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“I don’t like the way he looks at you.”

Hannibal doesn’t reply to Mischa, and she knew he wouldn’t. He can’t speak to her when they are not alone, but that doesn’t mean she can’t offer her thoughts whenever she pleases. Hannibal half-expects someone to hear her one of these days, to see her and acknowledge her presence, but no one ever does. He has no explanation for why he can see her, why he can’t see anyone else’s spirit despite often being around the dead. It’s just the way things are.

Still, people would notice if he spoke, so he does not. Instead, he raises an eyebrow, knowing she’ll interpret it the way he means it. The way he looks at me?

“I don’t know,” Mischa murmurs, and now both Hannibal’s eyebrows shoot up. Over the years, both of them have become great judges of character, able to measure someone in the matter of minutes, seconds even. To see his sister hesitate is… interesting, to say the least. “Shut up,” she murmurs, and he has to stifle a chuckle. “You’ll see.”

But he doesn’t see. When he turns away from the pictures of the missing girls, Will Graham is not looking at him, even though Hannibal can barely look away. He won’t admit that Will’s appearance catches him off guard, but he’ll bet that Mischa notices the way Hannibal stops in his tracks just for a second, coffee cup freezing on the way to his lips the first time he notices Will’s gentle curls, his striking blue eyes.

For his part, Will studiously ignores meeting Hannibal’s gaze, then bristles when confronted about it, quickly leaving when prodded about his disorder.

“I don’t like the way you look at him,” Mischa says as they watch Will retreating from Crawford’s office. Hannibal gives her a quick, unimpressed look, but doesn’t let his gaze linger on her and focuses on Crawford instead.

The meeting is over quickly after that, and Mischa is the first out of Crawford’s office, effortlessly passing through the glass of the door before Hannibal even reaches it.

She waits until they’re in Hannibal’s car before she speaks again. “What are you planning to do with this Will Graham?”

“You know I never strictly plan for anything,” he replies as he starts the car.

“But you like him,” she says. “You find him interesting.”

“I do,” Hannibal admits. “That doesn’t mean anything.”

“It means you’ll want to play with him,” she replies. “Or just play him.

“I just said I don’t have any plans for him,” Hannibal says.

“You say a lot of shit,” Mischa says with a huff. Hannibal purses his lips, not too fond of her cursing, but he can’t argue with her. They’re both silent for a while, then Mischa speaks again. “If someone catches you, it’s going to be him.”

Hannibal spares her a glance before his gaze goes back to the road ahead. “You think he’s that impressive?”

“I think you’re that stupid.”

Hannibal doesn’t dignify that with an answer.

“I think I’ll leave him a gift,” he says after a while. “See what he makes of it.”

For someone with no working lungs, Mischa sure can sigh so very deeply.

*

Although she spends half her time disapproving of Hannibal’s antics, Mischa can’t hide the fact that she’s just as curious about this as he is.

She leans in over Will’s shoulder as Will takes his first bite of Hannibal’s food, waiting for his reaction. When he hums and proclaims it delicious, she frowns and pulls away, though not too far. She likes standing close to the people Hannibal is talking to so it wouldn’t be too awkward for his gaze to slip from them to her.

“I keep waiting for someone to realize what it is,” she says. “I know it’s not very likely, but it’s supposed to be another cannibal you’re chasing now, right? Wouldn’t it have been funny if it was him and he recognized what he was eating immediately?”

Hannibal has to admit, that would have been amusing. What would he have done if that was the case? What would Will have done? Would he have tried to kill Hannibal on the spot, or would he have proposed an alliance? A partnership?

While Hannibal is not particularly afraid of death, he would prefer it if he didn’t lose his life just yet. If he dies, so does Mischa – he wouldn’t be around to kill for her and have her feed on others’ spirits as he does on their flesh, and soon she would fade away.

This has been his life for as long as he can remember, and this is what it’s always going to be. He kills. They feed.

Will does not seem to be a secret cannibal, though, so Hannibal doesn’t have to worry about fighting him. Not for now, at least.

