Will opens the front door and is immediately overwhelmed by the smell of sugar cookies. For most people–normal people, people who didn’t live in a Gothic Revival home that was heavy on the gothic and not so much on the revival–this would be a wonderful welcome home. Unfortunately, when Will comes home from his volunteer shift at the no-kill shelter and the smell of baking is in the air, he freezes in abject terror.
Perhaps he would feel differently had Hannibal not spent the better part of seven months teaching himself how to construct and decorate remarkably intricate gingerbread houses. Instead, Will has flashbacks every time The Great British Bake-Off comes on.
He toes off his shoes and hangs his scarf on its appointed peg on the wall. “Hannibal?”
“In the kitchen.”
“Yes,” says Will, grabbing the lint roller from the wall organizer. He tries to rid his pants of as much dog hair as possible. “I had gathered.”
Hannibal wanders into the foyer, loafers slipping quietly along the floor. Predictably, he’s in his shirtsleeves and waistcoat, pants to match. Even the apron coordinates. Will tries not to smile, but he can’t help himself, especially when he sees a stray bit of flour underneath one of Hannibal’s eyes.
“Cookies already?’ Will asks, taking Hannibal’s hand and letting himself be dragged to the kitchen.
“There are only so many days left to perfect them,” explains Hannibal.
“I don’t see why you feel the need to show off for the garbage men and the mail carrier, that’s all.” The kitchen is, not surprisingly, spotless, though the counters are covered with cooling racks. “And just how many cookie baskets are you making, anyway?”
Hannibal moves around him, heading for the far end of the counter. “My icing technique needed work.”
“My waistline’s gonna need work at this rate.”
“Nonsense. Now,” and Hannibal heads back toward Will, plate of cooled and iced cookies in hand, “please, give me your honest opinion.”
Will blinks at the plate. “Are you sure about that?”
The plate drops down a few inches, and Hannibal sighs. “You have yet to taste them.”
“Hannibal,” says Will, laughing a little, “you can’t leave organ-shaped cookies out for the neighborhood’s civil servants.”
Undeterred, Hannibal selects an extremely festive small intestine and holds it up to Will’s mouth expectantly. “What about the choir director?” he asks as Will chews, then swallows.
“Yeah,” he replies. He watches Hannibal’s eyes track the tip of his tongue as he licks a crumb off of his bottom lip. “I think that’s entirely deserved, though I don’t think it’ll make him any more likely to let you play harpsichord during the Christmas program, this year or next.”