Will rapped his knuckles on Hannibal’s door, cradling a bottle of wine that was expensive enough to make him cringe when he handed the girl at the fancy liquor store his credit card. He mentally ran through his excuse about why he couldn’t stay for Hannibal’s party. It was a bit elaborate, poor Buster had torn a toenail while chasing foxes in the yard and Will had to get home to ensure the dog hadn’t chewed through the dressing on his paw. He had selected Buster for fake injury since Hannibal expressed a fondness for the pompous little terrier. Hopefully, Hannibal’s soft spot would mean he could make a clean getaway before the other guests began to arrive.
His purpose was simple: Get in, make a good impression on Hannibal and leave. Just a glimpse of the bait, no more. Hannibal wasn’t an easy fish to catch, and Will would have to be careful with his lure. A few minutes, a taste of Will’s regret that he couldn’t spend time with Hannibal — giving the fish some line until the hook sank in — that should be enough to keep Hannibal swimming around him for a bit longer.
When the door opened, Will found the Hannibal in a bit of a tizzy.
Well, tizzy by Hannibal Lecter standards.
Hannibal had opened the door with a slight frown on his face. His hair had yet to be gelled into the perfect coif he preferred and his shirt sleeves were rolled up.
There was a stain on his white apron.
Will couldn’t stop staring at it. Of course, an apron’s purpose was to be stained, but in the weeks the empath had spent visiting Hannibal for impromptu talks that lead to dinner, Will couldn’t remember the garment ever getting soiled. The smudge looked lurid on the pristine fabric, Will wanted to cover it, to shield Hannibal from the world so they wouldn’t see the flaw on his person suit.
“I can’t stay, but I brought-” Will lowered the bottle when Hannibal huffed, his bangs blowing softly over his forehead. “Is everything alright?”
Hannibal’s mouth ticked minutely further down. Will’s eyes widened, for Hannibal that was practically tears.
“It seems my sink has chosen this moment to…” Hannibal waved a hand in the air. “Expire.”
“Expire? How does a sink expire?”
“By attempting to drown me and the catering staff.” Hannibal glowered as if he sink had deliberately attempted to sabotage his party. Will pulled his lips into his mouth and bit down, lest Hannibal see him smile at his sour expression.
“You want me to take a look?”
“I thought you couldn’t stay?” Hannibal looked down, brushing at the stain on his apron. “I’ll call my plumber.”
“An emergency call on a Friday after five? You’ll have to mortgage the house to pay for that,” Will handed Hannibal the bottle, brushing by him before the doctor could protest. “At least let me take a look before you call.”
Will found the kitchen a bit of a disaster. Caterers milled in the doorway to the dining room, wet footprints trailed from the sink around the room. The kitchen bar was filled with half-completed food prep — a pile of vegetables neatly sliced, some sort of pastry dough warming on the marble counter. The heart of the chaos was the sink, filled to the brim with water, little pieces of food, and a cluster bubbles floating around in the eddy the shifting dishes created.
Pushing up the sleeves on his Henley, Will reached into the mire, moving plates to the counter and lowering the water level. When he was finished, the water level had lowered considerably. There were no rattling or pressure sounds, the tap worked fine — it was likely something as simple as a clogged drain.
Hannibal trailed Will into the kitchen, his eyes on the bottle in his hands. “This is an exceptional bottle, Will. Wherever did you find it?”
“Girl at the store down the street said it was your favorite.”
Hannibal smiled, his fingers caressing the label. “It’s terribly thoughtful, Will.”
Will kept his eyes down, feeling his cheeks color. A wave of something warm and tight churned in Will’s gut. It was a feeling Hannibal provoked more and more since Jack had sanctioned Will’s “fishing expedition”.
Being helpful was just a part of the plan, so was the wine. He could submit that receipt to Jack and get reimbursed tomorrow.
But he wouldn’t.
Will wanted to know that he’d given Hannibal the expensive wine. That he’d made the doctor smile and temporarily forget his distress. He didn’t want the FBI involved. He also didn’t want to examine too closely what that meant.
“So,” Will clapped his hands, looking at the murky overflowing sink. “Got any tools?”