*

“Could you keep watch for me?” Hannibal murmurs as he finds himself alone in the construction site office.

Mischa nods and goes to stand at the door, keeping inside so she can still see what Hannibal is doing with a simple look over her shoulder.

“What did he say?” she asks when Hannibal ends the call with Hobbs.

“Absolutely nothing,” he replies and heads out. Mischa follows him without a word.

*

At the Hobbs residence, it all goes to hell quickly.

Will only spares a moment for the bleeding Mrs. Hobbs, then rushes past her, unable to do anything for her. Hannibal is not exactly in a hurry to check on her, either.

“You’re not going to help her?” Mischa asks.

He shakes his head. “It’s too late for her. Help yourself,” he says. “I’ll be inside.”

Mischa nods and smiles down at the woman, almost apologetic. She crouches down and sinks her hand into the woman’s chest, and soon she starts fading away. Hannibal only goes into the house once she’s disappeared.

He sometimes wishes he could see her fight the other spirits, see her consume them, but he has to resign himself to the fact that some things just aren’t meant for the eyes of the living.

The scene in the house, though. For a second, he lets himself believe that it was painted just for him.

Mischa reappears when he has his hands on the Hobbs girl’s throat. Hannibal looks at Hobbs, then at Mischa, but she shakes her head. “I don’t need him,” she says, and he knows it’s true. She is glowing, rejuvenated from her feeding – she won’t need another for a couple of weeks at least.

“Okay, maybe he’s not a cannibal,” she says as she looks at Will, covered in blood after shooting Hobbs a few times too many. “He’s definitely something, though.”

Hannibal doesn’t let himself think of what they could be, but as he watches Will, shaken, shaking, he can’t help but imagine what he could become.

Definitely something.

*

It’s a little thrilling, having Will Graham in his office for the first time. Hannibal lets him explore as he writes up the text of his evaluation, and he’s not surprised to have him go up to the highest point of the office, as far away from Hannibal and his prying eyes as possible.

When he is done and looks up at Will to continue their conversation, Will starts walking, as if keeping still would make him an easier target for Hannibal’s observations.

“You’re like a puppy, following his every move,” Mischa says.

Hannibal spares a second to frown at her when Will looks away, then makes sure to busy himself with tidying up his desk instead of walking in parallel with Will.

It’s not difficult to establish a connection with Will. They both care about the Hobbs girl, even if it’s not in the same way. Hannibal definitely wants to keep her alive, keep her safe, see what she will do when given the freedom. Will feels that he needs to do something, now that he’s taken away her father. He’s already accepted her as his responsibility, his charge, and he won’t let Crawford hurt her more than Will himself has.

It’s endearing, in a way. It’s certainly going to be useful.

Mischa clearly wants to say something, but she doesn’t speak again until Will leaves.

“Adoption is a big step, Hannibal,” she says. “You’ve only known him a couple of days.”

Hannibal gives her an unimpressed look before he sits in his chair and leans back, closes his eyes.

“It’s true,” she says. “You’ve bound him to you now.”

“We were already bound by a shared traumatic event,” Hannibal replies.

“An event that you caused,” she reminds him. “Do you imagine things would have gone the same if you hadn’t warned Hobbs? He probably wouldn’t have managed to kill his wife, so the girl wouldn’t be alone. She wouldn’t need you. Will wouldn’t need you right now,” she says. 

“I get your point,” Hannibal says.

“So why are you denying it? What have you got to hide from me?

Hannibal finally opens his eyes. He hadn’t realized how upset this was making her. She stands in front of his desk, her eyes cold. Her anger is never loud. She never threw a tantrum as a child, small and confused as she had been. He hates upsetting her nonetheless.

He leans forward and rests his arms on the desk, reaching a hand towards her and opening his palm. “Mischa, I’m not hiding from you,” he tries to reassure her.

“Then why won’t you tell me what you’re doing with him?”

“Because I don’t know yet,” he says sincerely. “There is something in him, don’t you agree?”

