"Have you thought that perhaps reorganizing your physical world might help you to calm your mental one?" Hannibal Lecter asked Will.
Will considered the question. "Short answer? No."
Hannibal sighed. "I cannot help someone who is unwilling to help himself, Will. If you live your life giving half-answers and off-handed comments, you will never receive more than half-truths in return."
Will rolled his eyes. "Alright, alright. So, like what? I'm not a messy person."
"You live with multiple stray dogs and you cut your feet sleepwalking around your property," Hannibal retorted. "Try again."
"My dogs are clean animals! And I cut my feet on the grass. You try again."
Hannibal leaned forward, eyes stormy. "You will make no progress if you continue to fight the people who are trying to help you."
"Okay! So what, do you want me to fucking feng shui my house or something?" Will snapped. Hannibal had no right to come into his life and tell him how he should be living.
Well, the reasonable part of his consciousness said, actually, as your therapist, he has every right to tell you how to live your life.
Fuck you, Will thought viciously. Fuck reasonable. Fuck cleanliness. Fuck Hannibal fucking Lecter.
"I was not suggesting the art of feng shui," Hannibal responded, as if he didn't know what Will had been thinking. Yeah, right. The fucking twinkle in his eye said it all. "I doubt arranging your possessions into corners of hope and love is going to solve your particular mental difficulties."
Will laughed aloud, and he saw Hannibal smile slightly. "I think I'd have to agree with you," Will said dryly. "Okay, you got me. What were you thinking?"
Hannibal hummed in thought. "I think you need to spend time at home. Take a vacation from work and remove yourself from the complications your profession presents you. Refocus your energies on building a house that you find soothing, one that can unburden your shoulders when you walk in the door."
"You want me to rebuild my house?" Will exclaimed.
"I want you to do anything you need to do in order for you to feel comfortable releasing your tension there," Hannibal corrected. "I would be more than happy to help you, if you so wish."
Will analyzed his psychiatrist for a moment. "You would be willing to help me?"
"Only if you feel my presence would be welcome," Hannibal responded.
"Yeah," said Will blankly. "Yeah, okay. Sure."
"Very well," Hannibal said, ushering Will to the door. "I'll see you tomorrow." He clicked the door shut in Will's face.
The next morning dawned bright and early, but the light wasn't what woke Will. He wasn't sure why he'd woken, actually—it was getting harder and harder to understand the why of anything anymore—but it didn't matter. He had "cleaning" to do this morning.
He'd called Jack last night, and the man had been happy to give him some time off. "Get yourself back on your feet," he'd said, with a sort of subtle pity that he usually reserved for the family members of the victims he analyzed. Will wondered if there were bets in the unit to see how long his fragile grip on sanity would last. Honestly, if he were someone outside of himself, he would probably have bet that he was already insane, and just a good faker.
It's what he felt like, anyway.
He dragged himself downstairs to make coffee. One teaspoon of instant java to a cup of boiling hot water, otherwise known as Will's salvation. He blew across the surface of the liquid, watching the white drift of steam defy gravity. The world was magnificent, if one paid any attention. Will hoped that he might get some time to do just that, now that he didn't need to confront the brutal shortcomings of humanity on a day-to-day basis.
He moved into his living room and went to let his dogs out. When he opened the door, the soft drone he hadn't realized he'd been hearing suddenly became a roar of mechanical noise, and Will realized that this was what had woken him.
He squinted into the sunlight and nearly dropped his mug. Someone was mowing his lawn. Not just anyone, Will realized. Hannibal Lecter was mowing his lawn.
He closed his eyes. "It is eight forty-seven a.m. I am in Wolf Trap, Virginia. My name is Will Graham." He opened his eyes. Not a hallucination, then.
Hannibal Lecter was mowing his lawn. With a push mower. What was Will's psychiatrist doing mowing his lawn with a push mower? Will closed his door and sat on the sofa, flabbergasted. "I'll see you tomorrow," Hannibal had said. But… really?
Will's front door opened, and Hannibal strode in. He walked straight into the kitchen, removing his leather gloves with swift tugs, and poured himself a glass of water, drinking the entire thing in one long swallow. Will watched his throat work, sweaty and tan, and suddenly his mouth felt dry.