“What tool were you looking for?” Hannibal’s eyes warmed, and Will tried not to smile at the implication.
“Adjustable wrench would be great, maybe a bucket to drain all this?”
Hannibal nodded, carefully setting the bottle of wine down and disappearing into his pantry. When he emerged, he had a box of tools that still had a store tag on it, a towel, and a bucket that somehow matched the countertops.
Handing Will the tools, Hannibal sat the bucket by the sink before carefully laying the towel on the floor.
“So you don’t soil yourself while inspecting my underbelly,” Hannibal said.
Will grinned before dropping to his knees and shimmying under the sink. Just like every other part of Hannibal’s house, the sink pipes were immaculate. Will pictured Hannibal, carefully laying out his dusting towel before settling beneath the piping to dust. How often did one have to dust a drain trap anyway?
Something glinted and Will turned.
Apparently, while he was dusting, Hannibal also liked to tape scalpels to the wood trim. He wondered where else he could find a scalpel, discretely hidden. He wondered what Jack would make of such a thing. Then decided he didn’t really care.
Grabbing a wrench and the bucket, Will carefully set them under the drain trap before he began to loosen the slip nut. Water poured into the bucket while Will shook out the trap. There was something moving in the piece of pipe. Reaching into the drain with his index finger he prayed he wouldn’t find another ear.
Will could feel Hannibal’s eyes on him, tracing up his body like a physical touch.
“Did you find the trouble?” Hannibal asked. Will could hear the sound of a stopper being pulled.
“Got it,” Will yanked hard, pulling out a crumpled piece of sodden cloth. He frowned at the scrap before reattaching the drain trap. Carefully he slid the sloshing bucket out from under the sink before sliding out himself.
Hannibal leaned against the island, two glasses of red in one hand. With his free hand, he reached down to help Will up.
Will took Hannibal’s hand in his, marveling that a hand so soft could hold enough strength to lift him effortlessly. When he was upright, Will swayed into the heat emanating off Hannibal before forcing himself back a step. He immediately regretted letting go of Hannibal’s hand.
Holding up a sodden grey lump, Will smiled. “Lose a napkin?”
Hannibal sneered at the tangle of fabric and grease as though it had betrayed his family. “I would like to know what hooligan shoved it into my drain. I pay that catering company handsomely for exemplary service and am repaid with an overflowing sink and ruined Queen Anne’s lace.”
Will ducked his head to hide his laugh. Hannibal was very sensitive about his things and it wouldn’t do to look like he was mocking them. When he looked up, he caught the ghost of amusement floating across Hannibal’s face.
“You find me ridiculous.”
“No.” Will ran a few words over his tongue, selecting one that tasted right. “Your fury is righteous, even if I can’t quite understand it.”
“Understand it or not, you’re undoubtedly the hero of the evening.” Hannibal stepped forward, extending a wine glass to Will. The empath wiped his hands on his pants before taking the glass, then worried that Hannibal would find the gesture crass.
Hannibal used his free hand to gently grip Will’s elbow and lead him from the kitchen. The doctor raised an eyebrow at the catering staff, who burst from the dining room into the kitchen, a flurry of movement taking over the room as they left. Hannibal ushered Will into the study. He took a delicate sip of wine and Will found his eyes caught by a droplet that clung to his lower lip.
Will sipped his wine, it tasted of fruit and some spice he couldn’t identify. He wondered what it would taste like on Hannibal’s skin.
“No big deal, you just needed someone to unclog your pip-” Will choked on the words, flushing to the tips of his ears. God, he sounded like he was in a porn. Pretty soon he’d be offering Hannibal a lube job.
“Are you alright, Will? Is the wine?” Hannibal sat on the sofa in the study.
“Yeah,” Will cleared his throat. He started for the spot next to Hannibal, but redirected at the last minute to sit on the leather armchair instead. “Wrong pipe.”
“I hope you find the right one soon.”
Will paused, mouth halfway to his glass for another sip. He shook his head, he was hearing things.
“So, what draws you away from me tonight?”
Hannibal sipped his wine, head tilting. “You could only stay long enough to save the dinner party, not attend it.”
