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Cozy Up With The Dogs

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Will Graham was a mysterious man. He could think and process things in a way no one else could. He could make connections and leaps that were unexplainable to the average onlooker, and even to some of those who weren’t so average. He spoke more to himself than he did to other people. Will Graham could exist solely inside his own head for the rest of his life - maybe even longer - and never run out of things to do up there.

While many of the people who met Will Graham were uncertain about many aspects of his personality and mindset, there was one thing that everyone was 100% certain about. That would be, of course, the fact that Will Graham collects stray dogs like the man up the street collects baseball cards.

Just like the man with the baseball cards, collecting strays was both a good habit and a bad habit at the exact same time. A paradox, if you will. Dogs cost money and energy. They required space and time, both of which seemed to be running low. Will knew that one day he would reach his breaking point. That one day he would have to call a rescue center instead of inviting a stray dog into his home, but until that point, he would continue to love and protect any mutt he could get his hands on. He had no choice, after all. He was an only child with little to no family left. He was single and the only people he might be able to consider his friends would be his coworkers and maybe, as pathetic as it was, his therapist.

If Will Graham was unable to make familial connections with humans, he would make them with dogs. His dogs were his family.

And just like any other family, the Grahams had their problems. Which was why Will Graham was sprinting out the door, struggling to carry a squirming dog in his arms while trying to unlock his car. He fumbled with the keys, blindly pressing buttons on the fob until the car chirped and the locks on the inside shot up, making a loud and satisfying click.

Will could hear the rest of the dogs barking from inside but he didn’t have time to turn back to tell them goodbye. He had one thing on his mind at the moment: getting Buster to the vet clinic. Will loved his dogs more than anything in the world, but he wasn’t oblivious to the fact that some of them were… brighter than the others. Buster seemed to be the one who most commonly got himself in precarious situations. Always running towards the danger instead of away. In that sense, Buster and his owner were one and the same.

Will often found himself running towards the danger rather than away from it, but he still had common sense. At least he would like to believe that he did.

Buster did not have the same common sense which is why Will had to drop everything to rush him to the vets. Buster had decided that instead of eating the dog food Will had provided him, he would go out and eat the ivy vines that grew in the woods. Ivy was extremely poisonous to dogs, and Will knew this because this wasn’t the first time Buster had eaten the toxic plant. This was the third time. As previously stated, Buster didn’t have much common sense.

Will laid his furry friend on the passenger seat and climbed in the car, peeling out of the driveway. At times like these Will hated himself for living in such a desolate area. He kept his foot pressed hard against the pedal, fully aware that every second counted. Buster was none the wiser. Every time Will dared to take his eyes off the road and glance at the small white and brown dog nestled in the passenger seat, he was wagging his tail and smiling up at Will. There was absolutely no sign that he had been vomiting ten minutes before.

Will’s NASCAR-like driving managed to shave almost ten minutes off the route to Wolf Trap Animal Hospital. He would say that he was surprised he hadn’t been pulled over, but he wasn’t. He knew where all the speed traps were and he knew that cops of Wolf Trap often had better things to deal with, given that there weren’t many of them.

It was just past six o’clock and Will was thankful that he had called ahead of time, otherwise, the office would have been closed and we would have had to drive to the other side of town to the Emergency Vet Clinic, risking even more precious minutes. He spun the wheel of the car, tires squealing as he whipped the vehicle into a parking spot. He didn’t care if he was inside the lines or not. The vet office was practically closed already.

Will removed Buster from the car and sprinted up the steps to the glass door, managing to pull it open even with his arms full. One of the attendants noticed he had come into the room and immediately rushed over to help him. Very few words were exchanged. Will knew she recognized him and Buster and he knew that she had been the one to answer the phone when Will had called just before he left the house. There were only a few employees at the clinic and when you have as many dogs as Will does, you become familiar with them all very quickly.

Will knew that someone would be out to talk to him and exchange details, but until then there wasn’t much else to do but wait. There was only one other client in the waiting room. It was an old lady who was standing up at the counter, sliding over a credit card. Her back was to Will, but her dog was staring straight at him. A loose collar hung around the neck of a Great Dane with black fur and pointed ears. The dog cocked its head at Will, dark eyes suddenly boring into his soul. The dog was reminiscent of what many thought of as a “Hell Hound” with sharp white teeth and the strength of a bear. Will could easily see how someone could be afraid of a dog that showed such prowess, in fact, he was almost waiting for the dog to lung at him and rip out his vocal cords, but the dog never did. Nor would he ever. The powerful beast had been tamed. This “Hell Hound” would go home with a kind old lady where he would be provided food and a place to sleep. There was no need to rip out the throat of an unassuming bystander. No need at all.

Eventually, the little old lady and the big black dog disappeared out the door, leaving Will to stand awkwardly in the middle of the room.

“You’re Will Graham, right?”

Will looked up and saw the young woman who had spoken. She was sitting behind the counter, blonde hair pulled back neatly and her head resting in her hands. She seemed much too young to be a vet, but the textbook that was sitting beside her indicated she was on her way to becoming one.

“I’m Sarah,” She smiled at him. “I’m new here.”

“Here as in Wolf Trap?” Will raised an eyebrow. He wasn’t in the mood to make conversation with her, but Will was still slightly curious as to why she knew who he was if she had only started working at the vet’s office recently.

Sarah nodded. “I go to school not too far from here and housing is cheap. Moved in about a month ago, started working here last week.”

Will offered a brisk smile and he sat down on one of the couches. It was dark and covered in fur, not unlike the furniture at his house. Although, Will didn’t own any throw pillows that read, Don’t Argue With A Vet- They Know How To Neuter.

“They all talk about you, y’know,” Sarah said.

“Who?”

“The other vets. Especially Dr. List.” Will was suddenly aware that Sarah was chewing a piece of gum; she moved it around in her mouth as she spoke.

“And what is it they say?” Will sighed.

“That you have a lot of dogs,” She shrugged, “And that you work with the FBI. And that you help catch bad guys.”

Will couldn’t help but notice the excessive blinking and the smirk she threw onto the end of her sentence. She was flirting with him- wasn’t she?

“It’s not as enthralling as one may think,” Will countered. He drummed his fingers on the top of his knee.

“I’m sure it’s more exciting than the sort of stuff that happens here.”

“Depends on your definition of excitement.”

Before Sarah could say anything else, they were (thankfully) interrupted by Dr. List, the woman who had greeted Will when he first arrived.

“Mr. Graham,” She greeted, “A shame to see you again so soon.”

Will had been in two weeks prior for the exact same reason.

“Will he be alright?” Will asked, skipping the small talk.

“Yes, yes! You made it here just in time. Dr. Wright started to flush Buster’s stomach and I’ll go back there in just a moment to determine if surgery is necessary. Do you know how much ivy he ate?”

“Uh, I’m not sure,” Will stammered, “He had already eaten some by the time I found him.”

Dr. List nodded sharply. “I’ll keep you updated on his condition.”

And updated she kept him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as simple as flushing out his stomach- they needed to induce vomiting and maybe perform an endoscopy. Dr. List had said it wasn’t because of the ivy, but instead because he had eaten what appeared to be a small bone of some sort. After the doctor had mentioned it, Will did recall seeing a large dead bird near the area of ivy when he found Buster. He just never thought that Buster would have actually eaten the bird.

Will was left in the lobby, anxiously waiting for the vets to finish removing the bone that Buster had eaten. Sarah continued to try and make conversation with him, but Dr. List eventually came out and sent her home. They weren’t expecting any more clients anyways. Will leafed through the magazines that were sprawled on a nearby table. He was fully concentrated on reading an article about fishing in mountain rivers when his phone started to vibrate in his pocket. He pulled it out and answered without looking.

“Hello?” Will mumbled, still focused on the bright images of fishing lures in the magazine.

“Will?”

Will’s forehead creased. “Dr. Lecter?”

“You know I have a cancellation policy. I believe I’ve gone over it with you several times.”

“Cancella-” Will paused and glanced up at the clock hanging on the wall, “Shit. I lost track of time, uh, sorry.”

“Is everything alright?” Hannibal asked, concerned. “You seem… distressed.”

Will ran his hand down the side of his face and leaned back into the couch, tossing the magazine to his side.

“Yeah, yeah, fine. Buster got into something he shouldn’t have and I had to rush him to the vets. I’m sorry.”

“You don’t have to apologize for something you did not do. It is not your fault that dogs lack the ability to do what they are told,” Hannibal said. Something about his comment upset Will- it struck a sort of chord in his chest.

“He does what he’s told just fine,” Will snapped back, “But sometimes he likes to experiment. He wants to taste some of the flavors that he smells. Surely you understand.”

“Is that an attempt to make me insecure about the level of work I put into my food?”

“I don’t know, is it?”

Will wasn’t usually so snarky, but he had his reasons. He was stressed and tired, and quite frankly not in the mood to put up with Hannibal Lecter’s holier-than-thou bullshit attitude.

“Don’t be rude, Will.” His voice was low and soft.

“Don’t insult my dogs.”

“I didn’t mean to upset you,” Hannibal said, “I was merely making a statement.”

Will sighed and stared across the empty room. He could envision Hannibal sitting across from him for just a moment. He could picture the dim lighting and the sleek black chairs, maybe even a half-empty wine glass on the table next to him. He would give Will this look that said a thousand things at once and yet he would say none of them aloud.

