They sleep in separate beds. At first it made sense; they were both healing, Will is legally married, Hannibal had spent three years sleeping on a tiny bed in his pretty cage, and their history is… that list is long. The past few nights when he'd gone to bed alone, Will can't fall asleep easily, all his thoughts tossing and turning in his mind. He's unable to settle them. In all honesty, he doesn't want to settle them alone.
It's not difficult to figure out what's whirring through his brain. He's actually not dwelling on the past. Their fall ended that. They've spent too many years apart. What was reborn after their fall needs to grow, as far as Will is concerned. Like a blank canvas, he wants to see what they can create together instead of at odds with one another. They've tried that and neither enjoyed those results. Will made his choice and he won't waste another moment.
Getting out of bed, Will pads barefoot across the hall to the mostly-closed door. Mostly closed means partially open so obviously Hannibal isn't shutting him out. He'd been looking for a clue as to how much Hannibal wanted; this is good enough.
It's dark but he's been in here enough to know to sidestep the dresser. The curtains are half way open to reveal the new moon. All the medical equipment is gone from both of their rooms except for the chair next to each bed. They'd both kept those. He stands at the edge of the bed, his knees pressed against the mattress and waits. The floor doesn't creak and pushing the door open hadn't made a sound. Doesn't matter; Hannibal woke the moment Will entered his room.
"Of course," Hannibal moves, making room and Will slides between the sheets, settling in the spot warmed by Hannibal. "Is something wrong?"
"No," Will reassures him. He pauses to consider what to say, shutting his eyes even though it's mostly dark, to compose the order of the words, and falls asleep instead.
He wakes in the morning when Hannibal comes back to bed. The curtains have been shut to block out the rising sun and he smells like soap and toothpaste. Hannibal settles on the bed, partially on his stomach facing the far wall. Will, without consideration, leans over to press his lips to Hannibal's shoulder. "Be right back," he mumbles and goes to the bathroom, washing hands and brushing teeth.
When he returns to the bed, Hannibal hasn't moved, as if frozen by the casual caress. Or maybe just the fact that Will climbed into his bed twice in a row without reason. It makes him grin. Hannibal has been very, very careful to let Will initiate, well, everything recently. He's unused to Hannibal vacillating and Will's sad it took him all these days to realize this small truth.
"Is this alright?"
"Pardon?" Hannibal asks, finally moving to roll over and face Will. He looks confused as if he hasn't had time to puzzle out this new arrangement yet. Will's tempted to dump all of his decisions on Hannibal at once and let him sort it out in his own time. Except that overwhelming emotions have led to some disastrous results between them. Maybe he should take this one step at a time.
"We both get up earlier each day and stay up later each night. Don't know about you but I'm not getting enough sleep. So is it alright if I just sleep here, with you?"
"Of course," Hannibal replies and Will can see him trying to work out Will's logic. He doesn't yet because this is only Will's first step – or maybe his first brushstroke. The tableau won't take long to be revealed. Besides, he'll need Hannibal's help to finish it. He knows that Hannibal isn't expecting this line of thinking.
He starts painting it at breakfast, hours later than normal because neither of them want to get out of bed. This time he sits beside Hannibal instead of across from him. Hannibal has this disconcerting habit of staring; Will would rather be next to him for casual touches than across from him wondering if there's something stuck to his teeth.
When he's done eating he leans back, arm and leg casually brushing against Hannibal, who pauses for a moment before finishing his last bite. "What's the plan today?" This location is the third time they've moved since their fall; with no online indication that the FBI or Freddie Lounds assume they're alive. Hannibal is finally relaxing enough to imply they could stay here, if Will likes.
Will does like this place. Hannibal had arranged it without Will looking at any of the locations available. He wanted open land, preferably with fishing available somewhat close by. Hannibal wanted a house to dress up that Will won't find ostentatious. It had come down to two spots; Will told Hannibal to choose what was best for them both and had refused to look.
"Why didn't you want to help choose this place? Hannibal asks.
"How long has that been bothering you?"
"Since we arrived two weeks ago," Hannibal admits.
"I would have dithered over all of the little things; the cost, the taxes, the location to the nearest city, or the best escape routes. I probably would have told you to find something cheaper with a smaller of a house or a little less land."
"Most of those are worthy concerns.”
Will turns to face him, which entwines their legs beneath the table. "All the important parts about the things that worry me you would have taken into consideration already. So I trusted you to find us a place."
"Yes," Will nods. "It's beautiful here, Hannibal. You did a good job." It's easy to tell that something is still bothering him; an unasked question Will hasn't intuited yet. "Ask what I didn't answer, why don't you?"
