An American Gods/Hannibal mashup for Fuller Fest. (Eventually going to post on ao3)
“The next one we’re going to is out in the sticks,” Wednesday said. “This time of year, they’ll be at their summer home in Montana. When it gets colder, they head for the warmer climes. The Florida Keys. Too bad its not winter.”
Shadow said nothing. They were going there for business, not a vacation.
“This man we are going to see…It could go either way,” Wednesday continued. “He’s a mixture of old and new; born out of brimstone, but suckled at the teat of Media. He could be an important ally.”
“If you can get him,” Shadow said.
Wednesday raised an eyebrow.
“I mean if he suckled at Media’s…teat..or whatever, will he want to turn against her? Isn’t she like his mother?”
Wednesday chuckled. “Relationships between parents and children can be fraught with conflict. I hope to agitate those feelings.”
“Stirring the shit as usual?”
“Stirring the shit,” Wednesday agreed. “Seeing what floats to the top.”
The last stretch of road was little more than a footpath through the trees. Shadow thought they would have to get out and walk at any moment, but somehow the large car kept finding a way between the trees until they finally came to a small cabin sitting in a clearing. Half a dozen dogs came from around the back, barking and rushing the car.
“Shit!” said Shadow and barely pulled his door closed in time as a husky mix jumped up and braced his front paws against the driver’s side window.
A sharp whistle from the cabin called the dogs away from the car. A dark-haired man stood on the porch, hands in pockets, watching sternly as the pack ran up the stairs to join him. However, for all his serious expression and scarred face, he didn’t look like a child of brimstone.
“You can come out,” the man on the porch said. Shadow opened his door slowly, waiting for the dogs to rush them once more, but they stayed seated at the man’s feet.
“Thanks for calling off the hounds,” Wednesday said as they mounted the porch.
The man eyed the wooden box Shadow was carrying and, still unsmiling, said. “He’s waiting for you inside.”
The cabin was small and the front door opened directly into the main room. There was a fireplace on the far wall, and although it was a warm day there was a fire roaring in it. A man sat in front of the fire, but slightly to the side, so he was half in shadow and half illuminated by the flames. The firelight played over the severe planes of the figure’s face and the knife-sharp pleat in his trousers.
“Come in,” the man said, his voice resonant with a strange accent Shadow couldn’t place. He leaned over and turned on a lamp and Shadow could see him better. The severe bone structure was still there, but with the full light on him, he was softened somewhat and looked like a normal, if fastidious man. He was wearing navy blue slacks, dress shoes, and a smoothly-ironed electric blue shirt that lost none of its formality by having the top button left undone.
“I brought a gift for the host.” Wednesday motioned for Shadow to hand over the tributes: a single white truffle, sealed tight in a glass jar with a cork and red wax seal, and a bottle of wine still in the wooden crate they transported it in. On the way here, they had swaddled it like a baby so the ride wouldn’t shake up the sediment.
Their host stood to receive it.
“It’s a good vintage,” he said, using his thumb to wipe dust from the label. “Just barely. Its teetering on the edge of being overblown. We should drink this soon. Maybe tonight.”
“It needs to settle,” Wednesday said. “From the trip.”
“Would you at least stay for dinner? Will and I don’t often have guests.”
“Absolutely not,” Wednesday said with a smile. Curiously, the other man did not seem to take offense to that. “Unfortunately, we are in a bit of a time crunch.”
“I heard,” their host sat and indicated a chair next to his for Wednesday to sit in. “I don’t have another chair. How rude of me. Should I have my consort bring you one?”
“I like to stand,” Shadow said.
Their host nodded deferentially then turned to Wednesday. “Are you here to ask for my help? I’ve heard you’ve been supplicating all over the country and finally you find your way to me. I don’t know why I should consider helping you. Would you even want my help? I’m so far down on your list.”
“That’s more a function of geography than lack of respect,” Wednesday said. “Of course I respect you. You are the newest old deity I know. An old soul in a glossy new package. You could play an integral part in the war that is coming, the fight for the hearts and minds of this land. Let’s face it, you could only exist here, in this country, with a 24-hour news cycle and tabloid journalists scrabbling for profundity. But they have the depth of a wading pool and the attention span of a mayfly.” Wednesdays voice got low. “They are already forgetting about you. Last week there was a man in Florida who bit his girlfriend’s tongue off while they were fucking because he wanted to know what it would taste like.”
