Part one of Put a Collar on That Pup
It was an innocuous statement at the time, said with an offhanded laugh.
“I wish I was a dog sometimes.”
Will shook his head and palmed his brow, eyes closed.
He could feel Hannibal listening intently, hear the question unasked, and said with a harsh bark of laughter, “Dogs don’t have to worry about anything, do they? All their decisions…” he gestured helplessly in front of him and sighed again, head falling back. “…they can blame their owner, right?”
“They are also at the mercy of their owner, Will,” Hannibal said, moving in his chair with a slight creak, the soft brush of pencil lead over paper telling Will that his attention had shifted but not lessened. He was never dismissive of Will, whatever his state of mind or humor, especially since they were so often alone in each other’s company.
“Yeah, well, at least they don’t have to worry about being chased down by InterPol,” Will said, glancing back over his shoulder at the man who seemed completely at ease.
As if to reinforce this, Hannibal murmured, “Neither do you.”
And that had been the last of it.
Or so Will had thought.
A handful of days later—or maybe weeks, he couldn’t guess; time was strangely absent in Bali—Hannibal called him into the kitchen where he was making them lunch.
Sheened in sweat and stripped to his swim trunks in the heat, Will reluctantly shuffled into the kitchen, still half-drowsy from his nap out in one of the patio lounge chairs.
“What?” he asked, knowing Hannibal wouldn’t call for him for no reason.
The man was wrist deep in pork and flushed with effort, his dark eyes flicking to Will on his arrival.
“Fetch me my apron, please, Will,” he said, nodding to where the white cloth was carefully folded and stored. “This is getting messier than planned.”
“Get ahead of yourself?” he asked, one brow rising over his blue eye, a slight, amused smile curving his lips as he retrieved the apron. He shook it out and, on joking impulse, held it out to Hannibal with a soft, “Woof.”
Hannibal’s eyes crinkled with humor and he cracked a smile, tilting his head.
“Be a good boy and tie it for me, will you?” he asked, his only acknowledgment of the joke.
Will shrugged and did as he was asked, tying the apron snugly at Hannibal’s hips, the top folded over as he prefered.
“Thank you,” Hannibal said.
“Yup.” He wandered off, resenting the heat and the vague boredom that nagged him.
He did it again that evening. The second time, Will was sure it wasn’t a coincidence.
“Fetch me a beer, please,” Hannibal said to him, stretched out on one of the lounge chairs to take advantage of the cooling night breeze.
Will laughed a little, disbelieving, wondering what he was up to. He brought the beer as requested, bitter and dark stuff, and handed one to Hannibal while keeping another for himself.
“No woof?” Hannibal lazily inquired, smiling slightly.
“You’re kidding, right?” Will asked, laughing as he peeled the top off and took a deep swallow, the cold rushing down his throat and settling in his belly. He licked his lips, refreshed, and added, “What’re you playing at, Hannibal?”
He didn’t dignify such an obvious ploy with a response. Instead, he said, “Good boy, Will.”
“You want me to roll over?” Will asked, grinning and half offended, annoyed that even in this heat and barely dressed Hannibal could still manage to look so ridiculously put together. “Let you rub my belly?”
Hannibal chuckled at that, probably picturing it and shuttling it away in his Memory Palace. Will bet there was a whole wing dedicated to his nonsense, where every foible and snarky comment was carefully labeled under glass. The Will Graham Evil Mind Museum, clothing optional.
“What decisions do you wish someone else had made for you, Will?” Hannibal asked. It might have felt like a complete change of subject if Will hadn’t recalled the conversation they’d had about dogs. They often did that, he and Hannibal—pick up a conversation from days or weeks prior as seamlessly as if it was only a moment before. “In what situations do you wish you were a dog?”
“Jesus, that’s one hell of a question,” he breathed, his elbows braced on his widespread knees. He swiped at a trickle of sweat trailing from his nape and sighed. “All of them? None of them? I don’t know, Hannibal, I was just…venting.”
“There is something very seductive about relinquishing control, something which a dog has no sense of,” Hannibal said, his throat working when he took a swallow of his own beer. “I imagine that people like you and I are more attracted to it considering the staggering amount of self-control we are expected to exert on a daily basis.”
Will sighed and dropped his head, saying, “It was just something I said, Hannibal.”
It wasn’t though. It was a signed and sealed complaint and they both knew it.
“Will?” Hannibal said, getting his attention. When Will’s blue eyes landed on him, quizzical and sparkling, he said, “There’s a box on the bed for you.”
Will’s brow furrowed in a spasm of confusion. “A box for me?”
“Yes,” Hannibal said, relaxing back into his chair, his beer bottle balanced on his belly, sleek now from swimming in the heat but still soft. Will liked it that way, honestly, less a flaw than a treasure. They were neither of them kids anymore, though he was inclined to believe that age suited Hannibal far more than it suited himself.
Curious, Will stood and stretched, idly making his way back through their small house, calling out, “Is there an occasion I should know of?”
Hannibal didn’t answer him.
“Well, well,” Will murmured, seeing the box on their bed. It was a pretty wooden thing, baroque in the manner that Hannibal seemed helplessly attracted to. There was a lock with a hefty key. The key was on a silver chain that wavered somewhere between necklace and the choke chains used for…
“The hell, Hannibal,” Will breathed, picking it up off of their bed and twisting the key.
The top sprang open.
For a second he refused to see what was inside, nestled into the dark lining. It was the familiar scent of oiled leather that made him acknowledge it, and even then he didn’t want to believe it.
“Hannibal!” he shouted, carrying the box with him as he walked slowly back to the porch, his eyes lingering on the contents. “This better mean you got me a dog!”
He picked the collar up on one finger, a fine and sturdy thing studded with rings, equipped with a safety latch and an inline buckle. He knew by the size of it that it wasn’t meant for a dog.
“Hannibal,” he said again, coming to a stop next to the lounge with the box hugged to his slick chest and the collar dangling from his finger, wavering between shocked and angry only to land in a place that was equal parts offense and surprising curiosity. “Why is there a collar in this box?”
“Because I haven’t put it on you yet, Will,” Hannibal said, his tone never changing, his dark eyes barely open but aware.
Will felt a scarlet blush wash over him. His hand trembled enough that he dropped the collar back into the box.
“I don’t want this,” he insisted, a scornful laugh escaping him. “Seriously, Hannibal, why would you even think—”
“Lock the box and put it on my dresser,” Hannibal told him, as if Will’s response didn’t surprise him one whit. “Wear the key.”
“I don’t want the key,” Will hissed, ire rising to erase the strange curl of interest the sight of the collar brought him. He slammed the box closed and locked it, saying over his shoulder on the way to their bedroom, “I’m not a dog, Hannibal!”
He put the box on Hannibal’s dresser.
He put the key around his neck.
When he went back outside, silent and sullen, Hannibal made no remark on it, but his dark eyes settled on Will with familiar, possessive delight.