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their beaks not yet turned red

Chapter Text

 

 

Will, when he’s honest with himself, knows where it starts. 

 

“What do I have left to lose, Will?” says Hannibal in the darkness of the farmhouse, and what a question that is. There are big cold flakes falling outside, the crushing quietude of night with the dampening silence of late winter snow. Somewhere in the depths of it, a trail of dead from the Verger estate, and the heavy footprints of Hannibal’s feet carrying Will through the dark. Now watching Hannibal clutch at his notebook and the meaningless equations stretched across it, Will feels tired. “Tell me, and you can have it.”

 

And Will, knowing better, wants. 

 

( You can lose me, you think. You can give back what you stole, you think. You can give me yourself, and expect nothing in return because I am out of things to give to you, you think.

 

It’s a bad idea. Will is tired of pretending he doesn’t need something from Hannibal, but he not only encourages Hannibal - he initiates.

 

The assumption would be it’s murder. Nobody will stop the presses for that. It’s what Hannibal’s been working on since day one, and Will can concede to his success in some arenas, and his failure in others. It’s become something of a game of escalation since Will realizes there was a game to begin with. Hannibal kills Beverly, Will sends Matthew Brown to kill Hannibal. Hannibal sends Randall Tier to kill Will, and Will turns Randall Tier into a diorama with his bare hands, and then comes over to Hannibal’s house like a dog that wants to show off what it found in the creek next to the road. 

 

( Newsflash - it’s nothing worth writing home about, but you’ve rolled in that mess like it’s disguising you from predators, and with the way that Hannibal appraises you like a jewel, it must be working.

 

Hannibal arranges the death of Will’s nascent child with Margot Verger, so Will practically gift-wraps Hannibal for Mason Verger, and this is where things become complicated and Will stops knowing what exactly it is that he wants from Hannibal, or what Hannibal wants from him, only that there’s something fey and strange between them that catches his tongue like a burning brand, and now he doesn’t know how to be straightforward and honest anymore. 

 

Everything kind of goes straight to hell after that.

 

“I would give you anything,” says Hannibal.

 

“You have a habit of taking things back,” Will replies, afraid of letting anything he desires be known. “I want you to fix what you broke, and I don’t think that’s actually possible.” 

 

But it turns out it is. 

 

Will kisses Hannibal like he means to tear his lips off. Hannibal responds in turn by sheathing Will’s face between his hands, tender like he’s holding a living heart. Will tears out of his own flannel pajamas, slow and clumsy with the aftereffects of Cordell’s drugs, tears at Hannibal’s ill-gotten black clothes from the Verger farm, and takes everything that he can find. He takes expanses of warm skin, sipping slips of tongue, the heat of being loved inside and out in the dark noiselessness of a snowstorm.

 

And Hannibal, unwittingly, begins the process of fixing. 

 

---

 

It has been a month since Jack Crawford takes Hannibal Lecter into custody in the front drive of Will Graham’s house. The gravel where Hannibal kneels is indefinable from the rest of the small stones leading to the main road, but to Will it’s as good as a charred spot on a white field. Will stares at it from the peeling white wicker chairs on the raised porch. Here lies a sad look , thinks Will, something I should ignore, but it stains until it has reached the edges of where it can spread. He thinks he'd still be able to see it even if he paved the whole thing over.

 

He is expected to give a deposition on Tuesday, the foremost evidence in the case against Doctor Hannibal Lecter, criminal and cannibal on at least 12 known counts of murder in the United States that direct evidence exists for, an additional two counts of conspiracy to commit murder, medical malpractice, evading police capture, and desecration. Will is still not sure which parts he wants to depose before the trial. He’s not sure he wants to be involved at all, but between Jack Crawford, the Federal and State prosecutions, and a somewhat desperate Alana Bloom and Margot Verger who need verification of Hannibal’s manual tool massacre of Mason Verger’s men and Cordell Doemling, he feels an obligation to say something .  

 

( “I made it,” you’ll laugh from the stand. “I heard something about hor d'oeuvres and champagne after the initial witness testimonies to celebrate the occasion? We can critique each other’s attempts to hide their misdoings and grade them on a scale of one to ten. Defendant and defense team invited of course,” you adds. “No one appreciates the ritual of it quite like them.”

