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Consenting to Dream

Chapter Text

An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.
George Santayana


"Please, come in," Hannibal said. He stepped aside to gesture Will into his office.

Will took two steps and stopped. The corners of Hannibal's mouth had drawn tight, barely a flicker of movement, but Will caught it. He'd spent the last three hours in the morgue. The smell tended to linger.

"You might not want to be in an enclosed space with me right now. We can reschedule?"

"Perhaps we might walk?" Hannibal said. "I would welcome the opportunity to clear my head."


Hannibal took his coat and bag from a small closet near the exit. He switched off the lights one by one.

"Am I always your last appointment?" Will asked.

"Yes. I don't usually see patients after seven."

Will frowned. "You never said. I could've done it earlier."

"I prefer to see you last."

Will didn't know what to say to that, or how to feel about the smile that accompanied the words. Even when they hit the chilled air of the street, he felt warmed.

Wind slashed at the bare trees. The sun had sunk from sight an hour ago. The few people on the sidewalk hurried toward home, heads bent, hands jammed deep into their pockets.

"Hard to imagine you needing to clear your head," Will said.

"I also spend my days entangled in the minds of others."

"I don't think you find it that hard to extricate yourself."

"It depends on the patient."

"What kind of patient did you have for your last appointment?"

"Fairly average, neurotic, a tendency to sweat."

Will shook his head and suppressed a smile. "Unkind, Dr. Lecter. Not very professional."

"I apologize," he said, eyes bright with amusement. "The day has seemed longer than usual, and I have an unfortunately acute sense of smell. Sometimes useful, but more often a burden."

"How acute?"

"Your visit to the morgue was immediately apparent. I could tell you what you had for lunch as well. In closer proximity, I could name your shampoo."

Will raised his eyebrows. "So what did I have for lunch?"

"A tuna salad sandwich. Too much mustard in the salad mix. On commercial white bread, which I will call bread only because there is no other recognized term for it."

Will resolved to stock up on gum or mints before his next appointment, but the larger part of his attention was devoted to fitting this into the ever-evolving construct of Hannibal that he held in his mind. He found himself strangely delighted by this new piece, odder than the rest, and by Hannibal's willingness to share it with him.

"You can't smell bread," Will told him. "It doesn't smell like anything."

"Real bread does, but I admit that part was a guess based on what I know of you and your background."

"I have a Wonder Bread background? I'm pretty sure I should be insulted."

"But you're not. For the most part, your past doesn't trouble you. Your insecurities lie elsewhere."

Will looked away, down the row of streetlights and dark houses. "And where do your insecurities lie?"

"Not in my past, certainly. We have progressed beyond our origins."

"Tell me about your origins," Will said.

Hannibal was quiet for the space of half a block. They stopped at an intersection, far enough back to avoid the spray of slush as cars blurred past.

"The scent of pine and snow," Hannibal said. "Dark rye bread and water drawn from underground, so cold that it carries the memory of long ago glaciers."

Will looked over at him. Hannibal watched the traffic and let him look. "Do you miss it?" Will said.

"At times."

"Would you ever go back?"

"Would you?"

They crossed the street when the light changed and kept walking. Will turned his collar up, but the wind still burned his skin. He hunched his shoulders forward and ducked his head.

"Sometimes I think I should," he said. "Diesel and salt. Surf fishing. I know it'd be better for me. I know I'd last longer."

"And yet you continue."

"I'm helping people."

"Saving lives," Hannibal said.



"What do you mean why?"

"It's a motivation no one questions. Given the damage it does to you, perhaps the question should be asked."

Will couldn't find an answer. They walked in silence until they came to the next intersection. Will saw the bus and the slush puddle just before they collided. He stepped in front of Hannibal without thinking and took the icy spray up his back. It put him closer to Hannibal than he'd meant to get.

Hannibal was smiling at him in that minimalist way he had, creases around his eyes and an impression of warmth and little else. "Very chivalrous," he said.

Will shrugged awkwardly. "Everything I'm wearing can go in the washing machine."

Hannibal unknotted the scarf around his own neck and looped it around Will's before tucking it down into his jacket. "Not anymore. Cashmere and silk. Please look after it properly."

"No, come on--"

Will pulled at it, but Hannibal stopped him with a light touch at the center of his chest.

"Take it," he said. "You're underdressed, and the walk was my idea. I don't want you to be uncomfortable."

The light fabric held the heat of Hannibal's skin close against Will's neck. He didn't want to give it up.

"And it was customary for a knight to carry his lady's favor into battle," Hannibal said, face perfectly serious, except for the teasing glint in his eyes.

Will had to smile. He looked down and shook his head. "Now you're just making fun of me."

"Perhaps. Come, let's continue."

Hannibal's light touch got him moving. For the space of a second or two, they walked arm in arm. Will liked the pressure of Hannibal's hand curled into the crook of his elbow as much as he liked the scarf around his neck. Maybe more.