It starts in the dark, like everything worth his attention has the tendency to. There’s no knock, no doorbell. There’s silence, complete and utter, but Hannibal wakes up because someone is at his door regardless. He’d quip about honed serial killer senses, but the house is empty and he’s not quite insane enough to start making jokes to himself yet.
Not that he generally expects company at two in the morning but Will Graham is a bit of a surprise. He stands, bare-footed, on his welcome mat, in a white t-shirt and a pair of boxers. He stares vacantly into Hannibal’s house and gives no reaction to Hannibal opening the door at all. For a bewildering moment Hannibal wonders if Will sleepwalked fifty miles to his house before he remembers the murders in Keswick that Jack had called Will in on and the cheap motel he’d been forced to stay at. Still, that left Will with at least four miles to wander to Hannibal’s home, which lingers somewhere between extraordinary and worrying.
(The body in Keswick, by the way, had for a change not been put there by Hannibal even if he had to admit he admired the killer’s handiwork. Three separate victims, all their organs removed and placed back in a delightful mix and match? An utterly inspired sort of puzzle.)
Absolutely nothing. The night chill curls past Hannibal into his house, and Will is pale, goose-fleshed, and rather spectacularly underdressed for the time of year.
“You’re freezing. Come inside,” he says, taking Will gently by the upper arm and steering him in through the door. Will obediently complies, wakefulness appearing at the very edges of him but never quite taking hold. He’s not awake, but he’s not asleep. He blinks, purses his lips and sort of… puffs at him.
Hannibal has been a psychiatrist for a long time, but he’s never gotten that response before. He’s a touch endeared by it. Then, Will could probably swear at him like a sailor and a part of Hannibal would still find it touching. Will Graham does this to him. For the first time in a long time Hannibal finds himself wishing to keep someone with him in a gilded little cage and Will doesn’t even realize this, which for some odd reason only makes Hannibal want to sidle in closer.
He takes his housecoat off and wraps it around Will’s shoulders. Will sways just a touch, blinking slowly. Hannibal tries not to think about the implications of Will’s current state, reminding himself that psychoanalyzing someone who showed up in their underwear is probably rude but knows very well this doesn’t bode well for Will at all. If this were anyone other than Will, he’d probably cite this as the reason to have them institutionalized for a while. For observation, at the very least. But this is Will, and having him safely locked away in a nice, expensive psychiatric institute where Hannibal can’t get to him doesn’t meet his ends at all.
Guiding him carefully through his house Hannibal considers his guestroom, not made up to his satisfaction right now but unquestionably more appropriate. He decides against it. If asked he could simply state that 2 AM is surely no time to have to make up a bed for an unexpected guest, especially not one on the verge of hypothermia, but the truth of it is that the opportunity to see Will in his bed is one he will not turn away from.
It’s not necessarily a sexually motivated desire (Hannibal’s so rarely are) but certainly a possessive one. Will Graham in his bed, where he was sleeping himself just twenty minutes ago, where his pillow still carries the imprint of his head and the sheets might even still be warm with his presence. He imagines his scent might cling to Will, transferred from his sheets onto Will’s skin. It’s an inordinately intimate prospect that sends a cascade of shivers down Hannibal’s shoulders which he relishes for a moment.
He sits Will down on the edge of his bed. Will frowns, shudders, and licks his lips. “Where am I?” he says, and Hannibal wonders how to answer that question since Will seems to be somewhere Hannibal can’t follow him. He stares beyond Hannibal, his eyes following something that’s not actually there with open concern.
“My bedroom,” Hannibal says calmly. He doesn’t even know where he finds all this patience sometimes. “My house. You sleepwalked here. Quite some determination, Will. It must have taken you at least an hour and a half if not more.”
Will’s feet are blacker than the grave. Mud, grit, and possibly even blood – Baltimore asphalt is not kind to bare feet, and those grubby soles would not be kind to Hannibal’s pristine sheets. He retrieves some things from his bathroom, half wondering if Will might have somehow disappeared out the window before he comes back. He hasn’t, he’s still sitting there, looking dazed if slightly more awake and frowning at the red numbers on his alarm clock.
“You have a digital alarm clock.”
“Yes, I do. This surprises you?”
“You own a harpsichord. Of course a digital alarm clock would surprise me.”
Hannibal smiles, kneels in front of him and takes one of Will’s feet in his hands.
