Twelve hours later, Hannibal stirred. The ghostly face of the Lynxian Leila he kept dreaming about floated in before his eyes as he rose into the twilight zone between being awake and asleep. “Don’t forget me,” she whispered, “and save me from my tomb, Beowulf.”
Hannibal gasped and snapped awake as Leila’s face melted away. The real world oozed into his awakening mind and body. The first sensation that greeted him was a strange, but pleasant smell that barely tickled his olfactory senses. He yawned with a moan and stretched slightly as he opened his eyes, which were cloudy and not much use. He laid there for a moment as he rubbed his eyes and face with his hand. His vision gradually cleared with the ceiling of his quarters coming into focus. How’d I get here? he thought. Suddenly, he felt something move under his head. He slowly turned his head and saw Selina stir as she lay across the head of his bed. Seconds later, he realized that he had been using Selina’s belly and chest as a pillow. He glanced at himself first, and then at Selina, finding they were both fully dressed. His mind puzzled over this strange turn of events. How’d I get back to his quarters and end up using Selina as a pillow, he thought. She stirred again and he looked into her face as she opened her eyes. They gazed at each other for a few moments. My god…she’s so beautiful, Hannibal thought.
Selina looked at him with her head on the pillow, smiling warmly. “Oh, praise the Lord! It worked. You’re awake,” she finally said with great satisfaction while lying there.
“What worked my precious angel?” Hannibal asked.
“We thought you were a goner when you didn’t wake up,” Selina answered. “What do you remember?”
“Well, not much of anything,” Hannibal declared, rolling to the left, propping himself up with his elbow. “I remember getting zapped by that thing in the Library and learning a lifetime’s worth of stuff in a few minutes. I don’t seem to remember what happened after it shut off except that I had a terrible headache.”
Selina slowly sat up against the head of the bed, and then gently pulled him to her, letting him lay his head in her lap once more. “How do you feel?” she asked after a yawn and a brief stretch.
“I feel weak, but I think I can get around,” Hannibal answered, looking up at her from her lap. He grasped her hand and held it. “What happened? What day is it and how’d I get here with you as my pillow?” he asked. She purred and stroked his hair.
“After the machine shut off, you passed out. Do you remember me catching you when the machine let you go?” Selina asked. Hannibal shook his head no and Selina continued, saying, “You told us that it was a teaching machine that had access to all the knowledge of the Temple. Right after you told us that, you passed out and I caught you a second time. You had blood coming out of your ears, eyes, and nose and were so weak from the experience that you couldn’t even hold yourself up. Dad, Harry, and I took you to Station 1 and the crystal worked on you for twelve hours. It played the music while it worked.” Hannibal’s eyebrow rose slightly at the mention of the music and she continued. “After the crystal was done,” she explained, “we tried to bring you around but weren’t able to, so we brought you back here and watched over you here. You’ve been out for thirty-two hours in some sort of strange coma. Nothing we did helped to bring you around so after everyone went home last night I climbed on the bed, pulled you into my lap, and purred for you. It was the only thing we hadn’t tried. I must have dozed off while I was doing that. I thought that maybe my purr would help to bring you back. It looks like it worked.”
Hannibal looked deep in her eyes and reached up, gently caressing her cheek. “Thank you,” he said softly with great gratitude.
Selina clasped his hand with hers and held it to her cheek, replying, “You’re most welcome, Hannibal.” Her lips quivered as she kissed his hand. “Don’t ever scare me like that again,” she ordered, her voice trembling. “I can’t lose you.”
To Hannibal’s surprise, he could feel and see her emotional connection to him. “Oh princess,” he murmured. “I didn’t mean to scare you. In fact, I think I scared myself with what happened. I should’ve been more careful. I’m sorry.” His eyes narrowed as he stared into her eyes and soul. “And believe me when I say this: you will never loose me, Selina,” he declared. “You’re the only soul in this entire universe who truly understands me.”
