There had been a time when Will had imagined that seeing Hannibal laid low by pain or illness would bring him some pleasure. Suffering would bequeath him with an air of humanity; would help to further equalize them. A reminder that even Hannibal Lecter could be brought down by the mundane aches and pains all mortals shared.
To see it before his own eyes made Will’s gut twist.
Hannibal never complained, but the pain of the bullet wound in his side was excruciating. Will could see it in the fine lines of his face; the way Hannibal’s frown deepened and his eyes squeezed shut every time he moved. It made getting around almost impossible without help.
Every morning, Will helped lift him out of bed and shuffle him to the sofa. In the evenings Will lowered him back to the mattress.
Were it any other situation the embrace would have been intimate; Hannibal’s arms wrapped around Will’s shoulders and his face pressed against the curve of Will’s throat. But there was no room for intimacy in the sickbed, not when the role of caretaker left Will feeling helpless himself.
With a sigh, he settled into bed next to Hannibal and pulled the blankets up.
They could have rode off into a beautiful future. Instead they had limped to an isolated house in the hills of Quebec where they remained, licking their respective wounds.
He watched Hannibal’s chest rise and fall from his side of the bed. There was an invisible line of demarcation down the center of the mattress which Will had never crossed. As much as he ached for the warmth of Hannibal’s side, his worry over the wound had always kept him at bay.
Will reached out into the dark and ran the backs of his fingers over Hannibal’s shoulder. “Hannibal?”
“Yes, Will?” Hannibal murmured, voice thick with sleep.
Hannibal’s eyes fluttered open as he turned his head to peer at Will. “Whatever for? You’re taking wonderful care of me. I’ve never had such a compassionate nurse.”
Will snorted. “You’re only saying that because you’re high as a kite.”
“I’ve never had a high tolerance for opioids,” Hannibal admitted with the kind of soft, easy grin Will had never seen him wear while lucid. “Tell me what you’re apologizing for.”
“For throwing away every opportunity to walk away with you. For this,” Will said, gesturing vaguely at the bedroom. “This isn’t how it was supposed to be.”
With a hand braced on Will’s shoulder for support, Hannibal rolled himself onto his good side so he could face Will. When he winced at the ache in his side, Will winced with him.
“How was it supposed to be?” Hannibal asked.
The beaches of Cuba. The cherry blossoms of Kyoto. Walking hand in hand down the cobblestone streets of Venice. Will had spent the past year imagining all number of lives for them, but none of them had included Hannibal gasping whenever he got to his feet.
“Well, for one, nothing I imagined had me sewing you up in a dirty hotel bathtub,” Will began.
Hannibal chuckled. “You said you wished to change me, and you did. Quite drastically.”
“Maybe more drastically than I’d intended.”
Hannibal reached out in the dark, threading his fingers through Will’s hair. With a gentle tug he pulled Will closer on the pillows, so much so that they had no choice but to share breathing space; their foreheads nearly touching. Will inhaled deeply. His lungs filled with the soft, warm scent of Hannibal.
“You more than anyone must know that empathy is a dangerous tool,” Hannibal said. “It allows us to share one another’s pain so keenly.”
“Your pain doesn’t hurt me. It makes me feel helpless.”
Hannibal licked his lips. Will’s eyes tracked the motion, like a hawk tracks a hare.
“When we embark on a new relationship we take on many roles. Friend, confidant, caretaker. Some of them we are not entirely comfortable with, but none of them are permanent,” Hannibal said softly. “Each ebb and flow, just as our needs do.”
“My body will heal and we’ll leave this place,” Hannibal said. “We’ll go wherever you like, wherever you imagined.”
“Anywhere is an awfully generous offer.”
Hannibal shrugged. “I think I could be happy anywhere so long as you were there by my side.”
“Is that you talking or the drugs?” Will asked, voice unsteady.
Hannibal’s thumb stroked across his cheek, dangerously reminiscent of that evening in the kitchen so long ago. He smiled.
“A bit of both, perhaps. If you were ever considering taking advantage of me, now would seem an opportune time.”
It was meant to be a joke. The atmosphere was too tense for Will to laugh.
Will leaned in, letting the tip of his nose brush against Hannibal’s; the very faintest eskimo kiss. He felt Hannibal inhale sharply. It would be so easy to close the gap, to let their lips touch there in the dark. He could curl into Hannibal’s arms while Hannibal was still so pliant, limbs loose with drowsiness and medication. And yet-
“I don’t want to take advantage of you,” Will whispered. “I want all of you, fully present. Aware.”
Hannibal swallowed hard. “Then that’s what you shall have.”
Will trembled as he forced himself to pull away. Pushing himself up onto his elbow he brushed his lips across Hannibal’s cheek. He could allow himself that much in this moment. He had to allow himself, or else he’d be unable to sleep.
There was room for intimacy, Will thought as he settled back among the pillows, so long as it was between the two of them, wherever they may be.
For Hannibal, watching Will interact with children was as much of an unparalleled delight as it was exquisitely painful. Children loved Will and his endearing awkwardness around them, his willingness to answer any and all questions thrown his way. He was as inquisitive as they were, and they knew it. A strange sort of shared empathy, Hannibal supposes.
He’d spoken of it to Molly, asked her how Will had been with Walter. “Wonderful,” she’d said. “Until he went back to you. No offense.”
“I knew what I was getting into when we married. I knew he was taken, even if he didn’t. Even so, I thought it would be good for Wally, you know, to have a father for as long as possible. We just had to give him up sooner than I expected.”
“I am sorry for your loss,” Hannibal said, and he was.
“I’m sorry for Will’s,” she’d replied, and Hannibal was sorry for that, too.
GUYS, I’m shaking !!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE BRYAN ANSWERED ME AND WHAT HE WROTE ! IT’S UNREAL !!!! OH MY GODDD !!!! ❤❤❤
WE WILL HAVE THEM BACK !!! WE ALL SHOULD KEEP FIGHTING AND WE WILL HAVE OUR WILL AND HANNIBAL BACK !!!!
For who does not have Twitter, that’s what Bryan wrote me 💖😆💖:
@helenagitsis Hugh, Mads and myself are all very interested in returning to the story! Wish us luck in bringing it back! And HAPPY BIRTHDAY!