for ari, for her 23rd birthday (a wee bit belatedly)
because she’s fabulous
Hannibal AU: in which Hannibal secures a public trial, and nothing turns out well for anyone.
tw: mentions of cannibalism; insinuations of the presence of lawyers
When Will Graham enters the courthouse for the first time in three months, the entire room careens into ugly silence. Camera lenses swivel to follow as he hunches down the main aisle into a back-row seat, and the entire nation wonders how this fading ghost of a person could ever have befriended (much less interested) their dear Doctor Lecter.
(This is the first time we’ve seen Graham out since Lecter was taken into custody; he’s practically become a hermit, and I’m surprised that even Hannibal’s personal testimony would draw him out. Oh, this should make this trial session a sight more complicated, wouldn’t you say?)
Alana Bloom smiles bitterly, watching Will shrink into himself. That should make her ache, and it would—except she’s too angry, so angry, that for all her logic and rules and ethics she couldn’t see that Hannibal Lecter is a hollow man full of hand-grown emotions. (She should have known. She could have saved Will.)
Will is a wreck, hair knotted and stubble longer than it’s ever been, verging on beard. Every sleepless night is scrawled in bruises under his eyes. He won’t look at her. And there it is again, the burn in Alana’s throat. She looks at Hannibal, half hoping that Will’s collapse is something that unsettles that skin-tight mask of charm. That this isn’t just another plot in Hannibal’s media sham, this ode by Freddie Lounds to her career.
But no, Alana realizes (and she’s never truly wanted to hurt another human this badly, before)—Hannibal wants this. It’s the look in Hannibal’s eyes that tells the story, the ever-so-slight satisfaction that says, “I broke him to pieces and yet he came for me. See how he loves me still.” That’s what pulls the rage out of her and sends her cutting across the courthouse in full view, heels stabbing, jaw set for the camera.
(Psychologist and personal friend—rumored to have romantic entanglements with both men—Alana Bloom does not seem pleased with these developments. But she’s looking sharp, very sharp, and I wonder how she does it with all this added pressure?)
She sits next to Will, positioning herself between him and the cameras like a veil, and tries to take his hand. After a moment of panicked, tense withdrawal, he relaxes. It’s all she can do.
When Will speaks, it’s hoarse and stuttering, like he hasn’t talked for the entire three months of media absence.
“This—monstrosity. It’s picaresque; it’s a farce, a, a stage play with his name on the playbill plastered across the world. Except no one knows how to react, and they’re all falling over themselves to read the act descriptions—but there’s nothing there, nothing there but a facsimile of a human face. They’re giving him exactly what he wants.”
He doesn’t look at her. His lips barely move. His face, expressionless. Like all the empathy has seeped out of him. And around them the movements of the play click-clack into place, clockwork pieces wound up by Hannibal and left to wander without script or stage directions.
The Ripper never had a friend better than Will. No one knew him quite as well, or could see the world through such a similar gaze. Alana knows this. Nothing has ever made her more bitter. “We can’t stop it, Will. We already tried. This isn’t good for you; let me take you home.”
“It won’t help. I… I see him everywhere. News stands, radio broadcasts, tv screens—I don’t need to wait for my nightmares because he’s real, and people pay for him and talk about him and adore him. He’s—he’s a consumer commodity.” Will chokes, trying to laugh or to stop laughing (she isn’t sure).
(Doctor Lecter’s almost about to take the stand, finally, that moment of truth we’ve all been waiting for. and doesn’t he cut a fine figure? I would trust this man with my psychiatric care, cannibal or not!)
“And I just, I remember killing them, every one of them, and all that disgust. He loved us, Alana. How could he have loved us? How can they love him?” How did we love him, he really wants to ask. How can we let him have this kind of control, let him do to millions what he did to us? And they hadn’t, at the beginning. They’d sabotaged, they’d delayed, they’d even bribed. But there’s only so much you can do when the devil wears a three-piece suit and speaks silver-dollar words. (Alana bought them. Alana bought every one.)