“Goodnight Dr. Lecter. I’ll see you at my next session.”

“I’m looking forward to it.”

And then Will hung up.


Buster went on to recover fully after the bone-eating incident, but Will never recovered from the comments that Hannibal had made. He couldn’t quite figure out why it bugged it so much. Was it because Will cared for his dogs as if they were his children and someone poking fun at them was poking fun at him? Or was it because Hannibal could have been insinuating Will was a bad owner? Or was it strictly because it had been Hannibal to say those words, and anything out of his mouth threw Will for a loop? It was probably a combination of all of those things, to be honest. Nevertheless, Will was still upset about it and was constantly waiting for a moment to get some sort of revenge on Dr. Lecter. Not long had passed when his moment finally arrived.

“You missed a wonderful dinner last night,” Hannibal said, through the phone. Will could hear the sound of his car door opening and closing.

“Forgive me if I don’t want to spend my time off with my coworkers.”

“I completely understand, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on the reward.”

Will and the team had been swamped for the past couple of days working tirelessly on a murder case that seemed to lead to nowhere. A young couple, slaughtered in their apartment with their heads removed and then sewn onto each other’s body. Even Will was struggling to make progress on this one.

This prompted Hannibal to throw a small dinner party. He thought that everyone on the team deserved to take a break for at least one night and eat something that didn’t come from a vending machine in the break room. Hannibal kept insisting that Will come, but he had to decline. He had been listening to Price and Zeller bicker with each other for the past week and he was sure that if he had to listen to them for a second more his head was going to combust.

“I’ll bring the leftovers later today,” Hannibal said. Will tried to tell him not to bother, but the doctor kept insisting that this food was special. It represented peace of mind or some crap like that. Will couldn’t even remember the name of the dish. It sounded French, though. Or maybe Italian?

“You’ll have to bring something for the dogs, too,” Will told him, “Otherwise they aren’t going to trust you.”

Will knew that his dogs would trust Ted Bundy if he offered to scratch them behind the ear, but Hannibal didn’t. He had very scarcely interacted with Will’s dogs before as he rarely strayed inside of Will’s house. Maybe a few times, but Hannibal always seemed to come by early in the morning when the dogs weren’t very active.

“Of course.”

So later that day, just as promised, Hannibal rolled up to Will’s house in his shiny black Bentley. Will didn’t care much for fancy cars, but it was obvious that Hannibal took great pride in his. Will doubts that he has ever seen so much as a speck of dirt on the machine.

The dogs were barking before Hannibal even got out of the car. Will contemplated letting them out to ambush the unsuspecting therapist, but he ultimately decided against it. He didn’t want to risk Hannibal dropping the food. Will got control of the dogs and opened the door to let Hannibal inside, all of Will’s furry friends sitting patiently in the living room.

“Boeuf Bourguignon,” Hannibal announced, handing a small pot over to Will, “A hearty French stew braised in a red Burgundy.”

Will would be lying if he said he didn’t enjoy Hannibal’s cooking. Sometimes Will found himself watching cooking competition shows late at night and his first thought was always that Hannibal Lecter could beat every single one of them. He wondered what Hannibal would be like in a high-stress culinary environment. Would he still make flawless dishes or would he crack under the watchful eyes of the clock? Unfortunately, Will won’t ever find out as Hannibal wasn’t going on Iron Chef America any time soon.

Will took the pot of soup to the kitchen and placed it in the fridge. When he returned to the living room, Hannibal had pulled a sausage out of the bag he was holding, getting the attention of the pack of dogs sitting nearby.

“For the dogs?” Will asked. He could already see the drool dripping from the corners of several canine mouths.

“For the dogs,” Hannibal confirmed. He broke up the sausage and tossed a chunk to each dog, making sure that everyone got their treat.

Hannibal turned to smile at Will as if saying “See? I can be kind to your pets,” but Will knew the truth, which is why he smiled back. Will Graham knew that whatever Hannibal fed the dogs were going to be one of the most delicious things to come across their taste buds and it was only natural that they were going to want more. The whole pack was going to be glued to Hannibal for however long he was at Will’s house, and Will planned to keep him there long enough for him to notice just how smart a dog can be.

“Can I offer you a drink?” Will asked, already moving back into the kitchen to grab a bottle of wine.

“I don’t think that’s necessary.”

“Please,” Will smiled, returning to the living room and handing a glass to Hannibal, “It’s the least I can offer after you drove all the way out here to bring me leftovers.”

Will filled Hannibal’s glass, red liquid flowing into the cup like a gruesome bloody waterfall. They sat on opposite sides of the living room, wine glasses filled the appropriate amount. Hannibal held the glass under his nose as he inhaled the scent before taking a long, graceful sip of the red liquid. Will was much less theatrical when it came to drinking his wine.

The dogs had gathered around Hannibal’s feet, all staring up at him with wide eyes. He pretended not to notice at first, but when Max placed a paw on Hannibal’s knee it was impossible for him not to say something.

“I don’t have any more sausage,” He told the dogs, sternly. They didn’t move and Hannibal continued. “Begging is considered very rude, you know.”

Will chuckled lightly into his wine glass before taking a sip.

“Something amusing?”

“No, no, not at all.” Will shook his head.

Hannibal glared at him. He could almost be intimidating. Almost. The fact that he was surrounded by numerous fluffy dogs didn’t help his case at all.

“Is this your revenge for what I said that time on the phone?” Hannibal asked.

Will gave the most subtle expression he could. Just barely raising his eyebrows, just barely curling the corner of his mouth into a smile.

“Clever boy,” Hannibal mocked. He acted as if he was speaking to a dog and yet, Will was unoffended. “Knowing that if I fed them they would be begging for the rest of the night.”

“They are clever animals. They wouldn’t be begging if they knew you didn’t have more food in that bag.” Will nodded to the insulted bag that Hannibal had brought inside with him.

“I’m supposed to be making a delivery to a dear friend of mine.”

“I’m sure you can spare one more link.”

Hannibal looked up and they locked eyes, caught in a silent stand-off just waiting for the other to give in. Will sipped his wine, looking overtop the rim of the glass and not once breaking eye contact.

“Fine,” Hannibal huffed, reaching down to retrieve the bag. He removed another sausage link and broke it up again, feeding each of the dogs a piece. They all inhaled their respective piece of sausage, the air suddenly filled the sound of chewing dogs. Barely seconds later they looked back up at Hannibal, the same soundless pleading in their eyes.

“C’mon guys, no begging,” Will instructed. They all turned their heads toward him, probably waiting for him to make Hannibal feed them some more. “Go lay down.”

The dogs hesitantly got up, but once one left the scene the others began to follow. They all headed back to their respective beds, their eyes falling back onto Hannibal Lecter.

“You’ve trained them well,” Hannibal complimented.

“The trick,” Will said, “Is to treat them as intelligent individuals rather than treating them as just dogs.


Will didn’t know what time it was. He didn’t know how much longer until he got home. All he knew was that his head hurt and that he felt pathetic. His head rested against the car window and he appreciated the feel of cool glass on his temple. Will closed his eyes and focused on the hum of the engine rumbling beneath him.

He couldn’t even remember what prompted him to go out and drink. He had plenty of alcohol at home and if he wanted to get drunk he didn’t have to drive into town to do it. Whatever the reason was, it clearly wasn’t important enough to remember. Will knew that when he woke up tomorrow morning he wasn’t going to remember any of this, and he was perfectly fine with that. In fact, he was hoping that he wasn’t going to remember any of this. He would never let himself live it down.

“If you feel sick, let me know so I can pull over.” Hannibal said. His voice echoed in Will’s skull, making it pound even harder.

“‘M not gonna throw up ‘n ruin your in… inter- your seats,” Will slurred. He rarely ever got this drunk. He couldn’t think straight at all, and even though his eyes were closed he still felt like he was seeing double. Will wondered how long it had been since the bartender took away his keys. How long had they been in the car?

Hannibal followed up with a response, but Will couldn’t quite hear him over the sound of rushing blood in his ears. He could feel himself slipping into a state of sleep and he would be an idiot if he tried to fight it.

When Will finally woke again, the car had stopped and Will could see the outline of his house through the darkness. He turned his head slowly, careful not to agitate his headache, but didn’t see Hannibal in the front seat. His attention was pulled in the other direction when his car door popped open.

Hannibal was standing there, reaching across the seat to help Will get out.

“‘M fine,” Will pushed him away. He wasn’t fine at all, but he wasn’t going to let Hannibal help him without putting up some kind of resistance. He was already feeling shitty about himself, and not because of the alcohol but because the first person he thought of calling was Hannibal Lecter. Not Beverly, not Alana, but his fucking psychiatrist.

Hannibal looked at him, just waiting for Will to fumble and prove that he needed help. Will’s fingers kept slipping and he couldn’t quite get the seat belt to come undone, but he kept pushing away Hannibal’s helping hands. He eventually managed to do it and he smiled drunkenly at Hannibal.

“See? I don’t need…” He didn’t finish his sentence.

Will swung his legs around and stood up, exiting the car. He was fully ready to put this whole situation behind them and just go to bed, but then he did something even more embarrassing. He collapsed. And Hannibal caught him.

