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The Profiler, The Doctor, and the Flower

Chapter Text

A mother is to love her child. Above else, she will do anything for them, sacrificing her own needs to see fit her child is well taken care of. It is in the argument of nurture vs. nature that experts have argued which one (or lack thereof) creates a monster. Can a mother love her child when her child is the very thing that can destroy her life? Just a grand gesture of love to give death upon others in a way that is self inflicted due to trauma. A mother’s love is both a beautiful and treacherous thing; the lack of it can be just as frightening ending in detrimental results.

So what made a person so twisted that either way the events played out they ended up hovering over a body covered in the fresh scent of iron. The bitter air bites at their ears numbing them beyond pain as their chest rises and falls in a low crescendo. It is a moment so private that it can be mistaken as intimate: the first kill. There is truly nothing like it. The wild and primative parts of the brain begin to rationale this reaction as normal while the conscious barely whispers it’s rebuttal. Any other emotions besides a high off dopamine is stuttered to a rather mute tick that taps at the back of the brain. With enough practice, the tapping stops becoming nothing but a black sheet to be used as a curtain when the right stage is set. For now, the veil is open and no words can be said to ruin such an occasion. One can only wonder if a mother could truly love a child this broken. No grandeur gesture can prepare for the percussions to come when a mother finds her child dissecting the neighborhood strays. No later than when the mother passes leaving her child to fend for her siblings only to watch them too fade away into the rooms organized in her mind palace. The screams become music which she waltz to as she strangles the man who murdered her brother. The static of a tv plays her favorite movie as she begins to dissect the body of yet another rude individual. On and on the rooms grow as she ages. Tall, fine, and bittersweet resembling a strong but expensive wine that’s been ruminating in the basement; carefully tucked away until the occasion arrives in which she pops the cork to take the first sip.

Liquid gold.

Or maybe the slight burn on her tongue is a reminder she is a product of her mother’s stern love. A heavy heart and a heavy hand make for a bruised behind from a child who didn’t know when too much was… Too much.

Annabelle rarely thinks about her past; it is a dark renaissance of art, culture, and unjust. She doesn't like to venture into the darker rooms that settle beyond the woods in the snow stained in bile. A needle and thread hover over her head reminding her of her place just as vivid as the soldiers’ hand meeting her cheek leaving a bruise when she is fourteen. The same man who lost his right-hand one stainless night after a drunken stupor. Annabelle takes a sip of her wine as she stares beyond her desk in her study watching a head full of golden-brown curls lurk cautiously in the den of a lioness. The small creature reminded her of a bunny with wide, dark eyes and cherub cheeks. The child is no more than six years old with a baby face that she won’t grow out of until she’s well into age. Her small body has no definitive shape yet, except that it’s evenly proportionate. Annabelle quirks her lips as those big brown eyes glance at her testing boundaries as the girl slides into a chair across from her slowly. The movements are almost irritating especially when she struggles a bit to push herself into the fine leather. The formal strangers stare at each other: predator and prey. Eyes of a deepest crimson reflected that of anxious sepia in the Gothic lighting provided by the fireplace. It is moments like this Annabelle wonders what the child sees when she stares at her like this in a feign search for some significant hint of emotion: she won’t find anything resembling a mother’s love, unfortunately. What the child may find is something much darker and far less inviting than the open arms of a hug.
________
It was the third Tuesday of October that Will was called into work. His instructions had been simple enough to establish their sense of urgency about the case.

“Are you sure you can handle this?” He asked turning away from the older woman as he pulled out a duffel bag. Annabelle didn’t give him the satisfaction of an answer. If she was honest with herself, she didn’t actually have an answer to begin with. Nowhere in their arrangement had they mentioned a child. Nonetheless, a child, one William Graham picked up off a crime scene, had somehow established itself into the dynamic of their lives.

“You know she won’t survive in an orphanage.” The empath spoke softly when he ad first introduced her to the child. He carried the little girl in her arms. Golden skin resembling that of a curt autumn day leaving behind nothing but soft muted browns and a homey scent left Annabelle momentarily angered by the sudden intrusion of their home. Yet, some of that ill-conceived jealousy began to resolve when she noticed how off-putting the child was towards them. A prey can sense when it’s being hunted after all. Not that she was hunting the child.

The girl, Jameson, was a sweet little thing that made everyone instantly fall head over heels. Whenever Will went out to run errands, the child stuck close by him (practically clinging to his leg) shying away from anyone who got too close. Will grew concerned when the girl refused to speak a word. Annabelle had read the case files and from what Will had mentioned, she couldn’t blame the girl. The amount of trauma that resulted from such a case might have permanently halted some rather pertinent development. Will began transfixed with providing a loving home for a child who saw a bit too much too fast at a young age.

“You might find you have some things in common.” Will optimistically said as he began to sort through his pairs of shoes picking out the most worn. “I know it’s been an adjustment, but considering your background and profession, I believe you’ll be fine with her.”

The conversation an undercurrent of doubt. Will believed they would ruin the girl further, but Annabelle doubted that could happen. Will had done everything he could to provide a well-established home for Jameson. He took her fishing with him showing get different techniques. She watched him make lures silently as he concentrated. They both shared an immense love for nature, often playing with the dogs. Jameson had quite a few friends which Will happily obliged to take her to playdates and such.

“Annabelle, ” he turned towards her before sighing, “please.”

Please what?

Please protect her.

Please don’t lose her.

Please watch over.

Please love her.

So many connotations to follow such a simple request. She almost scoffed until their eyes met drowning her in lobelia blue eyes.

Annabelle covered the distance between them in three long strides hovering over Will by a few inches in her killer heels. He looked up at her through his glasses cracking a shy smile as she leaned down to kiss him.

“mon Coeur, ” a kiss on the forehead as her lips murmur into his curls, “we will be awaiting your return.”

 

The silence of the bedroom is not foreboding though she is accustomed to the soft murmurs and breaths of Will. Annabelle quickly finds she has another small body to fill such a large space. The slight pressure on her lower back alerts her of danger as she shifts. Arouding from slumber, she finds Jameson’s head of curls rammed into her. Annabelle murmurs to herself as she moves the child’s head to an actual pillow. It’s been less than twenty four hours since Will left, but she wishes he were hear. Annabelle is no mother. She is not one to give her all to this stranger who’s eyes see too much yet never speak of what they saw. It slightly unnerves her to the point she has to ignore the darker urges to rid the child from her sight. It feels wrong to think of that especially when Will’s eyes light up at the sight of Jameson when she peaks her head into his office. He slides her onto his knee and they sit in compatible silence like two lost souls rejoining as if years and time never separated them. Annabelle stares at the child with both envy, jealously, and something else she can’t quite place: she isn’t necessarily upset at the child or Will, but of what they have.

“Mothers are to love their child.” She whispers.

“Mothers don’t always though.” A small voice response back. Annabelle huffs in amusement.

“What is a child without the love of its other?”

“A creature harboring anything that resembles love. A creature deprived of life and hungrily eating what death provides.”

The older woman doesn’t speak for a long time. The voices of her mind palace grow somber in age, but never any less wise. Annabelle will never be a mother. She will never have a child of her own nor shall she carry one.

“Yet you have one,” a woman’s voice reminds her, “she is yours.”

Chapter Text

A mother’s love is kind.

It is nor harsh nor heavy. It is layered in understanding formed by nature that is nurtured and well crafted.

A mother’s love is boundless.

A mother’s love is endless.

