Jack didn’t remember how he got into his bed. The last thing he remembered was asking Price to get a blood sample near the edge of a cliff and then – nothing. He frowned, maybe Prurnell was right. Maybe he was losing it.
With a sigh, he wandered into the shower, ready to start another day. He thought he saw a set of antlers in his peripheral vision as he trimmed his beard, but shook his head. He needed to upgrade to a better brand of whiskey.
Suited up and ready to face another grim day of deciphering exactly what the fuck happened at Hannibal’s safe house, Jack opened his bedroom door with a grimace.
And stepped straight into Hannibal’s kitchen.
His breath caught. It was the night. The night Hannibal had plunged a shard of glass in his neck and left him to die among his expensive wines. Jack felt his shoulders tense, his neck throbbed with the memory.
A ghost of a smile passed Hannibal’s lips, his grip changed on the knife he held. “The most beautiful quality of a true friendship is to understand and be understood with absolute clarity.”
“What the fuck is going on?” Jack bellowed, before instinctively dodging the knife thrown in his direction. He reached for his gun as Hannibal leaped over the counter. Jack took a slow breath. He could do this, he knew what was going to happen.
He barely noticed when the knife drew across his throat.
He gasped, great gouts of blood painting his hands and the floor. He stared uncomprehending at Hannibal, still across the kitchen. The cannibal was looking behind Jack, an odd expression on his face.
“I couldn’t let you leave without me.”
Jack tried to turn, but his body simply collapsed. He felt woozy as he watched Will drop a knife and run toward Hannibal, falling into his arms.
“I’ve tried to fight it, but I can’t. I love you, Hannibal.” Will pressed kisses all over Lecter’s face, clinging to him like a limpet.
“My darling, this is the beginning for us, for our family.”
Jack’s last thought was that he’d throw up, if he wasn’t so busy bleeding out.
Jack woke up in bed with a shout. He snatched at his neck, checking for torn flesh and found nothing. He sighed and scrubbed his hand over his face. Fuck, he was turning as nutty as Will.
He got up and went through his morning routine, but when he walked back into the bedroom he paused. There, by the bed was an enormous black stag, covered in feathers. Jack blinked. The stag remained.
“What the hell are you?”
The stag snorted.
Jack grabbed Bella’s brush, still on his nightstand, and tossed it at the great beast. The brush bounced off the creature’s haunch and landed with a dull thud. The stag ruffled its feathers and offered Jack a reproachful look. Inclining its impressive antlers, it motioned towards Jack’s bedroom door.
“I’m not taking orders from some nightmare zoo critter.” Jack folded his arms over his chest and tried to puff himself up to look bigger. He could swear the stag rolled its eyes.
The stag motioned again to the door, hoof impatiently tapping on the hardwood floor.
“Fine, but not because you said I should. I’ve got shit to do today.” Jack moved forward, and this time he was certain the beast rolled its eyes. Making a mental note to maybe go see Rodriguez in Psyche after work, Jack tried to ignore the stag as he opened the door.
Instantly, Jack was in his office, Beverly Katz standing before him reading her report.
“So, I sent Jimmy down to the lab to analyze the substance we found. Will and Lecter will meet us–”
Jack leaped out of his chair and snatched Katz into a bear hug. She was real. She was real and in one piece, and currently offering him an awkward back pat.
“Uh, chief? What’s up?”
Jack shook his head, stepping back to gently take her face in his hands. Beverly raised an eyebrow, but allowed the inspection.
“I- I just missed you.” Jack could feel his throat starting to tingle. “You were always my favorite.”
“Cool. I’m telling Jimmy.” Bev smiled, before touching a rough hand to Jack’s forehead. “You want to lay down for a bit? I can handle briefing Lecter and Will on the mystery powder.”
“Lecter.” Jack felt his blood boil. Maybe this was his second chance. Maybe if he took care of the doctor now, he could fix things. Keep Beverly alive, spend more precious hours with Bella, save Will from the cliff he tossed him over. Jack grabbed for his gun, securing it to his holster. “Where’s Lecter?”