 

As it is, that is Tuesday, which is at least the day after tomorrow’s problem. Today, in the fading evening sunlight, he is working on Monday’s problem, and that is looking increasingly like a hangover and a step closer to cirrhosis of the liver. He hasn’t quite decided if it’s possible to pickle oneself from the inside out, but he’s going to make an honest effort. He can be someone else for a few hours, who doesn’t have to think about the coming interviews and drama and wanting to be anywhere but where he is.

 

There’s still a bit of snow scattered and crunchy in the field leading up to the house, turned to ice in the clear skies of the gathering spring. They glow in the sunset, surrounding puddles turned the pink and purple of the sky. His fingers are hurting a bit from the cold, but he still has fingers, and a face, and presence to use them, and that’s quite wonderful considering the events of the last year. There’s a crushing purposelessness underneath his skin that feels like heartbreak, but no one’s supposed to know that, and he just so badly wants to make something good out of all this trailing madness. 

 

Will watches his breath smoke in the air. Ducks fly in the fading night towards the Potomac River in the northeast, and he stares to the west, blind to their disappearance and their vernal homes in the dark.

 

Fate is in motion tonight, chasing the ducks.

 

---

 

There’s a slam on the window of the front door. It rattles the glass, shakes the screen like it might just come clean off its hinges. 

 

Will, definitely not in his finest of states, startles in his armchair, glass still in hand. 

 

To arms! shrieks the parts of him that see Randall Tier rushing through the dining room. Batten down the hatches. Prepare the cannons. Fuck, what all is he supposed to do? He can barely see straight and he’s not ready for another round with the usual madness that insists on making house calls. What he would give for a regular proselytizing at this point. Maybe a nice midnight Jehovah’s Witness, or a standard burglar that would find out very quickly that Will is in the kind of mood that makes stand your ground laws seem a little too dismissive of how terrible a person he is.   

 

When he goes out to see what all the fuss is about, whiskey glass in hand, he turns on the porch light and slams both the wooden inner door and screen door open with an enthusiasm reserved for action films. That is amazing , says Will, listening to the hinges squeak, and looking to ensure he hasn’t spilled his drink. God, I have got this violence thing down. Behold my terrible visage, interlopers.

 

The interloper, a huge bird in a suspicious, long-legged crouch, beholds. 

 

Will blinks hard. 

 

The thinking part of Will’s brain begins to spin a little, fighting around the sloshing drunkenness of the other parts. Some kind of marsh bird is just a few steps away at the bottom of the stairs to the porch, fluttering its wings in the night air, but very careful to keep its head even and high. It must have hit the window in the dark. Maybe headed to the river, like the others, and confused by the lights of the house. By the suspicious look it gives Will with its long neck and round eyes, it seems to think there’s surely been some kind of mistake.

 

The thinking part of Will’s brain supplies: a stork. Tar colored with red and white in parts, just enough to keep it real looking instead of sinister. Not a flying replacement for the Ravenstag, but just an unfortunate nocturnal traveler. Thank god. He doesn't need anymore exotic melanistic and feathered creatures creeping around his house. 

 

Will stares at the bird. The bird stares back, it’s oily black feathers shiny in the porchlight. In its beak, a very finely embroidered cloth, and in that, the tiniest of soft fists pushing forward from a folded corner.

 

A stork, Will thinks with another drunk blink.

 

A stork with a baby. 

 

A stork with a baby, and a fancy swaddle, and an inconceivably intricate wooden chest just behind it on the ground, like an archaic suitcase delivered by the UPS truck instead of this totally incongruous piece of furniture in the middle of nowhere, and this is when the thinking part of Will’s brain begins to slot things together not in the slow pass of a metronome, but in the scribblings of red pen going “!!!”.

 

“Don’t you dare,” Will says, crouching, hand that is not currently cradling the overly large pour of whiskey pointed at the bird to ward it off. “Don’t you dare,” he repeats, and stumbles, much too drunk to do anything about it if the bird does dare. 

 

Across the front deck, the stork takes a step forward, red beak and legs looking blood orange dark in the yellow of the porch light. Are storks aggressive? He thinks they probably are. Trust Will Graham to get the most ominous looking stork for his very own bonafide baby delivery.

 

“I’ve been going through things ,” he emphasizes. “If you’ve got something else, you can add it to the queue.”