“What’re you doing?” Will says, sounding wary if oddly amused.
“You just walked over four miles on your bare feet.”
“No I didn’t.”
“Unless you took a bus in your sleep, which I would find immensely impressive, I’m afraid you did.” He cleans Will’s feet, one by one, takes in the small abrasions, scrapes, things that will itch more than they’ll hurt. He’ll need to disinfect them regardless. Infections on the soles of his feet would bring Will far more discomfort than Hannibal would wish upon him.
“This will sting,” he warns, and Will winces beautifully and hisses in a way that sends little thrills down Hannibal’s teeth. Pinpricks of blood reappear on Will’s raw skin and Hannibal is transfixed for a moment. He feels silly about it – he is, after all, not a vampire – but it works like a little tease that leaves him wanting more. Hannibal the great white shark, smelling blood in the water and gearing up for carnage.
He looks up, sitting on his knees in front of Will, who ought to be fully awake now but still seems to be questioning it. He sits like a confused little duck amidst Hannibal’s expensive sheets and Hannibal is reminded sharply of a Botticelli angel. He could pose him like that, Hannibal thinks, finish him as the true work of art he was intended to be. Shave his jaw smooth, style his hair just so. Death, he imagines, would wipe the weariness from Will’s face, and he would leave him with his eyes open so he could see the beauty of real pain forever captured in them. He might suspend him in a church or some other sacred place, surrounded by holy things that would pale in comparison to him. Wrapped artfully in cloth, palms up for absolution, and wings made of knives thrust into his back.
It’s one of those images Hannibal probably ought to write down, lest he forget them. It is, after all, a beautiful idea, and he vibrates with the intensity with which it presents itself to his mind’s eye.
“I don’t know how I got here,” Will says into the room as Hannibal goes to put his things back into the bathroom. Hannibal doesn’t answer, his imaginary tableau still vivid in his heart.
“I was dreaming. I think. I might still be. It’s cold in here,” Will continues in a way that implies it doesn’t even really matter if Hannibal is in the room to hear him speak.
He simply tucks him into bed like a child, Will remaining pliant and obedient under his authoritative hands.
“I really do hope I’m dreaming this,” Will mumbles as Hannibal pulls the sheets up to his chin. “Otherwise this might be the weirdest night of my life.”
“As long as it doesn’t qualify as one of your nightmares, I think that might actually hurt my feelings. I happen to think myself a fine nurse,” Hannibal quips and Will chuckles.
“My therapist just washed my feet and is tucking me into his bed. I have no idea how that qualifies.”
“Just get some rest, Will. My doors are locked, you cannot wander out.”
The statement ought to be terrifying, Hannibal thinks, or at least it was for anyone who Hannibal had locked effortlessly into his domain before Will, but Will seems to settle within his skin and relax at his words. If nothing can get out then nothing can get in, and Will, after all, doesn’t know the monster from his nightmare has been locked right in with him. Not yet.
Sleep comes back to Will easily – has it ever left? – and his eyelids droop as he looks up at Hannibal. He looks like a little boy, despite the unshaven jaw and the bags under his eyes. Hannibal thinks it might be the mess of soft curls on his head, or perhaps the naked vulnerability in his eyes. He could kill him so easily like this. He doubts Will would even fight back if he wrapped his hands around his neck and just pressed. He pictures it, the veins bulging on Will’s temples, his skin reddening, imagines the thrum of his heartbeat under his fingers, the final puff of air escaping from between Will’s lips. Would he panic? Or would he simply keep staring into Hannibal’s eyes like he didn’t believe any of this was really happening?
Will closes his eyes, swallows, and smiles. He’s about to say something, the words already between his teeth, but something very well-constructed breaks inside of Hannibal and he kisses him. Just like that, really, leans in and kisses those parted lips and wonders what the last time was he surrendered control in this manner.
He feels the moment of surprise in Will, experiences it in a minute twitch of his jaw, the flutter of his eyelashes across Hannibal’s cheekbone, but gives in as easily as Hannibal had imagined he might do to a more deadly assault and becomes remarkably cooperative. There’s not a lot to the kiss, it’s a brief moment of lips and just a small promise of teeth and tongue and the scratch of Will’s beard, but Hannibal wants so badly his hands tremble with it. He balls them into fists beside Will’s head, the fabric of his pillow case between his fingers, and pulls back.