"Ah, Will," greeted Hannibal, noticing the younger man on the sofa. "Good morning! I hope you don't mind, but it has begun to get hot and I don't want to become dehydrated. I mean no imposition."
"Imposition?" Will repeated, stunned into amusement. "Hannibal. You're mowing my grass. Why are you mowing my grass?"
"I enjoy it. I find that trimming one's lawn is a clean sort of exercise. It fills one with the sensation of grooming Mother Nature, don't you think?" Hannibal replied evenly.
"You are mowing my grass because you—" Will's lips twisted into a mocking smile, "—you enjoy shaving Mother Nature's legs?"
Hannibal frowned. "I suppose if you want to oversimplify my enjoyment for your own amusement, you are within your rights, but no, I am not 'shaving Mother Nature's legs,' as you so crudely put it. I am giving your lawn the first modicum of attention it has received in the past two weeks."
Will had the decency to look ashamed. "It's been rough, lately," he confessed. "Even doing simple things, it's—it's awful."
Hannibal's eyes scanned over his face, calculating. "Why do you think I suggested this vacation? You must embrace the reality of these 'simple things,' Will. One cannot run without first discovering one has feet."
"But you're cutting the grass for me," Will argued. "How is that helping me 'find my feet?'"
"I must confess, this is a moment of weakness on my part," Hannibal said with a small grin. It suited him, Will thought. "I have not gotten to trim grass since I moved to Baltimore. I missed it."
"You missed cutting grass? Why are they paying you to be my therapist? You can just mow my lawn for pay if you need the money."
Hannibal laughed, a rich sound that Will had never heard before. "Perhaps, once my mind has dwindled past the point of helpfulness, I will consider your offer. For now, I would like to finish the front lawn before it gets too much hotter. The sun can be quite unforgiving."
With that, he placed his empty glass in Will's sink and walked back out to the mower. He gripped the handles together and tugged sharply on the pull cord. Will watched the muscles in his arms flex as the mower started, and Hannibal began to push his way—in long, straight lines—across Will's front yard.
Stuck with nothing else to do, and too enraptured to turn away, Will sat on his sofa and watched Hannibal work. He was dressed far more casually than usual. Hannibal wore a white wife-beater (though it was beginning to tinge green from the grass clippings), faded, worn jeans, and sneakers, which were clothes that Will had never even imagined Hannibal owning, much less wearing.
Nevertheless, he wasn't complaining. Hannibal paused for a second, taking off his shirt to mop the sweat off his face, then put it back on. Will swallowed compulsively. Hannibal's torso was embarrassingly nice. Will had always considered himself to be a good-looking sort of guy—blessed in the physical where he was cursed psychologically—but he felt plain compared to Hannibal. The man was easily ten years his senior, but he looked like a twenty-year-old when his shirt was off. His body was lean and tan (how could he be tan when he wore a suit all the time?), but just muscled enough to imply that he was not one to be messed with.
Will had always assumed that Hannibal took care of himself. His gourmet nightly meals and impeccable everything suggested that Hannibal possessed complete control over his life, especially in his fitness. Will tried not to let his mind linger on Hannibal's fitness, though. If the man was going to be spending his days at Will's taking off his clothes and doing manual labor, Will would have to keep his eyes and mind to himself. It was unhealthy to admire one's psychiatrist; it indicated a desire for normalcy that manifested itself sexually, which was all sorts of wrong. Will didn't need more wrong in his life.
So, no matter how edible (Chesapeake Ripper cannibalism flesh rip) his psychiatrist looked, Will would not notice. Not at all.
Was that how Hannibal had always looked from the back? Oh.
Will wrestled himself out of his reverie and found a job to do far away from windows overlooking his front lawn. Plenty to do in this house. Will found himself reorganizing his closet, hiding away in the comfort of the small, dark space. He found ways to toil away hours in his bedroom, organizing his clothes just to decide that the arrangement didn't feel quite parsimonious enough. So he'd do it again.
He almost didn't hear Hannibal call to him, so involved was he with forcing himself to not think about his psychiatrist and how good his ass looked in jeans.
"Will?" Hannibal called again, this time sounding more concerned.
"Up here!" Will shouted back, torn from his forbidden thoughts about the line of Hannibal's hips. "My bedroom. Just finishing up my closets." He hurried to put clothes away, to look like he'd actually done something with his time.