 

The stork continues to stare at him. Something in it’s pointed face suggests a shrug, unwilling to be redirected, and without very much warning, it rushes Will, flying wide winged and distinctly wild into the house. While Will would like to say he doesn’t stumble onto his ass with a gasp, snapping his head against the wood planks of the floor, he very much does, and dreams of feathers passing him over. 

 

---

 

He wakes in the morning with an absolutely pounding headache. It’s a grey day just outside the windows, a drizzly early spring dawn that brings condensation to the old windows of the farmhouse, fighting the gentle heat of the living room. All the dogs are curled into their individual beds around the space heater on the hearth, nose to tail and unbothered by Will’s dry mouthed smacking around the stale taste of his midnight drinks. 

 

It was a hell of a dream, he thinks with a wince.

 

Gently propped up on the pillows next to him, a swaddled baby, dozing comfortably in the flannel sheets. Just underneath, a little crushed by Will’s shoulder, is a notecard, a freshly made social security card with its perforations untorn, and a birth certificate in it’s blue, pink, and cream printed glory. 

 

Certification of Vital Record - Commonwealth of Virginia says the top. 

 

Will thinks he throws up a little. 

 

Name of Registrant: Beatrice Evelyn Graham  

Date of Birth: March 25th, 20XX. 

Place of Birth: Wolf Trap, Virginia, Fairfax County 

Maiden Name of Mother: William Sawyer Graham

Mother’s Place of Birth: New Orleans, Louisiana, Orleans Parish

Name of Father: (redacted)

Father’s Place of Birth: Utena, Aukštaitija, Lithuania

Date Record Filed: March 25th, 20XX. 

 

He giggles, fingers further creasing the edges of the paper, and staves off panic about as well as he ever does, which is to say just barely, and with half of the dogs looking on with concern. No matter how many times he looks away and back to it, the information stays the same.  

 

He turns to the notecard, opening it with shaking hands. On the front is printed a stork holding a posy of flowers, and the damning bubbly script best used on holiday announcements and bulletin board updates in the Quantico lounge. The gold foil and glitter highlights are a perverse addition.

 

Congratulations, Mr. Graham - it’s a girl!

 

---

 

It’s probably Will’s fault. 

 

Well, no, it’s definitely Hannibal’s fault, because most things are. 

 

Hannibal’s fault. It’s become a sort of a habit to say this at different points of the day. A therapist would probably tell him it’s an avoidant coping mechanism, but Will doesn’t really go in for therapists at this point. All the ones he knows are absolutely out of their minds, validating everything he’s been thinking for years. He might have been willing to see Bedelia at one point, but she’s condescending and has very likely slept with Hannibal, as has Will, and no one of sound logic does that, do they? 

 

Head hurts? Hannibal’s fault - probably either due to the bone saw, the kidnapping to the Verger estate, or the cocktail of drugs he’s had before almost getting his face carved off. Stomach giving him trouble? Hannibal’s fault. Gut wounds take a long time to heal. Also, eating human meat is actually pretty terrible for you. You’d think an M.D. twice over would pick that up at some point, but it would be very much like Hannibal to roll the dice. Nightmares? Definitely Hannibal’s fault, can’t think of many people in recent recall that have gone out of their way to cultivate nightmares like hothouse flowers, turning their tropical and exotic leaves, marvelling at their awesome barbs and twisting shades. Drinking too much? Hannibal’s fault - if Will was permitted to treasure the man that is also a monster, he wouldn’t need to drown it with something else. 

 

( You or him? You don’t know. Does it matter? )

 

It only makes sense that the random infant being left by large avians of the Ciconiidae family is Hannibal’s fault. It’s a mercy of the universe that the “name of father” line is redacted, but hardly enough for Will to not see through it. Who else would condone this kind of ham-fisted symbolism, or that his stork couldn’t be a normal, run-of-the-mill white stork with a white sheet? If Hannibal Lecter’s child can’t be born the old-fashioned screaming into the void covered in amniotic fluid and blood kind of way, by golly, she will definitely be carried by the most ominous looking of animals, with hand embroidered Brittany lace as her swaddle, so help me God. The gall that the stupid bird has to name Will as the mother while Hannibal gets to be both the father and redacted for confidentiality is just a cherry on this fantastically iced bullshit cake.  