“In the lab by now. You want to talk to him about Graham?”
Jack smiled. “I do indeed.”
Jack barreled toward the labs, gun in hand, safety off. He was going to end this one way or another. He was so focused, he didn’t notice when Jimmy ran into his chest.
“Thank god! Jack, this idiot just contaminated the lab.”
Jack glared. “What?”
“Zeller! He dropped the substance. It got all over Lecter and Will!”
“Uh, I think I can tell you one of the side effects.” Zeller was staring into the lab, eyes wide.
Jack moved to the door, inside, Will was ripping Hannibal’s clothes off and humping the doctor’s leg. Hannibal was busy shoving his hands down Will’s pants and moaning.
“WHAT THE FUCK?”
Jack felt a hand on his shoulder.
“I told you this would happen, you owe me a $20, chief.” Bev smirked.
“What? Why the hell would I bet on the sex lives of my employees?”
“Whoa! Who knew Hannibal was that bendy?”
Jack turned away from the scene, just in time to glimpse the black stag clicking down the hall.
Jack woke up and didn’t blink when he felt the muzzle of the stag nudge his face. The creature had become part of his morning routine. It woke him up, saw him out the door and greeted him when he returned home every night. Some days it would follow him out the door and into whatever weird scenario he was thrown into, Will seemed terrified of the stag whenever it appeared.
Jack didn’t know why, it was a nice stag. Jack had decided to name him Bob.
“Bob! BOB! What did I say about kisses?” The stag pulled back, snuffling softly. Jack rolled his eyes and scratched behind the beast’s feathery ears. “No kissing, ok? Now, I’ve got to get ready for work and maybe try to figure out where the fuck I am.”
When Jack got out of the shower, Bob was at the door, prancing back and forth.
“What? Do I need to walk you? I’m not sure I have bags big enough for stag shit.” Jack continued toweling off as the stag hopped in place. “Jesus. What?”
Jack threw open the door and stepped into…a Starbucks? Maybe some independent chain, but definitely a coffeehouse. Will ran up to him, apron askew.
“You have to help me! The espresso machine broke!”
“Call someone.” Jack looked around the shop, he spotted Lecter immediately, reading glasses perched on his nose as he watched Will over the edge of his book. “I need to talk to that gu-”
“Hannibal? NO! I told you, I’ll ask him out when I’m ready!” Will shoved Jack behind the counter. He looked down to see that he was wearing an apron too…and a nametag. Apparently, he worked at Ravenstag café. Hell, Jack huffed, as he inspected his nametag, at least he was a manager.
Jack was so busy watching Will lurk around Hannibal, knocking over things and spilling coffees, that he didn’t realize a woman had given him her order.
“I’m sorry, wh-” Jack froze, the cup falling from his hand. He blinked, trying to keep the tears from his eyes. “Bella.”
“It’s Phyllis, actually,” His wife smiled, ducking her head. She looked up, eyes shining. “…but thank you.”
“You want an Americano with a sprinkle of cinnamon,” Jack’s chest felt like it was going to burst, he smiled at her. “And you won’t tell me this, but you really want one of those almond scones too.”
Bella’s cheeks colored. “Just the Americano, please, I don’t need the scone.”
Jack leaned forward. “You do need that scone, slim, I’ll give it to you on the house.”
Bella blinked at him blankly, and Jack realized she didn’t recognize the name. She wouldn’t know that he called her slim whenever he was trying to make her laugh. She didn’t know him. Pain coiled tight and cold in his gut and he looked away. “I’ll get you that coffee.”
An elegant hand landed on his wrist for just a second. “Thank you…Jack.”
Jack opened the door and smiled. The coffee shop hadn’t been so bad. He’d burned the shit out of his hand, but he got to flirt with Bella for a moment when she came in for coffee. It had been so nice hearing her laugh.
“Will I get to see her again today, Bob?”