“Yes,” she says reluctantly.

“He can be useful to us.”

“Not if he’s dead.”

Hannibal tilts his head to the side. “You like him, too.”

“Yes,” she says. “It’s not like it matters.”

“Of course it matters,” Hannibal says. “You don’t want me to kill him, I won’t.”

She looks at him for a minute. “I’d still eat him, if you killed him,” she says. “You know. If you had to. I wouldn’t let him go to waste.”

“Neither would I,” Hannibal says with a little smile.

*

“I don’t mind if you kill her,” Mischa says as she reads Freddie Lounds’ article over Hannibal’s shoulder. “Being rude to you is one thing, but she can’t be messing with Will.”

“I’ll try not to take that personally,” Hannibal says, though he doesn’t disagree with her.

*

Later, when Will confesses in a whisper that he liked killing Hobbs, there are a couple of seconds of silence before Mischa announces, “Well, we have to keep him now.”

*

It is rare that Hannibal sees his own work in the light of day. That is one thing he appreciates about Miss Lounds – he can always count on her to upload high-quality images from multiple angles to her site.

Still, it’s another thing entirely to see what he made of Cassie Boyle projected on a big screen in front of an entire class of agents in training, in front of Jack Crawford, knowing that they don’t even suspect the artist stands among them.

He can’t help the smile that settles on his lips when he listens to Will brilliantly break his work down.

“Do try not to swoon,” Mischa says with a roll of her eyes. Hannibal just shifts to the side in a movement that would have bumped his hip into hers, were she corporeal. She just huffs.

*

“If you want to talk—”

Will doesn’t let Miss Lounds finish, snatching the business card out of her hand.

Terribly rude, Hannibal thinks, though he doesn’t react outwardly.

“He gets a pass,” Mischa says, knowing what he’s thinking.

She definitely enjoys how rude Will is, and how Hannibal tolerates it. During the conversation with Miss Lounds outside she’s uncharacteristically quiet, watching what Will is going to do with a grin.

When Hannibal raises an eyebrow at her, she murmurs a “Fuck off,” and focuses on Will again. Hannibal bites his lips to hide his smile.

*

“Does Abigail know that it was you who called?” Mischa asks when they’re outside her house, Hannibal subtly covering up the stone carrying Nick Boyle’s blood.

He turns away and whispers, “Seems like she might,” as quiet as possible.

Mischa doesn’t ask him what he’s going to do about it. She hasn’t expressed that she’s become fond of Abigail, but then again, she doesn’t have to.

It’s good, knowing the number of people who would miss her can still grow.

*

“Doesn’t seem like such a grave offence,” Mischa says as she watches Hannibal work on Abigail’s friend. “Being rude to her mother.”

“You were never this rude to ours,” Hannibal says.

“I didn’t get the chance to,” Mischa points out. “I probably pissed her off when I was a baby.”

“You did not,” Hannibal says. “You were a wonderful child.”

Mischa rolls her eyes, but she smiles.

“I’m glad we weren’t around her when she died,” Mischa says thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t want her to eat me.” Hannibal pauses with the girl’s body in his arms. “I didn’t mean my flesh,” Mischa says, tone gentle. “If her spirit had gone hungry for a while and she saw mine, she probably wouldn’t have been able to stop herself. I wasn’t strong back then,” she explains. “She would have consumed me.”

Hannibal hasn’t ever thought of that.

“Would you have killed for her, the way you kill for me?” Mischa asks.

Hannibal thinks about it for a moment. “She wouldn’t have wanted me to.”

Mischa hums. “You didn’t ask me if I did.”

“I wanted it,” he says. “I want you around.”

“Good,” Mischa says, and Hannibal lifts the girl up to mount her on the antlers.

*

“God, I wish I could strangle all of them,” Mischa says, looking at the reporters gathered in front of Abigail’s home. Hannibal is inclined to agree.