 

( Do storks actually prepare local municipal documents, and the front desk staff has always been a ruse to get you to take a number and sit in a government office waiting for your random string of numbers and letters to come up? Do birds even know how to use printers? Wouldn’t the feathers be kind of shitty for selecting preferred print stations? Do they have to delicately peck at the keyboard with their face instead? Is that why it takes so long, and is so error-prone? You are absolutely ablaze with questions. You hysterically wonder if you’re not going to take the Public Records office by storm, demanding to see the back room.

 

It must be a joke. It’s just another thing in this long parade of mortal sins perpetuated on him by Hannibal. No one would ever actually want to give Will Graham a baby and expect it to be anything other than a disaster. Really, it’s very cruel. The discovery, the redaction, the fact that Will is going to have to consciously decide to undo it - it’s all cruel. This will make the third child that he’s had dropped on him, and then had it taken away. 

 

He looks back down to the pillows and the folds of sheets at the tiny person taking over the space to the left of him on the bed, sleeping as snugly as though she had been there forever. Beatrice, the birth certificate and social cards said. Will looks down at her closed eyes, little fingernails scratching at the inside of her fists, the sparsest wisps of blonde hair on the crown of her head, and can’t find it in him to be mad at her. 

 

It actually hurts how much he wants this, this little piece of something that is still clean and wholesome. Everything in him revolts at the logic of him ever having a baby with Hannibal Lecter, but how wonderful would it have been if it was true? That he could be given this as some sort of recompense, third time’s the charm.

 

He takes her little wrist in hand and gives it a kiss. His head is almost bigger than her, and it burns him to pull away.  

 

---

 

Will calls the local police station to start, which turns into calling the Department of Children’s Services, which turns into calling Public Records and the Social Security office. If this is a joke, absolutely no one is budging on admitting to it, and Will is actually impressed for the first three hours of time spent on hold with call centers and transfers to very confused administrative assistants and vital records staff. By the fourth one, he is distressed.

 

“I have a baby,” he says, each time, like an accusation. 

 

“Yes, of course Mr. Graham, congratulations!” comes the inevitable reply. “Is there anything I can do to help you with? We know a lot of first time parents aren’t sure what the particulars are for certificates and registration, and really the hospitals aren’t much help. Send you right home with a newly made person without an instruction guide.” 

 

Will pinches the bridge of his nose. “No, she came from a stork,” he says, trying to shock some sense into this conversation. “Big bird? Lives in bogs and freshwater shorelines? Generally used as a thinly veiled way to avoid explaining sexual congress to children?”

 

“Oh yes, not a problem Mr Graham,” is the rebuttal. “Did she come with her documents already prepared?” 

 

“Uh,” says Will, intelligently. 

 

“The baby,” comes the patient reply. “Does she have her records already?” 

 

He scrambles for the papers, but with each time he reads off the details, the certificate number, the social security number, the birth date, the registered address, pretty much anything except the listed father, which wow, not a conversation he feels like having at the moment, he gets the same confirmation. “Sounds like everything’s in order! You should make an appointment with a pediatrician - if you need any recommendations, I’d be happy to point you to the nearest pediatric clinic in your area, but otherwise, you should be good to go!”

 

They hang up, the fourth one today to do so. Will stares at his phone like it’s turned into a squirming fish, unhappy in the grasp of his hand.

 

“What the actual fuck, ” he whispers, baby in the crook of his other arm, precious as a jewel and sleeping quietly despite the drone of bureaucratic automated phone directories, cheery twenty-somethings trying to understand what the problem is, and the inevitable exasperated management telling him that this child belongs to him without question, despite it being literally less than 12 hours since she appeared hung from the beak of a bird that isn’t even native to the United States .

 

The real skeptic in him marvels that the government could ever be that efficient, he thinks with a snort. 

 

The documents continue to glare up from the kitchen counter. 

 

The baby continues to sleep.

 

---

 

It’s another hour before Will really has to survey from a logical point of view what is happening when trying to get other, responsible adults to take the wheel fails. 

 

Forget the papers, he thinks hysterically. He had been so certain just by his name alone that child protective services would be breaking down the door to make sure that someone of Will’s caliber wasn’t allowed to have a baby. Will Graham’s got a baby , would be the rallying cry, and every rational person between here and the Atlantic Coast would understand the dire consequences of this. The fact that he straight-faced tells every last one of them that she was delivered to his doorstep in a white cross-stitch and lace shawl should have been the clencher. 