Hannibal’s body was warm compared to the rest of the night air and Will was quickly aware that he wasn’t wearing a jacket. Had he left the house with one? He couldn’t recall. But now that his face was buried into the thick fabric covering Hannibal’s chest, Will didn’t really want to move away.

“Come on, Will,” Hannibal’s voice was soft, “It’s late.”

“What time issit?” Will finally asked.

“Almost three in the morning.”

“Oh.”

They moved towards the house, Hannibal’s arms supporting Will more than his own legs. They stumbled up the steps and Hannibal began to unlock the front door. It took Will a while to realize that Hannibal was using Will’s keys- he must have gotten them from the bartender before they had left.

Will could hear the dogs barking through the door. He tried to tell them to be quiet but he couldn’t get any words out. When they recognized Will, though, the barking eventually ceased. Hannibal reached over and turned on a dim lamp, which was still too bright for Will. He groaned and shielded his eyes from the light. Hannibal began to help him towards the bed, but Will shoved him off. He could walk around his own damn house by himself. Just to spite Hannibal, Will headed towards the couch. He almost tripped multiple times on the way, but he managed to get himself there all on his own.

“Are you going to be alright?” Hannibal asked, ignoring the watchful eyes of the dogs at his feet.

Will didn’t respond.

“I’m not going to leave unless you confirm that you’re going to be alright.”

Will groaned. He was drunk and any promise or confirmation he made was going to be as loose as his thoughts. But Hannibal still didn’t move. He remained standing in the living room, his thick jacket pulled tightly around his body.

“‘M not fuckin’ alright, Hannibal,” Will spat. He wasn’t sure where the sudden burst of anger came from and wasn’t sure if he had meant to say that he was alright instead of saying he wasn’t, but there was no going back now.

“Well, then I won’t leave. I would advise that you go to bed and get some rest, but you seem adamant about avoiding the bed. If you don’t think that you can take care-”

“That’s not what I meant,” Will said. He could take care of himself just fine and the second Hannibal stepped out the door Will was going to move himself to the bed. He just wanted to act difficult for right now.

“What is it you meant?” Hannibal took a step closer.

Will didn’t answer. He leaned forward and buried his head in his hands, wrapping his fingers around thick strands of dark dark hair.

“‘M sorry for callin’ you,” Will apologized, “It’s late.”

“Never apologize for asking for help. I would much rather miss out on a few hours of sleep than have you get behind the wheel while heavily intoxicated. You could hurt yourself or someone else.”

“I already do plenty of that,” Will mumbled, “Hurtin’ other people. They all expect so much and I just… fuckin’.. I let ‘em down every time.”

Hannibal’s face was overtaken with confusion. He slowly joined Will on the couch, keeping a few inches between them. Will felt that if Hannibal was any closer he would begin to suffocate.

“Will?” Hannibal said, “Will, look at me.”

Will forced his head to come up so he could look over at the man sitting next to him. Will’s eyelids were heavy and Hannibal looked blurry, but Will tried his hardest to maintain some sort of eye contact.

“What has led you to think that you let down those around you?”

Will shook his head. There were too many things, too many instances that his brain overanalyzed.

“Is that why you went out drinking?”

Will shrugged. “I don’t… I don’t remem-em-ber why I went out.”

Hannibal almost smiled at Will’s stutter. He seemed amused.

“That’s alright. You’re back home now,” Hannibal placed a hand lightly on Will’s back. He could feel it burning right through the thin shirt he was wearing, like Hannibal’s skin was touching his skin.

“You should get some sleep.”

Sleep sounded very good to Will right about now. It sounded so good, in fact, that every ounce of his remaining strength faded from his body. There was no way he was going to be able to move over to the bed. He couldn’t manage to keep himself sitting up either and he melted, not really caring where he was going to end up. His head lolled to the side and onto Hannibal’s shoulder. It was comfortable, but Will credits that to the padded jacket he was wearing and the exhaustion he was feeling.

Hannibal seemed shocked at first, but he never protested. He rested his arm on the back of the couch, allowing Will more space to get comfortable. Will adjusted himself, not fully aware that he was nuzzling into his psychiatrist.

He glanced down at Hannibal’s legs and noticed several white hairs covering his dark pants.

“You have dog fur on your clothes,” Will’s tongue felt heavy in his mouth. Without thinking he began to pick the hairs off and toss them to the floor.

“You have dog fur on your couch,” Hannibal argued with a smile.

“And on the dogs,” Will noted. Max was currently leaning on the side of Hannibal’s leg, along with several other of the dogs who were sniffing at his feet. It was impossible to come into Will’s house without getting covered in dog hair.

“I’ll have to wash these clothes when I get home today.”

“You could always use a… y’know…. A lint roller.” Will laughed at the thought of Hannibal Lecter using a lint roller. Excessively rolling the device over every inch of his body (and given that he was somewhere around six feet tall, that would take him ages).

“I think dry cleaning is a much more suitable option.”

They were silent for a moment and at some point, Hannibal’s arm had come off of the couch and wrapped itself around Will’s shoulders. He hadn’t noticed this until they had stopped talking. Part of him really liked the idea of Hannibal wrapping himself around Will, shielding him from the outside world. But another part of him was unsure about this. The line between patient and friend had been growing blurry for so long, Will had to wonder when it was going to all blend together completely. Not wanting to dwell on it for too long, he forced himself to speak again.

“They really like you, y’know.”

“Dogs are inherently friendly animals. They take a liking to most people.”

Will shook his head, his cheek rubbing against the fabric of Hannibal’s jacket. He eyed the dogs, who were all sitting around Hannibal’s feet.

“Not like this. They us’ly just run off after a while. Not with you, though…” Will’s words were growing slower by the minute. He was going to end up falling asleep soon whether he wanted to or not.

“I suppose I should feel honored.”

“S’pose so.”

Will didn’t have a clear understanding of the events that followed. He was trying so hard to stay awake (why? He wasn’t sure) but he couldn’t help slipping under a few times. Hannibal eventually helped him over to his bed, where he promptly fell down on top of the covers. He didn’t even bother to adjust himself. Will suddenly felt Hannibal’s hands on his ankles as he pulled off Will’s shoes, placing them on the floor.

“Thanks for pickin’ me up,” Will said, his voice muffled by the blankets he was facing down into.

“My pleasure. Good night, Will.”

Will forced himself to turn and look at Hannibal as he left. Will watched him through the window as he stood on the porch, obsessively brushing his hands over his clothes as he tried to sweep away all of the dog hair that he had collected.


Will Graham was not having a good night, to put things lightly. Recently his headaches had been getting worse and could feel his body breaking, just on the verge of crumbling down completely. He would be okay with that; ceasing to exist and becoming a pile of dust waiting to be blown away and scattered by the wind.

But until that day came, he was going to have to suffer. Suffer through vivid hallucinations and nightmares that made him sweat so much he was concerned he was going to drown. Most of the time he was able to keep these sorts of things under control. He would remind himself that what he was seeing simply wasn’t real. He’d toss back some pills and then carry on with his day. Not this time, though. This time when Will saw the ghost of a man he murdered crouching in the corner of his living room, he drew his gun. Garret Jacob Hobbs was already riddled with bullet wounds so Will figured hey, what’s a few more?

Will had pulled the trigger until the gun was empty. Each bullet came out of his gun and launched itself across the room, going straight through the man he was aiming at. Garret Jacob Hobbs bounced around the area, flickering into new spaces as if he was a faulty hologram. Will continued to fire at him. The bullets never once hit their target.

It wasn’t until the gun stopped firing that Will realized what he was doing. The dogs were all barking at him loudly- he could hear it just over the ringing in his ears. He spun around, searching for the man he had been aiming at, but he wasn’t there. No one was. The bullets had lodged themselves all over the room, though. Will had shattered a window, glass shards covering the living room floor. He could count at least three holes in the wall that definitely had not been there before. He seemed to have shot at the floor at least once, and there was glass from a broken lightbulb as well. It was a mess.

Will dropped the empty gun and kicked it as far away as he could. His chest rose and fell quickly as he struggled to breathe. He stumbled backward until he hit the bed, where he tripped back and fell onto the mattress, staring out at the mess he had just created.

He was lucky he hadn’t shot one of the dogs.

They were all whining and cowering beneath various pieces of furniture. Will doesn’t blame them, either. If a lunatic started waving a gun around and firing at a man that wasn’t there he too would make a dive under the nearest table.

“I’m sorry,” He breathed out. His voice was shaking.

Winston was the only one who showed any sort of response. He trotted up and nudged Will’s leg with his nose, whining quietly. Will bent down to scratch his head, trying to be comforting but his shaking hands sort of ruined the effect. Winston moved away from Will’s leg and began to paw at the pocket of his pants. Will, confused, pulled out the contents of the pocket. It was his cell phone.

“What is it?” Will chuckled lightly, holding the phone out for Winston to sniff.

Winston nudged the phone and the screen lit up, showing the few notifications that had accumulated. The only one that Will paid attention to, though, was the one that said (1) Missed Call - Dr. Lecter. Will squinted his eyes and cocked his head, Winston quickly mirroring him after.

“Are you… are you telling me to call Dr. Lecter?” He asked, unsure.

Winston didn’t say anything. He only looked up at Will with big, brown eyes. His tail began to wag and Will couldn’t help but smile gently. At least one of them was already able to move on after the gun incident.

“Ah, what the hell,” He muttered. Will tapped on the phone screen and hit the Call Back button under the notification. The phone began to ring.

