been temporarily summoned to talk some sense into him before more lives were lost.

“The smell of raw, unfinished wood was apparently very triggering to this individual,” said Hannibal. “He’d relived the trauma of tripping over the bodies of his friends, became overwhelmed, and started brandishing his gun. His wife and daughter, as well as the manager of the store, were unharmed, thankfully … for the most part.”

Will dabbed his lips, then returned his napkin to his lap. “For the most part?”

“The officer and his wife were picking out his daughter’s new big girl bed. She’d declared herself no longer afraid of the dark apparently – a milestone for a child. Something tells me after her father’s violent outburst, that she just gained a new and very visceral fear of something far scarier than the dark.”

Will set down his fork. “Her father’s lack of stability?”

“The questioning of faith and the loss of control are the monsters under everyone’s bed, Will. And now she’s wary of them, too.”

Will’s gaze dropped to his plate as he pushed around the periwinkles that had suddenly lost their appeal.

“But he seemed to respond well to my suggestions. He even agreed to have a few sessions with me. I’ll dig around a little – see what I find.”

“Well–,” Will mustered a smile and attempted another bite, “he’s in good hands then.”

With that, their attention returned to their dinner: wild Alaskan salmon on a bed of something green which, when arranged with little shellfish and gelatinized balls of lemon juice, made a luscious and picturesque underwater scene. Will was impressed, though he had no idea how to acknowledge the amount of work and attention to detail was required for such a remarkable work of art, so he remained quiet, allowing his occasional hums and gentle nods to express his gratitude for their delicious and private anti-birthday celebration.

“I’m glad you’re enjoying dinner,” said Hannibal, refilling his own wine glass. “My fish always seems to be well received.”

A memory suddenly smacked Will in the face, and he set down his fork. “Fish …,” he groaned. “Too many people know about my hobbies now. It’s embarrassing.”

“Embarrassing?” Hannibal cocked his head.

“You didn’t happen to make this dish because of something Price said, did you?”

“No. Why?”

“Doromania,” he sighed, “our collective obsession with giving gifts to each other. It’s out of hand. I received several unwarrented gifts from my caring, charming, wonderfully supportive new friends this morning … The same friends who were so excited to not see me in a body bag.”

“Is this about the cufflinks? I tried to tell Alana–“

“No. The cufflinks were benign – useless and impractical – but benign. The rest of my haul wasn’t so mundane. In addition to those delightful schooner cufflinks which will never grace my wrists, I received a costume quality sailor cap from Zellar – very practical. From Bev, a new fishing vest – arguably the most useful object I received; and–” He stopped, leaning back in his chair. “Let me just go get it. It’s the cruelest of all the jokes.” 

Hannibal would certainly appreciate Will’s embarrassment if the object was presented in all of it glory, so he hurried to his car, returning a moment later with a small black box.

He dropped back into his seat. “They are funny, guys, Hannibal. So funny, funny, funny,” he said, shaking the box. “Little, loony, lonely Willy Graham.” He tossed the box across the table. “This is what my dear friends thought I needed most of all. In fact, Price has about two hundred photos of me opening the box and holding it up.”

Hannibal, obviously curious as to Will’s overly dramatic issues with the innocuous box, slowly removed the lid. Inside, on a bed of crumpled black tissue paper was a chubby teal silicone fish, complete with textured scales and a tiny smiling face.

“That,” snapped Will, pointing at the fish, “epitomizes my relationship with them – a pain in my ass.” 

Hannibal tipped the box, letting the five-inch rubber fish roll into his palm.

“That,” continued Will, now tutting at the fish, “is what they think of me. Thankfully, I’m still alive so I can continue to be the butt of all their jo–” He stopped and cradled his eyes. “That’s not what I meant …”

Hannibal’s withheld amusement bubbled into his eyes. They were practically welling.

“Laugh it up, Hannibal,” he snapped. “Let it all out.”

“Will, it’s in jest. They play. They joke. You can’t assume this has ill intent.”

“I will assume ill intent and a blatant need to embarrass me. I had no idea what it was! And believe me, they got a good goddamn chuckle when I smelled it.”

The laughter was imminent, Will could see it. He watched Hannibal press the back of his wrist against his lips, stifling a snicker. 

This was ridiculous. Hannibal was supposed to defend him. “Friends don’t buy friends sex toys,” snapped Will. “It’s weird. It’s gross. If anything, it’s projecting. You’re a doctor. Say it’s projecting.”

“If you want me to say it, I will,” laughed Hannibal, “but knowing Mr. Price, I’m sure this was merely his way of getting you to open up.”

Will’s mouth dropped open. This was unconscionable. They were all against him. Now his own doctor was cracking jokes at his expense. “Oh, you want me to open up?” he sneered. “It’s not bad enough that Jack is doing everything in his power to push me toward my own demise, and you wanting me to get in touch with my feelings, now I have to deal with Price wanting me to poke things where the sun don’t shine!” Will huffed and crossed his arms. “I hope you’re all aware that this is akin to sexual harassment.”

“You have to prove persistent inappropriate conduct to call it sexual harassment, Will; this was an isolated, though obviously inappropriate joke that got out of hand. I’m sure he now understands that you don’t appreciate his humor.”

“You’re goddamn right I don’t appreciate it. Would you want a gift like this? Would you want all your friends gathered around to laugh at you like you’re some sort of ignorant prude or a gullible virgin? No. You wouldn’t.” 

Hannibal enjoyed another bite of salmon and leaned back in his chair. “I agree that it’s in poor taste. And I will concur that the morgue was an inappropriate place for a gift exchange.”

“Not just a gift exchange – a foisting of unwanted sexual devices.”

“At least it’s fish-shaped.”

That wasn’t funny. “I catch fish – I eat fish,” he said, shoving a fork-full in his mouth. “See? I don’t shove them–” He dropped the fork again and rubbed his eyes. “I don’t shove them up my ass …”

“Is that a moral standing or just personal preference?”

Will glared.

“I wasn’t making light of this by claiming Mr. Price wants to see you open up. You surround yourself with unscalable walls. Something traumatic happened to everyone: we almost lost you. I think your friends are simply relived, and that relief presents in curious ways.”

“Buy suggesting I violate myself?”

“They’re happy you’re alive and are celebrating by joking and playing with you. They’re relieving stress.”

“They relieve their own stress by foisting it on me?”

“Unwrapping an inappropriate toy in a morgue seems rather inconsequential when you compare it to unwrapping your friend.”

Will huffed and adjusted his glasses.

“They see you as something unique, Will, as they should. You are beyond them and that makes them uncomfortable. Your skills in the field are unprecedented. They can barely talk to you. Sexuality is an inherently human quality – an intimate human connection we share with each other. By seeing you as a sexual being rather than an unknowable clairvoyant, they level the playing field. They get to imagine you as a human like them.”

“I’m not a god,” he snapped. “I breathe – I eat – I shit like a human but in private. Sex is not part of my public life.”

“I’m sorry you felt like this was a personal attack. I guarantee it was a peaceful gesture.”

Will angrily ate another bite of food, unwilling to drop it. “So you’re saying that knowing I’m being forced to go home with that,” he said, waving at the little teal fish now sitting erect by Hannibal’s wine glass, “somehow magically makes me more approachable?”

“More relatable, too; why not?”

“Relatable?” he scoffed. “You act as though everyone enjoys a collection of fish-themed sexual aids. I highly doubt that’s the case.”

“The thematic element aside, sexual aids are quite commonplace – perhaps they aren’t given to us by coworkers over the body of a deceased serial killer – but I wouldn’t be so quick to scoff at Mr. Price’s gift. The offering of pleasure isn’t cruel, Will. It’s actually quite benevolent.”

“Ah yes, Mr. Price was so very generous with his unsolicited and tasteless gift.” Will sipped his wine, now far too bitter for his taste. How could his own psychiatrist be defending this behavior?

“But, here’s a question: do you know what’s inherently neither unsolicited nor tasteless?”