That is what Will believed, but he grew up without a mother so he might be a bit bias on what that love is to feel like. Instead, he focuses on provided the emotional support of that of Jameson who clings to his very being as if he is but a leaf that will eventually blow away in the harsh autumn winds bearing winter.

Today, he finds himself walking through the expansive woods behind their home (a thirty-minute drive from Washington’s center) following an old hunting trail from the previous owner. Jameson doesn’t linger far from him almost in sync with his strides. Together, he follows Winston and Buster who run up ahead having nothing better to do as dogs. Small hands clutch the tackle box handle he carries as they head to the river further up ahead. The sound of rushing water and birds singing is refreshing as barks fill the air. Amongst other things, Will is not alarmed to know he is only one of the few predators that lurk out here.

Instead he relishes in the neutral respect of being the pack alpha he has created which sounds weird, but it is nice to have something belong to him (no matter how unorthodox it may seem). He never pictured himself a family man. One can guess how two beings of opposite spectrums of solitude found consonance in each other’s space only to invite such a flower into their darkness. Flowers need light. Love. Water. Space.

So many things go into growing a flower that he can’t help but glance at the little girl who trots beside him in silence. Her eyes are far wider than they should be taking in the colors of fall with obvious joy. Leaves fall into her head resembling that of a crown. Her chestnut skin glistens in the early morning rays as fresh dew moistens her curls allowing them to expand into a halo of frizz. The burnt reds and soft yellows melt like golden in the backdrop as leaves fall like rain around them.

It is a scene out of a painting: one even Annabelle would describe in greater detail as beautiful. His fingers twitch brushing against the cold little ones that only curl tighter around the handle as if clutching for dear life.

“I won’t leave you.”

The thought is just that, but it doesn’t go without action as he adjusts the fishing rods and steps closer until her head is to his hip. Her muted brown eyes find his wild unruly blue ones that often are as vast and suffocating as the ocean itself. It is in their compatible silence they have the best conversations. Nothing is said directly. A flower does not speak of its concerns, but if it lacks light, its petals wilt. If it is without water, it closes it stomata. Little actions of survival that go unnoticed without careful hands to guide it. Not that flowers need people in the first place, but it helps to have someone there.

As they enter a clearing in the trees, a calm river invites them gingerly as Winston and Buster play tug of war with a stick. Will places their belongings on some nearby rocks before wading into the water. The girl stands on the bank sitting upon his brown jacket. Will casts his rod keeping an eye on both her and the lure. It is here he allows himself to think of this morning.

 

“Planning on bringing dinner home.” Will smiles as he looks at his work. His latest lure is well crafted taking him nearly hours to complete. All in all, his handiwork doesn’t go with admiration. Annabelle picks up the red lure examining it. She hums at his statement probably thinking of a good trout recipe.

“I’ll take Jameson with me.” He states.

Annabelle doesn’t comment, but he can see her features soften. It is a past time his dad and him shared as a child. One of the few things he truly enjoyed. Such a past time he’d love to share with someone. Since moving to this new house, Annabelle has turned the pool house (because people need a pool house in the middle of the woods) into an office like that of her other one. With patients making in calls or visiting her here, Will figures its best to take their... well... take Jameson with him.

Here they were, enjoying each other's company. Will glances up at the girl seeing transfixed with skipping stones (throwing them) into the water. What is to become of the flower? Like the river, he wants his worries to flow away, but he can’t seem too. No one ever sought to think of Will as parental and maybe he wasn’t, but to him, in this moment, she seemed ok. Ok was good. Maybe, after some time, he will feel the weight of his newfound agitation rest. After all, flowers can usually fend for themselves. Such an independent child has seen too much with wide eyes and a blank face. Yet, in the streaks of sunlight that shined through the canopy of wilting trees, light fell upon her in a divine matter.

In the silent moment of the woods, upon the darkness that crept from its corners, a flower could bloom. Her smile was testament that he was doing something right. Jameson had seemed content with listening to him as he describe what he was doing. When she gets older, he’ll allow her to go out into the water with him, but for now, she is content to have his attention. A trait they both seem to share.

Chapter Text

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It was one of those days that Quantico had Will teaching in the evenings. This left Annabelle to her clients and other appointments. In such, they had established a routine, both in their careers and relationship. That is, until, they added to their family. Annabelle allowed Will to keep his dogs. His pack, after all, had their own uses and vices. In such, the dogs knew to stay to their one room that led outside into the yard. They never overstepped their boundaries when Will was away. The dogs knew a predator when they saw one.
The same could be said for Jameson. The girl practically vanished during the day. Annabelle had last seen her at lunch when she tiptoed into the study. The girl barely crossed into the threshold before Annabelle looked up from one of her reports to find her standing there with partially opened lips as if she were about to speak. Her eyes bore into Annabelle’s with agitation. She knew that look well.
“I am about to get lunch,” she muses, “would you care to join me?”
The girl visibly relaxed. Her shoulders sagged a bit as she trailed Annabelle like a baby duck into the kitchen. Lunch was eaten in tense silence as Jameson inhaled her sandwich before giving a curt thank you and running towards the room the dogs occupied. That had been four hours ago which alerted Annabelle that something was not quite right.
She couldn’t call motherly instincts, but she knew in her gut that the loud echo of her shoes was an unusual sound to hear unaccompanied by the sound of a child’s restlessness and dogs.
“Children laugh and dogs bark.” A voice spoke from one her mind palace’s many rooms.
Yes.
Jameson was a quiet child, but amongst other things Annabelle knew that even a child couldn’t be but so quiet. Glancing at her clock, her next appointment, Franklin to be exact, was due any minute. Annabelle rummaged through the rooms of the estate (not in a panic of course) calling the girl’s name.
“And you said your name was?” That voice rose from the foyer just as Annabelle walked out the child’s bedroom on the second floor. She walked cautiously towards the stairs before descending it in a rather dramatic fashion- slow and steady making sure the click of her hears could be heard. Her blonde hair bounced against her shoulder at each step.
“Not much of a talker, eh?”
Franklin was bent down smiling at Jameson who didn’t respond. He continued talking until they both looked up alerted by the sound of heels tapping against cherry hardwood floors.
“Ah doctor,” his called standing up to his full height. He wore a grey suit and a blue tie. Formal wear as if their therapy was a date. It disgusted her how he still would advance abusing their time for his selfish pursuit. Annabelle always made a statement to wear her wedding band though he often tried to ignore it.
“Hello,” she says in a terse tone, “We agreed you are to come to the office and not the house.”
He rubs the back of his neck shyly before saying, “I apologize. I saw some movement from the front door and thought to investigate. Living out here alone can be dangerous ya know?”
Yes.
She knew all too well the dangers that lurked out here in the middle of nowhere.
“I am not alone.” She states hearing the dogs growl from the closed door. Franklin gulps and nods.
“Yes, but I meant people.”
“I am aware.”
He looks at Jameson who walks towards Annabelle feeling the shift in the atmosphere. The girl clutches to her skirt before concealing herself behind the powerful, tall body.
“I didn’t know you were babysitting.”
Annabelle swallows a snort. Instead her neutral tone drawls into her accent making her words sound darker.
“It’s hardly babysitting if it is my child.”
The look on his face goes blank.
It doesn’t take a genius to know Jameson bears no resemblance to Will or the doctor. The child of deep brown curls and caramel skin contrasts greatly with her pale skin and Will’s tanned complexion, but the colors blend so naturally that they are easily an attractive family.
“She’s yours?”
The rudeness of this conversation is enough for Annabelle to craft ten recipes as the urge to strangle him makes her hand twitch. Instead, she directs him to her office around back so they can discuss himself instead. Most of the remaining hour is Franklin asking questions.
“I didn’t peg you to be the family type.”
“Hm, do you feel as though you are the family type?” She directs the conversation back to him.
“No, but neither are you. A psychiatrist for a mother.” He huffs amused.
Annabelle doesn’t react as they speak, but the word mother hangs in the air like a knife hovering over her throat.
Is that how people saw her now?
The word doesn’t seem to fit her. Mother was intimate and something personal. It was a bond between two individuals that remained for life staining how the child would become. A foreign concept to her and Will.
“She’s beautiful though. Both of you share that trait.”
The compliment makes her shake her head making a noncommittal sound.
“What’s her name?”
“This is a session for you Franklin, not me.”
“She doesn’t speak.”
Annabelle glares a bit too harsh shutting the man up completely. He grabs a tissue wiping the sweat off his forehead before tossing it onto a table. Her eyes watch this action feeling her insides burn.
Oh, how rude!
But the session continues. All the while she plans the recipes best served for tongue or brain.