“Hello, Will,” Hannibal greeted. “How are you?”

“Uh, just fine.” His eyes strayed to the shattered window. “You called?”

“Did I?” Hannibal sounded surprised, “I didn’t mean to.”

“Oh.”

“Sorry for being the cause for concern. Is there anything you’d like to talk about now that we’re speaking?” Will knew that if they were talking face to face right now, Hannibal would be smiling. He seemed to smile at everything Will said these days. It wasn’t a bright, cartoonish smile but instead a subtle and appreciative one.

He was tempted to just hang up the phone and pretend like everything was normal, but Winston was staring up at him and even though dogs couldn’t talk, it was pretty obvious what he was saying.

“Will?” Hannibal pressed after a noticeable amount of time had passed.

“I tried to shoot Garret Jacob Hobbs,” Will scratched the back of his neck.

“When?”

“Just now.”

“You were hallucinating.” Hannibal might have intended for that to be a question, but he said it as if it were a statement. “What happened?”

“I fired my gun at him,” Will’s voice turned shaky. He could feel the anger and the fear begin to boil inside him again, waiting for another chance to be released in a fit of impulsive rage.

“What happened to the bullets?”

“They did what bullets do- broke things. The window is shattered, there are holes in my fucking walls-”

“Will,” Hannibal said. He never was one to like foul language, but Will only kept going.

“There are bullets in the floor, in the ceiling too, probably, I mean, I could have shot one of the dogs! One of my own fucking dogs, whom I rescue because I thought I could provide a safe home for them and I could have shot them because… Because I’m seeing dead guys in my living room!”

“Will-”

“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Will felt lost. He was so sick and tired of feeling lost. He felt like he was suspended in the middle of space; all by himself as he floated around in the never ending universe. There was no ground to hold onto, no walls to lean against. It wasn’t a very pleasant feeling.

“You need to calm down, firstly,” Hannibal told him, “This step is very crucial- your brain is currently overloaded with emotions. I need you to try and control them.”

In a normal circumstance, if someone told Will Graham to calm down he would immediately find himself doing the exact opposite. He would find himself enraged even more than he had been before he had been told to “calm down”. Although, for some reason, this situation didn’t present itself as a normal circumstance. There was something in Hannibal’s voice that muted the chaos in Will’s head.

Will didn’t respond, though. He didn’t know how to. He sat on the edge of his bed, his bare feet planted firmly on the floor. He flexed his toes, letting his calloused pads rub against the rug.

“Have you calmed yourself?”

Will cleared his throat. “I think so.”

Hannibal hummed in approval. Will felt a sort of warmth spread through his chest- he liked to please people.

“You said the window was shattered?” Hannibal continued.

“Y-yeah.”

“You’re going to need to fix it, at least temporarily, for the night. I’m sure you’re aware of how cold it can get.”

Will’s eyes flicked back up towards the large window. It was positioned on the far wall, adjacent to the fireplace. Will knew he was going to have to move some chairs to acquire easy access to it.

“I’ll put up a tarp or something.”

There was another quiet hum of approval that sent a shiver up Will’s spine.

“Good. Now, just keep your mind occupied until I arrive. Focus on that tarp.”

Will’s face contorted in shock. “What?”

“You didn’t think I was going to hang up the phone and leave you to fend for yourself, did you?” Hannibal sounded truly surprised.

The thought hadn’t really crossed Will’s mind. He had been expecting Hannibal to simply tell Will that he needed to go to bed and that they would see each other at their next session. Although, in retrospect, Will knew better than to assume Hannibal would take this scenario so lightly.

“You don’t need to drive through the night to come see me.”

“Well, of course I do,” Will could hear the sound of a door creaking behind Hannibal’s voice, “I care about you, Will.”

Will knew that Hannibal cared for him, but he just didn’t quite understand why. Jack Crawford cared about Will because he was useful, because he was beneficial to the FBI. Surely Hannibal had an ulterior motive besides just wanting to be friends.

“But-”

“Protesting is only going to tire you out. I’ll see you around nine,” There was the sound of a car door slamming shut, and then the call ended.

Will tossed his phone haphazardly to the side and he watched it bounce across the mattress. He turned to face Winston, who was still sitting happily at Will’s feet.

“What have you done?” He muttered. Winston, who didn’t know any better, just smiled and wagged his tail.

By the time the headlights of Hannibal’s Bentley shone through the windows of Will’s house, he had managed to not only duct tape a bright blue tarp to the wall to cover the shattered window and clean up all the glass, but he also had straightened out all the furniture and picked up the dogs’ toys. Will was curious as to where his sudden burst of motivation came from, and he refused to believe it was because he wanted to tidy up for Hannibal. He told himself it was because he wanted to prove that he was okay even after the hallucinations.

Hannibal knocked lightly. Will was positive that Hannibal was able to see Will standing on just the other side of the door, but it was no surprise that he decided to be courteous. The dogs all picked their heads up at the sound of a visitor.

Hannibal was dressed in a suit and a long jacket. Surely he would have been back at home and in something more comfortable by now, and Will felt a strong twang of guilt.

“You really shouldn’t have come,” Will said as Hannibal began to survey the room, “I’m fine.”

Will most certainly wasn’t fine, but he thought that if he could convince everyone else then he would be able to convince himself.

Hannibal, however, ignored his comment and instead gestured to the tarp on the wall.

“I’m glad to see you covered up that window,” He paused briefly, “How are the dogs?”

“They’re fine.”

“And how are you?”

“I’m fine.”

Hannibal walked up to one of the walls near the broken window. He managed to pull out a small, golden bullet that had lodged itself in the drywall not too long before. He held it up for Will to see as if saying, you call this fine?

Will turned away and Hannibal placed the bullet down on a nearby table.

“Have you seen him again today?”

Will shook his head. “Everything has been normal today. Well, except for… y’know… that.

It was the truth. Usually, Will can feel himself getting closer and closer to his breaking point. The best way to understand the feeling is to picture yourself on a rollercoaster that is fresh out of the station. The carts are slowly being pulled up the first hill, on their way towards the big initial drop. The passengers can all hear the click, click, click, of the carts on the track and they can feel themselves tilting backwards while being pulled up to the sky. In a way it was similar to that, but then again in another way it was completely different. Although, for metaphor’s sake, Will hadn’t even been aware he was at the amusement park today, let alone at the top of a rollercoaster.

“What about your headaches?” Hannibal asked.

Will shrugged, “Fine. Nothing out of the ordinary.”

“Did you sleep enough last night?”

Will shrugged again, “Yeah, I guess.”

“And what about-”

“Damnit, Hannibal!” Will suddenly snapped, once again finding himself at the climax of a rollercoaster he didn’t board, “I told you that I’m fine. I’m not a baby, alright? It was just a fluke.”

Hannibal seemed unbothered by Will’s outburst and instead asked, “Where is your gun?”

Will, still frustrated, kept his answer short and vicious, “Under the couch.”

Hannibal spotted the black handle sticking out from underneath Will's worn-out sofa. He bent down to retrieve it, immediately releasing the magazine to inspect it.

“Empty,” Hanibal sighed, “You emptied an entire magazine shooting at someone who is no longer alive.”

Will could feel his throat begin to burn. “He’s alive to me.”

“Do you see him often?”

“And so many others.” Will’s dreams were riddled with faceless murderers, mutilated victims, and dirty crime scenes. He could feel that Hannibal was formulating a response, but Will had another question weighing heavily on his tongue.

“Why am I like this?”

Hannibal smiled warmly. “That’s a question only our creator can answer.”

Will, once again, found his way back to take a seat on the edge of his bed. “Like God?”

“If that’s what you believe.”

Will leaned back and planted his hands behind him. He looked up at the ceiling of his little house, pretending for just a moment that he could see right through it and out into the night.

“I think I’d like to talk to God,” He said.

Hannibal raised an eyebrow and he took on a sort of curious tone. “One can only do that through prayers or death.”

“Both ends of the spectrum.”

“Which end of the spectrum do you plan to fall victim to?”

Will snapped his gaze over to Hannibal and subtly rolled his eyes.

“I’m not going to kill myself if that’s what you’re worried about.” Did Hannibal worry about that? Did he believe that Will was so unstable in this life that he would search for peace and stability in another?

“I wouldn’t dare to think about that.”

He watched Hannibal with such intensity that the room began to blur. The darkness that crept in the corners of the room began to take shape, melding together as if they had been one life form all along. The life form that the darkness shaped itself into was a dark stag that stood almost as tall as the room itself. Its antlers scraped along the ceiling and it made its way over to where Hannibal was standing, huffing through its large nostrils.

“Do you know what it’s like?” Will whispered, his voice beginning to break and crack, “To not be able to trust your own eyes? Your ears? Your own damn mind?”

The stag shook its head in disappointment and it pawed at the floorboards. The creature had bent its head in such a manner that its branch-like antlers appeared to be coming out of the side of Hannibal Lecter’s head rather than the stag’s.

“There have been instances,” Hannibal said. Suddenly the stag disappeared and the corners of the room fell dark once again. Will looked at Hannibal with curiosity.

“And what did you do?”

“I wanted to be left alone. I wanted to figure things out on my own,” His answer didn’t come as a surprise to Will. Leave it to Hannibal to rely purely on his own mind for answers. “Do you want to be left alone, Will?”