When Will opted to swish the wine in his mouth and glare from over his glass instead of answering him, Hannibal continued.


Will spit into his glass.

The wine, he surmised, was suddenly flushing his cheeks.

“No, I, uh … I suppose that can’t be unsolicited.”

“You’re talented in the ways of compassion, Will. You empathize with everyone. Do you empathize with yourself?”

“No,” he said, swirling his wine to disperse the bubbles of spit. “I don’t empathize with myself. I’m much to busy for that.”

“The rest of us empathize with you. We see you exhausted, angry, and so tightly wound you can barely keep your emotions in check. You forgot your place and snapped at Jack recently for no reason. You can’t control yourself – you can’t relax. We watch you grit your teeth, unable to make eye contact with your colleagues. It makes us all wonder if you’re taking care of yourself.”

“Well, you can all stop wondering. You shouldn’t be thinking of me in those terms anyway. It’s unprofessional.”

Hannibal snickered and leaned on the table. “We worry if you eat, Will – if you drink too much. We worry if you’re sleeping, bathing, getting adequate exercise. I, probably more than anyone, worry about your mental health. I wonder if you think of yourself in negative terms. I wonder if you stop and congratulate yourself on a closed case or just bury yourself in the next one. I wonder if you allow time for hobbies, if you allow yourself to daydream, play games, solve puzzles beyond the inescapable havoc of your day job. What I wonder, Will, is if you find yourself worthy of respect, adoration, compassion, or love, and that inevitably includes self-love.”

This was supposed to be a congratulatory dinner, not a session. Hannibal survived a scuffle. Will survived a scuffle. It was supposed to be an opportunity for him to enjoy a nice fish fry and a cold beer – though the fish wasn’t fried, and the beer was a clean and crisp Montrachet. What this wasn’t supposed to be was an opportunity to feel ashamed of himself. He had felt plenty of that in the morgue that morning when Jimmy had to explain his gift to him as though Will was a ten-year-old boy.

“Can I ask you a intimate question?” asked Hannibal. “You don’t have to answer.”

“I have a sneaking suspicion as to where this is going … go ahead anyway.”

“How often do you masturbate?”

“As often as necessary.”

“Only out of necessity? Never for pleasure?”

“As a distraction mainly.”

“What about for shits and giggles?”

Will grinned and scratched his scruffy neck. “Not typically, no. I’m not a shits and giggles kind of guy.”

“Something tells me Jimmy is a shits and giggles kind of guy, Will. You should probably take a page from his book – might learn something about yourself.”

Will laughed as he shook his head. “And what exactly would I learn from Jimmy’s book?”

“That you enjoy catching fish with more than just your rod and reel.”

Will groaned and nervously flicked the edge of his glass before snapping back the rest of his wine. “With my net, so to speak?”

“With your fishing hole.” 

Will laughed, but it was mostly nerves getting the best of him.

If Will was grateful for anything, it was that they were alone through all of this nonsense. His morning may have been embarrassing, but at least he could claim to be the hapless victim. In Hannibal’s home, he had nothing to hide behind but a fork. 

However, the predicament he now found himself in could have easily been prevented if he’d left that piscatorial plaything in his car. He wasn’t a hapless victim in here. His ineptitude and poor judgment were his own worst enemies. He’d brought this upon himself.

There had to be a way for Will to worm himself out of the conversation. “The page from Jimmy’s book is blank,” he said, “no instructions. It’s just a crudely drawn pictograph of a stick man with an arrow aimed between his legs.”

“That’s the gist,” Hannibal chuckled, rocking the teal fish across the table like a metronome. “No shame, no guilt, no stigma – just pleasure and self-satisfaction. What could be better?”

“Not being here for one thing. Not being in this particular chair at this particular table talking about this particular topic would be far superior to me.”

“I think Mr. Price gave you more than a novelty toy. He gave you an opportunity to test your own personal limits.”

“I’m fine with my limits. Have been for quite some time.”

“Let me ask you this then: how do you flex your skill set?”

Will bristled at the implication. “Flex my what?”

“How does one become better at empathizing?”

Empathy had never felt difficult to master. It was simply a fact of Will’s existence. He was therefor he felt – no training needed. But then again, to hone one’s skills there were a few tricks you could employ. “Engaging with others works well. Thought exercises. Reading. Writing. Talking to people outside your personal bubble. Stepping out of your comfort– No.”

“You talk to victims. You talk to murderers. You read, you study, you immerse yourself in evidence and science and psychology, but ultimately you are at the mercy of your own experiences, correct?”

“Did Jimmy put you up to this? Why are you so invested in this now?” Will suddenly craned his neck, checking all four corners of the dining room. “Are there hidden cameras in here?” He stood and rushed to the fireplace, eyeing the painting over the mantel. “Maybe a pinhole camera in that swan’s eye? You know for a fact, no one dare’s to make eye contact with it. It would be the perfect hiding spot.”

Hannibal’s amusement rolled from his chest like thunder. “I’m invested in you, Will. I’d hate to see you fall apart at the seams just because you’re afraid of being labeled a deviant.”

“Uh, no. I’m not afraid of that. And also, not playing with myself will not cause me to fall apart at the seams.” He meandered back to his seat.

“There really is no other explanation, unless you’re just too embarrassed to admit you have no idea what to do with it.” That unsightly little fish wagged in front of Will’s face as Hannibal grinned. 

“You are very rude, Dr. Lecter.”

“Not as rude as Jimmy, but I do understand his desire to watch you squirm. It’s somehow incredibly satisfying to watch your empathy cycles, especially when you trip, and I don’t mean that condescendingly.”

“Empathy cycles?”

“Your cycles of intrigue, confusion, reckoning, and climax before you’re suddenly intrigued again. I’m not trying to be offensive, but it’s child-like – not illogical, but certainly fun to witness.”

His eyes narrowed. “Explain.”

“Take for example you seeing a pink sphere on the ground. It doesn’t belong there. What do you do?”

“I weigh what I know about pink spheres with what I see, what I’ve heard, and what I assume.”

“In your confusion, you lay out all possible explanations like roads fanning from your feet, right? The well-beaten path is the one you walk first – maybe it’s a child’s ball – but you know the road most traveled is not traveled by everyone, so what do you do?”

“If I’m certain it’s not a ball, I’ll hop between trails and reassess. I missed something about the sphere. A new line of thought and reasoning will take me to my conclusion, but I have to weigh every option.”

“Each time you hop a path, you reassess reality through your personal experience and your own intuition – the sphere is the size of a hazelnut –another path. It’s textured – another path. You reconsider all of your options until you reckon you’ve figured it out. You narrow down your conclusion to a single path and there, at the very end you find your climax – the resolution – your explanation for what brought that pink sphere to the ground before you.”

“It’s chewing gum.”

“Your denouement would be filing away your journey to that conclusion so you can more easily find your way back to it next time. Small, round, textured wad on the ground equals chewing gum. Single, educated, aloof man with a love of music and a penchant for narcissistic behavior equals Tobias Budge, a musical murder. Then suddenly, whether you want to or not, your brain is intrigued by something new – a little black box – and the cycle begins again. No time for social engagement, conversation, corporeal pleasure – there are roads to explore, and your mind intend to master them all.” 

Will picked at the wilted green leaves still decorating his plate. He’d never thought about how his empathic technique might appear to others; it all felt automatic to him. He would close his eyes and walk the paths of killers in his head. Hannibal’s assessment of him was teetering a little too close to psychoanalyzation.

“What’s most intriguing to watch,” continued Hannibal, “is what happens when you encounter something wildly out of your level of expertise. All paths are over-grown, confusing, disorienting. You have no clear road to travel so you guess and suddenly trip.”

“So what you’re saying is that my fall is entertaining?”

“Like watching Buster Keaton take a dive.”

Will laughed and leaned back. “You know, the trick to Buster Keaton’s legendary stunts was that there were no tricks. The man was battered black and blue by his falls. The film probably helped hide that fact.”

