They get to the house on the cliff and Hannibal leads Will through the empty rooms, uncovering the furniture as they pass. Will trails behind Hannibal and watches the thick knot at the back of Hannibal’s neck bounce as they walk, and in the moment, alone with Hannibal in this vast emptiness with the distant crash of ocean waves all around them, Will allows himself to reach out, to touch. Just a fingertip tracing the place where Hannibal’s hair-tie bites into the cluster of hair, but it’s enough to make Hannibal freeze.
Hannibal doesn’t turn around, doesn’t speak. Maybe he doesn’t even breathe. “Why did you let it grow?” Will asks softly, not pulling back. He lets his fingertips hook underneath the hair tie, feels Hannibal’s hair brush against his knuckles. He thinks of Molly and how he used to plunge his hands into her hair sometimes, and how smooth and comforting it felt, and how different this feels, like the strands of Hannibal’s hair could wrap around him, could suffocate him if he lets them.
It’s a long moment before Hannibal answers. Will feels him leaning in, pressing his head against Will’s hand. “I had no reason not to,” comes the simple answer. Humor bleeds into Hannibal’s words. “No persona to keep up. No murders to hide. I wanted to experience the release of my nature, both physical and mental.”
“What, through hair?” asks Will, his own amusement fueled by Hannibal’s.
“You must admit I had few outlets left to me, under Alana’s care.”
Will hums in agreement, guilt rendering him speechless again. He flexes his fingers, then tugs, and the hair-tie loosens and comes away. Hannibal’s hair spills in a wave down his back, longer than Will thought. It shimmers in the ambient light coming in from the huge windows overlooking the sea, silver and grey blending into brown and making it look almost metallic, almost deadly. Will’s breath comes out of him in a shuddering rush as the silken strands fall over and in-between his fingers. No, definitely nothing like Molly’s.
How strange that he’s already thinking of Molly in terms of the past.
“What do you think?” Hannibal asks. There is a slight tremor to his voice, and tension in the line of his shoulders.
Will has to swallow before he can speak. “It’s nice.” It’s beautiful, he doesn’t say. Instead, he gathers all of it up, lets it fall soft and thick onto the palm of his hand, over the back against his knuckles. And Hannibal lets him, just stands there silent and still as Will twists his hair into a rope, and then twists the rope around his hand. He pulls tight. Squeezes his eyes shut when he hears Hannibal’s sharp inhale.
He should let go. He knows he should, and yet.
And yet. He can’t get over the feeling of his fingers tangled in Hannibal’s hair, how natural it feels, how right to be tied up by Hannibal, to be physically tethered to him. He winds the hair round and round until it’s a noose against the quickening pulse at his wrist, until his hand is up to Hannibal’s neck and his knuckles are brushing across the warm skin there.
He releases another long exhale, tremulous, scared. Leans his forehead into Hannibal’s shoulder and feels the steadying warmth of Hannibal’s body all around him. “I don’t want to let go,” he tells Hannibal, the admission whispered and muffled against the fabric of Hannibal’s prison jumpsuit.
Hannibal does move now, only slightly, his head tilting, his cheek touching the side of Will’s face. “Then don’t. Don’t let go, Will.”
And he doesn’t. He clenches his hand into a fist and holds on.