The question caught him off guard and he tilted his head, not unlike the way his dogs often do. He had never really thought about it before; being alone vs with someone else. He usually didn’t get the luxury of choosing to be alone. That was just simply how things most often played out.

“Hmm?” Hannibal pressed.

But then he did think about it. He thought about how having someone there to ground him would be good. His dogs could only do so much and while their barking could often snap him out of whatever nightmarish hellscape he was trapped in, sometimes he needed someone with opposable thumbs to actually rip the gun out of his hands.

“No, I don’t,” Will responded.

“Then you don’t have to be.”

Will turned away, not being able to keep eye contact any longer. He didn’t like the direction this conversation was going- it felt as if it was becoming a little too…intimate, for lack of a better word.

“I think I’m going to go to bed,” Will announced. He just wanted this to be over. Even though he knew he wasn’t going to find peace in his dreams, he was still eager to not let the conversation go any further.

“Would you like me to stay?”

Will froze where he was, his back still partially turned towards Hannibal and the rest of the room. He tried to focus on the dim wall behind his bed.

“I… I don’t know.”

“Just say the word and I’ll stay, but if you want to be alone- as I so often did- that is alright too.”

Surely this was overstepping some sort of patient and doctor boundaries, but Will assumed that they had gotten rid of those boundaries long ago. Will thought that maybe, just maybe, it would be good to have Hannibal here for a little bit longer. There was a chair right next to Will’s bed, surely Hannibal wouldn’t mind sticking around?

But Will couldn’t do that. He couldn’t just ask Hannibal to stay with him to… to do what, even? Protect him from his own mind? Even though Hannibal had offered, Will just couldn’t ask him to follow through with it.

At least not directly.

“The word.”

Hannibal suppressed a light chuckle and Will found that he wished Hannibal hadn’t. Will doubts that he’s ever heard the man laugh and he suddenly began to question what exactly that would sound like. Would it be carefree and loud? Or controlled and sinister?

There were no more words exchanged for the rest of the night, but that didn’t mean there wasn’t conversation. There were silent agreements, sentences that were exchanged only through glances. Will had never found it so easy to communicate before.

Eventually, Will made himself comfortable in bed and Hannibal was sitting in a nearby chair. He had selected a book off of Will’s shelves (some fictional story about a criminal profiler- Will had never thought that Hannibal would be a fan of fiction, but he had a sneaking suspicion that Hannibal wasn’t going to be paying too much attention to the pages anyhow) and turned off all the lights except for the floor lamp closest to him. Will didn’t mind the light, actually. It was a nice reminder that someone else was in the room.

Will didn’t know what time he fell asleep. He was too busy sneaking glances at the dogs nuzzling Hannibal’s legs to pay attention to what the clock said. He only knew that he had to have fallen asleep because before he knew it he was being jolted awake.

“Will?”

Will buried his face into his pillow and ignored the voice. Maybe it was just the reminisce of a dream and, if ignored for long enough, it would disappear.

“Will?”

Unfortunately, though, the voice sounded very real and Will knew that he was going to have to attend to whatever it wanted at some point. He rolled on his side and cracked his heavy eyes open, his heart quickly accelerating when he saw a figure standing next to his bed.

“What-?! Shit, Hannibal. Right. Sorry,” Everything came flooding back, forcing Will to wake up for good. His mind was still lightly groggy, but at least he could think clearly now. A spike in heart rate will do that to a guy; clear up his mind, that is.

“Your dogs have been barking and whining for the past fifteen minutes,” Hannibal groaned. He sounded like he had just woken up too and, based on the annoyance in his voice, Will can assume that it wasn’t on his own terms.

“What time is it?” Will forced himself to sit up.

“Six-thirty.”

Holy shit. Hannibal had stayed the whole night. Will had asked him to stay, but he didn’t actually expect him to stay until morning! Did he fall asleep in the chair? Did he move to the couch? Will regretted not offering him a spot in the bed. Would Hannibal have even accepted that? Would Will have been comfortable with that?

He missed the opportunity to find out.

“That’s why,” Will said, grumbling, “They probably want their breakfast.”

At the mention of food, several of the dogs popped their heads up. One of them, Will was pretty sure it was Zoe, let out an excited yelp.

Will began to get out of bed but Hannibal stopped him with a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“I’m sure they can wait another hour. You should get some more sleep.”

Will would have absolutely no problem falling back asleep right now, but he wasn’t going to submit so easily. He had functioned on less sleep before- he didn’t need to be babied.

“It’s fine- I’m fine,” Will protested, shoving Hannibal’s hand away so he could stand up. Will didn’t realize how cold it was and the spot where Hannibal had previously been touching him felt especially cold. “Their internal clocks are better than mine,” he tried to joke.

Will tugged on the sleeves of his shirt, somehow feeling very exposed in his pants and long sleeve top. He made his way to the kitchen and began to collect all the dog bowls, his hands moving slower than he would have liked.

“They’re demanding, aren’t they?” Hannibal asked, leaning in the doorway. He was still dressed in his suit, although he had shed the jacket and the vest.

“They’re just hungry,” Will was still exhausted and had absolutely no patience this early in the day.

“If you just-”

Will spun around, a dog bowl in his hand, and took a step towards Hannibal without allowing him to finish whatever passive aggressive comment he was about to make.

“Quite frankly, Dr. Lecter, I don’t give a damn what you think about my dogs. If you dislike them, then please, feel free to leave,” Will didn’t mean to sound so sharp, so he tried to lighten up his statement a little, although he only ended up insulting Hannibal more. “If you do insist on sticking around some more, I must ask that you hate my dogs silently and that you stop being such an ass about it.”

Hannibal definitely seemed put-off by the comment, but he looked much less offended than Will would have assumed. Maybe Hannibal knew that part of the snarkiness was due to the early time of day.

“I don’t have anything personal against your dogs,” Hannibal sighed, “I was simply making an observation; you never seem to stop working. You never allow time for yourself.”

“I stop working and people die,” Will said as he poured food into the several bowls he had lined up on the countertop. He knew that Hannibal was grimacing at the mere thought of dog bowls on the counter, but Will couldn’t care less. “Or, in this case, my dogs starve to death.”

Will stacked the dog bowls in his arms and moved across the kitchen. Usually, he would sit outside and drink a cup of coffee while his dogs ate, but he didn’t see that happening this morning. Both because of the low temperature and the fact that Hannibal had already put him in a pissy mood.

Hannibal took an exaggerated step to the side to let the dogs into the kitchen as Will called out to them.

“I’ll leave you in peace to get ready,” Hannibal said, finally reading the room, “But before I go I want to give you a homework assignment to complete before our next session.”

“Homework assignment?” Will scoffed. He began to put away all of the dog food, “Am I back in grade school?”

Hannibal smirked, seemingly delighted. “Not at all. Grade school would tell you to sacrifice your sleep and mental well-being in order to keep up with their flawed and skewed curriculum they refer to as an education system.”

“And what is it you’re going to tell me, then?”

“To take a break.”

Will leaned against the drab counter that he had just been preparing the dogs’ food on. “Excuse me?”

Hannibal’s eyes landed on the dogs for a brief moment. “Even the most loving mother needs a vacation away from her children.”

“Is that all I am? An overbearing mother to my pack of children?” Will laughed.

“You are so much more than that, Will, but I am afraid you have convinced yourself that that is all you are,” Hannibal’s voice went unexplainably soft, “I recommend you get a hotel room for a night. Arrange for someone to feed the dogs. Call into work sick.”

It sounded tempting, but Will knew better.

“I can’t do that.”

“Why? You aren’t working any big cases right now, you deserve a day off. I’ll pay for the hotel room. I’ll pay someone to watch your dogs so that they have someone to cater to their many needs.”

Ignoring the offhand comment about his dogs, Will was intrigued by the offer. He would feel bad about accepting Hannibal’s proposal to pay for everything, but not because of the price (Hannibal had more money than Will could even begin to comprehend) but because he didn’t feel good enough to accept the offer. He didn’t feel… worthy.

“I can’t decline, can I?” Will murmured.

“Doctor’s orders, I’m afraid,” Now it seemed that Hannibal was the one trying to crack jokes.

“But Dr. Lecter,” Will purred, “I thought you said that I wasn’t your patient.”

“You aren’t a patient, but I am still a doctor. A doctor who can see that you need to take a break,” It seems that Will’s playful banter did nothing in an attempt to move Hannibal away from the conversation, “And I am also a friend who sees that you are struggling.”

Will had to turn away again. He had been finding it more and more difficult to face Hannibal lately.

“Okay,” Will agreed, just barely above a whisper. He didn’t need to see Hannibal’s face to know that he would be smiling with pleasure.

“If you come to our next session with proof that you followed my orders, I’ll happily reimburse you,” Hannibal took a moment to think, “No, actually, take this.”

Hannibal reached his hand into his coat pocket and pulled out a sleek wallet. He flipped it open and removed a shiny credit card, handing it over to Will. Will looked at the card, then back at Hannibal, then back at the card, and once again at Hannibal.

“It’s just a credit card, Will. It doesn’t bite.”

In most circumstances, when someone offers money, it is because they assume the recipient cannot afford the price in question. Some people might be offended by this fact and yet, for some reason, Will didn’t feel that way at all. He knew that Hannibal wasn’t offering him money in pity, but instead in compensation for forcing him to do something he didn’t want to do.