The stag didn’t answer, but tapped his antlers on the door. Jack sighed. He hoped it was another coffeeshop.
Jack walked onto Will’s front porch, whistling. He stopped when he saw the door open, there was an odd, sweet smell in the air. Following his nose, Jack walked into Will’s living room and froze.
On the bed, Will was naked and shivering. Christ, he should have believed Alana when she told him how looney Will w- The smell filled Jack’s nose, it was incredible – sweet and spicy.
He was getting hard.
Jack was halfway through taking off his shirt before his head cleared. He stumbled back from Will and the bed with a startled cry. “What the fuck is this? What the fuck am I doing?”
He looked for Bob, but the stag was nowhere to be found. In the back of his mind was an urge, a need to fuck Will Graham into the sheets to…to breed him?
“No.” Jack said to the room in general. “No no no no no.”
He fought with himself, stumbling backwards, but Will was off the bed now, crawling toward him.
“Alpha please,” Will purred, settling on Jack’s lap. He was sticky, there seemed to be goo pouring out of Graham’s…
“Bob? BOB! BOB, I DON’T LIKE THIS ONE!” But even as Jack yelled for his stag, he could feel his hand working into Will’s goo covered, oh Jesus he wasn’t even bisexual why was he doing this?
“I’ll be a good omega if you give me your knot,” Will keened, rocking on Jack’s lap. Something was wrong with Jack’s dick too, he noticed, it was swelling oddly at the base. “I’ll give you a good litter, all alpha pups!”
“PUPS? What? GET OFF OF ME!”
Will clung to Jack, ranting and begging about being bred full of pups and Jack wondered hysterically if this was how Will had acquired all his damn dogs. He was just about to ask when he heard a roar from the door.
“MINE!” Hannibal loomed over them both, panting and snarling.
“Alpha!” Will cried. The empath jumped off of Jack’s lap and ran for the bed, writhing as he watched Hannibal circle Jack.
Jack stood, trying to brush off his coat and only rubbing more goo on himself. Will should see a doctor. He opened his mouth to tell Hannibal he was under arrest, to tell Will to call 911 about that ass goo thing that was happening to him, but all that came out was, “MINE! Wait…what?”
“I challenge you,” Hannibal snarled.
“Challenge me to w-?” And then Hannibal was on him, clawing at Jack’s face and punching at his gut. Jack knew Hannibal was quick, but he had strength on his side. If he could overwhelm Lecter, get him pinned then he could be the victor and breed Will full of his- Jack froze, mid grapple. “What the fuck am I say-”
Hannibal snapped his neck before he could finish the sentence.
“Oh no, I’m not leaving this room today!” Jack swatted at Bob. “You can sit your feathered ass down and pout, see if I care. I’m not going to…WHAT WAS THE GOO, BOB?”
The stag huffed, and nosed at the phone on Jack’s nightstand. Jack raised an eyebrow. “Does Google still work in hell?”
Bob snorted. Jack shrugged and grabbed the phone, typing Alpha Omega humans – ass goo? Into the search engine. He raised his eyes at the search results.
“Are these stories?” Bob didn’t answer, just laid down by the bed. Jack kept scrolling. “There are so many of them…about Will and Lecter?”
Jack tapped a link and began reading. He looked up at the stag. “What the hell is slick?”
“Look, I don’t know if you control what’s happening here, or you’re just here to get me out of the room, but I looked at those stories last night and I don’t want to try to fuck Will, OK? I’m married.” Jack frowned, looking down. “I was, anyway. How about another coffeeshop one? I saw plenty of those.”
The stag snorted. Jack turned to him.
“And another thing, why am I always the asshole?” The stag cocked his head and Jack sighed. “I know I can be…Bella called me a bull in the china shop…but I’m not the one eating people here! Why the hell is Lecter the hero? He eats people. And why do I always have to die so bloody? That’s just unnecessary.”
Jack waited, but Bob had nothing to say, he merely rose and tapped the door of Jack’s bedroom with his horns.