Chapter Text

Annabelle finds herself walking up to the school gates sniffling at the scents of unruly children running amuck with no parental supervision. Amongst those beasts is her child who sheepishly waddles up to her in the igloo looking coat Will bought her-against Annabelle’s styling wishes. The older woman lifts her collar against the harsh wind settling in as she holds out a fine leather hand. Jameson latches on and they walk to her Bentley. The other mothers stare with awe at the refinement of the respectable doctor who never wears torn leggings or spaghetti stained sweaters.
“How on earth do you do it?” One mother, Mrs. Robinson, asks one day, coming to hover beside the English woman. Annabelle forces a smile that is easily taking as sincerity before she shrugs.
“Do what?” she asks innocently emphasizing her accent. The peacocking display only draws the other mothers in as they begin to ask her questions.
“So you’re not a housewife?”
“No, I am a psychiatrist and a retired surgeon though I consult time to time with my husband.”
“He’s the handsome FBI agent right?”
Annabelle bites at this question with an aggressive ‘yes’ not trying to find her possessiveness. This only makes the other mothers laugh expectantly.
“Your daughter is so well trained. Uh, where do you get children like that?”
Annabelle chuckles,
“I am just fortunate I guess.”
And she was.
Jameson, as it seemed, was not like other children. Beyond her mutism, she was a fluent reader and avid listener. What she lacked in mathematics, she gained in her sciences and language arts. The girl took a fairly keen interest in cooking often watching Annabelle with a memorized look as she cooked. The older woman often tasked her to help Will chop vegetables or set the table which she willingly did to show her usefulness. Such traits were permissible to Annabelle who rewarded the girl with lavish gifts of necklaces or dressed her in prim outfits.
“You’ll spoil her, Dr. Lecter.” Will said from behind her one evening as he wrapped his arms around her waist and nibbled at her ear. She leaned into his touch making sure to stir her lemon garlic sauce.
“My mother use to do the same thing.” She said in a hushed tone. Will kissed her neck tenderly. They stood there listening to the sizzling of the sauce.
“She loved having a girl.”
“I’m sure. It was someone to dress up with and play with like a doll.” He drawled in his southern accent. Annabelle laughed having forgot she was named after her great aunt’s finest doll in the collection: a strange beauty resembling her own fine porcelain features.
“You gotta admit you like having a girl around?” He laughed into her skin.
Annabelle hummed in contention not saying another word. She did, in fact, like it. Jameson never argued nor showed any sign of resentment when being dressed up to attend an event with them. They made quite a family.
“Oh Dr. Lecter, you are truly the emblem of women,” One of the mother’s, Mrs. Lawrence, laughs, “I dare say though it was probably easier to adopt than actually have a child.”
The comment leaves a chill in the air as eyes fall onto Annabelle who lifts her head high.
“Nothing comes easy with motherhood whether the child come from your own womb or that of someone else. It is the gift of a life and giving it that is important. A mother’s love is all the same.”
No one speaks for a moment before the silence is cut by a bell ringing and children’s voices rising in a chorus. All the mothers seem to approve of Annabelle who turns to see Jameson walking up to her with a smile. She looks curiously at the group of women before Annabelle scoops her up placing her to rest on her hip.
“If you excuse my ladies, my daughter and I bid you a good day.”
Mrs. Lawrence doesn’t get to even scoff before her boys rudely ram into her stomach leaving the other mother’s erupting laughter. Annabelle smirks as she unlocks the car before buckling the girl up.
Once she’s in the driver’s seat, they both remain silent, but the doctor watches the girl from the rear view mirror who’s smile never falters.

Chapter Text

They have a rule.

Hunting is strictly to be done at night on a school night when Jameson is sleeping. It is the safest way to ensure she never finds out what they do and they never have to deal with the repercussions of their lifestyle. It is quite alarming what that child could sleep through which concerns Will, but at the same time, he welcomes how deep of a sleeper his daughter is because on nights like this, he wishes Annabelle had found a different way to channel her issues.

It began with a trip to the market. Not one of those homey, local markets in their small town, but a gourmet one that sound herbs by the pound for the same price as a steak at a cheaper market. Annabelle refused to compromise on her ingredients referring to local fresh markets and high end ones such as these.

Will sighed thinking back to this morning as Jameson and he secretly indulged in high fructose corn syrup with a funky name and an animal on the box: cereal.

It was early on a Sunday that they both found Annabelle sleeping in from her last night escapades that left Will to keep guard of the house. She returned right before dawn with a smile and a new recipe. Good thing Jameson was vegetarian though Will knew why he didn’t allow her to eat what Annabelle cooked unless it was organic (animal). A compromise that didn’t bother the woman as much as he thought it would. She sought to extend her culinary skills if it meant have the little girl ogle over her. The doctor loved to peacock and having someone practically drool over her only fed into her ever-growing ego.

The pair sat on the stools at the bar sharing their quiet breakfast when the stairs creaked. Jameson was the first react as she quickly began to scarf down her cereal. Will soon followed in her lead as he fumbled to switch the kid’s cartoon channel to a nature documentary.

“Don’t stop on my account.” The Lithuanian woman spoke in a low tone which was dangerous for them. Will turned and smile greeting his wife with open arms and a hesitant kiss on the cheek. She sniffed him and he blinked at her.

“Did you just smell my-”

She held up a hand cutting him off before she accesses the situation.

“Do you know what is in that stuff?” She sneered, glancing at the red cereal box. Jameson turned and flashed her a smile revealing blue dyed teeth. Annabelle veered around to glare at Will, who held his arms up in mock surrender. They often reached a stalemate about breakfast mainly because both Will and Jameson were early risers on the weekend and Annabelle was not.

“I will not be subjected to the scents of artificiality in my own home.” She argued snatching the box up before throwing it away. Will abruptly stood up trying to stop her.

“I did pay for that.”

Dark eyes turned to him with a raised eyebrow.

“So?”

“So, you can’t control everything.”

Annabelle leaned back against the counter adjacent to her family looking between the two. Jameson shrank in her seat knowing this look while Will indignantly refused to back down.

“We should be able to eat whatever we want.”

“Not if it’s garbage.”

Her tone was vicious. Will growled muttering stuff under his breath earning him an even darker glare. Annabelle’s eyes practically gleamed black.

“I want you both ready in ten. We’ll be heading out.”

That is how William Graham found himself reluctantly throwing on clothes and following a distant Annabelle who refused to speak a word to him in the car. She gripped the steering wheel tighter as she turned with force causing Will to jerk to the side leaning into her. An amused expression fell over her hard features as her jaw loosened. He glared at her which only made her maroon eyes sparkle with mischief.