“No one has ever claimed that your empathy doesn’t hurt, Will. In fact, we all admit that it does.”

“You know what else hurts? Shoving things up your ass.”

Hannibal chuckled and emptied the rest of the Montrachet into Will empty glass. “If it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.”

“Is this a hazing ritual? Because it feels very much like a game they used to play at my old college. What was it called? Oh yeah, Trick the Freshman into Sodomizing Himself.” 

“Are any of my efforts working?”

“No, they aren’t.” He laughed to himself and leaned on the table. “And why are you trying so hard?”

“Honestly, I don’t know.” He smiled, then relaxed in his seat, his eyes wandering out the patio doors to his darkened backyard. “Maybe it’s morbid curiosity. Maybe my age or my concern for you.” His gaze wandered back inside and met Will’s. “Something happened the night I was attacked, and I’ve spent the last few days coming to terms with it.”

“What was it?”

“I felt an uncontrollable panic.”

“You had a panic attack. That’s not surprising. You just have to remember that the monsters under the bed aren’t real – of course, in your case, they kind of came after you … That’s a bad example.”

“It wasn’t an irrational panic attack. I was panic-stricken when I was under the impression you’d been shot. But you being killed in the line of duty is a reality that everyone with a badge has to grapple with – you aren’t a special case.”

“Well, I’d like to think of us as amicable, Hannibal, even if we have a professional relationship, I’m still a client – a colleague – a friend of yours. I don’t think its that farfetched or unrealistic for you to have been concerned with my wellbeing. I was overwhelmed when Jack called to tell me what happened to you. I had no idea what I was walking into when I got to your office. I was just as shaken as you.”

“You hid it well.”

“I wanted to vomit, but the paramedics hadn’t left yet, and I didn’t want them rushing to my aid with Pedialyte. Talk about embarrassing.”

Hannibal smiled. “You have an iron stomach, Will.”

Will snickered.

“Speaking of, how are you enjoying your birthday dinner?”

“It’s wonderful. Damn near makes up for this morning, but, honestly, I shouldn’t have put this burden on you. You really need to be resting and not entertaining the likes of me.”

“I feel most supported by my friends when I’m useful to them. You needed dinner. I needed company and here you are. You are doing me as much of a favor by being here, as I am by feeding you.”

Will smiled and they both raised their glasses with a clink.

“Fair enough,” said Will. “Then consider me at our beck and call this evening. If you need your leg re-bandaged, a barrel of ibuprofen, someone to run to the liquor store, consider me your man.”

“I may take you up on that.”

“I hope you do.”

I never got to the part where Hannibal is actually turned on by Will’s “joke.” And they never had accidental any sex …

Oh well.

If I do a part two and you want to be notified, leave a comment and I’ll reply if I post it.

the cold light of day [fic & concept]

A Hannibal S4/Fortitude crossover concept with two vignettes …

No Fortitude spoilers below.

Hannibal and Will are on the run post-fall when an idea for a temporary home strikes Hannibal. He knows of a secluded spot to hide, out of the reach and jurisdiction of the people hunting them.

Rated: G

At the top of the world, ice blankets the frozen, forgotten landscape.




Emptiness at the end of the earth.

Flying to this place is out of the question – too many eyes, too many trails.

Good evening, Mr. Overgård. They hear it everywhere now, his new name the only thing that follows them – no APBs, no FBI, no second glances. They travel up and out – to Norway – hidden on trains with forged tickets until they find what they are searching for: a nearly out of work American fisherman. He agrees to drop them at an outpost close to a Russian mining town deep in the Arctic circle.

However, they never catch the fisherman’s name, never divulge their own, never shake his hand. He drops them – spouting warnings of a dying economy, trigger-happy men, and man-eating bears, but is met with no questions asked, no answers given. Only Will’s mind reels with the potential danger.

Is this survivable? Can he limp across this barren wasteland? Will Hannibal kill him when his guard drops? Can he stop this monster in a frozen prison or is an icy valley where a cold-hearted killer thrives? Can they trek across the endless tundra with only packs and heavy, stumbling steps?.

Jeg vet ikke.

Kicking snow from their boots and tightly donning hats and gloves, they fight the cold and the wind until their joints ache. They fall asleep in a tent, turned away from each other, the only warmth shared being the heat of the fires in their bellies and their eyes.

Lonely and lost, a husky finds Will and won’t leave his side. The dog is hungry and reminds him of his own pack – also lost or abandoned, not by choice, but by necessity – and a warm finger of familiarity plucks at Will’s icy heartstrings.

Much to Hannibal’s disgust, Will feeds it the last meal they’d packed.

Nook. Will name’s the dog Nook and Hannibal scoffs again.

Over rocks. Over snow.

Past the outcropping marking their way, it follows.

Quickening winds bite cheeks. Nook nips and whines.

Rocks give way to a ridge and the dog howls. The men look over a small, quiet town – a frozen, forgotten place nestled on top of the world.

Space – privacy – everyone is friendly, so they say.

The only part of consequence: just four police officers await them.

Unsuspecting townsfolk see an educated former doctor who speaks French and Italian and a scruffy looking stranger who is very comfortable around boats. Neither were considered suspicious in Fortitude. Most of the current occupants are running from the law themselves or plain old Russian miners.

Vinden har snudd.

With no questions, they settle in a newly unoccupied house outside of town. Cash. Ignore the blood. Here’s the key. Welcome to town. The door is shut behind them.

Xenial is what he calls this place through an obnoxious, fogging huff from his nose: friendly, hospitable. Will finds neither to be true. It is not friendly. It’s tolerant. It is not hospitable. It’s bitter and frozen, like him.

Yoke-devil is his new goading nickname for his comrade-in-arms. You choke me, he sneers. You stumble, I fall. He bites and snarls. You drag me down with you. He fights, but he also cries. Not in front of Hannibal – never – but he will in his room when the house empties of man and beast. The chill of the house is nothing compared to the fostbite in his chest. It burns. He throws his fists and insults with ease, but Hannibal never acknowledges except with biting glances and grinding teeth. He has his own flowery language to use with the color-starved locals.

Zoilist. His lover is a zoilist, bless him. It rolls from Hannibal’s tongue with no explanation despite the confusion on the faces around him. Will has to look it up. He is Hannibal’s charming and faithful, though rude and hateful critic. Such a fussy, acrid man who yoked himself to the devil.

At their new freezing, minimal bungalow, Will’s idle hands fuss and rattle his proverbial chains. The food is nauseating, the ground frozen, the company Hyperborean to a disgusting degree. He needs new food, new friends, new hobbies. He becomes overly obsessed with taxidermy. Keeps his hands from choking the devil he’s tethered to.

But to Hannibal, this new obsession of Will’s is fascinating, endearing even. Will finds it his only outlet in the frozen prison he’s trapped inside.

Caribou, foxes, an occasional seabird – he studies with a local man and his unmountable messes turn somewhat arresting after a few rigorous weeks. When not in the workshop, he spends every waking moment studying Hannibal – writing, sketching, logging it all in his mind. This is not a honeymoon post-fall. This is and always will be about the last man standing.

Dan Anderssen, Chief of Police and fellow big hat enthusiast, questions Hannibal one afternoon. Nothing major, just a few issues with the townsfolk hearing strange noises coming from his and Mr. Graham’s new, husky-protected home.

“Elk? Bears maybe?” Hannibal crosses his legs. It’s strange to try to seem formal in a very informal place. He’s still dressed in his fur-lined coat and stocking cap. No ties and jackets for miles.

For five weeks they’d avoided the police station. They rarely spoke to anyone except the grocer and a few outcasts in their neck of the woods – the shaman taxidermist included. This is the first time Hannibal’s seen the inside of the station. It’s minimal – clean – seemingly too high tech for a cut off town. But there’s a research station in Fortitude. The town needs to stay in the know.

Glass walls are the most striking feature in the station: holding cells. Three. They’re highly protected – keypads and windowless – solid glass walls reminiscent of Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.