He heard Hannibal climb the stairs, and a moment later the man walked into the room. One glance around, and Will realized that he hadn't convinced Hannibal of anything.
"I just finished the front," Hannibal stated, turning his eyes to Will, "and I was about to make lunch. I brought some provisions, as I wasn't sure how well-stocked you kept your kitchen."
"Not very," Will spoke honestly. "I keep basics here for when I do cook, but most of my meals are either with you or take-out."
Hannibal looked simultaneously pleased and disgruntled, which was a peculiar mixture of expressions, in Will's opinion. "I see," Hannibal said. "Well, perhaps after we finish working on your house, we can work on your cooking skills, hmm?"
Will nodded immediately. If there was one magical bit of Hannibal (and there were several; Will had seen them that morning), it was his finesse in the kitchen. If Will could learn anything from Hannibal, he would.
And he did mean anything. No. No, he didn't. But yes, I do, Will thought before he could stop himself. Oh well. As long as he kept his thoughts to his mindscape, it didn't really matter.
But the bridge between mindscape and reality was a problem for Will, he reminded himself, so it did matter.
"Will?" Hannibal said curiously. Will forced himself to look at Hannibal's face, which was shiny and smudged with dirt. It was hard for Will to combine the thoughts of careful, cutting Dr. Lecter and this sweaty, muscled, bronzed man before him.
Hannibal was currently using a dish towel to mop sweat off the back of his neck, which bunched up the muscles in his arms while stretching the ones along his torso.
"Yes, Hannibal?" Will croaked, hoping his blatant ogling wasn't too, well, blatant.
"Lunch?" Hannibal questioned. Damn him if that wasn't a knowing twinkle in his eye. Damn him to Hell.
"Sounds great," Will replied, thankful when his voice came out even. This was going to be a long, long two weeks.
Hannibal walked back down the stairs to the kitchen, avoiding the curious, poking noses of Will's dogs.
"What's the matter?" Will teased, proud to finally have control of his mouth's utterances. "Do you dislike dogs?"
"Animals and I have had an… interesting relationship," Hannibal responded vaguely. "But, for our purposes it is best to just say 'Yes, I do.' Dogs have an eager desire to be loved that I find rather uncouth."
"Oh," Will said, at a loss for words. How could anyone hate dogs for their desire to be loved? All they wanted was someone to reach out, to give them a timeframe to cling to because their minds were incapable of keeping track. All they needed was the affection of people that affirmed their existence, their worth, their ability to be loved.
All at once, this wasn't about dogs at all.
Will followed Hannibal into the kitchen and watched him unpack a large cooler of supplies. Sliced meats, cheeses, vegetables, and rough loaves of bread were laid out before Will realized what Hannibal was planning.
"I didn't think you even knew what sandwiches were," Will said, pleasantly surprised.
Hannibal glanced up from where he was placing the food in an organized line. "I am very aware of the existence of sandwiches, Will," Hannibal said in a tone that indicated how foolish Will's joke had been. Will pinked a little. "They are the perfect meal when one is doing work outside, as they are easy to make and satisfactory no matter how much food one craves. Also, I did not know what to expect of your kitchen. Next time, I will bring a more substantial meal."
All Will heard was 'next time.' Hannibal was going to be in his house again, cooking and helping to sort out Will's world. Hannibal was going to be sweaty and gorgeous and still as astute as ever.
Will was never going to survive.
The men constructed their sandwiches, Will trying to select meats and cheeses that looked remotely familiar to him, while Hannibal piled a little bit of everything on his sandwich. He even folded the meat into perfect little semi-circles.
They ate in relative silence. Will's dogs didn't beg at their feet, for which he was grateful. They were trained not to, of course, but Will wasn't sure how having company would affect their training. He hadn't had enough guests over to find out. Luckily, they seemed to take Hannibal very seriously and stayed on their beds in the living room.
Hannibal took notice, too. "Your dogs are very well-trained," he commended after finishing his sandwich.
"Thanks," Will brushed the crumbs from his fingertips. "It's not that hard to train them, after the first couple of dogs. Strays are typically so happy to have a home that they'll do anything to stay in it."
"That must be very gratifying," Hannibal commented. He began packing the leftover food back into his cooler. "I would imagine that surrounding yourself with the undiscerning love of the needy gives your mind a much needed balm from the torment of the outside world."