"Not because you don't wish to become attached?"
"I'm always going to worry someone will report us," Will admits, "That we'll have to run again and start all over. That's partially why I didn't look. I'll feel like I wasted your money if we lose this someday."
Hannibal studies him for a long moment then gives Will a relaxed smile. He pats Will's knee once before standing, careful to untangle their feet, and picks up the dishes. "What did you think my reasoning was?" Will persists.
Hannibal waits until he's almost to the archway that leads to the kitchen to answer, "Because you didn't plan to stay."
And here he'd thought they worked through most of their communication hiccups already. Picking up the remaining items on the table, Will followed Hannibal to the kitchen. "When did you realize I chose you?" he asks, curious.
Hannibal doesn't answer right away but that's not a surprise. There are several moments in Will's mind that confirmed his decision but he knows the exact instant he chose Hannibal permanently. He's thought about it a lot since. He's curious if Hannibal will come to the same conclusion. "After the Dragon stabbed you; I was shot, you were injured. Neither of us could defeat him alone."
"No," Will admits, "it was before that."
Hannibal continues to think back, examining each moment. He glances at Will, obviously still unsure so Will tells him, "After I thought the Dragon was dead, after I spoke with you and said I was going back. When he confronted me in my hotel room; that's when I knew."
"You didn't tell me about that."
"Do you want to know why that moment?"
"Yes," Hannibal puts his hands in the hot, soapy water to wash their plates but he's concentrating on Will.
"Because the Dragon wanted you and I wasn't going to let anyone else have you," he watches Hannibal's hands still beneath the suds. The sink is almost full, Will reaches up to turn off the faucet. Hannibal is obviously waiting for more words but Will doesn't provide them. Another brushstroke of the mural he's building has been revealed. Will lets the thought dry a little. They finish the dishes in silence.
Hannibal's quiet isn't like Will's own. He's reassessing each of their conversations, rearranging what he assumed Will believed to what Will actually meant with this new revelation. It's making him smile more often.
Considering they've only been here two weeks, neither has established routines yet. Hannibal goes into town every other day for fresh food or to pick up something else he's ordered for their home. Will usually walks their property. As soon as Hannibal is dressed and almost ready to go, Will asks, "Can I go with you?"
He doesn't mind if Hannibal will say yes or no. He'd asked the first few trips but Will always told him no. It made sense to spend some time apart. Will likes to walk or tinker with the older equipment in the small barn. Hannibal likes being social with other people in small measure.
The answer is yes; Will quickly changes his stained t-shirt for something much nicer that Hannibal purchased for him, brushes his teeth, and runs fingers through his curls. He wears his comfortable hiking boots even though Hannibal wears dress shoes because Will knows Hannibal walks most places, much faster than him.
As expected, Hannibal pauses in various stalls to pick at the food available, touching things, asking questions. Will waits on the fringes, letting Hannibal have his conversations. He doesn't approach until the seller leaves Hannibal to either attend another customer or their conversation is over.
Almost all of them look at Will. He can tell they're curious but only one or two, Hannibal does seem chattier with them, tilt their head toward Will and ask a question. Whatever reason Hannibal has provided is sound; they smile or nod from where they stand and do not approach Will. He appreciates that.
One of the shops sells tiny replicas of wooden houses, lighthouses, stores - an entire village. They are beautiful and Will can't help wandering into this stall first, leaving Hannibal behind him, probably surprised.
Only when the seller approaches Will does Hannibal move, leaning over Will's shoulder to glance at the tiny grandfather clock in his hands. Hannibal engages the vendor, asking questions and complimenting him on his work. They leave without purchasing anything; Will cannot justify spending any money on some quaint item that doesn't provide them sustenance.
Either way, Hannibal seems delighted that something enchanted Will. His smile is contagious and Will grins back, ignoring the faint pull on his cheek it causes. On impulse, Will takes the purchases from Hannibal's right hand, transfers them to his right, and threads his fingers through Hannibal's.
The only frustrating part of his scar is how forming words has changed for him. It's easy enough when it's just him and Hannibal but this language makes Will stutter a little. Every day he gets a little more comfortable but until then, he's content only talking to Hannibal or letting Hannibal talk for both of them, like today.
Hannibal, of course, basks in that.
The walk back is pleasant. Will reached for Hannibal every time after that first moment and they are still holding hands now. The feeling it creates is juvenile but Will wouldn't trade it. If asked prior to their fall, he would have scoffed to think he could have this with Hannibal.