Will is blushing. Hannibal feels hungry, like he’s a predator just coming out of hibernation and his stomach is bottomless and empty.
“Go to sleep,” Hannibal says, softly. He presses a kiss to Will’s forehead, an afterthought of unanticipated affection, and can smell Will’s shampoo and the intimate scent of his scalp.
“Okay,” Will says nonsensically, and Hannibal chuckles to himself as he leaves his bedroom, closes the door, and pads down his dark hallway on bare feet. He retrieves a spare pillow and a blanket from his linen closet and settles on his sofa, not bothering to turn on the lights anywhere he goes. He lies on his back and stares at his living room ceiling and wonders if he would bleed were he to cut himself on the sharp edges of Will’s jagged heart.
Hannibal is an early riser on most days but even more so after spending a few estranging hours on his sofa. It’s comfortable, of course it is, but the night was not just an odd one for Will and he feels restless. As such he’s up, dressed and nearly done preparing breakfast when Will hesitantly sidles into his kitchen, still wearing Hannibal’s housecoat over his admittedly scant nightwear.
“Morning,” he says, the embarrassment surrounding him telling Hannibal entire stories.
“Good morning Will. I was just about to rouse you. Breakfast is almost ready.” He pushes a glass of coffee across the counter towards Will who accepts it and drinks without looking at Hannibal. Hannibal scoops his carefully prepared eggs onto a hot plate.
“What are we eating?”
“Scrambled eggs with chicken, mushrooms and tomato. I thought you could use a proper breakfast after your eventful night.”
“Right,” Will grumbles as he follows Hannibal into his dining room. He walks with a kind of careful hesitation, his feet still causing him discomfort, and looks relieved to be able to sit down. Hannibal has already set the table, complete with a pitcher of fresh orange juice and a modest table piece in the center.
“Do you always eat breakfast like you’re a member of the royal family?” Will asks, frowning at the white lily perched preciously amidst carefully selected pieces of fruit.
“Not quite. I merely enjoy pampering my guests, even those who show up unannounced past midnight in their underwear.”
Will snorts out a laugh and drinks his coffee with some obvious amusement and Hannibal hopes this fractures the awkwardness Will carried into the morning with him.
He watches as Will tentatively digs into his breakfast, stabbing bits of chicken with his fork. He can’t describe the thrill he feels when Will puts it in his mouth, chews it, when quiet enjoyment slides over his face as he swallows. It’s difficult to classify what Hannibal enjoys more – feeding others his cooking, or eating it himself. It’s rather a toss-up, although when it comes to Will the scales might be tipping into a more obvious direction. He’d call it one of life’s smaller pleasures, but doubts the software engineer he’s now calling “chicken” would agree.
“I didn’t remember where I was when I woke up,” Will says after a few thoughtful bites. “It took me a moment to realize I was in your house. I don’t remember a thing about last night.”
“Nothing?” Hannibal inquires, with a pang of something he ignores.
“Bits and pieces, but I don’t know which ones are real and which ones I dreamed up.” He frowns at his plate, scooting a slice of mushroom back and forth before picking it up and putting it in his mouth.
Again a pang of something, although this time it feels fairly close to relief. Hannibal understands that his highly unprofessional conduct might have lost him Will as a patient, and, by extension, as a friend. If Will can convince himself it was a hallucination it might be better suited to Hannibal’s purposes in the end. Still, he yearns to wander through Will’s thought process, untangle those knots, and immerse himself in the confusion. If he does categorize the kiss as a hallucination, was it one that frightened him? Would he worry about the meaning of his overworked brain cooking something like that up? Had he, perhaps, hallucinated about Hannibal before? Curiosity snaps at Hannibal’s ankles and it’s a most frustrating sort of little parasite.
“I don’t have a thing on me, not even a pair of shoes. I hope Jack didn’t try to call me,” Will says, going back to frowning at the centerpiece as if it was personally responsible for his lack of pants.
“I’ll drive you to your hotel so you can get your things, don’t worry. Also, if you prefer, you can call Jack from my phone to check in.”
“Not sure I want to call Jack from your house in the early hours of the morning. I don’t know if I care to explain away the jumps Jack’s mind is sure to make at that one.” He grimaces, and Hannibal smiles.
“Let him make jumps for once, as he’s usually the one holding the hoops in front of you.”
Will makes a delightful face around a mouthful of juice, and Hannibal chews his breakfast triumphantly.