When Alana leads Abigail inside, Mischa goes with them. Judging by the distance, she should be able to walk around inside freely; she’s eaten recently enough to be able to stray a bit from the range she usually keeps in, close to Hannibal, close to the ring he wears around his neck. Hannibal knows it’s not painful for her to strain against the limits set on her – it can’t be, she doesn’t have a body to hurt – but it can certainly be frustrating, struggling to pass through the invisible wall in front of her.

He speaks to Miss Lounds briefly, before he hears Mischa shout from inside the house. “Hannibal, you need to come here right now!”

“Have a good evening, Miss Lounds,” Hannibal says and doesn’t wait for her to reply, letting the officer deal with her as he walks towards the house, trying to be quick, yet appear casual.

He sees Abigail and her bloody hands moments before he notices Alana and Mischa.

“Alana can’t see,” Mischa says urgently just as Hannibal thinks it, so he acts quickly, grabbing his colleague and knocking her out.

“Show me what you did,” he tells Abigail, and she does.

“You butchered him.”

“You don’t have to look so happy about it,” Mischa says, and Hannibal schools his features into something more somber. He convinces Abigail to let him help her, and just like that, they’re that much closer. She’s that much more dependent on him.

Mischa is pensive later that evening, and Hannibal patiently waits for her to speak up.

“Just weeks ago, you didn’t have anyone,” she says in the end, sitting at the edge of his bed. “Now you have Will and Abigail.”

Hannibal frowns and sits up. “I had you,” he says. She focuses her calm gaze on him. “I will always choose you first. Tell me you know this.”

“I know,” she says. “I just know it’s not easy. Choosing the company of the dead over the living. All your life.”

“Easy does not always equal preferable.” She doesn’t look convinced. “You’re with me day and night, Mischa. Have been all my life. If I ever seemed tired of you, you would see.”

“And I haven’t seen anything like it.”

“Damn right, you have not,” he says, and she finally smiles. He turns his palm up, and she brings her hand to hover over it gently. “The day I say goodbye to you is the day I die.”

He doesn’t know if she truly believes him, but she just nods and gets up.

“Good night, Hannibal,” she says as she heads out of his bedroom.

“Good night, Mischa.”

*

“You kill a girl and make him feel guilty for it, and in return you get a key to his house,” Mischa says as she politely waits for Hannibal to unlock the door to said house instead of rushing in before him. “Funny how things always work out in your favor.”

“You say it as if there were no effort on my part,” Hannibal says.

Effort,” Mischa scoffs, but then her expressions brightens up when Hannibal opens the door and reveals Will’s pack waiting, watching him curiously. “Oh my god, there’s so many!” she says and she sits among them, even though they can’t see or feel her. She watches the way they accept Hannibal’s treats with a smile. “How is he not covered in dog hair head to toe?”

“He’s a very neat person,” Hannibal says, already distracted as he looks around Will’s little house. It is very neat, if a little cluttered. When he sits at Will’s desk, adding a feather to his fishing lure, Mischa comes to stand next to him.

“Christmas gift idea,” she says.

Hannibal looks up at her. “What?”

“Materials for lures,” she says, nodding at the various items spread on the desk. “It’s his favorite hobby, isn’t it?”

Hannibal frowns. “I don’t know if he would like that,” he says.

Mischa shrugs. “One way to find out.” She looks around. “Do you think he would snoop if he had access to your house like that?” she asks.

“Our house,” Hannibal corrects her. “And he does already. You might have noticed I gave him a key when he gave me one to his.”

“But he doesn’t have an excuse to just come. You did, so you made use of it.”

“I don’t think he’s the type to go anywhere uninvited without good reason.”

“He seems more like the type who doesn’t go even if he’s invited.”

“He does,” Hannibal says with a chuckle.

They’re silent for a while. When Hannibal gets up, Mischa puts a hand up as if to stop him.

“Can we stay until it gets dark?” she asks. At Hannibal’s questioning look, she continues, “He said that his house looks like a boat on the sea.”

Hannibal indulges her. She so rarely asks for anything.