 

This information is not only received with positive affirmations, but promises to mail him new parent materials. “Nutrition and health is important at this stage!” the chipper pediatric food stamps official tells him when he transferred on call number two.

 

( I don’t need food stamps, comes the inevitable thought, ringing in your head. I need someone to realize I am out of my depth, and inherently unfit, but also that the delivery of infants should not be conducted by Eurasian flying animals. )

 

He considers he might be sick again, but...everything feels normal, with exception of literal infants being deposited like Amazon packages. He had double checked with a medical specialist after Hannibal was arrested, just to make sure the new gunshot wound in his shoulder, buzz cut to the forehead, beatings from the Verger thugs, and various random drugs that he’d been recently bombarded with didn’t have any lasting effects. Just a normal day for me, he had joked, but joking aside, had a clean bill of health for a late 30s male with as much wear and tear as him. The doctor, a severe looking woman that listened as he named off injuries and corroborated with scars, puncture wounds, and his elaborate history of illness, had looked at him like he was a very strange looking bug.

 

Physical confirmation of the reality of things, other than the baby, would help dispel the persistence of this fear. He thinks of the stork again, but also the chest behind it. If it’s gone, he’ll know better. 

 

He keeps the baby ( Beatrice, Hannibal insists behind your eyes ) in a careful hold with his left arm, but tears through the front door to where, sure enough, the giant chest is still sitting in the front drive, looking more ridiculous and expensive in the midday sun than it did at midnight with the stork in front of it. The wood is a warm spicy brown, whorls of flowers leading to the silver front handle. He doesn’t know how it’s possible, only that the cosmos deserves some sort of irony award for its continued presence. He opens it with his free hand, and gapes at the contents. 

 

Blankets, bibs, little knitted caps and clothes, canisters of formula and bottles, cloth diapers, and a first aid kit with essentials for children. Do birds do first time parent chests, or is this the standard edition? Will very nearly laughs out loud when one swaddling cloth is revealed to have a pattern of green and blue deer dancing over vines and roses. It’s not everything he needs, but it’s enough to get him through the week and come to some sort of clarity on what his next steps are.  

 

Next steps. Oh my god, he thinks for probably the hundredth time today, looking down at the baby who is beginning to snuffle a bit with awareness in her blanket, fingers flexing in the chilly spring air. This is actually happening. 

 

( A brief history of your day so far: a giant bird has delivered an actual newborn to you. She has come equipped with basic supplies. She is registered with the county, the state, and the federal government. They’re actually going to leave this baby in your care, because she is yours, and Hannibal’s, and you’re going to have to decide how you feel about that pretty damn fast.

 

She’s probably hungry, comes the stray observation, and this creates a whole new wave of panic in Will, who has to hold his breath and bear down to slow his heart.

 

He grabs a canister of the formula from the chest and a baby bottle, heads inside, and begins to read the side like it’s a sacred text. He has no idea what he’s doing, only that she doesn’t seem upset with the mild temperature of the mixture, and that she doesn’t seem inclined to crying. When she opens her eyes, and Will looks down to the dark blue irises of the newly made, he wants to crush her to him, and hide her under his ribs. He didn’t know he could love something like this, and it’s startling how painful it is. Oh sure, he thinks he’s loved Hannibal with the pain of something like a closed fist on his throat before, but in the absence of wrongdoing and conflict, Beatrice is something other. 

 

“Good job, baby girl. Good job, Beatrice,” he tells her when the bottle is done, patting at her back and listening to her quiet breaths until she falls asleep again. 

 

He puts her down again in the nook of the pillow to the left of where he sleeps, just as he found her this morning. He doesn’t have somewhere better yet - fuck, he doesn’t even have a car seat to go pick something out, but it’ll have to do for tonight. The dogs are curious of her, and he has to shoo Buster away while Winston and Harley try to lick at her tiny balled fists, eager to introduce themselves to their newest sister. 

 

It’s 7 pm when Will lays down next to her, just watching, his glasses askew. He’s managed some toast and a few glasses of water, but hangovers don’t disappear for surprise babies, and had Will been anticipating one, he might have gone a little lighter on the sauce last night, maybe offered the stork a congratulatory glass of its own. That would be the polite thing, he guesses.

