AN-Eine Kleine Nachtmusik Movt 1 is by Mozart. I picked it cause I have always liked it for dining music. The tempo is light but quick. Little know bit of info, people eat faster when the music is more lively.I couldn't resist writing a restaurant AU being a professional server who specializes in fine dining. They always say write what you know. :)
Not beta read and I own none of it.oOo
"Your boyfriend is coming in tonight."
Will sighed, not deigning to look up from the wine glass he was polishing at his friend and fellow coworker Beverly. "Quit calling him that." he said irritably to an open scoff from everyone present.
"Stop acting so wounded. You know it's true and you're the only one who can wait on him." Price pointed out unnecessarily to a round of answering dark chuckles from the group. The infamous Doctor Hannibal Lecter had quite the reputation at Bedelia even among its more colorful patrons, the little restaurant one of Baltimore's best kept secrets among the rich, elite, and famous. Hidden in plain sight behind a dull brickwork façade and discreet street sign, Bedelia was classy but in an understated way, maintaining a balance between pristine Japanese's minimalist interior design of black and chrome furnishings and its more organic garden like surroundings, the walls of the restaurant gardens equipped with built-into-the-wall planters that were used to grow a continuous supply for the kitchen's fresh herbs and decorative flowers.
Bedelia was owned and operated by Doctor Bedelia Du Maurier, a former psychiatrist. After an incident with a violent patient who had attacked her and ultimately died because of his actions, Du Maurier decided to retire and turn her focus and interests elsewhere. With the help and support of her colleague, Doctor Lecter, she opened her own restaurant with near instant success. As a show of thanks and much to the dismay of the serving staff, Doctor Lecter was given his own table, permanently reserved for his usage and his usage alone. Other guests would look on at it with envy whether he was there or not. Most of the staff viewed it with near open horror when it was occupied.
While perfectly polite and elegant in manner, Doctor Lecter was a stickler for perfection in anything presented to him. This included the conduct of the person waiting on him as well. More than one server had been told off in a calm, clinical manner of all their professional shortcomings and then some. Generous in that area to a near fault, Doctor Lecter was also liberal about advice on how to improve themselves, though it tended to fall on deaf ears more often than not. To date, Will was the only server who could dare to meet Lecter's ridiculously high expectations.
Which meant he was stuck waiting on the man every time he came in which was becoming disturbingly more frequent. What had once been a bimonthly event was now a two to three times a week habit and always on nights that Will was working. He was positive the doctor had bribed the hostesses Abigail and Freddie into giving Hannibal updates of Will's schedule.
Ignoring his coworkers' jibes, Will couldn't find it in himself to feel too upset about it as he went over to spruce up the little two top table tucked away its private nook, almost hidden completely from public view by hanging ferns and grand growths of rosemary. As he checked the linens and made a mental note to refresh the flowers on the table, Will very carefully tried not to think about Doctor Lecter, his gracious manner, or what suit he would be wearing tonight. Or how good he looked in said suit or how gracefully he held his silverware or…..
Will shook his head, trying to clear it of more amorous thoughts. He had enough problems and mental health issues already. He didn't have to deluded himself with fantasies, especially ones about unattainable things. This was the real world and rich, well adjusted people like Doctor Lecter didn't date people like Will, poor and just a few fries short of a happy meal. Allowing himself to start dreaming up something beyond a professional relationship would be foolish, Will mused as he cleared the flatware and plates off of the table to steam clean them.
"Not your boyfriend, huh?" Zeller smirked as he finished up his napkin folds to place the linen bird of paradise on the plates in his section. The floor was almost ready for its guests, with twenty minutes left to spare before the front doors were unlocked and opened for the night's first round of reservations. Bedelia always had a full house and reservation book. Tonight was no exception.
"He has an unusual sense of smell." Will muttered defensively, which was true. Doctor Lecter had a disturbingly acute gift for the olfactory, enough so that he had actually sent back dishes before because the plates had not been rinsed properly enough. He claimed that the dish was being overpowered by the residue of detergent and thus inedible. Since then, Will had taken special care to personally clean everything and anything before it hit Hannibal's table. As annoying as it was, Will couldn't get upset about it, being a bit of a anomaly himself.
Some referred to it as a gift, but most just ended up labeling him a freak for it. Will's talents lied with empathy in its most pure form, the man able to relate to anyone he chose to focus on. It was unique to have in his profession though, Will often being able to fulfill other people's needs and wishes before they even knew that they wanted anything. It also took its toll though, Will often finding out more than he ever could have wanted to about Baltimore's high life.