“Oh, uh, it’s Buster.”
“Ah! My small friend. How is he?”
Will sipped his wine to hide his smile. “He tore a toenail chasing foxes. I wrapped him up but-”
“Should he see a vet? That sounds painful.” Hannibal’s brow immediately furrowed and Will marveled that a man who could slice Beverly Katz into pieces, would genuinely worry about the toenail of a dog. It was…endearing.
The word sat heavily on Will’s tongue, he took another drink to wash it away.
“He’ll be fine; I just need to be sure he doesn’t chew through the wrapping.” Will smiled. “It’s a hazard of having a terrier.”
“Going to ground has its hazards?” Hannibal sipped his wine.
Hannibal leaned forward, just breaking into Will’s space. “I hope he finds his quarry without injury next time.”
Will looked at his wine. The color reminded him of Hannibal’s eyes. “Maybe he should stop chasing it all together.”
“It’s hard to convince a terrier to let go of something once he’s scented it.”
“Not if you redirect him.”
“How would one do that?”
“Give him a task, something he likes doing.” Will drained his glass. “If he’s occupied with something he enjoys, he won’t bother with the chase.”
“How fascinating.” Hannibal finished his glass, sighing as he stood. “I know there’s no hope in you staying for dinner, but could I convince you to keep me company as I oversee the caterers?”
Will grinned, handing Hannibal his empty glass. Their fingers brushed and Will let his eyes drift closed softly. “Want me to guard the napkins, do you?”
“I was planning on stationing you by the drain.”
Laughing, Will rubbed the back of his neck. There was a temptation to stay, to trail behind Hannibal all evening, smile and greet the guests with the doctor, keep everyone’s drinks filled so Hannibal wouldn’t need to stop telling a story about —
What the fuck was he thinking? “I uh, I think I should go.”
Hannibal tightened his mouth, tipping his chin up. “I thank you again for your help tonight, Will. Whatever would I do without you?”
“Pay too much for a plumber.” Will stopped in the hallway, hand resting on the doorknob. “Hannibal?”
He absolutely shouldn’t.
He should go home, call Jack, report on the scalpels, submit the receipt for the wine, and not worry about Hannibal until their next session.
“Don’t-” Will shook his head, knocking the protests from his mind. “If you need something fixed, call me first.”
“I’d hate to monopolize your time.”
“I’d hate to think you paid too much for an easy repair.”
“I couldn’t possibly inconvenience you like that.” Hannibal turned, but Will grabbed his hand. He didn’t like the idea of some stranger poking around in this house, finding little clues to the real man behind the person suit.
“Your kitchen is always open to friends, isn’t it?”
“Of course.” Hannibal looked from his wrist to Will’s eyes. He made no move to free himself, but there was a curiosity behind the doctor’s deep-set eyes.
“My toolbelt is always open to mine.” Will closed his eyes. He was back in that porn again. “I mean, that, not my belt, but my tool is, shit, I just meant-”
“It’s something that you enjoy doing.” Will looked down, somehow, he was no longer holding Hannibal’s wrist. The doctor was holding his.
“I promise to call you the next time an errant napkin causes a flood.” Hannibal sounded very solemn, but his eyes were dancing. Will’s mouth twisted into a small smile. “Now, please, go home and give Buster my best during his recuperation.”
Will leaned forward, then reeled back. What the hell was he thinking?
“I…sure.” He fled into the night.
Hannibal smiled politely as Mrs. Komeda told the story of how she met her husband. Beneath the table, his hands ran over the slightly sodden scrap of lace he had shoved down the drain.
It seemed he was right — Will had no intention of staying for dinner. And his little ploy to keep him longer had worked beautifully. He thought of Will’s eyes, transfixed by the smudge Hannibal had carefully rubbed on his apron. Perhaps Will liked the idea of sullying something pristine. Or perhaps the empath enjoyed the idea of restoring something until no hint of a flaw could be found on its immaculate surface.
If you need something fixed, call me first.
Hannibal let his smile widen, the party chatter fading into a pleasant din around him. He would be in need of another home repair soon.