Will colored. When Hannibal put it that way, it sounded like he was taking advantage of his dogs instead of taking in lives that had no other prospects. Will wasn't sure if he liked that.
"Why have you not chosen to find such love in the human populace?" Hannibal continued, pressing.
Alana. Will stopped moving, the weight of crushing disappointment and self-loathing turning the contents of his stomach to lead.
"I try. You know that."
"Alana Bloom," Hannibal sniffed distastefully. "She is hardly a good counterpoint to you, Will. You need someone who can appreciate the darker sides to your gift as well as the socially beneficial ones. You need someone that will work with you to conquer your demons, not someone who selfishly runs from their consequences."
Someone like you, you mean? Will thought. He didn't voice that, though; he doubted Hannibal would take kindly to such jabs, and he wasn't sure he was ready to handle the implications of such a statement. Besides, Hannibal couldn't have meant himself. Right? Will shook his head, clearing his thoughts.
"Maybe you're right," he sighed. "Alright, what's next?"
Hannibal had the entire backyard to do, and Will refused to let himself hide away in his room any longer. He was a fully grown male, a fucking special agent for Christ's sake; he could handle watching an attractive man mow his lawn.
He followed Hannibal into his backyard and searched for something to do. He eyed a sparse patch of weeds and had an idea. He went into his garage, grabbed his rake and shovel, and got to work.
An hour later, a shadow fell over his little patch of earth. Will looked up and found Hannibal standing close behind him, looking over his work.
"What is this?" Hannibal asked, though the answer was obvious.
"Um, I thought I might have a garden," Will replied, scratching at his neck. "You know, tomatoes and cucumbers and, I dunno, rosemary, or something."
Hannibal smiled approvingly. "A smart idea, Will. Perhaps it will prompt you to use your kitchen more frequently."
Will blushed. "Exactly. I thought you might enjoy having a source of fresh vegetables and herbs. You probably can't get them in Baltimore." What? Why did he care what Hannibal wanted? More importantly, why did he think Hannibal would want anything from him?
"That's very considerate of you," Hannibal said, oblivious to Will's inner turmoil. Hopefully. "You're correct; it is difficult to acquire fresh produce in the city. If you don't mind, I would like to make some suggestions for seeds to plant. You will, of course, be invited to any meal in which I use your ingredients."
Hannibal smirked a moment, caught in a joke that Will didn't understand. Will didn't mind; understanding Hannibal Lecter would take a far better man than he. "Well, I'm going to finish turning this soil," Will said. "I'll go out and buy peat pots and topsoil tomorrow, and, if you get me a list of seeds you want, I'll get those, too."
"I'll do that when I go inside," Hannibal promised. The approving twinkle in his eye had grown, and Will tried not to be too pleased with himself. This was the best he'd felt in months, gritty dirt pressed underneath his fingernails and tiny ants crawling along his ankles. He felt sane.
Hannibal finished mowing just as the sun was starting to set, the orange light glowing on his damp skin. Will couldn't even pretend that Hannibal wasn't beautiful, effulgent in a world of dying light and growing darkness. How could three-piece suits hide so much beauty?
Will finshed hacking at the firm soil, discarding large rocks into a pile he'd created a few yards away. The garden wasn't large, but it would house a nice selection of plants, if Will could keep them alive. Hannibal headed into the house and Will, now sweaty and covered in swipes of mud, followed him. Hannibal quickly wrote out a list of seeds he wanted in easy, flowing script and handed it to Will. Cilantro, chives, burpless cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, turnips, garlic, parsley, and other things that would be easy to find. It seemed simple enough.
A/N: Hi guys! So this was supposed to be a little rough-and-tumble fic to get me out of my fluff-funk. It didn't work. Instead, I've written the longest, cutest, sexiest (at least I think so) story I've ever written. I actually had the original idea when I was push mowing, but everything started fleshing itself out as I did indoor repairs. Yeah, I'm helping to rebuild a house. It was good research. ;)
Thank you to the amazing, perfect backwards-blackbird on Tumblr, who is a good friend of mine in real life and a brilliant beta-writer. Additionally, RevDorothyL (sweetheart!) found a few little things. My goodness. If you guys see any remaining errors, please do leave me a note via review. Thanks for reading!