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The Pines

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The fish stew is hot and humanizing after days of broth and gaining consciousness. Will’s muddy walking stick leans up against the door and he makes a mental note not to track it through the house.

Hannibal breaks the silence, “I’m quite happy here.” He swallows a bit of stew. “I hope you learn to acclimate. To relax. Or maybe you can work yourself up trying so hard to be worked up again.”

Will smiles back, feeling playfully patronized. Familiar.

The clothes all smell of wood and storage and hang comically loose on his frame. They’re charming and climate appropriate, all a life away from what Hannibal wore in Baltimore. In front of company, that is. Insisting on less opioid dependence, Will is careful to wrap his tender ankles with splints and the thick socks he found in one of the closets. They spend the cold days in bulky sweaters on a surprisingly comfortable mattress, alternating drowsy care for each other. It makes Will feel more at home, more honest, than he’s ever felt. He feels unlocked and alarmingly content.

After his moments of reflection, he crackles out a response. “I’m very happy, too. I think I’m actually, uh, feeling well enough that I could even make up the other bed. We can begin to treat this more like a home and less like a hospital.” Will laughs uncomfortably, flipping through a few of Hannibal’s possible reactions to that.

Hannibal internally flinches at the comment, but explores the chance that Will’s suggestion is from a wave of insecurity rather than dismissal. “If you’re feeling well enough.” He makes no effort to veil his true meaning through any chilled body language.

Will looks down at his empty bowl. “Soon, then.” He softly clears his throat. “Just something to shoot for.”

* *

After clearing their bowls and storing the remaining stew for the following morning, the two men move quietly around the cabin. It's colder today than it was yesterday but Hannibal doesn’t attempt to maintain the fire, expecting they’ll fall asleep early. There isn’t much for entertainment around the cabin except for a few old books, making food and sleep and ritualistic bandaging their daily tasks.

Will pads over to the bathroom to clean his facial wound, which often weeps after eating.

Hannibal closely follows him in and stops his hand on the sink knobs. “Let me.”

Will is perfectly capable of seeing to his own gashes in the mirror, but he allows the other man to care for him anyway. Any warm hand is welcome in the cold and quiet life they’re settling into.

Hannibal steadies his jaw with one hand while the other traces along the healing scar. “It’s closing well. Cheek tissue is rather resilient."

“And here I was worried about your Frankenstein stitching.” Will tries not to make any facial expression while his cheek is examined.

Hannibal lowers his hand but keeps the other holding his jaw. He responds in his small curled smile. “It’s possible, at the time, that I was also bitter about our survival.” His smile sinks pensively and he drops his hand to give Will’s chest a single pat before reaching for his toothbrush.

Will does the same.

* *


Still unsteady on his feet, Will stretches dramatically to pull at the wool blanket from the closet’s highest shelf. With the thick throw folded over his hands, he pivots to look expectantly at Hannibal, who has already closed his eyes. Will has no desire to transfer his bedside belongings over to the other room’s cramped, likely freezing day bed and he understands he has a standing invitation to stay in their shared room. In their shared bed. After two seconds of thought, he clicks off the lamp and climbs through the dark, back into his habitual hospital-like rigid shape on his side of the mattress and quickly falls asleep.