Hannibal leans back in his chair opposite the chief’s desk. “I have yet to see a bear, of course, but I hear stories from the townspeople. Tear a man apart.”

“Indeed they will, Mr. Overgård, but no. These were human noises, not bears. Screaming. Clawing. Begging for help. We know bears here, and they don’t beg for help.” When Hannibal doesn’t answer, he asks, “Do you have another explanation for the noise?” No answer, then a long pause.

“Just a skulk of chatty foxes trapped in your shed then?” wonders the chief.

“Kennel’s not soundproof. Could be the dog.”

“Lying to the police is not looked at kindly, Mr. Overgård.” He glares. Hannibal glares. They glare at each other – a cold, striking scowl that fights, then bends angrily into forced amicability in the middle of nowhere.

“Maybe I’m not lying,” said Hannibal. “Maybe the wind plays tricks. Maybe my dog’s restless, and maybe bears should beg for help. I’m sure they don’t appreciate the melt.”

“No, I bet they don’t.” The chief scowls. “Because I am so trusting and you are so innocent, I’m sure you won’t mind me popping in on occasion. Newcomers don’t know the lay of the land yet anyway, and I haven’t properly given you a tour of the town.”

“Obstructing your duties is not my intention, but are the police truly the welcome wagon here? Seems you have more important tasks.” His hand flicks to a large cork board by the sergeant’s desk. It’s covered in papers, lists, and photos of a bloody patch of ice and snow.

“Police are in charge of many things in this town – keeps us well informed. I can either stop in and give you a quick, painless tour, or I can set you free to fend for yourself with a plate of lutefisk as a welcome gift. You’re choice, but I wouldn’t take the lutefisk.”

“Quite a tempting offer, Chief … but as much as I’d enjoy you dropping by, I think I’m suddenly craving a little lutefisk.”

Right after their arrival, Will obtained a crabbing boat despite every sailor he met telling him it’s a dying business. He’s back to his pre-Hannibal self, nervous around people, only now he’s dealing with his own questionable morality while living with a killer in his head and in his makeshift home. He justifies life on the outskirts as doing what is necessary for the greater good: quarantining himself and Hannibal away from the unsuspecting populous.

Sergeant Eric Odegard and Will venture out on his boat, not by Will’s choice, but at Eric’s well-meaning insistence.

The boat rocks as Eric leans on the rail, watching Will endlessly tie and untie the knots connecting each loop to everything else. “Fortitude’s an interesting town to settle in, Mr. Graham. Takes a certain type of man.”

“Undeniably so, but I’m not settling,” he says with an icy, stuttering sigh. “The ground’s too frozen to dig in roots.”

“Vacationing then?”

“We travel. We explore. We happened upon a map of Fortitude, it looked good for now, so we bought a house.”

“X marks the spot,” he snickers. “You’re not staying for the long haul then? I assumed you were here specifically to study with Tavrani. He said you’re a natural with flesh and bone.”

Yes, Will was a natural. Dissection – evisceration – skinning. It all came so easily now.

“Zoonomy is a relatively new hobby of mine,” he says, coiling a wet rope around his arm, “not that animal behavior and physiology hasn’t always seemed fascinating to me. But this place offered my first taste of preserving their physical form. Seemed useful to know.”

Aching, burning breaths catch in Will’s throat – the frozen air cutting his mouth and tongue. He tries to suppress the sting – hide his failing health from the sergeant, but succumbs, doubling over as he hacks and coughs against the boat rails.

Bears only kept some new folks out of Fortitude. The isolation and chill kept out the rest.

Coughing. Hacking. Mumbles of apology. I must have a cold, he says. It’s the dry air. It’s an old wound. Sometimes it acts up.

Den gudene elsker, dør ung.

Eric lets him compose his struggling lungs, then looks out across the endless sea. The truth is that no one really settles in Fortitude. It’s a dying town in need of help, but the winds whipped those pleas from its mouth before they had a chance to drift overseas. “Why’d you leave the States?”

Frozen fingers drop the rope, and Will sniffs his running nose. “That is a very long and boring story.”

Go figure. Eric gestures into the silence around them and laughs. “Bore me then.”

“Health concerns and a failed love interest, maybe three. My old boss became overbearing. It was all the consequences of staying in one place too long.” He got to know people. He got to feel them. He let himself get too close and paid the price.

“In the end,” he continues, “I only had one valid reason to leave, and no legitimate reasons to stay.”

“Judging by your sudden move here, it must have been one hell of a compelling reason.”

“Kismet,” he says. “Called by a higher power.”

“Luck?” snickers Eric. “You don’t strike me as the religious type.”

“Morality is still a higher power, as is destiny and fate – no religion necessary.”

No one else is out on the water so Will cuts the engine and they drift for a bit. Just seabirds. Silence. A restless crew of two.

“Odd jobs seem to keep you and your … ?”

“Partner,” finishes Will. “He’s my partner.”

Questions might have followed, but Will is prepared. He and Hannibal didn’t act like lovers. They acted like quarrelling adversaries hell-bent on destroying the other in every feasible way. They rarely went into town together.

“Right …,” continues Eric. “The work you do with Tavrani probably keeps you busy, and your partner seems to have his hands full doing … whatever he does, but you should talk to Dan anyway. If you plan to stay for a bit, we could always use a few steady hands at the station – bears are coming down and other things – and you told the chief you’ve been trained.”

Steady hands. Will huffs at that.

Training, he had, but what the purpose of all that training had been, Will hadn’t a clue. “A few steady hands for what exactly?”

“Uh …” Eric half-heartedly smiles and nods. “I guess we don’t get a lot of crime in Fortitude – theft, drunken fighting, out past curfew–”

“Vermin jump ship as soon as their fur freezes. But isn’t that ideal up here?”

“We’re too cut off for the really bad ones; you’re right. Crime is definitely not what we want in Fortitude.” He pauses for a minute, the frigid breeze and uncomfortable silence blanketing them from all sides as the boat rocks. “Not much crime,” he says again – prideful this time, but a little weary. “This sleepy little town sure does like to sleep. I think it’s all the snow.”

“Xmas all year ’round,” says Will. “Towns like this lull all the good little boys and girls to sleep right along with them. Makes you wonder what happens when they finally wake up.”

“You plan on waking up the town, Mr. Graham?”

Zipped coats, zipped lips. “I don’t, no,” says Will. “But I’m sure someone’s bound to.”

up in the air [concept]

Airport related AU concept vignette …

Tumblr promp:

Airport related aus, tho …

(with Hannigram added)

Rated: G
Dung Hoang | Flickr

After a grueling work week at the FBI which culminates in a last-minute flight to Washington on Christmas Eve, Will “not fond of eye contact” Graham meets a businessman at the airport bar as he waits for his delayed flight to depart. The man is drinking the same whiskey as Will, and they strike up a conversation. The stranger is very charming and very chatty, speaking mainly of his love of art, music, and his many culinary endeavors. He’s headed to Washington as well, claiming to have a “business” meeting in Seattle.

The pair openly share their many interests with one another. Will plays the guitar; the stranger plays the harpsichord. Will reads books about fishing and psychology, and the stranger shares his love of homebrewing and medieval poetry. They laugh and surprisingly flirt as Will loosens up a bit.

Over the loudspeaker, they hear that their flight has been canceled until the next morning, and Will groans to himself. It’s Christmas Eve; the hotels will be flooded with travelers, and he’s too drunk to drive back to Wolf Trap. He resigns himself to hunkering down in the terminal, when his new friend refuses to allow it, offering instead the other bed in his own hotel room, which he booked as soon as their flight had been delayed.

Will, still a bit tipsy from the bottle of Glenfiddich they finished off, agrees to take the warm bed over a cold floor, and the pair head to the hotel. 