“Fine.” Jack ran a hand over his face. He turned and poked a finger in Bob’s face.
“I’ll go today, but I want a coffeeshop or a…” Jack looked at his phone, squinting. “Or a docking fic? I like boats.”
Jack stomped back into the room, glaring at Bob, who was curled on the bed. “YOU SON OF A BITCH! THAT WAS NOT ABOUT BOATS!”
Will howled into the sky, his skin ripping as great patches of fur sprouted from him. His nose grew long, fangs sprouting from his head and knocking his teeth out. He shook once his transformation was complete, sending blood and little scraps of skin onto Jacks’ shoes and pants.
“Great. Monsters.” Jack muttered. He jolted when a massive white snake slithered around him. A snake with…suspiciously high cheekbones. “LECTER’S A SNAKE NOW? COME ON!”
Hannibal twisted and hissed in Jack’s face before slithering toward Will and wrapping himself around the werewolf. The knot of fur and scales began to writhe, suspicious sounding hisses and howls emanating from the heap of bodies. Jack sighed, looking up to the heavens.
“You know, they don’t have to have sex every time!” He yelled at no one in particular. “Bella and I had a good marriage, and sometimes we just went out to eat, told a few stories and ended the night watching Anderson Cooper!”
He heard the clicking of hooves before he noticed Bob beside him. “If I die, this resets and I get a new scenario, right?”
Bob bowed slightly.
“Fine.” Jack walked up to the moaning monster ball and cleared his throat. “I would also like to have sex with Will Graham.”
He smiled when Hannibal’s fangs lashed out, tearing into his throat.
“So you’re telling me that in a motel in the middle of nowhere, you only have two beds available?” Jack rubbed his temples. The woman behind the counter shrugged. “Not even a cot? A sleeping bag?”
“Don’t worry Jack,” Hannibal let a heavy hand fall on Jack’s shoulder, squeezing genially. “I can share a bed with Will.”
Jack rolled his eyes. “This is just lazy writing, that’s all I’m saying.”
Jack settled into the bed just as Bob appeared in the motel room. “Am I supposed to let them get together?”
Bob stomped a hoof.
“But why? Hannibal is a serial killer, usually…I mean sometimes he’s a snake and that one time I think he was just a college professor?” Jack waved his hands. “Hannibal sucks. Will…well he doesn’t deserve-”
Jack was interrupted by a loud THUMP and groaning from the room next to his. It was definitely Will who screamed something about a daddy and Jack heaved a sigh. He let his head fall back. “This is hell isn’t it? Not only do I have to watch them have sex in every possible position, I’ve got to help that bastard get laid?”
Bob huffed, resting his great head on Jack’s lap. Jack stroked the stag.
“I still think this is a lazy set up.”
Jack was in his office, ready to introduce Hannibal and Will for what seemed like the millionth time. Something odd tickled Jack’s nose.
He stretched his neck, sniffing the air. A tantalizing, sweet scent filled his nostrils, making him think of Bella and long days making love in Italy. His head snapped up. "OH, FUCK. NOT ANOTHER ABO."
"What's wrong, Jack?" Will turned to Jack, moving closer. He could see the first signs of heat in the omega. That fact that he could now recognize the signs of heat made him wonder yet again if he was in hell. As Will neared, Jack felt his body begin to heat. He shoved a finger at Will.
"You stay the fuck away from me, Will. I am not getting in another alpha fight with Lecter."
Will squinted. “I’m confused. Who’s Lecter? And you know I’m on suppressants.”
With a growl, Jack looked up to the ceiling. "I refuse to be used as a dramatic pawn for their heat sex! DO YOU HEAR ME?!?!"
Jack felt Will’s hand grip his shoulder. "Jack, who are you yelling at?"
A loud growl cut Jack off. Hannibal loomed in the doorway, hair hanging in his eyes, chest heaving. “Mine!”
Jack rolled his eyes and turned to the empath, who whispered win me alpha as he panted.