"What?" Hannibal asks, always wanting to know what Will is thinking.
"Thanks for this," Will says, swinging their hands slightly.
"The part that I'm willing to acknowledge our relationship in public or just walking together?" Hannibal opens the door to their home for them.
"The part where you make this easy," Will says, unsure how to word it without offense. He shrugs and just says it anyway. "Whenever I had tried to picture this working, there was always blood involved, and death. I like being proven wrong."
"Proven wrong because there's no blood at all?"
"Oh," Will says, setting the bags on the kitchen counter, "I fully expect the blood and death bits and I'd prefer a random third party provide them. But I didn't expect this. I like this part too."
"Will," Hannibal whispers and he can't help it, not with that look of adoration Hannibal gives him. He takes the two steps that separate them and wraps his arms around Hannibal's neck, pulling him flush against his body.
Shivering, Hannibal wraps his arms around Will as well. He breathes in, Hannibal breathes out. There's comfort in this touch. Something Will never had; mostly because Hannibal knows every part of Will now. He's not hiding his desire for domesticity and still acknowledging that Hannibal brings out a darkness in him that Will's not so afraid to embrace anymore.
Hannibal breathes in and Will breathes out. They both survived being apart. Now they get to try being together. Will turns his head, pressing his lips against Hannibal's throat. Hannibal's arms tighten around him.
He's pretty sure their mural is almost complete and that from here, they're going to create a masterpiece together, as the conjoined person he proclaimed them to be years ago.
"Alright?" Will asks, knowing that Hannibal's joy is overflowing, spilling out his closed eyes.
Hannibal nods and Will kisses his jawline.
"Me too," he whispers.
Chapter 2: timestamp
I wanted to make the whole story longer but I think it works just like that so here is another little present, even sappier, set a few months later.
Hannibal is bounteous with monetary purchases; Will is not. He doesn't believe a room needs eight pieces of art when only three walls are bare. He doesn't believe in purchasing the eight-hundred dollar set of plates when the thirty-dollar set does the same thing.
They agree about so many things that it's strange to see how they disagree. "Relationships are compromise," he teases, kissing Hannibal's hand, guiding it away from the little shopping cart of the screen with a dollar amount that makes Will want to cry. This is why he doesn't look most of the time.
"I've compromised," Hannibal complains, "I bought cow."
Will laughs. How could he not? "Let's try this. Show me what you like about those dishes."
Hannibal does and Will finds a set he thinks less gaudy with a similar enough aesthetic but costs half the amount. "Is this compromise acceptable?"
Hannibal doesn't complain and Will takes that for a win. He goes into town alone a week later to pick up the packages from the post office and walks by a flower shop on the way back.
It's not something he often – ever – does but Will doesn't make it past the second set of windows, the purple, blue, and red bouquet catching his eye. He's always thought cut flowers a waste but he can't help but think that Hannibal will love their vibrant and fleeting beauty.
When he gets home – that words still makes him smile – there's a wrapped gift on the kitchen table for him. Will fills the vase with water and sets the flowers out before opening his present.
The tiny grandfather clock is gorgeous. He opens the small door, winds the little hands, and turns it around. Unlike the one in the store, this wood is stained with a hint of red to it. Much like Hannibal's eyes.
"Do you like it?" he asks from the threshold. Will turns to catch Hannibal's own surprise at the flowers.
"Thank you," because Will loves it.
Hannibal grins at him, tilting his head toward the flowers. "A secret admirer perhaps?"
"Not at all," Will replies. "They remind me of you. Of us." He isn't sure he can say 'this is something I never would have done before' without tripping over the words. But the purchase is a sign he is trying something different this time around. They both are.
"I hope we last a little longer than a stunning bouquet."
"Me too," Will agrees, standing up. He puts the clock back on the table and crosses the room, pulling Hannibal into his embrace. "I just meant…" the words are still jumbled in his head. He picked the red for how he feels and the purple for how bright Hannibal feels and the blue mixed between them to symbolize the water that once kept them apart, then gave them purpose, and now is behind both of them. A cut set of flowers as a reminder that some beautiful things are fleeting and ephemeral and Will doesn't want this to end the way a bouquet will end. It had ended before and hurt both of them.
And partially as a tell that Will wants to buy him ridiculous gifts they don't need, just to make Hannibal smile.
"I understand," Hannibal whispers, pressing his lips to Will's temple. "I love my gift."
"And I love mine."
Going back to the table, Will pulls out a single red flower and takes Hannibal's hand, leading him to their bed.