Hungry, they order room service, but it’s a very strange dinner. Will can’t quite put his finger on what it is or why it’s strange, but it’s free and he’s enjoying the company so he doesn’t complain. They eat casually at a small table by the balcony, and the stranger seems to become more and more spirited as the night moves on. He suddenly speaks of God, and man, and the many cruel avenues of the human consciousness. They compare childhood stories, and Will finds himself drawn to this unusual man and his bizarre philosophy about life and death. 

Flirting and philosophy lead to more mouthfuls of wine, then slow kisses, and the two finally punctuate their dinner with an unrestrained whirlwind of semi-drunken love-making. It culminates in the pair nibbling, biting, and consuming one another like feral animals. 

Between moans and whimpers, secrets are shared – an abundance of profound empathy – anxiety – visions of the dead. The other is consumed with blood and a hunger for human flesh. He has gruesome plans – great ones that sore to the heavens and beyond – and needs a partner in crime. His uninhibited secrets are barely heard by the FBI man writhing under him in boundless pleasure. 

Will snaps awake the next morning, alone and hungover in a twisted nest of bloody sheets. Memories flood his aching head – sharp teeth, desires to slaughter, confessions of love, and … long pig? He throws on his clothes, rushing to the airport. He has to call Jack! There is a murderer on the loose and he knows who he is! At least he thinks he does …

He bounds to his terminal and boards his flight. The businessman should be here. He was on that flight. But would he dare to show his face after the night before? 

The plane breathes with tired travelers – grumbling piles of coats and scarves – but Will’s adjacent seat remains empty. More people board, more overhead bins fill, more chatty attendants help children, but the seat goes unoccupied.

He’s gone. The businessman must have grown scared and run off after realizing he’d admitted his horrific plans to an FBI agent. 

Will debates with himself, then calls Jack, stopping the witchhunt that had spread throughout the airport, tipping garbage bins and sweeping through men’s rooms. 

Maybe Will’s crazy. 

Maybe he didn’t spend all evening talking philosophy with a murderer. 

Maybe he didn’t have a passionate night of sex and bloodletting with a madman. 

Even if it had happened the way he remembers, who knows if the confessions were real? Perhaps it was simply a role-playing game to up the sexual ante. Being bad can feel rather good sometimes, and Will had spent his entire life imagining just how good “bad” could feel. 

Their dinner had been delicious, whether made from ghastly ingredients or not, and the stranger had seemed well-educated, making many worthwhile points about the degradation of society. But in the end, it was probably a bunch of hogwash regardless, so Will leans back and relaxes.

The flight takes off, and he stares out the window at the patchwork of white and brown below them, knowing Washington is just around the corner. It was all a dream; it had to have been. He’s stressed – Jack knows that – and getting called to Seattle on a holiday, his mind reeling with grisly crime scene photos was not the easiest pill to swallow. 

Then, while flying over western Maryland, Will hears a chilling voice over the intercom, “This is your captain speaking. I apologize, travelers, for the inconvenient delay last evening. A pilot certainly needs his rest. We would be arriving in Seattle at 10:03 Pacific time, if that were our destination. I’m sorry to inform you, there has been a slight change of plans. Please buckle-up and remain in your seats. If Will Graham is on this flight, I’d like to welcome you aboard. I hope you packed your appetite.”

mariage d’enfer [fic]

A “Will the wedding planner” AU concept with a vignette …

Mischa is getting married to a wonderful woman she met while studying abroad in the States. Hannibal is the totally “laid back” (but actually ultra-critical) older brother who plans to walk his beloved sister down the aisle in lavish luxury.

Mischa’s dear fiancée recommends a keen-eyed but somewhat anal-retentive American wedding planner who she’d met at her psychology mentor’s small but personal wedding.

The bride-to-be is a tad hesitant to hire such a fickle and pricy planner, but her brother insisted that no expense be spared. Since their parents’ death, Hannibal and Misha were all that remained of the Lecters, so this wedding was to be the social event of the century.

When Hannibal finally meets the snippy wedding planner, he was both captivated and appalled by the man’s overly dramatic, contemptuous, and somewhat rude demeanor. The planner almost refused to do the Lecter wedding due to its size, but he was somehow convinced by Hannibal’s fawning trust in his abilities. 

However, Hannibal soon takes it upon himself to spend every waking moment making more and more outrageous demands that are clearly impossible to fulfill. He enjoys watching the inner workings of the strange man’s mind as he attempts to recreate all of Hannibal’s desires. But the planner refuses to let his client-from-hell get the best of him, much to Hannibal’s dismay and delight.

Rated: G

Will had never minded weddings. They were, of course, beautiful and often considered the experience of a lifetime. They were a rite of passage for some, to others a joyous celebration of love and life.

They were a fascinating exploration of culture and human desire, and for some reason, Will had always been drawn to the festivities of two people – once wandering the earth alone – finally meeting and agreeing to share the rest of their lives in each other’s loving embrace.

It was a fanciful thought: living a long life beside your one true love. In reality, Will knew most couplings dissolved within the first five years, but the joy and excitement on that first day together were still thrilling, and he seemed to have a knack for making dreams come true.

He’d watched his classmates, colleagues, and former friends grow and marry – the brides as mannequins for symbolic dowries, and the grooms dressed as the pinnacle of class after a tawdry night with strippers and cocktail shrimp. He’d been to weddings where the musicians, the three-piece waiters, and five-course meals cleverly hid the debt the new couple was about to face. He’d watched the bride and groom be dwarfed by the enormity and grandeur of the decorations. In short, he’d been to too many weddings where the wedding developed a garish life of its own, slowly devouring the love hidden at the heart of it.

Guests were caught in the whirlwind of loud music, uncomfortable clothes, or awkward drunken flirting that lead to brawls or sex in a closet or overpriced hotel room. Those weddings lacked what Will deemed the most important aspect of celebrating love and companionship: warm and heart-fluttering intimacy.

Those small, intimate gatherings were the weddings Will planned – personal affairs focused on the spirit and devotion of the couple and nothing else.

It was eight o’clock at night, and Will donned his glasses, shuffling through the newest and hopefully final list of the bride’s brother’s demands. The wedding was in three days and these additions were nothing short of insane. 

The sanguine should be drained from a young cow, he read to himself. How sacrificial.

“Jesus wept, Bev, he wants actual blood in the cake now. Did you read this?! Drained from a young cow, he says. The chocolate’s supposed to be whipped with the blood–” He stopped, suppressing a gag. “He’s a goddamn monster! I have to talk to Mischa about this.”

“Don’t bother her,” said Beverly, topping up Will’s wine. “I’m sure we can handle it. Maybe it’s a Lithuanian tradition? Try to stay open-minded, Will. Remember the Bloom-Verger wedding? If I recall, it was pretty ornate, too.”

“It was over the top, but there was no blood involved. I can handle an obscene amount of flowers and however many white-chocolate Sapphos a couple of brides want, but blood inside the cake? Come on.”

Beverly laughed under her breath. “Did you have a chance to cash his last check?”

“You’re damn right I did; I’m not gonna casually carry around half a million dollars; I’m going to need that money to pay for all my Xanax.” 

He continued to read, completely appalled. “I said the guest list should be no more than fifty. Now I have to find a hundred and fifty ortolans for some toast he’s doing. They’re illegal to trap and buy; did you know that? And it’s not like he’s releasing the ortolans, that would make too much senseThere’s a recipe attached to this!” He flicked the hand-written recipe card toward his poor assistant. 

“Oh, wait, he is releasing birds,” he continued, “doves right after they say their vows … so cliche. So while the chef is drowning endangered songbirds in alcohol, we’ll be releasing a hundred filthy doves. Why not split the difference and just flambé a couple flamingos for dessert! His gothic, tortured soul schtick is going to completely ruin this entire event!” 

His scorn fell upon another request, and he gripped his mouth in horror. No … this was supposed to be an event celebrating the joy of finding love, the excitement of beginning a new chapter of life, and the peace of knowing you were no longer alone …

The color drained from his face. “He wants falcons, Beverly. Oh my God, the doves are being released to feed the falcons!” He ripped off his glasses and cradled his eyes. ”This is a bird-shit covered nightmare, not a fairytale. Who releases raptors at a wedding?!”