When it’s sufficiently dark, they walk out into the fields in silence. They stay like that for a while, looking back at the house. Standing in Will Graham’s shoes.

“Will you draw it for me?” she asks.

He commits the sight of the house to memory. “Of course, Mischa.”

*

“Thank you for feeding my dogs while I was away,” Will says.

“Oh, they were so cute,” Mischa says.

“It was no problem,” Hannibal tells Will.

“Tell him his dogs are cute, Hannibal.”

Hannibal stifles a sigh. “They’re very cute,” he says, almost resigned. Will gives him an amused look; he probably noticed Hannibal said it despite himself, even though he doesn’t know the reason why. “And very well behaved,” he adds, wanting to direct the compliment at Will.

“Thank you,” Will says, a pleased smile brightening his expression. Hannibal catches himself wishing they had more opportunities to talk like this and quickly stifles the desire. The chance to explore the way Will’s mind works during a case is much more valuable than seeing his smile.

No matter how cute he looks.

He directs the conversation back to the Turner family – the reason for Will’s absence. Mischa somehow turns an eye roll into a whole body movement and Hannibal ignores her.

He does mildly regret the return of Will’s pained expression, but he ignores that, too.

*

That expression doesn’t leave Will’s face for long as the case goes on. He is upset, angry, bits and pieces of his history spilling out of him as he talks about his own family, of maybe seeing Abigail as part of it. They don’t have much opportunity to talk between sessions, and so Mischa worries.

She worries for Abigail, too, and she’s happy when Hannibal takes her home so that she can be away from the hospital for a while. She’s even happier when he gets a scolding from Alana for it.

When Abigail smiles and says she sees family, Mischa avoids Hannibal’s gaze. She probably sees the same.

She doesn’t bring up Hannibal leaving her again, and Hannibal doesn’t know if he should be glad or worried.

*

“We have a guest, Hannibal,” Mischa says by way of waking him. Hannibal blinks up at her. “He’s been hovering at the door for about five minutes.”

“Will?”

She nods just as the doorbell rings.

“It’s early,” Hannibal says. Mischa nods again and urges him to get up. He does so without complaint, opting to put his robe on instead of changing clothes.

He doesn’t think much of Will’s sleepwalking at first. He does his best to assure Will it’s probably just stress. Despite the reason for his visit, Hannibal enjoys Will’s presence in his home. He enjoys the fact that Will trusted him enough to come to him. He imagines Will didn’t sleep after the police officers drove him home – he probably waited, wide awake, until it became an acceptable time—if a little early for a regular social visit—to drive to Baltimore.

Hannibal enjoys that thought a little bit too much.

But then he catches that scent on him and he sees Mischa freeze, knowing he’s found out something new about Will’s condition.

“What is it?” she asks as soon as Will leaves.

Hannibal sits at his desk. “He may have encephalitis.”

She frowns. “That’s treatable, right?”

“Yes.”

She’s silent for a moment. “Do you intend to let him treat it?”

Hannibal looks at her. “Do you think I should?”

“Are you really asking me that?” she says, eyebrow raised, and he smiles. “What would you do, if I wasn’t here?”

He shrugs. “Something you wouldn’t be proud of, most likely.”

She huffs. “You do enough I’m not proud of because of me,” she says. “Have to make up for it where we can.”

*

When Hannibal shares his suspicions with Will, he doesn’t even believe him at first, confused about how he could even have gotten encephalitis. But then he clings to the idea with such desperation, such relief that what’s happening to him could be physical, it makes Hannibal glad to have listened to Mischa.

He refers Will to some of his colleagues and insists on going with him to the appointments. As Will waits, tense, Hannibal places a hand on his shoulder. Will looks at him, confused for a moment, but then he puts his hand on top of Hannibal’s and nods with gratitude.

*

When Hannibal turns out to be right, Will gets anxious again as they make arrangements for Will to be admitted.

“I have to— the dogs… And Jack—”

“I’ll deal with it all, Will,” Hannibal says. “Alana and I will take care of the dogs. She will probably take care of Jack,” he continues, and that makes Will huff a laugh. “Jack is demanding, but he’s not unreasonable. He’ll want you to take care of yourself.”