Most of it was quite boring, but every once in a while something, or better yet, someone cut Will down to his core and scarred him. He knew the usual who was sleeping with who, who was cheating on their spouse, who was stealing money from their company but he also knew who was beating their kids, who was thinking about killing themselves, and even the ones who were considering killing other people. It was a heavy burden to carry, sometimes too much so, Will's waking nights plagued with terrors, hallucinations, sleep walking and even lost time.
Will knew he should probably go see someone about it but it was a lifelong condition and to his knowledge there was no cure for his kind of crazy. So he learned to cope and live with it. Whisky helped. Social avoidance did as well but Will had six dogs to feed so it meant he had to work enough to as least put kibble on the table for them. As loathe as Will was to admit it, the job helped as much as it hindered. His coworkers, even the ones he detested, provided a support group of sorts and had in a way become an oddball family of sorts.
Jack Crawford managed the front of the house with his wife, Phyllis who looked after the bar with Alana Bloom. The serving staff was small but talented. Beverly Katz, Jimmy Price, and Brian Zeller made up the core with Will providing support as anything they needed that night or what he felt up to. Sometimes all he could really manage was the monotony of bussing, the picky expectations and demands of guests too much for him to handle at times. Thankfully Du Maurier didn't seem to mind or else professionally recognized Will's needs, choosing to accept them for what they were and make allowances for his quirks. Despite his condition, Will was a dependable hard worker even when he was barely conscious and stumbling on his feet from lack of sleep.
A bit of a mystery herself and perhaps on some level she could relate, the beautiful psychiatrist turned chef chose to remain in the back with her sous chefs Gideon and Hobbs, rarely making an appearance out on the floor. The only constant exception was when Doctor Lecter came in, Du Maurier meeting the doctor at his table to discuss what dish she would be preparing for him that evening. It was always something unique and off the menu, making Lecter even more so the place's object of envy.
Though he wasn't scheduled for the floor this evening, Will would wait on Hannibal. To his mild surprise and own self loathing, Will found he was even looking forward to it. Lecter wore a calmness about him that was near disquieting in its solidity. Some found it cold and off-putting in its clinical nature, but Will wanted to draw nearer to it, embrace it, and enrobe himself in it just once to see what it would feel like to have that sort of serenity. A silly notion perhaps, but a tempting one.
Chiding himself for being weak and wanting, Will reset the table, even going so far as to measure out the spacing of the settings. He knew that Doctor Lecter would not only notice it but would also appreciate it. The finishing touches made were the fresh flowers, sprays of edible white blossoms Will didn't know the name of but only held a mild fragrance about them, nothing too strong that would ruin Lecter's meal.
Will smiled, the expression caught somewhere between softly real and professional fakery, and made strange for it as he tried to find a proper head space to wait on the doctor. As always, Lecter was painfully punctual and Will had run out of time to sort through all his feelings.
"Hello Doctor Lector."
Will had only come in to grab his tips and get next week's schedule, attempting to make up for his prolonged absence by picking up other people's shifts. He was off tonight and had been so for the last couple of days. His latest bout of night terror induced insomnia had left him too sick and useless to work. Luckily for him, his grumpy coworker were a supportive bunch, covering the missed shifts for him. The only one who ever really complained about it was Freddie, no love lost between Will and the gossipy hostess, but no one paid attention to her after some stern words from Jack.
Just having gotten done making his apologies to Du Maurier who had languidly waved him off, Will happened to glance out on the floor as he was leaving to witness an interesting sight.
A miserable looking Lecter was at his little table, being waited on by an equally miserable looking Zeller. The doctor was not alone however, the seat across from him occupied for once, making Will's heart sink down to his guts to hurt and burn there. Will told himself it was only a matter of time before Lecter brought in somebody. Though older, the man was wealthy, cultured, and educated. It would be ridiculous to think that other people wouldn't be interested in Lecter or that the doctor wouldn't be interested in other people.
From the doctor's and Zeller's mutual expressions of distaste though, the man's presence appeared to be uninvited. Letting his mind wander and his gift take in all the details for once, Will remembered that the man's name was Franklin and he had the obnoxious habit of staring down Doctor Lecter whenever he came in. He was a regular at the restaurant due to his obsession with the doctor and a poor tipper to boot, much to the staff's annoyance on both counts. Apparently the temptation or the doctor's dismissive counter behavior had been too great for him to handle today, the man inviting himself over to sit at Lecter's table.
