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If Your Heart is a Dog Fight

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“Why do we have to invite them?”

Hannibal is nonplussed. This isn’t the first time Will’s complained about their holiday plans, and the infinitely patient look on Hannibal’s face says he knows it’s unlikely to be the last.

He steps back to assess the placement of the garland that Will is holding up—a garland that looks nothing like the cheery, cheap tinsel strands Will usually associates with Christmas. This garland is woven from interlocking branches of juniper and eucalyptus. Dusky mauve berries drip down in an artfully haphazard way, and the wreath gives off a spicy, herbal scent when Will crushes it between his fingers.

“Because the Millers’ home is undergoing renovations, and the Fitzgeralds’ home is too small. A little higher, please.”

Will huffs but he does raise the garland, extending his arms as far as they’ll go and ignoring the way it twinges his bad shoulder. “No, not ‘why do we have to invite them here.’ Why do we have to invite them at all?”

“Because breaking bread with others is part of what makes us human. It reinforces the ties that bind.”

Will snorts. “Like you’ve ever been bound by those ties in your life.”

Hannibal doesn’t reply. He doesn’t point out the absurdity of the statement in light of the fact that they’re doing something as domestic as putting up Christmas decorations. He simply pulls the paper backing off the sticky side of a plastic hook and nudges Will’s hand aside to attach it to the wall. Will settles the loop of fishing line on the hook and drops his arm, admiring the way the garland drapes. Hannibal presses closer to him than is strictly necessary—takes longer than he really needs to put the other hooks in place.

Will laughs softly to himself.

“Hm?” Hannibal asks, adjusting the fall of a spray of berries.

Will shakes his head. “Nothing, it’s just. I don’t know, for some reason you didn’t strike me as the Command hook type.”

Hannibal tilts his head. His eyes crinkle. “What type did you think I was?”

Will shrugs, bringing his other arm down now that the garland is securely hung over the mantle, annoyingly perfect like everything else Hannibal does. He rubs absently at his sore shoulder. “Something more classic, I guess.” He squints at Hannibal, putting his empathy to a particularly stupid use. “Nails? Metal hooks? The finger bones of your enemies?”

He smiles despite himself, and Jesus, his sense of humor is getting worse for having spent so much time with Hannibal.

“The Millers might object to phalanges,” Hannibal deadpans.

“Right, I’m sure they’d much prefer metacarpals. How silly of me.”

Will catches Hannibal’s eye, and he’s struck by the depth of emotion there. No matter how many times he sees it, it’s still shocking. He looks away first. While he’s become somewhat inured to Hannibal’s gaze through long exposure (like a toxin, like a vaccine) eye contact still isn’t a comfortable thing for him. It probably will never be.

“I’d rather spend Christmas alone, with you,” Will says, leaning subtly into him.

This is new between them, still—exposing his soft underbelly. Trusting Hannibal not to maul it. Trust is another thing that doesn’t come easy between them, but they’re learning, little by little. Even old dogs can learn new tricks, if they care to try.

Hannibal’s face softens, and he threads his fingers through Will’s. “You will. We will. There’s time enough for that.”

“Are you sure?” There are echoes of old fears in the words, of all the ways he still can’t relax. He still can’t beat back the feeling that the FBI is going to come bursting through their door any day now—that they’re living on borrowed time. He wonders what Jack would say if he saw Will now, and the thought twists his lips in a smile.

Hannibal kisses his crooked smile, a dry brush of lips that tastes like coffee and cinnamon. “I’m sure. Time for all that and more.”