Will nods, but he doesn’t seem calmer. Hannibal puts a hand on his shoulder again. “It’ll be alright, Will.”

“Okay,” is all Will says.

*

While Will is in the hospital, a new opportunity presents itself in front of Hannibal in the form of Abel Gideon.

Jack has turned to Hannibal in Will’s absence, politely summoning him to crime scenes to ask his opinion. As a result he has to spend time in Frederick Chilton’s company, and although he doesn’t reveal his real opinion on the man, Mischa has no reason to hide her feelings, letting out a groan at the mere sight of him. Hannibal has had decades of training in hiding his reactions to what Mischa says and does, but he still feels the corner of his lips twitch with a smile before he can stop it.

Although his pride roars in his chest at the notion, he does not argue that Gideon is not the ripper. Will would have been the perfect scapegoat for Hannibal, capable as he is, unstable as he could have been untreated, but now that he’s out of the picture Hannibal makes a compromise with himself to use Gideon instead. He can make a comeback later if he so desires, let Gideon distract them for now.

When he reluctantly tells Will about it all, Will frowns and makes to argue, but Hannibal grabs his hand where it’s resting on the hospital bed.

“I didn’t want to tell you because I don’t want you thinking about it, Will,” he says firmly. “You can be sure that Jack will take you back as soon as you’re on your feet. Use this time to rest.”

Will is still frowning, but he’s looking at their joined hands now. Hannibal wonders if he should retreat, but then Will squeezes his hand and sighs.

“I’m so bored, Hannibal,” he says, and Hannibal chuckles.

“Would you like me to bring you some books?”

Will hums. “Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’d prefer talking to someone.”

“Then I’ll visit you as often as I can.”

“You already do,” Will says. “I know you’re busy. With your patients. And Jack. Sorry about that,” he says, and Hannibal shakes his head.

“There’s nothing to apologize for,” Hannibal says. “I help Jack because I want to. I’ll keep helping him if it means you would get to rest a while longer.”

“Don’t let him hear you say that,” Will says. “We’ll end up hiding from him somewhere together.”

“Doesn’t sound so bad,” Hannibal says. “I’d appreciate the company.”

Will smiles. “Don’t go to him, then,” he says, voice quiet. “Stay with me more.”

Hannibal smiles in return. “I’ll stay as long as you’ll have me.”

It’s not often that Hannibal forgets his sister is around, and he’s not proud to say he startles a little when he hears her groan, “You two are too much.”

*

Weeks later, Will looks tired and unsteady on his feet as he clutches a bottle of wine in Hannibal’s kitchen.

“Will you stay?” Hannibal asks, though he knows the answer before Will shakes his head.

“Can’t handle people right now,” he says with a little smile. “Just wanna go home to my dogs.”

“I’m sure they’ll be happy to see you,” Hannibal says. “As am I.”

Will’s smile grows warmer at that. “That’s why I wanted to stop by,” he admits quietly, unsure in front of the staff Hannibal has helping him prepare the feast.

“You didn’t get tired of having me in your hospital room all the time?”

“Got tired of the hospital,” he says. “Glad to see you outside of it.”

Hannibal smiles at him, and neither of them say more about it.

Will leaves the bottle of wine on the counter. “Have a good night, Hannibal,” he says.

“You too, Will.”

*

They don’t spend much time together outside of sessions, but they do start speaking on the phone regularly. There is not much about Hannibal’s days that he can share, given that half of them are occupied by patients and half by endeavors he is not quite ready to tell Will about. They still manage to keep up their conversations well after Hannibal is done inquiring Will about his health and about his dogs.

After some hesitation—and despite Mischa insisting that it’s a bad idea—he decides to tell Will about Tobias Budge and Franklyn’s worries. This case is the first Will has been more involved in since his prolonged hospital stay, and Hannibal is glad he is able to give him a lead.

He didn’t think Will would be the one to go interview Budge.

