the comment [boot tread]

Part of Unhitched’s prompt collection, Boot Tread

Prompt from Writers Write’s prompts list for February ’16:

#1: The Comment

I’ve been drawn to a particular piece of artwork from Hannibal’s kitchen. I’ve mentioned it in other fics, but for some reason, it came to mind while I was writing this. I added some info about it in a second drabble just below the first.

100 words for the drabble
100 words for the brief aside

Rated: G
Survival Life

It was off-handed and rolled so effortlessly from his tongue that it felt almost innocuous.

I’d just thanked him for my dinner and immediately lost my appetite. He treated my now rapt attention as though I found his stories of Shakespeare’s youth suddenly fascinating. Between bites, he laughed and spoke of the bard being caught poaching deer before fleeing some city in a panic. While his tales romanticized life in the seventeenth-century, my mind remained fixated on his reply from moments ago.

I was still breathless as he carried on, sharing his fondness for poetry among other very unexpected things. 

A Brief Aside   

In Hannibal’s kitchen, hangs a drawing by William Hulme. It is an illustration depicting a view of the great hall at Charlecote Park, a sixteenth-century mansion on the banks of the River Avon, Warwickshire.

Old Book Illustrations

It was owned by the Lucy family, and it has been said that Shakespeare did, in fact, poach deer and rabbits in the parks of the estate. When his crimes were discovered, he was brought before the magistrate, but he ran to escape his charges. I always found that story fitting, considering the poet slipped away, under cover of night, to avoid prison.  

A Second (less succinct) Aside

Before I deleted this original posting on AO3, I received some comments asking what Butcher’s comment was. A few readers even guessed. I wanted to save one particular comment for posterity:

Is it horribly cliche that my immediate assumption was that he said “I love you”, or something to that effect? Seems like something Butch would be able to say carelessly, with a “Eh, it is what it is” attitude, while Hop would have no idea how to process it. Hop doesn’t seem to have that put-upon, biting narrative voice he gets when Butch is prodding him about murder or the fabric of the cosmos or anything like that, so I don’t think it could be one of those topics. Based on what I know from the text, Butch seems to be in his happy place – Hopper just sat down to eat the (probably human) dinner that Butch prepared for him, and now he’s listening to him prattle on about things that interest him. I mean honestly, what could be better lol? I have to think that Butch is feeling good, sharing a meal and laughing at his own stories, and yeah, of course he feels something for this guy, and saying something about it isn’t a big deal. Obviously he feels something for Hop, otherwise he would have killed the pain in the ass ages ago. It is what it is. Meanwhile, the cogs in Hop’s head have skidded to a halt because he doesn’t know how to process the idea that someone might express genuine positive feelings towards him without using them for what he assumes are manipulative ends. (Although he’ll probably suspect that anyway.)

“…sharing his fondness for poetry among other unexpected things.” Hop seems like he’s spent his time with Butch in a mostly responsive mode – he doesn’t feel things FOR Butch, he feels things ABOUT him. He doesn’t cultivate what happens between them, he responds to him and the things he does. He doesn’t think about how he feels towards him, he just reacts to the fact that he’s there. Of the two of them, Butch seems much more invested in their “relationship”, if you can call it that, so it would seem totally in-character for him to make a passing affectionate comment that would leave Hop like, “I thought this guy was just toying with me for his own amusement.” Sort of like Will.

Anyway, that’s my thesis on “the comment”. I’m likely way off base, but that’s my head canon and I’m sticking to it! …at least until when (if?) you tell us what it really was lol.

Thanks as always for posting!

My long winded reply, in case you wanted to know ...
Wow. O.O You like … you analyzed that to a goddamn T. “Is it horribly cliche that my immediate assumption was that he said ‘I love you’, or something to that effect?” — UM, NO!! NOT CLICHE. *nervous laughter* I was feeling a little mopey last night. When I’m mopey I get sentimental. It’s the closest to fluff I ever come. What of it?! Huh?! XD

“Seems like something Butch would be able to say carelessly, with a ‘Eh, it is what it is’ attitude, while Hop would have no idea how to process it.” — Butcher WOULD say something like that carelessly, because he owns his own feelings. He has no need to explain himself or hide his emotions (if he has any). He says what needs to be said and what suits him at any given time. He’s not that sentimental.

“Hop doesn’t seem to have that put-upon, biting narrative voice he gets when Butch is prodding him about murder or the fabric of the cosmos or anything like that, so I don’t think it could be one of those topics.” — Okay, can we stop for a second?