“Are you done?” He asked after the third corner they turned. This time he gripped the dashboard to prevent himself from moving.

“Whatever do you mean mano meili?” She purred.

Will knew this trap. Annabelle was a vindicative woman at times. She would never (physically) harm him, but that didn’t stop her from using mental tactics to get what she wants. Whether it meant making this car ride miserable or impeding on his Sunday mornings, eventually he would have to say apologize for his ‘rude’ behavior if he wanted to sleep tonight or be subjected to worser tactics.

He ran a hand through his hair.

“I apologize for earlier.” He said more so to the window than Annabelle.

A slender, cold hard wrapped around his squeezing it gently.

“I shall make you something far more satisfying and edible as soon as we get home.”

He didn’t have to look at her to know she was smiling. Annabelle loved when he submitted and did what she wanted. It didn’t help that her aesthetic outweighed his pride, but then again, she had uprooted her rather prestigious way of living to move out into the backwoods of Washington (board line Virginia) to start a new life with him. He had a lot to thank her for especially since she paid for most of the things at the new house.

He could sacrifice his breakfast to appease her.

“So, does that mean you’re apologizing for the cereal?” He teased glancing over his shoulder to check on Jameson. The girl looked up at him flashing a smile which he returned.

“No, but I will teach you how to make a healthier breakfast.”

Annabelle pulled up into a parking spot before cutting the engine. Will began to get out, but before he could unbuckle himself, Annabelle grabbed his face. Her hand tightened around his jaw squeezing his cheeks. Her blood red nails pressed into his skin as she looked into his eyes. Red lips fell upon his chapped ones before she pulled away leaving him breathless.

“Come along geliu.” Annabelle called as Jameson got out the car to follow behind the doctor. Will sat there dazed for a second before he snapped back into reality. He watched from the car as his family turned to wait for him.

Annabelle stood there with a smirk and he knew that no matter what, she always got what she wanted.

This is the case when it comes to shopping.

Will knows driving thirty minutes around town to look at different shops supplying a selection of herbs and spices is hard in the small, historic district they live in. Annabelle sniffs the products then drills the owners on their selections. At one point, Will finds himself dragging Annabelle out of a coffee shop when one of the baristas/owners says,

“Look here old lady, we don’t know where the beans come from, but there are other customers, so order or don’t.”

< Annabelle is already slipping the business card into her suit jacket puckering her ruby red lips as she applies more lipstick in the car.

“You can’t do it, ya know?” Will says from the passenger seat as they pull up to another store. “The town needs a coffee shop.”

“Business extends beyond this small center. It can be monopolized by anyone with good sense and better coffee beans.” She chides.

They get out the car following Annabelle into battle for vegetables. The farmer’s market is beginning to get crowded. Will holds onto Jameson’s hand so they don’t get separated as Annabelle marches with purpose towards the caseiculture stand. He didn’t even know that was such a thing but leave it to his wife to find the only high-end cheese making culture club in the tristate area.

The owners, an uptight man with slicked back hair and a button-down shirt hidden under an apron and his partner, a shorter man with blond hair and a bright smile, easily answer all of Annabelle’s tedious questions. The blonde man gives Will and Jameson a sample as their counterparts have a show down of who has the better palate. In the end, they walk out with two packs of Delice de Bourgogne French Cheese.

 

From there, Annabelle leads them to her favorite produce stand.

“I need some basil, turmeric, pepper, sage, and garlic powder.” She states passing Will a list of ingredients. She assigns Jameson to holding the back as she picks over her selections. Jameson begins signing to him with one hand as they trail Annabelle like dogs.

He laughs at her accusatory statement of saying how she is their alpha in the pack. This only prompts the older woman to look up the pair with dark eyes. It is strange, but he finds himself enjoying the outing. Jameson is eager to help which Annabelle indulges the child in teaching her about how to tell which fruits the ripest or what honeys are best served with tea or to bake with. Wandering behind them with a relaxed gait, Will barely notices someone calling for his attention.

“Excuse me,” a voice speaks up louder.

He looks over his shoulder to a couple, not much older than him, smiling. The man starts to ask if he knows where the chocolate stand is. Will shrugs.

“Honestly, it’s my first time here.”

Then they start to converse which irks him because he hates small talk, but the man is persistent. His wife, not girlfriend (she has no ring on) finds herself wandering over to Annabelle.

“You seem to know you’re way around here. Are you a chef?”

“Only in my pastime.” He hears Annabelle say.

He tries to focus on both conversations, but it is hard especially when the man begins to digress into flowers and what not for his date with his girlfriend. Honestly, who comes to farmer’s markets to make friends.

“Is this your daughter?” The woman interrupts pulling Will away from her boyfriend. He didn’t even notice Jameson hiding between his right hip and the vegetable stand. The girl looks smaller with her big eyes staring endlessly.

“Uh, yeah.” He mutters placing a protective hand on top of her head. It is more for his comfort than hers, but she leans into his leg a bit more.

“How old is she?”

The question is for Jameson to answer, but Annabelle speaks up for her.

“Six.” She offers no birthday or any other significant details as most parents would. A sign that she wants this conversation to end.

“Oh, she’s a shy one, isn't she? Hi sweetie.” The woman bends down and pinches Jameson’s cheek. Will grunts.

“Yeah, well we should get going,” he begins, but the woman cuts him off.

“What’s your name sweetie?”

Jameson looks up at the woman then up at Will before she looks over to Annabelle. Will is about to say something, before the girl stutters out some words.

It is the first time he’s ever heard her speak. He is almost too shocked to realize the situation as the woman jerks away from her with a look of abhorrence on her face. The man-boyfriend- doesn’t say anything as he ducks his head. Jameson closes her mouth and her eyes. Will thinks she might faint.

The couple moves quickly away from the scene. Annabelle doesn't let the man go she politely points out his uniform which he states he’s a contractor. Within a few seconds, Annabelle acts as if nothing just transpired as she asks for a business card because they just moved into an older house that needs work. The man is quick to give her one smiling a bit too big when she bends down to pick Jameson up. Without further interaction, Annabelle pays for her vegetables and they head to the car.

The day progresses with Annabelle driving them around town to different shops. Sometimes they don’t even go in before she starts the engine and they’re driving. Once they get home, Will realizes they spent the day hunting. The couple is in for a big surprise realizing their rudeness (and utter disrespect) has sealed their fates.

“I have a good recipe for tongue soup and a hearty chili.” Annabelle speaks over her shoulder as she begins to prep. The couple have put Jameson to bed which is easy considering she hasn’t left it since they got home. Will allowed the dogs to sleep in a pile with her tonight to ensure her safety since they’ll both be going out tonight.

“She tried to speak.” He states numbly.

“Hm, yes. I will have to access that when we get home. I found it rather strange of her to do so in the confides of a rather stressful situation.”

“Maybe, it wasn’t to her.” That earns him a look before he continues, “I mean maybe speaking to strangers is easier.”

“It doesn’t require much thought because you know you won’t see them again. You believe her to be testing out her voice. Possibly she was just trying to copy what she saw.”

“We have never forced her to speak.” Will grabs the duffle bag padding it with plastic to avoid any sounds being made by the knives. Annabelles dawns on a plastic covering before tossing him one.

“Why would we? In earnest, most mutism cases are caused by extreme stress or quite prolific trauma. Going over her file, a girl her age was force to be quiet as her father killed her mother in front of her then cut out his own tongue before swallowing it. He killed himself. You found her under the bed staring into the eyes of a man and woman who had been laying there for hours.”