“Fuck you, Will.”
Jack looked over at Bob.
“Is it going to be a good day today, man?”
The stag snorted, pressing his antlers into Jack’s back and nudging him forward.
“Yeah, you always say that.” Jack took a breath and opened the door.
The room looked like a Victorian grandmother had opened a Hot Topic. So, Lecter’s house, then. Great.
Jack sighed and walked toward what would no doubt be an agonizing death. He rounded into a room and found Will bent over a hearth, hands gripping the mantle. He was wearing a maid’s outfit, the skirt lifted up to reveal his bare ass, silk stockings clinging to quivering thighs. Lecter was behind him in an immaculate waistcoat and breeches, snapping a riding crop in his hand. Surrounding them were a group of men wearing animal masks, except for Frederick Chilton, who apparently couldn’t get the strap on his mask to tie.
“Oh, what the fuck is this?”
Both men looked up at him. Hannibal’s mouth slipped into that obnoxious half-smile. Will arched his back and keened.
"Oooo! Professor Crawford, I'm such a naughty servant. Dr. Lecter is teaching me not to be such a slut." Will batted his eyes. “Want to join him?”
Jack looked between the two men, mouth forming a tight line. Hannibal held out the crop, a clear invitation.
With a nod, Jack walked toward Hannibal, then right past him, throwing his body out the nearest window.
“Christ, I hope the next one is a coffee shop AU,” he muttered before his body broke against the pavement.
Jack didn’t look up from pouring his drink. “They’re not dating.”
“Are you sure? They look so in love.” Bev held her glass out for a refill.
“Oh, they’re in love, but they don’t KNOW that yet, right now they’re just pretending.” Jack abandoned his glass and just drank straight from the bottle.
“Why would they do that?”
Jack sighed, signaling the bartender for another bottle. “Sometimes it’s a bet. Sometimes it’s a set up because Will thinks he likes Alana. Sometimes it’s to get you off their backs.”
“Me?” Bev frowned.
“Yeah, you’ve got a real hardon for getting Will laid,” Jack opened a new bottle. “It’s like a thing in these stories. I don’t remember that from the office but hell, maybe I just missed it. I missed Lecter eating people.”
“Hannibal eats people?”
“Like 80% of the time.” Jack stood and stumbled slightly. “Ok, I’m going to take a piss, call me if they have a fight because Will really loves Hannibal and doesn’t realize that Hannibal really loves him too.”
Jack leaned in the doorway of the lecture hall, watching Will and Hannibal have a heated debate.
“I don’t love you Hannibal, you’re the worst,” Jack mocked in a growling voice. He adopted a lilting accent for Hannibal’s part. “You will love me my dear darling blah-de-blah, just wait until you see me with my shirt off or the FBI holds a masquerade ball for some reason.”
Hannibal and Will turned to look at Jack.
“Agent Crawford, is there something you needed?”
“I need a drink,” Jack muttered. “But before I can do that, I have to tell you that the FBI is throwing a karaoke contest or a holiday party, or a bake off – some fucking thing you two must attend together so you can go fuck in a broom closet or on my desk, whatever it is this time.”
“Jack! I would never-”
“Save it, Curly Sue!” Jack bellowed. “I did my bit and now I get to go have a drink.”
He stormed out of the lecture hall, Bob trotting behind him. He heard the ravenstag snort. “Yeah? Well the last holiday party we had was at the goddamn Sheraton, not in the middle of the lab. This is stupid anyway.”
Jack felt Hannibal yank his head back. He watched in horror as fangs sprang from the doctor’s mouth.
“You, Professor Van Crawford will be the first meal my beloved William indulges in, after William’s becoming!”
Jack squinted at the fangs, then nodded slightly. “Ok, well this one makes sense.”
Hannibal paused mid hiss. “Excuse me?”
Jack shrugged. “I mean, eating people, the clothes, the weird fucking décor, the stupid puns…Dracula isn’t exactly a leap.”