“Prodding him about murder or the fabric of the cosmos,” I died. I laughed out loud and then died. I don’t know why that hit me so hard, but the “fabric of the cosmos” comment is so very embarrassingly accurate when it comes to how I’ve been writing Hopper’s existential crises. XD

“Butch seems to be in his happy place – Hopper just sat down to eat the (probably human) dinner … now he’s listening to him prattle on about things that interest him. I mean honestly, what could be better lol? … of course he feels something for this guy, and saying something about it isn’t a big deal.” — I’m glad you felt Butcher’s happiness! Do you know how hard it was to try to convey someone being happy through the eyes of a panicking person in only 100 words? Ugh. So much editing. Butcher is getting everything he’s ever wanted! Dinner WITHOUT hiding its ingredients, companionship, conversation, and Hopper-san is cute and frisky to boot! What more could a wandering cannibal ask for?! And he’s talking Shakespeare! The romantic Bard of Avon! All they need is flickering candlelight and some violinist bowing out Chopin. Butcher’s on cloud fucking nine!

“Hop seems like he’s spent his time with Butch in a mostly responsive mode – he doesn’t feel things FOR Butch, he feels things ABOUT him.” — THIS is actually a running theme that I have weaved into Hopper’s character much like canon-Will. He has feelings about what Butcher does and the kind of person Butch is, and he reacts to those feelings, but he only gets an emotional response FOR Butch, when they are intimate enough that Hop can empathize with him – namely when Hopper’s defenses are down and he’s feeding off of Butcher’s vulnerability. Doesn’t happen often, because Hopper’s so tightly coiled, but Butcher’s been more than willing to share himself, even if his haste may seem a bit reckless. He’s confident that he knows Hop well enough to assume that the man will succumb eventually.

“Of the two of them, Butch seems much more invested in their ‘relationship’, if you can call it that, so it would seem totally in-character for him to make a passing affectionate comment that would leave Hop like, ‘I thought this guy was just toying with me for his own amusement.’ Sort of like Will.” — Butcher is in this “relationship” whole hog. *wink wink* Just like Hannibal (and unlike Hopper), he doesn’t make “mistakes”. He doesn’t make “poor choices”. He wants Hopper; he’s just patiently waiting for Hopper to want him back. “I gave you a rare goddamn gift, son, open it and fucking TAKE IT.” That’s not a quote, but it COULD be. And Will thought Hannibal was fucking with him all the way to the bitter end. *Hannibal dramatically shakes Will by the shoulders* “Do you see now, you idiot?! This is all I ever wanted for you!” (Or something like that. I don’t really remember.) Point is … Great analysis!! Perhaps I’ll write another drabble about what he exactly said … it’s not like, you know, earth-shattering. It’s just Butcher being Butcher, and Hopper being in denial and really self-conscious. So, same old story.

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.

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.”

materia medica [concept]

An 1850s Medical University AU concept …

… in which Hannibal Lecter is a medical illustrator whose drawings feature the uncanny likenesses of high society figures who have gone missing in and around Baltimore. 

Rated: G

Dr. Will Graham, a mortician and adjunct professor of materia medica at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is the only person suspecting of Mr. Lecter’s possible nefarious deeds. He approaches Mr. Lecter who appears cordial and welcoming, and Lecter begins inviting Dr. Graham to dinner. They enjoy sumptuous feasts and long-winded discussions about Mr. Lecter’s personal philosophies and Dr. Graham’s emotional well-being which the dear professor finds nothing short of embarrassing. A budding friendship quickly forms though not without some protesting from Dr. Graham who finds himself accepting invitations just to poke around Mr. Lecter’s drawing room.

Meanwhile, more bodies are showing up at the morgue – strange bodies, stitched bodies, bodies missing pieces – and Dr. Graham is now plagued by images of these mutilated corpses. His teaching is being disrupted by memories and visions of these heinous crimes, and when new illustrations mirroring his nightmares suddenly cross his desk, he takes the drawings and his concerns to the Chief of Police, Jack Crawford. The Chief, however, refuses to listen to the professor’s overly emotional diatribe about prophetic dreams and murdering illustrators, dismissing his concerns as those of a madman.

Feeling backed into a corner, Dr. Graham enlists the help of seedy Irish gang leader, Matthew Brown, to help him follow and expose Mr. Lecter’s crimes.