Will shakes the memory away as Annabelle pulls him into her chest. They stay like this for a moment.

“We’re not better than them, are we?” He asks softly.

“No, we are not, but she is safe. She sleeps without fear.”

Will nods before they begin their night escapades.

In the end, he really wishes they had just stayed home.

Chapter Text

There is this idea that a mother’s love can either make a great person or a serial killer. Thera are other factors that used to come to play before someone sat down and began to understand the minds behind creatures of humanity that lurked in the darker corners of what was thought possible.

If a mother’s love is all that predetermines who will live and who will die, then Will should have been dead three decades ago. He, who never knew his mother, could only imagine what the figure who held no material value to him would say if she saw him now. A family man with a good job and a nice house and dogs.

On the surface that is who he is. He is a professor with a beautiful wife and a beautiful child living the established ‘American Dream’.

One cannot judge a book by its cover. Will, being a book with many layers, finds himself tearing out pages and rewriting them whenever he is faced with the killers that stare right back at him. Only this time, the killer he’s looking at is himself in the eyes of someone else. It is truly disturbing how he can see what he looks like now. Blood stains his plastic suit as the knife handle remains firm in his hand.

The basement door is locked, but somehow, when they pull into the garage attached to the side of the house and close the door, the trunk pops open. The basement was another feature that Annabelle loved because it was directly under the garage hidden and padded to be soundproof. Of course, the only entrance to it was through here as the door was hidden inside a strange cabinet. The previous owner had built the basement connecting to an older sewer system that allowed one to move underground rather extensively. Whatever they did in their past time was not Will’s business, but now, he cursed himself. The woman popped up from the truck scrambling to the garage door before he could even park his car. Annabelle jumped out and began her pursuit.

Unfortunately, the woman was able to free her legs though her hands were bound behind her back as she rammed through the door entering the house. Will’s heart stammered as he raced after them (not before checking to see that the man was still bound up and shaking.) He locked the car before rushing to get inside. The lights of the house were off, and it was quiet. Annabelle was a fierce beast to be reckon within especially in the compounds of her own home. Her tall, thick body could easily adapt to any circumstance allowing her to overtake her prey without much mercy or lead way. The woman had no chance against such a skilled predator that knew how to get into the heads of people. She wasn’t one of the best psychiatrists in Baltimore- she was the best. Therefore, Will found himself stripping out of his suit to race up the stairs two at a time.

Jameson’s room was the first door on the left. A small light crawled from under her room as he opened the door slowly. The smell of jasmine and dogs assaulted his nose as he relaxed at the scene in front of him. The girl was where he had left her. Wild curls were the only thing he could make out as the dogs slept around the bed protectively. He tiptoed over his pack to take a seat beside her. Jameson didn’t stir until he places a hand on her forehead. The soft touch made her turn into it.

Here, he sat perched like a gargoyle protecting the most precious flower in the dark forest that surrounded it. Beast lurched beyond their coven as he waited for the creature with elegant black horns to appear relieving him of his humanity for a few hours as they hunt and killed. He leaned into the headboard staring up at the twinkling glow in the dark unicorn stickers that magically appeared on the ceiling.

A faint smile shadowed his face as he listened to the creaks of the older wood floors. The woman wouldn’t get far. It was inevitable for her to try to outrun them. Still, such small mistakes could cost them more than a loss recipe. Will has to consider the figure lying beside him dead to the world. It is rather disturbing how she sleeps so unaware of everything.

Jameson doesn’t seem to have nightmares. Instead, it seems her dreams pull her deeper into the labyrinth relentlessly holding her until escape is futile. A few times she has complained about being awake but being able to move her body.

“Sleep paralysis.” Annabelle diagnosis.

He wonders what creatures lurk in the corner of her thoughts when she lays there dead, but alive waiting for her body to come to her. It must be terrifying. He can almost see her fear. It caresses his body squeezing around his ribcage until he can’t quite breathe. Will can still make out the day he found her.

Jack was standing in the master bedroom staring at the scene while Beverly and her team work to collect evidence. The killing was related to another case of a man who somehow hypnotized his patrons into murder. The man was a hotline guru who had a small radio station out in rural Maryland. The crime had been the fifth one that week. By chance will had been crouched over the bodies when he followed the gaze of the woman then the man trying to figure out why they were facing the direction of the bed. He pulled back the comforter to find a small body laying still wedged into the wall staring at him.

“There’s a child under here!” He exclaimed.

Jack looked at him as if he was crazy, but he pointed to the bed where Bev came up behind him and confirmed it. Jack began barking orders requesting a medic and some of the cops moved the bed where the little girl was curled up covering her mouth his both hands. After that, she didn’t speak. The doctor at the hospital said tests showed no issue with her internally and that it might be something mentally blocking her ability to communicate verbally. Jack waned answers and his only victim was that girl.

“Get me Dr. Lecter, asap and Dr. Bloom. She is the only key to this case and may know how to find the killer.”

Will frowned at this. It was the only real lead they had, but it felt wrong to force her to relive the events again. He knew all too well the horrors of witnessing a murder.

“Maybe we should wait.” Bev began to speak earning her a hard glare before both psychiatrists were called in with haste.

Dr. Lecter smiled at will seeing the concern on his face.

“She will be fine.” Alana spoke up beating Lecter to it. The woman stiffened as Alana placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Yes, we shall see what we can do, but I have to advice that everyone leave. We don’t want to push her to the point she completely shuts down.”

Jack started arguing. Both women refused to let him stay and told him they would let him come back in if she said anything. Will was the last to leave out behind him promising the girl they’d find the bad man.

The girl looked at him with glossy eyes before the door closed.

 

The sound of a hanger was what alerted him. The bedroom was but so big and the slight scrape of a hanger against the metal bars he installed in the closet alerted him of a monster hiding. Will stared at the doors of the closet almost inviting her to come out.

“It’s not kind to hide in a child’s room.” He spoke in a harsh whisper. Jameson didn’t stir though her face softened at the sound of his voice.

“I’m sure you’re aware I have to protect her from the monsters that live under the bed and hide in little girl’s closets.” He smiled as the door creaked open. An eye stared at him that was red and puffy.

“You....how could you?” the woman spoke. Will began to rise, and the door closed again.

He walked over the dogs who were all watching with no sense of alertness in their bodies. They knew there was no danger. He liked that.

“Please speak softer,” he murmured, “I’d rather not wake her.”

“You’re going to kill me.” A sob.

“Yes. You were rather rude at the market.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t realize she was...” a sob, much louder than before escapes from the other side.

Will jerks the door open with fury before grabbing the woman by her collar. Before she can react, he covers her mouth and hushes her.

“You are too loud.” He hisses.

The woman shakes her head pleadingly. Her legs go limp as he begins to drag her across the room. The woman tries to fight- her feign attempts are futile as he tosses her into the hallway before shutting the door quietly.

“How can you do this when she’s here?”

The question is not one he hasn’t thought of before. It was one that remained a constant whisper in his ears at times after the hunt.

 

“The girl won’t last in an orphanage.” Will says.

Alana has allowed them back in the room as Annabelle stands over the bed caught in a staring match with the child.

“Well she has no other relatives that we can pinpoint. "Alana sighs in defeat. Will moves to the other side of the bed. He catches Annabelle’s eyes, and she nods. It isn’t an accepting nod, but she can tell what he is thinking. Whether she agrees or not, she won’t say out of politeness and the audience. It is a mute argument because, like with his dogs, Will has a habit of attracting strays and killers. However, Jameson seems to be neither. She is a peculiar child. She does no cry nor does have nightmares. She does not speak with her mouth but her eyes. Sometimes, he thinks she knows or has an idea. Her eyes say she can see the shadows that don’t dare to step into her light.