When Budge enters his office, bloody and resolute, proclaiming that he’s killed two men, there is only one thing Hannibal can do in response.

Tobias fights well, but Hannibal is better. He regards the dead body at his feet for a moment before he moves away. Mischa didn’t move to meet Franklyn as he died, electing to stay behind and keep an eye on Hannibal, but once she sees Tobias fall, she kneels next to him.

When she reappears, her chest is heaving as if she’s been the one who has been fighting. Maybe she has. She’s told him that it takes almost no effort to consume another’s soul just as it’s left the body, but she looks exhausted after she does it, sometimes. She looks a lot more human.

“You’re okay?” she asks.

He nods.

Once he has his breath back, he makes the calls he needs to and sits at his desk to wait.

Mischa perches on the desk close to him. It’s moments like these when he wishes he could touch her, hold her. Even for a moment. “He said he killed two men,” she says, looking at Tobias’ body.

“He did,” Hannibal says.

“Do you think one of them was Will?”

“I would assume so, yes,” Hannibal says calmly. Mischa stares at him, but he has had too many years of enduring it to be bothered by her scrutiny. “I knew it was a possibility. So did you.”

“That’s why I told you not to do it, Hannibal,” she says. There’s disappointment in her tone that makes Hannibal look down at his hands.

He’s the only man on Earth to be able to say he’s disappointed the dead.

“What’s done is done,” he says simply. He looks up at her again. “You told me not to play him,” he reminds her. “Having him dead is more merciful than playing him, don’t you think?”

“You could have just left him alone, you know,” she says. “If he didn’t know you, he wouldn’t have any reason to suspect you. He wouldn’t be a threat to you. But you—”

“I wanted him to know me,” Hannibal interrupts. “I wanted him to see me for who I am. He would have been the only one to catch me because only he could truly understand me.” He finds it easy to say out loud, now that Will is gone. Even if he’d survived longer, Hannibal would have admitted his feelings in front of Mischa sooner or later – not that he would need to. She has probably seen it already in the way they were with each other. The hesitant touches, the long conversations. They had no opportunity to grow into something more.

Her fingers hover over his cheek, unable to actually cup it, and he smiles, leaning into the gesture. It’s her little way of giving comfort, rare among the blunt truths she prefers when she’s helping him through a problem. She has always been more practical than him, less emotional. Not for the first time, he wishes she were alive so he could witness her making a life for herself, taking the world by storm.

He is broken out of his reverie by the sound of voices and footsteps outside. He nods at the medic who walks in first and lets himself be taken care of, though he could do a good job of it himself if he had to. He figures it’s best for him to appear shaken. Not that he is entirely faking his grief – he did have big hopes for Will, and it is a pity none of what he has imagined will unfold.

Or so he thinks, until Will walks into his office, just seconds after Jack.

Mischa lets out a noise of surprise, and Hannibal is surprised he hears it over his own powerful exhalation. He watches as Will takes in the landscape of his office, the mess, the body on the ground. His eyes finally land on Hannibal and he pauses, and Hannibal likes to think that relief similar to what he is experiencing courses through Will at the sight of Hannibal alive and well.

Jack questions him briefly before he leaves them alone. Hannibal chances a glance at Mischa and sees her take Will in, catalogue his minor injuries. Hannibal doesn’t hide the soft smile the sight prompts – he just aims it at Will.

He feels like they’re in a bubble as they speak, Will apologetic, Hannibal reassuring. He wants everyone else to leave so they can truly be alone, but he doesn’t say it. He forces himself to be content with their current situation, content just to be so close to Will as he perches on his desk.

Will suddenly frowns at the ground, sliding to a crouch in front of Hannibal with a quiet grunt. Hannibal isn’t proud at the way his heart flutters at the position they find themselves in, but he doesn’t have time to dwell on it as he sees what Will picks up from the floor. Mischa’s ring.