Franklin was obviously making an imposition of himself, but even more so, one that could not be dealt without there being a scene made about it. Will knew that Lecter would be too refined to make a spectacle of himself, especially in public surrounded by an audience of his peers. The most likely outcome would be that Lecter would excuse himself from the table citing a medical emergency and leave, his dining experience ruined to maintain dignity. The thought didn't sit well with Will as he came to an impulsive decision.
"I'm so sorry I kept you waiting, sweetheart." Will said as he came up to the table, leaning over to press a quick kiss to Lecter's cheek. He caught the man's eye as he did so, winking at him. He hoped that his best intentions would be understood and not misinterpreted for something akin to Franklin. Turning back, he saw that Zeller was torn between grinning like an idiot and imitating a landed fish, all while struggling to keep his server persona in place. Franklin looked like he had just swallowed a bug, his eyes popping out in surprise with a dropped jaw.
Will faked a grin at Franklin as he ran a hand loosely over Lecter's shoulders in what he hoped looked like a natural gesture, not that he had a lot of experience with such things. Healthy relationships were for other well adjusted people, but Will could try to fake it at least. If he were honest with himself, it was nice touching another person, feeling someone else's body heat beneath his fingertips. Treacherously clear memory replayed the coolness of Lecter's cheek against his lips and feel of fine material that the doctor's suit was made from.
"Oh…. I didn't realize that we had company tonight. I thought it was just going to be you and me." Will's grin widened as he watched Franklin who was starting to look quite unsettled. Will knew the portly man was trying to work out where he had seen him though he doubted that Franklin would recognize him. Very few people ever really looked at their server or waiting staff in general though and Will was in street clothes as well instead of his normal formal all black work attire. The few days growth of scruff of his face and a bed head halo of curls helped obfuscate his features as well.
"It is quite alright. Franklin was just leaving." Lecter said, smiling up at Will with what looked like real affection as they all watched Franklin's face fall into defeated ruin. "I was in the midst of ordered us a bottle of pinot noir."
"Just as long as it's the 2010 and not the 09'." Will hinted, Zeller nodding back slightly with a look of gratitude. He slid into the seat Franklin reluctantly vacated, directly across from Lecter with a thrill working up his spine like electricity. He didn't even bother to notice Franklin's mumbled parting words as the reality of the situation caught up with Will, making him feeling suddenly dizzy and light headed.
"Are you alright? You have gone pale." made Will looked up at Lecter with wide eyes, finding that they were both quite alone now, Franklin retreating back to his table to sulk and Zeller gossiping at the bar about what had just happened to everyone. Grateful that Lecter's back was to the bar, Will groaned inwardly as Beverly and Alana gave him a double thumbs up and cheeky grins.
"I'm sorry. I didn't…." Will stammered, not knowing where to begin.
"Please do not apologize. You have done me a great favor and have saved my evening from discomfiture and boredom." Lecter interrupted. "That man is actually a problematic patient of mine. Even if he was not, he is excruciatingly dull."
"Do you talk about all your patients that way?" Will asked in surprise and immediately regretted it. He didn't mean to come off so blunt.
Luckily for him, the doctor didn't seem to mind, even giving Will a slight tight lipped smile in return for his honesty. "Only the boring ones."
"Well, I can stay until he leaves so he doesn't bother you again and then let you get back to your meal." Will offered. Franklin was in the process of getting his meal to-go and settling his bill with a highly amused Beverly, the rotund man casting venomous glares in Will's direction the entire time as if looks could actually kill. Will languidly smiled back at him and tried to appear relaxed, like he belonged there at Lecter's table in his clunky work boots, worn jeans, and frayed sweater.
"Why don't you join me?" was the question that made Will jump, turning his full attention back to the other man at the table who was regarding him with an intent look.
"I'm underdressed and I really didn't mean to impose….." Will said, gesturing down to his very casual attire and then at Lecter's own immaculate suit. It was a sky blue today and paired with creamy yellow shirt and satiny patterned tie of the same color. It reminded Will of an early summer morning in June, all refreshed skies and soft easy sunshine. "I don't think I would be good company."
"I disagree. The only imposition upon me would be the absence of it." Lecter cut off his excuses.
"We have a dress code here…." Will protested weakly, already feeling like he was losing a battle he had never intended having.
"Of which I will make an exception to since you have rendered assistance to one of our most valued patrons and will continued to do so by keeping Hannibal company." Bedelia said in that utterly calm voice of hers as she walked up to the table with a full glass of red wine in hand. Even in her chef's jacket and apron, she somehow managed to look as elegant as if she were wearing a couture gown. Zeller followed closely behind her with the ordered bottled of wine, moving to pour it with a smirk. Will refrained from rolling his eyes at the deeply amused server, smugly knowing that Zeller's lack of proper wine etiquette would be reflected in his tip from Lecter. He had more important things to worry about at the moment anyway than how he was entertaining his coworker.