“Chewy, I would guess.” the man looked up at Shadow with a ghost of a smile on his lips. “At least they usually are, in my experience.” Shadow felt a chill in the overheated room.
“They are already forgetting about The Ripper,” Wednesday said.
“They will never fully forget about me,” he said. “I will be feared in nightmares and taught in classrooms–”
“In a few years you will be on internet listicles with names like ‘Ten Shocking Killers You’ve Never Heard Of.’”
Shadow saw the anger flare up in the man’s eyes, although he remained perfectly still and otherwise expressionless.
“Such meager offerings,” Wednesday said. “Not what you deserve.”
“I have all the worshipers I need,” the man said. “I have my consort who is totally devoted to me.”
“One person? I think you are losing sight of the big picture here.”
“I have a foot in both camps, Wednesday,” he said. “So I have carved out a space for Will and myself that is in neither camp.”
“You make running from the cops sound like a utopia of your choosing.”
“I don’t believe discretion and prudence are the same as cowardice.”
Wednesday leaned forward. “What about the blood sacrifice? What about the meat that is passed through the fire?”
“I told you, my consort is very devoted,” he said. “When I want meat, I have it. Do I want a million people to have a vague idea of who they think i am or one person who knows me totally and would do anything, sacrifice anything to me and for me, up to and including his very life?” Again, the man, this Ripper, looked up at Shadow. Shadow couldn’t understand how brown eyes could look so heat-fired and yet so cold. “I took Will’s child and still he loves me. I spilled his blood and still he loves me. I stripped everything from him, and he is still with me.”
The Ripper turned back to Wednesday. “ You cannot offer me that sort of devotion if I help you, but I may lose it if you fail. So, no, I will not help you. The outcome of this war does not affect me.”
“Even if it means you become yesterday’s news?”
“Even so,” The Ripper said. “I have created an entire universe for my consort and I to rule.”
“Rule? Rule what? You only have one worshiper.”
“And one is all I need.”
With that, the Ripper stood and showed them to the door.
Will was still out on the porch when they left, seated now in a rocking chair, with the dogs clustered around him.
“He’s not going to help you, is he?” he said.
Shadow paused, but Wednesday kept walking to the car.
“No,” Shadow said. “He..uh..declined that opportunity.”
Some of the dogs raised their heads, but Will made a sound through his teeth and they settled back down.
“I’m a lot like you, you know. Or I was,” Will said. “I was just a person, not even a particularly religious person at that. I didn’t know what I was getting into. When I finally figured it out, it was too late.” Will leaned down to scratch the ear of the nearest dog. “Tell me, Shadow, have you ever looked the devil in the face?”
Remembering The Ripper’s eyes, Shadow said, “I may have.”
“What if you liked what you saw?”
Shadow didn’t answer. He couldn’t imagine what Will must have gone through to get to this point, if he really was “just a person” to start with.
“You can still go back,” Shadow said.
“Here’s where myth and reality divide,” Will said. His eyes were the same blue as a cloudless summer sky. “No on wants me back.”
“That can’t be true.”
“Everyone is either dead or glad to see me gone,” he said. “Besides, I keep him away.” He nodded toward the cabin. “I keep the beast sated.”
“Can’t someone else do it?”
“No,” he said. He smiled, looking happy about that. “They tried and they’ve died. And here is where myth and reality converge again: I wouldn’t want to go back even if I could. I’m not bound to his underworld because I ate his food. I eat his food and live in his world because I am bound to him. Nothing else matters.”
“Are you trying to warn me or something?” Shadow asked. He didn’t want to talk to this man any more. He could feel the fanatical devotion coming off of him in waves.
“Worship whatever gods you want, Shadow. But when you find one who worships you back? Run.”
*I hope she doesn’t mind my posting this here, and possibly blowing up her Tumblr stats. Please visit her blog, for lots of gifs, info, and some excellent reviews of the TV show, Hannibal.