“Oh, if you’d forgotten that here, I would have killed you,” she says, but Hannibal barely registers her words, his brain too busy sending an urgent signal to his hand to snatch the ring and chain from Will before he—before he what? Sees it? It’s a bit too late for that.

Will stares at him, eyes wide in surprise, still crouching before Hannibal. The silence between them is deafening, expectant. Even Mischa doesn’t say a word. Hannibal does not want to know how she’s looking at him right now.

“This is…” Hannibal starts. “It’s…”

Will surprises him into silence by putting a hand on his knee. “You don’t have to explain,” he says with a smile. “It’s clearly something important to you.”

Hannibal nods. He opens his palm to inspect it and understands why it fell – the chain has broken on one side of the ring, leaving a bit of it hanging from the ring itself, making it impossible to wear.

“I’ll have to get a new chain. Maybe leave it in the shop if they can’t change it immediately,” he says, and finally looks up at Mischa. Her face scrunches up, annoyed but resigned at the prospect of spending time in someone’s shop.

“I can fix it for you,” Will suggests.

Hannibal blinks. “You could?”

Will chuckles. “I usually work on engines, but I’ve been known to do some precision work once in a while.” Hannibal’s eyes are drawn to Will’s hand, still on his knee, as he imagines him making his lures, focusing on something as small as the chain of Hannibal’s jewelry.

“Better than a stranger,” Mischa says. “I don’t mind going with him.”

Hannibal nods at her, though he’s still looking at Will.

“It was my sister’s,” he says quietly. “I keep it on me at all times. Makes me feel like she’s still near,” he adds, though he doesn’t know why. He doesn’t have to explain anything to Will, and he certainly can’t explain that the ring is indeed a way to keep Mischa near as her spirit is bound to it.

He offers the ring and Will opens his palm, surprising Hannibal again by putting his other hand on top of Hannibal’s, closing the ring between Hannibal’s palm and both of his.

“I’ll take good care of it,” he promises in a whisper. Hannibal can’t tear his gaze away from Will’s and the just stay like that for a long moment, looking at each other, holding hands.

He should just leave him alone. That’s what Mischa said.

Hannibal doesn’t think he could.

He leans in, everyone around them be damned, and touches his forehead to Will’s, closes his eyes. Will makes a little noise and shifts closer, his hands slipping away to settle on Hannibal’s hips. Hannibal’s go to Will’s shoulders and they cling to each other, and everything around them disappears.

Will rubs his cheek into Hannibal’s gently, his beard a pleasant scratch, and whispers, “It’s okay. You’re okay.”

“So are you,” Hannibal murmurs in reply. Will hums, and for some reason the soft sound makes Hannibal pull him even closer, bury his nose in the crook of his neck and breathe him in.

“You’re such a weirdo,” Will says, but his tone is undoubtedly fond.

“He’s not wrong,” Mischa says, and that finally makes Hannibal let Will go.

He looks around. Jack is the only one who meets his gaze, holding it for a long minute, glancing at Will for a moment, before he just nods at him and continues speaking to the photographer.

When Hannibal turns back to Will, he sees Will still looking at him, a softer expression on his face than Hannibal has ever seen.

He says he has to go home soon after, and Hannibal lets him go, although reluctant. He makes to get up and walk him out but Will puts a firm hand on his shoulder. When Hannibal looks up at him in question, Will smiles.

“Watch your leg,” he says softly. Hannibal wants to reply, but then Will slides his hand up to Hannibal’s hair and ruffles it a bit. After, he cups his cheek, and Hannibal leans into the touch, unable to stop himself. “I’ll see you soon?”

“Let me make dinner for you tomorrow,” Hannibal says.

“Okay,” Will agrees. He swipes his thumb over Hannibal’s cheek one last time and goes to talk to Jack before he leaves.

“Are you actually in love with him?” Mischa asks.

Hannibal puts a hand to his stomach where he feels the dull ache of almost losing Will.

He just nods.

Mischa doesn’t say anything to that. “I’ll see you soon,” she says, and he nods again before she follows Will.

Hannibal watches them go together, warmth growing in his chest.