Will lifted a shaky hand and plucked the card out of Hannibal’s grasp.

“Find yourself a half-decent hotel to stay at,” Hannibal smiled, “No matter the price.”

Will nodded slowly.

“I do hope that you won’t run off with all my money.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Will muttered. He ran his thumb over the raised lettering on the card. Hannibal Lecter.

“Well, then, I hope to see you at our next session fully rested and rejuvenated,” Hannibal said, “And with my credit card, of course.”

Will snapped out of his little trance and looked up at Hannibal, who had already begun to move towards the front door.

“But our next session is in three days,” Will said. It was short notice for a hotel room and to get someone to watch the dogs and to deal with work and-

“That it is,” Hannibal slipped his jacket on, “Have a good day, Will.”

“Yeah, okay, you too.”

Hannibal headed out the door, leaving Will alone in his kitchen to trace his fingers over the edges of a stainless steel credit card.


Will wasn’t going to lie; he had been feeling better after taking a day off. It wasn’t like a night at a mediocre hotel with room service was going to magically cure every problem in Will’s life, but he was feeling about 10% better. Hannibal suggested that Will should try and find the time to take a real vacation, maybe find a quaint river lodge in a neighboring state and take a week off to relax and while Will was sure it would help him, he just didn’t think it would work out right now. Thankfully Hannibal hadn’t forced him to take a week off work, but he definitely planted the seed in his mind. Jack would definitely throw a fit if Will tried to take that much time off, but he would cross that bridge if he ever managed to get to it.

Despite the fact that Will had probably slept for twelve hours straight in that hotel room, he had still felt tired the next day. And the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that. He was always tired, it felt like, always counting down the hours until he shed himself of his work clothes and crawled onto his thin mattress with his dull comforter and worn out pillow. While it was nothing compared to some of the other sleeping arrangements he could have, after a long day it was all that was required.

The thing about being tired, at least when it concerns Will Graham, is that patience is worn thin. He can’t think straight and finds that every little inconvenience sparks frustration. So the combination of Will crawling around his hands and knees at half past ten at night with Hannibal Lecter yapping into the phone is an absolute recipe for disaster.

“I don’t understand why your shoes would even be at my house in the first place,” Will grumbled. He poked his head under the nearest table in search of Hannibal’s so-called missing shoes.

“Haven’t I been over this with you already?”

“Well, yeah, but,” Will sat up, dusting his pants off and leaning back against the base of the sofa, “It still doesn’t make any sense.”

Hannibal sighed on the other end of the call.

“Plus, you’re not even here. What does it matter?” Will said.

Hannibal was currently in Michigan, which was somewhere around 800 miles away from where Will was. He had been invited to speak at some sort of psychiatric convention about the toll social isolation can take on the human mind. It was a week-long convention that had kicked off earlier today, but Hannibal wasn’t due to speak until tomorrow. If Will had been in his shoes he would have gone only on the day he had to speak and then make a quick but swift exit (although, Will can’t be in Hannibal’s shoes if he can’t even find Hannibal’s shoes) but, of course, Hannibal had decided to stay for the whole week. He claimed that he wanted to “catch up with old friends”, which sounded like a living Hell.

“Last week when I brought over that bag with the dinner leftovers,” Hannibal explained, “I think I grabbed the wrong bag from the car and didn’t realize it until I came inside. I believe the shoes were on top and while I was digging through the bag I removed the shoes and placed them down somewhere.”

“I don’t know how hard it is to miss a pair of purple and gold loafers,” Will muttered quietly.

“Would you please just look around?”

“I am looking!” Will was poking around the front door to his house, bending over chairs to peer behind them and checking all around the base of the coat hanger. He checked on his desk and under the bed, but he hadn’t found anything yet.

“Are you sure you didn’t just leave them at your house?” Will said. He scratched the back of his neck and stood in the middle of the room.

“Yes, Will, I am positive. They were in the bag I brought inside your house, I’m sure of it.”

“It’s not like you can wear them tomorrow even if I do find them.”

“It would give me some peace of mind if I knew where they were.”

Will mumbled some microaggressions under his breath as he tried to think of another place to look. He decided to drop to the floor again to see if he had missed something under the furniture when a faint glint caught his eye. He inched his way towards the sofa and spotted something under it, pushed way towards the back, that might have been a shoe.

“Oh, wait, hold on,” Will muttered.

Will shoved his arm under the couch and strained to reach the object, but eventually his fingers grasped onto it and he was able to pull it out from under the couch. While yes, it was Hannibal’s shoe, large chunks had been taken out of it and distinctive teeth marks had been left all around the edges. The gold stitching had been completely disfigured and the purple fabric had been shredded and mauled. The shoe itself was damp and Will didn’t want to hold onto it any longer than he had too.

“Oh fuck.”

“Is everything alright?” Hannibal asked.

Will got back on the ground and fished around under the couch, eventually managing to grasp onto the other shoe and pull it to pair with its partner, but it seemed to be in even worse condition with the first one.

“Uhh…” Will groaned.

“Will? What is it?”

Will spoke, hesitantly, “Well, I found your shoes. Or parts of them, at least.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You uh, you should beg a little harder because I really do not want to tell you this.” Will looked at the pair of torn shoes on the floor. Even though Hannibal wasn’t here, he could envision perfectly how the doctor would react if he saw the mess.

“Cone on Will, out with it!” Hannibal said, frustrated.

“Well I uh, I found your shoes under the couch,” Will explained, “But it seems like the dogs got to them.”

“Oh…?” Hannibal sounded concerned and worried. As he should be.

“Yeah, the damage is… it’s just not a pretty scene.”

It could almost be considered a crime scene and Will let his mind wander to the darkest depths of his imagination. The sole of the shoe was thick, but that didn’t stop the dogs from tearing it apart. The flesh and organs, so to speak, were completely mutilated. If it had been a pair of bodies instead of a pair of shoes, Will would argue that it was a crime of passion.

“Exactly how bad is it?

“I am currently looking at two halves of two different shoes.”

“Will!” Hannibal snapped.

Will felt bad- he really did. Hannibal’s shoes probably cost more than Will’s car (even after being destroyed). But there was nothing he could do about it now.

“I don’t really know what to say,” Will said, quietly, “Sorry?”

“Those shoes were custom made,” Hannibal didn’t sound pissed off (as he should be) but instead sounded like he was trying to relive the past.

“You get custom-made loafers?” Will scoffed. He paused for a moment before backtracking on his statement of surprise, “Of course you do. I don’t know why I questioned that.”

Hannibal sat quietly on the other end of the line. Will didn’t know why he wasn’t lashing out or raising his voice, after all, isn’t that what people do when they’re upset? Or was Hannibal just… not bothered by this unfortunate situation?

“I really am sorry,” Will followed up, “I don’t know why they did this. They’ve never had a problem with chewing before.”

Will’s first instinct was to defend the dogs. In any given situation one should never blame the animal. Will’s dogs were all well-trained and well-behaved and not once had they chewed on anything other than their toys. Of course, there had been a few slip-ups here and there, but no one was perfect. Even humans messed up sometimes.

“You have seven dogs and you’ve never had an issue with chewing?” Hannibal didn’t believe him.

“No- never! This is really unexpected.”

Before Will could ramble into another apology he was interrupted by the sound of scratching at the door. He turned to see Winston pawing at the space where the door meets the wall and nudging at it with his nose like he was trying to get it open.

“Damnit, not again,” Will grumbled. It seemed that every hour Winston was begging and whining to be let outside. He looked up at Will and gave a small yip.

“What is it?” Hannibal asked.

“It’s Winston; he won’t stop scratching the door.”

“Have you tried letting him out?”

“Haha, Hannibal, very funny,” Will rolled his eyes and he just knew that if Hannibal were here he would be flashing a very smug grin, “Everytime I let him out he just sits in the driveway.”

“That’s very strange indeed.”

Will, despite knowing that Winston wanted to go outside just for the sake of going outside, decided to open the door for him anyway. As soon as Will opened the door, Winston bolted outside and down the porch steps. Will grabbed the almost empty glass of whiskey that he had been nursing before Hannibal had called and joined Winston outside. By the time Will had flipped on the outdoor lights Winston had already trotted down into the driveway and taken a seat. Winston kept glancing back and Will, curious to see what his dog was up to, walked to the edge of the porch. He saw that Winston wasn’t sitting in some random location but instead he was sitting in a set of tire tracks that had left a divot in the gravel.

Except they weren’t Will’s tire tracks.

Upon the realization, Will couldn’t help but laugh.

“What is it you find so humorous?” Hannibal asked. Will had almost forgotten about the phone pressed to his ear.

“I think I know why the dogs ate your shoes.”

“Do they really have to have a reason?” Will could hear the eyebrow raise, “I assumed they just liked to chew on things for fun.”

“No, no,” Will chuckled lightly, “They chewed on your shoes because uh… because I think they miss you.”

“Miss me?”

“Miss your food, at least,” Will mumbled. Hannibal didn’t pay much attention to the dogs except the bare minimum, so he figured there had to be some explanation for why they would miss him.

“How exactly did you reach this conclusion?”

Will took a seat on the wooden chair on his porch. The door was cracked open and one or two other dogs eventually poked their heads out to come join him outside.