It’s only a matter of time before Mr. Lecter discovers the Irishman lurking in the shadows, and his retaliation and subsequent gift to his dear friend Dr. Graham is far beyond the professor’s wildest nightmares.

the great red dagon [boot tread]

Prompt from a comment on AO3:

How about a prompt based off of this:


Now, this is an interesting prompt. The link takes you to the 2001 Spanish movie based on the H.P. Lovecraft novella, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, but the title is also the name of a short story which the movie is not based on, Dagon.

For this prompt, I went with the short story, Dagon, which you can all read here. It’s only 2200 words. I went outside the box for this prompt. I hope you all enjoy it.

This ficlet was originally posted on Archive of Our Own (AO3) as a short story written by one of my reoccurring fictional characters, Hopper. At the time, it was an essay he had written for his creative writing class in 1956  (complete with several errors).

1627 words

Cristobal Diaz | OCEANA

No one believed me by the time we had reached the shore. I was mad. They called me “touched by the sea,” but had no idea of the horrors I had witnessed. They hauled me inland as per my request and gave me an unlimited supply of sedatives. I did not argue, and this is why.

We were halfway to Alaska, netting the mighty blue, when we were caught in a deluge that rivaled The Great Flood. Sheets pummeled us, drowning out orders and warnings, and the mighty wind cracked against us, tipping the vessel to its side. Even our great mass was not heavy enough to stabilize the hull. The stern let out a holler that put the lightning to shame, and we were suddenly in two pieces and drowning.

I floundered and tread until I hauled myself into a small lifeless boat, already filled with water and nearly sinking. I bailed what I could, and by the time only an inch of brine was left under my heels, the storm had vanished, and with it went my ship, the crew, and the choppy waters.

The sea was suddenly glass. No breeze rippled it or moved my boat. I was soaked and now dead in the water. I feared to reach over the side, as the sea seemed to cut my boat like a knife. I was set on a mirror that reflected the blinding sun, scorching my skin as I waited for someone or something to find me.

I never thought I would wish for a pistol to turn upon myself, but by day two, when I had not drifted a discernible distance or wetted my cracking lips, I yearned for a bullet to end it. That yearning was just as palpable on day three when they finally found me. They were not Americans on large vessels, or Inuits in dugout canoes. They did not glide across the glass to me, nor did they soar overhead and spot me from a trans-pacific flight. They came from below.

Black webbed fingers crept over the edge of my boat, two at first, and then three. Three hands turned to six and I scrambled to the stern. In a matter of seconds, the boat was flipped and the bright open sky bubbled above me. I thrashed but grew weak and those webbed fingers gripped my ankles and hauled me down until the bubbling sky was an abyss miles above.

They took me where the sun no longer feeds the sea plants.  They took me to a place where schools of fish refuse to hide and the mighty sharks won’t hunt. They took me to the bottom of a great chasm cut into the earth like a scar on the face of the sea floor. They took me to a stone chamber where I was left to choke and writhe on the lung-filling icy liquids of the deep, begging for death, though it never came.

Days are not days without the sun. Nights are not nights without the filling moon. Time is unending at the bottom, and the pain in my chest was ceaseless. If given the chance, however, I would relive those freshly inflicted pains until the earth collapsed upon itself. I would live again through every burning, aching false breath and the agony of my newly frozen eyes. I would welcome once more, my numb fingers and empty gut until the universe exploded, just to avoid reliving what would happen next.

He came one day or night, I know not which. He did not rap or call to me. I was hauled out and presented to him, tied with ropes to a cross made of metal pipes from my own ship.

White globes encircled and cast us in an eerie, bewitching light. He was not a man but a beast of the depths. His body was gray, cut from stone and covered in fleshy scales. His arms were that of a titan, bulging and brutal and at the ends he bore black webbed fingers. His head was more like a honed skull than a human face. Thick pouting lips covered the fangs that protruded from his jaw and golden eyes pierced me as I wrenched against my bone-chilling restraints. As he hovered in front of me, studying me as one might a rotting corpse that washed ashore, I finally saw the rest of him.

At his hip were not legs, but a long undulating silver tail. It shone like a mirror as it flicked below his body, reflecting the orbs that circled us. An icy chill radiated from it, and though I was already numb, the cold plowed through me and I shook.

A glint caught my eye and I saw in his hand what I will never forget. He held a knife, bowed like a raptor’s claw. I couldn’t yell through the water which perpetually filled my mouth, nor thrash against my crucifix. I was stuck and waiting to be gutted like a fish.