 

There’s still the sensation that any minute now, somebody’s going to roll up to the house and arrest him, like he’s committed a crime. Will supposes he hasn’t killed her yet, and that’s as good a start as any reluctant parent gets. 

   

---

 

In the hours following, he says it as often as he can. 

 

“Beatrice,” he repeats to himself in the middle of the night, holding the bottle and watching her eat again with a lazy enthusiasm. This makes for feeding number three, and if Will didn’t feel so much like he was being waterboarded after being woken for the second time in a row in a long march of confusing hours, he’d think he’s got this down already. 

 

If he says the name enough times, maybe it’ll feel less weird. As it is, the primary thing he thinks looking down at her in the light of the lamp next to the couch is mine .  

 

It’s obviously the name of Hannibal’s choosing - Jack found him lecturing on Dante in Florence, living another life, perhaps one he would prefer. It doesn’t take a profiler for him to acknowledge the symbolism of it, the beau ideal, courtly love without the constraint of desire. His jewel on a high mountain, his fine, untouchable Florentine lady.  

 

( In another time, in Hannibal’s office: Hannibal at his bookshelves wielding Paradiso and a glass of something red with the casual intimacy of friends on a late night, and you tired but appreciative of the company, listening. “Here powers failed my high imagination,” he breathes, “but by now my desire and will were turned.” You don’t want him yet here, but you want what he represents, what strength and passions he is unashamed of. Is Beatrice a fire in his heart even in this hall of memory, where Abigail is still living? )

 

Will recognizes the middle name from his mother, Evelyn, something he himself has only ever seen on a birth certificate of his own, but concocts the wild imaginings of a child about their mother regardless. It’s the name he would have wanted, and in that, he doesn’t really have any complaints.

 

How birds decide what your favorite baby book name is beyond Will’s pay grade, but he thinks they did well by someone as convoluted as Hannibal. Alternatively, maybe storks enjoy the Golden Girls. His mother’s name isn’t such a reach, but if a stork understands the inspiration it inspires in him as a boy, he doesn’t put it past them. Nothing really makes sense, so why set the bar at middle naming conventions?  

 

“Beatrice,” he says again. “Bea. My Bea.” 

 

---  

 

Tuesday morning rolls in with bleary eyes, and a wide eyed baby idly stretching her legs on the edge of the bed while Will drinks coffee as a lifeline. He has manhandled her into a close-footed blue onesie and a little matching cap, though Will knows full well she wouldn’t care if it matched or not. The cloth diaper was more of a learning curve, but as a man with seven dogs and a few too many experiences covered in bodily fluids, he just sighs and tries to be gentle and mindful. Every minor inconvenience is the worst thing to ever happen to you when you’re only a day old.   

 

He unrepentantly calls the prosecutor’s office in DC as soon as he thinks is reasonable to leave a message that he’s sick and they’ll need to reschedule his formal deposition. He didn't want to go today anyway. He idly wonders if having a stork baby with the defendant qualifies for him for spousal immunity, and wouldn’t it be great if he could trigger a Supreme Court hearing over it. 

 

Local Virginia man takes case to Supreme Court over testimony rights following avian love child delivery before serial killer lover is set to go on trial. The Justices will hear arguments today, the local news would say, posting Will’s best headshots from incarceration, and airbrushed glamour shots of his daughter between him and scrolling headlines about Hannibal the Cannibal. 

 

He also wonders if he’s supposed to tell Hannibal. Will thinks he’s heard about that between coworkers, college friends, TV programs - secret love children that men feel they missed a connection with. Hannibal would think it’s unforgivable to say nothing, but at present, Will doesn’t even know what to say.

 

( Thanks for the passionate fuck before going to prison, you think while the vision of you waving through the visitation room’s glass divider, and you using a hand to make the baby wave hers. Thanks for putting some thought into your last gift to me. I love her more than I thought I was capable of, in spite of you rearranging what it means to love something over and over again. See you for major holidays and visitation hours when I can bear to think of you without wanting to die of loneliness.

 

Will takes a sip of coffee.

 

( Put a pin in that. )   

 

With some very sparse sleep and time, Will knows there’s a lot to accomplish today. To start, he needs to get that wooden chest in the house. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. He supposes it’s time to start taking some responsibility for his baby.