She shrugged and stifled her impending laugh. “Another family tradition?” 

“Maybe if your family is a horde of hungry, nomadic Mongolians!”

Beverly grimaced and minced over to his desk, picking up the list. “Well what about this; this seems normal: he wants ice swans. We can do that.”

Will shook his head, still groaning in despair. “Keep reading. There’s a picture at the bottom.”

“Oh God, Will.” She covered her mouth. “Why would he ask for this!? At his own sister’s lesbian wedding?! Who’s Leda?!”

“I’ve stopped asking questions …,” he said, still rubbing his eyes. It was all madness. “I can’t tell if he loves birds or vehemently hates them. I’m a wedding planner, not an ornithologist. I need you to find me an ice sculptor as soon as possible. Preferably one who has absolutely no moral values whatsoever. I cannot let that ass win.” 

There were monster weddings that created the dreaded bridezillas, but those simply ended in tears over a smashed cake. There were the lavish affairs that no one really wanted to attend, but those events were simply long, arduous ordeals everyone suffered through out of pure obligation. Then there was whatever this macabre nightmare was with its blood-soaked cake and inexplicable gore. The bride’s only request was for ripe figs to be used throughout the ceremony – something to do with a vacation the couple took to Spain. That was it. The rest of these unspeakable requests were from the insufferable older brother alone. 

“Well, at least he seems to have all the food covered,” she said. “That was nice and, I guess, helpful–”

“Helpful? You mean his secret night-time cooking sessions with my chefs who he gag-ordered for some bizarre reason? And what about his refusal to let me taste anything before the wedding? I can’t pair wines, I have no idea what the food will look like, and there will be at least thirty-five very angry guests who, in three days, will be sat down and told the vegetarian meals I promised them are not on the menu anymore because the bride’s brother has an ‘ethical issue with vegetarians.’”

Suddenly Clair de Lune trilled from the front pocket of Will’s slacks. He fumbled his phone, silencing the alarm, and gruffly donned his suit jacket. 

“I have to go,” he said, snapping back the remnants of his wine. “His royal highness is taking me hunting for something – at night, with dogs. Probably mushroom or something equally dubious. He’s testing me, Beverly. He thinks I’m going to crack because of all these last minutes changes.”

“Just refuse to go; you’re busy. Tell him you have to catch a bunch of ortolans for a really pompous client.”

“I can’t refuse his requests for about a half a million reasons,” he said, tapping his wallet. “I’m obligated to pretend to find his little trips and anecdotes entrancing. I know he’s going to corner me again, but for the love of God, I can’t talk about Italian poetry anymore. I just can’t. He thinks because I do this for a living that I actually care about romance and high-class society. He is mistaken. I’d rather be fishing than discussing the aroma and bouquet of a random port from 1965.”

“Maybe he’s just trying to be friendly. He’s probably sad. His baby sister is flying the coop, and it seems like he was more of a father figure to her.”

Will stared into space for a minute. “You think that’s his metaphor for the wedding? Flying the coop? He’s more than a little preoccupied with birds.”

“Maybe …” A memory flashed across her eyes. “I saw one of his little appetizers earlier. I swear to God it’s a Fig Newton with a chicken foot stuck in the top.”

Jesus Christ. “If that is the metaphor he’s focused on, why’s he killing so many birds?”

“Anger issues?”

“I feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m going to go fill all the birdbaths with Champagne and then drown myself in one. Gotta stay one step ahead of him … gotta make this the hap- hap- happiest day ever!”

Beverly wrapped her arm around him, patting his pitiful back. “Poor Will. Always the bride’s maid, never the bride.”

“Shut up.”

When Will began his planning business, it was supposed to be a creative outlet for his overworked mind. He had a strange talent for understanding what brides meant when they described colors as tastes or what emotion a groom had felt after he recalled a memory from his childhood. Whatever his innate talent was it helped him create the exact environment his clients desired, and he was celebrated for it. It was a stressful but relatively benign way to peek into the happiness and intimacy he never expected to feel himself. 

He dropped his wine glass back to the table and shuffled past Beverly. Whatever this hunting trip with Hannibal was, he wanted no part of it, but he was currently without options. He ducked out of the Lecter’s guest cottage only briefly before remembering his final request for his assistant. 

“Last thing,” he said, leaning through the doorway, “That bitchy red-headed florist ran off somewhere and she’s not answering her phone. For the love of everything holy, Beverly, if you see her, tie her up. I need to light a fire under her ass about those non-existent centerpieces.” 

She nodded in reply, and he took a deep breath before heading down the sidewalk.

“Happy hunting!” he heard behind him.

He dismissed her well-wishing with a wave of his hand as he reached his car. He had a laundry list of either impossible or illegal substances to acquire in just seventy-two hours. Meanwhile, the brides were blissfully unaware of the sexually assaulting swans and the violent falconry planned for their blessed event. It was Will’s task to take almost a million dollars and spin this psychotic circus into a fairytale for three hundred people.

He wrenched open his door and plopped into his seat. There was a cliff on the way to Hannibal’s meeting spot if Will wanted to end it all right then. He could hang himself with the thirty-five yards of tulle in his trunk. Or maybe through some bizarre turn of events, he could meet a serial killer who might just agree to put an end to all of his suffering.

Whatever happened, in four days it would all be over. The guests would be going home with full bellies and hopefully fuller hearts, and the brides would be on their way to sun-soaked Madrid for their honeymoon. The wine would be gone, the estate cleared, and the falcons – dear God, he thought – the falcons would be flown back to their aviary, and Will would be alone once again.

Always the bride’s maid, never the bride, he thought. 

Such was life and love.

cookies [boot tread]

Part of Unhitched’s prompt collection, Boot Tread

Prompt from Tumblr: 

I grew up … around [trucker] culture, where truckers love nicknames, booze (gallons) and Girl Scout Cookies. Lucky for me, I never had to sell a cookie, I gave the sheet to dad, he gave it to the truckers and they bought cases. Not boxes, cases. I can see Hopper loving him some Girl Scout Cookies and Butcher giving him shit about it.


2484 words

Rated: G
Girl Scouts of the USA | People

We’re coming up on the truck stop exit when he peers over at me. “Why am I getting off the highway, Hop?” 

“Because I asked nicely.” He loves it when I’m vague, but he hasn’t changed lanes yet. I’m not sure he’s enjoying it this time.

“You’ve got to give me a better reason than that or I’m staying put. Have a plan? Target? Need something?”

“We have nowhere to be, Butcher, just let me pick where we’re going for a change. Get off here and head east toward those houses back there.”

He eyes me but does exactly as asked, though he’s huffing and scoffing the whole time. He knows I’m still pissed about his incessant nit-picking about where and when we eat. I’m getting sick of his stews and dutch oven cooking. Campfires are nice when you don’t have to rely on them for every hot scrap of food you eat. I’m not saying the shit he makes isn’t good; I just want to eat something that hasn’t been smoked, covered in a wine-tinged gravy, or pressed into a three-inch square.

“Pull off,” I say, and he parks in a gravel lot by the off ramp. “I’m going for a walk.” I grab my school bag from behind my seat, dump out the books and gear, and pop open my door.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, son. What am I going to do without your pretty little face keeping me company?”

“You’ll live. I need a break. You’re driving me crazy.” I’m about to jump out when he stops me.

“Get the hell back in here. You can’t take off like that. ”

I turn to him because he’s right. I can’t just leave willy-nilly without saying goodbye. I lean over the console, grab his shirt, and pull his mouth into mine. He gasps because he was probably expecting a slap, but I like to keep the bastard on his toes.

His eyes eventually close as I pull him against me, sucking and chewing on his lips. It’s when I let go of his shirt and slip my hand down the back of his pants that he pulls away.

