"Abs? You ready? If we don't leave soon then people might run out of candy."
Will chuckled as, mere seconds after he spoke, he heard the stomp of little feet towards the stairs even as Abigail spoke.
"Don't be silly, daddy. It's Halloween; no-one's going to run out of candy. Daddy?"
Will smiled at the sight of his five-year-old daughter stood at the top of the stairs in her costume. "What's the matter, pumpkin?"
"'m not a pumpkin. And my wings won't go on properly."
Abigail pouted as she flapped an arm at him somewhat pathetically and Will suppressed his chuckle. "Well that's no good, is it? Why don't you come down and we'll fix it then we can be on our way."
"One last house Abs and then home, 'kay?" They had been wandering around the neighbourhood for the best part of an hour but, while there were still some children Abigail's age out, Will knew that the teenagers would soon be making an appearance and he wanted to be in the safety of his own home when that happened.
"Yes daddy. Can we go to the big house?"
The house in question was the biggest in the neighbourhood and had stood empty for as long as Will had lived there but removal vans had been seen in the last couple of weeks along with various other signs of occupancy.
"We can try, Abs. Remember that they're new to the area and they might not be expecting trick or treaters."
"I remember. Even if they don't have candy you might make a new friend."
Will swallowed around the lump in his throat. He knew that he had one hell of an amazing kid but every so often she said or did something that hammered that fact home. "I might."
Will followed behind Abigail as she trotted down the path, hanging back in the shadows as she reached out and pushed the doorbell. There was several minutes wait before the door opened, light spilling out onto the porch as a musical and decidedly feminine voice broke the silence.
“Oh! Look at you! What a darling costume. A butterfly? No, a moth. Yes?”
“Not just any moth. An acherontia styx, if I’m not mistaken. Am I right?”
A second, masculine voice joined the first and this one truly caught Will’s attention. Deep and smooth with the same accent as the female voice; not one from anywhere in America that Will recognised. Somewhere in Europe, maybe?
Abigail grinned so widely that the gap where she was missing her two bottom middle teeth was clearly visible. Her delight that someone had not only correctly identified her costume but that they had given it the correct scientific name as well was palpable; all evening people had been chucking her cheek and commenting on her adorable butterfly outfit, utterly oblivious to Abi’s scowl.
“Do you like moths? I do! My daddy’s an en-to-mol-o-gist.”
Standing back towards the shadows, Will couldn’t help but smile proudly. They had spent an inordinate amount of time working on that, Abigail insistent that she wanted to learn how to say it.
“Is your daddy here? Or your mummy?”
“I don’t have a mummy anymore; she’s gone away and she can’t come back. Daddy’s here though.”
Will stepped out of the shadows to see that the seriously sexy European voice had a seriously sexy owner to match; tall with cheekbones that could cut glass and the most ridiculously ostentatious three-piece suit that Will had ever seen. He felt the first pangs of lust stir in a long time. Trying to be as subtle as possible, Will glanced between the two as he attempted to figure out whether they were married. To his - rather surprising – relief, he saw enough similarities in their bone structure to determine that they were related, siblings if he had to guess. He wasn’t entirely sure why he was relieved; it wasn’t as though he was going to ask the man on a date or anything. In an attempt to recoup himself, he focused on the reason that they were here.
“What were you going to ask, Abs?” Will prompted his daughter quietly.
“Oh yeah! Trick or treat!”
Will watched as the lady’s face fell and he was just preparing to do some damage control with a disappointed Abigail – he could tell that she liked these two already – when Mr Sexy-Voice-Plaid-Suit jumped in.
“Having only just moved in, we weren’t really expecting any visitors to come calling. We don’t have any traditional American sweets that would be suitable, but we have tinginys, a Lithuanian delicacy from our childhood. Would you like to try one and see if you like it?”
Abigail nodded and reached out with eager fingers as a plate of small circular bites was produced, reminding Will of salami slices with their shape. Abigail ate quickly but appreciatively, lips smeared with what was clearly chocolate and cheeks still bulging slightly as she proclaimed them to be ‘yummy’.
“Then I shall go and parcel some up for you. Please, excuse me momentarily.”
“Please, come in while until he comes back in. I’m Mischa Lecter and that was my brother Hannibal.”
Hannibal and Mischa? Definitely European, Will thought although some of the children in Abigail’s class had some weird and wonderful names that had never been around when Will was her age.
“Will Graham and this is Abigail.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you both.”