Alana remains silent. It’s worse than Will realizes.
The jury leans into him; the cameras can’t see anything but the two-dimensional façade he lays over his face; Freddie Lounds waxes poetic until the tabloids burst over with her psychopath lists and cute catch-phrases like “Everyone’s got a little bit of psychopath in them”; right next to Lounds’ articles scrawl headlines like, “A Ripper rips, he doesn’t cut, so how could this man with such sharp suits be anything like Garret Jacob Hobbs?” It’s like the world is a satirist writing a love letter to Hannibal Lecter. Except they’re in some grotesque nesting doll reality, where the words are a labyrinth and all pens lead back to Hannibal: Hannibal is his own satirist, writing a caricature across the front page. And it’s a best-seller.
Abigail’s been at college, radio silent all through the trial, but Alana imagines her living proud and angry, scar bared. Alana wonders: does it frighten her that her father’s depravity lets Hannibal hold the world in thrall? Or does Abigail remember Nick’s bloated corpse or the taste of Human a la Rouennaise and smile, watching Hannibal walk almost-free? They won’t ask her a single question, any of them, because they know two things with absolute certainty: one, Abigail knows all of Hannibal’s secrets, two, Abigail (and Will) would never escape that tragicomedy alive. Alana knows that Hannibal knows she is aware of this, and Alana is also certain that this thought brings one of those many pleased, genuine smiles to Hannibal’s face. It’s no wonder, now, why Hannibal tried so hard to help Will love Abigail.
“Will,” Alana begins, and then trails off.
He hasn’t looked at Hannibal, not once, and he still won’t look at her.
(It looks like Doctor Lecter has a nod for Will Graham, his patient, partner, and friend—although there are, as it seems with all figures involved with this trial, that rumors of romantic involvement have surfaced. I would doubt it, from the way Graham’s avoided this trial so far. You’d think he’d be more involved, pet FBI recluse or not!)
It doesn’t matter what Hannibal says. It’s not about going to prison or staying out of prison: it’s about power. It’s about chaos. It’s about how the world spins at the speed he dictates, how the entirety of law enforcement is split and scattered over his case, how psychologists create new disorders and analyze his academic works for syntactical evidence of pathological normality, how people send him tailored suits in prison and how the guards let him wear them against all procedure. It’s about the way a convict looks like one of our elite, the tippy top of our capitalist pyramid in all its consumptive decadence. It’s about pushing Will into personal hells, about turning Abigail into everything she feared, about—about performing so well even the harshest critics and closest friends can’t say anything but bravo.
Alana sees this, now. She wishes she had realized it sooner. (She wishes she had thought more about all his god-awful puns.)
Hannibal is the monster under the bed, now, come to devour misbehaving children; or he’s the scion of wronged innocents, a symbol of the justice system’s decay. He trends on social media and he’s the center of several dozen academic debates. The world doesn’t know what to do with him (even though it thinks it does). She knows that, whatever they do, he won the first moment his face appeared on millions of television screens and his name became household stock.
Whether he’s innocent or guilty, Hannibal Lecter still has something that he wants.
Will looks at her with those bloodshot, sickly eyes. He doesn’t say it, but she can see it in the way his eyes dart next across the jurors as they hang on Hannibal’s every word, the way he stares at Lounds with a fury that could murder.
We’re in his design, Will is telling her. He’s written it across the world.
It’s a bit operatic for Alana Bloom’s tastes, this melodrama that they’re in, but she can’t find fault with Will’s interpretation.
“You’re right, Will. You see him. You really see him.”
(And Hannibal Lecter begins what’s looking less like a cross-examination and more like a speech—what a fabulous turn of phrase, there! And a nod to Will Graham. Oh, the jury is just eating this up!)
Will turns away from Alana, away from the spectacle, and looks, finally, straight into Hannibal’s eyes.