Just below my ribs, I felt the knife slide into my body. My mouth grew agape but no shriek echoed through my watery prison. I swallowed my tongue in agonizing pain as I watched the creature disappear in a cloud of vibrant red.

My body burned and writhed and another rosy murk pulsed from below. I was twisted and yanked and was again consumed by another throb of crimson fog. When the attack suddenly ceased and the water began to clear, I felt my chest slowly rise as I floated from my lower half. Then two sharp gashes cut my wrists from my hands and consequentially my restraints, and I was left adrift.

When I awoke I had been returned to my stone cave at the bottom of the endless chasm. My body had been massacred and I shook with shock and misery. I dared not touch myself, for I knew no hands remained. When my torment grew too great, I finally pawed at my phantom legs with what was left of my frozen stumps. What I found were tingling fingers sliding down a slimy tail. Over my gut were coarse and crudely-stitched cords, laced between my soft flesh and the cold silvery tail of my captor.

In the glow of the single orb that lit my cell, I could see in its moonlight my black webbed hands. They did not move like my hands, they ached with each flick of my wrist. They trembled and pulsed, sending long black veins up my now naked arms.

I dared not look upon my tail. It was grotesque and unnatural and I was fearful of it. I could move around my cell with ease and grace, but the sheer magnitude of its strength terrified me. It had razors down its spine, and in its silver scales, I could see the outline of my face. I’d looked once, and what I saw was ungodly so I never looked again.

I was neither fed nor clothed, but left for an eternity to rot. Over time, my skin bloated and softened like a dead fish and chunks were nibbled away by passing crabs. I gradually covered in a slippery mucous by the fungus that grew on the walls of my craggy hole.

I begged for sweet death to come and rescue me, since my heart had stopped beating years before, but that cruel witch never came. Perhaps she was as scared of him as I was.

He returned not long after I’d given up. I’d burrowed beneath the sandy bottom when I felt fingers grasp my gritty hair. I was ripped from the ground and twisted to face him, his golden eyes furious at what his glorious tail had become. It hung loose and pathetic from my abdomen, the cords pulling and gaping below my navel. My white skin stretched and tore from the mighty girth hanging from it, and a lack of use had caused my long black fingers to twist into ebony claws.

He bared his silvery fangs, bubbles erupting from his nose and mouth. I had laid unmoving on the seabed, allowing the bottom dwellers to pick at my skin and my sanity, and he was furious at this disrespect I showed him. The knife glinted again and I closed my eyes this time, as it tore into me with an even greater and more ferocious fervor. We were plunged again into a great red plume that devoured us both, and then some. I waited for more, but there was only one crimson tide before the creature, and the depths, took my consciousness from me.

When I awoke on my back, surrounded by merchants ordering me to breathe, they were certain it was a nightmare I had witnessed. The men yelled and screamed and demanded to know who I was and from where I had come. I spoke of a creature who gave me black hands and I showed them. They scoffed at my lily-white fingers. I pleaded for their faith that a creature sewed a tail to me, but when I kicked my legs, they laughed.

I was mad. I was locked away where I begged for sedation. Instead, they plunged me into twilight sleep, though I had already lived through a decade of that at the bottom of the great ocean. They left me to flounder in a forgotten room in a long-abandoned building. They left me weak and comatose, waiting yet again for death, and this punishment was fair and just. They said I had been “touched by the sea,” and would never know how right they truly were.

The sea had touched me, gutted me, molested me. It had drowned me, stitched me, and presented me with an abysmal new perspective. The sea had given me a rare gift, and I wasted it.

gitche gumee [short story]

This was created in January 2018 for the 12 Short Stories writing challenge. The title is pronounced “git-chee goo-mee.”

1200 words.

Topeka Capital Journal

I first saw Cookie while I was being shoved against a dumpster behind a shitty bar in Duluth. Cook hated that name about as much as I hated my own. My head was ringing and I was left crawling around, hiding from an unpaid tab that had left me fucked up and bleeding from the nose. He’d watched his buddy deck me and drag me outside, and then Cook flipped a coin. He helped me after that, because, apparently, it was my lucky day.

I remember his deep voice yelling at me to stay on the ground while his buddy paced, looking for a reason to finish me. I could barely tell what he was saying through his thick accent and the shaggy gray beard covering his lips. His buddy walked away like a good man. Cook did not.