While Abigail and the lady – Mischa – had an in-depth discussion about their favourite types of candy, Will looked around him in intrigue, trying not to be too overtly nosy. It was certainly like no other interior decorating that he’d ever seen before. Everything was clearly expensive and a mix of antique and absurdly modern. There was a strange proliferation of antlers used as décor, some beautiful but creepy artwork and was that a wall with plants on it? His musings were interrupted by the return of Hannibal, who gave a short bow as he presented a little package to Abigail wrapped in clear plastic and beautifully bound with a ribbon bow, who took it with an almost reverential look on her face before slipping it into her goody bag.
“Tinginys for the beautiful acherontia styx.”
“What do you say, Abs?” Will nudged Abigail gently as she was still a little bit amazed with the pretty package.
“Thank you, Abigail. It was a pleasure meeting you. And your daddy.”
While Abigail giggled in delight as Hannibal bowed, kissing her hand gallantly, Will blushed hotly as that intense gaze swept over him, amber eyes all but smouldering. Muttering his own thanks, Will ushered Abigail back down the path before he did something stupid like ask the man out on a date or proffer his own hand for a kiss. He’d been out of this dating game for far too long to know how to proceed. All he knew was that he wanted to climb that man like a tree, ridiculous name, ostentatious suits and all.
"Good haul this year, Abs?"
Will sat on the couch, sipping at a couple of fingers of bourbon while Abigail emptied out her pumpkin bucket of candy onto the floor to better examine her treasures. Considering that she'd been complaining about how heavy it was and all but dragging it along the floor, he was certain that he knew the answer already.
“Yes, daddy. M&M’s, Milky Bars, Reese’s Cups, Snickers, Three Musketeers and Hannibal sweets. And only one box of raisins!”
Will smiled at the delicacy being pronounced as ‘Hannibal sweets’. "Brilliant. Remember, pick one piece for now then it's bath and story."
"How big a piece?"
Will chuckled at the wheedling tone, knowing that a couple of the older ladies had given out full size candy bars for what they deemed to be the best costumes. Abigail, looking cute as a button in her 100% accurate moth costume, had been the recipient of at least three of said awards. "Just a little one; it's almost bedtime."
Will heard the rustle of wrappers as he flicked through a few photos he'd taken on his phone before he heard Abigail speak, sounding a little confused.
"Daddy? I think this is for you?"
Will looked up at Abigail's words, seeing her hold out a tiny piece of card. He took it from her noting the weight and quality of the cardstock before he actually realised what it was. Hannibal Lecter's business card. The man had obviously picked it up when he had packaged up the strange confection that Abigail had enjoyed so much; had he said they were Lithuanian?
I would very much like to cook dinner for you one evening, “Daddy”. Do call if you are amenable. HL.
Will felt his cheeks heat up as he tapped the card against his lips. He couldn’t deny that the prospect of a home cooked dinner sounded appealing, especially when the cook was ridiculously hot and charming. Will was even willing to overlook the fact that the man was a psychiatrist.
“Have you made a friend, daddy?”
Will let out an exaggerated huff as Abigail climbed into his lap, hand clutching one of the home-made creations from Dr Lecter; Hannibal. He snapped his teeth playfully towards the treat, smiling as he wrapped his arms around her as she squealed and squirmed before settling comfortably against him. God, there really weren’t words for how much he loved her and how lucky he was to have her as his daughter.
“You know what, Abs? I just might have done.”
Will smiled as he shifted Abigail’s weight so that he could slip the card into his wallet. He might not want to admit it just yet, but Hannibal had intrigued him – even if he was a psychiatrist - and he may have a call to make in the morning. He just might not tell Abigail.
At least not yet.
A year later...
"Daddy? Teti? Can you stop kissing now, please? Aunty Mischa says if we don't leave now then I'm not going to get any candy."
Will and Hannibal broke apart as both of them started laughing, Will burying his face in Hannibal's shoulder as he tried to compose himself, taking several deep breaths before calling out through the closed door.
"What did you tell me last year, Abs?"
They both heard her huff despite being several rooms away. "That people don't run out of candy on Halloween."
"There we go then."
"Not getting any candy is a real fear?" Hannibal's tone was curious. "Miss Katz seemed convinced that Abigail's costume would guarantee a, how did she phrase it, a good haul?"
"Apparently so. It's never happened but if the kids get a packet of raisins then they think it's the end of the world. She's never done badly round here. Pretty certain that she'll never be able to top last year's haul though."
Will ducked his head as soon as the rather uncharacteristically sappy but entirely true words had left his mouth but was slow enough to catch the softening of Hannibal's eyes and the quite frankly besotted smile that curled his lips. When Hannibal's hands clamped on his hips to reel Will in even further, so they pressed flush together from shoulders to knees, he went willingly, tipping his head back to allow Hannibal's lips better access to his neck as he called over his shoulder.
"Abs? Take Aunty Mischa with you and go on ahead; Teti and I will catch you up in a bit."