“She won’t survive.” He says as he lifts the girl from the hospital bed without thinking. She latches onto him as if he is the sun greedily taking in his body heat. Annabelle makes a discerning face- one that is curious to see how far he goes.

“Always so unpredictable.” She’ll later whisper when they are alone, and their bodies fall together like meteorites to the earth devouring each other in the purest essence.

The woman looks up at him in realization which causes him to laugh lightly. The simple answer is he is doing what he has always done. Nothing changes with having a child except he is a little bit more careful and ten times more mindful of noise. Still, nights like this, they have a rule.

They hunt when the flower sleeps and the creatures shed their persons’ suits dawning on their real forms: the stag and its shadow.

Oh what a lovely pair they make.

Chapter Text

Annabelle finds herself in the company of Bedelia on a rare occasion on which her appointments are light for a Friday evening. She takes a moment to sip at the aged wine in her cup stirring it lightly.
“Motherhood is something that doesn’t come naturally,” she says with a frown.
“Why do you say that?” Cecelia answered similarly crossing her legs that Annabelle does when she is digging into a patient’s mind. They do technically not have a session, but somehow they can’t turn off their professional habits.
“A child needs emotional support especially when who’s experienced a great trauma.”
“Do you find yourself feeling more maternal or less so?” The other woman asks taking a sip of her wine. The motion is slow and rather conventional.
Annabelle looks into her eyes trying to figure out where this conversation is going.
“You believe me to not have any feelings that are ‘motherly’?”
“What are motherly feelings to you?”
Annabelle cracks a smile allowing herself to get roped in.
Her own mother was sometimes but a static figment in her mind. She was young when they were killed. She wasn’t devastated per say, but maybe it left her broken somewhere. She honestly didn’t believe in the rationality of love or it’s existence until she met Will. Such love of ravenous as two strong independent entities are greedily at the heart of what the other had to offer. The conceit didn’t come without its humor. Such a cannibalistic love they shared, but the flame held upon their burning bodies like Virgil and Dante in the hearths of the inferno remained. That is the emotion of love she knew. However, it ghastly didn’t resemble how she felt about the child.
“Her soul leaks and spills into the portraits painted, ” Annabelle looks away a moment of silent contemplation. “Her eyes are literal windows to the labyrinth tucked away.”
“And what guards this labyrinth?” Bedelia leans forward slightly intrigued.
The case of Jameson Lotus being the lone survivor of the Radio Killer (a rather apocryphal name as he was meeting with the people in person or speaking to them individually over the phone after the radio show aired) had become a marvel in the journalist and psychiatric community. Annabelle just happened to be living with the two epiphanies of nature or so she had been told.
“How is it you get the mind of the century and the mouth of the moment under your roof without so much as a bride?” Dr. Chilton moped as she met with him to reevaluate one of his patients. The man spent most of their time trying to pry information out about her family which earned his business card to join her stack though it remained untouched.
“Children often become what their environment breeds them to be.” Annabelle states and that earns her a nod.
“Do you think she will become like you?”
The question is simple: no.
Jameson harbors many secrets and one being the identity of the killer, both her father and the man, later known as Robin Hubert. She had listened to the broadcast and even sat with them during one of their meetings. Still, his brainwashing tactics had no use on her mind. Annabelle found that rather intriguing considering some of his tactics were ones she used. Could it be possible for someone to be more impotent to psychological manipulation at such a young age?
The question of how she could separate reality from the fantasy the man planted into her father’s head and his other victims go unexplained. It is beyond what Will has: epiphany for he is more susceptible to manipulation. It is why Jameson Lotus is dubbed, “The Pure Flower Effect” in one of Freddie Lounds 's journals.
“Jameson Lotus is a rarity amongst humanity for her purify of essence allows her to flourish in darkness. How could a child of like be able to stand in the darkness and grow? Does this make her more attractive to monsters who seek to taste the nectar of this flower?”
The article was published and the Radio Killer came to visit Jameson in the hospital two days later. He had brought flowers and a small pocket knife. Of course, he was no match for a trained surgeon turned psychiatrist, and a Forensic professor who was a part-time profiler.
And together, they hunted.
“The labyrinth is protected by a creature resembling a stag and its shadow. Jameson suffers from sleep paralysis, but she insists that a creature with horns of ivory and skin of tar watches her from a shadow that surrounds it like a halo.”
“That is quite an imagination.”
Annabelle would agree if not for the bull’s skull that lays in the center of their dining room take as a centerpiece; it surrounding by vases of beautiful flowers. It is a display that catches the girl’s eyes on the second day of her stay. She a creature lured easily by the unorthodox; Jameson blends in well with a society that one could say she is a chameleon.
“Do you love her Dr. Lecter?”
Annabelle sips at her wine. It is a fruity taste with an acidic bite to it. She likes the burn as it goes down her throat. It’s not hard to swallow-it is hard to imagine what exactly makes it so satisfying, but that is the charm of this particular wine: it is unique because it can be out into every category, yet defies what wine should be: sweet and acidic. Bittersweet.
“I am but a creature charmed by the petals of a flower that kisses the day and flirts with the night leaving her roots bare.”
Bedelia says no more as they let the weight of her words linger in the air.

Chapter Text

It is not uncommon to find Will laying restlessly at night.

It was not uncommon to find Will laying restlessly at night when Annabelle wasn’t  beside him. It is already past midnight and she hasn’t returned from an urgent call regarding one of her patients.

“Do not wait up for me,” she said kissing his forehead before racing out the front door. It is a convenience that she lives in tailored suits even at home. That left Will and Jameson to clean off the table and get ready for an early bedtime. Jameson was a gremlin when it comes to sleep; her small body craves it. Once he tucks her in, she becomes dead weight to the world around her. Will is envious of how she finds sleep to be a companion rather than an enemy. He lays still listening to the house groan against the October winds that bring a harsh winter breeze with them.

Will finally sits up rubbing his face. If not who the killers that visit him in his sleep, then he would truly be alone. He goes to the window staring out at the ocean of trees that move in waves against the night. He wonders how many souks have been swallowed up into its murky depths.

How many souls has he swallowed up?

The thought left a gaping hole in his throat. The wendigo that stalked his mind began to evolve in his faint reflection in the window. Had he always been like this? Or had Annabelle brought put the shadows he so often confused for darkness? His antlers sprouted from thick, dark truffles of curls as his eyes grew darker than the midnight sky. His skin became as obsidian as the backdrop of the forest. His ribs expanded; his nails sharpened.The creature in front of him barely noticed the door creak open until he turned to find Jameson staring at him. Her wide eyes seemed to be reconsidering her actions before Will moved to pick her up.

It was late; the creature realized as it held the flower in its hand. Had it been another embodiment of life, he might have destroyed it in its wake of destruction. This flower, however, bloomed perfectly well in the darkness. Something so pure could never truly be tainted, if not stained. The man could feel the creature crawling under his skin. If Will knew better, he would let it out, but nights like this were not adequate for change. He was not the shadow that hunted with his beloved. No, tonight, he was a father.

The word stung like stepping on a nail. He pulled Jameson into the bed until they were tucked under the covers. His chin rested on top of her head as he hummed an old lullaby his father once sang to him. Jameson didn’t stir, but he felt her eyes on him.

Did she know?