I was too lost to care and too drunk to notice where I was being led, or by who, so when I woke up in a motel room, sore and still bleeding, there was no shock to be had.

Cook was a chef, a good one, and he fed me that morning and the next. He’d worked for twenty-five years in a boatyard – a familiar haunt for me, seeing as I grew up on one just off the Gulf. We ended up smoking and drinking and sharing more than just a bed for a few nights. We shared memories.

I was a kid during the war, thank God. He’d served and said he loved every bloody minute of it. I’d always wanted to be a cop when I grew up. He laughed because he’d never been anything but a cook and a crook.

When it came time to share the deeper, darker parts of me, I choked, but there was something in his lonely eyes that egged me on. I told him who I was and from where I’d run, and he listened with such rapt attention that I thought I might be speaking the words of God. When I described how I’d snapped and killed them all, he didn’t look at me like I should be thrown in the clink or a nuthouse. He just nodded and said welcome to the club.

He got me a job on his boat – the big one, according to the locals. I had nowhere to go and the earth was burning my feet, so I figured the sea might just wash away some of my sins.

It was a clear day in November when we set off hauling ore from some mill in northern Wisconsin. We were part of the twenty-eight-man crew plus the captain. He was a good captain – well-seasoned, as Cook called him – who stayed on the bridge, piping music through the intercom. The crew fucking loved it; hell, every port loved it. They were a treasured attraction on Superior. People came from miles away just to watch them dock: a salty, drunken family that danced and sang across the deck.

After what I had done, I had a hard time believing life could be as happy-go-lucky as a clear blue sky and careless merriment on a barge. I’d been branded a hero. They gave me the key to the city and a hefty raise without knowing the truth. They cocked eyebrows and shook heads when I turned in my badge and gun the next week. They said I was out of my mind to leave my post. They offered me more money and a better position – in an office rather than patrolling cells – but I couldn’t go back. They thought I had saved my boys, and I had. But I was also who’d started the fire.

They burned for days but screamed for what felt like longer. They smoldered and smoked – tall black plumes reaching for the heavens – until all that was left was a big brick box filled with a hundred locked coffins. It was declared an act of God, and maybe they were right. God does have a penchant for watching his children burn.

When people heard my name, they beamed and wanted to shake my hand – the hand that had chained doors, flushed keys, and sloshed gasoline across the floor. I was apparently made in God’s vengeful image, but no one was the wiser. I left town after that.

The lake afforded smooth sailing for my maiden voyage, and I felt free for the first time in years. The solid ground had carried too much weight for my taste, but the water and the breeze gave me life. I could’ve learned to love that.

Cook took me on deck and told me of the ports, kitchen, and who onboard had new wives or new babies waiting for them in Detroit. He didn’t care, but he knew. He called me a clever boy and a good friend. When my eyes glazed and my attention waned, he clapped my back and told me murder was a relative term used only by men. We were not men there. We were something different. We were divine, but caught between the devil and the deep blue.

That evening brought with it gray clouds and a dangerous wind. Cook called the gales a bad air. The gusts picked up, and the waves beat their fury on the sides of the boat. We rocked and the great hull bellowed into the night. The crew battened down but the good captain forged on despite the warnings. I, the coward, prayed like a child in Cook’s bunk. He didn’t like it, but he let me.

God came knocking on that boat, throwing our bodies and teasing the hungry water. We could hear him in the bones of the ship. We could see him in the flickering bulbs and the panicked faces of the crew. We could feel his wrath when he pelted us with an icy rain and twisted her so far that she finally cracked open.

A pitch black void howled above and a damp doom laid beneath, and no coin would let us pick which direction we preferred. That night we were all left drowning.

I could hear the tears and the frantic calls of dying men locked in their fate. I was one of them this time, and I welcomed the dark waters into my mouth and lungs, because you cannot play or battle God and expect a fair fight.

Days passed, and when I peeled open my eyes, I was staring at the hazy light filtering through the window of Cook’s motel room. My chest burned and my body shook, and he was studying me from the corner, smoke pouring from his broken nose like a serpent.

He didn’t smile or scoff, or tell me why my face was bloodied and my hair gritty with sand. He just helped me redress, tucked a map and his wallet in my back pocket, and said fortune favors the bold. He donned a pack, lit me a smoke, and opened the motel door. The room was flooded with the healing fire of the mid-morning sun and the gongs of a church ringing through the streets. Twenty-nine bells of mourning rang through Detroit, and I’ve yet to hear a sweeter sound.