Alana is an exceedingly clever dalmatian.
She has always been, but since Will adopted her she has only grown more clever, between the tricks he teaches her and the lessons she teaches herself to keep a leg up (so to speak) on her six brothers and sisters.
Will takes very good care of her and her adopted siblings, and really she thinks she could want for nothing, but on days like today she wonders if maybe there’s something he wants for.
He’s taken her to the park, and she lies next to him as he sits, elbows hooked over knees, on a clean patch of grass overlooking the pond. He thinks she doesn’t see the loneliness in his eyes, but she does. It isn’t there always, but it’s there in flashes, just before he turns off the lights and curls into bed at night. It’s there when he stares across his empty kitchen table over his plate of trout that he feeds her flakes of. It’s there now, as she watches him try to read his book even though he hasn’t turned a page in nearly half an hour.
He’s staring out over the bank, the stripes of sunshine in the water reflecting in his eyes, and he’s thinking of something… someone perhaps.
Alana rests her chin on Will’s thigh and huffs out a little snort of a sigh. Absent-mindedly he pats her head, rubbing the soft flap of her ear as she thumps her tail in lazy contentment.
“Good girl,” he murmurs. The pages of his book remain unturned.
A silvery jingle distracts Alana and she cocks her head, shifting out from under Will’s hand to look at the bench behind them.
Sitting at the feet of a very well-dressed man is the most beautiful dalmatian she has ever seen.
She is poised, regal even, with crystal blue eyes and an elegant red collar specifically tailored just for her that brings out the contrast of her brilliant spots. Alana doesn’t think about the simple black cord that Will has looped around her neck, she’s so impeccably trained that her leash is mostly for show, but all of a sudden she feels a little shy.
The dalmatian catches eyes with her and dips her head in greeting. Her owner looks up, first at Alana, then at Will. His eyebrows raise and he rests his gaze on Will’s unsuspecting profile, lingering longer than she’s ever seen anyone look at her master.
She looks back at Will in excitement and barks softly, tugging at her leash as she stands. Will looks down in surprise. She never tugs at her leash. He follows the source of her little commotion and locks eyes with the man at the bench.
The man does not look away. Will flushes from head to toe. He does not look away either.
Alana tugs again and moves towards them, barking a little louder. Will tries to shush her and pulls back. The red-collared dalmatian stands, a little confused by the encroachment, and moves in front of her owner in protection. She barks once, clear and with authority, and Alana immediately sits.
“Margot,” her owner admonishes gently. His lips quirk and he raises a brow. She sits once again, grumbling her discontent. Will marvels at the man’s quiet authority. He practically radiates with it, power crackling off of him and reaching out in jagged bolts towards him.
Will has never wanted to be electrocuted more in his life.
Swiftly, burned by the very gaze set upon him, he looks sharply back down at his book, his head swimming.
Alana nudges at his knee with her snout, whining softly.
“Not now,” Will hisses, and turns the page, though he can’t make out a single word.
Thinking quickly, Alana snatches the book from his hand and trots away.
“Alana!” he exclaims, and stands to chase her, but he trips over the strap of his bag and lands with a thud in the grass.
He curses loudly, sees the man smirk, curses quieter again, then picks himself up and dusts the grass off his worn trousers.
Alana deposits the book next to the man’s feet and barks a friendly hello at Margot. Margot for her part, sniffs genteelly at Alana and then sets her head between her paws.
The man contains his quiet surprise, as unbeknownst to both Alana and her owner, Margot has never extended anything but growling threats to any other dog she has encountered.
Will stalks towards the three of them, heavy with embarrassment. The man picks up his book, running his fingers over the cover. Suddenly Will wishes he had pages of his own. He swallows thickly and shakes off his whimsy, opening his mouth to apologize, to politely request his book back, to summon his dog and drag her home where he can properly nurse his shame.
Before he can speak the man has held his book out to him.
Their eyes meet properly, and with barely a foot between them there is no room to hide their mutual interest. The man, who had seemed so cool and collected, suddenly looks lost. His lips part but no words spring forth.
“Thank you,” Will stutters out, “Sorry.”
He does not let his fingers brush the man’s as he takes his book, though he could swear by the way his hand had been angled he had intended for Will to do so. He clicks at Alana and she follows, leash trailing wistfully behind her.
