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He dreams in shades of black and white and grey and sees in hues of staggered, blurred colour, slightly out of sync with the rest of the world.

Everything passes him by in various gradations of grey - the dreary sky, the foggy air, the splash of dirty rain water beneath his shoes. The chatter of passers-by and the sound of the city is muted in his ears on the rare occasion he ventures out, drowned out by the pounding of his heart and the sound of his breath catching in his chest.

Black are the words that he scrawls over the endless sheets of paper over his walls, his desk, his floor. He leaves them there – ripped, torn edges and all - as a reminder of something he’s long forgotten. He shifts books lying piled haphazardly on chairs, his dining table, even inside his disconnected fridge he finds to his vague surprise, when he opens it absently in search of that extra can of dog food. He’s spent a lifetime collecting them and he’s never read a single one.

When he rises in the morning, long awake after being chased by nightmares, he frowns at the shadows that lurk, waiting for the moment when he closes his eyes. The stray light that spills over his rumpled bed and scattered clothes sears his vision with white-gold. They are blinding rays from a weak sun, still not quite high enough in the sky to be truly called morning yet. He jerks his curtains closed against the unwelcome intrusion, pale fingers clenching too tight around dusty material and ignores the way his hands shake when he lets go.

The doorbell rings, too loud, and he clenches his jaw, fighting his way past the pain in his mind, the echoes of a headache that refuses to leave. He steadies himself against the door, shoulder braced against the frame, fingers tightening on the knob briefly, hesitating. He knows who waits outside, who waits patiently for permission to enter. This is his choice and his choice alone.

Will exhales, a faint wisp of white in the chill of his unheated house, and opens his door.

Hannibal smiles at him and inclines his head politely as he brushes past with a soft murmured greeting filled with the faintest hint of the exotic in the curl of his consonants and the too-sharp edges of his vowels. 

They stand, opposite one another, in the almost-companionable silence of the kitchen, the muffled click of leather shoes ghosting over the floor and the soft pad of bare feet that echoes in its wake as they set the table - knives and forks and plates clinking softly as they touch battered wood. The conversation flows between them, stilted and forced maybe, but nevertheless more real than any dream.

Neither of them acknowledge the tangled length of string which weaves along the floor, along the table and ends looped around the vulnerably pale skin of their left wrists, tied tight against the steady shudder of their pulse.

There is only red that spills in the space between them.