“What the hell are you doing, Hopper?”

I peck his cheek, steal the smokes from his breast pocket, and slide back into my seat. “Going for a walk, Sugar. Don’t leave without me.” I snicker and drop out of the cab before he says a goddamn word, and book it for the truck stop. I am getting something decent to eat. Fuck him and his murder wagon. I can’t take that goddamn food anymore. 

On the other side of the underpass is the truck stop. It’s flanked by a 7-Eleven and a strip mall on one side, and a diner and a Piggly Wiggly on the other. I’ve finally found a decent civilization to explore. I’m hitting the supermarket first and then I’m grabbing a coffee, a slice of pie, and plate of food that I didn’t have to chase down and tackle.

In my hand is Butcher’s wallet. I lifted it when the bastard was getting hard with my tongue down my throat. I feel a little bad about that, but not really. I have no money and he sure as hell wasn’t going to give me any for this little jaunt.

I’m halfway to the store when a familiar and mouthwatering sight catches my eye. A couple of little girls, maybe ten, eleven, are pulling a red wagon down the sidewalk. Rosy cheeks, long brown hair on both of them – just my type. They are laughing and having a grand old time.

My plans immediately change. Fuck coffee, fuck pie. I’ve always been more of a cookie man myself, so I take off to catch up to them.

“Hey girls!” They stop and turn right when I reach them. “Whatcha got there?”

“We got sandwich cookies, chocolate mints, Shorties, and the peanut butter ones. All out of the Pecanettes. Did you want some?”

“I do indeed. They still fifty cents?”

“For the small ones, yeah. A dollar for the big boxes. They’re new.”

“How much for all of them?” I say. I’m starving.

“All of them?!” They look at each other like I’m crazy. I could have done the math in my head, but they’re the ones supposedly building life skills here.

The taller one picks through the boxes. “Twenty-three dollars for all of them.”

“Sold! You are one hell of a salesman, sweetheart.”

The girls giggle while I sift through Butcher’s wallet. He is going to be pissed. He has a twenty, a five, and a couple singles, and I should really tip these gals. Their feet have got to be killing them by now, and Butcher wouldn’t want me to be rude. I hand them the twenty and the five and I dismiss the change while they start handing me boxes.

“How many of these are chocolate mints?” I wonder, fingering the stack in the girl’s arms.

“Uh, I think three.”

“Only three?” Damn it. I was hoping more. She hands me boxes and I start filling my satchel. Have you ever had to carry thirty boxes of cookies? It’s problematic. My bag’s puking, I’ve got them stashed under each arm, and a half-dozen tucked in my coat.

The girls are giddy because they get the rest of the afternoon off, while I’m left shell-shocked about what the flying fuck I just did. It’s all the goddamn shit Butcher’s feeding me. I can’t think straight. Why the hell did I just buy thirty boxes of cookies?

The girls thank me with a couple curtsies and carry on their merry way, an empty Radio Flyer nipping at their heels. I’m now in the middle of a parking lot with a couple armloads of cookies and nowhere to go.

I grab some coffee at the 7-Eleven, still juggling boxes, and plop down under the grocery store awning with my haul. A hot cup o’ mud, a smoke, a partially crushed box of shortbreads, and no Butcher slapping food out of my hand. I am in heaven.

It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten to sit and watch people interact. I’m not picking marks, or locks, or leaves out of my teeth after diving off a porch to hide. I’m just enjoying the peace of a revving and bustling truck stop. Moms on vacation are stripping and changing their messy kids in back seats. The dads are checking tire pressure and shooting the shit with the chatty station attendants. Good buddies are meeting for a bite at the diner before the road takes them halfway across America. Deisel and chicken grease fill my nose and the warm concrete under my ass never stops rumbling. I said it was heaven and I meant it.

The shortbreads are perfect – crumbly and sweet – and I pop the lid off my coffee to let it cool. This is the life, right here and now on the ground outside of a Piggly Wiggly. This is what I can’t get Butcher to see. He has his ideas about what constitutes a good life – special meals cooked with “special” meat, a certain level of civility maintained with trimmed nails and good posture – but he misses this. He misses the sweet smiles you can give little girls when you take a silly burden off their shoulders. He misses the absurd frivolity of being a grown-ass man with thirty boxes of cookies shoved in his jacket.

Jokes and puns are fun and all, but what happened to sitting in the shade and having a smoke? What happened to just sucking each other off and going fishing one afternoon? We can eat a piece of pie in a diner without waxing on about rabbits and butterflies and fucking mongooses. 

Point is: I didn’t sign up for this. I didn’t chase after him to have the joy sucked out of my life. I’m chasing him because he has a nice ass, a sharp tongue, and he fits me like a glove. He saw me in the shadows because he is a creature of the night. And I do sometimes thank him for noticing me. We all like to be seen on occasion, but just because he can see me, doesn’t mean he sees all of me.

I don’t share his opinions on God. I don’t share his opinions on happiness. And I sure as shit don’t share his opinions on what constitutes good fucking food. It pisses him off, but so be it. Let the scary man sulk.

It’s getting late when I finish the pack of cigarettes and debate opening another box of the chocolate mints. They are my favorite, but honestly, I’d rather wait and save them for a special occasion. My coffee’s gone anyway, and I realize that I now have to walk back to the truck, juggling the remnants of my shameful purchase. Maybe I can convince Butch to try one … maybe the bastard will like it?

I gather up the boxes and my bag and make my way back through the underpass. The sun’s barely setting and he’s outside the truck, watching Garm bouncing around in the weed. He sees me, and he’s already shaking his head.

“Do I have to put a goddamn leash on you, boy!?” he shouts.

“Sounds good to me,” I say back. 

He’s laughing, but his jaw is clenched so tight his cheeks are bulging.

“Three strikes,” he says. “In a single go, too. What’s to be done about that?”

“What do you mean three? I bought us snacks for the road … One strike at best.”

He holds up three fingers. “One, you bought junk that neither of us is putting in our mouths. Two, you stole my wallet, you little shit. Three, you lied to me.”

“One, it’s not junk; it’s delicious. Two, I have no money so you leave me no choice but to pick your pocket. Three, I did not lie. You are insufferable, and I had to take a walk.”

“When I agreed to let you have your little walks, that agreement did not include thievery or whatever the hell this is,” he says, gesturing around my stuffed coat.

“I was peckish.”

“You are not eating that shit. It’s full of processed garbage. Your body is a temple, not a dump.”

“It’s my temple, and it wants to bask in the processed garbage.”

“Our temple, and too bad.”

“Fight me, you dick!”

He finally cracks a smile, but still  motions for me to hand over the goods. I drop everything to the ground in a pile. If he’s going to be this anal-retentive, he can toss it all out himself.

I kick a couple boxes under the truck and then pat my thigh. Garm bolts out of the tall grass and joins me as I hop back in the truck. He can take my snacks like an asshole, but at least I got some peace today without him peering over my shoulder while I read or grilling me on Descartes while I’m trying to take a shit.

I pull off my boots and flop in the sleeper while Garm curls up in the driver’s seat. My pocket crinkles as I land and I realize I still have half a sleeve of shortbreads on my person. Lucky me. I can hear Butcher shuffling around the truck, chucking my treasures into the weeds. Well, fuck him. I’m going to enjoy my last bit of peace before that blackbird of unhappiness starts cawing in my face again.

I have three shorties in my mouth when I hear the door creak open. The dome light flicks on, throwing it’s shameful glow across my sorry ass, chewing on a pile of cookies like a rat. I force my jaw shut and scramble to hide the wrapper. As he steps up, I choke and blast crumbs all over myself and the bed. He stops and stares as I fight to breathe through the dry wad desiccating my mouth.

“I’m fine,” I choke.

“Hopper, what is God’s name are you doing?”

I cough and clear my throat. “You’re a joy sucker, Butch. You suck joy.”

“That’s not all–“

“Enough dick jokes!” I cough.