“I don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
“Don’t sweat it. You’re characterization sucks here anyway. I hate it when you call him William all the time, it interrupts the flow of the story.”
“Van Crawford, is this some sort of trick?”
“No, it’s a trope. And I’m fucking bored with it. Can you just kill me and let Alana be Will’s first meal? Wouldn’t that be more symbolic, anyway?”
“You do not dictate plans for me and Will…iam. This is my design!”
“OH, for fuck’s sake. That’s not even his line!”
“Crying to the heavens will get you nowhere, mortal. You shall not deny me this dark embrace with William!”
Jack turned, and leveled a stare at Hannibal. “Tomorrow morning, I’m fucking killing you first thing. Two in the head. I don’t care what the storyline is.”
“Good morning Jack! How nice of you to join William and I at the puppy farm!”
Jack pulled out his gun, pressed it to Hannibal’s head and pulled the trigger. “His name is Will, you asshole.”
Jack looked at his waistcoat and the carriage. Bob was one of the team hitched to the shiny contraption. “Victorian AU?”
Jack hummed, slightly impressed. Hannibal came out and talked about the irritating little omega he met at the grand ball. Jack frowned, nodding along with Hannibal as the alpha rattled on about society’s rules and basic decorum and how he was absolutely not in love with his bratty omega.
“If I have to live through another one of Will’s fucking heats, but this time without plumbing…” Hannibal cocked his head at Jack, who waved him off. “Not talking to you, breeches.”
Hannibal kept talking about the grand ball and a carriage he meant to rent to woo a certain feisty omega.
Jack turned to Bob. “I think I know this one. I had to read it in high school.”
Jack tried to remember the paper he’d written on the book. He remembered the happy wedding at the end, and that there was a murderer – a long lost cousin if he remembered correctly. Someone who killed the- “OH GODDAMN IT I DIE IN THIS ONE TOO!”
“Jack, we think we’ve found the house they’re hiding in! It’s just down the beach!” Jimmy pointed at a white house near the ocean.
“Where are we?”
“Cuba.” Jimmy stopped, tilting his head to look at Jack. “You feeling OK?”
Jack looked up and down the beach, beautiful sand and shining sun. He listened to the gentle waves lap at the shore and smiled. “I’m fine Jimmy. You know what? I think I’ll sit this one out.”
“Jack?” Jimmy stared at this boss as Jack unbuttoned his shirt and laid out on the beach.
Jack waved his hand at Jimmy. “Go on, you lead the raid. Good luck and all that.”
Jimmy stared for a few more seconds before running off down the beach. Jack took a deep breath. He loved sea air, he wished he’d taken Bella to Ocean City one last time before she died.
A weight settled next to him and Jack looked over to smile at Bob. “Nice day, isn’t it?”
Twenty minutes later, Jack was considering finding a place that sold daquiris when a blood-soaked Will Graham ran in front of his perfect view of the beach.
“Jack?” Will squinted, his grip on a butcher knife tightening.
Jack waved at Will dismissively. Bob shifted, ruffling his feathers in the sand “Keep it moving Graham, I’m on vacation today.”
Jack ran a hand over Bob’s feathered ruff. “Be good today, I’ll probably die in an hour, then maybe we can watch a movie.”
Jack looked at Adam and threw his hands in the air. "Not again. I'M NOT EVEN IN THIS 'VERSE!"
Adam furrowed his brow, tapping his fingers on his thighs. “We’re all in this universe, Harlan. W-would you like to discuss the multi-verse theory before Nigel comes over for our date?”
Jack ignored the kid, still facing the ceiling. "YOU KNOW, BLACK PEOPLE AREN'T INTERCHANGEABLE! "
"You seem upset, Harlan."
Will stormed into Jack’s office, face stormy and brow furrowed. He opened his mouth, but Jack was faster – he should be at this point.
"Look, I know you don't like him now, but trust me, you'll be gargling Dr. Lecter's balls, probably in my goddamn office, in three chapters."
