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Canis Lupus Familiaris

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There's blood on the carpet.

"Hannibal?" Will calls, his breath catching, his heart suddenly racing. He hadn’t noticed anything amiss outdoors, hadn’t noticed blood on the path, or blood on the lawn. But he hadn’t been looking, hadn’t been as alert as he should have been, and now— blood on the carpet.

It's been eight months. Eight months since he felt this kind of bottomless terror, but the red smears on the white fiber bring it all back.

They have plans. Will has lists of instructions he's agreed to abide by, if something happens. Hannibal's made him swear to turn and leave, but even as he'd made that promise, formally, at first, and then repeated over and over, words whispered into Hannibal's lips, he'd known he wouldn't keep it.

And here he is, running in the direction of the drops of blood, reaching for a flashlight out on the table, instead of pausing to get the gun from its hiding place.

Blood leading through the bedroom, blood on the clothing strewn on the floor--Blood glimmering off the face of Hannibal's watch, resting on the nightstand.

The shower is on, the sound of rushing water, the steam escaping through the open door. Will feels a little relief, though not enough, not with all this blood.

He kicks off his shoes.

"Hannibal?" He repeats, but now it's a question, and there's less terror behind it. There's still a little-- what if he's hurt, what if...

He pulls back the shower curtain before Hannibal can respond.

"Is it yours?" He asks, and he hears his words come out strangled, even as he sees the water running clear at Hannibal's feet.

The spray from the shower head tickles his nose.

And Hannibal smiles at him. "Don't be silly, Will," he answers.

Will steps into the shower, in his socks, still fully clothed, the water splashing at his ankles, dragging down the cuffs of his pants, rising dark to his knees.

"You were careless," he scolds, walking up to Hannibal, until they're very close, less than an inch apart, and he drops his head onto Hannibal's shoulder.

"Were you afraid?" Hannibal asks, and he closes the last, small distance between them, enveloping Will in his arms, pressing a warm, damp kiss to his cheek. "Tell me what you were feeling."

"Afraid, yes," Will agreed. “Panicked, a little. My reflexes took over; I was…reacting..."

Hannibal puts his hand to Will's chest. "Your heart rate's elevated," he says. "It's slowing, now."

"It's slowing," Will agrees, picking his head up again. "Because you're not in danger."

Hannibal kisses him before the words finish leaving his mouth, kisses him as if to confirm that everything is alright.

"And now you're irritated," Hannibal observes.

"Yes," Will says, but kisses him back nonetheless, because safe and irritating is better than the alternative.

"Whose blood is it?" Will asks.

"I'll show you," Hannibal answers, and kisses him again.

"Whose blood--" Will begins to repeat, between kisses, and then stops himself. "What do you mean, show me?"

Hannibal steps out of the shower, leaving Will with hot water streaming down his face. Will shuts off the faucet but stays where he is, dripping, while Hannibal towels himself off. Will watches the smooth lines of Hannibal's body, the places where they are interrupted by jagged scars, and draws in a breath.

"You may want to change your clothes, Will," Hannibal says, his expression a mixture of amusement and adoration, as he hands over a towel.

His hair is still damp when Hannibal catches at his hand, draws him toward the back door of the little house. There’s blood in the kitchen, too, Will sees.

“We’ll have to clean the carpet,” he mutters.

“There’s a first time for everything,” Hannibal says.

“I doubt it’s your first time—“ Will begins to object, before he gets the joke, and lets himself unruffle.

Mostly. He’s preparing himself for anything on the other side of that door, and there are still things he doesn’t want to see. He tries to file them, in order, in his mind, asks himself what the worst possibility is, asks himself to weigh it against the probability.

Hannibal is looking at him with intense interest, an expectant look.

“You’re waiting to see my reaction,” Will realizes.

The corners of Hannibal’s mouth curl up, but he doesn’t answer. He opens the door, stalks across the lawn— the scrubby, unmowed lawn that backs up against the woods.

There is a shed, one that they haven’t used— they haven’t accumulated much of anything to put in it, and the tools they do have haven’t migrated from the house yet. There is blood on the grass leading to the shed.

Will steels himself.

Hannibal reaches for the doorknob. “I have to warn you,” he says gently. “She’s heavily sedated. I had to--”

Will goes cold. “What did you--” he starts, his chest tightening, as he snatches the doorknob and turns it, forces the door inward.

A fluffy head lifts itself at the sound, whimpers weakly.

“Do.” Will finishes.

“She was injured; she required stitches,” Hannibal explains. “But,” he says, beaming at Will, “it’s nothing too tragic.”

Will drops to one knee, reaches out to pet the dog’s head. She's a large, brownish mutt, with the markings of a German Shepherd, but rounder features, paler hair. He strokes his fingers through her silky hair, tilting his head to frown at the spot where Hannibal had shaved away a good chunk of her fur.

The stitches are neat, impeccable, as cautious and as careful as the ones Hannibal had administered to him.

“You…” But Will can’t finish the sentence, doesn’t know how it's meant to end.

“There was an altercation,” Hannibal explains. “She got my scent; it would have been too great a risk to leave her.”

“You could have--” Will begins, and then he stops, as Hannibal shakes his head.

“No,” Hannibal says. “You know very well I couldn’t.”

Will scratches at the dog’s head one more time, then looks up. “We’ll have to go into town,” he says. “We food. And a bed. And…”

“She needs a new name,” Hannibal informs Will. Will gets to his feet, backing up until he can snatch up Hannibal’s hand, not taking his eyes off the dog.

“A new name,” Will echoes.

“Someone needs to spare her the indignity of being called ‘Peaches.’”

“Peaches?” Will asks.

The dog’s ears prick up, sleepily, with recognition.

“Peaches,” Hannibal repeats with distaste.

Will snorts. “I like Peaches.”