“Everytime I let Winston out he sits in the tire tracks you left the last time you came by. He just waits in the driveway like he’s expecting someone to show up,” Will explained, “And some of them haven’t been eating as much and then there’s the chewing of the shoes- dogs do that when they get anxious or lonely.”

“They devour someone’s possessions in order to be closer to them.”

Will nodded his head in agreement, “Yeah. Pretty much.”

“I wasn’t aware I was so loved by your canine counterparts.”

Will rocked back in his chair and watched his dogs trot around the front yard. He knew they weren’t going to run off and, therefore, didn’t feel the need to monitor them closely. He took a sip from the glass in his hand. It was his second one that evening.

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Will scoffed, “They just miss that meat you bring from your butcher.”

“It seems I’ve elevated their pallets.”

“I’m not going to be able to keep up,” Will laughed. He knew that whatever Hannibal brought over was expensive and hand-selected. There would be no way his bank account could fund such a rich taste. Will cursed Hanibal in his head for getting his dogs hooked on something so luxurious. “You’ll have to come over when you get back.”

“For the dogs?”

Will paused. Why did Hannibal sound so unsure about that?

“...Why else?” Will questioned.

“I don’t mean to impose, but this is our third phone call. I admit I was the one who called this time, you’ve called me twice in two days.”

Oh shit. Will hadn't even realized. It had been a while since Hannibal had last made a stop at Will’s house (which is probably why the dogs were missing him) but Hannibal had only been out of town for two days. It was just such a natural feeling; to have a free moment and call Hannibal to discuss FBI cases or similar things.

“I.. I didn’t realize,” Will stuttered, “Sorry.” He feared that he was coming off as clingy or that Hannibal would get the idea that Will was lonely. Sure, Will was lacking in the friends department, but that didn’t necessarily mean that he was lonely. He had survived plenty long on his own. He didn’t need to start being clingy now.

“It’s no problem, really,” Hannibal reassured, “How are things at work?”

Will took notice of how quickly Hannibal changed the topic of conversation.

“Good, good.”

“Nothing worthy of note?”

Will shook his head and sighed, “No, no. You know I would tell you if something noteworthy happened.”

As soon as the words tumbled off of Will’s tongue, he regretted them. He had just begun to fear that he was becoming too clingy and then he said something as presumptuous as that? Get a grip on yourself, Graham.

There was a lull in the conversation and Will wondered if he had just fucked everything up.

“What about the unnoteworthy things? Would you tell me about those too?”

Will was caught off guard by Hannibal’s comment. It was weirdly intimate and personal, not that Will was bothered by the idea of Hannibal suddenly acting intimate. It was just… jarring. Usually the second someone tries to form a relationship that goes beyond work colleagues, Will shuts off. But not this time. It felt easier talking to Hannibal than anyone else.

“We found a body today,” Will said, bluntly.

“Usually bodies are of note.”

“Not this one. It was a pretty obvious suicide, but it was under mysterious circumstances. Local cops freaked out and called us in,” Will recalled.

“What do these mysterious circumstances refer to?”

“She drowned herself in a river.” Will was suddenly thrown back to the crime scene, which could barely be considered a crime scene, and he could see the woman’s body lying gracefully on the shoreline. Her long, black hair knotted together and covered in sand and debris. Her clothes, torn to shreds by the rocky riverbed.

“Hard to reach the area,” Will continued, “It was quite the hike. There was… there’s a waterfall in the middle of the river. It goes over a really sheer rock face.” Will could remember the sounds of rushing water, “She threw herself off it with a weight tied to her chest. When the cops pulled her out she had a large wound in her chest, so they thought she had been murdered and then dumped.”

“How did she acquire this wound?”

“She got impaled on an old piece of rebar on the way down. The coroner will quickly find that the cause of death is drowning and not stabbing, as some of the genius local cops suggested.”

“You sound irritated,” Hannibal said.

Will was frustrated, not irritated. He almost found it insulting; the way these local cops think they could disrespect a suicide by claiming murder. How they wanted to make it something bigger than it is.

“I don’t know,” Will dragged a hand through his curly hair, “I guess I can’t blame them. They were just some local beat cops who were probably itching for a promotion to work as a homicide detective. They think every case could possibly be their big break.”

“Only seeing the facts that benefit us the most,” Hannibal agreed.

Will wanted to say something else, maybe mention the sort of weight the woman had used or how Will thinks she even got up to the waterfall in the first place, but instead of speaking he let out a yawn.

“I do apologize for calling so late,” Hannibal said, “I should have known better.”

“It’s alright. I wouldn’t be sleeping anyway.”

“You should be.”

“Too much on my mind to sleep these days,” Will told him. He has crime scenes from work plaguing his mind every second of the day. He has nightmares and visions. In between maintaining his sanity, solving crimes, and taking care of his dogs there really wasn’t much time for sleeping.

“Care to share?”

“Not tonight,” Will declined, “What about you? Shouldn’t you be asleep? Prepping for your big conference tomorrow?”

“You and I are in the same boat floating down a river of no return.”

“Too much on your mind to sleep, then?”

“In a way.”

Will tried to think of what could be consuming the mind of Hannibal Lecter. The man seemed to be unaffected by everything- even the most gruesome crimes didn’t infiltrate his psyche. Will was going to just give up the conversation when he put himself into Hannibal’s shoes and thought of one potential reason to not be asleep.

“You’re not nervous… are you, Dr. Lecter?” The corners of Will’s mouth curled into a small smile.

“Not at all.”

“No way,” Will refused to believe it, “You’re totally nervous. Speaking in front of a thousand people, having them question and judge everything you say. Nitpicking your words to try and find something to call you out on. Hell, I’d be nervous too. I’m nervous for you.” Will couldn’t imagine the sort of pressure a convention like that would put on someone. Will knew that Hannibal was smart, but still. He was human, after all. That thought pleased Will. He was glad that Hannibal Lecter wasn’t entirely void of emotions.

“I usually have no problem with this sort of affair,” Hannibal reassured, “In fact I look forward to these events. However…”

“However…?”

“I’ve received word that one of my old mentors is going to be there.”

“Ah,” Will could relate to that sort of fear, “Afraid you’ll slip up and make a fool of yourself in front of someone who holds power over you. I get the same way when someone from the board comes to observe my class.”

“Does that happen often?”

“Once or twice a year, I think. It’s mandatory for all the teachers.” Will hated observation days. Some big shot with the power to fire him coming in to judge the way he teaches his students. Almost all of his students pass the exam and Will assumed that that would be adequate enough to prove that he was a good teacher, but apparently the higher-ups think otherwise.

“And how do you prepare for when that happens?”

Will had to pick his jaw up from off the floor, “Are you, Hannibal Lecter, asking me, Will Graham, for advice?”

“I’m simply carrying on the conversation,” He defended.

Will chuckled lightly. Usually it was the other way around; Will going to Hannibal for help. Whether it be for a case or something a little more personal, Hannibal was most often the advice-giver in their strange relationship.

“I just double-check my lesson plans, try not to overthink it, and then pretend like there’s no one unusual in the room.”

“How does that work out?”

“Fine. I get worked up and stressed out and yet I always pass whatever it is they’re testing me on.” Most of the nervousness for these sorts of things was just because of Will’s overactive imagination.

“There is no surprise there. You are a fantastic teacher, Will.”

“Says the one who is about to lecture a hall full of renowned doctors and psychiatrists about fuck-all,” Then, remembering that Hannibal isn’t a fan of cursing, “Shit- wait, shit, sorry.”

“Your tongue often becomes loose when drinking,” Hannibal noted.

Will stared down at the empty whiskey glass in his hand and rolled his eyes, “Usually I don’t have to worry about keeping my tongue in check this late at night.”

“I should have known better.”

There was another period of silence. Will had a love-hate relationship with silence. On one hand, silence was wonderful. You could bask in it and thrive in it. Your mind could blossom without any distractions. You are only your true self in the silence. No influence from others.

But then, on the other hand, silence was destructive. Silence broke apart families and friends. The silence provided answers to questions that no one wanted to ask. Silence was a time where there was no one to protect you from your thoughts. There was no wall or buffer. You were left completely alone.

But in that moment, in that particular silence where the only noise was the faint crackle of nightlife and the buzzing of the cell phone speaker, Will felt neither hate nor love. It wasn’t uncomfortable or pleasant, it just was. And maybe that was the most shocking thing of all because Will Graham always felt something. He felt too many things. But yet, here he was, sitting on his porch with the company of only his dogs and his cell phone and he felt nothing. It felt… natural. Second nature.

“You know you’ll do great tomorrow, right? And the rest of the week too,” Will broke the silence. It wasn’t because he felt uncomfortable, but because he couldn’t keep the thought in any longer, “You’re probably the smartest person at this thing.”

“I appreciate the confidence boost.”

“Anytime.”

Will sighed and leaned back in his chair, the empty glass of whiskey feeling nice in his hands. He glanced past the barrier of his porch and out into the night. One of the best things about living out in the middle of nowhere was the lack of light pollution. The stars glimmered in the darkness and the moon, while clouded over, still lit up the sky.

“I should be going-”

“Stargazing,” Will suddenly blurted out.

“Sorry?”

“Stargazing,” He repeated, “It’s a great stress reliever. When I can’t sleep I’ll come out here and just sit for hours. There is… there is something so calming about knowing how painfully unimportant we all are. How miniscule we are in comparison to the universe. How none of this stuff actually matters.”

