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Dog People

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When Will tells Hannibal that he’s adopted another stray dog, Hannibal scrunches up his face (he thinks) the way that children do when they don’t want to eat their vegetables. It is only an impression, of course, because Hannibal’s facial expressions are extremely subtle. It’s like a flash of something and then it’s gone, and probably Will is one of the few people who would notice it.

He tilts his head (something he does in lieu of making eye contact) and he says, “You don’t like dogs, do you.” It is not a question.

Hannibal has resumed his typical inscrutability. One of the reasons that Will can tolerate therapy with Hannibal is that he is so still, both inside and out. It was actually a little uncomfortable at first. To Will, Hannibal felt like a block of wood, or a rock – but these days, Will finds that calming. Most people are so chaotic, constantly broadcasting on all channels with their gestures and faces and their eyes.

Hannibal is restful because Will gets so little from him. He can barely read anything from him, which is why this brief moue of distaste is like a shout.

“Does it matter?” Hannibal asks.

“Uh, yeah.”

“Why is that, Will?”

“I’ve asked you to feed them and look after them before, I don’t want you to if you don’t like them, if you’re looking at them hating them.” Will barely pauses, adds in a burst, “And what’s wrong with dogs?”

“Let me ask you a question, Will. Why do you feel the need to take in every stray that you come across?”

Will has been sitting in his usual therapy chair; now he is up and wandering the office a little, giving Hannibal his back. There are so many interesting things in Hannibal’s office, they are a pretext for wandering. “I like having them around. All they want is regular food and walks and some pats on the back. They’re undemanding.”

There is a small quiet, as Hannibal thinks. Then, “I should think that they would rather be out in the woods running free, hunting when they want, mating when they want, defecating where they want…”

Will turns rather quickly and protests, “No, you see, dogs have evolved to be with us. We coaxed them away from the wilderness some time long ago so they aren’t like other animals...I mean, non-domesticated animals. We added ourselves to their pack so they need us and we have an obligation to them. They don’t want to be free – that’s just stressful and dangerous and – “ He stops, realizing that, perhaps, he is being rather strident, in that cool, pacific space of Hannibal’s office.

Hannibal is merely gazing back calmly, as Hannibal does.

Will sits down. “Sorry.”

“No need to apologize.”

“I know some people don’t like them because they’re messy.”

“They are that,” Hannibal agrees. “They also slobber.”

“My dogs don’t slobber.”

“We will have to agree to disagree on that point, my friend.”

Will offers a tiny grin, which he thinks that, maybe, Hannibal returns. The corners of Hannibal’s mouth curl up, ever so slightly. His rudeness is forgiven –

--this time, his intuition adds and Will blinks. It is new piece but can’t be find its right place just now.

“I have a question for you,” Hannibal says. “Would you rather be free, or would you rather be taken care of?”

“No one is ever free,” says Will.

“That is not what I asked,” Hannibal replies, steepling his fingers. “But you are right. We are bound by many things… obligations, rules, conventions. This is the gift of civilization. In exchange for our freedom, civilization gives us opportunity, and a certain degree of protection.” Hannibal smoothes an invisible crease in his trousers and muses, “Do you ever wonder if the bargain is worth it?”

“What, you think we might as well just go back to the wilderness? No law, no civilization… just people raping and killing and eating each other?”

Will makes a point of finding Hannibal’s face as he finishes. He finds that he really wants to see what’s happening there.

Hannibal says, “It is civilization that binds us and civilization that sets us free to be who we are.” His expression doesn’t change, except for a tiny something, perhaps, in his eyes.