He returns to his spot on the grass and sits heavily, gathering Alana’s leash loosely in his fist. He exhales a weighty sigh and slumps his shoulders, a mixture of defeat and curiosity gnawing at him.
Fine hairs begin to prickle along the back of his neck, sending a flare of goosebumps in their wake. Will turns. He is still being watched.
The man is not remotely pretending to hide his blatant gaze. It hits Will with an almost violence force, and he feels within those eyes a deep and maddening want that terrifies as much as it enthralls. Whatever interest this man seems to have him clearly scares him, and yet he remains spellbound. His eyes soften, bringing in their wake a tenderness that makes Will ache.
Who is this man?
Will blinks around the veil of wetness that has softened his gaze, alarmed at the wellspring of emotion in him that has been set off by such a seemingly casual encounter. Suddenly it is too much, and he stands, clearing his throat. He shoves his book in his bag, slings it heavy over his shoulder and starts to walk away, leash in hand.
Alana does not budge.
Will turns back in alarm, steadfastly keeping his eyes away from the object of his mystifying affections.
“Alana,” he commands, “come on, girl.”
She whines again and tugs back on her leash.
A flash of movement in the corner of his eye alerts Will to the man standing. He wraps Margot’s leash around his hand and starts to walk casually toward them.
Will fumbles nervously with his glasses and looks down, away, to the sky, to anywhere but the body rapidly approaching him.
Five feet away now. He yanks on Alana’s leash again. Nothing
Four feet and he can feel the eyes deliciously burning into him oh God he is not ready for this.
Three feet and he imagines he can feel the heat of the man’s shoulder brushing against his.
Two feet and the man’s head inclines in greeting as he passes. Will imagines his steps have suddenly slowed.
“Good day,” the man says.
His voice sounds like chocolate and Will wants to swallow it whole.
Will’s own words sit strangled in his throat and he watches the man walk past him, one step, two, and then Alana bursts towards him in a frenzy of motion before looping herself back again.
Alana circles them once more and the leash is wrapped tight around both of their legs before Will can think twice. He wobbles for a moment, arms flailing for balance, trying desperately not to pitch forward and clutch at the lapels of the man’s suit as they tangled with each other
“God, I’m sorry.”
The man is frowning mildly, but there is the barest hint of a smirk on his face. Facing no similar problems with his equilibrium, he looks down at Will calmly.
“I must say-”
Alana completes another circle and nudges at Will’s rear. He stumbles forward.
The suited man looks down at the hand pressed to his chest, then looks up at Will and sees the dusky blush creep over his cheeks.
“What are you-”
“I’m so sorry,” Will babbles, propelling himself backward with a light shove away from the firm pectoral that had fit so neatly under his fingers.
The sudden motion sends them both off-kilter, Will’s arms swinging like a windmill. Hannibal reaches forward to balance him, but gravity has no such designs, and they pitch backward into the murky waters of the duck pond with a splash.
Alana barks delightedly. She looks shyly at Margot, who wrinkles her elegant snout in dismay at the havoc wreaked upon her master.
The pond is shallow, and thankfully at the moment duck-free, though her master’s clothing has been decidedly ruined. He runs a mournful hand down the line of his checkered jacket before he shucks it off and tosses it to the nearby bank, a lost cause.
“Oh no,” Will whimpers, pushing himself free from the reeds and muck. He is dripping head to toe but has little care for his old slacks and shabby flannel. The man partially submerged beside him has clearly suffered far greater damages.
Will reaches out a hand.
“Here, let me.”
The man raises a palm in gentle refusal.
“No. Thank you.”
He pulls himself up and Will shoves his offending hand into his pocket.
“I’m sorry,” he says again, for what seems like the ninety-ninth time.
“So you have said,” the man replies with a wry curl to his lip.
He pulls a completely drenched pocket square from his waistcoat and attempts to dry his face.
“Regrettably, this suit was new,” he notes, taking in the sad state of his paisley silk tie.
Will drags his fingers through sodden curls and tugs sharply as they tangle.
“Ah, Jesus, of course it was, I’m sorry.”
“Please stop apologizing,” the man says gently, “it is entirely unnecessary.”
“But it was my - well it was my dog’s fault.”
Will casts a withering glance at Alana, who is grinning far too happily.