Will thought that sometimes she could see, but ignored it. Something she might have done when she realized her father had been slowly sinking away by the hands of a silent killer. Did she see him as a threat or a protector?

A small hand reached up to tug a curl loosely. He looked down at her and saw nothing reflected at him.

“What was that for?” He asked amused.

A slow smile crept upon her face before she signed,

“Just making sure you were still here.”

Will chuckled. Not because the simple action was silly, but because she knew when he wasn’t here. Who he was when he left, Jameson seemed to notice the difference. It was truly fascinating for someone so young to be able to profile like that.

They stayed tucked away together, eyes starting unto the oblivion that was beyond the window waiting. The shadows lurked and crawled all around them; none dared come close enough to the creature as he watched over his flower.

Chapter Text

“How charming.” A woman’s voice floated through the vast house.

Annabelle smiled as she greeted another one of her dinner guests. In all the quaintness and circularity of her opera circle, the quirks of her kind were far from normal. Everyone adorned themselves in their riches only to display it pompously. They were creatures of sin: lust and gluttony. Oh, how she would burn in the inferno of Dante’s realm. The conceit left hr chuckling as she watched her guest flock around the foyer and living room like pigs waiting for their slop. Some of these individuals were truly nothing more than animals waiting to be hand-fed and led to the slaughter. Tonight’s feast was one of few that she had had time to commence. A breath stroke of brilliance and inspiration was rare to commemorate, but it had been a good sixteen months since she held a party. Tonight, she had even invited some of Will’s coworkers to dine with them.

Jack seemed content to dine on a poached ostrich egg and smoked beef (?). Beverly, Zeller, and Jimmy flocked to each other before dragging Will into their circle to talk. Annabelle watched her kitchen flourish as the waiters walked around serving. She spoke idly to the guest who sought out to compliment her. Upon her way back to her region to see to the appetizers, she found herself pausing at the staircase. With keen eyes, she looked up to see Alana disappearing into one of the bedrooms. Curiosity was never something the younger woman seemed to have as she played along with her morals and set boundaries. Still, Annabelle found herself giving an order to one of the waiters to tell the kitchen to slow up on preparing the main course and begin garnishing. Her eyes shot across the room over to Will who adjusted his glasses far too many times before he finally felt eyes on him. He looked up briefly before nodding and excusing himself from the crowd that had surrounded him.

“How do you do it?” He asked her placing a hand on her shoulder. She smiled knowing what he meant. Social events or people, in general, were something he eagerly avoided, but one must keep up appearances: especially with what they do.

“What’s wrong? Did someone drop a plate or something?” The slight worry in his voice was nice. He genuinely knew what bothered her, but Annabelle pointed to upstairs. He nodded and  began to move.

“Stay and watch over our guests. I’d rather not have any more wanderers.” If her face didn’t show it, Will knew by the sound of her voice of what she meant. She watched him disappear into the crowd before she hiked up the entrails of her dress to go upstairs.

She hears Alana before she peaks through the crack in the bedroom door where the other woman stood in the middle of Jameson’s room. The little girl was draped, on the floor, in a beautiful gold dress that matched the golden flower tucked away in her hair. It matched the golden brooch Annabelle wore in her hair- a gift from her aunt she was able to hold onto.

“I don’t believe that.” She heard Alana say. Nothing followed, but Annabelle knew Jameson was signing something to her.

“You don’t know that for sure.” The sigh that followed meant Alana was slightly frustrated.

Annabelle knocked on the door before walking in. Two sets of eyes turned to her as Alana plastered on a tight smile.

“Annabelle, I apologize for the intrusion. I saw Jameson wander off and I got curious. I found her sitting here alone so I wanted to see what was wrong.”

Annabelle flashed a remorseful smile- one she knew Alana would fall for.

“I appreciate the concern, Alana. May I ask what is wrong then?”

Alana sighed again and this time gestured to Jameson who was looking anywhere but at Annabelle.

“She thinks you’d be better off without her or at least for tonight.”

Annabelle trained her face to look displeased. A slight part of her was confused.

“Where did an idea like that come from?” She directed the question to Jameson who shakes her head.

“She doesn’t want to embarrass you.”

Annabelle almost laughs. She catches herself as she eyes the little girl who is clearly discomforted by this conversation.

“Well then, I suppose I will have to call off the party and send everyone home.”

This earns her a look at Jameson peeks at her from under long, black lashes.

“You can’t do that. You worked hard to make yummies.”

“Yes well, they're not very yummy if not everyone enjoys them.” Annabelle shrugs as she bends down to pick Jameson up. The girl rests perfectly on her hip. She tries to pull away which causes Annabelle to grip harder.

You can enjoy them with friends and Will.”

“Hm, I could, but it won’t be the same.” Without you goes unsaid.

Jameson scrunches up her face at Annabelle’s comment.

“Jamie,” Alana tried as she runs the girl’s back.

Jameson recoils before twisting out of Annabelle’s grasp and running out the door with her ears covered.

Alana stands frozen in awe at this reaction: it was the most emotion both doctors had seen the girl emit since living with them. Annabelle knows she will be looking for Will. Nights when she came home late or had an emergency with a patient, she found the two curled up together waiting for her. Sometimes they were awake and most times they were asleep.

“Annabelle, ” She is already out the door when she hears her name from the top of the steps. Will stands, his eyes looking between hers and Alana who is following silently.

“Where is Jameson?”

“She was upset and it seems something has set her off.” Annabelle explains. Will turns his sights to Alana.

“Did you say Jamie?”

Alana nods weakly.

“Her dad used to call her that.” He muttered. Annabelle knew this. Jameson had told her once when spending the day running errands. She didn’t like the nickname, but wanted Annabelle to call her something other than her first name.

“I was raised to be quite formal and we only addressed our family by given names.” The girl had nodded and accepted this. She asked about the accent and then Lithuania becoming engrossed with a Annabelle’s history.

“I didn’t know. She never mentioned it in therapy before.”

“Children are often more perceptive than we perceive them to be,” Annabelle spoke quietly as she walked down the long hallway leading to their bedroom. Her footsteps were echoed by Will’s and Alana’s. “They see the world differently than adults. They are more literal, less advantageous, and more imaginative. Such traits blend well in society when they are young m, but are bled out of them once they hit adolescence.”

Annabelle stood at the master bedroom, the room she shares with Will. The door was closed which it wasn’t when she left earlier after finishing her makeup.

She knocks.

A piece of paper appears from under the door.

Occupated.”

Will reads from over her shoulder. He huffs in laughter before pulling out a pen from his suit jacket. He corrects the spelling before handing it back to Annabelle who slips it under the door.

“Very good trying to spell occupied.” Will mumbles encouragingly.

“Alana, I believe we can handle this. Go back down and enjoy the wine.” Annabelle instructs tossing a smile over her shoulder. The woman is about to argue, but gives in with a nod. However, she does longer a bit longer taking in both Will and Annabelle. The older woman wonders if that envy in her eyes is because she wants this too or wants to be her and have the family she now has.

When Alana finally leaves, Annabelle turns her attention back to the closed door.

“How about you go too? I can handle this and you can finish hosting.” Will’s suggestion is tempting, but she declines it. It won’t help the situation or the child if she believes Annabelle absent.

Instead, she knocks in the door again.

“Jameson, we are alone now, so tell me what this is about.”

Another piece of paper taps her big toe as she picks it up.

Go hav fun. Im gold.”

Annabelle frowns at the misspellings before sighing as Will covers his mouth hiding a smile. The twinkle in his eyes is amusing.