"I will?" Will stared up at Bedelia with wide blue eyes, trying not to panic as he quietly begged her not to force this upon him. His boss only smiled though, the expression chilly and conquering.
"Yes, you will." Bedelia told him, leaving no room for further argument as she turned to Lecter. "I will send out your meals shortly."
Lecter nodded back, looking quite pleased as he picked up his too full wine glass to scent the pinot noir. He tsked at the vintage's overpour but took a sip anyway. Will mimicked him, only doing so to be polite though he preferred hard liquor. Wine always gave him a headache and a sour stomach later on.
"Sorry, I…don't really know what to do or say in social situations outside of work. I'm not the type to date either. Not that this is a date." Will muttered hastily, watching himself in the back of his mind crash and burn, whispering 'kill me now' to his subconscious in horror at his current life fail. He could already feel his body begin to betray him as well and start to sweat, all his early confidence from before evaporating like mist met with dawn's light. Not for the first time, Will thought it was sad that he felt more comfortable being other people than himself.
"Why?" Lecter asked, making Will look over at him briefly to gauge the stoic man. He didn't look like he was kidding.
"Too broken to date." Will joked poorly with a shrug, his own self deprecating chuckle sounding too weak and worn around the edges to really be taken as humorous.
"My apologies. I meant, why wouldn't you consider this a date?" Lecter asked, sounding sincere and slightly perplexed. Will risked a glance to see the truth of the matter, meeting the doctor's strange sanguine eyes for a moment. Will reasoned to himself that he probably should start referring to him as Hannibal in his head from this point on if he wanted to be comfortable around the doctor.
"If anyone else asked me that, I would think that they were mocking me." Will mused aloud, taking a sip of his water instead of the wine to politely break eye contact. "Long story short, my horse is hitched somewhere between Asperger's and autistics. I have severe social anxiety….. "
"Because you can empathize with your guests." Hannibal finished the sentence for him. Anyone else would have made it a question but the doctor seemed good at nailing the truth of a matter down.
"I can empathize with anyone." Will admitted tiredly with a sigh. "That has less to do with personality disorders than an overactive imagination."
"You have pure empathy. And projection. It's a rare gift but one that is uncomfortable as well. Perception is a tool that is pointed on both ends. I imagine what you see and learn touches everything else in your mind." Hannibal summed up without even really seeming to try. Will didn't know whether to feel insulted his personality was canned so easily or appreciative that Hannibal had the skills and intellect to see him for what he was.
"Please don't psychoanalyze me. You won't like me when I'm psychoanalyzed." Will muttered, deciding to feel both ways about it. "No one ever does after they do."
When he still had some vague sense of hope, Will had sought out help and treatment. Therapy didn't work on him though because he knew all the tricks and his abilities let him read his psychiatrists better than they could him. Will knew that he was only a paper to them, a research subject, never someone to actually help or to heal.
"I'm sorry but observing is what you and I do. I can't shut mine off anymore than you can shut yours off." Hannibal said, inclining his head toward Will in apology. It was an elegant, subtle gesture and one that Will wished that he could pull off without looking foolish.
"How do you see me?" Will asked, studying his silverware with great interest. It was polished but he could tell that Zeller had not steamed cleaned everything like he would have done. Will risked a glance over at Hannibal to find himself being studied through half lidded eyes.
"I thought you didn't want to be psychoanalyzed." Hannibal all but purred, looking strangely content. Will couldn't fathom why. He would be his first choice for a dinner date, a twitchy sweating man who couldn't keep his eyes from flitting about.
"You know what I mean." Will said. "Most people see me as fragile, like a teacup."
"Nothing so delicate I assure you though I must admit that I do find your mind beautiful." Hannibal said to Will's surprise. It was a shocking enough confession for him to make rare straight on eye contact. Will regretted doing so in an instant but couldn't bring himself to break it. Hannibal's eyes were dark and fathomless as a pool of scarlet ink, so much so it was enough to make Will shiver but not withdraw. "You are alone because you are unique."
The words were honest ones with no other emotional attachments to them so they did not sear and sting like they should have. If anything, they made Will feel calm and centered. "You are as alone as I am for the same reason. Why do you chose solitude?" he countered and for a fleeting second saw surprise in that intense gaze. Hannibal hadn't expected a real answer back from him.