Will froze, all emotion falling off his face as he blinked. "What?"
"Trust me, I've seen this set up at least twenty times.” Jack yawned, leaning back in his chair. “For your sake, I hope it's not one of the spit as lube versions."
“But I don’t like Lecter!” Will cried. “I don’t find him that interesting!”
Jack raised an eyebrow. “You will.”
“What’s on the menu today, Bob?” Jack asked. The Ravenstag snorted, he looked excited. Jack smiled. “You’re tapping your hooves, that’s either a great sign or I’m walking into another sex dungeon.”
“I know, I know, I’m going.”
Jack stepped into the Ravenstag Café and froze. He knew this coffeeshop. He’d been in this coffeeshop before. He looked up just in time to catch Will who was barreling toward him.
“You have to help me! The espresso-”
“The espresso machine broke?”
Will’s brow furrowed. “Yeah.”
Jack smiled. “I know what to do.”
Jack laughed patting Will on the shoulder. “Why don’t you bring Professor Lecter this coffee? Tell him it’s on the house.”
Will gasped. “Jack you know how I get when-”
“He likes you too,” Jack said, giving Will an affectionate squeeze. “And I’m 99% positive he hasn’t killed anyone in this universe.”
Jack shook his head. “Nothing, Will, sorry. Uh, here…”
Jack grabbed a coffee and handed it to Will. “Walk over there, don’t trip over the satchel on the floor, and tell him you bought him a coffee.”
Will bit his lip. “Really?”
“Yeah, really.” Jack smiled. “I bet you five bucks he calls your hair resplendent and asks you out.”
Will smiled, still looking unsure. “Alright. I…yeah…yeah…I can do this.”
Jack watched as Will straightened his spine and marched toward Professor Lecter. He was grinning at the besotted look on Hannibal’s face when he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“That was really sweet.”
Jack let his eyes fall closed for one moment, trying to fight back the emotion in his chest before he turned to Bella. “Will deserves to be happy. He…he’s a good guy.”
“You’re a good guy too,” Bella squeezed his shoulder. “I’m Phyllis, hi.”
“Ciao Bella.” Jack felt his heart flutter when Bella laughed.
Jack and Bella had been chatting for an hour when he noticed movement outside the coffeeshop window. Bob was hoofing around the door. Jack heaved a heavy sigh, taking Bella’s hand. “Will you excuse me? Just for a moment.”
“Do you have to go?”
“God, I hope not.” He brought Bella’s hand to his lips and kissed the knuckles he remembered so well. “Please stay here.”
Bella smiled, turning her hand to stroke his chin. She must have done it thousands of times, but for some reason, this felt like the first time.
Jack walked out of the shop, frowning. “Look, Bob, I know Hannibal and Will walked off together so my part of the story is over, but please – please let me stay here a little longer.”
“How about I let you stay here indefinitely?”
Jack started, looking at the stag wide-eyed. “Bob?”
Bob reared up, and Jack watched as all his feathers fell away, leaving a smiling bearded man in pair of black rimmed glasses. “It’s Bryan, actually.”
“W-what? You were a person? I walked you! I gave you belly rubs!”
Bryan smiled. “Google magical realism on your phone, maybe meta fiction.”
Jack had a list of questions, a longer list of complaints, but as he opened his mouth, a movement caught his eye. Bella was laughing, chatting with the other barista on shift, Bev. He looked at his wife’s beautiful smile and felt himself go warm all over. Suddenly, there was only one question he cared about. “I can stay here?”
Bryan followed Jack’s gaze. “I like this story, don’t you?”
“Yeah, yeah I do.” Jack turned back to Bryan. “Will I ever see you again?”
“Not in this ‘verse. No room for a ravenstag.” Bryan shook his head. “But if you ever feel like switching it up, visiting the ABO verse again, give me a call.”
Jack nodded, reaching out to shake Bryan’s hand. “Thank you.”
Turning on his heel, he ran back to the coffeeshop, eager to hear Bella’s laugh again.