“Have with an e and G O O D spells good.” He corrects on the paper as he says it out and slips it back under the door. They wait a moment, but no more notes come.

“Kinda hard to enjoy ourselves without you flower.” Will sighs dramatically. They both take a seat on the floor.

“We will sit here all night if we have too.” Annabelle adds.

The door clicks open and Jameson stands before them. She falls into Will’s lap, but her gaze is on the older woman.

“What is all this about?”

You don’t love me.

Will winces at this before he looks at Annabelle too. Neither one of them had said those words to Jameson, yet they made an effort to show they were a loving couple in front of her- a healthy couple.

Annabelle doesn’t say anything. Her eyes lower as she tenderly brushes a loose curl behind the child’s ear.

“Love is a circular thing. We crave it, yet we also fear it.” She whispers hearing the voices of her palace call.

“Annabelle, I do love you.” The six year old boy smile as he hugs her. The warmth of his body is a distant memory she barely recognizes. Small arms wrap around her neck and she clutches the fabric that is so familiarly soft.

“Misha, I love you too.” She laughs grasping her brother.

Annabelle stiffens catching herself as the finger stops its trail resting upon the child’s cherub cheek.

“I do love you so.”

It barely escapes her lips. She doesn’t even know if she said it or who she said it too. Bedelia would say it’s a figment of her trauma. She sees her brother in the girl. There is that alarmingly innocent yet complex turmoil tolling behind big eyes. Her brother had been too smart for his age. He had seen her. Truly loved her. Then they took him. Misha had screamed so loud that it rang out in the silent night. Nothing dare disturb her as she drowned in sobs. It broke her. It snapped something in her that wouldn’t arouse until she was a budding young woman returning home to face the nightmares that haunted her.

Had Annabelle not devoured those men, would she stand here, a mortal, and not a creature- a wendigo.

“I love both of you.”

Will grins at her before leaving in for a kiss as they hold Jameson between them.

When they pull away, Annabelle sees Misha smiling at her from behind Will’s back.

“One day, when we’re older, we’ll have a huge house and you’ll cook lots of food and we’ll have a party. We’ll be a family again. Promise me that.”

“Of course Mano vaikas. One day, I promise.”

Chapter Text

“Will and mini Will.” Beverly smiled as Jameson gaze her a hug. The academy was buzzing with bright, new recruits all itching to take a semester of Professor’s Graham lecture class. It was truly a popular class that he held four sessions every three days. Each one he broke down crime scenes and the design of each killer. Will preferred teaching to anything allowing him to give guidance to the budding agents.

Far from his usual routine of prepping for his next lecture which meant reviewing his slides and charging his computer, he was now participating in the annual event of ‘Take your kid to work day’. His dad had often brought him along to work to help out on the docks or tinker with boat engines. Sometimes he was put to work by lifting machinery or simply followed after his dad, being captivated with the water and smell of sea salt. When Jameson let go of Bev, she raced back to Will instantly grabbing his free hand designated (claimed) for her.

He nodded at Bev who laughed.

“You really are a cute pair.”

Jameson smiled at this. Of all the people she warmed up to, Bev happened to be her favorite. It was simply because the woman was probably as stubborn as a child and just as eager. Price and Zeller weren’t as amiable with children, but somehow they seemed to enjoy the quiet nature of Jameson who found them hilarious.

Will guided the girl to his lecture hall dismissing himself from further conversation and nearly doffed another agent with a kid who looked way to happy to be at work on a Friday morning. Finally in the confides of his teaching hall, Will began to loosen up a bit as Jameson skipped at his side. He rolled his eyes jealous of her energy. Sipping his coffee, he opened the doors allowing small footsteps to walk in front of his. Will headed towards his desk before setting up his computer and mentally trying to catch up with the buzz of excitement that was bound to engulf him once the new recruits came bustling in.

On cue, the floodgates opened as a wave of young bodies came in talking amongst themselves. Will rubbed his temple before turning at the first squeal.

“OMG!” Madeline rushes up to him with a smile. “This that your daughter?”

Will looks over at Jameson or rather down because while he was setting up, he hadn’t noticed she took hold of his hand. Had he actually used one hand this whole time? Will shook his head.

“Yes, Jameson this is my class. Madeline is one of my students. Class this is Jameson my..” he pauses, “daughter.”

The pause is either ignored or unnoticed as his class crowds him. Their nosy kids curios about his life such as his wedding band and who Jameson’s mom is or do they know her. Will finds himself trying to avoid such questions. No need for them to know Annabelle or jump to conclusions. Instead, he begins class where the seats fill out.

Halfway through his lecture, Will stands in front of his class and asks,

“Any questions or comments.”

He turns to face his students and sees a small hand shoot up. He frowns,

“Question Flower?” He quips surprised.

She signs bathroom and some of his students laugh while the other look confused.

“Looks like we get a potty break.” One of his students says snickers earning him a glare.

Will lets out a breath before nodding and suggesting that they take a five-minute break.

 

Once they leave the room, Will carries Jameson towards the bathroom before he pauses. He looks between the ladies' room and the men’s room. He looks down at Jameson who looks up at him.

“Are you ok to go alone?” He asks knowing the answer. She shakes her head ‘no’.

Will bites his lip.

He looks between both bathrooms with growing anxiety. Usually, Annabelle took Jameson to the bathroom when they were out in public. It was rather dawning on the nature of his parenthood that this is how fathers with daughters felt. Jameson squirmed in his grasp and he gulped. Taking a breath, he covered her eyes before walking into the men’s bathroom. Will figured he could have just asked Beverly or made Jameson go by herself- it wouldn’t have been such a weird experience if he had checked the bathrooms first only to find Jack washing his hands. He looks up at the professor with a stern face and his mouth set into a firm line.

Will feels a bit of his soul crack as he nods awkwardly before pushing Jameson into the first empty stall and standing outside the door.

“Should I even ask?” Jack speaks up after finishing drying his hands. Will shrugs mumbling,

“Potty Break.”

This earns him another look, one with a raised eyebrow and a slow nod, as if Jack didn’t know he could resort to using such words.

“I assume you brought her to work because,” Jack fishes.

“Bring your kid to work day.” Will finishes glancing towards the door ready to scare off any men that come in.

“Hm, I didn’t think you were one to participate.”

His tone is icy. Whatever Jack is really thinking, he doesn’t say. Will can guess what’s on his mind. It’s not so much as participating, it’s the fact that he willingly brought her with him. It’s the idea that William Graham could ever hold an ounce of love for a child- he, being the resident recluse, the loose cannon, the fragile, lil teacup. How could Will ever take care of another human being when he, himself, could hardly take care of himself?

“Whatever it is that you’re insinuating Jack, we can discuss it later.” He states calmy.

Jack’s eyes turn to slits almost in the bright lighting before he nods. He stiffs a bit as the door creaks open. Jameson stares at him before closing her eyes quickly.

Will places a tentative hand on her back guiding her to the sink before hoisting her up to wash her hands. Jack watches them cautiously. Will finally hears the door close as he’s drying her hands. Together, they make their way back to his room before pausing just outside the door.

Jameson pulls at his sleeve and Will bends down thinking she wants to get picked up; small arms latch around his neck. For a moment, they stay like this before he feels small lips at his ear.

Dad.

Will doesn’t stir thinking he’s imagined her speaking. It is more of a soft gush of air in his ear, but when he holds her in front of him, Jameson just smiles: a smile with too many meanings. Whether he imagined it or Jameson spoke, he is about to ask, but Jameson is already bounding towards the door before she disappears back into his classroom leaving Will standing alone.