"For the same reasons you chose isolation." Hannibal said after a moment of pause that Will knew was faked though he didn't know for whose benefit. Staring into Hannibal's eyes was like being filled to the brim with the icy tranquility of graveyard in winter, Will's strange gift pulling that sensation from the other man as it tried to greedily construct the doctor's patterns and way of thinking.
"They are not the same and you know it. You could have anyone so why are you talking me?" Will asked because he knew this now for a fact, not digging for compliments.
"Most people are sheep. I have not interest in associating with sheep." Hannibal answered, his words having a strange weight about them that tickled the edges of Will's keen perception.
"If I'm not a sheep, what am I?" Will asked, leaning forward because he had to know now. It was possibly the most important piece of information he would ever need to learn. Something lurked in those bloody eyes that fooled other people with their shades of soft brown notes. Will saw the blood that lay beneath the earth though. It was seeping through the cracks in the dirt and as dangerous as it was he wanted to find the source of it.
"The mongoose I want under the house when the snakes slither by." Hannibal said with that strange smile of his, slim and sharp as a stiletto. No, a scalpel, Will corrected himself.
"What are you then? If you're not a sheep…..You're definitely not a shepherd." Will said directly. It was a statement, not an accusation. From the way his eyes lit up from within, Hannibal didn't take it as one either. Will felt as if he were circling around something from high above like a crow over carrion, something hugely horrific in nature, and if he were to land upon it, it would change his life forever. For better or for worse was going to be based on how well he landed or if he crashed head on into it. Which is why Zeller decided to show up with the pair's dinner at that exact moment, steaming fragrant plates in hand.
The moment broken, Will sagged back in his seat feeling strangely exhausted as he sourly cursed the universe's crappy sense of timing. He could already feel the layers, walls, and forts beginning to arise between them again, just when they were getting to the heart of it all. He tried not to glare at Zeller as the man set the plate down in front of him.
"Bon Appétit." Zeller said, earning him looks from both Hannibal and Will but for vastly different reasons.
"What is it?" Will asked, poking the pasta covered in red sauce with his fork. It looked and smelled divine.
"Spaghetti alla puttanesca." Zeller expanded, doing so cautiously while keeping an eye on Lecter who quietly appreciated the man's survival instinct. "Freshly made pasta with fresh tomatoes, olive oil, olives, capers, and garlic."
Will watched with some concern as Zeller practically ran away, wondering if he had done something to offend. He hadn't been pleased with the interruption but that didn't mean Zeller had to run off like he was going to be murdered. Will glanced over at Hannibal to find the man looking amused about something.
"Why are you smiling?" Will asked, grateful for the distraction the food afforded him now even if it were a messy dish. He could never eat red sauce without getting some of it on him.
"Bedelia has a unique sense of humor is all." Hannibal said, taking a bite as well though the spaghetti strings on his fork were perfectly bound in a neat bundle. He continued after some thoughtful consideration of the vivid flavors on his palette, sipping at his wine for the full effect. "In Italian, the dish's name literally translates to 'whore's style spaghetti'. It is the Neapolitan version of the dish though, made without anchovies."
Hunching over his plate, Will tried to hide his creeping blush as the dish's meaning was revealed. "To whom is she referring to? Is it a joke of me or a joke of you?" he muttered into his next bite of tangy pasta.
"I think it is her way of saying that she approves of our date." Hannibal said, making Will's blush a complete, sure thing. "Of which I hope there will be many, many more."
"A-are you asking me out?" Will stammered, thankful that he had chosen that moment not to eat or drink anything because he would have choked on it or spit the mouthful out.
"Yes, if you are agreeable to the concept. I would love a chance to cook for you." Hannibal sensed weakness on the other man's part, pressing his advantage with a charming smile. "I make most of my own meals and have been told I have a gift for the culinary."
Will didn't know whether to be more shocked at the proposal of dating or the thought of Hannibal being able to cook. He looked more the type to hire a personal chef, not make anything himself. "Why do you eat here if you know how to cook?" Will settled on confronting the easier part of his inner turmoil which turned out to be his undoing.
"I like the company I keep here, even more so now that he is sitting across from me." Hannibal said, ruining any chance of escape for Will. "I would have done before this but it is rude to ask such a question of one's server while they are working. I had no desire to make you feel uncomfortable in my presence."
"I wouldn't have minded if you had." Will said quietly as he scrutinized his pasta for some sort of advice or guidance. He desperately didn't want to screw this up. Firm fingers found the cleft of his chin, Hannibal breaking etiquette to reach across the table, making Will look up at him.
"What would you have said if I had?" Hannibal asked as his fingers started to stroke Will's scruff covered jaw line, the man sighing in welcomed defeat as he leaned into the doctor's touch.