A smile crossed her lips. “Thank you for saying that, Hannibal,” Selina replied. “You mean the world to me. Now come on. Let’s see if we can’t get you moving around again.” Selina ran her arms under Hannibal’s arms and gently lifted him so he could sit up. Hannibal kicked the blankets off and slowly swung his legs over the edge of the bed. Selina sat next to him on the edge of the bed. “Are you ready?” she asked as she wrapped her arms around him in order to help him up.
Hannibal put his arm around her neck and shoulders and looked her square in the face. Without warning, he kissed her on the mouth. She melted in the kiss, absolutely stunned and enthralled with this new display of emotion on Hannibal’s part. “I’ve wanted to do that for a very long time,” he said gently, letting the love for her come out in his voice. “Harry and Mary were right. We’re kindred spirits…you and I. I’m eternally grateful for what you did over the last thirty-two hours. I don’t think anyone else could have brought me out of that. I’ll always be there for you; ALWAYS.”
Selina was speechless. Tears welled up in her eyes and she embraced him tightly. “I’ve never had a kindred spirit for real,” she finally said, choked with emotion. “I’m yours forever. I’ve loved you from the moment you saved me and dad from the supernova.”
“I know,” Hannibal returned with a smile. “I’ve felt the same way about you. In fact, I can safely say that I’ve never felt this way about anyone else. What can I say? I have a thing for cats.”
Selina broke out laughing and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered. “I appreciate that.”
“Selina,” Hannibal murmured. “It’s okay to kiss me on the lips if you want.”
Selina gazed into Hannibal’s eyes and slowly kissed him on the lips. He held her close as she kissed him. “Oh my,” she breathed after the kiss. “You’re so sensitive and loving, despite this hard exterior you emanate. Why do you hide it? It’s one of your best traits.”
Hannibal sighed deeply, feeling a prick in his heart at her words. “I can’t help it,” he answered after a pause. “A lifetime of fear, pain, horror, and heartache welded the hard shell I emanate. I know it hinders me and I wish I could smash it to bits, but I’m incapable of doing yet. I’ve not been able to heal the emotional and spiritual wounds I received over a lifetime of pain and heartache. As a result, I seldom, if ever, open up to people. But somehow, you saw my heart with that kiss. How’d you do that?”
“I didn’t do it,” Selina admitted. “You took off your mask when you said I could kiss you. You did something just now I never thought you’d allow. You lowered your guard and let me see your mind and heart. All I did was just observe who you really are. The burden you bear is crushing you. Please, let me help you bear this burden. I can help you, if you just let me.”
“You don’t know what you’re asking,” Hannibal replied solemnly. “I’m not the saint you believe I am. I’m tainted with a vile Darkness that’s wider than the known universe. It plagues me every moment I breathe. To let you in like you want would expose you to evils your pure innocent mind can’t comprehend. I love you too much to submit you to that kind of terror and evil. Please, don’t ask me to do that to you.”
“You truly fear for my safety by allowing me to help you bear this horrible burden,” Selina whispered.
“I do,” Hannibal stated. “I love you too much to allow your pure soul to be tainted by the Darkness festering within me.”
“Then why call me your kindred spirit?” Selina asked. “Kindred spirits help each other bear their burdens, no matter how bad it may be. Please, Hannibal; I know down to the bottom of my soul that you spoke the truth when you said we are kindred spirits. Please, let me help you heal these wounds that continually fester in your mind and soul. I’m sure that together, we can overcome this Darkness that taints and plagues you. Don’t let fear stop you from doing what you know is the right thing.”
Hannibal cocked an eyebrow up when he suddenly understood her logic. “You clever minx,” he chimed, “you understood my words better than I did.”
Selina smiled and touched her forehead to his. “Will you really let me in?” she asked.
“Yes,” Hannibal replied. “But you must be patient. It’ll take time for me to open up to you completely. It’s just the way I am.”
“That’s a good start,” Selina replied, briefly kissing him gently on the lips again. “I’m here whenever you need me. Just don’t shut me out. I love you.”
Hannibal smiled, giving her a gentle squeeze. “Okay,” he said. “I think I can do that. Now please help me up.”
