“C’est vrai que lorsque comme ça j’étais en publique, il est arrivé quelquefois d’enjoliver, d’extrapoler, d’exagérer, mon importance.” (It’s true that sometimes, in public, it sometimes happened that I would decorate, extrapolate, exaggerate, my importance.) – Stéphane Bourgoin
Watching Will has always been a pleasure unto itself. Hannibal had thought, when Will had first haltingly admitted that he was never at his best in the morning and preferred to read the newspaper over breakfast in lieu of conversation, that perhaps he ought to push back. A meal is a meal, after all, no matter the time of day, and Hannibal would prefer that care and attention be given to each one.
But lunch and dinner are Hannibal’s domain solely, so he had eventually agreed that it was acceptable for Will to make the rules as they pertain to breakfast. Will’s only rules are that he wants a newspaper to read, and he wants Hannibal to speak only if spoken to. Hannibal had been happy to agree, so long as he was free to watch Will eat the food he was served in silence.
That doesn’t mean Will isn’t allowed to talk, if he wants. It’s a somewhat one-sided rule. Hannibal is fine with that, since part of the entertainment value of silently watching Will eat Hannibal’s cooking while reading day-old news is trying to predict how he’s going to react to either.
Will is frowning, pressing his lips together as he stares at the smudgy print of the copy of Le Parisien in front of him. His language skills are improving, and he insists on having dinner conversation in French a few nights a week. It pleases Hannibal to oblige him in that, too; there’s a reason that French was considered even by the English nobility to be the most appropriate for conversing of matters of the heart.
Will is uncomfortable now, from something he read. It’s fascinating. Hannibal watches him weigh whether it’s worth it to invite conversation by bringing it up, and then Will’s eyes flick up to check if Hannibal is watching him. He ought not to be surprised that the answer is yes, and he quickly returns his gaze to the paper and then clears his throat and says, “You gave an interview to Stéphane Bourgoin, right?”
Hannibal blinks, momentarily stymied. The name rings a vague bell, but he can’t quite place it. However, he has always kept meticulous track of any reporter that he spoke to during his socialite days, and later of every psychiatrist that he allowed access to him during his incarceration.
“No,” he says, allowing his confusion to show on his face. Is there something about them in the newspaper? Surely if there were word that the FBI had reconsidered its classification of them as missing and presumed dead, he would have heard about it before Will came across it accidentally in a French newspaper.
Will’s reaction is no more elucidating; he looks thunderstruck, almost wounded. Hannibal watches him retreat from his own body, clearly casting back through Will’s own version of the halls of his memory.
Hannibal takes advantage to pull the newspaper towards himself. Stéphane Bourgoin, confessions d’un mythomane en série, reads a headline; confessions of a serial liar.
For years, Stéphane Bourgoin set himself up as the foremost French specialist on the biggest American criminals, says the subheading. But a YouTube video proved his numerous lies; he admits it himself in an exclusive interview. Hannibal scans his eyes down the article. A fake wife, killed by a real killer; a fake career as a professional footballer; and fame built on dozens of interviews with serial killers that turned out to never have happened. Charles Manson is mentioned by name as one of the fabrications; Hannibal is not, which rankles slightly. He sets the newspaper aside.
Will is clear-eyed, looking– Hannibal peers closer– frustrated. He wonders for a moment if he’s allowed to speak, and then decides that Will gave him the opening, and he can hardly be faulted for taking it. “I take it,” says Hannibal, “That he claimed that I did?”
“Yeah,” mutters Will, and his eyes slide off Hannibal’s like they used to at the beginning of their acquaintance. Like they do when Will still thinks he might have something to hide from Hannibal.
“During my incarceration,” Hannibal guesses, and Will gives a jerky nod, and Hannibal starts to smile slowly as the picture slots into place.
Will, living in the woods with sweet Molly and their doting son, surrounded by love and happiness and rescued dogs. Will, pretending that he no longer cared about Hannibal; that he could avoid thinking about him, leave him locked away and rotting in a jail cell and excise all of the parts of himself that Hannibal owned.
Hannibal imagines Will reading crime news despite himself; late at night, when he can’t sleep, can’t stay in bed for fear of waking up his wife with his thrashing. Curled in front of a fireplace, alone, and coming across this portly little French man, so very unattractively invested in his own public image, claiming to have interviewed the cannibal serial killer Hannibal Lecter in jail. He imagines Will trying not to care, trying to convince himself that Hannibal is free to grant interviews to whatever ridiculous supposed crime experts he wants. Trying to convince himself he doesn’t care— and failing, utterly.
Hannibal stares across the breakfast table at Will, unable to stop himself from grinning as he excavates the echoes of Will’s sick jealousy of this man, who had spoken with Hannibal while Will was still denying himself. Only to find out, over sausage and eggs and strong black coffee, that there was never anything to be jealous of in the first place.
“How dare he,” Hannibal breathes, mostly to see Will’s reaction.
Will jerks his eyes back up to the vicinity of Hannibal’s face. “Nope,” he says, his tension breaking a little with an almost-laugh, “No fucking way. This is a major public figure, Hannibal. He can’t just disappear.”
Hannibal straightens his glass of orange juice minutely. “He was very rude to you.”
“Did he not commit the offence of claiming for himself what was rightfully yours all along?” Hannibal asks quietly, leaning forward. “Intimate knowledge of me. Understanding. Would it not be appropriate to give him in death the very notoriety he sought so desperately in life?”
Will licks his lips and meets Hannibal’s eyes, finally. Narcissist, he clearly wants to say, but then, Hannibal isn’t wrong. About any of it.
“You’ve still got an extra through-hole in your body,” he points out, gesturing to Hannibal’s bandaged stomach, which is a rather weak argument, and Will clearly knows it.
“Holes are ontologically parasitic,” Hannibal replies easily. “They have meaning only as an aspect of another object.”
“Knew there was a reason I don’t let you talk at the breakfast table,” Will mutters.
Hannibal smiles indulgently and lapses back into silence. He doesn’t need to say I can tell you’re considering it for Will to hear it loud and clear. Neither does he need to say you are the only person on this Earth who has ever mattered, and if anyone else has known even minuscule parts of me in the past, I would gladly remove their brains from their skulls and feed them to you one by one until you are the only one left allowed to hold my imago in your mind.
Will grabs the newspaper back roughly, but he’s smiling a little, too. Hannibal allows him to take it back, turn the page on the imposter and read of other things.