For the first time since their submersion, Hannibal looks up at the overly apologetic man. He has removed his glasses, and his wet curls lie limp and plastered to his face. Wide seafoam eyes stare at him with utter openness and he smiles weakly, another small apology tucked into the curve of his alarmingly pleasing mouth.
“There's no fault. It was an accident,” he corrects gently, “but perhaps a fortuitous once.”
He extends an elegant hand.
“Dr. Hannibal Lecter.”
Will uselessly wipes his hand against the thigh of his exceedingly wet trousers and meets the gesture.
They both smile, and Will loses himself for a little eternity in the hazelnut eyes that drink him in before he ducks his head bashfully.
Alana yips gleefully. Will laughs.
“And that’s Alana.”
Hannibal nods his head in greeting and gestures with his chin at his own dog, who sits at a respectful distance from their mess.
“Pleased to meet you, Margot.” He turns his focus back to Hannibal and his eyes shine, “And you, Dr. Lecter.”
Hannibal’s gaze shoots through him, liquid and dark. “Hannibal. Please.”
Will licks his alarmingly dry lips. “Hannibal,” he corrects, voice cracking against his volition as his desire breaks through.
They stare a moment, a moment longer, until a shiver gusts up Will’s spine. Hannibal breaks free of their trance and clambers free of the pond, hand still clutched to Will’s as he pulls him out. Will rubs his glasses against his shirt and tries to put them back on, but they are hopelessly smudged.
Hannibal’s heart tips nearly out of his chest.
“Here,” he smiles, gently lifting Will’s glasses from his face. Will tries to ignore the trace of heat from the fingers that had quickly slipped over his cheekbones. He watches as Hannibal pulls his pocket square free again and attempts to wipe the smudges away, forgetting that his handkerchief is still soaking wet.
He looks up at Will and shrugs in apology, and Will breaks out into a bright peal of laughter. Irreversibly infected, Hannibal follows suit, and Margot and Alana watch, charmed, as their owners lose themselves entirely.
As the merriment slows to chuckles and little grins, Will takes his glasses back and pockets them carefully.
“Well,” he sighs, “Again, I’m really very sorry.”
One hundred and one.
Silence follows as a finger touches lightly to the ripe bow of his mouth.
“Please do not.”
Hannibal’s eyes are shining with things that Will can’t quite define. He feels the static charge creeping across his shoulders, down his spine.
“I find myself very glad to have crossed paths with you today.”
Will breathes against the warmth pressed to his lips, shudders as it is pulled away.
“Perhaps once we find ourselves dry and newly attired, I may take you,” he pauses and it is sinfully intentional, “for coffee.”
Hannibal watches enraptured as Will shallows around the newly formed lump in his throat. He is shockingly perfect.
“That - that would be really - yes. Yes, thank you.”
Twin satisfied sighs exhale softly behind them, and they turn as one in surprise to see Margot gently rubbing her head against Alana’s.
“Remarkable,” Hannibal breathes, “she has never made friends so easily.”
“Makes two of us,” Will remarks, and Hannibal veritably lights up at the unintentional compliment.
“Actually, I think perhaps coffee is not the best idea.”
Will frowns in barely veiled disappointment. “Oh?”
“Dinner. My house. This evening. I will cook.” He looks at the newly bonded pair beside them. “Bring Alana.”
Will’s smile is warm and wide and perfect.
“I’d love to. Though,” he casts his eyes aside for a moment, “I should warn you, there’s not just Alana.”
Will scrubs a sheepish hand over the back of his neck.
“I have seven dogs, including her.”
Hannibal doesn’t bat an eye.
“Bring them all.”
Will laughs in impressed surprise, grin spreading wider.
“Marry me,” he blurts out, and he is instantly horrified with himself. His eyes flood with panic, but before he can open his mouth to correct his ghastly mistake, Hannibal is kissing it.
Lightly, gently, for the briefest of seconds, but the contact is enough to spiral ribbons of electric delight through them both.
Hannibal pulls away from the kiss, lets his lips linger just barely against Will’s for a second longer, a brush alighting sparks that speak of promise. He cups Will’s cheek in his finely boned hand, thumbs under his jaw, and for a long while he just… looks.
Will feels the ghost of his impetuous proposal ripple through them both, hears the question echo between his own heart and that of the wildly fascinating and deeply perfect man he has only just met.
Hannibal keeps looking.
Will blinks. Hannibal smiles.