Selina re-positioned herself to support his weight and they slowly stood up. Selina held one hand out over his chest to help stabilize him and the other arm was around his back for support. Hannibal wrapped his arm around her shoulders and neck, upon which he leaned heavily. His weakened legs at first refused to cooperate when he first stood. Slowly, strength returned to his legs and Selina led him out of the bedroom into the living area.
When they reached the living room the sound of Mary and Cynthia cooking in the kitchen and Harry, Dennis, Nathanael, and Dan talking in the living area greeted them. Dennis looked around and saw Hannibal and Selina first. “Hannibal! You’re all right!” he exclaimed, running to Hannibal and latching onto him in a hug. Hannibal weakly returned Dennis’ hug as Selina moved him toward the sofa. The others present turned their attention to him while Nathanael immediately moved to help Selina carry Hannibal to the sofa.
“Something smells good,” Hannibal called out to the kitchen as Selina and Nathanael gently sat him down on the sofa. Selina sat down right next to him, keeping an arm around his shoulder to help him retain his balance.
“You had us worried,” Dan said, looking Hannibal in the eye.
Hannibal remained terribly weak from the experience but managed to keep his head up in order to look everyone in the eye. Tremendous fatigue showed on his face as he smiled wearily at Dan. “Sorry about that,” he apologized. “I didn’t know that thing was going to shred my brain like that.”
“Do you remember anything?” Nathanael asked, squatting down in front of Hannibal.
“Yeah,” Hannibal answered. “I remember sitting in the chair and saying that it was the strangest thing I’d ever seen. I don’t remember much after that, except that my brain was suddenly deluged with the knowledge of the ages. It felt like I was in there for several lifetimes. For me, time seemed to stop. I found myself immersed in the machine, controlling it with the power of my thoughts. It was as if I merged with the machine, becoming one with it. Becoming one with that machine and controlling it with my thoughts rattled me somewhat. It reminded me of the old days when I was a wizard. Anyway, I seem to remember that I learned to control the machine, and then unlocking the files and learning the entire history of the Temple, including the Stone Language. Unfortunately, most of what the machine placed in my tiny, feeble mind is slowly leeching away. I’ve been unable to retain most of the information I received. All that’s left are bits and pieces. The only really big chunk that I’ve been able to retain is what I learned about the Stone Language. That may be because of how much exposure I’ve had to it already.”
Hannibal stopped and yawned as Nathanael asked him, “Do you remember anything else?”
Hannibal shook his head, saying, “No, I vaguely remember seeing Harry get zapped by the force field and a few bits and pieces after the machine let me go. After I passed out, there’s nothing until I woke up a few minutes ago wondering how I got back here. Selina informed me about those details.”
“Well, last night while you and Selina were asleep, Harry, Mary, and I looked in on you and you were mumbling in a language that I’ve never heard before,” Nathanael informed.
“Yes, I heard it too,” Harry added. “It was the strangest thing I’d ever heard.”
“Really?” Hannibal asked. “I have no memory of it.”
“Well, you did,” Nathanael answered. “It may very well be the Stone Language but I’m not sure. No one’s heard that language on this planet in thousands of years. But let’s not dwell on that right now. We’re just happy that you’re awake and your mind is still intact. For a while there we thought you were gone from us.”
“I was,” Hannibal said softly. “I saw things while I was asleep that defy description or explanation, most of which had to do with what happened to me. Unfortunately, most of it is like a dream to me that I can’t seem to remember.”
“Serves you right for not heeding my warning,” Harry said with a hint of irritation.
“You’re right, bud,” Hannibal agreed. “I should have been more careful.”
“You’re damned right,” Harry returned. Then with relief in his voice, he said, “But I’m glad you’re back.” Hannibal looked up at him with a look of appreciation.
“Can you speak in the Stone Language since you say you’re apparently retaining the information about it?” Nathanael queried.
Hannibal spoke a sentence in the Stone Language fluently as if it were his native tongue. All eyes grew wide as Harry exclaimed, “Yup, that’s just the type of talk we heard last night coming from you while you were asleep. What did you say?”