 

He refuses to take responsibility for the appearance of the bird itself, or that it has decided on Will’s behalf that the proper gestational period for divinely gifted sky babies is about 30 days from conception. Most mothers ( you shudder - father, you are a father dammit ) would have about 30 days to realize they were having a baby, much less have one dropped on their doorstep. Will feels cheated by about 270 days to reconcile himself to this. He would have appreciated at least a week to obsess over baby monitors or strollers like everyone else gets to.

 

As it is, he’ll have to panic ride to the closest Wal-Mart, baby strapped to him, and pray to not get ( rightfully for once ) pulled over before he can get the car seat. 

 

---

 

Another step, he thinks, looking through local pediatric doctors. It seems like the responsible thing to do after the progression of public offices telling him to do it. Kids need nutrition, check ups, someone for Will to call if things go wrong. 

 

He figures this is a good baseline to establish before doing a sleepless, car-seatless nightmare run to a superstore 20 minutes away. Just in case.

 

Pediatrics is apparently where all the fun is in the DC Metro area, with a parade of very noble looking people come up under his insurance plan. Will’s hardly rolling in money, and the FBI sabbatical pay is tenuous at best at this point, but he’s always been very careful. If the government gives him the boot, well, he knows he’ll be ok for a while. He’s fine with blowing some of the savings on his baby. It’s not even a question, the same way it’s never been a question for the dogs. Once the commitment is made, the responsibility is unshakeable.

 

However the parade of doctors doesn’t really mean anything to him. He’s known a lot of doctors, and most of them have been shit.  

 

( Imagine what it would be like if it could have been Hannibal, how careful he would have been. He’s never been consistently careful with you, but for his beau ideal, his Beatrice? How his broad hands could have been made feather light to consider the small articulations of her wrists, her elbows, her shoulders, knees, ankles, fingers, toes. What awe he would have felt, listening to her little heart and lungs, even if he didn’t need a replacement child the way that you did. Even if it was just to marvel what he had been brought. )

 

The phone screen in front of him ripples a little. He has to blink it away.  

 

Will’s throat tightens, but he soldiers on through the list. He doesn’t really know what he should be looking for, but they’re all from prestigious programs and good hospitals. He picks the first kind-eyed woman in the list with five stars. She looks nice, and she has five children of her own, and that’s got to be something of a commendation, even if Will doesn’t recognize the significance of her fellowships, or the quality of her character. 

 

“I have a baby,” he tells the receptionist for the pediatric clinic when he finally builds up the confidence to call. 

 

“...and what would you like to do with them, sir?” comes the hesitant question. 

 

Will clears his throat, and withholds a scathing reply. He hasn’t really provided for her to work with, even if he thinks it’s fairly obvious what he would call about. “Schedule an appointment?”

 

“And you are?” 

 

Will pauses, tongue cleaving to the top of his mouth. 

 

( Wow, right out the gate with that one, you think. I am a mess. I am a profiler that thinks about killing people a lot, because I’ve been told that’s what I’m good at. The thinking, probably the killing too. I’m not sure what I am doing right now, only that I’ve called out of my deposition, and I’ve accidentally summoned a European bird to my house with an infant and have been reliably informed it’s mine, in conjunction with my on-and-off again friend and one time lover. I am having mixed feelings about this information. I am wishing I had help. I am afraid I am going to do something wrong, and I couldn’t stand it if I did it again, now when it matters more than ever that I don’t. )   

 

“I’m her father,” he says, and tastes the words. They’re a little awkward still, the same way shoes feel a little strange when they’re new, but he likes them. He’s unexpectedly proud of them. 

 

“She’s kind of unexpected,” Will continues, “and I don’t have any relevant medical history for you because she’s brand new, but I want to make sure she’s ok and I guess get her on the right track.” That sounds correct, he thinks. 

 

It’s a start, and the receptionist must accept Will Graham’s approximation of normal human father, and says the doctor will see them on Friday.

 

He wishes the dumb black bird could have at least left a 20 step program or something to help him get started, to make this less bizarre and disorienting. It’s not rocket science, but it is excruciatingly important, and Will has no one to share that with other than the small person lightly kicking at his knee, clothed foot covering her splayed toes. Every one of them hidden beneath is a miracle.