He holds up his hands. “Alright, Hopper, calm down,” he snickers. “I know you prefer swallowing, but you might want to consider spitting thatmouthful out.”

I glare at him and swallow as I wipe my mouth and dust the crumbs off my shirt. He chuckles and crawls into bed, flopping next to me.

“You know what your problem is?” I ask.

“Tell me what’s wrong with me, Hop. But use small words so you don’t choke again.”

“You hate happiness. You loathe it, actually.”

He snickers and unbuckles his belt. “I’m the happiest fucker who ever lived, Hop. And you know that.” He slides off his jeans and tosses them to the front seat like we aren’t having a serious discussion in which we should both remain fully clothed.

“I’m trying to talk to you,” I say, but his hand is untucking my shirt so it can slide up my belly.

“You think I stifle your happiness. You think I force you into a box, pray on your weaknesses, and trick you into feeling victimized so I can save the day.”

I pause and narrow my eyes. “No, actually. What? I wasn’t thinking any of that. Well except the happiness part … what did you just say?” He kisses my neck, completely disregarding me yet again. “The happiness part, Butcher, that’s what I’m talking about.”

He stops and pulls away. “Shit food makes you happy?”


“Well, I’m sorry you feel that way.”

He’s sorry I feel that way? What a crock of shit.

He kisses my jaw, rubbing my crumb-filled beard against his while his fingers scour my body for the snap and zipper of my jeans. He thinks it’s all about the food. He thinks if he gets rid of my desires, it solves the problem. It solves his problem, but mine is still front and center.

He sighs in my ear and I feel my body relax despite my anger. He does things to me – powerful, disturbing, anger-inducing things. He makes me seethe … but also melt, and it frustrates me to no end.

I let him unbutton my jeans and slide his hand down my pants. I let him play with me and toy with me and have his fun.

And then I let him kiss me on the mouth and he sucks my tongue, but when he pulls on my lip, I suddenly taste it. Chocolate … and mint.

I grit my teeth as I stare up at his innocent face, and a resolve suddenly washes over me: I will kill this lying, cookie thieving son of a bitch if it’s the last thing I do.

See? Hopper’s not the only liar in this dynamic duo. 

So, where could you find 7-Elevens and Piggly Wigglys in 1972? Ohio, apparently. They’re in Ohio. That took forty-five minutes to confirm … all because I wanted the grocery store to be a Piggly Wiggly. (All my gas stations are 7-Elevens because they are universal … and also because Tonny and Frank bumble through a 7-Eleven in Pusher. Shut up.)

And with inflation *bangs hand on calculator*, Hopper just spent $146 on cookies.

Also, Thin Mints were not branded as such until 1973. WHAT THE HELL? They were called chocolate mints. So don’t blame me. Blame the Girl Scouts.

Also, this prompt was by dandelionwishes70 (Tumblr) who created a lovely bit of Unhitched fanart with Rocket and Sinman. Check it out! And thank for the prompt, dandelion_wishes, I had a blast!

chapstick [boot tread]

Part of Unhitched’s prompt collection, Boot Tread

Private prompt: 

Butch needs some chapstick. Go wild.


1000 words

Rated: G
Joseph Dennis | Flickr

I didn’t grow up with cold winters. Maryland saw its fair share of snow storms, but it was nothing like this. This is bitter, unrelenting, and I die a little each time I step outside. These are not unfamiliar feelings for me, but the chill is new.

We’re standing at the side of the road, somewhere in western New York which is the worst place to be in late January. Butcher’s trying to recap the ass of the log pile before the damn thing fills with ice. The wind roars and snow whips around us – a blinding white sheet. My fingers are frozen to the axe handle, my toes are numb, and there is no good reason for us to be here. We could be in fucking Florida right now, but we aren’t. Someone wanted to go north.

I, also, could be helping him, but I don’t want to. I like watching him struggle, and those wood plugs are not easy to maneuver.

Butch shouts over the storm and his shoulder, “AXE!”


He holds out his hand. “My axe, asshole!”

How was I supposed to know? I hold out the handle and he takes it, smacking the axe butt against the logs before he grabs his shit, and we both high-tail it to back to the truck cab.

The doors slam and we sit, huffing out clouds and listening to the wheezing and moaning of the white wind haunting the entire state.

Butch tears off his soaked gloves and throws them on the dash. “Could’ve used a little help out there, Princess.”

“If you’re going to keep calling me that, then don’t expect me to do grunt work, Butcher.”

He glares at me. Yeah, I’m bringing back an oldie but goodie. And he’s not going to argue about it. He likes calling me Princess way too much to make a fuss about his name.

He tosses me a brick of dried meat, and we both sit back and finally relax, chewing on whoever this used to be.

“Why don’t you ever feed Garm?” I say. She’s out running around in this shit and it kills me.

“You feed horses. You don’t feed dogs,” he growls between bites. “They feed themselves.”

“Then why do they sell dog food?”

He stops and shakes his head. “You want that beautiful creature eating that shit? No. She’s strong – stronger than you – and can take care of herself.”

He goes back to gnawing on his pemmican like a fucking animal. He suddenly hisses and when he wipes his mouth, blood smears across the back of his hand. He looks at it and touches the corner of his mouth. Yeah, that’s right. His lips are chapped and bleeding.

He glances at me because he knows exactly what I’m thinking. I’m thinking of cackling and pointing at him, and calling him a weak little shit. He can’t even eat without his face cracking open in protest.

“If I remember correctly,” I say, “you called it lipstick.”

He scoffs and leans back in his seat rubbing his eyes.

“If I remember correctly,” I continue, “it prompted my lovely little nickname.”

He stares at me now, blood gathered in the corners of his mouth. I’ve seen that before, but it’s not typically his blood.

“What I find funny, Butcher, is that you are Mr. Prim and Proper, but it’s all an illusion. You dress me up in fancy clothes and insist that I scrub my nails–“

“You’re not sticking your grimy fingers up my ass. It’s called common courtesy.”

“But you have some bizarre thing about mouths, don’t you? Why? Is it just my mouth? Is that what you find so insulting? Are you so jealous that you can’t stand watching me put on lip balm?”

“Princess, you’re delusional.”

“You’re jealous of my Chapstick, Butch. Who here is delusional?”

I laugh at him and then I open my mouth, nice a wide – no cracks forming, no blood – and take a bite of dried meat. “It’s so good, Butcher. You should have some.”

“By all means, continue,” he says, “But you’ll find out later just how much I love your pretty little mouth. I’ll treat it with the reverence it deserves and I guarantee you won’t need your lipstick anymore.”

“It’s a balm … for your lips,” I snap. “You make all sorts of crazy shit – that poultice for my face after Vegas, and the balm when I burned my hand – so what is the big damn deal?”

“There’s no deal. This is all in you’re head, you little shit. You made this all up like you always do!”

“Your lips are cracked, Butch, so what are you going to do now?” I pull the tube out of my pocket and wave it around. “You want some? It looks mighty painful.”

“I’m not sharing it with you.”

“Is it the germs? Do the germs scare you? You know all that shit you do with your mouth – sucking on my fingers, licking my cock, the kissing – same germs.”

He bites his broken lip and tries to snatch the tube from my hand, but I pull it away. “No, no, no. We aren’t the snatchy types. You can ask nicely.”

Oh, he’s pissed now. He’s chuckling, but he’s pissed. “You’re right,” he says. “May I borrow your Chapstick?”

He doesn’t like it when I order him around so I take every goddamn opportunity to do it.  “And what’s my name? I’ve forgotten already.”

“Hopper,” he sneers.

“All together now.”

“May I borrow your Chapstick, Hopper?”

He’s going to bite me later. I’ll be lucky if I keep both my ears after these shenanigans. I raise my eyebrows, still waiting.

“Hopper, may I borrow your Chapstick, please?”

I smile and nod. That was very sweet of him to say it like that. I feel respected now. “Can you borrow my Chapstick? No, Butcher. That’s fucking gross. Get your own.”