Let Nothing You Dismay

Hannibal gets home from the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, opens the refrigerator door, looks inside, then closes it.

After a moment, he no longer remembers what he saw inside of it or if any of it appealed to him to eat, so he opens it again. He stares into the bright fluorescent light, his eyes skimming over meat and vegetables and condiments, and thinks of Will.

Will had looked radiant, in his cell. He was incandescent with understanding, and despite the bars in between them, it had seeped into Hannibal’s skin and warmed him from the inside. Now, now, their friendship can truly begin.

But the warmth had started seeping out of him the moment he had left Will to his four grey walls and his prison jumpsuit. It had curled up forlornly in the pit of his stomach as he had driven home from the prison alone, his house empty and quiet. Now, as he stands in front of the refrigerator deciding what to eat, it feels like warmth inside of him has turned into a rock of dismay in his belly, and the chilled air of the appliance is warmer than his body.

He closes the door again. He should turn on some music. Music is the only suitable companion in a house occupied by just one (living) occupant. He goes around turning on lamps, and sets up the sound system. He should play something cheerful and bombastic, probably, but instead finds himself reaching for the second of Bach’s solo violin partitas: a single instrument speaking eloquently of loss through a composer who had lost ten of his own children. For a moment, Hannibal wonders if he ought to bring Abigail to the city, or if perhaps he could drive out to the cliff house tonight to eat dinner with her, and be back in time for his patients the next morning.

No. It’s not just impractical, it would serve no purpose. Abigail is not Will, and Will is the one that he wants to dine with.

With the house lit and music playing, he opens the refrigerator again. He hadn’t specifically planned a dinner for tonight, but there are plenty of options. There are even leftovers, if he chooses not to make anything new: he was planning on saving them for tomorrow’s lunch at the office, but he could find something else.

His hand hovers indecisively over a shelf, then drops. He closes the door again. He sits down in the parlour, leans his head back against the back of the couch, staring at the ceiling. he wonders idly if the violinist in the recording is using gut strings, and if strings such as the ones that the man who’d almost killed Will used to make would sound any different from more traditional types of gut. He could go look at the album to find the performer. He could look up their instrument– likely even the make of strings would be available online somewhere. He could descend into the basement and make his own strings, if he wanted. he could set up comparisons between the timbre of human and sheep gut. He could add dog to the mix, for his own private amusement, and the pleasure of knowing that he could tell Will about it, if the subject ever came up in conversation.

He doesn’t do any of that.

Hannibal spends a moment wondering what he would tell his own patient, if they were in a situation such as his. This is, of course, why he has Bedelia; psychiatry is notoriously difficult to self-administer. He could visit her, and ask her advice; but now he has turned on the lights and music in his own home, he finds himself unwilling to leave it. He is becoming more and more unwilling to even leave the couch, but he is still hungry. And Hannibal perfers not to leave hunger unsated.

Which is how he finds himself at the back of the brightly-lit corner store a few blocks away from his house, squinting into a freezer. He feels a particular furtiveness in his stomach, an unpleasant perversion of the excitement he gets before a kill. He simultaneously doesn’t want anyone to look at him, and hopes that everyone sees him. His is a nice neighbourhood, and the store is mostly full of professionals giving into cravings for a pack of cigarettes or a chocolate bar after work.

Hannibal glances back into the freezer. He’s not sure how to make decisions, about purchases such as this. Usually, he would decide the theme of a meal based on either the transgressions of its meat, or if he has company, his observations about his guests. There are so damn many kinds of ice cream, though, and none of them have any raison d’être other than tasting good to whatever kind of focus groups Nestle feeds ice cream to before taking it to market.

There is a flavour called “rocky road.” He buys that one, because he can imagine Will making a snide remark about it. Hannibal has never had a friend before, so he is unsure if it is usual to feel that a friendship has parallels to the name of the ice cream: uncertain, bumpy, somewhat unpleasant, but nevertheless the only way to get where you must go, once the path has been decided.

He is uncertain of where his path with Will should go from here. His dreams and fears, usually located so close together in his memory palace, have diverged.

He gets home, a pint of ice cream inside of a single-use plastic bag clasped in his right hand. He hangs up his coat and puts his shoes away, then fetches a spoon from the kitchen.

The ice cream tastes good, for the first couple minutes. Not good like something he made himself would taste good, but appropriate: cold, sweet, with a slight chemical aftertaste and chunks of chocolate, nut and marshmallow that forced him to chew the stuff instead of just swallow it. An ice cream that refuses to go down easily.

With around half the container gone, it stops tasting good. It’s a fascinating transition: it still tastes the same, of course, but he is tired of it; his body rebels against the sameness of it. He keeps eating it anyway, because it is easier than the alternative. What is he going to do, put the half-eaten pint in the freezer next to the human femurs he’s been saving for stock?

He had managed not to think about Will for most of the first half of the pint of ice cream absorbed in the strange transgression of it and too fascinated by his own sadness to be sad about anything in particular. Now, Will comes rushing back, sitting across from him in the parlor, sipping a glass of whiskey. The version conjured up from the memory palace, Hannibal knows, bears no resemblance to the real thing; this Will is clean and calm, whereas the Will he cares about is distraught, still running a slight fever despite the medication, pacing back and forth in his cell. A caged animal.

Worst of all, the Will across from him looks confused. Will Graham should not be confused, not about him, not any more. “I thought this was what you wanted,” Will says, and Hannibal shovels another spoonful in his mouth. “Go away,” he mumbles, and Will does.

He finishes the pint. His belly is slight distended. It is uncomfortable in the way that makes him want to go lie down on top of it and pretend it isn’t there.

He wonders, as he lies in the dark with his stomachache and tears sliding out of his eyes sideways down the bridge of his nose, if Will is feeling any better.