Hannibal chuckled. “What I said was that I was an idiot to step into that machine without knowing how it operated and got what I deserved,” he declared.
“So you did,” Harry agreed.
“But now that you know how to speak the Stone Language, I suspect you can read it just as well too,” Nathanael stated. “If you hadn’t triggered the machine, you wouldn’t be able to do that. Just knowing the Stone Language as fluently as you obviously now know it is going to be of great help to our research.”
“Indeed,” Hannibal stated. “But I would have rather learned it without having my brain shredded by that thing. I still don’t know what the long term effects are going to be.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Selina stated. “We’ll deal with any long-term effects when and if they show up. I’m not going to let you slip through my fingers now that I have you back.” Her comment elicited a chuckle from everyone present.
“I’m sure you won’t, princess,” Hannibal agreed.
Just then, Cynthia came into the living room and knelt down in front of Hannibal, looking him in the eye while placing her hand on his knee. “We’ve been praying for you and it seems that the Lord has answered,” she said. “We have some dinner ready for you, if you’re hungry.”
“Thank you,” Hannibal returned. “I’m starving.” Hannibal tried to get up but was still too weak to move without help. Nathanael and Selina helped him over to the table where there were places for everyone present. Hannibal sat down at the end of the table with Selina right at his side. Nathanael sat next to him, opposite of Selina and the others grabbed whatever seat they desired. After a short prayer, they started eating and Hannibal ate a modest portion. After they finished, Mary and Cynthia cleaned off the table while Nathanael, Selina, and Harry took Hannibal back to the healing chamber to remedy his fatigue. Forty minutes on the table and Hannibal felt much better but remained weak. They returned to his quarters and Hannibal relaxed, entertaining his guests for a while. Word spread that Hannibal was awake, so people filtered in and out during the day to check on him. After a couple of hours, Nathanael, Harry, Cynthia, and Mary went back to their usual routines. Dennis went off to the game room to socialize with his friends. Selina remained with Hannibal to assist him because he remained weak. The healing machine had remedied some his fatigue, but not all of it. He still needed help to move around.
Late that evening around 10:00 pm, Selina helped Hannibal to his bed after he took a bath and dressed in his pajamas: a t-shirt and a pair of gray sweat pants. As she helped him down the hall to the bedroom, Hannibal said, “I don’t understand why I’m still so wiped out. The healer should have remedied the fatigue, but it didn’t.”
“It may be a side-effect of what happened in that teaching machine,” Selina suggested as they entered the bedroom. “Maybe that thing did something to you that the healer has completely fixed yet.”
“It’s possible,” Hannibal replied as he saw the bed turned down waiting for him. “Then again, it could be that I was drained so low by the experience that the healer is just bringing me up by increments so I don’t blow a gasket by being recharged too quickly.” He sighed as Selina helped him sit down on the edge of the bed. “I feel like I could pull a Rip Van Winkle and sleep a hundred years,” he joked.
“Don’t you even think that,” Selina answered sternly. “That’ll mess up everything and you know it. Besides, I can’t wait a hundred years for you to wake up.”
Hannibal patted her on the cheek gently. “I’m just teasing, Selina,” he said with smile. “It was just a figure of speech. I’m just so tired.”
“I know you are,” Selina replied sweetly, helping him lie down and put his feet up. “There you go. Now just relax and leave everything to me. I know just what you need.”
“What do I need?” Hannibal asked in a puzzled tone as Selina stepped back from the bed.
“It’s a surprise,” Selina said with a mischievous glint in her eye. “One that’ll give your weary mind and body the rest it needs. Now just wait here. I’ll be right back.” Selina winked at him and left the room.
“What’s that minx up to now?” Hannibal murmured. The weariness of the day continued to weigh him down making him so groggy he couldn’t stay awake.