“Life is only as grand as you make it out to be.”

Will nodded along and he suddenly wished Hannibal was sitting out there with him, looking up at the stars. He would probably go on to name all of the constellations and in the moment Will would probably find it annoying and would pray to return to the silence but now that he was alone he wished for nothing more than company. Hannibal’s company, no less. They had had a session the day before he left but the thought that he was more than just a drive away made Will’s stomach churn in displeasure. He didn’t know that he could… miss someone like Hannibal Lecter. He had never been put in a situation where he had an opportunity to miss Hannibal. It was unsettling.

“We should probably go to bed,” Will chuckled, “You can’t be falling asleep at the podium tomorrow.”

“I agree. Thank you for finding what was left of my shoes.”

Will had almost forgotten about the original reason for this phone call, “Yeah… sorry about that.”

“I think it’s quite alright.”

“Call me?” Will said. He then quickly raced to clarify what he meant, “Uh, tomorrow. Sometime after your lecture. I want to know how it goes.”

“That won’t be a problem at all,” Hannibal sounded pleased.

“Good, good. Uh, good night, Hannibal.”

“Good night, Will. Sleep well.”


Will was exhausted, to put it lightly. He had been away from home for three days helping Jack Crawford and the rest of the FBI with an especially gnarly murder. Jack had originally thought that maybe it was the Ripper, but Will debunked that theory within fifteen minutes of arriving. There was no artistic aspects to this murder. It was just a horrible, sick murder. A pair of teenage twins, a boy and a girl, both murdered in a basement. Their bodies had been pinned to the walls and decorated with animalistic memorabilia. The girl had fur sewn into parts of her body and the boy had a pair of goat horns attached to his head. Or at least they had been attempted to be attached. The killer couldn’t find a way to keep the horns in place given how heavy they were.

It had taken hours upon hours to collect all of the evidence and gather statements. There was blood everywhere, some of which Will was convinced didn’t belong to the Thorne twins. He was positive they had stumbled upon a gruesome kill room and when the blood tests came back his theory would surely be proven.

But until then, until the blood results came in and the autopsies were done, all Will wanted to do was sleep. He wanted to crawl into a bed that was his own rather than one that belonged to a 3-star hotel. He wanted to see his dogs and just forget about the Thorne murders for as long as his mind would allow. While Will was often visited by murder victims in his sleep, he was counting on the fact that he was so tired he wouldn’t even dream.

Although, when he finally pulled into his driveway at around one in the morning, there was another car already there. It took him a minute to register who it belonged to, but he blamed that on the late time. It was Hannibal’s Bentley.

Will had asked him to feed the dogs while he was away. Will knew that Hannibal wouldn’t exactly be ecstatic about spending time with the dogs, but he had asked anyway knowing that Hannibal was too polite to decline. He usually would ask Alana, but she was visiting family a few states over.

However, Will had just expected Hannibal to come over to feed the dogs. What the hell was he doing here at one in the morning?

Will sleepily stumbled up the driveway, his duffel bag weighing heavily on his shoulder. He made it up to the front door and was actually glad that Hannibal was here because that meant the door was unlocked. Will didn’t think he would have been able to get the key in the doorknob if he had tried.

He wasn’t quite sure what exactly he was expecting but it sure as hell wasn’t this. He swung the door open and found a dimly lit house with all of the lights turned off except for a few lamps. Will was maybe expecting to find Hannibal in a chair or on the couch, but he never in a million years would expect to find Hannibal asleep in Will’s bed.

He was on top of the covers, lying on his side. He was wearing a thick red sweater and a pair of dress pants (one of the most absurd combos Will had ever seen. It was like he had begun to change and then halfway through remembered that he needed to go and tend to Will’s dogs).

But the part that had Will shaken was that Hannibal was sleeping with the dogs. He had one hand buried into the thick fur around Winston’s neck and the rest of the dogs somehow managed to squeeze around him on the small bed. They were all curled up tightly, their bodies pressed close together.

“...Hannibal?” Will said in pure shock. His bag fell from his shoulder and hit the floor with a thud, startling several of the dogs awake. Winston’s head popped up and caused Hannibal’s hand to shift, resulting in him waking up.

“Hmm?” Hannibal murmured. He looked around the room until his tired eyes eventually landed on Will.

Will felt his heart skip a beat. There was something so unnerving about seeing Hannibal in such a vulnerable position. His eyes weren’t fully awake yet and his hair, which was usually kept combed back in perfect manner, had flopped down in front of his face. The oversized sweater, the cuddling with the dogs- it was all so disgustingly normal.

“Hello, Will,” Hannibal greeted, sitting up and causing the dogs to stir. His voice was slow and heavy, “How was the crime scene?”

Will wanted to respond with a concise answer but he just couldn’t get his mouth to cooperate. His brain was malfunctioning. In fact, Will believed that if computers could feel emotions, this is exactly how they would feel when their software received a command they could not compute.

“I apologize for staying so late. I must have drifted off.”

Hannibal had noticed that Will was frozen in place and he must have assumed it was because Will was upset at him for staying so late. He wanted to tell Hannibal that it was no problem, that he didn’t mind Hannibal falling asleep in his bed. But he just couldn’t get over how.. How vulnerable Hannibal looked when he was asleep.

“Will? What is it?” Hannibal scooted to the edge of the bed so he could get closer.

“You… you’re cuddling. With the dogs,” He finally managed to say.

Hannibal looked around at the pack of dogs surrounding him like he hadn’t been aware that they were on the bed.

“So it seems.”

“But you hate my dogs,” Will said.

Hannibal shook his head and ran a hand through his hair, attempting to push it back only for it to fall down into his face again. “I feel no such thing. Your dogs are your dogs- they are still a part of you. I care for you and, therefore, by proxy, I care for them. I’m not exactly a fan of the mess they make, though.”

“You like dogs,” Will tried to clarify.

“Like is a strong word. I doubt I would ever own one but given that I’m in your house and not my own, I have nothing against them.” Hannibal scratched one of the nearby dogs behind the ear just to prove his point.

Will couldn’t believe what he was hearing. All this time he thought that Hannibal was revolted by the dogs and it turns out he was just… indifferent? Was Will making things up? Hannibal had made some aggressive comments about the dogs before, he was sure of it. But the longer Will looked at him, on the bed surrounded by a pack of furry friends, the less he could trust the things he had heard in the past.

It wouldn’t surprise Will if Hannibal had just been pretending to dislike the dogs to maintain his reputation of a high-class emotionless robot. Will was filled with a sense of honor and pride. He didn’t even know if Hannibal had been pretending, but if he was then that meant he was suddenly choosing to let his guard down around Will. Sure, Will had walked in on him sleeping with the dogs, but he could have made plenty of excuses about how the dogs had gotten on the bed after he started sleeping, but he didn’t. He was completely honest.

“Will-”

“Stop talking,” Will said. It was barely above a whisper.

“What?”

“Just… shut up. For ten seconds.”

“Why?”

“Because the more you talk the more I feel like I could kiss you,” Will hadn’t meant to say that, not really.He had never thought about it before, not once, not until this very moment. He had thought up plenty of scenarios where he and Hannibal were intimate with each other, but not in the traditional sense. Will had never wanted to kiss him before.

“Could you?” Hannibal asked, leaning forward, “Would you let yourself do something so… so self-indulgent?”

Will didn’t know.

“What if I told you that I cooked them all dinner and that I sat outside to watch them play? What if I told you that I sat on the sofa and read aloud to all the dogs who had gathered at my feet? Or what if I told you about the hunting dogs I had as a kid? Could you kiss me then?”

That was not the response that Will had been expecting. He was assuming that Hannibal was going to go all therapist on him and begin to ask why Hannibal’s sudden love for animals was making Will realize buried romantic feelings or some bullshit like that.

“I think I could,” Will nodded.

“What if-”

Will couldn’t listen any longer. He couldn’t just stand there and listen to Hannibal taunt him. It was as if a fire had lit under his feet and forced him to move forward or as if someone had come up from behind and pushed him. There are plenty of metaphors that could be used, but Will was certain of one thing; he was almost entirely sure that what he was doing wasn’t in his control. It was more of an instinct.

Will rushed to Hannibal and pressed their lips together, silencing his words with a kiss. Will could feel Hannibal’s hand creep up the back of his neck and pull him closer, trying to close the gap between them. It wasn't exactly an easy configuration and so Will pushed Hannibal back, the dogs scurrying out of the way as the mattress creaked under the weight. Will, unfortunately, needed to break so that he could have a moment to breathe, but even then he didn’t completely pull away.

“What if,” Will began, running a hand through Hannibal’s floppy hair, “You came over and cozied up with my dogs a little more often?”

“I think your dogs would be very pleased.” They were so close together that Will could feel Hannibal’s words on his skin.

“What about me? Don’t you care if I would be pleased?” He joked.

Suddenly Will was being thrown to the side. In a blur of motions, Will’s back was pressed into the mattress and Hannibal was on top of him, smiling warmly.

“Oh, Will, I know you would be pleased.”

Will grinned and yanked Hannibal back in, picking up right where they had left off. While Will was mostly preoccupied with Hannibal’s lips against his own, he was almost positive that he could hear the sound of wagging tails hitting the hardwood floor.