A few minutes later, Selina returned wearing a tank-top t-shirt and knee-length sweat pants. She stood in the doorway, looking sympathetically at Hannibal as he fell dead asleep before her eyes. “Oh Hannibal,” she murmured, walking to the right side of the bed. “What am I going to do with you? You give so much to everyone, yet refuse to let anyone give back.” Selina sighed as she lay down beside him, cuddling close, wrapping her arms around him. Stroking his hair gently, Selina whispered, “Well, you’re going to get my help whether you like it or not, my prince. Rest your mind and body and let the past stay buried in the past.” A soft, velvety purr rumbled out of her as she pulled the blankets up to their chests. “I love you, Hannibal,” she murmured in his ear.
To her surprise, Hannibal turned toward her while asleep, throwing his arm over her side and muttered, “I love you too.” He then murmured several words in the Stone Language before falling silent again.
Selina touched her forehead to his before kissing him on the cheek, her heart fluttering. “Sleep, Hannibal, sleep,” she whispered before drifting off to sleep with her purr rumbling softly for Hannibal’s benefit. Several times during the night, Hannibal spoke in the Stone Language while asleep, inadvertently waking her.
The next morning, Hannibal woke to a strange sight he didn’t expect: Selina sound asleep next to him with her arms wrapped around him and a soft purr rumbling out of her chest. “What in heaven’s name?” Hannibal whispered as he saw and smelt her. “Why’s Selina in bed with me?” Glancing at the digital clock on the nightstand next to the bed, Hannibal saw it reading 8:45 am. He sighed deeply, looking back at Selina as she slept next to him. His heart fluttered because he could not remember anything after Selina helped him into bed the night before. The thought that they may have done something inappropriate in the night dogged him. But it didn’t dampen his love for her. It increased it. Hannibal touched her on the shoulder and gently shook her. “Selina…wake up, Selina,” he said softly.
Selina stirred and pulled her arm off Hannibal as she rolled on her back. She yawned deeply, allowing Hannibal to see her teeth fully, including her long canines. Hannibal trembled slightly at the sight, realizing how alien she was compared to him. “Wake up, princess,” he murmured.
Selina’s eyes flickered and opened. When her vision settled on Hannibal as he lay propped up on one arm while lying beside her, a warm smile crossed her lips. “Oh my,” she purred. “You sure look better this morning than you did last night. Looks like that extra dose of my purr therapy worked. How do you feel?”
“Still just a bit weak, but nothing like yesterday,” Hannibal replied. “But I’m also puzzled as to why you slept with me last night. I don’t remember anything after you left the room. Why did you crawl in bed with me? We didn’t do something inappropriate, did we?”
Selina chuckled warmly. “Oh Hannibal,” she purred. “You’re always so suspicious. You needn’t worry. Nothing happened last night except me giving you a stronger dose of my purr therapy. I hope you aren’t upset about that. You really needed it and I can safely say from your complexion this morning that it worked better than I hoped. I love you, Hannibal. People who love each other help each other like that. You’re not mad, are you?”
Hannibal looked deep into her eyes and saw nothing but the naked truth in her words. “No,” he answered, “but I must insist that you not do that again unless I give you permission. It’s dangerous to sleep with me like this because of my violent past. I knew nothing but war from the time I was fourteen until I was saved almost twenty-seven years ago. I often have flashbacks of battle in my sleep and will destroy anything within reach when it happens. I don’t want to hurt you like that. I care too much for you. Plus, it is a bit inappropriate for us to sleep together when we’re not married. I don’t want to send the wrong message to everyone.”
“I understand,” Selina stated. “I’ll ask next time and you’re right about it appearing inappropriate. But I think this was a special case. You desperately needed of a stronger dose of my purr therapy and to do that, I needed to be in extremely close proximity to you for a long period of time. Spending the night with you in the same bed seemed to be the most logical way to do that. I’m sorry if I made you feel uncomfortable.”
Hannibal took her hand in his and kissed it. “It’s okay now that I understand why you did it,” he said. “I had no idea you cared so much for me that you’d go to that length to help me. But from now on, unless it’s a dire emergency, let’s not share the same bed. Okay?”
“Okay,” Selina said as she sat up and pushed her hair back. “One day I hope you’ll see me as more than just a close friend; but as someone you can truly let in as a kindred spirit.”Hannibal stared deep into her eyes. “So do I, Selina,” he agreed. “So do I.”